Thursday, August 28, 2008

New England's Best-Kept Secret: New France

I drove up from Lowell to Quebec yesterday in about four hours.

I shared that with you not to make some point about how cool I am (I'm not) because of how fast I drive (I don't), but to remind you of how close you are to a completely different culture, language, and, well, country.

The four hours that it takes you to get from Lowell to Quebec, plus the additional hour or so into Montreal, is comparable to the distance to New York City or the beaches in Maine that are just beyond the population and tourist clusters there. In the worst of traffic seasons, it's probably even a lot less than it would take you to get to most parts of the Cape.

And for a major population center that rightly holds a spot on the world's map for its cultural and economic influence, Montreal stays surprisingly below the radar of many New Englanders, New Yorkers, and mid-Atlantic folks who could head there after breakfast and be on Rue St. Catherine by lunchtime without breaking a sweat in the process.

It's way more accessible and affordable than a lot of comparable American cities, it offers a unique Francophone-Anglophone/Old World-New World cultural blend, and it (rightly) gives you the feeling that you're in a different country.

If you live in New England or even the New York Metro Area -- but haven't been up to Monty --I highly suggest you do.

It's worth the effort.

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