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http://www.lovelettertomontreal.com/ Read more by clicking on the link, it is several pages long.
Ooh La La Kelly Ripa finds romance in Montreal. By Joseph Guinto. Photograph by Robert Ascroft. Kelly Ripa has talked to every single living celebrity in America. Twice. Maybe even more. I have not verified this fact, per se, but she’s served alongside TV legend Regis Philbin for almost seven years as cohost of Live with Regis and Kelly, so it must be true. Or close to it. And yet, Ripa — plenty famous in her own right, known for acting on All My Children and in sitcoms as well as for playing the role of TV talker — is still genuinely interested in the vaporing of the vainglorious, the gabbing of the glitterati. You know, the stuff that famous people talk about. She Said… Here’s where Kelly Ripa parle français in Montreal. LODGING Hôtel le St-James, very expensive, (514) 841-3111, http://www.hotellestjames.com Hotel St-Paul, expensive, (514) 380-2222, http://www.hotelstpaul.com DINING Eggspectation, inexpensive, (514) 282-0119, http://www.eggspectation.ca Ferreira Café, moderate to expensive, (514) 848-0988, http://www.ferreiracafe.com Olive & Gourmando, inexpensive to moderate, (514) 350-1083, http://www.oliveetgourmando.com NIGHTLIFE Vauvert, expensive, (514) 876-2823, http://www.restaurantvauvert.com THINGS TO SEE AND TO DO IN *MONTREAL Formula One Grand Prix du Canada, http://www.formula1.com Just for Laughs Comedy Tour, (514) 845-2322, http://www.justforlaughs.ca Montreal International Jazz Festival, (514) 871-1881, http://www.montrealjazzfest.com Old Montreal, http://www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca Spa Diva, (514) 985-9859, http://www.spadiva.ca SHOPPING Les Cours Mont-Royal, (514) 842-7777, http://www.lcmr.ca “I’m a pop-culture junkie,” she says from her office inside ABC’s Manhattan headquarters, where Live is produced. “I never get tired of it. There’s always something they haven’t revealed, something that you’ve never heard anywhere else. I really find it fascinating.” Then again, not everything the famous and rich say and do is fascinating. And, to be sure, some things are simply better left unrevealed. To wit, do you really want to know that Britney Spears had a number-three value meal with a Coke at McDonald’s last night? Probably not. But many of us — or at least I — still manage to obtain this type of knowledge on a daily basis. It would be wrong to blame Ripa for that. She’s certainly never grabbed a camera and followed a pop star to a fast-food restaurant. (I have not verified this fact, per se, though surely it is true.) But Ripa, 37, does regularly open her own life to the other pop-culture junkies in the world, right down to discussing what she had for dinner last night. Each weekday morning on Live, she and Philbin, 76, engage in 20 minutes of remarkably unscripted banter that touches on everything from their noshing habits to the day’s news (well, celebrity news, anyway) to where babies come from — specifically, where Ripa’s babies come from, in at least one case. I had somehow forgotten about this when Ripa and I recently chatted. We were talking about Montreal, her favorite romantic getaway and a place that she and her husband, fellow All My Children alum Mark Consuelos, visit nearly every year sans the kids (Michael, 10; Lola, 6; and Joaquin, 4). But then, exactly 10 minutes and 34 seconds into our conversation, Ripa reminds me that she keeps few secrets from the public. “One of our children was conceived in Montreal, actually,” she says, quite unprompted. “Mark and I went for our anniversary one year, and Joaquin was our souvenir.” This is one of those things that we — okay, maybe it’s just me — actually don’t want to know. Or maybe it’s just something that we — or again, maybe it’s just me — don’t know how to react to. Regis would likely come up with something witty or wacky to say in reply. The best I can do is, “Oh, so Joaquin came right out speaking French, eh?” I am no Regis. Thankfully, since Ripa talks for a living, she bails me out. “That’s why we gave Joaquin the exotic name,” she says. “I was going to name him Jean Pierre. But I thought that was too much. Jean Pierre Consuelos doesn’t really go together.” Jean Pierre. It’s probably just a joke. But still, I hadn’t heard that before. It’s funny — and, sure, fascinating. You know what else is fascinating? Montreal. Especially Kelly Ripa’s Montreal. Here are the things you do want to know about. We Said… Here’s where we allons in Montreal. LODGING Novotel Montréal Centre, moderate, (514) 861-6000, http://www.novotelmontreal.com. The Canadian dollar is no longer a bargain, but the Novotel still is. Its budget-friendly digs are comfortable and convenient, and it’s near the intersection of Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue Crescent, where clubs, restaurants, and shops abound. Opus Hotel Montreal, moderate to expensive, (514) 843-6000, http://www.opushotel.com. If you were a touring rocker with a touch of fame, you’d probably stay at this slick, modern downtown hotel. It would be a smart move. The Opus offers its style at a discount, compared with prices at Montreal’s other sleek digs. DINING Au Pied de Cochon, moderate to expensive, (514) 281-1114, http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca. You