Image by Matias Garabedian

By Reshma Krishnan Barshikar

Bienvenue à Montréal! Voici notre manger voir et à faire. When in Montreal et al, also we don’t know any more French. With the Formula One Grand Prix du Canada  happening between 10th to 12th June, the Rogers Cup from the 23rd to 31st July, and the world famous Festival international Jazz De Montreal taking place between the 30th June and 9th July, the ‘City of Mary’ is the place to be this Summer. This francophone outpost bursting with skyscrapers and joie di vivre is a major festival town that feels like Paris sans the customary impertinence. With so much going on we’re going to focus on ‘Do’ for this piece. Let’s start with…

The International Jazz Festival
If you’re a lover of Jazz, or music period, then there is no better place to be in July. The largest jazz festival in the world, Festival international Jazz De Montreal, has featured Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, BB King, Miles Davis, and Leonard Cohen. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a ‘great’ you love that hasn’t played here. Spread over 10 free outdoor stages and 10 indoor stages, the festival hosts 3000 artists and 650 concerts, of which almost 450 are free and attracts over 2.5 million lovers of jazz. The line-up? How about Melody Gardot? While comparisons to Nina Simone abound, I think she sounds like Eva Cassidy especially in this number.

Then there’s Lauryn Hill. I saw her at Wembley over 17 years ago and the festival hasn’t seen her in 14 years. Tax evasion and general cookiness aside, her voice can still give you goosebumps, when she does manage to not have a nervous breakdown on stage. Go just to catch her six-song tribute to Nina Simone. Then there’s 2014 Grammy Award winner for Best Jazz Vocal – Gregory Porter, Chick Corea with Martina Mcbride (country jazz anyone), and Wynton Marsalis. Do I go on or have you booked already? The concert I would pick over all others would be Angele Dubeau & La Pieta performing the works of Einaudi, but then I am a sucker for easy classical. While you can buy a ticket for each concert individually here, there are a couple of packages that might be of interest. We recommend the Gold Package which includes 2 nights at a four star hotel, and a first category concert ticket at a concert being held at either Maison Symphonique de Montréal, Théâtre Maisonneuve or Salle Wilfrid Pelletier (subject to availability) and priority access to free concerts in the Open House and Nightcap Heineken series at the Festival.

Even if you happen to be in Montreal to catch the F1 Canadian Grand Prix or the Rogers Cup, you can still catch concerts at the festival site as it hosts concerts all year around.

Vieux Montreal
If you’re planning a short and sweet trip and have just a few days, catch a concert and then spend a day at the Mont Real or ‘Royal Mountain’, the original old town of Montreal which dates back to 1535 when Jacques Cartier arrived in a village called Hochelaga and claimed it for France, forever imprinting on the region a French influence, so much so that today the area stands in for Europe in many an American TV show. Stroll the cobbled stone streets lined with 17th century architecture including the 1824 Basilica of Notre Dame and the Sulpician Seminary, Montreal’s oldest building, or head to the 1.2 mile promenade at the river front in Vieux Port and end the day at Place Jacques-Cartier. Don’t forget to do all this to the soundtrack of Celine Dion, Canada’s favourite export.

Now that you’re ready to visit The International Jazz Festival, look out for our ‘EAT’ in Montreal and History Montreal in Part II and Part III of A Montreal Summer.

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