Recently read: ‘Sweet Affliction’

I picked up this collection of short stories in Montreal at Librarie Drawn and Quarterly, a lovely little book store in Mile End.

Sweet Affliction, Anna Leventhal

I came in looking specifically for books about Montreal, stories set in Montreal, and/or books by authors from Montreal. The staff was incredibly helpful. When I told them about my quest, the girl asked, “In French or English?” and then proceeded to pile book after book into my hands. I settled on Sweet Affliction by Anna Leventhal and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler.

Sweet Affliction was a wonderful collection to read while traveling alone in Montreal. I brought it with me everywhere so I could read a story and then reflect on it while enjoying a coffee or a beer. The tales ranged from sweet to sad to darkly comic to unusually uplifting, all with an undertone of sarcastic humor. The characters’ lives are interwoven through the stories as they go about their business in Montreal; as a reader I found it interesting and engaging to keep track of the various relationships.

One of my favorite stories was about Moving Day, something Leventhal portrays as ridiculous, and I didn’t even know existed. Another story of note was one of the shortest in the collection, ‘The Yoga Teachers,’ about a little girl who likes going to dance class even though she doesn’t fit in with the rest of the ballerinas.


I traveled by myself and it made me happy

“Solo female travel.” It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days, so being the follower I am, I decided to board a plane all by myself.


Everything kind of fell into place for this trip. I had a gift card to use on already cheap tickets to Montreal. I had a “spring break” for work. No friends or family were available to travel on those days. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision for me. The idea popped into my head in the afternoon, and after searching for a good destination, the flights were booked by that evening.

I had a great time in Montreal, despite the cold (although the locals kept talking about how warm it was). I was confused at first because I wasn’t sure if I should speak English or French. The first day I ended up not picking just one language, but instead I spoke in some dumbed-down combination of French and English, in the process sounding incredibly stupid. After that I made a conscious effort to stick with one language for an entire conversation.


Here are some of my favorite things about traveling alone in Montreal:

Walking everywhere.

I think walking is the best way to see a city, and in Montreal, I walked over four miles every day. By myself, I was able to walk at whatever pace I wanted for as long as I wanted. I didn’t have to hear someone else bitch about sore feet or being cold.

Me, me me.

Related to point number one, I only had to focus on what I wanted. If I was hungry, I ate at the first place I saw that looked good. If I was tired, I took the bus back home. If I wanted to stay in and watch the French TV channel showing a program about puppies, I watched the puppies. I enjoyed not having to cater to anyone else’s needs.


I got a lot for my money.

It was a cheap vacation, for a large North American city. My flight was under $200. I rented a room in an apartment on Airbnb for under $100 total, and I spent about $150 on food/souvenirs/ground transportation/attractions/beer. If my husband had tagged along, our costs could have easily doubled.

Museum time.

I’m a museum person, and traveling alone, I was able to take my time in the exhibits. I saw everything in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts over the course of two days. Again, no compromises: I saw only the museums I was interested in.


Me time.

There was something restorative for me in walking around and observing a new place. No talking, no distractions. Just me, my thoughts, and old snow beneath my feet. I wrote every day and I read two books. Even though I didn’t do anything incredibly exciting on this trip, I ended every day in a good mood, and I began every day ready to see more.

While traveling on my own was a great experience, I think I would’ve enjoyed the city even if I was traveling with someone else. I’d do it again in the right situation, especially if I wanted some me time.