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Elliot Likes This

by Elena on November 18, 2009

Elliot_likes_this Montreal

Elliot, an advertising and graphic design company in Montreal, took the Facebook feature “Like This” to a whole other level by rating things outside of your friend’s network.  This video goes around Montreal showing all the sites that Elliot Likes.

Elliot Likes This



Plateau and Latin Quarter Street Guide

by Elena on November 16, 2009

Since Montreal is a city that best suits the flâneur, you get the most out of this city when you walk around.  The plateau and the Latin Quarter in particular are neighborhoods best seen and experienced on foot.  There aren’t particular sites or ‘must sees’ but rather good food, cafes, shopping, basically a taste of everyday life.

Montreal Plateau Map 2Avenue du Mont-Royal
On Avenue du Mont Royal there are always people, whether they are grabbing some food, buying flowers at the local florist, or shopping in one of the many shops along the avenue.  For interesting clothes made out of recycled material go to Moly Kulte, a brand created by two Quebecois designers.  Food is plentiful, what with all the bistros and cafes around.  You can try Montreal’s famous bagels at St-Viateur Bagel one of the best known bagel shops.  The pastry shop Première Moisson is worth a visit just to taste their crème brûlée which is absolutely incredible, although I may be biased.  Also the macaron shop Point G is along this road.  My friends and I would always enjoy happy hour (cinq a sept) at Le Boudoir, a bar that is usually packed close to the weekend with people watching a hockey game, meeting friends or looking for an inexpensive beer and a relaxed atmosphere.

Rue Saint Denis
Saint Denis is one of the main roads in Montreal that cuts right through the Plateau neighborhood.  If you start at UQAM, the heart of the Latin Quarter and walk all the way to Avenue du Mont-Royal you will see a great deal.  Near UQAM there is Juliette et Chocolat, by far the best dessert place in Montreal.  So good in fact, a friend and I had thoughts of approaching the owner to ask her what her secret is.  She drove a Juliette et Chocolat car which would make the stalking fairly easy.  Just across the street from Juliette et Chocolat is Le Saint-Suplice, the biggest beer garden in the city.  In the summer, there is nothing better than spending a great deal of your sunday at Le Saint-Suplice, since beer gardens don’t exactly count as a bar there is no guilt for drinking most of the day.  A little further on Saint Denis, past Rue Sherbrooke, you no longer are in Latin Quarter, but rather the Plateau.  Renaud Bray is the largest French book chain in North America and is located on St-Denis between Rue Marie-Anne and Mont-Royal.

Rue Rachel
Rue Rachel runs perpendicular to Rue Saint Denis and has a very conveniently located bicycle route.  On the east side of Rue Rachel, close to Parc Lafontaine you can have your choice from many different types of poutine at the 24 hours La Banquise.  Right next door to La Banquise is a bar called La Quicaillerie which has long table perfect for a large party.  The best part of this bar is that you can bring in poutine from next door, very convenient after a happy hour.

Rue Saint Laurent
St- Laurent is what you might expect from a street in the middle of a hipster neighborhood.  The end of this street runs into Mile End, the up and coming trendy section of Montreal.  This street has many shops, clothing boutiques, yoga studios, and hair salons.  The famous smoked meats of Schwartz’s Charcuterie cause lines to spill out the deli door.  For the best burgers in the area go to Patati Patata on the corner of Saint Laurent and Rue Rachel.  You know the food is good if people are willing to wait to eat, before sitting in the cramped locale.  If you eat at the bar you can watch the cooks frantic pace as they flip burgers, collect orders, and charge customers all at the same time.  The proximity of St-Laurent to the various universities in the area, means that a lot of university students will be out at night.  Expect a young crowd at the various bars and lounges that line the street, such as Rouge on the corner of St-Laurent and Prince Arthur.

Rue Duluth
One of the very few cobblestone streets left in Montreal, this street cuts through various ethnic neighborhoods, or at least what is left.  Many of the immigrants may have moved to the suburbs but their restaurants and shops have remained.  Portuguese and Greek restaurants scatter this area, although the Portuguese are definitely more prominent.  On the corner of Duluth and St-Laurent there is the bistro Le Reservoir.  The food is good with unique spin on bistro favorites.  In warmer weather they open up the front windows as well as the upstairs terrace.  If you continue to walk a couple streets past St. Denis towards Parc La Fontaine, you will find the indulgent restaurant of Chef Martin Picard, Au Pied de Cochon.

