As the daughter of a French teacher/die-hard Habs fan, trips to Montreal were a family tradition growing up, and my brother and I have tons of memories of the hotels, restaurants and of course hockey games that made up our childhood visits. This past weekend, we went back as one big (well, there are ten of us, including spouses and kids) happy family to share the tradition with our own children.
We loaded up our immediate family and left after school on Friday, with very smooth driving right into downtown Montreal (about five hours of driving time, plus a stop for dinner). We stayed at Square Phillips, a very central location where each family had their own mini suite, complete with kitchenette. To be honest, the suites are probably even better for families who actually intend to cook food during their stay (that would never be me, plus breakfast is included in the cost of the room) but it was certainly handy to have a fridge.
I had the best intentions of exposing my children to educational Montreal attractions like the Biodome or the Montreal Science Centre, but we decided to take a less scheduled approach to the weekend, and instead do some wandering. Saturday morning found us strolling (me: walking briskly) the streets of Old Montreal, and while I stopped long enough to take a cute photo of the girls with their cousin in front of Notre Dame, it was chilly so we moved pretty fast!
When I interviewed Montreal native Jessica Mulroney and asked about Montreal destinations for kids, she had suggested taking them to the Old Port, adding: "but I would make that trip in the summer, otherwise the only thing that you will remember from that trip will be the COLD!" So it was a no-go for this weekend. (If we do go back in the summer, I'll also be looking at La Ronde amusement park.)
On the way back, we stopped at a drug store and I picked up a couple of French magazines, hoping to get some journalistic inspiration (or maybe some ideas for future pitches/stories) from my francophone counterparts.
After lunch (we ordered delivery for both that meal and dinner) the ladies left the kids at the hotel with dads/Grandpa, and spent the afternoon shopping: a couple of sweaters from Simons and my big purchase, a statement coat. I had seen it on the Marilyn Denis show, and when I learned it was from French Connection, I called the Montreal location and asked if they could hold on to it for me until Saturday, which they kindly did.
I ended my shopping spree at the Clinique counter at the Bay, where a lovely salesgirl helped me choose the right foundation for my ghostly Irish skin. "You're pretty fair, so let's start with number three...huh, too dark. Number two then....wow. You're really pale! I guess it's number one!" She also talked me into a primer, and since if I spent a little bit more I could save $10, I also bought a small boxed set with mascara, eyeliner and makeup remover. (After LASIK, I threw out all my old eye makeup so I could make sure to start fresh and not jeopardize anything with my newfound eyesight!)
The highlight of the whole weekend was, of course, the Canadiens game. They were hosting Pittsburgh, my brother's favourite team, and his son was decked out in a Penguins jersey while Frannie - attending her first NHL game ever- was sporting her Habs sweater.
I know I like to call myself a writer, but I truly do not have the words to convey the feeling of a Montreal Canadiens home game. There actually seems to be something in the air, and if I try to describe it, I'll either sound sound cheesy, get it wrong, or both. It was incredible. Oh, and the Habs won, bien sûr.
We'll definitely take the kids back for a summer visit...too bad I can't convince the Canadiens to play in July!