Think you know Montreal? Whether the answer is yes or no, five bloggers hired by Tourism Montreal are betting they can show you things to do that will let you live like the locals.
How about free food if you’re a woman, or a pedicure where fish eat the dead skin off your feet?
“Because of the economic times, we’re trying to promote cheap and cool things to do in the city,” says Tamy Emma Pepin, who blogs about girls’ getaways.
Pepin recommends a free table d’hote (dinner with a set menu) at Cafeteria Restaurant on trendy St-Laurent Boulevard, only for women on Monday nights. At Resto L’Appartement in Old Montreal, if a bottle of wine is purchased, two girlfriends can have table d’hote for free on Wednesdays, she adds.
“That’s something tourists definitely won’t know,” suggests Pepin.
As for the fish pedicure, that’s offered at Tami Beaute des Ongles on Duluth Street and Pepin says, “It tickles.”
Other bloggers have different areas of expertise and write about the city’s arts and culture, nightlife, gay and lesbian scene and Epicurean experiences.
They also reach potential tourists with videos they make, some of them on YouTube, and through Facebook pages and the microblogging site Twitter.
The five were hired because of their passion for all things Montreal and “what makes those things so ’a la Montreal’” says their promotional material. They all have journalism backgrounds.
Brendan Murphy blogs about Montreal’s nightlife.
He connected with a Tennessee tourist through Facebook who wanted to know how the city’s jazz scene has changed since his last visit about 15 years ago. “I don’t know how me and that guy would have ever been in conversation before,” Murphy said.
“That guy,” Moses Freeman Jr., will travel with his wife and friends to Montreal in August as part of a cross-Canada trip. He said he’s been reading Murphy’s blog for several weeks.
“My adrenaline is somewhat flowing now because I go and read Brendan particularly and other links that he puts on his Facebook page,” Freeman said via telephone from Chattanooga, Tenn.
Freeman is now in his 70s and describes himself as an “old avant-garde jazz enthusiast,” a fan of the genre from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
“I will know exactly what jazz clubs to go to because of him,” he said. “I am aware of the sites and therefore I can plan the exact night of what we’re going to hear, who we’re going to listen to and in what clubs.”
So far, he said he plans to visit Montreal’s House of Jazz, but hasn’t yet decided on any other venues. He says the local jazz scene is a “hip crowd.”
Daniel Baylis blogs about gay life in Montreal and says the first stop is the city’s Gay Village, but he notes that Le Mystique is a downtown gay bar where the music isn’t so loud that you can’t talk.
“Whether you’re in the village or whether your on the Plateau (neighbourhood) or in Old Montreal, you can walk around holding your honey’s hand,” he said. “It’s going to feel safe.”
Montreal also is well known for restaurants that allow tourists to bring their own wine.
Katerine Rollet says the Apollo, featuring Italian food, on St-Laurent Boulevard, and Khyber Pass, with its Afghan cuisine, are two restaurants where tourists can sip their own favourite reds or whites.
She recommends a visit to Marche Jean Talon for produce and, to “live like a local on a Saturday afternoon,” a trip to Cafe Olympico for a cafe au lait in the city’s Mile End neighbourhood is a must.
For arts and culture, Daviel Lazure Vieira recommends indie bookstore Drawn & Quarterly on Bernard Street and Le Comptoir D’ailleurs boutique and gallery on St-Laurent Boulevard.
Vieira says he doesn’t like to compare cities: “We just want to let people know what our city has to offer that’s different from other cities,” he explains.
Are the bloggers telling all? Well, maybe not.
“Got a couple of secrets that I’m holding to,” Murphy writes in material to promote his blog. “I mean, there’s no shortage of secrets in Montreal.”
• To follow the bloggers, go to www.tourisme-montreal.org and click on “Get the local buzz from Montreal insiders” in the top right-hand corner.