Wednesday, 22 May 2013

One year anniversary!

Holy cow! Has it been one year already? My first post dates back to May 21st 2012. Happy anniversary to Walking Solo in Montreal! My God, so much has happened since then. Especially my frame of mind. I may have mentioned it in a post somewhere, but there is a reason why I started this blog. I was in a bad state. Following a bad break up, I was going through a very bad depression. It was consuming me and my thoughts to a point that I couldn't bare being by myself in my apartment. I had no appetite and I couldn't sleep. So what did I do? I walked.

At first, I walked as far as my body could take me. I wasn't in any hurry to go home anyways. I walked around the places I knew at first. Funny enough, now that I was just wandering around, I felt like I was rediscovering all these streets that I knew because I was noticing all these places I used to walk by, but to which I never really paid any attention. Oh how I wished I was still with my ex then, because I wanted to show her all these places and go on these little adventures with her where we went and tried out all these places and hung out like we used to. So, I took pictures of what I was doing and what I saw and started to post these things on this blog here as if I was describing to her all these neat things for her to go and discover on her own if she ever felt like it. That was my main reason in the beginning.

Over time, this has changed. Though I still try to write things as if I was sharing these moments with someone through my posts, the audience started to change. I shared my blog with my family at first. Then it was my friends. But, those who really picked up on it were my co-workers at my previous job. They encouraged me a lot and it encouraged me to keep going and venture into new areas of the city and finding more and more places. I still had trouble sleeping, so I spent my nights organizing my pictures and writing my posts.

I did a lot of hard work to climb out of my depression. I had some very good friends who gave me a kick in the butt now and then to get out of the house and do some activities such as yoga. Then I decided to go back to playing dodgeball again like I used to back in Ottawa because I remember how I made the great friends I have over there right now. And I had a hoot! My new team was fun and really helped me get back on my feet. I owe them a lot in my recovery. Then I went to some other events where I met more people and suddenly my circle of friends started to grow. Eventually I didn't feel lonely anymore. I felt much better about myself and I was starting to feel normal again.

Nowadays, I switched jobs, my new co-workers aren't as interested in what I write, my blog is getting less attention and quite frankly, I barely have the time to go walk around anymore. The frequency of posts has slowed down to several a week to just one a week at best. I have new hobbies that take up a lot of my time. I started working out again, but at home instead of a gym. I started a pretty good small collection of comics. I've read all the Walking Dead graphic novels so far, the Criminal series and many others by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips who write amazing noir stories. Several by an awesome artist by the name of Ben Templesmith of which my favourite one is Fell. And there are many others such as the Hollywood dark humour trilogy Blue Estate, Transmetropolitan, Saga, etc. I also intend on finishing my childhood collection of French Tintin comics. There's that and also a growing watchlist that I have created on IMDB with tons of old black and white film noir such as The Killing, Killer's Kiss, M, The Maltese Falcon and many other classics that I felt were just missing from my general movie culture.

Anyway, so as a whole year of blogging has gone by, and now that I am out of my bad funk, I'm afraid I won't have time to write posts anymore. Well, maybe I will, just not as often as I used to. There are still many cool areas to discover in Montreal that I have yet to write about. Some are still in drafts that I have left lying around in my account and which I need to finish. But, don't expect to see a new post every week anymore. Except for my cooking blog. Thought I have been extremely lazy of late for cooking food, I will keep on posting every new recipe that I whip up on there. If I don't post anything during a week, it's probably because I either didn't have time to cook, or I used one of my existing recipes.

You know what's funny? I look back at all my posts and I swear I can remember every single one of those moments. I look at the pictures and I feel like I am back there on the day I took it and I can still feel the air, the smells and this godawful feeling of emptyness I had in my chest. I am glad this is over. I'm going to turn a new page on my life now.

Keep on checking out my blog from time to time. I'm not done with it yet.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Saint Viateur

Back in February, I decided to go a little further north on Saint-Laurent and walked all the way to Saint-Viateur. I took a few pictures but didn't really go far since it was getting late and I had to head home. Last week About a month ago, (yeah, I've been busy ok? So sue me if this post is late.) I went back to Saint-Viateur and decided to check it out all the way to Avenue du Parc. I found another bunch of great little spots there as well. So here goes.

If you've ever been grocery shopping in Montreal, you probably saw some locally made bagels from St-Viateur Bagels. Just like the Fairmount bagels these guys have been on St-Viateur street since the late 50's. They have become a true Montreal establishment and their bagels are being sold across the city. Made fresh everyday, they don't last very long and they are meant to be eaten pretty fast or they go stale and become hard as a rock. My advice is to eat them within 3 days. But, they are simply delicious. It was fun passing in front of their shop and seeing all the historical newspaper clips and images. It also smelled like fresh baked bagels. Mmmm... Oh and for any of you 'Murricans reading this, they also ship to the U.S.!

This area seems to be all about the home made or locally made foods. Not too far from there was a little bakery that also made their own sorbet and gelato. Probably a great place to get ice cream during the summer. I will have to check it out now that it's warmer outside.

Just a few steps from that bakery is a French crêpe restaurant called La Crêpière. A small little restaurant where you can go and have a quick sweet crêpe covered in sweet chocolate syrup and fruits or a salty one wrapped around some meat and vegetables and cheese as a warm lunch or dinner like a crêpe campagnarde with ham, cheese and mushrooms. It makes my hungry just thinking about it.

