DREAMSCAPES Winter 2017/2018
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MONTREAL CELEBRATES IN STYLE
 
(2017 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: LAURA BYRNE PAQUET



Never a city to hold one party when it could hold three, Montréal is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, Canada’s 150th  birthday and the city’s 375th  anniversary in 2017.

Montréalers are marking all three occasions with their signature theatrical flair. (Québec, after all, is the province that gave the world both Cirque du Soleil and Céline Dion.) Some of the celebrations will last just a few days. Others will roll out over weeks and months, or become permanent additions to the city’s attractions.

TALES OF A CITY 

A fascinating way to get a sense of Montréal’s past is by sampling Cité Mémoire. Hard to describe but easy to grasp once you experience it, this project includes more than 20 videos projected onto building façades throughout Old Montréal. Visitors use a free smartphone app to trigger the videos to play, then listen to the narration on headphones.

Interestingly, the creator of Cité Mémoire—a non-profit group called Montréal en Histoires—has chosen some lesser-known tales of the city’s history to engage locals and visitors alike. For instance, the obvious choice for a segment on Rocket Richard would have been the 1955 Richard Riot, sparked when the hockey legend was suspended for several months. However, Cité Mémoire shows how Richard set an NHL record one night in 1944 by scoring eight points in a single game . . .  after spen-ding the entire day moving furniture.

“Montréal en Histoires was created to tell the story of Montréal, but differently,” says Jean Bérubé, the organization’s director of development. “We tried to tell the story another way—to tell also the story that Montréalers didn’t know about their own city.”

VISUAL SHOWCASES

Cité Mémoire isn’t the only event set to have Montréal glowing this year. At Notre-Dame Basilica, a new sound-and-light show called AURA will immerse visitors in the history of the landmark church (until at least the end of the year).

On May 17, thousands of lights on the landmark Jacques Cartier Bridge across the St. Lawrence River were switched on as part of an installation called Living Connections. The lighting design will change regularly, based on the seasons, as well as on live data about everything from traffic congestion to mentions of Montréal on social media. The designers promise the bridge will serve as an ever-changing display of the city’s mental energy.

A separate project involves lighting up the nearby Biosphere, which began its life as the United States Pavilion at Expo 67. The colour and intensity of the lighting will change gradually throughout the night, drawing spectators’ eyes to the graceful shape of the geodesic dome.

1960s REVISITED

Speaking of Expo 67, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the city-defining World’s Fair, and Montréal is celebrating that, too. The fun started during the 2017 edition of Nuit Blanche, a winter all-night arts event, when the notes of “White Rabbit” and “I Am the Walrus” echoed over the Quartier des Spectacles in a series of ’60s-themed rock concerts.

Expo 67 commemorations taking place later this year include Fashioning Expo 67, an exhibition of sleek and psychedelic clothes of the era at the McCord Museum (until October 1); Expo 67: A World of Dreams, a virtual reality installation at the Stewart Museum (until October 8); and In Search of Expo 67, an exhibit of new works inspired by the fair, at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (until October 8).

At the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Revolution exhibition (June 17 to October 9) shines a wider spotlight on the music, film and history of the late 1960s, taking in everything from the Beatles to the Vietnam War. While you’re at the museum, don’t miss the new Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, a light-filled addition built as yet another 375th anniversary legacy project. It showcases a range of the museum’s treasures, from Old Masters to modern works.

FROM UP ABOVE

If you sense that it may be hard to choose from the almost infinite range of amusements on offer in Montréal, you may be right. Fortunately, Au Sommet Place Ville Marie—a collection of new attractions atop a downtown office tower—can literally point you in the right direction.

Start with a visit to the 360° Observation Deck on the 46th floor, which helps you get your bearings and identify landmarks from above as you enjoy sweeping views from floor-to-ceiling windows. Then go the 45th floor to check out the #MTLGO exhibition. When you enter, you’ll get a wristband. As you tour the exhibition, you’ll watch short videos featuring locals and visitors exploring Montréal’s attractions—everything from food to sports. If something in a video seems intriguing, you can tap your wristband on the screen to “like” it. At the end of your visit, you tap the wristband again on a terminal, which will recommend things to see and do based on the videos you liked.

While you’re up there, you can also enjoy a meal with a view at les Enfants Terribles restaurant. Its new twists on comfort food and bistro fare include baked cauliflower with squid-ink aioli, pogos made with chorizo, and macaroni and cheese with kale. (I was partial to the Caesar salad with prosciutto chips, myself.)

Thus fortified, you’ll be ready to explore at least some of the many amusements Montréal has to offer in this triple anniversary year.

TRAVEL PLANNER

For more information on Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, see 375mtl.com/en. For general visitor information, go to tourisme-montreal.org.

 
 
 
 
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