One day in Montreal is not anywhere near enough time to get in all the highlights that this city has to offer, so all we could do was pick one and go for it. We stayed with cousin Kim in Ste Anne de Bellevue on the West Island, and approaching it from the south shore of the St Lawrence River, I was pleased to see that the Mercier Bridge is now open for business – it’s been under repair the last few times I’ve been up to Montreal, and its reopening makes it a heck of a lot easier to get on and off the west end of the island.

We arrived before Kim did, and it gave us a chance to explore the village of Ste Anne’s, with its boutique shops, restaurants and bars on Bord du Lac, which overlooks Lac St Louis. On summer weekends, the boats dock along the boardwalk, with easy access to the restaurants that line the waterside and a short walk to the farmers market.

From the burbs to the city … exploring an area of town with street names that trip off my tongue – St Urbain, bringing to mind Mordecai Richler’s Duddy Kravitz …

Driving along St Laurent – The Main – looking a lot less seedy these days than when Leonard Cohen grew up in these parts. And St Denis – now given over to upscale clothing shops and trendy cafes and bars …

We’re in what’s called the Plateau, the Latin Quarter – and for all the world, you might think you were in a city somewhere in Europe. My friend Paul and his girlfriend, Maryanne, live in the area, so we were able to stop in for a visit, sitting under the cherry tree on their rooftop terrace, enjoying afternoon tea on a sunny afternoon. It’s the life! But we’ve interrupted their workday, so we leave them to it, with plans to meet up for dinner at the creperie in the gazebo in the park across the street when we’re ready to call it quits on the afternoon. Bridget’s friend Cam works a few blocks away, so we’re off to interrupt his workday and to take a stroll up to Mount Royal, an oasis of green in the middle of the city, where we feast on ice cream and cherries picked up at the depanneur.

Work break over, Cam’s back to his office, leaving Bridget and me the rest of the afternoon to stroll our merry way about town, clothes shopping (for much-needed dresses for Jenn’s wedding next month), and tired from that, stopping in at an outdoor cafe for a drink and some people watching. Tres cosmopolitan.

The little park with the creperie is called Square St Louis. A magnificent Victorian fountain is the square’s masterpiece, but the crepes come in a very close second. Paul recommends a dinner crepe consisting of ham, cheese and a fried egg, and ooooh, c’est merveilleux and then some.

It’s the neighborhood town square, where people come to sit for a spell, stick their feet in the fountain, have a chat with their friends, enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, and water the trees if you must …

We all have a certain fondness for the place where we grew up, where we call home, and I am no different. Montreal holds a place in my heart, and the sign on the wall says it all …

A self-professed live music junkie, Shannon is the author of
Astral Weeks Live: A Fan’s Notes, a book about her year on the road attending singer Van Morrison’s epic live performances of his widely acclaimed album Astral Weeks. To find out more about the book or to order a copy signed by the author, click here.

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