Oh Canada, you stole my heart, and my sanity. All in a week.
Our original Canada plan was: Montreal, Toronto, Blue Jays, Niagara Falls.
This would be the first time we’d be in a big city with all the kids and the first time out of the country.
Montreal was absolutely gorgeous. We had read beforehand it is one of the most European cities in North America. I was very excited to check it out.
We stayed just outside of Old Montreal at the Embassy Suites Montreal, and it could not have been more lovely. The rooms were modern and it was with in walking distance of many of the activities we wanted to do. Embassy Suites always does a great breakfast, and the addition of the Montreal specialties, including the Montreal Bagel, was a real plus. (unbeknownst to me, Montreal has their own bagel. Slightly sweeter, chewier, and with less salt than their American counterpart. Very good, I really enjoyed it)
Montreal was filled with fun things to do.
We saw Chuilliy at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art which was as amazing as expected. Everyone loved it.
We ate snails at lunch. They were met with mixed reviews. I loved this.
We enjoyed the Biodome, which while small, was very well done.
The best part of the hotel was it right around the corner from the Basilica Notre Dame and it was gorgeous. I tried to walk by it every chance we got, and we attended an evening service on Sunday.
In addition to Notre Dame there were many other beautiful cathedrals in Montreal. Seeing them was my favorite (tied with the food? Another post!) part of the city. It really did feel like I had stepped onto the cities of Europe. The kids not so much. I’m pretty sure they made a list of things they didn’t like on the trip just so they could put, “being dragged to churches,” on the list.
What didn’t I love? And the highlight of the trip? Click below to see more!
I won’t lie, being in a city with four kids was pretty stressful at times. Keeping everyone quiet (enough), close, with their hands to themselves stopped being fun after awhile. (did it start out as fun, hmm? No, but at first the kids were terrified to be in a big city, which, while I’m happy they are no longer afraid of big cities, did keep them close and controlled for a few hours) We had planned on looking around Toronto for a day, but we at that point we decided to cut that out and proceed with the itinerary minus one day. Good call, Katie.
At that point I tried to focus more on outside walks and places where I didn’t have to worry as much about the noise and activity level. Fortunately, Montreal is chock full of beautiful places to explore and I enjoyed nearly every minute exploring the streets (and slipping into the shops when I could). And being outside in 70 degree weather in Aug, divine.
The crown jewel of the trip (possibly the continent?) was Niagara Falls. I was so happy to be on the Canadian side where you can see the falls from anywhere on the street, including our hotel room. We went for several walks up and down the river, admiring the Horseshoe and Canadian falls. I would definitely say it is worth driving through the border in order to stay on the Canadian side. (Certainly if you’ve driven 11 hours all ready) We did need passports for the adults and birth certificates for the kids to both enter Canada and back in to the United States. (this can always change, be sure to check)
Again, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Niagara Falls. The entire Niagara Falls city had a bit of a Vegas feel to it and the hotel was the largest Embassy Suites I have ever stayed in.The parking situation was a little crazy, so pack your patience. We went for the falls view room, and didn’t regret it a bit. The view was fantastic and we could enjoy the views long after the kids collapsed into bed.
The kids favorite part of Niagara Falls was surely Maid of the Mist. After getting your tickets, they give each person a disposable poncho, and that is when we knew it was going to be fun. When we got on the double decker ship, the top was quite crowded so we took a place on the lower deck . In retrospect, I wish we had gone up top. I think you had better panoramic views, and not being shaded would have helped get better pictures. It was a great ride, even below, and I would highly recommend it.
We did take the kids to a Blue Jays game. I didn’t realize the stadium fell in the shadow of the CN tower, the tallest building in North America. Remarkable. The weather was perfect and it was a nice break off my feet.
The best part of Niagara was the kids were as impressed with the falls as I had hoped. You never know if Wii Vacation Resort has dulled them to the natural wonders of the world, but there were gasps and oohs, and ahhs when they first laid eyes on the falls. Priceless.
Although I minored in French studies, we were a bit worried about communicating in Montreal, as the official language is French, and all websites are in French (with well hidden, “English” buttons) The thought of using my French was super exciting, but I worried it was sooo rusty we’d get ourselves into a bind at some point. Not to worry. Every soul living in Montreal speaks perfect English. Kind of a let down. The moment they heard my French they broke into English. EXCEPT twice. Thrilling.