Exploring Montreal

montreal-winter-cityscape-pierre-leclerc During Thanksgiving, one of my friends from Ottawa decided to pay me a visit. I hadn’t seen her in about a year and it just so happened that she planned on coming to Montreal to visit her sister, and I wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving. She actually came to Montreal the weekend before Thanksgiving and we had planned on meeting up then, but…that didn’t exactly work out.

It was Saturday morning, and I had forgotten to turn off my alarm. So there I was, groggy and confused, when I heard a ping from my phone. It was a message from my friend in Ottawa. Her message read, “I’m at Parc Etienne Desmarteau. It’s by a cegep.” Frankly, I didn’t, and still don’t, know any streets by name in Montreal outside of the McGill bubble. Assuming that her message meant that I should somehow find my way over and meet up, I google mapped the location. It would take an hour to walk to this location that I’d never heard of. Somehow I ended up falling asleep after that, so we rescheduled for next weekend.

My friend endured the steep climb up to my residence, at first mistaking the neighbouring hospital as my current humble abode. When I went out to redirect her, she was quite incredulous at my apparent lack of knowledge of streets and places in general in Montreal. When she trudged up the three flights of stairs to my common room, she was still bewildered and asked repeated, “Do you even live here?”  I’m pretty sure she meant Montreal in general, not the (my) residence that we were in at the time.

The whole exchange was quite amusing, actually. It hadn’t occurred to me that I should know more about Montreal, or at least about my more immediate surroundings in Montreal, better. After all, I still consider myself to be new here, even after these past few months.

Besides that, I am a student. A student who will be hugely debt-ridden once she graduates. And perhaps for years and years afterward, still. With that light hearted thought in mind, it really does make going out and spending oodles of money to explore the city much more enticing.

Everything requires spending money, from going out to restaurants to simply getting somewhere using the metro. Sure, there are deals and discounts, but money is still being spent, money that could be saved up for things more essential like textbooks or tuition!

My friends and I were walking around one day and we found ourselves at Simons. There was one extremely soft owl patterned sweater that just begged to be tried on. So I did, then pulled it off right away when I saw the price tag. It was over 120 dollars. The minimum wage for students in Ontario is $10.30 as of June 1st, 2014. In Quebec, the minimum wage for adult workers $10.35 as of May 1st 2014. It would take me around 12 hours of work to pay for that one sweater. Can you imagine doing that? Actually…I guess I can imagine that. But in real life that is not going to happen, at least for me, right now.

Eating out, watching movies, going to events/parties, all require so much money. 12 dollars for poutine,15 bucks for a movie, 22 bucks for BMH breakfast, may not seem like a substantial amount of spending, but everything adds up. And soon, all that spending will amount to the price of that one extremely soft owl patterned sweater. You know, the one you didn’t buy because you didn’t want to spend the money. Well, you spent it anyway, just…on food and stuff instead.

Okay, so that was my rational voice talking. But everyone wants to explore a city as vibrant as Montreal. I suppose there are ways to do this without breaking the bank. Hiking up Mount Royal is an activity that barely costs more than some effort and legwork. There are various groups that offer tours featuring artwork from around the city, at a very minimal cost. If you have a small appetite, or if you simply want to try a bunch of different foods, grab some friends and share lots of different dishes, then split the cost. For transportation by metro and bus, students can get a discount, but depending on how often you use this form of transportation, it may or may not be worth the OPUS card purchase (there is an initial fee of $15 for the card for those 18 and up). And don’t forget, there are a bunch of different groups on campus that offer discounts upon buying a membership to their clubs. For the Classical Music Club, upon purchasing a membership card, you get discounts on really cool concerts throughout the year (Lang Lang is coming to Montreal in the Spring! So very exciting!). (Though it has already passed, it seems to be becoming an annual thing, and it seems super duper fun: http://www.mtlblog.com/2014/10/montreals-largest-ever-city-wide-scavenger-hunt-begins-in-november-2014/ )

Though, simply walking around and looking at all the different buildings is enjoyable in itself. Perhaps this is just something enjoyed by someone who hails from a smaller city, and things normal on the big city scene is novel to someone like me. But, in all seriousness, businesses and restaurants are beginning to decorate and downtown looks absolutely great. All the lights and larger than life reefs scream “holiday”. (Literally, I’ve seen at least three reefs whose diameters were at least twice my height hanging majestically from two stories above my gawking face.)

Since my friend’s visit, I’ve explored a bit more. Within my meagre student budget means, of course. The challenge to balance is perpetual. Yes, I do mean time and money, but also literally. Have you ever fallen off one of those mini hills (here they’re commonly called sidewalks)?

Joking aside, I think the message here to you and me both is that our next step is to find employment to support our imminent debt and our desire to explore the city. To you and I both, I wish the best of luck.

For more info on some things mentioned here:

OPUS Card:

http://www.stm.info/en/info/fares/opus-cards-and-other-fare-media/opus-card

Minimum wage in Canada:

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/minwage.php

http://srv116.services.gc.ca/dimt-wid/SM-MW/rpt2.aspx?lang=eng&dec=5

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