Be The Real You in Montreal
In recent months there’s been an influx of gay travelers heading off to destinations that are not so welcoming making the news. When you’re walking down the street and you turn the elevator eyes onto the guy whose totally captivated your attention that old saying “it’s not a crime to look” may pop into your head. Well, throw that out the window if you’re traveling to a destination where being gay is against the law. For example, this past June a Holland America ship carrying a boat load of gay cruisers was denied docking in Morocco. Officials danced around the reason of the denial, much like we’d dance around admitting our actual weight or age, but when it comes down to it– being gay is punishable in Morocco by up to three years in prison.
So where’s a gay traveler to venture if they’re looking for a place with history, culture, good food, eye candy, and the ability to simply be themselves? Montreal, Canada.
It might not be the first destination that pops into your head, but hear me out. Montreal has everything a gay traveler looks for: Appearance, personality, a well-built gayborhood and a long, very long, tunnel system. Sounds good, eh? I can’t forget to mention that gay marriage is, in fact, legal in Canada which adds to the acceptance you experience while touring the city of Montreal. Being homosexual isn’t something you need to hide and shelter from the public. Whether you’re in a straight bar, in a mall, or just walking down the street no one will pass judgment as you hold hands with your significant other or even share in a kiss. It’s as open-minded of a city that you can find.
Located in the Providence of Quebec, the city of Montreal is on an island that’s roughly four times the size of Manhattan. The city’s name derives from, what locals lovingly refer to as, “The Mountain.” Mont-Royal stands 763 feet above the city and is a main focal point from within the city’s limits as an ordinance prevents buildings from being constructed taller than 761 feet. The city is comprised of Victorian-era residential, civic, public and religious buildings mixed with modern skyscrapers and attractions. The most interesting buildings I found were churches that have been converted into condominiums. That may seem out of the ordinary, and it is, but this architectural sensation is a sight to see. Built of stone, the churches have undergone renovations to provide modern enhancements to home owners such as balconies and high ceilings. When it comes to historical buildings, aside from the modern take on Victorian-era design, the section of the city referred to as “Old Montreal” takes you back through time on cobblestone streets dating back over 360 years. Old Montreal’s buildings, the oldest of which being constructed in 1685, are now home to art galleries, boutiques, and cafes.
As we all know (and claim to look for) a great personality is a combination of multiple positive qualities. The architecture provides a great foundation for Montreal’s personality but its culture livens it up. Montreal hosts a plethora of festivals and events throughout the year which keep citizens and visitors entertained, enlightened and engaged. The International Jazz festival, which is presented in the summer, extends for 10 days and nights exploring music in all of its forms. This years closing event, an outdoor concert featuring Montreal’s recent success story Chromeo (in the U.S. They’re famous for singing that Barbara Streisand song), saw upwards of 150,000 people line up to sing along and dance in the streets. It’s evident that music is important to Montreal and it’s seen as a means to bring different types of people together. The best example of this is Piknic Electronik, an outdoor picnic which features quality electronic music hosted in the Parc (Park) Jean-Drapeu . The goal: take music out of the club/nightlife scene and play it during the day for everyone to enjoy. Who doesn’t want to continue the party when the club closes? The dance floor serves as evidence that they’ve accomplished their mission as you watch everyone from a family with kids to a gay couple dance together. If you’re not a fan of electronic music, that’s okay – the event serves as a venue to relax with alcohol and tons of eye candy to gawk at as well (now don’t tell me you’re not a fan of either of those!).
Speaking of eye candy, you can look to your hearts content while strolling through the gay Village. Located on Sainte-Catherine Street, the Village serves as a symbol of the city’s openness with a collection of gay bars, clubs, theaters, restaurants, hotels and boutiques. From May through September a section of the street stretching 15 blocks is closed off to cars and turned over to pedestrians filling the streets with locals, tourists and right in the middle of the street: attention seekers (hey, it’s true of any gayborhood!). Speaking of “attention,” at the strip clubs (if that’s your thing) you’ll see everything, even the strippers pride..at, full attention.
Now, though the weather in the summer is beautiful for all of these outdoor events, the winters can be quite cold. But that’s not a reason to deter visiting this gay gem. The city has 20 miles of underground tunnels referred to as the “Underground City.” These underground pedestrian passageways connect 500,000 people a day to trains, buses, 1700 shops, 200 restaurants, museums, theaters and 7 major hotels all without coming out…of the tunnel. Making tourism in the winter pretty chill..uh, easy.
So if you treat choosing a destination like choosing a mate by looking for attractiveness, personality, a well-built core, and a very long..uhh, tool under the surface; don’t settle for less by relaxing some of your standards (even if you’ve been drinking!) check out Montreal where you can explore, let loose and be yourself.
Photos from my tour of Montreal: