Each summer we love to spend some time in Montreal visiting family and enjoying the experience of listening to Quebecois French spoken in every park, store and coffee shop. Montréal is the largest city in Canada's Québec province. It’s set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Its boroughs, many of which were once independent cities, include neighbourhoods ranging from cobblestoned, French colonial Vieux-Montréal – with the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica at its centre – to bohemian Plateau.
While sipping a latte inspired by Marie Antionette a young girl waiting at the bus stop, visible through the large window of the coffee shop on the corner. Perfectly striped yellow dress with a bright red purse and fashion-forward leather sandals, one item of clothing was amiss. I turned to my mum and asked if my eyes were deceiving me. She noted that I was quite observant, it’s a trend in Montreal, a lot of women of all ages have decided to go without bras, shaving or makeup.
I looked back at the young lady and the first thought that crossed my mind was that she looked extremely comfortable. An older lady crossed the street with a friend, pushing her bike with a flower basket, the same thing. I was living in the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. At first, I found it quite strange, but after seeing their complete confidence, echoed by nobody staring or making rude or inappropriate comments, I started to feel better about myself! It’s though their mantra of loving themselves in natural form was contagious.
Montreal is setting the stage for truly accepting, celebrating and living just the way you are.
Some Montreal grocery stores now allow consumers to bring their own, clean containers when purchasing deli or other counter items. This is a big step in reducing carbon footprints and curbing plastic packaging waste. One of our favourite stores is Mega Vrac, where you can bring your own containers even for milk! It’s revolutionary and fun. We spent almost three weeks in Montreal and in all the time on the streets, parks and walking a ton, we noticed only two empty water bottles, which stood out like a sore thumb. Everywhere we looked people brought their own refillable water bottles, bags and containers.
At all the museums and parks water fountains were available on-demand at no cost. Under the shade of the giant trees, people enjoy each other’s company on picnic blankets sharing a zero-waste meal. Sustainable living is attainable living in this big city.
Rules of the road
Usually we take the train to Montreal, however, we extended our vacation with a week in Ottawa and decided to drive. Before entering the city of Montreal, be sure to download the rules of the road! There is no turning right on a red light, like the rest of Canada and once the green arrow turns to full green, only then can you turn. It was an experience, to say the least. With the increase in cyclists (which we completely support), there is also an increased awareness to share the road respectfully.
The streets of Montreal are no different from original European-style of the early centuries. They are narrow, one-way streets surrounded by multi-level living space.
Want to see a free circus in the park? What about a bi-weekly fireworks competition? Outside food festivals and vendors can be found in closed-off streets nearly all summer long in different communities across Montreal. When the heat gets to be too much, the splash pads and parks will keep you entertained whether you’re pushing a stroller or pushing sixty.
Space for everyone
Montreal's Jewish community is one of the oldest and most populous in the country, formerly first but now second to Toronto and numbering about 100,000 according to the 2001 census. The community is quite diverse and is composed of many different Jewish ethnic divisions that arrived in Canada at different periods and under differing circumstances. Strolling down Avenue du Parc the stores are filled with antiques with a European flair, second-hand fashion complemented with traditional Jewish bakeries and butcheries catered to any preference.
We noticed Spanish spoken at quite a few restaurants and stumbled upon two of our favourite eateries, La Taqueria and Ta Chido Snack Bar. After the lunch rush, we sat down at Ta Chido for a sweet treat and a strong coffee. The owner delighted us with delicacies native to Mexico. Enthralled by stories and learning as much about other cultures, we chose Mexican Corn Cake.
Inside the bar, the decor transported us to a land of fantasy mixed with enchantment. While settling the bill, the owner mentioned that the cake was a recipe was passed down from his great-great-grandmother. It is famous around these parts and beyond and once, a famous artist heard of the cake. Pleased that the cake didn’t disappoint, the artist offered the owner two pieces of art. It is a tradition that when a person from Mexico become famous, an art piece is made in their honour. The artist had two sculptures that resided in the halls of the consulate and presidential homes. To thank the owner for the cake and keeping the traditions alive, he offered the art pieces to be displayed in his restaurant. It really was the best Corn Cake we’ve ever had.
We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring. Catherine Pulsifer
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