Category Archives: Montreal

Montreal, Canada’s Party Town

Montreal, Canada’s party town, is an hour’s drive north of the New York/ Vermont border, five hours east of Toronto. While Toronto is all business, Montreal exists for pure pleasure. You can get anything here cheap: sex, booze, drugs, great music, food and accommodations.

Prices reflect the nervous economy. Every time The Province of Quebec threatens to leave The Rest of Canada over historical language/cultural indignities, investors get nervous and the money heads to Toronto. Less than a percentage point divided the “Should we stay?” or “Should we go?” camps on the last vote. Get here before the army does – again.

What does all this numb nuttery mean for visitors? Nada. Almost everyone speaks the unofficial language with a cute ‘n sexy accent. If you can’t say, “Une biere s’il vous plait,” order in English. In the rare event you’re treated to a cold stare say, “Sorry, I’m from 1) New York 2) Boston 3) Any large US city.” Under no circumstances do you want to be mistaken for Toronto pond scum.

Getting here:  Hate Flying? There’s a cheap and scenic train service from New York’s Penn station while MegaBus and Greyhound run several times daily from major points.

Getting around: Everything you want is centrally located on the Plateau, Mile End, Latin Quartier, Gay Village or Downtown. Walk, cycle or take the metro.

Commonly heard:

  1. “ ’ashish”, stage whispered along Ste. Catharine and St Laurent streets
  2.  “tabernac” – sometimes softened to “tabernouche” – good example of French Canadian curses employing Catholic icons.

Famous for: William Shatner, Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, Arcade Fire, A Simple Plan,  setting of C.R.A.Z.Y, best movie use of classic and glam rock that can’t be seen south of the border unless someone pays David Bowie and Mick Jagger for US music rights.

Music scene: Forget Flock of Seagulls mutants Arcade Fire or poppy teen girl fav, Simple Plan whose lead singer sounds like Randy Travis on helium. Check out seriously fucked up sounds like Launie Anderssohn rapping on barnyard sex at Barfly on St. Laurent. Further north at La Sala Rossa catch industrial/lounge /rock /bluegrass/R&B and hip hop fusion acts that never sound the same twice. Across the street, Casa Del Popolo’s offerings vary widely. The worst you’ll get is spoken word or a girl on guitar who can’t sing – popular with the neo-hippie set. For artier stuff, try and find Friendship Cove – used to be Electric Tracter – home of Chewy, the senile half-husky who’d defecate on stage. Venue keeps changing…

Other Venues: Bars, especially on the French side of town, roughly St Laurent and points east are designed for human interaction. The asshole factor is lower in this population too. Happy hour goes all day until 8 or 9 when beer and shots can be had for $3. If you don’t see a sign, ask. Quebec laws prohibit certain establishments from advertising specials. For an extra kick, try local strong beers Fin du Monde or Maudit. If it’s before 11 and you haven’t got the $5-$15 cover plead poverty to the door person. Failing this, try standing at the bar.

On St Laurent: Check out Le Divan Orange, Swimming, El Salon, Lounge 11 and Green Room.

St. Denis: L’Hémisphère Gauche, l’Escogriffe, Quai Des Brumes, Bistro à Jojo, Medley and Cafe Chaos.

Others: Any cramped space with worn wooden floors, tin ceilings and a variety of ages: Missy Bar, Baloos, Bar Cherrier, L’assommier, and Bar Ste. Elizabeth across from the trashy cowboy karaoke at Bar Sherbrooke on Ste Catharine East near Fou Founes Electriques.

Scoring: Talk to the guy with the long gray hair – the pot cafe owner gone bust at Weedstock, across from Cafe Chaos. See if you can find out where he’s opening next.

 

Montreal Visitor’s Guide

Montreal exists for pure pleasure: fine French food, music for all tastes, unique festivals, museums, excellent walking tours, good value accommodations and safe, reliable transportation.

