Visit Cuba via Montreal? Oui!

Cuban woman - art

Since travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens is severely restricted by our government, here’s a way to see the Caribbean island without leaving North America. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts opens a new exhibition on January 31, iCuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today. The show includes some 400 works of art showcasing Cuba, a place that Christopher Columbus described as “the most beautiful land eyes have ever seen.”

The multidisciplinary exhibition is a collaboration of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Fototeca de Cuba and collectors and museums in the United States (including MoMA). It features 100 paintings (including a group mural created by a large group of artists in 1967), 200 photographs and documents, 100 works on paper (including pre- and post-1959 Revolution posters), installations, videos, music and film.

The exhibition is divided into five sections: Depicting Cuba: Finding Ways to Express a Nation (1868-1927); Arte Nuevo: The Avant-garde and the Re-creation of Identity (1927-1938); Cubanness: Affirming a Cuban Style (1938-1959); Within the Revolution, Everything, Against the Revolution, Nothing (1959-1979); The Revolution and Me: The Individual Within History (1980-2007).

Cuban art has long been a vehicle for collective political action and/or a personal expression vis-à-vis history. It deals with matters pertaining to a sense of place and the role of the artist in society.

The exhibition runs through June 8, 2008.


OPUS Montreal – Formerly the Hotel Godin, the new OPUS Montreal was built by Joseph Arthur Godin in 1914. Located on the corner of Sherbrooke Avenue and Boulevard Saint- Laurent, this boutique hotel has 136 guest rooms that are sleek and luxurious. Soon they will be featuring vibrant colours on the walls, similar to OPUS Vancouver’s decor. The 1914 building was the first poured concrete building in North America. I love facts like that! Art Nouveau in style, it features a signature curving staircase, which is no longer in use but may be viewed from the third floor. Notice the Gaudi influences on the corner exterior section of the hotel. Saint-Laurent is the perfect street for shopping or enjoying a meal at one of the many fine restos.

La Place d’Armes – Located in Vieux-Montreal (or “old” Montreal), Montreal’s first boutique hotel features luxurious rooms, studios with balconies and penthouse suites. There are also fireplaces in every room, complimentary breakfast and complimentary wine/cheese each evening. I enjoyed Rainspa, an urban spa with a hammam, where I had a massage and a pedicure one afternoon. Aix Cuisine du Terroir serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and the Suite 701 lounge bar is nice for a cocktail or two.

Auberge Bonaparte – This is also located in Vieux Montreal. A small hotel with 31 rooms, it was built in 1886 by architect Victor Roy and features old stone and shiny wood floors, along with big windows that open out. I had a side view of the Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica, just a few blocks away. The basilica is where Celine Dion was married and where the late Pavarotti performed, as did The Three Tenors. Enjoy breakfast and dinner at Restaurant Bonaparte on the main floor. Chef Gerard Fort has been creating yummy classic French cuisine here since 1991. Ask for a table overlooking rue Saint-Francois-Xavier and watch the caleches go by.

Sofitel Montreal – Don’t let the office building look scare you away. The interior of this 258-room hotel is glass and metal throughout, contemporary and light. The lobby features furniture of Quebec cherry wood and a stained-glass window representing a pastoral view of Montreal. I loved the colorful carpet. Thick and hand-woven, it was designed in the style of French painter Fernand Leger and has four themes: Montreal Jazz Festival, Cirque du Soleil, Grand Prix of Canada and Montreal winter sports. Since I sleep around a lot, I give this my VBB Award (Very Best Bed Award). It was like being in a cozy cocoon! The hotel is located near McGill University and in the heart of the Golden Square Mile. Renoir serves contemporary cuisine.

Hotel Le Guilleret
– This is a delightful little spot I found in Vieux Montreal on rue Saint-Vincent. Built in 1780, the red and white facade is a favorite of photographers. Two years ago a young couple took over the former printing office, which was also a restaurant, hotel and private residence. You get your own key to the outside door, so you feel like you’re living here. I was in Fugue — the auberge has a total of three suites and five rooms. It’s very charming and very French with wood floors and six fireplaces throughout. Free WiFi, but bring your own shampoo and robe. A full breakfast is served with fresh croissants, and you can even cook an egg in the open, stone-walled kitchen. If you wish to rent the entire house, it fits up to 22 people comfortably. My room with breakfast was $98. A real find!

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