Inhabiting a ritzy building on the iconic René-Lévesque Boulevard in downtown Montreal, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has all the trappings of a luxury hotel. Walk into the lobby and you’ll immediately spot an extensive artisanal market — where guests can watch pastry chefs craft perfectly shaped croissants— and Québécois fine-dining restaurant Rosélys. Three floors up, the five-star ambience continues at Nacarat Terrace, where the 9-to-5 crowd gathers for happy hour drinks on one of the only alfresco patios downtown.
And yet, the true cultural pinnacle of this hotel isn’t the chic terrace bar nor the Marché Artisans. It’s on the 17th floor, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono once stayed for a week on their honeymoon in 1969. After they wed, Lennon and Ono staged events called Bed-Ins, where they essentially invited the press to follow them on their honeymoon as they spread their message of peace and love. Following the couple’s Bed-Ins in Amsterdam and the Bahamas, they arrived in Montreal and took four rooms on the 17th floor. It’s even where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance.”
Today, the rooms have been converted into an over-the-top, two-bedroom suite — room 1742, known as the John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite — with rates starting at $3,500 (INR 2,58,294) a night. The doors to the suite are covered with messages and images from Ono and Lennon, and many relics from their Bed-In now decorate the interior. You’ll find video recordings from their time in Montreal, and even security logs kept the week Ono and Lennon stayed in the suite — there were, ahem, quite a few noise complaints.
Travellers from outside Canada often don’t think of Montreal as a music city. Montreal (and much of Quebec) is instead celebrated for its distinctly European feel. And the Euro-centric reputation stands to reason — from the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal to Quebec’s scenic mountain destinations (think: Tremblant and Saint-Sauveur), you’ll find all the charms of small-town Europe without the flight across the pond. That said, there’s also celebrated music energy in Montreal — akin to what you might feel in Nashville or London — that’s somewhat overlooked on the global travel scene.
The biggest reminder of Montreal’s music culture is the Montreal Jazz Festival, which this year has been rescheduled for September, kicking off on the 15th of the month. But Montreal’s music ethos is accessible to tourists year-round, whether you stumble into a cafe with live music on The Plateau, or venture to Montreal specifically for a show at the Bell Centre. That’s why the John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite is such a prized cultural element of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth — it shows travellers that, from Leonard Cohen to Arcade Fire to the Bed-Ins of ’69, Montreal plays an essential role in the past and present pop culture conversation.
While the John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite is the pièce de résistance of Fairmont’s 950 rooms, the other suites bring in a different element of Montreal culture. The hotel’s executive suites are named after Montreal neighbourhoods (Ville-Marie, Le Plateau, Westmount, Hampstead, Mile-End, and St-Henri, among others). Guests can book each of the suites with a Welcome to the Neighbourhood package, which comes with a private tour of the neighbourhood your suite is named after. They’ve also incorporated artwork and sculptures by Montreal artistes to make the property’s WeWork-esque workspaces and signature Fairmont Gold Lounge feel like modern art hangouts. Anyone in the city — whether or not they’re staying at the hotel — can book a private art tour of the property.
Ultimately, the hotel feels like a cultural gateway to Montreal. It’s the perfect introduction to the city, whether you’re returning this year for the Jazz Fest in celebration of Canada’s reopening, or visiting Montreal for the first time.
Source: Travel and Leisure India