I know, I know. I keep harping on and on about how much I love Montreal and what a big part of the Sherbrooke Stations series it is, but seriously, I love Montreal and it’s such a big part of the series!
Weaving some of my favourite locations and landmarks into the narrative was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing the story. I really wanted to capture the feeling I get when I’m there and encourage readers to fall for the book’s setting as hard as they fall for its characters. There’s just something about the culture and energy in Montreal that really gets to me.
I thought it would be cool to take readers on a ‘Your Rhythm’ themed tour of the city, if you will, and share some details behind a few of the real-life places that are mentioned in the book.
This is the obvious starting point for our tour. Sherbrooke Station is a real place, guys! It’s one of the main metro stations in Montreal and it just stuck out when I was thinking up a name for Matt’s band.
Here’s his explanation for why the band chose it: “JP, our keyboardist, has an uncle who runs a big realty firm out of a house next to Sherbrooke Station. Back when we were students living with a million roommates and needed somewhere to practice, JP snagged us the house’s basement as a spot. We could do whatever we wanted with the place, as long as we didn’t make noise when the firm was working. We all sent each other so many ‘I’ll meet you at Sherbrooke Station’ texts that it just seemed to fit.”
Sapin Noir—the bar Kay and Matt first meet at— is fictional, but the neighbourhood it’s found in is not. As Kay puts it, the Mile End is “a neighbourhood known for having the highest per capita of vintage shops and painfully trendy, unemployed hipsters in a city full of both.”
It’s filled with shops, restaurants, and cafes that range from quirky to posh, and there’s even a few that are posh-ly quirky. There’s also a lot of history and culture behind what made the Mile End what it is today, and even under all the encroaching gentrification, you can still spot traces of what this place was like decades ago. It’s definitely worth spending an afternoon wandering around.
Cutting through the heart of the gorgeous, artsy neighbourhood known as the Plateau Mont-Royal is the bustling Avenue Mont-Royal. Cafe Cléo, where Sherbrooke Station goes to see their friend Youssef play, is again a fictional location, but there’s plenty of intimate music venues here that fit the description. I actually used to live just a few blocks down from the Mont-Royal metro station and it’s one of my favourite parts of the city. There’s always something going on, and the people-watching possibilities are choice.
It’s not mentioned by name, but the cafe where Cole’s on-again-off-again girlfriend works is heavily based on Cafe Pi, my go-to place to grab a tea or coffee in Montreal. It’s definitely leaning on the sparse and rustic side, but there’s something about it that always wins me over the second I walk in the door.
As Kay describes it, “inside, the cafe is long and narrow, with dusky red walls and a musty, old bachelor kind of vibe. A few pairs of grey-haired men are sitting at tables with chess boards painted on them, eyes fixed to their games.” You’ll definitely see more of this place when Cole and Roxanne get their own book!
Montreal Bus Station
Ah, the Gare d’Autocars de Montréal. Many an hour have I spent on the benches there, waiting for my Greyhound to arrive. Truth be told, it’s actually a very nice bus station and all my memories of departures and arrivals there make it special to me. In the book, a scene between Kay and Matt takes place there when they unexpectedly bump into each other while heading home for the Easter holidays. As Kay mentions, it’s always packed with students on days like that.
Matt hits the nail on the head when he tells Kay, “Come on. Don’t tell me you’ve never hit up La Banquise at four in the morning after a drunken hookup. Post-sex poutine is like a Montreal ritual.” While the two of them opt for a different casse-croûte to satisfy their snack craving, La Banquise is indeed bumping at all hours of the day and night. While not everyone loves it, everyone in Montreal definitely knows about it. After the house lights come up, a lot of midnight revelers traipsing out of the bars end up here, so look out for the line-up at 2AM.
Summer is definitely the right time of year to head here, as Kay explains in the book:
“In the summertime, the Old Port is one of the most Instagram-ed locations in Montreal. Busloads of tourists walk the waterfront in shorts and baseball caps. Ben and Jerry’s cones melt in kids’ fists as their parents stroll behind them, taking in the views of Jacques Cartier Bridge and the distant, curving lines of the roller coasters at La Ronde. In late April the place is more desolate. Only a few souvenir stalls have dared to open up under the white plastic canopies, and there’s a nasty edge to the wind coming off the water.”
While it’s quite touristy, the Old Port is a Montreal hotspot for a reason. Walking along the cobblestone streets amongst all the historic buildings is like taking a quick trip to Europe.
Last but not least is Metropolis, the concert hall where Sherbrooke Station kick-off their tour, and where the novel’s culminating scene takes place. It actually got bought out by Telus a few years ago and they re-branded it as MTELUS, but after being around for so long, many Montrealers still refer to it as Metropolis. I’ve only actually been to one show there myself (I saw Half Moon Run and it was amaaaaaazing), but the ambience really wow-ed me and I wanted to work it into the book.
Here’s what Kay has to say about it: “I’m awed all over again by the gilded framework that outlines the stage, towering larger than life and stretching all the way up to the ceiling. The stale taste of dry ice clogs the air, and the crowd buzzes and bobs along to the Modest Mouse song that’s booming out of all the speakers. Maybe it’s just the research I did about the place for an article once, but it’s like I can feel the building’s history seeping up through the floor, the echoes of all the screams and songs that have reverberated around this room still bouncing between the walls."
That completes our tour of Montreal for the day! Please note that the tour guide does not accept tips, but you’re welcome to pick up for your copy of ‘Your Rhythm’ here and experience all these places for yourself ;)