For us Canadians, July 1st is a long weekend, namely Canada Day. Over the last two years, Elaine and I have talked about a trip to my old hometown of Montreal. In recent months, she has been staying at home due to problems with her arm and shoulder and we put any trips on hold. Thankfully she felt well enough to head out to Montreal for Canada Day. For me, it’s a trip down memory lane, for Elaine it was her first chance to experience Montreal. The forecast was not calling for rain that weekend, which was a gift given the cool, wet summer we experienced during June. Montreal is a walking city and the last thing we needed was crappy weather.
We booked a modest hotel in the downtown core, close to St. Denis street where all the cool stuff happens over the long weekend, as well as the kickoff of the world famous Montreal Jazz Festival. All things considered, we were lucky to find a room, let alone at a reasonable price.
En-route to the downtown core, we stopped over in Kirkland, a suburb on the West Island of Montreal. I wanted to show Elaine my childhood town as well as the old house at 92 Parkridge Rd. Since 1978, not much as changed, the streets and the homes were still in great condition and the area kept its charms. I snapped a few photos of the old home. That tree out front was really quite small when we left, the windows have changed as has the front door, otherwise the house is just as I remembered it.
On the first night in the city, we walked all throughout old Montreal, which as as close to seeing a Europe as one can get in a major North American city. It was wonderful evening and a very long walk indeed. After our overpriced dinner at Gibby’s Restaurant, we took a cab back to the hotel, it was late and we were too tired to trek back.
On our second day, we set out to locate my Grandparent’s old apartment complex in downtown Montreal. My father could not remember the exact address, so last winter, my brother and I used google maps and google street to do our best to locate it. We think we found it at 8750 Avenue de l’Esplanade and I needed to see it again. From the photo below, I think we nailed it.
Back in the old days, the neighbourhood was predominantly Italian which made it well suited for my Italian Grandmother and her sister who occupied both sides of this flat. My Grandmother occupied the upper left unit and her sister, the upper left. Again, little had changed other than new railings and doors.
There was a park down the street where my brother and I used to play. In the 1960’s and ’70’s that park was filled with Italian children playing on swings and seesaws and old Italian men playing Bocce ball. Today, the Italians are long gone, but the Bocce Ball courts remain. My Grandmother’s old neighbourhood is still a relatively poor area, but now it is a multicultural mosaic of Indians, Arabs, Portuguese and Asians. I suspect there is very little Bocce Ball played anymore and pudgy Italian kids are few and far between.
As many you may remember, the now defunct Montreal Expos baseball team used to play at Jarry Park before they relocated to play out their remaining years at the Stade Olympique. Jarry Park is an old school outdoor baseball field and I can still remember sitting on those benches watching some games with my Dad. Around the old ball park, which is now Stade Uniprix, is Jarry Park itself, which has become a sprawling green park right in the heart of Montreal. Unlike Toronto, Montreal is full of properly maintained large parks which are well used by all manner of people for walking, rollerblading, skateboarding and picnics.
No trip to Montreal is complete without a visit to Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen, which is arguably, the most famous smoked meat deli in the world. No matter what time of day you go, whether early in the morning or late in the evening, be prepared to stand in line to get in. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. I have been there more times than I can count and will always go out of my way to eat there. It was Elaine’s first time eating at Shwartz’s and she was glad she waited.
Like most tourists to Montreal, we took in the usual sites such as Oratoire St. Joseph, Notre Dame Cathedral and the waterfront. Two days is barely enough to scratch the surface and we’ll be back in September. I love this city, not necessarily because I grew up there, but rather because it is such a vibrant place. The streets are teeming with interesting people, remarkable street art, beautiful old buildings, world class restaurants, funky bars, cafes, music and more.
Here’s a little drunken video I made of some Dixieland street musicians performing on Rue St Denis.
The gallery below is an amalgamation of the photos taken by Elaine and I. It was also a good excuse for me to better learn how to use the selective focus effects of the lensbaby optics on my Olympus OMD EM-5. Elaine took some remarkable photos with her Panasonic G3 and I’m proud of her work.