“So,”said my mother, breaking the silence as she gazed out the car’s passenger side window. “Do you ever see yourself moving back to Montreal?”
I hesitated. Good question. Since moving to Vancouver ten years ago to join the writing staff of Stargate SG-1, there have been times I’ve missed Montreal – particularly in those first few months when our new city felt like the loneliest place in the world. But, over the years, Vancouver has become home. Whether it’s our permanent home is the big question however. It’s pretty clear that, given the choice, my wife would move back to the city she grew up in, the city her family still calls home. My family as well. But, for the time being, Vancouver is where the opportunities lie.
However, if and when Stargate does come to an end, it’ll be decision time. Montreal or Vancouver? Old home or new? When the time does come, there will be many variables to consider:
We moved to Vancouver because I was offered a fantastic opportunity that blossomed into something far greater than I could have ever imagined. When my writing partner Paul and I joined SG-1 in its fourth season, it was with the understanding that the show would wrap production after it’s fifth season. In other words, I imagined that my stay in Vancouver would last two years, tops. Ten years and many, many scripts and episodes later, I’m still here and looking forward to the possibility of several more years with the launch of Stargate: Universe. If and when Stargate does come to an end, the west coast should continue to be my home – provided I was still interested in continuing my present line of work. Vancouver plays host to a multitude of productions and yet, even if the local opportunities dried up, L.A. is only a short flight away.
Montreal has taken giant steps in recent years but still, it’s a quagmire of Canadian-French-German co-productions, those three-headed monsters that end up turning into creative battlegrounds for all the different players who will want completely different, often contradictory things. It‘s a struggle of endless compromises that almost always results in an unwatchable pastiche. No thanks.
This one’s a tough one. I have my mother, sister, and a handful of friends in Montreal while my wife’s entire family is here as well. On the other hand, we have many more friends in Vancouver.
If my wife was calling this one, she’d go with Montreal in a heartbeat. If it was up to me, I‘d give the edge to Vancouver because of the many close friends I‘ve made their over the years.
THE RESTAURANT SCENE
As someone who really enjoys food, I place a lot of importance on this particular metropolitan aspect. In fact, one of the things that worried me most about our move to Vancouver ten years ago was not so much how we would adjust to our new environment but whether the restaurants would be any good. Oh, how my fears were misguided. The thriving Asian and Indian populations in Vancouver ensure some of the best Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Indian restaurants in North Amerida. Throw in a general emphasis on seafood, locally grown product, and some incredibly innovative chefs, and you have a food scene that’s very hard to beat.
Montreal, on the other hand, offers some of the best French cuisine outside of France. From rustic down home to haute cuisine, they’re tough to beat in this respect – but in all other facets, I’m afraid they’re very beatable. Back when I was living in the city’s West Island, there was a high-end sushi restaurant I used to frequent regularly. On my first return visit to Montreal after the big move, I went back for dinner. After a year of eating Vancouver-quality sushi, I could barely bring myself to finish Montreal’s version.
Oh, and for the record, Vancouver has some pretty damn fine French restaurants of its own.
Not really a factor as my hard-partying days are behind me, but there’s an undeniable sexiness about Montreal, and a lot of it has to do with the city’s after-hour transformation into a vibrant, carefree party central for young and old, chic and casual, English and French. The city is alive 24/7.
By comparison, Vancouver turns into a ghost town after 11:00 p.m. on most weekdays. As for the weekends – sure, it has it’s share of clubs, but with the city’s growing organized crime problem, a little gangsters can go a long way toward putting a damper on a night out.
Montreal drivers are the most aggressive in the country while the city’s streets and highways are perennially pockmarked with potholes or undergoing some sort of construction. Still – and despite the occasional traffic – it’s a fairly easy city to negotiate.
Vancouver is a burgeoning city that likes to pretend it’s a small town. As a result, the city is poorly designed to accommodate vehicle traffic. Some improvement has been made in recent years as the city scrambles to meet the challenges of the 2010 Olympics, but for the most part, its one step forward, two steps back. In a bid to appear progressive, the city is shutting down one lane of a major bridge into the downtown area and dedicating it to cycling traffic only. The thinking is that fewer driving lanes will translate to fewer cars on the road and, thus, prove an environmentally-friendly decision. Of course the truth is that fewer lanes will simply means more gridlock which will mean more idling engines and exhaust – but, the idiots at city hall are too busy feeling good about themselves to see the obvious.
This one is neck and neck. At the city level, Vancouver is run by a bunch of deluded Greenatics who figure they can single-handedly legislate away the planet’s environmental problems. It’ll be interesting to see how their little “Burrard Street Bridge Cycling Lane” experiment pans out. I predict it won’t last past August.
Montreal, on the other hand, is a whole mess of other crazy where anxiety-ridden French nationalists feel provoked by English signage and a Language Inspector makes the rounds, investigating reports of shopkeepers serving customers in English or non-French speaking pet shop parrots. No, really.
Montreal is unbearably hot in the summer and deathly cold in the winter. Vancouver, meanwhile, boasts a short but beautiful summer and a rainy season that pretty much stretches from September to April. In my book, however, rain beats the deep freeze.
As a multiple dog owner, this one is very important. And it isn’t even close. With its many doggy daycares, hotels and kennels, dog parks, pet stores, and dog-themed events, Vancouver is one of the pet-friendliest city’s anywhere. Montreal, while not exactly dog-unfriendly, can’t offer the same wide-open parks and walking trails for those sunny afternoon strolls with the pooch. Also, their antiquated moving day policy in which most rental leases expire on the exact same day – July 1st – ensure that hundreds of animals are abandoned by owners in their mad scramble to locate a pet-friendly residence. Pretty shameful.
Pretty even across most retail areas except one: men’s fashion. Vancouver is great if you’re a guy who enjoys dressing in an endless variety of shorts and t-shirts. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something a little more dressy and you’d like to look beyond the standard offerings of Harry Rosen and Holt Renfrew, then hop on a plane and head to Montreal where you’re guaranteed an impressive array of suits, ties, shoes, and endless accoutrements.
Vancouver is a very expensive city to live in. Property prices are sky high and even the nicest of homes don’t guarantee you much in the way of a back yard. Montreal home prices, though having risen over the past few years, are downright cheap in comparison and you‘re guaranteed a nice piece of land. As for the homes themselves – I’m at a loss as to why so few Vancouver builders make use of stone in home construction.
So, what’s the final tally? Vancouver 4. Montreal 4. And 2 ties. Hmmm. Looks like it’ll be a tough decision when the time comes.
Hey, finish up Blood of Ambrose and start putting together your thoughts for the discussion – and questions for author James Enge. We kick things off tomorrow.
Today’s entry is dedicated to Shirt ’n Tie and all those fellow travelers out there.