Although Montreal is technically considered a city, it seemed more like many small towns had somehow attached themselves in an outward spiral until, by population alone, it could be called a proper city. Montreal has a slow, relaxing, and quaint vibe to it with the feel of artistry and the smell of croissants drifting through the streets. I took a road trip there with a few buddies as a kind of bachelor party the week before my wedding. A day at the shooting range on the way there, axe throwing, a few local pubs and a lot of time at a premier tattoo shop made up the majority of the trip.
Unlike the fast pace found in most major cities, the residents of Montreal seem to have somehow figured out how to slow down and appreciate the small things in life. We saw many outdoor art displays, statues, and architecture that seemed to integrate themselves into the cityscape in a way that almost fooled one into believing that they were in one very large gallery. Mount Royal felt like an oasis where one could hike and view the cityscape from above, see the St. Lawrence, and marvel at the large cross that overlooks the city.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Cloutier of The Arts Corporation, a tattoo parlour that is so much more than just that. It was about the experience there, not just the art. We had forged a small connection with him at the Toronto Tattoo Convention earlier in the year, and I had set up an appointment with him for that weekend. He showed us in and we talked briefly about the trip and then dove right in to the details of the project. He offered us a glass of scotch while we waited for him to come up with a design, and when he was finished I was totally blown away. I came in with only a vague idea of what I wanted, yet his design surpassed my wildest expectations. When lunch time arrived, he ordered in burritos and paid the bill when they were delivered, waving off my offers to pitch in. The tattoo itself took about six hours. When he was done, he made sure I was happy with it before he covered it in plastic wrap with specific care instructions. All in all, it was the best tattoo experience I have ever had.
The next day my buddy booked an appointment and I had the day to relax and heal. I stayed with him until the tattoo was well under way before taking off on a walking tour of the city. I followed the little blue dot on Google Maps until I reached old Montreal, about a 45 minute walk from The Arts Corporation. I stopped in a cafe there for a refreshing drink of kombucha and a sandwich before exploring the many artisans and store fronts set up along the cobblestone streets. After a few hours of exploration, I walked to the nearest subway station and three stops later I was back in the neighbourhood of the tattoo parlour, where another glass of scotch awaited me. I relaxed in one of the leather couches and chilled out listening to the whir and buzz of the tattoo gun.
Later that night, we all went out to celebrate. After a large meal of sushi, we were able to get a spot at an axe throwing place near our hostel. After a brief introduction to the art of throwing, axes were whistling down range and sinking into the wood targets with a satisfying whack. Some friendly competition made the time fly by and before long the place was closing up. We stopped at a neighbourhood pub for a game of chess, some foosball and a couple pitchers before packing it in for the night.
Although we were only there for a short time, I got a feel for what Montreal was about. The people were super friendly, even when I struggled through the phrase “Je ne parle pas Français,” and immediately switched to English with a smile. The atmosphere was easy and laid back. I know I will be back to see more of the city when the time is right, but for now I got a taste like the flaky, buttery flavour of a croissant that begs for a repeat experience.
Jonathan Beam is the author of Crimson Morning - The Philosophy of Travel, available on the member page by signing up above. He is a blogger who writes about travel, adventure and philosophy. He has also written a novel that is currently under consideration to be published!