Car-free in Montreal

This past spring, I spent a few days in Montreal right in the thick of the student protests. For those who are unfamiliar with Canadian politics, the protest began in response to a proposed increase in university tuition fees. Every night, a large mass of people meandered through the city parks and streets with their message of resistance.  It was something else – check out this video, below.

The lively street energy wasn’t just a product of the night-time protest — it was also alive and bustling during the day.  I think the lovely built environment and the transportation network are at least partially to thank for this phenomenon.  I was traveling with a friend who was five months pregnant and we had no trouble managing on foot, bus and subway. We did, however, choose to leave the bike share for next time.

Our hotel was located near UQAM (l’Université du Québec à Montréal) as well as the gay neighbourhood. Saint Catherine Street, the main street in the gay village, was closed to all car traffic and remained so for the whole summer. We wandered this festive street many times and enjoyed the people watching, the food, the art installations and the generally fun-filled atmosphere.  As I headed back to Geneva, I was exhausted by all the walking but exhilarated from the trip. Montreal is a great city for a number of reasons, not the least of which, is the ability to amble along and enjoy the action taking place on the street.


Condo life according to The Walrus

The Walrus, a much loved Canadian magazine, features short films on its website.  The following episode is about the culture of condo life in Toronto.  The author argues that condo living is a somewhat antisocial mode of existence for its inhabitants.  I’m not sure how applicable this argument would be to city like Vancouver, which seems to be a little bit better at integrating land uses (and hence at providing for a greater array of interactions that you might have in and around your neighbourhood).  This t.v. episode reminds us, even in little Geneva, that bracketing land uses into mono-culture environments (e.g. businesses in one part of town and houses in another) is not fun no matter where you live.  Anyway.  Enjoy!

Ugly Building Debate in Goshen, NY

The NYT has recently run a couple of articles (here and here) about the fate of the Orange County government building in Goshen, NY (4 hours south of Geneva).  The building was designed by Paul Rudolph and is an example of the brutalist style.  The local government wants to tear down the building while others want to preserve it.  What do you think?  I kind of like the look of this building.  It reminds me of Moshe Safdie’s  habitat 67 in Montreal, which is a well-loved and iconic building in Canada.

Here is the Orange County government building:

Image: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

And here is Safdie’s habitat 67:

Image:  Timothy Hursley

Calgary’s Impressive Peace Bridge

Calgary’s impressive and controversial Peace Bridge is finally open.  The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists as they cross the Bow River.  I think this bridge is a great addition to Calgary’s cityscape, don’t you?  Such a beautiful and prominent structure that emphasizes the waterway, the downtown and active transportation.

This photo is from the Weather Network.  There are some more great pictures on Flickriver.

What do you call a group of doves?

I don’t know either.  The internet had a whole of bunch of answers to this question including “dule” and “dole”, both of which sound fishy.  I’m asking because there seems to be a lot of doves in Geneva.  There is everyone’s favourite restaurant, the Red Dove.  There is a building downtown that says “Dove Block”.  And there is a local brewery called Naked Dove (which is located halfway between here and Canandaigua.  If you’re Canadian and you’ve never seen the word Canandaigua before, trust me, I’m not making it up!).


Once upon a time, there was an artist named Arthur Garfield Dove (1880 – 1946), whose father was a building contractor and brick manufacturer in Geneva.  Dove grew up in Geneva and attended HWS before moving on to NYC.  He eventually moved back to Geneva with his wife, whose nickname was “Reds”.  Dove wasn’t a big fan of Geneva so they only stayed in town for a couple of years.  I learned all of this on the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (phew – good thing it wasn’t censored today!  This joke has to do with an American bill proposal that would censor the internet.  This joke actually isn’t very funny and hardly worth the long explanation.  Anyway.).

Some favourites from December

These Nadège raspberry marshmallows are surprisingly tasty.

I like this snarky website about Rochester.

And this delightful blog about living in America.

Not surprisingly, this book is causing me grief about eating animals.

I liked this article about snow removal and the mob in Montreal.

I love the paintings of Vancouver in this magazine.

I had an amazing lunch at The Bag Lady in London, Ontario and a fantastic dinner at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar in TO.

Speaking of food, I can’t wait to try our new cookbooks – Vij’s at Home and Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes.

What does this mean?

I have been living here for 3 months now and I still have no idea if this is a good price for gas. I know what it means relative to last week’s price, but in general, I still don’t have a clue.

The other thing that is taking me a while to get used to is Fahrenheit. I bought a winter jacket that is good for 20 to -20. When the sales woman told me this, I thought, what the hell? Who wears a parka when it’s 20 degrees out. She could tell by the look on my face that this wasn’t making sense and quickly added, Fahrenheit!

Saving lives through curbside haiku












According to the New York Times city blog, NYC has introduced new roadside signs altering pedestrians and cyclists to some of the dangers of these modes of transportation.  The signs are bright and graphic and include little haiku poems.

On the face of it, the signs help to make a grim message slightly more palatable.  Yes, peds and cyclists should watch what they’re doing.  But more importantly, shouldn’t cars be paying more attention?  I’m curious about what strategies (if any) the city is taking to educate drivers.  For example, in BC, the Victoria Cycling Coalition was involved in revising the driver’s education manual to include information about cycling (e.g. share the road).

Then again, in Ontario, the Chief Coroner is investigating pedestrian and cycling deaths in Toronto.  And federal MP Olivia Chow has introduced a new Bill that attempts to provide greater protections for cyclists.  Clearly this is an important issue right now….and maybe the education of peds and cyclists (through poetry!)  is as good a strategy as any!