The Bulletin: AI tour guides, an Old Montreal ghost hotel burns down, and Leonard Cohen eats a cheese sandwich [Issue #17]

The Main’s Montreal Bulletin is a collection of what's happened, what’s happening, and what’s to come in and around Montreal.

The Main

The Main

March 23, 2023- Read time: 8 min
The Bulletin: AI tour guides, an Old Montreal ghost hotel burns down, and Leonard Cohen eats a cheese sandwich [Issue #17]Heads should roll for the five-alarm Old Montreal fire last week... but we'll have to wait and see.

First things first.

The fire in Old Montreal last Thursday exposes a huge problem in this city around housing, safety, and lack of accountability that's best summed up in one thread from @FNoMTL:

Let's take a beat.

Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Devastation and destruction. Reckless and needless loss of life. Our thoughts and prayers.

OK – let's get to it.

Our telltale soggy spring season has sprung, and that only means one thing: We're already thinking about summer. If you don't believe us, look at everything the city's got planned, from more pedestrianized streets and expanding already-huge parks to giving scooter programs a shot again for some ungodly reason.

Too soon, you say? You can't blame a city that's at its most lively when the sun is at its most scorching.

And we love a good scorch.

Weekend events you don’t want to miss

Catch up on what's happening during the first weekend of spring.

If ever you catch something we should know, reach out to us on Instagram or by email.


  • Cabane Panache will set up camp on Wellington Street for its biggest maple and wood-themed party yet with festive music, good food, and drinks to get your sugar shack spirits up.
  • Be among the first to experience Chaos & Memories, an exhibition at the Phi Centre featuring a British immersive installation and four award-winning Taiwanese virtual reality works.
  • XP_MTL's Urban Sports Festival kicks off with freestyle soccer champions facing off against renowned athletes plus a BMX Flatland final, all—somehow—inside of the Eaton Centre downtown.
  • Cinéma Moderne starts screening I Like Movies all weekend long, where a teenage cinephile gets a job at a movie store to fund his tuition, only to find out he's a pretentious asshole.


  • Presented in the centre of the Arsenal Contemporary Art’s exhibition space, Chimeria brings together the work of four international artists: Michael Dean, Hannah Epstein, Matthew Hansel and Allison Zuckerman.
  • As part of his exhibition Andy Warhol: SCREEN TESTS at the MAC, Nelson Henricks has carefully curated a program of 15 Screen Tests produced by Andy Warhol between 1964 and 1966.
  • At this Japanese cultural event, get a taste of Okinawan music and food stretching from the north main island to Hateruma in the south, blending domestic and foreign influences.
  • Time's running out to sample the table d’hôte and brunch menus of Happening Gourmand in Old Montreal.


  • Celebrate the sugar season with maple syrup producers, tastings, barbecues, maple bevvies and refreshments on an outdoor terrasse, and more at Les Sucres au Marché Atwater.
  • Head outta town to celebrate the spring equinox with chef Anita Feng (of J'ai Feng) doing a pop-up featuring a Chinese interpretation of Parcelles' vegetable farm and country table.
  • This free event brings together more than 200 artists and performers with or without intellectual disabilities (ID) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for a visual arts exhibition.
  • Ending the Complete Cantatas series with the same piece that launched it in September 2014, the 8th edition of J.S. Bach performances comes to a close with a big performance.
  • With cocktails by Tuck Shop's Jihan Azer, expect boiler makers and fun wines all night at one of Westmount's best restaurants, Bistro La Franquette.

What you need to know

ICYMI: A weekly round-up of the latest local news, from food and entertainment to current affairs and more.

Old Montreal in flames

All eyes are on a five-alarm blaze that’s—at the time of writing—left two dead, five still missing, and nine injured (including two in critical condition) in a heritage building hosting illegal Airbnb-style short-term rentals. Tensions are flaring well beyond what a single paragraph here can contain; here’s an in-depth look, as journalists investigate complicit culprits. (Ricochet Media)

Montreal blaze: man who ran illegal Airbnb business identified | Ricochet
A business model built on illegally partnering with landlords who look the other way in exchange for a cut of the profits

Escaping Toronto to run a dep in Quebec

Even with a $1.5-million budget and steady corporate lives, this couple got priced out of the GTA. Their solution? Falling back on their experience running corner stores as kids to run the 130-year-old building housing Dépanneur Joblo in the 2,400-person town of Maskinongé, 90 minutes northeast of Montreal. (Maclean’s)

The Move: From Toronto’s rental grind to a quaint corner store in Quebec -
When Hamza and Tatjana were priced out of the GTA, they found a more convenient way of life in La Belle Province

What happens when you ask ChatGPT for a Montreal itinerary?

