Montreal is a great city. Philadelphia is a great city. Here, some things that our great city should steal from theirs, based on observations from a long weekend I just spent north of the border.
1. Funner Murals
Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program has done great things for the city, but sometimes I think it takes itself a bit too seriously. The one at the top of this post was one of my favorite weirdo murals in Montreal. There are many.
2. Good-Looking Mayoral Candidates
This is Melanie Joly, and she's a young attorney running for mayor in Montreal. Just think of how much more pleasant the 2015 mayoral race in Philadelphia would be if we had a bright, young face like this in the Tom Knox-encrusted lineup.
3. Pay-Anywhere Parking Meters
Let's say you're shopping at the Apple Store on Walnut Street, and you realize that your meter is about to run out. Imagine being able to pull out your smart phone to add time--as you can do in Montreal--instead of having to run out to physically put more money in the meter. Oh, I realize that this nifty technology isn't limited to Montreal. You can do this in other cities. Many other cities. And that's the point: It's everywhere but in Philadelphia.
4. A Lack of Litter
I'm sure there's litter in Montreal, but I saw virtually none. Philadelphia's littering problem is simply shameful.
5. Horse Meat
Over the weekend, I met friends for dinner at Joe Beef, one of most difficult tables to get in all of Montreal. (Famed New York chef David Chang declared Joe Beef his favorite restaurant... "in the world".) We tried the tartare de cheval, which pretty much translates to "a big pile of raw horse." It was delicious, lean and inexpensive. Upon my return to Philadelphia, I told my 7-year-old son that I had horse. "Ooh, I want to try horse!" he proclaimed. So I told him he'd have to wait until he leaves the United States. Imagine his disappointment.
6. Pay Phones
Where the hell did all of our pay phones go? Possibly to Montreal, where it's hard to find a public place that does not have a pay phone. If you've ever had your phone die in Philly after you just missed your train, you know what I'm talking about.
Montreal has been doing bikeshare for years, and stations like this one can be found all over--in a city where the weather isn't exactly conducive to biking for months out of the year. Philadelphia is supposed to debut bikeshare in 2014, if we don't figure out a way to screw it up.
8. Jean-Talon Public Market
If you think the Reading Terminal is something, pay a visit to this city-run farmers market, which is said to be the largest outdoor public market in North America. There's a dizzying variety of fresh produce (I had the best piece of corn of the year there...for shame, New Jersey), meats, cheeses, etc. There's also a tiny oyster counter (pictured) where you can bring a bottle of bubbly and slurp down the freshest raw oysters (and sea urchins!) you've ever had.
9. A Vertical Attraction
Montreal's Olympic Stadium boasts the Montreal Tower, the highest inclined tower in the world. Washington D.C. has the Washington Monument. Seattle has the Space Needle. Even Pittsburgh has a fun vertical attraction: the Duquesne Incline. And what do we have? The City Hall Observation Deck. That's actually a fun little diversion. But what ever happened to the massive Ferris wheel someone wanted to build at Penn's Landing?
10. Nice Cab Drivers
Of course, that goes without saying.