[Above, Montreal's famous clock tower]
COVID-19 has kept many of us close to home for months now with no guarantee of when things will be similar to how they once were. With everything else that has happened since, it makes one wonder if going back to the way things were is even a good idea - but that discussion would result in a whole other post.
During this time of big transition, I've been asking myself lots of questions about what comes next. Turning on the television means being inundated with news about crisis and case numbers, which can be a lot to handle on a daily basis, so I've been limiting what I expose myself to.
Definitely not complaining about not being able to travel by air - it has been nice getting out to rediscover and enjoy Calgary and the nearby Rocky Mountains - hikes, day trips and walks that fully immerses one into nature. I have missed my family in Toronto and the exciting feeling of flying to a new or well-loved destination.
Border closures, restrictions, mandatory quarantines and the fact that all of the currently accurate information provided can be changed at a moment's notice and rendered useless. The above alone helped to make the easy and exciting decision of staying in Canada this summer. Canada is vast and the landscape varied. Enter Montreal, which is a beautiful city in the belle province of Quebec.
I haven't been an airplane since returning from England at the beginning of March and although apprehensive about flying again at first, seeing and knowing the great lengths that WestJet has gone through to ensure the cleanliness of their fleet for the safety of their passengers and crew made the decision to get back onboard an easy one. We flew direct from Calgary to Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport, arriving approximately four hours after taking off. We had to answer a few health questions and had our temperatures taken before boarding. We were also required to wear masks from the second we arrived to the airport and didn't take them off until we were in our rental car (with the exception of eating on board the aircraft).
Montreal is such a beautiful, green and lively city. The last time I was here, I was a responsible, well-behaved university student on a strict party mission with my friends. Raves over scenic views was the agenda for that trip which lacked any semblance of class and moderation. We drove to Montreal, partied till 8am in the morning, slept, got back in the car and drove about 9 hours back to campus. Needless to say, we didn't take the opportunity to explore and enjoy all of the beauty that this magnificent city has to offer. Fast forward many years later, I am a very different woman arriving back in Montreal. This trip being quite the opposite of the last and it would also be my very first #sobervacay! I was excited and curious about how it would go, considering I've had a safety cushion around my sobriety experience thus far and this getaway would also be the first time being out of what I consider safe sobriety places. I am absolutely not interested in drinking anymore, meaning that I am not triggered by seeing alcohol or watching others consume it, so I wasn't worried.
Montreal is located along the banks of the St Lawrence river and is the perfect merge of old and new cityscapes. Gorgeous old buildings that reminded me of my favourite English city Bath, England (See posts: Bath and Bath: A Modern City that Takes you back in History)
We happened to arrive and stay during a pretty intense heatwave with temperatures that climbed up to 41C. Despite that, there were still many cyclists and runners on the roads and making their way through the extensive network of paths carved through gorgeous green spaces. We spent two nights and three days in the Plateau-Mont-Royal area in a lovely Airbnb with a huuuuuge rooftop patio and enough room for the 9 family members along for the trip!
[Trying to keep up with my darling football (soccer) star niece Tay during an early morning workout on the massive patio]
Keeping in mind the current global covid-19 pandemic, we limited ourselves to checking out a few places where we could keep the required safe distance from other people. Old Montreal and the waterfront was top, walking through the green spaces/parks and wandering though the alleys to see street art.
Old Montreal/ Vieux Montreal
Our July tradition is to spend the month in Europe. That wasn't possible this year, but Vieux Montreal definitely has that old European city feel to it. We were surrounded by gorgeous limestone buildings, potted flowers, curious looking alleys, shops and cafes situated along the cobblestone streets. If this was all we could see, I would be a happy person. We started off by walking along the St Lawrence river towards the clock tower, enjoying the breeze coming off of the water and seeing people having fun on jet skis and on their boats. We checked out the clock tower beach which similar to Toronto HTO beach located at the harbourfront. (See the Toronto Harbourfront post). These little city beaches are literally the cutest things ever. Montreal's beach faces the marina and has a beautiful view of the old Montréal buildings. The chairs were removed but the umbrellas remained with a few people lounging beneath with books and picnics. Next time, I will be one of those people.
Next, we walked around the beautiful streets of Old Montreal. The city dates back to the 17th century and we enjoyed views of the Notre Dame Basilica, cute little alleys with the smell of flowers lingering in the air. I could go on and on, but I'll let the photos do the talking.
Montreal is also full of street art on the brick buildings and in the alley ways. Here's are some of them, including one of a famous Montrealer, musician and poet Leonard Cohen.
I also tried an alcohol-free stout that I found from Partake that I absolutely fell in love with. Partake just happens to be an Alcohol-Free Brewery conveniently (to me!) headquartered in Calgary, so I will definitely get my hands on more from their range when I am back home. Thanks to Partake, I managed to enjoy my first NA stout that wasn't gross and now I am officially obsessed. The city seems to have many alcohol-free options that don't taste disgusting.
[Beautiful and tasty Partake Stout]
It was also a priority to enjoy our accommodations together and connect as a family. We accomplished everything we set out to do along with lots of laughter and love over the three days and two nights we were in the city. It was an enjoyable holiday, despite it being a different type of getaway due to closures, distancing and wearing masks when we weren’t taking photos.
There is tons of speculation about the future of travel. I believe that it is still too early to determine what exactly will happen, but this first trip since the world has changed was a welcome and enjoyable one. Montreal, je t'adore!
My name is Nicole and I am a Calgary based lifestyle and travel blogger with a focus on alcohol free living. During this period of self-isolation and physical distancing, like many others, I've been more focused on lifestyle than travel, although the travel part is slowly creeping back into my life. This time has given me the opportunity to slow down and find ways to stay inspired, have fun, stay fit and eat well.
While I am inspired by beautiful Instagram pages and blogs that feature nomad travellers living and working from beaches in enviable locales – but that’s not my reality. Even though I don’t normally travel for extended periods of time, I always have great times and made amazing memories on my getaways.
I have noticed that short trips are definitely not showcased as frequently as longer getaways. There are people who don’t wish to be away from home for long periods of time. There are also people like myself who love to travel, but because of their schedule or lifestyle have decided they will not travel for several weeks or months at a time. For us like-minded folks, I've decided to create a community for those who love short getaways and life without alcohol.
Get in touch: Send me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram and Pinterest: @nicowalkerlyons
Heads up: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something using those links, you don’t pay anything extra but I will receive a small commission J
*tag tourism Montréal/Quebec sober vacation/ first sober vacation/ alcohol free vacation/ family trip, Old Montreal/ Vieux Montreal/ alcohol free/ soberliving/ alcohol free living