I don’t really have an excuse as to why, having been born and raised in Toronto and having studied in Kingston, Ontario, a stone’s throw from Montreal, I’d never visited this vibrant city.
I finally made the trek with Joe when he came to visit Canada this February. Joe is planning on studying an MBA in the province of Quebec and wanted to check out the Quebecois culture in dynamic, university-rich Montreal.
During our time there we walked the frozen streets, took in the abundant art and European culture and made sure that Joe had a chance to experience all the typical Canadian delights: maple syrup on snow, smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz and poutine. Despite the three coffees a day and the complete disregard for a dairy and gluten-free diet, my digestive prowess had never been stronger. I take this as concrete evidence of the power of art, travel and chocolate to cure any digestive ailment (try it yourself sometime)!
J, a visitor from Colombia, wearing a borrowed vintage military coat and one of those fake-fur hunting hats, managed surprisingly well in the -20 degrees celsius weather. We bonded over the travel experience as neither of us feel at home unless we’re discovering someplace new. We had the usual fight about whether we needed a map (his position) or whether it was more fun to just wander the streets, without direction (mine). When traveling, however, there are several things we both agree on: walking is great, stopping to eat is even better and you can’t truly experience a place without first sampling the coffee many times over. J decided that he likes Montreal better than Toronto, except for the weather. His comment: “This is your city, Talita. It’s disorganized, but a bit bohemian, just like you.”
It was enriching to be in a city that values culture, food and art after spending so many years in Toronto, which, despite it’s cultural diversity, has yet to define itself. Sometimes I feel that Toronto is so dominated by commerce that it loses sight of the pleasures of eating a chocolate crepe and a soy mocaccino instead of dinner or spending a lazy day perusing a nearby art gallery.
In a city where hipsters roam the icy streets, everyone is a budding artist and there are as many cafes as people, Montreal reminds us that there may just be more to life than work, hockey and shopping at Costco.