Montreal Musings


It’s been almost three weeks in Montreal now, and I’m really wishing I owned a car with air conditioning.

Aside from trying to settle in, which is asking a lot considering we came from a sleepy and beautiful little town with not a whole lot of hustle bustle, Luci and I have done some Montreal touring. Toured and got lost. That’s what we do. We’re pros.

We spent some time in Old Montreal with Marjo, who was a delight. A lovely woman full of vim and vigour, who looks about twenty years younger than she is. It’s serious fun when I can finally meet someone from my blog. First Marjo and then Darth. Good people, these Habs fans. Fine Montrealers. I’ll bet they don’t tailgate like everybody else.

We walked through the Montreal Forum, which wasn’t a delight and wasn’t lovely. Unless you’re a fan of indoor malls with hockey mementos scattered about and ghosts of hockey past hovering in the ceiling, pulling their invisible hair out.

We walked the halls of the Bell Centre, and although the doors were locked, we can now say we’ve been there. In a boring and idiotic kind of way.

We took in some blues at Bistro a Jojo’s on Rue St. Denis, which was both a cool bar and a cool street. We walked along Ste. Catherines, spent an afternoon on club-filled Crescent St., (which I’d like to see on a Friday or Saturday night), drove up to Mount Royal and peered over part of the city, but the best view meant paying for parking and I’m tired of getting shafted so we pretended the view was there as we drove away.

We’ve been stuck in major traffic more than once, went to the Bell Complex in Brossard and watched Habs prospects teach kids at a hockey school, and found a Russian grocery store for Luci.

We’ve had people honk their horns at us, and after I almost ran over a guy on a bicycle, he yelled and swore at me and I yelled back, because I’m not going to take it anymore. Even if I did almost kill him and it was my fault. But I was lost and looking around, gawdammit.

It’s been great fun sometimes, and sometimes not. We feel we’re outsiders, not part of anything. Lost souls working on a new chapter. Hoping to become comfortable. A part of things. Become Montrealers, at least for now. Sharing the same city as did Leonard Cohen and Mordecai Richler, Toe Blake’s Tavern, and the Rocket and Morenz.

I just miss my cat and she misses me. But I’ll get her here, come hell or high St. Lawrence water.


17 thoughts on “Montreal Musings”

  1. Sounds like a bit of a “mixed bag” for your time in my hometown so far, Dennis, but you’ll grow to love the city. I still miss it, and I’ve been gone for 22 years. Don’t know if you or Luci are vegetarians, but if not, here are some restaurant suggestions for you:
    1) Schwartz’ Smoked Meat (on St. Laurent Boulevard). Probably overrated, but you can’t skip going there for a smoked meat sandwich (medium), French fries and a Cott’s Black Cherry. That’s Montreal soul food!
    2) Wilensky’s. You need to have what’s called a “Wilensky’s Special”. It’s beyond wonderful, though you will almost certainly need an angioplasty when you’re done. This place, like Schwartz’, is an institution. In fact, my late father used to hang out there when he was a kid, and one of my favourite memories is of going there with my father before he passed away–I still remember the smile on his face. It was like a torch had been passed. Someday, I will get back to Montreal with my kids and take them there as well.
    3) Lafleur’s. This is a French Fry place in Ville Saint Pierre. You need to have an order of fries and a “Michigan”. Trust me on that.
    4) Prince Arthur Street, where you will find many, many wonderful restaurants, especially Greek ones. My mouth is watering just thinking about that street!
    5) Kojax (right on Ste. Catherine, not too far from the old Forum). Yeah, it’s mediocre Greek fast food, but my buddies and I virtually LIVED there while I was a student at McGill. We also spent a LOT of time at the next place on this list.
    6) Peel Pub. The food is so-so, the beer is much better. The ambiance is a riot, especially if you go there during the fall or winter, when classes at McGill are in session.
    7) Le Biftheque. This was at one time one of the better steakhouses in Montreal, but then it fell on hard times and even closed for a while. It has reopened in the past year. It has a great salad bar, but its “hallmark” is a dessert called “Mille Feuilles” (Americans–and maybe English Canadians, for all I know–refer to it as a “Napoleon”). Save room for that if you try the place!
    8) Smoked Meat Pete’s. If you don’t want to deal with the inevitable line to get into Schwartz’, or if you don’t like being treated like crap by the waiters (that’s a longstanding tradition at Schwartz’!), you can drive a little bit to Ile Perrot to Smoked Meat Pete’s, which is located right off Route 20, at the first light (if memory serves me correctly) after you leave the Island of Montreal, heading west towards Ottawa/Toronto. Lines are much more manageable, and the staff there is actually pleasant. The smoked meat is on a par with that which you will find at Schwartz’, if it isn’t better.
    9) St. Viateur Bagel Bakery. Another Montreal institution. Fresh, hot bagels, which are mouth-wateringly good. Even my American wife, who HATES Montreal bagels, had to (grudgingly) admit that when these bagels came out of the wood-fired oven, they blew away any other bagels she had ever eaten. If you go to Fairmount Bagel Bakery (they aren’t far from each other), the experience is just as good.

