Our four days in Montreal was brief but probably enough for us to have got a good feel for the place and the people, we had some great finds to fill our days and re-charged our depleted coffee meters.
It is just a short hop from New York and therefore not a taxing trip, but quite a contrast in environment. The French language of course is the main difference, but also the architecture (with distinct old and new town areas), food (now with waffles, crepes and more pasta), people (quite abrupt, a little self important and seemingly always in a hurry) and, importantly, the coffee (the Espresso has replaced the drip as the main offering).
On our arrival we had our first airport offer of a lift aboard one of those stretch golf buggies to save us the walk to the baggage collection, we all thought that was fantastic. It turns out the lady driving was due to have a grand daughter in a few days, so Tess caught her eye, and she was scouting for Baby names on behalf of her Daughter-In-Law.
It was unseasonably cold on our arrival, as in about minus 6 degrees and having snowed a little that morning…. in late Spring! It was a little warmer over the following days, between 8 and 16 degrees, and the sun was shining most of the time, so after we spent the first morning shopping for some jackets, socks and shoes for the kids the cold did not stop us getting around (we thought we had planned the trip well enough around the warmer seasons not to have packed particularly warm clothing).
Our first afternoon was simply spent exploring a little of the old town, which is quite nice (although not as pretty as Quebec City we now know). Probably the most impressive building we went through was the Basilique Notre-Dame, its interior is quite amazing and definitely worth a visit. It seemed to provide enough awe to even keep the kids in silence for the duration of the visit, Ari particularly enjoyed buying and lighting the candles, we’d better budget that in for the hundreds of churches we are likely to visit in Italy. We read that the organ here has a total of 7,000 pipes, pretty impressive. On the walk home we stumbled on a little Cafe on Rue Notre-Dame called ESpace, which finally provided us with our our first great coffee since we left home. The owner and his son were extremely nice and very talkative, Ari of course took their photo! The hotel had a heated indoor roof-top pool which was fantastic for thawing out at the end of each day, so we have looked for something similar for our stay in Quebec.
We ventured a little further out of town on our second day, via Metro, to visit the Jardin Botanique, and more particularly the Insectarium de Montreal, which Skye had read about. It is a fantastic Museum dedicated to Insects, with a focus on Kids education and entertainment. We knew it would be right up Ari’s alley because his Kindy at St Lucia had focussed on Insects not long before we left, but we had not anticipated Tess being so interested in it also, there were live Bee Hives and videos of insects building nests, many live specimens as well as not so live ones, and an outdoor playground. The gardens are just next door to the Stadium where the Olympics were held in 1976, but also where my best mate Nathan competed in Swimming a couple of years ago, so it was good to see that on our way through.
Later in our stay we decided to venture to the Parc du Mont-Royal, this is the highest point in Montreal and a huge protected bushland and park area. Not unlike a visit to Mt Coot-tha, we could even see the Story Bridge (see photo)! Since we had managed to borrow a stroller from the hotel we decided not to take the stairs up but rather to follow the gentle walking track of about 3km. It is quite picturesque, lots of squirrels, birds and dogs to keep Tess excited and a nice big lake and playground near the top where you can ice skate in winter. There is no ice skating at this time but the kids were delighted to find some small patches of snow still lying around. There is a large Chalet at the top but no information in English about it so I will have to look that up, as it was interesting to look through. It had a nice big timber and granite bar which looked like it should serve nice espresso and wine but instead had been replaced by a row of vending machines. The view was worth the walk up and we were surprised how quick the return trip was having opted for the stairs.
The rest of our time was spent generally looking around, mostly through the old town.
That’s a little about our time in Montreal.
Next we are heading to Quebec for 5 nights before returning to Montreal, where we will fly out to Europe. We are starting to look into our Europe time, where we currently have nothing booked. We were going to go to London for a few days before heading up to see the family in Yorkshire and then heading to Europe, but looking at what accommodation is available in London and Europe we may head straight to Europe and then visit England at the end of the trip.