La Belle Ville: Montreal
Montreal, Quebec. La belle ville. My home. Although I left at a relatively young age, no other city has had the same place in my heart as the city of my birth.
Although we moved to the US when I was relatively young, Montreal will always have a special place in my heart. Every weekend we had a ritual where the family would get together… grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. However, once we moved away, that ritual became a distant memory. It wasn’t only family that I missed about this European/Canadian city. Montreal offered a je ne sais quoi…it was and still is a very chic city with an abundance of European flavor and incredible history. Albeit a small city, it is one that boasts beauty with its tree-lined streets bursting at the seams with cafes and patisseries, creperies and brasseries. The small boutiques are filled with designers who often aren’t found in US stores but offer a style which is reminiscent of Paris.
And then there is the language…a 16th or 17th century French which has its unique sound. Even to this day, it takes me some time to acclimate to the pronunciation. There are times when I even have difficulty understanding French Canadians speaking English!
Living in NYC for over 16 years, I still find Montreal more chic and cosmopolitan. With the constant influx of French speakers from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Montreal will always offer a mixture of cultures and languages which ultimately adds to its diversity. Due to its small size (at least in comparison to a place like NYC), these flavors are much more pronounced.
I do try to make a visit every year and you would think it would be a relatively easy trip from NYC however somehow, it isn’t. With the long and drawn out winters, there is a relatively short window in which to visit so if I don’t manage to make it during those months, it simply doesn’t happen.
However, I did manage to make a trip this year and it was long overdue. With each visit since our move to the US, there are always changes. Whether it be weddings, births, or funerals, there is always a family affair.
Some of my fondest memories were staying at my Uncle Victor and Aunt Alex’s apartment in the Port Royal and the entire family would come to visit us since we were the “out of towners”. Their apartment is quite large and has an incredible view of Beaver Lake where I used to walk with my grandfather when I was little. The other side of their apartment has views of Sherbrooke Street which is essentially downtown Montreal. Having the entire family come over was a big affair and it was always great fun to catch up with everyone and have a good laugh. Even on the saddest of occasions such as my grandparent’s funerals, everyone still congregated at Victor and Alex’s for a social catch up session.
Without really thinking about it at the time, life in Montreal was changing for me. The city I called home was slowly becoming more distant. With the death of both grandparents, there was one less home to visit, two less family members to see. It isn’t something I normally dwell on except that on my most recent visit it became evident to me that my aunts and uncles were getting much older. How much longer will Victor and Alex’s apartment be my family’s hangout?
Montreal has and always will be a beautiful city in my eyes. It holds many memories dear to my heart and even with the ever-changing family dynamics, it is a place which will always emanate stability, love and support. It is probably because of these elements, especially that of stability, that I will always call this city “home”.
As Montreal is less a tourist city for me, I can only recommend some of my favorite areas and places to check out. Of course as Montreal is a smaller city, you can walk to many of these areas or take the metro however one very special place which I go to each and every time I am visiting is a bit of a distance and a car is most definitely needed. Adonis, a middle eastern market is my special place. It is a chain grocery which imports products from all over the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, there is an entire section where you can find freshly made food including Moroccan cigars, Kebbebah, spinach pies, Baklawa, etc. It is a treat to be able to find such incredible goodies, especially as I have not had success locating anything this tasty in NYC. Across from Adonis is a well-known Lebanese patisserie called Bohsaly offering all types of baklawa and will wrap them quite beautifully if for an occasion.
If you have a car, I would HIGHLY recommend taking a few hours of the day to make the trip. I know it sounds crazy but if you enjoy this type of cuisine, this is hands down the best place to go to in North America.
Montreal is the perfect getaway-such incredible energy and style, romantic and fun. It isn’t to be missed! But trust me, winter time, as scenic as it may be is likely not the best time to make your first visit!
Other places to check out, some of the my faves:
Rue St. Laurent: great restaurants, bars and fashion boutiques
Rue St. Denis: very cute bistros
Patisserie Belge: Incredible restaurant and patisserie on Avenue Parc
Rue Crescent: This street is filled with cafes and restaurants that you will have difficulty in choosing which one to go to. It also has Nespresso, one of my faves.
Vieux-Montreal/Old Montreal: a must see. Once an old fortified city, today it is buzzing with restaurants and boutiques surrounded by 17th and 18th century history and charm! While there, check out the Marche aux Puces/Flea Market and Notre Dame Basilica
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Place des Arts: Brings back many childhood memories as I would make my yearly trip there to see the Nutcracker
McGill University: One of Canada’s top universities, after my university (UWO) that is! 🙂
Montreal Canadiens hockey: while here and if they are playing, you must see at least one hockey game
If in Montreal in the summer, there are a variety of festivals worth checking out including the Comedy Festival and Jazz Festival in July, Film festival and Fashion Festival in August. Not exactly a festival, the Grand Prix hits Montreal in June if you are into that sort of thing.
If you enjoy gambling, check out Montreal’s Casino!