I’m back in Montréal, this time for Montréal en lumière, one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Now in its 19th edition, you’ll find a comprehensive selection of programming over the course of 23 days, from performance art to culinary experiences to outdoor activities.
Arts & culture are at the foundation of Montréal’s identity, and although most of Canada seems to shut down with temperatures this cold, Montréalers use the season as motivation to go into overdrive rather than hibernate. And with Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebrations well under way, you know this year’s instalment will be a big one!
La Nuit Blanche
Our first point of exploration is Nuit Blanche, an (almost) all-night arts showcase set in a carnival atmosphere. It’s the perfect excuse to stay up late and get together with friends to enjoy a whole range of different activities – more than 200 – spread over 140 sites with the Quartier des spectacles as an anchor. Here, you’ll find a performance stage, ferris wheel, curling, food vendors, zipline, and a giant slide. There are also warming stations and fire pits set up although the cold was admittedly almost unbearable for this Toronto-based videoblogger 😉
I met up with several viewers and we set out on our way! Luckily for us, there was a whole circuit of art projects indoors and underground as part of Art souterrain, a showcase of over 100 contemporary art projects. It was a great way to learn how to navigate Montréal’s RESO, a network of pathways reminiscent of (though perhaps less confusing than) Toronto’s PATH.
Illuminart is a new showcase of art, light, and technology. This is my favourite type of art, the kind that you can interact with an immerse yourself in. I love neon, I love flashy things. You’ll find massive projections and interactive installations. In all there are 25 different sites to visit and it’s just really inspiring and magical.
Without a doubt, my favourite installation was Passage by Serge Maheu, described as
an immersive, minimalist, contemplative and interactive artwork that explores the emotional connections between light and sound. The concept takes root in the definition of the word passage itself: the act of moving through or past something on the way from one place to another, and also the process of transition from one state to another in a temporal dimension.
Though all the installations were Instagrammable, this one proved quite popular so I was lucky to snap a solo shot!
Montréal is a city of arts & culture, and part of that means that it has an incredible culinary scene. This year, Montréal en lumière partnered with the city of Lyon, France as its Grand Feature City, inviting artists and chefs to inspire and participate in its programming. On the culinary side, you’ll find special limited edition menus offered by some of Lyon’s top chefs.
I enjoyed a truffle-inspired menu developed by Chef Normand Laprise at Brasserie T! My three-course meal included clamari in black squid ink, halibut, and a truffle ice cream. I’m a big fan of truffle, and although this was a departure from my usual order of truffle mac & cheese and truffle fries, it was great to get a taste of cuisine lyonnaise. The presentation was excellent and the food was incredibly flavourful. It’s not every day that you get to experience something like this.
On the other end of the culinary spectrum, we have the bouchon lyonnais, an institution in Lyon, where the emphasis is not so much on a high-class gourmet dining experience, but rather more classic but inspired fatty and meaty dishes served in a warm and welcoming environment. We had our meal at Bistro Le Balmoral with everything from foie gras to chicken to fish and even potato chips (!) served from a menu developed by Chef Rémi Brunelle. It was great meal to catch up with over friends and a one-of-a-kind experience that only Montréal can deliver.
I’m always just so impressed with the arts & culture scene in Montréal. They take control of the season and give people a reason to get out and celebrate. And if this is what their winters are like, I can’t wait to come back once it’s warmer!
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Special thanks to Montréal en lumière, Sheraton Centre Montréal, Brasserie T! and Bistro Le Balmoral for hosting me.