loving the airbnb groove...

Perhaps tomorrow I will return to my on-going reflections on Leonard Cohen. Today is clearly all about wandering through le Petit Italie in Montreal and wondering what surprises will be discovered....

... four hours later - during which time there was a bit of snow in a wintry mix, a stop at Milano's Italian Grocery Store (an exquisite journey into Old World charm) and an extended lunch at La Corniche (a Tunisian eatery @ https://www.facebook.com/lacorniche.montreal/) we are back at our AirBnB "tiny house" for a nap. Where we're staying in Montreal has not been impacted by the recent flooding. In fact, I've been so cut off from the "news" that until I got a note from my man in Thunder Bay wondering how we're faring, I wasn't even aware of the challenges. One of our stops was to a newsstand to get a local paper and get up to speed!

Let me sing the praises of AirBnB for those not in the know:  it has become our preferred way to visit when we have more than an overnight. I was turned-on to this resource when our daughter mentioned it in passing as a fascinating way to live in neighborhoods at significantly affordable rates. Like many old guys, at first it freaked me out:  whaddaya mean stay in someone else's house? Yuck... But after giving it a shot about 7 years ago for a two week sojourn in Montreal, I've become a believer. It was the ONLY way we planned our sabbatical trip two years ago and has taken us to truly sensational homes.

+ There was a five story walk-up Zen apartment in the East Village. Right across the street was an Algerian restaurant with the best hummus in town (except for places on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.)  Close to Alphabet City, the vibe of the neighborhood was eclectic and alive. Every day was an adventure - made all the more possible because of the reasonable rent (as well as the grant from the Lilly Foundation.) We took in local Latin jazz, ate NYC pizza, celebrated our anniversary, made pilgrimage to the old Fillmore East and hung out with our family in Tompkins Square Park.

+ The next major surprise was our stunning stay in Pittsburgh.  Our Steeltown hosts were two young hipsters and their children who were dedicated to reclaiming the neighborhood from both decay and gentrification. Our digs were 21st century bohemian with craft beers in the fridge.  He was a barrista, she an early childhood educator; they turned us on to the sketchy areas of my birth town that we needed to avoid as well as the groovy parks and galleries that were must sees. A highlight was the Conflict CafĂ© (sadly closing later this month) on my late father's alma mater.

+ Montreal has given us at least 6 unbeatable places to call home over the past 7 years.  We started out near Little Italy, moved to le Plateau, Mile End and Outremont and now find ourselves back in the old neighborhood where any obvious zoning regulations have long been forgotten. Our current "tiny house" was once a garage that has been converted into an artist's studio. It is vertical rather than horizontal space in another wildly eclectic area of town. Let me go on the record and say that we've scored big time with AirBnB in Ottawa, too with places that match our aesthetic and hosts who are full of compassionate creativity.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this way of visiting is living in a residential neighborhood. Wandering the streets where locals shop, sipping tea or wine on the non-tourist terraces of small neighborhoods and hanging out in the little parks that dot these communities is soul food for me. One of our hosts worked for Cirque de Soliel, another consults for water justice rights internationally; one was a veterinary doctor who gave her time and resources to the lay chapter of the Order of St. Francis, and our current host creates intricate works of art as a weaver.

There may come a time when I am too old, broken and cranky to make these quirky 
habitations work, but I hope that's not for a long time to come. Yes, there have been a few precarious stairways to negotiate - and some unusual showers, too - but WTF! Life is too short to play it safe, boring and bourgeois. (PS: I know the arguments against AirBnB and have seen some of the abuses in places like San Francisco where greed is crowding out affordable housing for quick cash. That said, like any innovation, new safe guards are emerging that are both fair and effective.) So, with a bit of careful research and a willing spirit, check it out - and have a ball.

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