Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chateau Ramezay- Guest Post by Author Ken Myers

A Part of History for Two Countries: The Château Ramezay


Built in 1705, the Château Ramezay has seen just over 300 years of human history. Although the monument stands for Montreal and Canadian interest, the location had also been a small part of American history during the founding years prior to the Declaration of Independence. The building has been a seat of influence since its development and has attracted millions of people over its three-century long lifespan.

Historical Landmark
The Château Ramezay was included into the National Historic Sites of Canada index in 1949 as Montreal's first historical location. The building was originally constructed as the private residence of Claude de Ramezay, Governor of Montréal. Over time, and because of its prime locale, the Château was seized as a staging point for the United Colonies during the Revolutionary War. Just over one year later, the estate found itself back into the hands of Canadian forces as Governor Carleton returns to the city after colonial forces abandoned the area.

Not as Influential as He Would Have Hoped
It was Benjamin Franklin's wish to win over the Canadian people to fight alongside their neighbors to the south. As a prominent figure for the United Colonials, the goal was to enlist the help of anyone willing to fight against the British. In May of 1776, Benjamin Franklin decreed the attempt to be a failure and withdrawal back to colonial lands. Whether Franklin's age and waning health promoted the retreat, the fact that British forces where marching towards Montreal or a mixture of both, one of the American's most influential people vacated the Château.

Good and Bad Historical Influences
Keeping in line with historical value, the Château Ramezay also witnessed the likes of one of the most revered names in the history of the United States as well as Canada: Benedict Arnold. In 1776, Arnold assumed command of the garrison stationed in Montreal. He was present when the three emissaries arrived at the Château consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Unfortunately, Arnold felt obliged to betray the Colonial Army and defected to the British cause forever linking his name to the terms of traitor and treachery.

Conversion to Museum
In 1894, the Château Ramezay was bought by the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal and converted into a museum and gallery. Artisans and private collectors offered their antiquities to the museum creating a collection of more than 30,000 items of historical value. Everything from manuscripts to furniture had been donated by Montrealers and is an amazing display of colonial-era artwork and carpentry.

The Re-envisioning the Garden
As three hundred years of construction and development decimated the once elaborate "pleasure garden" of the original designs by Pierre Couturier, the garden itself was all but gone. In 2000, the garden was redeveloped in order to recapture some of the ambiance of 18th century Canadian design and has become an attraction at the Château Ramezay. It is not a recreation of the original design by Pierre Couturier, but more of a testament to the gardens of nobility from 18th century upper-class Canadians.

The Château Ramezay is an alluring aspect of Montreal for all who wish to learn more about Canada's involvement in the Revolutionary War. As it housed some of the most famous and infamous people of American history, it stands as a reminder that historical events can unfold virtually anywhere that can intertwine two separate countries reshaping how events progress.


Author Bio:
Ken Myers is the founder of & has learned over the years the importance of focusing on what the customer is looking for and literally serving it to them. He doesn’t try to create a need; instead he tries to satisfy the existing demand for information on products and services.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


As part of France Book Tours,

 I had the immense pleasure of reading and reviewing 

by Anne- Marie Simons.

My Review:
What would it be like for you and your loved one to pick up and relocate to another country? How about Provence?!

Anne-Marie Simons and husband, Oscar, did just that a few years ago when they moved from their home in the US, and have never looked back since.  Do you blame them? Aix-en-Provence, according to Anne-Marie's book, Taking Root in Provence, is one festive day after another.  There are saints' days, Corridas, season and harvest days- it's one holiday after another. Even on regular days it would seem the people of Provence are celebrating something!
Being surrounded by friends, family and outrageously delicious food has to count for something..Taking Root in Provence fills you with the need to buy airfare and go!  There is a sense of people taking the time to savour life, not just while eating and celebrating- it's the day-to-day in Provence that adds colour and dimension to people's lives.  Even a trip to the butcher can entail conversation that has one walking out with more than just fresh meat.

