Montreal, the largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, is one of the most exciting metropolises of North America.
It is truly the gastronomic capital of the world with a very large number of restaurants serving food from all over the globe. For the more adventurous it also boasts the largest number of strip joints of any city in North America. Things are kept in balance though through an equal number of beautiful churches. Drinking age is the lowest in North America thus attracting alcohol starved American teenagers.
Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the coldest with temperatures falling to -30°C during January and February. A white sheet of snow usually covers Montreal from November to April.
Montreal has recently become very popular with Pakistani students due to the relatively cheaper cost of education at McGill University that is considered one of the best in the world.
Having spent 25 years in Montreal, starting as a reckless student to a constrained husband and a workingman and finally as a responsible father of two children, I can claim some sort of bragging rights over the city. So here is a little candid picture guide to the inimitable “Ville de Montreal”. In order to encourage travel to Montreal, pictures from the winters have been censored. - Text and Photos by Vaqar Ahmed
Crescent street in downtown offers a great bar and dance scene. It is a popular watering hole of the English speaking Montreal. There are other areas that are much more popular with the Montreal's French-Canadians.
The young man on the right offered to sell me a joint. Montreal is very relaxed about minor vices!
Many fine modern buildings grace Montreal downtown. This one right across the gates of McGill University is a good example.
Montreal downtown glitters. The city has the most pleasant, safe and vibrant downtown in North America.
Old and new architecture blends gracefully in Montreal.
Buildings from three different periods coexist well in Montreal downtown. The church to the right is from the 19th century, the building to the left is from the early 20th century and the glass tower in the middle is a late 20th century high-rise office.
Crescent Street has the full spectrum of punters. The young ones have their dates with them, the middle aged divorced crowd is trying their luck for either short-term bliss or a second shot at the institution of marriage. Then there are the older and wealthier like the one pictured here, who are tired of the dating game and simply pay for love.
Montreal can be a very difficult city to walk. This not because of a lack of sidewalks but due to the constant visual distractions; The city is very stylish and nobody would be caught dead wearing unfashionable clothes!
And finally when you are tired of it all you can take a walk along the Lachine canal that runs across the city. It offers lovely green spaces,shady trees and a bicycle path. The environmentally friendly development along the Canal is a fine example of thoughtful city development.
McGill University is located on the slopes of Mount Royal. A student is enjoying the sun while studying in the main lawns of the University.
The beautiful McGill Law building. Many of Quebec's politicians studied here.
McGill University main quadrangle is a grand display of many lovely old buildings. The university established in 1821 has remained one of Canada's premier institutions of higher learning, boasting seven Nobel Prize winners.
A typical eclectic cast of characters at a metro station, each engrossed in his and her own world!
Montreal's Metro system is efficient and extensive. It is also the preferred mode of suicide. Such unfortunate souls, called ?Metro jumpers? in the local verbiage, bring the metro system to a halt once in a while.
Colorful gates of Montreal's Berri-UQAM metro station.
Mount Royal attracts a lot of visitors and the inevitable performers. Here a young man is juggling balls - and yes, there is a sheer drop right behind him! St Lawrence River and the South side of the city can be seen behind him.
The name Montreal comes from Mount Royal, a mountain that sits smack in the middle of the city. Fabulous views are afforded from the mountaintop. In the foreground the round building is the McGill Medical School that is considered one of the best in North America. You can also see in the background river St. Lawrence, the other landmark of Montreal.
The Mount Royal is a park in the summers that is very popular with tourists, nature lovers, joggers and bicyclists. It is a ten minute walk from the heart of down town thus making it very accessible to all.
Place Des Arts in downtown Montreal is the centrepiece of Montreal's classical music, opera and theatre scene. At one time Montreal Symphony Orchestra was one of the top ensembles in the world. Sadly, with the exit of the conductor Charles Dutoit , the orchestra is not the same anymore.
For a rather libertine city Montreal has a very large number of churches. Somebody famously said that if you throw a stone anywhere in Montreal you are bound to break a church window!
Montreal has a very European style. Many restaurants have street terraces like this one in the Phillips Square in the heart of downtown.
Buskers, street jugglers and mimes seem to appear from nowhere with the advent of summer. Here some musicians perform on the very popular St Catherine Street in downtown.
Montreal most famous strip club even if some argue that Chez Pare on Stanley Street is still the classiest place. If longevity is a proof of success, the club was there when I went to McGill as a student in 1979 and was still there when I left Montreal for good in 2012.
Montreal is Canada's hotspot of politics. Recently the students marched every single day, rain or shine, for three months to demand withdrawal of the small increase in tuition. Finally they succeeded. Now they are demanding an end to any tuition fee!
Student protests are very well organised - and so is the police force! It is remarkable that in the three months of constant rallies in downtown only a few demonstrators and police sustained minor injuries. There was some damage to a few properties and a few police cars were torched.
Thursday's is the legendary 'singles? bar of Montreal. Why is it called Thursdays? According to local folklore the serious singles turn-up on Thursday to checkout good prospects for the weekend!
A stylish and companionable commuter stepping out of the Berri UQAM metro station.