Above Viger Street, you pass under Paifang gates to enter Chinatown. When I visited in the summer of 2016, the gates were shrouded in scaffolding, no doubt being refurbished for 2017’s celebrations. The Montreal Chinese Hospital, the Montreal Chinese School, the Chinese Catholic Mission, and the Montreal Chinese Community and Cultural Centre are all located here. Most striking are the numerous shops and restaurants bustling with activity well into the evening. On De la Gauchetière Street, a summer sidewalk sale draws a large crowd.
Chinatown’s northern gate leads to the Quartier des Spectacles, a block to the west. In the summer months, this usually means there is one festival or another going on, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Festival Juste Pour Rire (Just for Laughs) or the Festival Nuits d’Afrique. My goal that day, however, was to reach the Quartier Portugais (Little Portugal) in Le Plateau, all the while noting how much the diverse ethnic communities formed a tapestry, their influences and colours meshing into one another.