Montreal

Montreal’s Dragon Restaurant

There are about two dozen medieval-themed restaurants in the world1. Of those, L’Auberge du Dragon Rouge is definitely not the most authentically medieval. But the Montreal restaurant is almost certainly the most fun.

You’ll find L’Auberge du Dragon Rouge well north of downtown on Rue Lajeunesse. It’s a surprisingly nondescript street for such an unusual restaurant. Walking past the ordinary-looking concrete and brick buildings, your first clue that you’ve come across somewhere special will be the giant gargoyle statue out front.

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The Great Outdoors, Indoors at the Montreal Biodome

Regular Spot Cool Stuff travel blog readers might remember our review of Beijing’s cool Happy Magic water park, which is housed inside a building originally constructed to host the swimming events at the 2008 Beijing Games.

But it isn’t the only structure that was originally built for an Olympics but that’s used today for a completely different purpose. Also in that category is the Montreal Biodome. It was originally built as a venue for the track cycling and judo events of the 1976 Olympic Games. Today, the dome is home to fascinating replicas of various ecosystems around the Americas.

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The Best View from a
Hotel Room in Montreal

When Spot Cool Stuff travels we love staying in a room with a view. In Montreal, there’s no better hotel room view than that offered from the upper rooms at the Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain.

Spanning to a height of 139 meters (454 feet), the Marriott Chateau Champlain is the tallest hotel in the city (and its 9th tallest building of any sort). The vista from those lofty heights is framed by the hotel’s most distinctive feature: the half-moon windows.

From inside the rooms, the view through those windows looks like this:

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The Living Sculptures of Mosaïcultures

Spot Cool Stuff, generally speaking, is not a fan of botanical gardens. As a place to walk around for a few minutes as part of a romantic date, maybe. If we happen to be near the entrance of a botanical garden. . . and if we had some time to spare . . . and if admission is free . . . we’d possibly consider popping in. But would we plan a trip around a botanical garden? Never. Absolutely not. No way. There’s no botanical garden worth that.

Except perhaps one: the Montreal Botanical Garden.

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Montreal Family Travel

For a family vacation, we absolutely adore Montreal.

Quebec’s largest city is a stellar place to travel with kids. (It’s superb choice for a romantic weekend or singles getaway too, though for different reasons.) We’d place Montreal among the likes of Paris, Sydney and San Francisco as one of the world’s top urban family travel destinations. However, unlike all the other cities that would be on that list, Montreal doesn’t really have any iconic, world-famous sights. There’s no Montreal equivalent of the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House1 or Alcatraz Island.

Do not be put off. While Montreal might lack that one must-see attraction, the city makes up for it with its depth of offerings and range of special events and festivals. Especially the festivals. Montreal’s unofficial moto is “Any excuse for a party.” The city almost always has something fun happening, something officials will gladly close streets and divert traffic for. And the best part for families traveling on a budget: Montreal’s festivals tend to be are partly, or completely, free!

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A Visit With Indiana Jones
and the Adventure of Archaeology

Fans of Indiana Jones and lovers of ancient history, grab your whip, put on your Fedora hat and head to the Montreal Science Centre this fall. That’s where you’ll find Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology, a cool museum exhibit that merges film fiction with actual archaeology.

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The World’s Best Hostels 2011
(Part I)

Hostelbookers is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite websites for booking cheap hostels, inexpensive inns and budget hotels. In addition to offering a wide selection of accommodations (most of which aren’t available on sites like Travelocity or Hotels.com), what’s cool about Hostelbookers is their extensive database of customers reviews—they’re a huge help in separating out those hostels that are high value from those that are cheap for a reason.

Hostelbookers reviewers grade properties on eight criteria: atmosphere, location, facilities, fun, staff, cleanliness, safety and value.

Below is the first of our two part review of the budget lodgings that Hostelbookers users rated the best over the last year. Scroll down to read through them all. Or click on the region you are most interested in:

Part I Part II
Africa Europe
Asia Oceania
Canada South America
Caribbean/Mexico United States

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Eating In The Dark

Here’s a restaurant theme you didn’t see coming: darkness.

The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Today you can stumble into dozens restaurants around the world where that question made famous in an American commercial in the 80s — Where’s the beef? — takes on a whole new meaning. Most dark restaurants employ blind waiters, offer a single set menu, and ban anything that could give off light (like cigarettes, cell phones and cameras) from the dinning area. All of them also have normally lit bathrooms though you’ll need to ask your waiter for help in finding it.

Here’s our illuminating look at some of the world’s dark restaurants:

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