Montreal Memories, Part I | Wendy Brandes Jewelry Blog

After publishing my last post, I felt weird about it being Fled Cruz that made me want to flee the country this year. I thought for a second, “Oh no, am I as bad as Fled? Running away when the going gets tough?” Then I remembered that I am not a Texan senator who flew to a Mexican resort while millions of his constituents were freezing in the dark after a severe winter storm knocked out a poorly designed power grid. That’s 100% Fled. (Texas officials said 246 people died due to the storm, but that might be an undercount.)

I’ve never left New York City during a blackout — and I’ve been through some big ones. I don’t have constituents to tend to, but I do try to be helpful during power outages by offering shelter to friends; saving pregnant women from walking down 30 flights of stairs; and warning people of falling branches. Seriously!


I’ve never left NYC for long, full stop. I’ve lived here since 1986 (after growing up a mere 40 minutes from Manhattan). But, like I said, the gun epidemic has gotten to me — and not just the constant fear of guns themselves, but the willful ignorance and plain lack of common sense about guns that Fled personified when he called for increasing safety by decreasing the number of doors in school buildings. Other countries face many of the same problems that we do, including but not limited to oligarchs and economic inequity; centuries of racism; growing anti-Semitism; violence against gay and trans people; and the denial of rights that have left corpses with more bodily autonomy than living human beings. But only the U.S., among wealthy nations, has so much gun violence.

After the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting in May, I agonized more and more over whether I should leave not just New York City, but the U.S. entirely. Finally, my Canadian friend Rosalind said, “You could try living here for a month.” Doh! (And, thank you, Rosalind!) I realized MrB and I were in a position to do that. As I said in yesterday’s post, MrB is retired and I can work from anywhere, and we hadn’t taken a real vacation since 2019. But I didn’t want to feel like I was on vacation. I wanted to try out ordinary life in a new place. That’s why it was important to bring the pets with us, which limited our destination options because I didn’t want to fly with them. It turned out the drive from New York to Montreal is only about six hours, and Rosalind was sure I’d love the city, so I found a pet-friendly apartment in a fun part of Montreal and we left the first week of September.

I really did keep up regular life. I didn’t even bother to tell everyone on my many work- and activism-related Zoom calls that I was out of town. And it worked: I have decided that I could live in a different city as long as it is one that is walkable and diverse. I hate having to get in a car to do basic errands. I like a neighborhood where I can get to places like the drugstore, the grocery store, the gym, and restaurants on foot. (Public transportation for everything else is fine.) Montreal scored highly in that department. I also saw all kinds of different people, and was especially pleased that my walk to one pole-dancing studio took me through the out-and-proud Gay Village. That was reassuring. The drawbacks of Montreal are the extremely cold winters (though immigrants from warm-weather places assured us that we’d learn to live with it) and the hilly terrain, which was hard on MrB because of his post-polio syndrome. As a result, we are not ready to move to Montreal this minute, but we’re continuing our Québécois lessons just in case.

Now for a few photos! If you’re going to visit Montreal, September and October are beautiful. There were many days warm enough for a t-shirt and jeans. The most bundled-up I got was a jacket, scarf, and hat. I didn’t really need the scarf this day but look at its Ukrainian colors!

I was so determined to live “regular life” that I had to force myself to do some sightseeing, but I’m glad I did. We took the bus to the top of Mount Royal to take in the view.

Click to enlarge.

Where there’s a Ferris wheel, you’ll find me on it.

I’m a major Ferris wheel fan.

The Ferris wheel gave us another beautiful view of the city.

Gorgeous trees!

There are cobblestone streets in Old Montreal, near the port.

Scenic but can be challenging for people with mobility issues.

MrB and I were both obsessed with Habitat 67, which was built for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. People live here!

Click to enlarge.

Speaking of Expo 67, I was there, with my parents, making this year’s trip my second one to Montreal. My parents couldn’t find their Montreal photos, but they found one taken on a friend’s farm in Vermont, which they visited on the drive home. Here I am with my mom in 1967, and, no, I’m not the pony!

I was born later this year.

I’m not going to lie — I had a better time this year!

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