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Posts by Patricia Gajo

OLD MONTREAL GOURMAND À GO-GO

The Happening Gourmand festival is happening right now (it started Jan. 10) and will run until Jan. 31. For any Toronto-folk reading this and scratching their heads, this is sort of like your Winterlicious. For Manhattanites, think New York Restaurant Week, only smaller and wrapped up in Old World charm and ambience.

NIGHT LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHT

“Trippy” was how my colleague described them. So I had to go and check out the “big white ball things” in front of Place des Arts and on the esplanade of Place des Festivals. In summer, the area comes alive with water jets, sprinkling people that walk by or completely dousing those who just can’t take the heat. In winter, as I’ve now seen with my own eyes, the public space appears to have been invaded from outer space.

THAT WAS THEN – A HISTORICAL LOOK AT SAINTE-CATHERINE STREET

My colleague Brendan Murphy recently posted a blog about Sainte-Catherine Street, as part of his Montreal street profiles series. I have many a fond memory of this vibrant main drag, one in particular includes a time when I flew in from Vancouver (where I used to live) and went to see a Boys to Men concert (they were cool back then) at the Pepsi Forum, which is no longer an arena and hockey home for the Habs but a cinema and retail funhouse. After the show, my girlfriend and I walked from there all the way to Parc Avenue and up to our hotel on Prince Arthur, which is now a dorm for McGill University. At that time there was no Simons department store, Cinéma Banque Scotia was known as the Paramount, and there was no H&M, much less two. In retrospect, it seemed like a really long trek. But that could’ve been in part due to the chunky platform heels I had on. They were cool back then, too – and I guess they’ve finally come back full circle. Anyhow, this is just a tiny example of how much Sainte-Catherine Street has changed since then, and since I moved… / Read More →

MONTREAL’S DELUXE DEPARTMENT STORES

A Akin to Barney’s and Saks in the U.S., Shoe Mart in the Philippines, Seibu in Japan, El Corte Inglés in Spain, and Selfridges in the U.K.; downtown Montreal has her own fancy department stores. Three major ones are La Maison Ogilvy, The Hudson’s Bay Company, and Holt Renfrew. I encourage shoppers and visitors to visit all of these beautifully historic “cathedrals of commerce” whose turn-of-the-century architecture reinforces the adage, They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.

HILTON MONTRÉAL BONAVENTURE

The Hilton Montréal Bonaventure was built back in the day to accommodate the wave of foreign folk who would come for the International World Fair: Montréal’s fabulous Expo 67. Some 40 years later, this 395-room hotel has certainly been around the block, and then some.

COME-AS-YOU-ARE BAR AND NIGHTCLUB

I love that when I go out in Montreal I can get Mad Men fancy and dress up to the nines (look for my earlier post “Get dolled up at Bleu Blow Dry and Rouge Nail Bar”) – or just tie my hair up in a ponytail, dress down, and nevertheless go out and have a good time. When I feel like doing the latter, which is most of the time, there are two new spots on my radar.

GET DOLLED UP AT BLEU BLOW DRY AND ROUGE NAIL BAR

I’ve raved more than once about my favourite little beauty bars where I love to treat myself and get my nails done. Vanity is a curse; I know. So, when mini-Montreal chain Rouge Nail Bar opened up a “sister concept” – Bleu Blow Dry Bar – right next door to their Fairmount location, my first thought was, This is a match made in heaven. Or was it, Thank heaven!

GET DOWN AND SHOP IN THE UNDERGROUND CITY

My parents were born on a sunny island in the Pacific, so I like to believe that I’m genetically opposed to winter. Thank goodness then for Montreal’s Underground City, a massive web of tunnels that connects a major area of downtown office buildings, hotels, museums, banks, condominiums, great deals on smoked meat, shopping malls, metro stations, and even the Bell Centre.

TEA FOR THREE AT BIRKS CAFÉ

Birks has been a Montreal institution for fine jewellery since 1894. Last September, the chichi store opened an equally chichi resto-boutique on the mezzanine level called Birks Café par Europea. Ladies who lunch can now “take tea,” as they say, overlooking a dazzling array of jewels and designer watches. I was happy to hear that heading this gastronomic endeavour was none other than Montreal top chef Jérôme Ferrer whom many locals know from his chain of restaurants, including the haute cuisine Europea, as well as Andiamo, Beaver Hall, and Espace Europea.

MONTREAL’S HOT SPOTS FOR JEWELLERY SHOPPING

All that glitters is not gold, a smart gentleman named Shakespeare once said. And by that I’m sure he was referring to all the shimmering sterling silver, sparkly diamonds, and twinkling gemstones that the world has to offer—and, oh, let’s not forget beautiful pearls. Whenever I travel to new (or old) places, I like to buy local jewels or handmade trinkets to remind me of my trip. Then when people comment on the mini-ornaments hanging from my earlobes (likewise, around my neck, wrists, or fingers), I can say matter-of-factly, “These little things? Why, I found them in an adorable little shop in the South of France.” (I don’t really talk like that, but it’s never too late to start.) As such, when my out-of-town girlfriends come to Montreal, I like to steer them toward local boutiques, so they can peruse the baubles of our belle province for their own “souvenirs”—and so I can get my fill of retail therapy too.