If you’d like to learn more about me, my top spots to visit in Montreal and my favorite life experiences check out this short Q&A I did with Untapped Cities, the website where I write as a City Correspondant for Montreal.
Here’s a sample question:
I still see myself at 15, spending hours skimming the pages of Taschen’s gorgeous book, Turkey: from the Seljuks to the Ottomans. I don’t know why but that country’s history and culture compelled me the minute I started to learn more about it.
I developed a fascination for Hagia Sophia, the famous basilica turned mosque that is now a museum. For some mysterious reason, I felt so drawn to it’s majestic architecture which was so incredibly different to anything I’d ever seen.
Seeing the city of Istanbul became a major goal on my bucket list.
I finally got to fulfill that dream in the fall of 2009, as my boyfriend and I spent a semester abroad in France. During our fall break, we traveled from Nice to Milan, Milan to Athens and finally, Athens to Istanbul (our return trip, via Sofia, Bulgaria, was just as complicated).
There it was. The city I’d been dreaming of for years now. Sure, I’d fallen over heels in love with other places like Barcelona, Paris and Venice, but Istanbul was something else. Something I’d never felt before. Was it the frenzied streets and the sinuous alleys of the bazaars? The sparkling lights of the Bosphorus bridge? The hypnotizing chants of the calls to prayer that rung 5 times a day? I haven’t yet been able to put words on what exactly drew me so much to that particular part of the world.
What I do know is that I have a general fascination with regions of the world where many cultures have mixed over the course of history. Istanbul’s past is characterized by the numerous populations that came and made their mark here. People have been stopping by for thousands of years and this fact is constantly visible, yet, Istanbul doesn’t feel totally stuck in the past like other places with such a large number of ancient monuments.
Istanbul is rich in past and fresh and lively in the present.
I miss it, and I will be there again one day.
Has any city or place you’ve visited around the world ever had such a major impact on you?
We hiked at the beautiful Fushimi Inari shrine. Kyoto has many shrines and temples, but this one is extra special because the trails are meant to make you pass under thousands of large toriis (a torii is the door to access a shrine)
For this second walk, I suggest that you only have a light breakfast because you will be well served in terms of food here. Find some comfy shoes and get walking!
Shoes: Bohemian spartan sandals
Time: 1h30 to one day. Pressed on time or lazy legs? Hop on the 55 bus line starting at Saint-Laurent/Viger. The bus runs the whole walk (and more). Since Saint-Laurent is a one way street, you can’t follow the walk as described here, you’d be doing the opposite.
Distance: 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles)
Here are some photos of the area you’ll be visiting
Saint Laurent from Jean-Talon to Viger (Little Italy/ Milton Park/ Chinatown)
Walking down Saint-Laurent Boulevard is like traveling around the world in half a day. Many, many migrants hailing from various countries settled along this street from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. Even though most of their descendants don’t live here anymore, there are still marks of their presence in the form of stores, restaurants and the names of certain places. The boulevard is so vastly renowned for this that Parcs Canada has even designated it as a national historic site.
This walk will start in Montreal’s own little Italy, at the corner of Jean-Talon boulevard. Nowadays, most Italian Montrealers live in the neighborhoods of Montréal-Nord and St-Leonard. However, around 1919, the recently arrived immigrants all converged towards this particular area, just north of Beaubien. For many years, most Italian families of Montreal called it home. In the 50s, as the population became richer and started seeking a quality of life that this urban neighborhood could not provide, people started moving towards the eastern part of the island. Still, the spirit of Italy remains here. It is estimated that 250 000 people in Montreal have Italian ancestry, so this has had a major impact on local culture.
This is a foodie’s paradise. Head to Milano’s and you’ll feel, just for a moment, that you’ve walked into a supermercato in Verona. As patrons and employees around you exchange courtesies (or insults?) in the language of Leonardo Da Vinci, you’ll have a hard time choosing what you want to buy for lunch. Shelves are piled with dozens of types of pasta, olives and sweet pannetones, and the smell floating around is a mix of fresh espresso, prosciutto, basil and lovely gianduja (hazelnut chocolat paste).
Next door is Épices Anatol. Here, your nose will be doing most of the work. This shop carries no less than 600 varieties of spices, as well as lots of bulk items like cereal, coffee or tea. Surely, there’ll be something to your liking!
Walk off Saint-Laurent towards the left and you’ll find yourself in one of Montreal’s big outdoor markets, the Marché Jean-Talon. Open year-round, this place thrives in the summer, when local farmers bring in fresh produce and meat products every morning, bright and early. Montrealers from all over town come here to stock up, as do most good restaurateurs. You might even unknowingly stand in a shot for a local TV show, as many film and TV productions take part here.
After having pleased your senses and filled your bag with appetizing snacks, you can return towards Saint-Laurent and stop at the little park you’ll see across the street, so you can enjoy a light lunch before strolling on down past more Italian stores, cafés and bakeries.
