If you haven't been to Montreal may I whet your appetite with this video of the city?
The Frenchlings (my two Franco-American daughters who are studying in Canada) have an apartment near the Atwater metro station in the downtown area. They are in what is called a coloc which is short for colocation - a situation where young people, usually students, get together and rent a communal apartment for relatively cheap. I think the equivalent term in English is group housing.
Their building is old and has seen better days. In fact from the outside it looks like it is owned by a slumlord. I have to wonder what the neighbors in their gentrified houses next door think of this monstrosity in their midst. The tenants are almost exclusively students at McGill, UdeM and UQAM which means that it is a transient population.
When we arrived last Sunday we saw some of the repercussions of this: the small garden and sidewalk in front of the apartment was littered with garbage and old furniture. I winced when I saw that the outgoing students had dumped garbage all over the day lilies:
A very disorganized and unsightly grande poubelle. In the students' defense, I didn't see any other place where they could have put all this. Many arrived from abroad and other parts of Canada at the very last minute; if they didn't get that stuff out of those apartments that day, then the landlord would have put it all out on the street in any case.
Back to the apartment. Magnificent. 5 bedrooms for 4 people. A huge kitchen. A lovely common area (living room). Decent modern bathroom. Bright. Hardwood floors. Beautiful old molding around the light fixtures and the ceiling. A stunning old fireplace in the living room. All this for very very cheap rent.
It was, however, very dirty, many of the windows didn't close properly and there was still stuff from the previous tenants packed into the hallway. The elder Frenchling and I scrubbed while the younger Frenchling and her father put together the furniture from Ikea (and Mike, we really could have used you - the most competent Ikea certified technician we know). Here are some pictures.
|Balcony off the kitchen (there is another off the front bedroom)|
|One of the 5 bedrooms|
But as pleased as I am that my children are living here, I can't help but wish that these apartments belonged to people who loved them and had the time, energy and money to care for them. To do for this place what we did for our little house in Versailles. I wonder what will happen in a few short years when the landlord gets tired of dealing with students and the rot has spread too far, if they will be sold and torn down or rehabilitated. I pray that the latter is their destiny.
"He who loves an old house never loves in vain."