Just like the United States postal service’s motto, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail” shall prevent Montrealers from throwing a fabulous festival. Be it musical, comedy, fashion, dance, circus, film or food & wine based, they’ve got it covered, and leave it to those crazy/generous Canadians to throw many a bash for free-particularly in the summer when you can virtually channel surf for festivals. when I was there a few weeks ago, there was almost an embarrassment of riches to choose from including the 35th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, the 30th L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec and the Montreal Cirque Festival.
If you’re planning a visit this year here are some upcoming festivals for you check out:
1. Festival Mode & Design Festival-allows you to get an inside look at the world of fashion. Choose from over 50 fashion shows (some of the finest Canadian designers will be represented) live creative sessions, designer showcases and musical performances. A MUST for the fashionista!
2. Montreal World Film Festival-is the only competitive Film Festival in North America recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) which is a pretty big deal. Now in its 38th year, you can view films from over 70 countries, as well as hear from some well-known filmmakers.
3. Pop Montreal- features Francophone, Canadian, and international pop musicians. , This dynamic ﬁve-day festival in September will present more than 600 artists to audiences of over 50 000.
4. La Biennale de Montreal- is a slightly more highbrow international event focusing on film, sculpture, photography, painting and installation art that respond to current conditions by considering “what is to come”.
5. Taste MTL- pack your stretchiest pants if you’re coming to this 10-day fall event with more than 100 restaurants participating. It’s sure to be a winner since Montreal often claims it has more restaurants per capita than any other metropolitan area in North America.
To see a year’s worth of events check out Go Montreal Living Festivals and Events link.
Where to feast between festivals
For a respite from all the noise and commotion try Maison Boulud, one of the newest restaurants from acclaimed chef, Daniel Boulud, in the newly refurbished Ritz-Carlton Montreal, provides an elegant, yet non-stuffy option (including al fresco tables overlooking their peaceful pocket-park). Boulud’s magic touch combined with ingredients sourced from the finest local purveyors ensures a gastronomic dining experience, whether you stopping in for brunch, lunch or dinner. The sparkling arugula, cherry and Parmesan salad was the perfect opener to a succulent, Moroccan spiced chicken dish.
Double down by dining at both of Chef Normand Laprise’s restaurants for guaranteed culinary winnings. The cheeky, casual, and much more affordable, Brasserie T , is located right in the heart of all the excitement at Place-des-Arts, Montreal’s cultural hub. If you reserve a seat on the bustling outdoor terrace, you can enjoy the jazz concert while nibbling on luscious little temptations such as pan seared fois gras, glistening salmon or beef tartar, betcha-can’t-eat-just-one farm-fresh deviled eggs or just an absolutely perfect cheeseburger and fries.
Don’t forget to make reservations well in advance for a dinner at Laprise’s celebrated restaurant Toqué!, a landmark in Quebec’s gastronomical scene offering haute cuisine without the ‘tude. Toqué! has won more kudos and awards than Meryl Streep, including Relais & Châteaux, AA/AAA Five Diamond, James Beard Foundation, and the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for 2014 cookbook of the year. He was even appointed Knight in 2009 yet you’ll never meet a more down-to earth chef, who is passionate about showing respect for the multitude of cooks, farmers, foragers and fishermen responsible for bringing him the finest seasonal bounty– right down to the humblest root vegetable. This is one night that I recommend you skip all the festival offerings and instead indulge your senses in their unforgettable 7-course dinner with optional wine pairing, although the sommelier’s pairings were so innovative it should be mandatory.
Where to stay
Le St-Martin Hotel Particulier Montreal, a 17-floor boutique property, is a pleasing blend of luxury, warmth and contemporary styling (think faux-leopard blankets and colorful throw pillows, homey fireplaces, peek-a-boo glass showers offer views all the way through the big bay windows) also offers the perfect festival location: close enough to walk to most of the festivities, yet far enough away to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. After navigating the mini-jungle entrance, where the helpful doormen are wearing safari outfits (don’t ask me why) you check in with the unbelievably friendly staff at the front desk.
I spent a full hour the next morning with Virginia, who answered dozens of my itievenerary questions and then marked each of my stops on the map in a different color. When she saw that I still looked a little lost, she went to the computer and printed out metro directions for each stop and never stopped smiling the whole time. The hotel recently won a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor which I’m sure is partly based on their exemplary service as well as the fact that their signature Bistro L’Aromate serves an utterly fabulous breakfast, that could easily power you through the whole day.
For a quick relaxation break simply step outside to their mini-heated pool, nestled alongside a waterfall, teak bridge and tropical plants for a little private Shangri-La. Within minutes you’ll be recharged for the next round of festivals.
Janice Nieder is Founder of Travel with Taste.