It would be a shame to come to the end of 2013 without sharing some pics from our trip to Montreal in October.
Mel and I were there for the wonderful wedding of our friends Sean and Thea, and it was the perfect time of year to see their adopted home city. (And thankfully, the sun shone brightly most of the time we were there.)
A few things that stood out for me about Montreal and this trip in general were:
1. It’s very French. Being part of Quebec I shouldn’t be surprised, but.. it was still strange to travel so far and be greeted with such a familiar European language.
We expected a mix of English and French, but didn’t realise that French is so dominant. We knew *just* enough to at least appear to be trying our best, and we were treated very well by the patient French speaking staff in the various places we went.
2. It’s really beautiful in Autumn (or Fall. Whatever you prefer!) Wow.
3. The street art is superb. I wish more cities encouraged this (some of it was no doubt illegal but in places it was actively encouraged).
4. I also loved their iconic iron exterior stairs – though apparently they have to be cleared of the snow every morning in winter, and aren’t exactly ‘accessible’.
5. They have some big pumpkins.
6. Most people cycle or take public transport. The cycle lanes are amazing. Bikes are everywhere.
7. The food is delicious – it’s known as second only to New York when it comes to dining out in North America. There are lots of great choices for veggies and vegans. (We had a truly delicious vegan take-away.) Oh, and lots of tasty treats too.
Our favourite eaterie was the Santa Barbara Restaurant our ‘local’ while we were there – this is what we had for brunch on our last day.
8. It’s the kind of city where, apart from the generic downtown area which we avoided (it’s mainly for 9-5ers), hipsters can roam free (a bit like Portland).
Sean and Thea took us to a dépanneur (the Montreal term for corner shop) called le pickup and they had delicious tofu rolls and zines for sale, as well as the usual beers and canned goods. Outside, a couple of comic book artists chatted.
We visited Libraire Drawn & Quarterly, where I bought a nice illustrated version of the classic North American writing guide The Elements of Style.
They also took us to the very cool Phonopolis record store and Sean explained that God Speed! You Black Emperor are an extremely important part of the local ‘indie’ music scene, as they run the best bar for music and also have their own recording studio there, Hotel2Tango (Arcade Fire recorded their classic album Funeral here, when it was in a different building across the road).
9. It makes a massive difference of course, to know people when you travel to a new place, especially as Mel and I are both pretty introverted so not that good at hooking up with new folk.
We were lucky enough to have a fantastic guide to the city that Sean and Thea had written for wedding guests, as well as the official tour they gave us of their neighbourhood, and it was lovely to be able to spend some time with them before they jetted off on honeymoon. We also met many of their friends at the wedding and at an out of towners get together the night before. It was a lot of fun.
10. I was able to successfully test out Fabian’s Productive Anywhere philosophy, as the first round of our C.A.K.E. Method course began just before we left, so I needed to use some of my time to collaborate with him on creating the course materials.
Mel and I rented a loft in the Little Italy area of the city which had wi-fi and a desk, so I was able to work a couple of hours here and there in between sightseeing etc.
11. There were some lovely natural spaces to explore and find a spot to chill out and relax and enjoy the sun, including Parc du Mont Royal (Mont Royal is known locally as ‘the mountain’) and along the banks of the Lachine Canal.
12. We spent about 7 full days there which was a good length of time to become familiar with the place and find a few favourite spots. Neither of us wanted to leave!
The end. All photos copyright Milo McLaughlin
Sean is a fantastic writer who blogs at saidthegramophone.com. He has just published his 100 best songs of 2013, and it’s always the one ‘best of’ list I look forward to all year. Also, his debut novel is available to pre-order now on Amazon.com and via Random House Canada. (Here’s a Good Reads competition to win it, for Canadian readers!)