Ashley Schwartau, Justin Bonnema, and child standing at the top of Mont Royal in Montreal
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Two weeks in Montreal, Quebec

by Ashley
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Two weeks in Verdun: How our family of three spent 15 days in a charming neighborhood outside of Montreal, Quebec.

Curious what our family of three did during our two-week stay in the enchanting neighborhood of Verdun? From exploring vibrant streets, riding trains, and playing in more parks than we could count, to lounging on the local beach and making new friends, this trip had it all. We loved Montreal. It is a family-friendly destination that is easy to navigate and offers something for everyone.

Here is how we spent two weeks in Verdun! 

Where we stayed in Montreal

Verdun — Montreal’s trendy borough — was our home for two weeks. With its charming streets, easygoing atmosphere, and bilingual flair, it’s no wonder Verdun is stealing the spotlight these days. Imagine strolling down Rue Wellington, lined with shops, cafes, and an undeniable sense of joie de vivre. This place has managed to seamlessly blend its past with a trendy present, making it an inviting haven for travelers seeking both comfort and discovery.

Verdun’s website boasts many features that nurture the local community and encourage an active lifestyle: 

  • 27 kilometres of bike paths
  • 9.5 kilometres of pedestrian paths
  • 15 kilometres of shoreline
  • 1 arts centre
  • 2 libraries
  • 1 arena
  • 11 outdoor skating rinks
  • 1 beach
  • 4 outdoor swimming pools and wading pools
  • 16 splash pads
  • 2 community centres
  • 3 community gardens
  • 26 tennis courts
  • 45 parks and public squares
  • 36 km of bike paths
  • 1 skate park
  • 2 beach volleyball courts
  • 2 cross-country ski trails
  • 1 outdoor dance floor
  • 1 museum and archeological site
  • 3 metro stations

Nestled southwest of Montreal’s heart, Verdun is a neighborhood that weaves history into its vibrant tapestry. Founded in the 17th century and named after the heroic French city of Verdun, it has character etched into its very streets.

Verdun’s got that welcoming vibe where old meets new, and where community life thrives. Think a mix of families, young adventurers, and retirees all coexisting in this beautiful multicultural mosaic.

Why did we visit Verdun?

It is always a treat to get to meet your home exchange partners.

Back during our Northeastern road trip in 2018, Justin and I spent a couple days in Montreal and LOVED it. For me, it gave me those European city vibes and an opportunity to practice my rusty French. For him, it delivered on incredible food, charming easy-to-navigate streets, and a beautiful mix of old architecture and new. 

So when we started planning our 2023 summer trips, Montreal was at the top of the list of places we wanted to consider. I added Montreal as one of our preferred locations on our Home Exchange profile, and started bookmarking potential families to contact. But then, serendipitously, a few weeks later, a lovely family from Montreal contacted *us*, proposing a multi-week reciprocal exchange. How fortuitous! Their profile showed a cute family of four, a lovely two-story home with a private yard and two work-from-home setups, perfect for our needs. We said yes almost immediately! 

Together, we quickly worked out a duration and time period that worked for both families, based on the kids’ school schedules. We all agreed on two weeks, which gave us enough time to explore this beautiful, historic, Francophone heaven! We couldn’t wait. Then we started researching Verdun and got even more excited: beaches and playgrounds and parks, oh my! Everything we read about the borough suggested we would love it. And we absolutely did! 

Living in Verdun and unveiling Montreal’s magic

Our days in Montreal were a blend of easy exploration and relaxation. We played on every playground we passed, lounged at Verdun Beach, absorbed some culture at the Fine Arts Museum, and wandered the cobblestone streets of Old Town. Mont Royal Chalet‘s panoramic views wowed us, while the Biodome and Insectarium fueled our curiosity. 

Many roads in Montreal become pedestrian-only during the summer, giving the whole city a bit of a festival vibe. Rue Wellington, the main street of Verdun, is the longest “pietonnée” street, with more than X blocks converted to foot traffic. We meandered up and down this street countless times, after work or coming home after an adventure. Rue Wellington functions like the town square of Verdun; it comes alive after work, with live music performances, bocce ball games, and people communing in the cool evening air. Shops and restaurants all set up outside, creating temporary summer patios. It was a total joy.

We spent a lot of time wandering the streets of our temporary home, and imagined what life would be like if we lived in Verdun full time. (To be exact, we walked over 74 miles during our 15 day trip.) We joined the locals at the cat café (Café Chato), a Latin American food truck festival, and I attended a free ballet workout class on Rue Wellington! We even made friends with some Torontoans who had just moved to the area, and spent an afternoon visiting the Rapids Park wildlife sanctuary together. Montreal is very welcoming and friendly; we would definitely return!

Whether we were losing track of time meandering the city streets, people watching in the trains, or chatting with locals about their experiences living there, Montreal never failed to delight and charm us.

What we ate in Montreal

We love immersing ourselves in as much local culture as we can while traveling, which includes the local food and beverage scene. For this trip, that meant seeking out the Quebecois staple of poutine, Verdun’s lauded bagel shops, fresh croissants (because France), and oddities we don’t get at home such as ketchup-flavored chips (gross but Skyler loved them). 

