Town from Country

By Elisabeth Hammond (PWRT ’19)

Artwork in Place-des-Arts metro station.

There is no question that a city is inexplicably different from the countryside. There is more noise, more people, more activity; the city is entirely non-stop while the countryside’s rolling hills and mountains move as slowly as the cows that graze on them.

It was far from my first time in Montreal ─ living a mere two hours away made the city a popular day-trip spot for my family ─ but it was my first time going up and down the streets where I would be living, learning and memorizing the ins and outs and shortcuts to the metro. Despite the fear that settled with the move from silent no-where to loud somewhere, Montreal’s prospect of exploration and new experiences overcame that quickly.

The view from the residence.

One such experience was realizing that you are still a part of Champlain even in another country (in addition to being on the Saint Lawrence river, which is connected to Lake Champlain). The faces are all familiar and the staff is just as friendly. At some points, it doesn’t even feel like I’ve left home (though the construction is a friendly and common reminder that I’m not in Burlington). To the lenient eye, Satine-Catherine street’s seven miles is nothing but an upgraded Church Street. Even after only a couple rides on Montreal’s metro system, my more city-experienced friends were comparing it to NYC’s subway and Boston’s T station.

I think we all found a piece of familiarity in Montreal ─ be it in consignment stores, cat cafe’s, dog cafe’s, art festivals, restaurants, improv shows, or similarities to whatever you found familiar. And beyond sticking to the familiar, the unfamiliar has its own charm. You can pick any street off Sherbrooke and find a plethora of sights to see ─ boutiques, quaint restaurants, resale stores, patisseries, and so on. The more you explore and revisit places you like, the more these places wiggle their way into the list of familiar and homey things.

Sainte-Catherine Street on a typical day.

One of the sights that has landed a firm place of endearment in my heart is Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, a Sunday-night improv theatre. The rotating group of comedians always manages to give me stitches during at least one performance of the night, and either laugh out loud or giggle through the rest of it. It’s a wonderful highlight that stays with you for the rest of the week ─ and sometimes onwards, especially if you see it with friends.

And in a big city like this, why would you go anywhere alone?