Ahhh… Paris. There’s nothing quite like it–or is there? Between the soaring Euro, swarms of tourists, the cruel and all-to-usual punishment of flying Trans-Atlantic coach, there are more than a few drawbacks for getting your French fix on.
But if you’d like to experience all the fun, excitement and romance of a trip to Paris with none of the hassles, than here’s my secret…
GO TO MONTREAL!
While it’s certainly a well-known winter ski destination, this sophisticated, bilingual metropolis also offers endless opportunities for summer fun. “Monty” is simply bursting out with things to do, choices include: meandering throough the immaculate Historic Quarter loaded with tons of hip hotels; shopping the trendy boutiques, exploring a variety of fascinating nabes, soaking up a little culture at their excellent museums, or sampling your way through their farmer’s markets– you’ll be busy from morning till night. Plus, Montreal is now considered a top culinary destination and offers not only a multitude of superb restaurants but it’s also a great noshing town!
How To Get There
Our Air Canada flight left on time, had tons of leg room, and the flight attendants could not have been more courteous. And the flight from NYC is only about 75 minutes!
There’s nothing like staying in the cosmopolitan Old Montreal area, tripping over the cobblestones as you try to take in all the sights, and Le Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites, cleverly offers the best of the old and new. The building dates back to the late 19th century, evident in the elaborate architectural details; carved moldings, high ceilings and original brick wall, conveniently juxtaposed with the finest modern conveniences: deluxe bedding, “downpour-rain” shower heads, a Rainspa offering numerous treatments, complimentary wine & cheese gathering, and a secret rooftop terrace that’s absolutely perfect for sunset cocktails.
P.S. Their new restaurant Aix Cuisine du Terroir, has received many accolades, and is tops on my list to try next time.
Best Eats ( in a restaurant)
Breakfast : Restaurant Beauty’s
Still packin’ them in even though it’s over 50 years young, don’t even think about eating healthy at this Jewish Deli/ Fonzy 50’s type coffee shop. Pig out on the Mish-Mash omelet, or their Special Beauty’s toasted bagel loaded with lox and cream cheese, washed down with a Cookies’ n Cream smoothie.
93 Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal, QC
** Looking for something a little hipper, healthier? Try Cafe Souvenir in the Outremont area.
Lunch: Le Club Chasse et Peche, (Field and Stream)
You’ll be rubbing elbows with the fashionistas, local tycoons, and foodies who spare no expense when it comes to their tummies when you dine in this ancient broodingly-dark stone hunting lodge. However trendy it might be, on a sunny summer’s afternoon you’ll happy to know that lunch is served outdoors, across the street in the Chateau Ramezay’s historical garden terrace. The modern Quebecoise cuisine emphasizes local seasonal ingredients. The chilled lobster soup, and Salmon gravlax with Salmon roe and crème fraiche is light enough so you’ll be able to appreciate their wonderful desserts. But after one tempting sniff as it was carried by, next time I’m going to indulge in their mushroom risotto topped with foie gras.
Dinner: Liverpool House When the dream team of David McMillan and Frederic Morin (of Montreal’s famous restaurants GLOBE and Rosalie) decided to open Joe Beef restaurant in the previously seedy section of Notre-Dame the area immediately became HOT,HOT,HOT!
They kept things geographically desirable by opening Liverpool House, a few doors down. It’s white, bright, and serves scrumptious food and wine, listed on two giant blackboards. Don’t miss the succulent rabbit surrounded by the lightest-of-breath raviolis, green peas, and garden herbs. It left me humming.
Best Typical Noshes:
Poutine: A signature Quebecois mess of French fries, gravy, and squeaky cheese curds. At the popular Au Pied De Cochon bistro, they are further embellished with fois gras.
Pizzaghetti: A favorite carbo overload of pizza topped with spaghetti.
Smoked beef sandwich on rye (preservative-free) from Schwartz’s Deli.
Nibble your way for hours through both of Montreal’s venerable food markets, the mostly indoor Marche Atwater and Marche Jean-Talon (North America’s largest outdoor public market.) You’ll find the best stinky cheeses, apple ciders, breads, charcuterie, beautifully arranged produce, colorful flowers, homemade jams and a variety of maple products.
It’s easiest just to hone in on a certain neighborhood and shop your way down one side of the street and up the other.
Old Montreal-Pass by the touristy t-shirt joints and scout out the trendy boutiques like Appartement 51 (owned by wife of founder of Cirque du Soliel) and Reborn.
St. Laurent Street – an eclectic blend of stylish and fetishy shops.Loved local designer Denis Gagnon’s store, and the furniture at Commissaires.
Sherbrooke Street in Westmount- many unique gift and kitchen shops.
St-Denis St -Cute stores offering everything from fashion to décor.
Rue Mont- Royal- Great vintage shops.
Ste-Catherine Street- a main shopping drag. Fight the crowds at Maison Simons (977 Ste-Catherine) for some great fashion deals and then head over to two Department Store Classics:
Ogilvy’s founded in 1866 is known as the “Grande dame of St. Catherine Street”. From noon to 1:00 they have a strolling bagpiper.
Just around the corner on Sherbrooke, Holt Renfrew began as a small hat store and furrier and now offers the world’s top brands and innovative designers. Stop in at Holt’s Café, for their famous tartine made from the world-renowned Poilane bread flown in from Paris.
Even if you usually avoid museums like the plague, any real lover of fashion will want to begin their shopping day at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to pay their respects to the master, Yves St. Laurent. This retrospective showcases 40 years of creation from one of the most skilled couturiers of the last century.
**Stay Tuned for Part Two: The Eastern Township-Montreal’s Country Cousin