Montreal, Volume 22, Number 3 July, 2011

Montreal

Montréal, the only uniquely French city in all of the Americas (well, in New Orleans they speak English), has recently been making steady in-roads as a standout arts destination. Add to this: A-list restaurants, outstanding shopping finds, first-class hotels, plus a well-preserved and walkable “old town” and it adds up to une tres belle aventure.

Canada’s second largest city, Montréal disperses different arts-tourism treasures amongst her various districts and arrondissements, including: Downtown, Vieux-Montréal (Old Montréal), Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End (located within the Plateau — think Greenwich Village and Soho), Quartier International, Gay Village, Griffintown, and more. These are (literally) on top of a whole separate complex beneath Downtown— the famed Underground City, or RÉSO. The world’s largest, it’s 20 miles long, and averages 500,000 daily visitors during winter. Inside there are approximately 2,000 stores and 200 restaurants to choose from, although many of these are, disappointingly, fast-food chains. The metro stations, train stations, bus terminals, and tunnels extending throughout downtown will help you avoid getting stuck in Montréal’s above-ground traffic. To go underground, first find Place Ville-Marie (one of some 120 access points), by looking for the I. M. Pei-designed cruciform office tower (ca. 1962), which sits astride this shopping mall that forms the nexus of RÉSO.

Above ground, for contemporary art, start at DHC/ART Foundation, housed in two historic buildings in the heart of Old Montréal. Founded in 2007, the privately-run foundation focuses on just two exhibitions per year, while backing up each one with extensive programming, workshops, and many public-friendly participatory events. Previously featured artists include international art stars Sophie Calle, Jenny Holzer and Marc Quinn. The current exhibition consists of concurrent solo shows by two heavy-duty figurative artists: Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere, and American painter John Currin (through November 13). Be sure to check the Foundation website, as there are many other opportunities offered throughout the year — video screenings, performance art, artist talks, a reference library, and more. Another nearly new, large-scale space is Parisian Laundry. Named for the fact that it once served, in fact, as a commercial laundry, the 15,000-square-foot space now accommodates nationally known, as well as internationally recognized artists, such as Americans David Humphrey and Alex Da Corte.

Griffintown, formerly the southwestern corner of Downtown, is coming into its art-filled own as mega-galleries make new homes here. The big news is the highly-anticipated opening of Galerie Division’s phenomenal new Griffintown headquarters, L’Arsenal, which includes a 22,000-square-foot space for hosting large-scale exhibitions, installations and special events. It will also house two other contemporary art galleries — Majudia — already in place; plus the grand dame of Montréal galleries, the venerable Galerie René Blouin. Monsieur Blouin, unofficial dean of Montréal contemporary art, is currently busy packing to move from his home space of 25 years in the Belgo Building (still a cornucopia of great contemporary art, but beginning to show its age), and looks forward to opening the doors at his new L’Arsenal location on September 27, with a celebratory anniversary exhibition.

L’Arsenal is also the place to be as Le Mois de La Photo Montréal kicks off, beginning September 8 and running through October 9. Each September, the city is transformed into one big coherent photography exhibition, via twenty-plus solo and countless group exhibitions spread throughout Montréal, all juried by one curator who sets the theme and parameters for inclusion. For this, the twelfth event, artists submitted work based on the theme Lucidity: Inner Views, devised by curator Anne-Marie Ninacs. Works by artists from 18 countries will be on display, including commissions created specifically for the occasion. L’Arsenal’s brand-new space will be a showcase for 10 solo exhibitions by photography and new-media artists, while serving as ground-zero for the official opening festivities, including a “meet the artists” brunch, and an international colloquium. As we go to press, participating artists include Roni Horn, Kimsooja, and Jack Burman; a comprehensive final list of all exhibitions and events should be announced and posted on Le Mois’s website by August.

What, you may wonder, is ARTExpress‘ all time favorite museum stop? Amid those at the top of the list is the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). Itself a work of art designed by architect Peter Rose (watch the original Second Empire-style mansion’s transformation into the CCA at their website), the Centre, located in Downtown, is both an international research center and a museum. Founded by architect Phyllis Lambert, the Seagram heiress best known for bringing Mies van der Rohe on board to design the Seagram Building in New York, the CCA’s vast permanent collections and revolving exhibitions make it a required stop for architecture and photography enthusiasts, arts patrons, and anyone with an interest in design. Current exhibitions through September 18 include Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War, and The Good Cause: Architecture of Peace. Plan your visit by touring their deep and well-organized website, and whatever you do, do not miss the amazing CCA Garden, with its witty “Allegorical Columns.”

Other artful highlights include the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal. Right now, you can view over 100 of the most important pieces from the permanent collection — which have taken over the entire museum— many placed in the exact settings where they were first shown in bygone exhibitions. It’s a great chance to see seminal work by Bill Viola, Geoffrey Farmer, Louise Bourgeois, Gary Hill, Alfredo Jaar, Mario Merz, and on and on. Meanwhile, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, catch: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier — high fashion as high art. Special note: we have circled our 2012 calendar in order not to miss the May 18th opening of the impressively comprehensive Tom Wesselmann retrospective, which includes never-before-exhibited paintings, drawings, sculpture, and more. We’ll update you as the date gets closer. Finally, if you’re in the Plateau, treat yourself to the sculptures, drawings, paintings and whimsical Flüx animations of French-Canadian illustrator Pol Turgeon (sought after internationally for his corporate and editorial work) at the Maison de la Culture du Plateau Mont-Royal, through August 20.

