Sitting in an ex-Second Cup, now a Lavazza (claming to be Italy’s favourite coffee – I choose to love them because they have Hazelnut coffee), I need only glance outside the tall windows to know I’m in Old Montreal. The streets are set with cobblestones, horses and buggies are making the rounds, and the tall stone buildings are silent witnesses to an architectural age long come and gone.
I’m on the second floor of the coffee shop, in a type of balcony. Every other partisan of the coffee shop is downstairs, sitting at large plush red chairs or at chocolate brown tables. I’m alone upstairs save for one other man who is drawing. It’s obvious he’s drawing – you’d have to be pretty daft not to jump to that conclusion from his easel. He’s a nice middle-aged man. We said hello and spoke briefly, being the only two inhabitants of the balcony. We spoke of art, passions, drawing and writing. Well, he spoke of drawing, and I spoke of writing. It was all very fantastic.
And that’s what I love about Montreal. It has that relaxed atmosphere, that understanding that people are only trying to do the best they can, and that we’re all in the same boat on the same churning waters, so it’s good to connect with those around you, as good as it is to withdraw from time to time and create.
I always feel that in Ottawa a lot of artists are hiding, incognito. They create in static areas – their homes, workshops, in classes... Rarely do they sit outside or in public coffee shops to create, to let the life around them influence and colour their art.
I see them once in a while. I see the odd painter, easel set by the blossoming apple trees of the Agricultural museum. Or again by the locks of the canal, carefully trying to capture every detail of the old yet still functional mechanism with carbon pencils.
But in Montreal they’re everywhere, and they’re not shy. Many will even draw your picture if you ask, well, for a “tip,” anyways! The life of the city breaths power into their art, and in turn the artists help not only capture but also to create the landscapes of Montreal.
I love Ottawa, and I do most of my writing in its various coffee shops (ok, mostly Second Cup), but I wish that they would become more a haven for the artist instead of the disgruntled public servants needing their caffeine fix just to get through the day. Well, other coffee shops but Bridgehead. Their coffee isn’t my favourite (and most other shops also have fairly-traded coffees).
But, in the meantime, when I need to just soak those creative vibes, Montreal is just two hours away!