Friday, May 20, 2011

Victoria Day Weekend

This long weekend (sometimes called the “May 24th” long weekend) heralds the first of the summer holiday weekends in Canada. Being a sole practitioner (translation: tied to my office like a ball and chain), I have learned to make every effort to profit by the opportunity to enjoy a three-day weekend. It is however a circumstance of mixed sentiments. On the one hand there is the happy prospect of being able to absent oneself from the grind with impunity; on the other hand long weekends are notoriously overwhelmed with like-minded travelers who clog the highways, hotels and restaurants. Bearing that in mind we have sought to defeat some of the anticipated mayhem by preferring an urban retreat to the rural retreat which traditionally characterizes summer adventures for the masses (primarily people with children). In short, instead of going to the lake, we’re going to the city, Montreal in fact. Most citified cave dwellers are only too happy to escape the concrete landscape at every opportunity, while we (being country folk) by contrast value the chance to indulge ourselves in the metropolitan delights of restaurants, museums and the like.

We begin our measured gratification on Friday night, not by furiously streaming from our home but by degrees. Most people, in their anxiety to squeeze every minute of the long weekend, have either already begun their journey on Thursday by taking off Friday (a “sick” day) or by planning to motor as purposefully as possible after work on Friday. We instead have arranged a casual Friday evening dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants. On Saturday morning, maintaining the same pace, we shall enjoy our usual breakfast at the golf Club overlooking the meandering Mississippi River before pointing the nose of the trusty Lincoln towards La Belle Province. Our Indian massages in Montréal aren’t scheduled until Saturday mid-afternoon, which will give us ample time to check into our hotel (along with the typical upgrade ceremony), have a bite for lunch and maybe even enjoy a swim and sauna.

Recently we have enjoyed a number of resorts to which we have motored rather than flown. The winter trip to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is clearly the longest of the drives, but the principle is the same no matter where we go: I cannot say enough about the pleasure of driving. On these trips the preferred routes are normally four-lane highways which, in the case of the United States, are always top notch; and which, in the case of our Canadian ventures, have taken us through most pleasant parks. The drive to Montréal, while not exactly bucolic, is nonetheless comfortable enough, providing the opportunity to avoid tail-gating.

Another element of any weekend jaunt which is the same for both urban and rural resorts is the significance of the weather. Whether one is paddling a canoe or tramping about the streets of a large city, the weather can make all the difference. Currently we’re promised mainly sunshine with cloudy periods. As we’re planning to stay in a hotel which is located more in the area of Le Vieux Montréal, we’ll likely want to do some sightseeing. The architecture of ancient cities always appeals to me, plus I enjoy getting the exercise of some walking, a decided relief from sitting slumped in my office chair day after day.

The Friday before a long weekend is invariably a slow time for business. One hardly expects to be approached by anyone concerning commercial activity. The general lack of industry in town is immediately apparent from a glance at the relatively barren streetscape. The collective mind of the populace is instead upon firecrackers and picnics. The mere lack of business enterprise is in itself a reward especially when its absence so entirely assures there is not even the slightest threat of interruption of the present high spirits. Sometimes as a precedent to a holiday, I adopt the habit of abandoning ship at noon; however, this is luxury more often spared for the longer holidays not a long weekend. Besides I have a friend coming here in a moment to share a coffee and some chat. Let the music begin!

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