Part three of my series on visiting Montreal might be my favorite! We spent the morning exploring the Montreal canal area. It’s close enough to downtown to walk, but far enough to lose most of the city feel.
As with any old city, place is built around its water supply. Being an island means there were more options for prime industrial placement, and alongside the canal became a warehouse district of sorts.
Nowadays, the Montreal canal is less industry and more recreation. The warehouses and factories have been converted to apartments. Paved trails line the canal for runners, bikers, and the occasional rollerblader. Families stroll along the waterways and office workers bring bag lunches out to the benches along the ship locks. There were a few tourists, but not many. It felt like local Montreal.
Hungry after our walk, we turned to Atwater Public Market to round up some delicious fresh options for an al fresco lunch!
My friend Elyse told me one of the things she loves most about where she lives is its proximity to the market. While she still goes to the grocery store, most of her fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and bread come from a Saturday morning walk over here!
Outside, it feels like a farmer’s market with a bit more permanence. Since they’re open seven days a week in the warm months, these vendors know their customers and see them a couple times a week. They’re happy to give you a sample or help you identify things: in my case, I’d never heard of ground cherries before. Have you tried these? They’re a little less sweet, with a deeper flavor than traditional cherries, almost woodsy. They look like tiny yellow tomatillos, and we had to buy some when Elyse realized I’d never had them before!
The permanent building houses charcuteries, bakeries, and fromageries. It’s the type of place that locals have their preferred shops. I’m just over here jealous that they have the luxury of choosing their favorite cheese shop! I don’t think I’d ever seen that many varieties of cheese in one place before! Ordering isn’t as simple as choosing parmesan or fontina; you have to know what flavor profile you like. It reminded me of shopping for wine a bit. Elyse always goes with the staff’s recommendation. We went with a brie so rich that it began melting as soon as we unpacked it from its paper, and loved it!
While shopping, Jordana picked up some Gjetost, or whey cheese. It has an earthy, almost nutty flavor. Unusual, but you find yourself going back for another bite again and again. It’s Norwegian, but she’d had it during her time living in St. Louis. We took to calling it peanut butter cheese and snacked on it all weekend.
Before taking our lunch home, we stopped at the glacier (ice cream shop) next door. Because when you’re on vacation, you have dessert first.
A few days later, we took an evening walk a mile or two along the canal again. This time, running clubs and families were out in full force, taking a walk after work. If I lived here, I’d love to take a walk along the water every evening!
I loved exploring the Montreal Canal area. It’s a non-tourist look at the city, and I love getting a little off the beaten path to see what local life looks like!
Do you have a regular market ritual? What’s your favorite thing to buy fresh?
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