Montreal, QC – travel notes


About a year ago, a friend asked me if I had any recommendations for a coffee place in Edmonton. I think said friend was a bit overwhelmed when I sent him a list of six coffeeshops along with detailed notes on vibe and atmosphere.

The thing is, after years of travel, I finally figured out a great way to keep track of everything (I have a separate document in Evernote for each city along with places to eat, stay, things to do, and, of course, coffee).

While away at India, I started throwing together rough plans before hitting each city – city, population, things to do, places to stay, to eat, to check out.

Here are some rough notes for Rome:

I have not shared these before. But here’s my first stab at a public travel notes post.

Consider this a glimpse into the inside of my head. (Isn’t every blog post? ;))

Montreal, QC
pop’n 1,740,000

– largest city in Quebec
– second largest French speaking city in the world, after… yes, Paris
– home to WADA HQ, Cirque du Soleil
– in 2017, the city unanimously adopted a motion declaring itself a sanctuary city in opposition to the Immigration policy of Donald Trump

Ahh, I forgot how much I love Montreal in the summer.


Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

If you are in Montreal for 24 hours or less, make sure you go and say hello. I have not been to the basilica for years, so this was on my to-do list. This church gives “azure” a whole new meaning. This was also where Celine Dion got married. Talk about a fancy venue. If you get your timing right, you can listen to the organ. Cash only.

Papeterie Casse-Noisette

All things fancy paper, cards, and journals. I am a sucker for stationery, and buy journals everywhere I go. This is the kind of place where I can easily spend an hour, just leafing through notebooks. I left with four. 🙂 Thanks for pointing this one out, D.

Mount Royal Park

Montreal’s Central Park. Go here to hang out on the grass, and watch runners and early evening bootcampers do burpees.


Marche 27

Ok, honestly… With twenty four hours, and thousands (?) of amazing restaurants, I am absolutely stoked with my choice. A tartare bar, where you can pick the type of tartar AND serving size? Yes, please. Each tartar can also come dressed as “Indian”, “Thai” and many more. Great cocktails, and Asian flavours.

St-Viateur Bagel

Obviously. These guys have been hand rolling bagels since 1957. They are also open 24 hours, so this place was happening hell or high water. The plan is to pick up at least a dozen real-deal bagels before we leave town, immediately destroy some (hopefully, not all), and freeze whatever survives the trip home for later enjoyment. For those not in the know, the traditional Montreal bagels are boiled first in honey water, and then baked in wood fired oven. This ain’t your Tim Hortons bagel. Sorry, Tim’s. I walk out with sesame, rosemary and poppy seed. Each needed to be sampled immediately.

Schwartz’s Deli

A bit of a last minute decision run, so I didn’t put much effort into finding THE place for smoked meat, and this was one that popped up the most. Just like with everything else, just because you’ve been doing something for a long time, does not mean you are the best, but it CAN mean that. Individual sandwiches come with two slices of rye bread, a smear of mustard, and three inches of smoked meat. Montreal smoked meat is a very particular thing, so do not expect actual SMOKED flavour. On an empty stomach, these go down well. And we were hungry again in two hours. 🙂 Definitely order a pickle on the side, and if you have three people or more, go for a large plate, where you can assemble your own sandwiches. I do wonder how the smoked meat holds up in the freezer
– next up, I’ll try to bring home a pound ($18 CAD). Cash only.

Also, on my radar:

– Au Pied de Cochon – more tartare!
– Fairmount Bagels – ah, the rivalry between these and St.Viateur. I must decide for myself.
– Olive & Gourmando – serving Pilot coffee, and all things brunch. Gets wayyy too busy because of its central location. Go when it opens, or not at all.


Cafe Resonance

Lots of familiar labels here – Pilot Coffee Roasters (hi, Ana Sora!) and De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters – both Toronto favorites. It’s also a vegan cafe (mmm, avocado toast!) that holds readings and open mic nights. And… wait for it…. FREE refills! I loved how quiet it was here during the day, and you can tell folks come in, settle in, and (hopefully) get shit done. Or browse Facebook. LOL

Saint-Henri micro-torréfacteur

A micro bean roaster tucked away in a lovely neighbourhood. Church pews instead of benches almost had me in tears. Church! Pews! In a coffee shop! Yes!!!! Great thick espresso, and an Ethiopian brew. I have also seen their beans pop up in coffee shops around town.

Caffe In Gamba

Cute ambiance with chandeliers, and velvet couches, but I wasn’t a fan. Typical combination of well recognized roasters – 49th Parallel and Intelligentsia (Peet’s Coffee? No, thanks).

Cafe Myriade

Another little hipster spot, serving 49th Parallel (I will have to check out this one when I am in Vancouver). This is “come in, get coffee, leave” kind of place – there are bar tables along the windows if you’d like, but no tables or desks – think half empty storefront, like those of the high end designers. The ambiance is similar to smaller locations of Sam James coffee bar in Toronto – all wood and concrete, great coffee, but not a lot of cozy.

Arts Cafe

Yes, this was probably my favorite. Hanging lightbulbs and bookshelves. I saw Montreal’s Kittel and Vancouver’s 49th Parallel here. Nicaraguan La Roca was on tap. The notes were listed as “strudel, coconut, round”. Definitely no fruit notes, and therefore, not my favorite. I am still partial to strawberry, jammy notes in Ethiopians, like Burundi and Kilenso. AND they serve booze. [Note – great for lunch, not breakfast – they open at 12pm! I’d need at least two coffees before then. :)]


The coffee counter in the middle, surrounded by light wood and polished concrete. Very similar vibe to Myriade, except there are few long tables where you see the usual suspects with their Apple laptops. May be good for work, but not for a romantic date. They roast their own coffee – bonus. All shots are double, and when I requested a single espresso, the barista notified me that she would essentially have to pour half out. So, double it was. And it was… well, watery.

Next, on my radar:

Cafe Olympico
Cafe Odesssa
Cafe Plume


Posted August 3, 2017

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