When it comes to a visit to Montreal, getting there can be half the fun.
For the recent cycling trip this meant a drive to Quebec City followed by a three-hour ride on VIA Rail (www.via.com) into Montreal.
Travel by train is just plain fun, and when it’s on VIA in the business class, it’s like your own rolling magic carpet taking you into the city while avoiding the stress of driving in all that traffic.
The trip includes a three-course, gourmet meal with wine and what’s not to love about that?
My friend Kim was with me on this trip and once at the train station below the city’s landmark Queen Elizabeth Hotel (www.fairmont.com/QueenElizabeth) we did not have far to go as that is where we were staying.
Now, the Queen Elizabeth is quite the place with hundreds of rooms and suites, any one of which we’d have been thrilled with.
It just happened not only were we placed in a massive corner suite, it was just down the hall from the room made famous by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-in for peace where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded.
For Kim, it was like arriving at Mecca when Joanne Papineau, the Queen Elizabeth’s media liaison, took the time to give us a quick tour of that room.
“John and Yoko gave 150 interviews a day here in this room,” Papineau said. “The story is during one of those a rabbi said, ‘John, you have got to give peace a chance,’ and that’s where the song came from.”
The room is very much now as it was during Lennon’s stay late May and early June of 1969. The bed is still there and numerous photos of the famous couple and their equally famous guests — including Timothy Leary and Tommy Smothers — line the walls next to gold records.
Papineau even brought along the original hotel log covering those days that included hand written entries covering security matters and the daily comings and goings in and out of the room.
It was cool that Kim got a chance to get so close to one of her musical idols.
I, on the other hand, found my own personal heaven 17-floors down in the hotel’s Boutique Gourmandise where manager Carole Simard daily serves up amazing pastries and hand made truffles.
I thought I had died and woken up in Chocolate Nirvana after sampling one of the confections and the shop’s signature chocolate mousse cake.
From the lobby it’s a quick walk back down to the train station and access to Montreal’s famed underground city — a network of thousands of boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
Back above ground in fresh air, the hotel is easy walking distance to museums, galleries, shops and more restaurants.
Our trip to the city lasted three days, which was enough time to get a taste — literally and figuratively — of the city. But with the ease of getting there thanks to VIA, a longer return trip — bikes in hand — is definitely on my to-do list.