We live to travel. It’s something I personally didn’t start doing until my late 30’s and wished someone had shown me how important it was earlier in life so I could have made more memories over the years visiting unique places. Now that I’m in my mid 40’s however, I can enjoy my travel experiences more while still keeping my healthy lifestyle goals in check.
We recently travelled out east for 3 weeks. I’m embarrassed to say that like many western Canadians, I had never travelled to eastern Canada before. I’ve travelled all over Europe and the United States, but have never taken in the sites in much of our own country. As those who travel know, airfare within our own country is so expensive that when given the opportunity to travel to London or Berlin for the same ticket price as a flight to Ottawa, well bon voyage Canada….
Our daughter moved to Toronto last year to attend school studying fashion to achieve he passion of working in that industry. A great city to start out her journey (and gave her parents a reason to visit the city). One of our favourite cities in the world to visit is Paris, so we figured why not visit the “Paris of Canada” and also take in Montreal too. Part for the history. Part for the culture. Mostly for the food….
Healthy living is part of our lifestyle and when we travel, we often look for places where we can get some activity into our adventures. During our visits, we walk (A LOT). My Apple Watch can attest to that with most days seeing 20k steps. But we like to enjoy all the amazing places to eat and drink as well when we’re on holidays, so it’s important to us, especially when we travel for a long period like this trip was, to find places and activities to accommodate.
Tourism Montreal was instrumental in making our visit enjoyable while still sharing great ideas for us to keep up our active living and healthy lifestyles.
After spending the first day in Montreal exploring by foot and dancing the night away under the stars at the annual Piknic Electronik we headed to a gem on the St. Lawrence called Bota-Bota. The Bota Bota experience is first and foremost a moment of deep relaxation, possible thanks to the surrounding silence and a breathtaking view of Montreal. Here you can enjoy the water circuit on the boat and in the gardens, care tailored to your needs and a restaurant which offers the best possible flavors. From thermotherapy to complete well-being, this mythical place is a must stop in Montreal (we’re already booking our visit for our next trip to Montreal this Christmas).
For those who haven’t visited before, Montreal is very easy to get around. We stayed in Old Montreal and found that it was easy to get around to most places walking or using Uber if travelling a longer distance. We also made use of the bike lanes daily as an easy way to see the city and stop and go as we pleased. BIXI is cycling as a real means of urban transportation. Available since 2009, BIXI is one of the best ways to enjoy nature, be active, and visit the landmarks in Montréal without any hassles and at a low cost.
Seeing the city by bike is a great way to get a bit of a workout in (so you can enjoy all the amazing craft breweries the city has to offer) without realizing you’re doing something that’s good for you and for the planet. We took a private biking journey with Ça Roule Montréal Bike Shop located in wonderful historic old Montreal, close to all majors hotels and right on the bike path. Our guide Daniel was an aficionado of sorts knowing all things Montreal (everything from the history of the city to where to get a great bagel (and there are plenty to choose from.) During the journey, we stopped at the famous Atwater Market for lunch and to pick up dinner for later that night. Bursting with colours, flavours and freshness, the Atwater Market is a popular hub for an array of local and hard-to-find gourmet products. Buttery croissants, ripe cheeses, farm-picked produce, fine meat cuts, deli specialties and fish are just some of the fare available at this four-season market.
Even with all the walking and biking, I still found myself needing a workout to keep my whole body working (and also to stretch out the back and legs after putting in all those steps and peddle strokes). Modo Yoga on St. Lawrence Blvd did the trick to get a bit of zen and a bit of stretch with their Modo Flow class. Underdog Boxing was another great spot to hit up to get a good upperbody workout. Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, the Underdog Boxing Gym has become a must when it comes to boxing in the city. Head coach Mike Moffa is a legend in the world of amateur boxing in Canada and he leads a team who put guests through a workout that will make you sweat.
You really get to learn a lot about a city through its food. Everyone knows Montreal for its Poutine. And while it is truly amazing here, there is so much more that the city has to offer with a string of world renowned chefs offering guests fresh flavours and local ingredients. It is seen in the menus around the city that healthy living is something guests are asking for. There are still plenty of hearty calorie rich foods on the menu, but there is also a trend that seems to be including lighter, healthier fares. Even plant based menus are available in many locations.
Local Montreal Food Tours is a great way to see the city while learning about its history (and enjoying some of the best foods the city has to offer). There are so many areas in the city that it would be tough to hit up them all so we opted to tour Old Montréal which is a one-of-a-kind European-style district. Its historic buildings, narrow streets, and flourishing foodie scene make it a mix of exciting elements to taste and discover. Through public squares, landmarks, and eateries, the Old Montréal Food Tour allows you to experience the culinary scene locals love so much, all while learning about the surrounding network of historic sites. Their knowledgeable local guides uncover some of Montréal’s most enticing bits of history, visual treats, and tasty bites in a unique and interactive way that’s enjoyable for visitors and locals alike.
Next up was our visit to Toronto. The first thing we noticed about the city is that it is buzzing. We arrived a few weeks after the Raptors won the NBA Championship and the city was still hopping like the part had never stopped. We love big cities and don’t shy away from crowds but Toronto (especially downtown in the Entertainment District) can definitely put you on edge if you’re not a fan of busy streets and traffic.
Tourism Toronto helped us create an agenda to visit some of the top attractions in the city (and some hidden gems to help with our nerdy history side). If you’re visiting for the first time, I’d recommend getting the Toronto CityPASS. There are many great places you can visit for free including the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum, and Toronto Zoo.
For us, walking and Uber or public transit were the modes of transportation in Toronto. While there were bike lanes and bike rentals available, the traffic was a bit of a concern for us. I’m sure it would have been fine once we got used to it (if you’ve used the Amsterdam bike lanes, you will likely be fine with the Toronto system). We definitely got in our steps daily though as there is so much to see and the city is… well.. BIG…..
When it comes to finding a gym or a great workout class in Toronto, it can often feel as overwhelming as trying to decide where to go for dinner since there are so many options. These are some of the places we checked out during our stay and we’d definitely head beck next time we visit
If you want to be pushed to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, Barry’s Bootcamp is the place for you. Known as the original high-intensity workout, Barry’s classes not only burn up to 1,000 calories, they also tonne muscle, maximize fat loss, and increase your metabolism, so you actually burn more calories even once class is over.
Torontonians swear by this high-intensity workout, where the trainers teach, interact and correct every person in the room so members leave knowing more and feeling more confident than when they walked in. Classes feature functional training that includes both strength and cardio, but don’t expect to see any treadmills, think ropes, boxes, hammers and kettlebells.
This group fitness playground features efficient and lively workout classes that, aside from the rigorous movements, will help you let out all of your stress and aggression. At Fit Factory, athletes can enjoy water bag boxing, state-of-the-art personal training, a full-service wellness clinic, boot camps, challenging classes, and more.
All in all, we loved our visit to both cities. If you’re looking for the hustle and bustle of a big city with amenities and activities to keep you busy throughout your whole stay, then Toronto is your place. While is you’re looking for some history and culture and a more peaceful relaxed visit, then we’d definitely suggest Montreal. Of course, both cities could meet whatever travel style you are looking for, but in both cases, there is plenty to do to keep active and healthy so you can avoid derailing your healthy lifestyle while on vacation.