It was bloody cold on my first night in Montreal, something like minus fifteen. It was almost 10pm as I wandered in circles looking for my hotel in the Latin quarter, still awake with pizza restaurants and jazz bars. The buildings were simple brick constructions with stairs leading up to second floor entrances, and down to basement front doors.
The streets, a simple criss-cross grid, were understandably empty; just a few stragglers were trudging around. I had accumulated a lot of extra belongings over the past few months, my great big backpackers bag spilling over into a smaller backpack, as well as an awkward plastic tube filled with rolled up paintings slung over my shoulder.
Every step was a sharp crunch. The night sky an eerie yellow haze. I loved the sound of walking on snow. Crack, crunch, crackle. Snow was piled unbelievably high in almighty drifts of one metre or more, flanking streets like stacks of fluffy sandbags, soft white pillows climbing staircases, thick carpets of snow suffocating parked cars in formless icy gluttony. Parked bicycles were buried up to the handlebars.
Slivers of road and sidewalk were reworked as crude new trails, slimy with slushy brown mud and melted snow. Sidewalks were scattered with salt and gravel for grip. I realized that living in heavy snow is daily life for millions of people around the world, but this was new to me, and the absurdity that a city could be buried alive by a beautiful white powder, and carry on as usual made the whole scene all the more surreal.
Half an hour prior, I had exited the airport to catch the shuttle bus, and as I left the terminal I excitedly drew my first breath of dry, frozen air. I exhaled, a cloud as white as the snow that surrounded me. The bus had opaque snow-stained windows, icicles hanging from it’s bumpers, and blew great clouds of white exhaust as it cracked and roared down the street.
When I got off at Berri UQAM metro, only one other guy remained in the bus, and sensing my impending navigational confound, offered to help me with directions. before arriving here I’d heard the average Canadian described as super nice, super friendly, super polite. I had a preview of this niceness in my stopover in Casablanca. I was taking photos of the plane when a Canadian couple offered to take a picture for me, then asked in interest about my travels and where I was from. Back on the frozen streets of Montreal, I gained directions from a passer-by, and juggled my bags through the door into the hostel.
First impressions then? I love it. The frozen streets are beautiful in white, the people are friendly (and English speaking! Though French is the first language here), and the city feels like a small hometown. I feel it rubbing off on me, yesterday I helped a pair of guys push their buried car free from it’s frozen parking spot. I’ve barely scratched the surface here in Montreal and have a lot more to discover about this place, as the seasons change and I can see what lies beneath the snow. For the time being its just me, having left Europe early for visa reasons. Cindy is finishing up her work contract in France and coming very soon. Im very excited for her arrival, counting down the days!!