Extremely entertaining and well-written, Taking Root in Provence, whisked me away to open-air eating with a nice glass of wine one day- to a Corrida the next (historically, Provence has a strong Spanish influence and even their own dialect).  I loved reading about Simons' customary- after- lunch hikes (the French love hiking- no wonder they're so fit!). And in between lunch and hiking? Lying under a tree and taking a little 'sieste' is de rigueur.
Do you need to get away, even if just mentally? Taking Root in Provence is an absolute- must- read!  With all this packed info on Provence, you can absolutely use it as a guide...but honestly, you will devour this gem for the essence and sheer pleasure it brings. Taking Root in Provencee immerses you into France, and begs you to embrace Provence's ways...who can refuse to taste a bit of this dreamy life?  Speaking of taste, at the back of the book, Oscar shares some delectable recipes.
Join Anne-Marie Simons in her new dreamy life in Provence...You won't want this book to end!

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To read more on this delicious book,
The Tour is announced here:
Two expatriates left Washington DC in search of the ideal place to retire where climate, culture, accessibility and natural beauty all had a role to play. Curious about the vaunted quality of life in the south of France, they traveled the length and width of Provence where, preferring the city to the countryside, they decided to settle in the ancient town of Aix-en-Provence. That was in 1998 and Taking Root in Provence is the story of their slow integration into the French mainstream — both easier and more difficult than expected but ultimately successful.
In a series of vignettes Anne-Marie Simons gives us a warts-and-all picture of life among the French and with warmth and humor shares her lessons learned. Contrary to most publications about Provence, this book focuses on life in the city rather than the quiet countryside, and promises to be both informative and revealing to those who want to spend more than a passing holiday here. [from the author's website]
ISBN 978-0-9802175-7-5
212 pages
Release Date: March 1, 2011 by Distinction Press
 Author Information:
Anne-Marie Simons has worked as a translator, teacher, journalist, sportswriter (covering Formula 1 races), and director of corporate communications.

Her Argentine husband, Oscar, left a career in international development banking to become an expert on Provençal cooking and other local pleasures. [from the publisher’s website]
 Author Links:
 Book Links:
Buy directly from the publisher
Buy on Amazon
Kindle edition

Thursday, October 24, 2013


What is Halloween Spirit? The question itself seems to have a double nuance! 

         Spooky, creepy, scary...could there be some truth lingering behind haunted legends?

I was recently referred this amazing article by colleague and travel expert, Kendra Thornton.  Do you believe in ghosts, or haunted places? What about haunted HOTELS?? You must read this awesome article written by Gogobot, on the legends of some haunted hotels- the piece originally posted HERE.  

...Wonder if anyone would be gutsy enough to check out the truth behind this...what an excitingly spooky travel opportunity this could be...especially around Halloween!!


