In Montreal!

The two flights to Montreal weren’t that great – tiny, shaky planes and lots of motion sickness and Dramamine for me. My hotel however is dope. Le Cantlie is situated in the middle of downtown, on Sherbrooke, right on the edge of McGill’s main campus.

I checked in around 5:30pm and met Pierre, my guide, soon after. He explained the city’s layout: the St Lawrence river forms its southern most border, Old Montreal sits on top of it, followed by downtown, and then the mountains. The city is named after a three-headed hill called Mount Royal. Its old port was considered the gateway to America and it transformed Montreal into a thriving commercial hub.

My first impression, after having adjusted to the serious level of cold that’s already entrenched here, was how artistic the city is. Every quartier or neighborhood is designed by different architects and artists based on their own unique vision of what the financial or entertainment or cultural centers of the city should look like. From buildings and public art, to benches, streets lights and trash cans – everything’s designed meticulously around ideas of community usage and engagement and a cohesive aesthetic mission. For example, a side street that was used for truck deliveries, Ruelle des Fortifications, was converted into a glass-covered promenade in 1992. It now links several historical buildings that have been renovated, creating a beautiful indoor village.

After the Royal Bank left Old Montreal for downtown in 2010, its magnificent Tower, which used to be Canada’s tallest landmark at one point, was left sad and abandoned. Not for long. The opulence of the building was preserved (down to its teller windows, beautiful floor tiles, intricately carved gold doors and sparkly chandeliers) when it opened this year as Crew Collective & Café. The cafe is great but what I loved even more was how start-ups, entrepreneurs and artists can rent space at affordable rates in the same building, whether for an office or a small meeting room paid for by the hour. It’s all about community.

Crew Collective & Café
Crew Collective & Café