Archive for the ‘Art and Culture’ Category

Win free transportation for a year from the STM

With lots of new green initiatives happening here in Montreal, like the recent introduction of the Bixi rental bikes, the STM has also decided to hop on board the environmentalism bandwagon. Montreal’s transit service is currently offering a contest that will allow 20 lucky folks to win free yearly passes for the bus and metro system. To enter, all you need to do is head to the newly redesigned (and much more bilingual!) STM website and click on the link.

The new OPUS cards (photo via

The STM's new OPUS smartcards (photo via

Of course, this is all a part of the promotion of the STM’s new OPUS card, since May 2009 is the last month that the old monthly passes are being sold, and the June 30 deadline for purchasing a reduced-price card for only $3.50 (the cards themselves will cost $7 a piece thereafter) fast approaches. Everybody eventually needs to switch over to the new smartcard service that OPUS provides, which allows for rechargable cards that can be used as daily, weekly or monthly unlimited service passes, or on a pay-per-ride basis. Paper tickets will no longer be accepted in the system after September 30, 2009, so it’s important for citizens to start the transition to the new reusable plastic cards.

On a final note, if you’re into Cirque du Soleil, they’re also offering free tickets to the “OVO” show, along with free monthly passes to get you there. Pretty sweet deals from our much-maligned public transportation system. Perhaps this will help bring the STM back into people’s good graces after their perpetual rate hikes and worker strikes.

Street art Montreal: Omen

Today started off grey, cold and rainy—more like San Francisco weather than the type of stuff we normally get in Montreal! Since my original plan had been to go downtown, have lunch with a friend, and then wander around taking pix that I could share with you, and the rain had kept me from bringing my camera, I decided to instead consult Flickr to see if they had any interesting shots.

As it turns out, they do!

The first one I wanted to share with you is actually a shot of some rad graffiti, the photo of which was contributed by Flickr user christopher.woo:


"Montreal Graffiti" by Christopher Woo

This photo reminded me of a shot I had on my camera, another piece of street art I’d taken a picture of when I was out and about last week near Chinatown:

Jazz graffiti by Omen514 (photo by Laura Roberts)

Jazz graffiti by Omen (photo by Laura Roberts)

I snapped a photo of it because I recognized a famous shot of Billie Holiday in the design, and then realized the artist had also included John Coltrane and Miles Davis, three jazz legends. Who was this graffiti artist, who threw up images of jazz musicians instead of his own tags? As I cropped the photo down a bit in Photoshop, I noticed the tag that said ““, which I looked up to find the artist’s website and plenty more shots of his street art.

If you go to Omen’s gallery you can see a lot of cool pieces, including some that are painted “legally” (i.e. with a building owner’s permission), as well as some works on canvas. If you’re interested in checking out Omen’s work in person, he’s got a show coming up in July at the FIMA visual arts festival here in Montreal. I hadn’t even realized Montreal had a visual arts festival, so that was news to me.

Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about Omen, be sure to check out this 2002 article, “‘Trane spotting” from the Montreal Mirror, which gives a brief overview of his background and raison d’être.

Stay tuned for my next installment on street art: Roadsworth!

Redpath Museum

Redpath Museum

Over the six years that I’ve been in Montreal, I had visited the lecture hall at the Redpath Museum for professional lectures.  The corridor leading to the hall had skeletons of various sea creatures and there was a nice little diorama near the entrance.  Since this is on the campus of McGill University, I assumed that there were either classrooms or offices on the floors above and that this was the extent of the “museum”.

Turtle Skeleton

Then one day last fall our office was asked to do some consulting work on the building.  This required climbing to the floors above and eventually the roof.  When I reached the second floor, I was completely blown away.  It was like finding a hidden treasure.  A full natural history museum complete with a dinosaur skeleton.

Albertosaurus libratus

So I resolved that I would return with the family in order to get a better look.  Our daughter had suddenly become infatuated with dinosaurs this spring after being introduced to them in school.  So we made an excursion downtown to visit the museum.  I have to say I’m greatly impressed. My point of comparison is the Field Museum back in my old hometown of Chicago.  The Redpath Museum has all the main exhibits that the Field Museum has, but boiled down enough to be covered in a leisurely Sunday afternoon (or maybe even a long lunch hour).  It also has an emphasis on items from Quebec.

Redpath Museum Overview

And on top of it all, the museum is free.  It is open from 9 to 5 during the week and only from 1 to 5 on Sunday during the weekend.  It’s definitely worth a visit for both the young and old.

