KEITH BELLOWS: I HEART MONTREAL

Posted on June 11th, 2012 by .

National Geographic Traveler just launched a free iPad app, A Taste of Montréal, with a gorgeous new photo gallery to match (two must-haves before visiting this foodie paradise), so we asked the magazine’s editor-in-chief Keith Bellows to give his take on the best sites and scenes in his hometown of Montréal. In addition to running the magazine and writing “One on One,” a regular Traveler interview column, this proud Canuck has written for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Parenting, among many others. Check out Keith’s recommendations for making the most of the city of a hundred steeples, then add your own two cents by leaving a comment…

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Place Jacques Cartier and Vieux-Montréal (the oldest part of the city).
When I crave smoked meat, I always go to Schwartz’s.

Keith's go-to spot for smoked meat. (Photograph by Scalino, flickr)

To escape downtown I go for a bike ride along the Lachine Canal.
If I want to unwind I go play frisbee on the downtown campus of McGill University.
For complete quiet, I can hide away in the small towns of the Laurentians, about an hour north of Montréal.
If you come to my city, get your picture taken with a Montréal Canadiens hockey player.

Poutine: french fries, fresh cheese curds, and gravy. Yum. (Photograph by Yuri Long, flickr)

If you have to order one thing off the menu from La Banquise it has to be the poutine, Quebec’s provincial dish.
Jean-Talon Market is my one-stop shop for great fresh produce and organic meats.
Locals know to skip places that serve pricey wines and head for one of the many BYOBs (bring your own bottle establishments), where you can drink with no corkage fee instead.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go buy a baguette from Mamie Clafoutis, thinly sliced salami from a charcuterie, and some ice cider (another French-Canadian specialty) and head to Parc Mont-Royal.
For a huge splurge I go to Le Toque, one of Canada’s best restaurants.
Photo ops in my city include everywhere! The best vantage points are from the old city, the top of Mont-Royal, and on Rue St.-Denis.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Lady Gaga.
The most random thing about my city is its street life — it is a cavalcade of the unpredictable and eccentric.
My city has the most debonair men.
My city has North America’s most stylish women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves rollerblading and biking along the St. Lawrence.
My city’s best museum is the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (but don’t miss the Insectarium and Pointe-a-Calliere, the fascinating archeology museum in Old Montréal).
My favorite jogging/walking route is the St. Lawrence River route toward the Molson plant.

Keith's pick for Montréal's don't-miss museum. (Photograph by Andrew Louis, flickr)

For a night of dancing, go to Salsatheque or Bain Douches. Or, for live music, check out BLVD 44 or the Telus Theatre. The Bell Center is where all the big acts play.
Les Enfants Terribles (among too many to name) is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read The Gazette; the alt paper The Hour just folded.
You can tell a lot about my city from the nightlife on steroids that is just getting started around 10:00 p.m.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they know what you’re talking about when you say the Plateau and can locate the giant Orange Julep.
In the spring you should hang around near McGill and Prince Arthur, soaking up the sun and the street life.
In the summer you should take in Jean-Baptiste Day and join the huge crowds on Mont-Royal.
In the fall you should take a date to the shores of Beaver Lake.
In the winter you should go skating on one the countless city rinks set up in parks everywhere.
A hidden gem in my city is the crazy quilt of corkscrew staircases and eccentrically day-glo façades of the townhouses east of St. Laurent.

Breakfast must: A "raspberry bar rhapsody" from Olive et Gourmando. (Photograph by Shao, flickr)

For a great breakfast joint, try Olive et Gourmando on Rue St. Paul.
Don’t miss the Just for Laughs Festival in July and Nuits Blanche festival in February.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Lake of Two Mountains to the west and Mont-Tremblant Park to the north (nearby is one of eastern Canada’s best ski resorts).
The best way to see my city is on foot.
If my city were a pet it would be a Labradoodle — smart and cool.
Kids can walk through ecosystem replicas at the Biodome. (Photograph by Wally Gobetz, flickr)
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live on the Chesapeake Bay.
The best book about my city is – there are too many to name. My favorites—Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind isHometown Waltz” by Rufus Wainwright, “Je Reviendrai a Montreal” by Robert Charlebois, or “A Montreal Song” by Bruce Cockburn.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Insectarium, the Biodome, and whatever cirque of many that happens to be performing at the moment.
The birth of Cirque du Soleil could only happen in my city.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s the closest you’ll get to being in Europe without going there.

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Follow Keith on Twitter @NGSTravelEditor, and be sure to check out his new book, 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life, which will be published next spring.

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This article originally appeared on the Intelligent Travel blog.

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