As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Oddball photo tour of Montreal

I’m driving back from Montreal as I write this.  Well technically I am NOT driving–my husband is.  This gives me a chance to share some eye candy from the trip, organized in these themes:

  • Captivating Graphics
  • Adventures in Food
  • Canadian Oddities
  • Products I bought, and Grommets in the Wild

Strap in for the ride!

Captivating Graphics

Charming cafe sign

Sometimes simple and spare is just enough. I saw a lot of this kind of typography in Montreal.

Cool way to communicate a shop's operating hours

And a clever way to show a change in a shop's hours

These "graphics" aren't words, but they sure made me want to go in this boutique

A clever way to communicate the range of oysters at a restaurant. This was on a tall wall right next to the sidewalk, facing oncoming pedestrians.

A telegraphic way to communicate the range of oysters at a restaurant. This was on a tall wall right next to the sidewalk, facing oncoming pedestrians.

Sign on a shoe store

I am always a sucker for the Courier typeface.

Cool Canadian mailbox, covered with postal codes

Adventures in Food

I never ate so much meat in a weekend in my life. This was the first sight that greeted us at one restaurant. Meats curing in the vestibule.

One of our entrees at Le Chien Fumant. No it was not "smoking" or "smoked" dog. It was big slabs o' pork on a bed of cabbage and spaetzle with a Fred Flintstone knife as a topper.

Although the weather was balmy by Canadian standards, we made plenty of excuses to drink big bowls of Chocolat Chaud

I would not be rushing back for "poutine." This favorite local snack/meal is french fries slathered in gravy, topped by chunks of cheese. I never understood when Irish people put brown sauce on their chips, or put piles of french fries on a slice of pizza. This is the Canadian version "best of the best", I guess.

I did not try these bonbons, but I found them strangely compelling. About the size of a small meatball.

We were too tied up looking for lunch on the worst touristy street of the Montreal Old Town to stop and explore this "Sugar Shack." But with that name, I am all for whatever it is selling.

Canadian Oddities

We rented a sleek and sunny apartment on Square St. Louis. (See it here: I recommend it. There were five of us. Every person was caught short by this horribly ugly air freshener right in the entry. We had to hold back our instincts to jettison someone's nasty old "Scope" bottle. Let's just assume the building super has no taste. The thing smelled bad to boot!

Houses on the square. Not so much "odd" as "exuberant."

We assumed the house next to us was not occupied. Until we saw a guy routinely ski down these steps, basically right into the side of his car. It would have been so much easier to just shovel now and then.

An elevator completely encased in cardboard at the Eaton Centre.

Near the elevator were other huge installations of art made from trash, like this giant rectangular "lilly pond." The water is soda bottles, arranged in waves.

Montreal has tons of little book stores. They were a little jarring to my eyes. I realized how I am (sadly) used to living in a place (Boston) with very few book stores left. Boston, of all places! That is not a Canadian oddity. It is an American one. We stupidly let that happen to us.

Products I bought, and Grommets in the Wild

I bought this for my nephew's upcoming 2nd birthday, made in Quebec. The adorable little guys have leather hats, and the wood is silky smooth.

I appreciated the intricate clay work on this piece by Quebec artist Marie-Ange Samon . I bought one, but the photo of mine is too blurry to do it justice.

How delightful that we had so much bright sunshine that I "had" to have these sunglasses.

So fun to see our Grommet "Food Should Taste Good" managing to make the sophisticated Montreal palates happy too.

It can't be easy for an American-made wood product to break into the Canadian market, but the early Grommet Automoblox is doing just that. These cars are exquisitely engineered, and the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon grad.

I went to design school in a place with a near-Canadian climate (Michigan). I used to take my sack lunch to class with me in the winter, and bury it outside the exit door in the snow to keep it cold. Clearly our Grommet Pack-it has given chic Montrealers a better alternative.

Daily Grommet launched the Vapur collapsible water bottle just three months after it went into production. You can find it in huge distribution now, including Sports Authority, Macys, and...Montreal! Go Brent Reinke and team!

Although Montreal seemed eerily quiet, it was friendly, safe, and welcoming. I would love to return soon. I found a number of interesting products and companies that could become Grommets. No, this is not a Grommet. It will never be a Grommet. It makes me pretty sure I would not want to be here at Halloween, if this is the Quebecois idea of a happy clown costume. But I am already skittish about the perils of an international Halloween, as regular readers of this blog know. (See the story about our Irish Halloween Horror Story. We were slow learners. After the Irish travesty, we once spent Halloween in Tuscany, where people were carrying around freshly butchered bloody cow's heads to scare little kids. I am sticking to the US of A for that particular holiday. But for Presidents Day...bring on Montreal!

7 Responses to “Oddball photo tour of Montreal”

  1. lisa

    I want to live in Montreal. My friend’s son goes to McGill, but he wasn’t there this week.

    • julespieri

      LIVE in Montreal? That is the first I heard of that. Go for it. You will have to take up smoking and smoked meats, of course.

  2. Sara

    Thanks Jules! Really enjoyed your photo tour. We’re planning a summer jaunt to Montreal and will check out the apartment. Love how Grommet has discovered so many products early on.

  3. Margaret McKenna

    Jules, loved seeing Montreal through your incomparable eyes!

    • julespieri

      “Incomparable” WOW…thanks Margaret! I would like to make a living using my eyes. Hmmmm….I guess I sort of do. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: