: : E X P O 5 7 : : HEALTH COACH TRAVELS to Montréal : : editorial part three


Avenue du Parc Angel
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Carry me forward

I have become a confirmed flatlander. I interpret the transformation that I experienced when we climbed up and out of the confining superstructure of downtown Montréal, and over Mont Royal Parc, as proof. The distress I had been feeling for the first two days of our trip suddenly disapated when we came onto Avenue du Parc, high above the historic McGill University campus. I felt uplifted by the open expansiveness of the bright and pretty boulevard. My eyes relaxed and focused as everything came down to eye level in the quaint, bohemian neighbourhoods of Le Plateau and Mile End.


Itinerary
Saturday 
Mont Royal to Le Plateau and Mile End
  • coffee/breakfast
  • walk to the top of Mont Royal - panoramic view of city 
  • meet with our friend, Chantal LaFrenière - visit the neighbourhood: public art, history, character, culture, artisanal boutiques and restaurants, world-class bagels, brewpubs, and the unexpected ...
  • Lunch: Crudessence
  • Birthday Dinner: L'Express (reservation recommended)



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: : E X P O 5 7 : : 
HEALTH COACH TRAVELS to Montréal



Avenue du Parc is one of central Montreal's major north-south streets. It derives its name from Mount Royal Park, along which it runs. Between Mount Royal Avenue and Pine Avenue, the street separates the eastern side of the mountain park and the smaller Jeanne Mance Park (formerly known as Fletcher's Field, often referenced in Montreal literature).



The Sunday Tam Tams
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Avenue du Parc Angel
(a monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier, 1919)

The angel is a great meeting place and famous for the Sunday Tam Tams. Our friend, Chantal LaFrenière, arranged to meet us there. We relaxed for awhile at the foot of the statue, enjoying the fresh air and green beauty, and taking the time to catch up on personal updates. Together, we crossed the avenue and short-cut through an esplanade of trees in Jeanne Mance Park to Mile End, and Crudessence, for lunch. Chantal described to us how she has often jumped onto the back of an idling scooter as the driver waits in halted traffic, when she needs to get downtown quickly, calling out: porte moi en avant - carry me forward! 


Chantal avec ami
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Montréal IT GIRL, Chantal LaFrenière

Chantal is a dear friend of both my daughter and I - there are no limiting and restrictive age barriers between us. She was born in the French community of St. Boniface in Winnipeg, and moved to Montréal to study fashion design at Lasalle College International. She is the daughter of the important Canadian artist, Roger LaFrenière. Chantal is a talented, creative artist, and every moment shared is a curious discovery. She had just come back from a two week, silent meditation retreat. You won't get the cute derrière that Chantal has developed, running and cycling up and down the hills of Montréal - from living on the flat prairies. At the end of the evening, before she walked home, Chantal produced from her tiny fanny pack, the most handsomely tailored walking jacket that she had designed and made; I will see if she has an image to share with us, here.


Crudessence
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Crudessence 
105 Rue Rachel Ouest - (514) 510-9299

Every bite was delicious, fresh, made-from-scratch, satisfying, gourmet vegetarian. This is a raw, whole food, natural and organic, plant-based, vegan and gluten-free restaurant. Each table is served with a bottle of house-made spirulina water to share. We savoured the aromatic, curried coconut milk dahl; fresh made smoothies and juices; a poke bowl; salad, and a wrap. Our enthusiastic enjoyment did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. We were sent away with a complementary slice of superb, raw, berry cheesecake, which we promptly devoured between us, right there on the street corner. We felt thoroughly nourished.



Montréal Mile End Essentials
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Le Plateau Mont Royal - Mile End 
It's a good thing we stopped for a superfood lunch, because an afternoon with Chantal is an adventure. We ran around the neighbourhood for hours on end, pausing on street corners to hangout; joining the Saturday afternoon crowd for a leg of beer at Dieux-du-ciel! brewpub; sharing impromptu fresh-baked treats on the sidewalk; through street corner parks; in the moody weather; looking at public art; slipping up back lanes; visiting Leonard Cohen's doorstep - laden with gifts of wine, notes, and flowers; probiotic-rich Tequila shots and games at The Ping Pong Club, and finally, arriving late, after an athletic sprint of more than twelve Montréal blocks, through a gentle and invigorating rainfall, to a special birthday dinner on Rue St. Denis. I felt at home here, with Chantal as our superlative host. Mile End has the densest population of artists in Canada, in a borough consisting of ten city blocks. Chantal has taken a personal interest in a particular issue: Public washrooms make comeback in Montreal.