In September, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal will at last be able to open a season in their new Quartier des Spectacles digs — l’Adresse Symphonique — if all stays on schedule. Currently under construction (as it has been for a very long time) on the plaza of the popular performing arts complex Place des Arts, architect Jack Diamond is working to complete a drawn-out, a difficult project that has been stalled by politics and fraught with cancellations and over-runs. In fact, the original launch of the long-overdue plan was first announced by the Quebec government back in the 1980s! Looking forward, the simple and elegant design features the façade of the hall, plus much of one long wall along Sainte-Urbain Street (where the main entrance is to be located), composed of clear glass panels allowing the lobby areas to be visible from the outside, especially at night, while the interior remains isolated from the Place des Artes activity, both visually and, most importantly, acoustically. The hall will also boast a $3.5-million organ from internationally renowned Quebec organ builder Casavant Frères. Diamond designed Toronto’s well-received ballet-and-opera-only venue, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, so our fingers are crossed that the Symphonique, led by maestro Kent Nagano, will finally be heard in the hall that it deserves.

In other delayed-construction news in the Quartier des Spectacles, the 2-22 building, designed by French architect Paul Andreu and Quebec architect Gilles Huot, is back on track. The building, dedicated to culture, will house non-profit arts organizations such as: VOX, a gallery for cutting-edge photography; Artexte, a research center for contemporary visual arts; RCAAQ (Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec), the arts council of Quebec; CIBL, the French language radio station dedicated to arts programming; and Vitrine Culturelle, an online arts magazine. Plans include a bar and garden on the roof, spaces dedicated to “cultural happenings” with on-going broadcastings, and a permanent installation by artist Jana Sterbak. The groups plan to occupy their new spaces beginning in September or October of this year.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Quartier des Spectacles between September 1 and October 10, you can catch the exhibition: GAIA, 50 giant photographs of earth shot from the International Space Station by Guy Laliberté, Cirque du Soleil founder and self-proclaimed “amateur shutterbug.” Laliberté is the first Canadian to play tourist in space — he reportedly paid Russia $35 million for his ride. Sales from the exhibition, and from the coffee-table book published by Assouline in New York, benefit Laliberté’s global drinkable water foundation.

As for restaurants, Montréal is currently the epicenter for epicureans in Canada— and possibly North America. Urbane and trendy spots are popping up throughout the city, and we encourage you to try as many as possible. Keep an open mind, as you are as likely to find a wonderful meal in an office tower in the financial district (i.e. the always reliable Toqué), as you might in a beautiful new space. Amongst current favorites: Aix Cuisine Du Terroir, where the emphasis is on local and seasonal— they guarantee that at least 80% of their ingredients are from Quebec — plus exotic specialties such as Deer Tartar. In summer, it is de riguer to sip a martini on the rooftop terrace of its parent hotel, Place D’Armes. Another is Le P’tit Plateau, where chef/owner Alain Loivel, originally from Bordeaux, offers his take on his native southwestern French cuisine. Try to go on a weeknight to approximate an intimate Left Bank-style evening— there are only 40 seats and it’s noisy on weekends.

Unpretentious and authentic, L’Express is your basic French bistro and a local favorite; we loved the quail with wild rice, and the bouillabaisse appetizer. For lunch, head to Mamie Clafoutis. Mamie’s is a boulangerie known for tasty traditional recipe breads, especially the sourdough, served in restaurants throughout the city. A great noontime treat: take some sandwiches to-go and find Parc du Mont-Royal — known as Montréal’s own Central Park — where the landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead as well. If weather does not permit, refresh yourself instead in Mamie’s new Tea Room. Another great Montréal walk-in-the-park can be had at the Botanical Garden. But be warned: it is not hyperbole when they call it “one of the world’s largest botanical gardens.” We spent the better part of a day there without making so much as a dent, and often found ourselves completely alone. It is a wonderful, quiet respite after driving in the city.

Among all of the arrondissements, the Plateau is often described as the trendiest. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, it houses the largest number of creative people in all of North America. The gentrification here over the last few years has paved the way for topnotch restaurants and upscale boutiques to find their places in the characteristic stone masonry buildings with their lovely ornate, outdoor staircases. Lunch with the locals at Schwartz’s Deli, famous for their secret-recipe smoked meat, is in order before tackling some phenomenal shopping along rue Sainte-Denis and Sainte-Laurent Boulevard. Meanwhile, Mile End is home to many artists and filmmakers, and houses the city’s two big bagel makers: the Fairmount and St-Viateur bakeries, located on streets of the same names. If you’ve never had Montréal’s version of a bagel, don’t pass up the opportunity to try this delicious treat. Unlike New York-style bagels, they are shaped by hand, the dough has honey added instead of salt, and they’re baked in wood-fired ovens — the result is a thinner, smaller, slightly sweet version of the usual bagel.

