"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Thursday, August 13, 2015


"Montréal is a very cosmopolitan, 
sophisticated, erudite, educated glorious city..."
- William Shatner

A simple white envelope arrived in the evening post five months ago. Inside was an elegant black card with beautiful vintage script in white. It was a wedding invitation, from a couple especially dear to Mr. Gorgeous and I. We love to travel. We love weddings! A destination wedding, of good friends, in a city with deep French roots, was the cherry on top. 

"I get ideas about what's essential
when packing my suitcase."
- Diane von Furstenberg

Montréal is only an 1hr/40min flight from Chicago - so we decided to make a long romantic weekend of it (Friday to Monday). Mr. G handled all of the travel 'stuff': plane tickets (frequent flyer miles - yay!) and hotel (my love of intimate boutique hotels had to give way to practical credit card points - long suffering sigh). I handled the most important part - what I was going to wear, where we'd go,  and where we'd dine...

Coming in for a landing

While I wasn't thrilled about staying in a 'big box' hotel, we did stay in a spotless, luxuriously appointed (though viewless and dark) three-room suite with a kitchen, fireplace and jacuzzi. And the staff was very friendly and extremely helpful in all things. But, most importantly, the hotel was at the edge of the section of the city we most wanted to explore - Vieux-Montréal  

Vendredi (Friday)...
Since we landed in the city around lunch time and had a wedding rehearsal dinner to get to, our 1st day was a short one. After we checked in and dropped our bags, we hit the streets. Bien sur, our first destination was a restaurant - Les 400 Coups. While the overly fussy, minuscule food portions, were not our cup of tea, the gorgeous romantic-contemporary decor, friendly atmosphere, waitstaff and delicious affordably priced wine list were the perfect way to begin our trip.

Next,  our absolute favorite thing to do - anywhere, everywhere. A little aimless wandering...

My first impression(s)? Vieux-Montréal is interesting, exciting, urban/urbane with a healthy dose of old world French influence.  It's a complex arrondissement; bordered on all sides by distinct districts (financial, Gay, Latin, Chinatown) and Vieux-Montréal is infused with the flava of each. 

Samedi (Saturday)...
Our 2nd day was a short one too (pre-wedding family bar-b-que) but we started much earlier...



On this day we discovered Place Jacques-Cartier... 

Transformed into a public square in 1803, the broad sloping
Place Jacques-Cartier is Vieux-Montréal's
 main local and tourist thoroughfare  

The wide carless street is lined, on both sides, 
with amazing restaurants; down the center - kiosks & street artists. We quickly found a place for champagne breakfast - Jardin Nelson

A riotously flower bedecked terrace, 
fresh delicious food, perfectly chilled bubbly, 
live jazz inside (discreetly piped onto the terrace), 
excellent people watching = absolument, oui!

On Friday, we walked past an enchanting open double doorway that beckoned. On Saturday we answered the call and discovered La Maison Pierre du Calvet...

Built in 1725, La Maison Pierre du Calvet was formerly a sprawling private home that is now a luxury 9 room, completely over the top, ridiculously romantic hotel. Each room leads to another...

There's a restaurant, library and a fantabulous 
greenhouse that houses brilliantly colored Parrots.
But the best part is the terrace/cafe - 
aptly named the Secret Garden...

Dimanche (Sunday) - Wedding Day...
Luckily for us, the wedding was scheduled to begin very late in the afternoon - which left plenty of time for Mr. G and I to continue our explorations. The city doesn't fully awaken until about 11 a.m. Since we were up and out so early, we got to watch the city wake up: shop owners, hoteliers and restauranteurs preparing for the day.  

The day before, Mr. G pointed out a swanky looking terrace 
on Place Jacques-Cartier -Restaurant Harlow
Bien sur, our lunch destination. 
And it was pretty amazing...

Missing Coco :-{

At the top of Place Jacques-Cartier is a tented band stand.
The day before I noticed speakers affixed to every street light, I wondered why.  On Sunday I got my answer. 

Directly across from Restaurant Harlow, we had the perfect view of the string quartet. Their gorgeous classical music was piped through all those street speakers. 
 Il était merveilleux! 

After our best meal in Montréal, time for a wedding

The wedding was gorgeous, elegant, perfect. The bride - STUNNING  (her smile, her dress and flowers sent me over the moon!). The groom - so HANDSOME and the way he looked at his bride - full of love and promise, sigh... Their vows - sweet, tender (yeah, I cried - a lot). The guests - a loving, welcoming, raucously joyous bunch. The venue (unique, intimate, lit with a thousand candles - just BEAUTIFUL). The music (we danced from first cocktail, during dinner, 'til the wee hours).

A beautiful romantic evening with my forever love

*The newlyweds have asked for their privacy (hence I'm sharing only these two photos). But I'm hoping I'll soon have their permission to dedicate an entire post to their truly extraordinary, love filled happy day. Stay tuned... 

Lundi (Monday)...

Mr. G chose the latest returning flight home, so we had an entire morning to say goodbye. After we checked out of the hotel, and gave our luggage to the concierge (to hold until we returned to take a cab to the airport), we wandered down the cobblestoned streets of Vieux-Montréal one last time to Terrasse Nelligan  at Hotel Nelligan...

Hotel Nelligan is an ultra hip, luxurious boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Vieux-Montréal. The hotel boasts a stunning rooftop terrace restaurant. The champagne was excellent, the food just good, but the very best thing about this place was the truly amazing 360 degree view of the city.

On this last day, especially, we really appreciated that this city is so slow to awaken. The terrace was completely empty. We dined, sipped, snuggled, and kissed amongst the clouds - with spectacular views of the port and the Montréal skyline.

A bit of chocolate and cocoa to send us on our way.

We also talked about what we had experienced in our too short 3 1/2 days: how refreshing and wonderful it was to speak French barely an hour from home; how the energy of the streets and the people-vibe reminded us of our beloved Chicago (a large cosmopolitan town, with small town sensibilities), the distinct French vibe that fed our Francophile (if not my Parisienne) - a unique flavor we didn't know existed, nor had any idea we'd crave.

As I sat on the tarmac I was fully aware that Mr. G and I had barely scratched the surface of Montréal, but we fell in love with this city nonetheless. And our tiny taste has only whetted our appetite for more. While we waited for our plane to taxi down the runway, Mr. G and I were already planning our return. We want to discover and explore Montréal's museums and art galleries, it's shopping, dining and nightlife. We're eager to share this city with our children - a game of football in the park. I can't wait to sit at Restaurant Harlow's terrace with Dorothy - sipping champagne, Coco on my lap; dance to Cole Porter at Jardin Nelson with my love...

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

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