Saturday, 4 August 2012

Montreal Highlights: The First in a Series of Posts

Well, the first long flight and cross country holiday trip for the whole family is in the books.  All in all, a great success.  Sheila and I felt like we were melting in the humid air of Montreal the entire time we were there, and sleep was short as it always is with Asher, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There were many highlights to the trip, lots of fun was had.  I thought that instead of making convoluted mess of a post I would instead make a series of posts with highlights of our trip.  May I present the first on the series.

After having driven by Mont Royal a few times during our first few days in the city, I was already struck by the beauty of the large park area nestled right in the middle of a bustling metropolis city.  More a hill then a mountain, the park is of considerable size, covering both the area of the hill and a large parcel of land at the foot of the bump.  Home to a large array of recreation choices, there are soccer pitches, multiple playground areas, numerous picnic spots and plenty of green grass to hang out on.  Adam and Erin, my sister and brother-in-law, our gracious hosts proceeded to tell us about the weekly gathering that the Mont Royal Park hosted every Sunday in the park.  In a impromptu fashion a large number of people gather at the foot of the hill and bring along all sorts of different types of drums.  They proceed to jam together for hours while others sit out on blankets and lawnchairs to enjoy the music.  It sounded intriguing, and I was interested in checking it out, I also thought the kids might enjoy it.

Sunday came, and after we had tired ourselves out during the day, we decided to go and check out the park at about 5 o'clock Sunday.  We parked, walked a mile and as we approached the location of the drumming circle the sights and sounds began to wash over us.  Speaking for myself, it was all a little overwhelming. One of the most heartwarming things I noticed about Montrealers was the general zest for life that seemed to be on prominent display wherever we went.  The Sunday gathering of drummers at Mont Royal was a dramatic display of this generalization, and I think that was why it was so wonderfully appealing.  We set up our blanket in the nearest spot, then Erin, Adam and I went over to check out the music.  Sheila and the kids were exhausted from the long day and walk to get there, opting to sit and rest for a bit.  Adam and I enjoyed a smoke as the three of us let the whole scene wash over us.  The music itself was nothing spectacular, mostly bongo drums, with some creative percussion intruments added in.  It was more the visual scene that got to me.  The 75 or so drummers came from every walk of life.  There were a number of young guys involved, black, white and hispanic.  There was a handful of women drumming, though a majority of the women were dancing instead.  There were a few middle-aged white dudes who appeared to be having a blast escaping their day to day routines.  The rhythms seemed to increase in speed, as all the drummers appeared to get a kick out of forcing their fellow drummers to go faster and faster.  The dancers were run ragged as they attempted to keep up.  Eventually, as Erin had noted they would, the drums slowed and for a brief moment there was silence.  Everyone drumming got a sip of water, or took a minute to catch their breath.  Then it would be someone else's turn to start the next "song", and off they would go.

We returned to the blanket and I grabbed Asher to come back over with me.  Jasmine was tired and cranky, very focussed on getting an ice cream to cool down with.  Sheila wanted to continue relaxing so Erin and I went back to watching, with Asher along in my arms.  Now, I may or may not have discussed Asher's affection for music in this space previously, but it must not be understated.  His love is developed to the point where I can put on almost any kind of music be it rap, rock, metal, reggae, dance, electronica and it will send him into a frenzy of head nodding, spinning and foot stomping.  He has an interesting and dangerous style that elicits a smile from most that get to witness it.  So we get back to the drumming circle and Asher is already jamming, head bobbing rapidly, smile widening across his face.  We are standing above the circle, a brick wall where a number of the drummers are sitting is just in front of us.  After a few minutes we move closer, down a set of stairs, so that we are standing directly behind a row of drummers.  Asher can see all the people dancing, and he begins to squirm to get out of my arms.  A large part of me thought it would be awesome to see my little guy dancing away, and I knew that he would be a huge hit with those drumming and dancing.  Dad played it safe and found him a square of grass on the other side of the stairs, actually Asher spotted it, and trotted over to the grass.  He proceeded to break into his usual routine, spinning, head nodding, waving his arms and shouting.  He drew the attention of a few people who were watching the drummers, and as usually he soaked it right up.

The whole scene was awe-inspiring, and was my favourite thing we did while we were vacationing in Montreal.  Seeing so many different walks of life come together for such simple fun.  No admission fees, no exclusionary rules, and best of all no need for police enforcement.  Cheers to you, the drum loving people of Montreal!

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