Sunday, April 23, 2006

Of Montreal...

So far Montreal remains mostly unseen, but for the view out of my window.

I'm spending the next week here and flew out yesterday afternoon from Heathrow, an easy, restful six hour flight which was made so much easier by the fact that I bagged the emergency door seats, hurray. Under this arrangement, I am obliged to be helpful in the event of a disaster, and also allowed to stretch my feet out theatrically when there isn't, glancing at other, less fortunate passengers as I do so, as if to say, 'Aaah. What a pleasure it is to stretch'. As it happens, stretching alone gets pretty boring across six hours, so I varied the experience with the inflight movies and lots of optimistic watching out of the window.

Two observations in this latter respect. Firstly, why do plane designers have to place the windows ever so slightly behind you, at shoulder level, so that in order to watch England drop away and the receding landscape, it is necessary to crane one's neck painfully and pull a muscle in the process? Secondly, as much fun as flying is, there really is fuck all in the Atlantic ocean besides a lot of water and a bunch of fish too small to be seen from several thousand metres up. Ships and fishing boats? Not that I can see. Majestic blue whales, sharks arcing out of the water? Nope. Volcanic islands? Nah. Big waves? Didn't even see any of them. When we passed Iceland we were above the clouds, if indeed we passed it all, and after that there's not much to look forward 'til Greenland.

And I'm not even sure that I saw Greenland, actually. It might have just been the tip of Canada. Either way, a few hours in I glanced out of the window and saw far below me what I thought was just a big wave, a big crest of surf. It was, I realised, ice, and shortly after a long, crisp curve of white filled half of the window and we negotiated a long coast of ice, mountain and snow which, although at times we veered away over the blue ocean again, was the most enormous, least hospitable landscape imaginable. Quite wonderful to watch. By the time we dropped down below the tree line we had, sadly, ascended above clouds again, so I didn't see anything else 'til Montreal, which looked from the plane window a huge, impressive and grey city, quite unlike anything in Britain.

Waking up this morning, having come straight to my hotel and crashed into bed last night, the city remains grey from my twelfth floor window. But it also looks vast, odd and exciting. Which is why, having had breakfast, I'm about to go and have a look around it.

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