This summer, I did what everyone else seems to be doing, and I went travelling. On multiple trips, even! And we didn’t catch Covid-19 or Monkeypox either time!

The first one was to see my sister in Montreal for Canada Day. This was one of the first times she and brother-in-law have had guests over since moving to the city right when the pandemic started.

Myself, I last visited Montreal over a decade ago, and, my memories of that trip having faded, I was struck with a sense of jealousy over its dedication to not making itself a sucky place to live. Multiple mixed-income neighbourhoods! An abundance of missing-middle housing types, like lowrises and duplexes! Huge public murals! A functioning subway system! (Toronto could never.) Technically, I don’t live in Toronto anymore, but I am aware of its shortcomings.

We lucked out with the weather: sunny, hot, humid — perfect for outdoor dining. My sister and Mr. BooksAndTea were witness to me making a pilgrimage by shopping at Camellia Sinensis, the grand-daddy of fancy tea shops in Canada, and author of a decent reference book about the subject.

The Camellia Sinensis storefront, near Jean Talon market. The store was considerably smaller than expected.

We packed a lot into that one long weekend: seeing Jean Talon market, getting luscious things for breakfast at a local bakery, eating dumplings, touring the McGill University campus, shopping at Argo Bookshop, walking along the Old Port waterfront, setting foot in Librarie Drawn and Quarterly, watching a short film about the history of Quebec projected against the wall of a multi-story building at night… truly magical stuff.

We closed off the trip on Monday by visiting St. Viateur to get some authentic Montreal-style bagels fresh from the oven and then eating poutine at a hole-in-the wall diner. Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.