Bohemian 
MTL's bohemian days are not over, and remarkably, it loses no hipster cool in retaining the old with the new. This is one of the things that makes Montréal singularly unique. This neighbourhood bridges the past with the present, dynamically, and nothing is lost or thrown away.


Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! 
29 Laurier Ouest - (514) 490-9555

I had been yearning for a leg of beer since the first, late evening in the city, when we had difficulty finding a place to eat in Old Montréal and downtown after 11:00 P.M. This is a popular brewpub with a history of award winning,  pioneering, and innovative craft beers; made with great integrity. We each ordered an artisanal beer and my total pleasure at being presented with a thirst-quenching, tall flask, (the size of a lower leg, hence: a leg of beer), was mirrored back to me in facial expression, body gesture, and sound by our server. No language was required. Most satisfactory and enlightening.



Valerie, Chantal, and Clare 
playing games, shooting probiotic-rich Tequilas and selfies 
at The Ping Pong Club

The Ping Pong Club 
5788 St Laurent Blvd - (514) 272-7464

This is a contemporary, fun, casual neighbourhood club with games, a bar, a DJ, and food. You can dance from the shuffle board to the ping pong table! Unexpected excitement on a Saturday afternoon.



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St-Viateur Bagel 
263 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest - (514) 276-8044 

We enjoyed meeting families of the orthodox jewish communities on the street as we faithfully kept our promised date with a couple dozen sesame seed bagels (1500 seeds minimum per bagel), with cream cheese and smoked salmon, also purchased in-store. Some of the best food I ate in MTL, were the toasted St-Viateur bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon at the Airbnb condo. St-Viateur Bagel delivers to Winnipeg.




L'Express 
3927 Rue St Denis - (514) 845-5333

We arrived almost a half hour late for our reservation on the busiest day and time at this revered establishment, with an extra, unplanned guest. The entrance was busy but we were quickly identified, and our errors announced. The situation was too awkward to explain my oversight of having failed to include my friend in my birthday dinner plans. Thankfully, the host and the L'Express team fit us in seamlessly.

L'Express is a special category of perfection. Opened in 1980, the challenge for the Toulouse chef and his team is to maintain quality in every dish, daily, over the longterm. All aspirations of providing a Parisian bistro, french, fine dining experience, possible for even the most restricted budget, have been attained here. For example, we appreciated help choosing a simple, red wine  (the selection is faultless) for the three of us to share. The remarkable thing was, this bottle gave each of us, three, generous glasses. The secret lay in the wine glass itself. 

We tucked into the complementary jar of house-made gherkins, using them as an appetite refresher, and nearly ate them all. We started with octopus and lentil salad; a simple green salad that fulfilled my endless desire for delicately crunchy and convoluted-textured lettuce; a warm goat cheese salad, and bone marrow with coarse salt, little toasts, and a wee jar of house-made mustard. We eased into our main course dishes of shrimp risotto; grilled salmon, and house-made ravioli. We shared three different desserts with coffee. 

Suddenly, Chantal burst open with sincere delight: I love this! I see that this is special. I will treat myself and come again!

The design and decor are unchanged, with style and integrity made to outlast time itself. I could easily imagine myself in an exciting film noir movie. My only regret is that we did not eat here more often. Chantal remarked that the staff were egoless.



21 Balançoires (21 Swings)

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Public art


Repurposing: Public spaces and courtyards
Montréal is old. Montréal is not afraid of old. Montréal has not forsaken old. Montréal transforms the old; repurposing the old with creative ingenuity into friendly, communal spaces. Montréal honours and celebrates old.

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Seeing involves all of the senses, which is fortunate because I experienced googly eye (advanced raggedy eye) for the first two days of our time in Montreal. Embracing the experience involves being active.

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Sunday

Slow moving, lazy indulgence was the theme of the day for us mothers. We relaxed at our Airbnb condo and gave ourselves calming clay facial masks and vitamin c eye masks. We walked downtown and shopped at Zara for my grandson. A fashion photo is imminent ... 

We stayed in for dinner and a movie: Brit & Chips and Absolutely Fabulous.



Adieu, Montréal 
I am not an experienced or skilled traveler. I had unrealistic ideas after studying Montréal on google maps, I discovered that it was not as easy to find our way around, on the ground. I became expert at evaluating a business using photos and overall review ratings. I would space-pack and bring my pillow next time. I had difficulty adjusting my personal habits. But my hope that the trip might galvanize my resolve to take the next, big steps in my professional life did work. 

regrets: 



Upcoming trips:

Clare:Curaçao 
Valerie: hiking in the Cascade mountains, British Columbia, with my brother



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