will be fighting for a reservation with foodies from around the world at this simply decorated eatery, where pork and foie gras are the main attractions. Yes, they cook them together. Banquise, inexpensive, (514) 525-2415. Located in the Plateau neighborhood, largely a French-speaking area of town, this diner-style restaurant serves more than a dozen different kinds of poutine. That’s a Quebec specialty featuring, when at its most basic, french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. C’est magnifique! Le Réservoir, inexpensive to moderate, (514) 849-7779. This neighborhood joint is just off what Montrealers call the Main — Boulevard Saint-Laurent, the old dividing line between the French- and English-speaking sides of town. Celebrate the détente with international snacks, and drink house-brewed beers until the last call, at three a.m. NIGHTLIFE Casa del Popolo, (514) 284-0122, http://www.casadelpopolo.com. Maybe you’ll get lucky and catch the next Arcade Fire performance at this venue, which is popular with the indie-rock set. Les Deux Pierrots, (514) 861-1270, http://www.lespierrots.com. Does sitting in a brick-walled bar in Montreal’s oldest neighborhood while singing along to French and English cabaret songs sound silly? Well, then, it’s time to get silly. SHOPPING Marché Bonsecours, (514) 872-7730, http://www.marchebonsecours.qc.ca. Unfortunately, they’re no longer selling fresh vegetables at this European-style marketplace. But they are selling locally made crafts, so that’s nice. ATTRACTIONS La Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, (514) 842-2925, http://www.basilique nddm.org. Is the interior of this scaled-down, nineteenth-century replica of Paris’s Notre-Dame more dramatic than the original’s? That depends on how you feel about the stunning use of the color blue. Le Mont Royal, (514) 843-8240, http://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca. Frederick Law Olmsted, who laid out New York’s Central Park, also designed this sprawling space. It’s filled with hiking and biking trails and is capped by a 98-foot-high cross, which honors Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, the city’s founder. About Montreal: There are more than 3.6 million people in Montreal and its immediate urban area. That’s nearly half the population of the province of Quebec. Some 70 percent of those people are native French speakers, making Montreal the second-largest francophone city in the world, after Paris. Plus, Montreal is in Canada. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “My husband has friends who live in Montreal,” Ripa says, “and he’d been raving about it for years, telling me how wonderful it is and that we just had to go and that I would love it. The first time I went, I think, was for our fourth or fifth wedding anniversary. When we landed, everyone at the airport was speaking French. So I turned to Mark, and I said quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever said in my life. I said, ‘You’re right; it’s so romantic and wonderful. It’s just like being in another country.’ He said, ‘I hate to burst your bubble, but we are in another country.’ ” About Montreal: The city has seen a boom in swank boutique hotels in recent years, especially in Old Montreal, a neighborhood with narrow, cobblestoned streets that dates back to the founding of the city, in 1642. Plus, Montreal smells nice. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “The St-James in Old Montreal is a wonderful hotel,” Ripa says. “It is simply luxurious. Also, the St-Paul Hotel is very boutiquey and kind of rock and roll. They give you these wonderful colognes that you can take with you when you leave. I sometimes call the hotel and ask them to send me some because they smell so good.” About Montreal: The city claims to have more restaurants per resident than any other city in North America. It is famous for café au lait, smoked meats, and game-based Quebecois cuisine. Plus, some of the restaurants serve breakfast even at lunchtime. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “Mark and I go there without our kids,” Ripa explains. “It’s the only place we go without our kids. I mean, I know it’s wonderful for children, but it’s just been our romantic-getaway place. So we usually get up and have breakfast at lunchtime — which, you have to *understand, with three kids, that’s such a luxury for us to not have to get up early. So we usually go to Eggspectation. It’s a very good sort of diner-breakfast place. There’s also a specialty place called Olive & Gourmando in Old Montreal. It has café au lait and croissants and beautiful breads. Unfortunately, I don’t know the street it’s on. Mark and I just sort of wander around there.” About Montreal: The city has thriving live jazz and rock scenes — the noted indie act Arcade Fire is just one rock band to emerge from Montreal. And the city is packed with watering holes. There are, on average, 9.5 bars per square kilometer. Plus, there are lots of restaurants and music venues (which can also be called watering holes). About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “If you [can], go to Old Montreal. There are these little cobblestone streets, and every place is a jamming supper club or an amazing jazz bar,” Ripa says. “I just think it’s magic. “You have dinner very late there. It’s very European in that way. Then a lot of these restaurants that start out serving food will turn into nightclubs. All of a sudden, the tables vanish and a DJ comes out. “They have this place called Vauvert in the St. Paul. You can have dinner, and then right after dinner, the DJ comes in. They call it diabolique when the DJ is there on Saturday nights. It’s like a big party. So you eat dinner, and then you dance. It’s one-stop shopping. Plus, the people are gorgeous, and the waitresses have designer uniforms. It’s all very sleek and very elegant.” About Montreal: More than half the Canadian fashion industry’s workers are employed in Montreal. It’s no surprise, then, that the city is home to numerous fashion designers and boutiques. Plus, there are spas. