Emigrating to Canada? You should consider Montreal

Most young Irish head to Vancouver or Toronto, but Montreal has a lot to offer

Montréal, Canada's second-largest city and North America's largest Francophone metropolis, has been found to be the "most welcoming" in the world by a HSBC survey. I arrived here by chance in 1978, and stayed ever since by choice.

Why do I love Montreal? To its impressive global credentials I add, for instance, my high rise and neighbourhood, the city’s parks, bike paths, reasonable cost of living and excellent medical services.

The high rise where I have lived since 1979 provides many added benefits: an indoor pool on the 27th floor, adjoining saunas, exercise room, and other amenities including a small library in the laundry room. From my balcony I have an unobstructed view of the horizon, spectacular sunrises, and a great big sky where, in summer, swallows swarm and twitter. In spring, big “Vs” of wild geese arrive from the south and in fall head back there. Occasionally, after dark in summer, I see bats.

My neighbourhood is two centuries old. Its calm, quiet streets are lined with mature maple trees. Picturesque wrought iron metal staircases wind up to second-floor balconies that in winter are festooned with Christmas lights. In Parc Lafontaine’s outdoor rink, there’s skating to the sound of sugary Strauss waltzes. The main commercial artery has more stores, restaurants, cafes, and banks, than I will ever need. I prefer the two local public libraries and the sidewalk cafés on Saint Denis Street, where I can sit and people watch.

Montreal is a green city, with 1.2 million publicly-owned trees, and many fine parks such as the Botanic Garden, Parc Lafontaine, Parc des Rapides and Mont Royal: 400 hectares of green space rising more than 200 meters over the city. Our mayor, Denis Coderre, thinks it a notch above Central Park (both were designed by Frederick Olmstead) and I agree with him. Certainly, the view from Mont Royal's Kondiaronk Belvedere is breathtaking: the city core, the river, the hills of the Montérégie and away in the distance, the misty mountains of the Eastern Townships.

The city’s 600km network of bike paths gets me to my favourite places: the modern Bibliothèque Nationale, for books and DVDs, Chinatown for a cheap ($5.99) lunch, the Old Port, to sit at the artificial beach and watch the Saint Lawrence River flow by, then along the Lachine Canal, past Atwater Market, (lots of fresh produce from local farms) to Lac Saint Louis where I sit on a bench, sip a coffee and gaze out over sparkling blue water.

Rent, electricity, university fees, public transport and food are reasonably priced. Since I get around on foot, by bike, bus or metro, I don’t need a car. I live five minutes from a modern walk-in clinic; 20 minutes on public transit gets me to one of Montreal’s brand new super-hospitals. My family doctor shuttles me off to a specialist if he suspects something is amiss: so far nothing has been.

I’m the first to admit my affair with Montreal is not love’s young dream. It may seem banal, boring even, to young “Generation Emigration” folk a few years into life in faraway, exotic, places.

At times our relationship becomes strained, but then, true love doesn't always run smooth, does it? No matter; after so many years, I can't see myself with another. Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, even, don't tempt me.

Montreal’s the one for me, of that I am sure.