I figured it would just be a Parisian New York or vice versa. Naïve as I was, I didn't realize that I was in for a spirited, bold and complex mix of contrasts that completely defies comparison.
Sure, Montréal's renowned duality of Old World charm infused with North American energy lies at its very heart; however, I discovered that it is the plurality of cultures that really makes this metropolis tick. A shutterbug's dream, you could snap away at warp speed and capture a new story with every click. It doesn't matter where you go on the island; every neighbourhood is different and everyone stars in their own Oscar-worthy screenplay.
Montréal is as romantically traditional as it is cutting-edge innovative, as cosmopolitan dynamic as it is small-town friendly. Yet despite this diversity, an underlying homogeneity exists in this vibrant population who collectively and confidently "live and let live"—and do it well.
Take Saint-Denis Street for example. On the first warm day of spring, Montréalers flock to the outdoor terraces en masse to celebrate winter's departure and lift their faces to the light like sunflowers. Or downtown during the holidays, where rosy-cheeked shoppers stop to listen to Cyrille the Spoonman as he merrily click-clacks away in front of Ogilvy's department store. Or summer Sundays on Mount Royal, where everyone gathers to let loose to the tribal beat of the tam-tams. Bohemian? Maybe. Uplifting? Definitely.
After spending some time here, you'll notice that without the complex mix of flavours—ethnicity, culture, language, ideas, cuisine, you name it—warm camaraderie and sheer joie de vivre, anywhere else just seems bland.