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Try Montreal
by

Professor Arnie Greenberg

I live in Montreal. I was born here and I say that with pride. It's a unique city of over two million people. It's an island with a good-sized mountain in the middle. During the summer, people stroll around Beaver Lake sailing boats or feeding the swans. Lovers walk hand in hand, joggers puff along the roads and photographers delight in the pastoral setting in the midst of a metropolis. From the beautiful Chalet lookout you can see the St Lawrence River to the south and get a bird's eye view of the skyscrapers, bridges, stadium and parks. The same is true for the winter when people skate on that same Beaver Lake or ski down the gentle slopes.
Montreal is a city of commerce, restaurants and more churches than most cities per capita. There are walking streets, ethnic areas and places to just sit and watch the boats go by on the seaway near the site of Expo 67.

We had the Olympic Summer Games here and the legacy was a unique enclosed stadium that, for the past years, has been a home to the defunct Montreal Expos.
Tourists frolic through the narrow cobbled streets of Old Montreal or take a horse and buggy ride through the narrow lanes.  There are museums, parks, tennis courts, theatres and an incredible number of restaurants in a city that loves to eat. It looks very much like old Europe but it costs less to get here.

There is something for everybody, even boutique or upscale hotels, nightlife, bars and a world famous Jazz festival. Add Formula one racing and you've said it all. Or have you?
Montreal is something more. It is the city of one of the most fabled hockey teams in the world; Les Canadiens de Montreal, the Montreal Canadians. Now it's true that the hay day of Montreal hockey domination may have ended in the early nineties. The team has changes. They are younger, faster and often sport Czech or Russian, Finnish or Swedish names.

I grew up in an era when we knew The Canadians would win the Stanley Cup. But that was before expansion. Now we watch a league where young Montrealers are playing for Tampa Bay, San Jose, and other American teams. No problem. We still fill the Bell Center and cheer on our hapless 'Habs" as they are called. It's short for the French word Habitants, the name of the early Canadian explorers.

Gone are the players like Jean Belliveau, Toe Blake, Maurice and Henri Richard. Gone is the first goalie to wear a face mask, Jacques Plante. Time has passed Kenny Reardan, Dicky Moore and "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur. The names have changed and the scores have changed but the legend of my youth lives on in this city that loves hockey.  This feeling has spilled over to others in North America. Hockey has become a rage in distant Los Angeles where there are no outdoor rinks. It's infectious.
  
Last night, I wandered past the old Forum, where hockey was king for many decades. Outside, two men were polishing the plaques that told of Stanley Cup victories dating back to the twenties. They are there for us to relive the glory days when Montreal was hockey and hockey was Montreal.

Last night, The Montreal Canadians lost a hard fought fourth game to The Tampa Bay Lightening. Last night the dream ended for this year. The team that came back from a 3-1 deficit against the mighty Boston Bruins, and won their series, fell to Tampa in four.  I wasn't at the Bell Center but I went into the old Forum and watched the game with others on giant screens. It was the next best place to being there live. The forum has been rebuilt as a theatre outlet and restaurants but the place where center ice had that permanent H within a C, the Canadians symbol, emblazoned in the ice is now a tiny amphitheatre with those old red seats from the original forum. It is surrounded by screens and the die-hards without a ticket sat in those same old seats and watched as their team did battle.

The excitement was fever pitch. Memories of the years gone by, danced in my brain. I remembered the time as a high school student that I played on that same Forum ice and was proud to report to my father that I had scored a goal in the same net as Maurice Richard. I remember too that we lost that game.

And speaking of Richard I must say he was a national hero. In the days before helmets you could see the spark in his eye and the rapt determination as he dragged the puck one handed around the defense and scored with that special style. Maurice Richard was at the Forum too last night. Not in person. Maurice passed away some years ago but in front of the old red seats where the architect placed a player's bench with a life sized statue of our hero seated as though watching center ice. And on the walls were murals of him leading a charge towards the goal. I tested myself by trying to name the players of old from the team pictures on the wall. It was an evening of total nostalgia even though the team lost and people walked home dejected but proud. The results, they reasoned, were better than last year. The team would continue to build. They'd be back. 

I walked home on a pleasant April night, under giant elms along silent streets. In the background was Mount Royal, silhouetted against a silver sky. There were no parades. There was no shouting. There was silence. There was acceptance. There was peace. I have lived in Montreal, my life-long home, my city of fresh bagles, hot smoked meet, a meeting of two cultures and that never-diminishing memories and pride.

And now, during a year of hockey-less nights and a baseball team defection, I know there is still enough here to keep me happy and fulfilled.

How many places, I rationalized, in a world of chaos can one find safety, peace and happiness.
              
God, I love this city. You will too.

#   #   #

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 

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