Like many others, I was captivated by Montreal on my very first visit, and each visit thereafter. Compared to Ottawa, my hometown, and Kingston, the city I lived in during undergrad, Montreal was incredibly dynamic and exciting to me. So when an opportunity arose for me to move here for the summer, I leapt at the chance.
After months of living here, I can honestly say that I'm more in love with Montreal than ever. And no, I'm not just saying that to appease fellow Montrealers reading this - I really mean it. I've explored the city pretty rigorously, and yet there is still more to see and do. And as always, I've been able to enjoy and savour the relaxed, fun vibe this city effortlessly gives off.
With all the incredible features Montreal has, there are certain ways it's set the bar frighteningly high for any future city I live in. Since, tragically, my summer here is coming to an end, I'm already dreading having to say goodbye to some of my favourite aspects of the city. So, if you're a native Montrealer, or just moving to the city, consider this a PSA: you are so unbelievably lucky to be here, so enjoy it while you can.
1. The food will never be as good anywhere else in the entire world
I will happily fight anyone on this: Montreal has the absolute best food and restaurant selection in the world. Rome, Italy? Forget it. Montreal, any day. The diversity of cuisine is just unbeatable, and you can find food from pretty much every nationality and culture that exists.
What I love most about Montreal's food scene is the balance between upscale, refined dining, and traditional, laid-back comfort food spots. Whether it's Jatoba or Decarie Hot Dog, Moishe's or The Orange Julep, both are revered and loved for what they offer. Montrealers are fiercely proud of their food culture, and rightfully so. Trust me, my biggest stress right now is whether I'll have enough time to eat at all the places I want to try before I leave.
2. I won't be able to get poutine at any restaurant, no matter what
Do I even need to explain why this is so devastating? It's a largely accepted truth that no matter what restaurant you're dining at in Montreal, you'll be able to get poutine in some way, shape, or form. What I'll miss most is the simple way you can always upgrade your side of fries for a side of poutine.
While I know a few restaurants back home that offer this feature, it's much more difficult to come by, and quite honestly, it's never as good as Montreal poutine. The national Canadian dish is just done right here, and leaving it behind is like leaving a little bit of my soul to wither and die. Sounds dramatic, but when you're as spoiled as I've been by Montreal poutine, you'll understand.
3. There won't be 14 Deps around the corner that all have wine and beer
Yes, I am aware that you can now buy beer in Ontario grocery stores, but, at least in Ottawa, the stores that sell it are much fewer and farther between than here. Plus, the convenience stores still can't sell beer, and unless there's a Wine Rack or something similar inside the grocery store, wine isn't available at these spots either.
So there, you see my dilemma - outside of Montreal, it just isn't as easy to grab some beer or a bottle of wine on your way home from work. Not only will I miss the ultra convenient Dep situation, but I'll miss the title of 'Depanneur' in general. I know it's just a French translation for corner store, but there's something about the colloquial phrase 'Dep' that feels special, like an inside joke or something. I mean, think about it, if you said, "Can we stop by the Dep?" anywhere else in Canada, people would look at you like you just asked when the next UFO sighting would be. Deps for life, everyone.
4. I won't be able to drink in a park without the fear of getting a massive fine
A photo posted by Renee Lavallee (@feistychef) on
At this point, I think I've told everyone and their grandma about this special Montreal law, which stipulates that you can drink alcohol in public parks, as long as you have food with you. When I first heard this, I thought there had to be some catch. But when I strolled through Park La Fontaine on a Friday afternoon and saw hundreds of people relaxing on their picnic blankets, beers in hand, I realized that this curious law is in fact real.
The fact that so many people actually take advantage of this just proves how awesome and laid-back Montrealers are. After having enjoyed my own wine-infused picnics, I can barely begin to describe how much I'll miss this simple freedom. Get caught doing this anywhere else, and it's a huge fine, and potentially jail time. But in Montreal? Well, it's just part of the culture. Maybe now is the time to start a petition to have this law passed in the rest of Canada, because I cringe when I think of ever having another picnic that doesn't involve Pinot Grigio.
