Ottawa and Montreal

It’s been a few days since I updated on our progress with the big move. We arrived safely in Ottawa, are crashing with our friend JM in Ottawa, and have made 2 trips into Montreal for various business so far. It’s been busy, hence the lack of update!


We rolled into Ottawa late in the afternoon on Sunday, Canadian Thanksgiving. Jm’s friends had invited us to join their “orphan Thanksgiving”, which included a huge feast with ham and turkey, stuffing, cranberries, veggies, and plenty of wine! We also played a few games of Charades, which has become my favorite party game, no matter how WASPy that makes me feel!
JM and his roommate R are putting us up for essentially as long as we need, so we are very lucky. Ottawa is a pleasant place to stay. It’s a small town that feels a bit transported in time, albeit only on the surface, since everything has clearly been updated! JM, who is the most Celtic Asian you have ever met, has shown us around to all the sights, including Parliament Hill, the National Gallery, and the Byward Market. We have also frequented the Irish Corner of bars on Parent and Clarence – 4 Irish pubs that share an open air patio inside.
Before coming, I heard mixed reviews, ranging from “you’ll hate it, it’s so boring” to “you’ll love it there’s so much to do”. I can see why it’s a polarizing place. The buildings have old-but-well-maintained charm, the downtown is all walking distance, restaurants and cafes are cozy and bourgeois, and everything feels on the up-and-up. All these lovely on the up-and-up places, however, shut down at 9 pm. I can see both sides of the Ottawa reviews, but I like it, at least for the time being.


I didn’t really have too many expectations for Montreal. I expected some nice neighborhoods, lots of brick and old buildings, little shops, and hipsters running around. I’m sure this will become more my view of Montreal as we carve out our life there (I’ve seen hints of it here and there), but for now, my main observation is that Montreal is HUGE! The city sprawls way more than I expected, way more than a lot of other places I’ve been. And that sprawl feels densely packed. There may not be many highrises, but 3-story walk-ups, row houses, and duplexes are crammed into block after block, neighborhood after neihbourhood, borough after borough. The mere size of it is intimidating for someone who has gotten accustomed to Vancouver’s condensed landscape.
Also something I should have expected more: traffic! I feel a bit like I’m returning to my Seattlite roots! We drove in today at 1:00, and got caught in a massive traffic jam. Same on the ways in and out yesterday, although those were at 3:00 and 7:00, so it bookended rush hour. Part of the reason for traffic seems to be that, true to all the rumors, Québécois are crazy drivers. The Hubby and I are taking it in stride, but driving is considerably more stressful. Turn signals and centre lines seem to be more suggestions than rules. The roads are winding, narrowing, with constantly shifting traffic patterns, so you actually have to be a little aggressive when switching lanes. It all serves to remind me that we are in a very very different place than home! It actually is pretty amusing, and a good sort of stress. But I think we will drive less and take transit more when we get settled!
Speaking of getting settled, we’ve started looking for an apartment. We saw 3 today. The first one was a good size, but bordering two neighborhoods on a major thoroughfare, so not very homey. The second was in the McGill Ghetto, on a nice street and a good comfortable neighbourhood, but was way too small and expensive by Montreal standards (still cheap by Vancouver standards!). The third one was in a sweet, cozy neighborhood (the Monkland Village) about 30 minutes on the Metro from McGill, and was a perfect size for a good price. We’re going to put in an application, but we have 2 more to see tomorrow. I really liked it, but I’m trying not to get too attached yet!
That’s where we’re at for now. Most likely we won’t get to move into wherever we lease until November 1st, so we’re toying with the idea of roadtripping out to Halifax to see some friends out there. We’ll stick here until we sign a lease though, so at least for the next few days! For now, though, the road trip part of our adventure is officially complete, and we get to begin the process of settling in.


2 Comments to “Ottawa and Montreal”

  1. My brother just moved from Monkland. He lived near Villa Maria. Down the street were: a stellar bagel bakery which will crush all your defenses, a low key Irish Pub with cute celtic waitresses, a decent chocolate shop with decent cupcakes, and a super veggie cafe.

    Good luck on the house hunting!

    • Thanks Marcia! I am really hoping we end up in that neighbourhood. It was really cozy, dog-friendly, and eclectic. It would be nice to have an Irish bar nearby and not have to worry about Irish mafia ties! Apparently the Irish mafia has a pretty ig influence in Montreal!

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