Monde in its off-years. Taking place l3—28 May. it will feature shows from Belgium. Hungary. France and Canada. Full details will be online from 1-1 April at www.fta.qc.ca.
But if theatre‘s not your thing. just decide what is. You‘ve got the Montreal Bike Fest (2‘) May—o June. www.velo.qc.ca). featuring races and tours day and night: the Mondial de la biere. a celebration of beer and other alcohol (2—6 June. www.festivalmondialbiere. qc.ca): the Montreal Chamber Music Festival (4—26 June. www.festival montreal.org); the Cariadian Grand Prix (ll—l3 June. www.grandprix.cal: Le Mondial SAQ. an international fireworks competition (selected dates 12 June—28 July. www.lemondialsaq. com/en/): the Montreal Jazz Festival (30 June-ll July. www.montreal jazzfestcom): the Just for Laughs comedy festival. where many international talents gear up for the Edinburgh Fringe (15—25 July. www.hahaha.coml: Les FrancoFolies de Montreal. a festival of French language and non-Anglophone music (2‘) July—7 August. www.francofolies. com): and the World Film Festival (26 August—o September. www.ffm-montreal.orgl.
That's before we start on the autumn. Year round. the city hosts about 40 festivals. Such a lively cultural calendar finds a parallel in the streets themselves. They've got legislation in Quebec Province called the ‘one percent law‘ and it means that every time a big company puts up a building. it has to spend one percent of its budget on art. Seeing as half of the province‘s population lives in Montreal. that means the city has a hell of a lot of sculpture.
‘EVERY TIME A BIG COMPANY PUTS UP A BUILDING, IT HAS TO SPEND ONE PERCENT OF ITS BUDGET ON ART'
Take the old town — Vieux-Montreal — the compact waterside neighbourhood that best encapsulates the charm of Montreal: a fusion of pretty liuropean and brash North American. Walking just a matter of blocks. you’ll pass a statue of Napoleon. oddly tiny atop a grand column. then one block further. a bronze statue of Marguerite-Bourgeoys. Montreal's first teacher. helping two children across a fountain-strewn pond. and 100 yards after that. two great modernist abstract shapes wrapped around each other outside the otherwise ghastly Palais de Justice.
So festival or not. you won‘t be short of cultural stimulation. There are around ()0 theatres. l()() theatre companies. 170 cinema screens. and museums of every description (the $20 Museums Pass gives you free admission to 25 museums for two out of three consecutive days). On this side of the Atlantic. of course. you can spend your whole time eating: you have the choice of 5()()() restaurants with French finesse tempering North American excess.
()ne highlight to the east of the city. not far from the botanical gardens. is the Montreal Biodome: another example of fact melding with fiction. An inspired transformation of the former velodrome built for the 1976 Olympics. the Biodome allows you to walk through four ecosystems — from tropical to arctic — each complete with plants. animals and rather convincing scenery. Fantastic for children. it‘s well worth a trip whatever your age — and while you‘re at that end of town. you can check out the elegant Jardin Botanique. the slightly underwhelming lnsectarium and the Planetarium. as well as the l’arc ()lympique itself.
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MONTREAL I Getting there
Flights to Montreal from Glasgow in May start at £409 and from Edinburgh at £389 (see wwwexpediacouk), rising over the summer months. Holiday packages start at just over £500 for a week based on two pepple sharing. If you want to see more of Canada. flying to Toronto can be a little cheaper and a return rail trip from Toronto to Montreal. which takes between four and five hours. should cost less than 2100.
Montreal is a bilingual city and you will have no problems speaking English, although making the effon in French is sometimes appreciated. If you venture to Quebec City — something that is well recommended - you’ll find a greater percentage of French speakers and it's an advantage to have some knowledge of the language. I Climate
It’s no coincidence that Montreal has 31 km of underground shopping malls and walkways, linking subway trains and office blocks, the largest such network in the world: in winter it's the only practical way to avoid the snow and in the summer it's a handy method of avoiding the humidity. By May temperatures are averaging 17C. climbing over the summer months to peak into the low 308.
The exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is $2.44 to the pound at the time of going to press. If that sounds like good value to you. then you might want to spread a bit of it around at the Casino de Montreal where there are five floors of gaming. plus restaurants. bars and cabaret entertainment (www.casino- de-montrealcom).
Start off at www.tourisme- montrealorg, which includes special otters. events listings and accommodation suggestions. See main article for festival links. (Mark Fisher)
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