The concept of traveling with a good book has always been a romantic notion for many of us. A few years ago I actually joined a Facebook group called “All I Really Want to Do Is Read Good Books in Interesting Places” simply because the concept of the group successfully summed up the leisurely lifestyle that I dream of living. “Reading” and “Vacation” go together like… well… parties and poutine.
Montreal, in all its romantic glory, has a ton of interesting places to read good books.
I’ve named ten of my favorite locations, and paired them with an author whose literary landscapes might compliment the Montreal spaces mentioned.
CAFÉ NÉVÉ – Since opening it’s doors a year ago, this delightful little Plateau coffeehouse has quickly become a Montreal institution for artful and delicious coffee. Tuck into the couches in the corner, get your caffeine buzz on, and then tackle a chapter of Aldous Huxley. 151 Rachel East.
CAMELLIA SINENSIS – My favorite teahouse in Montreal is tucked on a side street of the famous Latin Quarter. They have a delightful “no computer” policy, which provides the perfect space for unplugging from the Internet and sipping a cup of tea with Jane Austin. 351 Rue Emery.
La CROISSANTERIE FIGARO – Tucked into an unassuming corner of Mile End, when you enter La Figaro, you are stepping back in time to a cozy Parisian bistro. Order yourself a croissant et café au lait, and let the poetry of Mallarmé massage your intellect. 5200 Rue Hutchison.
BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONAL et ARCHIVES du QUÉBEC – This stunning $90 million architectural gem of Montreal has one of the largest book collections in all of Canada. Nuzzle into one of the armchairs on the third floor, overlooking Berri Avenue. Explore an existential moment courtesy of Satre. Corner Berri and de Maisonneuve.
WESTMOUNT PUBLIC LIBRARY – Dating back to 1897, this charming Victorian edifice has beautiful reading spaces bathed in light. You’ll find a large selection of English books. Go compare mythologies with the iconic Leonard Cohen, who was born and raised in the Westmount neighborhood. 4574 Sherbrooke West.
DRAWN & QUARTERLY – A cherished Montreal space for writers, graphic novelists, artistes and readers. Sample the literary originality of locals such as Sherwin Tjia. You might have to read standing up, or you could buy yourself a treat and cross the streets to Le Depanneur Café to be serenaded as you leaf through your newest find. 211 Bernard West.
LAFONTAINE – One of the most peaceful places in the city. The sound of the fountain drowns out any urban noise, and the shade of the maple trees provides a pleasant respite from the hot summer sun. The romance of it all might call for some Jeanette Winterson. Corner Sherbrooke Street and Avenue du Parc la Fontaine.
JEAN-DRAPEAU – A five-minute metro ride from downtown will bring you to Saint Helene’s Island. Look for the pond on the east side of the Biosphere, and install yourself by the waterfall. And if you time it right, you can watch the sunset over the skyline of Montreal. Escape urbainia with Jack Kerouac. Metro Jean-Drapeau.
MONTREAL FINE ARTS MUSEUM – With free admission to the permanent collections, you are able to perch upon the many couches throughout the museum. And if you haven’t yet read The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, this could be your perfect place to learn about human movement, linked to art history. 1380 Sherbrooke Street West.
THE NELLIGAN – A charming century-old brick building in European flavored Old Montreal. There is poetry written on the walls. And who better to punctuate the experience than the dashing, precocious poet with whom the hotel is named after? Let Émile Nelligan narrate your Montreal trip. 106 Saint Paul West.