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “For shopping, I like to go to the Cours Mont-Royal,” Ripa says. “It’s kind of like a mall, but there are a lot of small boutiques in there. I mean, you have to buy something when you travel. You have to at least get the kids something. You’re leaving them. ‘Bye! We’ll be back in two days. Have fun with Grandma and Papa!’ Also, I really love Spa Diva, which is in the Cours Mont-Royal. It’s very relaxing.” About Montreal: Despite the fact that Montreal is known for its French speakers and French heritage, one in four Montrealers is an immigrant, and the city is surprisingly diverse, supporting its own Chinatown and Little Italy. There’s also a slice of Portugal. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “There’s a wonderful place called Ferreira Café, which Mark took me to for my birthday one year,” Ripa says. “It’s Portuguese food and is just fabulous. Mark kidnapped me. I’m not kidding. He flew me blindfolded to Montreal and took me to Ferreira. Well, I was allowed to take the blindfold off when we landed. I didn’t have to eat blindfolded. He had me home in time for the show the next day.” About Montreal: Winters are long and can be stingingly cold, which explains why the city loves its warm-weather festivals. It hosts international mega-gatherings to celebrate jazz, comedy, and film. It also has really fast car races. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “Mark loves the Formula One race,” Ripa says. “He goes every year if he can. That’s in June. They also have the jazz festival. That’s great; it’s in July. But the comedy festival, for me, is the most special. You see the most amazing performers. You just know that any day now, a sitcom is going to come out of one of the great performances you just saw on the stage.” About Montreal: The city is the site of a semi-risqué routine performed at the aforementioned Just for Laughs comedy festival by a certain American star named Kelly Ripa. It included some, ah, other performers. About Kelly Ripa’s Montreal: “Yeah, thanks for noticing that I did that,” Ripa says. “It was amazing fun. The joke was that we hired all these drag queens to do a burlesque striptease with me. I had just had a baby, and they all looked much more like women than I did. So people were like, ‘Oh, look at these beautiful women … and Kelly.’ Then the audience figured out that they were all men … and Kelly.” Career Questions Kelly Ripa explains what she does when she’s not relaxing in Montreal. Did you set out to be an actor/talk-show host? No. My whole career has been a series of accidents. I accidentally got into acting because my friends were doing it. They were doing extra work, and they were making good money. So I was like, Hey, why not? That led to the soap [All My Children], which led to the talk show, which led to the sitcom, which led to the production company. What production company? Mark and I have a TV production company together now. We sold a scripted show that did not get picked up this past fall, and we just sold a pilot to the History Channel for an interesting show called Wild Gourmet. It’s about a man who is a trained chef and an anthropology major. He takes you through a culture’s hunting and eating of a specific animal. Why production? You can’t be on camera forever. Very few people can. So I’m one of those people who would eventually like to work behind the camera. Wait — hasn’t Regis been on camera forever? He’s the one in a million. He’s always relevant. He’s always charming. He’s always gorgeous. [Laughs] I don’t see it turning out that way for me. Speaking of Regis, I’ve heard people say he’s quitting when his contract is up. True? I don’t believe that. I’ve been hearing that since I got here. He loves it. I love it. It’s a great place to work. It’s a fun, sort of easy schedule for people like us, who really just want to be on vacation all the time. You did voice work for two animated movies that are coming out soon. What was that like? I don’t even remember. You do these things, and then for, like, the next seven years or something, they animate the film. It’s all that computer animation. I had almost forgotten that I did them. One of them, Fly Me to the Moon, my son is also in. I play a fly, and my son plays the friend of one of my maggots. It’s very cute. http://www.americanwaymag.com/tabid/2855/tabidext/3465/default.aspx
(Courtesy of The Star-Telegram)
