Monday, March 26, 2012

Table of Contents

Pointing the camera into a window can yield fascinating results, as seen in this window of Ogilvie's department store on Ste. Catherine Street. You see the reflections of store manikins, as well as other buildings, cars and many passersby. 

Montreal will capture your heart, as it has for millions of others.

The Soul of a Woman in Montreal

The Soul of  Montreal's Jazz, Food, Life

The Soul of Montreal in Reflection, music by Pia

About Me
My Photo

I was born in the United States but moved to Montreal with my family. I spent high school and college in Montreal. I've since returned to the U.S., but return to Montreal frequently. Have a B.A. in English Literature from McGill University and an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Have been writing about Montreal and Quebec travel for 10 years, based on my years there and on my trips back. Wrote book reviews the The Montreal Gazette and covered arts, music and theater for The Globe and Mail in Toronto.

No matter how you brew your cup of Joe, there's little argument that coffee ranks high among the world's best-loved hot beverages. Roasted, French pressed or espresso, Montreal. . . .

Lying on Montreal's West Island, the historic village of Pointe Claire was settled in 1698 as an outpost along fur trading routes. In 1713, it became a Catholic parish and a. . .

We are on Rue St. Paul Est in Old Montreal, where sidewalk cafes are as common as Paris. Old Montreal offers exquisite. . .

The 16th and 17th Centuries  Before Montreal was a city, it was Hochelaga, a village the Iroquois had established at the foot of Mount Royal . . .

The 1970's ushered in many political changes, and the rise of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) to power. French Canadians in Quebec had suffered from centuries of oppression from. . .

All content and photos copyright Kathryn Esplin. © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin 2006 - infinity. All rights reserved. Photos copyright Kathryn Esplin, unless stated otherwise.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Insider's Guide to Political Instability in the 1960s and 1970s

The former Montreal Stock Exchange

The 1970's ushered in many political changes and the rise of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) to power. French Canadians suffered from centuries of oppression, and the PQ wanted to re-establish French Canadian dominance in Quebec. The former Montreal Stock Exchange was bombed as part of this era of political unrest. The former Montreal Stock Exchange is now the Centaur Theatre.
One needs only to have lived in Montreal before the 1970s to see the affluence that was clustered in the mostly English-speaking, well-heeled enclaves such as Westmount or the Town of Mount Royal, or in the comfortable middle-  to upper-middle class towns of Montreal West and Notre Dame de Grace. Vast sections on Montreal's east side were economically deprived. In 1969, mailboxes on the Westmount's streets were removed because of routine mailbox bombings in Westmount.

Since 1963, the terrorist group, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ)  had carried out several bombings that resulted in the deaths of six people. These were mostly the Westmount mail box bombings. But on February 13, 1969, the Montreal Stock Exchange was bombed, which caused extensive damage and injured 27 people. The FLQ had stolen several tons of dynamite from military and industrial sites. The FLQ then warned  that more attacks were to come.

By 1970, 23 FLQ members were in jail, including four convicted of murder. In February, two men  were arrested in Montreal for possession of a sawn-off shotgun, as well as a communiqué announcing the kidnapping of the Israeli consul. Police raids during this time yielded significant munitions weaponry and dynamite. 

A draft of a ransom note to be used for the kidnapping of the American consul was also found during these raids. This was a dangerous time to be in Quebec.  The demonstrations were becoming increasingly violent, such as the Quebec Libre demonstration in which protestors yelled, "Quebec pour les Quebecois" (Quebec for the Quebeckers - meaning the French-speaking Quebeckers). Molotov cocktails were thrown.

The October Crisis, 1970 

The October Crisis of 1970 is well known in Quebec but few in the U.S.A or elsewhere are familiar with the details. 

On October 5, the FLQ kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross, followed by the demand to release convicted or detained FLQ members.  

  •  October 5, FLQ Liberation Cell kidnapped James Cross, the British Trade Comissioner.
  •  October 8, FLQ broadcast their manifesto to all Quebec media outlets.
  • October 10, the FLQ kidnapped Quebec Labor Minister Pierre Laporte.
  • October 13, reporters asked Trudeau how far he would go to protect peace and he replied: "Just watch me." 
  • October 15, in separate events, members of separatist groups spoke at the University of Montreal; 3,000 students gathered in Montreal in support of the FLQ. 
  • October 16, Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act, which suspended habeas corpus, which enabled police to enter and search without a warrant. This allowed police to apprehend and keep in custody individuals suspected of terrorist links. 
  • October 16, The FLQ announced Laporte has been executed. 
  • October 30, Rene Levesque, journalist and future Quebec Premier wrote that "The Army occupies Quebec. It is unpleasant but undoubtedly necessary in times of crisis."
  • November 6, Bernard Lortie was arrested and charged with Laporte's murder. 
  • December 3, kidnapped minister Cross is released. Simultaneously, five FLQ terrorists, Marc Carbonneau, Yves Langlois, Jacques Lanctot, Jacques Cossette-Trudel and wife Louise Lanctot were flown to Cuba in Canadian Forces aircraft, arranged by the Canadian government and Fidel Castro. On December 27, the remaining three members of the FLQ cell responsible for Laporte's murder were arrested.

