Student Life

Mim meets Montreal: This one’s for the laaadiiiiesss

Episode 13: In which Mim celebrates the sacred Galentine’s Day

You know what’s better than Valentine’s Day? Galentine’s Day. Having said that, I would have honestly answered “anything” to that question, but hey—I found out this weekend that Galentine’s Day is actually a happening thing. While the name may derive from Parks and Recreation, I am sure that the idea has been around for decades.

I admit, when my friends told me about Galentine’s Day I was a little cynical. I thought, “Geez, that’s pretty sad: women getting together to celebrate being single with B-grade rom-coms, heart-shaped chocolates and cheap champagne.” In this hermit-inducing winter, however, it is through comfort food and trashy films that we can find solace. At least, I speak for myself. So, when my two non-single female friends invited me to spend Galentine’s Day doing exactly that, I didn’t pass on the opportunity.

Maybe our evening didn’t exactly follow the generic interpretation—the rom coms were A-grade/top quality, the dessert was chocolate lava cake (way better) and the alcohol was pink wine—but that’s beside the point. The event wasn’t created to provide women with an excuse to spend an evening getting fat on junk food and sulking over the non-existent men in their lives. It is about rejoicing in friendship (please excuse the corniness—it was the weekend of Valentine’s Day after all).

We made a fancy salmon dinner followed by baked whisky-and-maple syrup-infused brie. Bridget Jones made an appearance along with Sixteen Candles and Practical Magic. We had a productive evening. Breakfast was blueberry heart-shaped pancakes and candy.

To my surprise, Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated any more widely or enthusiastically in Canada than it is in Australia. And as for Galentine’s Day, I say there should be a guys’ equivalent, too (if there isn’t already). Well, really, we should just celebrate friendship every day, full stop. We could say the same about any of these over-commercialized, over-hyped events: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and, of course, National Feral Cat Day (I mean, we can’t forget the poor feral cats out there, right? Totally is a thing by the way, celebrated Oct. 16).


Here’s to making every day Galentine’s day, amirite ladies?

Photo by John Rodousakis
Student Life

Mim meets Montreal: paperwork predicaments

Episode 12: Will she stay or will she go?

Exchange student tip #1: don’t go on exchange. Actually, I take that back. I’ll say this instead: study abroad for one semester, not two. If you apply for a second, expect your whole world to be flipped upside down. That’s what has happened to me, as this week I was faced with the biggest decision of my life.

Let me begin by providing some context. If you’re an exchange student studying in Canada for only one semester, you do not need a visa. My proof that I’d be exiting the country in less than six months was a return flight home, dated February 18. Last semester, once Concordia decided to welcome me with open arms for the winter, I changed my flight to July. The only problem? My visa application hadn’t yet been approved. Still today it apparently hasn’t even been looked at.

When an Australian friend of mine told me that he’d been detained in a cell between the border of Canada and the U.S. in 2013 (due to complications with his student visa), I thought: “how ridiculous, that will never happen to me.” Unfortunately, it now seems that I might be facing an equally as serious circumstance.

When I submitted the paperwork in December, the Immigration Canada website assured me that it would take a maximum of seven weeks to hear news, which meant mid February at the latest. To my dismay, I discovered on Friday—whilst sitting with an advisor at the Concordia International Student Office—that the estimated processing times have been altered. Now, I won’t be receiving news until the end of April.

Here’s the pickle. If I do not receive an approved visa before the end of April—or my application is declined—I could face the following consequences. One: I will not be credited for any of my grades. It will be like the winter semester never existed. Twelve weeks of study go down the drain. Two: I will miss out on partaking in the equivalent Australian semester, which commences early March. This leads to three: I will have to do an extra semester at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, meaning that I will graduate a year later than I’d expected. And four: I will have to pay a ridiculous amount more for that extra tuition.

So, it knuckles down to this: risk everything (my academic record, finances and time) to stay in Canada until July, or: hop on a plane and leave Canada next week. What would you do? Maybe I’ll start an online voting poll.

Like a patient waiting in a doctor’s office, I will likely spend the next few months wondering whether the diagnosis will be fatal. On the other hand, I could not fathom leaving Montreal so soon and on such traumatic terms. At this point, all I can do is hope that by some miracle I receive the answer I’m wishing for sooner rather than later.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal: Moving day

Episode 11: In which home is where the heart is

When I moved out of home for the first time, it wasn’t a matter of moving down the street. Instead, I packed my life into a single suitcase and whisked myself to the other side of the world: from Melbourne to Montreal. To all the international and exchange students out there: I imagine that coming to Concordia was your first time moving out, too. Considering that I extended my stay from one to two semesters and signed a lease (rather than living in student housing) I genuinely feel like Montreal is more than a temporary lodging. It’s my home.

That is why, when my housemate decided to move to Portugal for a change of scenery and told me that I needed to find somewhere new to live, I was a little shaken. Once again, I became a lost wanderer.

Being an exchange student isn’t all fun and games. This became apparent when I started spending my Fridays filling in visa applications and my Saturday nights modifying “apartment lease transfer” ads on Kijiji. I’ve since realised that being an adult is determined not by responsibility, but by the amount of paperwork there is in your life.

Moving apartments is an epic task. Moving in winter adds a whole new layer of complexity. It’s things like digging the car out of a mound of ice that remind me that I’m not in Australia. Finding a new place to live isn’t easy. Actually finding the place isn’t easy either: as in, sometimes the snow is so thick that it covers street signs and house numbers.

Apartment hunting tip number one: introduce yourself to strangers and ask if you can live with them. Just kidding. Though, that’s kind of what happened to me. Whilst moshing to Chet Faker at his concert in September, I met a Montrealer named Sophie. Three months later it was Sophie who referred me to her friend who was looking for a new roommate.

The spaciously unfurnished room had a spectacular view onto a grey brick wall and was as well lit as a dungeon (probably a result of the vomit-raspberry colour of the walls), but I took it. Tip number two: choose an apartment for the roommate (someone who can envisage yourself living with), or at least make it a top priority. The issue of the aesthetic (or lack thereof) was easily solved. After four coats of white paint (done over eight hours) and a trip to IKEA on the other side of town, the room was transformed into my new haven.

I’m glad that my experiences in Montreal haven’t always been smooth sailing and glamorous. I’ve learnt that it’s also the small and trivial things—like decorating a room—that make a place feel like home.


Student Life

Mim meets Ottawa: patriotism abounds

Episode 10: The Aussie takes on Canada’s cool capital

Mim didn’t exactly “meet Montreal” this week, unless you call getting to know Montreal’s highways a “must do.” Instead, I met Ottawa. Part student, part tourist (and part aspiring Canadian), I feel that it’s only right to a) do my homework (debatable) and b) explore the many sites that this country has to offer.

In Ottawa for the weekend, the first site I visited was the Rideau Centre. Shopping malls are found in every major city, so what makes this one special? Well, for me, this three-level complex didn’t induce a mild panic attack (Montreal’s Eaton Centre is like a labyrinth to me). Side note: some shopping centres are intentionally designed to be confusing to customers. Finding it difficult to escape, customers spend more time in the centre and consequently buy more products. This is termed the “Jerde transfer.” The Rideau Centre is not a bombardment of the senses, but an open-space shopping mall heaven.

That was Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, like many of us who make the late morning pilgrimage to find a worthy brunchery, it became my and my friends’ mission to find a place that served breakfast past 12 p.m. In Montreal, brunch is customary. In Ottawa, very few restaurants offer brunch. If they do, it’s only until 11 a.m. and only on Sundays. Finally, we found Zak’s Diner.

Most of my touristic activities comprise two activities: visiting heritage sites and overeating. The previous evening I had eaten poutine, a two-course meal and two and a half slices of cheesecake (I very generously helped my friends finish theirs). With the intention of opting for a “lighter” breakfast, my inner Sally came to the fore. Picture the scene from When Harry Met Sally where she makes the most ridiculously picky order in Katz’s diner. Yeah… That’s pretty much the embodiment of me.

Surprisingly, our waitress was very accommodating of my “extra hot, triple shot soy latte” kind of order (more like disorder). Her response was something along the lines of: “We’re not like Montreal. We’re not a big city that accommodates soy sophisticates.” Her comment was witty and wise. She was right: the capital city of Canada was smaller than I had expected. Also: I was a pretentious snob. Don’t even get me started on my hometown’s coffee snobbery where a minority of us treat coffee like wine (the tasting process is termed “coffee cupping”).

Later, after exploring the very little that the Byward Market had to offer, we stopped at a Beaver Tails shop for the final indulgence of the day: deep fried dough covered in sugar. Like all of the gloriously unhealthy foods I’ve tried in Canada, this one was also grossly delicious. When will the gluttony stop?

Sadly, I hadn’t brought my skates with me to traverse the world’s largest skating rink: the Rideau Canal. At least I got to see the historical landmark, though Parliament was by far the most extraordinary sight. Simply standing beside the Centennial Flame whilst staring in awe at the grand century-old building was a poignant experience. Ottawa, you mightn’t have the same fire as Montreal, but you certainly provided me with a very fulfilling tourist experience.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal: Ice ice baby

Episode 9: In which Mim finds her skating legs

The first time I went ice-skating I vomited on the rink. The second time, I got my finger trodden on by an ice skate. These somewhat comical occurrences were then complemented by my multiple slips and falls: the classic banana-peel kind. That was ten years ago.

A couple of days before starting the winter semester, my native Montrealer friend took me ice-skating. My fond memories of this winter activity fostered high expectations. Put Mim on an ice rink and it’s like watching a slapstick comedy. How could I possibly top my pre-existing ice-skating faux pas with sufficient comic relief?

Luckily, the closest naturally occurring body of frozen water happened to be across the road from our apartment. It was colder than -20 celsius that day; I could not have fathomed walking further. The lake at Parc Lafontaine had frozen over two weeks prior. On New Years Eve my friends and I had strolled across it with regular shoes, but traversing it with skates was a whole other experience…

Photo by Dion Larouche

The moment I stepped onto the ice I gripped my friend’s arm like a koala clinging to a tree in a hurricane. Picture a grandma hunched over a walking aid. I was so scared to move that my friend had to pull the human statue that was me along the ice for the first half of the lesson. Eventually, once she had enlightened me with several useful techniques (like, “line up your nose with the foot that is in front”), I quickly got the hang of it.

Despite being 100 per cent Québecoise, out of nowhere my friend adopted an Italian accent as she cheered me on. Perhaps she did it to embody the optimism of a proud Italian mama: “she’s so fast, she’s a pro!”

I regret to inform you that I am no longer an ice-skating clown. I can proudly say that I only fell once, and I didn’t get up for a while. I lay there on the ice, limbs outstretched in a star-shape, and stared into the snowing sky as classical music played from the speakers that were dotted around the park. Dozens of people skated across the lake effortlessly. A group of boys played a game of hockey. Couples skated hand-in-hand whilst chatting. Four giggling girls formed a chain and glided across the ice.

When I arrived in August the park was covered in picnic rugs, bicycles, skateboards and people tanning in the sun. Ducks drifted across one side of the lake while water erupted from the fountain on the other. It is five months later: the season has changed but the morale has not. That’s something I love about Montreal. Its people maintain high spirits in even the most tedious of weather. I’ve discovered that one way to escape the dreariness of winter is to seize every opportunity to make an event of it. Solution number one: ice-skating.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal: Dim Sum, yum!

Episode 8: In which Mim discovers the delicious and ancient tradition of Cantonese food here in Montreal

Dim sum. It’s a cross between a buffet and a sushi train. The “train” is a trolley piled with weird and wonderful Chinese food that is wheeled around by a waitress who beckons you to eat more and more. On Saturday I had my first dim sum experience and I ate so much I could have exploded. Picture Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote.

 My two friends and I went on a wild goose chase for a restaurant in Chinatown that had been recommended to us by a cute salesman in a shoe store. We eventually realised that the obscurely described “red windowed” venue we were looking for was, to our disappointment, the building with a layer of dust so thick that we couldn’t see through its windows. Clearly the shoe guy hadn’t visited Chinatown in a while.

