Monday, October 22, 2007

On the road, in which we invent a new verb...

. . . Galley-vanting: the art of finding the perfect place (a cafe, a park bench with a view, a library) to read a few chapters of the advance readers' galley of a yet-unpublished book, that is inevitably residing in a book rep's bag.

A few of us are just back from a week long road trip to Kingston, Montreal and Ottawa and lots of fun it was. Thanks to all the host libraries and enthusiastic librarians and school teachers who listened to us prattle on about the books we love. Montreal is of course, the perfect city to practice the art of galley-vanting as it is a walker's paradise. Galley-vanting is of course the perfect way to explore a city - the idea is only to read a few chapters at any one place and then move on and if you happen to pass a few enticing shoe/clothing/bookshops along the way, well, one must do what one must do. You can of course substitute a real book for a galley and so if you are planning a trip to Montreal, I offer two walking tours that you might like to try if you have a few hours to kill. Montreal is of course built on Mount Royal so if you are visiting for at least two days, start with my horizontal tour first as a warm-up and then proceed to the vertical one.

Horizontal tour: Start on Ste. Catherine, the city's main shopping street, a little bit east of University and first pop into La Maison Simons. This is a Dewey favourite for buying trendy, stylish work clothes with a bit of French flair at very reasonable prices. Their sweaters in particular are beautifully designed and unique. They also have great coats, lingerie, tights, and even bedding. Then head west. Depending on your time, you could go as far as Greene Ave, another lovely shopping street that includes two great bookshops, Babar en Ville, a delightful, well-stocked children's bookstore with knowledgeable staff, and Nicholas Hoare which has branches in Ottawa and Toronto, but their Greene St. store is one of their nicest. Great classical and jazz CD selection as well. Head up Greene to Sherbrooke and then start walking east. You'll pass the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which is always worth a stop. They also have a terrific bookstore/giftstore with lots of one-of-a-kind items and they often feature the work of Quebec artists. Continue along and you'll reach the McGill University Campus - I like to lie on the lawn and read while pretending I'm an undergraduate again (and I always wanted to go to McGill). The university bookstore is located on the corner at Sherbrooke and McTavish and has a decent selection of books. You can also pop into Paragraphe, a trade bookstore/cafe on the corner of Sherbrooke and University. By now you are probably famished and looking for a meal. If you want to practice your less than perfect French (and don't want the waiters to automatically answer you back in English), then head east to either St. Laurent and head north up to Prince Arthur, or a few blocks further east to St. Denis and head south. Both streets offer a variety of restaurants and cafes. You'll also pass the campus of UQAM, one of the French universities in the city - their new buildings are quite stunning and modern.

Vertical tour: Have your breakfast in Old Montreal - lots of great cafes with wonderful coffees and pastries and you'll need your calories today. Browse the delightful old streets and pop into Librairie Raffin, an English and French bookstore at 3 rue de la Commune that has a very ecclectic selection and some great children's books as well. Also worth a stop is Librissime - a luxury bookstore that caters to custom made collections but is also a wonderful shop to browse and dream in. I love their $20,000 old vintage trunks filled with collections of art books. Then start heading north and uphill (zig-zagging is best). At the corner of Peel and Avenue des Pins you'll find yourself at the foot of Parc Mont-Royal and follow the paths and the steps to the big staircase that will lead you to the top of the mountain and this terrific view of the city and the St. Lawrence river.

Depending on how much time you have, you can spend hours walking all over the mountain - lots of great reading spots. Then when you come down, walk east along Avenue des Pins until St. Laurent and head south to Prince Arthur for a great meal or coffee. Along the way, you'll pass Librairie Gallimard, a French language bookstore connected to the publisher. At the east end of Prince Arthur you'll encounter St. Louis square - enjoy the architecture and the people watching. If you're still not tired, a few more blocks east and you'll end up at Parc Lafontaine - again, another great reading spot in the city.

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