A long, long time ago, 210 years actually, Saint-Amable Street, an intimate passage that we know so well today, was called Viger Alley, a modest walkway built on Périne Viger’s property. Ms. Viger was born into a renowned family of politicians. Her father, Denis, and her younger brother, Denis-Benjamin, were both members of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. Her cousin, Jacques, was elected Montréal’s first mayor in 1833.
We do not know the exact date on which Viger Alley became Saint-Amable Street, but we know that, in 1842, it was put on the map as one Montreal’s 200 or so streets. It is highly probably that it was named after Marie-Amable Foretier, whom Denis-Benjamin married. He lived close by, and had inherited the land in question.
At the time, Saint-Amable Street connected Saint-Vincent Street and the Marché-Neuf Square, known today as Jacques-Cartier Square. There, a blossom of covered markets featuring many different stands sold a variety of market produce to a host of clients and passersby.
Saint-Amable is a truly charming, barely 5-metre wide, cobblestone path illuminated by a handful of turn-of-the-century-style streetlights. At the time, Montrealers affectuously named it “Artists’ Alley”, as it was a nexus for painters and artisans, who have now set up shop in the lower part of the Jacques-Cartier Square.
Going out for a stroll in Old Montreal is a not only a great opportunity to discover the district’s unique heritage, but also to shop for one-of-a-kind, authentic items, designed and made by local artists.
La Cour des Arts de Montréal is an exceptionally lovely open-air boutique, located in the back of a house dating all the way back to 1811. To get into the boutique, you have to go under an old-fashioned coach gate, and walk through a lovely garden with two smaller courtyards, underneath a canopy of maple branches and surrounded by stone walls covered with English ivy.
Artisans from across Quebec gather here to showcase their work: jewels, clothing, recycled glass, paintings, pictures, cotton serigraphs, gift items and visual art.
© Geneviève Giguère
Mon Shack au Québec, located on 161 Saint-Paul East Street, is a partner boutique of the Courtyard that provides an excellent winter alternative when the Courtyard is closed.
Mon Shack au Québec is open all year round, showcasing local artwork that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Le Saint-Amable is a restaurant that serves delicious French cuisine in a house built in 1813 and classified as a historic monument. It depicts a typical New-France-style urban house, with its rubble stone walls, sloped roof, dormers and checkered windows.
As the centuries went by, the house took many forms. It started off as a family household, but it was then turned into an inn, then a haberdashery, then a tobacco shop and then a seed shop. Finally, in 1967, famous Quebec comedian Yvon Deschamps opened up a restaurant on the ground floor of the building, becoming the first owner of the St-Amable.
© Geneviève Giguère
La Diperie serves over 30 flavours of pure Belgium chocolate and a selection of 20 original and classic garnishes for ice cream dipping. With all of this and more types of frozen treats and desserts, La Diperie is a must for you and family’s chocolate cravings.
Le Perché is an urban oasis located on the fourth floor of the William Gray hotel. This terrace provides you with a magnificent view of the Jacques Cartier Square. Their Californian-style menu is healthy, fresh and colourful.
El Pequeño is Quebec’s smallest bar, with a maximum capacity of 9 people!
With its authentic decor, large, street-level windows, carefully concocted Cuban cocktails, El Pequeño boasts the best rum & coke in town and serves up authentic Cuban sandwiches made with pork that is roasted to perfection.
Translated from French by Oliver Marshall.