Q1: It’s time to be a tourist in our own city, can you tell us a bit about what’s happening in Old Montreal?
When was the last time you went to Old Montreal? If you haven’t seen it in the last few years, you won’t recognize it. The software companies that marched into its western end, mostly west of McGill St., have turned this area on its nose.
Now there are people living and working down here. Fabulous new restaurants have opened up in wonderful new boutique hotels. At the eastern end, near Bonsecours St., an entire new neighborhood was created.
Q2: That sounds like a lot of changing, is the street scene modernizing and losing its Old World charm?
Did you know that the buildings on de la Commune Street look exactly the same today as they would have been to a sailor who sailed into the port in the 19th century? Place Jacques Cartier has been totally refreshed. For the summer, St. Paul street has been turned into a pedestrian mall.
Q3: Let’s get back to your specialty, what about the shopping there?
For all of the new inhabitants, retail shops opened to feed and care for them – bakeries, dry cleaners, clothing shops, furriers and depanneurs have filled up the empty storefronts.
At first glance, dear old St. Paul St. is still filled with so many souvenir shops. Having said that, a handful of them contain the works of real artisans or more upscale gifts, and those are worth stopping in to see.
Q4: What kinds of thing would we find in those stores?
You can think of these shops as shopping green and shopping local:
L’empreinte Cooperative is a 37-year-old co-op for over 70 Quebec artists and artisans, you can expect to find variety, including ceramics, handmade albums, glass vases, bowls, sheepskin slippers, pewter lamps, handmade clothing, puppets and creative jewelry. Marianne Chevalier weaves pictures using copper thread and for souvenir hunters, Renee Bovet captures Montreal street scenes on silk.
Location: 272 St. Paul St. East
corner: Marche Bonsecours St.
Hours: Sun-Wed 10-6, Thurs-Sat 10-10 (Summer daily 10-10, Jan & Feb 11-5:30 daily)
Smack in the middle of old Montreal, Les artisans du meuble quebecois, is a 43-year-old artisan’s consignment shop displays some of the wares of a minimum of 450 artists. Look for: glassware, ceramics, handmade cards, duck decoys, door knockers, fish bone shadow boxes, scarves, wooden kids’ furniture, dolls, quilts, creches, jewelry (silver, beaded), wooden boxes and then some.
88 St. Paul St. East
corner: St. Gabriel St.
Phone: 514- 866-1836.
Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
At Tant qu’il y aura des fleurs, the decor here feels like you’ve stepped into someone’s lovely rustic home. Objects to fill yours include artificial fruit and veggies, candlesticks, large quilts and pillows, Joanel purses, animal wallets, woven place mats, colorful tablecloths from Provence (wash ‘n use, stain repellent), dishes, wooden bowls, vases, interesting jewelry and for fun, roosters, For babies, look in the back for little terry robes and booties made in Quebec. Everything can be gift-wrapped to go. Right now you’d be surprised but they have set up a Christmas section and does make people smile when the see it.
347 St. Paul St. East
corner: St. Claude St.
Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Inside Marche Bonsecours, , emphasizes natural items. Look for framed displays of beetles or butterflies, petrified wood, some minerals and fossils. You can buy an 8′ giraffe, skin drums, stone candle holders, dream catchers, bamboo flutes, paper lanterns and some really nice handmade paper stationery.
300 St. Paul St. East
corner: Bonsecours St., inside Marche Bonsecours
Phone: 514- 868-9992
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.