Montreal was always a handsome city, but I had not been there in many years, and I was taken aback by the strikingly beautiful urban place into which it has blossomed. It is now North America’s “movable feast.”
Montreal’s beauty is at many levels, including other smart and attractive elements of urban planning. Bicycles are everywhere, and I don’t just mean the large racks of rental bikes. There are stands next to buildings everywhere in the central city for locking up bikes, and there are special bike lanes permanently constructed with curbs against cars. Motor scooters are parked everywhere, either along the sides of buildings or lined up perpendicular in the spaces once reserved for cars, so one car space now accommodates six or eight motor bikes.
Montreal always had street cafes, but now they are spotted everywhere in a fashion I have not seen before. They are on large platforms jutting into street lanes and covered with awnings or umbrellas, a concept which gives pedestrians a priority over cars, slows traffic, and doesn’t block up sidewalks for walkers. It is absolutely a brilliant and attractive innovation. I don’t know, but suspect, the platforms are taken up after the warm-weather season, but for the time when it is fun to walk the city, Montreal has greatly increased the pleasure of walking: you are never far from a place to sit and have refreshments, urban oases under umbrellas.
There has been a lot of tree-planting on streets since I was last there, something always adding great beauty to a city. The pictures show people enjoying the streets in great crowds, and they show, too, the remarkable amount of new construction in the city, a pleasing discovery considering all the political turmoil of the last few decades. It appears positive political developments have encouraged investors. A remarkable number of important old structures have been saved and given new life, as old convents becoming college campuses.
The true urbanity of Montreal is rooted in its apartment-living. A huge stock of beautiful old apartment buildings graces the city, something not found in Toronto which in the past was described accurately as a city of houses. Toronto now has built a huge volume of condos, but they have been built too often with little serious planning, creating places which cannot be described as apartment-living neighborhoods or even neighborhoods at all. Montreal’s new condos reflect some clever government incentives such as increased height allowance in return for two-storey commercial fronts along streets. They don’t resemble giant glass walls dropped on the sidewalk.
It is all exciting, and I have fallen in love with Montreal again. Note this first group of pictures was taken in just two and a half days of walking with a bit of adverse weather interfering. The pictures include only parts of downtown and the near west side, and Montreal of course has many other interesting places. Still, I think I have captured something readers will enjoy, and it’s my intention in future to add to the collection.
As I add this later note the following summer, my wife and I are spending an extended time in Montreal’s wonderful Le Plateau district, and I am taking many photos to add to the site. I hope you enjoy them. It is my aim to capture many details of the city and its life and to offer viewers a kind of entertaining and informative documentary not found anywhere else.
Montreal is simply a wonderful urban fantasy.
We are now, 2016, back for a third season of enjoying Montreal while I try to capture its magic in photos. I’m using a new camera for the first time, so viewers may note some different qualities in the photos.
Note: all rights for the images on this site belong to John Chuckman. Non-commercial use of them, crediting this site, is welcomed by the author.