Verdun and I (or, Fripperie: Part Un)

I’ve always been budget-concious, even before the current economical clime cast a pall on our collective plastic. A former freelance lifestyle, with the fiscal rollercoaster that often accompanies it, have etched an indeliable restraint on my spending habits. To wit, I’ve nosed out some pretty good bang-for-your-buck eateries and shops over the years. They’ve become a part of me, and I’d like to share them with you.

The “downtown” core of  Verdun is, in my humble O, one of our city’s most under-rated shopping destinations. This Sud-Ouest borough isn’t the self-important trend whore that many soi-disant Montréal hotspots are. Despite encroaching gentrification, it has managed to keep some good ol’ fashioned working-class grit intact.  There is very little facade, nothing shiny and sleek. And I wouldn’t have the place any other way. The charm of the area – what makes me feel more at home there than any other neighbourhood in Montréal – is its hidden niches. Granted, you have to explore a little to find them, something I had ample opportunity to do when I resided there.

I remember with fondness the large flat I lived in for a mere $325.00 a month. ($325.00!)  Naturally I don’t need to outline the fact that was quite a while back. The density of businesses in Verdun is incredible, and makes owning a car almost laughable. I could bank, get my hair cut, rent a flick, pick up some sausage, spices and a bottle of plonk at the SAQ for the evening meal, meet a friend for tea, buy some paperbacks or pair of gloves – all within a few blocks. There was a law passed long ago prohibiting bars in the district, but what you must know is that in Verdun, summer and balconies were made for beer. I was hard-presssed to walk down 3rd Avenue without someone offering me a sweating cold one (why, straight from the handy porch fridge of course!). On residential streets, especially The Avenues north of De Verdun, balconies are the hub of social (and wild) life, particularly livening up at 3 a.m., if memory serves. I also recall a more welcomed feature; a dep on every corner.  Also, an amazing waterside bike path and three métro stations to choose from made getting around a breeze.  I regret moving from Verdun, and I’m clearly not the only one who recognizes the area’s primeness as a good spot to live, as soaring rents can attest to. I miss that flat. True, the ceiling caved in on me, I was once offered the friendly (discounted!) services of the resident hitman, and the intermittently employed downstairs neighbour couldn’t be arsed to share the weed he was growing, but really, good times overall.

Recent years have brought in waves of new ethnic groceries, tea-houses and specialty boutiques, all glazed with “me-too” hip, without pretentious Plateau prices.  Variety abounds. Wellington Street, the bit roughly bounded by Woodland and Regina ( formally branded as “Promenade Wellington“)  is an almost perfect shopping strip. Sadly, I’ve noticed some boarded up windows and “For Sale” signs peppering store fronts – no doubt the inevitable victims of the recession. By contrast, thrift-oriented businesses are naturally thriving these days.  I will be devoting an entire series to those, and other neat aspects of Verdun in the coming weeks.

2 Comments so far

  1. boulevardier on February 22nd, 2009 @ 12:36 am

    Hi!

    Verdun is still a lot like I remember other parts Montréal when I grew up. It’s the "soft underbelly" of the French Quebecois culture and I guess that’s ok.

    If you liked Verdun, you should have seen Côte des Neiges before the ridiculously unfettered influx of immigrants ruined the place. On a summer Sunday, you could walk down the street and hear people playing classical music in their homes through the open windows. Bach on the piano and harpsichord, sad Beethoven pieces on the cello. My own dad, no showoff, used to mute his violin when playing his Paganini. He was a big fan of Mendelssohn and played his violin concerto beautifully.

    You have to understand that these were all working class people too!

    Montréal, and Côte des Neiges especially, used to be a very special place.

    Now it’s all stripped of its finer points.


  2. S. (aidas) on February 22nd, 2009 @ 8:38 am

    I’m not sure how to respond to your unfortunate statement that "the ridiculously unfettered influx of immigrants ruined the place" of Cote-des_Neiges!

    Thank goodness for immigrants.

    Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.

    And, neither, sir, would you, or your dad’s violin* for that matter.

    ——
    * Bowed instruments originate from Central Asia.



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