By: Gogobot Editors’ Choice
Between the 400-thread count sheets and top-end toiletries, a former resident or two often lingers…
Hotel del Coronado – San Diego, California
The History
During the late 19th century, San Diego was abuzz with a major real estate boom.  Elisha S. Babcock, Jr., Hampton L. Story, and Jacob Gruendike saw an opportunity, and purchased Coronado island in 1885 for just $110,000. Bringing in a few more investors, they formed The Coronado Beach Company, and began construction on the elegant Victorian Hotel del Coronado in 1887. By the early 1890s, with the input of new investor John D Spreckels, it was becoming one of California’s most sought-after destinations. The resort instated quirky schemes like Tent City, a giant camping field just outside the hotel, to increase capacity in the summer months, and people flocked to enjoy the Ferris wheel and swimming. But while children splashed in the sea and parents sipped lemonade, a more tragic story was unfolding, one that continues to ‘haunt’ the Hotel del Coronado.
The Legend: The Beautiful Stranger
Kate Morgan, daughter of a prominent postmaster in Iowa, married Thomas Edwin Morgan in 1885. Their love affair, however, proved very short lived, and Kate ended up in Los Angeles, working as a domestic servant in various wealthy homes. In late November of 1892 she left LA for San Diego to take a few days’ vacation, and on November 29, five days after checking in at the Hotel del Coronado, Kate was found dead on an exterior staircase leading to the beach with a gunshot wound to the head. Having registered under an assumed name, she was called the ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and not identified for days. Since that time, guests staying in what is now room 3327 report unexplained cold breezes and strange electrical problems over the staircase where she died.
The Algonquin Hotel – New York, New York
The History
Literary luminaries, elegant actors, and cultural pundits have long made the forward thinking Algonquin, in midtown Manhattan, a destination. The venerable New Yorker magazine was founded and funded (at a poker game) within its walls. Ladies traveling alone were welcomed here when few other places would accommodate. And manager-owner Frank Case had the foresight to accommodate the members of The Algonquin Round Table, one of history’s most inspiring social circles. The Round Table, known amongst themselves as “The Vicious Circle,” was a group of writers, publicists and actors who lunched daily at the hotel and included Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. The group, though often rather broke, was well-hosted by the hotel, presented with free celery and popovers (retro snacking, apparently) along with a private table and waiter. And yet despite the zingy lines spawned by the group during the gatherings – “Let’s get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini!” – for one, the Group imbibed nothing stronger than coffee at the hotel during this era, as it was Prohibition and Case, ever the teetotaler, had closed the bar in 1917.
Although The Algonquin was sold by Case in 1946 and has changed hands many times, the bar has long since reopened and now serves classic cocktails as well as a few unique options like the “Martini on the Rock” – a $10,000 martini served over a single piece of “ice” (diamond at the bottom of the glass!). This particularly extravagant cocktail choice may have irked denizens of the Round Table, but even today the Algonquin continues to attract members of the literary community with such offers as lunch discounts for struggling writers (in honor of Frank’s long-standing tradition of sending popovers and celery to the more impoverished members of The Round Table). Guests also receive free copies of the New Yorker magazine.
The Legend: The Round Table
Hotel residents claim to have seen members of The Vicious Circle, including American writer, poet, critic and satirist Dorothy Parker, roaming the halls of the Algonquin. Other apparitional sightings have included that of famous literary figures like Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber and famous American writer, Robert Charles Benchley.
The Myrtles Plantation – St Francisville, Louisiana
The History
This antebellum plantation was built in 1796 by General David Bradford, known as “Whiskey Dave” due to his role in the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion, when George Washington’s attempt to institute a new grain/corn tax was poorly, and sometimes violently, received by farmers. “Whiskey Dave” himself organized what was believed to be one of the largest protests of the Whiskey Rebellion during which over 7,000 men gathered at Braddock’s Field. In later years, Bradford moved from Laurel Grove (subsequently known as The Myrtles Plantation)…which went on to acquire more spooky stories.
The Legend: Slaves and Murder
Up to 12 ghosts are said to roam the plantation. Those said to haunt the grounds include a young Native American woman (the plantation is built near an old burial ground) as well as union soldiers who died here and a former slave named Chloe (who remains unverifiable in any historical texts). But perhaps the creepiest apparition to be seen is that of a man staggering or crawling up the stairs. Less famous than Chloe, this ghost is said to be William Winter, the only verified victim of murder in the house, who died on the 17th step after being shot on the front porch.
The Congress Hotel – Chicago, Illinois
The History
Said to be the most haunted place in the “Windy City,” The Congress Plaza Hotel was built in 1893. It was originally called the Auditorium Annex and hosted visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition. In later years, a marble tunnel called “Peacock Alley” was built to connect the Annex with the Auditorium Hotel just across the street. The Congress Plaza Hotel was the first of the Chicago hotels to feature air-conditioning in its ballroom (known as the “Gold Room”) and has been referred to as the “Home of Presidents,” as the site served as campaign headquarters for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and hosted meetings for Taft, Harding, Coolidge, among others.
The Legend: Al Capone and Others
Al Capone is the most famous ghost of the Congress Plaza hotel, even if he is not necessarily the most goose-pimple-inducing. Capone never lived at the property but is said to have played many a game of cards here with his pals who did. Over the years, some guests have reported seeing apparitions of the famous mobster wandering the halls. It’s Room 441 that sparks the most calls to security, however, with each caller reporting a similar story: the ghostly outline of a woman inside. Hotel staff have also reported the ghost of a young boy in the North Tower, the victim of his own mother who threw him off the roof before jumping to her own death. And don’t even try to visit the 12th floor, where there is reportedly a room so terrifying it has been locked – from the outside.
Omni Parker House – Boston, Massachusetts
The History
Cited as one of the top ten historic hotels in the U.S., the Omni Parker House in Boston was founded by Harvey D. Parker in 1855. Originally a restaurant and hotel called Parker’s, its excellent food and service was an immediate hit in a city where travelers normally had to pitch up at rough taverns. Amongst the large number of historic hotels in Boston, the Omni Parker stands out to this day. Literary greats like Thoreau (ostensibly not during his minimalist Walden phase, given the opulence of the surroundings), Emerson, Dickens and Hawthorne frequented the hotel, followed by a parade of famous names from Babe Ruth to Bill Clinton. Famous names have also emerged from the kitchen, including homegrown dishes such as the Boston Crème Pie which was created here.
The Legend: Harvey the Host
If you like your ghosts courteous, this is your place. Harvey Parker himself is the main sighting at the hotel, and as the consummate host, he’d do anything but turn the lights out on you. Instead a guest has reported waking to see a man dressed for the late 19th century at the foot of her bed, smiling solicitously as if to enquire about her experience. She returned the favor and he disappeared. That is until she awoke and saw a portrait of the mysterious man hanging in the hotel. Turns out, it was Harvey Parker.
For more supernatural stories, have a- look at our Spooky Cemeteries Guide. If you prefer your history a little less bone-chilling, spend some time in the History Buffs tribe, a great way to connect with other travelers who love to uncover the tales of times past.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chihuly - Absolutely Breathtaking!

