Travel Guide: 48 hours in Montreal, Canada (The Travel Magazine)

Montreal from Mont Royal
Montreal: Skyline from Mont Royal (c) wikimedia/Taxiarchos228

Montreal is a unique blend of Europe and North America. Its heady mix of British and French culture has given rise to a bilingual metropolis in Eastern Canada that boasts colonial history, architectural beauty, an abundance of green spaces and a vibrant food scene.

The island of Montreal was originally inhabited by the indigenous Iroquois people before being colonised by the French in the 1600s. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and Montreal became occupied by the British who allowed the French to continue living there, which helped shape the city’s inimitable identity as a slice of one continent, on the edge of another.

Must See The View

Montreal is a city best explored on foot, so pack your trainers and take in the skyline atop Mont Royal. Lovingly referred to by locals as their “mountain”, Mont Royal is a short hike that offers serenity in the midst of the bustle of downtown. Standing at 234m tall, it’s the highest point in the city and boasts impressive views of skyscrapers, the St. Lawrence River and the pilgrimage site of St. Joseph’s Oratory. At the top of the mountain sits a 200 hectare park, designed by the same man who created New York’s Central Park, and a lake, which is home to ice-skaters in the winter and surrounded by sunbathers in the summer. There’s no wrong turn once you get to the top, so take your time walking, cycling, rollerblading or, depending on the season, skiing around this tranquil spot.

Must Eat

While Canada is not exactly famed for its cuisine, Montrealers are passionate about poutine. Quebec’s trademark dish is simple: chips, gravy and cheese curd. One of the best poutine places in town is La Banquise, which is open 24 hours a day and offers close to 30 different varieties of the comfort food.

Poutine La Banquise
Poutine La Banquise (c) wikimedia/Sjschen

A Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich is another essential that will set you back less than $10, and is well worth the almost year-round queues to get into the 80-year-old restaurant. The oldest deli in Canada, Schwartz’s is a sparsely decorated Hebrew joint that has seen celebrities and visitors from all over the world walk through its doors to taste its world famous smoked meat.

Stock up on all the maple syrup you can carry at trendy Jean-Talon Market in the heart of Little Italy. You can sample the local cheese, fruits, vegetables, meats and pastries that line vendors’ stalls, and choose your lunch at the seafood counter. Finish off your meal with some maple taffy (made right in front of you by pouring hot maple syrup over ice and rolling it up around a stick), which provides for some sweet and sticky entertainment.

Must Watch

Canadiens de Montréal
Canadiens de Montréal (c) wikimedia/Kristina Servant

Ice hockey is not a sport in Canada, it’s a religion. Montreal’s gods are the Canadiens and they are the most decorated team in the NHL. Tickets sell out at lightning speed so if you don’t manage to get seats to see them do battle, try some of the amateur leagues in the city. If it’s not hockey season then console yourself by checking out some of Montreal’s street fairs and music festivals that take place throughout the summer months and attract big name acts.

Must Visit

The Notre-Dame Basilica is striking from the outside, but even more remarkable from the inside. Akin to a kind of decorative, medieval theatre, the neo-gothic church is an intense work of art, filled with three tiers of ornate banisters, religious statues and hundreds of intricate wooden carvings. So impressive is the lavishly decorated basilica that the man who designed it, an Irish-American Protestant architect, allegedly converted to Catholicism just before his death in order to be buried there.

Old Montreal
Old Montreal (c) flickr/christine592

Old Montreal is a timeless labyrinth of cobbled streets that should be observed at first on foot and then from behind the window of a cosy café, with a coffee and a pastry in hand. Olive et Gourmando is a popular hang out that serves delicious baked goods, while Dulces de l’Erable gives everything a maple syrup twist and houses a small maple syrup museum below. Steeped in centuries of history, Old Montreal hosts an array of hidden architectural jewels, such as the city’s first bank and Montreal’s World Trade Centre (the latter has a piece of the Berlin Wall on the site where Montreal’s very own city walls once stood). Complete your stroll through Old Montreal by wandering along Old Port for a different view of the city and the river that surrounds it.

Must Enjoy Café Culture

Coffee connoisseurs should head straight to Pikolo Espresso Bar for a caffeine kick. Montreal’s coffee scene has been gathering momentum over the past few years and Pikolo’s hipster baristas are intent on taking it to the next level. Le Plateau-Mont-Royal is another trendy place to stop and grab a cappuccino, whilst admiring the bohemian neighbourhood’s creative street art.

Must Shop

A regular on the world’s Top 50 Fashion Capitals index, Montreal has got every style covered. Funky boutiques and antique stores line the historic region, while high street names are represented in abundance on St. Catherine’s. When temperatures plummet, shopaholics head indoors and underground to peruse the vast network of 1,700 shops within the city’s metro system. Don’t leave Montreal without taking home a bottle of the region’s famed ice cider.

