Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Montreal Top Twelve: The Best of the Belly of the Beast that Beat the Bruins

Fresh off a 3–1 loss to the Canadiens in Game Seven at the TD Garden, my wife and I drove from Boston to Montreal, the belly of the beast. There, we rendezvoused with an erstwhile stateside friend to enjoy the cuisine and culture—and to congratulate Canadiens fans on their victory.

I became, you might say, a Canadien and a Canadian spy, and present my top twelve observations and reasons to visit Montreal.

1.      Saint Louis. Our hotel attendant, a funny and amiable fellow who I‘ve canonized here, hailed cabs and pointed us in the right direction. (Mont Royal is to the north). Louis also told us that the Bruins used to stay at his hotel, on Rue de la Montagne, and he shared a funny interaction he had with Shawn Thornton.
2.      Wrap City. When we told one employee that he looked like Patrice Bergeron, he said someone in Boston told him the same thing. After some friendly hockey talk, we delighted in the food. I recommend the Fifth Avenue wrap and pistachio biscotti.
3.      The McCord Museum. From First Nations to “the Main” to Msr. Masionneuve, the videos, placards and artifacts revealed a wonderful history.
4.      The Hab hockey vibe. On Saturday morning, some five hours before Game One against the Rangers, I walked along avenue des Canadiens—in front of Le Centre Bell—as workers unloaded produce from trucks and television production crews set the stage for announcers. No crowd yet. Serenity surrounded me as I crossed Rue Stanley en route to Gare Centrale.
5.      Second Cup. A youngster wearing a Canadiens shirt listened to his father ask him, in English, what he wanted for breakfast. The father then ordered in French. My turn. I ordered, in English: a chocolate almond croissant to go with my Panini style egg sandwich and coffee, into which I sprinkled chocolate powder. At a nearby table, one Habs fan recalled a story about how he had secured last-minute tickets. I sat at my table and ate as I waited for the train.
6.      Chez Puckbite. Msr. Plouffe and his son, clutching a Canadian and an American flag, greeted me and then treated me to a tour of their home. Puckbite Palace is to hockey memorabilia and painting what the McCord Museum is to history.
7.      Habs vs. Rangers. Not being invested in the outcome, now that my team had exited the playoffs, afforded me relief from the drama and awarded me the joy de vivre de hockey as Puckbite shared his quirky color commentary from his living room. “Subban Incorporated,” he exclaimed as P.K. went end to end. The Canadiens would lose, and I took no solace in that.
8.      Cabbies: From Italy, Lebanon, Algeria and Haiti they had emigrated. All friendly in their own way as they drove us to restaurants. Grazie. Shukran. Merci.
9.      Lola Rosa. While waiting for the vegetarian lasagna, I opened the drawer at my table. It was stuffed with hand-written notes about love and misery and university life (McGill is a few blocks away). Some were funny, but I didn’t write them down and can’t recall them now. But I wrote one of my own. Please let me know if you’ve read it.
10.  Las Sala Rosa. Paella, sangria, limonada and a tortilla española. Muchísimas gracias.
11.  Modavie. Second floor at this bistro in Old Montreal. Chicken Drumette, so yummy. A snare drummer and guitarist accompanying Dray Wood, singing bluesy tunes. Tres magnifique.
12.  What does the Kitsuné say? I still don’t know what a fox says but can tell you that Kitsuné is Japanese for fox and the name of the espresso bar that imports, from a nearby bakery, the best spinach scone. An endearing ambiance (especially for a geography freak and writer), too: a giant world map on the wall and a globe atop a bookshelf containing The Purpose Driven Life (first edition). A most enjoyable Sunday morning, our last day in Montreal.
13.  (Baker’s dozen). Indigo. Blood and Daring. (It’s not about stopping pucks with the face or crashing the crease). John Boyko’s book, featured here on the Agenda with Steve Paikin, is great reading about Canadian-American history— not only for self-assuming Canadian spies like me but anyone interested in the (American?) Civil War.

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