WHY NOW: It’s cold in Montreal. Really cold. And what good is a “winter wardrobe” if you can’t pull out your full-length mink? Montrealers are all about European-style chic: trendy restaurants, bars, and boutiques are bustling with well-heeled French Canadians. THREE FESTIVALS IN ONE: Each February, the city-wide Montreal High Lights Festival features gastronomic, musical, and performing arts events—many of them free of charge. This year’s festival runs from February 22 to March 4. Each evening during The Hydro-Quebec Celebration of Light, the snow-covered cobblestone streets of Old Port come alive with activity. The skating rink is surrounded by bonfires and vendors selling roasted chestnuts and hot milk flavored with local maple syrup. Kids of all ages will love taking a turn on the 360-foot ice slide. Huge fireworks displays explode across the sky, illuminating the surrounding historic buildings. After you’ve defrosted your toes, slip on your pink Uggs and head to one of the many music, dance, or theater shows that comprise the star-studded Sun Life Financial Performing Arts Festival. Because Montreal is the city that gave the world Cirque du Soleil, you can expect to find plenty of eclectic, avant-garde performances, like Skylight, starring Pulp Fiction’s Amanda Plummer. Undoubtedly, the most popular segment of the Montreal High Lights Festival is the Wine and Dine Experience. Each year, a foreign cuisine is celebrated. Last year’s honoree was Alsace, France; this year, Montreal salutes New York City. Local chefs will join forces with 18 chefs from the Big Apple, including honorary chairman Daniel Boulud (Daniel, Cafe Boulud). For the Finest Tables program, teams of chefs from New York and Montreal will create menus for more than 50 restaurants across the city. The exclusive Honorary President’s Dinner at Toqué restaurant on Friday, February 23, will showcase dishes created by Boulud. On your mark, get set, dial 514-499-2084 (or send an e-mail to email@example.com).
SHOP TILL YOU FREEZE: Dallas shopping addicts, look out: the boutique-lined Rue Sainte-Catherine boasts international name-brand boutiques and great department stores. Wander Saint-Laurent Boulevard, where dilapidated factories have been resurrected as chic shops, restaurants, and groovy lofts. Old Montreal, famous for its Parisian-style allure, is full of cultural landmarks, museums, and one-of-a-kind boutiques. (Hint: that $900 CND Louis Vuitton bag you’re eying is only $800 US.) POSH DIGS: Deep in the heart of Old Montreal, and only a few minutes from the festival activities, sits the stately Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites, Montreal’s first boutique hotel, encased in a row of three historic buildings. The interior may be urban chic, but the regal structures of the exterior date back to 1870. Restored and reopened in 2005, this elegant hotel is now the cornerstone for the revitalization of Old Montreal. Of course you must take a suite, complete with electronic fireplace, down comforter, faux-mink throws, walk-in rain shower and soaker tub, and wireless Internet. Snowing sideways outside? You don’t have to leave the hotel. Adjacent to the lobby is a hip gourmet lounge, Suite 701. Don’t expect to find a crowd of tourists; this spot is frequented by tons of trendy locals. You can sip a martini in a booth by the window and gaze at the Notre-Dame Basilica across the street. After cocktails, head downstairs to the Aix Cuisine du Terroir, where you can dine on local artisanal Quebec cooking. Slip into a cozy banquette, sip a Canadian wine, and sample local bison, duck, and cheese. Splurge on an after-dinner drink by a fireplace in the lobby. Home is only an elevator ride away.
Montreal High Lights Festival
Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites