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Abeille Gélinas’s Montreal balances charm and eccentricity

Oct 24, 2017

Abeille Gélinas in front of the Toyota C-HR

After living in Los Angeles for 5 years and studying at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting, the bubbly young mom moved back to Montreal and settled in the Mile-End, where she currently lives with her husband and their two-year-old son. Known for her bubbly personality, unique sense of style and big, contagious smile, the trendsetter is just as comfortable on a TV set, surrounded by stars, as she is on a stage blasting beats for thousands of people or kicking back at home with her family.

Juggling her hectic work schedule, busy mom life and hugely popular Instagram account, Abeille is one of Montreal's proudest, most passionate ambassadors. She's in love with this city, and the feeling's mutual.

Montreal offers the perfect balance. It's urban, lively, diverse and full of possibilities

Up and down the Main, from the mountain to the river, Abeille Gélinas takes us aboard the Toyota C-HR to show us those precious places that make Montreal a city where she’s carved her own unique path that balances family life and an energetic and eclectic career.

Constantly craving new sights, sounds and experiences, our journey begins at 180g (6546 Waverly St), a coffee shop slash record store that she just recently discovered. Nestled in a secluded Mile-Ex alley, it's a place to drink coffee, grab a bite and browse through a collection of carefully curated vinyls in search of new and exciting sounds.

"It's a well-kept secret in a neighborhood that I love, says the DJ. The owners are great, so knowledgeable and passionate. The music they play, like the music they sell, is excellent. Jazz, hip-hop, soul, funk ... It's paradise for a music lover like me!”

Interior of Les Impertinentes Montreal

Head over heels in love with her neighborhood, which she speaks of with enthusiasm, Abeille never stops hunting for her next favorite spot. “Nothing makes me happier than finding cool, artsy little cafes, and I love exploring the city looking for them. With Les Impertinentes, I really hit the jackpot!” Located on Saint-Laurent, in the Mile-End, Les Impertinentes (5380 boulevard St-Laurent) is a café, ballet school and small boutique run by two sisters. Cozy, unconventional,  and inspiring, it's the perfect fit for an original like Abeille.

"It's the cutest concept! The cafe and classroom are separated by a large window, so you can watch the dancers while enjoying a tartine - the specialty of the house. I often go there to work. The atmosphere is truly unique.”

Interior of Birona Hummus Bar

Right across the street is another of Abeille's go-to places, Birona Hummus Bar (5417 boul St Laurent), of which her husband Na'eem is co-owner. "I've always loved hummus, she says, I even eat it for breakfast! Finally, someone understands that it's not only a side dish, but also a meal! (laughs)"

Catering to families and foodies alike, Birona offers an imposing menu with a wide selection of hummus, of course, but also side dishes, breads and salads in a welcoming atmosphere. "It's a place where you feel welcome, whether you go with friends or with children. The food is fantastic and the portions are generous. Everything is designed around sharing a good meal and having a great time."

The fact that Birona is partly owned by her husband surely has something to do with it, she adds. Having grown up in a tight-knit clan of driven, creative people, Abeille's family is where she draws much of her strength and inspiration. Both successful, gorgeous and personable, Na'eem and her have achieved power couple status a long time ago. But raising a child, cultivating a happy marriage and managing two unconventional and time-consuming careers requires a lot of zen, love, careful planning... and the ability to squeeze in some much needed me-time—something that Montreal accommodates perfectly.

When she needs to unwind at the end of a long day, looking to recharge and take some time to herself before going back home to her mommy duties, Abeille stops for a drink at Ping Pong Club (5788 boulevard St Laurent), a dive bar at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Bernard.

Located at the heart of the Mile-End, a quiet bubble in the middle of the action, it's where Abeille feels most at home. “It's my neighborhood bar, she says. It's as comfy as my own living room. I like to sit by the window, or on the terrace, to chill and soak in the vibe of these streets that I love. Plus their nachos are really good!”

Lhasa De Sela Montreal

Montreal has always provided a place for creative people to find balance, and while the bar scene is certainly a key to the energy of the city, the wealth of green spaces help recharge creative juices. As for those beautiful summer afternoons with her son, she spends them at the Lhasa De Sela Park - renamed in memory of the late singer – enjoying the playground, paddling pool and skatepark. "The city just converted a vacant lot, across from the park, into a small green space. They set up picnic tables, and you can sit down to eat. It created this really cool little hub underneath the Van Horne overpass.”

To Abeille, Montreal's soul is also in the stories of its citizens like Tamey Lau, owner of Dragon Flowers (159 Rue Bernard O) on Bernard avenue. Somewhat of a local celebrity, the florist and single mother of 14 kids, whose chaotically beautiful storefront attracts locals and tourists alike, almost lost everything when a fire destroyed her shop in the spring of 2013. Immediately, the entire neighborhood spontaneously mobilized and organized several fundraisers. Within a few days, they had raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations and Tamey was able to rebuild her business.  “It was community spirit at its best,” remembers Abeille.

And if she really must choose between Olimpico and Club Social, two institutions at war for who's got the best coffee in town? Abeille sides with Club Social (180 St-Viateur O). Though she loves hanging out at Olimpico to people-watch, she prefers Club Social because they offer a variety of milks.  “...and for the old men playing cards there all day long!”

When she ventures outside of her neighborhood, Abeille goes down to the river and strolls along Lachine Canal, whose legendary bike path stretches from the Quai de l'Horloge all the way to Lake St-Louis.  “It's an amazing place to walk, ride your bike, rent pedal-boats... Between the Old Port and its rich history, Griffintown's industrial charm and the Atwater Market area, with its modern buildings, there's just so much to see!”

Lachine Canal Montreal

When it comes to museums, Abeille’s choice is as unconventional and rooted in the city as the artists herself. It’s not the Museum of Fine Arts or Montreal’s Contemporary Art Museum that she finds inspiration, but rather  The McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke St W) which holds a special place in the DJ's heart for its unique vision and passionate team.  “The McCord is such a fantastic place, especially for families with kids”, she promises.

Dedicated to the city’s history, the museum's mission pulls at the proud Montrealer's heart strings. “Montreal is such a big part of me, she says. I have so many memories here.” As she aspires to experience it as much as she can, sharing her discoveries with her numerous fans and followers, she's become an integral part of the city that shaped her.

Montreal, explains Abeille, is the answer to her quest for balance; a city like no other, eccentric and charming, that can both inspire and reassure. A city in her image. “It's the key to my personal happiness," she concludes. "It's my home. I need balance in my life, my food, my relationships and my thoughts. I'm not one for extremes and Montreal offers the perfect balance. It's urban, lively, diverse and full of possibilities, but also green, safe, affordable and quiet. You can explore it by foot or by car, whether it's winter or summer. It's the perfect happy medium.”

Learn More: Explore the Toyota C-HR Here