Must Stay

Le Pomerol is a great-value, homely hotel situated in downtown Montreal, just around the corner from the main bus terminal. Idyllic breakfast picnic hampers are left outside your door each morning and light snacks are served in the afternoon.

Located within the Golden Mile, Le Meridien Versailles is a boutique hotel with contemporary rooms that provides easy access to museums, shops and art galleries.

Former BBC and Yahoo exec Fabiola Arredondo is joining Burberry (City A.M.)

UK fashion house Burberry yesterday appointed former BBC and Yahoo executive Fabiola Arredondo to its board. It hopes the Spanish-American will bring her digital consumer savvy to the non-executive director role and the  audit, remuneration and nomination committees.

Once named the most influential woman in European business, Arredondo comes to Burberry after repeatedly smashing through the glass ceiling in spectacular style.
From 1997 to 2001, Arredondo was the managing director of Yahoo Europe and was credited with building the team from what was then a 13-person outfit to become one of the leading internet companies on the continent, with a revenue of £79m. During her time there, she also featured on Fortune Europe’s “Most Powerful Women’s” list.
 

Fabiola is currently the managing partner of Siempre Hold­ings, a private investment firm based in Connecticut, US, which she founded in 2001.

Prior to that she was the director of international distribution at BBC World­wide, a member of its executive board and an executive board director of its European channel management board, which oversaw the BBC World and BBC Prime television channels in Europe.
Fabiola studied at Stanford Univ­ersity and Harvard Business School, before going on to become a team member of the US Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the World Economic Forum.
She has previously served as a non-executive director of Saks, Experian, Rodale, National Public Radio, the World Wildlife Fund, and is a trustee of Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organisation behind the iconic American children’s television programme Sesame Street.
Her hobbies include scuba diving, marine conservation and going camping in Africa.

Uber teams up with UN in a bid to recruit one million women drivers (City A.M.)

Uber has announced plans to create one million jobs for women as drivers by 2020, as it looks to bounce back from negative publicity received in recent months.

The taxi app company has partnered with the United Nations to accelerate economic opportunities for women and help them to become more independent. UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick said they are working towards a shared vision of equality and female empowerment.

In the past, the tech startup has been accused of having a “frat culture”, and recently came under fire for an advertising campaign branded sexist by its critics. In October, Uber France was forced to apologise after it offered customers in Lyon a free 20-minute ride around the city with an “incredibly hot chick” at the wheel. Photos of women in lingerie ap­pear­ed on the app for customers to choose from. This was later cancelled after a social media backlash.

 Sarah Lacy, editor of the tech blog PandaDaily, is a persistent critic of Uber and has repeatedly accused it of being offensive in its treatment of women.

“This sexism and misogyny is something different and scary. Women drive Ubers and ride in them. I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritise our safety,” Lacy wrote towards the end of last year.

Uber has rapidly expanded since it was founded in San Francisco in 2009 and is now available in almost 300 cities in 55 countries. It has said it is co-operating with authorities over an alleged rape committed by an Uber driver in India last year.

“In the US about 14 per cent of our driver partners are women,” said Uber spokesman Harry Porter.

Moguldom IPO: US media group taps the London market for cash (City A.M.)

The head of US digital media group Moguldom yesterday unveiled plans to float on the London stock market in a bid to raise the profile of the business around the world.
Jamarlin Martin, founder, chairman and chief executive of the group, said listing on the junior stock market would provide a strong platform to help grow the company, which runs a host of pop culture websites in the US.
With a background in law and political science, Martin is not your average online media innovator. He worked as a paralegal in New York before venturing into the world of digital media.
Growing up in Los Angeles, he dreamed of doing a PhD in political sciences, and studied at Morehouse College, Atlanta.
But during his time in New York he became interested in foreign exchange and set up a blog called the Detached Trader, which he monetised through advertising.
“I had readers from all around the world and saw an opportunity to tailor content towards underserved people,” said Martin.
“The London Stock Exchange popped out as a really good fit for a company of our size. We don’t see ourselves as America­centric; it’s a global vision we have. We want to expand our traffic internationally and make sure everyone has heard of Moguldom.”
The Miami­-based entrepreneur, who lists saltwater fishing, travelling and playing golf among his hobbies, puts his company’s success down to innovation and adaptability.
“Our growth is consistent, regardless of market changes, and that’s due to thinking outside the box.”
Martin originally launched Bossip.com as a digital media start­up in 2006. Since then, he has overseen the growth of Moguldom into a multiple­brand digital media and entertainment platform at a time when the majority of investors are giving online media ventures a wide birth.
“New digital leaders are being created now and we believe Moguldom is in that bracket.”

