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Montreal Musts, to stay: Downtown digs at Opus Hotel
The boutique hotels of Old Montreal are an obvious draw. The neighborhood is charming, with cobblestone streets flanked by art galleries and cute eateries. This is the Montreal most tourists seem to want to visit. But, especially if you've been there before, it may be worth trading the old world time for the energy in the downtown area. The Opus Hotel, on the corner of la rue Sherbrooke and boulevard Saint-Laurent is centrally located, not far from a metro station and wraps you in style from the lobby to the pillow.
Upon entering the hotel, you find a carefully decorated lobby. It's clear immediately that design is a priority at Opus Hotel, and the open concept provides a glimpse of a seating area, away from the bustle of the front desk, where guests can relax, peck away at their laptops, drink coffee and sit either together or apart. The columns provide something of a dividing line between check-in and sitting area, but the concept is reinforced by various forms of sculpture ... giving you something to enjoy whether you're waiting for your key or sipping an espresso on the other side.
Remember to have your key handy when you step into the elevator (security measure for the property's guests); it will save you a few seconds of fishing through your pocket when you want to get to your room and wash the smell of the plane off your body. The ride is short, and before you know it, you're in your space for the next few nights, a carefully appointed guestroom that offers plenty of elbow room and design that is sufficiently tasteful and edgy to leave me feeling like Opus Hotel made a mistake in letting me stay there.
The rooms may vary slightly, with those not yet renovated having a separate room for the toilet. I prefer the post-renovation style, which has the entire bathroom in one room (didn't like the closet concept). Flop onto the bed – fortunately it was firm enough for me without feeling like a sidewalk, so I think it will appeal to almost everybody – and look up. The ceiling has an unfinished cement look, which complements the soft colors used on the walls.
Dine at the hotel's restaurant, Koko, at least once. I enjoyed the restaurant a little over a year ago and was excited to see that nothing had changed. The menu – which brings together Asian and continental European cuisine, is tasty, carefully presented and attentively served. The cocktail menu will keep you busy (don't try them all, at least not in one sitting), but skip the usual after-dinner drinks when it's time for dessert. Instead, opt for a Canadian specialty such as ice wine or ice cider ... or both, as I did (it was worth it, and I'd do it again).
Perhaps most important, I noticed that the staff at Opus Hotel didn't need to wait for a stupid look to cross my face before offering to help with anything ... and they entertained my feeble attempts to speak with them in French. Being able to listen to me butcher the local language with a straight face is pretty much the height of customer service, so it's unsurprising that they nailed everything else.
If you want to feel like a star, this is the hotel to call home on your next trip to Montreal. You'll be treated like a celebrity – but without the worried looks about how much damage you'll cause to the room. And, you'll feel like one in this style-savvy establishment. A stay at Opus is always a smart move.
Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.