Peace, art and food: A cost-cutting sojourn to Montreal
Jean-Talon Market is a paradise for foodies in Montreal.
Special to amNewYork
This year, Montreal celebrates the 40th anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's famous bed-in (from May 26-June 2), which took place at the city's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel. To honor the event, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is hosting a free exhibition entitled "Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko," through June 21. The show features an impressive collection of photographs and memorabilia chronicling the couple's protest, as well as their artwork and campaigns for peace.
The exhibition alone is well worth a visit to the Canadian city, but the strength of the US dollar (1.2 Canadian dollars to the US dollar), combined with many other affordable offerings, will make a weekend stay in the North American French capital feel like a jetlag-free trip to Europefor a fraction of the price.
Despite the bed-in theme, you won't want to laze about this weekend. Get an early start and make your way over to the Museum of Fine Arts (mmfa.qu.ca) to avoid the inevitable crowds.
New Yorkers have strong opinions about everythingburgers included. That said, head a few blocks north from the museum to M:Bgr (2025 Drummond St., mbrgr.com) where you can customize your own burger for lunch. Choose from three different types of beef, chicken breast, tuna or a veggie patty. Try a side of the classic Montrealais dish known as poutine: French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.
For more art, make your way to the Museum of Contemporary Art (macm.org), where $8 CAD gets you in to see the works of renowned artists like Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Nan Goldin and Sam Taylor-Wood. Or eschew admission fees and stroll through the nearby galleries to check out Montreal's growing art scene.Try La Fabrique Bistrot (www.lafabriquebistrot.com) for dinner. This new open-kitchen gastropub offers a small, but diverse menu of contemporary updates on traditional Quebecois fare. Save room for the pain perdu desserta delectably sweet and salty nod to the breakfast classic (entrees range from $15-$27 CAD).
Even the most strident fan of NYC bagels will appreciate Montreal's enthusiasm for the baked good. The city claims to turn out the world's finest, perhaps best-exhibited at Fairmount Bakery (74 Fairmount West) and St-Viateur Bagels (263 St. Viateur West), where a healthy rivalry has existed for years. Both are located just blocks away from each other, so take your pick for breakfastor sample one from each.
After carb-loading, walk along Boulevard St-Laurent, a hopping thoroughfare lined with eclectic boutiques, record shops, vintage stores and eateries for all cravings.
Continue your food-fueled day by visiting the Jean-Talon Market (marche-jean-talon.com/), a European-style marketplace that's been a major shopping destination for the city's inhabitants since the 1930's. In addition to flower stalls and gorgeous displays of produce, you'll find plenty of exquisite artisanal goods to bring home.
It's worth the wait for a seat at Schwartz's (schwartzsdeli.com)not only is the bustling deli a Montreal institution, but should you manage to polish off one of their hefty smoked meat sandwiches, you probably won't need much of a dinner.
Where to Stay
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel (fairmont.com)
Through June 21st, the hotel where John and Yoko held their famous bed-in is offering a promotional package that includes complimentary breakfast for two, and a gift CD featuring Lennon's Give Peace a Chance." Rooms start at $199 CAD a night. Suite 1742 (John and Yokos room) is also available starting at $599 a night.
Also, from June 1-October 15, more than 20 hotels throughout Montreal are participating in the "Sweet Summer Deal" promotion, which offers a third night of stay at half price. Regular nightly rates range from $130CAD to $199 CAD. For more information visit tourisme-montreal.org/Offers/Summer
Upcoming Festivals and Summer Events
The Montreal International Jazz Festival (July 1-12) Now in its 30th year, this 11-day festival welcomes 2.5 million visitors and more than 3,000 musicians for an astounding series of 650 concertsmore than half of which are free. It's the largest international event of its kind, complete with a 3-day guitar show as well as activities and games for kids. For more information: http://www.montrealjazzfest.com
Just For Laughs Festival (July 16-26) Hot on the heels of the jazz extravaganza, this annual comedy event will host performances by more than 1,700 comedians including John Cleese, Lewis Black, and Bill Cosby. Some shows will require tickets, however more than 1,200 of this year's comics will participate in free outdoor activities. For more information: http://www.hahaha.com