01.06.2012 - 03.06.2012
If you ignore the protests – possible, if tricky at night – I quite liked Montreal. Though perhaps lacking much in the way of “must see's” for a tourist, it was a very agreeable city and somewhere i'm sure that would be fun to live for a while.
Just how do you activate something uselessly?
Staying with friends of friends, I had free use of a bicycle with with to explore the city (at least until I destroyed the front tyre and had a long walk home) which is always a bonus. I trekked over to the 1976 Olympic park, Montreal's famous folly (though successful from a sporting point of view – ironically, unless you are Canadian - financially they were a disaster: even though plans had to be cut back late in the day, delays and cost overruns were staggering and meant the city was still paying off the cost of the stadium over 30 years later) to see how miserable and desolate east London will doubtless be looking in a few months/years time.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Montreal was the street art. Especially in certain areas of the centre and at night, large parts of city was used as part of installations. Some more traditional, some stand alone; some involved light shows and entire buildings having ever changing displays projected on to them. Others were interactive: One was a row of children's swings with lights on them, which were linked to music instruments: the number, speed and rhythm of the swings dictating the notes played. There were numerous examples, and I liked it.
The lights on the swings varies in brightness, whilat the speed of the swings and number being used - there is a row of them all the others along the promende - creates music, which varies by tone, pitch, density and volume
The lighting on the side of the building is actually a kind of large interactive computer game which once started by sms, gets played by the noise and location of the crowd opposite
On Sunday, much of the city was shut down whilst a large cycle event took place – if I had known about it in advance, I would have loved to take part as a way of seeing more of the city. Instead, I took a trek around the Jean-Talon market, and then spent a couple of hours in the Parc du Mont-Royal, both people watching and listening to a mass of Tam-Tam players who congregate weekly, and produce an incredible hypnotic rhythmic sound. Definitely worth a watch and listen.
Unfortunately the rain – though not quite at the biblical levels of a few days ago – was regular and often quite heavy, which inevitably cut down on some of my plans. I have no problem with rain or getting wet, but doing things like climbing mountains to look at the view, when the rain and cloud are so thick that there will not be a view is not really my idea of fun. Instead I was given a guided tour by the lovely Sarah, who, naturally also brought her mum along, the old TP stalwart Tway. If you ever get the chance, I can recommend having a tour of pretty much anywhere by an under 5: you get to see very different perspectives to when you are just with 'boring' adults.
My tour guide in the rain, Sarah
I tried the inevitable poutine – chips with cheese curds and gravy – a Canadian staple, to which my general feeling would be 'meh'; marvelled at the wonders of PFK (in the rest of the world, this is known as KFC. Even in France, it is KFC. But in Quebec, oh no – they need to change it to PFK – just to ensure that those dastardly English speaking companies don't destroy the local language. Or something.). I also ended up being offered money to give a lap dance in a strange thrash metal bar.
At that point, I knew it was time to move on again.
This, apparently, is how you get ready for a big night out in Montreal when the weather forecast isn't good...