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MONTREAL NEIGHBORHOODS 101: DOWNTOWN

The downtown district of any major city often tops the list of things ‘to do’ for a traveler. Montréal’s downtown is a mélange of stores, restaurants, cafés, galleries, corporate headquarters, and yes, those famous “adult cabarets.” Yet the central business district of every metropolis can risk blandness. And a selection of discriminating Montréalers have accused the downtown area of being overly commercial, with a heavy emphasis on big-brand shopping. And we understand that one could feel blasé in any given retail area. But among the generic giants there are plenty of gems. You just have to know what to look for. Here are a few of our favourite things about Montréal’s Downtown district.

MONTREAL GRAND PRIX : THE PARTIES!

Get ready for some memorable partying! Montreal Grand Prix Weekend is around the corner and with it, illustrious nightlife! I’ve already given you a Grand Prix Crash Course 101 and I’ve offered you a variety of Montreal hotels to choose from.  Now here’s your guide to some of the best F1 parties happening in Montreal this weekend!

MUTEK: SENOR COCONUT’S OUTDOOR FIESTA

The free outdoor concert headlined by Senor Coconut and his Orchestra was the first one put on by Mutek. Several hundred concertgoers and I were there, and as you can tell from the videos, it was a huge success…

TURNER PRIZE LAUREATE RUNA ISLAM SHOWS IN MONTREAL

Montreal’s Contemporary Arts Museum, hosts its first solo show of British artist Runa Islam.  Prisms and Pantone! I first saw the work of contemporary artist Runa Islam at the 2005 Venice Biennale where her film of china tea cups slowly crashing to the ground was a hit.  Runa’s international reputation was enhanced by her nomination for Britain’s Turner Prize in 2008.  Islam is a world citizen: she was born in Bangladesh, she studied in London, where she now works, and is represented by the prestigious White Cube Gallery.

SIDIM: MONTREAL DESIGN SHOWS OFF

The Montreal Interiror Design Show, the SIDIM, has arrived!  It’s one of North America’s most prestigious design shows and features a three-day fest of fabulousness. Go to SIDIM’s website for a complete list of participants Look for:

NORMAN LALIBERTÉ: ODE TO JOY

Wow! What colour. What energy. What zest. Norman Laliberté’s show at Galerie de Bellefeuille is full of joy. This American artist with French-Canadian parents is famous around the world for his exuberant use of colour. He not only paints, but has produced beautiful banners – the most famous were for the Vatican Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. His wonderful work at the gallery is sophisticated, yet childlike. The bright shades almost make you smile. So if you are having a bad moment, pop over to Westmount, and add some cheer to your day.

GLASS KISSES ON MONTREAL’S GOLDEN MILE

Montreal’s 2010 City of Glass event has great stuff all over Montreal.  I wandered into the Canadian Guild of Craft to see some cool lips by internationally-renowned glass artist Astri Reusch. Her show is aptly named Mémoires glaciales. Her sculptural pieces are all in glass – gleaming and seductive. Solid glass life-size heads are lit from within. You glow girl! One of her pieces is a huge ‘cloud’ of glass lips. Is this sensual reference to internet cloud…the lips symbolic of communication?  In any case, just enjoy looking at them. They are smooth …and sexy.  Many big kisses!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOUNT-ROYAL PARK!

Mount Royal Park celebrated its 134th anniversary yesterday. People joke that our city’s Mount Royal is more molehill than mountain. But look up. You’ll find it! Our city’s sacred mountain – and infamous make-out spot – defines and orients us.

MONTREAL GRAND PRIX 101

Great news guys! As you may already know, 2010 marks the return of the official Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal – and with it, three days of incredible nightlife and outdoor activities taking place from June 10 to June 13. The annual stopover in Canada is the most prestigious automotive event in North America and now is your chance to witness the incredible atmosphere that takes over Montreal during F1 weekend. When Grand Prix rolls to town, thousands of F1 fans and thrill-seekers take over the streets, making Montreal one of the most popular F1 cities in the world. I’ve already offered you some precious hotel recommendations last week, now here is some general Montreal Grand Prix knowledge that you’ll need during your Montreal trip.

EXHIBIT: ISABELLE HAYEUR REFLECTS ON URBAN LANDSCAPES

Isabelle Hayeur is one of my favourite photographers.  Her large photos are now showing at Pierre- François Ouellette’s gallery  in the Belgo building, the downtown Soho-style space full of great emerging artists.