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A Move to Montreal

A Texas couple's love of Europe leads them to a new life in Canada





When I tell people that we spend four months each year on a French-speaking island, they are puzzled. French Polynesia? French West Indies? No. Our island is in the middle of a mighty waterway in eastern Canada: the city of Montreal.


With the St. Lawrence River rushing by on all sides, Montreal is a destination I've loved since 2000 when my husband, Cameron Payne, persuaded me to vacation in Quebec instead of France. I reluctantly said yes—and it was life-changing. I was smitten.


I've always wanted to live in Europe, having a love of old cities, history and urban life, but gave up on it as too expensive, too fraught with language problems and too far away. On our first visit to Montreal, though, the atmosphere felt a little like Europe. The population (about 1.6 million) spoke French, food was an art form, public transportation was excellent, and the city's high-density neighborhoods were bursting with life.


So in 2006 we committed to Montreal as a semiretirement refuge from Houston. (As tourists we can stay in Canada for a maximum of six months each year.) We bought a two-bedroom condominium in an old building (1906) on the Plateau, a neighborhood known for its high concentration of residents who make their living from the arts.

Summers Outdoors


From our doorstep, we can see Parc Lafontaine, a summer magnet for Plateau residents, children, dogs, friends, musicians, picnics and acrobats. It has two lakes, bike paths, a jogging path, an outdoor theater, a dog park and much more. For us, proximity to this park was the most important factor in choosing a home.


We usually arrive in June. (Winters are inhospitable.) Summers are lived outside as much as possible. People are out and about, walking in tree-shaded neighborhoods, biking, Rollerblading, eating at sidewalk cafes, walking up Mount Royal (a hill, really, at about 765 feet, and the city's namesake) and tending flowers and gardens.


Friends and acquaintances invariably ask: "But what do you do up there?" We live a simple life with no car or air conditioning and windows open—as unlike Houston as you can get.


We never tire of walking around Old Montreal (some of it built in the 1700s) or visiting the Jean-Talon and Atwater farmers' markets. Life is lived close to the farm in Quebec, and these two markets put it all at your fingertips.


Summer also brings festival season, which includes the Montreal International Jazz Festival in the new outdoor cultural heart of the city, Quartier des Spectacles.


Montreal is a compact city; we can walk anywhere we regularly go within 30 minutes. (Our local grocer is less than a five-minute stroll.) That said, we often take advantage of BIXI, a citywide bike-sharing program.


In the beginning I was skeptical that we would become BIXI users, since biking was something we hadn't done in decades. But Montreal has a strong bicycle culture, with 300-plus miles of bike paths and thousands of people pedaling to work every day. So in 2010 Cameron and I bought helmets and joined in, a decision that helps with errands, sightseeing—and expenses. The annual BIXI fee is only 82 Canadian dollars (about US$79 at current exchange rates).


Even though Montreal is a French-speaking city, our experience has been that nearly everyone under 40 also speaks English, and they are friendly about it. There is a large English-speaking community located on the west side of the city, but our preference was to experience something different. So, we chose the predominantly French-speaking area. We have never regretted it.


The downsides of settling in for several months each year are few. The cost of living and sales taxes (15%) are higher than in Texas. Given that Montreal is an island, summer days can be humid, and traffic in the city is complicated by many narrow one-way streets. (We also joined a car-sharing service called Communauto.)


On balance, the benefits far outweigh any shortcomings. Take crime—or the lack thereof. It takes a while to stop looking over your shoulder at night while walking, but we don't do it anymore.


Buyers' Market


Not counting lodging (since we own our home), our living expenses for everything we do (renting cars, taking short trips, eating out, buying groceries, etc.) are about C$100 a day. Currently, a well-located older condo on the Plateau—generally, about 1,000 to 1,500 square feet—runs about C$350 to C$400 a square foot. Given the large number of new condos available in other parts of the city, the market currently favors buyers.


We have spent seven summers in Montreal, and each year we see more of Quebec (and the rest of Canada), make more friends and appreciate more fully the retirement choice we made. This live-and-let-live place with so much joie de vivre and natural beauty suits us. It is a place where we live a simpler life but don't miss anything.


And it feels a little like Europe. At least to an American coming from Texas.


Ms. Thompson works in residential real estate in Houston. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Bel article pour Montréal. Sur le site en question, on peut aussi y lire un charmant petit commentaire d'un moron qui ne sait clairement pas ce qu'est réellement un Nazi... Il ne faut pas s'en faire avec ça. Ce n'est ni le premier, ni le dernier commentaire négatif qu'on entendra à propos du Québec.


