The Perfect Student Trip to Montreal and Quebec City: Day One

It wasn’t long ago that I started working for Prometour but in a short span of time I’ve had plenty of opportunities to tag along with various groups travelling across Quebec – and despite growing up here in the city of Montreal, I’ve seen and learned more about the Belle Province in the past six months than ever before. It’s actually surprising, and somewhat upsetting when I think about the many beautiful sights and incredible activities the province has to offer that were never before on my radar. I guess you could say that the biggest perk that comes with working for an educational tour company is the chance to travel and discover places and things you might never have seen otherwise.

Each and every trip I’ve attended was certainly memorable in its own unique way, and because Prometour allows each group to fully customize their itinerary, it is rare that I see and do the same things more than once. But of all the tours, none of those trips come close to being as memorable as my recent trip with the students and staff of Bellport High School.

Old Port Montreal

Old Montreal

The six-day trip led by Maryse Vallières (one of Prometour’s most popular tour guides) started in the Old Port here in Montreal, and took us across the province, with the majority of the time spent in Quebec City. Driving across the province with 38 students can be a major undertaking, but a rewarding one, and something that I will not forget. It helped that the students were so mature for their age and despite being shocked by the diversity of the people and landscape when traversing the country, they were nonetheless curious and open to learning new things. Our travels took us across a range of cultures, languages, dialects, and topographies that are all compelling and all Canadian and while the students enjoyed some places more than others, the fact that they all comprise one nation is part of what made the journey so memorable for them.

Of course, it helps when the group you are travelling with has an amazing itinerary. Given that Quebec has plenty of tourist attractions, events, historical sites, and so on, sometimes deciding what to do and not do is the hardest part of planning your trip. The folks at Bellport however, managed to choose a variety of activities that kept us moving and more importantly, kept each and every student engaged from start to finish. Sometimes the biggest challenge when travelling with kids is pacing each activity so that you don’t either overwhelm them or worse, tire them out before the trip comes to an end. Bellport’s itinerary was carefully selected to avoid these problems and never once did any of the students seem bored, homesick nor inattentive. Day one, for example, was comprised of relaxing activities. Since the students had spent about eight hours travelling from Long Island to Montreal, the teachers wanted to ensure they wouldn’t burn out right away. Once they arrived we were met with our tour guide who took us on a pleasant walking tour of Old Montreal where we stopped by one of the city’s oldest buildings, the Notre Dame Basilica. Among the hundreds of churches scattered across the province, the Notre Dame Basilica arguably has the most stunning interior. Just across the street, we learned about the English Pug and the French Poodle (inspired by the Commedia dell’arte and Two Solitudes from novelist Hugh MacLennan), an outdoor installation by Montreal-born Marc Andre J. Fortier that represents the cultural distance between English and French Canadians. Notice how the dashing looking English man, holding his pug, gives a superior stare at Notre-Dame Basilica, a symbol of the religious influence on French Canadians. Meanwhile, just a few feet away to the northern corner of the building, a woman in a Chanel style suit, poodle against her, shoots an offended look to the Bank of Montreal’s head office, built in 1845-1847 and symbol of English power. With their masters preoccupied with their cultural difference, the two dogs stare each other down, hoping to one day unite.


Montreal Old Port

After soaking in the picturesque charm of the Old Port we stopped at Le Bourlingueur, a small authentic French bistro that serves classic French cuisine. The restaurant features a quaint dining setting with stonewalls and flower-trimmed window sills and is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Old Montreal, alongside the smallest street in all of the city. Finally, to cap off a relaxing first day, we enjoyed a guided boat tour of the old port powered by an electric, pollution free propulsion system. During our charming excursion along the canal the students were educated on the Old Port’s marine life, historical heritage and many iconic buildings along the St Laurence River including Habitat 67, a model community and housing complex designed by Israeli/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. It was originally conceived as his master’s thesis in architecture at McGill University and then built as a pavilion for Expo 67, the World’s Fair held from April to October 1967. On the way back we learned about the iconic Farine Five Roses sign, a staple in the Montréal skyline that’s been around in some form since 1948. The massive neon that greets you when you drive towards the island is a significant landmark, charged with the province’s own tumultuous history.

Le Petit Navire

Le Petit Navire

Overall, the start of our six-day tour was a smashing success but it was just the start of what ended up being an amazing trip. As I mentioned above, pacing the activities during your trip is crucial. While the first day didn’t feature some of the more adventurous and exciting excursions, what followed was something well worth remembering. Be sure to check our report on day two. In the meantime, feel free to look at some other photos snapped along the way.

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

notre dame de basilica

Le Petit Navire