• Coeur de Pirate illustration by Kerry Hodgson

    Illustration: Kerry Hodgson/Canadian Geographic

My favourite hideaway in Montreal is where Parc Jeanne-Mance and Mont Royal meet, between Mont-Royal and Duluth avenues and St-Laurent Boulevard and Park Avenue. Jeanne-Mance is known among Montrealers as the place to hang out: the area is historically charged, it's close to where Mordecai Richler lived and the Montreal equivalent to parks such as Trinity Bellwoods in Toronto, Stanley Park in Vancouver or Major's Hill in Ottawa. 

I remember spending most of my summers there as a teenager, so it really influenced the person I am today. I was from a very residential part of Montreal a bit farther north, so going downtown — and seeing Montreal for what it was — was going to Jeanne-Mance. There's something about the trees, the light and the cultural happenings that occur in the park. It hosts concerts and people play ball; the space really brings people together. 

When I started frequenting downtown, around 15 years old, I spent much of my time there — and the same people I grew up with still visit. Since becoming a mother, visiting the area with my daughter has become special, too. Our first home was in the Plateau, so bringing her to Jeanne-Mance was really easy. It's something you want to share with your kids. We visit Café Santropol — a local establishment my mom liked to go to that has been there since the 1960s — but my own family more often frequents Café Melbourne or Hof Kelsten. The real Parc Jeanne-Mance experience, though, is finding the perfect spot and setting up a picnic. 

— As told to Andrew Lovesey