Montreal might be Canada’s second-largest city, but it's the capital of North American nightlife. A unique blend of French and English history and culture has given this island city the best of both sides of the Atlantic.
Even though the Province of Quebec is fiercely proud and protective of the French language, English-only speakers have no trouble making themselves understood in the central city of its major metropolis. Even in the outlying neighborhoods, many if not most people speak passage English. Not only do people speak better English than most Americans there, but U.S. and Canadian dollars are interchangeable.
In the very heart of the city, the Gay Village sprawls along the main spine of Rue Ste. Catherine Ouest. As the name implies, this is the city's major gaybhorhood. But here, every neighborhood is gay. The prevailing attitude is so profoundly gay friendly, it has to be one of the most "integrated" cities in the world. That holds true as well on the dance floor, where gay and straight mix and mingle.
Yes, the winters are fierce, but Montrealers (or "Montréalais" en francais) manage to stay warm via an entire underground city. A series of tunnels stretches over 20 miles, connecting shopping malls, hotels, museums, public transportation and offices. The upside is that in the summer, the weather remains pleasant, allowing plenty of hanging outside, especially (that French influence again) on the boulevards and in outdoor cafes.
This is a tourist-friendly city, where you can expect a hearty American "Hello" or "Bonjour" rather than the typical Parisian frodeur (cold shoulder). As for the locals, of the French-Canadian men, we can only say, "Ooh la la!" Faces, chiseled to perfection, sit atop bodacious American-style rugged, athletic frames.
Ask anyone who has attended one of the signature mega-events, especially the spectacular Black & Blue Festival. He may tell you about the good-natured chiseled muscleman packed into disco shorts who was dancing closer and closer — until his girlfriend finally intervened.
When not enjoying that distinctly French art of creatively hangoug out, visitors and residents alike keep themselves busy during non-working hours dining in one of the superior restaurants that have made this a foodie heaven. The local cuisine combines New World down-to-earth ingredients with French eclat. Or they stroll through the many shopping districts. In the Village, be sure to stop by Priape, the Bloomingdale's of gay fetish sex costumes and accessories.
Of course, they also hit the gym. That's good, because at night, this city explodes. The many nightclubs go late and generally cater to a cross-section.
While you are here, be sure to stroll through the Old City, which dates back centuries to the city's founding as a remote outpost of France. Today, many of these ancient buildings house tech start-ups or fashion designers; the city is a major high-tech, fashion, art and entertainment center.
It is impossible not to be seduced by the charms of a city where life is elevated to the level of an art form. Montreal is one of those cities where a return visit is, as they say, de rigeur.