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Tam Tams Drumming Sessions
Every Sunday (depending on weather)
George-Étienne Cartier Monument at Mount Royal Park
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Living in Montréal means that I often act as hostess to various friends and family visiting the city. My guests usually know what they want to do while they’re here — visit cool bars, go to the Old Port, and eat poutine at 4 am. Often, however, they have never heard about the Tam Tam sessions in Mont Royal so if we have a lazy Sunday in the works we’ll make our way over to the mountain after brunch. It’s hard to explain, though, what the Tam Tams are about and really, even, why we should go and see this event. Hippies drumming and free-flow dancing in a circle? I admit, it’s not for everyone but it’s a big part of this city and it’s a different part of Montréal living that I like to expose my guests to if they’re open to alternative cultures.

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A lesson I learned from running through the Prairies in Manitoba, Western Canada.

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By nature, I am a city girl. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, which as of 2012 had a population of 25.7 million people in the Seoul Capital Area making it the third largest metropolitan area in the world. I then moved to Toronto, the most populous city in Canada, at the age of four and resided in the city except for a few years when I went off to do my undergraduate studies. And now that I call Montréal my home, I remain in the metropolis centres of Canada and love the bustle, riding the métro, and stacked apartment living.

However, I recently had the chance to venture to another part of Canada that I had never had the opportunity to visit until now. I hitched a ride to the southern Manitoba and Winnipeg area, which means that I now only have Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the northern territories to cross off on my Canadian destinations list. I had been to the Prairies before, Calgary and Edmonton to be exact, though Alberta is tempered by the beautiful rocky mountains. Manitoba was a completely different type of the Canadian Prairies, however, as it has not expanded in population nor revelled in the oil boom like its Alberta counterpart. This is really how I always imagined the Prairies to be: flat, sparse, and still. And Manitoba truly delivered.
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Parc National du Mont-Saint-Bruno
330, rang des 25 E.
Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Québec J3V 4P6
1-800-665-6527
www.sepaq.com/pq/msb/

There is so much to explore in my city of Montréal but I also love trips outside the island to discover the rest of the province. A friend had been harping about hiking at one of the mountains outside of the city forever so we finally planned a day to visit the national park at Mont-Saint-Bruno (the trails and not the ski hill), which is so close to Montréal and makes a fun day time excursion.

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The different trails were marked by signs with various route distances

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The George-Étienne Cartier Monument at the base of Mont-Royal

I love the mountain. Mont-Royal (Mount Royal) is located just north of downtown Montréal and the park is very much visited by both locals and tourists. In the warmer months, you will find cyclists, runners, and walkers climbing the trails while the Tam Tams drum and dance at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument, and a medieval battle takes hold further up in the forest. Others play frisbee, hackey sack, picnic, or just rest in the grassy hills, or take in the view of the city from the Observatory near the top of the mountain. A large crucifix illuminates at the top and faces the east side of the city, and two large cemeteries — the larger and Catholic Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, and the traditionally Protestant and English Cimetière Mont-Royal — encompass the west side of the mountain.

Montréal is a cold city, so we don’t have too many months available for seasonal activities which means that city dwellers learn to embrace the cold. Hence, even in the winter, the mountain is accessible with fresh snow fall immediately plowed and packed to the ground so that cold weather runners and cross-country skiers can whiz up the paths. I also sometimes see snow-shoers as well, though there are fewer tourists who are willing to bear the biting Montréal cold. The Montréal Police also patrol the mountain, riding on horses through the trails, so the sight of road apples is common in the park.

The temperature has been dropping in the city, so if you want to catch the Tam Tams and the Medieval Battle, or take a walk through the park is warmer weather, don’t wait too long to visit the mountain. Find out more information about Mont-Royal on their website: www.lemontroyal.qc.ca.

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Parks in Montréal are very well used

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Medieval sword-fight battle every Sunday at the mountain

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Humans aren’t alone in suffering from digital distraction, an anecdotal condition widely covered by New York Times trend pieces over the last few years. The Guardian reports (in a seemingly tongue-in-cheek tone) that technology is ruining nature too. The Dorset Wildlife Trust is asking people to stop using bird-call apps designed to draw birds to their cameras, to snap shots of them. Use of the apps is said to be distracting the birds from more important things, like taking care of their offspring.

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It has been raining every other day or so here in Montréal which, along with the colder temperatures, meant I was back in layers and rain boots. I was walking home in the evening last night after a day of rain, and the drizzle had stopped by the time I came out of metro. I live next to a beautiful park and as I was walking past the greenery I thought the effects of the fog corralled in the air made for a dreamy scenery. I do not carry fancy camera equipment so I attempted to capture the night with my iPhone. I cannot wait for sun and the summer season to start in the city.

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Dog Exercise Enclosure (Aire d’Exercice Canine)
Parc Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier
At Rue de Mentana and Rue Saint-Gregoire
Montréal, Québec

Parc Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier (“Parc Laurier”) is one of my favourite parks in Montréal. It is situated in the Plateau neighbourhood on the north side of Laurier between Rue de Mentana to the west and Rue de Brébeuf to the east, and enclosed at rue Saint-Gregoire to the north.

The park is perfect because of all the amenities it offers and reminds me of why I love Montréal. In my home town of Toronto, the parks are sub par and kind of analogous to the quality of bread between the two cities — absolutely amazing in Montréal and mostly garbage in Toronto. Toronto parks are often small green spaces haphazardly inserted into neighbourhoods without too much thought or love. That is, you will find a short walkway, a small play area and equipment for children, and if you are lucky you might get tennis courts and maybe a hockey arena in the winter. Some groups of teenage kids might hang out the areas where there is concrete to practice skateboarding tricks, dog walkers quickly stroll by, and a few toddlers may be supervised in the playground. (I know there are some excellent parks in Toronto, such as Trinity Bellwoods, but I find these more of an anomaly, particularly in the downtown areas.)

Here in Montréal, the parks are loved. They are used to their fullest, even in the winter. Parks are an important element of every neighbourhood and are vast green spaces used by surrounding residents. A hockey arena or two are erected in the cold months, and often the park administrators will pool water into a corner for free ice skating. In the warmer months, families and friends bring bottles of wine to sit in the grass and share a meal, amateur acrobats practice juggling and tightrope, and various organized sports are in session. It often seems that everyone in the neighbourhood are out and in the park, so much so that there is nary an empty spot in the parks. As one Québécois friend explained to me, because the residences in the city rarely have their own backyards the neighbourhood parks are instead used as an extension of their homes.

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