The Indie Spirit is Alive and Well in Montreal

Fet art women's clothing, jewelryIt might seem a bit ironic to be writing about the independent spirit in Montreal as July 4th weekend winds down here in the States. But my family spent four days in Montreal last week, and wow! I won’t bother telling you about the major tourist attractions, because you can find tons of info online about Le Parc du Mont-Royal, the Botanical Gardens, beautiful and historic Old Montreal, Notre-Dame Basilica, the Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Biodome, and other notable landmarks. We did our best to see as many of those things as possible, and they were all incredible.

But what really blew my mind was the astounding number of indie businesses in the city. We rented an apartment in the neighborhood known as “le Plateau,” and I think I enjoyed walking around there even more than visiting the typical tourist sites. It was such a thrill to stroll down a busy, thriving, commercial street and see almost zero chain stores.

Most exciting was the plethora of independent book stores. They were EVERYWHERE! Below are pictures of just a few indie book stores that were less than a mile from our apartment. All of these stores buy and sell new and used books; some even sell records, CDs and DVDs. I brought along two copies of Leaving the Beach, and although all the stores I visited would only purchase books written in French, I was happy to donate my two copies to a couple of lovely store owners who promised to put it on their shelves. So who knows? Maybe someone who never would have discovered my book is reading it right now. I sure hope so.

book exchange   bookstore brownbookstore yellow

And if you know me at all, you know I have a passion for music, particularly the variety that comes packaged in some sort of box, rather than downloaded from a computer. The decline of record stores in the U.S. makes me truly sad, so what a wonderful surprise to find that record stores are living and breathing quite well in Montreal. Some even specialize in certain types of music. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw one store that sold only rock, metal, and progressive. And Beastie fans, how can you not love a record shop called Paul’s Boutique?

record store prog rock metal                                                 mel disc record store                                                                 paul's boutique

Not convincing enough to get you up there? How about this? You can also shop for reasonably priced clothing and be hard-pressed to find a chain store. Yes, I did come across Forever 21, Aldo, and American Apparel, but those places were grossly outnumbered by shops like the ones pictured below. My favorite was the one called Fet Art (pictured at the top of this post). I saw a really funky bracelet in there on my last day in Montreal, but when I went back to buy it, the store was closed for the evening! Alors, I guess that means I’ll have to get back up there sometime soon.

Folles Alliees women's clothing   trop belle women's clothing      aime com moi clothing store

Looking for Petco? I didn’t see it. But here’s a pet store that was situated near our apartment.

animalerie Paul

How’s that for indie shopping? And if you get sick of that sort of thing and need a more rigorous adventure, we did some whitewater rafting and power boating on the St. Lawrence River too. There’s a small company called Rafting Montreal that provided us with hours of fun. Who knew that a river could have actual waves like the ocean?

And the food? Completely amazing, everywhere we went. All in all, a perfect vacation for our whole family. We even got to take care of Rouky, the cat who kindly let us crash in his apartment. And we made it home in time to see the fireworks on the Boston Esplanade Thursday evening, before the rain set in.Rouky

Montreal, nous reviendrons!!

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About Mary Rowen

My novel LEAVING THE BEACH (a 2016 IPPY Award winner) is about music and obsession, and LIVING BY EAR focuses on divorce and following your passions. I live in the Boston area with my family, cat, and dog.
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6 Responses to The Indie Spirit is Alive and Well in Montreal

  1. Ruth Mancini says:

    I’m very jealous Mary. Montreal looks amazing.

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  2. jan says:

    I love Montreal. I remember eating pastries on Mont-Royal and it was just bliss. Great pics – thanks for bringing back memories.

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  3. What a great post! I must go to Montreal someday! I love all the fun pictures and am so happy to know the indie spirit is still alive and well somewhere in the world!

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    • Mary Rowen says:

      It was such a surprise, Patricia. Almost as soon as we crossed the border into Canada, we started seeing indie businesses of all types. So refreshing! Thank you for your comment.

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  4. Margaret Moroney says:

    Hi Mary,
    I was born and grew up in Montreal, and live in Arlington, MA now, but was so excited to see your story about my home city. I miss it, and Canada, for that matter, so much!! There are English language bookstores in Montreal, but they are chain stores, Indigo and Chapters. For more indie shopping, the next time you go, you should check out Westmount, particularly Greene Street, NDG (Notre Dame de Grace), regions of the area, just west of the city, and Outremont, where I grew up, especially Bernard and Laurier streets, which is a separate town just over “the mountain,” Mont Royal, on the other side of downtown.
    Best wishes,
    Margaret Moroney

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    • Mary Rowen says:

      Thank you, Margaret! I’m so glad you found my blog post and thank you for commenting! There will most certainly be another visit to Montreal for my family–hopefully in the near future–and I will make sure to get to Westmount, NDG, and Outremont. It’s such an amazing city–I hope you get back there to visit from time to time as well.

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