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Travel Advisory: Karine Delage of Karyzma Agency on Montreal and Toronto

Karine Delage owns the Toronto-based Karyzma Agency, which handles public relations and event planning for clients in music, fashion, sports, lifestyle and the restaurant industry.

Her work takes her around the continent; Los Angeles is often a destination, given her contacts in the entertainment field, but her most frequent destination is Montreal. It’s where she grew up, and she often makes the journey back for the sake of business, family and friends.

Delage prefers to fly over taking the train. “It’s better to fly because it’s quicker,” she says, and “you don’t lose, like, five or six hours. Billy Bishop is so much better (since last summer) with the tunnel, because you can just walk.”

With a depth of experience in both of Central Canada’s two biggest cities, Delage has a good handle on what Toronto and Montreal have to teach each other. Without even mentioning hockey, the cities compete for international attention, domestic talent and head offices, and one of the rituals that is held in high esteem on all sides: brunch. Here are some of Delage’s tips on making the most of both locales.

Advice for visitors to Montreal

I would send them to Old Montreal at first, and then I would send them to the mountain, Mont Royal. And don’t just do the touristy stuff, do the local stuff.

For restaurants, Buonanotte, the one in Montreal is going to celebrate its 25th anniversary, so if you want good Italian food, pizza, and they make their (own) pasta; it’s really good. During the week it’s kind of relaxed and there’s a little light music in the background. As of Thursday, it gets to be a little more clubby – more of a supper club. It gets busy, they remove tables.

I love brunch. I like going to Ben & Florentine (downtown). I don’t mind spending on food but if you have a good brunch place and it’s not expensive, it’s always good. They have a really good smoothie and their eggs benedict. I think the sauce and the mix of everything is good. Sometimes you go to a place and you have eggs benedict and the ham is all dry or something. They’re gross.

Bagels are fine, but … 

You know what’s actually funny? I’m from Montreal but I never understand the craving for the bagels and the smoked meat. When you’re in Toronto, people say, “You’re going home? Can you bring back bagels?” But we don’t care that much. It’s (an anglo) thing, not a French thing.

Something we have and you guys don’t have here (in Toronto) is steamed hot dogs, like from La Belle Province. It’s not healthy at all, and you know what? I haven’t eaten one in forever, but the little steamed one with du chou, and mustard – it’s a good 3 a.m. thing, with poutine, but you need the real cheese curds, not the fake cheese curds. That’s a real French thing.

Toronto is great, but not user-friendly

It’s a great city to live in (but visitors) need to explore and get past the tourist stuff, because a lot of people think Toronto is boring, but again you need to find someone local or check a local website, not a tourist website, and immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s harder to find cool spots here than in Montreal. There, people will tell you to go to Old Montreal (for example) and there are five or six fun spots next to each other. Here (in Toronto), venues are far apart. Everything is not close.

What Torontonians could learn from Montreal

People tend to forget about how we’re all in the same country, but Montreal and Toronto is two different mindsets. If you travel to Montreal from Toronto for business, or vice versa, it’s good to know how people operate in both cities. People here (in Toronto) are more (about) business and get to the point quicker. In Montreal, people tend to do the same amount of work, sometimes (in less time), and they’re more – not friendly, but … If you call a journalist in Toronto you have to get straight to the point. In Montreal, you’ll be, like, “Hey, how’s the weather?” It’s a quicker pace (in Toronto), but in Montreal people get the same amount of work done. Here they’re at the office till 8 or 9 p.m. sometimes, (and) in Montreal people would be out by 5 or 6 and at a cinq à sept or something. People here are built around work.

Published Monday, April 11th 2016

Header image credit: Adam McDowell/Billy

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