Wednesday, November 07, 2007



This last time around I had the opportunity to visit Montreal at an unusual time. The fall is not the height of the tourist season, to say the least. Streets in Vieux Montreal are far less crowded than they are in the summer, and even if the only outdoor patios that are open have to be heated the experience is enjoyable in its own way. The city seems to be very big on pumpkins, much more so than out here. The ornamental gardens (divided up into vegetable, flower and tree sections actually) behind the Chateau Ramezay was devoted to an exhibition of all things pumpkin, squash, gourd and their near relatives. It was a very interesting fall display at at time when the leaves are falling, the vegetables are harvested and the flowers have gone to seed. It's the sort of thing that other cities should imitate.

But one of the heights of our visit was La Grande Masquerade. This is an annual Halloween street party put on by Loto-Quebec. For three nights this year, on Friday, Sept. 26, Saturday the 27th and Halloween night itself, Wednesday the 31st the streets of Vieux Montreal are crowded with tens of thousands of party-goers, a large proportion of them in costume. Public demonstrations of all things eerie are set up on the Quais- such things as booths for fortune telling, tarot reading, magic, literature,etc.. The event is host to numerous theatrical productions, music concerts and fireworks. If you don't have a costume there are street vendors selling inexpensive flashing. devil horns headset. There is even a Halloween parade featuring some of the best costumed attendees- and not a little parade either. There was also apparently a children's parade as well that Molly didn't get to see. Through the packed crowd one could see the groups hosted by Montreal's Ghost Hunt as they went from place to place seeking the legends of the spirits that haunt the old city. They were met by the ghosts themselves who would tell their stories of woe to the crowd.The buskers that had abandoned the streets at the end of the tourist season were out once more in force on Place St. Jacques. There were indoor events, put on by the beer company Unibroue, that Molly didn't attend.
Vieux Montreal is not a small area, and the entire district was filled with this street party. The weather was unusually clement, even by Montreal standards which are much milder than here in Winnipeg. A good time for all. It's too bad that Lotto Manitoba doesn't see fit to spend some of its ill-gotten gains in a similar way here in Manitoba. Yeah, I know they do a little sponsorship, but nothing on the grand scale that I saw down there. It's also too bad that Halloween, the most fun of all the holidays isn't celebrated with at least an attempt at such a party elsewhere in Canada. Maybe the party wouldn't be as big or have such an appropriate setting as Vieux Montreal, but it would still be a wonderful thing.

1 comment:

Werner said...

Considering how much real poverty there is in Montreal it is truly amazing how safe the place is. Even the rough areas have rumbles that seem sort of "localized". Just look straight ahead and generally no one will bother you. Basically you can walk up and down St. Catherines at any time (which I've done)and feel much safer than downtown Regina, or probably Winnipeg either.