An island in the St. Lawrence River, Montreal is the perfect getaway with many things to do. The world’s second largest French speaking metropolis sports a culture that values fun for all ages. Almost everyone speaks English, and many with a cute accent.

Getting here: For a kinder, gentler arrival there’s a scenic seven hour train trip from New York’s Penn station that takes in Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley.

From Toronto, it’s a five hour journey downtown to downtown through small towns, woods and farmland – perfect for those in need of down time. The first class Via Rail service includes a hot meal, wine and even chocolate truffles.

Eating here: Montreal is a haven for unique comfort food like poutine, a highly addictive concoction of french fries and chicken gravy/sauce topped with melting cheese curds. Optional toppings include smoked meat, ground beef or chicken. At Au Pied de Cochon restaurant you can even get poutine fois gras.

For desserts try the sugar pie – tarte au sucre or pudding chomeur – a moist sponge cake loaded with caramel sauce. When you’re ready for more nutritious fare, visit St.Viateur Bagel Cafe for their legendary pesto & goat cheese bagels on Mont Royal. Premiere Moisson Bakeries with 16 locations provide a hearty lunch of tasty, healthy buns stuffed with pork and brie or tomato and bocconcini.

Hit the convivial lunch counter at legendary Schwartz’s on St. Laurent for smoked meat sandwiches, coleslaw and black cherry coke.

For dinner, look for “Apportez Votre Vin” signs (bring your own wine) at the casual Plateau restaurants along Prince Arthur and Duluth. Try the Mex – Brazilian favorite, Lele de Cuca on Anne Marie just east of St. Laurent or the Vietnamese TA Do at 300 Duluth.

Exploring Montreal: The Plateau, Mile End, Latin Quartier, Downtown and Old Montreal neighbourhoods offer hours of solitary wandering where one of a kind shops and inviting cafes abound. Further afield in the east end, the Jardins Botanique provide acres of exotic gardens for serene musings.

For the Parisian experience, take to the cobblestoned side streets of Old Montreal (particularly peaceful in the evening). Stop in at the Notre Dame Basilica with its deep sky blue interior and ornate stained glass, site of Celine Dion’s wedding and Pierre Trudeau’s funeral.

Sleeping Here: Overlooking the Basilica, Auberge Boneparte, the small boutique hotel,offers a quiet retreat with a tiny, welcoming bar located just off the reception area.

On the Plateau, stay at the Bed and Breakfast Azur. I like the cozy Mango room. Caroline, the proprietor, is a massage therapist who serves healthy breakfasts on her back deck or front verandah. It’s a two – minute walk from the Parc Fontaine, perfect for all hour strolling. For other good value accommodations go to tourisme-montreal.org and search “last minute deals”.

Outdoor Activities: On Sunday afternoons bang drums at the Tam Tam drumming sessions on Mount Royal. You can also rent a bike ($15 for the first day, five for additional days) at 1151 Mount Royal Est or Ca Roule Montreal (27 de la Commune Est) near the Old Port. Cycle the Lachine Canal returning via the St. Lawrence, or head to the artificial beach at Ile Ste. Helene.

Winter Activities: In winter, grab your skates (and hockey stick if you’re so inclined) and head to the nearest outdoor rink where there’s always a game in session that’s open to all. Art lovers head to the Musee des Art Contemporain and the Musee des Beaux Arts de Montreal.

Montreal Night Life: For an authentic Montreal bar experience complete with local music, search out intimate venues with old wooden floors and tin ceilings. Best venues are found on the French side of town, roughly St. Laurent and points east that are designed for friendly interaction: Missy Bar, Le Cheval Blanc and Bar Ste. Elizabeth.

On St. Laurent visit Le Divan Orange and Casa Del Popolo, a vegetarian cafe by day, happening music spot at night, hosting playwrights and solo guitarists. On St. Denis, try Bistro à Jojo for upbeat blues in a laid back setting.

St. Denis is also a great shopping street. Here you’ll find chic clothing and original accessories.