Saturday, October 25, 2008

Living out of a suitcase

I am back in Montreal but I only live here part time. That's because I spend my weeks in the Maritimes, Halifax to be more specific, working at a client site. The job is interesting, lots of project management, some business intelligence, a bit of strategy...

My first week away was very tiring. There's something about living in a hotel that can pretty much guarantee that you don't exactly sleep soundly. You hear noises in the corridor, the pillow is too hard, the air too dry... And for a week, I lived pretty much the opposite of how I've lived in the past six years. I had a car to drive to work every day, and also to drive to the local malls to grab whatever seemed a tad healthy out of a fast-food menu. I didn't have my travel mug so I bought coffee in disposable cups. I had no time to prepare before I left... there had to be a better way.

Week 2 was also spent at the hotel, but this time I asked to have a fridge in my room ($5 extra / day, well worth it) and I went to the Superstore on the first evening (think Loblaws) to buy yogourt, blueberries, granola and orange juice for breakfast, and whole wheet pita, cold cuts, cheese, humus and some lettuce for lunches. OK, my diet was pretty much the same every day, but at least the meals were a lot healthier. I ate out in the evening. I also made my way to the hotel's gym (a tiny room where about two people can exercise at the same time, but it was empty when I went) one evening.

Week 3 (this week) will be shorter, as I am flying back to Montreal Thursday evening. I am trying to spend some time in the Montreal office so my colleagues don't completely forget about me :-) Starting in November, I will probably live in a furnished apartment in Halifax, with a kitchen so I can cook meals, not just eat cold stuff. And I will spend a weekend now and then in Nova Scotia, to visit the area and avoid having to fly every single week. My carbon footprint is going to be terrible this year.

Any suggestions on things to see while in Nova Scotia? I'd like to drive to Cape Breton and do the Cabot Trail, maybe a weekend in early November. The view should be stunning, now that the trees have lost most of their leaves. I will also spend time around Halifax. My current hotel is close to the client site, but not exactly downtown, so I haven't seen the harbour and haven't walked around the city yet. Things to look forward to.

Funny thing isn't it? I'm spending my first few months of rediscovering my home town actually discovering a new city. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Home sweet home

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It's a lovely weekend to be back in the province. Mind you, I would like a bit more sunshine, but after the glorious weather on Saturday, I'm not complaining.

Getting back to a regular blogging schedule has been a challenge, especially with the new job and evenings / weekends dedicated to looking for an apartment. OK, maybe not ALL evenings and weekends, but still. The good news is that I have found a place and am moving in on November 1.

My new home will be a cute 3 1/2 close to the George-Vanier metro station. The location is a mixed blessing. It has some very positive attributes, including the proximity to transit, to the Atwater market, to the bicycle path that leads to the Old Port and to work (I'm estimating a 20-minute walk to Place Ville Marie, I have yet to walk it). Unfortunately, the building faces a highway currently undergoing some major construction. In the summer, it might be a bit too noisy to leave windows open. That's OK, I'm willing to settle for something less than ideal, I don't plan on living there for very long and the rent was very affordable.

The apartment itself is quite charming. The bedroom, living room and kitchen all have exposed brick. The kitchen is quite large and was recently renovated, it has bright red cabinets and brand new appliances. The bathroom, also a decent size, was renovated and even has heated tiles. That's a nice feature when you step out of the shower. The place has two balconies, one small juliette-style balcony facing the street and one larger balcony facing the backyard. The back balcony is big enough for a BBQ. The ceilings are quite high (nine feet maybe), and both the front and the back have large windows to let in a lot of light. I also get a washer-dryer combo in a nook outside the bathroom. Many places I visited did not have insuite laundry, something I was adamant I wanted in my place.

Apartment hunting in the city was greatly facilitated by Craigslist. I recommend the site for anyone looking for a place. Not only did many ads include pictures, but you could also link to Google Maps or Yahoo Maps to see exactly where the apartment was. Nothing like a map to show you that "close to XYZ metro" really means you'll have to walk 15 minutes in the blistering cold before reaching the station. If you're looking to rent a place, think about listing it online. My recommendation: include pictures, and not only of the outside of the building. I skipped so many ads that had no pictures. The pictures really help getting a good feeling about the place. Oh, another tip: clean up the mess. A few ads had pictures with what can only described as major clutter. It makes a place look small and seriously makes me wonder if the apartment comes with any closets or storage. Just a thought.

It has become more expensive to rent in Montreal, but in all honesty, it's still possible to find a decent place at a reasonable price. My rent starting in November will be $200 more than I paid for rent in 2002, before leaving for Vancouver. My old apartment did not have insuite laundry and was in dire need of some TLC. If you're looking at renting in very trendy neighbourhoods (Plateau, some parts of NDG, Old Port), yes, it will be expensive. I just think there are still a lot of great finds under $1000. No so in Vancouver, where rental prices are a bit insane.

It's good to be home.