Next week, our family will visit la belle province—otherwise known as “the beautiful province”—a nickname often used for Quebec. Last summer, Brad and I spent a week exploring Montreal, loving the European-charm-meets-modern-city feel of the place. During our stay, we found ourselves repeating the phrase, “the kids would love this city.”
As we began to think about our summer plans and to prepare for this new season of life—semi-empty nesters—making time for a family vacation became a priority. Immediately, Quebec came to mind. For the past twenty-one years, summer has been the four of us. The months of June, July, and August have included visits to extended family as well as some special vacations—Yellowstone, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Lake Tahoe. Slowly, I’m coming to terms with the fact that Jake and Anna won’t be around during the summer months in the years to come.
When Brad and I visited Montreal last July, we had no idea that in February we would visit Italy. For those who know me or have read my writing, you know how much I dreamed about a trip to Europe someday. As we planned our 25th wedding anniversary trip, we figured Montreal was as close as we would get to Europe for a while. Little did we know. We were truly excited to explore the city, which was also on our list of places to visit someday. She didn’t disappoint.
In the weeks leading up to our trip, I scoured travel books, Pinterest, and saved magazine articles for places to eat and sites to visit. In the end, our trip represented a mix of the things we love: food, art and culture, and nature.
Montreal is a foodie city. One of my favorite lunches of all time was the one I ate at Olive & Gourmando. In fact, I ate there twice—once with Brad and once with Jacquelyn, after Brad left to go backpacking and Jacquelyn joined me for a few additional days. My mouth still waters when I think about the “Salty.” The fresh ingredients, coupled with a cool vibe, makes this a favorite spot to eat. Suffice it to say, we will definitely be eating there again this summer.
While we never ate a bagel in Montreal (perhaps this trip?), we did eat poutine and the smoked-meat sandwich—two other must-trys when you visit Montreal. I may eat poutine again if it is offered, but it doesn’t top my list as a “must-eat-this-again” dish. I feel the same way about the deli sandwich I enjoyed at Schwartz’s. It was good, but I won’t be disappointed if we miss it on this trip. On a side note, I love that al fresco dining is everywhere. Quebecers know they must savor every moment of the summer months so even humble cafes usually have at least one outside table.
Art & Culture
I’m really glad we visited the La Basilique Notre-Dame. From its sheer size, to the stained-glass windows, to the organ, it is an impressive cathedral. I also visited there twice—once with Brad and once with Jacquelyn. On my second visit, Jacquelyn and I sat in a row and chatted unhurriedly, enjoying the beautiful space while watching tourists come and go. I definitely want Jake and Anna to see this place.
Brad and I also enjoyed visiting the Pointe-à-Callière. While there, we learned the history of Montreal and how the city developed over the years. The museum sits on top of the actual spot where the city was founded and visitors can view some of the archaeological ruins.
On one of our last days together in the city, we road Bixi bikes to the Mount Royal Park. The Bixi system is an easy way to explore Montreal. Plus, the $5/per-day rental makes it an affordable option. As long as you return your bike to a Bixi station within the allotted time frame, you can check bikes in and out in the 24-hour period without additional charges. In addition, the city has many designated bike lanes, making it easier to share the road with car and bus traffic. Mount Royal Park is a lovely green space in the city. On Sunday afternoons, it becomes the spot for a drum circle, also known as The Tam Tams. Families picnic, couples snuggle, and people play to the beat of the drums.
Like good books that need to be reread, favorite places need to be revisited and shared with those we love. I’m looking forward to experiencing Montreal (and Quebec City!) with my kids. We will create new memories and most likely share a few stories from previous vacations. Sure, we will get annoyed with one another and our plans may turn out differently than we expected. But for this mom, having the time together, just the four of us, will be a treat in its own right.