Dodgy, or Edgy?: Our "Cool" Montreal Neighborhood

We wanted to wait a bit before writing this post about our Montreal neighborhood since first impressions of a new place are always a bit misleading.  Sometimes, the freshness of a new place seems to entice us to such an extent that we think there would be nothing more wonderful than life in this new location.  But, of course, we can and do tire of most places...

Other times, the strangeness of a new city--not as in odd or weird but more just in the sense of new-to-us--can color our perceptions more negatively.  It's the reaction I would identify as: "What have we gotten ourselves into?"  Will and I admit with some relief--since that is no longer the case (whew!)--that our Montreal neighborhood initially struck us in this, less positive, way.

Of course Montreal itself, especially the Old Montreal area, is stunning and beautiful, and everything one could hope for in a smallish city.  (Another post on that later, if we have time.)  However, our VRBO apartment was not in the fashionable district, or the Old Port area, or amongst the jet-set crowd. We probably would have enjoyed all those places, but two months' rent in those areas would have been exorbitant!

Instead, we chose a listing with a rent that seemed almost too "reasonable" to be in a "nice" area, especially when it boasted 1000 square feet of living space.  Is that even possible in the city for a rent this affordable?  Indeed, as we were driving in, we noticed with dismay that there was what appeared to be a "police action" ("O no, a drug bust?!") in the block right before our own.  Then when we went to park our car at the place indicated as per our instructions, we looked a bit askance at the graffiti everywhere.  "Ye gads, what had we gotten ourselves into?"

Since we ended up getting into our unit in the early evening, we had to look for a place to eat almost immediately.  Unfortunately, the busy commercial districts right around our unit seemed to offer more kitsch and American fast food than creative and innovative Montreal cuisine.  We didn't relish the idea that we left one of the greatest food cities in the US so that, for two months, we could consume A&W, McDonald's, Subway, and Dairy Queen.  What happened to all those hip places mentioned in Food&Wine and Bon Appetit magazines?

Never fear.  The longer we lived here and got acquainted with the various Montreal quartiers, we realized that we--in complete ignorance--stumbled upon a gem.  It turned out that we accidentally chose a combination of the most affordable and the most up-and-coming neighborhood possible.

It turns out that everyone talks about the Mile End neighborhood of Montreal being one of the "coolest" places to live in, and we can attest that the neighborhood is full of great little independent restaurants and coffee shops and artsy boutiques.  But it's also a bit congested, more English-speaking, and very yuppy.

Instead, our Little Italy/Mile-Ex neighborhood is apparently the "next big thing," with its edgy vibe, industrial look, and rougher edges.  In fact, there is a 2016 ranking of 15 "coolest" neighborhoods in the world which rates Mile End and Mile-Ex for #1, beating out the likes of Mission District in San Francisco and the Pearl District in Portland.

Even the ubiquitous graffiti took on a different slant for us once we discovered that artists were encouraged to paint graffiti as part of a beautification effort.

So, welcome to our neighborhood!  Let us introduce you to...

The cafe across our street:

Beers from the divey bar next block with lots of great microbrews on tap:

Our metro stop, seriously just across the street:

The stunning church around the corner from the metro station:

The many art galleries nearby with some hilarious and whimsical works:

This neighborhood has turned out to be something of a find, and we like it more and more each day.


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