On August 11, my friend and I arrived in Montreal on an overcast day. We were on an Eastern Canada road trip and Quebec was one of our major stops. Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday. Like Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, Montreal is offering multiple free events in honour of the anniversary.
I have visited Montreal multiple times and there are certain qualities that keep me returning: the French culture’s priority with regards to arts and culture plus its joie de vivre (love of life). From these past experiences, I expected to see larger than life artistically mastered installations within a heritage landscape.
Day number one
On the first day into centre-ville via Pont Jacques-Cartier (Jacques-Cartier Bridge), I am not disappointed. As my friend drove, I ogled the playfully painted architectural structures of brick and mortar. Delicate paintings reminiscent of Monet’s Water Lillies danced across condo walls as we found our way into Montreal’s residential side streets.
Once we found parking, we proceeded to Laurier Metro station. We were purchasing two Culture Passports. These Culture Passport cards give 25per cent discounts off local venues such as McCord Museum, le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and unlimited STM (Société de transport de Montréal) for 72 hours once activated. They also have two alternative passports; one for 48 hours and another for 72 hours. However, these MTL Passeports are $85 and $99 which gives the user free admission to the previously mentioned venues plus an array of others plus the free STM transportation.
On our way to purchase these we came upon three different festival celebrations. The first one was a Graffiti Festival called UnderPressure. Walking along Rue Sainte-Catherine between Rue Saint-Denis and Boulevard Saint-Laurent, we watched a variety of illustrators redesigning the facades of specific local structures with their graphic and mural artworks. Walking down a block we heard music within an open dance studio where we witnessed three youths having a hip-hop dance-off. Walking down two more blocks to Saint-Laurent was the entrance to Montreal’s Pride festivities. This year, Fierté Montréal became Canada’s National Pride Festival’s inaugural opener for 2017. It ran from August 11–20. Rainbow-coloured balloon streamers zigzagged the boulevard for five blocks as if entering a community wedding reception. At the opposite end of Rue Sainte-Catherine features the Quartier des spectacles, the city’s cultural heart. It is the “most emotion in 1 km (squared)”says the quartierdesspectacles.com web page. This year, the city is hosting 40 festivals, 80 cultural events, nine architectural façade projections, eight lively public spaces and over 100 shows each month for 2017.
Day number two
Our mission was to see the historical projections titled Cité Mémoire. Before this we visited the current Jean Paul Gauthier exhibition Love is Love at the Musée des beaux-arts. The designer worked in collaboration with the gallery to create this show. It looks at Canada’s stance regarding marriage and the LGBT community.
Finishing our two-hour abridged gallery visit, we made our way down to Old Montreal. Wandering around the almost four century old downtown core of Montreal, we found the Clock Tower Quay behind the Palais de justice de Montréal. This is where one of two main projections is to take place on the hour from dusk to 11p.m. each night. We were delighted to hear these projections will be ongoing until 2020.
From my first experience until now I still find myself saying “Je t’aime Montréal.” Is it about hearing silky smooth French conversations between two friends along the numerous sidewalk cafes? Is it the endless splashes of colour painted across the urban architecture? Is it the rich and diverse culinary cuisine and people that thrive within these traditional landscapes? Yes, it is these things and so much more.