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    Posted December 29, 2014 by
    Montreal, Quebec
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Photo essays: Your stories in pictures

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    Montreal is Johnny Canuck’s favorite destination for food and arts


    Montreal is Johnny Canuck’s favorite destination for food and arts


    *Mandeep S. Oberoi




    Johnny Canuck, the lumberjack personification of Canada is also known as the younger cousin of United States' Uncle Sam and Britain's John Bull. Montreal is located in central Canada in the primarily French speaking province of Quebec. The city is among the oldest in North America (NA) and is known for its artistic demeanour, multi-culture character, and for the choice of diverse food and languages it offers. Montreal is home to singers like Celine Dion and Leonard Cohen of American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; actors like Anna Hopkins from The Grand Seduction; and director Jason Reitman from Up in the Air movie that featured George Clooney. Shoes and accessories brand Aldo had originated in Montreal while Canadian chocolate brand Laura Secord had originated in the nearby Quebec city.


    The city attracts artists of all kinds from across the world, be it performers in many of the world class festivals, or the creative people in the video gaming industry, or in the fashion, or the film industry. Montreal is known as the video gaming capital of the world as it hosts all the big brands in this industry. Also, the city is considered next to Paris in fashion.


    Some of my favourite festivals in town include Igloofest (Igloo in Canadian First Nations Inuit language means snow cave), Fête des neiges de Montréal (festival of snow), Montreal En lumiere (festival of light held during winter), Nuit blanche à Montréal (white night with snow and lights), Rendezvous du cinéma Québécois (Montreal film festival), Montreal museums day, Kahnawake powwow festival held at the First Nations reserve, Montreal fireworks festival, Montreal comicon, Just for laughs, Balloons festival, Matsuri Japan, Weekends du monde, and Nuit blanche sur tableau noir, among others. Did I mention Bromont chocolate festival?


    One of my top favourite is Nuit blanche sur tableau noir which means white night on a black table in English. One of city’s important streets, Mont Royal Avenue is blocked for traffic between 10 pm through 2 am. Around 40 artists are selected from all over the world who make their paintings on the street on a theme of the year. The city and the organizers provide color paints. The event also includes street food kiosks all through the night.


    Montreal’s famous Place des-arts, which means the place of arts in English is located in the heart of downtown. The venue facilitates all kinds of arts including performances, exhibitions, orchestra, theatre, and the opera. Over the years, I am amazed to see that there is always something new going on here every couple of weeks. Montreal is also famous for graffiti art that you can see all across the town.


    Montreal’s winter festivals


    The year usually starts with Igloofest that is held during mid of January at the Old Port. The event includes an outdoor disco, ice skating rink, and hot food kiosks. One needs to understand that the temperature falls to an average negative 31 deg. F (-35 deg. C) with wind chill during January and February months in Montreal. Therefore one has to be really brave and appropriately dressed to attend the winter festivals. It is also interesting to experience that our bodies generate a lot of heat if we do physical activities in winter. Heated chalets also complement these winter outdoors venues. Hot apple cider is my most favourite drink during extreme cold weather. Around the same time as Igloofest, Fête des neiges de Montréal (festival of snow) is held at nearby park Jean-Drapeau at St. Helens Island. The snow festival provides opportunities for husky rides, snow-tubing, and winter BBQ. You can get your best pictures with snow during the winter months.


    Montreal en lumiere (festival of light) is kicked-off with Nuit blanche à Montréal (white night) festival. All businesses in certain downtown districts are kept open through-out the night that are complemented by performing arts, gastronomy, free outdoor family activities such as concerts, circus, arts, and theatre. I enjoy taking the free marry go-round rides every year, usually at around 2 am. There is always a big line-up. The festival attracts around 300,000 visitors from across the world. It is known as world’s biggest white night spectacle held over the snow.


    Les FrancoFolies de Montréal and international Jazz music festivals


    Les FrancoFolies de Montréal is world’s major French music and arts festival that is held in downtown Montreal and features over 1,000 French language performers. This festival is complemented by Festival international de Jazz de Montréal or the Montreal international Jazz festival, also held during the summer months. It holds the 2004 Guinness World Record for record participation.


    Weekends du monde cultural and food festival


    This festival offers cultural and ethnic food choices from three different countries each day during the two weekends in July at park Jean-Drapeau. Top artists from those participating countries are invited to perform free public concerts. Ethnic food is also served at reasonable price through mom-and-pop kiosks. Some of the participating countries include Jamaica, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, El-Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, and Cambodia.


    Fireworks festival


    Held during June and August since 1985, Montreal’s fireworks festival is known as the most prominent fireworks competitions in the world. Last year, Italy, Spain, Canada, USA, France, and Australia participated in the festival. It is a spectacular sight for Montreallers, as the city residents like to call themselves, to watch the fireworks from Jacque-Cartier bridge over St. Lawrence river. Traffic is blocked on the bridge for the event.


    Montreal’s underground Christmas decorations


    With a spread of over 20 miles (32 km), Montreal’s underground walkways across the downtown are one of the biggest in NA. These walkways are heated during winter and connect shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, and a regional bus terminal. This whole area gets very well decorated during Christmas. This year, a Santa with beard made with husk was my favourite.


    Some interesting technology and people facts about Montreal


    Since Canada is still accepting skill based immigrants from across the world, the intriguing diversity of well educated people contributes to a multi-cultural fabric of the city. Many young people from across the country and neighboring USA also flock to the city for its artistic life style. The city’s population is around 1.8 million and 3 million with suburbs included. To me, it is a small big city that provides a perfect melting pot for artists and scientists alike. The city also hosts very renowned educational institutes such as McGill University and the University of Montreal among others that are famous for their contributions in the fields of arts, science, technology, and medicine.




    It is a social tradition to be an artist in Montreal and makes it really easy to connect with people. I can relate to my own life because I had come to the town as a skilled professional immigrant with qualifications in hi-tech, though now I feel happy to explore my own talent as a new creative writer and photographer in the town.


    I may like to thank my friends Sri Hari Krishna N. from USA and Pierre Haborn from Montreal for editing this manuscript.


    *Mandeep S. Oberoi, twitter @mandeepsoberoi is an outdoor enthusiast. He is an intermediate hiker, kayaker, camper, poet, and writer. He has ventured across Laurentian mountains and Eastern Quebec townships in Canada, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in the West coast of USA, Scottish Highlands, Toco range in the Caribbean, Swiss Interlaken mountains, and the Himalayas, among others. He works professionally as SAP financial services consultant for his firm Dexteyra Consulting Group Inc.

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