Saturday, August 26, 2006

Montreal is real

Montreal is awesome and utterly unlike anywhere else I've been. The French language is everywhere, and not nearly as odd as the French would have you believe, but the beautiful food is not quite as easy to come by, and the beautiful clothes are downright rare. There's this one street with two amazing boutiques, both of which sold clothing that, even given that Canadian dollars are pretend dollars,* was far too expensive. Otherwise, Montreal doesn't seem to be a city for the Paris-craver who happens to live in the northeastern United States...

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OK, maybe it does. It's pretty amazing that a flight shorter than the one to Chicago leads to something so francophone and just generally foreign-seeming. And the bookstore I went to during the "Frenesie" was so super fabulous that I now have all sorts of new (well, new to me, mainly mid-20th century) Franco-Zionistic reading material, in English, French, and, in the case of this bizarre picture book from the 1950s, English and Hebrew. And for what it's worth, reading a book with a cover that says, in giant letters, "Pour en finir avec l'anti semitisme," is a sure way to guarantee no one will read over your shoulder on the subway. The book's from the 1970s, and if the other book I'm reading, from a colloquium about France, Jews, and Israel up through the 1980s is to be believed, no one en finired about it after all.

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I totally saw fellow Stuyvesant grad and damn famous writer Gary Shteyngart, with a woman I believe may have been his girlfriend, entering Wilensky's Light Lunch. At first I was maybe 80% sure it was Shteyngart, but it drew closer to 100% when I remembered a) that Shteyngart has expressed a preference for Korean women (the woman he was with looked potentially Korean), b) that Shteyngart had, as "ck" of Jewlicious mentioned to me, written about the old Jewish delis of Montreal for Slate, and most importantly, c) that he looks not just sort of like the dude I saw, but exactly. I wanted to say something, "Go Stuy!," anything really, but I decided to let him eat in peace.


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My own feelings about the traditional Jewish food of Montreal, smoked meat, are mixed. It seems sort of gross in a good way, but overall, eh. I did have some tasty cheese at Atwater Market that might be unavailable at Zabars, but then again all cheeses are probably somewhere behind that counter, but in any case I didn't bring any cheese back from French Canada, although I was tempted, since it would be kind of amazing to be the girl who missed the start of French grad school because the Department of Homeland Security had detained her on charges of illicit raw-milk cheese smuggling.

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Baldwin Barmacie, on Laurier in the Mile End neighborhood, is the most beautiful bar I've ever seen. I took some photos before the bartender made it clear that this is not permitted, but they didn't come out well anyway, so you'll just have to take my word for it. And Le P'tit Bar, on St. Denis, had this fantastic singer who sang this not at all obscene song, thus adding one word to my French vocabulary. Always a plus.

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*"It's not even a real country anyway." --South Park.

5 comments:

Blundering American said...

I took some photos before the bartender made it clear that this is not permitted...

Will they be available for general viewing in the near future? ;)

Alex B. said...

Glad you liked it. I've only been in Vancouver for five days and I already miss Québec and Montréal. Vancouver is kind of a big suburb (i.e. not pedestrian-friendly at all), but at least it has mountains and the ocean...

Scott Lemieux said...

Which smoked meat did you try? There's a lot of crappy processed stuff out there, even at old-school looking places...

Phoebe said...

Schwartz's. It didn't taste crappy or processed, I just don't tend to like deli meat, no matter how authentic.

Anonymous said...

Montreal is real, oh come on give me a break.... do you come from Charlotte, NC or what?

And please, don't be so biased: The French language is everywhere, and not nearly as odd as the French would have you believe. Writing "Arret" on stop signs is not odd? or talking about "piastres" is quite odd!

Girl, one thing I can tell you is that you need, badly, to go to France to get some real food, have the chance to buy some real clothes and hear some real French!!! (really really)

PS: for the best Mojitos in Paris: Le bar sans nom is the place. (and they really make the best ones)