Montreal - Trip Notes

Back from another family vacation with notes on how things went. This year we went to Montreal!

Why Montreal

Andrea and I went to Montreal for our honeymoon and had a good time. This time around (13 years later) we had Lorelei with us. We had gotten her a passport late last year with the intention of traveling somewhere outside the states, and thought why not start with a location that doesn’t also involve a long flight.


We opted to drive to Montreal, with the intention of seeing family in Vermont on the way up, and with a vague notion of stopping somewhere on the way back. The “up” plans were dashed by some rare-for-the-area tornado warnings, and the return trip was much more of a “let’s just get home” affair because of torrential downpours the whole way. Oh well.

Montreal is an odd spot to get to from Boston because you’ll quickly figure out that driving is faster and cheaper than the train or flying, even though both of those options would be convenient once arriving in Montreal. Although we drove up, we parked the car under the hotel and never used it until we left, relying on public transportation (or our feet) instead.


We stayed at Hotel Bonaventure. My review is mixed. I would say in general the way it looks on the website is much nicer than it looks in real life. Also the crowd there was an interesting mix of families, business travelers having meetings on site, and then by the weekend, groups up to party in Montreal. This is probably true of any hotel, but it was perhaps more noticeable here because the one outstanding point of the hotel is it’s pool, which is set inside a little park in the middle of the hotel. The hotel is on the 10th and 11th floors of Place Bonaventure, so it’s like a little urban forest-oasis that pretty much everyone who was staying at the hotel hung out at.

The “park” side of Hotel Bonaventure. This side of the hotel was poorly maintained, but did have this nice duck pond, which was closed to access almost immediately after we found it.

The pool has generous open hours, and all told we probably spent a good 8 or so hours in it over the course of the week.


Montreal has plenty of things to do with a nine-year old travel companion. We tried to plan things for the mornings then pop back to the pool for the afternoon. With that routine we could have easily spent another few days in the city, but here’s what we did get to see:

Tuesday - Pool

Lots of pool time. It was hot this day, and Andrea left after lunch to go to Bota Bota for the afternoon, so Lorelei and I did the less luxurious version of it at the hotel.

Wednesday - Art and Tea and Books

After breakfast we went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I’ll say this now and repeat it later - we found many of the activities in Montreal to be “reasonably sized”, that is, not overwhelming exhibits, but enough to be interesting.

Self portrait. Barney stuffed animal in the middle of a color wall of stuffed animals.

The museum also had some fun activities set up for kids, including one where you could make your own art via collage, with a bunch of stock art printed out for the kids to cut up and color.

Lorelei making art at the museum.

After the museum we went up the street for Tea Time at the Palm Court in the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. Everything was delicious and proper tea-like, and it was a nice spot to relax in.

On the way back to the hotel/pool, we stopped at some bookstores. I’m honestly a little jealous of the bookstores up there, Indigo in particular had shelf after shelf of genre fiction like I haven’t seen in an American bookstore since the pre-Amazon days.

Thursday - Olympic Park, and Cats

On Thursday we took the Metro up to the Olympic park to see the Biodome and Insectarium. As I said about the Museum of Fine Arts, both were an appropriately interesting but not overwhelming size, and had pretty unique layouts. The Biodome is a former velodrome facility converted into exhibits with four ecosystems from North America, each placed into the design of the original facility in interesting ways.

Penguins in the arctic zone of the Biodome. Looking down on the Tropical Forest area of the Biodome.

The Insectarium tour starts with you going down under the building into a simulated ant colony, which Lorelei enjoyed. It then works its way up through a few small exhibits of live and preserved insects to the glass section at the top of the building, which is a large butterfly garden.

On the way back we made our way to the Happy Cat Cafe. There are no cat cafes near us where the cats are actually in the dining area, so it was a treat to find one where they were! It struck me as a place that could only exist because Montreal is very accessible but seemingly not yet gentrified.

Cat on a table at the Happy Cat Cafe. Cats on the table might not be everyone’s thing.

We took an Uber back from the cafe to the hotel, and our innocuous conversation about chowder1 took a bit of a turn when I mentioned the Metro was wonderful compared to the Boston T. Our driver then informed us that America thinks it’s #1 at everything, but it’s falling apart and spending all its money on the military, while us Americans eat up all the propaganda fed to us by television. Well, maybe not us, riding in the Uber, because we were smart enough to see what it’s like outside of America. Anyway, we’d know all this already if we listened to Joe Rogan.

Friday - Street Art (and more cats!)

I looked up what might be happening while we were in Montreal when planning our vacation, and saw the Festival Mtl en Arts would be going on. We took the Metro up and walked down Saint Catherine. It was surprisingly smaller than the Arts Festival here in Beverly, but it wasn’t a bad day for a walk, and we got some art.

After that we took the Metro back towards the Old Port, walked past Notre-Dame (Lorelei could not be convinced to go inside), then stopped and got ice cream at Chat Colate, which is a cat themed cafe that does not have actual cats in it.

Things we didn’t do

There were certainly a number of activities we considered we just didn’t have time for. I would have liked to make it to Mount Royal Park, to have spent more time in the Old Port, or to have made it out to the islands. I also didn’t consider that our hotel was right next to the train station, and we could have taken the train to Quebec City for a day or two.


I don’t have a lot of notes for food. While there’s lots of good food in Montreal, and we ate a lot, I wouldn’t say any place we ate at was particularly amazing. Some highlights:

  • Fiorellino had pretty good Italian food.
  • Pigeon Coffee in McGill had the only strong coffee I got in Montreal, decent breakfast, and a relaxing greenhouse-like interior space.
  • Sushi Rosa was an odd little place but it had good sushi, and was inexpensive. It has become quite convenient for us that on any given day Lorelei would be content eating two dozen avocado/cucumber rolls for any given meal.
  • After sushi we got dessert at C’ChoColat, which likely appeals mostly to college students with a near infinite metabolism, but the chocolate fondue was… something!

Lorelei looking at the chocolate fondue.


Overall I think we’d give the trip a 10/10 as far as travel with a child goes. Some closing notes:

  • One great advantage of the Metro / RESO connections is the availability of clean public bathrooms. This might be a weird thing to note, but compared to Boston, where every bathroom connected to public transportation looks like the one from Trainspotting, it was quite an improvement.
  • Restaurants in Montreal universally make great Shirley Temples.
  • As much as we tried to ignore everything about America while we were there, they were playing recaps of the Presidential debate in the Metro stations on Friday.


  1. What else does one talk about when someone says they are from Boston.

Tagged: travel