For dinner in the Mile End neighborhood, Les Deux Singes De Montarvie is a great combination of intimate atmosphere and hearty, delicious Quebec fare. There are also several nice cafes here, notably Whiskey Café, and L’assomoir. As for upscale Plateau eateries, the most talked-about, reviewed, and locally revered is chef/madman Martin Picard’s Au Pied de Cochon (Foot of the Pig, or Pig’s Foot), a restaurant where bison tongue with tarragon is one of the tamer items on the menu. Picard, who counts Anthony Bourdain among his legions of fans, is a lover of rustic hunting and fishing, and the PDC’s (as it’s known) décor reflects this. Portions are huge and fatty, so if you’re ordering meat, you’re advised to take your time. Many patrons report feeling a bit sick when they leave, because they can’t stop eating the buttery, maple-y goodness of this heavy French-Canadian cuisine. At least one person at your table should order the Duck-in-a-Can, just for the experience of having an actual can of duck opened at your table (it’s heavenly, by the way). Make reservations, or resolve yourself to a very long wait. For bistro fare in the Plateau, enjoy the cozy warmth of La Fabrique Bistrot. With its open kitchen and simple-but-elegant brick décor, it’s both rustic and modern. Be careful if you sit close enough to see the action in the kitchen — you’ll want to order everything.

Montréal is also known as a premiere design and shopping mecca. Starting in the Plateau, find the afore-mentioned rue Sainte-Denis, as it offers the highest concentration of à la mode boutiques, along with quaint cafes offering outdoor summer rest stops. For household goods, look for purveyors such as Arthur Quentin, which has been at the forefront of luxe offerings such as Limoges, pretty baskets, hand-knit toys, and much more, since 1979. Close by find Zone, whose wares are more contemporary, with an emphasis on fun/quirky — we love the mirrors and candlesticks. COULEURS sticks to high design from the 1940s to the 70s. Owners André and Lambert Gratton have a knack for finding the most beautiful stuff (yes! there was beautiful stuff designed in the 70s), with emphasis on clean-lined Scandinavian furniture, along with Quebec creations amongst a vast selection of lamps, pottery and glassware. Note that many Montréal fashion designers have their haute couture shops in this neighborhood, and you’ll also find high-end furniture designers, such as Meubles Moderno International as well.

For more traditional tastes, Petit Musée, located downtown since 1891, is four floors worth of museum-worthy antiques, and it’s just the place to pick up that suit of armor you’ve had on your list. Another great browse is rue Notre Dame Ouest’s “Antiques Alley,” where some 25 dealers are centered in the historic Quartier Des Antiquaires. A good starting point is the Thamar Tea Room, which serves cakes and chocolates, so you’ll be fortified for your day of antiquing, as the best shops start just beyond Thamar’s.

If you’re a fashion maven and find yourself here August 3-6, you are in for a real treat: Festival Mode & Design. Every year, Montreal’s homage to style takes over the city as 425,000 visitors congregate along McGill College Avenue to celebrate the latest in fashion with internationally renowned designers, and thrill to “design real time,” all to a background of nearly non-stop live music. Either join the party, or you’ve been forewarned!

Shoe shoppers should find their way to La Canadienne Montréal’s flagship store— where all of the stylish stock is handcrafted in Canada. The setting is as beautiful as the merchandise; online ordering available at the website. One last fashionista alert: Save the date! One of Montréal’s largest auction houses is holding a vintage couture sale on November 10. Bid on mint-condition collectible pieces by Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Burberry— either live or online at Hotel Des Encans.

Montréal has no shortage of great hotels found throughout the city. We’ll start with two that are antique commercial buildings transformed into chic boutique hotels — something of a trend in these parts: Hotel Gault, a minimalist design housed in its vintage setting in Old Montréal; and Hotel Le Germain, offering reasonable rates and “Arts & Culture” packages. Another Old Montréal fave is Place D’Armes, where the suites are roomy, and service is impeccable. You can’t go wrong with a Sofitel stay, and their Montréal Golden Mile is highly recommended. We like the original artwork in every room, floor to ceiling windows in the suites, plus large (and gorgeous) bathrooms. Dinner at upscale Renoir is especially romantic when the terrace is open, as is breakfast. Hotel St Paul exudes the warmest of atmospheres amid contemporary boutique high style, with fine Quebeçois dining in their restaurant, The Vauvert.

For elegance boutique-style, book at the 60-room Hotel Le St-James. Also housed in a reformed old space, an 1871 bank building. It is as beautiful as it is comfortable, but it’s also currently the stay of choice for visiting celebrities, so reserve far ahead — or Madonna may snag your room. For an old-school style hotel experience, try the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, deserving winner of many prestigious hotelier awards. Opened in 1958, guests of note have since included Queen Elizabeth II, Charles De Gaulle, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and John & Yoko — this is where the famous “bed-in” happened in 1969, and “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded. (Bonus: it’s conveniently connected to the Underground.)

If you are looking for a resort-style holiday, the Quintessence is your choice. Located a mere 40 minutes from Montréal and 90 minutes from Montréal Trudeau International Airport, it is an ultra-charming, 30-suite (plus one cabin) boutique hotel perched on the shore of Lake Tremblant. A hot ski destination in the winter — it’s nestled in the Quebec Laurentians — it’s romance personified year round. With a 5,000-bottle wine cellar at hand, 100-year-old speedboat waiting on the lake, lovely spa and in-room massages, gorgeous, spacious rooms — they start at 700-square-feet — you’ll never want to leave!

Sadly, the Ritz-Carleton Montréal is currently closed for renovations — we wanted to recommend the wonderful summer treat that is dining outdoors at their fabulous Le Jardin du Ritz — but we look forward to staying there on our next trip, when it re-opens (slated for this winter) with a new Tiffany boutique in place, amongst other new amenities.

For now, however, it is hard to quit reciting the delights of this thoroughly French habitat — so cosmopolitan, no over-water flight required!

Focus Montreal

HOTELS
Hotel Gault
, 449 rue Sainte-Hélène, Tel. 514-904-1616, hotelgault.com. Breakfast, lunch and brunch are available in the nice restaurant on site, The Gault, which has a lounge, and also serves (seasonally) fireside in the library.

