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Trip Report Montréal--Mini-Trip Report

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Just returned yesterday from a great two-day visit to Montréal. The trip was mostly to see the superb exhibition Splendore a Venezia at the MMFA before it ends next weekend, but we also managed to take in a fine concert and of course some good meals while there.

The theme of the show is Art and Music from the Renaissance to the Baroque in Venice and all the major Venetian artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Canaletto are represented along with many others. The theme of most of the paintings and drawings is music in its various forms, and there are many original scores (including a first edition of the Four Seasons) and quite a few musical instruments of the era. The audio guide, instead of the usual commentary has musical selections from all the great Venetian composers including Monteverdi, Gabrieli and of course Vivaldi. There was also a series of concerts in the MMFA's new concert hall throughout the course of the exhibition, but unfortunately none while we were in Montréal. This was an exhibition well worth seeing and if you are close enough I urge you to see it before it closes.

We did manage to get last minute tickets to a sold-out concert by the MSO, an all-Beethoven concert under Maestro Nagano with Radu Lupu as soloist. It was my first visit to the Symphony's new home, the Maison Symphonique de Montréal, and what a delight it is, both acoustically and visually--it is a traditional shoebox design like the Musikverein in Vienna and Boston's Symphony Hall, but is finished mostly in light beechwood with many curving surfaces. The concert hall is a box within a box to isolate sounds, while the exterior walls are largely glass. We were sitting in the last row of the second balcony and the sound there was incredible. Montrealers should be very proud of this concert hall.

We stayed in a fairly new boutique hotel, Chez Swann, at the corner of Drummond and deMaisonneuve and it too was delightful--very cool and hip decor. It's a perfect location only a couple of blocks from the MMFA, very close to the Métro and only steps from Ogilvy's and Holt's for those who like to shop. Breakfast is in the adjoining bistro Le Pois Penché and we dined there one night--service and food were excellent. We also dined at Chez Alexandre just around the corner on Peel. It's a well-established restaurant and while the meal was fine, we thought that the Pois Penché was superior and better value. It, along with Chez Swann, merit a return visit.

Our final stop before leaving Montréal was at Fairmount Bagel to pick up a few dozen of the best bagels in the world (lovers of St-Viateur Bagel might disagree), then on the road in heavy rain and fog back to Ottawa. A great January get-away!

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