Looking Up, Notre Dame & Meeting Internet Friends in Montreal
Finding magic in the mundane—from Paris to Montreal, Hong Kong & beyond
It was Sunday evening in Paris. Hues of pink and purple blended in the sky, creating a pastel painting in motion. And as I strolled along the Seine, I was struck by a sense of peace. I paused in front of Notre Dame Cathedral before crossing the bridge—Pont de l'Archevêché—to make my way home. I’d been living in Paris just shy just of six months, and I still felt like I was wandering through a painting every time I stepped outside. I pulled out my phone and posted an Instagram story panning the Cathedral and its surroundings with the caption “Love this city✨.”
The next day—Monday, April 15th, 2019—the world watched in horror as Notre Dame burned across every news outlet imaginable.
“I can’t believe you captured this yesterday!” was the unanimous response to my Instagram post. I could hardly believe it myself. And I was filled with gratitude for having stopped to take in a sight I could’ve easily overlooked as part of my daily routine—especially when a fellow Parisian messaged me saying she regretted “not looking up” the last dozen or so times she’d whizzed past.
Montreal’s Notre Dame(s)
My home city of Montreal has a Notre Dame of its own (though it’s a basilica) that was “designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989,” and fun fact: my neighbourhood within Montreal bears a similar title, Notre Dame de Grâce—though everyone calls it “NDG.”
Anyway, the basilica is so iconic that Céline Dion—the closest it gets to Montreal royalty—was married there on December 17th, 1994, and walked that same aisle nearly 22 years later, in 2016, for her late husband René Angélil’s funeral.
The Notre Dame link is but one of many similarities between Montreal and Paris—as noted by recent visitor Cam Houser. Cam is an American startup entrepreneur who teaches students and founders how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset (i.e., how to generate ideas, take risks, and embrace failure as a means to learn), as well as how to pitch yourself and your business using video (ex. using Loom).
Cam and I first connected as coaches at Maven (an online course platform) and have since pulled off all-star collaborations on projects for his training company Actionworks. He’s based in Austin, Texas and we’ve done everything remotely for the past two years so it was epic to finally meet in person last Friday. Naturally, that called for a selfie in front of Notre Dame.
Converting visitors to Montreal fans
One of my favourite things about having “Internet friends” (aka people I’ve met and worked with remotely) roll through Montreal is being able to share a slice of the city I call home with them. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know me better by visiting the places I frequent and absorbing everything I love about them with their own eyes and ears—as opposed to the filters I experience them through (because we all have filters whether you realize it or not).
One of my signature places to take visitors, and somewhere I took Cam, is Crew Collective & Café (aka Crew):
“Located in a heritage building that was once the Royal Bank of Canada, Crew Collective & Café offers a variety of services. Our professional workspaces include an open coworking space, modern meeting and conference rooms, and private offices. Crew is also a third wave coffee shop open to the public, and a venue for special events, all together in a breathtaking architectural and historical setting.”
My favourite prompt upon visiting Crew is telling visitors to “look up.” The breathtaking artwork that runs along the sky-high ceilings is usually met with a hearty “damn” or “holy crap.” I think of Crew as a metaphor for absorbing an experience fully, in a way that evokes wonder.
Look up and you'll be in awe
I stumbled across an article by Hong Kong-based writer that captured the essence of how “looking up” from the mundane changes everything in a heartbeat. Here’s how she describes it:
“I’m on my way to the metro station, I’m on my way to work, I’m on my way home, I’m on my way to yoga, I’m on my way to grab some quick groceries to cook for dinner, I’m on my way to meet a friend, I’m on my way… There are so many times a day when I am on my way to go do something—sometimes I’m entrenched in the thoughts I was having just before heading somewhere; sometimes I’m thinking about what I am going to do afterward. “On my way” becomes the time in between, the time you desperately want to reduce, because it doesn’t seem to be the main goal.
And then I look up.”
What follows are beautiful photos of everyday sights. And suddenly, I’m transported back to Paris, standing across the Seine in front of Notre Dame—feeling grateful I’ve paused to look up.
Thanks for reading and have a wonder-full week,
P.S. If this post made you think or feel something, like it and comment to let me know.
P.P.S. If you plan on visiting Montreal, hit me up and I’ll be happy to show you around.
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