The blessings of Montreal...

One of the realities that I have found over the years of ministry - and I begin my 27th year of ordained ministry in the fall - is that I HAVE to get out of Dodge if I am going to have a real vacation. Last year we did a little "staycation" to acquaint ourselves with the Berkshires - and it was fun - but if church people know the pastor is in town... a vacation doesn't happen. And not because anybody is misbehaving... it is just how all of this works.

So we are 6 hours north of our town in sweet Montreal enjoying Les Quebecois, the beauty of Montreal and the challenge of trying to speak French. Dianne is pretty good after an initial brain freeze. I have a great accent and no vocabulary any more (I am modestly ok in Spanish and now find myself speaking "Sprench" - a mutated combination of languages, numbers and idioms that just makes Dianne laugh... and the locals look puzzled.)

We took a leisurely drive up here on Monday - gorgeous weather and no problems - only to discover that our hotel is just one street away from Rue. St. Catherine: a place LOADED with ethnic food shops, books stores, seedy places and all sorts of weird, fun places! We realized that God had blessed us once again so we wandered the streets like kids in a candy shop and wound up eating Indian food in a GREAT place.

Today we went to L'Oratoire St. Joseph... a basilica started by a modest monk in honor of the father of our Lord which became a HUGE modern, post Vatican II sanctuary. It was gorgeous! It sits at the top of Mont Real - which we walked down - and through the Notre Dame Cemetery until we wound our way (3 hours later) back into the heart of the culture center. So we went to the Muse des Beaux-Arts - a ubiquitous Starbucks (which are turning into a haven of rest and orientation) and then back into the city to look at a mini-replica of St. Peter's basilica (known locally as Mary Queen of Heaven) which was gaudy and filled with excess (both Di and I laughed til we hurt about how Protestant we are!) as well as a trip past the hotel that John and Yoko held their "sleep in for peace" and both St. James United Church of Canada and Christ Church Cathedral (the Anglican show piece here.)

After a rest and dip in the hot tub, it was back out to Rue St. Catherine and a Vietnamese Noodle Shop to DIE for! It looks totally derelict but was heavenly. Then some more wandering and eventually a night of planning for tomorrow. We are off to either the Vieux Ville et Port or a section of the city that has been recently gentrified but with hippies and other malcontents. You see, our ideal vacation is wandering around places we know nothing about and learning what it feels - and tastes - like. We'll hit Quebec City later in the week as well as the Franco Follies song fest down town.

These adventures always do three things for me: 1) they restore my sense of God's grace in real people as folks are always so kind to us; 2) they give me a chance to put in my earrings, stop shaving, put funky clothes back on and wander among people without anyone knowing I am clergy; and 3) it gives me time to laugh and think and love my sweet wife. God, I love that woman! I have even started to pray the Psalm again!

All is grace, dear friends... all is grace. Here is one of my favorite Canadians from Montreal, Leonard Cohen, doing one of my favorite songs: "The Future."

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