Traveling with Kids to Montreal

Traveling with Kids to Montreal

Traveling with Kids to Montreal

Montreal had been one of my family’s dream destinations for years. So when the opportunity came to go there on a home exchange, we jumped at it.

We booked our exchange through Home Exchange and we were very excited about going, if a little bit anxious. It was our first time on an exchange and many of our friends were skeptical: some told us that we were ‘brave’ and others, less diplomatically, that we were simply crazy.

On an exchange, you inevitably rely upon the good faith of the other person, but we trusted the system and as soon as we arrived in leafy Hochelaga, our neighbourhood in Montreal, we knew that we had made the right decision. Our Canadian home was lovely!

It was our first time on an exchange and many of our friends were skeptical: some told us that we were ‘brave’ and others, less diplomatically, that we were simply crazy.

The house meant that we could set our own pace, which was important to us as we were travelling with our two young children. We would have breakfast at home with the food from the local Maisonneuve market (Montreal is rightly proud of its fresh produce) and we would spend the day exploring different parts of the city.

For long distances, we relied on Montreal’s efficient metro system. It took us a while to learn to negotiate the many steps to the platforms (most stations are tricky if you have any mobility issue or you have a stroller) but the city is hugely walkable and most areas can be explored on foot.

The kids loved Parc Jean Drapeau and had great fun at the water complex and at the artificial beach, la plage des iles. We spent an inordinate amount of time there, and the pools, the playground and beachside café made for wonderful lazy afternoons in the sun.

The children also grew fond of the Canal de Lacine, an inner city canal with grassy banks and bicycle lanes that was once an industrial area of the city and has now been rejuvenated: the canal crosses the city and the part beside the famous Atwater market is perfect for a family picnic.

My husband and I fell in love with the student atmosphere of the Latin Quarter, in the city centre. This is an area full of cafes and restaurants and after dark it becomes the hub of intense nightlife. To me, its most distinctive traits were the café terraces on the long Rue St Catherine: they occupy the pavements with their colourful umbrellas and tempt you with home brewed coffee and craft beer.

Traveling with Kids to Montreal

Another interesting part of town was Mile End, with its quirky boutiques and bistros. It was originally home of the Italian and Jewish communities, and now it is a trendy multicultural neighbourhood with a laid back hipster kind of atmosphere. You are spoilt for choice there, when it comes to places to eat, and we found our personal favourite in Beauty’s, a 50s style diner famous for, allegedly, the best brunch in town.

Montreal is a mixture of North American and French influences and many aspects of the city are testimony of this peculiar cultural making. Two areas with a strong European feel are the Old Port, the oldest part of town, and the district of Outremont, a wealthy residential neighbourhood at the basis of one of the most beautiful parks in town, Parc Montreal.

Traveling with Kids to Montreal
Traveling with Kids to Montreal

The low buildings in these two areas are a world away from the high rises of Montreal business district. Cruising through the museums, cafes and boutiques the city is famous for, you feel like you’re momentarily back in old Europe.

The language added to the feel of a rich and peculiar history. Montreal is bilingual  in French and English, but French, or rather Quebecois, is dominant in most of the city. I had heard that Quebecois was different from the French we had studied in Europe – I am Italian and my husband is Irish – but despite my worries, we were able get by in French most of the time: this gave us a great kick.

Cruising through the museums, cafes and boutiques the city is famous for, you feel like you’re momentarily back in old Europe.

But of course, you should never let yourself get smug. All it took was a trip to the amazing Laurentian Mountains, about one hour out of Montreal, for our linguistic confidence to evaporate!

We spent a couple of days there, camping, but the first night my 2-year-old daughter fell and hurt her forehead. We worried she might need stitches and rushed to seek the help of the park ranger, hoping to get him before nightfall. And, we found him quickly and launched into an explanation of what happened. But despite his infinite patience, we could not understand each other and ended up reverting to the universal language of hand gestures and smiles.

So much for our proficiency in Quebecois!

Thankfully my daughter’s head was patched up easily and the whole incident became reason to laugh at our misplaced self-confidence.

So would we go on a home exchange again and would we go back to Montreal? The answer to both questions is a resounding YES.

So would we go on a home exchange again and would we go back to Montreal? The answer to both questions is a resounding YES. The exchange made us feel like real locals and the city surprised us with a laid-back attitude and a super friendly approach.

And in case you are wondering about our home: our guests were amazing and treated our house like their own. We were not that crazy after all!

Traveling with Kids to Montreal
Camping in the Laurentian Mountains

Traveling with Kids to Montreal

Related Reading

Montreal Homestay: How to Experience the City Like a Local
Think Like A Montrealer: 5 Things to Do in Montreal
Five Days in Montreal

Have you traveled to Montreal, Canada? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Traveling with Kids to Montreal photo credit: unsplash.

About Marta Correale

Marta CorrealeMarta is originally from Rome, but about ten years ago she left Italy and moved to Ireland, where she now lives with her husband and two kids. In love with travel and languages, Marta works as a study abroad consultant, helping people find inspiring learning opportunities abroad and getting inspired by her students to never stop exploring. You can find her on Learning Escapes.

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