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Archive for April, 2011

I love jazz. Growing up, it was always on the radio and I’ve never lost my taste for soulful voices, double basses and fanciful piano melodies. Some friends will travel low cost to Montreal this summer for the biggest jazz festival in the world and even though I’m not joining them, I figured why not write about the best of the best jazz festivals to go and see. Maybe a trip across the Atlantic won’t happen this year but at least there are smaller festivals this summer happening, in Oxford, that I can check out.

New Orleans – Louisiana

Jazz was born here so it only seems fitting that it’s one of the most popular cities for jazz concerts and festivals in the world. The local favourite is Dixieland which started here in the 20th century and quickly spread to bars in Chicago and NYC. A must-see is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Montreal – Canada

In 2004 Montreal worked its way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest jazz festival in the world. Every year the festival showcases 3,000 artists from 30 countries. There are more than 650 concerts (450 of which are free!) and more than 2.5 million people visit! This is a huge deal for Montreal and is the highlight of the year. The whole downtown core practically closes down for 10 straight days to pedestrian-only traffic and to host street concerts and parties. Montreal International Jazz Festival is a must for any serious jazz lover.

Copenhagen -Denmark

The Danes love jazz too! The first jazz festival happened in the 1970s and hasn’t stopped since. There are more than 100o concerts to see during the festival week making it the largest music event in Europe. This summer, 2011, the festival will take place from July 1st to 10th and include faces like Keith Jarrett and Sonny Rollins. The concerts take place at the Copenhagen Opera House, the Royal Danish Theatre, Tivoli Gardens and the Jazzhus Montmartre.

Montreux – Switzerland

As the most famous music even in Switzerland, Montreux Jazz Festival attracts quite the crowds to the shores of Lake Geneva every July. It’s the second largest music festival in the world, after of course Montreal. This gets me thinking, people must really love jazz if it attracts millions from around the world!

London – England

Closer to home and a little bit more intimate, the London Jazz Festival (LJF) is held every November and takes place in a number of small venues around the city. LJF started out as just a Jazz Week added to the Camden Festival in the 1970s. Today it’s a 10 day event and has become one of the most popular music events in the city.

Have you been to a major jazz festival? Where was it? Who is your favourite jazz artist?

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I have yet to go but I’m just yearning to take off to Poland this summer and explore its forests, old cities, communist architecture and especially Krakow. Everyone I have met that passed through there loved it, so what is this mysterious culture hub all about? Home to artists, musicians, the first bagel, fashion designers… Krakow seems to have it going on!

Krakow at night

I’m not what you would call a typical traveller. That being said, I like to experience places like a local would, and if winter lasts 6 months of the year (or all year) then I want to visit that place in the winter. I’m planning a trip to Siberia next year. In January. People tell me I’m crazy. I went to Finland this winter, froze my butt off, but I loved finding out how the locals handle the cold and spend a relaxing week in a sauna. Now that’s not something you would do so much in the summer!

I think Krakow would be a great place to visit in the winter. Covered in frost and snow! In December the city hosts a Christmas market with stalls selling “bigos,” a thick and meaty stew (mmm) and mulled wine (double mmm). You can’t beat the prices in Poland, which is why it’s such a great place for backpackers and twenty-somethings. Shopping and eating out, no problem. If it’s more than a city jaunt, then summer is definitely the best time to visit. I’m still toying with dates, but I’ve already started my flight comparison homework! Thankfully there are some low cost airlines flying from London and flights are cheap.

As for sights, Wawel Castle and a stroll along the river banks come highly recommended. The city is spotted with churches, almost at every street corner. But if you go inside just one, it should be the Basilica of St. Francis with a really beautiful art nouveau interior. The Nationam Museum also is known for its 20th century collection on the top floor. Modern art? Bunkier Sztuki is the place.

What did I tell you? Bagels.

I heard once that the first bagel was made in Krakow. I loooove bagels. It’s one of the things I miss most about travelling to New York City. Fresh, bakery-style bagels. Jama Michalika is an old pre-war hangout that still serves the same snacks nad drinks! It hasn’t lost it’s edge and the original artwork and art nouveau thing it has going on is very cool.

Have you ever been to Krakow? Would love some tips for my summer trip!

Where are you heading this summer for your holidays?

Images from bazylek and leafer, Flickr creative commons.

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