Comment ca va? I think I have just discovered why there are so many shoe stores, boutiques, discount boot outlets and cordonneries in this large city centre.
Everyone knows that Montréal women love fashion and go to great lengths to look their best at all times. UGG boots are everywhere, Mat & Nat handbags are a common sight and stiletto-heeled boots grace the shelves and tables in stores.
A very interesting and awe-inspiring sight is to watch a woman manoeuvre ice- and snow-covered sidewalks in high-heeled boots.
Even university students go to class ready to do their little turn on ‘the catwalk’.
There are shoe stores on every block on Montréal’s Saint Catherine’s Street. There are at least five to 10 shoe stores in every mall and there are shoe stores in the underground tunnels leading to the metro.
In these shoe stores, one can always find boots, boots and more boots – green, purple, fringed, leather, suede, high-heeled, buckled – and usually pretty pricey. Unbelievably, to me, these shoe stores are always busy. This is certainly the place to be if you are in the shoe-selling business.
Fashion aside, though, I believe the reason people purchase so many pairs of boots is because of salt. Montréal winters are messy. They are fraught with changing temperatures.
One day, 30 centimetres of snow can fall. The next day, the temperature can reach above zero, melting the snow into puddles that freeze because the next day the temperature drops drastically.
(Hmm … sounds a little like Whitehorse this year.)
Freezing rain here is no joy.
Now, in order to combat the perils of drastic weather changes, the roads and sidewalks are generously doused with salt.
Salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl), is a chemical compound. It facilitates the rapid melting of ice and snow, causes erosion and corrosion, seeps into the ground and … it eats away at beautiful leather footwear.
By the end of the winter, most boots have the unavoidable and ubiquitous salt line, usually around the ankle part of the boot.
As a child, growing up here, I remember the harsh winters and slippery sidewalks, but I also remember the city engineers shovelling sand onto the roads, just like in Whitehorse. It’s messy come springtime, but sand offers better traction for the pedestrian and it’s much kinder to footwear.
Many historians believe that salt played a part in the fall of Ancient Mesopotamia. Demand for larger harvests forced the Mesopotamians to irrigate all the way to the sea and, thus, the soil was ruined by salt.
Salt may even be a cause for some of the problems Montréal is facing with the ageing road infrastructure. The roads are not only old, but have probably also been weakened by the salt corrosion that eats away at the cement, concrete and asphalt.
Yes, salt appears to be the cause for countless numbers of boots ending up in landfills, for starters.
Could salt bring about the demise of modern city centres? Food for thought, I guess …
Just go easy on the salt when seasoning.