TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC, CANADA—Like all great tiki establishments, the Hotel-Motel Coconut remains true to its original vision.
Gerry and Madelaine Landry opened the Coconut in 1961 in Trois-Riviers (Three-Rivers), a 90 mile drive north of Montreal. They wanted the Coconut to capture the spirit of their Tahitian honeymoon.
Amazingly, the place hasn’t changed much in 56 years
Current owner Valerie Boisvert looked around the dark 180-seat Coconut bar that is loaded with rattan chairs, totem poles, tiki statues and shell lamps. “They brought all this back from Polynesia,” she said.” The Landrys also built a modest wooden bridge and added faux palm trees and portraits of pretty Polynesian women in all of their black velvet glory.
And while I’ve been to tiki bars from Easter Island to Hawaii to San Francisco, I can’t remember going to a roadside tiki bar with an adjacent tiki hotel. And motel. And an 80-person outdoor Coconut Terrace overlooking the highway and the magnificent Laviolette Bridge that arches over the St. Lawrence River.
The Coconut Hotel-Motel has 37 rooms.
When I visited Trois-Riveres in mid- August, my Room 29 had one door going outside to the parking lot AND another door into the hallway. At first I thought the hallway door was an adjacent room.
Hotel-motel manager David Duhaime explained, “That’s the reason we have hotel and motel. If we had only a door for outside it would just be a motel.”
I love the basic and good nature of Canada.
The motel dates back to 1958 when the two-lane Quebec Route 138 was the popular route between Montreal and Trois-Riveres (pop. 115,000).The route runs parallel to the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The Hotel-Motel Coconut is on the west side of the city. “It used to be a motel with 12 rooms,” Duhaime said. “At one time it was called the ‘Hotel TV’ because it was the first motel here to have cable TV.”
Construction of I-40 left Route 138 in the Southwinds, but like Route 66 in the states, Route 138 remains popular with bikers and campers. After their honeymoon, the Landrys morphed from TV to Tiki.
Boisvert and her husband Sylvain Carle bought the establishment in 2002. “Everyone knows the Coconut Bar,” she said. “It took us two years to find the money. We met here. My husband said ‘I love you’ to me thefirst time here.’ We have been together 29 years.
Valerie and Sylvain did make one structural change.
In 2012 they closed the motel restaurant and added, yup, another tiki bar. Located off the modest lobby, the romantic Volcano room offers a small bar, billiards and video machines. The Volcano is drenched in red light. After a couple of tropical drinks you may think you are in a seductive Amsterdam alley.
Complimentary breakfasts for hotel guests are served in the Volcano room to get your day off with a bang. Sylvain is a former chef at the Gueridon restaurant in Trois-Riveres and during November and December dinners are served in the Volcano room. The Volcano does not serve the traditional Montreal poutine (French Fries, cheese curds topped with gravy). In the Volcano room Valerie and Sylvain also diminished Polyneisan music in favor of rock n’ roll. Island music can still be heard between 4 and 9 p.m. in the Coconut Bar.
The way things are going in the states, I imagine more Americans will be finding their way to Canada.
The Coconut Bar serves 80 tropical drinks, beer and wine. Highlights include the “Porn Star” (Curacao Bleu, Sour puss and 7 Up,) and the “After Sex” (vodka, banana liqueur and orange mix.)
“Every year we try to make a new drink,” Duhaime said. “At the employee Christmas party they have the challenge to make the best new drinks. The newest one is Coca-Sangria. People like the Zombie, Rainkiller. Some on the menu are from 50 years ago.”
The old drinks have the kick of a good honeymoon,
The Hotel-Motel Coconut tiki bar, Volcano room and Coconut Terrace is at 7531 rue Notre Dame (Route 138) in Trois-Riveres, Quebec. (1-800-838-3221.) Autumn rates are $85 (American). I received a complimentary “Coconut” lei when I checked in.