After six enchanted years in the Plateau Mont-Royal, I recently moved to literally greener pastures where I will graze more and probably eat out less. I used to live underneath the city’s famous cross and now glimpse it only from afar. It hurts a little, especially after seeing the Fringe Festival’s program come out this week featuring its trademark bee perched on said cross above the Plateau’s rooftops, seemingly electrified by its energy.
Here, then, is a little homage to the city’s bestest quartier and the things I especially loved about it:
The little green market in front of Metro Mont-Royal: This market is the neighborhood's harbinger of spring as well as its portent of autumn, as it suddenly appears on a day every May - along with the leaves on all the trees - and gradually vanishes each October. Its owners are like swallows returning after winter, and its patrons like butterflies fluttering around the market's flowers, fruits and muffins. The market's appearance year after year always brought me excitement and joy: for the renewal of spring and the summer in waiting. Countless times have I emerged from the bowels of the metro to immerse myself in the market's fragrant little forest, picking up some berries or a cup of ice-cream and taking them home with happy, uncomplicated feelings.
The steeple of the Sanctuaire du Saint Sacrement: This steeple, beautifully lit until 11 pm on weekdays and until midnight on weekend nights, peered directly into my living room. It seemed to me always like a guardian angel or a lighthouse, and I routinely felt some sadness when, for reasons of economy, its lights were switched off for the night. Late spring and summer would conceal it behind thick tree-tops, but in October, as the metro market receded into autumn, the steeple would emerge from behind the bare branches and provide glowing comfort all throughout the winter. In some dark nights, it was the only light that shone.
The chicken: Those who read this blog with any regularity must be fed up with my praise of chicken, but I will miss the Plateau’s Portuguese chicken rotisseries terribly, as well as all its other chicken options. Never have I been surrounded by so much chicken. As if this were not enough, a new Mexican joint, Arriba Burrito, opened on the corner of my street shortly before I left offering the most succulent chicken tacos. I ate as many as I could prior to departure. Thank you, Chicken.
My tree: A graceful tree concealed my slanted, narrow terrace overlooking a ruelle in which dogs barked, cats meowed and children screamed. Thanks to the tree, I could see them, but they could not see me. The sudden appearance of its leaves in spring always took me by surprise - all throughout winter, then, the tree had been alive! In the summer it gave shade and shelter from the rain, and when the wind blew, it rustled and hummed. On countless summer evenings, I sat on my terrace with a bucket of Coaticook on my knees, savoring the taste of ice-cream and saying: thank you, tree.
The ugly beautiful: The Plateau sure is pretty, but it's also kinda ugly (take a walk up St-Laurent from Sherbrooke or walk the length of Avenue Mont-Royal). Its streets are potholed but its rooftops dreamy, its shops are cool but often cheap and sleazy, it's covered in art which is merely graffiti. It's sweet and sour, as any neighborhood with character should be.
Carré St-Louis: Sometimes, on summer nights, I would saunter down to Carré St-Louis, park myself on a bench by its enchanted fountain, and smoke half a Moods cigarillo brought over from Europe. I hate smoking, but it felt right at Carré St-Louis.
The Cross: Just look at the Fringe Festival's gigantic bee balancing atop the Mont-Royal cross: there is no place in the city it would rather be. To me, an immigrant, that cross always symbolized Arrival, and when I walked home in the evenings and saw it appear from behind the Plateau's rooftops and gaze down upon its streets, I felt that I was here. That view alone was privilege. Maybe this is how arrivals to Paris feel to behold the Eiffel Tower (so fresh off the boat). Nine years later, I still love the ornament but I no longer need its proximity to feel that I am here. I am here.
Segal's Supermarket: This place has it all: the usual fare, unusual fare, and really fancy-ass fare displayed in a chaotic third world environment that always made me feel like I was on a voyage. All the Plateau's weirdos shop here, but there are students and normal people, too. Cardboard boxes block the aisles. There is an infinite variety of nuts. The four cashier lines are endless but move at the speed of light. The cashiers themselves exude a permanent arrogance and seem to live together in a commune. There are no plastic bags. I loved it. I'd always walk out of Segal's feeling like a king because I'd found all the Rachelle-Bery goods for 30% less than their health-food store price. The inventory of any other supermarket in Montreal contains but crumbs from Segal's table.
Aux Vivres: Man, I love this place. I'm not even entirely sure why as there are only about two things on their menu that I actually like - plus the smoothies. But it's got a good vibe. Something about those red booths. It's always happy. Thankfully, they now sell their sauces in supermarkets all over town and I saw their truck pass through my new neighborhood this morning. I haven't gone too far if I'm still in the Aux Vivre galaxy.
Leslie Morgan: By far the greatest joy of life in the Plateau was proximity to the co-author of this blog, Leslie Morgan. Living on either side of Metro Mont-Royal, we spontaneously flitted back and forth between our apartments and terraces, our three restaurants and two cafés, discussing life and law and love with a little bit of apple juice and a little bit of rum. Now, we have to plan things, for God's sake.
I haven't gone to the suburbs, just to be clear, but merely to the urban frontier: to break old habits, explore new places and try new things. To have more space and more trees. To find new chicken and some other meats. Besides, they say that this is the new Plateau. Some place always is. We'll see about that. In any case, I'm here now.