Montreal, you’re even more beautiful in the summer.
One of my goals this year has been to see Montreal in the summer.
In December of last year, I had the fortune of visiting Montreal for the first time. Despite a crazy blizzard that had hit the city, its beauty was not lost on me.
Everywhere I went, people would say, “If you love Montreal now, you must return during the summer.”
Which is exactly what I did.
Montreal has an old-world charm that is rich in history, its residents blessed with a keen love of its arts and music.
From the Osheaga event that I attended to see Eminem, to the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival to one-act plays to more than 60 museums across the city, to random artists in the street – it is clear that Montreal has made arts a priority.
Montreal also has a love affair with food. My favourite outdoor market is the JeanTalon Market, which is a cornucopia that requires at least two hours to take in. All the food is fresh and vibrant. Best of all, the merchants want you to sample everything. Every vendor wants to talk about their produce, and every customer is important.
The dizzying array of food goes on for three city blocks.
My favourite treat was the small cones filled with maple butter at the top, with the sweetest maple syrup I’ve ever had drizzled at the bottom.
What struck me the most, though, were the shoppers. Montrealers take their time shopping. They enjoy the experience and purchase their food almost every day – instead of doing one big shopping spree per week.
However, their indifference to being rushed through anything was not just reserved for shopping. It was also in the restaurants and on the roads, where many biked in the city and, unlike Vancouver, many actually used the bike lanes – 500 per hour, on average.
There is a bike system called Bixi Bikes, where, for a small rental fee, you can use your credit card to take a bike on the street, ride it, then drop it off at another bike station. When the bike is returned, the appropriate rental fee is deducted, encouraging people to keep their usage times short and keep bikes in circulation.
In the restaurants, reservations are taken until the wee hours of the morning. One night I was out at a lovely restaurant in old Montreal called Bocata, and people were still coming in for dinner after midnight. Diners sat unrushed, reveling in the experience of their food. The lively music added to the ambiance along with the open shutters to the restaurant and the old brick walls that surrounded us. It was simply intoxicating.
On the street, Montrealers are friendly, helpful and will make eye contact with you.
The women dress impeccably and you will never find a Montreal woman in flipflops or cutoffs. Women are very fashionforward, always dressed in sundresses, dress shorts or capris. And many are thin and extremely beautiful. I think I would get a bit of a complex if I lived there.
One interesting tidbit I learned along from a local is that Montrealers are never seen carrying their coffee to work or eating a sandwich on the run – a sure sign of a tourist. After all, Montrealers are about enjoying the moment and the experience. They will sit and take the time to drink their coffee and eat their lunch. McDonald’s does not do well there. It was something I quickly learned to appreciate.
At the outside bistros, wine, charcuterie and cheeses were everywhere during the warm afternoons – truly a place to savour.
But best is how accommodating people in Montreal are to tourists like myself, where my French can be a bit dodgy at best. “Bonjour” followed by “hello” is the common greeting in all the amazing stores throughout the city.
The nightlife is abundant. Those who may be a tad younger than I can find dance clubs and venues open until the early hours of the morning. I was also advised that there are many after-hours clubs to continue the fun until the very next day.
Montreal in the summer is more than just beautiful, more than just romantic and more than just its history, it is a place that thrives off life well lived.
And for the very staunch B.C. lover that I am, and who has adored where I have lived for more than 20 years, Montreal has truly captured a piece of my heart. There may be room for two loves in my life. Perhaps I’ll have to return in the fall, just to be sure.