Rue Prince Arthur
Prince Arthur is known for its policy of apporter votre vin (BYOB) however the restaurants on this strip are nothing to get excited home, except for the whole being able to bring your own wine.  The interesting part about this street is that from St-Laurent to Square St-Louis it is a pedestrian walkway.  In warm weather there usually are street performers and tons of people sitting outside the restaurants.  It is a pleasant place to walk around on your way to Square St-Louis which is very much worth a look, at least to see the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square.  My one suggestion would be Gelateria Pagliacci, located on the corner of Prince Arthur and Rue Bullion.  They make homemade gelato with fresh ingredients.  When I lived in the McGill Ghetto I was a frequent visitor to this shop.

Rue Laval
When you are at Square St-Louis you stroll up the nearby Rue Laval.  This is a purely residential street, however it is one of the prettiest in Montreal.  The houses are typical Montreal architecture with protruding stairs on the outside.



Old Friends and Good Times

by Elena on November 16, 2009

When you travel frequently you get the pleasure of meeting some of the most incredible people.  Unfortunately when you leave you have to say goodbye.  But that is what reunions are for.

Friends in Montreal 1

Friends in Montreal

Friends in Montreal 3



It’s Warm In Canada

by Elena on November 12, 2009

It’s warm in Canada in mid November.  This is not what I remember from last year, where the first snowfall came before Halloween.  There are vague memories of running out of my apartment in a tshirt and flipflops with a friend who had never seen snow before, only to turn right back around once the novelty wore off and my toes started to get numb.  It was just a dusting, but snow just the same.

This weather is unexpected but most definitely a welcomed surprise.  Hence after an eventful day of query and cover letters I will be off again to wander about and enter various cafes and bistros.  I need to work on the pending assignments I had been putting off.  Not a bad gig afterall, working while sipping a latte and having a Montreal bagel.  Despite all the gripes and difficulty I may have experienced with my transition to freelance, there have most definitely been many perks, my jaunt through Montreal being one of them.  Although I still haven’t figured out a complete balance with the freelance world, maybe that is the point.  Working for oneself has it own set of problems and with freelance you are working by yourself, not necessarily for yourself.  After complaining for about a week or so, I’ve decided to stop, get to writing, and maybe have a cafe au lait or two.




Montreal Me Manques

by Elena on November 11, 2009

The air is so crisp this time of year in Montreal, I literally walk down the street breathing in so deep, I can only imagine I look like I’m smelling something completely foul.  It isn’t as cold as I remember however, as a friend of mine griped about last night.  Can’t say I’ve met a French person who liked the bitter cold as much as he does.  I mean, I’m a fan of the seasons myself, but you don’t hear me wishing for below zero temperatures!  He described a time last winter where it was so cold it made your face swell.  Swollen faces, that’s what we have to look forward to everybody.

I have wrestled back and forth so many times as to whether or not to live and work in Montreal.  There is something about this city that I just can’t place.  The je ne sais quoi factor may seem like a lame excuse to avoid making a definite decision, and in part it is.  It is based more on a feeling than any other palpable explanations.  The sense that this is my city, a place I can wrap my mind around.  For years I went to school and worked in NYC and the pace was addicting, but I never felt like I kept up to speed.

I can’t tell you the happiness it brings me to see old faces that I don’t get to see that often.  Tomorrow I get to see La Bande de Boudoir.  We chose this name in honor of our bar and our common penchant for cheap drinks and some laughs.

Montreal Stairs 2Montreal Stairs

Montreal Stairs 3

Montreal Stairs 4

Ok I fess up.  You can see that there are still leaves on the trees in these photographs.  That is because they are the photos I took a couple months ago on my last trip to Montreal.  My camera is currently in the shop breathing its last breath.  The staircases of the homes in Montreal are very much an image I have of this city and when I walk by them I know I’m really here. 

These pictures are relevant to the feelings I have at the moment.  Can I have nostalgia for a city, that I’m currently in?  Most likely because I’m not sure if I will stay.


