I wanted to share a small trip I went on before Christmas. I had been feeling a bit lost and confused. Sitting exams in another country was stressful and I was simultaneously feeling both proud that I’d got through almost half my time away and scared that it was slipping through my fingers. The threat of snow was also looming ominously so I needed to enjoy autumn while I could. I decided to visit Montreal’s Botanical gardens which are almost an hour away from where I live and are recommended as one of the best places to visit here.
Like everything else in Montreal they were beautifully extravagant but also surprisingly peaceful. It was an intensely Autumnal day and there was something about that that made me feel really nostalgic, it reminded me of walking through paths of fallen leaves back home and the crisp sunny air which has always been my favourite weather. You can never really predict what’s going to make you feel homesick and I didn’t think I’d find it here, amongst these cute statues and carefully curated landscape. But it makes sense, autumn here mirrors autumn back home both the in climate and aesthetics. It was fine that the homesickness hit me here, where it was peaceful and I could walk on my own, I could ground myself, just focus on taking these photos. It gave me some quiet space.
I think this could be said of this first semester in general. I’ve had a space away from much that was familiar, both the bad and the good, and I’ve had a chance to work out what I am without it. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sort my mental health a bit and really focus on doing and thinking things I had no time for before. I’ve realised that even the best things in your life can act as day-to-day distractions and while that’s not a bad thing it’s strange to find what you are without them, what suddenly takes priority when there’s none of the usual expectations of you.
I think this is a pretty cool aspect of a year abroad because it’s one you can control, it’s not place or people dependent and most importantly it can help to counter that encroaching feeling of homesickness. Just find your own strange botanical garden away from it all.
Montreal’s a pretty expensive city when it comes to bread, butter and beer but you can really start saving money by thrifting. What with the social and environmental implications of fast fashion it can be a really great way of supporting local organisations too. I’m a massive thrift store fan so I was delighted to find thrift stores on a whole different level to those you find in the UK, even in Manchester. Montreal’s thrift stores are massive, almost department stores, carefully organised, well stocked and extremely well priced.
When you’re first moving to a city you’ll probably need some bigger ticket items, especially moving into Canada’s harsh winters. It can be tempting to freak, get ahead of yourself and order things online or buy from well established stores. But if you can bear to hold out slightly longer you’ll find thrift stores starting to fill up with all your winter essentials. I bought myself a massive winter jacket (it feels like wearing a duvet) for £14 and I’ve seen many a pair of snow boot for less than £20 which, when bought from a ‘proper’ store can set you back 100s. Just check the quality of everything you buy, google the makes and check for rips and broken zippers.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite thrift spots here, most of which I’ve bought jumpers, tops, shirts and trousers from all for about £3-4 so they’re definitely worth checking out, whatever you’re looking for.
After spending the last few days in sweatpants revising and writing essays I was craving a change of scenery. So I finally submitted my essay late last night so I’d have today free to explore. This morning I consulted my list of places I really should visit and headed to Petite Italie – Montreal’s Little Italy, home to a number of independent cafes, second hand shops, art work spaces and one of the largest open-air markets in North America; Marche Jean Talon. The trip also allowed me to test my metro knowledge as it was the longest journey I’d done so far.
The short video hopefully gives a feel for the area, which I’d definitely recommend visiting for anyone studying in or visiting Montreal. As with many places here the aesthetics of the of ‘Little Italy’ sit on that slightly strange line between European and American archiceture and urban landscape, making it an interesting place to visit in itself. However, the real selling point is the market – packed with fresh fruit, veg and flowers. Apart from PA (the best and cheapest supermarket I’ve found) this is definitely the best place to grab your greens, especially if you live slightly outside of downtown or have a metro pass (which are really good value, especially if you’re riding everyday for uni). It’s also a really fun experience and there’s a great atmosphere. I’m excited to go back and see what it’s like when the snow comes!