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Montreal Salsa Dance Trip Report

An exploration of Salsa and Style in Quebec!

5-1-2002, A Travelers Quick Guide


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So, what can I say about Montreal? Beautiful city, gorgeous people – a European sensibility with an American feel – it’s close to paradise.  I would rate it highly for anyone’s trip, and salseros will not be let down by it’s salsa offerings on most every night of the week.  While it does not have the “Big City”, 10 things happening a night, agenda – it does provide an outlet for dancers of any skill level, on most nights of the week. 


I Landed at Dorval Airport early thursday mornng, on a cold and rainy day. I quickly took a shuttle to downtown Montreal about 15 minutes away, having booked a room at Hotel Le Germain, right in front of Mc Gill Campus, located in the heart of the shopping center area. I took it easy that day, walking around the St-Catherine street area, visiting the underground city (a huge, interconnected, underground walking area with shops and restaraunts, etc . . .) and the various shopping malls.


That evening, I went to Dinner at YoYo, a nice and cosy (i.e. small), neighborhood French restaurant in the trendy plateau area. Dimmed lights and discrete music, classy waiters where I tried my best to speak some French (and, since this not a tourist area necessarily, you’d better be able to speak some, or have someone with you to translate).


After quite an amazing meal, I had my first taste of dancing in Montreal, and was whisked away to Cactus on St-Denis street corner of Mont-Royal, still in the Plateau.

This is a small but very popular club. Excellent music, two floors with the best dancers staying in the first floor where there is a wall mirror making the room seem twice as large as is it. I noticed that typically the beginners would go upstairs to practice. The ambiance is nice, warm, lots of women and all levels of dancers. It is easy to find someone to dance with if you ask nicely  (and if you say you are from out of town visiting, you are very unlikely to be refused.) Unfortunately there is only a few stools to sit on and no tables. Cover charges are 4$CAN and 1.50$ CAN for the coat check.

The d.j. played ALOT of good salsa and a little bit of merengue. This club also offers dancing classes almost every day of the week but is opened to dancing Thursday thru Saturday from 9 pm to 3h15 am. (Yes, this is Montreal, and most clubs close around 3 am)!


Friday I walked in old Montreal, nice cobblestones houses, lots of old warehouses being renovated as lofts. This is a very touristy area and Place Jacques Cartier is where they all seem to meet.  There is a nice atmosphere in Monteal despite the fact that 2 very different cultures, the British English one, and the French one, are trying to blend harmoniously.  In the Center of town is Parc Mont-Royal which offers many nice jogging paths and the Beaver lake for people to skate on in the winter or to sail their little motorized boats in the summer. I walked a bit on St-Laurent street which is filled with upscale restaurants where Nicolas Cage and Robert de Niro are frequently spotted (or so I'm told). On this street there is the Kokina's club which offers salsa on Mondays.

Took some takeout sushi at Soto's and headed off to visit the best teacher in town Gil Sanchez Peralta who teaches some of my friends in Montreal.


That night I went out to Cubano's, on Ste- Catherine near the Place des Arts Complex,  a large open area with lots of tables facing the large dance harwood dance floor. Contests and live bands almost every Friday. Cover charge is 5 $ to 7$ when there is a band and 1,50 for the coat check. People are very friendly but most people are not as good dancers as you can see at Cactus. Again it is very easy to find someone to dance with. They tend to play some latino hip-hop toward the end of the evening  (2 am). The club owner, Jenny, also owns one of the most complete latino music stores in town called Serrano, where you can pick up free passes to Cubano's and get the best, and sometimes impossible to find in the US, CD's for 25$CAN tax included (it’s a great deal).


Saturday I went to see Spiderman at the largest cinema complex, Paramount on ste- catherine's which was located 2 blocks from my hotel. My friends had also hooked me up with this Salsa Gala happening in Montreal that Saturday. It was a benefit evening for some charity organization. The old Just-for-Laughs museum had been converted into a social happenings place a few years ago, and it was filled with over 600 people all dancing salsa that evening. 6 of Montreal's dancing schools presented a little show but most of the evening was devoted to social dancing. There I met Nathaly Chene, one of Montreal most promising teachers who introduced me to a lot of the different schools and teachers in town.


On Sunday I had "brunch" at Toi, Moi et Cafe on Laurier st corner Esplanade. This is one of the best café’s (outside seating) I've been to and serves delicious breakfast.  Walking around led me to one of hundreds of Montreal small cafes, Le Figaro.  This place is filled with old music instruments and they play a lot of salsa.  Their patio is also very popular but in a very discrete kind of way, as if people elected one spot near their house to gather after work or just ot chat before dinner. I visited Jenny, Cubano's owner, at her store and bought some CD's.


That afternoon I went to old Montreal again and found myself eating dinner in one of the most unusual restaurant. From the outside it looks just like any other old Montreal 1700 century house, but after you've walked thru a little hallway, classic French waiters take you to an outdoor, heated and umbrella protected area where a band sings soft jazz for 2:00pm until 10:00 pm. I had the house specialty; crepes that can be made with anything imaginable according to their menus. Montreal also had salsa on Sunday at Cubanos but I decided to check out Salsatheque on Peel corner of Ste Catherine. Sunday – SalsaTheque, or Mafia-Theque as people frequently referred to it.  Everyone knew what it was, everyone recommended it, but did so grudgingly (as if they weren’t proud of it, but had to tell me to see it for myself). There is a large dancing area with tables and chairs but the ambiance is rather tacky and there is a lot of “hand wandering” as some of my female friends say. It used to be one of Montreal most famous salsa club and still houses the St-Tropez dancing schools but it is not as near as nice as the other clubs (but still worth visiting).


Other Salsa Clubs in Montreal


Mondays; 737' Rooftop Terrasse of highest skyscraper (Place Ville Marie, downtown) from May to September.


Tuesdays; The Living, ( St-Laurent and Mont-Royal) very nice and cosy area, with the Cactus crowd shifting from these 2 places depending on which club is open.


Wednesdays; Karina's (Crescent and Maisonneuve) above Winnie's also very nice and lots of good dancers. Jell-O bar Ontario and St-denis which oten features a live band.


Thursday' thru Saturday  Cactus, Cubano's and Salsatheque

Sunday Salsatheque, cubano's



And there you have it – all that’s going to be told in this diary, of my trip to Montreal.  In short, visit! The city, people, and fun factor are all through the roof.  For American tourists - there is NO BETTER DEAL TO BE FOUND, as your money goes twice as far as it does in Europe (specifically the UK).  Each dollars buys you about $1.50 worth of things.  A great benefit to taking a fantastic trip!


SC (SalsaCrazy)


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