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2013 April 30

La Vie En Ruffian: A Royal Canadian Adventure

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(NEW YORK) The Ruffian boys, Brian Wolk and Claude Morais, are back with another uber-chic adventure in their latest installment of "La Vie En Ruffian." This time, the fellas travel to Montreal, Canada where they do the town as it's meant to be done. Ever consider taking a trip to Montreal? If so, here's a starting place for your itinerary; if not, get ready to plan something after reading this...

The journey of a thousand miles used to begin with the first step, but thanks to our friends at Lexus, our journey went from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds in the drivers seat of The 2013 Lexus AWD GS 350. Its streamlined aerodynamic luxury made it the perfect grand sedan for our northward pilgrimage to Claude’s motherland Quebec. As the sun set over the Hudson we made our way up the West Side Highway on the first leg of our journey. The roar of the V6 306 horse-powered engine, and the onboard computer facilitated all of our various and sundry needs including navigation for the navigationally impaired (that’s us) and endless satellite radio entertainment for the most jaded New Yorkers.  As the sky went from azure to navy, we decided there would be nowhere better to hunker down than the banks of the Queen of American Lakes, Lake George. 

As the sun rose over the Adirondacks and the loons called in their ancient song, we began day two of our journey with a hearty breakfast in an old train car diner in the town of Bolton Landing. We decided to take Old Route 9N, an original road which outlines the Western shores of Lake George and offers a much more scenic and sporty driving experience. As we headed north, we came upon an imposing Georgian mansion which sparked our interest (you can take the boys out of Downton Abbey, but you cant take the Downton Abbey out of the boys)!  We pulled up, parked the Lexus, and decided to explore. We stumbled upon the former home of philanthropist and native son Horace Moses. He built the Hancock House as a repository for the purpose of perpetuating American traditions in history and the fine arts. Its extraordinary collection of furniture, objet d’arts, and period clothing was the perfect serendipitous find on our inspirational northern journey. As the morning stretched into the afternoon, we headed toward the border, passed through customs, and crossed the Jacques Cartier Bridge into the city of Montreal. Like a beacon of light, the site of the Ritz Carlton Montreal warmed the cockles of our hearts.

This iconic institution, now celebrating its 100th year (The first Ritz-Carlton in the world!) is the only five-star hotel in Montreal, and its reputation and service are indisputable. After a four-year complete renovation it's the pinnacle of luxury for the city. This was true of our incredible suite as well. No detail was left out, including a beautiful bouquet of flowers from resident florist Jean Pascal Lemire, chocolates and complimentary tickets to the Orchestre Symphonic de Montreal.  We had arrived in heaven and thought of leaving the hotel seemed unnecessary. We decided to head up to the Hotel’s rooftop indoor pool for a few quick pre-dinner laps. With a long days journey behind us, the night would be about fine dining, and lucky for us Ruffians, Daniel Boulud has opened shop at the hotel with the legendary Maison Boulud. Its modern Franco-Asian décor and stellar service has propelled the restaurant into the pantheon elite of Montreal eateries;  reservations are hard to come by, as evidenced by the month-long wait list. Our five-course tasting menu with wine pairings was an epicurean symphony of delight. To up the ante, we were served personalized menus based on our gastronomical profile. Highlights of our meal included: Raviolo D’œuf Fermier with warm egg yolk in the center and morel mushrooms, and the Duo de Bœuf which featured short ribs and rib eye with hazelnut potato croquette and Jerusalem artichokes. Our sommelier gave us a doctoral training in wine and how all of the various appellations, cuvee and growing conditions affected the experience on our palate.  The meal ended with an homage to Quebec and a celebration of all things maple, including Maple Cream, Maple Cotton Candy, and Maple Ice Cream. The desserts' delicate sophistication and local recherché made for a perfect finale to our masterful meal. 

With only 48 hours and a full cultural agenda to experience, our next day was bursting at the seams with activities. So we hopped in the Lexus and headed out to the streets of Montreal. Our first stop was the studio of Louis Boudreault. His magnificent atelier in the Belgo artist building was mesmerizing and his grand scale paintings of famous people in their youth were breathtaking. Continuing on our art crawl, we walked a block to The Musee D’art Contemporain to catch the installation, Uraniborg by Laurent Grasso. No day of culture would be complete without the a performance of the Orchestra Symphonie of Montreal, and prodigy pianist Xiaoyu Liu did not disappoint in his performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2. With all of this cerebral stimulation we decided to take it down a notch and try out the new hot spa in Montreal “Scandinave”. This co-ed refuge of relaxation seeking hipsters is based on the Nordic principles of thermal oppositions. We went from hot baths to cold plunges, steam room and saunas to chilly showers, with rests in between to elevate our endorphins and detoxify our bodies from our urban vices. Speaking of which, after the spa we decided it was OK to have one small cocktail at Montreal’s cinq à sept bar of the moment Baldwin Barmacie. If you want to see the sexy crowd, look no further. Their eclectic cocktail selection and charming menu make this the perfect pre-dinner or post anything place to pick up a Québécois hottie!

Parting Montreal was truly sweet sorrow, and our 300 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets were holding on to us with dear life. But after a long soak in our oversized tub we made our farewell promenade through the ballroom that saw the likes of Elizabeth Taylor (she and Richard Burton did get married in the hotel, after all). The kind bellhop chaperoned to our Lexus, which had already been packed and ready to go by the amazing staff at the hotel. As we drove away from the lap of luxury in the lap of luxury, kept toasty with our seat warmers keeping, we knew we would never forget our ultimate five-star road adventure!

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