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Travel + Culture

Good Reason for an All-Nighter in Montreal


It was 4 A.M. on Nuit Blanche, the highlight of Montreal’s mid-winter HIGH LIGHTS Festival. The all-nighter had kicked off with a communal raclette party in the Windsor train station. After checking out some sweaty dance clubs in Old Montreal, I had breezed through the Canadian Architecture Center, where a giddy crowd aged 7 to 75 perused scale models of modernist high rises. Now, in the middle of the frozen February night, a friend and I headed over to Camellia Sinensis, the noted Latin Quarter tea emporium. Sipping complimentary Darjeeling, we swayed to throbbing dub music, along with a hundred or so other tea-drinkers. I wondered if anybody was worried about the caffeine, but then I caught myself—none of us would be sleeping before sunrise.

In a city renowned for its summery festivals, Montreal’s most magical event may be the Festival En Lumiere, which takes place between February 21 and March 2. Initially conceived as a kind of permafrost-be-damned carnival of lights, the festival soon made a name for itself with its culinary programming. It morphed into a 10-day-long tax-funded dining utopia where you could end up at Marché Bonsecours eating food prepared by Charlie Trotter while some of the world’s greatest vintners poured out magnums of their best vintages.

This year, the focus is on Toronto and Quebec City (big names include Susur Lee, Jamie Kennedy, and François Blais). Guest chefs are, as usual, swooping in from France, Italy, and the United States. There’s also a spotlight on Chile, and on Thursday Nuevo Latino pioneer Douglas Rodriguez will be cooking at Raza. Postprandial music performances, outdoor light shows, bustling art galleries, even a mini-festival of exceptional local cheeses —it’s enough to make you want to stay up all night.