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McGill University, Concordia University and the University of Montr?al infuse the local population with a young, bright, and bilingual jeunesse, and the gay scene is well integrated into public life. In fact, the province of Qu?bec is noted for its tolerance of gays and lesbians and was the first place in North America to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2000, the Province of Qu?bec officially adopted a same-sex benefits law protecting gays and lesbians. Montr?al's gay residents live throughout the city, but are concentrated in the Gay Village (defined roughly as the several block area on either side of Ste-Catherine Street, from St-Hubert to Papineau). Though not the nicest part of town, the Gay Village is rapidly improving with new businesses and continuous renovations. Montreal's gay scene is becoming increasingly active, further making it a key gay destination in North America.
In the already busy gay village, new establishments continue to spring up along Ste-Catherine Street. Club Unity (corner of Montcalm) built an entirely new pub on their building's immense ground floor, with big floor-to-ceiling windows, which make it perfect for people-watching. SKY Pub and its nightclub counterpart SKY Club (east of Plessis Street) pack the crowds into a renovated multi-level space. Complexe Bourbon built a huge three-story extension on the corner of Alexandre-de-S?ve Street, replacing the outdoor terrace. Montreal's gay and lesbian bookstore, L'Androgyne, is now owned by Priape, the gay clothing and sex emporium, and has moved down to the Village. Un Autre Monde clothing store has done a major extension, taking over the corner space at De La Visitation Street. The metro station on the corner of Beaudry welcomes gays and lesbians to the neighborhood with the proud rainbow colors featured on its main entrance. The gay village merchant association has been active in improving the area, in addition to the Gay Chamber of Commerce. This expansion is inevitably spilling over to intersecting thoroughfares, with Amherst Street in particular the site of numerous gay businesses, such as the nightclub Parking, Gotha Lounge and lesbian-owned Ella Grill.
Best of all, Montr?al is an ideal vacation destination no matter when you decide to visit. Montr?al's Pride Week is relatively young, compared to other big cities, since earlier attempts to celebrate gay pride were plagued by the fact that Quebec's national holiday was the same weekend, June 24. Since moving its date to the first weekend in August, Montr?al's queer community has welcomed Quebecois from all over the province and tourists from around the world. Autumn is perhaps the most romantic time of year, when the city's foliage dazzles with every shade of gold and red, and a climb up Mont Royal is even more exhilarating than usual for the chilled, clean air.
And on October's Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (Columbus Day in the U.S.) is of course the famous annual Black & Blue Festival, the world's largest gay party festival (see below), courtesy of Bad Boys Club Montr?al. If you can't wait till the leaves turn, they also throw parties for Valentine's Weekend (Red Weekend), Hot and Dry in May, the excellent Twist during Pride and New Year's Eve's Bal des Boys. Montr?al's White Party, the Bal en Blanc, is a week-long event, held every April.
Part One | Part Two