Life In This Country – Forest Parks Out Of His Niche

This week Forest Parks has dropped by to get out of his niche. Enjoy!

I grew up in London, UK but recently I have finally made the brave step of moving across the high seas and now live in Montreal, Canada.

For years I had wanted to leave for a foreign land but always found excuses or ended up tied down to something. So to actually finally be somewhere new is still unbelievable.

When Snoskred gave me the opportunity to write this guest post, I suddenly realised that I had no idea what to write about. I knew an opportunity had been given to me to show some new readers my writings. The pressure was on to write something that was at least informative and entertaining enough for anyone who does not read my blog. Hopefully I have managed to do that!

So in line with some of the other guest posts and with the title of this great blog, I am going to write about this city and my time here thus far.

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© Forest Parks
I have visited Montreal a few times before, so it wasn’t a complete leap of faith and I was already familiar with the layout and general buzz of the city. Montreal thrives on it’s interesting mix of North American and French-influenced culture, as well as a large immigrant community and a very open minded artsy approach to life. This makes it a very vibrant city. Somehow the streets manage to perspirate both non stop excitement and laid back aromas, and it truly is a city that allows you operate anytime at your own pace and leisure.

Being addicted to blogging, I often find myself relaxing in downtown coffee shops using the ‘sans fil’ to connect to the net or relaxing on my bed at home in the leafy area of Westmount.

Westmount is only a 25 minute walk from all the buzz and is billed as the ‘English’ area, sporting English styled buildings with details of French-class, all set amongst rows of glorious maple tress and green parkland. It’s a cool place to walk around on a lovely clean, crisp autumn day.

When I manage to pry myself away from the evil MacBook, I can be found working in the trenches of Hurley’s Bar on Crescent Street, preparing food and making sandwiches for the many tourists and business peoples who frequent the lovely mock-Irish bar. Hurley’s is a great place to work. As one of Montreal’s more well known pubs, it attracts a large amount of clientèle. It can get busy, but with a great crowd of young (or at least young at heart) and enthusiastic co-workers, things always get done. Everyone gets on superb.

Strangely, I have found that I actually drink less now that I work in a Bar, but have been known to spend the odd inebriated night in the English styled Cock’n’Bull. It’s a great (and in Montreal terms) old pub with an endless list of elderly locals to chat with and hear unbelievable folklores. There is also a vibrant student crowd and interesting themed nights, such as Monday Craft Night’, keeping you entertained.

Bars and Restaurants are another forte of this ever talented city. Me and my partner Lara especially like walking over to the East side where all manor of different restaurants can be found. Just the other day we dined in a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant. Given no instructions and no cutlery, we found ourselves conjuring interesting ways to get the extremely pleasant food into our bellies, without ruining our clothes. This area also has some great Bars such as the grundgy hockey-hole: Barfly. Plus there’s a very nice little wooden affair, known as Yermad, which I think may be French for “Very Nice Little Bar” (I’m unsure on that translation. Maybe I should look it up!).

The East is the predominately French-speaking area. Its buildings and attitude reflect this, with winding staircases and a more grubby, weathered, but uber-cool feel. This, I guess is why it has become a big hang out for the many students that reside here.

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© Forest Parks

Two huge Universities (McGill and Concordia) as well as endless technical schools, make sure that it’s impossible to take a snapshot of any area without pointing out a handful of these little scoundrels whizzing around between bars, bookshops, libraries, coffee shops and school. Montreal is infested with students.

A little further East still brings you to ‘The Village’. Sounds important, hey? Well, this is the so-called ‘Gay’ area. Here you can find (yep you guessed!) more bars and fantastic terraces to hang out (if there’s warm weather), not to mention some very flamboyant people. Full body spandex suits and hi-fashion punks are not uncommon here. It becomes a sight seeing exercise in itself. I love the openness and commend any city that is proud of its sexual diversity.

The flamboyance and obscureness is not restricted to one little area. All over the city you can see it, from homeless people displaying crazy signs like ‘Help me, my parents were killed by The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Or take, for example, an old man with full-on Hells Angels get-up, riding a pink bicycle, to a guy that tries to hold you up at ‘banana’ point and extract small change from you. I promise you the visual fun never ends.

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© Forest Parks
However, talking about the homeless situation moves me to talk about a darker side. Montreal seems to have an extremely high homeless population. At times it gets overwhelming and you find yourself detaching. They can be very offensive, hassling you for money, swearing at you. Sometimes they start to feel like seagulls that have built up the courage to swoop close enough to humans, making you feel extremely awkward. I am trying consciously to avoid these feelings. Winter is coming and I really can’t see how these people will survive -40 weather. I am having a hard time working out how even me, in my privileged situation, will have enough warm clothing and easy access to transport.

There is also a large Native population. The general attitude towards these First Nations People leaves me sour. In many cases, labelled as “Junkies” and “Drunks”, this downtreading and the systematic lack of opportunities, in my opinion, is really holding these people back from fully integrating and being accepted as they should be.

Like all cities, Montreal is not perfect. But this is one of the things that keeps it feeling like a dynamic and interesting place to be right now.

During my 3 months here, I really haven’t scratched the surface of this enchanting place. Spending most of my time downtown and in the surrounding areas, I’ve not ventured out to experience the whole island. I would love to do a 100 mile hike around it’s perimeter.

Life is interesting once again and the move out of my comfort zone has paid off.

Thank you Snoskred for letting me blog out of my niche.

You’re welcome Forest – it was well worth it! An excellent guest post. I do wonder why Montreal? Many Brits move overseas to places with warm weather – Spain and Brisbane in Australia are two that immediately jump into my head as places with a lot of Brits. No -40 degree days there. No snow. I tell you what though, if you’re looking for advice on how to survive cold winters Sephy will have a few ideas for you being as he lives in the snow belt of the USA.

It’s almost time for me to start stalking some guest bloggers again, which I will be doing very shortly! Before I come looking for you, why not volunteer? You can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

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4 thoughts on “Life In This Country – Forest Parks Out Of His Niche

  1. Thank you Forest, for your interesting post. I haven’t travelled, but I love to read how other people live in other countries as well as my own. I liked the pictures as well. I hope that living in Montreal is everything you hope it will be.

  2. Thanks so much for giving me this opportunity to post!!

    I was very worried about it and kind of ended up writing it last minute as could not think of a subject.

    Thanks Heidi and River for your encouraging comments.

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