A sunny weekend in unique Montreal, Canada

| vschneps@queenscourier.com |

It was a glorious day when we had lift-off of our Air Canada flight (only an hour and 20 minutes long) to a press convention in the international city of Montreal. As a former teacher I always want to learn more and the New York Press Association’s yearly gathering for publishers seemed a perfect combination of a getaway and business meeting. A bonus is that I traveled with my son Josh and husband Stu.

The convention was held at the Marriott in downtown and since all the meetings were there we decided to stay there too. The 32-story building became our home away from home. Although there were meetings in the morning and afternoon we did get away to dinner and wine tasting at an interesting restaurant in old Montreal, Ateliers & Saveurs. You literally cook your own meal. I’m personally interested in wines but I was too hungry at 8:30 p.m. to want to wiggle my glass to see its color and sniff the wine for half an hour. We were finally offered cheese and grapes with delicious crusty bread but one tiny slice didn’t cut it.After a half hour of wine tasting we were led to the kitchen to prepare what our group would be eating an hour later. Well, my little group was so hungry as we cooked we “tasted” and by the time the meal was completed we were all full from “cheating” throughout the prep time. It was fun but I don’t think I would do it again.The area where the restaurant calls home is in the historic district of Montreal and was once a telegraph center used by the stock exchange across the street — the first in the country and built by the same architect and with the same design as ours in Manhattan. In fact, the telegraph center got the first word that the Titanic was in distress. They, in turn, passed the information to the world and the rest is history. Today there are theaters and restaurants on every corner. The cobblestone streets are preserved and make for a charming area of the city. There are even horse and carriage rides around this charming spot at the foot of the St. Lawrence River.

Walking through the city I saw a mix of modern skyscrapers, magnificent historic buildings well preserved, many art galleries, museums and restaurants. My best treat of the weekend was to visit the extraordinary Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. A world-class exhibition of the “art” of the brilliant, innovative and provocative designer Jean Paul Gaultier was on display. If you are not familiar with his perfume bottle in the shape of a curvy woman, then think of Madonna when she wore his bustiers as dresses and made history in them.

What was so remarkable, beyond his imaginative designs for men and women, was how the exhibit had been curated. The clothes were on mannequins that spoke animatedly, as if they were alive. There is even the designer talking to himself in the “mirror.” From the fantasy dresses to stunningly-crafted suits to undergarments that scream femininity, the collection is extraordinary. Did you know he was the leader in making navy and white stripes the rage?

Going to Montreal I felt like I had been to Europe for a fast getaway. It’s a great escape. I only wish I had more time to explore the international city small enough to easily navigate on foot and find different “worlds” within blocks. It’s something like a miniature Queens and Brooklyn!