Friday 13 September 2013

Montreal: Red Light in the Latin Quarter

The best thing about travelling with a companion? I get out more at night.

When I'm by myself and I've had a full day trudging around a city, it can be very tempting to curl up in my hotel room for the evening, with room service or sandwiches from a local cafe.

But with Narrelle along for the ride this time, she was keen to see some nightlife and I was keen to show her Montreal.

So last Saturday night we stepped out at the Berri-UQAM Metro station, to take a look at the Latin Quarter.

This part of Montreal, wedged between the Downtown and the Gay Village, wears a few different hats. As the Latin Quarter it takes its name from Paris' Quartier Latin, partly because of the university at its heart.

It's also part of the recently created Quartier de Spectacles, a dedicated entertainment zone comprising numerous performance spaces and art galleries.

But don't let that renaming fool you. Under the modern facade is plenty of signs of the Latin Quarter's long history as the city's red light district.

It was particularly lively in the Prohibition years in the nearby USA, when Montreal became an irresistible lure for Americans looking to drink and have fun.

Not that Montreal is trying that hard to hide its Red Light past. All over the district are light installations like this one, highlighting entertainment venues but also giving a nod to the sinful past:

There was plenty of liveliness evident in the Latin Quarter the night we visited. Firstly we happened upon this DJ, performing in a three-day Emerging Arts Festival:

There was some excellent street art on the walls of side streets, such as this combo of Batman, a fox, and, er, some other creature:

Despite the new respectability of the area, there were still some signs of the raunchy past such as this:

And this:

Another survivor from the past is this place - Les Foufounes Électriques (Electric Buttocks). A long-lived alternative music venue, it's the sort of vast grungy retro cheap-beer place which vanished in Melbourne long ago:

And here's another nearby stayer - the 101 year old Montreal Pool Room:

Despite the name, it's a fast food joint dishing up classic Montreal comfort food such as poutine and steamé (steamed hot dogs). We had dinner here - simple, tasty and cheap. Beats room service food anytime:

[And you can read Narrelle M Harris' take on our trip to the Latin Quarter at her blog post here.]

Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourisme Montreal.

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