Thursday morning we hit the road for the hour and half drive to Montreal.
As we were unable to check into our hotel until after 3pm, we planned to get a lot of sightseeing done before check-in.
Our first stop was at St-Viateur Bagel’s landmark shop for some of Montreal’s famous bagels. Started in 1957, St-Viateur is the longest running bagel shop in Montreal, and the city itself claims to have better bagels than the city of New York. We’re not bagel connoisseurs by any means, but the jury is still out on whose bagels are the winners.
Our next stop was Mount Royal Park, the large green space known for its picturesque views of the city. We spent a few hours walking around the park, up to the Chalet and then back around and down to the Mount Royal Cemetery.
From there we drove over to Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the Roman Catholic basilica next to Mount Royal. Claiming to be the largest church in Canada, the current basilica was completed in 1967, although the original chapel began construction in 1904.
By this point we were ready for lunch, and we wanted to try the poutine that Montreal is known for. Poutine is a dish composed of french fries, topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. On a recommendation we tried Patati Patata in the Le Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood. The restaurant is a hole in the wall and was standing room only, so we ordered our food to go and ate in a park nearby. The hamburger that we split was good, but the poutine was just ok. Jordan said it had nothing on American chili cheese fries.
We then drove down into the historic district of Old Montreal, and parked near the Place d’Armes. A short walk (and a quick stop by Starbucks) took us to the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal. The original parish church of Notre Dame was built on the site in 1672. Ground was broken for the current church in 1823. It is a really impressive structure.
We went into the church to see the amazing sanctuary, and also were able to listen to the organist play. He or she was playing a combination of secular music, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Singing in the Rain”, and “The Phantom of the Opera”. It sounded incredible on the huge old organ.
After visiting Notre Dame, we wandered down the the Old Port of Montreal, which ended up being our favorite part of the city. Place Jacques-Cartier is a large square closed to vehicular traffic with street vendors, shops and restaurants, and has a nice clean healthy feel for visitors to the city. We wandered down to Bonsecours Market but walked past without going in on this visit.
As our time was running out on our parking meter, it was about time for us to turn around and head back to the car.
We drove out to the Montreal Botanical Garden for our final activity of the day. The botanical gardens were amazing, and I wish we had been able to spend more time there. I would highly recommend visiting them, as they were some of the most thorough and beautiful gardens we have been to (and that’s saying a lot, as we visit the arboretum in almost every city we visit).
We headed back to the hotel for a quiet night in with Parker. Dinner was at our hotel’s restaurant, Circos, which was easy and cheaper than most of our meals (food is a little pricey here).
Jordan was up late washing all of our laundry in the coin operated machines. Another couple had the machines tied up until well into the evening, and then the dryer didn’t really dry our clothes so he had a rather later night.
Friday morning I was up at 5:30am to go for a run in the incredibly nice fitness center on top of our hotel. I came back and napped a little longer so that Jordan could sleep in, and then we headed out for a walk around Montreal. We headed back down to the Old Port, and this time we did walk through the Bonsecours Market and were not disappointed, I found some adorable pajamas for Parks at the Little Blue House shop. We then wandered along the water, looking at the architecture until we reached construction at the north end and had to turn back west.
We made a loop around, wandering back up to La Fontaine Park. We ate lunch at the small cafe in the park, Espace La Fontaine, where Jordan had a smoked prosciutto sandwich on focaccia bread, I had the eggs benedict, and Parker had a croissant. We walked on towards Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, reportedly one of the most architecturally interesting parts of the city, and stumbled upon a street fair.
We noticed there were a large number of bookstores selling merchandise out on the street, which was different than any other street fair we’ve been to.
We continued to meander through the neighborhoods, slowly heading back in the direction of our hotel.
Arriving back at the Hilton Garden Inn, we took a little break in our room and let Parker out of the stroller to crawl around and stretch his little legs. Although at this point we had really visited all of the main sights we wanted to see, we did have a little time left in our day. We headed over to the Montreal Science Centre, which was a really amazing place for kids. If Parker had been a little older we would have gotten more out of it, but we still had a good time touching all of the sensory stuff they had there for kids. It was a lot more interactive and tactile than most museums we have been to.
For dinner we headed over to Jardin Nelson in Place Jacques-Cartier that we had scoped out the day before. Their big attraction is their tree and garden in a small alcove between buildings, but there was a long wait and Parker was getting tired, so we took a seat on their front patio. Jordan ordered the lobster mac and cheese, I ordered the crepe Nelson, and we split the Nachos Nelson for an appetizer. The nachos stole the show with a spicy cranberry salsa and three different types of cheeses. My crepe was interesting but tasty, made with bacon, sweet cinnamon apples, cheddar cheese, and maple syrup on the side.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel. At this point it was fairly late for Parker, so we put him to bed and tucked in early ourselves to get ready for our drive in the morning.