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Affordable Alternates to Expensive Retreats | T+L Family

Instead of Paris, Montreal, Mais Oui!

Take Paris, stir in some maple leaves, drop the temperature 10, 20—or 30—degrees, and you’ve got Montreal, one of the world’s largest French-speaking metropolises, complete with its own Notre-Dame and Latin Quarter, not to mention pâtisseries galore. Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Vieux Montréal and set off by horse-drawn sleigh through the 500 acres of Parc du Mont Royal (lemontroyal.qc.ca), the hill for which the city was named. The chill in the air is the perfect excuse for frequent pastry and chocolat chaud pitstops— locals swear by the palmiers from Olive et Gourmando (351 Rue St.-Paul Ouest; 514/350-1083) and the croissants and quiche across the street at Marché de la Villette (324 Rue St.-Paul Ouest; 514/807-8084).

Time your trip to coincide with the Fête des Neiges (fetedesneiges.com; Jan. 26–Feb. 10, 2008), Montreal’s annual winter festival, which camps in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte- Hélène, for three weekends of ice sculpting, snow tubing (down 14 runs!), and dogsledding. Need to thaw out?Get lost underground—there’s a subterreanean world with 21 miles of walkways that connect metro stations, shops, and hockey arenas. Or make a beeline for the Insectarium (4581 Rue Sherbrooke Est; 514/872-1400; ville.montreal.qc.ca), a museum devoted to bugs, on the grounds of the Montreal Botanical Garden.

For dinner in this exceptional food city, have steak frites, served with a jar of cornichons, or a croque monsieur, at L’Express (3927 Rue St.-Denis; 514/845-5333; dinner for four $99). Or introduce your American-cheese fans to a menu of 60 fromages at Chez Gautier (3487 Ave. du Parc; 514/845-1245; dinner for four $74). Come bedtime, hang your hats in Vieux Montréal’s 31-room Auberge Bonaparte (447 Rue St.-François-Xavier; 514/844-1448; bonaparte.com; doubles from $169, including breakfast). Its balconies overlook the basilica of Notre-Dame, home to a 7,000-pipe organ (which trumpeted Celine Dion’s nuptials) and maybe even a hunchback.

Also consider

Quebec City The oh-so-Gallic enclave is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2008 with a year’s worth of events (see myquebec2008.com), including a show of 271 pieces on loan from the Louvre at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts. Take it all in from the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (1 Rue des Carrieres; 418/692-3861; fairmont.com; doubles from $399), a castle hotel overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

Paris

Round-trip flight from Atlanta: $914

Average hotel room: $235

Typical bistro meal: $31

Montreal

Round-trip flight from Atlanta: $538

Average hotel room: $110

Typical bistro meal: $18

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