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Montreal City Trip

The picturesque Square Dorchester in Montreal

MONTREAL TOUR: DAY 3

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In this city of immigrants, waves of French and British making their way along Boulevard Saint-Laurent gave way to Jewish, Italian and Portuguese arrivals. Wonderful vestiges remain, especially at Schwartz's, a renowned Jewish-style deli famous for its smoked meat, cured by the 400-pound barrel in a spice mix for 10 to 12 days, then smoked for eight hours.

Schwartz's (Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission)

To the south is the quaint neighborhood of Chinatown — food, housewares, trinkets and the tried-and-true Chinese buffet, Jade will make that clear. While much less bustling than most big city Chinatowns, it's also much cleaner, and boasts a relatively large Vietnamese community. In winter, a stop for a steaming bowl of beef pho noodle soup is necessary.

Further north, the Plateau neighborhood has become one of the city's most trendy areas, its walk-ups boasting spiral staircases with real estate prices to match. Québécois artists and intellectuals call the Plateau home, and its ubiquitous bistros are still popular as BYOBs. Pick up a bottle of Chardonnay at the government liquor store (SAQ) or depanneur and head to L'Entrepont on Hotel de Ville Ave. For classic French fare such as duck breast or chicken paté, make for L'Express on St. Denis Street. This is as close to a Parisian brasserie as you'll find in Montréal, with waiters decked out in black and white, mirrors galore, complimentary Dijon, gherkin pickles, warm baguette and bavette steak frites for all.

Saint-Laurent Boulevard (Credit: Matthias Berthet)

In the nearby Mile End district, you'll find two Jewish classics: Wilensky's deli, which is open weekdays only, and Fairmount Bagel, open 24 hours. The latter serves Montréal's notorious crunchy-crusted, slightly sweet bagels, fresh-boiled-and-baked to order. Pick up a dozen and virtually anything you could want to put on them, then head back south, past Italian delis and Portuguese bakeries, toward Mont-Royal, the mountainous park that fills the center of the city. Ambitious hikers (or taxi riders) will find breathtaking city views: skyscrapers up close, Olympic Park in the distance, the St. Lawrence as far as you can see.

The best way to wind down on a Montréal weekend is at the Tam-Tam Jam, held every Sunday in summer. It starts small, with just one or two people banging congas at the foot of the statue of Georges-Étienne Cartier, at the park's western edge. But before long they're joined by dozens and dozens of drummers — congas, bongos, snares, tambourines and more — performing for the crowd that lounges on the hillside. More than that, they're performing for themselves, a wordless spectacle that's eclectic and electric, tie-dyed, worldly and a worthy emblem for this city that straddles two cultures and welcomes many more.

For more information, visit the Montréal Tourism website at www.tourisme-montreal.org.

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* Images: Square Dorchester: © Tourisme Montréal; Bicycling on the Plateau Mont-Royal: © Tourisme Montréal, Stéphan Poulin; Tam-Tam at Mount Royal Park: © Tourisme Montréal, Stéphan Poulin

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