Thursday 23 September 2010

Montréal en Anglais

I'm back from Canada - and I have to say, I ♥ Montreal. What fascinated me most about it was how its French heritage meshes with its British history, creating a Francophone city with dashes of Anglophone place names and culture. For example, my hotel (the excellent Hotel St Paul) was on Rue McGill, named after a successful Scottish fur trader, and my nearest Metro station was named after a British monarch.

Here are some examples of the British elements I found scattered through the otherwise French-speaking landscape...

1. This grand building in what was once the commercial hub of Old Montreal was built by the Grand Trunk company in 1900. Grand Trunk was a British-owned railway company which built and operated lines in both Canada and the USA, and this was its North American headquarters. A historical curiosity is the death of the company's president Charles Hays on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912.

2. Here's a sign on a famous bagel shop on the distinctly Anglo-sounding Avenue Fairmount, in the attractive district of Mile End:

3. The nearest Metro stop to my hotel was Square-Victoria, named after the first Queen of Canada. Here she is in the middle of the square:

4. I went on a walk through Montreal's extensive underground pedestrian route one day, and crossed through the Gare Centrale (Central Station) on the way. Above one end of the station concourse I encountered a vast post-art deco bas-relief frieze created in 1943 by Charles Comfort. It was scattered with English words, including those of the Canadian national anthem...

5. ... which made me think there must be a French-language version somewhere, for balance. And sure enough, here it was at the other end of the concourse (with a McDonald's sign placed for ironic impact):

6. Most unexpected of all was this statue I discovered towering above Place Jacques Cartier, on my way from the Champ-de-Mars Metro Station. Right in the heart of Old Montreal, in a prominent public position opposite the former Palais de Justice, is a statue of Napoleonic war hero Lord Horatio Nelson. A war hero, that is, to the British, and famous for defeating the French fleet at Trafalgar. How cheeky is that?

Disclosure time... on this trip I travelled courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

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