Steph Yiu

Exploring Montreal

I can’t believe I got to spend two weeks in Montreal. I’m incredibly lucky to have a job where I can work from anywhere. And a co-worker that needed a cat-sitter for two weeks!

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Co-working with Kevin and Cocette, with Lotus on the couch.

In all honesty, the trip was a bit random. And, I didn’t do much research before I showed up. Thank goodness for awesome recommendations from friends and useful Foursquare tips (I am now a Foursquare convert after using the Yelp app for years). I love exploring cities, and Montreal did not disappoint.

Here were the hits:

La Buvette chez Simone – a perfect evening of delicious wine, incredible charcuterie (the smoked meat especially), and a genuinely fun ambiance. Easily one of my favorite dinners of the year.

Boulangerie Guillaume – the only place in Montreal I went to twice. It’s a smart and modern bakery, with crispy and rich little chocolatines.

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The Emerald Hotel (formerly No Name Bar) – a local hangout recommended to me by my friend Aimee. The bartender drink therapist wore a swanky tuxedo serving potions that had me drunk on a school night, eavesdropping on the couple next to me (it was a first date gone horribly wrong, and it ended with a “So I’m leaving now…”). Amazing.

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Ludger – this was a neighborhood hangout recommended by Richard (whose apartment I was crashing at). Started with wine, filled up on homemade lamb pasta, topped it off with a luxurious beignet.

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Satay Brothers – Kevin and I sort of wandered into this place late on a Monday night. It was food from my corner of the globe (Southeast Asia), and I was impressed (!) by their beef rendang. I wish this place existed in Boston.

Marché Jean-Talon – I wouldn’t normally list a market as a must-see but this one stood out to me because of the quality of the produce. I had some of the most delicious pears and tomatoes I’ve ever had here. Also, killer gelato.

Arthur Quentin – This made my list for all my Test Kitchen and food friends. This is one of the most carefully curated kitchenware stores I’ve ever been to – a collection of gorgeous dishware and real kitchen tools.

La Gare – My home co-working space, Workbar, is a part of the LEXC network which allows me to visit sister spaces in different cities. In Montreal I worked out of La Gare – not only was it beautiful, but the people were incredibly friendly and kind. If I lived in Montreal I would definitely co-work here.

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Brunch at Kathryn’s! We have a number of Automatticians based out of Montreal, and Kathryn hosted a waffle brunch for us at her house. It was Jordan’s first brunch ever (!), and it was a blast hanging out with our local co-workers!

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Kazu – this was the last place I ate at before I left. It’s an incredible lunch spot for punchy Japanese-style rice bowls and ramens. I’ve never really had Japanese food like this before, and I loved it.

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There were a few other fantastic places that did not make the Top 10:

  • Else – a local bar hangout with super friendly staff
  • Dieu du Ciel – a local brewery (I saw that my co-workers Erick H. and Matt W. checked in here, so I figured it must be good)
  • Holder – a delicious seafood restaurant with killer beef bourguignon.
  • Khyber Pass – a funky Afghan place
  • Lili and Oli – Former VIP intern Andrea’s local hangout
  • Cafe Venosa – my first ever visit to a vegan cat cafe
  • Notre-Dame Basilica – simply gorgeous and quiet visit

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I had two main reasons for starting my nomad journey this fall. One was to connect with friends far away. The other was to push myself out of my comfort zone. I had been so happy in my little Cambridge bubble for years, it was time to mix it up. I had doubts that I would ever find a city that would be as walkable, friendly, smart, neighborhoody and homey as Cambridge, MA.

Since I started traveling this fall, I’ve already found a handful of neighborhoods in cities around North America (including Montreal) that have very quickly felt homey. I’m lucky that I had lots of friends and co-workers in Montreal that helped me connect to the city. It’s oddly comforting to know that I could easily be at home in many places. Cities are more alike than they are different.

I spent hours walking and exploring the neighborhoods of Montreal feeling happy and settled. We’ll see if I still find this to be true when I start traveling farther in 2016.

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