Montréal: City of random where anything is possible

Me, Clio and my 2 roommates after the 25th Anniversary performance of Ovo

Me, Clio and my 2 roommates after the 25th Anniversary performance of Ovo

I’m living in Montréal for a little over a month, nestled downtown where the latin quarter and gay quarter meet, not too far from Chinatown or the old harbour, and every day something interesting is bound to happen. Montréal is a city where french, festivals, sex stores and dragqueens reign, and has been affectionately nicknamed the cultural capital of Canada. Just this month in Montréal, there has been the Fashion & Design festival (think outdoor runway show with a free concert by K-os), L’off Festival of Jazz, the world acclaimed International Jazz Festival of Montréal,  a White Night Festival (a night time, outdoor street-art festival), the World Beer festival, and the infamous Fringe Festival where people from the “fringe” of society from all different parts of the world come to perform an art, theatre or music shows that differ slightly from the norm. I went to one such show last night, entitled Perverts!, and it mostly consisted of completely nude performers jiggling around on stage and acting out various forms of sexual affection that would push the comfort limits of any spectator. There wasn`t much dialogue, dance, or decipherable message, but the shock factor alone entertains.

Montréal is also a place there it doesnt matter if your male, female, transitioning from one to the other or both, and homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals can all thrive since anything goes.In alot of newspaper classifieds, the “Escort Services” section is bigger than the employment, housing and cars-for-sale sections combined. Sex shops, strip joints, peep shows, and “bath houses” are everywhere along my section of St. Catherine, the main street through the gayvillage. Sunday night I went to a bar entitled Mado`s where dragqueens and hopeful transvestites put on an amazing lip sync/dance performance, and if I wasn`t enjoying myself enough watching dressed-to-kill males more beautiful than myself prance around on stage, I was even more pleasantly surprised when the last performer came out and performed Bjork`s “It`s Oh So Quiet.” Iceland represent! The nightlife in general is always entertaining, since I went to the most impressive gay bar I`ve been to yet called “Sky” which consists of 5 different dance floors with their own separate dj`s and bars, complete with a rooftop terrace, a swimming pool and a jacuzzi hottub that stays open til the wee hours of the morning.

During the day there is also a busstling underground world, where the subway system and an entire shopping mall of 200+ stores lay underground downtown Montréal. The architecture of Montréal is a melange of old French and English colonial buildings, with more modern glass and concrete sky scrapers around, dwarfing them. There are alot of old, beautiful cathedrals also scattered throughout, and when I spotted one such church tower in typical gothic style, I walked in through the massive wodden doors only to realize I`d walked into a university building that was built on the site of this church, but kept the tower as its entrance.  Very confusing.

Its noticable how many students this town caters to, with 4 major universities speckled throughout the centre of the city and an extremely friendly student nightlife. From all the parts of Canada I`ve visited, Montréal has by far the cheapest and most accessible alocohol, with every cornerstore selling cheap beer and wine and the province regulated liquor store still boasting comparatively low taxes, great selection and long opening hours. There are a bunch of restaurants which allow you to bring your own wine without paying a corking fee, and last Monday I polished off a bottle of pinot grigio with a kilo of steamed mussels at a white-table cloth restaurant for less than $20 with tax and tip. And when I want to eat a budget meal, poutine is easily and cheaply available 24 hrs of the day within a few blocks from wherever you end up after a night of drinking with the drunk munchies.

Montréal is of course the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, which is in my opinion the most random but amazing spectacle I`ve ever seen. Even though I`ve been to it in Vancouver and Vegas, seeing it here at their home stage seemed like a necessary thing to do, so me and my best friend Clio went on Tuesday night, their 25th anniversary show. Then, by random chance, a guy asked us for directions to the show tent on our way there, quickly follwed by “I have 2 free tickets, are you two going?” We said yes, but that we would take them anyway and called 2 of my roomates who got to come for free. On Sunday afternoon, we went to the base of Mount Royal (a huge park in the middle of town) where hundreds of people come together to play percussion instruments, practice tight-rope walking, or reenact medieval battle grounds complete with middle age wardrobe and plastic weapons.Other random occurences include  a man riding a bicycle with a cat standing on his head, another guy riding past with an iguana on his shoulder, a polic horse trying (and almost succeeding) to eat my Guyanese-gold bangle off my arm, and the current top male model in the world staying at my place for almost a week since he just happens to be my roommates best friend. Very, very radnom.

