Montreal: B&B&B (Bed, Breakfast and a Good Base)

Comfortable, flawless hospitality is a balancing act — an easygoing atmosphere on one hand, first-rate accommodations and food on the other. Not everyone can pull this off, but Mireille Lauzon at Le Terra Nostra in Montreal’s Verdun arrondissement gets it perfect.

The four bedrooms, decorated tastefully with travel themes (Afrika, Asia, etc.), work best for couples. But there was enough space in the Afrika room for a temporary bed for our 11-year-old son, who was quite comfortable. Well-behaved children are welcome at Terre Nostra, and it’s a great way to introduce kids to this rewarding style of lodging — so much more personal and interesting than a hotel.

Hostess Mireille Lauzon has it all covered at Le Terra Nostra.

The house at 277 rue Beatty, just off Wellington, was built in 1927 and retains its charm through the careful updating that Mlle. Lauzon has done. The backyard garden, brimming in summer with purple clematis and other stunning flowers, is a beautiful respite any time of day, girded on its sides by tall, narrow oaks that we wish we could grow in Florida. It’s a great place to watch the stars come out with a glass of wine.

And in fine weather, it’s the site of a highlight of your day: breakfast. Mireille is an enthusiastic and skilled cook, and her breakfasts are the best fuel for a day of walking around Montreal and enjoying its many activities. Our first day began with a strawberry-melon smoothie flavored with rose water (!). Then along came tiny muffins spiked with chocolate chips and flavored just enough with orange essence.

One of the inviting rooms

Entrees vary, and you would have to wait a long time to see a repeat. One standout was a fine croissant, sliced crosswise and stuffed with sliced pears and a little cream cheese and cinnamon (nutmeg too); the top  of the croissant is then soaked in egg, French-toast-style, and capped back onto the bottom and the pears. Pour over a little extra egg, bake in a ramekin for a few minutes, and the angels start to sing.

Every morning was like this: an innovative and delicious fruit juice, mini muffins or tiny quiches, and a delightful main course. Plus good strong coffee and, as my son discovered, some excellent teas.

Don’t miss the little artistic touches — two excellent copper Buddhas (one on a table in the garden that’s topped with a striking slab of rough stone), handmade jewelry for sale, intriguing paintings, and some excellent Oriental furniture. There’s a well-stocked library — everything from Peter Mayle to John Cheever to garden and travel books — and a fridge upstairs with water and space enough for your wine and snacks.

Convenience: solid. Le Terra Nostra is steps from the bus stop, and a quick ride (or pleasant 15-minute walk up eclectic rue Wellington) to the De L’Eglise metro stop. With Le Terra Nostra as your base, a great North American city awaits.

In the garden: oasis in the city

What’s a garden for, anyhow?

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