By 1977, Bill 101 was passed, which meant that Quebec's official language would be French and not English and French, as had been the case prior to 1977.
Copyright © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin. 2006- ad infinitum. Photos copyright © Kathryn Esplin 2006- ad infitum. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Insider's Guide to Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille in Pointe Claire

Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille in Pointe Claire is located in the historic 1850 Canada Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in Pointe Claire.

First settled in 1698 as an outpost along fur trading routes, the historic village of Pointe Claire lies on Montreal's comfortable West Island.  In 1713, Pointe Claire became a Catholic parish, and, in 1854, a municipality. Today, this charming town is made up of mostly English speaking, middle- to upper-middle income residents, who live in single-family homes built on spacious, wooded lots.

As a tourist, sometimes you want gourmet food. At other times, you want something simpler, a burger perhaps, but definitely not fast food.

Enter the Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille. This local chain started in 1996 on Rue Montagne in downtown Montreal and has grown rapidly in its 19 years of existence. The franchise added a second pub on Prince Arthur, a third in the borough of Notre Dame des Grace (NDG). In 2010, the Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille took up residence in Pointe Claire's historic 1850 Canada Hotel along Lakeshore Blvd. At the time, some townsfolk expressed concern that a pub was not compatible with the village's sedate profile.

The pub grub is great at this Celtic-themed eatery. Start with a house or Caesar salad, French onion soup or sweet potato fries, which can be had for $5.99 each. (All amounts are in Canadian dollars. Prices may not be current prices.) Add vegetable crudites at $8.99 or garlic cheese bread for $6.99. The pub offers a standard pub menu, plus international favorites such as nachos, Cajun chicken nachos, samosas, curry poutine (Yes, I said "curry poutine!") and fried Calimari. 

The specialties are varied. Jumbo capon wings or chicken fillets come with a choice of honey garlic sauce or cider BBQ sauce in medium, spicy or kick-ass hot. The wings are served in four to 12 pieces, priced between $7.99 and $12.99. The chicken fillets are served in four or six pieces at $8.99 and $11.99. Fans of Celtic cuisine would love the County Louth Irish Stew or the Beef and Stout Stew at $13.99.

This reviewer loves the Beef and Stout Stew,  the Pub Cheeseburger at $10.99 and the blackened Cajun salmon at $16.99. For beer, the locally brewed McAuslan St. Amboise pale and the Griffon blonde are among the top local craft beers.

In Pointe Claire, Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille in is located at 322 Chemin du Bord-du-Lac-Lakeshore (322 Lakeshore Blvd (t) 514.694.5858) The servers don Celtic attire, with female servers wearing kilted skirts. The pub hosts sports on its TV.

It also features excellent Montreal micro brews. Most reviews on Urban Spoon and Yelp rate Ye Olde Orchard Pub very highly. The pub would be wise to consider larger locations, since the popularity of this restaurant chain frequently results in a packed house. The location in Pointe Claire is small. Expect a wait on weekend evenings. A new location in the Laurentian ski village of St. Sauveur opened recently.


Locations for Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille:

322 Lakeshore Blvd (t) 514.694.5858
 20 Prince Arthur W (t) 514.845.7772
 1189 de la Montagne (t) 514.874.1569
5563 Monkland Ave (t) 514.484.1569
173 Rue Principale, St. Sauveur des Monts (t) 450.227.888

Copyright © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin 2006 - ad infitum Photos copyright © Kathryn Esplin 2006- ad infinitum. All rights reserved.  

The Insider's Guide to Old Montreal

Montreal is one of the oldest and most charming  settlements in North America.

 Old Montreal is understandably one of the prime tourist attractions for visitors. 

Originally, Montreal was an Iroquois settlement named Hochelaga when Jacques Cartier sailed from France in 1535, seeking a waterway to China and Japan. 

The actual founding of Montreal occurred in 1642, when it was named Ville Marie, was by Paul Chomedey, who was the sieur de Maisonneuve.

