CANADA'S CULTURAL CAPITAL
Montreal is at the southwest portion of Québec and is the biggest city in the province. The city proper spans the majority of the Island of Montreal where the Ottawa River meets the Saint Lawrence River. The city's name comes from Mount Royal, the hill located at the city's center. In 2011, 1,649,519 people lived in the city with people of European descent forming the majority. Most of them are French and Italian. More than a quarter of the population are considered non-white, that is, those with African origin, Arabs, Latinos, and Asians. The official language in Montreal is French and is spoken at home by more than 60 percent of the population. English only comes as a distant second. The city and its surrounding areas are filled with those who profess the Roman Catholic faith.
Summer in Montreal is often humid and hot. Temperatures then can go up as high as 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather is nicest during September, when the fall season starts. Weather during these times can go as high as 20 degrees Celsius and as low as 9 degrees Celsius.
Montreal is one of the most important economic centers in Canada. Actually, the city has long been the country's commercial capital but that title has been taken over by Toronto since the 1970s. Still, citizens are enjoying a great deal of economic prosperity, as reflected in the opening of boutique hotels, condominiums and expensive shops in the city's downtown area.
HOW IT BEGAN
Designated in 1832 as a city, Montreal was made the capital of the Province of Canada in the 1840s. Afterward, the capital was moved to Ottawa in the province of Ontario, which was located in a more interior part of Canada.
The 1970s was a period of political and social changes in the city due mostly to concerns of the French-speaking citizens of preserving their language and culture in the face of the influential English-speaking Canadian minority. This led to the October Crisis. A related plebiscite in 1976 saw the French-speaking community prevailed and the French language became the official language of the province. However, it also resulted in the closure of many commercial establishments, as well as the exodus of many businesspeople from the city. The city's economic climate began to improve by the 1990s, and new institutions and establishments entered the city.
In 2002, Montreal merged with the surrounding municipalities but some municipalities later decided to de-merge. Recent years have seen a revival of cultural and economic activity in the city.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK OUT...
╣Jardin Botanique. It opened in 1931 and is now considered one of the largest botanical gardens in the world. It covers an area of 75 hectares and has 30 themed gardens and takes care of thousands of species, including hundreds of species of orchids and various cacti.
╣Biodôme. This is a child-friendly exhibit where people can experience different kinds of environments, such as rainforest, the arctic tundra, woodlands or coastlines. All the different environments are housed in one building. Be prepared to dress accordingly to cope with the changes in temperature.
╣Morgan Arboretum. It looks like a regular forest where people can take long hikes or a stroll. It is actually a large facility meant to preserve and study trees. This arboretum contains species native to Canada as well as more exotic ones from other countries. There are also reptiles, migratory birds and other wildlife species. It serves as an extension of McGill’s MacDonald school for agriculture.
╣Notre-Dame Basilica, located in the district of Old Montreal. It was constructed in the 19th century. The building's architecture is in the Gothic revival style. Almost all Montreal citizens attend the performance of Handel's “Messiah” every Christmas celebration held in the church.
╣Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde (or Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral). It is the seat of the archdiocese of Montreal and is one of the biggest churches in Québec. Check out the stucco crucifix at the marble baptismal font in the small chapel. It is considered a very important religious sculpture in all of Québec.
╣Saint Joseph's Oratory. Considered as one of the biggest churches in the province, it is located at western portion of Mount Royal's slope. Its dome is actually the largest in the whole country. The construction of the church as we know now was finally completed in the 1960s.
╣Stash Café. This restaurant specializes in Polish cuisine. It has seats that look like church pews with dim red lights on the tables. Some of the staff is gregarious while some are more aloof. The food, however, is consistently excellent.
╣La Louisiane. This is a casual eatery specializing in the delicious and often mysterious flavors of Cajun cooking. This small restaurant also features paintings of New Orleans street scenes.
╣La Paryse. More than two decades in service, this small restaurant has the reputation of selling the best fries and thickest burgers in Montreal. The restaurant also offers a variety of thick milkshakes with a wide array of toppings to choose from.
╣Montreal International Jazz Festival. This annual 10-day event is one of the largest in the world. More than 30 countries participate in this event which features indoor and outdoor concert and live performances. The shows are done in various venues from huge concert halls to small intimate clubs. You should note that most of the streets in the city's downtown area are closed during the festival.
╣Montreal Highlights Festival. This is an annual 11-day event held during February. It has a wide variety of cultural events, plus a mini-festival of wine and gourmet food. It is an outdoor festival with free entrance where residents and tourists can enjoy gastronomical delights, a variety game, and a stunning fireworks display to cap the whole evening.
TOURISTS SHOULD KNOW
It is customary to give a 15 percent tip in restaurants. Additional service charge may be given if you are part of large parties. In such cases, you don't have to give a tip unless the service was extraordinary. You can either put the tip on the table when you leave or you can give it directly to the staff.