Ceci étant dit, je trouve que c'est très bien que des gens du Texas (un état aux idéologies diamétralement opposées aux nôtres) se sentent si bien ici. En fait, le climat aussi est diamétralement opposé au nôtre...

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Ouais, si j'étais à sa place je me fermerais la trappe. Ici, il n'y a pas de vigilantes qui shootent des jeunes blacks dans le dos, pis qui s'en sortent devant les tribunaux! Pis le PQ n'a jamais mis de l'avant des politiques aussi méprisables que l'Arizona, par exemple (même si je n'aime pas les prémisses de la prochaine charte de valeurs...). Montréal est la grande ville nord-américaine la plus pacifique en terme de relations interculturelles. Ce qui n'empêche pas certains accros de temps en temps, mais quand même, c'est assez anecdotiques en fin de compte.


Pis l'Alberta a un french flavour???? Il divague ce pauvre type.


Par contre, le couple devrait utiliser le chiffre de population métropolitaine (4 millions). C'est toujours ce qui est utilisé quand on parle d'une grande ville. Parle-t-on de Boston comme d'une ville de 600 000 hab.? (Réf.: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston). Non. On parle d'une ville de 5.5 millions. Agglomération métropolitaine.


C'est la seule chose qui me dérange là-dedans, pis l'histoire de l'hiver "inhospitable". Y fait pas ben ben plus chaud à Toronto non plus tsé. L'hiver dernier j'ai suivi les températures, et ça s'équivalait 9 fois sur 10. On s'habille pis on peut faire tout ce qu'on veut quand même...


Mais bon, suffit le chiâlage. C'est un bel article. Merci!

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I am sooooo happy that they mention that it is inhospitable in the winter. It is really bad and cold here. I'm preparing a comparison chart for my friends on this site who don't believe me. (you know who you are) :)

We almost lost a head office because of our shitty wheather.






So for the non-beleivers, I ask you to take a bike ride this Monday morning when it is 5 degrees here but almost 100% warmer in Toronto with 9 degrees. Just face it. Our weather is COLD!!!

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Il y a un marché intéressant d'américains vivants dans le Sud l'hiver chez eux et qui préfèrent sortir du dome de chaleur intense entre Mai et Septembre, à l'inverse des canadiens bien-sûr. J'en connais quelques uns qui se sont achetés des chalets et des condos à Mont-Tremblant ou à Saint-Donat. Un marché de gens bien fortunés qui devrait être plus exploité, surtout que j'ai bien l'impression que les températures ne vont pas se mettre à baisser dans les prochaines années.

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Je suis surtout intéressé à savoir si les hivers se réchauffent à Montréal avec le réchauffement global. Y-a-t-il un changement notable et vérifié statistiquement?


Ce qui m'interesse le plus c'est la temperature médian. Il est quaisement impossible à trouver. Si quelqu'un peut me produire des stats sur la temperature médian par jour ou par mois des 50 dernières années, il me fera plaisir de batir un graphique montrant que notre climat est extrement déplaisant.


Idéalment des stats sur Toronto, Montreal, Boston.

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Les gens qui comme moi aiment les sports d'hiver auront certainement une autre opinion de nos quatre belles saisons. Bien sûr en ville les conditions ne sont pas idéales parfois, mais on s'y fait. Autrement grâce à des hivers suffisamment froids on a un couvert de neige qui permet toutes sortes d'activités extérieures. En plus la luminosité est extraordinaire et les paysages tellement féériques, surtout après une une chute de neige.


Dommage qu'il y ait tant de gens qui souffrent de cette saison mal-aimée, et tant pis s'ils ne font rien pour changer leurs perceptions. Ils continueront à déprimer inutilement et seront victimes de leurs propres limites physiques et psychologiques. Comme on dit en anglais: if you can't fight them, join them. Ça pourrait s'appliquer aussi aux hivers québécois.

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I am sooooo happy that they mention that it is inhospitable in the winter. It is really bad and cold here. I'm preparing a comparison chart for my friends on this site who don't believe me. (you know who you are) :)

We almost lost a head office because of our shitty wheather.


So for the non-beleivers, I ask you to take a bike ride this Monday morning when it is 5 degrees here but almost 100% warmer in Toronto with 9 degrees. Just face it. Our weather is COLD!!!


And your realistic proposal is????? Ban winter???? Face it, we either have your solution: crying out loud with no result whatsoever,




1- Live with it

2- Stop exaggerating it, because it makes things WORSE. When its winter in Montreal, it's not beach time either in Toronto or NY, for God's sake!

3- Develop our winter economy and tourist offer. And THAT will be imposible if we always keep mongering about it. We need to sell our winter, and that will inevitably mean that we're gonna have to believe it is sellable.

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