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Tour Montreal

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The Cultural Metropolis
European Ambience in a Contemporary Setting


The picturesque Square Dorchester in Montreal
Square Dorchester

MONTREAL TOUR: DAY 3

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. Today, the homes and businesses they once owned along this street are becoming the province of Asian immigrants. A quick stroll through the markets of Chinatown (food, housewares, trinkets and the tried-and-true Oriental buffet, Jade) will make that clear. But some wonderful vestiges remain. Further up the boulevard, stop at Schwartz's for a local Jewish delicacy: brisket of beef is cured by the 400-pound barrel in a spice mix for ten to twelve days, smoked for eight hours, and then steamed before serving. Although you could order yours lean (or get chicken, turkey or the like), real Montréalers won't respect you unless you eat the full-on version.

Bicycling on the Plateau Mont-Royal in Motreal
Bicycling on the Plateau Mont-Royal

The Plateau neighborhood to the north 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 like duck breast or chicken paté head to L'Express on St. Denis Street near Roy. L'Express is as close to a Parisian brasserie as you'll find in Montréal, with waiters decked out in black and white, mirrors galore and thoroughly satisfying dishes.

In the nearby Mile End district, you'll find two Jewish classics: The brownstones around Fairmount Street were made famous by Mordecai Richler, Montréal's English-speaking author of record — his Duddy Kravitz ate at Wilensky's deli (open weekdays only). Down the street, Fairmount Bagel (open 24 hours) serves crunchy-crusted, slightly sweet bagels, fresh-boiled-and-baked (you can watch) and known to shake the confidence of New Yorkers. Pick up a dozen and virtually anything you could want to put on them, and head back south, past Italian delis and Portuguese homes (recognizable by an image of the Madonna on a plaque by the front door), toward Mont-Royal, the mountain park that fills the center of the island. 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 Tam-Tam Jam happens every Sunday during summer at Mount Royal Park in Montreal
The Tam-Tam Jam at Mount Royal Park

Our favorite 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. Before long they're joined by dozens and dozens of drummers — congas, bongos, snares, tambourines and whistles in rhythms Brazilian or African — performing for the crowd lounging 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

(Updated: 07/06/11 BLS)


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