After our Saturday morning shoot with Anaïs, the elegant bloggeuse of Blondie In Canada, we were fortunate enough to be shown around the Mile End and get a glimpse of some of her fav shops, bakeries, and eateries. For a lazy Saturday late afternoon, it was EPIC. Sorry, I have to be a nerd about this. There's little I get more excited about than an artistic utopia (in French, no less) where everyone is matter-of-fact about the fresh and bright mixing of cultural influences and unabashed individuality that seems to characterize Montreal. See below for where we went, what we ate, what we schemed (successfully) about returning later in the week to eat, and what we now, back in the States, dream about eating again...
The Mile End is perfect. Understatedly sweet boutiques, artisan breads and bagels, world famous gelato, and impossibly delightful restaurants whose walls are laden with local art. It's easy to see how this is the neighborhood of Montreal that gave us non-Canadians Arcade Fire and Grimes (full disclosure, I had to look that up on Wikipedia, but still! Grimes!) Just a block away from the effervescent bubble of exquisitely artsy shops and food so good that it was actually devastating to think of my life soon-to-be without it, vistas of residential dwellings lay, cool and shady despite the 80's heat, each front door topping an elegantly long flight of front steps. These houses, situated so closely together as to almost seem to be one long structure, are each painted a whimsical hue in the buttery pastel spectrum. People sat out on on their elevated verandas, some on rocking chairs, or moved about audibly just inside their screen doors. Everything was in French.
Mile End Itinerary
Unicorn - Located at the juncture of St. Laurent & Laurier, this hip boutique specializes in Montreal-made clothing and accessories. There's a certain glossy edginess that distinguishes Unicorn from the other shops we visited.
Vestibule - Right next door to Unicorn and beyond cute. Clothing and household goods organized neatly and chicly on shelves by color. Think Urban Outfitters without a college-binge-drinking vibe.
Lowell - okay, we didn't go here, but this is another one of @blondie_in_canada's recs. Their website looks amazing.
Annex - corner of Rue Clark & Rue Saint Viateur. Mixing second-hand clothes with paraphernalia (pins, cards, stickers, signs) with a certain emo-hipster kind of design. Strong "sadness" theme that was oddly cheering, as though to celebrate the dark lining of a silver cloud.
Kem Coba - Avenue Fairmont O & Rue Clark. Go here for delicate ice creams, sorbets, & gelato with flavors that sing and a texture as light as air. Especially if you like to eat violently pink things.
Guillaume - a bakery out of a picture book located near the corner of St. Laurent & Laurier. This open-air bakery has a counter where you line up and shuffle past reams of loafs, in all flavors and shapes, although everything is, well, bread-colored. But a nostalgic, insouciantly-tannish bread color. So basically, you just choose breads and they ring you up, and you waltz away laughing at your former Dr. Atkins pretensions.
Patisserie de Gascogne - corner of Laurier & Jeanne-Mance. We didn't end up going here, but we heard it's exquisite.
Fairmont Bagel - Rue Fairmont & Rue Saint Urbain. Very close to Kem Coba (ice cream), this tiny bagel shop makes delectable bagels that are rather crunchier and sweeter than the norm. Don't leave Montreal without at least half of dozen of these to give to your lucky friends.
Love ya, Montreal