Montreal despite it all we love you – Cirque du Soleil, Montreal Canadiens, Bagels, etc.
Montrealers are a special kind. We love our city, despite all the challenges we have been facing – and there have been many.
The most apparent would be the nightmare of construction and infrastructure work, heaved upon us like one humongous scoop of wet cement that won’t dry – which clearly could have been dished out at a far more organized and intelligent pace. Warning cries from professionals in the field of mental health about the anxiety and stress levels plaguing Montrealers went unheeded by City Hall. So we do what Montrealers do, we simply embrace construction cones with creativity; from t-shirts, key chains and even orange and white striped popsicles. We walk the talk and rock it.
Our spirit will not be broken by our taxpayer dollars being spent on things so many of us loudly and clearly said we do not want or need, and bordered on the ridiculous. And when our suggestions for how to better spend our money, such as making sure no child in Montreal ever has to ever go to sleep hungry, fall upon deaf ears – we simply dig into our own pockets and fill the food banks.
With winter comes the slipperiest of slopes, literally – sidewalks and roads the Habs could play a few games on, and win. But hey, we’re Montrealers and we forge ahead. It takes a lot more than a few cracked ribs or a broken leg to break our spirit. Although sometimes it feels like being a Pit-Bull (Type) trying to stop a downhill Mayor-Bulldozer (Type) on an ice-coated, unsalted Beaver-Hall (Type) road, but our resolve only gets stronger.
As Montreal celebrates the 375th anniversary of its founding, there are just as many reasons why we are still in love with our city. To put it simply, the heart of Montreal does not lie within the walls of City Hall, not by a longshot. It lies within the collective heart of Montrealers.
For one, Montreal is amazingly multicultural. Besides our Francophone and Anglophone communities, one third of the city’s population is enriched by Italians, Greeks, Haitians, Moroccans, Arab and Lebanese, Armenians, Japanese, Irish, Chinese, Latin Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Jewish and Aboriginal people – and more.
At festivals and special events or by taking a stroll in a different neighborhood, you will find it all, especially the culinary delights – from Schwartz’s smoked meat to, as well as poutine, souvlaki, Thai noodles, escargot, falafels, shawarma, sushi, gefilte fish, vegan delights and everything in between. And much of it relatively inexpensive.
The arts and entertainment scene here is also amazing. Place des Arts in the area of the Quartier des Spectacles is at the heart of it all, with classical and contemporary dance, broadway plays, operas, the MSO and all types of musical performances from Montreal and around the world. The Quartier des Spectacles is hotter than summer with the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Festival International Nuits D’Afrique, FrancoFolies and Just for Laughs, to name a few.
We are a city that likes to party. Festivals abound all over the island, all year round – from Old Montreal and the Old Port to Mount Royal (where many like to jam on da’ Tam Tams on a sunny day when da’ grass is green – and often smokin’) to St. Denis and St. Laurent streets, the Plateau area and the Quartier Latin. And our gay community contributes so much to what makes Montreal special. In the Gay Village, we party in all colours of the rainbow with Pride Festivals and Parades. From the streets to the rooftop terraces, we love as one.
As for fashion, Montreal is a shopping mecca, not just for us but for tourists from all over the world who flock to Sainte-Catherine St. department stores and trendy retail chains as well as unique boutiques and vintage shops in the Mile End area.
Our music scene beats to the rhythm of Montreal’s heart with local and internationally successful artists; Francophone, Anglophone and culturally diverse. We have an abundance of amazing talent here and it just keeps coming. Our nightlife is alive with countless bars and nightclubs – from Latin, African and Jazz clubs to Boîte à Chansons and Burlesque shows that light up the night like the International Fireworks Competition that lights up our summer sky.
Winter in Montreal could sometimes freeze the bagels right out of the oven, but that doesn’t even give us pause. Wrapped in parkas, blankets (and perhaps a wee pint inside a pocket to warm the blood), thousands march forth in the night, in sub-zero temperatures, towards the sound of electronic music and dance at Igloo Fest. For those who prefer a less frightening experience there is the ‘Fête des Neiges’ to put a chill into the winter blues, topped off with a night in the Ice Hotel. Bring it on!
When the warmer weather returns we like it fast, maybe because the season is too short. The Grand Prix of Montreal brings Crescent Street to a whole new level during the summer. We are also one of the best cities for cyclists, who ‘zip-line’ through 700 kilometers of bike lanes. But we also like it slow. Trails, walking paths and beautiful parks abound from riverside to forested mountain and there’s our lake named after a Beaver who has never been seen.
Our city is home to the Cirque du Soleil and innovative leaders like Ubisoft and the Moment Factory, not to mention internationally renowned Universities and world class Museums. Our Literature scene is filled with amazing, talented writers who teach us or bring us to other places in time, holding us spellbound with their words. We are also home to the Salon du Livre and the multilingual Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival.
And without further delay… let’s not forget The HABS. Period. Need I say more?
Our 375 year history is rich with amazing accomplishments. There is so much we have to celebrate, not just this year, but every day. When the going gets tough, Montrealers come together, no matter what their differences are. We are the collective heartbeat that keeps Montreal alive and well. We welcome refugees from horrible situations, helping them to adjust to new lives. Why? Because in turn, they bring with them many wondrous things which can only add to the wonder of our city. Are we not all from immigrant ancestry as well?
So it’s okay if this year 2.75 kms of our city roads will be torn up so they can be ‘improved’ in order to accommodate a Formula E high speed race, at a cost $4.5 million (and counting) for a one weekend event – instead of being put towards ‘improving’ our own urgent roadwork. We will still find a way to be there.
Despite it all we are still in love with Montreal! So let’s celebrate happy 375th Montreal – Bon Fête!
By: Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca