Red-light rally at Café Cleopatra

redalertAs mentioned in a previous post, a coalition is forming to protest the proposed “revitalization” of the lower Main, and the destruction of Café Cleopatra and much of the red-light district. For those who are interested in supporting a more democratic approach to revamping this space, there will be a “Friends of Cabaret Cleo” rally event happening on Saturday, June 6, starting at 8 PM at the cabaret (1230 St-Laurent, 2nd floor). Attendees will be able to sign a petition (also available online and in PDF format, if you want to collect signatures beforehand), and there will be lectures, entertainment and performances, so if you can come on out, you should!

For more info on the rally, check out the Club Sin website, read Louis Rastelli’s article in the Montreal Mirror, or join the Red Alert! group on Facebook.

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Dawson design show

Dawson College - interior design vernissage The interior design school of Dawson College is having their annual vernissage of the final masterpieces of this year’s graduates. Appropriately hosted in the resplendent lobby of a building designed by Mies van der Rohe himself, this is a great event for the graduates to get exposure and for the public to get a good look at what three intense years of design school can produce.

Where: 1 Westmount Square, in the lobby (metro Atwater)
When: Thursday, May 28, 5:30pm – 9:00pm *
Complimentary food & drink: yes!

Check out the Facebook invite.

* The vernissage is this evening, but the projects will be left up for the public to see all day on Friday and Saturday.

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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 STM.info)

The STM's new OPUS smartcards (photo via STM.info)

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.

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Red-light district demolition project greenlighted

UPDATED: May 25, 2009, 4:44 pm

Cause for concern or mere progress? Montrealers will be interested to know that our so-called red-light district of lower St-Laurent is currently slated for some controversial renovations by a group called Angus Development Corp.

The scoop: The stretch of St-Laurent slated for reno is between Ste-Catherine and René-Lévesque, and according to a March 6, 2009 article in The Gazette, has been purchased by Angus, a “non-profit development corporation that wants to transform that part of the red light district into an eco-friendly showcase of art and socially responsible retail.” Sounds good, so far. Problem is, this developer is also trying to acquire the building that is currently home to such colourful (and historical) businesses as Café Cléopatra and the Montreal Pool Room.

Though the Gazette article also notes that “The report says the street level on St. Laurent would become an avenue dedicated to ‘responsible retail,’ lined with stores selling fair-trade and bio- and eco-friendly products that promote Quebec design,” and that although the company plans to put in a “restaurant, lounge or café,” no fast-food restaurants will be allowed, nor any chain stores.

Ambitious plans for Montreal’s storied Main, but some citizens are protesting these changes as signs of gentrification and the destruction of local history. Montreal-based burlesque troupe, the Dead Doll Dancers, are fighting to save this stretch of St-Laurent, as most of their shows take place at Café Cleopatra. In fact, a Facebook user named Amy Hudston has been circulating information about upcoming planning meetings, suggesting that “anyone who is concerned about cultural elitism, gentrification, sex workers rights, travesty theatre, historical architecture, expropriation, etc.” attend to voice their opinions.

The next meeting is slated for May 25 at 7 PM at 2-22 Ste-Catherine the Holiday Inn (95 Viger West). The meeting’s topic will be “Architectural concept and urban insertion and heritage.” There is another meeting scheduled for May 26 at 7 PM at the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent same location on the same topic, for those who can’t make the first.

Further reading:


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:

graffiti

"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 “Omen514.com“, 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!


Concordia Co-op Bookstore

Entrance to the Co-op Bookstore, 2150 Bishop

Entrance to the Co-op Bookstore, 2150 Bishop (photo by Laura Roberts)

As my first post on Metblogs, I’d like to give a shout out to my friends at the Concordia Co-op Bookstore. These guys and gals rock my world, as they’re one of the best independent bookstores in Montreal. Oddly enough, they seem to have trouble getting bodies in the store, despite their extremely unique selection, with an emphasis on sexy books, feminism and queer literature, political and DIY stuff, and just plain rad savings on day-to-day items like pens, notebooks and even flat-tire kits for your bike.