Hotel Le Germain, 2050 rue Mansfield, Tel. 514-849-2050, germainmontreal.com. Lovely boutique hotel; local Quebec menu, perfected over the last thirty years by chef Daniel Vézina, is served in the hotel’s restaurant, Laurie Raphaël.

Hotel Le St James, 355 rue Saint-Jacques, Tel. 514-841-3111, hotellestjames.com. Currently at the top of many reviewer’s pick lists — for good reason. In situ, XO Le Restaurant is also a fine choice, with excellent wines by the glass available.

Hotel St Paul, 355 McGill Street, Tel. 514-380-2222, hotelstpaul.com. Chic boutique housed in a historic Beaux Arts building — namely the Canadian Express office built in 1900 by Montréal architect Alexander Hutchison. The St Paul is now 120 rooms (24 suites) of design plus pampering.

Place D’Armes, 55 rue Sainte-Jacques Ouest, Tel. 1-888-450-1887, hotelplacedarmes.com. Another attractive boutique hotel, with a very relaxing spa featuring a traditional hammam; also houses the exceptional Aix Cuisine du Terroir, mentioned above.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, 900 René-Lévesque Blvd. Ouest, Tel. 1-800-441-1414, fairmont.com/queenelizabeth. Dinner or Sunday brunch at the formal Beaver Club, a Montréal culinary institution for over 50 years, is recommended.

Quintessence Resort, 3004 Chemin de la Chapelle, Mont-Tremblant, Tel. 1-866 425-3400, hotelquintessence.com. Selected by Condé-Nast as “Most Excellent Small Hotel in North America” for 2011. We almost hesitate to recommend it — you may never leave the resort and venture into Montréal!

RESTAURANTS
Toqué! Restaurant, 900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, Tel. 514-499-2084, restaurant-toque.com. Valet parking available, or convenient to metro station stops; closed Sundays. Their slogan, “This is where cookery unfolds, enhanced by a touch of utter madness” may be true, but we’re enthralled with grand chef (and owner) Norman Laprise’s special brand of insanity. Sophisticated and modern French menu in an open, contemporary setting.

Aix Cuisine Du Terroir, Place d’Armes Hotel, 711 Côte de la Place d’Armes, Tel. 514-904-1201, aixcuisine.com. Brunch served Saturdays and Sundays; weekdays, the delicious table d’hôte lunch here is only $25, including valet parking.

Mamie Clafoutis Boulangerie, 3660 rue St Denis, Tel. 438-380-5624, mamieclafoutis.com. Open 7 days, early mornings (6:30 Mon.-Fri. and 7:30 Sat.-Sun.) if you want to get a fresh start on your picnic-packing or morning tea.

Thamar Tea Room, 1510 rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Tel. 514-937-2222 (no website). Delicious chocolates and cakes.

Le P’tit Plateau, 330 rue Marie-Anne Est, Tel. 514-282-6342, (no website). Cute little place, authentically French (we’re not talking French-Canadian). “Bring your own wine” policy adds to the homey, locals-only feel.

L’Express, 3927 rue Saint-Denis, Tel. 514-845-5333, (no website). Unpretentious French bistro - very Francophone, but English menus are available.

t! Brasserie, 1425 rue Jeanne-Mance, Tel. 514-282-0808, brasserie-t.com. Younger, smaller sister to L’Express, t! is a glassed-in rectangle offering welcome respite from museum and gallery hopping, mere steps away from the Musée d’art Contemporain.

Au Pied de Cochon, 536 Duluth Est, Tel. 514-281-1114, restaurantaupieddecochon.ca. Eccentric, to say the least — it’s a wild ride, but one that many leading gourmands highly recommend. Fasten your seat belt, and if you can’t decide, order the Duck-in-a-Can.

Les Deux Singes de Montarvie, 176 rue Saint-Viateur Ouest, Tel. 514-278-6854, lesdeuxsingesdemontarvie. Intimate Mile End spot, with original artwork by Montréal artists gracing the walls. Lobster sausage is the must-order here.

La Fabrique Bistrot, 3609 rue Sainte-Denis, Tel. 514-544-5038, bistrotlafabrique.com. Warm and inviting French-Canadian bistro.

Whiskey Café, 5800 Sainte-Laurent Boulevard, Tel. 514-278-2646, whiskeycafe.com. Zagat-rated in the “Nightlife” category, and self-proclaimed as the “best first date bar and lounge in Montréal.”

L’assommoir, 112 rue Bernard Ouest, Tel. 514-272-0777, assommoir.ca. Nice neighborhood bar with great pub fare of tapas, ceviches, and Mediterranean-style grilled specialties.

Schwartz’s Deli, 3895 Sainte-Laurent Boulevard, Tel. 514-842-4813, schwartzsdeli.com. The famed Montréal Smoked Meat (it’s brisket, by the way) is best ordered medium-fatty to fatty, so forego the diet at this beloved Montréal institution.

Fairmount Bagel, 74 Fairmount Ouest, Tel. 514-272-0667, fairmountbagel.com. Open all day, every day — and the bagels are continuously fresh.

St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Sainte-Viateur Ouest, Tel. 514-276-8044, stviateurbagel.com. Also open 24/7, and will fast-ship to the U.S. (reduced rates right now), so you can sample their goodies before you get here.

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
For a Montréal Museums pass (good at 38 different venues), be sure to visit museesmontreal.org.

