General de Gaulle: my role in his history - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

General de Gaulle: my role in his history

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I ALWAYS FANCIED being General de Gaulle. There'd be the fun of being right so often and the satisfaction of being convinced you were right even when you weren't. Plus you'd be startlingly tall and have a very long nose down which to look at the rest of the world.

The Hotel de Ville in Montréal doesn't look much because most of the facade is screened while hidden workers renovate it. The balcony is still visible, though, and like most places that have a passing role in history, it is surprisingly small. It was up there

Here history was almost made: it's where de Gaulle called on Quebec to leave Canada... and was politely asked to go home
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one day in 1967 that the general stood while on a trip to Expo '67, the city's big show. His significance in a city that speaks French was enormous because Québec is surrounded by English-speakers and, especially in the 1960s, was fighting for its identity. De Gaulle was cheered so loudly as he cruised along the St Lawrence river that the crowd called on him to speak. He told them his reception reminded him of entering Paris after Liberation in 1944.

What else he said doesn't matter. It was what he said at the end that counted. At first he boomed "Vive Montréal! Vive le Québec!" And then, seemingly an afterthought but in fact intended, he added: "Vive le Québec LIBRE! Vive le Canada FRANCAIS!"" He had just called for Québec to secede.

They were furious in Ottawa, of course. "How would he take it if the Canadian prime minister said 'Brittany to the Bretons?'", a minister asked. De Gaulle took the hint and left Canada early. He told his brother-in-law he did it to repay a debt. In 1763, French troops had abandoned 60,000 French colonists to the British. "Hell will happen," he predicted rightly, "but it has to be done. It is the last occasion to repent for French cowardice."

There are cyclists everywhere in Montréal. We have our own lanes, our own way round junctions, and we are numerous enough to be encouraged and taken seriously. It's impressive.
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MONTRÉAL, the old city - none of it in fact older than the 1800s - is agreeable. On a Sunday morning we had the city to ourselves, asking in the tourist office form directions to a Tim Horton's so as to launch our initiation into modern Canadian culture.

There are bike lanes everywhere, full of cyclists using them, there are stacks

Parking meters and bike-parking poles have rings for attaching a lock... even if this rider thought it best to take his saddle with him.
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Attach your bike lock here.
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of bikes by the roadside to hire by the hour or the day, and even the parking meters have steel rings to which to attach a bike padlock.

Montréal has bikes for hire everywhere. Take one from the rack, ride it across the city, drop it off at another rack.
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This afternoon, the Montréal Canadiens are playing Pittsburgh in a play-off of the Stanley Cup. There are red and blue flags everywhere. The city is at ease with itself. It is the first hot weekend of the year and the men are in shorts and the girls in minis, rivalling each other for the whiteness of their legs. Tomorrow, pink sensitive flesh will be the price they pay.

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