Archive for the ‘Around Town’ Category

Little City Gems 3: Ode to Bygones

A few of my favourite little shops in town (all on St. Denis street, actually) have sadly closed their doors in recent years and months and this is my ode to them.

A Japanese-style tea-house that closed a couple of years ago was O-Chai which had one location on St. Denis just above Mont-Royal and later on just below Laurier. They had a cute and cozy décor and served wonderful teas (including my favourite green matcha latté) and delicious little snacks that came in the form of samosas, sushi, noodles, scones and personal dimsum in bamboo containers, all for bargain prices. It was a perfect place to relax on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and read a good book. (Their sub-Laurier location has since been taken over by Les 3 Petits Bouchons, which is a thankfully yummy resto I would definitely recommend.)

It’s been at least a year, but I’m still getting over the closing of the Japanesey home decor, gift, paper and tea shop Carton which came to an end when the owners decided not to renew their lease and that twenty-five years was a good enough run. They were done and it was time to move onto the next part of their life adventures, whatever they were.

Madras, on the west side of St. Denis street near Duluth sold great items of clothing, run by a French man who always sported a casual and unimpressed ennui. It used to be a mix of frippe and local and NYC designer clothing shop, and gradually the fripperie section became smaller and the local designer section grew larger. They had sales often enough and I always found such neat little pieces most every time I went, all of which I still wear.

Feu Vert, to my dismay, also on St. Denis but on the east side just above Marie-Anne greeted me recently with papered up windows when I was hunting for a new year’s eve dress this past season. Deceptively kitschy looking, this tiny shop packed full of sequined, scarfy, beaded things, and dresses, tops and bottoms and accessories of all colours and textures was run by an even tinier tough-as-nails Argentinian woman. She would look down at you (somehow, from her height of under 5′) over her glasses on a chain and let her irritation flare when you chose the “wrong” style of clothing for yourself. She would never let you try on anything that was not exactly right for you and had no qualms about making realistic comments about your weight or shape. Thick skins were necessary in her shop, but boy did you ever walk out with a fantastic properly accessorized outfit at a well-bargained price.

I will miss them all dearly.

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.


…so I was invited to a really cool thing here in Montreal. It is a meeting of local bloggers that happens once a month organized by the guys over at Yulblog. In case you have not heard there was a big storm that moved through here on Wednesday it dumped 20 – 25 cm of snow on the city which if my math is correct is between 7 and 8 inches. So, being from the South and not just the Southern area of Canada but the Southern areas of the United States I bailed. I saw the snow and the sun going down and I was not brave enough so I did not go. I heard that it was great, they had a great turnout and everything went swimmingly. Well, I just want to say I should have gone. I mean when am I going to be here again…yeah so. If you are here then you should check out their next meeting with is scheduled for February 4th at la Quincaillerie, 980 rue Rachel E. After we bailed on Wednesday we did go back to the little restaurant right next door for some Poutine but that calls for a whole blog post on it’s own so check back here soon too.


Statue of Black Peter at the Centre de commerce mondial de Montréal

Statue of Black Peter at the Centre de commerce mondial de Montréal

I thought Christmas was over but not anymore. I was wondering around today when I ran into these guys in the Centre de commerce mondial de Montréal. This first one is Black Peter, he helped out Saint Nicolas in dealing with the naughty boys and girls. The sign said he is not well known in America but is in Europe which lead me to wonder two things. 1. is this display on loan from somewhere in the USA or 2. is America used in reference to North America in Canada and I just don’t know that because like a self-centered American I always think it is referring to the country and not the continent when I read it on signs back home. The second picture is actually the first Santa I saw when I walked into the building he was pretty hard to miss. It is 21st Century Santa. He comes equiped with a cell phone (and hands free headset) and a computerized disc listing all the nice and naughty children this year. I am fond of his all over thermal suit, he must have been working out too, there seems to be a little less jelly in his belly.
I had an excellent time walking around today, In addition to the Santas you see here I saw the Notre-Dame Basilica my words nor my pictures could possibly do it justice all I will say is if you live here and have not seen the basilica yet then stop whatever you are doing and go, or at least plan a visit soon. If you are visiting soon then put the basilica on your must see list. There is a 5.00$ recommended donation and it is worth every cent.

