In May 2008, I spent two weeks in Montréal to study French and see where my dad spent his youth from age 13-21. I rented a sublet downtown just about a block away from Metro Guy/Concordia, which coincidentally was only about a block away from where my friend Kathleen used to live (great since she was able to give me tips on where to eat and visit within walking distance). I also visited my friend Sylvie, who I met in the Mardi Gras Marathon two years ago.
Below are some notes about my general impressions of the city.
- When I first got off the plane, I first thought, “wow, it is humid here.” But in truth, the weather in May was very nice—about 16-22 Celsius (61-72 degrees Fahrenheit). It only rained or drizzled a couple times while I was there.
- There are restaurants everywhere. However, there seem to be very few grocery stores. Perhaps no one cooks at home?
- While French is the primary language spoken most of the time by most people, everyone seems to be bilingual and fluent in English. Impressively, this even includes the minimum wage people at McDonalds or Tim Hortons.
- There are several dedicated bike routes, including that by the Canal deLachine and one on Rue Maisonneuve.
- The city is very walkable with a good mass transit system (buses and subways). Those who do drive either drive something economical and practical (e.g., MINI) or something ultra-fancy.
- Several friends had told me they heard that women in Montreal were “totally hot,” and they were right! I think it is because people dress so well here and they sound so good (particularly when speaking French or speaking English with a French or Canadian accent).
- While the city can be described as a concrete jungle, at least it has some dedicated open space areas like Parc Mont-Royal, Parc Prefontaine and Fontaine, and Le Canal de Lachine.
- There’s graffiti everywhere. It probably has the most graffiti of any place I’ve been to aside from maybe Tijuana, Mexico and Stockton, California.
- Traffic and parking is as bad as San Francisco.
- According to a woman I met on the plane (just a 3.5-hour direct flight from Denver) named France (who even kindly drove me from the airport to a metro station—thanks!), Montréal has budget woes. As a consequence, the roads are neglected and are in really bad shape.
- The harsh and long Montréal winters are probably a major reason why the roads go to crap quickly.
- There is a lot of construction going on. Every morning I would be woken up by jackhammers.
- As in almost every big city, there is a significant criminal element. I was a victim of one, where someone stole the little backpack I had hanging off the back of my chair while I was working on my laptop in a café.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed my time in Montreal and thought it was a neat city (esp. with its French bias), it is not a place I’d care to live in due to its crowds, noise, traffic, crime, concrete, lack of tranquility, etc. I guess I remain not a big city person.