Having survived the eight-hour car ride with twin preteens, I woke this morning to a surprising sound: the alarm clock. I’d expected to awaken to the same bickering that had prompted me, somewhere in the bleak darkness of the Adirondacks, to stop the car and threaten to turn it around all the way back to Connecticut. But instead, Carter was still in the living room on the fold-out, obediently watching television at an unbelievably acceptable level, and Micaela awoke at the same time I did. So far, so good.
Our bellies grumbling from not having eaten almost 18 hours earlier at The Village Oven in West Stockbridge, Mass., we hurried over to Eggspectation, a breakfast joint I’d found recommended on several restaurant sites. Before they’d even finished their meal, Carter and Micaela were asking if we could return every morning so that we might attempt to sample all the various other dishes that had caught their eye. We’ve succeeded in gorging ourselves on strawberry-flambé pancakes, yogurt-and-honey-dolloped cinnamon brioches, and eggs and latkes — not to mention the appetizers and smoothies — but there are still kiwi pancakes, bagels dorés, and various other fast-breaking morsels to try. Plus, it’s only a block away from our hotel. Micaela wasn’t kidding when she said she was looking forward to experiencing Montreal’s culinary wonders.
We began our exploration of the city with a stop at the nearby Notre-Dame Basilica, a cathedral smaller than its Parisian namesake but every bit as worthwhile to visit. I have to admit that I never thought I’d see a kid floored by architecture, especially religious architecture, but my nephew couldn’t take enough pictures, and he repeatedly remarked on the attention to detail. His impression impressed me.
After a stroll around Old Montreal and a stop for all-natural sorbet, we headed over to the famed Underground City, a 19-mile network of subterranean shops and businesses that allow residents and tourists an escape from the region’s often brutal weather, particularly in winter. Once again the twiblings (the twin niblings) showed an uncanny appreciation for structural engineering, noting several times the efficient use of space as well as how cool it was. (It didn’t quite reach the level of “awesome.”) Micaela picked up some rather nifty Ugg knockoffs and a sweatshirt for back-to-school wear, but Carter didn’t fare so well and left empty-handed. Having seen their wardrobes though, I’m not shedding a tear.
Off to dinner we hurried, meeting my friend and Normandie hitchhiking pal Véro in the Quartier Latin, which I’d described to the twiblings as Montreal’s Greenwich Village, not realizing they were still unfamiliar with New York’s neighborhoods. I convinced Carter to try Vietnamese food, and he wolfed down his plate, while Micaela was thrilled to have the chance to order red curry, which she’d first tried during last summer’s visit to LA. Véro and I then regaled them with a few stories from our Westchester County years, spicing it up more than we would have had the parents been there, but leaving out enough juicy tidbits to be able to retell the tales when the kids are older.
Although it was past their normal bedtime, the twiblings got to add one last item to the day’s agenda, mainly because Aunt Jenn wanted to do it too: Laser Quest. (Note to Laser Quest managers: Your website is sorely lacking. I’m available for hire.) So on we went to the Métro — which Micaela noted was similar to D.C.’s, only slightly cleaner — and mere moments later we were being shown onto the blacklighted playground. Both Carter and Micaela weren’t laser tag virgins like me, but even they were impressed with the field layout: a multi-storied maze with boundless nooks and crannies from which to snipe your enemies. Had they not already been dog-tired, I’m sure they would have gone another round, but it was late, and we have one of the most anticipated stops of the trip tomorrow: Trapezium. Cross your fingers I come back with both patellas intact.