How one Guatemalan woman’s quest for justice inspired a regional anti-violence movement (Latin Correspondent)

Kimberly Bautista originally went to Guatemala to make a documentary about domestic violence and the under-reported issue of femicide (the violent killing of women). But that was just the beginning.

Her award-winning film Justice for My Sister, which started out as a proposed project on a graduate school application, has propelled her on a Central American-wide movement to demand an end to gender-based violence.

Justice for My Sister tells the story of Rebeca, a Guatemalan woman desperate to seek justice for her sister, who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend, in a country where the rule of law is weak and impunity reins.

The promotional poster for Justice for My Sister.

One in every five women will be sexually assaulted, and in Central America more than 90 percent of domestic violence or murder cases are never solved, according to the film’s official website.

For Bautista, the eradication of gender-based violence is a personal subject — she herself was targeted and raped at gunpoint during a home invasion while producing Justice for My Sister in Guatemala.

“I realized then that the film had to be much more than an advocacy piece,” says Bautista. “It needed to be part of a larger solution to actively prevent gender-based violence through leadership development, so that participants are trained to become resources to their peers.”

So, while on a regional tour with the film, Bautista and the Justice for My Sister Collective launched 16 short documentaries on their YouTube channel to address the issue of domestic violence and chronicle the stories of survivors to encourage others to break the silence.

“Every time we screen [the documentary] audiences come forward and share their own stories. In 2013, I decided I wanted to document some of the other stories to highlight the far-reaching impact of gender-based violence and bring more visibility to other cases as well. Many of the stories in our web series are of survivors that had seen Rebeca’s story in the feature documentary and decided they also wanted to share their stories,” says Bautista.

The team has also produced materials and trainings in domestic violence prevention tailored towards a variety of audiences, including police, judges, lawyers, indigenous communities and men who work in male-dominated industries.

“Entire communities need to empower themselves by understanding how to identify the different forms of violence, as well as how to offer solutions, which is why we develop local resource guides (many audiences otherwise don’t know where to go for help) and it’s also why we emphasize the importance of healthy relationships,” says Bautista.

On Valentine’s Day, the Justice for My Sister Collective plans to host an English and Spanish web chat with different activists on their YouTube channel about self-love and smashing patriarchy. The following month, Justice for My Sister will be screened at the United Nations in New York City as part of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“In the case of a documentary that deals with human rights issues, getting an audience to see a film can be a question of life or death. I ultimately hope to affect real change in people’s lives by educating audiences about these unsolved and sometimes unreported murders. I hope that audiences will be inspired by Rebeca’s unwavering determination to bring justice to light and will question how they can contribute to diminish violence against women and rework the way they think about gender power dynamics in their own lives,” says Bautista.

Though among the most deported, US-based Guatemalans increasing remittances home (Latina Lista)

The small village of Horcones sits at the end of a pot-holed road in Jutiapa, south-eastern Guatemala. Around 40 percent of the population is dedicated to producing livestock, earning an income that is not reflected in the wealth of the white-washed, Grecian columned houses that decorate this farming community.

The majority of people here seem to know someone who works abroad and sends money home, a situation that is replicated around the region and accounts for affluent properties springing up in less than affluent areas.

Remittances, money sent by expatriate workers to their home countries, have been steadily rising in Guatemala, despite increasing deportations, and now account for around 10 percent of the country’s GDP, according to 2012 data from the World Bank.

In 2013 Guatemala received more than $5.1 billion in remittances – the second highest amount in Latin America after Mexico – and Guatemala’s Central Bank predicts the figure will grow by around five percent this year.

Griselda Toj lives in Sacatepequez, 40 kilometers from Guatemala City. Each month she receives, on average, $330 from her husband who works on a dairy farm in Idaho.

“The money he sends back helps us a lot to buy food for the children, send them to school and buy them medicine if they get sick. If he wasn’t there we wouldn’t be able to cope because over there he’s got a lot of work.”

Poverty, violence and family reunification are among the main driving forces behind Guatemalans deciding to make the journey north.

“Our life is difficult here. My husband left three years ago because my son became ill – he had asthma and bronchitis,” says Griselda. “The medicine is expensive and he had to use a special apparatus. We could hardly afford to pay for it.”

In October, more than $500 million was sent back by Guatemalans working abroad, predominantly in the US, which represents an 8 percent increase compared with the same month last year.

Like many people who receive remittances, Griselda is saving to build a house – an example of the effect that Guatemala’s Construction Chamber says money sent from abroad is having on reducing the country’s housing deficit. However, others say it is pushing up the price of land, which adversely affects non-migrant households.

Experts highlight that while remittances enable some people to save, invest in education and contribute to the local economy, it is an unstable source of income that is often squandered due to a lack of financial information for recipients on how to manage the money.

