People watching on rue Ste-Catherine in Montréal.Read More
The Plateau Mont-Royal arrondissement (district) has transformed radically over the years. Traditionally a haven for bohemians and artists, the Plateau has been gentrifying for what seems like forever now, but it hasn’t lost its unique flare.
One thing that stands out is the sheer quantity of murals everywhere. On the sides of commercial buildings, residential buildings, new buildings, old buildings, there’s barely a square meter of blank wall to be found.
This past Saturday was an absolutely stunning spring's day; beautiful blue skies, a warm(-ish) breeze, trees starting to bud and people coming out of hibernation.
My wife and I decided to take a break from family Easter festivities and go for a little walk in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, on of the original suburbs on the extreme western tip of Montréal Island. Our stroll took us through the campus of John Abbott College and main street that cuts through the old village.
At the time of its construction in 1928, the Royal Bank of Canada's new headquarters at 360 St. James Street was the tallest building in the British Empire.
On the main floor, one could find what was arguably one of the most impressive and imposing bank branches in Canada.
The architectural design of 360 St. James symbolized the strength, stability and permanence of Canadian banking. (Source: rbc.com website.)
The main hall, with its arched windows, 50 foot vaulted ceilings, marble, bronze everywhere, chandeliers and intricate plaster work were then, and still are a stunning sight to behold. It remained a fully operational bank branch until the Bank moved out in 2010.
This grand space is now occupied by a new economy startup called Crew. They offer services for freelancers and other startups, including a place for entrepreneurs to work and get a coffee. Yes, one of the grandest bank branches in the country is now a very swank café and crash pad for designers and tech workers.
I don't know what the Royal Bank's executives from 90 years ago would have thought about a bunch of Macbook-toting, neckbearded hipsters working on the Next Big Thing while sipping lattés in their grand vaulted main branch. I pretty sure they wouldn't have liked it. Something tells me they wouldn't have complained about the business these startups are generating.
Times certainly change.
Montréal's Fairmount Bagel Bakery (on Fairmount Avenue, of course) is a nonstop, 24x7x365 operation.
I've visited this place on weekdays, weekends, late at night, the middle of the afternoon, you name it... there is ALWAYS someone rolling bagels accompanied by someone putting them in or taking them out of the wood-fired oven.
If you visit, look carefully at the front door. You'll notice that there isn't a lock nor even a latch on the door; there's no way to secure the place. I suppose that if you operate 24x7x365 there's just no need to lock up, ever!
Part 2 of my 2-part photo essay about the last big storm of winter 2016/2017 in Montréal.Read More
Once upon a time, banks used to build their main branches to be impressive, imposing structures that conveyed one simple message:
Your money is safe with us
Or perhaps it was:
We have lots more money than you do
Regardless of the message they were conveying--or how it was interpreted--these buildings were palaces and temples to lucre.
Here's the lobby of the old Bank of Montréal headquarters and main branch at Place d'Armes in Old Montréal, built in 1847. This building predates Canada by 20 years.
Wham! Hits you like a ton of bricks when you walk in. Unless you're a captain of industry or a robber baron, you probably can't help but feel impressed when walking into this joint.
And these places were always more impressive on the inside than from the outside. Not too shabby, but nothing like the inside.
Read more about the old Bank of Montréal HQ here.
Part 1 of my 2-part photo essay about the last big storm of winter 2016/2017 in Montréal.Read More
Heels are always appropriate footwear
Women in Montréal are legendary for being stylish - certainly more stylish than their counterparts in English Canada. And they don't let silly little things like blizzards get in the way.
In a blizzard in Montréal, it's usually a good idea to stay indoors: take the Métro, walk the Underground City, stay at the office, stay home, whatever.
Being outdoors can be downright hazardous to your health: the snow-covered streets mean cars can't stop in time, the sidewalks are slippery, or you might even get run over by one of these things - like I almost did.
PS: "Tasse toé" is the phonetic joual (idiomatic Montréal street French) for "tasse toi" (typical Québecois French) which loosely translates to "move over" or more likely "get the hell out of the way!"