Our first 24 hours in Montreal were action-packed with an overnight stay at the Sheraton near the airport, a transfer to the Hyatt Regency Montreal downtown, and a trip using the Metro to the Biodome. You can read all about that first part of our adventure in this post.
Next on our agenda was to see the “And Then There Was Light” show at the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. It is advertized as being for children aged 7 and up, but we decided to try our luck anyway. Little C got in for free since she could sit in our laps (and she was not the only little one there). Otherwise, adults are $10, seniors 60+ are $9, and children 17 and under that require their own seat are $5. Tickets are purchased in a gift shop next to the main entrance to the Basilica. They did accept US credit cards. There are several performance times, but we went to the first showing at 6PM. Be aware that there are no shows on Sundays, Mondays, and certain other dates throughout the year.
We told Little C it was a castle so that she would be more interested…it totally worked. The show itself does have some dramatic moments that could be scary for young children. It didn’t really bother C, but she did get tired of the story about 2/3 of the way in. The show not only uses sound and light to highlight the beauty of the basilica, but it also tells the story of Montreal and the Basilica. It was pretty interesting, but the acting in the movie was a little bit cheesy at times. I could have done with a little more sound and light and a little less acting. However, it was absolutely worth visiting at least once as it was a beautiful show in a beautiful space. I would use a little discretion with young children who either get bored quickly or scare easily.
Hyatt Regency Montreal:
After visiting the Basilica, we headed back to the Hyatt Regency Montreal where our room was finally ready about 2 1/2 hours after the stated check-in time. In case you missed the first post I did on Montreal, there was a strike going on at the Hyatt that began a couple days before we arrived. My opinion (er, tolerance) of the strike decreased dramatically the longer we were there. At first I had a pretty good attitude about it even though that meant the pool was closed, the restaurants were closed other than for breakfast, room service was closed, etc. However, as time wore on and we didn’t get basic things like housekeeping, had a hard time getting our bags, and so on, it got a bit more annoying. The final straw with my patience was the noise that the people on strike made. I assume part of their purpose was to irritate guests so much that they left and the hotel lost money. If I had to stay there one more second, it would have worked as I almost made a new reservation elsewhere on our second night.
Here is a clip of what it sounded like. It wasn’t much quieter when you were in your room.
In fairness, the remaining staff at the hotel were working their tails off. This was especially true in the Regency Club. It was clear that higher ups at the hotel were doing jobs that are typically not their responsibility. They even had a pretty good attitude about it, so it made me want to be tolerant of the strike, but at the end of the day we spent a fair amount of money (and points for one of the rooms) to stay at a hotel that was not at all what I had hoped it would be like. It is in a nice location, and is stylish yet comfortable, but being there during the strike was not at all pleasant.
At check-out I asked if there were any sort of discount or bonus points available due to all of the missing amenities and services as a result of the strike. The first lady I asked sort of stared at me like I was crazy, but another man at the check-out desk (who had been quite helpful during our stay) heard the question and said that they would give us a minimum of 6,000 points. We had two rooms for our party under two separate reservations, so I am assuming that each person receives 6,000 points. I love Hyatt, but I truly wish they would be a bit more proactive about the situation. In my mind, they should warn guests proactively via email of the strike and closed services (just like I am often warned ahead of time if a Regency Club is closed), and be proactive with some bonus points or a discount for those guests that decide to stay without the normal available services. We paid over $250 USD per night to stay in a room where we had to make our own beds, go out for any meal other than breakfast, we couldn’t use the pool, etc. Certainly not a tragedy in the grand scheme of things, but not what I had hoped for on a vacation with my toddler.
We needed to use a confirmed Diamond suite upgrade due to a small family reunion we were hosting for some Montreal relatives one night, which meant we had to be on a paid rate for one of our rooms. Otherwise, this would have been a good property to use points. In fact, for my mom’s room we did use points since it is only 12,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. Given that the rates this summer for this hotel have often been over $200 per night, that is a pretty good return for your points. Anything close to 2 cents per point for Hyatt points is good. In our case, the return was a bit over 2 cents per point for this reservation – especially when you factor in not having to pay the taxes for the reservation.
Remember, if you don’t have enough Hyatt points in your account you can transfer them in 1:1 from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Bold, Chase Freedom Visa, and a few others all earn Ultimate Reward points that you can use to avoid paying out of pocket for stays like this one (though you do need at least the Ink Bold or Sapphire Preferred to transfer those points to hotel and airline partners).
So far the regular points for the stay have posted, but not the 6,000 bonus points on either account, so I guess there will need to be some follow-up with that issue. I would not personally return to this hotel during the strike. However, I would not hesitate to return after the strike is over.
Montreal is a city of various festivals in the summer, and the weekend we were there was no exception. There was a huge festival going on right outside our hotel.
This was fantastic in terms of free entertainment for our kiddo during the day, but was very bad for sleeping at night as the music acts and fireworks went on until around midnight each night. It was very, very loud. Combine that noise with the noise from the striking employees during the day and you may begin to understand how we were at our wit’s end with the noise by the end of the trip (toddlers don’t do well sleeping with that much noise!). Other than the noise issue, the festival was so much fun. My favorite part was watching C dance with all the other kids. The dance instructions were given in French, but that didn’t stop her.
Old Town and Old Port:
We spent several hours wandering around Old Town and the Old Port. The port was especially great for the whole family. We didn’t take a boat cruise out of the Old Port this time, but they had a couple different companies that offered cruises that lasted 60 or 90 minutes that would have been very fun for a family. Another fun activity we saw many families participating in was bike riding. There were tons of different rental bikes available, including some that had seats for kiddos. It helped that the weather was absolutely perfect. In late July my part of Texas is about a billion degrees, however Montreal was about 70 degrees and perfect.
After strolling around we enjoyed some smoked meat poutine that my husband had been craving. It was the most fattening, yet delicious, food ever. We ate at a restaurant called Bistro 426. It was very much in a tourist part of the Old Port, but it worked well for us. With a toddler, we wouldn’t have done well at some of the fancier restaurants anyway. We walked from the Hyatt to the Old Port with a two-year-old without any problem, so transportation really wasn’t an issue during most of our trip (walking was also probably good after eating all that food).
On our last morning we walked to Chinatown to eat some dumplings. We ate at Mai Xiang Yuan, and the dumplings were delicious. Be aware that the restaurant did not accept US credit cards. During our time in Montreal we found that most of the larger establishments did take US credit cards, but many of the smaller shops and restaurants did not. Plan accordingly and get some Canadian cash. After lunch we had fun going in some of the shops and bakeries in Chinatown and spending the remainder of our Canadian cash on some trinkets and snacks.
Back to the USA:
After a few days in Montreal, we headed to Plattsburgh, NY, to continue to visit with my husband’s relatives. Because of our toddler and all her (and our) stuff, we decided on a one-way car rental from Montreal to Burlington, VT. Alternatively, we could have taken a bus or a train to that area for a much lower cost. Not surprisingly, the car rental wasn’t cheap. The most affordable we could find was a little over $200 from National. Many of the other companies added a huge “drop fee” to the already high one-way charge. To get back to the Montreal airport to pick up the rental, my husband took a public bus for $8. You had to pay with all Canadian coins and have exact change, so be prepared. The ride took about an hour from near the Hyatt downtown to the airport, but it was a very affordable way to go. My husband then drove the rental car back to the Hyatt to pick the rest of us up, and we left the beautiful island of Montreal for upstate New York. More on that part of our trip as soon as we get back home and settled!
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