Before I even got to Montreal, a traveller I met on the way to New York told me that no one would speak to me if it wasn’t in French. To be honest, I was a little worried because my French is absolutely terrible, but at the end of the day, I could manage on my own. Upon arriving to Montreal, I noticed how much the countryside reflected the open landscapes of Europe. Even the air held that particular country smell I love so dearly. To my surprise, Montreal was a micro-environmental mix of French, modern Canada and the hippy boho lifestyle. I mainly used my time in Montreal to relax, eat and catch up with dear friends. Oh and do a little bit of shopping.
Like all vintage loving beings, I instantly looked up where I could find some good vintage stores and was pleased to know that Saint Laurent street, from beginning to end, was littered with them. If you find the entrance gates to Chinatown and head up the hill, you’re heading in the right direction. Some stores were absolutely packed with eclectic trinkets, dusty books and even birdcages filled with toy dinosaurs. I was on the hunt to sniff out a vintage dress or two but sadly nothing was my size or was too badly damaged. One of my favourite stores had 2 cafe’s inside and a popcorn machine, you could smell it whilst waling up the street and the familiar scent drew me in. I managed to find a 50’s ball gown but her ripped bodice, missing zip and torn sleeves meant that she would have to wait for a more knowledgable and patient person to fix her up.
Towards the top of Saint Laurent was the beginnings of a bustling market. Food stalls were placed right outside vintage stores, second hand stores and more restaurants. It was a hype of activity with some stalls hosting huge lines of hungry visitors. I visited several times in order to sample all the delights. Although there were plenty of heavy options, I was so happy to see mango flowers and fresh fruit. Perfect for a warm day. I managed to try delicious paellas, burgers, fruits, breads and many more things I don’t care to mention incase my waistline will use it against me.
A lot of the vintage stores had a huge men’s selection with many only selling men’s clothing. There were 90’s basketball jerseys, tops and heaps of old military items. Along the way, I stumbled up a hat designer named Ophelie. She had a wonderful mix of vintage shapes done with a modern take. Her wide variety of sizes, colours and finished meant that I was a kid in a candy store full of delicious fashion choices and Im sure a few regrets. I chose a few hats and Ophelie kindly offered to personalise them for me free of charge. I was taken aback by the wonderful service and the fact that now, in my possession, are three beautiful and unique hats made just for me. Oh the simple dreams of a pinup girl.
During my stay, Saint Laurent was hosting a Muriel Festival which drew street artists from all around Canada and wider to the area and they were let loose amongst certain parts of buildings. The artistic interpretations of modern pop culture, art and politics made the stroll around the area a bit like an Easter egg hunt. I never knew what I would see around the next corner. It was nice to stand back and watch some of the artists work on their art. Some were even holding talks at local museums and galleries discussing topics such as ‘women in street art’ and ‘street arts and politics’. You could have spent an entire week just trying to sniff out some of the stunning murals.
One of my favourite little features in the city was a small exhibit on Barbie. Yeah, you know the blonde bombshell and one of the most iconic toys of all time, yeah, that Barbie. Over the years, Barbie has been given a bit of a bad wrap due to her unrealistic body standards and slightly egotistical history, but Ive always admired her ability to get a job in any field. Oh and her wardrobe of course. The exhibit, inside a shopping centre, displayed hundreds of Barbie dolls all dressed up in some of her most stunning outfits and most iconic images. I loved all the outfits from the 1940’s and 50’s, as well as some of the national dresses from around the world and the Bob Mackie collection. The exhibit was well laid out and well lit to make sure you could get up close and drool over ever embellishment. As well as some older styles of dress, newer Barbies were featured displaying Barbies new body shapes, sizes and colours. I really enjoyed seeing the evolution of the doll as well as some of her most iconic styles. It got my creative juices flowing and I can’t wait to get in front of my sewing machine when I get back.
Another personal highlight was catching up with two dear friends, one of which I hadn’t seen in 6 years. Having people who had lived in Montreal for some time meant that they knew where to go for good food! I was treated to what I can only describe as a place that made Nando’s look like you pulled food out of the back of the vegetable crisper. I ate an unhealthy amount of delicious food and washed it all down with copious amounts of bubble tea (the joys of staying near China Town). I tried the best dumplings and taco’s in Montreal and they definitely are worth writing home about. Yum yum.
Although I could have done the whole nine yards and seen all the tourist things, I found that some days I just wanted to relax in the park and people watch. Montreal is a great place to watch the world go by, one of my favourite areas to do so was in The Village. Watching heaps of people walk down a street and be unashamed of who they are was very empowering. The Village, the largest gay area in Canada, was beaming with restaurants, bars, fetish clubs and Im sure at night it’s something to behold. There really was something for everyone and a great place to sit and watch people. I also recommend looking up at the sky every now and then. Over the main drag are multiple rows of coloured baubles which represent the Pride Flag, it was like walking under the rainbow and as the sun set, the baubles would glow.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Montreal. But now, as I speed away on a train heading for Guelph I feel like it’s a very livable city (except in winter) with a calm nature about it. No one seemed to be rushing or rude, and the people that I met along the way were all friendly. Next time Im in Montreal I will try to do more touristy things but in all honesty, I feel really recharged just spending some time relaxing in a beautiful city. I am only a few hours away from my destination and Im looking forward to seeing more of beautiful Canada.
Still haven’t seen a moose yet.