Sunday, June 17, 2018

Montreal: Day 3

Day 3 in Montreal began with a visit to another famed and beloved market, Jean Talon. It's along the open-air, blended style of Atwater - lots of fresh veggies and fruits, meat vendors, etc., but also some prepared goods. 

We were aiming to buy a lunch for the next day that we could eat as a picnic on the neighboring island. Not many vendors in the way of prepared goods were open at the hour we were there (around 8:30 a.m.), but we did find a lovely pie shop that sold savory and sweet pies. We bought a personal fish pie, personal leek and spinach quiche, and some maple desserts. One of them, a mini maple sugar tart, turned out to be the best thing I ate in Montreal (I think - it's a hard contest). 

If there's one thing I agree with the Montrealers about, it's pies
We took all that back to the hotel and headed to the Mile End neighborhood, where we were supposed to catch a walking tour of food at 11 a.m. We were a little early, so we stopped at some cute shops recommended by my travel book. 

First stop was Drawn & Quarterly, an adorable little bookshop with a good mix of English and French books. There were a lot of women- and diversity-focused titles, which was heartening. They had a great selection of gifties, too.

Next we stopped at Boucle & Papier, a sort of cutesier Quebecois version of Papersource. There were a lot of things I wanted but didn't need. If I didn't already have a paper day planner, they had some good options.

Then it was time for our food tour, which was good because I was ready to eat after seeing all those pies at Jean Talon. We used Local Montreal Food Tours, which I really recommend. We visited six shops, which I'll detail for you now!

We met up with our tour guide at the Mile End location of 
La Panthère Verte, where we learned about Montreal's history and culture and ate a delicious falafel sandwich. This stop - a vegan restaurant that produces no garbage because everything is compostable, reusable, or recyclable - highlighted Montreal's status as a green and very multicultural city.

Next we stopped for a couple of samples of artisan chocolates at Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois. Very high quality stuff, and we were taught how to taste it well!

Just outside the shop, our guide Caroline gave us great information about this nifty little church that also highlights Montreal's status as a multicultural city. It looks like a Greek Orthodox church with a Muslim minoret and was originally built for Irish Catholic immigrants; today it is mostly used by Polish and Italian locals. Apparently there is a concert venue on the church property that served as an early spot to see Montreal's favorite hipster export, Arcade Fire!

Next was legendary bagel shop St-Viateur, which was a company started by a former employee of Fairmount. We got to see them heaving massive quantities of fresh bagels out of the oven and tasted a warm sesame seed bagel with cream cheese. It was heavenly.

To have a little more Montreal history out of the sun, our guide took us for a sit in the Rialto Theater, a converted movie theater that now hosts all manner of shows. It was nice to see that a local bought and restored it so that this piece of history is still available for people to use. It kind of reminded me of the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, in that it is this beautifully gilt theater venue that can play host from everything to classical music to rock bands.

Ceiling of Rialto Theater, an example of spending your money indoors in a cold climate
After we'd had our rest, we went back out into the heat for our last three food stops. First was Drogheria Fine, which serves one thing: Nonna's gnocchi with red sauce. And oh it is good. There is no website, just find it somehow and give them all your money right now. (It's right next to Kem CoBa, which is our last stop.)

Second to last stop we were treated to some cheese and charcuterie at Boucherie Lawrence, which was tasty but not as amazing as the other food vendors. There is a restaurant attached by the same name (Lawrence) and is also associated with the restaurant group of the famed Larry's, just around the corner.

The last stop was the most refreshing - Kem CoBa, an ice cream shop with a French Vietnamese flair. We were treated to little cups of cherry sorbet swirled with almond gelato. MMM. I could have eaten three times as much, but it's probably best that I didn't.

It was a wonderful way to get to know a neighborhood; Caroline was great, the food was fantastic, and I am ready to move to Mile End (or at least be wheeled around for a while and have food shoved in my face).

Just down the street from the end of our food tour was a funky little shop called Monastiraki, which sells little odds and ends and funny old paper things. It reminded me of a shop in Chicago, Foursided. I found the book at left in that shop - if anything sums up my time in Montreal, it's that book. (No, I didn't buy it, but when I got home I bought the Joe Beef book.)

On our way to our next stop, we found another lovely mural, this one rather abstract. I also got a photo of me knitting at it, which felt like another very Montreal thing to do.

Not sure if part of Mural Fest or what, but it was cool.
In the solarium at Marc Favreau library
In my interactions with Montreal librarians on Twitter after my visit to BAnQ library, one had recommended that we stop by the renovated and newly reopened Bibliothèque Marc-Favreau in the Rosemont neighborhood. It was indeed a gleaming, beautiful library, and we were happy to take a breather in the air conditioning, recharge our phones, and, of course, post on Twitter some more about libraries. 

I don't know why more people don't visit libraries on vacation. They have free WiFi, free phone charging, free bathrooms, free air conditioning / heat, and free tastes of local culture and reading materials. I guarantee the librarians will always be happy to see you.

In the same neighborhood as the library (and this is really the only reason we were able to fit the library in) were two spots I wanted to visit from my online research: yarn company Effiloché and beer brewer Isle de Garde.

The yarn shop was cute; they didn't have much in the way of Canadian yarn (and, according to the shopkeeper, there is not much in the way of Quebec yarn produced), but they had a great selection of Noro yarn that is actually soft and not scratchy, so I bought a funky aqua skein that reminded me of Montreal. I'll make a headband and mitts.

Isle de Garde Brasserie had a great selection of microbrews in flight form, and we got to drink on the porch. Montrealers certainly appreciate their time outdoors in the summer. We had a good Viennese lager and a roasty, nice imperial Russian stout. 

After that, Dave expressed his desire to try a little poutine before we hit the Mount Royal hike. I was skeptical; poutine is not my favorite at the best of times (I know, I know) and certainly not in summer. We stopped at La Banquise, one of the most celebrated poutine shops in the city and not too far from the mountain. We got the regular poutine and split it; it was OK. I love all other Montreal food, but when it comes to fries, I revert to my midwestern roots and would rather have Merkts cheese sauce.

The walk up Mount Royal was lovely and refreshing. Aside from walking through the crowded park on the way to the hiking trails, the trails were quiet, cool, and serene.

The main trail named for Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park in NYC and Jackson Park in Chicago!
We made our way up there as fast as we could because we had dinner reservations, and the views were totally worth it.

Outlook from the Kondiaronk Belvedere
Mount Royal is obviously another very beloved public park in Montreal; we saw tons of bikers, joggers, and general hangers-about. Lots of yoga being done, as well as some fencing and other martial arts. Very interesting people watching!

We descended the trails to our dinner spot, , a modern Vietnamese restaurant at the corner of the park. We shared some Vietnamese beer that hit the spot after a warm day out, as well as some steamed black buns filled with crab salad. Each of us got the salmon poke as our main dish, and boy was it good. In the winter I'd love to come back and get some nice hot noodle soups.

Before turning in, we backtracked a bit to Dieu du Ciel!, one of Montreal's more famous microbrasseries. Their black currant wheat ale was delicious, as was their IPA. We were kind of beer-ed out that day by that point, but I'm still glad we stopped. 

We talked with a local about our trip, and one of the more interesting things that he told us is that Montreal and Quebec didn't used to have a great library culture, and he's very pleased that this is changing, citing the two libraries I had visited. Our tour guide had told us something similar about Quebec changing its attitude from a backwater to an educated, women-forward type of place (basically when women stopped having 14 kids because the Catholic church told them to).

That's all for day 3, but I think that's quite enough to be going on with. Only one more day!

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