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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.

THE NUTCRACKER MARKET

I was about nine years old when I saw my first ballet – The Nutcracker. What little girl doesn’t dance around in her PJs and dream of being Clara? (Although, personally, at that age I was more interested in leaping around in a tutu than hanging out with any Toy Soldier.) Thus began a love affair for classical dance that never really faded, even after a very discouraging Ballet For Adults class. Some things, I’ve discovered, you just have to start at a young – and pliable – age.

CELEBRITY-SPOTTING IN MONTREAL

The who, where, and why you might care. A few days ago after a few late night cocktails at Barroco Restaurant (312 rue St-Paul ouest) in the Old Montreal, gal pal Mary* and I moseyed over to Le Papillon Rose (1071 côte du Beaver Hall) to fete our buddy Josh’s birthday (forever 39, right darling?) Josh – despite being PR man for Hype energy drinks – is a decidedly laidback dude. Mary, then, was a perfect study in contrast when actor Owen Wilson walked through the doorway and she shrieked, “Owen Wilson!” (In her defense, it was a very ladylike shriek; I don’t think everybody noticed.)

JEAN PAUL GAULTIER WAS HERE

Yes, I’m sorry to report that Couture King Jean Paul Gaultier has left the building – that is, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. But don’t fret, fellow fashion fanatics. He’ll be back sooner than you think to launch his retrospective The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which makes its international debut right here in Montreal before continuing on to Dallas and San Francisco. Mark your calendars now, people: June 17 to October 2, 2011.

SHOW & SELL – BARILÀ POP-UP SHOP

Barila Fall/Winter 2010 Campaign from Le Genou de Claire on Vimeo. Ladies, start your engines. Montreal-based fashion label Barilà is opening a pop-up shop. For ten days starting Nov. 14, get your fill of edgy frocks at major discounts. I’ve seen this local brand’s rocking show at Montreal Fashion Week; now it’s time for you to see the collection up close – and bring it home. To kick off Day One of this temporary boutique, there will be a special grand opening event with cocktails and nibbles. Plus, designer Sabrina Barilà will also be in the house to mix and mingle. I caught up with this super-stylish lady to chitchat about her ideas, her pop-up shop, and, of course, her clothes.