Saturday, September 13, 2008
Promenade in Ste-Anne from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.
We don't actually live in Montréal proper, but in a small suburb on the Western tip of the Island of Montréal called Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. Even though most of the West Island towns are posh bedroom communities for lawyers, doctors, and company execs, Ste-Anne is a welcome exception, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it's a much older settlement than most others -- so there are no super-expensive McMansions lining the waterfront, and secondly because there are two high schools, one CÉGEP, and the Macdonald Campus of McGill university -- all in our small town of 5,000 people.
Even though the majority of West Island is historically mostly English-speaking, Ste-Anne is divided pretty evenly between French and English, especially when McGill is in session. Most townspeople are fluent in both languages, and those who aren't usually know just enough to get by. Even though I speak fairly fluent French, most people will switch to English when talking to me because I do not sound like a native (Québec has a very distinct local accent, while I learned the Parisian pronunciation). The further East you go in Québec, the fewer English speakers you will find, until you get to New Brunswick, which is the only officially bilingual province of Canada. From there on, the direction reverses and you get squarely into English-speaking territory by the time you're in Nova Scotia (with Acadia being a notable exception -- this is where the Cajuns came from).
Heading to ultrasound from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.
The best way to get to Montréal from Ste-Anne is by taking the train, which takes about 45 minutes with all the stops. Sadly, the train doesn't run nearly frequent enough and is only convenient for commuting to and from work. The city of Montréal is trying to change that, but for the time being it's more profitable for the railroad company to let the freight trains through instead of the commuter trains. With gas prices around here being about $1.35 per litre lately (that's a whopping $5.40 a gallon), hopefully there will be more and more people taking the train instead of driving, and that might change how much pressure the city is able to put on the railroad company. Perhaps we might even see more than 3 trains a day during the weekend. :)
But, despite all of the above, we're quite happy living here without owning a car. Most stores are within walking distance from our apartment, and for stuff that we can't get in Ste-Anne, we usually plan weekend trips, sometimes involving Communauto -- a local car-sharing co-op that we're part of. Plus, we have lots of local restaurants to choose from and a Farmer's Market on the weekend that lets us stock up on organic locally-grown veggies.
Marche Ste-Anne from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.
We quite like it here. :)