Summer Vacation: Montreal

After visiting my grandma one last time on Tuesday morning, we had lunch, stopped for gas (which took forever because I unsuccessfully tried to get our American Costco card to work) and then hit the road for Montreal. It's only supposed to be a two-hour drive, but due to our later start we arrived during rush hour and that added another hour onto our trip.

Once we finally got to our apartment (another Airbnb find), we realized that we didn't know where to park. After talking to our hosts, we learned that we could park in the bus/taxi lane right outside, just not between the hours of 3:30 and 6:30 pm. So Adam ended up circling around for thirty minutes until the clock struck 6:30. Actually, he really ended up getting extremely lost because you apparently can't make left turns anywhere in Montreal.

Meanwhile, Allie and I took the girls to get some dinner. Our apartment was in the Mile End neighborhood, which had a lot of great restaurants and was close to all the sights we wanted to see. We walked a few blocks to Rotisserie Romados, but after we ordered our food our debit card was declined. The cashier told us where to find an ATM, but our card was declined there too. When we called our bank about it, they said the problem was with the ATM. We met up with Adam and tried three more ATMs before finally finding one that would give us some cash. An hour later, we returned to the restaurant in disgrace and ordered some more food. The chicken was fantastic, though, and there was a park right across the street to eat at.

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The next morning, we picked up some pain au chocolat for breakfast from Au Kouign-Amann and then took the subway (Claire's first time!) to the Notre Dame Basilica.

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It was kind of pretty inside. Kind of.

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There is a wedding chapel behind the altar. The original was damaged in a fire and they rebuilt it in  the standard 1970s-80s church architecture style. Still interesting, but not quite the same, you know?

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We walked around Old Town and the port for awhile.

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Then we stopped for lunch at Olive et Gourmando. We each got a different sandwich, but Allie's was the winner - a turkey, mozzarella, pesto mayo, and asparagus panini. Definitely want to recreate that at home! I wouldn't mind recreating their triple chocolate cookies at home either.

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It was also near a park with picnic benches, which is always preferable to eating in a tiny restaurant with two small children.

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After the girls we settled in for naps, Allie and I walked over to Fairmount Bagels and bought a dozen (half chocolate, half blueberry) for a picnic dinner. Apparently, Montreal bagels are a must-try while visiting the city! We spotted an ice cream place right next door, Kem CoBa, which looked amazing and vowed to come back after dinner.

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Since we had to move our car from 3:30 to 6:30, we drove to the Montreal Botanical Gardens and had a picnic dinner there.

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The gardens were in the Olympic Park. You can see the stadium peeking out behind Adam in this picture.

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The gardens were divided into lots of different themed areas, like the Alpine Garden.

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And the Chinese Garden.

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Our favorite was the English Meadow, filled with ranunculus and peonies.

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Maggie was basically in heaven with a bagel to munch on.

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It started raining right as we were leaving the gardens. We stopped by that ice cream shop, Kem CoBa, on the way home but they closed early because of the rain. Laaaaaame.

We woke up on Thursday morning to the sound of more rain. Adam ran out and brought back more pain au chocolat for breakfast. Luckily, our day's activity was indoors and easy to drive to - St. Joseph's Oratory. It's the largest church in Canada and the largest shrine to St. Joseph in the world, right on top of Mont Royal in the middle of the city.

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The main sanctuary can fit up to ten thousand people. Standing, of course. But still. It's crazy big.

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On the bottom floor, there's a beautiful votive chapel.

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There were several racks of canes and crutches left by people who had been cured after visiting the Oratory and through St. Andre Bessette's prayers to St. Joseph on their behalf. We went to a French Mass in the crypt and then had lunch at the cafeteria.

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Andre Bessette was a brother in the Order of the Holy Cross. His dream was to build a shrine to St. Joseph on Mont Royal. That dream became a reality and he became a saint in 2010. He's buried in the crypt and there's an exhibit about his life on the top floor.

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The shrine started as just a tiny chapel, though, before becoming the huge cathedral it is today.

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We planned to go to the Jean Talon Market in the afternoon (and maybe get ice cream at Havres Aux Glaces) but with the rain we decided to just hang out at the apartment. We tried to get ice cream at Kem CoBa again, but they didn't open at all that day in the bad weather. So, we had an early dinner at Pizzeria Artigiani instead. Their Nutella pizza was amazing! Even Claire is still talking about it.

Montreal was such an interesting city - so different from anywhere else we've visited in North America. We were really glad that we knew some French, because we had to use it to order at restaurants and read street signs. We were actually really surprised at how much French came back to us from our semester abroad in Provence way back in 2010.

It's a city we've been wanting to visit for a long time and I'm so happy that we got to experience it. Even if all our ice cream plans were thwarted. I'm also so thankful that Allie was able to come with us. Of course, it was just awesome to have her company, but a city vacation with really little kids was much easier with a more-adults-to-kids ratio!

On Friday morning, we woke up bright and early to head to the airport. Much to Claire's dismay, Aunt Allie caught a flight back to Houston while we flew to Florida for a week at the beach!  


  1. The altar in the Basilica is absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Wow, that basilica is incredible! I want to go to Montreal, now, just to see it myself!

    Looks like you had a great time!


You are awesome.