Finally, blessedly, thankfully… it happens. The long-awaited big thaw.
Before you know it, spring descends on the city with a vengeance. In fact, it seems that winter leaps right into summer, with a mere moment of spring tucked in. Spring aka summer is in the air when the scents return to the streets and parks; and when long-suffering, desperate-for-the-sun city dwellers peel off layers of wool and fleece, heading outdoors as though suddenly released from involuntary captivity.
Winter tires are packed away with down jackets. Bicycles are carried out from storage bins, spokes fixed and brakes tightened. Skateboards, rollerblades and electric scooters once again take to the roads.
Crocuses and tulips come out of hiding – together with shorts, skirts, skin and tattoos. Cafés extend hours and tables onto terraces spilling over onto sidewalks, while the streets are littered with tangible remnants of an epic winter; a patchwork of deep pits ‘n potholes.
And then there are sounds and festivals, cranked up to compensate for the long winter months of hibernation.
Launched on the first full sunny weekend of the season-formerly -known-as-spring, was the inaugural Porchfest –when the balconies, terraces, lawns and alleyways of a neighborhood known as NDG were collectively transformed into a massive outdoor concert venue. Local musicians and singers signed up to perform in one-hour chunks at a time. Musical styles ranged from jazz and folk to bluegrass and acoustic. Neighbors, friends, kids and dogs came out in full force. It was the best and biggest block(s) party I’ve ever witnessed. And this was just a trial run. Wait till next year…
Then Art in the Park took over, with a climbing wall, balloons, parachutes, an oversized coloring poster, and a dozen or so tents set up for local artists to display and sell their wares. There were candle- and soap-makers, jewelers and a teenaged entrepreneur hawking his homemade wooden gift items. Sunglasses and baseball caps had, almost overnight, replaced ski toques and boots.
Notwithstanding the plethora of festivals sure to shake up this city over the summer months (and well into fall), there’s one party that this very moment captures Montrealers’ hearts and minds like nothing else: Hockey Fever. The Habs (aka Montreal Canadiens) are the oldest team in the NHL hockey franchise and they are still battling it out for the Stanley Cup. You cannot be a true Montrealer if you don’t care about the outcome. You cannot start a conversation with friends without using the words Habs, Subban and Tampa at least a half-dozen times. And you will know that the sea of ‘bleu, blanc, rouge’ scattered thickly around this puck-loving city is but one small tribute to the Holy Habs.
Even if you’ve been living under a rock (or, as I have, abroad) for many years…
There will be time (I hope!) for walks on the mountain, dancing to the beats of the tam-tams, getting a bite on Bernard (with an array of cuisines on 2 blocks: Indonesian, Korean, Moroccan and more!), local indie movies, people-watching, yoga in the park, and a pint of beer on a St Denis terrace.
So let the festivities, the parties and the celebrations ramp up – and let the (outdoor) ART re-start… Because, now that Montreal is FINALLY getting its daily quotient of sunshine and heat, and the city’s become unplugged, then at least for the coming few weeks, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.