Approximately 60 alumni traveled to Montreal to join in the fun that I had planned with the help of Emil. The weather was brisk for most of the western and southern U.S. crowd - the northerners were quite comfortable. We had a little drizzle but only for a short time. The Hyatt Regency was centrally located so that walking around the city was easy from our hotel.
We all registered on Thursday, October 4th, got our name tags (so we could remember who was who), had a drink or two, caught up with stories about what we’ve been doing since the last reunion or in some cases reunions further back, then split into groups and went for dinner.
Friday, morning we arranged a bus tour of the city. Montreal is a city full of art and museums, churches, carriage rides, pubs, quaint shops, and restaurants galore. They do speak English but it helps if your French is working! Our very informative guide Suzanne told us all about the city. To our delight we only got positive feedback about this sightseeing session.
Following a lunch break at the Hyatt we boarded the bus again for a ride through the Laurentian Hills and on to the Sugar Shack. The bus ride took us via west side of the city to the highway up north. We saw the beautiful colors of the changing foliage and stopped in the little village of St. Saveur that looked like a Swiss Alps resort with little shops and ski lifts. Then, past farms with live-stock we got to the Sugar Shack. The owner gave a tour explaining how to extract the syrup from the trees and how much it takes to make a marketable syrup product. They had an antique shed full of old equipment showing how they did it in the past. Some of those tools and methods are still in use to this day.
We sauntered into the cozy Sugar Shack where we were having dinner and had cocktails first. The tables were decorated with some of the things that are grown in and around Montreal and the waitresses wore old traditional dresses. We had hors d’oeuvres of vegetables followed by tasty soup. Next they had a pie of pork and beef and a Quebec meatball stew which was very good. Then a turkey dinner was served – as this was Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend. For dessert we were offered fruit compote and what looked like pumpkin pie but turned out to be a maple syrup sugar pie. Everyone ate everything on their plates and nothing was left when we were finished.
Our entertainment was provided through-out the meal by a French Cabaret singer, Danielle Gagnon. What entertainment! She got everyone singing and dancing. Earlier we had noticed maracas and another noise maker (figured it might have come from China - but who knows) - but it clacked! She sang songs in French and accent-free English! She sang Patsy Cline, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, etc., and got Emil to Yodel! Soon she had us all up, doing line-dancing to her instructions.
Saturday morning we held an interesting walking tour with Emil as guide. Actually he had planned to walk the Old City - but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was misty and since some already had colds brought from home, he decided that the tour of Montreal’s underground would be a lot dryer. Participants learned that in the winter when they city is in a deep freeze and the roads obstructed by 6 ft. snow drifts that it drives Montrealers underground for almost everything. There is about 5+ miles of underground shopping, restaurants, businesses, doctors, apartments, movie theaters, and parking. No need to go outside. No time to tour all of the 5 miles but we saw some really nice shops down there.
By afternoon the sun had come out and was just perfect for the harbor tour which was attended by 50 alumni. We went out to the St. Lawrence Seaway where there was a brisk current and then headed back in. Our captain told us all about the history of the harbour and some of the area around. I am sure that it was an interesting and informative day for everyone.
Our Gala dinner was held at the Hyatt, and was it ever sumptuous. I discussed the seating arrangement with Emil and I think that we did a good job of making sure everyone mingled. Our goal was you were not sitting with people you knew from your years in China. Everyone got to sit, talk and exchange experiences with people from a different time period. Most of us attending the reunions know each other from the same era because we all tend to sit with our ‘era’ of Shanghai-ers thus not getting to know other alumni. We hope you made new friends and that it was a fun evening!
Thank you all for coming to Montreal. We both, Emil and I found it a real life time experience and a very bonding event for the Shanghai Expat Alumni.
Marie Fischer was introduced and gave us a hint of what to expect at next year’s reunion in New York. The evening ended with the exchange of gifts from everyone’s home state and a vow to ALL MEET UP AGAIN IN NEW YORK CITY IN 2013.
Further, we thank Linda and John Curry for the offer to organize “Shanghai Expat Reunion Seattle 2014”.
Best of success to Marie and Bill Fischer, au revoir, see you all in The Big Apple,
Emil & Luzie Schlumpf