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Feast on Montreal's wonderful charm Erica Johnston / Washington Post I've been captivated by Montreal since my first trip there almost 20 years ago, drawn in by two things in particular: the bowls of hot chocolate offered at the city's many cafes -- hey, why settle for a measly cup? -- and the people who packed the streets in July and August, soaking in the two-month party they call summer. It seemed as busy as midtown Manhattan at rush hour, but these people were smiling. So when my oldest and best friend and I realized that our 40th "anniversary" was approaching, I managed to talk her into a celebratory trip over a long weekend. To Montreal, of course. When I arrived on a summer-like fall afternoon, a day before Kathy, I hit the streets. It had been eight years since my last visit. Had I exaggerated the city's charms? From our hotel downtown, I walked a mile or so, past the edge of Chinatown and through the Latin Quarter to the Plateau, the neighborhood where my affection for the city first took root. Along the leafy side streets, spiral staircases wind their way up the outsides of cozy rowhouses. Somehow, it seemed that if I knocked on a few doors, I'd find someone I knew. A few blocks away, Mount Royal, the modest mountain and majestic park on the neighborhood's western flank, rises over the city, offering a constant compass and an instant refuge to anyone who needs one. In a bakery, a boy of about 4 offered me his friendliest "Allo!" I did my best to respond in kind: "Allo." "Oh," he responded. His smile never broke. "Hello!" And that seems to sum up the language issue -- for tourists, anyway. It's far more complicated for residents -- in the place generally acknowledged to be the world's second-biggest French-speaking city. French? English? Whatever. We can work with you. Nearly everyone who crossed our path was unrelentingly friendly. Even the illuminated "man" in the crossing signals has a spring in his step; check it out. Along Rue St. Denis, a beautifully dressed woman stepped out of an elegant bakery with an elaborately wrapped sandwich and handed it with a smile to a homeless stranger. By the time a Metro toll taker wished us a good life -- and seemed to mean it -- we weren't especially impressed. We walked along the lovely Rue Laurier from east to west, from a low-key weekend street market to the decidedly upmarket blocks of fancy shops west of Rue St. Laurent. That street, also called "The Main," has historically served as the unofficial line separating the city's French culture from its English-speaking stronghold. Today's Montreal is often a wonderful jumble, with strong strands of distinct cultures living amongst one another. It's been called a salad bowl -- the concept of Canadian diversity as separate components complementing each other, as compared with the American ideal of the melting pot. In few places is this more true than in Mile End, a historically Jewish enclave that was one of my favorite discoveries of the trip. Mile End, the boyhood home of the late novelist Mordechai Richler (along with his famous protagonist, Duddy Kravitz), is gentrifying rapidly. But though the challenge of change in the neighborhood just north of the swanky part of Rue Laurier riles some, others revel in it. To the outsider, the place offers a kaleidoscopic array: The Asian teenager with an Orthodox Jew's side locks ambles along Rue St. Viateur. At a street corner, black-clad Goth girls check out South American pan flutists. Butcher shops of seemingly every Eastern European persuasion line the streets. Here's where you get your Montreal bagels, smaller, denser and sweeter than their American counterparts. Their supporters insist that these rounds, boiled in honeyed water before baking, are the real deal; the recipe allegedly was brought over by Romanian Jews in the early 1900s. From there, we continued on a mile or so north, to the Little Italy neighborhood and -- more to the point -- the Jean-Talon Market, a huge, year-round public market for regionally grown meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. Such spots often serve as my museums, telling me more about a place than most collections of art or artifacts ever could. It was a Saturday, and the joint was jammed with more than 100 stalls and thousands of Montrealers, all pondering the same age-old question: What's for dinner? On Sunday night, as our time wound down, we followed our trip to its logical conclusion: dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, a boisterous bistro that offers an unabashed homage to all creatures fat and fowl, a cuisine that is profoundly, jubilantly Quebecois. Chef Martin Picard, a darling of the back-to-the-land school of cooking, looks like a lumberjack, and kind of cooks like one, too. On the menu: "The Big Happy Pig's Chop," "the Pig's Foot" and steak that tends to be venison, when it's in season. If forced to choose, I'd say our favorite meal was at La Montee de Lait, a smallish refuge tucked into a quiet corner of the Plateau that offers a fixed-price parade of exquisite small plates. And then, sadly, the time came to put down our forks and back away slowly. The air had turned seasonably chilly, and we marveled at the Montrealers sitting at sidewalk cafes. For us, it was freezing, and unthinkable. But they were enjoying it while they could, knowing that everything -- even the temperature -- is relative. And the bowls of hot chocolate couldn't have hurt, either.