“Yes, remittances can reduce poverty,” says Beatriz de Azurdia from the National Council of Migrant Services (CONAMIGUA). “But we need to take into consideration the risks migrants face and the abandonment kids feel, which can cause families to disintegrate and children to lack guidance. Also, the senders have little say over how the money is invested.”

To combat this, a Guatemalan company recently introduced an electronic remittances gift card, which allows migrants to specify where the money they send back is spent.

In July, the Guatemalan government launched a campaign outlining the risks of exploitation and death that illegal migrants face on their journey north. However, the lack of employment opportunities in Guatemala and many people’s desire to emulate the improved lifestyle of their remittances receiving neighbor, is keeping the American Dream alive.

Have gun, will travel: The rise of Guatemala’s private security industry (Latin Correspondent)

Israel Castillo came to Guatemala City when he was 23 years old. For more than five years he has stood on guard outside small supermarkets and malls in the Guatemalan capital, brandishing a .38 revolver, 12 bullets and a billy club. Before moving to the capital, Castillo had never even held a firearm — he harvested coffee and maize in his native Jalapa, a mountainous region 175 km from where he now stands.

“I don’t really like living in the city,” he says. “I grew up in the countryside so am more used to that. But I had to come here; there is money to be made and you can always find work as a security guard. This way I can support my family better.”

Castillo is just one of thousands employed by the private security industry, which has exploded in Guatemala over the past decade. According to research by Dr. Otto Argueta, an investigator at the GIGA Institute of Latin American Studies in Germany, in 1990 there were around 75 private security companies operating in the small Central American nation. By 2010, this number had quadrupled.

Although exact statistics are unknown, security analysts estimate there are between 100,000 and 150,000 private security agents working in Guatemala, outnumbering the country’s 30,000 police officers by almost four to one.

Many of these security guards earn minimum wage, carry dangerous weapons and often lack proper training: a lethal combination that at times threatens, rather than protects, the country’s citizens.

More crime, more security guards

According to the United Nations, Guatemala has one of the highest levels of violent crime in Latin America, reporting an average of 99.5 murders a week in 2012. In Guatemala City, entrances to fast food restaurants, hair salons and coffee shops are lined with armed guards – a reaction to a crime rate so high that even the smallest of businesses seek extra protection.

Many argue that crime is worse now than it was during the bloody civil war that ended in 1996, leaving 200,000 people dead and displacing an estimated 50,000. One explanation for the spiking crime rate is the rising influence of drug trafficking cartels that have infiltrated Central American society and stunted the region’s development, allowing criminal gangs to grow, violence to intensify and corruption to penetrate at the highest level.

Decision Ejecutiva is a private security company with approximately 500 employees that has been operating in Guatemala since 1996. They offer clients everything from patrol cars to night watchmen and even personal courses on how to fire a gun.

“Ten years ago security was not as necessary in Guatemala as it is now,” says the company’s Director-General, Ohad Steinhart. “But as a result of the need that has been manifesting in the country, our business and services have grown.”

Wealthy residents and the business elite say that, in a country where mugging, carjacking and extortion are rife, private security companies can offer protection that the police cannot. So they take personal safety into their own hands: hiring bodyguards and chauffeurs to drive them around the city in bulletproof vehicles. At the end of the school day, the gates of top private schools swarm with bodyguards waiting to escort their employers’ children back to their gated communities. Inside the city’s lavish malls, men in dark suits follow families around, eyeing passersby and muttering about potential threats to invisible colleagues through their Bluetooth headsets.

An “arms sweatshop”

The majority of people living below the poverty line in Guatemala are concentrated in rural, majority-indigenous areas where access to education and jobs are limited. Because few private security companies require their employees to have prior experience or a high level of schooling, many unemployed people from the rural areas flock to the capital to seek work as a security guard, allowing them to earn a salary without the need for credentials.

“Private security has become a labor option for a large section of society – namely displaced agricultural laborers,” says Dr. Argueta, the German researcher. “It works like an ‘arms sweatshop’: offering low wages, evading taxes and labor responsibilities, and contracting casual staff that lack qualifications.”

In 2010, in an effort to reign in the industry, the government passed a law requiring all private security companies to obtain a license in order to operate in the country, and gave them two years to do it. The Private Security Services Department (DIGESSP) was established to create a database of all private security agents working in the country, with the aim of monitoring companies and ensuring all the weapons they use are registered.

“It’s been a big challenge and I applaud the work,” said Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla in a recent DIGESSP statement. “We’re working hand in hand with the security companies to be able to help them comply with the law and certify their services.”

However, two years after the closing date for applications, only 15 of the hundreds of security companies in Guatemala have obtained the official license, while most continue to operate with little or no oversight.


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