Many Montrealers were thrilled to learn that one of the city's beloved boroughs, Verdun, was named 11th coolest neighbourhood in the world by Time Out Magazine — the only Canadian neighbourhood on the list.
While there's no denying that Verdun is home to charming boutiques and restaurants, unique festivals and a beautiful beach, its official new status doesn't come without controversy.
Sure, it's cool to be acknowledged for being cool. And there's nothing wrong with that in itself.
But some Verdun residents fear that if the area gains more exposure as an "it" destination, it could exacerbate existing issues around gentrification and unaffordable housing.
"I love Verdun with all my heart, so of course a part of me gets excited when we get international recognition of this wonderful community, but mostly I get worried that this kind of attention will attract wealthy residents to Verdun," said Monika Jackiewicz, a 23-year-old nursing student who moved to the borough three years ago.
Jackiewicz said she's noticed rent prices "skyrocket" and told MTL Blog she could not afford to move to a different apartment — even a smaller one — in the same neighbourhood based on current rates.
"Our mayor Jean-François Parenteau really likes to talk about the benefits of 'mixité sociale,' but he only ever supports legislation and initiatives that will raise the proportion of wealthy people in the neighbourhood," said Jackiewicz.
"I love festivals and cafés as much as the next person, but affordable and secure housing should always be the priority."
Who needs a trip to Italy when you've got a taste of it in Montreal's very own Verdun? In the age of COVID-19, with dining rooms currently closed, we've got you covered on a must-try spot that is bound to fulfill all of your takeaway needs. BOSSA is an Italian restaurant and grocery store that prides itself on being family-run, and their signature sandwiches certainly set them apart.
Located on rue Wellington, BOSSA offers over 20 varieties of hot and cold sandwiches. From their sausage and peppers mix ($11.95) and prosciutto mortadella ($12.95) to their roasted chicken sandwich fixed with pesto, dried tomatoes, and a balsamic reduction ($12.95), you'll be salivating just thinking about it — we certainly are!
BOSSA owner, Daniel Lo Manto had been working in the restaurant business for over six years and figured it was time the neighbourhood got a much-needed "Italian centred" lunch spot. In addition to the restaurant's fully packed sandwiches, their menu also includes an array of authentic Italian pasta dishes and pastries made with fresh ingredients — items the BOSSA owner said stem from the recipes and techniques of his grandparents.
"There's a lot of heritage in this place, and a lot of love!" Lo Manto told MTL Blog.
When asked about the recipe he's most proud of, Daniel boasted about the porchetta sandwich ($11.95). However, in terms of popularity, it comes in second to their must-try chicken parm ($12.95), made with basil oil, mozzarella, chicken cutlet, parmesan and hot peppers.
There's a little bit of holiday magic in every nook and cranny of Montreal. Verdun's "Enchanted Alley" is back again this year off rue Wellington with a whole new setup.
While last year the alley took the form of a forest walk up to the charming façade of a log cabin, organizers opted for a cozy interior scene for the 2021 season. Visitors will now find a large (faux) fireplace complete with a Christmas tree and a big red chair.
Promenade Wellington has once again enlisted the talents of photographer Caroline Perron to host weekend photoshoot sessions. The sessions are by reservation only and take place between 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The next block of reservations, for shoots on December 18 and 19, opens on December 14. Montrealers can sign up online.
But you can still visit the alley if you're unable to book a professional photoshoot.
A Promenade Wellington spokesperson confirmed to MTL Blog that the alley is open to the public outside of the photoshoot session hours.
There's more to see on Wellington this year too.
The centrepiece of local festivities is a 35-foot fir tree, but Promenade Wellington promises decorative shop windows up and down the commercial street.
There are also surprise chorus performances, the last of which is on December 19.
Of course, Verdun isn't the only place to spot festive backdrops. The Christmas markets at the Atwater and Jean-Talon markets and in the Quartier des Spectacles are approaching their final days.
Get all the details on Wellington's Enchanted Alley below.
The news of Mr. Puffs coming to Verdun was first announced on November 18 on the company's Facebook page with a photo of the new owners.
The new spot will open in early 2022 on boulevard LaSalle, Mr. Puffs media representative confirmed to Narcity.
Without having to go all the way to LaSalle, you'll be able to enjoy the pastries with one of the 10 classic toppings including chocolate hazelnut, salted caramel and sugar cinnamon, or try one of the new flavours, Bueno and cappuccino.
And of course, you can always add a drink to your order for some additional sweetness. Mr. Puffs makes some seriously decadent milkshakes, with flavours like Oreo, Smarties and strawberry. Prepare for a brain freeze, though!
If you're not the type to sip on cold drinks when it's freezing outside, Mr. Puffs also has tasty hot drinks to keep you warm during the cold months, such as its iconic Mr. Puffs Moka.
Hours of operation will be Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Uber Eats and DoorDash ordering will also be available, so you can get stuffed without even having to leave your house.
Montreal is getting another beach. On Sunday, Mayor Valérie Plante announced a commitment to open the shore of the Promenade-Bellerive, a riverside park in Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, to swimming.
On its website, the city says the park "is the only physical and visual access point to the Saint Lawrence River" in the borough.
"Montreal is an island. And we want to take advantage of that," the mayor wrote on Facebook.
"The goal is to make our shorelines ever more accessible, keep our shorelines healthy, and celebrate our insularity."
She said a years-long water quality testing process has proven the site is safe for swimming.
At a press conference, the mayor and local city councillors said the beach would include supervised swimming hours.
The mayor aims to open the beach to swimming in 2022.
Residents of Montreal's east end have long pushed for more access to the river. Port activity and train tracks largely cut off neighbourhoods east of the Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Saint Lawrence.
Plante pointed out that her administration has already delivered Verdun Beach and increased access to the Vague à Guy, a popular surfing spot in LaSalle.