Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Montreal Day 3 - More Carrots, Please

[Composed 8/15/2019]

Today's adventure is what I can only describe as a sort of Canadian Safari. It took us about an an hour and half to head West from the city to Parc Omega. Once there, we made our way to the visitor center and bought a 4 bags of carrots. Like any good safari, we'd be seeing the wildlife from the vantage point of our car. Unlike most safaris, however, we'd be feeding the animals along the way!

As we approached the park entrance, there was a mob of deer looking for a handout. The kids, each with a bag of carrots, were excited to oblige. Shira carefully pulled into the crowd of animals and partially lowered the windows. The deer knew exactly what to do, smooshing their heads into the car. Ever so carefully, each girl fed a deer their first carrot. I don't blame the kids of being apprehensive; these were big mouths looking to get a snack. But all three kids fed a deer and all three kids thought it was pure awesomeness! Shira gently pulled forward and rolled up the windows. No animals or children had been harmed. Phew.

And thus we had our first of many Parc Omega wildlife encounters. My whole life I'd been taught: don't feed wildlife. And here we were at a park with the express mission of doing just this.

As we made our way through the park we fed different species of deer, wild boar, elk and even a couple ibexes. From a distance we saw wolves, foxes, bears and even a muskox! We took a delightful hike around the First Nations Trail which was dotted with totem poles. The kids would run to the next totem pole, where we'd all congregate and try to decipher the animals represented in the artwork. Then it was back in the car to see and feed more animals. We stopped for a picnic and watched a birds-of-prey show at the land of pioneers. The kids enjoyed hanging bridges that were setup in nearby woods. The bridges were just high enough off the ground, and had just enough jiggle in them to make walking them feel like a real adventure.

So often the promises of a place like Parc Omega fall short. But in this case, the location totally delivered. It was a treat for both kid and adult alike. How they have thousands of families go through this park and no little ones lose digits or animals get flattened is beyond me. It's crazy that it works, but it does.

This day is going to be hard to top!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Montreal Day 2 - Old Montreal

[Composed 8/14/2019]

Our first day of exploring Montreal got off to a bit of a rocky start. The kosher bakery we planned to casually stop by to pick up supplies for lunch was closed. This forced a detour to the nearby Fooderie, a kosher supermarket. This worked, but added more walking than we intended. By the time we arrived at Place d'Armes and saw the seemingly endless line snaking out of the Notre-Dame Basilica, I had three children and a wife who were already short on patience. The children ended up saving the morning: they noticed a series of horse and carriages waiting in the square. Like moths to a flame, they were drawn in.

Then it hit me: a carriage ride would be the perfect way to experience Old Montreal. I'd get to enjoy hearing the history of the area from the driver; the kids could ride in luxury; and Shira wouldn't have to deal with tired, fidgety kids being force marched to the next 'starred' location in the guidebook. The ride was delightful. We learned how the dog in the Maisonneuve Monument helped saved Montreal. We got to rumble over the cobblestones and plod through the narrow alleyways. We picked up history and best of all, the kids got to pet the horse at the end. Good times!

After our ride, we set a course for the Old Port, stopping along the way to eat, browse a historic garden and pee. The latter wasn't without merit. Some make their way to Bonsecours Marche to take in the extraordinary architecture. Others, want to shop the boutiques now housed in this historic building. As for us, we sought this location out because our carriage operator informed us that they had best public bathrooms in Old Montreal. I was glad to use any excuse possible to see more of the city.

At the Old Port we paid way too much to ride La Grande Roue, the city's 'observation wheel.' Still, the views were pretty epic so I can't really complain. After testing my aptitude for heights, we walked over to the Clock Tower and tested the kids' aptitude for stairs. The 192 steps, with the final ones being quite narrow, were a formidable challenge; but everyone made it to the top and we relished the view.

We even managed to step into Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, one of the oldest churches in Old Montreal to admire the remarkable interior. I wanted to see the famous 'ships' that hang from the ceiling. The kids were impressed with the interior.

After the Old Port we did a bit more exploring and then it was back to the metro to catch a train back to our Airbnb. The metro had originally freaked T out a bit, but the kids ended up loving it. It was the perfect way in and out of Old Montreal.