LEONARD COHEN WAS HERE: THE BIRTHPLACE OF A CLASSIC SONG
Suzanne takes your hand...
DESI DI NARDO
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 19, 2007
MONTREAL -- The lyrics of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne evoke the much-beloved song's setting: the riverbanks, cobblestone boulevards and narrow alleys of Montreal. But what if you could spend a night or two where Cohen and Suzanne Verdal - the woman at the centre of the lyrical masterwork - engaged in absorbing discourse over a tray of tea and mandarin oranges?
After many candlelit conversations, it was in Verdal's modest 500-square-foot apartment, overlooking the St. Lawrence River, that the famous song was born. Unbeknownst to even the most fervent Cohen fans, Verdal's former residence is now readily accessible as a room in a boutique hotel.
Built on De La Commune in 1867, the building was first used as a warehouse and later converted to apartments. In 1999, the three-storey property was once again transformed, this time into the L'Auberge de la Place Royale.
Interest in the hotel and what was Verdal's apartment may jump with the recent re-release of Cohen's first three albums - Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), Songs from a Room (1969), and Songs of Love and Hate (1970) - as well as the republication of Let Us Compare Mythologies, his earlier poetry, this month.
Piped-in classical music escorts auberge guests through a narrow, carpeted foyer where a crooked, creaking staircase leads to a dozen diversely furnished rooms. The remaining exposed red brick and old wood trim captures the ambience of Montreal's Old Port.
Room 202 is Verdal's former apartment. The room is spacious, with high ceilings and four large windows that face the harbour. A plush green area rug covers a portion of the hardwood floor and the room's furnishings include a king-sized bed that requires the use of a bed step to mount, a large wooden dresser and a cast-iron table with two chairs nestled in a nook meant to evoke the spirit of Cohen and Verdal.
L'Auberge de la Place Royale, along with the adjacent Helios Café, is run as a family-owned business and all members of the family are involved with the hotel's operation. There is a comfortable lack of pretension about the place, especially on the sunny Helios Café's patio, which is reserved for hotel patrons during breakfast. It is no surprise that many celebrities, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Baldwin brothers, Milla Jovovich and Chris Noth have been spotted dining at the café.
L'Auberge de la Place Royale: 115 De La Commune Ouest, 514-287-0522, http://www.aubergeplaceroyale.com.
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