Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bonjour Montreal!

My apologies for no posts, or comments on your blogs this past week, but I took the opportunity to escape London for a few days.  My destination - Montreal!  I had only ever spent a few hours in this historical city, the largest in the province of Quebec, about 20 years ago, so I was eager to have more time to explore.  One of the reasons I chose Montreal is that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was hosting a large exhibition by American glass artist Dale Chihuly, and the other was the chance to meet up with a fellow blogger, the delightful Ariane of Style Sud-Est

Via Rail Canada had a half price sale on, so my train fare was quite reasonable (it's approximately 7 hours by train to Montreal from London).  In keeping with my plan to make this as inexpensive a trip as possible, I booked a room for $50 a night at the Grey Nun's Residence (see above), part of Concordia University.  The building is located downtown, close to a Metro station and the staff were friendly, the rooms are large, and although you have to share the bathroom with whomever is also staying on your floor, I was fortunate enough to have my floor to myself, so there was no competition for the shower in the morning.  It was very hot and humid when I was there, and unfortunately, the rooms are not air-conditioned, so I had to borrow a fan from the office in order to get any sleep.

Montreal is very bicycle-friendly; their BIXI Public Bike System established in 2009 was the first in Canada.  I saw bike stations like these all over the city.

There are many dedicated bicycle lanes in the downtown area.  This photo shows the other element that I noticed is everywhere in the city - graffiti!    

While there's a lot of tags like those seen in the previous photo, covering walls, vehicles, doors, signs and even trees, there is also a lot of cool street art, as seen in this photo.  I saw this artist's work in other areas of the city.

The one thing I did remember from my long-ago visit to Montreal was the prevalence of iron work balconys and staircases.

Can you imagine having to move furniture up and down stairs like these?  These are pretty tame compared to some of the spiral staircases I saw.

One of the more modern buildings on Boulevard De Maisonneuve

Montreal is full of restaurants offering every kind of food you can imagine.  On my first night there I discovered this little Vietnamese place not far from the Residence where I was able to have a tasty and satisfying meal for around $10.  I had dinner there again on my last night in the city.

On the second day, I met Ariane, who was wearing her trademark bright colours, for breakfast and a visit to some of her favourite neighbourhoods.  There was no surprises here (other than she's shorter than I imagined) - she was warm and funny, thoughtful, and doesn't take herself too seriously, which meant that some blogger silliness ensued.

Ariane, doing her best Iris Apfel imitation, in a pair of glasses at one of the secondhand stores in the neighbourhood known as Mile End, home to writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers.  The neighbourhood is featured in a number of novels by Canadian writer Mordecai Richler.

We stopped at the Arterie, a vintage clothing store that had the most adorable resident cat, Hazel, who was up for adoption.  I wanted to take Hazel home with me, but given the logistics of transportation, and the fact that bringing home a new pet may not have gone over so well with the one I already have, I regretfully left her there.  You can see a photo of her stubby-tailed self on Ariane's post about our day here.  You can also see a photo of what I was wearing, as I didn't think to ask someone to take a photo of both of us.

I picked up a couple of the deliciously chewy bagels that Montreal is famous for from one of the two most famous bagel bakeries, Fairmount Bagel.  The other, St. Viateur Bagel, is also located in the Mile End neighbourhood.

This would be the place I'd go if I wanted a haircut!

Ariane posing against a funky gate we came across during our travels

Some of the residents have created lovely green spaces out of their postage stamp sized front-yards and we complemented this man on his well-tended yard

This impressive stone building is the Maisonneuve branch library

By late afternoon, we decided to head to Ariane's neighbourhood, and we passed by a little barbershop where the owner was visible through the front window reading a book in his chair.   Doesn't he have the most marvelous hair?  If he was wearing a frock coat, knickers, and stockings he could be straight out of the 17th century.

Ariane took me to the Renaissance Store in her neighbourhood, where she has scored many an excellent find that has appeared on her blog.  I tried a number of things on, but aside from the scarf that Ariane is modelling above,  I didn't buy anything.

I did appreciate the label inside this Asian-style lounge robe

At the cash desk we saw this man and his feathered friend (whose name translated to "big baby").  There's no way I could ever take Fred out and about like this - she'd be gone in a minute!

Ariane invited me back to her home, where we entertained her neighbours with a blogger photo shoot in her back yard (photo above is courtesy of Ariane - you can see more on her blog), followed by a delicious meal made by Ariane and Mr. D.    Many thanks to Ariane for being an excellent tour guide and a wonderful host.    My next post will feature the breath-taking art of Dale Chihuly.


  1. You had an adventure! I love trains so I am sighing remembering how thrilling it is to pull into your destination station.
    Dale Chihuly is an impresario and visionary. A local dealer of his work was such a slob that all gallery pieces were coated with thick dust. Hideous - she is out of business now.
    But I really enjoy the shots of you and Ariane. Her Apfel impression really made me laugh. I'm glad you entertained the neighbours, and yourselves. Too much fun! Thanks for sharing your trip here.

  2. we went to Montreal back in the mid-80's. What a pretty city.

  3. Thanks for the recap of your Montreal adventure. Looks like a beautiful city and you and Ariane did not disappoint, with your visit to the Renaissance Store and the irresistible "blogger fun." Glamorous photo of the two of you!

  4. How very splendid! Montreal looks lovely!
    A most excellent adventure, darling! XXX

  5. I want to visit YOUR Montreal --- I'll definitely ask you where to shop before I visit!

  6. Montreal looks fantastic! I loved seeing the pair of you together, nothing beats a blog meet-up! xxx

  7. So enjoyed the Montreal tour... you both look every bit your beautiful and creative selves!

  8. I love Dale Chihuly. There was an exhibition of his work in NZ about 20 years ago and I was blown away by it. (No pun intended!) Can't wait for your photos.

  9. it looks a pretty city and so lovely that you've met Ariane!, both of you look fabulous!!

  10. Hi Shelley!

    What a wonderful post! your showcased my city so well, nice to see all the different facets of Montreal -
    I cracked up laughing with all the photos of me there!
    Yep! i don't take myself seriously!
    It was a pleasure meeting you and I'm happy you loved my town
    You are welcome anytime!


    Ariane xxx

  11. You're a great tour guide! I spent about one hour in Montreal and only stopped for the cathedral, so it's nice to see what the city is really like. I love the street art and bike stations.

    How lovely that you got to meet Ariane! In your picture together you complement each other perfectly!

  12. You both look amazing!1 thanks foe the "visit" to montreal--such intersting people and places
    Love the man with the bird!

  13. What a wonderful post! If you're seeing Dale Chihuly in Seattle please let me know, but I don't think you're traveling that far are you? Looks like a fun blogger meet up too.

  14. What a delightful visit! Now I need to check out the post about this on Ariane's blog too.

  15. You two gals are a burst of color and fun I love the shot of you guys together! What a lovely tour you gave us of the city too. The shot of the white haired gentleman is truly classic and I'm sure he used a time machine to get here. I have seen so much cool graffiti in that city on the internet, it shows they love their artists. Blogger meet ups are so much fun! It's been so so so long since I've had one ;(

  16. What a great trip! I always think you have a journalistic eye for photos, Shelley, and really capture the flavour of what's around you. Montreal looks and sounds great, and having Ariane as a guide and host was obviously lovely - you look so good together! Looking forward to the next instalment! xxx

  17. Wonderful photos and I agree with Curtise about your journalistic eye. Montreal looks fascinating. Ariane looks amazing, her skirt is fantastic. I love meeting up with blog friends so I hope you had a totally fantastic time, you look awesome too! xxx