I moved into a tiny apartment in Outremont, a beautiful borough of Montreal on the other side of Mont Royal from the old original city, in August of 2016. It is so easy to fall in love with Outremont! Here are five things I love about living in Outremont, given a handful of months of experience.
1. Parc Outremont
Parc Outremont is just up Avenue Outremont from my apartment. It's the perfect neighbourhood park: big enough that there is something to walk through or around, small enough to feel nestled into the neighbourhood, old enough to have many big trees, maintained adequately enough not to be too shabby for comfort, providing enough seating for old and young, containing a fenced playground for children and lots of lawn for them to run around on, and lit well enough to allow for night-time walking. (And, for serious exercise, I can walk another block or two and then complete lose myself on Mont Royal.)
2. Les 5 Saisons
A block away from my apartment, along Avenue Bernard, is the store where I buy almost all of my groceries, Les 5 Saisons. It is the first time in my life that I can recall being able to get hold of nearly everything I need for preparing meals within fewer than five minutes' worth of walking. In addition to this convenience, the selection in the store is perfect for someone with my food preferences without being outrageously expensive.
Les 5 Saisons is for me the symbol of Outremont being an urban village, allowing for the city comforts celebrated in David Sucher's book of the same title. It is no surprise that Les 5 Saisons in Outremont obeys the three rules David Sucher identifies for generating walkable neighbourhoods!
For gin, wine, and whisky I can still stay in Outremont, walking about ten minutes to thesurprisingly well-stocked local SAQ (I have been thoroughly surprised by finding that they sometimes sell my favourite gins, St. George's Terroir and Barr Hill). Kitchen equipment? Les Touilleurs. And for meat I walk for just less than half an hour once or twice a month, into the Mile End, to the Boucherie Lawrence.
3. The bar at Brasserie Bernard
Neither my calendar nor my budget allows me to sit at the bar of the Brasserie Bernard as often as I would like. The Brasserie Bernard is not a Michelin-starred establishment (if I remember correctly Montreal had only three of those when I last checked, and I haven't eaten in any of them), but it nonetheless is, for me, the Outremont symbol of city magic - that thrill of elegance, spectacle, and public sociability that cannot really be had other than in large cities. Across the street is the Théâtre Outremont. For three blocks along Avenue Bernard it is all shops and restaurants, and in the summer the restaurants spill out onto sidewalk patios that just buzz. (But my favourite thing about the Brasserie Bernard is the bartender, who makes her own cocktail syrups and garnishes at home.)
4. City Hall
Outremont was an independent municipality until 2000, and now is a small borough of the city of Montreal. It has its own borough council, with four councilors and a mayor, and it is represented on the city council of Montreal by its mayor. As best as I can tell, this is the subsidiarity of Catholic social thought in action - many decisions are made at the borough level, and the citizens of the borough are closely involved by means of elections and referendums. (I recently started writing a series of short articles on the public life of the borough for the magazine Convivium, the first installment of which you can read here.) This kind of close involvement in the public life of one's neighbourhood is, as best as I can tell, one of the most meaningful ways in which to be a political creature, and it makes me very happy to be able to observe it in action.
5. Saint-Viateur, one of the borough's Catholic parish churches
There is of course also the famous bagel shop of the same name, but this parish church is the second most obvious indication of the reality of deep religious conviction in Outremont: the first being the dress of the large Hasidic community in the borough. Outremont is like a little laboratory for the intersections of religion and politics, faith communities and public life, church/synagogue and state. Since these intersections are very important in my life, including my journalism and scholarship, I feel privileged to be a participant-observer in Outremont borough religious and political life.