Getting outdoorsy for real in Montreal

Last May, my family visited our relatives in Canada for a month-long vacation. In the first two weeks, we stayed with our relatives in Montreal. For our next two, we flew four hours to stay with my brothers and their families in Saskatchewan, then went on a butt-numbing 16-hour drive to British Columbia to visit my sister and her family.

We were fortunate to have such kind and generous relatives who made our coast-to-coast tour of Canada possible, enabling us to glimpse some of its great sites; as Montreal is in the east coast and British Columbia in the west. Our relatives took us to many famous spots, but for now this will be just about our stay in Montreal; any more and my space-obsessed editor would beat me to a pulp with his grandpa’s heirloom cane.

Our relatives are based in LaSalle Montreal, a place perfect for nature lovers as there are plenty of trees, plus a majestic river with raging rapids. The trail beside the river gives the residents reasons to go trekking, cycling, or have family picnics. I made it a point every morning to walk a few kilometers around the block, enjoying the cold breeze on my face.

Located nearby is Parc des Rapides. At the base of this park is a sanctuary for over 225 migratory bird species. It’s beautifully landscaped with wild flowers, walking paths, and spacious seating areas. It also offers a jet boat tour of the river. My Aunt May offered to book us a cruise of the rapids, but being such a wussy, I declined.

Montreal is like Metro Manila when it comes to malls — they both have a lot of ’em. But the great thing about Montreal’s malls is that when there’s a sale, they practically give the stuff away, unlike in our country where a typical mall sale says “Up to 70% off!” followed by the fine print “On selected items.”  Such wussies.

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Designer brands can be bought dirt cheap during a sale.We saw this firsthand when my cousin Kuya Momay, his wife Ate Tin and their daughter Nikki took us shopping. Shout out to my cousin who still owes me a pair of rubber shoes that were not on sale when I saw them.

(Editors’ note: Shout out to Normandy who still owes us the pasalubong (gifts) of those sale items. Don’t go cheap on us, bro.)

My Uncle Benjie took us to Mont Royal mountain for a short hike up the Belvedere observatory, where amazing views of downtown Montreal and the mountains over on the south bank lay waiting.


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After taking the customary pictures atop Mont Royal, off we went to St. Joseph’s Oratory, located on Mont Royal’s Westmount summit. We went up the elevated outdoor steps, then made our way through the Oratory’s beautiful interiors and its in-house museum. Outside, we were treated to an excellent view of the Montreal sprawl. Standing in front of the ginormous church, I was tempted to shout “By the power of Grayskull… I have the powahhh!” but my son threatened to slap me silly.

As they say, a visit to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Old Port. My Aunt Arden took us there via the train so we could also experience riding Montreal’s massive subway system. Walking the streets of the Old Port, we felt transported to another time, as the place exuded a medieval European charm with its antique structures. To cover more ground, we rented a four-wheeled bike that could seat four. And to see the entire Old Port and the surrounding areas, we got onboard the La Grande Roue de Montréal, a Ferris Wheel with air-conditioned cabins offering a panoramic, 60-meter-high view.

There’s a family adventure park in Old Port where one could climb aboard a full-size 100-foot replica of an old pirate ship and try the aerial adventure courses that go as high as 35 feet, or run through the inflatable playground. My son wanted to have a go at the pirate ship obstacle course with me, but again my wussy side took over and we settled for the inflatable playground. We also visited the Notre Dame Basilica, a majestic church in Old Port with an elaborate gothic façade and an even more elaborate interior. When my aunt said it was the church where Céline Dion got married, I almost sang “My Heart Will Go On” but now it was my wife who threatened to slap me silly.

Just when we thought nothing could top the places we visited, my cousin Ate Nuni and her hubby Kuya John treated us to a day at the La Ronde amusement park, owned and operated by Six Flags.

The park has 40 rides, including 10 roller coasters; among them Le Monstre, a 40-meter-high wooden double-tracked roller coaster that holds the world record for such a roller coaster. Aside from being so high up then dropping so fast that your tongue wants to run away, part of the thrill of riding Le Monstre is that it’s so old and rickety, you feel it might collapse anytime you’re running the course. I’m proud to say I slayed this monster; all may now call me He-Man, Master of the Universe. “I have the powahhh!!!”

Montreal is such a wonder. What made our tour even more memorable were our relatives who spared no expense just so we could have a swell time here.

If I survive my editor’s grandpa’s heirloom cane thrashing, I will next impart our family’s escapade with my brothers in Saskatchewan, the rendezvous with my sister in British Columbia, and some other surprise locations in Canada, a country I once thought was just so frigid I’d just spend my days cooped up in the warmth of a bedroom. Boy, was I wrong.

(Editors’ note: You wussy. You did exceed the recommended word count, by almost twice. But since you will be sending over your lavish gifts from the mall sale in Montreal, we have unanimously voted to extend your word count limit to 1,000. Those better not be just chocolates and ref magnets, boy)

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