    If I think of any other places, I’ll “supplement” my recommendations above!

  2. Ian, fantastic. Thanks a lot. I’ve printed this up and will for sure go to these places. Really appreciate this.

  3. You might want to leave the car at the closest south shore metro/AMT train station and take public transit in. You’ll see a lot more of the city on foot than driving through it augmenting your vocabulaire.

    If you go to Smoked Meat Pete’s, you’ll be better off with the car though. Pick me up on the way by.

  4. Ian is correct, Pete`s Smoked meat is known all the way to Cornwall. Directions are tricky though. You turn left (south) onto Boulevard Perrot, and then you have to turn onto 2nd (deuxieme) to get to 1st. Pete`s is just around the curve on 1st.

    Nice shot of Hurley`s Pub. Makes me thirsty today.

  5. My pleasure, Dennis! And, FYI, Wilensky’s is only open for lunch, and is also closed on weekends.

  6. Very entertaining as usual. I especially loved the paragraph of the horns honking, yelling and swearing, almost killing a cyclist, and so on….hilarious stuff…actually laughing out loud! 🙂

  7. Your cat has been taking in the Powell River sun and doing things that she must have learned from Gaston. She has boys in every night and it gets worse. Forget about your &&$#& strong beer. It’s all gone.

  8. I’d forgotten about city traffic, Noella. After 17 years in Powell River, with just the odd trip to Vancouver, I’d completely forgotten how people are in a hurry. I think I’m going to start being in a hurry too. Maybe get a part time job as a Montreal taxi driver!

  9. I’ll show you the lookout spot that HNIC often uses. I don’t dare try to give you directions because god only knows where you’ll end up with your Gaston-tainted GPS system.

    The lookout you went to – was that one where you park by Beaver Lake and walk for a while or the one that you drive into? If it was that one, you don’t really need to pay for parking. Just stay near your car and ‘forget’ to pay. If a green onion comes by then of course pay – you were ‘just looking for change’.

    Yeah, you need to look out for our drivers and people on bicycles. It can get ugly. You also need to be careful walking on St. Catherine, there are cops hiding to nail jaywalkers a lot of the time.

    One great hot dog place is the Montreal Pool Room. I have to second Smoke Meat Pete’s. It’s far from where you live but if you are out that way it’s a great spot to eat.

  10. When we go for that Rocket Day Dennis – we should use my car. It has blessed AC! Just watch your hands…I’m not that kind of guy. 😉

  11. Any new place takes time to feel a part of…when we moved to Nelson it was a hard adjustment. Remembering to buy milk and diapers before 8pm was sometimes a challenge…I was annoyed at people for being late to things because they’re on “kootenay time” and I was still on city time. Remembering to have a vegetarian and vegan options at my kids birthday parties was also something I had to learn the hard way. I was really annoyed at people driving under the speed limit on the highway. Anyways, everyday it will get better and then more people you meet the easier it will get. Find a coffee shop to frequent and get to know the owners and staff- when you walk in and they call you by name it will help you feel more at home. ALso, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on some french 😉 Sounds like a cool place though, I’d like to come visit in the future.

  12. Thanks Shannon. Good advice. And yes, I’d like you to visit too. It would be fantastic. I miss you and the gang. Please say hi to Ryan and the kids from us.

  13. Darth, I have no words to describe how nice it would be for someone else to do the driving for a change. What a nice thought.

  14. It would be my pleasure Dennis. I also don’t drive like a maniac so you don’t need to live in fear. Is Sunday ok with you or do you prefer next weekend (after this one)?

  15. Dennis, let me know what you think of Smoked Meat Pete’s after you and Darth go there!

  16. I will, Ian. Also looking forward to Scwartz’s. Heard about it for many years. I picture it to be like Katz’s in NY.

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