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People in Quebec speak French, however they don’t speak as the French do.  The accent, the words, the expressions are all greatly different than the Francophones overseas.  Admitedly the accent took awhile to get used to.  Quebecois tend to speak quickly with a more nasal quality to their sounds, versus the French who seems to always be pushing words out to the front of their mouth were they will stay.  The Quebecois also love to contract words, not helpful for those who can’t catch on to such subtleties.
Who are the Quebecois?

Who are the Quebecois?

Quebecois Expressions and Idiomatic Phrases

Hello hi
Ok granted this isn’t a word, but if you’ve spent more than an afternoon in downtown Montreal, or more than 15 minutes in a department store, you will get the words BonjourHi spoken to you, so closely jumbled it’s as if it were one word.  This is a bilingual city afterall and most people, in particular those working in restaurants, stores, etc need to speak English and French.  Since there is not distinguishing factor on who is Anglophone or Franchophone, the bonjourhi serves to allow the person to answer in his or her stronger language.

Ta Blonde
My Blond
Calling someone your blond is not in anyway refering to their haircolor.  Any blonde jokes are not refering to a ditzy personality, or an aloof demeaner.  If you tell a blonde joke you better make sure your girlfriend isn’t nearby because you will be making fun of her.

Mon Chum
My bud
To make matters confusing, the word chum can refer to a boyfriend or a male friend.  Makes the ‘what are we’ conversations you have with your significant other a little harder to decipher.  Are we chums or are you my chum? I also find the traditional French word for boyfriend a bit strange as well.  If someone is your petit ami they literally are your little friend, otherwise known as your boyfriend.

Baise-moué l’ail
Kiss my garlic
Come on use your imagination.  Kiss my garlic…  Kiss my…  Don’t know how garlic became appropriate for such a term, but hey, to each his own.

Avoir mal aux cheveux
Have a hairache
If you ever woken up to a splitting headache caused by excessive amounts of alcohol.  We aren’t perfect afterall.  To be mal aux cheveux means you have one of the worst hangovers of your life.  It’s so bad naturally your hair hurts.

être tiguidou
It’s all good.  Everything’s peachy. Okey dokey.  Everything is fine.  All is well.  Everything’s in order.  A-ok.  I think you get the picture.

Lâche pas la patate!
Don’t let go of the potato.
Hmm this is an interesting one.  When someone says don’t let go of the potato they don’t want you to wimp out. In other words, don’t be a pansy.  Not really sure why you have to hold on to a potato to do so.  Maybe it has something to do with poutine?

Se laisser manger la laine sur le dos
To let eat the wool right off your back
If you let someone eat the shirt off your back, well then you’re a complete idiot.  Although not so sure the other guy is that smart either.

J’ai la langue à terre
I have my tongue on the floor
In Quebec if you have your tongue on the floor it means you are extremely tired or extremely hungry, which can be a little confusing since each time you say it, you will need to elaborate which one you mean.

Note on cursing in Quebec: Similar to other cultures, the Quebecois have appropriated seemingly ‘good’ words and turned around their meanings.  Religious terminolgy can be used to express discomfort, annoyance, or merely to tell someone off.  By turning these relgious words into something negative, the Quebecois made a statement against the church, who had a stronghold on French Canadians in the past.

Image via: laurent_gilot



Wake Up Tomorrow: Montreal

by Elena on November 9, 2009

To continue with the idea of the film Fifty People, One Question, I asked myself the very question the film asked.  Where would I want to wake up tomorrow?  Hmm the answer is more often than not Montreal (if you cannot tell already the love I have for that city).  Therefore, this week I decided to mix a little business with pleasure and make another visit to my favorite city up north.

For the Gringa site, I have been wanting to include guides to some of my favorite places.  Montreal will inevitably be a part of this project.  I will be working on this guide this week and I hope to have it ready and published shortly.

Montreal Balcony



Graffiti Photo Journal

by Elena on September 22, 2009

IMGP3147Graffiti has been around for quite some time, perhaps since the Ancient Greeks and Roman Empire (doesn’t it seem like the Greeks and Romans invented and did just about everything). While some may view graffiti and other forms of art in public space as ‘vandalism,’ it is a valued form of expression for many others. When cities work in conjunction with artists, the art becomes more than a few tags on someone’s wall.IMG_0983

Walking around Montreal, in particular downtown or the Plateau, it is inevitable to pass many murals. The city of Montreal encourages, or at least allows, artists to display their talents outside of art galleries for all to see. Similar to the way the city handles other forms of artistic expression, such as Tam Tams, Montreal does not discriminate.