5. The bar scene will never be quite the same in any other major city
Just like there's something special and amazing about Montreal's food scene, same goes for the drinking spots and nightlife in general. There are endless options, spanning every vibe, age range, ambiance, music, speciality alcohol, and atmosphere you could ever want.But it's not just the diversity of the bar scene that makes it so great: it's the laid-back, non-judgmental nature of it.
While there are obviously some fancier, more exclusive places throughout the city, I've largely noticed that Montrealers don't care much about what you wear, or whether you necessarily 'fit in' with the crowd at any given place. I've seen girls wearing Nikes at SuWu, while the girl next to them is wearing high heels. I've worn white sneakers and a dress to Fitzroy, and felt totally comfortable. I know for a fact this attitude doesn't carry over to Ottawa or Toronto, so I'll definitely miss the chill Montrealer attitude when it comes to club and bar attire.
6. 'Terrasse' is a way better word than patio but it's weird to use anywhere else
As an Ontario transplant, I learned very quickly that the word 'patio' is not a thing here - rather, it's terrasse. And while the word felt foreign on my tongue at first, the more I incorporated it into casual everyday conversation, the more it became right. I mean, patio just sounds harsh and uninviting to me now. 'Hey, let's head to that nice terrasse for drinks' sounds a lot classier than 'Patio season!!'
Before you get all judgmental and tell me that terrasse is a widely used term in France or wherever else, let's be honest, I'm not going to be using it anytime soon outside of Montreal. I can just imagine how much my friends would tease me if I used my terrible French accent to describe a nice terrasse to them - they'd instantly respond with "You mean, patio?!" It's sad, alright? Patio sucks. Terrasse is better.
7. Getting used to a different metro system will be even worse now
Even though Montrealers complain occasionally about the quality of their Metro, as an outsider, I can assure you, it's an excellent transportation system. I've taken subways in Toronto, New York, and many cities in Europe, and I have to say that Montreal's metro ranks among the best.
First of all, it's very straightforward and simple, even down to the way the maps are designed and colour coded. Second, it's clean - and I know some people will disagree strongly, but on the whole, the Montreal metro stations are very well kept. Third, it's a pleasant experience; most stations have fairly high ceilings, art on the walls, and screens to see when your next train is arriving. All of this adds up to a pleasant, safe, and convenient riding experience for both everyday commuters and tourists. Basically, getting used to another metro system - or sorry, 'subway' - after being spoiled by Montreal's, is going to be terrible, not to mention confusing.
8. I won't find this specific brand of joie de vivre anywhere else
You probably already know this, but the term joie de vivre refers to a certain joyfulness and zest for life, an exuberant attitude, and penchant to enjoy the finer things. Montreal undoubtedly embodies the meaning of joie de vivre, but in its own special way. To try and explain what it is, or what it feels like, is fruitless - it's something you can only really understand after spending time here.
Maybe it's walking down St. Denis at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, and seeing every single terrasse already packed with people, drinks in hand. Maybe it's not even being able to walk on the sidewalk on St. Laurent at midnight, because there are so many people out. Maybe it's spontaneously deciding to take a BIXI back from a dinner out, and cruising down the bike lanes on Clark. Maybe it's being surprised by a new piece of street art on your way home from the store. Maybe it's the way every service person greets you with 'Bonjour hi?'
Even if you're a native Montrealer, it's difficult to exactly pinpoint what makes this city so special and unique. It's a combination of many different factors, but what it comes down to is a citywide feeling, a collective mindset that says: We're here to live, and live well. A friend who visited recently put it perfectly: "This city allows life to happen."
Although I have my whole life ahead of me, and tons of cities to visit, I have a feeling that somehow, nowhere will quite capture the same specific joie de vivre that Montreal has. And the thing is, that's ok with me, because I'm just grateful to have experienced it, even for a short while. So thanks for having me, Montreal, and although it's strange to say, thanks for ruining certain things - it just means I'll have to come back again. And I will, because some things change, but the quality of poutine in this city is eternal.