Day One: The six-hour drive from Toronto to Montreal can be a real slog. Luckily my partner Yuna and I have the backseat to ourselves and a couple digital copies of The Passage by Justin Cronin to keep us occupied (we’re both reading it!). It’s a perfect six hour read—allowing us to lose ourselves in Cronin’s post-apocalyptic world instead of the post-apocalyptic long weekend traffic around us.
One full book later, we arrive at our destination—with cramps in our legs and adventure in our hearts. Early summer is when Montreal really gets fun. Before we get into full tourist-mode though, we have our caffeine levels to attend to.
While I’m busy rifling through the made-in-Montreal section of the store, Yuna gets in a few chapters of Love, Style, Life by Garrance Dore. It’s one of those books you pick up whenever you need inspiration.
Back outside we notice what seems like a block party in the distance. After talking to a local we learn that a crowd has gathered for La Chasse Balcon, a concert series inspired by the spontaneity of Louisiana balcony jams and the originality of the typical Montréal balconies that add such charm to the city's facades and alleyways. Each Friday a group of musicians come together on the balcony of a different residence to play traditional Quebecois music.
It seems like the whole neighbourhood has come out to dance, sing along and—as is tradition—play the spoons.
We get in on the fun, and after dancing and trying to sing along we cool down with a stroll over to nearby Mile-End, home of many of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
After a quick break (square dancing is surprisingly tiring), we come across Kem Coba, a Vietnamese ice cream shop with queues down the block.
Typically I wouldn’t wait in a line this long, but It’s absolutely worth it!
Montreal is such a colourful city. It’s inspired me to download The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Montreal’s favourite author, Mordecai Richler (one definite perk of reading digitally: you can download what you want, when you want it—all you need is wifi!). The book, which takes place in during the 1940s and focuses on issues of race, religion and class, is a must read for fans of Richler’s work.
For dinner we check out one of Montreal’s buzziest new restaurants, Le Majestique, for some finely crafted cocktails and beautifully prepared seafood dishes. Yuna wants to show me a quote she highlighted from Love, Style, Life so out comes the eReader. If you’re interested in fashion or creativity, I highly recommend it—it’s her second time reading it.
Day Two: Yuna rises early, making use of our beautiful veranda to read some of Lena Dunham’s new book Is It Evil Not to Care? as the morning sun rises. The world really does need more hammocks.
For breakfast we hit Le Vieux Velo, for what is described as “delicious hipster brunch” by a friendly local the day before.
After a nice, relaxing start of the day, a hike up Mount Royal is in order. Located immediately west of the downtown core, the mountain (really more of a hill…) is the place to be on weekends for people watching and good vibes. Halfway up we come across a group of LARPers (live action role players) mid melee.
Sundays in Montreal is when the Guerriers de la Montagne (The Knights and Warriors of Mount Royal) come out to battle—and it’s an amazing sight. Not only is there great dedication to looking the part, but some seriously impressive swordsmanship as well.
After ascending 10 more minutes, things get quieter. The perfect opportunity to enjoy nature—and a good read.
Back at the base of the mountain, the Tam-Tams (an informal name for the weekly free festival around the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park in Montreal) are in full effect. Drums circles are everywhere—all playing to their own rhythms. The effect is hypnotic. People laugh and dance and picnic all around us. The high point of our trip so far.
With picnics on our mind, we head to Dinette Triple Crown, a tiny barbeque restaurant near where we are staying that makes up for its lack of in-restaurant seating by packing a wicker basket for customers (complete with tablecloths and all of the fixin’s), and sending them to the city park across the street to eat.
It’s a booklovers dream! Great food, great weather and an entire library of books in hand. For me, it’s You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt, a brilliant book about why we like the things we like, and what it says about us.
Shall we get another coffee? I think we shall. We decide on GAB on Rue St. Laurent, a hub for students and freelancers that lets you pay by the hour to use their workspace and computers. Naturally it’s the perfect place to get in some reading (academic or otherwise).
They even have little study stations.
Day Three: After saying goodbye to our beautiful apartment, we hop in a cab and head to Mile-End for bagels.
Obviously we have to visit Fairmont Bagel before leaving—when it comes to Montreal-style bagels there’s really no competition.
With an extra 30 minutes to go until we’re picked up, we check out one more café, Arts Coffee. It’s my favourite one yet! With its creative vibe and terrific selection of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, you name it), it’s a place you can stay for hours.
Sadly, we’ve run out of time. Our ride shows up and we get ready to read for another 6 hours on the way home. We’ve just gotten into the car, but we’re already planning our next visit.