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article imageWelcome to Montreal, Canada's European summer getaway Special

By David Silverberg     Jun 27, 2009 in Travel
In the summer, Montreal comes alive. Infused with a European flair due to its French-Canadian heritage, Montreal's diverse neighbourhoods shine with their own energy. It's a destination full of stunning graffiti, street festivals and, of course, poutine.
Many Canadians have experienced Montreal in winter. Trudging through snow in the province of Quebec isn't a joyride, some say, but it's a rite of passage for some Canadians.
Yes, I've endured Montreal's chilling snowstorms, but this year I wanted to revel in the summer sunshine pouring down on a city praised for its culture, architecture, history and cuisine. I travelled to Montreal recently to see how the summer months revitalize a city with a rich cultural background. Summertime in Montreal is truly a treat, I discovered.
Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, after Paris, and I could hear the language as soon as I step onto downtown streets. The French phrases spice up an already European-style city, its cafes dotting most intersections, its street festivals crowding popular streets such as St. Catherine.
While on St. Catherine on a Saturday, various booth lined up to sell their wares, from sunglasses to instruments to yoga mats. Food booths were also popular at this street fest, where cars weren't allowed to pass: I spotted some unusual combinations, such as a hot dog wrapped in bacon and what is simply known as "hot duck."
I was lucky enough to come across a dance/music performance from a Portugese troupe, adorned in colourful garb and passionate smiles. They danced and twirled while live music shook from the small stage. Montrealers and tourists watched and clapped, obviously enjoying a taste of Portugal in a city known for its ethnic diversity.
Portugese dancing in Montreal
A Portugese dance troupe entertains crowds at a street festival in Montreal's St Laurent district
David Silverberg
As much as Montreal flourishes with its street fests, it's also well known for its architecture and ancient buildings. Many historical buildings in Old Montreal still stand tall in their original form, such as the Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica (pictured in main widget) and Ernest Cormier's Art Deco Université de Montréal main building. The "old walls" of Montreal can be seen running alongside some newish government buildings.
The old walls of Montreal
This shows the ancient walls of old Montreal, just outside government buildings
David Silverberg
To sum up my sentiments on Montreal, here is a list of quick observations:
• Street art is popular in Montreal, no matter what neighbourhood you find yourself in. Some of the work is incredibly creative and inspiring, whether it's a mural of Scrooge McDuck to a collage of influential musicians such as George Clinton. In Old Montreal, a graffiti'd image of a subway car almost feel three-dimensional.
Graffiti in Montreal
Some street art in Montreal, depicting a subway car
David Silverberg
• Many parks become green respites for Montreal residents. I was staying near one of the largest parks in Montreal, Parc du Fontaine. I spotted some bocce ball players enjoying their hobby in the sunshine, speaking in a strange blend of French and Italian. du Fontaine is well regarded for sporting a large amphitheatre, although I heard it isn't being used as often as it should be.
Montrealers playing bocce ball
Italian men in Montreal's Parc du Fontaine playing bocce ball
David Silverberg
• Montreal is home to widely popular arts festivals, such as the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival to the annual jazz festival taking over the city in late July (free show by Stevie Wonder!). The Fringe Theatre Festival also lands in Montreal in June, and the city recently celebrated its "provincial holiday", St. Jean Baptiste Day.
• If you visit a French-inflected city like Montreal, you have to enjoy the food. Many popular restaurants line streets such as St. Denis and Rachel Street, including a great poutine resto I couldn't resist. I tried the smoked meat poutine (shh, don't tell my rabbi) and made sure to snap a few pics of the treat. It was delicious, the cheese curds nicely spaced between the gravy and shaved meat. Definitely not a healthy snack, but when in Montreal, right?
Smoked meat poutine in Montreal
A food-porn-like shot of smoked meat poutine enjoyed in Montreal
David Silverberg
• For some reason, lots of white fluff flew across the city. It was almost eerie. I later found out the fluff is coming from a cottonwood poplar tree. In one instance, at a Metro station, I noticed a mound of the stuff.
• The Metro (subway) system is well run, even if the trains aren't air conditioned. There are three lines, and they intersect at some stops. I noticed the trains arrive in five minute intervals, at least during midday. Also, there is some art found within some of the stops, offering visitors a chance to escape into a painting's dreamscape while sauntering home from work.
Painting inside a Montreal Metro station
Art hangs prominently in a Metro station, just below the escalators, in Montreal
David Silverberg
• Montreal is very much a balcony city. People eat on their balconies, pre-drink on them, and their houses have walk-up staircases that lead to them. In fact, I noticed almost every house had a spiral staircase outside the home, which must pose problems for residents with sudden injuries. Non?
A balcony staircase in Montreal
A balcony staircase in Montreal
David Silverberg
• Bike rental systems are all the rage in Canada, and Montreal is known for offering one of the best services, Bixi. These silver-ish bikes are locked into place at Bixi stations, which are found across the city. The locking stations seem quite secure. Available for nine months a year, Bixi bikes are made of recycled aluminum and are funded by parking fees. But users still have to pay a membership fee to use the bikes -- $78 a year, or $5 each ride.
The bike rental system in Montreal
On St Andre Street in Montreal, a rack of loaner bikes locked into their holders. It's known as Bixi
David Silverberg
• As much as Montreal pay attention to its in-house art, there is lots of fascinating sculptures and monuments found across the city. I noticed a few interesting pieces near its waterfront, and one of a kneeling person spotted near the Concordia University buildings. They definitely make their streets interesting by building street art that doesn't seem pretentious or forced. It's definitely a draw for tourists, and hopefully a constant attraction for residents. Not to be missed.
A sculpture found in old Montreal
This wooden sculpture was near Montreal's harbour. It is unclear who designed or what it signifies
David Silverberg
A sculpture in  new  Montreal
A fascinating sculpture found near Concordia University in Montreal
David Silverberg
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