I spent a relaxing four days in Montreal earlier this month, staying in quiet Saint-Henri. It’s an up-and-coming neighbourhoodâ€”i.e. gentrifying. Trendy bars and restaurants are filling up on and around Rue Notre-Dame. My Airbnb was close to Grumman ’78, an old garage transformed into a gorgeous restaurant, whose patronage includes everyone from tattooed bikers to mature couples. TheÂ fish tacos are popular. Steps away is LÃ©chÃ© Desserts, the first artisan doughnut shop in Montreal, offering flavours such as Maple Bacon and Bread Pudding.
While the Jazz FestivalÂ drew large crowds in the downtown core, I opted to check out other cool neighbourhoods like Mile End and Le Plateau. Unicorn Boutique stocks local designers, such as Betina Lou, which just opened their own shop too. BODYBAG by Jude and a plethora of vintage shops like Annex Vintage and Citizen Vintage make for a funâ€”and ethicalâ€”shopping experience.
The most memorable store has to be Eva B. I felt like I was inside a hoarder’s house mixed with an eclectic costume shop. Oh, there’s also a coffee shop with a super chill terrace among all the craziness.
The long lineup and a bout of rain deterred me from trying the famous Schwartz’s Deli. That’s okay; I’m not big on smoked meat. I had a filling 3 course lunch at the Portuguese restaurant Casa Maison Minhota instead. Any visit to Montreal must include bagels. It’s either gotta be Fairmount or St. Viateurâ€”or both.Â Juliette et ChocolatÂ is a hit as well. I got a double dose of chocolate with their milkshake and brookie. Why is this dessert chain not in Toronto?
Over in Old Montreal, the crowds were denser. People waited in line to eatÂ at Olive & Gourmando or to go insideÂ the Notre-Dame Basilica. Down at the waterfront, a strange cluster of brown buildings across the river has me wondering what is it and whether it’s dilapidating. Turns out it’s Habitat 67, the experimental apartment complex by architect Moshe Safdie. That’s the thing about Montreal. Just when I think I have this place figured it, something strange takes me by surprise.
Photography by Annie Zhu