If a wizard appeared at the foot of my bed one morning, announcing I had ten minutes to collect my things before he would whisk me away (David, me, the dog and both cats) to live anywhere I chose, it would be Montreal. London might be a fleeting first thought, but realistically, it’s an ocean away from the USA and I would always need to be able to jump into a car and drive home to America. I’m not so much a patriot, just too much a creature of habit, spoiled by all that we have here that tends to make life easier. Montreal is such an incredible city it’s a no-brainer that it would be my only logical choice.
I feel most fortunate, for it has been in my lifetime that the gay village here emerged and grew into the warm and welcoming second home it has become for so many men from all over the world. There literally is something for everyone, as trite and cliché as that sounds. And the French Canadians, aside from being some of the most smolderingly sexy guys in this hemisphere, make the greatest hosts. I “discovered” Montreal in 1978. I was living in New York and took the overnight train from Penn Station and was deposited in Gare Central the following morning in time for breakfast. My partner at the time worked in the travel business, so often, when he was away on a trip, I’d go off on a little mini vacation myself. Even though traveling solo can oftentimes leave a bit to be desired, this city always made me feel comfortably a part of it. And that bienvenue continues to thrive, receiving you in the city’s embrace with each return visit.
Over the years I’ve lost track of the number of visits I’ve made alone and with others, but certainly it is dozens and there was never once a bad trip or a really awful experience. The worst would have been a New Year’s trip, circa early 1990s, with an ex-boyfriend. On that lone, negative visit the weather played the villain. I cannot ever remember being so freezingly, frigidly cold in all my years and I grew up with Cleveland winters, mind you, and now live in Massachusetts. Please don’t make your first trip in the winter; it wouldn’t be fair to you or the city.
So my reason for choosing to write this post is that we have just come back from three nights a Montreal and as always, had a really great time. David and I have a kind of scripted way to spend our time here. This will be a recap of some of our tried and true ways of experiencing Montreal, our home away from home in Canada. Please bear with me.
It’s important to stay within the village, so you can walk everywhere, and there are plenty of places to choose. The bed and breakfasts are the best, because each is unique and has something special to offer. We have been staying at Le BBV (Bed and Breakfast du Village), for many years. Located just off Saint Catherine Street, the main thoroughfare, it has always been well-run and was just taken over this past summer by two young men, Philippe and Nicolas. They have updated everything and it is now a well-polished little gem . These two charming AND good-looking guys could not be more helpful or attentive. They were almost disappointed that we know our way around as well as we do, because their knowledge of the city is huge and they are so eager to help make your stay enjoyable. There is also off the street parking inside which is rare in the neighborhood.You are only a short block away from the Beaudry Metro Station. You can’t miss the station, as it’s marked by a huge rainbow flag facade. The Metro is an excellent way to travel around the entire city, and there is a system of underground tunnels connecting stations with shopping areas so you never have to go above ground in bad weather-so clever, these people.
One is amazed by the amount of restaurants in this fantastic city. It seems like Canadians are perhaps more food-centered than Americans, but strangely you don’t see the number of fat people we have on our side of the border. Enjoy a morning coffee at Second Cup. A cool neighborhood hangout, with wonderful baked goods too, there are several in the city and of course they have wi-fi. Québécois cuisine is unique and a tasty treat for me is a smoked meat sandwich. If you like pastrami or corned beef, you will love this version and Le Club Sandwich restaurant offers a great one on a plate literally heaped with frites (which I cannot imagine any one person could finish on his own). This joint, and I do mean joint, is open twenty-four hours but a fun place for lunch or a hefty snack.
There is fine dining galore and like anywhere, these places tend to come and go as the trendy and fashionable sometimes quickly become unfashionable. The good thing is there are so many Montrealers with a trained palate, that the bar is raised very high. From mid-May through mid-September Saint Catherine Street is closed off to traffic in the Village and all the little eateries put tables on the sidewalks and it becomes city blocks of outdoor cafes. It is our favorite time to visit and enjoy the varied cuisine. You will think you’re in some wonderful European city, when in truth, you’ve only gone over to your northern neighbor’s backyard. This visit we enjoyed fresh pasta at our favorite La Strega where the two of us ate until we ached, including a nice bottle of wine and a healthy tip for well under $100. The night before we dined at D Sens, a charming bistro with a truly French menu and impeccable service and one of the cutest little waiters you’ve ever laid eyes upon.
And then there is the night life which is incredible. There are bars: leather, drag, strip, karaoke, and dance clubs. David and I don’t dance, and both of us are lightweights when it comes to drinking, but if you have never seen Montreal-style strippers, you are in for a treat. There are three strip clubs, but by far, Campus has the best looking guys and it’s always been our favorite. Of course the most remarkable thing is, the older I get, the younger these strippers become. But a night at Campus offers some first-class eye candy. And if bars and clubs aren’t your cup of tea, there are seven saunas in the city open for business.
If I can do anything with this posting, I hope it will be to turn at least a dozen guys onto this really hip, fun city. Treat yourself to a trip next spring, and remember I told you so.