15 May 2012

Au Bistro à JoJo

One of the most memorable moments in Montreal for me was the hour or so that we spent at the Bistro à JoJo "blues bar" on the rue Saint-Denis. The crowd was amazing — not so much in the bar as on the street out front. From homeless-looking people to well-dressed ladies "of a certain age" to bikers, older country-looking couples and young sweethearts, the whole of humanity seemed to pass before our eyes.

This woman seemed to be a regular chez JoJo. The waitress
stopped at her table a few times and took puffs off her cigarette.

We ordered beer because it seemed like the thing to do. The weather was hot, and beer was thirst-quenching. It made my head spin. On me, I had a pocketful of Canadian coins that I had found in a plastic bag at home in France, and I was trying to spend them so I wouldn't have to take them back with me. There were 15 or 20 ten-cent coins, a dozen twenty-five-cent coins, and plenty of five- and one-cent coins. As part of the payment for the beers, I offered the waitress about four dollars' worth of coins.

Canadian beer — or ale

She looked at the "dimes" and "nickels" and said: "We don't take those small coins here. You can't pay with those. Spend them elsewhere." She would accept the twenty-five cent coins, however, and some dollar coins. It didn't matter, but it was confusing. Earlier, I had paid for some metro tickets with old Canadian five-dollar bills from the same stash of money and caused some astonishment. The ticket-seller in the booth down in the metro must have been all of 25 years old. He looked at the banknotes which were probably older than he was and proclaimed them "relics" — he said I should hold onto such old bills because they might be valuable.

I snapped a few pictures when there was a break
in the crowd passing by on foot.

I told him he could save them but I wasn't going to keep them any longer. The last time Walt and I had been to Montreal was 1989 for one day, when we were visiting a friend in Ottawa and took a day trip. Before that, it was 1984 and 1980. I wasn't sure which trip was the source of the old Canadian money. I have little plastic bags full of Belgian francs and Italian lire at home, not to mention Irish pounds and Central African francs. All added up, it's not worth more than 30 or 40 dollars. Some of it is certainly worthless by now, but the bills are colorful and attractive.

Couldn't resist sneaking a close-up. Does this woman
resemble anyone you know?

The music at the Bistro à JoJo was lively, harmonious, and pleasant to listen to. Most of it was American — Tom Petty and Johnny Cash songs are the ones I remember. I wish more of it had been Quebec music. When it was over, one of the musicians came to the table with a bag, asking for money « pour la musique. » I asked him if he wanted a handful of small change. "That's not worth anything," he said in French, but he accepted it anyway. It must have been three or four dollars' worth.


  1. Thanks, Ken, for taking the
    time to blog while you are on
    your trip...and to Walt too.
    She reminds me of Meryl Streep.

  2. I know that Canada has done away with the one cent coin, or is in the process of doing so. With no one wanting to accept small coins, does that mean that you can't buy anything for less than 25 cents? What happens when something costs, for example, $10.47, with tax?

    My countrymen are becoming very strange. :)

  3. I find the value of money fascinating. I sometimes still make the conversion from the British pounds and "new" pence back to the old pounds, shillings and pence. It's astonishing to think how many shillings things cost. Also "half a crown" which was 2/6d or two shillings and sixpence, now about 12½ pence, about 15 French cents. You can hardly buy anything for that but not that many decades you could get a bag of groceries for it.

    I must be showing my age, but I quite like the word "shilling" !!

    As for the lady in the picture, she doesn't remind me of anyone in particular but she looks like she's the sort of age you have to have reached to be able to afford to run a decent motorcycle these days, in the UK at least !!

  4. Interesting time at JoJos. I have a few leftover coins from trips, too. Not too many are Canadien, but I guess I better make sure to use (or try to tip) them when I travel outside the USA the next time or they will be worthless and undesireable, too.

    The woman has no memory of any acquaintence for me, but perhaps she's passed me on a highway or byway in a HOG!

    Mary in Oregon

  5. Rather - ON a HOG (Harley-Davidson motorcycle).

    Mary IO

  6. Why is Walt's hair so white? He's not that old.

  7. Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie on a wild weekend)?

  8. The woman's scrunched up face made me think of Yoda with glasses. Unfortunately, there is a woman in the foreground whose red hair obscures some of the driver's face.

  9. Sarah Jessica Parker, of course!

    I don't get the money thing. Can't they take it to a bank and get some "usable" coins? *R*R* What, seriously... did they do away with small coins in Canada?

    Glad you're still having such a good time!!


  10. Judy, I thought like you: SJP was who the woman in Montreal reminded me of. I was expecting Evelyn to mention SJP's name because she's a friend of hers... But Evelyn must still be traveling, or recovering from her trip to the Northeast.

  11. BettyAnn and others, I think all the Canadian coins except the penny are still legal tender. It was just in the bar that the waitress didn't want any 5- or 10-cent coins. As for the $10.47, I would expect it would be rounded up to $10.50, don't you think?

    Starman, Walt isn't in any of my pictures. He was sitting next to me.

    Jean and Mary, I didn't see the SJP woman on a motorcycle, but she sure looks like she'd be riding one.

    Patrick, Nico, Dean, all good guesses, I think. Dean, have you been to Montreal recently? I think you'll like it.

  12. I went to Montréal 7 years ago in January with a friend from Paris who wanted to see just how cold it got there. She wasn't disappointed. My future trips there will definitely not be in winter.
    You and Walt must be home by now. Thanks for including us in your eventful East Coast trip (via your blog).


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