Over the past few months various blogs, articles and such have surfaced debating Montreal and its pros and cons and comparing it to Toronto. As a person who’s lived here for twenty years, I figured I could contribute with a rebuttal or perhaps voice an opinion. The truth is, there is no comparison between the two and this article is solely about Montreal.
The thing is, this city has charm. It’s small, but not too small. Cosmopolitan, but not metropolitan. It’s active, but not overly exhaustive and swarming. It’s rich in cultures and languages. This can be observed in absolutely all aspects of Montreal life.
The food. Deciding on a place to eat can be overwhelming because of the immense variety that is available. Montrealers are usually quite versed in their culinary knowledge.
The arts scene. This is the artist’s haven. It’s (rent) cheaper than any other city, so it accommodates the creative minds that are on a budget. There are so many galleries and theaters that could keep one occupied with a very interesting weekly program. Granted, it is predominantly in French, but it’s a great place to learn and find your artistic beginnings.
Montreal is one of the greenest cities I’ve seen. With Mount Royal only minutes away from downtown, it’s perfect for a morning/evening run, picnic, walking your dog and is equally popular in the winter with activities like skating/ tobogganing/tubing/cross-country skiing. But it’s not just the park. It’s the city’s effort to preserve trees on such boulevards like Sherbrooke. It’s the smell of flowers being watered in the streets in summertime. It’s the elaborately planned bike paths that - create a mass of dangerous cyclists, but ensure a greener, cleaner environment.
Though it is publicized as a “European” city, I tend to disagree. Montreal is not European. Besides the Old Port architecture, the french language, occasional late-night dinners and smoke-filled terrasses - it’s very far from Euro culture. It’s a North American oasis, but it is still very Americanized.
Some might argue that Montreal is a nightlife destination, others might point out that it seems to be in a constant drunken haze. This is in part because of the large student community. The education is so cheap that people from around the world flock here to study…or party. The result is a very active night scene. It also results in riots. Thousands of students protesting absolutely everything that can be protested. Downtown. During the day. During the night. Any time, really.
Now, increasingly, Montreal is faced with problems of identity and structure. The main issues are those that have always been visible, but lately they seem insufferable.
The construction. Oh myyyy God, where do I begin? This place has become a construction site! If it’s not the bridge, it’s a highway overpass. If it’s not traffic, it’s potholes the size of a canoe. There is always something going on at the wrong time.
The language debates. The English-French/French-English tensions have been rising for a while and now that they are being reinforced by the law, well, people are pissed off…in the workplace, in school, at the supermarket, in the shopping centers, on the street, in the post office, at the liquor store, in the restaurants, in the coffee shops, at the bars, at the galleries, in the museums, at the concerts, on TV, the radio, in the newspapers, on the internet….et cetera. This is causing great potential (bilingual, trilingual, polyglot) minds to move, schools to shut down and businesses to close.
All in all, this is my Montreal Issue.