I ate lunch at my desk.
The leftovers from home are a healthy choice but the venue sucks. I've got to get up and get out.
Amid the vibrant colors and the warm bounty of Thanksgiving, fall has its mornful tendencies. A decent brisk walk in the city is a fitting way to embrace the season and shake off the grief of summer's passing. Yet a good walk without a destination, is a pointless stroll.
I set out heading north on Mountain and then east along Ste-Catherine. As I make my way, the chill in the air prompts the thought of a nice rich cappucino. An exceptional cappucino. Not Starbucks, not Second Cup, not even Java U. Sorry guys.
I'm thinking more along the lines of Jean-Philippe Tastet's top five list of independent micro-roasting barrista-venues in the city.
As I continue on a northeastern tack I pull out my phone and call up his recent blog post. Well, not his post, actually. His daughter Élise penned this particular review.
I scroll Élise's shortlist with one eye on the screen and the other bent on dodging lamp posts and pedestrians. I'm headed the wrong way for Café Myriade and don't want to double back. Another of the top five is definitely a walkable target. And a very pleasant walk at that.
When the Indigo store looms into view it jogs my memory and I stop to pick up a book that Susan expressed an interest in. It only takes five or ten minutes.
I walk north on McGill College, past the Roddick Gates and through the urban park that is the centerpiece of the lower campus. It feels good to be among the students. I pick up bits and pieces of earnest chat about courses and other seemingly timeless trivia that animate the conversations drifting by me. Not much has changed, really. I could be heading to class. The words and occasional laughter float above the footsteps and the rustle of leaves littering the sidewalk.
Pressing east once more along Milton, through the student ghetto, I see Park Avenue four or five blocks away. In no time I'm there. I turn right and begin paying attention to the addresses, with a lookout for the storefront signs.
And there it is. Café Pikolo.
That said, my coffee is everything I hoped for. Strong yet smooth, full-bodied but not bitter. Maybe the rituals do the trick after all. I soak up the atmosphere. Pikolo seems to express McGill's vibe as Myriade does for Concordia's. The one more traditional, more victorian, the other firmly rooted in the mid-20th-century ethos, yet both sharing a very present dedication to the coffee culture. I'm glad I made the effort.
Office duties drag me from my reverie and off I go.
This time it's a beeline west along Sherbrooke. Passing the McGill campus on my right a curious thing happens.
I have my head down as I walk with a purpose, less attuned to the walk, planning my afternoon. The old imposing greystones of the music faculty, the elaborate black wrought iron fence, the towering trees, and then, on the sidewalk at my feet, the pedestrian traffic has shredded and ground the fallen leaves into a dry mulch ranging from recognizable leaf bits, to small dime-sized shards, and then down to a kind of leaf dust.
That sight triggers an utterly vivid memory. The sidewalk, the ground up leaves, the city sounds and sights, the musty smell of fall, the grey sky... I have experienced exactly this, six years ago almost to the day, on the left bank in Paris. With Susan, a world away. The memory is so present, so tangible I am briefly overwhelmed by it.
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