When we were in Montreal last year (which is where this whole insane idea started), we stayed mostly in the Downtown/Plateau areas. Downtown is like you’d expect from any major metropolitan downtown, while the Plateau is the kind of residential, Bohemian, re-developing area just west of downtown, similar to Greenpoint or Williamsburg in New York or Montrose in Houston.
Because we were there in the heart of Montreal’s festival season (which, in my humble opinion, is the best in the world, and most of the activities are free), and to boot it was the city’s 375th anniversary, there was a ton going in the Quartier des Spectacles/Place de Arts, which is the city’s pedestrian-only massive outdoor arts and events area. That means we only occasionally ventured outside of this area – once to have dinner with a friend in Anjou to the north, once to have brunch with a friend in Atwater to the south – but mostly we took in the heart of the city.
So when looking for our place to stay this year, that’s where our search started. There were some options, some too-cheap-too-believe, and many where we requested a booking, only to have it cancelled because it was ‘too early.’ Starting to get nervous about not finding a place (which, we’ve since learned, we shouldn’t have been, that’s just kind of how this industry goes), we expanded our search radius.
And, we accidentally stumbled upon the best decision we could’ve made. We’ll be staying just north of downtown, in an area known as “the Gay Village” (though they seem to be attempting to re-brand as just “the Village.”)
That left us on a quiet street, just off a street full of shops and local restaurants, and about a 500 meter walk from a grocery store, a major concert hall, a comedy club, and an art gallery. We’re “around the corner” from the nearest metro stop (about a 5 minute ride into town), and if we feel like it, it’s still only about a mile walk to the Place de Arts. We’re within 3 blocks of about 6 bakery/coffee shops, ranging from local French bistros to Tim Hortons and Starbucks, if we’re feeling basic.
And here’s the kicker, that we didn’t know when we booked it: the walking to all of these places will be done on the nearest major thoroughfare (about 100 yards away): Rue St. Catherine. Which shuts down to car traffic in the summer, and becomes a giant pedestrian walkway/sidewalk restaurant/street-sale.
We’ll never have to eat a meal inside for the whole 2 months we’re there.
The photo above is of Rue St. Catherine during the summer. They line the entire stretch with pink balls strung across the street. How can you not be happy there?
This was an important reminder to us that this trip is more about adventure than it is about engineering specific outcomes. We can make plans, but we also have to be ready to let things happen to us.
More About the Gay Village:
This is an area that in the 1970s was the epicenter of Canada’s equivalent of Stonewall in New York, where gay bathhouses were raided by government authorities, which ultimately led to Quebec becoming the first government in Canada to pass a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. At our nearest corner, at Rue St. Catherine and Rue Panet, sits the Parc de l’espoir or Park of Hope – which is a memorial park remembering Quebecois who died of AIDS. This is where Montrealiters gather to remember attacks on the LGBTQ community throughout the world, such as the Orlando night club shooting in 2016.