Now it was time to strike out and explore the city. We began with a walk along Rue St-Paul, Old Montreal’s oldest street. Steps away we reached Place Jacques Cartier which was beautifully illuminated. A sugar shack was selling maple products, other stands were selling hot cholocate, and Montreal’s City Hall was gleaming at the top of this historic public square.Continuing on Rue St-Paul, the Marché Bonsecour and the historic Bonsecours Chapel were impressively lit up, and along the waterfront a ferris wheel had been set up for the “Montreal en lumière” winter festival.
Our evening program took us to the historic Basilica of Notre Dame: “And then there was light” is a sound and light show that illustrates the history behind Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica. The story of John O’Donnell, the church’s architect, comes alive with vivid lights, images and films that are projected onto giant white screens that are suspended from the basilica’s vaulted ceiling. 150 artists and skilled technicians have created this show, and 26 silent motors move the screens, projectors and curtains, and everything disappears at the end of the show to reveal the stunning opulence of Notre Dame Basilica.
Back at our hotel after a short and chilly walk, we settled in for dinner at the Restaurant Bonaparte at a cozy table across from the fireplace. Owner Louis Ladouceur and co-owner Martin Bédard joined us for a veritable feast for the senses and the palate. Louis is responsible for the revival of this building; he purchased it when it was run down and empty, and with a great investment of time and resources, he turned it into the 4-star hotel that we see today.
Louis is an interesting personality and comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His background is in electrical engineering and he worked for big corporations such as General Electric and LaFarge. At some point he decided to venture into the hospitality industry, and apart from the Auberge Bonaparte and Restaurant Bonaparte, he also owns an Indian restaurant called Ghandi in Old Montreal and just sold another restaurant in Miami.
His business partner Martin has a background in the performing arts and used to live in New York City and Los Angeles. He truly enjoys his switch into the hospitality industry and with his easy-going mindset he makes the guests feel comfortable. Culinary experts Louis and Martin were in charge of suggesting various selections from the extensive menu and took care of ordering the wines. This was truly going to be a multi-course gourmet meal.
Our first course included a roasted red pepper soup for me, while my friends ordered French onion soup, a salad and mushroom ravioli, a delicious dish that I got to taste. The second course included a mixed green salad with pine nuts and parmesan cheese, accompanied by a fine bottle of Aloxe-Corton wine from the south west of France. In between we were served a pear tarragon sorbet with sparkling wine on top, just to cleanse the palate.
The main course for our group included grilled mahi mahi with red pepper sauce, wild rice and mixed vegetables; chicken with brie; a rack of lamb with a port wine sauce and tomato-based vegetable fricassee; lobster salad with truffle oil; and a mouth-watering chicken with brie cheese and sage sauce for me.
But that wasn’t everything: Louis and Martin were still going to select some excellent desserts for all of us. Shortly after we got to taste four different types of dessert: a heavenly Grand Marnier soufflé, lemon pie with meringue – a crowd favourite, an amazing apple tarte with maple syrup and ice cream, and a “Palais Royal” – a sinful chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake with a crunchy cookie base, followed by a few profiteroles.
After this mind-blowing gourmet meal, I would not have been able to eat even a forkful l of anything else, but we had sampled an absolutely incredible selection of French Canadian cuisine in this award winning four star restaurant. Thank god there was an elevator to take us up to our floor. A restful night would help us digest and prepare us for a day full of activities tomorrow.
Interviewing Catherine Kaloutsky from Via Rail about train travel in Canada
Learning about Via Rail’s stops along the routes
Showing my spacious room at the Auberge Bonaparte
A look at room 301, featuring a queen bed and a double bed
We have a look at room 302, facing the street side
The luxurious suite on the 6th floor of Auberge Bonaparte
Having a look at the conference room and the roof top patio
Martin and I start the tour of Restaurant Bonaparte