Ironically living in a city is good for the environment. Dense population clusters facilitate the widespread use of public transport and bikes, and mean water and other things don’t require as much energy to be moved about. But some cities are better than others. I arrived in Montreal on Tuesday, and I think this place is one of the better ones.
I really like this city. It has the brownstones familiar from New York’s Greenwich Village, with iron stairs leading up to the second story, and old trees in full green leaf along the street. Unlike Greenwich Village it is affordable to live here. Odd turrets and elaborate gables top the terrace houses here and there. Black iron fire escapes climb down into the back alleys, where squirrels dodge cats and people stroll. The books have the minimalistic jacket designs of the French publishing industry. People switch backwards and forwards between French and English, both with a slight American slant. The windows of the apartment I’m staying in have the old, white sliding bolt design used in old French apartments. The air is warm and lots of people are on the street.
Bikes adorn the railings in front of nearly all the houses in this area, Mile End. Everywhere I go in Montreal the street is wide and full of cyclists. They have installed very wide, two-way cycle lanes – as big as another lane on the road – on a few one-way streets. I saw literally fleets of cyclists shooting down these lanes.
Often people have vegetable gardens in their narrow front yards. There is a funky, community orientated feeling, familiar to me from Brunswick St. in Melbourne.
I’m happy to be here. In some ways this city is the place I can most imagine myself living out of all the places I’ve been so far on this trip. That said, I’m looking at the place in late June when all the windows and doors – like our back door in the above photo – are open and heat is in the streets. In January minus ten celcius is merely average and more snow falls than in a Moscow winter. I don’t know how I’d cope with that. But right now I really like this place. It has a cool, urban feeling, and doesn’t have the cultural arrogance to think it is the centre of the world (I think us Australians and Canadians share this sense of cultural humility).
Sitting on the Metro, reading the program of the soon to come Montreal Jazz Festival. As part of the festival I’m going to see the Cinematic Orchestra on 5 July. If you don’t know them, have a listen. They are sounding quiet and romantic on their latest album Ma Fleur.