DHC/ART Foundation, 451 rue Sainte -Jean, Tel. 514-849-3742, dhc-art.org. Weds.-Fri. 12 noon-7, Sat.-Sun. 11-6. Admission is free.

Parisian Laundry, 3550 rue Sainte-Antoine Ouest, Tel. 514-989-1056, parisianlaundry.com. Open Tues.-Sat. noon-5.

Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, 185 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest (corner Jeanne-Mance), Tel. 514-847-6226, macm.org. Tues.-Sun. 11-6, Weds. 11-9, closed Mon.

Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal, 1379-80 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Tel. 514-285-2000 mmfa.qc.ca. Tues.-Fri. 11-5, Sat.-Sun. 10-5, closed Mon.

Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1920 rue Baile, Tel. 514-939-7026, cca.qc.ca. Weds.-Sun. 11-6,Thurs. 11-9, closed Mon.-Tues.

L’Arsenal, 2020 rue William (no website). Home to Galerie Division, Tel. 514-938-3863; Majudia, and, beginning in September, Galerie René Blouin, Tel. 514-393-9969.

Maison de la Culture du Plateau Mont-Royal, 465 av. du Mont-Royal Est, Tel. 514-872-2266.

Belgo Building , 372 Sainte-Catherine Street Ouest, Tel. 514-861-2953, thebelgoreport.com. The Belgo currently houses approximately 25 separate galleries, plus many individual artists’ studios. The galleries are a mix of non-profits, e.g. Skol and “museum without a permanent collection” SBC Gallery; and commercial, such as Galerie Lilian Rodriguez and Laroche/Joncas. The Belgo’s website is very comprehensive, and will give you a great overview of what’s happening at the Belgo.

ARCHITECTURE & GARDENS
Canadian Centre for Architecture
(see above).

The Museum of Archaeology and History, the Point-à-Callière, 350 Place Royale, Corner of de la Commune, Tel. 514-872-9150, pacmusee.qc.ca. The Museum is actually a sprawling complex built in 1992 (senior architect Dan Hanganu) to commemorate Montréal’s 350th birthday. The Éperon building’s remarkable edifice marks the entrance, and it retains the unusual triangular shape of its predecessor - the Royal Insurance Company - with a tower that looks out over the Port of Montréal. Current ambitious expansion plans got underway this spring, and, as befitting a museum of archaeology, they center on going underground to dig up and expose key historical landmarks (St. Ann’s Market and the William Collector Sewer), eventually to be added to the museum’s complex as tourism destinations.

Biosphère, 160 Chemin Tour-de-l’Isle, Île Sainte-Hélène, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Tel. 514-283-5000, ec.gc.ca/biosphere. Open June-October, 10-6. Originally designed by Buckminster Fuller, this iconic geodesic dome was built as the Biodome for Expo 67. During renovations in 1976, fire burned away the outer layer of transparent acrylic bubble. Renovations were abandoned, and the naked steel lattice was left to the elements. In 1990, Environment Canada bought the site, restored the dome, and turned it into a sort of indoor zoo, with areas representing different ecosystems. Officially launched in 2007 as an environmental museum, it is definitely an odd journey, especially when you find yourself strolling through an indoor version of a polar landscape, complete with penguins (likely the closest this writer will come to being in Antarctica). Outside, in the park, you will find large-scale sculptures created for the original Expo, such as Alexander Calder’s monumental Man.

Centre d’archives de Montréal of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 535 Viger Avenue East, Tel. 514-873-1100, banq.qc.ca. Housed in a magnificent, early 1900s beaux-arts-style building, that of the former École des hautes études commerciales, the Centre preserves documents dating back to the 17th century, and is open to the public for research and exhibits year-round. Another project for Dan Hanganu/Provencher Roy included extensive renovations in 1997, which included adding on to four existing buildings, among them, the 1911 École, and the 1870 Maison Jodoin. The original (and imposing) entry lobby stairs take you into a six-storied glazed atrium, whose north side features the original doors, which now float in a mullionless wall of glass. The interior courtyard beyond leads to a consultation room housed in a cast-iron fantasy - the former 1916 Musée Industrial et Commercial. A massive grey zinc box serves as a new storage structure, which is softened somewhat by an elegant metal trellis with vines.

Basilique Notre-Dame Montréal, 110 Notre-Dame Street West, Tel. 514-842-2925, basiliquenddm.org. In Old Montréal, find one of the most spectacular samples of Gothic Revival architecture. Arson destroyed the Sacré-Cœur Chapel in 1978, which was subsequently rebuilt with the first two levels faithfully (no pun intended) reproduced from old drawings and photographs, but with modern vaulting and an immense bronze altarpiece by Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin added. Open daily to visitors, Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30, Sat. 8-4, Sun. 12:30-4. Note: unless you are there to attend mass, have $5 admission (CND) handy.

Parc du Mont-Royal, Smith House, 1260 Remembrance Road, Tel. 514-843-8240, montreal.com/parks/mtroyal. Directions to the park are simple: “Start up any hill from downtown, and you’ll eventually find yourself there.” In 1964, a monumental sculpture exhibit was held above the park’s Beaver Lake and many of the pieces remain in situ.

Botanical Garden, 4101 rue Sherbrooke Est, Tel. 514-872-1400, 2.ville.montreal.qc.ca. Open all year. Aquatic, Chinese, Japanese, Perennials, Medicinals — just about any kind of garden imaginable. Also on site: an insectarium, comprehensive library, and many activities throughout the summer.

