According to Urban Dictionary, a tourist trap is defined as “a place specifically designed to attract tourists and take their money.”
Tourist attractions are often the first stop for visitors. They are branded as “must-see” places. Entities that represent the city on an international scale. But, do these place represent the REAL Montreal?
Back in August 2010, the New York Times wrote an article entitled ’36 Hours in Montreal’, showcasing what to do and where to go if one were to spend 36 hours in the city.
However, many of the dining suggestions offered resembled those that a concierge in a hotel would offer – suggestions that would cater to a specific type of tourist. How many Montrealers would boast that they have eaten at Brasserie T! or Toqué!, two high-end restaurants operated by restaurateur Normand Laprise? The New York Times describes the restaurants’ fare as “québécois fare”, a title that many Montrealers would argue against as both places offer French cuisine.
But, when the glitz and glamour of visiting mainstream tourist attractions fades away, often, the best way to experience a city is through the eyes of a local.
This is when Thomas Seivewright comes in.
Seivewright has been with the Loews Hotel Vogue for four years now. Two years ago, he become a concierge and, most recently, he received his first Clef d’Or, a prestigious title for any individual seeking a concierge career.
“As a concierge, you do whatever the guests ask you to do. It could be something simple like making a dinner reservation or it could be planning their whole stay,” Seivewright explains. “Basically, the description de taches of a concierge is to not have a description de taches.”
Seivewright will be the first to say that sometimes, the demands and the suggestions become redundant. Especially when one deals with tourists on a daily basis.
“Not that I try to recommend the same places over and over again, but that’s kind of what happens automatically,” he says. “It doesn’t mean that I’m a lazy concierge, but it’s really what people come to expect, a certain brand of people.”
To steer away from these expectations, Seivewright decided to start a website, catered to tourists and locals alike, offering tips and tricks on how to experience a city like a local would.
Living Like a Local is about “immersing yourself in the culture of the place”, a slogan described on the site’s homepage.
Seivewright believed a market was lacking for this type of tourism and he wanted to fill the void. He noticed that many websites are proposing a similar idea, but none do exactly what Living Like a Local does. For example, Midnight Poutine “offers an ongoing account of the city’s happening”, but it is basically an online magazine, not a travel guide.
He explains that, if he were to visit Montreal, or any other city, he wouldn’t want to visit the places he sends his hotel guests to. Rather, he defines himself, and the site’s target audience, as a “Type-B” tourist.
“This website is definitely aimed at tourist Type-B,” Seivewright says. “People who like to live a local experience and not a cookie-cutter type of generic experience of what they think a city is, but really what the city truly is.”
To showcase a city to its fullest, local guides, as they are called, act as insiders, letting tourists immerse themselves in the city’s culture. Hence, tourists will be able to “consume like a local” and speak in “local lingo”.
According to Seivewright, Montrealers are the best thing about Montreal because they are known to have fun. Here, he offers his take on how to act like “one of us” for a day.
Montreal is not the only metropolis featured on the website, as Seivewright seeks to expand the site to include other large cities.
“I’m working on a New York version, which should be up by this summer,” he says. “Hopefully, by sometime in the near future, I will have every city in the world.”
Where To Go?
Seivewright offers a list of places (by neighborhood) that tourists should visit if they want to experience Montreal like a local would.
BIXI bicycles are homegrown, Montreal creations. Stands are currently popping up across the city, as the new season begins on April 15. Seivewright promotes the use of BIXIs and loves the idea behind the concept because the bikes are “made in Montreal”.
History in the Making
When asked what neighborhood he thinks is most up-and-coming, Seivewright immediately replied Griffintown, an area of the city with a rich history and an even brighter future.
Here is a brief look at Griffintown: