Three months in: the quirks of city planning in Montreal
This week, I continue the series on Montreal’s city planning quirks with a piece on compass orientation. Though the North is the only thing fixed wherever you are in the world, Montreal has made orientation the number one tourist trap and this article will tell you why.
The trick of Montreal’s orientation
In a conference I attended in June, a speaker, talking about a location in downtown Montreal said “to the North…sorry Montreal’s North” and everyone laughed. What is this about? Well, Montreal was built and developed along the St Lawrence River which the most basic map will show you in a southwest to northeast direction. But historically the river has been considered to run south of the city, as it leads to the Atlantic Ocean east of Montreal (in reality the St Lawrence River only meets the ocean to the northeast of the city of Montreal).
As a result, the eastern part of the island is what looks like the north on a map and the western part, like the south. You have to slightly tilt the island of Montreal to understand where the North, South, East and West is for Montrealers, which gets tricky when you start talking about transport and urban planning and need to describe the orientation of a site location.
It is therefore said that in Montreal, “the sun sets in the North” – the most unique quirk of all.