The next morning we met Annique Dufour for a tour of Montreal. Annique is an amazing tour guide and we covered so much ground that morning. We started with a tour of the underground (not all 20 miles) that has 69 subway stops, 7 shopping centers and 300 police cadets that patrol the underground daily. We also drove to the Island of Expo (named for when Montreal hosted the World’s Fair in 1967), which is now home to their Formula 1 racetrack, the Gilles-Villeneuve, that you can drive, walk or bike on (when there is no race in progress, of course). We went for a spin in the minivan and kept on driving. We also learned about their new BIXI (http://montreal.bixi.com/home) system, which is a public bicycle sharing system Montreal has developed and has now been duplicated and sold to London, Boston, Toronto and Melbourne (Australia). For $5/day, you can find a bicycle at one of BIXI’s 600 stations throughout the city that houses about 4,000 bicycles. With nearly 250 miles of bike trails, Montreal is easily the top bicycle city in North America.
After working up quite an appetite, we were ready for lunch at the famous Schwartz’s Deli (www.SchwartzsDeli.com) that has served some of the city’s best smoked meat since 1928. It was amazing, but bring cash. Schwartz’s doesn’t take plastic.
With our smoked meat intrigue “cured,” it was time to focus on the Circus Arts Festival. While many of us in the U.S. are familiar with Cirque du Soleil, (the largest and most branded of the modern circuses), there are other troops as well that are part of the festival, which has been planned for the past 18 months. There are three main sites for the festival: 1) Tohu, 2) Old Port of Montreal and 3) Downtown Montreal. There are also 15 different shows that portray the innovation and creativity that is unique to this “circus of tomorrow” performance.
Our first (and probably favorite) show was ID by Cirque Eloize (www.cirque-eloize.com) (think Broadway’s Rent meets what you know about Cirque du Soleil and you may have some idea). It was refreshing to see the young performers incorporate new elements into the routines, such as the BMX bike.
After the show we stopped at Auberge du Vieux-Port for sangria (which we enjoyed while overlooking the Port and Cirque du Soleil tent) then it was off to see the closing night of Totem, Cirque du Soleil’s latest creation (www.cirquedusoleil.com), before it begins its traveling series. As with any Cirque show, it was incredible.