“I’ve never left the country,” he said, “Well, except that one time I went to Mexico as a kid.”
“Really?! Never?!” (Pause. Ponder. Proceed.) “Do you even have a passport?”
“Nope, never have.”
The challenge was on! I would oversee my boyfriend’s first passport stamp. I didn’t know when or where or how I could afford to make it happen but I could not pass up an opportunity to be the first.
You see, as a gay New Yorker over 30, there are few “firsts” left to experience in the relationship realm. Everyone remembers his first kiss (Gaby. At a strip mall after seeing Back to the Future Part 3. I wore a t-shirt with French writing and jeans tightly squeezing my belly to an overflow), first serious relationship (sweet Perry, 6’3” Texan molecular biologist. Mom was proud.), first sexual encounter (names have been omitted to protect the not so innocent); and now, after 10 years in New York and many Tom, Dick and Harrys, the universe was once again anointing me a first.
Excluding my tall Texan, my 20’s had been peppered by mostly short courtships. And pepper was a seasoning I enjoyed: spicy, readily available in most establishments, and often a little went a long way. But now I found myself in completely uncharted territory. As our one-year anniversary approached, I found it essential to mark this momentous occasion with a sweeping, romantic gesture. How amazing would it be to take my boyfriend to Paris? Amazing! How amazing would it be to be able to afford to take my boyfriend to Paris? Amazingly unlikely. So, with the globe whirling in my head, I searched for passport stamping possibilities closer to home…and I landed on the perfect place.
Montreal is at once foreign and familiar, romantic and practical, historic and modern. After a stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, you discover there is nothing pedestrian about the glorious Notre-Dame Basilica and the surrounding 18th and 19th century architecture. In 2006, Montreal was the fist North American city appointed a UNESCO City of Design; that same year it hosted Montreal Rendez-Vous, the first edition of the World Outgames (a gay Olympics of sorts). Close to home, it is the perfect water for an inexperienced traveler to dip his newly pedicured toe.
We stayed at La Conciergerie, a gorgeous Victorian guesthouse, walking distance from Old Montreal and The Village (and somehow made it onto their website… in the hot-tub). The house was cozy and inviting, with beautiful gardens and terraces, and the staff was helpful and shirtless. There is no reasonable explanation for why these qualities complement each other, but somehow they did.
The spine of The Village is Sainte Catherine Street, the gay epicenter of Montreal. Within these few blocks you will find what you are looking for. We visited during the summer and discovered the festivities spilling onto the streets’ sidewalk cafes. Whether you prefer a bar (Sky), a strip club (Stock; Campus) or a dance club (Unity; Parking), you can easily stumble into an itinerary without much advance planning.
And that is part of the beauty of Montreal. It is the most cosmopolitan of small towns – the rare combination of old world charm and progressive thinking. Within a block, a bloke can find a romantic candlelit restaurant or a bathhouse. Combining passion and romance, it is the ultimate backdrop for any love story –the perfect place to celebrate a first and whet the appetite for what’s to come.
For more Montreal information visit Tourisme-Motreal.org.