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Hyperlocal Q&A with Kate McDonnell

Kate McDonnell is one of 12 bloggers who'll be telling her neighbourhood's stories on Canada Writes' new interactive story map Hyperlocal, launching April 3rd. Kate lives in Villeray, Montreal. 


Tell us about yourself. 
I live in Villeray, part of the borough of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Park-Extension in central Montreal. I live in a ground-floor triplex flat in a 1920s building and am lucky enough to have a tiny back yard. I do freelance print and web graphic design and some writing, translating and editing.

I've lived in Villeray since 2005. Before that I lived in Plateau Mont-Royal for a long time and I'm one of the many one-time Plateau residents displaced by a landlord looking for higher revenue.

Tell us about your neighbourhood.  
Villeray's traditionally a quieter area inhabited by first-generation immigrants, with long residential blocks stretching between Jean-Talon and autoroute 40. In summertime the streets are leafy, kids play in the alleys, people are walking home from buying food at Jean-Talon market or sauntering in Jarry Park, and it can be quite idyllic.

There are plenty of places to eat, and in summertime it's not difficult to find a place to sit on a terrasse and have a bite or a coffee. Also, as I live in western Villeray, Park Extension is just on the other side of the tracks, with its Indian restaurants and Greek pastry shops.

One downside I felt coming to live in Villeray is that it's farther from downtown than the Plateau. It's got metro stations and some reliable north-south bus routes, so it's perfectly accessible, but one gets very canny about using public transit effectively because it's seldom convenient to walk downtown.

Another flaw is that Villeray is somewhat boxed in by the urban layout, meaning long walks can lead nowhere. On the north side is the barrier of the 40, on the east the industrial landscape of Saint-Michel and on the west the railway tracks of the Boisbriand AMT line.

In wintertime, like the rest of Montreal, Villeray becomes a bit gray and one misses the greenery and the street life as everyone cocoons indoors. 

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What are some of your favourite neighbourhood destinations?
 
A favourite eatery is the tiny, cute Banh Mi Linh tucked into the same building as Jarry metro station - their excellent noodle soups are wonderful on a cold day. On Jarry, the Haitian casse-croûte Ange & Ricky dishes out jerk goat and rich vegetable stews with plantains and rice.

Jarry Park is a wonderful place on a summer afternoonfamilies strolling, men in white outfits playing cricket, older folks sitting around the duck pond. Walk home via the Sorbetto, where you can get ice cream or sherbet with a good shot of espresso on the side.

Jean-Talon market is just at the edge of Villeray. Bursting with fresh veg and fruit, bounded by cheese stores, butcher shops, natural food outlets, one always enters the market with a shopping list but prepared to be persuaded by a chance encounter with a bouquet of broccoli or a pile of perfect avocados. The Roi del Taco in the market is an authentic Mexican restaurant with chef Javier presiding over the grill.

How is your neighbourhood changing?
Villeray used to be a neighbourhood where first-generation immigrants raised their families. Industrious Italian and Portuguese couples bought duplexes and triplexes here. Now they're getting older, their grown-up kids have moved to the suburbs or left the city, and the neighbourhood profile's changing to bring in more Anglos and people of other backgrounds - people from Latin America, Asia and the Maghreb.

Even when I came here in 2005 I was the only Anglo on the block. Now I hear English spoken quite often in these streets.

Kate McDonnell has lived in Villeray since 2005. She was born and educated in Montreal and has always lived in the city. Kate has been blogging about Montreal news and issues at




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