Street Art: Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City

Salma Rana, Queen’s University, Canada

One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to see the artwork home to that place. Other than museums, something that have I loved about my travels was the beautiful street art embedded within the cities. These told me unique stories about the culture and history of the cities they were created in. Below I give you some of my favorite pieces and recommendations of neighborhoods you should visit if you get the chance.

Montreal

A friend and I ended up in St-Laurent by accident. After climbing up Mount Royal, we thought we would take a different route back, to get more of a feel of the city, and ended up there, a boulevard home to some of the most incredible art, music, fashion and food festivals. There are murals painted on all corners of St-Laurent, and we were so captivated that we ended up walking through the whole boulevard until we arrived back to our hotel on the other side of the city.

As I observed the beauty painted on boards above parking lots, on the sideways of shops, and even on the road below my feet, I remembered the words of Rainbow Rowell, “Art wasn’t supposed to look nice, it was supposed to make you feel something.”

Eyes by D*Face
Location: Rue Clark / Rue Prince Arthur
Portrait of Mary Socktish, by Kevin Ledo, for Montreal’s 2014 MURAL festival
Located at a Rue Prince Arthur parking lot
A Jackie Robinson tribute by Fluke, for the 2017 MURAL festival

Toronto

Toronto is bustling with gorgeous murals throughout the city, with many neighborhoods and alleyways dedicated to creativity. I absolutely love Kensington Market in particular, because as well as amazing artwork, the choice of food is abundant – from halal burger places (Burgernator and Top Gun!) to ice cream shops, bakeries and cafes.

 

Kensington Market photos shot by Basmah Rahman

Mexico City 

When my friends and I arrived in Mexico City, in the early hours of the morning, the first thing I noticed on the drive to the hotel was how there was vibrancy everywhere. Even in the dark I could see that all the shop shutters were painted in a rainbow of colors. We stayed in Centro Histórico, and I definitely would recommend taking a stroll before stores open (9/10 am) because the store shutters are genuinely so beautiful.

The shutter of a store opposite our hotel in Centro Histórico
A stroll through the streets of Centro Histórico

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Outside station Xochimilco, shot by Christy Ng
Art featuring decorative sugar skulls are all over Mexico, used in festivities celebrating Day of the Dead

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Why I Chose to Stay in America Over Christmas

I decided to stay in America over the Christmas break instead of flying back home and I would encourage other students to do the same.

I was lucky enough to travel to Montreal, New York, Boston and Miami and each destination was completely different from the last. After overcoming the initial loneliness of spending Christmas away from my family, I really valued the opportunity to travel and spend time with other exchange students who were in the same position.

Before coming to America my friends and I decided to spend Christmas together in Montreal. This was an easy choice to make for me as the flights home from Cleveland are extremely expensive. Instead, I decided to use the money and travel around as much as possible. I flew out to Montreal on Christmas eve, got a freezing cold greyhound to New York, spent less than 24 hours in Boston and took a spontaneous trip to Miami to finish off the holiday. The four cities could not have been more different and Miami has since become my favourite place I have visited.

Montreal:

I spent my Christmas day and New Year’s Eve in Montreal alongside other students from Manchester studying abroad. We stayed in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood and I would recommend taking the walk-up Mount Royal to get great views of the city and to go ice skating.

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On Christmas Eve, we were invited to have dinner with other exchange students from all over the world. Spending Christmas away from family can be tough, but it felt special to meet so many other students making the most of their time abroad. All of us were given Christmas cards despite being complete strangers and it was a sweet gesture.

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On Christmas Day, we managed to successfully cook a full Christmas Dinner for 10 people in an Air BnB, which was as chaotic as it sounds. We went on a Christmas day walk, watched Love Actually and exchanged presents; it felt like a home away from home.

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Being in Montreal in the middle of winter was tough and you should not underestimate how cold it will be. But the city had a lot of culture and history and was a great location to spend time with friends.

New York:

We took an 8 hour Greyhound to travel from Montreal to New York and stayed there for 5 days. New York was packed with things to do and great food but was as hectic and busy as you would expect. The city was full of character, the street scene was interesting and all the tourist attractions were definitely worth visiting.

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We visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Centre, High Line, Times Square, Central Park, the list could really go on. I would not miss visiting the World Trade Centre Memorial as it was breathtaking.

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Even though we were hit by a massive snowstorm across the East Coast, we managed to pack in a lot in the 5 days but it was not nearly enough time to cover such a great city.

