Travel Serendipity: Vancouver to Montreal

Ah! Now, this is how travel should ideally unfold. Last month I wrote about a travel day of misadventures, and so it’s a treat to be writing this morning from a gorgeous hotel suite in Montreal, Quebec after a full but satisfying day of cross-country travel.

When booking travel, whether for yourself or your executive, do you take advantage of memberships  that provide efficiencies or upgrades?

The phrase, “Don’t leave home without it” may be familiar to those of a certain vintage who grew up exposed to hugely successful television advertising featuring the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Roger Daltrey and Karl Malden espousing the merits of a certain credit card. Well, for people with demanding schedules in 2014, the same may be said of our Nexus cards.

Airport Lineups Copyright Shelagh DonnellyFor Canadians, the Nexus pass is a means of expediting our travel between Canadian and US borders, or when re-entering Canada from abroad.  Once you or your executive have passed the Canadian and US security clearances that ultimately result in receipt of the Nexus card, the advantages also extend to travel within Canada. With card in hand, you can plan airport arrival times with confidence that you or your traveller have access to the airport equivalent of an express line as you make your way into the pre-boarding screening area. Now, even making transfers within airports is simpler and quicker. It was a treat, very early yesterday morning, to be able to bypass the lineup or queue you see in this photo; instead, less than half a dozen people preceded me in the Nexus line.

On, now, to other elements that made for such a great travel day. When booking flights for solo travel and making seat selections, I’ll watch for a row where only the aisle or window seat has already been booked … and then pick whichever of the two has not yet been chosen. If a flight is full, it won’t make any difference to you or anyone else in that row. When a flight is not quite sold to capacity, however, you may luck out as was the case yesterday: the four+ hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto was made all the more pleasant by virtue of the empty seat between a fellow traveller and yours truly.

The same was true of the connecting flight to our nation’s capital, where allowing a three+ hour window between air and train travel created opportunity for a much appreciated visit with a good friend.  You’ll see she knows this writer’s predilection for most things floral, as Sandy introduced me to Dow’s Lake and Commissioners Park, where we strolled by some gorgeous swaths of the 300,000 natural tulips (where I tried, with limited success, to refrain from cheeky remarks about the merits of living in a city where we’d enjoyed our own tulip blossoms a full month earlier) and more than a few painted tulip sculptures before settling in lakeside for a light dinner.

At the park, evidence of the affinity between Canada and the Netherlands extends beyond tulips, as our friendship was also on proud display in the form of  a bronze statue, The Man With Two Hats (“De man met de twee hoeden”) by Dutch sculptor Henk Visch. After an all too short visit and a dash to the train station, it was a treat to travel by VIA Rail to Montreal. The compartment was sparkling clean and appealing, and the staff could not have been friendlier or more helpful.

 

InterContinental Lobby Copyright Shelagh DonnellyNow in la belle province, one couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. Unlike recent train travel where securing a cab to our hotel was a protracted and painful endeavour, last night’s travellers departed the station to a line up of cabbies. A quick ride later with a trilingual driver from Algeria, and I was at the doorstep of the InterContinental Montreal, where the appealing decor begins with birch behind glass at the registration desk. We’ve stayed in this brand’s hotels and affiliates in Miami, New York, Phoenix, Toronto and Washington, DC and, apart from tasteful, appealing rooms and great locations and food services, we appreciate the high calibre of staff.

Early impressions at the InterContinental Montreal are consistent with past experience. Room 1200 is lovely, clean and spacious, and good sleeps may always be had at this brand. Yes, this corner suite truly is as generously proportioned and elegantly outfitted as these pictures suggest.

InterContinental Montreal SuiteAnd, yes, you or your executive can benefit from membership with your hotel brands of choice. Whatever brands you select for accommodation, you may benefit from small and not-so-small gestures that begin with room upgrades and reflect superior service. On arrival at the InterContinental Yorkville earlier this year, I received a letter of welcome from the manager; here in Montreal, there was a special welcome gesture from the Directeur Général, and personalised attention from managers and staff such as Mélissa, Marco and François.

Gerry, InterContinental Montreal Copyright Shelagh DonnellyMore on Montreal and its hotels in another post but, as I prepare to sign off for the day, I do so very well prepared by Concierge Gerry Lonergan, who has me well equipped for a first-timer’s day of sightseeing in Montreal. Gerry was good enough to map out some  locales to visit, and then surprised me last night by walking me over to see a bit of the Berlin Wall. Yes, that Berlin Wall. You see, I’m writing from the cusp of both downtown and Old Montreal where, at one end of Montreal’s World Trade Centre, you may choose to exit the hotel via a walkway over an atrium on the site of what was the original defensive wall of this city. In 1992, in celebration of Montreal’s 350th anniversary, the City of Berlin donated a piece of the wall to this formerly walled City – which proudly exhibits the remnant in Ruelle des Fortifications, which happens to be in the atrium by the hotel.

So: smooth travel, a chance to visit a valued friend, great accommodation, and living history, all in one day. Let’s see what today brings!

You may also be interested in …

Exceptionl EA’s Travel Page

Travel Apps for Exceptional Assistants (exceptionalea.com)

(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About Travel Planning (exceptionalea.com)

Exceptional EA Visits San Diego (exceptionalea.com)

Exceptional EA Visits Tuwanek Hotel (exceptionalea.com)

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