Montreal awakes from hibernation

Throughout the months of January and February, the temperature hovered around -10C during the day and went as low as -30C at night (14F to -22F, that is, for you Ferenheitly inclined). My neighborhood, near the west end of downtown, cleared out after work hours. Streets were deserted at night with icy sidewalks glistening in the neon lights. Weekends came and went, the quiet inactivity lingered. I started to wonder why people rave about Montreal’s charm, the city that’s supposedly full of liveliness.

Then came March, unseasonably warm, and piles of snow started to melt. St. Patrick’s day arrived on a weekend of 20Cs. It is like dropping water into a hot oil pan, the streets came to life. I missed the St. Patty’s parade, which was supposed to be quite a scene. But I did witness the aftermath: a full street block carpeted with crushed beer cans;  never seen anything like it.

The week after, came the student protest. 150000 students took to the street to voice their opposition to the tuition hike (more on that later). For someone without a daytime job, I was happy to be an aimless gawker. It was a well organized event with police cars blocking off streets for the protesters to march. Dozens of city blocks filled with costumes and effigies, almost like a sober Halloween parade.