Written by Jonathan Brouillette, Sandra R. M., and Guillaume B. on 30.03.16

Montreal’s 375th birthday is around the corner. The city is planning some epic festivities and major infrastructural projects for the event. A stone’s throw away, the large rural city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is already in birthday mode as 2016 marks its 350th birthday. It also has planned a panoply of events, concerts, shows, balls, and parties throughout the entire year. As the city is only about 25 minutes from downtown Montreal, it will be attracting massive crowds all year round.

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You may already know of the city as the host to the yearly awe inspiring hot air balloon festival, or home to one of the biggest military bases in the area. The deceptively large city actually hides a multitude of great restaurants, devilish bars and pubs, and a long list of great venues and events throughout the year. If you are thinking of partaking in the festivities, here are the highlights of the area and its event-heavy year tocome.

Restaurants & Bars

Bastos: The Comforting Flame

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In Bastos, you are transported from Saint-Jean to Portugal with its exceptional Portuguese food. It is a beautiful place to bring family or friends. Like Romados, chicken is their specialty and the cooks are incredible. The juicy chicken is grilled over a wood fire and the crunchy coated French fries are too. Everything comes with a sweet Portuguese sauce which can also be found in their Bastos poutine. This sauce-glazed mountain of fries is absolutely delicious. Just thinking about it makes us hungry. With seasoned cheese and roasted French fries, it is no ordinary poutine. The ambiance is also quite nice. The head cook is usually crouched in the large windows framed by flames spewing out of the stove. The restaurant looks like someone’s garage with its big terrace doors and walls all made of wood. With a bar and excellent service, you are sure to have an excellent time.

Contributed by Sandra R. M.

La Cochonne Rit: A Name that Speaks for Itself

la cochonne rit chambly restaurant

Though not strictly in Saint-Jean, this restaurant is right on its border in Chambly and more than noteworthy. Once you try it, it will become a habit, maybe even an addiction. From refined aged steak to simple delicious fries, you will definitely find a dish to love. For example, the Sous-Bois is an amazing burger topped with mushroom oil, sautéed mushrooms, and goat cheese, all atop a deeply satisfying angus patty. Perfection. Or perhaps the unforgettable Pork Wings; a simple dish of pork knuckles glazed in root beer sauce. If you have never tried these, they are cooked for a very long time and come out feeling like a cross between ham and pulled pork. The decoration is also very authentic and olden style. There are particular old candles on every table made of long wooden planks. The restaurant not only brews its own beer, it also has a wine filled storeroom that will suit any taste. La Cochonne Rit is packed with everything you need for a great night after a long day of festivities. Try it and give in to your craving.

Contributed by Guillaume B.

The Arts

First International Land Art Festival

Highlighting the incredible things people have been able to do with natural landscapes, this first edition of the festival will showcase 12 teams competing in green graffiti, landscape art, or eco-art. The festival will be held between June 26th and July 2nd along the gorgeous canal along the Richelieu River. The event will be completely free and is part of a larger initiative by the city to become more ecologically minded. Street artists, solar powered light shows, and several big shows will be available in the area at the same time. This will be an ecologically minded citizen’s responsibly watered dream.

Celebrating Local Born Artists

Throughout the year, there will be several galas, expositions, and plays with the goal of highlighting locally born artists. Chief among those will probably be the quite famous Felix Gabriel Marchand, a playright of notoriety especially in France. His plays will go on throughout the year but his most famous, Les Faux Brillants, is now playing at Theatre de Grand-Pre. Another great example is the French poet Rina Lasnier who will have her own exposition at the Museum du Haut-Richlieu. This famous poet had to leave Quebec before she was even recognized as a voice for the 1950 country-folk. Her difficult life and evocative poetry will be on display for all to appreciate in the local museum.

The Festivities & Events

The 350th Kick-Off Party

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Following a crazy snowstorm on their original February 4-7 kick-off, the city has decided to change the opening party to a more spring-like day on April 2nd. This party, starting early in the morning and ending late at night, will be a giant party in the heart of old Saint-Jean. It will have rides, farm attraction, and street performers all day. Furthermore, starting around 11:00am, there will be a bar and cocktail party lasting until 10:00pm, complete with an electric bull ride, cabane à sucre food and treats, and a DJ for most of the night. In short, go out and party, country-style. The city has even worked over the last couple of years to prepare their own brew of beer specifically for this year’s festivities called the 350th which will be unveiled among the festivities.

The 32nd International Hot-Air Balloon Festival

Photo: IG user @justasecondago

This event draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over Quebec and even from south of the border in New York and Vermont. Certainly the hot air balloons are breathtaking to behold in their giant colourful way; however, what typically draws the most crowds is the huge artists the festival tends to snag every year. This year, they have yet to announce their headliners, however they are already touting the French mega star Ariane Moffatt. The festival is a blast of amazing visuals, incredible artists, and a family geared fairground. You may even be adventurous enough to actually take a hot air balloon ride, an experience well worth the $150 it costs. Maybe we will be lucky again this year and snag an emerging artist along with a star, like in 2011 when LMFAO headlined for Ke$ha all in the same night.

For more information on the festival, click here.

Featured image by @felipecollado.

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