Tomorrow is Canada Day, the 146th “Birthday” of our country. Contrary to some popular beliefs, the day is, in fact, celebrated in Quebec as well as the rest of the country. Nowhere is that more true than in Montreal where many municipalities host Canada Day celebrations while the Old Port of Montreal is the scene of the “official” Canada Day party. Full details of the Montreal events can be found here.
You have a whole day to decide what activities to attend. I don’t want to say it too loudly, but even the weather forecast seems to be looking good!
The 34th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival kicks off tomorrow and runs through July 7th. This huge event attracts music lovers, not just jazz aficionados, from around the world to enjoy a myriad of performances, many of them free of charge. I thought I’d put together a few Do’s and Don’ts to help visitors to the festival.
Downtown Montreal is not a car-friendly environment
Whether you’ve come from out-of-town or are a local, don’t even think of driving to the festival site. At the very best of times Montreal’s downtown traffic is gridlocked, but during the festival many main streets are closed. Throw into the mix the ubiquitous summer road work and you have a recipe for patience testing at its best. Not only will you sit in traffic, but parking spots are few and far between. Downtown Montreal is not a car-friendly environment. Leave your car at the hotel or park outside of the downtown area and use the great transit system – or walk. The festival site offers bike parking and Montreal has a handy bike rental service called Bixi.
Montreal may not be Miami, but it does get hot and humid during the summer
Assuming our summer dries up a bit, keep in mind that shaded areas at the festival site are at a premium. Much of your time will be spent on concrete or asphalt under direct sun. Montreal may not be Miami, but it does get hot and humid during the summer. Grab a hat and keep sunscreen handy.
If, like me, you don’t feel comfortable in large crowds you can still enjoy the festival
If, like me, you don’t feel comfortable in large crowds you can still enjoy the festival. After 33 years they have mastered the art of crowd control. But there are some things you can do to make your visit less claustrophobic. Leaving an outdoor stage, or scene, a few moments before the end of the performance will give you a head start on the crowd. Keeping back and letting the front seating fill in is another strategy. The quality of the sound is very good and most venues have giant screens so being at the back is not a bad thing.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the many free concerts
Buy beer, hot-dogs, pretzels, tropical drinks, souvenirs and whatever is for sale. A portion of the proceeds goes to the many free concerts. I find myself twisting my arm and having that extra beer, just to help out you understand.
The jazz festival on a rainy day is depressing and akin to a ghost town
If it rains go to a museum and come back when it clears up. The jazz festival on a rainy day is depressing and akin to a ghost town. The city has innumerable indoor activities from those designed for children to the Casino de Montreal.
The staff pack a lot of work into two weeks
The staff pack a lot of work into two weeks so as the festival wears on be patient with exhausted beer sellers. They will speak a multitude of languages, but always appreciate a Merci. And a tip of course.
Use the website before arriving
Given the vastness of the festival the website can be overwhelming. Take you time to go through it before arriving at the site and use the my festival option to narrow down your options.
But most importantly have fun!
As a kid growing up I spent many hours playing with friends on a quiet little street called Hillside Avenue. Little did we know what horror had preceded us. On October 26, 1901 seven your-old Eric Marrotte was brutally stabbed to death and his body was thrown over the fence by the railroad tracks. Eric, whose family lived at 31 Hillside Avenue, was on his way home when he encountered Thorvald Hansen. Hansen was looking for money to buy alcohol with and took his chances on Eric. The boy had all of fifteen cents in his pocket, but that was enough for Hansen. Hansen, although from Denmark was referred to as “The Swede”, turned himself in several hours later. As the Catholic Record reported, blaming the entire thing on drink of course, Hansen was unable to remember much of the ordeal, other than that he had killed the poor boy.
On October 26, 1901 seven your-old Eric Marrotte was brutally stabbed to death and his body was thrown over the fence by the railroad tracks
When I was growing up Hillside had a mixture of residential and commercial buildings along its two blocks. With a few exceptions all were on the north side of the street facing the train tracks. The main establishment on the south side was at the eastern end, Evan’s Brothers Coal and Wood, then Merchant’s coal company that would become an oil company. I assume Merchant’s was eaten up by a larger oil company, but its small office building would be the original home of the Westmount Public Security force in the early 1980s before being razed and replaced with St. Margaret’s Home. The majority of the south side was bushes, trees, overgrown grass and the fence that separated street from tracks. Today that stretch has been developed for use as Community Housing; it was originally built to offer low-cost apartments to people who had been displaced from their homes on Selby Street to make way for the Ville Marie highway.
