Salut, Vancouver! Voyageur here. I’m going to be writing an insider’s guide to Montreal for the kinky traveller. A former Van scenester, I have been living here for the past eight years and have been winding my way through the amazing clubs, entertainment and food that this beautiful city has to offer. There are a trove of gems to be enjoyed here, and there are also some notable differences I’ve observed between the alternative lifestyle scenes between the Wet Coast and La Belle Province.
English speakers can get along just fine here. This is not the case throughout Québec, but Montreal is a de facto bilingual city
If you do speak French, of course, a visit to this city is an excellent opportunity to practice. It can also be surprising if, like me, you learned to speak French in France; because Québec French is (much like American English, in fact) a kind of time capsule of French French from a couple of centuries ago. I spent a year in Europe as an exchange student as a teenager and developed proficient conversational ease there — and was astounded, on returning to Canada, that I could not understand a single syllable spoken by Quebecers. But since I moved here, I have gained an appreciation for the quirks and flavour of *le français québécois*, and I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of that with you in each of my articles.
Now, why’s a magazine three time zones away publishing an entire series on travel to this city? Because Montreal is a really special place, and visiting (or living) here is really rewarding. First off, the food, OMG, the food! The variety and quality of epicurean delights is off the charts, and you can eat something completely different at every meal, and keep that up for a long time indeed. Next, the nightlife; one characteristic of Montreal (especially in the summer) is the way you can start strolling down a busy street at one end of downtown and face choice after choice after choice of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and just keep walking and people-watching for miles and miles and miles, turning from one street to another to another, with unending opportunities for fun. And Montreal, like Vancouver, is quite relaxed and openminded — I have walked up St. Laurent Street at 2 a.m., dressed in latex and wielding floggers (and demonstrating them for anyone who asks, and they often do), and the police respond with a bit of bemusement at most. No hassles whatsoever (at least no more than for anyone else).
There are the wonders of the Gay Village, which runs along Ste. Catherine St. eastward from around Berri-UQÀM Metro station to Papineau Street. From May to October this main street is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian mall for freaks. There are landmarks like Chez Mado, where lush drag shows are always on offer, or L’Aigle Noir, a leather bar with great music and murals in the style of Tom of Finland, or the Normandie Pub, Montreal’s oldest gay bar, with a karaoke library of over 100,000 songs and a super-friendly vibe. The Village also features large interactive art installations that change annually, and art festivals, and of course the Pride parades… yes, plural. There are also monuments to Ron Farha, who founded the HIV/AIDS organization that bears his name; the Farha Foundation puts on numerous events throughout the year to raise awareness and to support its programs for those living with HIV/AIDS.
There are many fetish and alt-lifestyle events that happen here: the Montreal Fetish Weekend is a huge event that is definitely worth a visit; the next one runs August 27 to September 1, 2014. There is the Alternative Lifestyles Community Centre, who routinely run excellent workshops on topics like shibari, latex garment manufacture, polyamory and so on. There is also a thriving Burning Man community here, who run events year round, including their official decompression night named (of course) taBURNak!
Oh, and the bars serve alcohol until 3 a.m.… that’s another reason to visit.
In my next article I will be offering tips on getting around town (transit is excellent) and some accommodation suggestions. If you have any topics you’d like me to discuss, or if you’re going to be in Montreal yourself sometime, I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.