TRAVELOGUE: d’EON’S GUIDE TO MONTREAL

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Words and photographs by Conor Riley.

It’s raining outside of Punjab Palace in Park Extension (“Park-Ex” to locals), a developing, mostly residential neighborhood in Montreal, QC. Since we arrived in the French-Canadian city the prior afternoon, the weather has not been on our side, save for a few hours of clear skies the evening before, when we ventured up to Mont Royal Cemetery for a spectacular view of the city – and a run in with a group of hungry raccoons.

After Mont Royal, and a quick change of clothes, we hopped a cab to Little Italy, where dance-party Booty Bakery was taking place in an Italian boulangerie. As attendees slipped and slid on the wet floors, spilled down the venue’s main staircase, and danced in the fog, we couldn’t help but notice some of the looks that wouldn’t feel at all out of place at a party like Frankie Sharp’s WestGay or LadyFag’s 11:11. While the party was scheduled to wrap up at around 6 AM, its conspicuous location attracted the police, and we were sent home at around 3 (a blessing-in-disguise, as we were due to meet our tour-guide in just a few hours).

Now late Saturday morning, we force ourselves out of bed, and after a few wrong turns on our way to Park-Ex, we finally meet up with Chris d’Eon (known professionally as d’Eon), musician and friend of OAK, who has agreed to show us some of his favorite spots in the city. d’Eon lives near multiple Greek Orthodox churches, which offer Park-Exers regular listenings of Byzantium hymns, just one of the perks of the neighborhood to the songwriter.

“You guys got screwed,” says d’Eon, referring to the weather. He tells us that this sort of thing tends to happen when he has visitors in town. Nevertheless, we’re here at Punjab Palace, a highly-recommended and newly-reopened (after burning down!) Indian restaurant a few blocks from d’Eon’s house. We order our five-dollar Thali (which we will soon find out is a delicious, and filling deal), and are treated to a short history of the Park-ex neighborhood – which is mostly Greek and South Asian culturally, with a younger, college-age demographic just recently beginning to infiltrate – and Quebec nationalism. Much like many European nations, Quebecois are down with American tourists, but really appreciate when a visitor makes an attempt to begin conversations in the native language. And while most people do speak English in Montreal, d’Eon once ran into a group of teenage girls outside of his girlfriend’s apartment building who pretended to only understand French (a small, yet telling act of rebellion for a province that continues to push towards national independence). “Everyone learns French here first,” says d’Eon, who after years of living in Montreal is beginning to take his study of the language more seriously. “I actually prefer Quebec French to European French,” our guide says, which can at times sound extremely different from one another, and is another element that separates Quebec from other Canadian provinces.

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After we talk a bit about hometowns (d’Eon is originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia), we decide to head to Mile End, a trendy neighborhood that feels a bit like Montreal’s answer to Williamsburg, BK, and is home to restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and independent clothing boutiques. On our way over, d’Eon points out a few former show spaces, and Claire Boucher’s (aka Grimes) first apartment. d’Eon speaks highly of Montreal’s music scene, but also notes that he feels a bit removed from it at the same time, playing fewer local shows than other Montreal-based artists.

When we reach Mile End, the rain turns into a full-on storm, and we abandon our broken umbrellas that moments before fell victim to the wind. d’Eon graciously continues to show us the neighborhood, which a number of artists like Arcade Fire call home. The walking tour of Mile End continues as d’Eon points out his favorite burger spot (Burger de Ville), S.W. Welch, a small, but wonderful bookstore, La Panthere Verte (for good Vegan eats), Comptoir 21 (a fantastic fish and chips spot that we couldn’t pass up for dinner), and La Maison du Bagel, the best bagel place in the city.

We end our afternoon in Mile End by drying off with coffee and tea at Le Cagibi, a small cafe across the street from the headquarters of a large gaming software company (d’Eon informs us that Montreal is a major hub for both video games and pornography). We thank d’Eon for his time, as the rain finally begins to let up a bit, and he’s off to deliver sheet music for a friend’s project which will interpret his and other musicians’ songs into a Baroque-style presentation. While the weather may have hindered us from exploring d’Eon’s Montreal in the way we initially intended to, we finally begin to feel acquainted with the city, which just a few hours ago seemed completely foreign.

The next morning, we stop for a quick lunch at La Crepiere, a small restaurant in Mile End which boasts delicious bacon, onion, and brie crepes. In the car, following our savory meal, a final drop of rain falls onto our windshield, acting as a punctuation mark on our weekend out of New York. As we drive for the US border, the sun peaks out of the clouds as if to say “Au Revoir.”

d’Eon is currently recording a follow-up album to 2012’s LP, scheduled to be released in 2014 on Hippos In Tanks.

Stay tuned to OAKNYC.COM for an exclusive mix from d’Eon, coming soon.

PUNJAB PALACE
Park-Extension
920 Jean-Talon Ouest
For authentic, filling, and inexpensive Indian cuisine.

BURGER DE VILLE
Mile End
5282 St Laurent Blvd
For Montreal’s best cheeseburgers and a run-in with regular, Chris d’Eon.

S.W. WELCH
Mile End
225 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest
For a small, yet eclectic selection of books.

LA PANTHERE VERT
Mile End
66 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest
For all your Vegan food needs.

COMPTOIR 21
Mile End
21 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest
For delicious and affordable fish and chips.

LA MAISON DU BAGEL
Mile End
263 rue Saint-Viateur Ouest
For the best Montreal-style bagel in the city.

LE CAGIBI
Mile End
5490 St Laurent Blvd
For socializing with friends, reading a book, or working on your laptop (free WiFi!).

LA CREPIERE
Mile End
221 rue St-Viateur Ouest
For an authentic crepe experience with a unique and diverse menu.

MONT ROYAL CEMETERY
Outremont
1297 Chemin de la Forêt
For a great view of the city, but watch out for aggressive raccoons!

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