Disclaimer: parts of this section might be rather nit picky. I loved almost everything about Montreal,
Tony and I did see some problems in Montreal that probably are worth sharing, namely homelessness and drug usage. Surely these problems exist in many large cities, but I have yet to see the ubiquity of it in a city center that I did in Quebec’s largest metropolis.
Clearly drugged-out folks tweaked on the corner asked for drugs or money and occasionally offered them out of the kindness of their hearts and the emptiness of their wallets. Clouds of weed could be smelled all over (not necessarily a huge problem) but a needle exchange box minutes from city center was a bit worrisome. This is obviously hugely controversial whether needle exchanges are beneficial or detrimental, but you don’t want to see it out in the open. (Or do we?) I saw people in broad daylight tying off or just blatantly prepping some drugs.
There were homeless all over the parks across Montreal. Again, this isn’t necessarily problematic on its own, but generally in today’s society, it’s a scenario our governments would like to improve. I was never harassed or bothered by any of the city’s homeless and/or sketchy-looking, likely-cracked-out folks. So, that’s a plus.
There are studies coming out on drug usage in Canada (examples found here, here or here) so it’s something to look out for. I never felt unsafe, but compared to Manhattan or The Loop or Beacon Hill, it’s glaringly obvious.
One other bad aspect…
Hate to bring up more of the bad, but unfortunately Montreal apparently does have it. (Everywhere does.) One unfortunate thing was the traffic. I emailed the hostel before we arrived, inquiring about parking, as I read it was abysmal; they responded that it’s not as bad as I’ve read. And for the most part, that was correct. Within city limits, it was pretty decent. There was a bit of traffic but nothing gnarly. Getting onto the island of Montreal is a whole different story.
Directly across the St. Lawrence River from city center there are three bridges, one of which also takes you to La Ronde, a huge amusement park, meaning one of the main arteries is clogged up for roller coasters. We arrived there around noon on a Saturday and all three exits were backed up to Timbuktu with the bridges traversed more quickly with a leisurely stroll than driving in a car. We had to zoom way down, find a different bridge, cut in and out of traffic, jump off one exit just to get off on the next and finally work our way from the north of the city. I guess every city has bad traffic (not true), but to have all three main arteries be clogged on a Saturday afternoon is pretty bad. Build more bridges?
And the last complaint would be that for the reputation Montreal has for being a beautiful city, some parts of it definitely seem like a drag. Especially driving in from the north, which seemed somewhat industrial, it was somewhat run down. It might prove nice to spruce up the riverside park a bit, to add to its famed urban beauty. I might just be grasping at straws with this complaint, but I’ll offer it regardless. I think outside of the modern downtown and the historic Old Port, much of the city is merely decent. (Though I guess the smattering of 100-year-old churches helps, too.)
To find something decent to salvage this otherwise lame subheading, I will say many seemingly burnt out areas had some stellar graffiti. To be fair, the whole city had some awesome street art, but the contrast between professionally painted murals amid drab housing left more of a lasting impression than spray paint frescoes in an already hip college neighborhood.
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