Real Life ‘Chievos

Life is a game, that’s what they say. Life is usually compared to timeless strategy games like Chess, Go, or Poker, but life is not like any of those games. For one, the graphics in real life are way better. For two, none of those old games have achievements. Life has achievements, arbitrary things we can do to raise invisible numbers. We like it when the numbers go up.

A few weeks ago I rode the metro to Angrignon, one end of the green line. I don’t remember why, but I liked it a lot. When I reached my destination I had a strong feeling of fulfillment, of wholeness. I wanted to ride to every end of the metro. Hey, I figured, maybe I’d get an achievement.

I brought up the idea with Gigi and she loved it. She brought up another interesting idea: the Metro is a gallery of architecture. Every stop is totally unique. The game got more interesting by the second.

She passed some info on to me about the architecture of the metro, including this review of every stop. I resolved to also visit every five-sign reviewed stop in that list. Maybe that would get me another achievement. So here’s the game: pass through every stop on the metro, and get off at every terminating stop and every five-sign reviewed stop. I packed a notebook and a map with my route.

Start: 4:28 – Place-des-Arts

I started at our home metro station. There are obviously more efficient places to start this game, but this is my stop, I really had no choice. I got on the metro towards Angrignon, and marked my starting time.

Real start: 4:35 – McGill

Merde! I’ve lived here for 8 months and I never know which way is which when I get in the Place-Des-Arts Metro. I could have made a new route at this point, but I figured that was ill-advised. I turned around and got back on the green line, towards Honore-Beaugrand.

Longueuil-Universite-De-Sherbrooke: 4:48

Achievement unlocked: yellow line complete! Why doesn’t the unlimited Metro pass work at these other-island stops (we had this problem at Montmorency as well, when we went surfing)? There is no explanation. To make matters worse, Longueuil kicks you out once you step off the train, so no turning around for free. I can see why this stop only received one sign in its review. I bought a single ride Metro pass and headed back towards Honore-Beaugrand.

Radisson: 5:21

The whole metro is a tube, but Radisson is a really big, bright tube. Its immense concrete is intimidating.

De La Concorde: 6:38 / Montmorency: 6:43

De La Concorde looks like a Videogame level. With its powerful pillars, huge circular windows, and inlaid roof, I would love to see this in Quake. The geometry is alive. After what happened at Longueuil, I thought about not coming to Montmorency. I wasn’t about to buy another single ride. Ultimately, I had to go. I couldn’t get the achievement otherwise. I hoped that I could turn around without paying, and my hope paid off. I headed back towards Jean-Talon, excited to transfer towards Snowdon and finish the blue line!

Acadie: 7:10 / Snowdon: 7:25

Acadie is very red. The feeling of looking at the metro map and mentally coloring in the stops I’ve visited is really satisfying. Heading to the west side of the metro now. Achievement unlocked: blue line complete! Almost at the nexus of subterranean beauty now. The area around Lionel-Groulx and Angrignon contains six five-sign rated stops! First we have to stop through cote-vertu, an apparently unloved section of the orange line.

Place-Saint-Henri: 7:57 / Lionel Groulx: 8:10

I’ve long liked Place-Saint-Henri. Before coming to Montreal to study abroad, this was the only station to strike me with its beauty. I was gratified to find that my guide agreed. Easily the most pleasant of the transfer stations, Lionel-Groulx is like a peek into the metro system of the heavens.

LaSalle: 8:18 / Monk: 8:29 / Angrignon: 8:35

LaSalle is not a metro stop, LaSalle is a hanger for future aircraft. Jam packed with sharp angles and bright colors, LaSalle is a work of abstract art. In perfect contrast to LaSalle, Monk is all brown (just like a videogame). The station itself is not too interesting, but there are two really impressive sculptures of workers looming over the tracks. They work and watch over us, reminding us of our daily work.

I was fast approaching Angrignon, this trip’s original inspiration. Excitement was mounting. There was only one problem. I had been underground for so long that the sun had gone down. Angrignon is beautiful for its giant windows, for being the only station that lets glorious light shine through to the tracks. I missed out. The station was not nearly so beautiful in the dark.

Peel: 8:56

Achievement unlocked: green line complete! Rolling through Peel is a pretty anti-climactic way to finish the green line, the most beautiful line on the metro according to my guide, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Georges-Vanier 9:13

Achievement unlocked: orange line complete! Achievement unlocked: all lines complete! Achievement unlocked: all five-sign stops found! I didn’t exactly decide that my journey would end at Georges-Vanier, but as I approached this final five-sign station I realized that it was the final orange line stop as well. Georges-Vanier is another example of dynamite geometry. The centerpiece, a giant tree-like structure, elevates the station from cool to mysteriously cool, and that’s cool enough for five signs. My guide calls Georges-Vanier “terribly smart,” and I have to agree.

Now the only thing left for me was to get home. My legs were tired, my head was aching. I loved the journey, but more than anything I wanted to breath above ground again.

Place-Des-Arts: 9:36

After just over five hours, I made it back home. To show for my journey, I had a new appreciation for the architecture of the metro, a renewed love of (relatively) fresh air, and some real life ‘chievos to increase my invisible numbers.

This is my final blog for the semester, thanks for coming along with me. I’ve had a really great time exploring this city, getting out of my comfort zone, and writing about it for you. Montreal is a great, if astonishingly cold, place. There are many, many, many more journeys to be had here. If you get the opportunity, come have one for yourself. I can’t recommend it enough.

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