Eric’s father, Samuel had a business in the Montreal Port that claimed to be the owner of the “Celebrated Windsor Baking Powder”
Across from St. Margaret’s is the Hillside armoury in a building that was originally the Mount Royal Riding Academy. Sidesaddlegirl has a great blog post about this riding club. The photo at left shows the original doorway to number 3 Hillside, although the door itself and the steps are clearly more recent replacements. It was next to this large building that the Marrottes lived at number 31. Eric’s father, Samuel had a business in the Montreal Port that claimed to be the owner of the “Celebrated Windsor Baking Powder”. The house has long since been demolished and replaced first by the Caledonia Curling Club that would become a day care and ultimately with condos.
The hanging was such a public spectacle that not only did people gather on balconies and rooftops to view it, but tickets were being scalped at the door, much like a modern sports event.
Having been found guilty by Judge Jonathan Wurtele KC, Hansen was hanged on Friday, June 13, 1902 in the yard of Montreal’s infamous “New Gaol”. The hanging was such a public spectacle that not only did people gather on balconies and rooftops to view it, but tickets were being scalped at the door, much like a modern sports event. Radcliffe had the dubious honour of being the hangman and according to reports things went off without “a hitch”, although by one account it did take six minutes for Hansen to die. Sounds like a hitch to me!
So the next time you wax nostalgic about a favorite childhood location, give some thought to what may have happened right there before you. Ain’t local history grand?
Related: Robert N. Wilkins: La Prison des patriotes, Article first appeared in the Montreal Gazette on October 3, 2009.
Quebec is open to turbines for electricity, but not turbans on soccer fields.
The province of Quebec was once known for its vast hydro-electric projects. Currently, pun fully intended, there are 59 hydroelectric facilities across the province that are run by Hydro-Quebec and account for a total installed capacity of 34,490 MW. These monstrous projects harness the flow of water using turbines to create electricity. Aside from supplying the province with power, electricity is sold to other provinces and neighboring states; it has often been said that Quebec electricity powers the famous lights of Broadway.
… it has often been said that Quebec electricity powers the famous lights of Broadway
Clearly turbines are most welcome in Quebec, even if the occasional land dispute arises with natives claiming their right to the land upon which the project is to be built. Unfortunately Quebec has recently been in the news not for turbines, but for turbans. The Quebec Soccer Federation decided, for reasons known only to itself, that turbans, in fact any head covering, would not be allowed on soccer fields in the province. This essentially banned Sikhs from playing soccer unless, as the director-general of Soccer Quebec put it, they “play in their own backyard”.
… (turbans would be allowed) if they “play in their own backyard”
The Canadian Soccer Association turfed out the Quebec branch for the ruling, yet the real losers are the kids. As an example a big tournament this weekend would have seen 20 teams visiting from neighboring Ontario, however as Quebec is in the doghouse those kids can’t play here. A lose-lose situation.
The Quebec Soccer Association needs to be part of the Canadian Soccer Association if it wants to compete with teams from across the country; a level playing field if you will. However it doesn’t want to be ruled by the CSA. Sort of like the Montreal Canadiens being part of the NHL, but enforcing a rule that visiting teams must not wear green. If you’re in, you’re in. Even a ruling handed down from soccer’s world governing body,FIFA, stating clearly that turbans and headscarves are welcome on soccer fields hasn’t caused the Quebec soccer administration to budge. In fact it has dug its heels in and claims only it can determine what will happen on the fields of Quebec.
If a solution can be found to the Legion and RCMP situations, surely a bunch of kids who want to play soccer can be accommodated
However Quebec isn’t alone in its view of Turbans. Not long ago the Royal Canadian Legion banned “headgear” in its halls. That was altered to mean hats; turbans, head scarves and yarmulkes are not hats. Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have adapted and have a turban version of their dress red uniform, as do the Ontario Provincial Police.
If a solution can be found to the Legion and RCMP situations, surely a bunch of kids who want to play soccer can be accommodated.