A Local Novelist’s Guide to Montreal

Author Heather O'Neill shares her favourite things to do, the best places to eat and the most amazing things to visit in this bustling city in Quebec.
 

Photograph by Rodolphe Beaulieu Poulin.

Montreal is a character in the novels by Heather O’Neill and the city helps to shape her stories and the lives of the fictional people she writes about. “I find Montreal the city of strange possibilities,” says O’Neill, who was born and raised in the Quebec City. Here are a few of her favourite places.  

City Trail

“I’m not an outdoorsy person. I’m so urban, even when I’m just in Mount Royal Park, I’m like, ‘I’m lost in the wilderness.’ But there’s this set of wooden stairs that go up the side of the mountain and lead to the lookout that I always loved going up, even when I was a kid.”

Café Stop

Darling on Saint Laurent Boulevard is right across the street from Portugal Square, which is where Leonard Cohen lived. If you go there you can also do a little Leonard Cohen tour. I like the way the café is decorated, there are plants hanging from everywhere.”

Favourite Museum

“The Museum of Contemporary Art. My favourite shows in the past year have been from Montreal artists like David Altmejd; he does amazing sculptures. It has these major shows for emerging or mid-career artists and it gives you a good sense of what’s happening in Montreal.” 

Best Place to Stroll

“I walk my dogs on the Plateau; being like a flâneur (stroller). The streets, especially in the summertime, are beautiful, so I like to go along them aimlessly with the dogs.”

Ideal Day

“I would wake up and get my writing done. Then walk my dogs to Drawn & Quarterly bookstore and browse through the books. There are [books by] authors you’ve never heard of, art books and they don’t mind the dogs.”

Under-the-Radar Museum

“I’m a McGill University alumni—it’s a beautiful campus with this old Victorian museum called the Redpath Museum. I like to stop [there] because they haven’t renovated or redecorated since Victorian times, so it really captures that aesthetic.” 

Public Art

“Every year we have MURAL Festival on Saint Laurent Boulevard, so the murals completely change and they’re just incredible. Every year the street becomes a new gallery.”

[This story appears in the April 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.]

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