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.
International clientele have never stopped frequenting the property, including F1 driver Lewis Hamilton who was seen playing his guitar in the Bélvedère bistro bar last June during his last Grand Prix visit – which he won. I can’t confirm the presence of his lady friend, Nicole, but I would guess she wasn’t too far from the action, if not singing next to him. Leonardo Di Caprio, who was here during his filming of The Aviator, was also a guest with his mom. I bet they had one of the seven suites, which are now equipped with ultra-modern, James Bond-ish peephole/screens. As well, there is as a regular rotation of overseas flight attendants who are known to lounge around the pool – the pool (which is a four-season, heated, rooftop oasis) being the real star of the property.
What will strike you first about the Bonaventure is the fact that its lobby is on the 17th floor – or the rooftop of the Place Bonaventure building. So, yes, expect amazing views. Sometimes referred to as a three-story “penthouse hotel,” all the rooms surround a huge 2.5-acre, Japanese-inspired garden, complete with mini-river, 40-year-old trees, and six ducks – the bleach blond one is nicknamed Paris. Come spring, don’t be surprised to see baby ducklings wobbling around the Zen pathways. The cosy, award-winning Le Castillon restaurant also takes centre stage. With it’s tall garden view windows, stonewalls, and fireplaces, it’s a fine place for brunch or a high-end business lunch. Just the other day I enjoyed (read: inhaled) a starter of foie gras prepared three ways, a tasty wapiti (deer) main served with asparagus, and a chocolate mousse dessert that looked a little like an igloo. Yum.
The hotel has just finished the final stage of its multi-million dollar renovation. The central location is a popular spot for out-of-towners heading to a concert or event at the Bell Centre, or any one of the many business conventions or wedding receptions held just one floor down by escalator. If you have a lot of friends and family, theirs is the biggest ballroom around, accommodating up to 2,000 people in 14,400 sq. ft. of “unobstructed space.”
Chinatown is just a couple blocks east, as well as the International Quarter. Main drag Sainte-Catherine Street is also a short walk north, but also accessible through Montreal’s famous subterranean tunnels called the Underground City. The Metro (the city’s subway train system) and the VIA trains Station are also connected, allowing you to stay indoors, a popular option on a cold day.
Finally, I leave you on an extraterrestrial note – because since I’ve heard about this, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Apparently, on Nov. 7, 1990, a UFO hovered directly over the hotel. That’s right, UFO, as in Unidentified Flying Object. Its huge round metallic body and bright lights commanded the city’s attention, as well as that of the RCMP, military and NASA, until it eventually took off and left without saying goodbye. Were they interested in a little swim? Looking for poutine? Bagels? I don’t know. If you think I’m crazy for taking this seriously, maybe you’ll reconsider when you see this little news clip by the CBC. You can bet that when I went for my own dip in this landmark pool, I searched the sky for any flashing lights, just in case.
900 de la Gauchetière Street West
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