Montreal was the venue for Caribbean and Mexico editor Gay Nagle Myers over the July 4 holiday. It was beach weather, but Gay took to the streets instead of the surf. Gay’s third and final dispatch follows. Click to read her first and second dispatches.
After jazz performances and restaurants and a three-hour fast-paced city tour led by a terrific guide named Nadia (who took me from museums to Mont Royal, from patisseries to the port), I bolted for the 'hoods.
Montreal is a city of neighborhoods, and I wanted to explore a couple, so I strolled through Little Italy where men sipped coffee, smoked and sat on benches, blocking the sidewalk.
An artist sketched a tree, families picnicked in a small park. The air was alive with accents and aromas. I loved it.
Next stop was the Jean-Talon Market, one of the oldest public markets in Montreal. It’s open every day and dates back to 1933.
It was like a little village. The Quebec strawberries were in season and merchants passed out samples, so did the cheese guys and the family behind the gelato stall.
From there it was a Metro ride to the Mile End neighborhood. The station was clean, cool and quiet with easy-to-read maps and directions.
Mile End is a funky, fun enclave with a Brooklyn vibe full of artists, teeming with cafes, bars, restaurants serving food from countries all over the world, bookstores, vintage clothing stores, patisseries, hair salons and music stores.
Used books are dropped off and picked up in little birdhouse-like structures with glass windows that are found on random street corners, free to passersby.
It was the cafes that really drew me in.
As passionate as Montrealers are about where they buy their bagels, they’re as passionate about where they sip their espressos and trade the local gossip.
My tour guide told me Café Olympico in Mile End had the best coffee in Montreal; my friend who lives in Montreal steered me to her favorite, Club Social, one block away, where I met the brothers who run it and the regulars who gather there.
“Once you have your café, you don’t go anywhere else,” I was told.
I was welcomed like an old-timer and settled in for gossip and coffee with new friends. The perfect summer afternoon in a multi-national French city two hours from my front door. C’est bon!