Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2019, including this trip to Montreal in July.
I realize for some this is a difficult time to read about travel. I am writing often about our current global crisis — the impact it’s having on me personally, on the world of travel, and on the world at large — regularly on my social media channels, covering topics like wellness-focused practices, and giving away generously to charities helping those in need.
However, my blog audience has spoken and they have overwhelmingly requested a break from COV-tent (content about, well, you know…), and a place where they can mentally escape right now. So, I will continue to post from my past travels to inspire those who wish to daydream about the day it is safe to travel again. Wishing all of you love and peace in this time of reflection.
Non-controversial opinion alert: Summer in Montreal > Winter in Montreal.
When I’d last driven up to Montreal in February, it literally felt hazardous to go outside due to the sheet of ice on every sidewalk and road. Crossing the border in July, I felt like there might as well have been tiny little chirping birds and other woodland creatures lifting up a banner that said “welcome!,” fairy-tale style.
It was a short trip. Having just spent the weekend in Syracuse for my high school friend Matt’s birthday, I’d naturally made plans to head to Montreal after to spend Ian’s industry “weekend” — Sunday and Monday — with him, before heading back to Albany.
It was a short trip but a lovely one, centered around one of our bucket list Montreal experiences: a day at Bota Bota Spa.
But first, I arrived on Sunday afternoon just in time for hangover cuddles (I did come from a wedding slash high school reunion, after all), and heading off to dinner at a hole-in-the-wall dim sum spot in Chinatown with Ian’s coworkers. It was fun to see where the top chefs in the city eat on their nights off!
The next morning, we were up super early for basically the best reason ever for an alarm clock to go off — we were invited to head into Bota Bota early for a media tour before the doors opened to the public.
I’ve been to some incredible spas around the world, but this one really tops the charts. Floating on a repurposed barge along the St Lawrence River, it provides pools, saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation areas, all with stunning views of the downtown Montreal skyline.
The spa is based on thermotherapy — going from hot to cold and back again. Normally I’m the first to splurge on a treatment but here, the water circuit really was an attraction all on its own, with prices starting at $40 for three hours. That said, next time I’m totally booking a treatment, too — massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, scrubs, wraps, you name it, they have it. And there are some pretty fun options, too. Hot shell massage and a mermaid facial, anyone? (For real.) They even offer a truly unique Bota Bota Live Massage, a treatment choreographed to music by a live local harpist.
And while prices can be steep, check the promotions page — there are tons of them, some based on age and profession, other based on just hopping over at off-peak times. Bota Bota also runs regular special events like yoga and pilates classes which would be the perfect compliment to a day of wellness.
We were extremely lucky — we were invited to enter as media before the doors opened and take photos, when typically all photography is banned from the spa. I totally get that it’s hard to find that balance between a serene spa environment and and people going all influencers in the wild, but I know that with those amazing views and my own documentation addiction, I’d be bummed out by the no-snaps policy.
Honestly, even with our extra time for photography, we almost ran out the clock on our time slot with our dedicated mission to soak in every hot tub, sit in every sauna, plunge in every cold tub, and relax on every terrace. A few of my favorite features were the sauna over the water, where you felt like you were adrift over ocean, the hammocks room, where everyone floated a bit above sea level, and the river plunge, where you could lower yourself directly into a caged-off section of the chilly St. Lawrence River, much to our shrieks and delight.
In addition to the incredible, multilevel spa, there’s La Traversée, a scenic onsite restaurant where I had a very healthy and nutritious lunch of a hazelnut brownie and lychee martini. Both were seriously worth a trip back to Canada for.
Interested in visiting Bota Bota for yourself? Who wouldn’t be! Pack a swimsuit (I get so many messages abut this one every time I post a photo in it on Instagram!), flip flops (they are mandatory, but not provided), and a reuseable water bottle (this one keeps things ice cold) — they’ll provide a bathrobe, a towel and a locker with a key. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturizer, hair brushes, dryers and flat irons are also available in the locker room, if you’re going straight out to sightsee after.
In our busy summer there was nothing more luxurious than taking time for ourselves that wasn’t for work, wasn’t for responsibilities, wasn’t for obligations, wasn’t for anything but us.
We capped off our day with a second lunch from Atwater Market, an open air food hall that we enjoyed our picks from by the river, and dinner at hip Venice, one of the outdoor dining areas that spill into the streets of the city in the sunny gorgeous warmer months.
Anyway, in case you thought all that was just way too glamorous, you should know that I spent several hours the next day trying to find parking in a dense urban center so that I could mail a bunch of Ian’s stuff back to Newfoundland, as he had made the decision to leave Montreal to pursue an incredible job opportunity in London. And so this would be my final Montreal trip, at least of this era.
And also I knew I couldn’t leave without visiting my friend Jodi of Legal Nomads, too. Jodi too, has been facing a season of incredible challenges, and she does so with a lot of grit and grace. It was great to see her face for a few hours before my long drive across the border and back to reality.
Merci, Montreal, for an all-too-short but still lovely trip.
Have you been to Montreal? Which season did you visit?