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Metro Roulette: Cache-cache at De Castelneau

Posted by Nika / August 24, 2006

photos by C. de Gagné

The times I’ve taken the blue line, I can count on one hand. And 4 out of 5 of those times, I took the Montreal’s newest and by default, lamest metro line out of pure boredom. You know guys, instead of taking the orange line allllll the way around to West side of town let’s mix it up, let’s take the BLUE line. Insane.

Sandwiched between the effervescent Parc and Jean-Talon stations, de Castelneau was inaugurated in 1986 and named after the street on which both entrances/exits are located (corner St-Laurent Boulevard). French general Édouard de Curières de Castelnau (1851-1944), having defended Nancy (a city not a lady-friend) from the German army in 1914, is the object of the area’s municipal affections.

Architects Goyer, Collette, Hamelin, & Lalonde teamed up with artist Jean-Charles Charuest (also known for his work on the crypt of the Oratoire St-Joseph) to design what I have determined to be a drab metro station. When you’re used to the older metro lines and their whacked-out, cutting-edge, eager-to-impress, Expo 67 decor, the sober 80s architecture of the blue line is sad in comparison. The whole of the interior is built from light-coloured bricks with no obvious ornamental flourishes whatsoever. Behind the over-used clear plastic dividers everywhere, a hint at artistry is apparent in Charuest’s stone engravings depicting light-hearted scenes from nearby Jean-Talon Market.

Apart from beautiful Parc Jarry, the penitenary-like house o' the deaf Les Clercs de Saint-Viateur and Stade Uniprix (recent venue for the Roger’s Cup of Tennis), my photographer and I strongly advise to stay away from anything North of de Castelneau. It seems that this part of town is in mid-renovation limbo and due to old low-rent store fronts, a mish-mash of uncorrelated business fronts abound. Insurance, a hair cut, a temporary employee, cell phones, used clothes, martial artistry, a new religion … they’ve got everything on the same block! Most bizarre is the abundance of cheap gyms in the area. This place is an urban planning nightmare.

By this point, it’s 12:30pm and we’re getting hungry with only a McDonalds in site. Sure, sure there’s a Parc Ronald but remember? They won’t let us play on their greasy slides. I never asked to grow up.

Lo and behold, past the dusty construction and the mechanic’s garage to the South, I catch a bit of greenery and a different set of different arches. Through my tired eyes I see a sign:

And *poof*, within 100 feet South of the metro entrances on St-Laurent, lays a famished soul’s Heaven: Little Italy. Nestled between a profusion of leather stores, football boutiques, marble distributors and espresso machine repair shops we find Gigis. A few clean tables clutter a small piece of sidewalk on the West side of St-Laurent and just because the lone waitress looks tired we know we have found ourselves a cheap lunch. A HUGE veggie panini (chicken in the case of my photog) with a generous side of salad or fries came out to $8.50 with a drink. The place was packed and even though the waitress didn’t look like she gave a hoot (a Montreal must), the service was quick and surprisingly pleasant.

To the East of St-Laurent, by way of Jean-Talon, lies the mouth-watering Jean-Talon Market. Words cannot describe the literal cornucopia of aromas and flavours this market offers up to its customers. Fresh fruit, fish, veggies, cheeses, ice cream; this is the place to fill up your basket with yummy goodness. It can be considered a ways away for most when you’re sans vehicle but for special occasions and dinner parties, the Jean-Talon Market’s shop owners are a virtual encyclopaedia of cooking knowledge.

So I finally did leave with a pleasant taste in my mouth… and the name of a great place to get my Pavoni maintenanced.



Hannah / August 25, 2006 at 09:53 am
Don't we all wish we owned a Pavoni. It would make it much much easier to get up in the morning for one. Do I need another excuse?
In defense of Fripe-Prix, the used clothing and household crap store that you can just seen in the photo on the left, you can find some good stuff there if you hunt. About 8 years ago, I got the best little fluted glasses printed with silver, gold and turquoise fish. They made ideal wine glasss, and were surely a find from some basement that was hermetically sealed in the 70s.
Did you check out the Moroccan Salon on the corner of Clark? I've always been intrigued...
Nika / August 25, 2006 at 02:38 pm
Basically, my morning "mood" has all but completely disappeared ever since the Pavoni came into my life. There ain't nothin' like pullin' yerself an allongé every morning.

I actually bought myself a gorgeous $8 winter coat at that Frip-Prix Renaissance. They also have a great integration program for people that have trouble getting back into the work force.

The Moroccan Salon, dude, that place is so intimidating and beauuuuuuutiful! The web site mentioned on the awning is
mike / August 26, 2006 at 04:45 pm
i'm such a hick...i've never even heard of a pavoni OR an allongé. i may as well be drinking instant when compared to you sophisto-cat's. perhaps we should have an MP coffee party and Nika, you can serve us all allongé's.
Nika / August 29, 2006 at 03:10 pm
It's not a party if I have to serve. That's not how my life woiks honey.
Lxhaghs / October 3, 2007 at 03:42 am
Love / February 5, 2015 at 07:08 am
Answer:By?catcha Only one name in espresso. Pavoni.All the ones with all the bells and wesltihs, automatic this, super frother that; they all break, frequently. Cost as much to fix as a new machine.The Pavoni has about 4 moving parts, if you don't let the water run dry in the tank it will last decades.

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