Travel photography and a mini Montreal travel guide at the bottom of this post.
I spent a relaxing four days in Montreal earlier this month, staying in quiet Saint-Henri. It's an up-and-coming neighbourhood—i.e. gentrifying—where trendy bars and restaurants are popping up on and around Rue Notre-Dame. Our Airbnb was close to Grumman '78, an old garage transformed into a gorgeous restaurant, whose patronage includes everyone from tattooed bikers to mature couples. The fish tacos are popular. Steps away is Léché Desserts, the first artisan doughnut shop in Montreal, offering flavours such as Maple Bacon and Bread Pudding.
While the Jazz Festival drew large crowds in the downtown core, I opted to check out other hip neighbourhoods, Mile End and Le Plateau. Unicorn Boutique stocks local designers such as Betina Lou, which just opened their own shop too. BODYBAG by Jude and a plethora of vintage shops like Annex Vintage and Citizen Vintage also make this city a solid destination for ethical shopping.
The most memorable store has to be Eva B. I felt like I was inside a hoarder's house mixed with an eclectic costume shop. There's also a coffee shop with a super chill terrace as a sidebar to all the craziness.
The long lineup and a bit of rain deterred me from trying the famous Schwartz's Deli. That's okay, I'm not big on smoked meat anyway. Instead, I had a filling three-course lunch at the Portuguese restaurant Casa Maison Minhota.
Any visit to Montreal must include bagels. The choice is between Fairmount or St. Viateur. For dessert, Juliette et Chocolat is the ultimate stop for a sweet hit of anything chocolate. I got a double dose of chocolate with their milkshake and brookie (cookie brownie). Maybe it's a good thing that this dessert chain is not in Toronto.
Over in Old Montreal, the crowds were denser. Tourists waited in line to eat at Olive & Gourmando or to enter the Notre-Dame Basilica. Down at the waterfront, a strange cluster of brown buildings across the river had me wondering what is it and whether it was dilapidating. Later I found out it's Habitat 67, the experimental apartment complex by architect Moshe Safdie. That's the thing about Montreal. Just when I think I have this place figured it, something unexpected takes me by surprise.