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The Sweet Smell of Bagels

Where we live is a reflection of who we are, what we value and how we choose to live our life. Allow me to indulge in an old piece of writing from my days in Montreal.  I found it on my hard drive, and remember vividly the day I wrote it.  Despite the passage of time and the fact that I've embraced my life in Toronto, my love for Montreal endures. After reading this, I would like to know how you feel about where you live or have lived and what it means to you.

I was relaxing on a bench on Fairmount Street not long ago and experienced what I would call a truly "Montreal" moment - one that made me fall in love with the city all over again.  Looking for a comfortable place to take in the sun, I positioned myself within earshot of two Italian men sitting outside their “frutterie”.  Listening to their conversation about nothing in particular made me nostalgic for my ancestors and reminded me of the mosaic that this city truly is.   As I eavesdropped and imagined what their lives must have been as newcomers to a foreign land, I took in the aroma of freshly made bagels wafting from across the street.   Contemplating the thought of indulging, I smiled to myself as a burly fellow on a Harley pulled up for a dose of these unparalleled Montreal treats.

As a former Torontonian, happily expropriated to this wonderful city five years ago, my perspective on Montreal is unique.  I am here by choice, not by birth, a fact that endows me to a higher, nobler status of “Montrealer”.  Or so I like to think.  My love for Montreal is renewed in living the smallest of details much like those I just described.  With each change of season, streets, neighbourhoods, people take on new rituals, dispositions and habits as they move throughout the year enjoying life on the island.

This brings me to the fact that I am enamored with the idea of living on an island.  Although it does not conjure up traditional thoughts of dwellings in exotic locales, I think that a Torontonian would feel quite extraordinary saying that they live on the “West Island”.  But I digress…

The Plateau neighbourhood
Montreal allows me to fully enjoy the rhythms of urban living be it from my downtown apartment in the first years, or now from my too-cool condo on the Plateau.  I appreciate the “manageability” of the city most.  What I mean is that it offers all the amenities that one could want within both a manageable distance and price.  As long as I have lived here I have not owned nor missed having a car.  By foot, metro or bike I navigate the interesting nooks and crannies to enjoy the best boutiques, restaurants and hotspots this city has to offerAnd on those days when I want to escape it all, Montreal even has its own hideaway…the Mountain.  Each time I wander Mount Royal I feel blessed to enjoy this outdoor paradise in the heart of an urban centre.

Mount Royal allows its visitors the best of each season, be it cross-country skiing, skating, running, cycling, birdwatching or simply a casual walk.  But no matter how much we make the best of the winter, I think that it’s the suffering that the cold brings that gives Montrealers their “joie-de-vivre”.   From April to October the city and its citizens brim with life, overcompensating to shed the vestiges of their indoor existence. This zest for life manifests itself in different ways.  I only need name one to illustrate – the Tam Tams...yet another freedom the Mountain offers its worshippers.

I think you’ll agree that we're fortunate to live in this special place in North America; beginning with manageable expectations, inspired by a free spirit and zest for life.  This, to me, is a formula for a happy, fulfilled life.  Seems that Montrealers may have a patent on it.
When I was living in Montreal, I would often take my camera and wander the Plateau shooting whatever caught my eye. To see some of those photos click here.


  1. That's great idea.. waxing philosophical about the places we love.. it's actually pretty easy to bring out the thoughts when you take a little time to think about it..

    I'm from the East End of Toronto.. but I don't live there anymore. The east end is really defined by anything east of Yonge and west of the Beaches (as far as I'm concerned). One thing that's true is the west of Young in Toronto is very different.. a different feel, a different vibe.

    It's in the little things that you describe that make these places so amazing.. where I'm from I was able to park a car I got a hold of for three years free in an unused space on Queen St near Broadview.. try that now! I used to remember fondly the sound of streetcars.. "click, clack - click, clack" under the sounds of the car moving. I remember those older folks up at Logan and Gerrard who always had the most bizarre sigs up in the windows (and all over their car).. it was all about hate for immoral people of the world - but, was it a coincidence they lived across from a Beer Store? Hmm.. go back even further to the feel of cobble stones while driving south on Gerrard.. I'm sure I could fill a book with all of this stuff..


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