Honestly, it’s a no-brainer to shop there. Why? Because they ALWAYS charge below suggested retail prices on everything in the store! If you become a member ($10 FOR LIFE!), you’ll get even bigger discounts, but you DON’T have to be a member to shop here.

All in all, it’s a winning proposition. You can find new books, used books, and even textbooks there. If you’re an artistic type who makes zines or t-shirts, you can even consider their Artisan Consignment services to sell your wares. They’ve always got interesting events happening, which you can find out via their Facebook page, or through their email newsletters, and the people who work there are super friendly and kick-ass.

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go to the Co-op Bookstore at 2150 Bishop, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between noon and 5PM (their summer hours), and check it out!


I Never Cared Whether They Won Or Not

The crack of the bat. Crowd chatter and cheers. The honest smell of hot-dogs and leather mitts ready to snap up bleacher-bound balls like Venus flytraps. Salt assaults from the fresh pretzel on my tongue.

I miss the Expos.


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)
514.996.3620

Perfide
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.
514.509.0731

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.
514.989.5134

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
514-504-7458

Enjoy.

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Return

Hello everyone.  After a two year hiatus I’ve decided to return as a writer for the Montreal Metblog.  One of the reasons for leaving was the demands of a young family.  But the now older family is the same reason that I have decided to come back.  Seeing as how fellow Metblog authors, Zura & S, offer interesting tidbits of life in the city for everyone, I thought I would be able to offer interesting tidbits for parents.  Over the past year we’ve been exploring many of the cultural establishments of the city in order to expand the minds of our kids.  So after almost six years of living here, we are still discovering new and interesting places that I figure would be of interest to other parents and likely everyone. Montreal is a amazing city which continues to offer fascinating places to see and things to do.

It’s good to be back and I hope that what I have to offer will be of interest to you.

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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

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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.


Hi Y’all

I’m the latest initiate to the Montréal Metblog roster.

Or, what’s left of it. Getting mighty scant in here, I must say. Theories abound of an arch-fiend of some sort devouring a once vibrant local authorship, and spitting out bones in its wake. As such, I feel compelled to whistle nervously as I make my way through, collecting post ideas for firewood.  The good, the bad and the ugly of this city is what I’ll be pounding pavements to find and deliver. And, if I’m lucky, maybe there’ll even be a good story or two worth telling.

So, with a curt curtsey, and a hearty “pleased to be here”, the stage is set.

Hope you stay tuned.


Poutine

Poutine at Resto La Banquise

Poutine at Resto La Banquise

In New Orleans we have something called a french fry po’boy. It is not supprisingly similer to Poutine with a few exceptions a french fry po’boy is served on bread and usually has melted cheese on it if it has cheese at all. The New Orleans version originated as far as I know by the need to provide cheap food for those with little cash and it needed to be filling, viola the french fry po’boy was born. I am finding conflicting reports all over the Internets as to where and why Poutine originated but I am going to go out on a limb here and say the heart of the matter was the same especially considering the Arcadian history in both Montreal and New Orleans. There is one very important difference though between the Poutine I ate at Resto La Banquise and what I have eaten back in New Orleans…Poutine is good. There it is I said it, If you take carbs and you put them on top of carb laden bread and then throw some gravy on it that is not good that is just a cheap heart attack. Poutine on the other hand is tasty really really tasty, like if I could I would go back right now and eat some more tasty. I ate the Classic version from the menu which had high quality fries that may have had a little seasoning on them with cheese curd and gravy but it isn’t just brown gravy it is something more that I can’t put my finger on but that Wikipedia calls “Chicken Velouté Sauce” so I will go with that for now. La Banquise was a wonderful local place to sample this local fare as well, not too far from the Orange line of the Metro it was pretty easy to locate and definitely a find.


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