Playing In Le ‘Gay’ Village
We followed St Catherine Street East from the centre of downtown Montreal until we saw thousands of small pink balls strung across the street. For five months of the summer period St Catherine Street is a pedestrian freeway which gives the area a local and relaxed feel. The gay strip goes for about a mile and would have to be one of the most thriving gay areas in the world. It’s easy to see how the term ‘Le Village’ comes about. This is more than just a couple of bars, its a whole district.
We arrived a few weeks after Pride and one day after the big annual fetish weekend so people were feeling a tad tired. However, by end of the week things got going again and on Friday and Saturday the bars, restaurants and strip shows were packed. Along this popular street there is a good range of bars and many have an outdoor drinking area until 11:00pm. Our favourite was The Black Eagle (L’Aigle Noir) because the clientele included a mixture of ages, types and nationalities. It was friendly and the service was excellent. We tried many of the other bars but this was the one where we felt most comfortable. Check out the current list of bars and gay venues here: http://montreal.gaycities.com/bars/
If you only had time for one gay bar in Montreal you would be very wise to experience the absolutely amazing Stock Bar (Le Bar Stock). Wow! What an incredible place with strip shows that will blow your mind. You’ll meet some of the muscled hunks at the front of the club before you enter. There is no entry fee and you walk in and choose a table as close as you feel comfortable to the show. The stage is constantly busy with a rotating array of guys baring their all for the audience. Hot! There is no other word which describes it better. So this is a ‘must do’.
Of course, while in Montreal, a visit to the sauna is also a must. We chose Oasis which is the most popular in the area. We found it clean, busy and very friendly. The best part about this place is the private cabins. When you check in you can choose to pay for a private room and this is yours to use until you leave. Such a convenient service which provides you with a haven in which to recover from some of the busier attractions in the venue like the steam room, large dry sauna and the enormous whirlpool with the movies on the big screen. A great way to relax before or after a night at the bars. C’est formidable!
Biking In Mount Royal Park
It was a hot 28 degrees in Montreal and we were on our way to Fitz and Follwell are just below Mount Royal Park to hire bikes for a few hours of leisurely riding around the 200 hectare city park. This is the very best place to go in this delightful city to fully enjoy nature in every season. On arrival at the bike shop we met a very cute guy called Charles who we also found to be extremely helpful. He suggested a picnic by the lake. Coincidentally, there was a supermarket across the street and the bikes come with detachable picnic baskets. Perfect!
In the supermarket we bought a freshly baked baguette, duck paté, a couple of pre-packed chicken salads and chilled water. Back at the bike shop Charles kindly asked about the types of bikes we wanted and then he showed us to the bike garage at the back of the store. All saddled up with supplies and with clear directions, we rode to the beginning of the park where the angel statue (Monument George-Étienne-Cartier) stands looking down over park patrons. To the left of the angel statue we took a couple of deep breaths and started our wind up the mountain.
The dirt trail is a very wide old coach track and as it starts to rise we quickly reset the bike gears back to one, making it fairly easy to pedal. Even though the day was hot the track was incredibly well shaded by trees and vegetation making it a very pleasant temperature to ride. As we continued to pedal the track it became a little steeper, but we rode fairly slowly, determined to get to our destination.
Almost at the top of the mountain there was a small lake (Beaver Lake) and after about forty minutes of steady uphill riding it did not take much encouragement from either of for us to pull over and park our bikes under one of the beautiful old trees to start our picnic lunch by this beautiful man made lake.
The duck paté spread on the red pepper and sun dried tomato infused baguette was a French inspiration and quite a delicious starter. There were plenty of other people scattered around the lake taking advantage of the perfect summers day, sun baking on the grassy slopes and enjoying their own picnics and summertime sojourns. The lake in winter is used for ice-skating and the park for cross country skiing and toboggans. During our visit it was hard for some of the hot male bike riders to keep their shirts on, which made it difficult for us to imagine this spot under a layer of snow and ice.
After lunch we rode a short way to the summit and saw the magnificent views over the entire city of Montreal and when you come to this park don’t miss a visit to Chalet du Mont Royal for a little slice of the history of Montreal.
The ride down the mountain was much easier and quite a bit quicker than our plodding push up. Apart from biking in Mount Royal Park there are extensive walking trails and, if cemeteries are your thing, then the park backs directly onto Montreal’s largest cemetery which you can also explore by bike. Charles told us it is a very beautiful and alternative route for your return from the mountain. Whether it’s summer or winter Mount Royal Park offers tourists a great day out and, when you’re in Montreal, don’t miss it.
Eating At Patrice Patisserie
Do yourself a favour when in Montreal and get on over to a little out of the way French Patisserie. Patrice Patisserie is a hidden gem, only opened just over two years ago and not far from the famous Atwater Markets in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal.
The freshly baked pastries on display were a delight for the eyes and we immediately decided to have lunch and started with the chicken liver mouse which was creamy and delicious. Next we had the red pepper and cherry tomatoes on a base of caramelised onions encased in perfectly cooked pastry. The tartlet had intense flavours which literally exploded in your mouth and, combined with a small salad of micro herbs, it was simple and delicious.
Trying to choose a desert was the hardest thing we had done all day. Was it to be the pecan and chocolate sable, raspberry tartlet with white chocolate and tarragon? No, how could we go past the blueberry eclair? The real wow moment was when we bit into the crispy eclair which was not too sweet, combining blueberries in its light cream centre which was also infused with hints of mint and lemon. Totally delectable.
Everything in this smartly styled bakery is made in house and Chef Patrice and his young team ensure everything is served uber fresh daily. A bonus of this patisserie is that you can sign up for cooking classes which are mostly in French but in October the class, with a focus on chocolate, is in English. Open Wednesday to Sunday Patrice Patisserie is a great find for either coffee and cake or for a delicious lunch, but unfortunately not open for dinner.
After our sumptuous repast, we walked a little further down the street to the Atwater Markets which gave us an even clearer understanding of the local appreciation for fine food. The selection of cheeses, meats, breads, pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables and game produce distinctly reflected the French influence evident everywhere in this cosmopolitan city.
Montreal was one of our favourite city stops in Canada and we will certainly visit again in the near future. Gay men will not be disappointed with a vacation in this sophisticated, LGBTI friendly city.
Know before you go
- We chose to stay at the Marriott Courtyard Downtown. It is well located and very comfortable.
- You could check out Agoda.com for alternative accommodation options.
- Spend some time exploring old Montreal. Use the following site as a starting point :
- Shopping in Montreal is a real pleasure. Check out the following article:
- Make sure you visit the Museum of Fine Arts which has spectacular exhibitions.
- For a special dining experience try Suite 701 which is located in the old town.