City Girl Goes Country

This city girl is taking leave of such amenities as public transit, city water, and cable internet and she’s headed for the hills. After years of inner-city life, I’m off to a village not too far away. There will still be near daily visits to the downtown for work, but home will consist of such previously unheard of elements as an acre and half of land and a 2-car garage. It all lies ahead in the mysterious unknown. Of course, I have daydreams of idyllic Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market and friendly visits from families of deer. In these imaginings, the garden remains unravaged by critters and anything to do with the septic tank is not my problem.

Enjoying an urban path last summer

Enjoying an urban path last summer

Growing up in a small city, it was always my ambition to make the move to a real bustling metropolis. I spent a few months in Vancouver, but settled into Montreal for the long-haul in 2001. I had a love affair with Montreal that I thought would last forever. It was only after receiving a plush job offer in 2008 the likes of which don’t exist in la belle province did I decide to abandon my beloved cool urban existence for a slightly less cool, less urban, existence in Ottawa. There are good (trees, decent people) and bad (no vibe, too much sprawl) aspects of this place but it’s been my home for over 6 years and leaving is going to feel weird!

I sense there will be many waves of goopy nostalgia in the next weeks as I prepare my departure. So please indulge me as I make a sentimental list of what I shall miss about city life, and what I hope I’m moving toward…

Why I’m a City Gal

Diversity: Nothing is more life affirming, in my view, than living shoulder-to-shoulder with people from all over the planet. Anyone living in an ethnically diverse metropolis cherishes the variety of foods and music available to them. And they will undoubtedly work with and befriend people of all shades without a second thought. Not to say that tensions don’t erupt but, really, it’s all very enriching.

Live Music: This is where Ottawa never quite measured up. There are big stadium concerts here, but this city is very much lacking in good small to medium venues where you can see a great Scottish electro band for 25 bucks. When I think of all the awesome live music shows I experienced while living in Montreal, I get a melancholic pain in my heart: Peaches, M.I.A., Le Tigre (twice!), Sonic Youth, Thunderheist, Stefi Shock, Martha Wainwright… Ironically, the village I’m moving to is renown for its small, quality live music venue. Ok, there won’t be many of the electronic pop acts I so enjoy, but I can get into some of that folksy stuff… maybe.

New York in the 80s by Richard Sandler  -- public transit is sometimes magical, sometimes not

New York in the 80s by Richard Sandler — public transit is sometimes magical, sometimes not

Culture: Even if I don’t go to the museum that often, even if I only occasionally go to the ballet, even if sometimes summer festivals annoyingly clog up the neighbourhood streets, I like knowing that those things are there for me to enjoy should I choose to partake.

Shopping: Let us not underestimate the pleasure inherent in looking at, and being around, commercial goods. I’m no shopaholic, but I do enjoy stopping by the local hipster boutiques and looking at the shapeless elastic waistband dresses I’ll never buy. And I also like having big chain stores in a mall close to me so that I can efficiently refresh my wardrobe when needed, or indulge in a new liquid liner. I’d say that I’ll miss bookstores, but so many have closed that there’s practically nothing left to miss (I will miss the well-stocked public library, though).

Walking: Want to meet up for coffee? Yup, I can be there in 10 mins, let me just put on my sandals. Awesome, I’ll bike over, be there in 15… I’ll still be able to walk to shops and cafés where I’m going but, for most things, I’ll need a car.

Public Transit: As much as I like to gripe about the erratic bus schedule and the sour faces of the depressed people who ride OC Transpo, it really is a pretty effective and cheap way of getting around. I’ll have to try and remind myself of what it feels like to lug heavy grocery bags onto a crowded bus when I’m paying for car insurance and getting winter tires.

I'm going to be a country gal with tangerine lipstick, just like Marilyn

I’m going to be a country gal with tangerine lipstick, just like Marilyn

Why I’m Going Country

Nature: Yes, everyone says how great it is that this city has so many parks and green spaces. But, the thing is, I almost never go to those places. I sit on my balcony and look at the squirrels. Fluffy tailed rodents are lovely, but now I’ll be able to experience the peacefulness of nature right outside my door, smell fresh air all the time, and take a walk by, or a dip in, the river (not the canal!).

Community: I don’t really know what to expect when I get there. But I can tell you that people wave to each other when they drive past and that, good or bad, I’m going to get to know my fellow villagers.

Fresh Food: In the summer at least, it will be much more convenient to go to the farmers’ market than to the nearest grocery store. I’m looking forward to getting my veggies and grass-fed meats directly from the producers. Plus, we’ll grow a garden, and there’s even crazy talk about getting our own chickens! (Of course, I will still check out the Whole Foods when it opens in town though.)

Space: I’ve never been one to want to live in a tiny white-box condo; my current apartment is quite large and on 2 levels, and it’s just me. Now we’ll have a house, a yard, room for our kitty cats to run around in, spaces in which to be together, spaces in which to be alone.

Love: Ever the hopeless romantic, when I decide to start fresh, I go all out. Sure, we could have chosen the city. But somehow the image of my outdoorsy guy in a townhouse with a tiny square of lawn never felt quite right. (And the suburbs strike me as the worst of both worlds — far and of limited beauty.) Living in a village seems like the perfect compromise; I’ll still be able to walk to coffee and yoga, and he’ll have an outdoor playground in which to grow things. I’m not looking forward to the drive into work but at least we’ll be rolling in together.

Where are you in the urban/rural debate?


  1. I haven’t been reading for long, but still – totally surprised! You seem like such a city girl…but I guess the country could use a little of your fabulousness, too. Hope this doesn’t slow down the awesome shoe buying at all – good luck in your new home!

    • I know, it surprises me too! I’m already thinking about a possible jaunt to NYC in the Fall though, so you can’t totally take the girl out of the city.


  1. […] staying stuck in the familiar due to fear of the unknown was worse. So I did it. From city life to country life, from solo living to duo (and sometimes trio — Monsieur has a teenaged child) living, from […]

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