The honeymoon phase of living in a new city is over when I find myself avoiding the downtown area.
Things get messy in an exciting way downtown, especially if the city has an NHL team that makes the Stanley Cup finals. If there are no sporting events or festivals, there will still be buskers to provide entertainment. Public transportation modes overlap downtown: you can drop off onto a ferry from the communal zip line.
It’s easy to see why tourists congregate downtown. There’s always that one street with all the indie stores and that other one with all the seedy sex shops. Commissioned public art sculptures are found plopped on random corners. Sticking out somewhere in the middle of the skyline is a revolving restaurant with terrible food. If the city isn’t landlocked, there will be several waterfront restaurants, and they’ll have names like Beaches or The Fish Exchange. The food will probably also be terrible here. Every city has at least one unusual-looking building.
Montréal has the Olympic stadium which looks like it was initially supposed to be a bridge, but then the engineers abandoned the idea halfway through construction and decided to turn it into a stadium to save face. You can see this building from nearly anywhere in the city.
But the thing that stood out the most about Montréal compared to all other places I’ve lived is how old it is. (In colonialism years.) Victoria, BC is 156 years old. Vancouver is 132. Calgary, 134. Halfmoon Bay is probably younger than my dad.
Montréal is 376!
I know 376 seems absurdly young to the world outside of North America. In these 376 years, Montréal got a few things right:
Another Saturday was spent under the sun in spandex. Yann and I gave Route Verte #5 a try; we’re going through all the route numbers, almost in order.
#5 took us through a forest of refineries to the northernmost (or easternmost if you have that much faith in Montréal’s cartographers) tip of the island. Just before we exited the island of Montréal, we happened upon a small park inhabited by anthropomorphic animals in baseball shirts standing on stumps.
Instead of continuing to argue with Yann about the varying quality of stunt mattresses, I am going to write about today’s bike ride in explicit detail.
Since my crash two weeks ago, this was the first bike ride worthy of wearing bib shorts. On Tuesday, I finished my antibiotics like a good patient, but came up with a new reason to visit the doctor: “My arm looks better but feels so much worse!”
This new doctor prescribed me some pale yellow tablets and promised me I’d be ready to wrestle a ManBearPig in under a week. As I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t be able to find a ManBearPig in the city, Yann and I cycled out to Oka (118km round trip).
Since my accident, I’ve been spending way more time on the love seat than in the saddle. Likewise, I am on way more drugs than usual. I was hoping the painkillers the small-town doctor hooked me up with would evoke some blog-worthy introspection. Alas, painkillers don’t do that. Not even morphine. At best, it made sulking on the love seat a little less uncomfortable.
It took exactly a week before I felt I had recovered enough to go on a benign adventure. On Saturday I found myself back on a gravel path, only I didn’t have a bicycle beneath me.
This particular path– Le Réseau-Vert–runs alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line for about 3km through the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. Up until the beginning of spring, it was a simple unmarked car-free path. The city then decided to add some gimmicky park benches, tables, a playground for doing calisthenics, and information panels.
Being without my bicycle forced me to slow down and appreciate this $1 million upgrade. I was able to stop and smell the roses/learn a bit about my ‘hood. In French.