Paris via Montreal: Chagall at the Musee des Beaux-Arts

Russian-French artist Marc Chagall is known for his striking images and vivid colors, but less well known for his love of music. “Chagall: Music and the Rite of Colour,” the current exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal (Montreal Fine Arts Museum), aims to change that.

The show explores a large and diverse body of work, paying special attention to its musical connections. Nearly 400 pieces — book illustrations, stained glass, full size stage sets, dada-ist ballet costumes, ceramics, and paintings that range from simple watercolor portraits to icon-filled larger works — have music as subject, or have been designed for musical venues.

The pièce de résistance is a detailed video of the ceiling at the Paris Opéra Garnier, which Chagall painted in 1964. I’ve attended many performances at the Opéra, and have hung out over the balconies looking at the ceiling. But it’s still so far away — the video, zooming in on details, made me feel like I was back in Paris.

If you live in Vermont, and would like to see this exhibit, I’m leading a Montreal day trip focused on the show, Saturday, May 6. This full day of looking, listening, and learning is designed for artists, art lovers, and art educators. Click here for the itinerary and details. Transportation is included.

 

Montreal Book Review: Inspector Gamache series

Un grand merci to frequent contributor Betty Guernsey for this book review, just in time for holiday reading!

When Louise Penny wrote her first book, “Still Life”, back in 2007, probably no one including herself ever imagined that her creation, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Québec Sûreté, would eventually wind up #1 on the New York Times bestseller list – no minor feat for a Canadian, and adopted Montrealer to boot.

Now, eleven books later, readers in over 25 countries have become addicted to her memorable characters (and characters they are, indeed), as well as her complex plots that mix poetry and psychology while remaining intensely Québecois in flavor.

Many are centered in Montreal, others in more remote parts of the province, including Penny’s fictional Eastern Townships village of Three Pines. Her descriptions of food alone are worth the read: bouillabaisse of scallops, shrimp, mussels, chunks of salmon served with baguette… grilled sandwiches of Brome Lake duck, brie, and fig confit… blueberry crêpes with crème fraîche and Québec maple syrup…

Tip: start with the first book, then read in order, accompanied, of course, by un vin rouge

Have you read the series? What’s your favorite book?

Paris via Montreal: Cinemania French Film Festival

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Cinemania Film Festival—one of the largest French film festivals in the world—will take place in Montreal Nov 3-13. It’s a fabulous festival, and if you love French film, I highly recommend it.

If you’re interested in attending this year’s festival with a small group of film lovers and film scholars, Rick Winston and Andrea Serota (formerly of the Savoy Theater and the Green Mountain Film Festival), and I will lead 4 days of fabulous film, food and conversation at Cinemania, Nov 3-6.

And we would love to have you join us!

We’ll see 6 films together, discuss them in depth, and meet privately with a Montreal film critic. Rick and Andrea will host a session on the joys of French film, as well as daily pre- and post-film conversations.

All films are subtitled in English, and discussions are in English, but speaking French is an advantage.

As always, the films won’t be announced until two weeks before the festival begins, so we’ll finalize our itinerary once we have the festival schedule. You can see last year’s itinerary here.

Price includes 6 film tickets, including the opening night gala, 2 dinners, and 4 days of stimulating viewing and conversation.

For details and a registration form, click here.

Questions? You can reach me at 802 456-8770, or karen@parisbydesign.com.

Bon cinéma!

Postcard from Montreal – Foxy Restaurant

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The owners of the beloved cafe/bakery Olive + Gourmando, in Old Montreal, launched Foxy last winter. The vibe is casual, the fare sophisticated comfort food: wood-fired flatbreads, huge and surprising salad combos, oven-roasted and house-smoked meat.

The roasted cashew hummus with heritage veggies starter was a treat, the pork ribs with honey black pepper sauce and pickled onion divine. The green salad was immense, and scented with fresh herbs.

But my favorite was the flatbread special: zucchini blossoms with buffalo mozzarella made in Quebec and mint ricotta. Open 7 days for dinner.

