Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lasting vacation images: Allure of Montreal is more than food, music

Children are endlessly fascinated with the rising and falling water in a fountain in Complexe Desjardins, which is part of Underground Montreal, a network of enclosed shopping centers, office buildings and hotels linked by the city's Metro.

Another fountain entertained children in the plaza outside Complexe Desjardins, near the main stage for free concerts during the 10-day International Jazz Festival, which ended July 5.

The French influence? A mortar that appears to be circumcised was being offered along with the pestle in an IGA supermarket in Complexe Desjardin.

Parking meters in Montreal also provide a secure place to lock your bicycle. In Manhattan, food deliverers and others chain their bicycles to lamp posts and street signs.

Underground Montreal was developed to keep the city humming during long, brutal winters. This fire hydrant sign suggests accumulated snow can reach unheard of heights in an urban setting. 
The Metro in Montreal has rubber wheels and is quieter than the subway in Manhattan, another island city. A single fare is $3.25 Canadian, but you can buy three days of unlimited rides for $18 Canadian. The U.S. dollar was worth about $1.20 Canadian during our visit in late June and July, and Visa was giving $1.23 to $1.25 for purchases charged in Montreal.
New Canadian bills have a clear panel, left, unlike anything I've ever seen before.
A street in the East Montreal section shows the typical wrought-iron staircases that are part of the city's architectural heritage.
On two sides of Saint Catherine Street, a mural shows an addict shooting up, above, and the gold statue atop a church, below.

At this kiosk in the Complexe Desjardins, you can use your pedal power to charge your smart phone or other device, as long as you have a charging cable with you.
In the IGA supermarket, homeless men can cash in the aluminum cans they collect at this machine. The man waiting his turn complained the supermarket once had several machines, but now only this one, and said the man in front of him should be more considerate. 

In Complexe Desjardins, you'll find Sushi Shop, part of a chain, where you can get a freshly made Calypso Roll, which includes lobster, crab, green apple, avocado, mayo and other ingredients, all wrapped in rice paper, for $12.59 Canadian, including 15% tax. On my credit card statement, I was charged a total of $10.04 U.S. 

At Rachelle-Bery on Saint Catherine Street in Montreal, a store that sells only organic or natural products, three liters of organic juice (such as apple-grape-cherry) were on sale for $5 Canadian. When I asked for a plastic bag, I was charged 6 cents. The total on the credit card bill sent to my home was $4.04 U.S. Jean Coutu, a drugstore chain, doesn't charge extra for plastic bags. 

A salad bar called Cultures in a food court on Saint Catherine Street.

At Cultures in Complexe Desjardins, a trio of salads -- rice with lentils, couscous and a bean combination -- were $10 Canadian, plus tax.

The Saint Catherine Street food court is below street level, tricking the eye with this car and pedestrians in a window.

A counter-service Greek restaurant in Complexe Desjardins serves wine and beer and has its own seating area.

Goat Cheese Lollipops, above, and small Spinach and Cheese Quiches, below, were among the hors d'oeuvres served at the Hyatt Regency Momtreal, the headquarters hotel for the annual International Jazz Festival. 

For $20 Canadian a night, a room on the hotel's Regency Club level included a large buffet breakfast, hors d'oeuvres and salads served starting at 5 p.m., and refreshments and desserts served at other times through the day.
One of our neighbors on the 11th floor of the Hyatt Regency Montreal ordered room service and put out the trays, which we would see on the way to breakfast, above and below. Sometimes, no one would collect them for hours.

When we came back from breakfast, someone had thrown a cloth napkin over this mess, but it remained in the hall.

On the line to order an omelet in Saveur, the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Montreal, where a window seat is coveted, below.

We found the Venetian blinds aren't dusted very often and food particles aren't removed, below.

After we complained two days in a row, a cleaning crew was called in.
On June 29, the stylish Erykah Badu, billed as the Queen of R&B, made her first appearance at the Montreal jazz festival, and her sensual voice and jazz-and-soul-tinged melodies soon had her adoring fans on their feet, below.

Just about everyone in the hall knew the words to Badu's songs, which were drowned out by her highly amplified band. Tickets to her show were the most expensive we bought at $118.50 each for the second row.

University jazz groups gave free concerts every afternoon at 1 and 3 in Lounge Heineken, a tent with tables, chairs and comfortable couches, where you could order beer and food.

On July 1, we grabbed an umbrella and walked downtown to see the Canada Day Parade, which featured many of the ethnic groups that live in Montreal, including mainland Chinese, above, and Scandinavians, below.

English jazz singer Jamie Cullum, second from left, performed with a big band of Montreal musicians on July 1, in one of the best concerts we saw. Tickets were $88.50 Canadian each, about 20% less in U.S. dollars. Most of the ticketed concerts we saw ran two hours or a bit longer.

After the concert, Cullum gave a free performance at a nightclub, and introduced Malaika, a singer-songwriter from Ireland, below.

Malaika has a beautiful voice, but her generic pop songs disappointed many in the club who had hoped to hear jazz standards.

Acoustic jazz guitar virtuoso Jesse Cook blended gypsy, Spanish, jazz and rumba influences in a July 2 concert with a small band that rocked Maison Symphonique, home of the Montreal Symphony. Tickets were $73.50 Canadian each.
Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra performed songs associated with Big Easy on July 3, in what was the highlight of the festival for me and my wife. Tickets were $70.50 Canadian each for Row C.

On the other hand, we felt jazz singer Patricia Barber of the United States played the piano with her small group too much and didn't sing enough in what was one of the shortest concerts we saw. Tickets to her show were only $52 Canadian each for Row AA, so I guess we got what we paid for.

The sun-splashed plaza outside Complexe Desjardins was always filled with people and a diversity of entertainment, above and below.

On June 28, at our first concert, we had a front-row seat for the spirited performance of a flamenco troupe ($57 Canadian each), and on July 5, our last concert was the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, above ($73.50 Canadian each).

I left the gospel concert before it ended and returned to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Montreal, where I grabbed a couple of chairs on the terrace for the festival finale, a free 2-hour tribute to blues legend B.B. King on the main outdoor stage, below. But the music stopped after just an hour to allow another group to play on another stage, and many people on the hotel terrace left.
We could hear the B.B. King tribute much better than my iPhone camera could see it.

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