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A city of paradoxes at the crossroads of America and Europe, seen as both Latin and northern, cosmopolitan and unmistakably the metropolis of Québec, Montréal holds nothing back. And, when it comes time to celebrate jazz, film, humour, singing or Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, hundreds of thousands of people flood into the streets, turning events into warm public gatherings. With French and North American influences, as well as the vitality of new arrivals, Montréal is an international city and the primary centre of culture in Québec. The city has also earned an enviable reputation among food-lovers; many believe that one can eat better in Montréal than anywhere else in North America.
In 1663, the seigneury of the island of Montréal was acquired by the Sulpicians from Paris, who remained its undisputed masters up until the British conquest of 1760. In 1823, to the great displeasure of local architects, they commissioned New York architect James O'Donnell, who came from an Irish Protestant background, to design the largest and most original church north of Mexico. The Basilique Notre-Dame (110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest), built between 1824 and 1829, is a true North American masterpiece of Gothic-Revival architecture.
The Port of Montréal is the largest inland port on the continent. It stretches 25km along the St. Lawrence, from Cité du Havre to the refineries in the east end. The Vieux-Port de Montréal, or old port, corresponds to the historic portion of the port, located in front of the old city. Abandoned because of its obsolescence, it was revamped between 1983 and 1992, following the example of various other centrally located North American ports. The old port encompasses a pleasant park, laid out on the embankments and coupled with a promenade, which runs alongside the piers or quai.
Hôtel de Ville (275 Rue Notre-Dame Est), or City Hall, a fine example of the Second-Empire or Napoleon III style, is the work of Henri-Maurice Perrault, who also designed the neighbouring courthouse. In 1922, a fire destroyed the interior and roof of the building; it was restored in 1926, after the model of the city hall in Tours, France. Exhibitions are occasionally presented in the main hall, which is accessible via the main entrance. Visitors may also be interested to know that it was from the balcony of City Hall that France's General de Gaulle cried out his famous "Vive le Québec libre!" ("Freedom for Québec!") in 1967, to the great delight of the crowd gathered in front of the building.
The downtown skyscrapers give Montréal a typically North American look. Nevertheless, unlike most other cities on the continent, there is a certain Latin spirit here, which seeps in between the towering buildings, livening up this part of Montréal both day and night. Bars, cafés, department stores, shops and head offices, along with two universities and n
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