A girlfriend who lived in Montreal for a couple of years warned me: “Les hivers sont extrêmement rudes.” She wasn’t kidding. Check it out:
For those of you who speak fahrenheit, that’s -9.4°F (and Mike Finnerty on CBC’s Daybreak just said the wind chill will make it -38°C!!). Now, I don’t want to complain, but even CBC radio tells me that this kind of long, extremely cold stretch is unusual. Normally it’s only about -16°C (3°F) during the day (pffff, tropical!).
In times like this, my instinct is to put the heat up as high as possible and stay bundled up inside. But this is not the native Canadian approach, oh no! There are people out there still biking to work (admittedly, even the locals think they’re nuts). My short period of residence in Canada has taught me a few of the locals’ tricks:
Carry a big bag with an extra pair of shoes. Wear your boots outside and change into your fancy-schmancy shoes indoors. (And make sure your boots are easy to slip on and off – high lace-ups are NOT recommended.)
- Don’t let the cold intimidate you: go ice skating! It sounds counter-intuitive, seeing as you’re surrounded by ice and cold, but the movement and constant fear of falling on your backside keep you warm.
- If you have a car, get a remote starter. They are a gift from God.
- Memorize and make extensive use of the Montreal underground passages. If you’re visiting or new in town and you want to learn about them, give this guy a call.
- Café hop! My neighborhood, the Plateau Mont-Royal, is full of adorable cafés. So if you’re not in a hurry to get from Sherbrooke to Mont-Royal on St. Denis street, you can hop back and forth across the road, going from La Petite Cuillère, to Café Universel, to Simplement D’Liche Cupcakes, up to Aux Deux Maries. (Note: this technique might cause inordinate weight gain.)
- Wear lots of layers. Because it’s so cold outside, indoor public spaces like the metro, supermarkets and others are overheated. You need to be able to peel off layers so as not to suffocate yourself once inside.
On my own, I have come up with a couple of solutions: Fingerless gloves are wonderful for keeping warm while also being able to type. Baking is wonderful for heating up the kitchen with the oven, and having a warmth-inducing hobby like crocheting helps tremendously. How can you be cold when you have a blanket made of pure (and stinky) New Zealand sheep’s wool thrown over your knees?
Despite the cold outside, it is true that the chilliest days of the year are also the sunniest. So while we’re all freezing our tootsies off, we can at least enjoy beautifully sunny days in this lovely (though harsh) city.