You know you're travelling when…

38 degree hot pot near Isafjordur overlooking the ocean

38 degree hot pot near Isafjordur overlooking the ocean

Where am I? You know that question you ask yourself when you wake up totally lost and in a moment of total and utter confusion you try to remember whose house and what country you are currently in? That question has frantically entered my mind one too many times ever since school got out mid May.

Its not the same kind of “where am I” that you ask yourself after a night of too much drinking or too little sleep, but the kind of lost feeling when you’ve been moving to too many different places without enough time to readjust to any of them. I’m not complaining by any means, since I’ve been dreaming of the summer and all the travel to be had since last September, and actually, I’m certainly getting used to waking up in Montréal after 10 consecutive nights in the same place.

Before I got here, there was Boston, and before that, any and every city with more than 30 inhabitants in Iceland since me and my best friend took 2 weeks to drive 3700kms around Iceland, including the west fjords and any part of the highland we managed to drag his toyota corrolla into, neglecting the many “impassable” signs we later learned were always posted for a reason.

Sleeping in an assortment of tents, hostels, couches, floors and even a hammock over the past 3 and a half weeks has taught me to appreciate the single bed I now have in downtown Montréal. Even more gratifying is the fact that my dorm residence is totally free, thanks to an amazing Canadian scholarship that covers your living expenses, tuition, AND food costs for an entire 5 weeks to learn french in Quebec! At least those tax dollars are being put to good use…

I have to admit the “travelling” feeling is slowly phasing out, since 10 days in the same place starts to make things feel like home. Although, the efficiency of student housing at the University of Quebec at Montréal somehow justifies having 8 people living in one apartment, and lucky me – sharing the kitchen and bathrooms with only guys, so getting totally comfortable in my temporary house won’t be possible. My best friend lives in Montréal, so she’s my go-to person when the testosterone gets too much too handle, and the perfect tour guide of the city and all its local charms as I try my best to fit in as a “local.”

Even so, the travel bug still reigns, since summertime is the epitome of perfect travel climate. I got my first tan back in Iceland after lazing in the many natural, outdoor hot pots spotting the countryside, and reconfirmed another brown layer lazing on a friends yacht off the coast of Boston 2 weekends ago. There is a park for beach volleyball players in the centre of Montréal city, so that excuse to wear a bikin in-town has also done great things for my summer bod.

You also know you’re travelling when you get the first pangs of home sickness. Iceland is great, and its even nicer in the summer, but of course I lasted the 8 darkest, coldest months, cursing the ice I walked on daily, and left just when things started to get green, warm, and bright. I got a tease of the Icelandic summer before leaving, as the trees bloomed and around-the-clock daylight was almost in full force mid May.

The sun is different here in Canada, cool in the mornings and evenings, cooking you at midday, and setting a lot earlier. The city scene here really dwarfs Reykjavik, but the Icelandic nature is what I miss most. I love bathing in geothermal pools, drinking water straight from a free-flowing river, and having enough free, open space to drive for hours in any direction without seeing a soul… except for maybe a few sheep. Homesickness aside, it’s been an amazing start to the summer, and it’s true what they say, you dont truly appreciate something until it’s taken away from you, so Iceland, I’m sorry for cursing your winters, I miss you and I’ll love you unconditionally when I return.

Welcome to My Blog

I’m going to share my travel diary with all you wonderful good folk so you can know what I’ve been up to, where I am, learn about new places, or just pretend you’re interested to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Please comment when you have anything to share, as I want feedback from readers so I also have a reason to snoop into your travel-thoughts 🙂 If you have any travel or place-specific questions, also don’t hesitate to ask, and for all your travel planning, check out dohop.com for the cheapest flights.

Oh, and 200 before 30… well, thats the goal, so long as 50 countries don’t disappear, or 50 new countries don’t show up, because that could maybe take a little more than 7 years.