Posts tagged ‘Chateau Champlain’

Fidel Castro, Madonna and the Superbowl, Montreal-style

If you’re one of the 114 million (a new record) that caught Madonna’s Super Bowl half-time show, it may interest you to know that the all those Vogue covers, flashing lights, booming loudspeakers and interactive stage effects were designed by a Montreal multimedia studio named Moment Factory.

Since 2001, this hip studio and its team of 12 designers has created installations for more than 300 events from Latin America to the Middle East. Madonna found them through her association with fellow Montreal company, Cirque du Soleil.

Whenever she’s in Montreal, either to talk flash or just enjoy a little Canadian je ne sais quoi, Madonna stays at the Hotel Le-St James, a 60-room boutique hotel in Old Montreal. A former 19th century bank, this five star hotel was chosen by PBS as the most romantic hotel in North America. With exquisite marble, inlaid wood floors, Ming urns, Victorian paintings and hundreds of valuable antiques from owner Lucien Remillard’s eclectic art collection, this swanky hotel exudes European refinement. Oh, and Madonna’s not the only celeb that likes the 3500-square-foot penthouse, the private hidden table at XO Restaurant and the discreet spa located in the old bank vault. Arnold Schwarznegger and the Rolling Stones are just a couple names you might recognize.

Here are a couple other great Montreal spots for star gazing:

Built in 1967 for Expo 67, Montreal’s World Fair, the Chateau Champlain offers by far the most stunning view in Montreal. From the arched windows of its 611 rooms, guests get a panoramic view of most everything worth looking at in this gorgeous city.

Fidel Castro most certainly uttered a few “que lindos” and “muy magnificos” when he stayed here the first week of October 2000 while attending the state funeral of his good friend, Pierre Trudeau who was, if you believe a former associate of mobster Meyer Lansky, nearly the target of a mafia hit for associating with the Cuban dictator. Enforcer Mike Craft told the Toronto Star that in the summer of 1974 he was ordered to off the former prime minister for trading with Cuba despite an American boycott. Although the hit was called off before “mission accomplished,” Craft reported that the mobsters were hoping to get back at Castro for closing down their Cuban gambling operations in 1959.

But by 2000 when the cigar-smoking dictator made the trip to Montreal for the funeral in Notre-Dame Basilica, all was forgiven. In fact, the tour buses that stop out front of the hotel are not carrying concealed weapons. They’re simply listening to their guides explain the hotel’s nickname: the cheese grater, so named for those arched windows that provide the breathtaking view of Place du Canada. George Clooney and Rihanna have also looked out those windows.

It’s undergoing a major overhaul at the moment, but you can expect significant tongue-wagging this spring when Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton reopens. This historic landmark was the site for the first of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s many weddings. On March 15, 1964, just a year after meeting on the set of Cleopatra, the famous couple checked into this iconic Montreal hotel for Nuptials Number one. The bride wore yellow chiffon and an $180,000 diamond and emerald necklace while a Unitarian minister did the honors. Located smack dab on Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, this hotel, that has also hosted Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, is within walking distance of many of this historic city’s high end boutiques, galleries and museums.

Another historic event that would have been covered by People magazine had People magazine existed back then was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “Bed-In for Peace” at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth. When the celebrity couple checked into the hotel at midnight May 26, 1969, they’d already made headlines with a honeymoon Bed-in at Amsterdam’s Hilton two months earlier. But it was at the Montreal Bed-In, also attended by Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark and a group of Canadian Radha Krishnas, where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was composed and recorded, eventually reaching No. 14 on the Billboard chart.

Today, it’s a one-bedroom suite with framed gold records, pictures and other memorabilia.

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Montreal Nuit Blanche–will Vin Diesel be there?

What do the Smurfs, Vin Diesel and Stephen Spielberg have in common?

They’re all planning to film in Montreal this year.

Diesel, in fact, is here now, reviving the third installment of his Riddick Chronicles. This one, called Dead Man Stalking, is filming mostly indoors at Mel’s Cite du Cinema in Montreal’s industrial district between the Champlain and Victoria bridges.

Probably a good thing, because it has been snowing non-stop here in Montreal for the past 24 hours. I’m here, staying at Marriott’s Chateau Champlain, to attend Montreal En Lumiere, a 11-day winter festival with arts exhibitions, live performances, international chefs, light shows and tonight’s big event—-Nuit Blanche, an all-night party than runs until 6 tomorrow morning.

I’m told there will be dancing, a giant Ferris wheel, an ice lounge, life-sized Snakes and Ladders, a 330-foot slide, drummers from South Africa, classes in bottle juggling, gourmet Belgium chocolate makers, comedians, costumed street performers, tours of Egyptian mummies and more.

I knew I was going to like this place on my first day here when, walking down Sainte-Catherine Street, I was invited to participate in a student protest. More than 10,000 students (someone estimated 43,000) were carrying signs, wearing red stripes of paint across their faces and vehemently showing their opposition to the government’s plan to double tuition from $2200 to $3800 over the next five years.

As much as I love a good demonstration, it was hard to feel too much sympathy as my daughter, who is going to college next year, will face annual tuition in the neighborhood of $50,000.

Still, you gotta love the passion of the Quebecois–be it student protestors blocking Jacques Cartier Bridge, one of the island’s main thoroughfares, right before rush hour to their love of gastronomy to their arts.

Look for stories over the next week about this passionate city. For now, though, I’ve got to run. Nuit Blanche is about to begin.