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Boston:

We stayed in Boston for a night but this was not nearly enough time. Compared to New York, Boston is a laid-back city with a lot of open space. Having visited Boston since it has really grown on me. It is a nice city to walk around with my favourite area being North End where there is familiar European architecture. If you have limited time like us, I would not miss Faneuil Hall Marketplace. There are great food stalls selling Boston treats like Clam Chowder in a bread bowl.

 

 

Miami:

In a rash decision, I decided to extend my holiday for a few more days and join some friends in South Beach, Miami. After battling – 20 degree weather and snow storms the warm beaches and palm tree-lined streets were much needed. Miami has now become one of my favourite destinations. I loved the bustling strip of hotels on South Beach, the colourful art deco houses and the idyllic sandy beaches.

 

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Little Havana was a great neighbourhood to walk around and try delicious Cuban food. The downtown area was flashy and extravagant, like most of Miami. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money in Miami, but I would go again in a heartbeat.

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Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

 

A year ago, I would not have pictured myself jet-setting around North America instead of spending Christmas at home in England. Yet my holiday was one that will be remembered for a long time. I loved the way students in a similar position came together and supported each other during the time and I would urge other people to do the same.

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The end of study abroad

For what seemed like ages, going on study abroad was my next big thing to prepare for and look forward to, but after what seems like a blink of an eye, it’s over. I’m still getting my head round this and will probably not need much prompting at all to talk about my year for the foreseeable future (hopefully not in too much of a gap-yah style).

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All my wisdom on being an exchange at McGill

Time has flown by and it’s now the last three weeks of winter semester at McGill, what a whirl.  It doesn’t feel long since I was just a young whippersnapper naively beginning classes in September, navigating the halls, downtown and surprisingly pricey grocery shops. I imagine the next herd of study-abroaders have probably found out where they’ll be going, so I’ll try to give handy tips and dispense my wisdom. Settle in.

Unless you’re coming to McGill or considering applying, this probably isn’t as relevant, it’s not a travel diary entry as such, but as always, it’s got my personality (which is developing rapidly whilst on study abroad just as they like to tell you)

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Niagara Falls

Continue reading “All my wisdom on being an exchange at McGill”

Start of Winter Semester: The Blog

I am back for semester two and my blogs are back too. Have a read on if you can control  your excitement, it’s probably going to be an update up until now and reflections on McGill. What a cracker.

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My life at McGill until now in a nice blog post

I thought I would update you all on my life at McGill University since the last blog update until now, because I have done a lot and seen a lot and you might like to read about it.

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Continue reading “My life at McGill until now in a nice blog post”

McGill Orientation Week

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Nothing quite sums up North American Uni life more than this

McGill Orientation week, also known as ‘Frosh’,  has been and gone and what a week it was. It’s carefully crafted to include academic introductions and guidance, nights out, day events all over Montreal and involve everyone. It’s probably the best way to start your McGill experience.

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Canada, Montreal and McGill: first impressions

I came to Canada about 10 days ago now with family, to combine holiday with sorting my life out. We spent a week or so in Montreal, exploring various areas of the island (it is an island), meeting my landlord and dealing with the bank. Continue reading “Canada, Montreal and McGill: first impressions”

Throwback Thursday…Travels in the Fall

By Emily Privett, Queen’s University, Canada, Geography.

So on top of academics and Queen’s Bands excursions, what have I been doing? One of the many reasons as to why I chose Queen’s as my exchange University was because of its great location for travelling. To this day I’ve managed to visit NYC, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Mont Tremblant and Bruce Peninsula which has just made me realise how lucky I am to be in this part of the world right now!

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday…Travels in the Fall”

Midterm blues

Harry at McGill in Montréal

 

Congratulations for anyone who read the title and made an effort to continue reading despite the likelihood this post may be a bit of a downer. It was written in response to a conclusion I recently reached and felt I should materialise in blog form.

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Semester two commences

Harry at McGill in Montréal

 

Christmas came and went and it has been a week shy of a month since term restarted. No one was without a little anxiety for the impending workload however as with the end of any holiday there is also an ounce of excitement lurking within since, after all, we do all enjoy studying a little bit. Otherwise we would not be here. Continue reading “Semester two commences”

Christmas break

Harry at McGill in Montréal

 

To recall correctly the last blog was pretty bleak as it covered the academic side of exchange. So as a bit of an indulgence this installment will be dedicated to fun things that happened over the fabled ‘holiday period’ after finals. It was a long time coming.

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