Montreal – what a difference a day makes…

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the double-Montreal U2360 attack.  When plotting my original return to 360 shows in 2010, I made both Chicago and NYC the obvious required U2360 destinations.  If there were any cities in North America that could be assured of a double show, I was pretty confident that those would be the ones.

Obviously, I was wrong. A lot of surprises were in store for everyone after the original 2010 dates were rescheduled – Nashville selling out in minutes, U2 actually announcing Winnipeg for the first time since PopMart, the joy of Eastern Canada getting their first show, and Montreal and Anaheim being the only two locations which would receive the double-show honour. But I was right about one thing – U2 never did announce Regina, and I still said “told you so” to everyone I know.  If you want to see U2, you have to get on an airplane (or at least a 6 hour drive to Winnipeg) I’d always said. But I digress.

Alternate form of transportation - fully booked, unfortunately

Alternate form of transportation - fully booked, unfortunately

The Montreal shows fell in that tempting little spot right before Toronto, but I’d be in Cleveland, Ohio on the way back from Chicago right before them.  It would be silly not to make the 5 hour trip from Cleveland-Toronto by car, flying would be too expensive and a bit extravagant given all the travelling I was already doing.  If we were going to go all the way to Montreal, it would mean a 10-11 hour hike leaving on the Thursday with exhaustion soon to follow for the double shows the next two nights, then a 5 hour shot down the crazy 401 the next morning just to do it all again the next day in Toronto.   If it was too exhausting by car, the only other option would be flying the Cleveland-Montreal-Toronto triangle – and that doesn’t come cheap. You feasibly couldn’t do it for under about $650.  By comparison, the Cleveland-Nashville-Chicago triangle on Southwest was a steal – it was less than $350!

No matter how I crunched the numbers or tried to justify it in my head – I’d told myself no for far too long to give up now.

It all changed on Friday morning.  It was a day off work, and I woke up with a searing REQUIREMENT to somehow get to Montreal in my head.  I’m still not sure right now why I feel so strongly about it, but I just have a feeling deep down that I need to be there.  It’s like some kind of pilgrimage to Mecca – except with poutine.

I found a $69 fare on Porter Airlines from Montreal to Toronto on the morning of July 10th, and I scoped out a few fellow-U2 fans selling GA tickets on Interference.  I also found a relatively decent one-way out of Cleveland to Montreal for $250 on Thursday, and a ride back to Cleveland when I join my friends back in Toronto.  It would mean leaving some of my good U2 friends behind in Ohio, but they are all incredible women who are some of the only people in the world who will ever possibly understand this affliction. I love you guys – thanks for supporting me in my madness. Some may call it ‘enabling’, but you guys are awesome at it. In fact, I was at one point only going to go to Montreal 2 when I was told in no uncertain terms that I would have my ass put on a plane in Cleveland in order to see BOTH. What the hell was I thinking?  We will see each other a few days later for what I still think is going to be one of the most special shows of the tour – Toronto.  I’m proud to have the Ohio Bonogirl contingent in my country for one U2 show this summer, and even though they can’t make it with me to Montreal, if we experience half the magic I did for Toronto 1 in 2009 it will be incredible.  In English.

I’ll also be joining a friend from Western Canada who has been begging me to join her in Montreal for these shows for months now, and when I hear her joy in our ability to see them together, I just know it’s the right thing to do.

So, here I am, not even 72 hours later with a hotel and flights booked, my tickets in the mail and logistics worked out to get to/from the Hippodrome du Montreal.  I can’t think about anything but Edge’s dropcloth* (*TM, my husband) shirt from Paris July 1987 whenever I hear of U2 playing at the Hippodrome!  This will now bring my 2011 U2 total to 11 shows.  11 in 11.  Was it always meant to be?

Notre Dame Basilica - Montreal

Notre Dame Basilica - Montreal

The last time I was in Montreal was nearly 20 years ago – before they’d named Dorval Airport after Mr. Trudeau.  I remember an excellent subway system, crappy McDonald’s poutine, some amazing smoked meat, Notre-Dame Basilica being more beautiful than you could possibly imagine, and a near complete lack of English spoken most anywhere.  It was a tense time in Quebec in the early 90s, the economy rather dismal and the sovereignty movement in full swing – the sound of English Canada coming out of your mouth was looked upon with just enough contempt to make you feel like you didn’t really belong here, mister.  I found myself falling back quite a bit on my high school French when I had to buy a newspaper or a ticket at the Metro station – although they smirked a bit at my pronunciation it still went a long way to at least try.  A few short years later in 1995, Quebec would almost say OUI to separating from Canada – the margin was a mere 49.44% “Yes” to 50.56% “No”.

It’s a weird feeling for a Canadian to feel so far away from home without having left the country.  It was odd to have felt such a tourist – definitely a bit of a culture shock to be so close, yet so far away.  Years on there is still a very active sovereignist movement and I don’t imagine that Montreal has become any more English than it was 20 years ago, but that is what will make it a bit of an interesting destination to any U2 fans planning on these shows.  You will encounter many people who will refuse to speak English (even though the majority of Montrealers are fully bilingual) but don’t fret – there is enough of a tourist industry that your hotel and many restaurants will most certainly have a fully bilingual staff.  And for every strict French-Canadian you encounter, you’ll find an English-speaker who will reveal themselves when they find out “je ne parlez pas francais”.  And for those fluent in Parisian French, it will be completely natural for you to not have any idea what a Quebecer is saying to you at any given moment – I’ll never forget the look of bemusement on the face of a French exchange student that I befriended in high school the very first time I tuned in the French CBC station.  It was like they were speaking Welsh.

Canada's artery clogger - the infamous poutine

Canada's artery clogger - the infamous poutine

See you in Montreal… but a word to the wise.  If you’re going to order a “poutine”, make sure you pronounce it just right.  You don’t even need to really get the accent right, just make sure you lean a bit more toward pronouncing it “poo-teen”.  If you say “poo-tan”, you’re asking for a whore.  Don’t laugh – I’m serious – and you’ll remember I said that when you see it on the menu!