While on holiday in Montreal, we were unknowingly caught in the midst of the thousands of students and citizens protesting the government.
The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is a public French-language university. The campus is the main stage for a majority of the recent riots and protests.
Even with all of the great food we ate while in Montreal, our best vacation stories came from some totally unexpected events. Actually, let me clarify — unexpected to us. Like the worst of Americans, we didn’t do much research about Montreal except for menu stalking, map reading and guide book skimming. I could tell my husband, as we walked through the Parc du Mont-Royal, all about the Croix that stands proudly on the side of the mountain. But I couldn’t tell him why, on our first night in town, we had to fight through a stream of police cars just to get to our hotel…
These are a couple of cop cars in a line of nearly thirty. All of the police inside the cars were dressed in helmets, ready to jump out if necessary.
After a fabulous dinner at the Liverpool House we caught a taxi back to our hotel. However, every street for at least a mile was blocked off by cops and the sound of sirens filled the air. We were befuddled, thinking maybe there had been a terrible accident or a drug bust.
Our cab driver was not too much help, as he was one of the few people we encountered who spoke only French. He just kept driving, trying to get us closer to our destination, throwing up his hands in frustration every time we were stymied by yet another group of police.
The next day, in true vacation style, we forgot all about it. The streets were calm and the sun was shining, so we headed out from our hotel, the wonderful Auberge le Pomerol, to walk around the nearby Plateau area. After hours of meandering, eating and drinking, it was dark when we decided it was time to make it back. As we got closer to our hotel, the streets became more and more packed with people. Some were walking while others were almost running, but one thing was consistent — they were all headed in the opposite direction that we were going. At first we thought, hey, the guide book was right — the people of Montreal like to party. Here we were, heading home to sleep, and literally thousands of people were just leaving their houses!
Canadian riot police in all their gear
That’s when we heard a rhythmic thumping coming from in front of us and saw a row of riot police slamming their batons on their shields. A cloud hung over them from slowly dissipating smoke bombs and pepper spray. The people who had passed us must have been right in the center of the madness. We bolted into an alley to watch for a while before deciding to try to make it the last two blocks to our hotel.