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Montreal in the French speaking province of Quebec is one of North America's great entertainment playgrounds - you could easily spend a week here without tiring of the trendy eateries set all over town, the stylish clothiers and antiques shops, and the lusty gay nightlife scene. Yet, while it happens this is a wonderful place to cut loose and meet stylish dykes and gay guys, the city is also a cultural treasure, and a preserve of intriguing architecture spanning three centuries.

In comparison, Quebec City - the provincial capital - is much smaller and moves at a slower pace. Gays and lesbians tend to be less visible, and the scene is more intimate, if somewhat limited. Out-of-towners often draw notice at the handful of gay bars, more than likely in the form of a warm hello. Aesthetically, whereas Montreal feels like a hybrid of North American and European cultures, Quebec feels distinctly old-world and Continental. The city is hilly and abundant with stone houses and cobbled lanes - it also preserves its French heritage, and the French language, better even than many parts of France.

In terms of gay-friendly accommodations, Montreal's and Quebec City's hotel scenes are more like Europe's than North America's, with an emphasis on small, affordable - though sometimes bare-bones - pension-style guesthouses, contrasting with many massive, newer convention hotels (especially in Montreal). However, both cities have a few historic grande dames of considerable character. Rates are generally quite reasonable in both cities, although edge up much higher during the summer tourist season. What follows are a sampling of some of the best gay-friendly accommodations in both Montreal and Quebec:

If Money is No Object

In Montreal, a super-plush boutique hotel that's a discreet address for many visiting celebrities, the Loews Hotel Vogue has sleek, contemporary furnishings and bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and TVs. The lobby's L'Opera lounge is a favorite place to meet friends for a drink. Another favorite is the Ritz-Carlton Kempinski, which has since 1912 represented the best that money - usually very old money - can buy. It's the perfect roost for indulgent divas (Liz Taylor married Richard Burton here), and even non-guests should pop in and raise a pinky during the fabulous afternoon teas.
Quebec City's Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac ranks among Canada's most distinctive hotels. This massive 1893 structure was built by the Canadian Pacific railroad to house passengers. Additions over the years have given the place a wide range of room types, but traditionalists will want to stay in the original wing. Part of the fun of staying here is taking in the many elegant public rooms, shops, and eateries, and you can't beat the central location either.

Old-world Romance

Quebec City's highly romantic Auberge St-Antoine, in a converted 1830s maritime warehouse, sits next to the esteemed Musee de la Civilisation in historic Lower Town. Accommodations are plush yet understated, each room themed individually. Most have exposed stone or brick walls, muted earthy tones, and custom-made beds and tables; some have private rooftop terraces overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The staff looks carefully after each guest, and an afternoon wine-and-cheese reception in the lobby is a pleasant way to unwind. An intimate, wonderful find in quaint Old Montreal, the 1880s Auberge du Vieux-Port contains 27 individually decorated rooms with romantic stone and brick walls, tall casement windows, brass beds, hardwood floors, and wooden beams. The location, a reasonably short walk from the Gay Village and steps from the cafes and antiques shops of the Vieux Port, couldn't be more enchanting.

Trendy Trappings

In Quebec City, Hotel Dominion 1912 is a chic and gracious boutique hotel with stylish guest rooms and a personable staff. In this retrofitted food warehouse, the tallest building in Canada back when it was built, guest rooms have high, beamed ceilings, arty bathroom fixtures, cobalt reading lamps over the bed and desk, and down duvets and plush linen pillows. In 1999, the same gay-friendly management team opened Hotel Le Germain in Montreal (the company opened a branch in Toronto in 2001). This impeccably furnished hotel draws discriminating travelers who appreciate the loft-inspired rooms with neatly framed black-and-white photos, mahogany blinds, natural-fibre linens, and soft yet cool color schemes. There's also a lavish breakfast buffet. Hotel du Fort is a charming Montreal boutique hotel that's ideal if you'd prefer to be in the western end of the city center, but still an easy cab or subway ride from gay nightlife. This relatively young (1992) property has sleek rooms nearly all with skyline, Mont-Royal, or river views. The hotel prides itself in having highly personalized and attentive service.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Montreal has a pair of expertly managed chain high-rises that have a strong following with corporate types but close proximity to gay nightlife and dining. Steps from McGill University and the funky Plateau neighborhood's main drag, the Renaissance Hotel du Parc is an excellent gay-friendly hotel with warmly furnished rooms and an extensive health club. When circuit parties are in town, the upscale Crowne Plaza Metro Centre fills to capacity with revelers - it also hosts other gay events, and the management contributes actively to AIDS and gay causes. Rooms are clean and cheerfully furnished, and it's a short walk from both the Gay Village and the Latin Quarter. Also on the Plateau and near the Gay Village, the Hotel de L'Institut represents an exceptional value. This 40-room hotel rests upon the top three floors of a hospitality college, and sure enough, the staff works hard and does a great job keeping rooms clean and attractive - employees have their grades to think about, after all. The building's exterior is rather ugly, but it presides over tree-shaded Carre St-Louis (and the Sherbrooke Metro). Considering the rates, the polite staff, and the excellent location, this place is a steal.

