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Connecting the dots with a blindfold
From end to end...see it all on Ste-Catherine Street
By : Adair MacGregor
St. Catherine is the line that connects all that embodies Montreal. Stretching from one side of the city to the other, it is the primary commercial artery of the downtown core. A walk from one end of Ste-Catherine to the other will have a tourist brushing up against almost every cultural community and district. It connects the grey to the grand, the business to the entertainment and the tourist to the action.
The journey begins in the east where tiny stores and ramshackle bars attempt to pilfer the slow public and downtown fringes. Should you climb this far from downtown you will discover a vast community of interesting characters from homeless to crumb-scrounging artists. Although there has been some restoration in the east, mainly in the booming Gay Village, it remains a haunting reminder to the days of the referendum where stores and businesses packed up overnight and left the city for its own defenses.
Once you hit Rue Berri, the attitude completely changes. Berri Park is a huge expanse of grass that houses many festivities including Montreal's late September Pot Rally, which is an annual success and often runs down the entire length of Ste-Catherine. The university UQAM sits on the corner, transforming the walk into an overabundance of artist shops, cafes, cheap restaurants and bars. This section includes Montreal's red light district, as well as being steps away from the great red gates of China Town.
You'll know you've entered downtown the minute you step onto the giant stairs of Place des Arts. This area of town, like its name suggests, is the center for arts in Montreal. Here, countless festivals close down the street and set up shop, magnificent theaters and auditoriums put on shows from around the world. Passer-bys often stop to grab an ice-cream cone or gaze into the ever-flowing waterfall of Montreal's Contemporary Art Museum.
After a short sit, you'll be diving right into the action. Shops are set up from side to side and continue for miles. All aspects of Montreal, both generic and fringe are represented along the sidewalks of Montreal's busiest street. Artists line the sidewalks painting portraits and singing songs for the public. Buy yourself some accessories from the street merchants or purchase your favorite someone a bouquet of flowers from the superfluous of flower vendors. If the weather isn't to your liking, you can always head into the Underground City which lines this area of town.
If you keep walking past Rue Crescent, the scenery changes again. Here restaurants and bars take the high-road; filling the streets with Concordia University students out for a good time and club kids from Crescent's booming nightlife. Bars compete for business with some of the best drink specials in the city.
The downtown area of Ste-Catherine is the most dynamic area of Montreal. One of the reasons Montreal is so popular among tourists is because of the ease in which one can connect to their own personal flavor. Rue Ste-Catherine remains that connection.+