If you are a Montrealer, living in the city and are thinking about making a move, this question has for sure crossed your mind more than once. You're looking at properties on centris.ca and suddenly, your heart jumps as you spot an actual good price for what seems like a small townhouse in a downtown neighborhood you like and it's a 10 minute walk to the nearest metro line! You enthusiastically start calculating and decide to go to the open house until you get there only to realize the house is smaller than anticipated, has no parking or needs major renovations. The other townhouses in the city are...do you have 1.5 million dollars? Me neither. Oiiii....with desperation, you shake your head and hold your forehead in your hand and it's back to the drawing board.
I can hear some of you snort already "Pfff! what is so hard about that? Ditch the small condo and move into an affordable castle in the suburbs already!". Unfortunately, for those of us who have now grown accustomed to the downtown life, a move anywhere off the island or, more importantly, away from any metro line (even the blue one), is cause for concern and will make us hyperventilate and reconsider our move altogether.
Seven years ago, when I moved from the west island to Griffintown, my morning commute and daily outings became quasi non-existent and this impacted my life a little more than I expected. For years I had traveled back and forth from Beaconsfield to downtown Montreal to go to elementary school, high school, CEGEP and finally Concordia and UQÀM. All these years, getting up early and rushing, hopping in the car (I DO miss the Jeep a little) and leaving an hour early as well to make it on time, you know, just in case traffic was bad. God forbid I'd forget the essay that was due that day at school. I had printed three copies, emailed myself one and had another copy in my usb key. If something happened, home was far away and I only had access to computer labs back then, no laptop. So that's approximately minimum a 75$ tank of gas, registration, insurance and parking when required. Not to mention the time loss.
To go back home in high school was even worse. It was the BMW: Bus Metro Walk! The famous joke except it was two metro lines and add a train ride in between for me. I did have my Sony Walkman back then so I enjoyed the musical recharge it provided me.
My commute now? Ha! Now?!! I laugh as I make my way to work or, any where for that matter. Most of the time I either walk, grab a metro and I'm there. In the summer? bonus! I can ride my Vespa. Nothing is ever more than 20 minutes away. Consequently this allows me to have more time in my 24 hour day to invest into other pleasant activities. More time to sleep-in, ballet class , or go to the gym in the morning, or stay longer at work if I need to since I don't have to worry about the snow storm affecting my travels or just trying to avoid traffic at all. As I get off at Bonaventure station, I cross paths with those who wait for their "Rive-Sud" bus and watch them waiting. Eeeeiiish...they have another hour or so before they get home. I have 3 minutes left.
Ever notice that those who live far from the city always arrive very early to work while downtowners are no more than 15 minutes early? When you live far from the city or wherever you work, you are at the mercy of your daily commute. Having to get up extra early to catch that train because it only comes every 30 minutes or worse, you need to take the bus to get to the express bus (i.e. 211 bus West Island style). When you live close to your work environment, the entire commute system is at your service, especially in the metro at rush hour. You got yourself a metro every 4 minutes!
Space versus proximity
Then again, it was also pleasant to have both the suburban and urban life back then. During the day I would stream through the city grounds and in the evening, return to the calm suburban home which I am certain those commuting folks are happy to go back to as I did back then.
Right, so it's fun to be close to everything and everyone but what about space? Indeed. Sharing 700 square feet with another person can have its challenges. For example...the ridiculous closet space. Carrie Bradshaw had a pretty good deal with her small appartment but ginormous walk-through closet and she knew it. I pretty much won the battle on that one even before moving in, my husband knowing full well the large collection of outfits I own. Then there is the simple linen and kitchen storage that is quite limited. I mean it. One more Tupperware and the drawer will burst. "Yeah but everyone's Tupperware drawer is full" sure, but if you own a house, you'll have a spare room in which to put it: a garage, a basement cantina, another closet, something. We on the other hand don't. It will either be given back or it is going in the recycling bin. I also can no longer accept the following gifts: bed sheets, towels, plates, bowls, vases and even books are starting to be counted and carefully managed. You may be thinking woah, you're really due to get moving which is indeed true if we only consider space. However, we have at least 4 sets of sheets, all the pots and pans we need, tons of vases and 100 books that's not counting the lovely record collection. We work around the clock to manage and keep the nest clutter-free since we are limited in buffer zones to hide anything. It's not such a bad thing since it forces us to be highly organized and practical.
It would be nice to have a few more rooms to have an office in or a musical instruments with a library and not worry about storage. At the same time, we never have to sweat about mowing the lawn, shoveling snow and we have a gym and a pool with barbecues.
Natural tranquility versus the city buzz
I was walking downtown yesterday, returning to my Vespa after running an errand. It was a beautiful and hot summer day and civilians like myself were all out and about. Behind me, a man and a woman were discussing and at one point the man exclaims: "coudonc, y'a ben du monde!". I smiled to myself and felt like responding dude...we are standing at the corner of Peel and St-Catherine's, exactly what are you expecting? True, the streets were slightly more loaded than usual since it's July, but you're still downtown. I suppose it is aggravating to squeeze through a crowd when you are used to having your own backyard. I guess it would be frustrating to share the sidewalk with a ton other people if one is used to driving everywhere.
Which made me wonder, did I lose my perspective? Do I now actually like for my personal space to be invaded by strangers? Do I enjoy swirming through a crowd of people on the street? Have I now grown a little addicted to the city buzz the city provides for me. Why, yes I have.
After almost ten years of city living, I have grown quite fond of the hussle. The sirens, the construction, the dirt, the weirdos, the rat race in the metro lines and this constantly being surrounded by people. Mixed into this to counterbalance however are all of the beautiful old architectured buildings perfectly juxtapositioned. The quaint coffee shops with the adorable bistro terraces, the mount royal mountain that makes its appearance at the top of McGill college and so much more. I can see all of this in one evening as I walk back home. Downtown, any spot is good for an improvised 5 à 7. Even if you're staring at a parking lot, there's some sort of ambiance to it stemming from the city buzz. Men in suits and briefcases, women in skirts dashing in heels, everyone going places. This constance of activity is strangely enough that which gives me energy. The people that I cross are all part of my world in some way and their energy feeds into mine.
Can all that turmoil get wearing after a while? Sometimes.
Every now and again, I like to escape the chaos and drive to the grassy and calming suburbs to tame my wired self and spend time with the family. Every time I appreciate just how big the spaces are and how much room I would have should I own a house there. The peace and quiet is almost overwhelming. The suburbs have more curb appeal, privacy and space. It is unbeatable. I would host great big Christmas dinners and have people sleep over. I'd have my own music room and play the drums all I want. Buy all the books in the world without worrying about shelving them. Wait, wait...what about work? I'd need to get a car ($$$). Or take the commute?
I'm back to that horrible nightmare of catching the 4:45pm train and arriving home at 6:15pm? What if there's a 5 à 7? Do those still exist in the suburbs or does everyone just go home? Clearly, I would miss the simplicity of pedestrian life and the city vibe. But the space....Argh!
What about you? How are you deciding?
Bee, still in the city! ;)
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
Like my blog? Sign up to the news letter!
Follow me on Instagram!