Postcard from Montreal: Marché de la Villette

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In a city with over 5,000 restaurants, how do you decide where to eat?

Sometimes all it takes is a glance at the window.

At Marché de la Villette, on rue St Paul Ouest in Old Montreal, floor to ceiling windows promise fresh and cured meat, high quality chocolate, and tables filled with smiling diners.

Once inside, I was charmed by its old world atmosphere, large selection of cheese, pâtés, terrines and charcuterie. And delighted by a traditional French menu ranging from fondue to cassoulet.

How do you decide where to eat when you’re in a new city?

Montreal International Fireworks Competition

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Every summer, the night sky explodes over Montreal during L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, also known as the Montreal Fireworks Festival. This year’s festival takes place at Wed and Sat nights in July, and features themed fireworks displays from Canada, Chile, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and the US. The competition draws some 3 million viewers.

The fireworks begin at 10pm, and here are 3 great places to watch:

• The amusement park La Ronde offers waterfront stadium seating. You can buy tickets for the fireworks, but for just a few dollars more a combination ticket supplies full-day access to the park. Why not take the kids, and make a day of it?

• Watch fireworks for free on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Canada’s 3rd busiest bridge becomes a pedestrian-only viewing platform from 8:30 to 11:30pm on fireworks nights. Take a sweater (it’s windy up there), and something to sit on. Access is from Papineau Métro station.

• The view of the waterfront from a rooftop terrace in Old Montreal is wonderful on just about any summer evening, but it’s extra-special on fireworks nights. The Terrasse, the bar atop hotel l’Auberge du Vieux-Port, charges a $25 cover on fireworks evenings, with no minimum food or beverage purchase required. Get there early, as reservations are only available to hotel guests, and this delectable space fills fast.

Happy viewing. And if you go, please share a highlight!

Free Montreal Travel Resources on our New Website

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Montreal, the world’s second largest French speaking city, is the next best thing to Paris, without the jet lag. Our newly revamped Paris by Design website makes it easy to visit this vibrant, international, family-friendly city.

Need an excuse to go? The current exchange rate puts Montreal joie de vivre (bistros, chocolatiers, artisan craft, and design) seriously on sale. On Jan 13, $1 CAD = $.69 USD.

The new website’s full color, panoramic photos of Montreal streets, museums, bagels, and markets offer more reasons to love the city.

Are you thinking about visiting Montreal, and need help getting started? Our brand new Travel Resource pages cover weather, packing, festivals, getting there, and more.

Apps, maps and articles share some of our favorite addresses, help you communicate with Montrealers, and keep you found as you explore the city. They even help you find and pay for parking in Montreal.

And then there is our raison d’être: don’t miss our small group Montreal tours and custom travel planning services, easily accessed by pull down menus and photo grids.

Please take a look around the new site — and let us know what you think!

Eating Well in Montreal

I’m just back from 4 days in Montreal, where my main purpose was to watch French films. I spent most of my time downtown, at the Cinemania Film Festival. Between films, I ventured out to eat and drink.

The first night, my film partners and I walked up Avenue du Parc to the Plateau, where we delighted in an Ethiopian tasting menu at Nil Bleu — filling pieces of spongy injera bread with lentils in berbère sauce, eggplant roasted in Ethiopian spices, filet mignon sauteed with ginger.

The next morning, I climbed Parc again, crossing Sherbrooke, to Pikolo Espresso. Sitting in the window people-watching, I sipped the best latte in town, accompanied by a feta and sun-dried tomato scone made by the friendly bakers at Godley & Creme.

That evening, in China town, we gathered at Qing Hua to talk about the day’s films over woven baskets of steamed dumplings: pork and coriander, mushrooms and tofu, chicken and green onion. The next day we sampled fresh fruits and gourmet baked goods at Marché Jean-Talon.

Eating is a wonderful way to create memories of a city. Christine Fraoli sent me this delightful article by Chicago illustrator/comic book artist Sarah Becan, describing her culinary discoveries in Montreal.

She captures the food, the atmosphere, and her pleasure with humor and wonderful detail. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Do you have a favorite Montreal restaurant? We’d love to hear about it!