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts seems to always be packed on Sundays- no matter what.  But today the line-ups were incredible.  I had been dying to see Dale Chihuly's exhibit since this summer already- but never got the chance.  

On this sunny Sunday afternoon here in Montreal, my youngest daughter and I decided it was now or never if we wanted to see what so many have been raving about( this extended exhibition ends next Sunday, October 27th). 

We skipped the line-up, and this is where I must add that a VIP pass is so worth it.  The place was packed when we got there at 2pm and we thought we might be there forever- but with the pass we were in and out in no time -and totally mesmerized.

Dale Chihuly has transformed what was once solely a well-kept secret Venetian art form into brilliant and sensuous modern art that has gone beyond the imaginable.  Illuminated crystals floating the air and taking form and shape into that which only the imagination can possess.  Who would have thought that blown glass could explode into this?!

Breathtaking is possibly the only word to describe these masterpieces.

Visit the Chihuly Exhibition at the MMFA:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gardens of Light...

If you've never seen this spectacular display, here at the Montreal Botanical Garden- you've got to go! This show of lights continues until November 3rd.  You will love the Asian feel- a night of pure splendor as you get enveloped in the magical feel.  There are literally hundreds of silk lanterns from China (made by hand) and unimaginably unique.  It's open til 9 pm every day. See Calendar here.

This is a festival not to be missed.  Montrealers of all ages flock to the Botanical Garden for this extraordinarily beautiful light show- even if it often means standing in line to get in.  Not only is this a splendid light show that's also smart; the BT uses special technology to make it all Eco-friendly.  Honestly,  if this exhibit is not yet world renowned...well, it's  probably because it's Montreal's best kept secret for locals. 

 Take a look at these breathtaking photos from the Botanical Garden Site's Gardens of Light:

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Walk Through Suburbia

I love how they've created a passage between homes to get to the water.

Just need to be careful of the poison ivy!

Stunning little haven at the edge of this up-scale neighbourhood.

This though was quite unexpected!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Le Procope, in Paris: Napoleon's Hangout!

Winding cobblestone streets and a back road lane transformed by a colourful mish mash of cozy tete-a-tete tables where lovers dine and and sip their wine near merchants selling their fruit- a very bubbly and happening place this short winding street.  This is where by pure chance I stumbled upon the back way entrance to the very famous “ Le Procope”.

This happens to be the cafe where Napoleon used to hang out! At the very entrance there’s even his hat! The story has it that during his ‘poor’ days, Napoleon pawned his hat to be able to pay his bill.
This is more than a charming place- it’s filled with history.  The whole place is decorated with memorabilia of the times and photos cover the walls. There is a lovely room upstairs where Napoleon and his political crowd gathered for discussions, good wine and great food. 
Disappointed that we had already had lunch (apparently the place serves the finest French delicacies), hubby and I settled for their renowned coffee and sorbet (apparently still the same recipe!!) – delicious:) The staff was also extremely kind to us (seems like all of Paris was enthralled with our Quebec accent;) Anyway, they let us roam the place and take some photos. I think I had the best time in Paris right in this very place where Nappy himself enjoyed himself most.  Memorable. Honestly, I think I felt his presence more here than Malmaison!
These photos were taken in the cozy upstairs-attic room where all the political action happened...


And then, just by the hallway to the restrooms,

  I see this interesting sign...hmm...Voltaire, I'm not impressed!