This past week has done wonders in changing my opinion of big cities. I grew up in a small town for almost the entirety of my memorable life. So moving to Ontario for university, the land of the cities, wasn’t my first choice. Many are adverse to change and one of the things I had gotten used to was the connectedness of a smaller place. Crippling poverty, higher crime rates and sanitation were among facts I cited. I’ve become tolerant of many ‘big city’ issues over the past two years – you may have noticed a much different tone from my writings when I first moved.
I was in Montreal, Quebec for the past week for a well-deserved vacation after finals. I met up with some friends who had traveled out from the Maritimes. Now, you must first understand this, I don’t know many people in Niagara Falls (not that it’s a big city anyways) and the only time I’ve spent alone in Toronto was during the last work term when I was feeling very anti-social. As a result, I’ve never really ‘experienced’ the big city atmosphere. Montreal was really the first opportunity I’ve had.
I’m almost certain I have a romanticized view of the city. I was only there for one week and I spent most of the time seeing the sights. Basically I saw mostly the good side of Montreal and very little of what makes a city a city. Don’t get me wrong, I saw unsafe areas and plenty of poverty. Homelessness was the toughest part to bear. I felt like I was flaunting myself when I was drinking $6 beers in viewing distance of someone sitting there on the sidewalk. I’d imagine most people who’ve lived there for a long time don’t even see them. How else could you deal with that every single day for your whole life? I’m honestly not certain what I would do. It’s one thing to give a couple bucks here and there for a week and feel good about yourself for ‘helping’ someone. But if you actually lived there, could you do that? I’ve heard that Montreal isn’t even bad when it comes to crime and poverty.
We spent much of the time walking up and down St. Catherine’s Street as well as the underground shopping complexes. At night we’d hit up the local pubs and went to several stand up comedy shows. I heard some absolutely hilarious stuff and at the same time some comedy that made me want to cry more than laugh. I stayed for the first time in my life at a hostel. That turned out better than I expected. Everything I’d heard about them made my believe I’d pick up lice and possibly some random diseases. That week in Montreal made me want to go live there. The night life is absolutely amazing. Plus, I absolutely love speaking French. I tried to pass myself off as a native there; I’d begin every conversation in French and tried my best to infuse the accent. It actually worked in a few cases until they starting responding as though I were French…
I’ll upload some pictures later when I get a little more time.