Place des Artes, 175 Sainte-Catherine Street Ouest, subway: Station Place-des-Arts, Tel. 514-842-2112, laplacedesarts.com. Place des Artes, a theatre complex of five buildings with a connecting plaza located in the Quartier des Spectacles, was first launched by an opera-loving mayor of Montréal in 1963. In 1992, the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal was added; a new symphony hall for L’adresse Symphonique (adressesymphonique.gouv.qc.ca) will open later this year.

2-22 Building, corner of rue Sainte-Catherine and rue Sainte-Laurant, le2-22.com. Also opening soon, at the entrance to the Quartier des Spectacles, the 2-22 will serve as a hub for Montréal cultural organizations, such as Librairie-Bistro Olivieri, a bookstore/bistro devoted to the Quebecois literary scene, lots of non-profit galleries, a radio station, and much, much more.

SHOPPING
Arthur Quentin, 3960 rue Sainte-Denis, Tel. 514-843-7513, arthurquentin.com. Nice housewares; the website is French-only, but the pictures speak volumes.

Zone, 4246 rue Sainte-Denis, Tel. 1-877-845-3532, zonemaison.com. Another objets pour la maison store in the Plateau, but this one specializes in contemporary stuff, with emphasis on the delightfully quirky. Four other locations throughout Montréal and Quebec as well.

La Canadienne Montréal, 273 Laurier West, Tel. 514-270-8008, lacanadienneshoes.com. Canadian mecca for shoe fanatics. Fun fact: their famed boots take over 100 steps to create.

COULEURS, 3901 rue Sainte-Denis, Tel. 514-282-4141, coleurs.qc.ca. Vintage and re-editions from the 40s to the 70s: lamps, furniture, glass, pottery.

Petit Musée, 1494 Sherbrooke Ouest, Tel. 514-937-6161, petitmusee.com. Represents three generations of antiques dealers in the same location. Lives up to its name, as it truly feels like a “little museum.”

Meubles Moderno International, 4268 boul Saint-Laurent, Tel. 514-842-4061, ateliermoderno.com. 3,000 square feet of avant-garde/moderne furniture to choose from, put together by designer Jean-Guy Chabauty; everything is designed and manufactured in Quebec.

Arterie, 176 Rue Bernard Ouest, Tel. 514-273-3933, arterieboutique.blogspot.com. This endearing Mile End boutique sells the work of local designers, along with a collection of vintage clothing. In a city replete with boutiques, Arterie’s quirky jewelry, vegan shoes, dresses by such designers as Valerie Dumaine and Josiane Perron, all add up to one unique stand out.

Ursula B, 1455 rue Peel, Tel. 514-282-0294, ursulab.com. Up-to-the-moment fashion from around the world. The attentive, knowledgeable staff make for a fun shopping experience.

Michel Brison, 384 rue Sainte-Paul, Tel. 514-270-1012, michelbrisson.com. Gorgeous boutique pour les hommes. Michel Brison wanted to create an inviting and comfortable place for men to shop, so he created an old-style haberdashery and cloaked it in ultra-sleek contemporary form. Shoppers are urged to relax, sip coffee, and contemplate the beautiful wares.

News

Going to Paris? Plan to take advantage of the wonderful experiences that lie just out of the range of the metro. For example, about 150 miles southwest of the city, in the Touraine Regon of the Loire Valley, a delightful discovery is the medieval Château du Rivau. The castle — and its Royal Stables where the horses of the Kings of France were bred — has recently been restored by our friend/gardener/art collector Patricia Laigneau. In addition to her truly magical gardens (12 in all), there are now ten luxurious double rooms where you can enjoy works of art from Patricia’s own collection of contemporary works, plus décor featuring Old Master paintings mingled with Gothic furniture. ...

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Great Addresses

IN FRANCE
Château du Rivau, Le Coudray, 37120 Lémére, Tel. 02 47 95 77 47, chateaudurivau.com. Located in the lovely Touraine region of the Loire Valley, the chateau is 2 hours and 30 minutes from Paris by TGV (station: St. Pierre des Corps). Visitors are welcomed April-November. Even if you are not vacationing in one of the delightful rooms, you can visit the remarkable gardens and dine at Fairie’s Feast (April 1-Sept. 30, 12-2:30). Patricia’s castle is an art-full spot for touring the Loire châteaux!

Galleriacontinua, Le Moulin, 46 rue de la Ferté Gaucher, 77619 Boissy-le-Châtel (Seine-et-Marne), Tel. 33 (0) 1 64 20 39 50, galleriacontinua.com. Open Fri., Sat., Sun., 12-6 PM and by appointment. When fully completed, Le Moulin will include an arts village expected to attract experimental projects across the most diverse realms of the arts. Three special exhibitions are being featured in this picturesque rural setting through October 2.

Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, Bois de Boulogne, Paris XVIe. Bernard Arnault’s “Cloud” museum by Frank Gehry is under construction again. Although the project has been significantly delayed, the city fathers seem to have, at last, come to the conclusion that a second magnificent collection can’t be allowed to escape (François Pinault gave up and created his stunning venues in Venice). Perhaps it is not too soon to think about a Paris pilgrimage in 2012!

