Feb 13, 2014 09:22AM
● By Anonymous
You can’t blame us for only thinking about romance this month — we see it everywhere we turn. But the rigors of day-to-day living — when nearly every minute of every day seems to be taken up by this and that — make scheduling some quality one-on-one time with the apple of your eye seem near impossible. During a family vacation? Impossible. For us, though, that just makes it more challenging. This month, we recommend a family excursion to familiar yet far Montreal — a place of sights, sounds and experiences that will prove to be just as entertaining to younger members of your clan as they are swoon-worthy for the adults.
Located in the fiercely French Québec territory of Canada, this cosmopolitan city offers a stunning variety of activities and experiences, between Old Montreal’s distinctly European vibe to the futuristic wonders that date to the 1967 World Expo to the tried and true outdoors activities available on Mount Royal and the St. Lawrence River. With a little bit of careful planning, your trip can ensure not one member of your party will feel that his or her interests were not catered to.
To truly take advantage of this historic city with romance around every corner will require some one-on-one time. Two downtown hotels welcome kids and offer in-house babysitting and supervised children’s activities. Top spot goes to Loews Hotel Vogue, a luxurious outpost located in the heart of downtown Montreal, blocks from luxe shopping destinations, the breathtaking Mount Royal Park and not-to-be-missed Old Montreal. This world-class accommodation ace offers lending libraries of games to keep older kids occupied alongside supervised recreation programs like kids camps. Oh, and they want to make sure the little ones feel welcome, too, so don’t be surprised when kids are offered Fisher-Price welcome gifts and kids menus replete with healthy options. The more affordable but no less accommodating Delta Hotel Montreal, located nearby in Montreal’s entertainment district, offers in-house babysitters and a “Children’s Creativity Center,” designed to keep kids under age 15 entertained and engaged with activities. LoewsHotels.com, DeltaHotels.com
Travel Back In Time
Plan for at least a half-day of exploring the historic side of this city that dates back to the 1600s with the kids — and then plan to return for an adventure made for two. Old Montreal (or Vieux-Montréal) boasts narrow, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets lines with cafés, shops and art galleries. A tour of the city’s underground passageways, developed in the 60s to account for harsh winters, can be joined, along with a traditional walking tour (we like Guide a Tour), or on your own. You’ll feel like you’ve returned to a time centuries ago when horse-drawn carriages rolled down the street carrying noblemen and women to and fro. You and your sweetheart can bask in the romance of the setting, perhaps even finding a covered stoop for a quick kiss. Guidatour.QC.ca
Enjoying Nature Indoors
We should note that whether one travels to Montreal during early or late spring should be decided on preference. You can’t beat softly falling snow for setting the mood — better for warming up, we say — but if you’d rather go in late spring, flowers, parks and sunshine will be waiting for you. No matter what the weather, Montreal offers two places for exploring the bounty of the natural world within controlled climates. The Montreal Biosphére, located in Parc Jean Drapeau, was originally designed by Buckminster Fuller for the World Expo of 67. It has since been turned into a modern museum with activities and exhibitions dedicated to major environmental issues related to water, climate change, air eco-technology and sustainable development. The Montreal Biodôme, located in Olympic park, recreates some of the most beautiful ecosystems of the Americas, from the lush and humid tropical rainforest to subpolar regions of the Americas. Located in the building that once served as the velodrome for the 1976 Olympics, it shows visitors the true nature of the Americas by offering up its loveliest and most amazing ecosystems.
Now it’s not romantic per se, but the kids will also likely want to visit some of the creepy crawlies located at the nearby Insectarium, the leading collection of insects in North America. But if you do head here, take comfort that it is located in the Montreal Botanic Garden, of the most impressive (and largest) in this hemisphere. It’s home to 22,000 plant species, 10 greenhouses and 30 thematic gardens, including cultural installations that will transport you to China and Japan and all the way back home. While there, be sure to take a trip up to world’s tallest leaning tower located next to Olympic Stadium for swoon-worthy sweeping panoramic views. For those who want their outdoors adventures, well, outdoors, the nearby Mount Royal offers plenty of Mother Nature to explore within city limits. Well-travelled hills full of trails will keep any kid accustomed to the plains of North Texas entertained, while views of the St. Lawrence River will provide plenty of reasons for handholding. Biosphere.EC.GC.ca, EspacePourLaVie.ca
Up until March, you will not want to miss wandering through the Snow Village, a small city made entirely of ice, including a hotel, restaurant and bar. The complex, located in the Parc Jean Drapeau, includes a 100-guest restaurant, 15 igloo-shaped rooms and the Jägermeister ice bar. It’s all set in a snowy landscape full of sculptures ready to explore with sleds and inflatable toys available for transportation. Entertainment like comedy nights, movies and board games can be found in the heated dome, while the Ice Chapel might be the perfect place to renew your vows in a wintery wonderland. Late-spring and summer excursions to Montreal wouldn’t be replete without a cruise along the St. Lawrence River. Historic and cultural day cruises as well as daily dinner cruises are available while the weather permits, but we’re taken by the promise of dolphin and whale watching expeditions. This day-long option carries your party up the St. Lawrence River past Quebec City to reach Rivière-du-Loup, where you’ll board your cruise boat for an exciting escapade to look for whales, belugas, seals and other marine life. SnowVillageCanada.com, Viator.com
Do No Wrong Date NightIf you are able to carve out time for just the two of you, date night options abound. We like the idea of beginning your evening with some quality downtime at the Spa St. Vogue, next door to the Hotel Vogue. An encompassing spa known for its traditional Scandinavian Baths and full body treatments, you’re sure to find the service to best pamper yourself and your date before dinner. Of course, there’s always the intimacy and closeness of a candlelit massage for two available amidst the arched stoned halls at Le Spa at Hotel Le St. James, located in a converted bank that dates to the 1800s. Dining options abound, of course, and the most-romantic award goes to restaurant Europea. If the spectacular interior, white linens, crystal and delicious wine offerings won’t get you in the mood, the refined French Québécois cuisine will. We love the option of staying less formal and just popping into one of the many terrace cafés that can be found in Old Montreal. An intimate meal shared over wine against a nighttime European backdrop of cobblestone streets sounds like a date idea winner to us. If you really want to take your date to the next level, opt for a carriage ride through Old Montreal no matter what the weather. You can board at the Place Jacques-Carties and enjoy a cool night or cuddle under thick blankets taking in a city snowscape full of wonder. Europea.ca, SpaStJames.com, HotelLeStJames.com