The staircase at the intersection of Côte-Sainte-Catherine and Laurier would appear to lead up to a private home, but those who follow it up past an imposing row of houses will find themselves in a narrow footpath between dwellings.
This seemingly-secret passage emerges on Maplewood Avenue. Half a block west, a second flight of stairs provides a short cut between Maplewood and Blvd Mont-Royal- if in doubt look for the green hand rail:
Although neither of the alleys is marked at the bottom both have signage at the top. In one case a one-way sign displays the words “stairs towards Côte-Sainte-Catherine,” as if to imply that the staircase is unidirectional. Another sign forbids loitering.
Although the passage may have been designed to provide a handy short-cut for those who live high in the hills of Outremont to nip down to Laurier Ouest for an espresso, the alley also happens to provide short-cut up to the mountain for the rest of us. From Boulevard Mont-Royal, dozens of paths dart up into the greenery of Mount Royal, criss-crossing one of its less-explored faces.
But I can’t think of many public spaces in Montreal that feel this intimate, which may explain why the passage seems to be intentionally camouflaged, at least to those of us who live at the bottom end of the steps.