Rue St. Paul, where sidewalk cafes are as common as Paris and exquisite dishes from French and European cuisines. The secret is the relaxed pace of life where you sip wine and spend an entire afternoon.

People watching is as an end in itself.

Below, a gallery, one of several fine galleries that feature original art and sculpture in Old Montreal.

Not only is Le Papillon's  onion soup reportedly superb (below) but patrons have been known to order endless plates of escargot and mussels, which comes with a scrumptious  blue cheese sauce. 

Reviewers report that the braised rabbit and salmon are tender, the price reasonable and the service superb.

Le Papillon offers continental service, which is rare in the U.S., except in the most expensive restaurants, but such service is common in Old Montreal. 

 Le Senateur restaurant is another fine dining establishment in Old Montreal (not shown) that offers exquisite dishes, white linen tablecloths and continental service.

Bonsecours Market dates from  1847. 

Bonsecours Street above, was laid out in 1665, along with Jacques Cartier, St. Sulpice and a few others.

The building foreground right is the Maison Pierre du Calvert; the red building is the restaurant Maison Pierre du Calvert. 

At left, the original stones, built when this street was gridded in 1665.  

Benjamin Franklin stayed here and sought  Calvert's support for troops for the Revolutionary War. 

Calvert complied with Franklin's request, but was  imprisoned for this. 

The inn is now for sale, a tragedy, since this historic site is truly one of the most luxurious hotels and restaurants around. 

Brad Pitt and many other celebrities have stayed here.

The Bonsecour church was built over ruins of the first chapel  in 1771 and is situated over the ruins of the first chapel built in 1655 and burned in 1754. 

This church is commonly called The Sailor's church after sailors made offerings in gratitude to the Virgin Mary for delivering them safely to the port of Montreal.

Below, the Verre de l'Ange looks enticing but reviewers say that the ownership has changed and that the food is not well prepared.

Old Montreal  always teems with life. 

There is simply no such thing as a bad day in Old Montreal, weather not withstanding. 

During inclement weather, tourists and residents alike take to the indoor cafes.

 The architecture in this office building seems bombastic by our simpler contemporary tastes, but in its day, this building was  an excellent example of the Art deco period. 

It also resembles a certain building named "The Architect's" building of the same era and of a similar style. 

The Architect's building was destroyed in the 1960s to make way for newer buildings.

Below, tourists enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn caleche.

In Montreal, the caleche has been a tourist attraction for at least five decades.

 Recently, advocacy groups have attempted to ban the caleche, because of  collisions with automobiles.

The Basilica Notre Dame sits at 110 Notre Dame West on the corner of Rue St. Sulpice  in Montreal  and is one of four basilicas in Montreal. 

The first church on this site, built in 1672, was the parish church for Ville Marie, the former name of Montreal.  

By the 1800s, the congregation had outgrown the original church building and plans for a new building were made. 

The groundbreaking for the new building was in 1823 and was completed in 1843 in a Gothic Revival style. 

At the time, the Notre Dame was the largest church in North America. Pavarotti sang in the Notre Dame and Celine Dion married in the Notre Dame. 

Its pipe organ dates from 1891 and includes more than 9000 pipes. 

It was elevated to the status of  basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1982.  

The church now charges an entry fee of $5, unless visitors are attending mass. 

A special light show runs Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets: $10 adults; $9 seniors; $5 children and teens.

Copyright  ©  The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin. 2006-2017 Photos copyright © Kathryn Esplin 2006-2017. All rights reserved. 

The Insider's Guide to The Love of Coffee

Van Houtte's

No matter how you brew your cup of Joe, there's little argument that coffee ranks high among the world's best-loved hot beverages. Roasted, French pressed or espresso, Montreal offers several coffee houses to satisfy even the most discriminating of coffee palates.

Montreal's Van Houtte coffee is the city's premier gourmet coffee, and the story of how this European-inspired cafe etched its taste upon Montrealers is a fascinating rags-to-riches tale. In 1912, French-born Albert-Louis Van Houtte arrived in Montreal with a dream of importing horses.

That dream did not work out, and Van Houtte yearned for the rich taste of coffee as prepared in France. Pursuing his dream, he traveled to New York in 1919 to buy a coffee roaster and he began roasting coffee beans. At first, Montrealers found his European roast too bitter for their North American palates, so he blended his roast to make it milder. This blend was a hit. Van Houtte's coffee roasting business was born.

