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Digital Subscriptions > National Geographic Traveller (UK) > May 2017 > City life MONTREAL

City life MONTREAL

Although geriatric by North American standards, Leonard Cohen’s home city is driven by a youthful, creative spirit that’s coming to the fore as Montreal kicks off its 375th anniversary celebrations.
Montréal Convention Centre;
Leonard Cohen

I’M looking for Leonard. There’s a good chance he might be here, lurking in his favourite haunt, but I can’t see a thing; it’s sheeting with rain, the kind of Montreal rain that seeps into the sidewalk then steams up onto windows and into trees, reducing views of the forested mountain after which the city is named — usually crisply framed at the end of side streets — to a blurry pointillist landscape. Mount Royal looms above the city — at this time of year, a sharp, fiery peak of poster-paint-bright reds, oranges and yellows, although all I can see on the horizon is rusty mist.

I’m standing outside the Main Deli Steak House on The Main (officially Saint Laurent Boulevard), one of Montreal’s major thoroughfares. My attempts to ascertain whether Mr Cohen is inside are rendered impossible by the humidity-fogged windows. Seeking out arguably the city’s most famous son at this spot has been something of a preoccupation on trips here ever since a Montrealer friend told me this tantalising fact about the singer-songwriter’s dining habits on my first visit in the 1990s. (Sadly, I wasn’t to know that this trip represented my last chance.)

Born in the comfy, middle-class district of Westmount, Cohen later decamped to a more fittingly boho apartment nearby, on The Main. Here, in this former working-class Portuguese ‘hood, in bars and diners such as the Main Deli Steak House, Leonard could, according to Canadian music journalist David Sax, “watch the gangsters, pimps and wrestlers dance around the night”.

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Walk this way: Lofty passes through volcanic lunar landscapes; ancient pilgrim pathways strewn with churches and ruins; sumptuous forested trails opening out onto vineyards. a rambler’s reward is culture, ambience and wild scenery on the walking routes through Italy, France and Spain