Where the Boys Are

The guy-oriented, historic La Conciergerie inn is one of the best-kept gay-oriented accommodations in Montreal, has antiques-filled rooms and a 24-hour private hot tub. Some rooms have this 1885 townhouse's original elaborate plaster moldings and all contain a tasteful mix of antique and newer pieces. A cute breakfast room is filled with colorful paintings, and the location is close to the Gay Village and Vieux-Montreal.

Occupying the top floors of the wild and crazy La Track gay entertainment complex, the Hotel Bourbon is perfect for social butterflies, as you don't even have to leave the building to reach several bars, Le Club-Sandwich restaurant, and even a sauna. Despite its sexual energy, it's a clean and upstanding hotel. Rooms are well maintained, and the several suites sleeping up to eight are a terrific bargain. The only drawback is the noise, especially on weekends. In Quebec City, Le Coureur des Bois Guest House is a rather social little inn that's popular with both single guys and male couples. This cozy stone house with thick walls and old-fashioned casement windows has meticulously clean, recently renovated rooms with basic but pleasant furnishings; an adjacent house has two full apartments with self-catering (ideal for long-term). It's just up a quaint, steep street from the city gate at rue St-Jean - an easy walk from the city's several hopping gay bars and saunas.

The Little Black Book

Auberge du Vieux-Port (97 rue de la Commune est, Montreal, 514-876-0081 or 888-660-7678, Website).
Auberge St-Antoine (10 rue St-Antoine, Quebec City, 418-692-2211 or 888-692-2211, Website).
Crowne Plaza Metro Centre (505 rue Sherbrooke est, Montreal, 514-842-8581 or 800-561-4644).
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (1 rue des Carrieres, place d'Armes, 418-692-3861 or 800-828-7447, Website).
Hotel Bourbon (1574 rue Ste-Catherine est, Montreal, 514-523-4679 or 800-268-4679).
Hotel Dominion 1912 (126 rue St-Pierre, Quebec City, 418-692-2224 or 888-833-5283, Website).
Hotel de L'Institut (3535 rue St-Denis, Montreal, 514-282-5120 or 800-361-5111).
Hotel du Fort (1390 rue du Fort, 514-938-8333 or 800-565-6333, Website).
Hotel Le Germain (2050 rue Mansfield, 514-849-2050 or 877-333-2050, Website).
La Conciergerie (1019 rue St-Hubert, Montreal, 514-289-9297, Website).
Le Coureur des Bois Guest House (15 rue Ste-Ursule, Quebec City, 418-692-1117 or 800-269-6414).
Loews Hotel Vogue (1425 rue de la Montagne, Montreal, 514-285-5555 or 800-465-6654).
Renaissance Hotel du Parc (3635 av. du Parc, Montreal, 514-288-6666 or 800-363-0735, Website).
Ritz-Carlton Kempinski (1228 rue Sherbrooke O, Montreal, 514-842-4212 or 800-363-0366, Website).

For discount flights to Canada check out eBookers

Andrew Collins authored the recently revised Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA, the Connecticut Handbook, and six regional gay guides for Fodor's. He can be reached here at OutUK or direct at GayFodors@aol.com.

 

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