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sharing the wealth: apartment-hunting-in-Montréal.

now that i'm done, a few pearls (as Sami used to say) of wisdom...

craigslist montreal - probably the best single all-round online resource for the Montréal apartment-hunt.  there are definitely fewer francophone listings than there are anglophone (which, if you can't read French, is probably just fine).

moreMontreal apartments - more francophone listings (and therefore, more stuff in the Plateau, etc.), but fewer pictures, and i had a not-so-great response rate on my inquiries.  i also came upon slightly more of the "three-and-a-half masquerading as four-and-a-half" / "bait-and-switch" listings.  however, if you're wondering (like i certainly was) what on earth the whole "and-a-half" game is, they have a good explanatory page for all sorts of Montréal-rental idiosyncrasies, including this helpful hint:
Apartments are advertised with their number of rooms, not by their square footage (except for lofts).  A 1 1/2 is one main room with an open kitchen and a bathroom.  A 2 1/2 usually means that there one closed bedroom and one main room and a bathroom, etc.  By the way, the 1/2 represents an indoor bathroom (that is the main theory, no one knows the exact origin of the 1/2.
(there's also good stuff there about signing your first lease, Quebéc property laws, and so on.)

Housing in Montreal (from the HEC's International Student Guide) - some good tips (and some cute spelling "surprices") on apartment-hunting, Montreal leases and even where to go for housing insurance.

Living in Montreal (from a Montreal Mirror student guide) - more good stuff on tenant rights and housing issues, as well as links (and useful explanations) for other resources.

Realstar Rental Properties - these are the guys that deal for Haddon Hall, Horizon and so on.  slightly pricier (for Montréal anyway), but the word on the street is that they're good-quality apartments, and you know exactly what you're getting into.  many of their buildings have extra perks like gyms, pools and parking.  the site is nice because they feature lots of pictures *and* floorplans.

like any town with a proportionally ginormous student population (ah, i am suddenly reminded of Pisa), the problem is not so much the rental prices, but what you tend to get for your money.  i found this especially noticeable because i was looking right around the start of summer, so i had the pleasure of seeing lots ot just-vacated hovels (many of which had obviously been recent end-of-term party venues -- beer-stench everywhere, vomit thankfully not included).

also because of this proportionally ginormous student population and the time of year, i saw a lot of sublet / "lease-transfer" gigs.  this is because you can't usually break a lease here (there seems to be no "notice-period" method).  i think this is dumb, but i won't say more about that because i'm trying to be informative rather than whiny with this post (for once).  if you're lucky you'll find a landlord that might let you off your lease, but otherwise this whole city is full of people renting out from under each other.

more on the sublet phenomenon.  it can be great in that sometimes you'll find someone who's in a hurry to rent a place, and so sometimes you can bargain the price down (at least for the period for which you'd be subletting from them; after that you'd likely have to deal directly with the landlord, and pay his price full-on).  it can also suck (and this depends on your personal penchant for moving into pristine apartments), in that what you see is very much what you get.  so if the walls need a paint job and the floors are scratched up, you're not going to get the landlord's "between-tenant" spruce-up job that you would otherwise get if taking on a proper, "fresh" lease.

look out for the line in the lease about keeping "all escape routes unencumbered".  translation: there may be a walk you have to shovel, darlin.  if so, remember that you're in the land of long, long winters.  make friends with the neighbor's hopefully-hearty teenage son.  and quickly.

look out also, for the clause about "keeping the dwelling heated even when away".  as in, even if you're on vacation in January (lucky you), the heating needs to be on.  of course when i saw this i had to ask (the quasi-Italian in me was already cluck-clucking at North American wastefulness and flagrant disregard for energy resources).  the landlord thought my question was silly.  "if the heating isn't on, the pipes freeze.  then they burst," he said patiently.  i nodded, "oh yes, of *course* -- that makes *perfect* sense," and swallowed.  hard.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[monday 29 may 2006 at 14:22:40] []

what she said.

from (of all things), a Montréaler in (my) Cortona:

Malgré tout ça - l'humaine que je suis étant ainsi faite - j'ai quand meme hate de rentrer.  J'ai hate de revoir mon monde, mon chat, ma maison, mes projets.  Montréal ne me manque pas par contre et plus je la quitte, plus je me rends compte que je n'y suis pas très attachée.  C'est une ville dont j'apprécie le rythme de vie, les gens et les possibilités culturelles mais c'est une ville dont je n'arrive pas à trouver la beauté, d'un point de vue esthétique.  Mais ça, c'est un sujet à développer plus tard...

i told her to go to Giorgio's.  i hope she went to Giorgio's.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[sunday 28 may 2006 at 21:25:28] []

of signatures on dotted lines, and the making of roots.

so.  a little after noon today -- at the very-auspicious Starbucks round-the-corner from me -- i signed for my first Canadian apartment-rental.

it was quick (one chai tea latte with soy, one plain croissant), and it was easy (one form to fill out, two places to sign, two-hundred Canadian dollars down).  and it is done.

and so.
come July first (i know -- so *very* far away), i can -- finally -- go home.

despite myself, i am excited.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[thursday 25 may 2006 at 15:39:37] []

putting my finger on it.

today i realized, as i waited for a bus, soaking up a few moments of much-awaited sunshine (this has been a London-ey week), what it could be.

the thing that i miss most subtly, but miss most of all, most often and most everywhere i go in this new city.