Walking down past Bellechasse, you’ll find yourself in a somewhat less interesting part of the boulevard, as you will be passing under train tracks. Fans of industrial landscapes will find good subjects for photography here.
Turning left on Bernard, and then right on St-Urbain, will show you a more residential area. It’s quiet, but you’ll get to see the way many Montrealers live, in colorful row houses adorned with outdoor staircases. Why do montreal apartments have outdoor staircases? Find out here
Reaching the corner of St-Viateur, you’ll find yourself standing in front of the impressive neo-byzantine style St Michael church. It can seem a bit out of place amongst the other types of architecture present in this neighborhood, but it definitely has a lot of character and is very telling of this area’s history. It was first built for the Irish community. In later years, as populations moved around, the polish and ukrainian communities took over this place of worship. Guided tours have been offered in the past, but nothing is confirmed for 2012. Don’t hesitate to contact the diocese for any inquiries.
Keep walking down Saint-Urbain, past more colorful houses and small neighborhood community centers. Once you reach Fairmount, turn left until you meet Saint-Laurent. Having avoided the concrete jungle part of the road, you can now return to what Montrealers call La Main (Main street). Before you do, stop to buy some bagels at Fairmount bagels. Even New Yorkers, protective as they are of their own round treats, will have to admit that you’ll find a pretty good bagel here (just ask famed New-yorker and TV host Anthony Bourdain ;)).
On this part of Saint-Laurent you’ll find the newest trendy restaurants, vintage clothing stores and record stores. Don’t be surprised if you cross paths with a member of Arcade Fire here.
On of those hip spots is the Casa del Popolo, and its sister La sala rossa which is right across the street. Both these places, managed by the same owners, serve coffee and food, and host events (mostly concerts). Edgy and indie is the word here. Casa del popolo serves vegetarian fare while La sala rossa is a tapas joint. Both are very good and not too pricey.
Along the way down, you’ll find some nice stores like Katrin Leblond, who sells colorful dresses and Myco Anna, local designers who create designs that are funky as well as being friendly to environment.
Once you pass Mont-Royal avenue, you will find yourself in the heart of the Spanish/portugese quarter. This can be observed by the heavy concentration of restaurants, stores and community centres dedicated to elements from those cultures. If you are here later at night, check out La elastica, a gallery space/concert room located inside the Gallego social club. They host screenings, exhibits and concerts, focusing on the experimental side of art. Just downstairs, there is a club for fans of flamenco dancing.
You’ll also encounter plenty of great places to stop in for a coffee or a drink (check the list for addresses).
Just after Marianne street, there’s La Centrale Powerhouse, a feminist art gallery that features the work of prominent and up and coming artists.
After you’re done with the gallery, stop in at Divan Orange to check out who’ll be playing later on. This small venue hosts many, many shows year-round, and is a veritable hot-spot for the Montreal music-scene. When looking at the calendar, many names may seem obscure at first sight, but some very popular local artists, even after having graduated to bigger concert rooms, like to come back here to test new songs (Patrick Watson, Yann Perrau, Karkwa). Tickets are affordable so if you are open-minded, go for it!
If indie is not your thing, the next part of the walk may be where you find nighttime entertainment that fits to your liking. Saint-Laurent, although it has somewhat declined in the past few years, is still where many Montrealers come to have fun and party. The area has bars that cater to all tastes. One piece of advice: don’t book a hotel room in this area, between thursday and sunday, if you want to sleep. It gets noisy. Even during the cold months of winter. Come here to party, not to get some shut-eye. (See Bars / Clubs section for suggestions).
During the day, this area of Saint-Laurent boulevard is also fairly animated. It’s here that you’ll find all things eastern-european, starting with legendary deli Schwartz’s. When you walk past it, the line is sure to be impressive, especially in the summer. Speedy service and plenty of pressure to swallow your sandwich minutes after sitting down will make it so the wait isn’t too long, no matter how big the line is. If it seems a little intense, it’s because it is, but it’s an interesting experience and the food is undeniably good.
If waiting isn’t an option, a mean sausage sandwich can be bought at Charcuterie Hongroise, Slovenia or at La Vieille Europe (which is also a nice little store selling lots of imported food products, mainly from Europe).
Avid thrift shoppers will love to go treasure hunting in the area’s vintage stores. Just under Duluth street, shopping is made easy as no less than 4 thrift shops can be found practically side by side: Cul de Sac, Kokokonut, Kitsch and swell and Friperie Saint-Laurent. All of these are vintage shops and tend to be a bit pricey as far as used goods go, but the selection, be it old issues of Playboy or yellow pleather jackets, is definitely interesting.
The piece de résistance is Eva B, with it’s two floors stocked to the brim with clothes, books, posters, housewares, clothes, clothes and more clothes. Prepare to spend a good amount of time here if you want to explore all the rooms and racks. No worries though, the friendly staff will make sure you get a refreshing beverage, and there’s always a plate of chips and salsa available for all clients, so you can keep your energy level up. The decor and atmosphere in this place is worth the visit in itself. Don’t come here if you are claustrophobic. Before going in or after leaving, be sure to cross the street so you can observe the full facade in all its’ craziness (see picture).
Feeling tired yet? Don’t worry, you’ll be headed next to the perfect place to end a long day’s walk: Chinatown. You’ll know you’ve arrived once you pass the paifang gate. Montreal’s Chinatown is tiny, when compared to those in New York or Vancouver but it remains a good place for cheap eats.
Choose between the delicious vietnamese pho soup at Pho Bang New York, tasty japanese ramen at Sumo Ramen or dim-sum at Maison Kam fung. After your meal, if you aren’t rolling around already, make a stop at Harmonie for some sweets.
After you’ve wrapped up your one day trip around the globe, if you aren’t too jet-lagged, be sure to check out who’s playing at Club Soda, another one of the city’s fine concert rooms. Oasis, Melissa Etheridge, Hanson and Skrillex have all played at this former cabaret.
If you prefer to be surrounded by beautiful people dancing in their Louboutins, head to Koko lounge, Buona Notte or Globe (all of three are also restaurants). If you’re in town during NHL hockey season, you may encounter some of the players who come here to blow off some steam in their off time or after a good game.
Goth, Rockabilly, Punk or Metal Head? Go to Le Saphir, a dark cave-like club where you can dance, drink and mingle with a funky crowd. It has two floors and a decent sized balcony. Check the schedule to see what’s on, as there are theme nights that dictate the type of music that will be played.
Another good spot for fans of all things loud: Katacombes bar/coop. Come here for intimate shows and a nice outdoor terrace. At concerts, expect moshpits.
If you like to dance to beats from around the world: Ballatou, Les Bobards
6862 St Laurent Montreal (514) 273-8558
6822 boul. St-Laurent, Montréal
7070 Avenue Henri Julien Montréal, QC (514) 277-1588
6355 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 393-1999
4873 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 284-3804
Théâtre la chapelle
3700 Rue Saint Dominique Montréal, QC (514) 987-1639
3536 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal, QC (514) 847-2206
1201, boul Saint-Laurent, Montréal, QC (514) 844-2033
4602, boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC,514-843-3821
4296 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 871-0268
Places to eat: (per person, tips and taxes not included: $= 10 dollars or less, $$= 25 dollars or less, $$$= 40 dollars or less)
Robin des bois $$
Robin des bois is the french moniker of Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw of children’s fairytales. This restaurant was named after him because it is a charity restaurant. All profits go to charities (listed on the website). Service is provided by volunteers, as is most of the work in the kitchen.
Though the waiters are friendly novices, the menu and decor are solid and worthy of any top-notch urban restaurant. You’ll come out of this meal satisfied and pleased in knowing you’ve made a nice gesture.
4653 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 288-1010
A bakery where you’ll find the ubiquitous canollis, but also cornetti, another sweet treat hailing from Italy.
6528 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 277-8030
Sumo Ramen $-$$
(see description in text)
1007 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 940-3668
Pho Bang New York $
(see description in text)
1001 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 954-2032
Maison Kam Fung $-$$
(see description in text)
1111 St Urbain St Montreal, QC (514) 878-2888
Portugese grill (seafood, chicken, sausage)
3883 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 849-0646
Rumi express $-$$
Fancy fastwood with a middle eastern flavor
4403 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 670-6770
4647 St Laurent Bl Montreal, QC H2T 1R2 (514) 678-9616
4660 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 844-7117
3976 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC H2W 1Y3 (514) 842-3893
3968 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC (514) 845-6789
Cul de Sac
3966 Boul Saint–Laurent Montréal, QC (514) 504-8417
2013 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, Quebec (Province) (514) 849-8246
Places to relax:
Else’s: A cosy, artsy café/bar that is quiet during the day, lively after dark. Frequented mostly by locals who come here to drink cider and snack on some nachos while watching the day slowly go by.
156 Rue Roy Est Montreal, QC (514) 286-6689
Located on a quiet street corner, this place serves excellent coffee and snacks, and is a very popular place among students.
151 Rue Rachel Est Montreal, QC (514) 903-9294
We’ve been living here for almost ten months now.
This condo was an absolute coup de coeur for me right upon setting sight on it. My man was also keen on it, but not so happy about the price (a fairly good deal for the neighborhood). With much pleading and persuasive arguments, I managed to convince him to give these beautiful walls a chance.
We moved in at the end of august 2011, and soon after, entered a very hectic period in our lives.
Many things happened between August 2011 and March 2012, leaving little time for us to open most boxes, let alone decorate.
Finally, as things began to settle down, I started unpacking our belongings.
This place is still very much a work in progress, as I am working alone for the most part. To make this process more interesting, I have decided to go through my many objects and to bring meaning to them, either by researching their history, by recalling the tale of how they came into my life or by explaining their common use to you readers.
I hope you’ll enjoy these stories!
Come on in!