Crossing the border to a Montreal with revived French connections is as sweet as pain au chocolat.
Add to the cosmopolitan air a generous exchange rate and close proximity to the Northeastern states, and crossing the border to play Paris starlet is as sweet as pain au chocolat. It's hard to imagine, considering that in the 's the square-block neighborhood by the St. Lawrence River was little more than a backwater blight.
Now it's the part of town most saturated with visitors—avoid the crowded blocks around Place Jacques-Cartier, where street performers compete for tourist dollars, and stroll narrow Rue St. You can walk virtually anywhere, anytime, past magnificent shops along Rue Sherbrooke this part of it is Montreal's Fifth Avenue , where Versace rubs shoulders with Chagall and Picasso at the Galerie Claude-Lafitte.
Sherbrooke is also the main artery of the Golden Square Mile, where Montreal's most famous museums are located. On the easternmost edge of downtown, past Rue St.
Drift east to Rue St. Many of the fashions are fresh from the rue —Jean Airoldi, Linda Morisset, and Kaliyana, among others, all have outposts on St.
The styles turn funkier along Avenue du Mont-Royal, which is reminiscent of a tourist-free, French-accented Haight-Ashbury. A acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted his only one outside the United States blankets the mount, and two universities sprawl along its sides. To the southwest of the hill, in exclusive Westmount, Tudor and Scottish manor houses have heated driveways and celebrated summer residents. Robert De Niro is rumored to be one.
To the northeast, the scene is happily less homogenized. At the spectacular Jean Talon market, women in saris roam stalls of flowers, fungi, and fish. At lunchtime in warm weather, Old Montreal's business elite linger in the sun-streaked stone courtyard, savoring crimson sangria and blanquette of veal under big canvas umbrellas.
Lovers of French food swoon over Area's "intelligent fusion"—such as seared foie gras with Xérès-poached apricots—served in a cerebral space of billowing white curtains and leather booths. Chorus Rue St. After a day at the St. The rooms are alluring, with little Deco lamps, thick white linens, and blueberry walls dressed with mirrors of many sizes. Le Blanc Blvd. Eight years old and more celebrated than ever. This is where Montrealers come to splurge on modern Québécois cuisine such as roasted Nova Scotia half lobster with bacon and leeks.
Chef Normand Laprise's nightly "mystery menu" allow at least four hours is heavenly, served in a saffron-and-cranberry-colored room with cushioning armchairs and a lamp-lit maple bar.
L'Express Rue St. The black-and-white-tile floors are freshly polished, and the tables are crowded with bourgeois-chic diners savoring chef Joël Chapoulie's sumptuous duck and chicken rillettes and steak tartare. Little wonder that after two decades, it's still Montreal's favorite bistro. You've had New York's bagel—now try Montreal's crisper, more delicate version. The dough is boiled in honey-flavored water and baked over a wood fire in brick ovens.
On Saturday mornings, fashionable families, sophisticated urbanites, and glam college kids stream in for bagels lavished with Pacific smoked salmon. In Montreal, no one does chic better than the month-old St. The lobby sizzles with a freestanding sculpture of fire-lit "ice" and a bar called Cube the trendy Bar Cru is one flight up.
The guest rooms seduce you with ambient light, ponyskin chairs, and geometric- shaped furniture. Opened less than a year ago, this hotel retains vestiges of its former life as a 19th-century bank— from the French Empire ceiling friezes in the entrance hall to the ornate iron staircase in the lobby bar.
The 59 rooms opt for warmth over high style: The fireplace and wall of flowing water in the Germain's lobby create an effect that's both striking and calming, as Montreal designers Alain Lemay and Viateur Michaud meant it to be. Ditto the guest rooms, fashioned as lofts, with mahogany furniture, Mission-style headboards, and glass panels separating bedroom from bath.
Château Versailles Rue Sherbrooke W. Ask for the one with the Victorian fireplace. Below the casement windows in the 27 guest rooms, flutists play and artists sketch landscapes along the St. Inside the house, there's just as much character: The lobby of the auberge doubles as a gallery hung with paintings by Québécois artists.
All nine blissfully quiet rooms are enhanced with terrazzo-floored sitting areas; some have oil paintings by local artists on limestone bathroom walls.
For a rich art scene, peruse the odd galleries along Rue St. Then move up to Rue St. On equally fashion- friendly Rue Crescent, exquisite and eccentric couture are sold side by side. The shops on Sherbrooke west of Rue Peel are like mini-museums, sprinkled among collectors' galleries and century-old furriers. Montreal's premium department store is packed with high-end wares from Prada, Armani, Chanel, Gucci, and other international designers. Ogilvy Rue Ste. Every day at noon, the notes of a bagpiper echo through boutiques with names like Burberry and Lily Simon, and shelves stocked with exclusive French cosmetics like Carita.
Jean Airoldi Rue St. Quebec's favorite designer lets loose with black, knit-lace, cropped see-through dresses, and faux-fur zigzag tops in his stand-alone boutique.
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