18 August 2010


Summer is an excellent time to visit Montréal, and over the past few weeks, I've had the pleasure of hosting a number of friends visiting from overseas. Not only was it nice to see them and to show them around town, I also felt a soothing sense of comfort in welcoming these "old" friends to my "new" home. For a while, as we were sitting in my living room, playing cards and having coffee, it felt almost as if I was back in Europe. That sentiment will likely grow stronger still when my former flat mate arrives at my place in two weeks' time. He'll no doubt recognize the half of our shared household that has not remained at his place, and I am looking forward to temporarily sharing my home with him again.

First though, a reunion of a different kind was in the books, for last Thursday, I hitched a ride south with my visiting friends, who had stylishly crossed the pond on the Queen Mary 2 in July and were now headed back to New York to end their North American tour. Our joint mini road-trip (in a maxi SUV) took us to Boston, a drive of approximately 6 hours from Montréal. Thanks to the excellent company, and an overnight stop in Burlington, the distance was perfectly manageable and pleasant. We even found time for a stop in Concord, thereby adding the state of New Hampshire to my palmares (and its quarter coin to my friends' collection).

Once we reached Boston, the sentiment of being happily reunited got yet another boost: In the hotel lobby, my mother, my sister and her boyfriend were waiting for us. My sister had just completed a language immersion course in Beantown (it's about as good an excuse for an extended vacation as my 2003 French immersion in Montréal was, given the accents) and the rest of the Swiss gang blocking the hotel entrance had decided to seize the opportunity to discover the city following somebody with at least some local insight. For my mum, this constellation also provided a rare opportunity to see both her stray children in one go (or, as the frequent flyer would say, she wasted a chance to take two transatlantic trips instead of just one!), all while walking in the footsteps of her childhood idol, a chap named after a large New York airport.

So there we were, a group of 8 Swiss of various ages, all excited and merry to be there and none with a firm plan of what to do. Apart from a shared interest in spending those greenbacks on the latest fashion, we were all pretty unambitious - which did not facilitate the agreement on a shared itinerary. In consequence, we primarily spent time drinking coffee, dunkin' donuts ;-), walking around town and chatting, splitting off into smaller teams and re-uniting for meals. With their strong social component, these were delectable even if the food as such did not overwhelm - Respecting some culinary preferences in the group, we stayed away from the clam chowder and lobsters I had hoped to eat.

Sitting there at a crowded dinner table, looking at this diverse group of people all happily assembled in some American metropolis, not only did it dawn on me that my "little sister" had in fact grown up to be a proper adult (she even masters a foreign language now!), but also that this sort of reunion may become normal should I continue to live abroad. Short but intense gatherings, dominated by a feeling of catching up and sharing memories, with the location serving primarily as a backdrop, and not as the purpose of the trip. I'll probably have to go back to Boston to "see" the city. And I will definitely have to go back to Switzerland to see my mum and sister!

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