Published in Jan./Feb. 03 issue of Arrive magazine, Amtrak’s on-board magazine for the NE corridor
Cozy Up to Winter in the
By Doug & Morri
You don’t have to “parlez-vous”
When snow piles up and the thermometer
plunges, you can stroll leisurely in your shirtsleeves through
If you stay at the Hilton Montréal Bonaventure, one of seven major hotels connected to the underground city, you can appreciate the hotel’s winter rooftop garden from the steamy vantage of its indoor/outdoor pool. After you towel-off and dress, take the tunnel to nearby 1000 de la Gauchetière, at 51 floors the city’s tallest building, where you can rent skates and take a spin on the glass-domed indoor rink. (Both buildings are connected to métro Bonaventure.)
Leave your coat behind, and shop sans the
chill on (and under)
Don’t forget to sneak a peak aboveground at Place de la Cathédrale (métro McGill), considered by many to be the masterpiece of the underground city. To build the underground shopping mall, known as Les Promenades de la Cathédrale, the 19th-century Christ Church Cathedral above it was raised on pillars and preserved. Neo-Gothic mirrored windows of the modern office tower behind the cathedral echo its architecture and reflect the picturesque stone church back to passersby in the square.
Indoors has its appeal, but Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal) — the city’s historic birthplace — is worth braving the cold to explore. Soak up the history in a calèche, departing from Place d’Armes or Place Jacques-Cartier; snug under a fur rug, as your open horse-drawn carriage jingles through the narrow, cobblestone streets. Or plan a walking tour from any of three métro stops — Square Victoria, Place d’Armes and Champs de Mars — that service the quarter.
If you crave a séjour in retro opulence, try Le St-James, Montreal’s most expensive and exclusive hotel. There, you can revel in the decadence of an era spanning the mid-1800s through the Roaring Twenties, when Montreal was the financial center of Canada. Ornate, gilt elevator doors salvaged from the old Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City blend perfectly with the gold leaf, mahogany wainscoting and crystal chandeliers. Each of the 61 rooms and suites sports a unique mix of antiques, culled from the owner’s personal collection. Pop in for high tea, from 2 to 5 p.m. It is worth the $35 price (a mere $23 US!) to sample sherry, beluga caviar, smoked salmon and other goodies amid the palms and lush elegance of the Grand Salon, where you might rub shoulders with assorted Pooh-Bahs.
Or stay in a modern designer suite, with fireplace, at the Le Saint-Sulpice, a condo hotel abutting Notre-Dame Basilica, the magnificent Gothic-revival church where pop diva Céline Dion exchanged marriage vows. If you hurry, you can even buy your own suite. At writing, only five of the hotel’s 108 suites remained unsold. Owners share revenues with the hotel and can stay free for up to 67 nights each year. Start your morning with perfect Eggs Benedict downstairs at S, one of the city’s finest new eateries.
At the next corner, the 30-room Hôtel Nelligan (named
for the early 20th-century Quebec poet, Émile Nelligan), draws movie stars, writers, artists and
celebrities to its inviting atrium lobby bar — all exposed brick, warm dark
wood and flattering lighting — and to Verses, where 28-year old chef Yann Turcotte is making his début
and a name for himself with his unique spin on contemporary French cuisine
using fresh Quebec venison, la
In Old Montreal, discoveries are around every corner: a plethora of excellent restaurants, bistros and boutiques; churches; small museums, like the one devoted to Quebec landscape painter Marc-Aurèle Fortin and the Château Ramezay, a former 18th-century governor’s mansion; charming streetscapes like the one offered on gently winding de la Commune, with its restored 19th-century facades bordering the waterfront of the St. Lawrence River and the Old Port. This street features a recreational area with an outdoor skating rink and wide pedestrian walkways. Not to be missed is the silver-domed Bonsecours Market, a restored Classical Revival edifice that now houses a treasure trove of boutiques showcasing Quebec’s top designers and artisans.
The “underground city” enters a time warp at Pointe-à-Callière, the award-winning architectural museum
located on the actual spot where, in 1642, Sieur de Masionneuve and Jeanne Mance
founded a small French colony called Ville-Marie (now Montreal). Wander through
belowground digs displaying vestiges of Montreal’s earlier periods. A superb
multimedia show dramatizes the city’s history from prehistoric times to the
present day. To continue your trip down memory lane, head uphill to the McCord
Museum, home to one of
© 2003 Doug & Morri Productions. Doug Long and
Tips to help you make the most of your winter stay in Montreal
Visit the Centre Infotouriste, your best bet for tourism information. Pick up a free “Official Map for Visitors,” which includes a map of the underground city (as does the free pocket-sized “Plan du métro,” available at any métro station).
Pointers for navigating the “underground city”:
Directions belowground can seem counter-intuitive (you think you should head right when signs point left). Routes may sometimes seem circuitous, but the signs are correct.
To avoid getting lost, use an underground map and plan your route in advance!
A two-day “
Great value: a one-day, three-day or weeklong métro pass.
Pick up a copy of Lesley Chesterman’s
Flavourville ($16.95 CDN), the
definitive guide to
The two-cheek kiss is a de rigueur greeting among friends and business acquaintances of the opposite sex. Kiss left, then right, to avoid bumping heads.
You cannot turn right on a red light in
(514) 873-2015 or 1-877-BONJOUR
Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal)
Atrium (indoor skating)
Le 1000 de la Gauchetière
Hôtel St. Paul and Cube restaurant
$200 - $500* per night
Auberge Pierre du Calvet
$235 - $265* per night, including breakfast
(514) 904-1616 or 1-866-904-1616
$275 - $700* per night, including breakfast
Hôtel Le St-James
(514)-841-3111 or 1-866-841-3111
$325 - $5,000* per night
and S restaurant
(514) 288-1000 or 1-877-SULPICE
$249 - $1,299* per night, including continental breakfast
Purchase price: $194,000 - $240,000 per suite
Hôtel Nelligan and Verses
106 St-Paul West
(514) 788-2040 or 1-877-788-2040
$195 - $450* per night, including continental breakfast and evening wine with canapés
(métro Place d’Armes or Square Victoria)
350 Place Royale
*Low season rates. All prices in Canadian dollars. Taxes extra.