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June 30, 2005

Dinner on the patio, jazz on the plaza

When we asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation, either a casual French bistro or a simple Italian restaurant, we had a pleasant, low-key place in mind. But when you're staying at an upscale hotel, the dinner recommendations sometimes need to come with an asterisk. In our experience, concierges at trendy and expensive hotels tend to assume that guests want trendy and expensive restaurants.

The Italian place that was recommended to us, Bice, was quite good. Apparently Robert De Niro eats there whenever he's in town. We figured if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for us. And we enjoyed our meal very much. The mozzarella di bufala appetizer was great, and Janene really enjoyed her vegetable ravioli. But the restaurant was quite pricey--probably double what we had in mind--and very hip, filled with servers in matching tailored shirts and expensive-looking haircuts. We enjoy good food, but we have no interest in the sort of places that strive to make you feel important by virtue of your presence in the restaurant. The service was hurried and the attitude was slightly standoffish, but we can't say anything remotely negative about the food. It was great.

After dinner, we walked the 25 minutes or so to Centre-Ville to catch some of the jazz festival. We saw an Indian jazz group whose name I don't remember. They were quite interesting, playing a synthesis of Indian music with occasional jazz influences. Can't say I'd listen to their CD very often, but we were glad we got to hear something different.

Montreal Jazz Festival...it's hot!

The Montreal Jazz Festival began today--a big reason why we planned on a couple of nights here--and it's most impressive. There are multiple stages throughout the Centre-Ville, and all types of music going on for the next 12 days. Most of the events are free; the big-name soloists play indoors at the largest venues (not free), and plenty of films about jazz and other related activities are going on as well.

We saw an excellent Dixieland combo today, as well as a better-than-average big band from the University of Sherbrooke. We would have liked to have heard more, but all of the venues were on plazas with no shade for the noontime sun. Since I get burned looking at a picture of the sun, I was reluctant to stay out too long until later. We're planning to listen to more music after dinner. The music is scheduled until well after midnight, so we'll get plenty of opportunities.

June 29, 2005

Dinner at Boris Bistro

A muggy evening stroll in our hotel's neighborhood, Vieux Montreal (verdict: charming old buildings, pleasant-looking and overpriced cafes, many tourists), we enjoyed a nice dinner at Boris Bistro. It's a nice place with a charming patio, which we couldn't get a table on--good thing, because of the violent thunderstorm that began just as we were ordering dessert.

The food was excellent French bistro fare, and the service was quite good. The only snag was when my buffalo steak, which I ordered medium-rare, came to the underdone side of rare. I like my meat red, but this buffalo was close to walking off my plate and catching a bus to the Dakotas.

I sent the meat back, asking if they could cook it just a bit more. About 15 minutes later, the server returned, told us they would bring me a whole new meal, and offered to pay for our desserts and coffee. I have no idea why--an extra five minutes in the oven would have been just fine, and I certainly didn't think they had to make anything up to me. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our coffee and dessert, earning a trip to the gym in the morning.

O, Canada!

In Montreal, and to quote Team America, everything is bon. Blogging will be light during our brief trip to Quebec and Vermont, owing to my tendonitis. For the duration of our stay, my lovely assistant Janene will be doing the typing, which frees me to focus on the witty, urbane travel-writing that my five loyal readers have come to expect.

We're in the lovely Hotel Place d'Armes, and our room is beautiful. Very spacious, especially the shower, which is large as our bathroom at home. Everything is super-modern, while the exposed brick adds a touch of faux-age to the space (the brick might be real -- we're not sure). Great sound system and a comfy bed too. If we have one complaint, it's that all the streets nearby are crowded and one-way, but that's not really the hotel's fault, is it? We got ourselves quite lost on our arrival, and ended up driving well out of our way and then in circles before we were able to park out front and head up to the room.