Residential Experiment #3: The Plateau Row Home (Montreal)

Montreal 2011 (36) (1024x680)
One of the perks of living in various places for a few months at a time is finding out what you do and what you don’t like as your home. Given that we eventually want a stable home, these residential experiments help us understand what our ideal home might look like, and where it may be located. Thus, in an effort to keep track of what we’ve learned, this is one of a series of posts where we evaluate the places in which we temporarily resided.

Nickname: The Plateau Row Home

Location: Montreal, Quebec

When: Summer of 2011

Basics: 1 bedroom plus office ground level row home on a tree-lined street in Montreal’s famous Plateau neighborhood.

As soon as we stumbled onto the idea of living in a number of places around the world, Montreal landed at the top of our list. Aside from gallivanting around the globe, we are honestly trying to find a place to grow some roots and start a family.

Both of us had visited Montreal on various occasions and felt a strong pull towards it. Our respective crushes on Montreal are quite reasonable considering Montreal is consistently rated as one of the world’s most livable cities, was called “Canada’s Cultural Capital”, and was also named a UNESCO City of Design.

The day we moved in we went for a walk through the neighborhood and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was “at home” – comfortable, safe, and relaxed. Despite the fact that Montreal is only a few hours east of where Marina and I did our graduate work, given the language and cultural differences between the two provinces, it really feels like a foreign country.

Since we were now out of our home province, both Marina and I were working 100% remotely – a goal I had set for us earlier in the year, when Marina was still working full-time at the university while I was working from home. While I certainly loved the flexibility afforded by remote work, the sense of isolation started gnawing at me over the latter months in Kingston. Having both of us working from home made the situation much more appealing, as we were able to share meals, discuss projects, go for walks, and run errands during the day together. The downside of both of us working from home was that we would sometimes distract each other – when one wasn’t being productive, the other one also struggled.

Our place was located just off of a main (but only two-lane) street with multiple independent grocers, bakeries, cafes, butchers, gyms, parks, restaurants, etc. This meant that we walked essentially everywhere, while our car was merely a nuisance. If we were to stay longer, I would have sold our car and simply used public transportation (nearby and efficient) and signed up for a car-sharing service for those few instances each month when we might require a vehicle. In addition, Montreal has a fantastic segregated bike lane system that runs across most parts of the city and is used by many locals – one of the best I have seen anywhere. Thus, biking would have been another option.

During this residential experiment, I think we learned much more about the type of area in which we’d like to live rather than specifics of our dream home. Being able to walk or bike to essentially everything you would ever need is very important to us, possibly more important than other factors. Also, having access to green space where we can go for a run, or walk, or throw a Frisbee around, or have a picnic is key. Reliable public transit that could take you (almost) anywhere you would ever need to go really made owning a car redundant. Lesson: the less we have to use our car, the happier we both seem to be.

Our street: the car had to be moved twice weekly

Montreal is a city with countless cultural events occurring on an ongoing basis. Having access to these events also made a big difference – we never felt bored. For instance, we attended Formula One, the Just for Laughs Festival, Fireworks Competition, and bumped into Bradley Cooper, during our short stay here. There was always something to do, and this, we learned is also critical to our happiness. Thus, we now know that we need to be living in a relatively large city (Montreal is the 2nd largest in Canada, and the 15th largest in North America).

Our actual home was rather quaint and sparsely furnished, but it had a fantastic office space with a wonderful view of the street, as well as a small deck in the back for soaking up some sun. Having a dedicated office area to do my work was a definite bonus over the dining room tables I had been using in the previous two residences. While we had yet another budget television set, given the lack of cable, we never really turned it on. Instead, when faced with some downtime, we would go for a walk. This, once again, reiterated what we already learned – we’re better off sans television.

Here is a detailed summary of items that either improved or tarnished our experience in the Plateau:

The good:

– All our wonderful new Montreal friends (whom we now dearly miss)

– People outside all the time

– Tolerant and less materialistic society (at least in our immediate neighborhood)

– Strong focus on family

– Great active transportation options

– Dedicated office space

My "office" (the space is empty as the photo was taken when we were moving out)

– Close enough to walk to anything we needed

– Running space (at La Fontaine park)


The bad:

– Parking is a major headache (had to move car twice a week for street cleaning, and sometimes could not find a spot on our street – same goes for guests who visited)

– In our neighborhood French was the predominant language and many individuals spoke next to no English. This was only a problem because I tend to be a rather social person and my French is terrible, thereby severely limiting my communicative abilities. If we stayed longer, I would take French lessons though I am well aware this would always be an issue for me.

– Far from most friends and family

In conclusion, we both miss Montreal and see it as a potential place to live at some point in the future.


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