Little City Gems 5: Jewels of St. Henri

I took a walk into St. Henri the other day westward along Notre Dame, admiring the lovely and impressive Carré George-Étienne Cartier (which looks like a larger, grander Carré St-Louis), and was pleasantly pleased to spot a few curious and worthwhile establishments. All in the vicinity of Metro St-Henri, here are my little finds:

Ambaa Yoga
A great little yoga studio with a nice relaxed vibe that teaches classes of mediation, pilates and yoga in several styles, including ones for kids, which seems to be an additional specialty of theirs.

Recessionary note: They have a community drop-in class on Friday evenings which costs a very affordable donation of $5, taught by a featured teacher of the week.

4660 Notre Dame O.
(corner of De Courcelle)

A curious little boutique that caught my eye, full of neat and cheeky clothing designs, jewellery, accessories, books and other fun knick-knackery. Definitely worth a browse.

4217 Notre-Dame O.

La Gaillarde
I walked into this shop with its deceptively non-descript store front to find a treasure trove of fripperie, and many of the local as well as local-eco designer wear and accessories we already know and love.

Recessionary note: Sundays are 2-for-1 days in the basement fripperie section.

4019 Notre-Dame O.

Le Caffe Mariani (read the review)
What a great find! Facing a lovely church and an interestingly designed last-century caisse-pop building I happily stepped into this cafe. The decor is lovely and unpretentious as are the staff. I enjoyed my cafe au lait and choco-cranberry-banana bread and the general ambience of the place. I made a mental note to come back with a book and be ready to spend an afternoon eating an affordable and delicious lunch made with excellent and possibly organic ingredients. They also sell locally made fancy soaps and not-so-local olive oils and the like. Judging from the number of laptops I saw, I suspect they must have wi-fi as well.

4450 Notre Dame St. West


Little City Gems: 4

Suite à my last post, not to worry, the beauty of our good little city is when one thing closes, usually something else interesting will eventually spring up in its place. I came across a place over a year ago called Volver: Café Culturel. Situated in a demi sous-sol on the west side of Parc between St. Viateur and Bernard streets, this rather expansive cafe of Argentinian bent is not only home to local musical events, book launches, cultural and linguistic workshops and art vernissages, they also have a great little menu at surprisingly affordable prices. Served by one of the friendly owners I had a plate of fresh and substantial empanadas (definitely under $10 and they were good portions) and a glass of decent Argentianian red ($6-$7 for a vintage that’s usually $10 elsewhere). I had likely just seen Almodovar’s “Volver” and was thusly attracted to the passionately red sign of the cafe and anything remotely spanish-ish. Well it worked. :)

Volver Café Culturel
5604 avenue du Parc
Tel: 514.272.4419

Redpath Museum

The Redpath Museum in Montreal

The Redpath Museum in Montreal

While looking for interesting and inexpensive things to do in fairly close proximity to our hotel I stumbled upon the Redpath Museum. The Redpath Museum is one of the oldest freestanding museums in Canada and is part of the Faculty of Science at McGill University. Research at the museum focus’ on evolution. It has a wonderful collection of fossils. The museum encompasses three floors with shells, dinosaur bones and even mummies, two to be exact. I was highly impressed with the array of items in Redpath’s collection especially considering the fee to get in the door was 0.00$ that’s right it was totally free. You can not beat that price tag and they could easily charge and no one would feel bad about paying it once they explored what Redpath has to offer. The museum is pretty easy to get to as well. You can take the Green line to either McGill or Peel stations then just walk a couple blocks and you are there. One thing I find very helpful on this trip is Google maps, specifically their public transit and walking directions that they now give when you are asking for directions. I don’t know how long they have had those options but this is the first time I have been on vacation in a city where I could use them. They get two thumbs way up, accurate every time, the little metro map was a handy backup but having jotted down directions from Google earlier at the hotel I could pull out my piece of paper discretely to double check I was headed in the right direction instead of whipping out a huge map. That is basically like tattooing “tourist” on your forehead which I try to avoid at all costs
Sara the Triceratops from the RedPath Museum

Sara the Triceratops from the RedPath Museum


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

Les activités ne manquent pas pour la Saint-Jean

La Saint-Jean approche à grands pas et il faut bien fêter quelque part. Voici une liste avec pleins d’endroits où faire la fête!

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