Fondation Jean Dubuffet, (Villa Falbala), ruelle aux Chevaux, 94520 Périgny-sur-Yerres, Tel. 01 47 34 12 63, dubuffetfondation.com. The Closerie (walled “garden”) and Villa Falbala were completed by Dubuffet in 1975. They stand alone as sculpture/architecture, but also contain large bodies of Dubuffet’s most important work, which are maintained by the Fondation Dubuffet. The site is open all year, except holidays, and guided tours are available Tues.-Fri. by appointment and Sat.-Sun. 10-3, also by appointment. The area, the Val-de-Marne, is rich in historic châeaux as well, but it is necessary to have a car (and driver) to tour this pleasant countryside about an hour from Paris. Only slightly further, in the same general area, the day-tripper will find perhaps the finest château in France — Château Vaux le Vicomte, adjacent to the small town of Melun. Built by Nicolas Fouquet (finance minister to Louis XIV), and designed by Louis Le Vau, with gardens by Le Notre, it was the inspiration for Versailles and remains one of the most dazzling estates imaginable.

IN BERLIN
Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum(Museum fur Gegenwart), Invalidenstrasse 50-51, Tel. 49 (0) 30 3978 3411, hamburgerbahnhof.de. Housed in an architecturally gorgeous 19th-century train station, the structure was converted by the noted Berlin architect Josef Paul Kleihues (designer of Chicago’s MCA) and reopened on November 2, 1996. A brilliant work by American artist Dan Flavin (his last) bathes both the main façade loggia and the space leading to the cours d’honneur with haunting green/blue neon light, and is the museum’s trademark. The Hamburger Bahnhof is the third location of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie and houses the Department of Contemporary Art (art since 1960). It is known for a very distinguished selection of work by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly, plus artists’ rooms by John Cage, Bill Viola, Rebecca Horn, Hans Peter Feldman, and more. In a 2004 expansion, the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection was added, making the museum, in totality, one of the most important assemblages of contemporary art in Europe. Hours: 10-6 daily, except 11-8 Saturday, 11-6 Sunday. Free public guided tours in English.

Ressort Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 50-51, 33 (0) 1 78 26 66 383, ressort-berlin.de. Behind the Hamburger Bahnhof, this trendy little beach bar and restaurant grills a good meal and enjoys a great open-air atmosphere where kids are playing in the sand on the banks of the Spree.

KaDeWe, Kaufhaus des Westens, Tauentienstrasse 21-24, Tel. 49 30 2121, kadewe.de. Opened in 1907 by Berlin merchant Adolf Jandorf, KaDeWe was an instant success, with the latest fashions from Paris and goodies from around the world. Each day up to 180,000 customers enjoy the delights of this grand dame of department stores — as elegant as ever!

Regent Hotel Berlin, Charlottenstrasse 49, Tel. 49 (0) 30 20 33 8, regenthotels.com. A five-star respite, named one of the best hotels in the world by Condé-Nast Traveler, the Regent has 195 classically luxurious rooms and is known for its superb service. In the Mitte, it is convenient for gallery hopping and features a Michelin two-star restaurant, Fischers Fritz, when it’s time to think about serious food.

Museum Berggruen, Schlossstrasse 1, Tel. 49 (0) 30 266 42 42 42, smb.museum. Hours: Tues.-Sun. 10-6, guided tours by appointment at 0 30 2 66 36 66. Opened to the public in 1996, Heinz Berggruen’s collection is Berlin’s most popular gallery of modern art. The collection includes over 100 Picassos, 60 Klees from 1917 on, noted sculpture by Giacometti . . . and more. Berggruen’s years as a renowned Paris dealer are reflected in the fine works here.

Bocca di Bacco, Friedrichstrasse 167, Tel. 49 (0) 30 2067 2828, boccadibacco.de. This classical enoteca and ristorante sited not in Italy, but happily in the heart of Berlin, is an ARTExpress favorite. The elegant Tuscan interior is by Stefano Viviani, and chef Loriano Mura prepares ham from Tuscan wild boars, mint-filled ravioli, herbed lamb carré, among many delights. Hours are noon to midnight weekdays; Sunday and holidays 6 PM-midnight; reserve in advance.

IN HAVANA

Hotel Parque Central, Neptuno e/Prado y Zulueta, Habana Vieja, Tel. 53 7 860 66 27, FAX 53 7 860 6630, hotelparquecentral-cuba.com. On a relatively quiet edge of the old city center, the Parque Central remains the first choice of many American groups. A new tower brings the modern, Spanish Colonial-style complex fully up to date. The hotel’s food is as good as anywhere in Havana, if not better, and the service is very gracious.

Hotel Saratoga, Paseo del Prado No. 603, Tel. 53 7 868 10 00, habaguanexhotels.com. The newest hotel on the Havana travel scene, located at the opposite end of the Central Park, The Saratoga is also a first-choice stop. The décor may be a bit more interesting than the Parque Central’s, but the location is noisier. Both hotels, however, are well-located and very serviceable for tour groups or individuals.

Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Wifredo Lam (organizer of the Havana Biennial), San Ignacio 22, esquina a Empedrado, Plaza de la Catedral, La Habana Vieja, bienalhabana.cult.cu. The Wifredo Lam Center (named after Cuba’s most noted 20th-century artist) was founded in 1983 and is housed in an 18th-century building in Old Havana, the historical area declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The building contains exhibition galleries, a library and spaces for cultural activities. The Havana Biennial, held since 1984, is the Center’s main project, and although the Biennial is spread in many venues throughout the city, this remains the central clearing house and gathering place.[/pay]

Travel Bookshelf

Guides & Blogs
Jan Faust. eat.shop montreal: The Indispensable Guide to Inspired, Locally Owned Eating and Shopping Establishments, Cabazon Books, 2007.
Arabella Bowen, John H. Watson. The Rough Guide to Montreal 3, 2007.
Jim Hynes. Montreal Book of Everything, MacIntyre Purcell, 2007.
The Montreal Review (themontrealreview.com).
Art in the Metro
(metrodemontreal.com). Guide to the hundreds of works of art located throughout the city’s underground subway route. Catalogs artists, dates and media — and, most helpfully, location by station.

