thomas m wilson

Goodbye Montreal

July 7th, 2007

I’ve now left Montreal, and I feel a bit sad about it. So, in retrospect, I’m going to go on a little bike ride, camera in hand, through the city.

First some info. It is the second biggest French speaking city in the world after Paris – 3.6 million people. But the city is bilingual – you can speak French of course, but when you get tired or are unable to express a fine philosophical point, you could lapse into English and be understood pretty well. How nice for an English speaker like myself! The city is far inland, but has a big, wide river running past it – the St. Lawrence river – and has a large, wooded hill in its centre – Mt. Royal. I’d miss the ocean if I lived here. But then you do have the arcadia of the Adirondacks/the Champlain valley just south of here into the US, an hour and a half hours in a car away.

When you go up Mt. Royal and look down you can see downtown…


But if you go north-east from downtown the Plateau and Mile End the area becomes more residential, but in a cafe frequented, community fostering, urban kind of way. Old three up brick apartment buildings line the streets.


Here I begin my ride at the bottom of the stairs from the apartment I was staying in…


The trees in this area are one of the things I like about it…


Going down St. Viateur, past bagel bakeries and organic supermarket, people are all over the place, in cafes and on the pavement. The density of living spaces means more people about, and fewer cars in action. Even without the environmental virtues of this scenario, this kind of urban environment – lightened by the street trees – appeals to me over the semi-isolation of living in the well-spaced Australian suburbs. Even more, you don’t feel cramped here on the wide streets of this new world city as you might in the similarly busy streets many old European capitals.


When you have a bike in a new city somehow you feel less of a tourist, and more a part of the place – even if you’re riding a vintage road bike like this creaking contraption.


The Montreal Jazz Festival brings out everybody, young and old.


Saskatoon berries, a native food formerly eaten by the American Indians. One night I and a couple of friends picked them off somebody’s front garden tree and brought them back to the apartment for desert. Food is generally very cheap in Montreal, a meal out often costing say eleven dollars (Canadian and Australian dollars are about the same). Rent is also cheap – you could live in this area and share an apartment with one or two other people and pay $100 a week, or a little more.

So I really like Montreal. I’m just not sure about the winters. I’m not sure I could handle being inside for so many months of the year… But as a new worlder from one of the non-superpower nations I relate well to the unspoken sense here that we are not the centre of the world, and we are not stuck in our cultural ways. One of the differences I like compared to Australia is that the culture here is probably more open to the arts and ideas in some ways than the still slightly anti-intellectual legacy evident in Oz (I may be wrong on this point – let me know if you disagree).

I hope I’m back in this part of the world soon!