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When I heard that Hotel le St.-James in Montreal was the preferred accommodation for celebrities like Madonna and Mick Jagger, I have to admit I pictured something slightly different than this gracious, historic hotel in Old Montreal. Although I knew the building dated back to 1870, and I had seen the photos of the white-gloved doormen, I think I was picturing an interior décor something along the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.


Well, there's no rock n' roll memorabilia on the walls and certainly no Love Jones room service available here. This 60-room hotel started its life as a bank, and in the late 19th century, banks were basically palaces erected to the gods of commerce, with intricate wood paneling, shiny marble floors, elaborate ceilings, creamy paintings in heavy gilt frames -- all of which was impeccably preserved when the building was renovated into a hotel, and echoed in the floors that were added to the original structure.


The feel of Hotel le St.-James is sumptuous masculinity -- the palette is a subdued, tan, deep blues, browns, a faint hunting print pattern on the window treatment, even the curving posts of the four-poster beds seem to thrust towards the ceiling with great confidence. It flirts with severity, but pulls back from it by a few soft and whimsical touches: the pure white linens, the stuffed lion (which is the hotel's mascot) which sits on the mini-bar on each room.


The penthouse suite is the one the celebs often frequent -- Jake Gyllenhaal was in town filming while I was there, and I have a hunch that was where he was ensconced, although I heard that celebrities sometimes prefer the hotel's other suites. In any event, I toured the penthouse and it has a huge terrace, a formal, be-chandelier-ed dining room with a table for 10, a kitchen with Miele appliances. There's also a really nice soaking tub in the master suite, it was fun to picture Jake soaking in the bath and looking out the adjacent window onto Old Montreal. If I were Jake though, would have opted for John W. Hopkins suite, which is the former bank president's office cleverly transformed. Power and money practically exuded from the walls.


Even by five-star standards, the service at the hotel was impressive -- personalized, thoughtful, not at all pushy. The Sunday brunch at XO, the hotel's restaurant, is justly celebrated. The only disappointment is the hotel's fitness room -- it's in the basement, quite small and the equipment is not the newest. Don't expect to spot Madonna or Jake squeezing in a workout there.


(Courtesy of Luxist)

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