And then right next door is an old super classic retro barber shop that looks like it just came out of the 50's. Actually, according to the very few comments I've seen on some consumer review sites, this place has been opened since the 50's as well, and the old man apparently gives great haircuts! I'm usually really fussy about my hair, but it would be such an experience to go there and get an old fashion man's hair cut. I don't think I would get a shave though. I don't trust anybody with one of those sharp shaving blades. And god knows how they disinfect these things. But, for a haircut I bet it'd be fun.

Just across the street from there is Café Local. Apparently this place is very popular. Especially with the locals. I also heard they have 40 different types of martinis and many local artists go to hang out. Their food seems to be getting good reviews. They serve a pulled pork poutine that seems like an absolute dream. The place has a friendly cozy environment that doesn't feel too pretentious. I have a feeling I will be stepping in there soon to try out that poutine of theirs.

Just a block from there is also the Café Olimpico. This place is one of Montréal's classic Italian café. Sadly, I didn't take a picture, but it is absolutely worth mentioning. This café probably serves one of Montréal's best espresso and best cappuccino. It's also the place you want to go to watch the FIFA world cup and want to cheer the Italian soccer team. This little sports café is a great little place to hang out with friends and relax while watching the game. There's also a nice little terrace on the side to catch some sun during the summer. If only I had taken a picture.

As any other Montreal neighbourhood, there is a lot of street art in this place as well. This has to be one of the things for which I absolutely love my city. Street art has a thing that some other art doesn't. Some kind of soul. It contains the very spirit of the city itself. I always like to stop and look at the works of art that we find everywhere on the walls in the many burroughs of Montreal, each representing the essence of that area.

Another little place that got my curiosity is this restaurant called Batory. They have home cooked meals on the spot and for take out. It's a little deli place that serves sandwiches and soups and a few hot meals. Sometimes it's just nice to have some food that feels and tastes like a home cooked meal. I bet this would be a good place to go for that sort of thing.

I also found another restaurant that specializes in breakfast and brunch called Restaurant B&M.  Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day. This place seemed to have a great menu. The prices were a little high, if I remember.

On Saint-Viateur there's also a gigantic church called St-Michael Church. It's a Greek Orthodox church and it just seems massive! I've always noticed this place from afar, but never really got around to get close to it. It's a beautiful church and when you stand next to it it just seems even bigger. It's no Notre-Dame Cathedral, but it still dwarfs all the other buildings around it.

Among other things, places like the Mile-End, Plateau and the like all seem to have a large vegetarian or vegan population. (Compared to other areas anyway.) So to cater to these folks, you will always find one of those super-vegan ultra-organic restaurants for these granola-eating hippies. (I'm kidding, you guys are alright!) And this place here is La Panthère Verte (The Green Panther). A small little vegan café that serves delicious fresh vegan meals. Sometimes when I want to eat light, but still stuff my face, I like to go to one of these places and pig out, yet come out of there feeling like a cloud. It's fantastic. I also don't feel so guilty afterwards.

I know I wrote about this place before, and I'm pretty damn sure this is the place. When I used to work close by about 10 years ago (wow, time flies!) there was this little place held by an Italian couple that made one of the best damn New England clam chowder in Montreal. Their sandwiches were also off the freakin' chain. I will never forget how tasty their sandwiches were. The chowder though, they only made it once a week, and when they did, you had to haul your ass out early for lunch, otherwise you had to stand in line outside for several minutes before getting some. And often times, they'd run out within 20 minutes. Boulangerie Clarke is the place. I wonder if they still do their chowder...

Also, there are some new places that I hadn't seen before. Comptoir 21 is one of them. It's a small restaurant specialized in fish n chips. It looks like a nice place and I've heard good comments about the place from friends. My favourite fish n chips restaurant in the city is by far Brit n Chips on McGill street. But, I've never been to Comptoir 21. This is another place I'll have to try out eventually.

Finally, on the corner of St-Viateur and St-Laurent is the Bar Waverly. A very cool looking bar that had great music and seemed to be filled with lots of young people from the area. With Ubisoft right across the street, I bet this is a great place to hear about any secrets and gossip on upcoming Ubisoft games. Sadly, I didn't take a picture of the place because there were a lot of people standing outside and I didn't want to be a jerk and take a picture of them all to post publicly. But, I guarantee the place looks really nice. I would love to go there to get a drink sometime.

Anyway, that was my walk along that street. There are a few more things there to see but, I only took pictures of the places that got my attention. The Mile-End is an awesome area with great restaurants, shops and some ethnic grocery stores as well in case you're looking for some special ingredients or foods. Frankly, I think I would love it there, but I need to have a big pharmacy and grocery store close by or else I feel a little stuck. That's mainly why I stay where I am right now in the good ol' ghetto of Hochelag'. With the Angus shops Loblaws and Provigo and Metro and Pharmaprix and Jean-Coutu pharmacy all within walking range or a minute away by car, I feel like I have everything I need at my disposal. And the rent is still cheap enough too. Mile-End? Not so much. But, it's still not as bad as the Plateau. Yet.