We’re here for a good time, not a long time.
Over the Holiday’s, I managed to sneak away for a three-day trip to Old Montreal with Porter Escapes.
Rather than writing about our adventures after the fact, I decided to write out my experiences as they happened in my phone’s Notes, like a travel-log with helpful takeaways. We crammed a lot into a little, so this post documents day one of three! (PS: Shawn took all photos below other than the 2-3 obvious iPhone photos).
9am: My dear mumsy picks us up and we bid farewell to Piper–which included the guilt-giving of many treats. (We chose to take the train to union, but you could easily just drive to Billy Bishop.) In the car ride to the station, my mom tells us stories about her trip as a teenager to visit her family in Italy, describing it as a massive group of people who, “just hug and laugh and cry,” which I think is a hilariously accurate description of an Italian family.
10am: We arrive at union and hoof it across the street to the free Porter shuttle-bus pick-up spot (at The Fairmont). We’re immediately scooped up and whisked away to Billy Bishop. We’re the only people on the shuttle (which has free wifi), so naturally, we’re singing and taking photos.
Neither of us have ever flown out of Billy Bishop Airport, but we’re happily surprised by how sparse (in a good way) it is compared to congested Pearson. We walk underwater through the pedestrian tunnel to the island where the Porter terminal is and chat about how cool it is. Shawn tells me that apparently the escalator back up to ground level is one of the longest in Canada and I believe him. I wear my hat and take photos and Instagram stories of my feet.
11am: Shawn and I arrive at the Porter Lounge where we await boarding, but rather than growing bored and anxious like we do at other airline terminals, we’ve tucked ourselves into big, comfy leather lounge chairs with cappuccinos and spend some quality time people-watching, sharing premonitions about our hotel, the food we’re to eat, and the spas we’re to enjoy soon. And yes, all the snacks (cookies and granola) and beverages (Starbucks coffee, Tazo teas, and espresso-based drinks) are free to anyone flying Porter. Awaiting a flight has never been such a treat!
12:15 – 1:10pm: Our flight is so short — which is really the only descriptor needed to illustrate how great it is — an uneventful flight is a good flight. It’s a little bouncy at takeoff, but just as we were poured complimentary drinks and given ample Terra chips, we began the decent and land safe and full at Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
1:30pm: We’re in an Uber on our way to our hotel, Le Place d’Armes, and Chef Danny Smiles (the winner of Top Chef Canada S3) direct messages me! He saw an Instagram comment of mine explaining to Janine of Tonic Living how we tried and failed to get into Le Garde Manger (it was booked for weeks), and he personally sets aside a table for two for us tonight. Soooo cool. He must feel the Italian connection 😉
2pm: We check into Place d’Armes and it’s gorgeous. It’s still upscale, but feels very cozy and comfortable. The staff are polite and prompt and within moments, we are shown to our Superior King Suite which has two bathrooms, two TVs, a fireplace, a big soaker tub, separate rain shower, brick walls, and a Nespresso coffee maker. I’m supposed to be changing so we can go out for a late lunch, but instead I’m donning the hotel’s robe, jumping on the bed, playing with the fireplace, making an espresso, testing the bath, and sharing stories to my Instagram.
3pm: We finally managed to pull ourselves out of the hotel and are seated at Lov (a new vegan eatery a stones throw from Le Place D’Armes) and my gosh, it’s pretty. It’s drizzly and dark outside, but inside it’s a bounty of greenery, rattan, marble, shiplap and an aroma of yum. We order and are tucking into three plates of sharable snacks (Kimchi fries, olives, and quinoa croquettes) and smoothies (I got the Mi Lassi which is creamy, fruity, and fragrant with cardamom).
The food is so good that we place a second order for kimchi fries and another for onion rings — if only so we can have reason to stay just a little longer in this gorgeous interior. The bathroom sink is made out of a bicycle for goodness sakes–you’ll just have to come and see it for yourself.
3-6pm: We’re full and satisfied and take the leisurely long way back to the hotel. Shawn snaps a bunch of photos of buildings and of me (snapping photos on my iPhone). I’m happy.
6pm: I’m in the change-room of Bota Bota, a new spa in Old Montreal — which yes, is a spa on a boat that’s floating on the Saint Lawrence. This place is so futuristic-looking! We’ve been signed up for the Water Circuit and are allowed to stay for as long as we like. I’m equipped only with a robe, my little one-piece, flip-flops, and a key fob. I’m excited but also nervous to see what this is going to be like. (Shawn shot the photo below during the day, hours before we arrived at 6pm.)
We aren’t really allowed to bring or use our phones for the few hours we’re here but I manage to take a few shots. Shawn and I are slightly hesitant. We’re simply not sure that this is “our thing”, but somewhere along the lines, we surrender and it ends up being one of the coolest experiences.
In summation, a trip to Bota Bota feels like being invited to an exclusive house party of someone famous. It’s winter, and we’re sitting outside in hot pools, clouds of steam rolling off the surface of the water. Every room and space is lit only with dim, coloured neon lights. The spa (which spans five decks) has an endless variety of steam rooms, lounge spots with high-end bean bag chairs, hot and cold pools, and Finnish saunas. We almost fall asleep while lounging in suspended hammock-style rocking chairs. By the end, we wish we had more time. We will be going back one day.
8:30pm: We’re seated in the cozy back corner at Le Garde Manger. Right away, our server greets us with tall flutes of champagne courtesy of Danny Smiles — so nice! We order the endive salad and pork belly to start. I sip a smokey Cherry Garcia and Shawn gets a Premier Boulevard. It’s a tough call deciding what to order because we want it all, but I end up getting the scallops while Shawn digs into the hanger steak. In a nutshell, it’s hands-down one of the best meals of my life.
11pm: We’re in bed watching Kate Plus Eight. Until tomorrow, goodnight!