rue Ste-Catherine, Montreal
Written by Sarah Staples Illustration by Marion Vitus
For fans of auto racing, Montreal needs no introduction.
It’s an annual tick on the calendars of NASCAR and Formula 1, and an electric place to be on race weekends – for the many private parties organised by race sponsors, and the outdoor festival of car shows, live bands, and concession stalls along rue Crescent, which is temporarily closed to traffic. But for IZOD IndyCar series driver Alex Tagliani, a ten-year veteran of street, road, supercar, and ovals who was this year’s pole position winner at the Indy 500, competing in Montreal also offers the rare bonus of being able to stroll around and enjoy the streets of home.
Tagliani, a Montrealer, lives in Las Vegas and Indianapolis, and is on the road some 180 days a year accompanied by his Australian wife Bronte, a model whom he met when racing in Surfers Paradise. He’ll be in Montreal this month driving for the prestigious Penske Racing team in NASCAR’s Nationwide series event, August 19–20.
The Taglianis love rue Crescent’s festive vibe. But as Alex is surrounded by race fans, it’s harder to enjoy the atmosphere quietly as a couple. So they often slip away from the racetrack for a few hours for the simple pleasure of window shopping along rue Ste-Catherine, Montreal’s main commercial thoroughfare.
“For sure the priority is the race,” says Tagliani. “On the other hand, we make time to relax and go walking around [or] we’d have no time together at all.”
One of Montreal’s longest and oldest streets, Ste-Catherine has been a shopper’s paradise since its inception in 1801, but is by no means limited to commercial pursuits. It starts within the residential Westmount neighbourhood, and crosses the city centre eastward for 15km, connected to nine metro stations. The street has movie theatres, office buildings, university housing, Montreal’s distinctive limestone walk-up homes, and landmarks such as Christ Church Cathedral or the Forum de Montreal (the old hockey arena built for the Montréal Canadiens, which has been converted into a cinema).
Further east, Ste-Catherine enters the Quartier des Spectacles: an entertainment district packing into a square kilometre about 80 cinemas, theatres, and live performance halls, which are used during the summer’s jazz and comedy festivals.
Like any good Montrealer, Tagliani likes to start a day’s shopping with a leisurely brunch at the Quebec-owned boutique L’hôtel Le Germain Montréal, on rue Mansfield. “They have a great steamed custard omelette dish that Chef Serge was kind enough to show us how to make,” says Bronte.
From there, it’s a two-minute walk south to Ste-Catherine, where starting at about rue Crescent major brands from H&M to Apple, or the Canadian bookseller Indigo Books and Music, are clustered.
Bronte likes the clothes at BCBG, which has two stores on Ste-Catherine. She also bought a winter coat last year by Rudsak, one of many Quebec designers represented on the street. Tagliani, meanwhile, browses for his favourite clothing, T-shirts, or simply scouts for ideas.
“It’s just a cool place to walk around because there’s always good stuff at good prices,” he says. “But luckily my wife, who is very frugal, is not going to let me spend a lot!”
Distance: 10,414 km
Flight Time: 13 hours, 40 mins
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