Winter in Montreal: Have We Lost All Perspective?


My cousin came to visit me from London (England) for the weekend, arriving on a miserably cold winter Montreal day. He was absolutely ill-prepared for this severely below zero weather, wearing his Nike Air Max sneakers, a sweater, covered by a jumper, and, finally, what we Montrealers would call a spring jacket. 

In the meantime, here I was wearing three wool sweaters toppled by a Canada Goose coat, layered with two pairs of pants, a Russian-style hat, a two-meter scarf and a pair of thermal gloves, covering every inch of my body with the exception of my eyes. 

I was staring at him, despite the limited space between my hat and scarf, worried for what he was about to experience. He was looking at me, unaware of who I was, given my burka-like attire. After a few seconds of eye contact, he recognized me.

When we arrived to my place, I quickly looked for any additional clothes to layer on him to pre-empt him from freezing during our 10-minute walk to the restaurant. We began our stroll and my chatty cousin went mute during the entire walk, minus (no pun intended) a few “It’s bloody cold, freaking hell…gosh” comments while I was comfortably walking in -20 degrees – a bit cold mind you, but well equipped.

And so it got me thinking: Have we Montrealers lost all perspective? The answer may be yes due to our adaptable nature or maybe the winter brain-freeze. Regardless, here are a few of my winter revelations that affirm this question. 

Layered and slow motion: Everything takes twice as long
We finally arrived to the restaurant after what seemed like an eternal walk. We were seated. It took us something like five minutes to take off our coats, scarfs, additional sweater, hats, pair of gloves number one, pair of gloves number two, earmuffs, and the list goes on. We also had to remove our shoes in this particular hang out, yet another obstacle to our final destination. Once seated, we opened a bottle of wine rather quickly and rushed to drink and warm up.

The waiter informed us we had to switch tables, which didn’t seem like much of a problem at first. We began picking up our coats, scarves, hats, the pairs of gloves one, pairs of gloves two, the extra sweater, each while awkwardly attempting to put our boots back on, all at whilst carrying our entire winter closet. Alas, after 10 minutes of clumsiness and stumbling, I was ready, and my cousin was concluding his mission by putting his non-Montreal winter appropriate Air Max sneakers on. And the expected happened: the earmuffs were missing, a scarf was missing, another was forgotten, a glove was lost and the list goes on. Sigh. What would have taken five seconds of transferring tables during a summer night transformed into 10 minutes during Montreal winter.

I generally wouldn’t have remarked this chaos, but I was observing my cousin bewildered by what has become a routine to us here in Montreal. And then it occurred to me again: have we lost all perspective? 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The next day, I planned to walk around my neighbourhood in the Mile End and Plateau. But we woke up to the sound of a heavy snowstorm with something like 10 centimeters of snow accumulated. Now, let me remind you, my cousin has Air Max sneakers only. 

After layering ourselves with clothes and taking 15 minutes to do so, we finally made it out of the house. I decided to take my car and do a “tourist bus ride tour” to avoid inflicting any more suffering on my cousin, who tried to pretend he was warm. 

I started to describe the scenery: “This is La Fontaine Park, there is a beautiful lake, and lots of green trees and a nice jogging path, but now, hmm, well you can’t really tell. This is the Mile End, it’s an artsy neighbourhood, often packed with hipsters, who have lost their will to look cool. And here is Mont-Royal Park; in the summer everyone relaxes on the grass and chills. Now, everyone is dressed in snow pants. I promise Montreal is beautiful and Montrealers are hot people.” Then I thought to myself: have we Montrealers lost all perspective? 

Winter transportation: All goes!
While driving, we noticed a person skiing and another snowshoeing, two means of transportation that gained popularity during winter, especially after our recent 45-centimeter snowstorm. On the other side of the street, there he was, a man on a bicycle, trying to conquer the blowing wind, the snow, the below gazillion degree weather and pretending hard to look warm while tears were freezing down his face. 

Once again, I noticed my cousin’s baffled expression in front of this uniquely Montreal scene. Have we Montrealers lost all perspective?  

Non-stop Montreal partying: It’s never too cold for a night out
I planned to go to Igloofest for the night. I figured, if my cousin is in Montreal, might as well drench him right into it. I borrowed my father’s winter coat and thermal socks for my cousin. We accumulate additional scarfs, hats and so on. The boots were, however, the sole item missing. There was no hope, but certainly a solution: Thermal socks covered by plastic bags and finally covered with the famous Air Max sneakers. And it was a go.

We entered Igloofest, the outside rave, and I found myself pondering again. A rave in zero-degree weather? And what was even more impressive was the fact that people made the effort to look uber-stylish because, heck, it’s Montreal!

I was smirking to myself as I thought of how Montrealers, despite the arctic weather, continue to go out, drink, eat, party and dress up for a night out. I could easily remember driving up St-Laurent Street and noticing girls in open toe high heels and miniskirts in the midst of the glacial conditions. Then again, this is Montreal, it’s what we do.or is it? Have we Montrealers lost all perspective?

Poutine above all: Food takes precedent over winter
We ended the night at La Banquise, the finest place to eat a poutine, only to discover that even in the midst of winter, the line-up was hanging outside.

The next afternoon, we went for brunch, a typical Montreal ritual. Once again, despite the bitterly cold day, the brunch line up was in full force. Seriously, have we Montrealers lost all perspective, including me who waited conformingly? 

Underground city: Yes it’s true, we have an underground city!
Yes, it’s true, we have an underground city that stretches through downtown. This town has become a tad unimpressive to us Montrealers. Sadly, we actually forget we have one, and one that tourists talk about awestruck. To us Montrealers, it has become a norm, nothing worthy of talk, despite its very useful function. Have we Montrealers lost all perspective? 

And so I ask you young professionals, what do you think?  Have we Montrealers lost all perspective?

On a final note, these cousin anecdotes took place the weekend right before our agonizing -40-degree week. Today, it’s -20 degrees – feels like spring!

Cover Image courtesy of: