Montreal summers are famous for festivals and millions of people visit the city each year. Many of them will spend at least one day in the city’s old town, an area popular with tourists—and with good reason. In the clement weather, the streets fill with artists, performers, and horse-drawn carriages, and there are plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops to peruse. Dating back to 1642 — when it was Fort Ville-Marie, a French outpost — Old Montreal is also extremely photogenic and historically significant.
This summer, there are at least two more reasons to give Vieux Montreal another look.
Art, Architecture, and… Adrenaline?
Down at Old Port, on the banks of the historic St-Lawrence River, the first thing you’ll see is the bright paint of the food trucks (don’t miss the lobster rolls) and a long row of vendor stalls. Couples with selfie sticks lazily steer paddle boats in the inlet, snapping pictures with the lush green of Bonsecours Island in the background. This idyllic summerscape is interrupted only by the shrieks—faint at first—of a pair of thrill-seekers shooting down a cable suspended 80 feet above the water.
Tyrolienne MTL Zipline provides unique views of the area, but what is perhaps most surprising — at least to those who have done canopy tours — is the rather shocking feeling of empty space. After climbing the tower to the launch platform and clearing the last of three safety checks, zipliners propel themselves off a ledge into the wide open. It’s daunting, daring, and delivers just the right dose of adrenaline.
Zipliners must weigh between 50 and 250 pounds, and be at least 7 years old. Safety equipment provided (they even have smartphone sleeves for those who want to film the trip). Open until October 2015.
In operation since 2010, Bota Bota is a spa specializing in European-style baths. The main part of the facility is a docked and renovated ferry boat now in its third life (between being a commuter vessel and a spa, the Arthur Cardin was rechristened L’Escale and spent the latter part of the ‘60s as a showboat on the Richlieu River). Today, Bota Bota is a full-service year-round spa offering bona fide day breaks designed to rejuvenate. For even more relaxation, the facility has just recently opened “the gardens,” an outdoor extension with hot and cold pools, a steam room, and loungers.
On arrival, guests are received at the front desk by the first of many soft-spoken attendants dressed in sharp nautical stripes. While the spa offers a menu of treatment packages, a few hours in the “water circuit” does wonders on its own. After receiving an electronic key, towel, and bathrobe, guests go below deck to change. After that, it’s up to you. On board, there are numerous sitting areas and pools with superb views of the waterfront on one side and grain silos dating back to the early 1900s on the other.
To complete a proper water treatment, it’s recommended that you break a sweat, take a cold plunge, and follow this up with a rest. On the ship, there’s a sauna and cold bath, or you can use the steam room and cold pool in the garden. The entire facility is dotted with recliners and resting spots—a book would a welcome addition to your gear.
Bota Bota is open year-round (the floors and tiles are heated, and the bathing areas kept clear), and also has an on-site waterfront restaurant. Cell phones and cameras are prohibited, and several areas are designated “Silence Zones.”