even on the loveliest or liveliest streets -- along the Avenue de l'Esplanade and around Parc St. Louis, down St. Catherine's and criss-crossing back and forth along The Main.

even with all the lovely old stone buildings i see still standing, the celebration of green in all the parks and the tulips and lilacs and lavender on every corner.

i miss statuary.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[wednesday 24 may 2006 at 00:06:34] []

like i needed more reasons to be on the Internet.

so.  the next time you can't find me?
i might be here.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[monday 22 may 2006 at 20:25:07] []

catchup post #1: coffee-table-booking your way to a better world.

i meant to write about this project ages ago -- when i'd just finished working on it, when we needed as much formal and informal media coverage as we could get, in the runup to the Nobel.

now, well.  it's just as important.

the project was called "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005", and it set out to nominate one thousand women -- from every part of the planet -- to collectively represent the millions of women around the world working for a better future.  women who, without regard for their own safety, work in challenging communities everywhere -- calling for reconciliation, justice, and the rebuilding of what has been destroyed.

we didn't end up winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but that was almost irrelevant.  besides (and beyond) the Nobel, the project was always about recording and recognizing the stories behind and around these 1000 women, and all the other women they represent -- working to make stuff work out.

you can find the names and profiles (and more about the project) at www.1000peacewomen.org.  (for a long time, the 10 women from Uzbekistan were missing from this list, because their lives would have been seriously endangered if their names had been made public - sigh...).

you can also find all of them -- including the ones whose stories i had the honor to work on -- in the book.

every single one of them inspired and moved me.  every single one of them is doing truly great work.  and every book that's bought, is a good thing all round.

spread the word.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[sunday 21 may 2006 at 17:37:34] []

differences in bliss.

and other ornery night-time generalizations...

what the rich (everywhere in the world), become ignorant of (or maybe some -- or many -- of them have always been so), is that not everyone at the table may have access to the same wealth that they do.

what the (albeit hardworking, intelligent and otherwise-pretty-aware) upper-middle-class (everywhere in the US and Canada) become ignorant of, is that not everyone at the table may have access to the same credit-line that they do.


hell.  even i have learned (and i say "even", because there are way more convincing, more complete and more catastrophic stories of want, of hunger and of starting-from-zero; than mine).  even i have learned (and i am still learning today, as i face down a prospective landlord, as i face down my own self-doubt, with a 12-month apartment rental contract in one hand and a 4-month freelance contract in the other).  even i have learned, that there is a difference between:
- being out and oh-so-financially-alone in the world with nothing but the shirt on your back and the sense in your head.
- being out and oh-so-financially-alone in the world with nothing but the shirt on your back and the sense in your head, and a couple of platinum cards in your wallet.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[sunday 21 may 2006 at 00:29:28] []


so, in between apartment-hunting, work, and the occasional argument about what an espresso-macchiato is (survey in progress, to be entitled "Montreal's Italian Cafès: The Worthy & The Clueless"); i've been indulging myself mostly by reading (because my God the books are cheap here), and by reorganizing my flickr pictures.  (by the way did anybody else notice that they've moved to gamma?)
anyway, this is the revised and revamped "italy" set.
note that sometimes there is a page two.
note also, that when there is, the newer photos are um, there.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[wednesday 17 may 2006 at 17:20:22] []

silver linings.

(and not just because it's only fair.)

- teabags by Tetley.
- cheap books.  (!)  in *English*.  (!!)  and *lots* of them.  (!!!)
- looking for an apartment, and not worrying about whether it will have a bathtub, or not.
- mexican food.
- lilac trees in bloom, just about everywhere.
- wireless networks.
- fresh croissants and pain au chocolat.
- shawarmas.  the real kind.
- did i mention cheap books?

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[tuesday 16 may 2006 at 16:07:29] []

what i miss.

(a list i probably shouldn't be making.)

- the wine and the coffee.
- rosemary and basil, straight from the pot.
- the way people say buon appetito to each other before starting to eat.
- the way people look you in the eye when clinking glasses (because otherwise it's seven years of you-know-what).
- how beautiful and complete -- and therefore content -- i so often felt my life was.  how much poetry, there seemed to be.
- tram number nineteen, the 23, and www.atac.roma.it.
- never being too far away from a piazza.
- watching a wine bottle being opened; watching as the cork is extracted and immediatley sniffed -- se sa di tappo.
- reading "Get Fuzzy" in Italian.
- just *speaking* in Italian.
being around people for whom money (and pedicures), are not *quite* a primary priority.
- the color of the olive oil.  this week i stood in the supermarket aisle -- distraught: "why is all the olive oil *yellow*?  why?"
- not worrying about whether the guy at the counter will know what an espresso macchiato is.
- friends that felt so good.
- that boy that runs the wine bar.
- and my cat.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[saturday 13 may 2006 at 22:21:26] []

je me souviens.

Montreal is resplendent in May.
green and clean and quietly euphoric about every moment of sunlight, and there have been many.

i have nothing -- really -- to complain about, or be sad about.
and i'm not complaining.
i'm not even sad.

i *am* apartment-hunting, which is painful.
but apartment-hunting is *always* painful.

i am remembering bits of my French -- key pieces like parce-que and est-ce qu'il ya, sentence-starters like puis-je and je voudrais.

what is it, that i would like?

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Avenue Claremont, Montréal]
[friday 12 may 2006 at 11:13:55] []