After Van Houtte's death in 1944, his children expanded the business, and by the 1980s, they created a chain of cafe-bistros that served gourmet coffee, cakes and sandwiches. Today, there are more than 60 Van Houtte cafe-bistros throughout Quebec, with 23 cafes in Montreal. 

Locations in Montreal include 500 Sherbrooke Street West, 359 President Kennedy, 165 St. Paul Street West,  2000 McGill College, plus others listed on the website. There's even an intriguing blog about coffee in Paris. To locate a Van Houtte cafe-bistro nearest you, use the website's Find a cafe-bistro locator. The typical cafe-bistro menu includes filtered and espresso-based special coffees, muffins, bagels and croissants, ciabattas, wraps, tortilla club, whole-grain sandwiches, foccacios and hot meals.

Of course, no bistro is without its offering of decadent desserts.
Jazz and blues are piped into each cafe-bistro. WiFi at all locations. Special Van Houtte K cups are also available. Do you prefer woodsy or fruity coffees? Find out on Van Houtte's Discover Your Coffee Profile quiz.  

The Second Cup
The Second Cup
is Canada's largest coffee house, with its headquarters in Ontario and 360 cafes in Canada, including 30 locations in Montreal. These include: 1551 St. Denis, 800 Place Victoria, 2200 McGill College Avenue and 5206 Cote des Neiges. 

The Second Cup blog lists maple as the flavor for March, which is the prime time for maple sugaring. In addition to whole bean and ground coffee in roasts that range from light to dark, The Second Cup also offers Swiss Water decaf, organic and certified fair trade coffee, as well as flavored coffees, teas and flavored hot chocolate. Cinnamon cookies, summer fruits and pumpkin treats are available seasonally. Live music by local artists in many cafes. WiFi in all cafes.

Café Dépôt

At the 24-hour Cafe Depot,  the baristas speak French and English. Headquartered in Quebec, Café Dépôt franchises began in 1994. Today, 76 Café Dépôt coffee houses exist in Quebec. The Café Dépôt in the photo at right is located is at 3601 Blvd St. Laurent, on the corner of St. Laurent Prince Arthur. This location signals the beginning of the Prince Arthur Pedestrian Mall, which runs along Prince Arthur from St. Laurent to Carré St. Louis on Laval Street. Like Van Houtte's cafe-bistros, Café Dépôt offers wraps, sandwiches, fruit smoothies, fruit drinks and cold salads, as well as cakes. 

WiFi is available at most locations. Low fat, hot or iced coffee is available in macchiato, cappuccino or maple cream (sugar-free is also available), plus exotic teas and Nutrivo, Café D
épôt's signature banana yogurt smoothie. 

For lunch or supper, pair a cup of Asiago bisque soup or pesto salad with a Lyon or Szechuan baguetine. Or, try the Montreal classique with pastrami, swiss and creole Dijon sauce.

In the mood for something different?  Try a ham and brie wrap, a grilled Thai chicken or braised pork chipotle sandwich. Add a cup of full-bodied Brazillian coffee, roasted with fruity notes to give an air of jazz.

Add a
slice of mocha almond or chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Speaking of cakes, this reviewer would be remiss not to mention that Café Dépôt cakes are out of this world. 

For Americans who yearn for European gateaux and tortes, outside of France no other cake (except those at Café Dépôt) can satisfy your preference for European cakes. About a dozen cakes are offered daily. You would be hard pressed to find European gateau quality in any American bakery, such as you find at Café Dépôt. A key a difference between American and European cakes is that American cakes are sweeter. European tastes run to semi-sweet chocolate, rich creme and moist layers in the cakes.

Locations in Montreal include:

Café Dépôt
800 Blvd. Rene Levesque O.
(514) 390-8859
Café Dépôt
1490 de Maisonneuve O.
(514) 931-1570

Café Dépôt
1200 Mc Gill College Avenue
(514) 861-0339
Café Dépôt
3601  Blvd. St. Laurent
(514) 285-0009

Outside of France or Montreal, only in Watertown, Massachusetts, at Lily's French Bakery Cafe, can you purchase an exquisite, vanilla cake with chocolate mousse between layers and topped with whipped cream that will please gourmands with fussy taste buds. Truly, Marie Antoinette would have been happy.

Tim Horton's

Tim Hortons is also a popular coffee chain, with more than 20 locations in Montreal. Tim Horton's can coffee is refreshingly bold, a plus for a coffee gourmand, like this reviewer. Tim Hortons also features a decadent maple shortbread cookie, Tim Hortons-inspired ice cream flavors (in partnership with Cold Stone Creamery), peach mango fruit smoothie and Tim Horton NHL team cards. Steeped and specialty teas, espresso and latte, as well as specialty coffees, iced coffees and fruit smoothies are featured menu items. Bagels, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, lunch wraps, soups and sandwiches round out the menu. Many locations feature in-restaurant seating and some are open 24 hours. Several have drive thru.

Locations in Montreal include:

Tim Hortons                                    
1250 rue University
Montréal QC, H3B 3B8
(514) 392-1221

 Tim Hortons
1030, rue De La Montagne
Montréal QC, H3G 1Y7
(514) 932-6014

Tim Hortons
674, Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal QC, H3A 1E7
(514) 286-4590

Tim Hortons
48, rue Notre-Dame Est
Montréal QC, H2Y 1B9
(514) 875-4540

Copyright © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin. 2007- ad infinitum. All photos and content copyright © Kathryn Esplin. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Insider's Guide to Mt. Tremblant

A cabriolet takes you from the bottom of the mountain to the pedestrian village, where skiers take a gondola to get to the slope. Tremblant offers 95 trails, half of which are expert and 17 percent are beginner trails. The total trail length is 49 miles. Mont Tremblant is truly one of North America's great ski resorts, and is open all year round for visitors. Golf is a huge draw for summer visitors. Mr. Tremblant website 

Mont Tremblant also offers school break specials, winter and summer vacation specials, ski rentals, lessons and ski schools, snowboarding, golf, rentals, air and ground travel information, plus information on entering Canada and more.

Although Mont Tremblant became a ski resort in 1939, it did not develop an international reputation until broadcaster Lowell Thomas broadcast newscasts from Mont Tremblant,where he enjoyed skiing. 

Until 1991, Tremblant was privately owned, but in 1991, the Canadian  resorts company, Intrawest, bought the resort and added these lovely villages. Recently, a second Québec casino was added to match the Montreal casino.

At the pedestrian village, tourists, skiers and golfers shop, eat and relax in this charming village. The  eateries are absolutely fantastic. This setting also makes for a great day trip in summer. Various Accommodations include the Marriott Hotel, and  other hotels and condos.
The cabriolet drops you off at the pedestrian village, where skiers can take the gondola or any one of a number of chair lifts to the ski trails. The village includes several sportswear boutiques. In summer, golf is just as big a draw tourists as skiing is in the winter.

Sporting good and sportswear shops include Columbia Sportswear, Helly Hansen and Magasin a la Place, which is a complex that includes well known ski brands such as The North Face, Spyder, Nordia, Rossignol, Dynastar, Nordica and more. A boot fitting service, ski outfitting, fitting and repairs are also available.

Having a party in your room? The SAQ, which is the provincially run Les Sociétés des Alcools du Québec has what you need. Restaurants at Tremblant range from light snacks to gourmet feasts in French and International, Italian, Asian, Grille, Bistros and Cafés, Bar Resto (pub with meals)  candies and crepes. 

From personal experience, the fudge at Tremblant is superb, as is the grille. 

Bars and Nightclubs 

The Bar Café d'Époque is Tremblant's top nightclub, according to the website. Live DJ nightly from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.  Vieux-Tremblant (819) 430-6730 and (819) 421-4554.

The Nansen Lounge Fairmount Tremblant offers a casual chic lounge with light meals, wine and cocktails. (819) 681-7685.  

Le P'tit Caribou Vieux Tremblant (819) 681-4500 has been on a list of top bars for 18 years.

The Microbrasserie Le Diable Vieux Tremblant (819) 681-4546. Microbrewery beers and complete menu.
Wait! There is more to enjoy at Tremblant:
Winter programs
Summer Ironman
Accommodations and Reservations

 Winter at Tremblant offers more than 600 acres of ski and snowboarding trails.
Summer activities also include airplane rides, boating tours, caleche rides, canoe trips, helicopter rides, horseback riding, mountain biking, paintball games, rafting, rock climbing school, water skiing, white water rafting and ziplining.

At Tremblant, 16 trails are easy, 31 intermediate, 37 difficult and 10 are expert. Tremblant also offers 13 ski lifts, including one gondola, five detachable chair lifts, three regular chair lifts, and three magic carpets.

Winter activities include cross country, ice climbing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and spas.The area also offers cycling, hiking, canoeing, among many other activities.

 At 46 degrees N. latitude, the elevation is 876 meters or 2,056 feet.

And back down to the village. Enjoy your stay in this charmed village.

Copyright © The Insider's Pocket Guide to Montreal, Kathryn Esplin. 2006-2015 Photos copyright © Kathryn Esplin 2006-2015. All rights reserved.