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Student-Run Montreal Hotel Is Really a Class Act

September 17, 1989|JERRY COHEN | Cohen is a free-lance writer living in South Pasadena

MONTREAL — Travelers delight in Hotel de l'Institut because of its location--dead center of this city's Latin Quarter on Rue St.-Denis, a street that has been compared to Boulevard St. Germain in Paris.

The hotel also sits across the street from Square St. Louis and, literally, atop the Sherbrooke Metro Station.

Guests are within walking distance of many restaurants in three dining districts. And from the Sherbrooke Metro Station they have access to almost all of Montreal.

Some travelers choose the hotel because of its modest price. My wife and I paid about $75 U.S. for a room with two beds, which included a substantial buffet breakfast.

You'll get pink smoked salmon, among other delicacies. Plus freshly baked pastries and rolls. The daily buffet is in the sixth-floor dining room.

The hotel has 40 rooms plus two suites, and is an appendage to a larger and more ambitious operation.

It is a training site or laboratory for a public school, Institut de Tourisme et D'Hotellerie du Quebec, sponsored by the tourism arm of the provincial government of Quebec.

The school operates the hotel. Students and teachers perform the work, with the exception of a handful of regular employees, who spell the students when they attend class.

Students handle the reception desk, clean the rooms, make the beds, do the cooking and serve in the dining room.

The hotel's first floor offers a conventional lobby, pleasant and spacious. The second through the fifth floors are devoted to classrooms and laboratories, including the kitchens in which the tasty buffet items are prepared.

In addition to the breakfasts, dining rooms offer lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. Dinner costs about $16 U.S. per person.

Guests may order hard liquor or wine with lunch or dinner. A small bar that once operated in conjunction with the hotel has been closed because, despite the hotel's popularity, business did not justify keeping it open.

Guest quarters are on the seventh and eighth floors. Rooms are large and airy, and they contain color TV as well as other amenities one would expect from a topnotch hotel. Also, students maintain them immaculately.

Because it is a public school, tuition at the institute is free. About 75% of the youths are from the Montreal area, the other from other parts of the province of Quebec.

A substantial number are enrolled in hotel management. Others aspire to be cooks or pastry chefs, travel agents and tour guides.

High school youths of 16 and 17 years are enrolled as well as older students.

The entrance to the hotel, which has operated since 1976, is off St. Denis, where guest cars are stored in an underground garage for about $6 U.S. a night. We did our sightseeing by foot and metro.

We dined memorably, in one of the three districts that are saturated with restaurants of considerable ethnic diversity.

One district along St. Denis starts about 1 1/2 blocks south of the hotel. There are also several inviting restaurants along St. Denis to the north.

The others are the Deluth district (about half a mile to the north). To reach the third, cross the street from the hotel to leafy Square St. Louis and walk through to Prince Arthur Street, which runs about five blocks as a pedestrian mall that's lined with only restaurants.

The restaurants are good, mostly moderately priced and you can take along your own wine that can be bought at one of the many nearby shops.

From the Sherbrooke Metro Station you'll also want to visit Old Montreal and the Place d'Armes Station, where the subway stops.

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Hotel de l'Institut is at 3535 St. Denis, PQ H2X 3P1, Montreal, Canada, (514) 873-4163.

For more information on travel to Montreal, contact the Quebec Government Office, Tourist Information, 700 S. Flower St., Suite 1520, Los Angeles 90017, or call (213) 689-4861.

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