Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Montreal: A City in Renaissance

At the moment I feel as if Montreal is definitely a city in renaissance, in revival, in bloom -- and it's not because of the student population freshly injected into the city's urban campuses (les etudiants qui fourmillent, no verb like that in English). Montreal is undergoing urban renewal which is brightening up parts of the city through renovation and redevelopment and truly injecting new life into the veins of its streets through improved infrastructure. Montreal, je t'aime!

Montreal in the summer is festival central, Jazz, Francofolies, beer, Just for Laughs, International Film and innumerable others that I couldn't possibly name in their entirety. At the heart of these festivals is the heart of the city centred around Place Des Arts. The city is just about to put the finishing touches (for now) on the refurbishments for this area, called the Place des Festivals within the larger Quartier des Spectacles. Monday September 7th, the Place des Festivals opens to the public with a big bash called LE GRAND BAISER (the big kiss) complete with parade, musical performances and concluding with a screening of Imagine: John Lennon. Click here for more info.

Montreal is not only revitalizing parts of the city but has also ushered in a new era for public transportation. Since the blue subway cars hit the rails with their rubber tires shortly before the unveiling of Expo 67, the Societe de Transport de Montreal hasn't really buffed up its image. Until this year. On the wave of environmental responsibility and making the city more efficient, the STM got cute and clean and all spruced up thanks to rebranding care of Sid Lee.
Check out their website to see what I mean. They also have plans to bring in sleek new metro cars. While the idea seems great (just check out the video here), I'd be heartbroken and nostalgic to see those iconic (charming? vintage? awesome?) subway cars go. [Montreal also seems to be planning a tram line...]

The one recent change that fills my heart with joy is the communal bike system called Bixi. Following in the footsteps of Paris's Velib', Montreal's system allows for anyone to come up to its solar powered stations and take out a bike to transit across the city (and its oodles of bike paths another major change in the city). Somehow it makes me happy to now end to see the unique Bixi bikes in use with their pedal-powered front and rear lights. I've pedaled home late one night after going out and the feeling was wonderful, exhilarating. Sigh. Not only has the system been embraced by citizens and tourists alike, Bixi is slated for test runs in New York, London and Boston. It has also won an International Design Excellence Award (another point for Montreal, a UNESCO design capital of the world)!

So Montreal is definitely on the rise. A beautiful city bursting with culture, it boasts being the second largest French-speaking city outside of Paris. Rich with design, popping with fashion, a centre for music, festivals galore, food from all over and people from all over who mix harmoniously together, what is not to love? Montreal has even taken measures to revolutionize tourism by getting locals to blog about the goings on in the city, providing an insider's edge. There have been two videos showcasing Montreal (from Tourism Montreal and Sid Lee) that capture the city in a nutshell (watch em!). A vibrant metropolis, fun, funky, artsy, eco and fabulous.

While Montreal is taking major strides, perhaps an interesting sidenote is that all this optimism may be the sunny terrasse weather and the pleasures of light clothing. Neither of the tourism videos show Montreal in the wintertime. Harumph. When it gets cold and the snow piles up, Montreal can tend to be a little more difficult (although it is beautiful! and there is an *eyeroll* underground city). But hey, with all these great things going for us, from summer festivals to bicycle beautifulness, how can you fault such a lovely metropolis? As for winter, we'll work on it...

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