Montreal: An Easy, Exotic Destination
Take Your Kids to Europe in Just 3 Hours by Car
Want to introduce your children to European customs, food
and language? No need to fly to Paris: Montreal is just 3 hours by car from the
Upper Valley and offers many of the same experiences as France. I recently
visited Montreal to attend a performance of Cirque de Soleil and had a great
The Cirque performance was at the Bell Center, which also hosts NFL hockey. We stayed at and Airbnb not far from the Cartier Bridge, parked our car there, and took the Metro downtown for the show.
This huge egg disappeared instantaneously and mysteriously once the show began
The Metro is fast, clean and reliable, though at $3 a
ticket, not as cheap as the one in Paris. Still, if your kids have never ridden
an underground Metro, it’ll open their eyes. People watching is great, too, Montreal
is a highly diverse city.
Unfortunately the current Cirque de Soleil engagement probably will be finished by the time you read this (December 4 is the last show). Still, this world-class, avant-garde circus is based in Montreal and performs there on a regular basis. The athleticism of the performers is amazing, and the stage itself is unique: performers regularly pop up through holes in the floor, or disappear down them.
Curtain call at the end of the show
This particular performance, called Ovo, focused on bugs of all sorts – including amazing grasshopper-people and tiny beetles that I thought at first were children, though they couldn’t have been. It had all the elements of a traditional circus – juggling, clowns, acrobats, high-wire acts – but was much more high tech than any circus I had ever seen.
Although hotels in Montreal are as pricey as in any large city, we stayed at a nice “Airbnb” for $75. Just a quiet block from a major street full of shops and restaurants, it had a queen sized bed, a shower and sink in the room and a bathroom down the hall – and a nice family restaurant/pub downstairs. The price included a full breakfast at the restaurant.
In addition to the Cirque de Soleil performance we did a little shopping. Cindy got some great wool slippers in a shoe store (Tony Pappas Shoes, 1822 Mont-Royal Est) that still has real cobblers fixing shoes and replacing heels or soles. I was drawn to an entire wall of kids’ shoes – hundreds of different styles and colors, more than I’ve ever seen. They had hand-tooled cowboy boots and well insulated cold-weather boots made of real leather.
The food stores along Avenue Mont-Royal were full of delectable
pastries, pate, fresh pasta and more. I found a big jar of my favorite French
mustard for only
$3.65, and canned escargot and canned palm hearts. I felt like I was shopping in Paris.
Our last stop in Montreal was at the Museum of Fine Arts (www.mbam.qc.ca). This is a huge museum with an amazing array of fine art. The $20 per person admission seemed a bit steep – until we say what was on display. It had the best exhibit of sculpture I’ve ever soon, including some small Henry Moore studies that just captivated me. Rodin, Picasso, Giacometti – they were all well represented along with paintings by the best modern artists, and lots, lots more.
The museum admission included entry to a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective. I had heard of him, but never seen much of his work. They posted signs on some rooms saying that the subject matter (homoerotic photographs) could be disturbing, and to use your discretion. Mapplethorpe was controversial in his day – he died of AIDS in 1989 – but was technically an excellent photographer who did some great portraits – and even LP album covers, all on display.
If you go to Montreal, print out your directions first from Google Maps as most cell phone plans don’t work once you cross the border. You can buy a “sim card” there for your phone if you plan to stay a while, I suppose. We’ve done that in France.
Unlike years ago, everyone in Montreal speaks English, too – though if your children are studying French in high school, they can practice their French if they wish to. It’s a wonderful, friendly, affordable city that has all the ambience of Europe, but not the long flight. I plan to return soon perhaps as an alternative to the Mud Season Blues.
Looking for performances closer to home? Read Henry’s blog
post about what’s available in St Johnsbury, Vermont by clicking here. Momix is coming to St Johnsbury, along with lots of other great performances.
If you want to read about Henry’s trip to Italy last summer to see Christo’s Floating Piers, click here.
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