I’ve heard people describe Montreal as a ‘boho’ city, and for lack of a better description, I’ve used ‘boho’ a few times myself. The modern appropriation of the word bohemian would have us believe that everyone walks around in open sandals, flowy, floral skirts, and with, how shall I say, a lax concern for personal hygiene. Loaded stereotypes aside, historically a bohemian is an artist, and adventurer who strive for their romanticized beliefs, and in this Francophone/ Anglophone city, that spirit lingers.


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Buskers Playing in Montreal

by Elena on September 8, 2009

Busker is a British term for street performer, so naturally an American like myself is not as likely to have heard it before, let alone use it in conversation. We use the term street performer, but busker sounds just a wee bit more interesting. Buskers can cover themselves in paint, make balloon animals, perform an instrument, sing at a metro station, juggle, eat fire, flip, dance, sketch you as a cartoon; all of this for a small tip.

In New York City I was used to hearing singers in the subway and watching hip hop dancers perform anywhere from Times Square to the fountain in Washington Square Park. Montreal has a different sort of, shall we say, busker scene. Juggling is very popular in Montreal (I have seen jugglers pretty frequently). Of course there is always a person who dresses up for picture happy tourists, like this guy below who I can only imagine is some sort of silver Aztec king.
Aztec Street Performer Montreal Jacques Cartier with Tourist
Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal always has buskers hanging around looking to keep their audience entertained. Bands like this one make strolling around the city much more entertaining, I believe from one of the many universities in Montreal, that made the weekend afternoon.
Street Performers in Place Jacques Cartier Montreal
This busker is quite the regular. I have seen him perform his fire juggling routine many times; even a year after I left Montreal he was still at it, performing for huge crowds by the Old Port. There are lots of pictures of him on Flickr.
Fire Juggler in Montreal
Image via: fabio costello
A lot of enthusiasts perform not for money, but merely for the pleasure of performance, such as during Tam Tams. Montreal is a very creative city, so it is natural that its inhabitants would use the public space to display their talents. Expect lots of street performers at many of Montreal’s festivals.
Performer with Stick in Montreal Mont Royal
Image via: Rishi Menon
Juggler in Mont Royal
Image via: icarusfire



It’s Like Riding a Bicycle…

by Elena on September 2, 2009

“It’s like riding a bicycle,” or so they say about something you never forget how to do. Although I wobbled back and forth on the racing bike, a bit too tall for my 5’2 frame, the seller called me a natural. Of course he’d say that, hoping that a few gentle strokes to my ego would coax me into buying his old bike. I realized the saying is true, I didn’t forget how to ride a bike, but they never said anything about riding it well. The test spin was a success, considering I didn’t fall over, break the thing, or cause any bystanders bodily harm. Nonetheless I left the seller disappointed, realizing that the racing bike with its large thin wheels, was too much for me to handle.
Biking in Montreal
I decided to go smaller, so much smaller that I risked the little kid, bike jabs from my friends. Even so I loved it. My girl’s cruiser bike was perfect for a cycling friendly city like Montreal. After a couple self-affirmations and the support of an equally inexperienced friend, we were able to conquer the streets and avoid incoming traffic.
Biking in Montreal 2
The incredible talents of Montreal cyclists.

  • Texting while riding.
  • Talking on their cell phone while riding.
  • Listening to their ipods while riding (you get my drift). They can handle technology on a bike.
  • Talking to one another while cycling side by side. Yeah it seems easy enough, but try it before you judge.
  • Successfully balancing a large quantity of ‘stuff’ in a basket at the front or back of their bike.
  • Successfully balancing another person on the front or back of their bike.
  • Riding with no hands (in order to text, scratch their head, show off, etc.).
  • Riding in the pouring rain. (I’ve done this too! It is actually a lot of fun).
  • While I have not seen it, people tell me that Montrealers continue to ride their bikes well into wintertime and even during snowstorms.

Biking in Montreal 3
Novice riders like ourselves slowly learn the tricks of the trade.
Biking in Montreal 4
My old companion is now being ridden around Montreal by a girl from Argentina. May she treat it well.
My Bike in Montreal


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