Little City Gems: 2

Every first Sunday of the month, the people of ¿Que Pasa Montreal? get their Andalucía on at La Place à Coté. Admission costs $10 and the drinks are rather inexpensive at this grungy little venue of great character. In true Peña Flamenca form, you get to experience an improvised evening of some of the best Flamenco music and dance the city has to offer. Get there early to get a good seat!

Next show: Sunday, January 4th, 8pm
La Place à Coté, 4571 Papineau (corner Mont-Royal)
T: 514.522.4571

Enjoy. :)

Little City Gems: 1

Now may be the winter of our recession, but I am on a gentle quest these days to find new and unique activities about Montreal that are equally gentle on the wallet as well as a nice change from watching whatever on TV at home.

Last night’s activity took place at The Yellow Door at 3625 Aylmer, just below Pine. A scant two hours of poetry, prose and spoken word readings in an intimate space by fresh and established (multi-lingual) writers, and there was even a moving a capella quartet. All for the sum of $5. I left feeling rather fulfilled and inspired to start a series of blog posts of neat things about the city.

For more information on poetry readings in the city, visit the following links:

See The Light with Simon’s

Heads up for an upcoming event this weekend called “I See The Light” in promotion of a new cd compilation and limited edition t-shirt collection with local artists, also featuring live DJ’s and painting. It’s free and sounds like fun.

The details:
When: Saturday, August 30th, from 12-5 pm
Where: Simon’s downtown store, 977 Ste-Catherine W.

Download the PDF press kit here

Frosh Alert

Walking along Sherbrooke around Parc yesterday evening, my senses were suddenly assaulted by crowds of youths in ill-fitting, white tank tops markered up with cheeky smut. They shrieked excitedly, chanted cute obscenities in unison and carried placards as they marched giddily through the streets.

Yup, watch out, Frosh has been turned loose on the town.

Roller Derby Dirty

When a friend of mine called me up to invite me to go to an all-girls roller derby final championship game at a convenient plateau arena where cheap beer and raging girls with attitude on rollerblades were to be featured, it sounded too ridiculous to say no.

Indeed, we lined up yesterday evening at the St. Louis arena on St. Dominique just north of St. Viateur, paid our $12 entrance fee, paid for our 2 for $5 beers (or $3 for one, but who only gets one?) and made our way down into the hockey area. Having the foresight to bring pillows, we settled down in prime parterre seating (at your own peril) and cracked open our first cans of a truly horrible-but-good American brew “Pabst” and the Roller Derby championships between the two Montreal teams La Racaille and Les Contrabanditas began. Hosted by the fabulous Plastic Patrick and some other dude, we were quickly launched into screaming, cheering fans as the first half started.

What fun! I highly encourage you to check this sport out. Teams of mouthguard wearing, fishnet sporting women racing around a hockey arena in a violent, jostling, strategic, competitive and action-packed activity, it’s fun for the whole family. (There were a significant amount of kids there, actually). With player names like Wrath Poutine, Ashley Thudd, Iron Wench and Georgia W. Tush, how can you not go?

(Next game happens at Arena St. Louis on August 13, between Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and the Long Island Roller Rebels).

Official site:
An informative Flickr set:

Dear pedestrian…

The new bike path on deMaisonneuve running through downtown is all very well, but there are some surefire hazards. As a véloïste, I’m getting used to the concrete median between road and bike path though I’m not sure it has been the best of ideas. Let me tell you, it’s absolutely horrible when it comes to pedestrians. Pedestrians downtown still need to learn that they cannot loiter in the bike path oblivious to bike traffic, with their backs to oncoming speeding cyclists. Also, they need to learn that they cannot take up the entire width of the path by using it as a sidewalk. They need to learn faster. I have nearly sliced pedestrians in two with my bicycle several times this season, giving myself and hopefully the pedestrian a proper heart attack. It is rare when cars are less hazardous to cyclists than pedestrians, but that is the case in this city right now, especially where the bike path is newest. All I can say is that they are darned lucky I tuned up my brakes this year.

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