By Vincent Hamel
When visiting Paris last summer (oh, simpler times!), I was lucky enough to go for brunch with an old friend of mine who had moved there upon graduating from McGill to pursue a Master’s, love, and a new life in the French metropole. In between a sip of Apérol Spritz, a bite of Pink Mamma’s succulent pizza (no seriously, try it!), and laughter, reminiscent of olden days, he showed me an app he used to remember his ‘addresses’, otherwise known as spots he loved and would recommend to friends seeking something to do around the city. Mapstr is a French app developed in 2015 that allows users to create their own maps, either vestiges of places previously visited, or to do lists of places they would like to visit.
By all means is this not a promotional piece for the app, but rather an ode to the app I have become obsessed with and that allows me to discover new hotspots for the cities I visit (not so much in this context). The ‘basecamp’ of the app is your own, personal map. One can add places throughout the world at the touch of the search button, and then add tags that will help categorize these places once there is an array of them. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, landmarks, boutiques, yoga studios, parks and activities; you name it, it’s probably on Mapstr.
Mapstr is indeed a social networking app: what would it be without access to other people’s maps? Through the right sidebar you can navigate through friends maps. The deluxe version even gives access to all of them on the same map! How do you add friends’ maps? You can search them via Facebook and your contacts, but the most effective way is to talk about it. Some magazines (think Vogue, Vanity Fair) even have cool thematic maps (think ‘What to do in Milan during Fashion Week’, or simply ‘Cocooning during a Montreal snowstorm’) that you can search for and add to yours. So let’s say you know Friend X has been to Helsinki and you are visiting: instead of asking them for their suggestions and them having to find (or build) the email they’ve already sent (or received) with all of their must-sees, you go to their map and look for spots that are close to the hotel you are staying. You could potentially even find a hotel to stay at according to where the cool spots are.
Let’s say you are wandering around town looking for a cool activity or spot to visit in your vicinity, you open the map, check if it is open (one of the app’s features) and voila! You can go, and if you like it you add it to your own map. Simple and fun. Students that have started McGill this semester in the context of this unfortunate pandemic have not had the opportunity to explore Montreal, get out of the McGill bubble and harness this city’s energy to its full potential. I strongly suggest downloading Mapstr, maybe some of your friends already have it! You’ll discover cool new spots in and around your neighbourhood or wherever you happen to be that day. And potentially discover new playgrounds to thrive in. Oh, and add my map while you’re at it 😉