Instead, we went further down the road to Ruby’s, another dim sum eatery. We walked into a foyer-like area with trinket shops and then went up some stairs to the restaurant. At the top was a gigantic sparkling chandelier. It seemed very out of place in the expansive room, which was spotted with round maroon-clothed tables. Though, as we all know: the tackier the interior, the better the food. Another reliable indicator of the food to come was seeing a Chinese restaurant populated by Chinese guests. We were in for a treat.

Within five minutes of being seated, six dishes were placed upon our table (one friend was particularly ravenous and enthusiastic in ordering). Aside from the rectangular daikon cakes and fried shrimp, everything was essentially ball-shaped. Steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, sticky rice cakes, wonton soup and sesame balls  which I like to call the Chinese bagel. The warm and doughy spherical snack was covered in sesame seeds and had a hole in the middle. Just as you might have cream cheese on your traditional bagel, this one was filled with a sweet red bean paste. This was by far my favourite. We ordered two rounds.

We also had the opportunity to try beef knees, some kind of transparent jelly-like cube filled with an abstract white blob and what appeared to be slimy squid flattened into a pancake. Tempting, but we passed.

One of my friends looked like she had gone into cardiac arrest. She had undone the zipper of her high-waisted jeans and requested that we have an intermission (my other friend insisted that we order more). Dim sum is like a race. You can either sprint through it and tire quickly, or pace yourself and continue eating. I did the latter. Since arriving in Montreal I have certainly had my fair share of calorie-laden food: oily poutine, sugar-pumped orange juice, carbohydrate-dense bagels and deep fried Chinese food. Ah well, extra padding makes for good insulation in the winter, right?

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal

Episode 7: In which Mim sees her first snow

“Leave!” she screamed, taking me by the shoulders and shaking me violently. “Get out of here before it’s too late!” My housemate Maïté had lived through it many times before, but it still frightened her, sent shivers down her spine. Before moving to Montreal in August, people back home in Melbourne had warned me about it, too. The dreaded beast is called winter. If a native Montrealer was fretting for her life, how was I supposed to feel?

I have never experienced weather colder than minus five degrees. In some parts of Australia, it often reaches 40 degrees in summer. I’ve never been skiing and I had never seen the snow. Then, on Friday, I saw it for the first time.

I was sitting in my regular café, gazing out onto the sunny street when it happened. I first thought, that rain looks weird. Why is it white and why are the droplets drifting in all kinds of directions? Surely there was a reasonable explanation. Like, a delivery truck carrying a thousand pillows had crashed and exploded, sending a billion tiny linen specks floating down Mount Royal Ave. Blinded by my snow-virgin status, I was a bit slow on the uptake. Finally realizing what I was seeing, I speedily frolicked out of the café like a kid chasing after an ice-cream van. I stared up into the clear blue sky and watched the sparkling white specks fall to the ground. It felt like a “The Gods Must be Crazy” moment. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s essentially about an isolated South African tribe who witness a Coke bottle fall from the sky and land unbroken on the earth. Having never seen a bottle in their lives, they are completely bewildered. I imagine that the look upon my face wasn’t dissimilar from theirs.

I stuck out my hand to catch a snowflake on my finger, but the one I got must have been a dud. I thought it would look like the ones I’d seen in the movies. Instead, it looked like a fleck of linen. When people began bumping into me on the narrow footpath and giving me looks of, “it’s just snow,” it was time to go inside. I told the barista whom I often chatted with that I’d just witnessed my first snow. She congratulated me.

Then, on Sunday, it really snowed. I woke up to a view of a white-blanketed Le Plateau with a foggy Mount Royal in the distance. That day, for the first time ever, I made a snowball and walked on snow (like an awkward tip-toeing toddler). I look forward to ticking off many more “firsts” on my “winter novelties” list.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal

Episode 6: In which Mim realizes that bagels are holy

It’s 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s raining and all the good bars on St-Laurent Blvd. are closing. Time to go home, right? Wrong. Why? Bagels.

