There are many cities in the world that have taken hold in my heart. But it all started in Montreal.
Montreal is the place where I was born. The place where I grew up. The place where I was a child, a teenager, a young adult and whatever you want to call me now. The place where I loved and was loved. It’s a place where I always felt cherished and that always brings awe to my eyes. And while I see myself as a Montrealer, it’s a strange place that is difficult to label.
There are so many ways of describing this city, and yet none accurate enough, but I thought I would give it a try.
image via flickr
Montreal is architecture
Montreal is the jewel hiding in a corner culturally somewhere between North America and Europe. It keeps its history at the forefront as if to remind you that it was founded nearly 400 years ago. While it’s a modern city, its identity truly lies in its contradictions. Modern high-rises and apartment buildings are juxtaposed with ancient cobbled stone streets and historical buildings, which are in turn a big contrast to late 70s brutalist buildings built when the economy was undergoing a resurgence.
Montreal is a spark of the tongue
There are not many cities in the world where locals drift from one language to another, always feeling and never translating. Many Montrealers speak both French and English fluently, or enough to understand conversations in both. That means that words are spoken in the language that they make the most sense in. It can baffle many unilingual visitors, but if you stay long enough, you get sucked into this dance of languages.
Montreal is all about the weather
Would you believe that apparently Canadians have 200% more weather coverage than most countries in the world? I can!
A Quebecer poet once wrote ‘my country isn’t a country, it’s the winter’. And while it may sound like a simple line of poetry, when you come from that part of Canada you definitely know what he meant.
The winter takes over our lives for most of the year. The first snow is magical and the following snowstorms are hellish – while always looking straight out of a fairytale. The reappearance of the sun in spring always triggers happiness and the overly keen summer dressers. And the summers! Let me tell you about the summers, about the heat waves and the effervescence of the city. About the festivals, the music, the sweat, the happiness and the excitement. Then autumn comes around, marking the beginning of the academic year, the students flocking from everywhere in the world. Montreal then becomes a place full of yellow and red hues. It’s not too cold, not too hot – the perfect season.
Montreal is food
Montreal will make you hungry and fill your stomach all at once. There are so many different things on offer that you can have easy access to everything you wish for from across the globe. The Montreal specialty? Offering you something new to try!
Montreal is extremes and paradoxes
It’s English and French – in one city and often within one conversation. It’s icy winters and balmy summers. It’s colourful autumns and wet springs. It’s big events full of crowds at the heart of the city during heat waves and the big events full of crowds at the heart of the city despite the snow and cold. It’s the typical outdoor staircases during slippery days of snowstorms. It’s the days and nights spent outside during summers and months hiding inside, cuddled up in a big blanket, during the half year that winter consumes. It’s a city that never feels too overwhelming and yet never feels too small. You’ll be a face in the crowd, or you’ll easily meet people you know. You can make it whatever you want it to be.
Montreal is a cultural capital
Montreal is also the fashion, the culture and the art. It’s everything you could possibly imagine and need. It’s the inspiration and the stimulation. It’s making snow coats fashionable. It’s days at the museums and fun at international festivals. It’s being able to witness and experience different cultures, taste the food and hear the languages.
Montreal is home
Montreal is a cool place. I say cool because it’s difficult to describe in so few words. Montreal understands you and yet gives you space. Don’t be put off by the weather, it’s truly a gem.
And despite it all, it was the place that I always wanted to escape. It made me happy, but it also made me curious about the world. So I did leave, in 2012. But every time I come back to it, Montreal is there waiting for me with its arms wide open, welcoming me home, without judgment and without fuss.
This article is part of our AT HOME series featuring stories from and about the meaning of ‘home’.
This is a guest post by Camila Contreras.
Camila is the founder of Adventitious Violet. Half Canadian & half Chilean, she grew up in Montreal, Canada but is currently based in central Scotland. She took her first international trip at age 1 and has always loved to travel since. She studied abroad in Berlin, Germany, and then moved abroad to do her second degree in St Andrews, Scotland. There she met the love of her life and decided to stay.