I’ve spent the last week in Montreal at my friend Nell’s place. It’s been quite excellent getting to know the city I’ve always loved, but never for very long in person. I saw the Tam-Tams, hung out in the cemamtery with an old friend drinking Unibrou on the Molson tome, spent two days in the National Library working on papers and reading philosophy in French, and general hung around more like a local than a tourist.
I feel that this is the summer of montreal, and I will try to return once or twice more if conditions allow. It is really a wonderfully friendly city – especially since I can get by in both anglophone and French quarters. I didn’t see as many museums as I would have liked, but I did make it to the museum of contemporary art, which had some very decent instillations.
Nell and I even went to Schwartz, where, although I didn’t indulge in their wonderful looking smoked meat sandwiches, I did appreciate the oldness and dirtyness of an 80 year old Montreal institution by eating fries cooked in positively black cooking oil. The place is a real cultural equilizer – most anyone can afford to eat there, and most everyone does – from dirty kids to families to expensive looking business men.
In a few hours, I board a train to take me back to Toronto and normality. I could save money and take the bus, but I can work on the train, and it takes half the time. If I had more money, I’d take the train via1 class – which includes 3 course dinners and expensive wine.
Right now, I’m sitting with my suitcase at cafe cagibri at the corner of St-Laurent and St-Viateur. According to Matthias, this is the heart of cultural montreal, and this cafe certainly indicates it. The ceiling is stamped tin, with cream white paint peeling off where it isn’t already bare. One wall is entirely covered with posters commemorating momentous events in labour history. It even has a cheesy 70’s jukebox. The food is old time vegetarian – think naam rather than that chic place on Main and 6th i Vancouver. Every table and most chairs are different from each other (Sugar Refinery), and there is a small stage. The cafe is mostly anglophone (probably the only place I’ve been where I feel confident ordering in English), but that’s alright – it is a bilingual city after all.
A short walk to the subway and I’ll be whisked back towards Toronto the Good, but at least I’ll have eleven bagels to remind my housemates that Canada also has this place.