The reality of having an address again came to the forefront this week as I started to update my contact details with various institutions. It is funny how the big stuff does not really need a physical location anymore, not with electronic banking, online insurance applications, yadda yadda. But those little secondary details to the grounded side of a nomadic life, such as magazine subscriptions, city passes, and library cards, all need to know where I live.
That last one, the library card? That is the one that finally told me I am living in Montreal. I was sitting at the library administration desk, I pulled out my bank statement (carefully edited with black marker, of course) to prove I have an address in town, and hesitated as I passed the paper across to the person who was typing my details into the system.
Ask me a year ago where I thought I would be living today and I would probably have shrugged,
Well, ‘Canada, somewhere’ turns out to be Montreal. And I should not be liking this city as much as I do. There is no ocean, and there are no mountains. Before you say anything – no, the Saint Lawrence and Mont Royal do not count. It is noisy, it is dirty, the black dust in the air coats everything in the apartment and I have even resorted to irrigating my sinuses to help keep the sneezing at bay.
Those details aside, this city is really cool. Discovering it, wandering aimlessly along whatever street catches my eye, visiting the must sees, finding my favourite cafés, and catching a few festivals is a full time job. This place is bigger than any other town I have called home, and I am just talking about the Island of Montreal. According to Wikipedia.org:
‘With a population of 1,861,900 inhabitants (22% of the population of Quebec), it is by far the most populous island in Canada. It is also the 6th most populous island of the Americas and the 37th most populated island on earth, outranking Manhattan Island in New York City.’
I guess it is a good thing that I have more than a couple of weeks to spend here.
Rue Beaubien Street
My new stomping grounds is filled with art galleries, chic cafés, great brunch spots, fine dining, bars I have not tried yet, and green spaces to help me forget about the concrete. I am still on the hunt for a comfy café, though. The problem with all these new, hip coffee joints is, while they look as tho they belong in a magazine featuring all that is up and coming, their seating leaves much to be desired. Those hard wood and metal chairs from my elementary school days have not improved with age.
The Street Art & Murals
What is painted on the walls around here is worthy of its own post. I know I have only seen the tip of the iceberg even if my phone is already filled with images of great street art. Given how big this city is, it is going to be a while before I have rounded up enough representative samples to write about here. Ongoing project #374.
Green Spaces & Gardens
There is a train that passes through the city – it runs noisily by every single day … very noisily. For some strange reason I do not understand just yet I have grown to like it. It certainly helps that there is a walking/jogging/cycling path filled with green for the section running through my neighbourhood. There is evidence of guerrilla gardening with grape vines and chokecherry trees clustered here and there, a dog park, and large murals decorating the supporting pillars of a street passing overhead.
I keep stumbling across community gardens, and am often drawn away from my original path to check out alleyways lined with large flower and vegetable planters. When these patches of green are not quite enough, the botanical gardens are well worth the trip farther afield with 75 hectares of grounds to wander. Another topic worthy of its own post.
Something else I keep taking pictures of is posters announcing upcoming festivals and events. There always seems to be something to do. A week after moving into town there was even a street long art event just next door. Little Italy had a week of festivities – a street party filled with iconic Italian cars and food, and ending with live opera.
Friends had mentioned the liveliness of summer in Montreal. In fact, there is so much happening that I feel as though I am letting the city down by not having attended more. I am a festival slacker, I feel so ashamed. I will do better, I promise!
There are bits and pieces of this city which drive me batty (I am looking at you unending traffic hour!), but approaching it the same way I did new spaces while living on the road injects a healthy dose of fun and wonder. When I hosted Couch Surfers in Vancouver it was always nice to see a city I knew like the back of my hand through fresh eyes. Now I am in the enviable position of being resident and tourist at the same time.
At first my internal critic kept comparing Montreal to other places I have been, making me wonder, fear, whether I could ever be satisfied with this new home base. Somewhen along the way my natural cup-half-full mind set snuck up and took over. Montreal has not yet earned as big a place in my heart as say Vancouver or Wellington have, but it is on its way.
I look forward to sharing what catches my eye, funky locales, worthy businesses, museum visits … Stay tuned to find out if I find that cosy café!