“Seriously, what’s so special about a bread roll with a hole in the middle?” I asked my friends as we walked in the windy, minus-one degree weather.

I’d asked a similar question about poutine when I first arrived in Quebec—“it’s just chips and gravy. Why the hype?” That’s when I learnt that Montreal could turn something so ordinary into a magical gastronomical experience.

My friends just said, “you’ll see,” and I trudged along behind them in the opposite direction of home.

As we stepped into the St-Viateur bagel store the warmth engulfed me like a giant hug. Sounds lame, I know, but with the increasingly cold weather, I have developed a new appreciation for well-heated spaces. My Australian mentality of “ah, suck it up mate, it ain’t that cold,” is beginning not to suffice.

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman

From the wood fire oven drifted a sweet fragrance so homely and reassuring that I immediately realised that there was more to a bagel than a bagel. There was the experience of being surrounded by bagels. I was informed that they also serve another function in winter. Pop a few hot ones in a paper bag and, voila, you’ve got a (temporary) portable heating device—simply stick your face into the bag and inhale the goodness.

It was an event: witnessing bagels being made from scratch. One man kneaded the dough and rolled it into rings with an effortlessness that was like folding bed sheets. After the dough had been tossed in sesame seeds and placed into the oven, which appeared to house over 50 bagels comfortably, the second man used a several meter long wooden plank to flip over a dozen at a time. He didn’t use a timer so how could he possibly know when each of those 50 bagels were ready? It appeared that he just knew.

The young man at the counter was intrigued by the fact that I was Australian, but even more so by the unfortunate situation of Australia’s bagelessness. Back home, bagels are about as popular and as fresh as sliced supermarket white bread. Despite the recent opening of a couple of specialty bagel cafes in Melbourne and Sydney, the modest roll-with-a-hole still remains a novelty and there are certainly no 24-hour venues to satisfy a midnight bagel craving.

My friend bought half a dozen fresh steaming-hot sesame bagels and gave me one. I took my first bite and, I tell you, it was like eating a warm cloud. Before I had the chance to go to the counter and buy a second, the young server had walked over to us and handed me a bag of three. “On the house,” he said.

In the time it took my friend to eat half of his bagel, I had inhaled three: one third of my daily caloric intake within a number of minutes. But, just like the poutine, it was all worth it: the sesame goodness, the soft dough, the perfect crusty crunch. My friends were right: nothing beats a fresh bagel.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal

In which Mim does Halloween the Montreal way

My Halloween started off with some good ol’ grocery shopping where I was served by a partially decapitated checkout chick. A corpse bride unpacked a box of long-life milk, a mime served me at the deli counter, and an Elizabethan Queen offered me a cheese sample. Like many other stores on Mount Royal Ave., the supermarket had been transformed into something dungeon-esque with spider webs, bats, pumpkins and skulls, but it was the costumes that impressed me the most.

On the way home I came close to death. I walked past him—the Grimm Reaper, that is—standing in front of a dépanneur. He held a scythe in one hand and a diet Coke in the other. Further down the street I passed a witch with five animal children trailing behind her and then a sailor smoking casually on the corner.

When night fell the kids came out. I could hear the trick-or-treaters from the eighth storey of my apartment building. Later in the evening, I went to my friend’s on the tenth floor to transform myself into something non-human. The day before, we found out that we happened to be dressing as the same thing: a pale, white-haired, stripey-suited Beetlejuice. What were the chances? We are both from Melbourne (but had met in the apartment elevator one evening in September), so perhaps it was some spooky telepathic Australian thing that only happens on Halloween. Although we were going to separate parties, we decided to get ready together. Sharing grey hair spray, white face paint and three metres of pinstriped fabric we created two very different Beetlejuices.

Just before midnight my flapper friend showed up with gin and a deadly amount of Halloween candy. Only at 1:30 a.m. did we finally rock up to the intended destination: Metropolis on Ste-Catherine St. for a Halloween event called First Kontakt. All kinds of creatures lurked out in front, but inside, it was another world. I admit, the night was a little hazy. I met a moose, may have been hit on by a gangster and (I think) was insulted by a zombie. Despite there being hundreds of people (perhaps over a thousand), I managed to bump into a university friend in the middle of the dance floor. Engulfed by a sea of people dressed as villains, sinister creatures, something sexual or something deceased, I felt like I was at the centre of post-apocalyptic madness.

Luckily I got home in one piece. Just. People sprinted for taxis like animals chasing after prey. A girl literally bared her teeth at me as she told me to get lost—“this is mine.” It was so hard to find an available cab that I didn’t get home until 5 a.m. I hear that the after party went past 7 a.m., so in that respect my evening was apparently pretty civilized. Montreal, you sure know how to Halloween.

Student Life

Mim meets Montreal

Episode 4: In which Mim searches for the true meaning of Halloween

So, Halloween is on the horizon and pumpkins are everywhere. Back in Australia we love pumpkin, but we don’t carve faces into them: Halloween isn’t really a “thing.” Why, though? Mystified, I did some investigative research.

This weekend I went to the Jean Talon market with some friends for the pumpkin festival. The moment that I saw the pumpkin stalls I was flabbergasted. “Holy moly!” I exclaimed a little too loudly, a couple of people looking towards me. “Uhhh, it’s just an ordinary vegetable…” they were probably thinking.

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman.

Yes, true, but in Australia I had only really seen the humble butternut squash or Japanese pumpkin. As for those cartoon-esque Halloween pumpkins, they’re just a day-to-day occurrence here, lining Montreal’s commercial streets and supermarkets. They’re everywhere in October, yet the jack o’ lantern is still, to me, a novelty.

According to Celtic history, Halloween is based on the rituals commemorating tasks demanded by the passing of autumn into winter. As each day gets darker and more foreboding in North America, we are reminded that winter is on its way, as apparently are ghosts. The 31st of October marked the division between the light and dark halves of the year. It marked the rift between the lands of the living and dead, whereby wandering souls could visit the living. I’m sure this information has left you fearing for your life and you’re wondering how you could possibly ward off these evil spirits. With costumes, of course. Over yonder in Australia it’s currently almost 30 degrees: wintery ghosts are nowhere to be seen. Surely that’s a legit explanation for why Australians don’t dress up for Halloween, right?

Clearly this wasn’t a sufficient answer, so I looked further. Apparently only two percent of Australians consider Halloween to be “very important,” according to McCrindle Research, an Australian social research company. This might explain the time when my five friends and I dressed up for Halloween, strolled the streets of Melbourne and were stopped by two giggling Japanese girls who wanted to take our picture because they thought we’d come straight from a cosplay. People looked at us oddly, me dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and another friend as a skeleton. Perhaps it was the fact that we were twenty-something-year-olds (and not “trick-or-treating” children) dressed in ridiculous costumes that confounded them.

Now at the end of my search, it appears that I cannot offer many answers as to why Halloween is not as widely celebrated in Australia. That just makes a better reason to join in with all the festivities while I’m here! Someone get me a pumpkin.

Student Life

Mim Meets Montreal

Episode 3: In which the Aussie drinks the magical mystery julep

Watch out James and your giant peach, because Montreal’s got a giant orange. You can’t miss it. It’s somewhere just off Décarie, the dreaded highway of rush-hour doom. Sitting on the horizon like a radioactive rising sun, this gigantean orange is known as Gibeau Orange, or in English, Orange Julep.

Picture a three-storey high spherical snack bar with waitresses gliding across the car park on rollerskates to deliver your fast food meal. It’s the year of 1932. You can order anything from hotdogs to veggie burgers, spaghetti to poutine, but the trademark product is – yep, you guessed it – orange juice.

It was only in 1945 that Orange Julep had its makeover. Hermas Gibeau, the founder, swapped his regular rectangular restaurant for a gigantic concrete orange sphere. The building was revamped again in 1966 with the addition of orange plastic pool parts. This is the snack back we see today. People say that he intended to live there with his wife and children. Think, the Old Woman who lived in a shoe. Ol’ Hermas lived a fairy tale.

Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

“What makes this particular orange juice better than any other?” I asked my friends who excitedly drove me to Orange Julep one afternoon. They couldn’t tell me, nor could anyone else, because the age-old recipe is a guarded secret.

When we pulled into the car park I noticed that Orange Julep attracts all kinds of folk – families, bikies, tourists, die-hard orange julep lovers. The much-loved institution continues to welcome loyal regulars.

Despite being smack-bang in the middle of a grey, urban desert, the giant orange seemed to bring summer into eternal orbit. And wildlife. Seagulls eagerly hovered nearby, giving the car park a beachy vibe. Julep-thirsty bees brought the feeling of being in a flowery field (much to the dismay of my insect phobic friend). And the colourful triangular flags transformed the whole scene into a kitch kind of kid’s party.

Inside, taking centre stage above the counter, is a large, transparent cylinder containing a light orange liquid. Silver pipes, as if fashioned from a spaceship, extend from its top and bottom. I wondered whether the juice was being channeled from heaven; considering the way that people raved about it, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I asked the waitress behind the counter (sadly no longer on rollerskates) whether the orange juice contained added sugar. She looked at me blankly. “I don’t know,” she said with innocent stupor. Someone must be guarding that recipe with their life, I thought.

There’s also the option of adding ice cream to your Julep juice. Rumor has it that the juice contains egg whites, which give it a frothy appearance. With all its mystery ingredients, at first I was hesitant to try it. But when I took a sip I was pleasantly surprised – it wasn’t sweet, but rather refreshing. I can’t quite explain it so you’ll have to try it yourself (if you haven’t already). Perhaps you’ll be the one to solve the mystery, the question on everyone’s lips – what really is in Orange Julep?

On a final note, we have a giant pineapple in Australia. But it’s not nearly as big as Montreal’s orange, nor does it offer anything as magical as Julep’s mystery juice.

Student Life

Mim Meets Montreal

Episode 2: In which the Aussie seeks historical enlightenment

My great, great (plus a couple more “greats”) grandfather was a pickpocketer. No, I’m just kidding. Although, it might be true – after all, Australia was colonized by convicts in 1788. Maybe the late Mr. Kempson was one of them. I wonder, what kinds of people were in the Kempson lineage?

On a spontaneously sunny Saturday afternoon (what I learnt is termed an “Indian summer”), my friends took me to visit Saint-Joseph’s Oratory. Its long history and thought-provoking grandeur got me philosophizing on life.

Photo by Nathalie Laflamme.

While the oratory is often bustling with hundreds of people (it is estimated that two million visit each year), the place somehow radiates a reassuring sense of tranquility. Strolling through the gardens, sitting in the chapel and then gazing at thousands of candles, lit in dedication to Saint Joseph, filled me with a profound sense of peace.

In its humble beginnings, the oratory was literally a small chapel, with its blessing taking place in 1904 by Brother André with the help of Brother Abundius and a few lay friends. Meanwhile, in Australia, colonists were converting their bush huts into terrace houses. The particular spot of land where the Kempsons had pitched their tents a few decades earlier came to be known as Melbourne. Fun fact: Melbourne was the only Australian settlement not founded by convicts, whereas Sydney was originally titled “Sin City” for exact opposite status. Perhaps this means that the first Mr. Kempson didn’t commit a crime after all.

Saint-Joseph’s Oratory is certainly worth a visit, whether it be for religious interest, touristic fulfillment, deep and meaningful reflection or caloric combustion (there are 283 steps to climb). You can also kneel on 99 of those steps and make 99 prayers. There’s a separate staircase dedicated to this physically unpleasant exercise, a tradition wherein visitors endure pain in order to pay respect to Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross.

This century-old building instilled in me a curiosity, a desire to investigate my family history. Ironically, there won’t be much investigation. All I have to do is pick up one particular book written by Rachel Kempson, the mother of actress Vanessa Redgrave, which sits upon my Melbourne bookshelf, yet to be read. I also wonder, how many of us younguns of the 21st century actually know our family roots?

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