History & Literature
Stuart Nulman. Beyond the Mountain: True Tales About Montreal, Callawind, 2002.
Annick Germain, Damaris Rose. Montreal: The Quest for a Metropolis, Academy, 2000.
Clark Blaise. Montreal Stories, Porcupine’s Quill, 2003.
Willa Cather. Shadows on the Rock, 1931.

Art & Architecture
Special Note:
Architecture/photography bookworms need to visit the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s bookstore, both online (cca.qc.ca/en/bookstore) and in person.
Phyllis Lambert, Ed. Opening the Gates of Eighteenth-Century Montréal, MIT, 1992.
Helen Malkin, Nancy Dunton. A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Montreal, Douglas & McIntyre, 2008.
Josee Belisle. Betty Goodwin: Parcours de l’oeuvre a travers la collection du Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2009.
Paulette Gagnon. Isaac Julien: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2004.
Martin Eidelberg, Ed. Designed for Delight: Alternative Aspects of Twentieth-century Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Flammarion, 1997.
Serge Guilbaut, Ed. Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris, and Montreal 1945-1964, MIT, 1992.

and, strictly for fun . . .
Mysteries
Kathy Reichs. Spider Bones, A Temperance Brennan Novel, 2011. If you’re a fan of the hit series Bones, you are acquainted with Reich’s heroine, Dr. Brennan. Author Reichs, like her fictional alter ego, is a forensic anthropologist. Unlike the TV version, however, the books are set in Reich’s home town of Montreal.
Louise Penny. A Brutal Telling, 2009 and Bury Your Dead, 2010 (part of the award-winning Three Pines mystery series).

Calendar

Through July 17 Museum Ludwig, Cologne Vija Celmins
Through July 31 National Gallery, Washington Lewis Baltz: Prototypes/Ronde DeNuit
Through July 31 Met, New York Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Through July 31 Wexner Center, Columbus Pipilotti Rist: The Tender Room
Through Aug. 1 MoMA PSI, Long Island City Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception
Through Aug. 8 MOCA Los Angeles, Geffen Contemporary Art in the Streets
Through Aug. 14 Parrish Art Museum, Southampton Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind’s Eye[pay]
Through Aug. 14 Wexner Center, Columbus Rineke Dijkstra
Through Aug. 15 MAXXI, Rome Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1956-1974
Through Aug. 18 Kunsthaus, Zürich Joseph Beuys
Through Aug. 28 Met, New York Richard Serra Drawing
Through Aug. 28 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art David Hockney: Me Draw on iPad
Through Aug. 29 Hayward Gallery, London Tracey Emin
Through Sept. 4 Fondation Beyeler, Basel Richard Serra
Through Sept. 5 ICA, Boston Catherine Opie
Through Sept. 5 Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier
Through Sept. 5 MCA San Diego, La Jolla High Fidelity: Selections from the 1960s and 1970s
Through Sept. 6 SFMOMA, San Francisco The Steins Collect
Through Sept. 11 Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin André Kertész
Through Sept. 11 Guggenheim Bilbao The D. Daskalopoulos Collection
Through Sept. 18 CaixaForum, Madrid Russian Constructivist Architecture
Through Sept. 18 MCA, Chicago Mark Bradford
Through Sept. 18 Site Santa Fe Pae White: Material Matters
Through Sept. 18 Canadian Ctre. for Arch, Montreal Arch. in Uniform: Designing & Building/WWII
Through Sept 19 Centre Pompidou, Paris Paris-Delhi-Bombay
Through Sept. 28 Guggenheim, New York Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity
Through Oct. 2 J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles A Revolutionary Project: Cuba- Walker Evans to Now
Through Oct. 2 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek Frontiers of Architecture
Through Oct. 16 Serpentine Gallery, London Pavilion 2011: Peter Zumthor
Through Oct. 30 Met, New York Anthony Caro on the Roof
Through Oct. 31 Dia: Beacon Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977
Through Nov. 13 DHC/ART Foundation Berlinde De Bruyckere and John Currin
Through Nov. 27 54th Biennale di Venezia
Through Nov. 27 Basilica di SanGiorgio Maggiore, Venice Anish Kapoor: Ascension
Through Dec. 2 Public Art Fund-City Hall Park, New York Sol LeWitt: Structures 1965-2006
Through Jan. 1 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin Body/Performance/Gesture
July 7 - 10 Art Santa Fe
Aug. 4 - 7 SOFA West, Santa Fe
Sept. 1 - 4 Art San Diego
Sept. 8 - 10 SH Contemporary, Shanghai
Sept. 14 - 18 Shanghai Art Fair
Sept. 14 - 18 Art Beat Istanbul: Art Fair
Sept. 16 - 18 Houston Fine Art Fair
Sept. 30 - Oct. 3 Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, Los Angeles
Sept. 30 - Oct. 2 Art Forum Berlin: The International Art Show
Sept. 30 - Oct. 3 Art LA: The Sixth Los Angeles International Contemporary Art Fair
Oct. 1 - 3 Art Platform - Los Angeles

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