07.24.2013 - 07.24.2013 68 °F
After three days in Ottawa we had a very good feeling for and about the city. We had a lazy morning and actually were able to do some laundry in the hotel's laundry room. While Albert at Bay was no Trump, it had everything we could want at an incredibly reasonable price. We had an afternoon train to Montreal. The train is so civilized...no security...no waiting for bags. You arrive at the station, a porter takes your bags and escorts you into the business class lounge which has all the accoutrements (trying to use my French) of a first class airport lounge. An announcement is made that the train is boarding, you board, all of your luggage is right by your seats, the seats are spacious and they pamper you for the entire ride. You enjoy the scenery along the way, and when you arrive at the destination, the porter comes and removes your bags and puts them into a waiting cab. No lines, no waiting, no insistence that electronic devices be turned off, free wi-fi with power outlets, never a tray table that needs to be returned to its upright position, and very reasonably priced.
Montreal immediately appeared and felt much more European than the other cities. The cab driver's first language was clearly French, all the signs are in French and 60% of the population speaks French as their first language...20% English. Montreal is in the province of Quebec. It is the largest city in the province, the second-largest in the country (after Toronto) and the fifteenth-largest in North America. The city has a population of about 1.7 million.
While on the train, I discovered that Montreal was in the midst of "Just For Laughs"' the largest international comedy festival in the world. Every summer the festival tickles the city into a laughing frenzy with galas, street art, theatre productions, and stand-up performances. Hosting some 1,700 artists from 19 countries as well as over 2 million festival-goers, Just For Laughs offers 1,600 performances, including 1,200 free outdoor shows. It has helped to launch the careers of John Stewart, Eddie Murphy, and many others. I noted that tonight, Seth Meyers was appearing at 10pm at Place des Arts, hosting a number of other comics. The show was sold out. I went on Craigslist Montreal and someone was selling seats in the 12th row for below face value. I emailed. He emailed. An hour later he met me at our hotel and we had great tickets to a sold out event.
Our hotel in Montreal is the Loew's Vogue Hotel. I had stayed at one other Loew's in Santa Monica and it was very nice. This hotel had a pretty good deal through Chase card's Luxury Hotel Collection which gives you a reduced rate, breakfast, complimentary welcome cocktails, an upgrade if available and a food credit in the bar/restaurant. The hotel had just been completely renovated last year and is BEAUTIFUL !! The rooms are very large, everything is marble and granite and the bathroom has a large jacuzzi tub for two...and a television. We have a room on the top floor directly across from a very nice fitness center...I am going as soon as I finish this. The bar and restaurant are beautiful...stained glass ceiling in the restaurant. Service excellent. I had only one gripe. There was a charge of $14.95/day for wi-fi. This is a pet peeve of mine and I know everyone else. In this day and age, don't charge for wi-fi...build it into the price. When we got to the room, I looked at the package I had purchased and it called for a corner room. We did not have a corner room. So I went back down to the front desk and I inquired, "What is the difference between the corner rooms and our room?" The young front desk manager replied, " You have only one neighbor...and the room is about 10 square feet more." I said, "Our package is for a corner room...how about you just comp the Internet (that I am pissed off about) and we will call it even?" Deal!!
Since we arrived late afternoon, there was no time for sightseeing. We got settled in the room and went to the bar to claim our welcome cocktails. We decided to order an appetizer and they brought us two boards with amazing charcuterie stuff, salami, figs, pâté, pears, sausage, etc. The comedy show did not start until 10pm so we had to pace ourselves. About 8pm we went back to the bar for some onion soup (me) and moules frites (Margaret). Then off to the show. The Place des Arts is a modern building that holds about 7500. The area surrounding had outside acts going on everywhere...the streets were blocked off from vehicle traffic. There was music and comedy going on. We walked into the Place de Arts about 15 minutes before the show was scheduled to start. The place was empty. When they started to show a video retrospective 10 minutes later of all the comedians that had performed in previous years since the festival began in 1983, the place was packed. Seth Meyer came out and did about 20 minutes and was hysterical. He was followed by seven or eight others who were okay, except for Bill Hall...never heard of him...but he was really funny. Seth Meyer introduced each new comic, but did another extended stint about his fiancée which was very funny. The show ended about 12:15am. When we left, there was still live music going on outside. We had smiles on our faces as we recounted the show and caught a cab back to the hotel.