Can OpenAI's conversational agent replace thousands of travel blogs, local media, and international brands offering guides of our city? So far—and probably unsurprisingly for some—it can’t. The result was instead an “erratic and outdated” collection of closed locations, inaccurate destinations, and service outages. (La Presse)

Montréal dans le regard confus de ChatGPT
La Presse a confié un mandat de guide touristique à ChatGPT, le temps d’une journée, pour visiter la plus grande ville francophone d’Amérique. Le résultat aura été pour le moins... décevant. Et les mots « Je m’excuse » auront été les favoris de l’intelligence artificielle pendant cette virée parsemé…

A look back on Montreal’s Ladies' Man

Digging into the archives, we found original film of the Montreal poet, novelist, and songwriter from 1965, entitled Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen. In it, he visits his hometown at the age of 30 to read poetry, order a cheese sandwich at a $3-a-night hotel room, take a bath, and cheekily mock the film crew. Enjoy. (NFB)

@leonardcohen / Instagram

A big upgrade to the Sud-Ouest’s terrasses this summer

The Sud-Ouest borough recently tabled a decision to make it easier for businesses to expand out into its streets during terrasse season. That means more sidewalk cafés, open-air areas to eat, and shaded spots to pull up with your own bottle (or two) and a snack. (Ville de Montéal)

@jardindelapep / Instagram

What’s my age again?

Montreal may be over 375 years old, but how old are its buildings? Using expertise from the schools of architecture at McGill and UdeM, this interactive bird’s eye view breaks down the evolution of the city through thirty emblematic buildings beginning in the 17th century, district by district, period by period. (Radio-Canada)

Montréal a 375 ans, mais quel âge ont ses bâtiments?
Nous avons sélectionné une trentaine de bâtiments emblématiques de chaque époque, annotés par deux experts en architecture. Parcourez notre carte quartier par quartier, époque par époque.

Parc Jean-Drapeau is getting a fleet of scooters

In an effort to reduce car traffic on the island, Parc Jean-Drapeau is reviving the use electric scooters—you know, that thing that started and failed in a single 2019 season? Available from June to November, there will be a fleet of 100 to 200 scooters with severely limited use and mandatory helmets. Sounds like fun... (La Presse)

Parc Jean-Drapeau | Des trottinettes en libre-service l’été prochain
Les trottinettes électriques en libre-service, qui ont disparu des rues de Montréal après une seule saison, en 2019, seront de retour l’été prochain dans les allées du parc Jean-Drapeau, où l’on tente de réduire la circulation automobile.

Parc Jeanne-Mance is absorbing a city street

You know that section of Duluth that runs along the south side of Parc Jeanne-Mance? Well, it’s being handed over to the park. Joining the pedestrianization of Duluth from June 19 to September 5, people will no longer be able to park there and will feature street furniture. (Journal Métro)

Le parc Jeanne-Mance absorbera un tronçon de l’avenue Duluth
L’avenue Duluth sera fermée à la circulation automobile dès le mois d’avril en vue de sa conversion en un espace piétonnier et vert.

We can’t just leave it lying there

Some find them charming in their own weird way, but the city says its barricaded buildings make the urban landscape ugly. In the coming months, regulations to force owners to better protect their buildings will tighten, but its ability to intervene and bring an abandoned yet privately owned building back to life remains limited. (Le Devoir)

Montréal tente de soigner ses «verrues urbaines»
Au moins 900 immeubles sont à l’abandon dans la métropole, comme des cicatrices dans le paysage urbain.

What will Montreal’s era of the REM look like?

In a few weeks—maybe a few months—the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) is preparing its grand launch on the South Shore with promises to transform mobility in the city. There’s a catch, however: It needs to be as reliable as they first promised. There are still roadblocks to completing the whole system, though, like century-old explosives below the streets of downtown. (La Presse)

Transport collectif | À quoi ressemblera l’« ère REM » ?
Vous lisez et entendez son nom depuis des années, mais dans quelques semaines, peut-être quelques mois, il deviendra réalité. Le Réseau express métropolitain (REM) prépare au printemps son grand lancement sur la Rive-Sud et promet de « transformer la mobilité » dans le Grand Montréal. À une conditio…

Tweets of the Week

The best local moments this week from out of the Blue:

That wraps up this week's edition. We’ll be back with more curiosities, local stories, and events to discover next week.

And if ever you catch something we should know, reach out to us on Instagram.

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