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Montreal – city of cafes, restaurants, shops of all kinds and from all over the world. Montreal – city of festivals from Jazz Festival to Comedy Festival to several film festivals.
What was available? Taverns that were for men only. Woolworth's lunch counters. Steak restaurants and smoked meat places. Instant coffee. Strange places called A and W.
One year later - 1956. The Hungarian revolution. Then the Communist crackdown and the flight of thousands and thousands of Hungarians.
That was the very small beginning of change for Montreal – because a few of the refugees ended up in Montreal. One opened the first cafe, Cafe Prague – a place where one could hang out over a coffee, even play chess. Other Hungarians opened small restaurants with inexpensive European cooking – the Mazurka (still around, and still as good as ever) on Prince Arthur Street, PamPam's on Stanley, and several others. Small changes, but very important.
The 1960s. The hippie era, the revitalization of the downtown areas (the shift away from the suburbs), the war in Vietnam leading to an influx of draft dodgers and Vietnam war veterans. Also, there was Expo 67, a world exposition – which left Montreal with La Ronde, still a very popular amusement park which keeps getting new thrills, new rides year after year.
The 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and on to the present.
As for Montreal, city of villages, even the suburbs are developing villages. So, for example, the suburb, Pierrefonds, has the Pierrefonds Village.
such as, in the summer, weekly fireworks displays from countries around the world that attract hundreds of thousands of people;
4 large universities, 2 English and 2 French;
a mountain in the middle of the city, Mont Royal, that has stayed undeveloped and that offers miles of walking, biking and in winter, cross-country skiing;
the Lachine Canal, a revitalized area which again offers miles of walking and roller-blading all the way from Old Montreal outward to Lachine, LaSalle and Dorval, with restaurants in some parts along the way;
Park Lafontaine right between the Plateau and the Latin Quarter, with its small lake where one can go rowing, its petting zoo, and its performances in the summer months (ballet, music).
Montreal is also a big arts capital. It's a major center of special effects for movies – and has a film industry of its own. Montreal has the highest concentration of artists in Canada – graphic artists, fashion designers, musicians from jazz to alternative to pop, as well as visual artists.
Other people come for business opportunities, to develop businesses locally, and to see about import or export possibilities.
And of course not far from Montreal is the Quebec countryside, the Eastern Townships (l'Estrie) to the east, the Laurentians to the north, and the Monteregie to the south.
People come to Montreal for all kinds of reasons. Friends from across the US border drive up for a weekend to stock up on their favorite herbal tea, as well as to take in a bit of the nightlife. Other people – mainly one-time Montrealers – fly in from as far as LA or even Europe for their favorite smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz' – which was open when my parents came to Montreal, and is still thriving now. Then there's hockey season. Almost all like the reasonable prices.
"What brings you here?" The answers are as varied as the people who come.
I'm someone who grew up there and chose not to leave through the height of the separatist movement, though I am more English-speaking than French-speaking, and though many English-speaking people left. But ask me, what makes Montreal so attractive to me? I find it hard to pinpoint what makes Montreal special to me.
Montreal Europe without the Jetlag
Montreal Europe without the Jetlag
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