Located on an island in the St. Lawrence River, Montréal takes its name from the green and wooded 750-foot “mountain” that provides a backdrop for the dynamic downtown area and incorporates a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Though it hosts the second-largest French-speaking population in the world (after Paris), the cosmopolitan city is also home to most of Québec’s Anglophones. More than 15 percent of the area’s 3 million inhabitants are of British descent, with another 15 percent making up an ethnic mosaic of immigrants. The result is a vibrant city where French flair is augmented by multicultural events, including music, dance, art, film and folk festivals.
Place d’Armes in Vieux-Montréal contains the Notre-Dame Basilica, a favorite of the late Luciano Pavarotti, apparently owing to its excellent acoustics. Built in 1824, it is rather plain from the outside, but the Gothic Revival interior has elaborate painted and gilded woodcarvings, most notably in the sanctuary.
An Overlooked Museum
The Musée McCord (690 rue Sherbrooke West, Tel.  861-6701) is a small museum that is often overlooked but shouldn’t be. Its permanent exhibit, “Wearing Our Identity – The First Peoples,” is full of remarkable handicrafts, fabrics and artifacts. There are wonderful displays of First Nations arts, as well as changing exhibitions of photography and more.
The International Festival of Jazz is one of the world’s largest jazz festivals. This high-caliber event invites more than 3,000 musicians and attracts around 2 million visitors.
Modern Canadian Art
The Musée des Beaux-Arts (1380 rue Sherbrooke West, Tel.  285-2000) has extensive holdings that include modern Canadian art, European painting and sculpture. I particularly enjoyed the decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, a wonderful accumulation of furniture, ceramics and glassware.