Living in Montreal is totally a different world. You can walk anywhere in the city and find new places to visit, you can hop on a bus or metro anywhere and go from point A to point B in a more than reasonable amount of time for a reasonable fare. You can pretty much get any kind of food any time of day at any point in the city, rent is cheap, the nightlife is amazing and the beer and wine are sold at your local corner store. The vibe is European and summer in my favorite city is always memorable. Picturesque parks, french bakeries, the best cappuccinos I have ever had are all on the same block. Any moment spent in Montreal will be a memorable one.
But like any city, Montreal has its flaws. The once glamorous city and Canadian financial hub is now crumbling like week old french bread, the bridges are literally falling on people and killing them, roads are swallowing cars whole in the downtown core and the politics are a total shit show. The PQ government is more concerned about what you write on your Facebook page than the people being denied care at the local hospital because of what language they speak.
2 years ago, I had a thought. ” Why am I still here if all I do is bitch and complain about Montreal?” I have no real ties holding me back like a child in school, a house to sell or a lucrative career. Sure my friends and family were in Quebec but I could always visit. That’s when Andre asked me to move in with him and I decided to throw caution into the wind and give Ontario a try. It’s only 2 hours away and it’s not like I’m moving to a different country, right?!
So we loaded up a u-haul and took off to Ottawa. A fresh start, a new apartment and a new province!
I moved to Ottawa wearing the proverbial rose colored glasses and immediately assumed that because I am coming from Montreal and spoke English and French, I will be getting a government job in 2 minutes flat and will be making $80K a year. Keep dreaming, kid.
The job market isn’t what I thought but I managed to work my butt off to get a decent job with decent pay. The rents are much higher than they were back home but the roads are smoother and the people are friendly.
But Ottawa is a beige city. By beige I mean bland. There isn’t a local gem of a cafe where you can sit and sip a beautiful cappuccino while reading your book and people watch. You also can’t walk from one end of the city to the other and pass little dive bars along the way. There is no metro system and the local fruit store is Loblaws. There are no french bakeries that you can hit up on the way home without looking for parking or driving to the other end of town. Let’s also not forget the poutine. After almost 2 years I have yet to have one that reminds me of home. Ottawa is a government city that maybe fun forgot. Don’t get me wrong, you can still go out in the Byward market and let loose at Mercury lounge or Zaphod’s or go have a few drinks at the Clocktower Brew pub. The bike paths are scenic in the summer and Rideau Canal skateway is beautiful in the winter.
Montreal has its perks but living in Ottawa is much more calm place with a more grown up vibe. Here, we take the time to do the scenic drive and we aren’t rushing from one place to another. Ottawa is beautiful, open and Canada day here is something else. I had never seen so much red and white in all my life! Back home July 1st is moving day for most of the city and Canada day is celebrated but not with as much patriotism as Ottawa. Sure there might be a few fireworks at the old port but not much else. Back home, it’s St-Jean de Baptiste that’s celebrated, not the Canadian heritage. Ottawa is a big city but with a small town feel. I guess being beige isn’t so bad after all.
Our roads are smooth (for the most part), snow removal is quick, people speak in both languages and there are art museums around every corner. Ottawa is a city of the arts and everywhere you look, there are families and a real sense of community.
Ottawa may only be a 2 hour drive from Montreal, but it really does feel like a world away.