I love finding good coffee, and I also love supporting independent cafés. Good thing Montréal has both, and some of my favourite cafés can be found downtown, in the Plateau, and the Mile End. Le Hip-Hop Café is a relatively new addition to the Mile End neighbourhood and I had been meaning to drop by and check out the place since it opened in February. Mind you, the establishment situated at the corner of avenue Parc and rue Villeneuve is not just a café but more of a business with a concept — one that happens to offer good coffee and eats but operates for the purpose of promoting hip hop culture in Montréal.
This morning I ran my third half-marathon for the 24th edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montréal Marathon. My main goal for this race was quite simple: I did not want to get injured. If you have ever run a race, you know the importance of pacing and for my first two half-marathons I made a neophyte mistake: I went too hard, too early and ended up hobbling for the last eight to ten kilometres with an achy knee. Last year, I could not believe I made the mistake of not pacing myself yet again, so this year I vowed to do better. So I made the goals of warming up for the first one-third of third, then slightly increasing my pace for the next third of the race, and finally pushing myself in the last kilometres. And I was so glad I made these simple goals as I ended up shaving off a whole twelve minutes off last year’s horrible time and obtain a personal record this year.
Tam Tams Drumming Sessions
Every Sunday (depending on weather)
George-Étienne Cartier Monument at Mount Royal Park
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Living in Montréal means that I often act as hostess to various friends and family visiting the city. My guests usually know what they want to do while they’re here — visit cool bars, go to the Old Port, and eat poutine at 4 am. Often, however, they have never heard about the Tam Tam sessions in Mont Royal so if we have a lazy Sunday in the works we’ll make our way over to the mountain after brunch. It’s hard to explain, though, what the Tam Tams are about and really, even, why we should go and see this event. Hippies drumming and free-flow dancing in a circle? I admit, it’s not for everyone but it’s a big part of this city and it’s a different part of Montréal living that I like to expose my guests to if they’re open to alternative cultures.
A lesson I learned from running through the Prairies in Manitoba, Western Canada.
By nature, I am a city girl. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, which as of 2012 had a population of 25.7 million people in the Seoul Capital Area making it the third largest metropolitan area in the world. I then moved to Toronto, the most populous city in Canada, at the age of four and resided in the city except for a few years when I went off to do my undergraduate studies. And now that I call Montréal my home, I remain in the metropolis centres of Canada and love the bustle, riding the métro, and stacked apartment living.
However, I recently had the chance to venture to another part of Canada that I had never had the opportunity to visit until now. I hitched a ride to the southern Manitoba and Winnipeg area, which means that I now only have Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the northern territories to cross off on my Canadian destinations list. I had been to the Prairies before, Calgary and Edmonton to be exact, though Alberta is tempered by the beautiful rocky mountains. Manitoba was a completely different type of the Canadian Prairies, however, as it has not expanded in population nor revelled in the oil boom like its Alberta counterpart. This is really how I always imagined the Prairies to be: flat, sparse, and still. And Manitoba truly delivered.
Montréal is a truly beautiful city in the summer. In the winter? Well, the city becomes endowed with a damning amount of snow so we make most of what we’ve got during these gloomy months. But let’s get back to the summer season. Even though the daytime sun shows off European-inspired architecture and the well-kept gardens dotting the city, some might argue that Montréal becomes even more alive at night. And I’m not just pointing to the city’s famous adult entertainment — the city is so much more than being just the default Canadian getaway city for those celebrating the last of their bachelor(ette) days.
Some cases in point follow. An evening stroll reveals picturesque silhouettes of numerous steeples, vestiges of the city’s strong religious past. The city with the most number of restaurants per capita in Canada (and second in North America) brings fierce competition for diners, serving up excellent culinary experiences into the night. And of course the ongoing array of events jam-packed in the summer, such as Just for Laughs and Montréal Jazz Festival, keeps the city partying past your usual bedtime. It just happens that we took a few photos here and there during these warm months between sips of cocktails on a terrace. Here are a few images of some of the city’s summer evenings thus far, a small snapshot into the bustling summer nights in Montréal.
Since moving to Montréal a few years ago, I have accepted a few culinary facts about the city:
(1) The baguettes are always amazing
(2) “Vegetarian? No problem, we have fish!”
(3) The quality of Korean restaurants are dreadful
File this under complaint number 8,356 about the gaping hole of good ethnic eats in la belle province. Alas, I have come to terms with the lack of quality and authentic Korean restaurants in Montréal with heavy pangs in my heart. I get it, I was spoiled with an excellent array of Korean food during the first twenty years of my life as I grew up in the Toronto suburbs where a subpar Korean restaurant would never last more than a year. Torontonians, both those of Korean heritage and seasoned Korean food diners, demand some decency when grabbing Korean grub, whether it is Korean barbecue, KFC (aka Korean Fried Chicken), hipster Korean tacos, momofuku (or those inspired by the inventive Japanese-Korean fusion eating trend), late-night pork bone soup, or just a traditional eatery. See? So many different types of Korean restaurants are out there! Why not bring some good ones to Montréal, I ask?
Dol sot Bibimbap (top) with sweetened hot sauce, Kimchi Combo side (middle), and Spicy Lamb or Agneau épicé (bottom)
Montréal’s annual comedy festival is back and flashbracket was there too to soak up the summer laughs. Every year, we try to see one or two shows, and this year we opted for The Ethnic Show hosted by Maz Jobrani and Date Night: The Relationship Show hosted by Godfrey. But you don’t need to buy tickets to partake in this summer festival favourite — head to Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles at Place-des-arts metro and see the free outdoor stage events, spontaneous on-the-road magic and comedy acts, and a funk-playing bank dressed up as aliens (see picture below).