Queen Elizabeth suite a monument to John and Yoko


More than 35 years ago, John Lennon and Yoko Ono took to bed at the Queen Elizabeth in Montreal to promote peace in a time of war. The hotel continues to honor the event that came to be known as the Bed-In for Peace through the Give Peace a Chance package, which is built around a nostalgic stay in Suite 1742, where it all happened.

Barely married more than two months and fresh off a honeymoon that included their momentous first Bed-In in Amsterdam, John and Yoko arrived in Montreal the night of May 26, 1969, and checked into the hotel, in those days a Hilton and today a Fairmont. Their stay turned out to be a weeklong rendezvous that quickly turned into a marathon international press conference, shout-out and singalong.

Each day, as fans stood vigil outside the hotel, as many as 150 journalists ventured up to the suite to interview the couple, who played out their protest against the Vietnam War as part performance art, part guerilla theater, part in-your-face political expression and part prank.

The whole world, by way of radio, television and print, paid rapt attention to the controversial couple and what they were saying, which was "give peace a chance."

"They stayed in their pajamas -- they changed them a few times, of course -- took out all the furniture, put a mattress on the floor and remained in bed for seven days," a hotel spokeswoman said. "The room was empty except for the bed and a few chairs.

"They got their meals from room service, including a beverage called Spanish Smiles  -- orange juice with honey -- as well as turtle soup and fried natural brown rice."

On June 1, Lennon converted the digs into a makeshift recording studio and recorded the classic "Give Peace a Chance," to the accompaniment of a disparate amen chorus comprised of, among others, LSD guru Timothy Leary; pop singer Petula Clark, of "Downtown" fame; comedians Tommy Smothers and Dick Gregory; Beat poet Allen Ginsberg; and members of the Canadian Radha Krishna Temple.

According to the spokeswoman, the John Lennon Suite, as it is called these days, will be renovated in 2007.

"The design is not confirmed yet, but one of the concepts we are discussing is to put it back as it originally was," she said. "For now, the room decor features a display of John and Yoko photos from the Bed-In, articles about the Bed-In, mounted gold records of 'Give Peace a Chance' and a framed copy of John Lennon's hand-scrawled lyrics."

The highlight of the Give Peace a Chance package, of course, is a one-night stay in the three-room (two bedrooms, two marble baths) John Lennon Suite.

"That suite is our most popular one," the spokeswoman said. "It is used by couples for romantic getaways; Beatles and Lennon fans; and corporations that host small parties with a Beatles theme."

The Give Peace a Chance package includes souvenir pajamas similar to the ones worn by the couple, a bouquet of white flowers, a signature tea box with English jams, personalized souvenir menus, full breakfast and dinner, two CD recordings of the Bed-In, a framed Bed-In photograph of John and Yoko, a calligraphy copy of the lyrics of "Give Peace a Chance" and a limousine transfer from the airport.

The cost of the plan is $1,700 (or $1,969 Canadian, in honor of the year 1969). Taxes and service charges are included.

A scaled-down version of the package, the John & Yoko Getaway, is a one-night deal that includes accommodations in the suite and breakfast in bed for two. The rate for the Getaway ranges from $520 to $760.

Cooking up a stay

Meanwhile, 335 miles or so to the west, sister Fairmont property the Royal York in Toronto offers an intriguing package for food lovers.

The hotel's executive chef, David Garcelon, accompanies guests on a food-shopping excursion to the nearby St. Lawrence Market. There awaits a bustling mini-universe of butchers, cheese shops, produce stands and fish mongers. That evening, Garcelon hosts a six-course menu in Epic, the hotel's AAA Four Diamond restaurant.

At the market, participants in the Shop With Chef package stop at stalls such as Mike's Seafood, for a lesson in properly selecting fresh fish; Golden Orchard Fine Foods, to sample fresh-picked fruit from the Niagara region; and Alex Graziano's, where organic produce is the specialty of the house.

The market tour continues when Garcelon leads the group to the Carousel Bakery for a typical Toronto lunch of peameal bacon sandwiches.

The bacon is actually pork taken from the leanest portion of the loin, cured in sweet pickle and then rolled in cornmeal; it used to be rolled in a ground, yellow pea mixture, hence the name "peameal."

The Shop With Chef package, which includes a one-hour walking tour of the St. Lawrence Market area conducted by Toronto historian and raconteur Bruce Bell, completes its quest for the gourmet grail that evening with the dinner for two at Epic.

The package costs about $525, based on two nights' accommodation and double occupancy, on Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information on the Give Peace a Chance and Shop With Chef packages, go to www.fairmont.com.

To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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