Beyond that, here’s a quick list of restaurants we enjoyed in Verdun:

Garage Cafe – The perfect neighborhood bistro that featured a great menu, including salads, excellent burgers, and mussels. And of course cocktails. It was right around the corner so we ate here several times.

Bombay Grill – Outstanding Indian cuisine in the heart of Verdun. 

Notre Boeuf de Grace – Our exchange partners recommended this place for burgers and it delivered. Funky, music-themed atmosphere with a full bar and huge menu.

Escondite – Mexican inspired plates and house crafted tequila cocktails, the dishes they served were rather small and expensive, but delicious and unique (as was the atmosphere). 

Rita – Named after the owners’ grandmothers, Rita offered amazing Italian food, including next-level pizzas baked in a huge woodfired oven. The desserts alone are worth a trip to Montreal.

El Sabor de Mexico – We could taste the passion and care put into this authentic Mexican cuisine. They also provided amazing cocktails and great service. 

What we loved about Montreal

  • Nature Oasis: Montreal’s parks, playgrounds, and trails offered us refreshing pockets of green in the midst of urban life.
  • Simple Commutes: Getting around was a breeze thanks to Montreal’s easy-to-navigate metro system.
  • Warm Welcomes: Friendly locals turned strangers into friends, adding a special touch to our journey.
  • Bilingual Bonanza: Montreal’s bilingual atmosphere made communication fun and easy, no matter your language preference.
  • Walking Wonders: Exploring on foot gave us a unique perspective of the city and its distinct neighborhoods.


  • Do I need to speak French to visit Montreal? Not at all! Montreal’s bilingualism ensures that you’ll feel comfortable whether you speak English, French, or both. All conversations begin with “Bounjour-hi”, the common Montreal greeting; I would respond back “Bounjour” and stumble through some bad French, while my husband would respond back “Bonjour HELLO” and switch to English. The locals all speak both languages, and while the signs and most menus will be in French, English is prevalent.
  • What’s the best way to get around Montreal? The metro system is a convenient and efficient way to explore, but don’t hesitate to walk – it’s the perfect way to stumble upon unexpected delights. We only rode the bus a couple times but it was just as easy as the metro. 
  • Is Montreal family-friendly? Absolutely! From playgrounds to museums, Montreal offers a diverse range of family-friendly attractions. You don’t even have to spend a lot of money on activities; for many kids, riding the trains and buses could be a novel and fun experience! 

Trip Timeline:

We get a lot of questions about how exactly we combine work and play when we travel. We do take vacation-style trips but more than half of our travel is workcationing. It can be hard to shift away from the old-fashioned mindset that travel always means vacation. However, in my opinion, this mindset shift is essential to effectively combining work and travel. So I like to share the actual agendas and timelines from our travels to show others how we make it work

July 29 | Saturday


Travel day; 8:40 am flight.


12 noon: arrive at home, have lunch at the Garage Cafe with exchange partners, unpack and settle in. 


Settle in and walk around our neighborhood in Verdun. Went grocery shopping. Ordered takeout for dinner.

July 30 | Sunday


Sleep in late. Eat a late breakfast/brunch at home.


Explore Verdun by foot; 6.43 miles total. Parks galore, playgrounds, a dance pavilion, public pools. Amazing weather. Stopped at Maison Nivard-De Saint-Dizier, musée et site archéologique, so Skyler could find treasures in their faux digging site.


Bombay Grill for dinner; Rue Wellington; is there anything better than Butter Chicken Poutine? Set up workstations and get ready for the work week.

July 31 | Monday


9-5 Work


Local playground + Notre Boeuf de Grace for dinner, walk around Rue Wellington

Tried to teach Skyler how to play Battleship. One of the most frustrating parenting experiences to date.

Aug 1 | Tuesday


9-5 Work (Skyler played outside a bit)


Walk to a new playground (Skyler played with a cute German kid who didn’t speak English) + Escondite for dinner

Family movie night: Hotel Transylvania

Aug 2 | Wednesday


9-5 Work


Ashley goes to BalletHop workout class (taught in French!) on Rue Wellington; Skyler and Justin go to local playground and grab a table at the Garage Cafe for dinner

Grocery shopping + parents movie night + Skyler plays. Ashley finally made friends with the resident feline, Fluffy!

Aug 3 | Thursday


9-5 Work


Ashley and Skyler walk to another new, further away playground and spend quite a bit of time there. Walked home. Made frozen pizzas for dinner.

Battleship went much better this time. Skyler fell asleep reading in bed with Mama. Fireworks from la Ronde could be heard!

Aug 4 | Friday


9-3 Work

Went back to the playground from yesterday, with Justin this time, and hung out for a while.


Took a different route home, to walk down Wellington. Stopped inside the Basilica church. 

Ate a late but delicious dinner at Rita where we had the most amazing desserts. Skyler ate his weight in parmesan. Did we mention the DESSERTS?!  Justin carried Skyler home and we met a friendly neighborhood cat in the alley.

Aug 5 | Saturday

If we lived in Verdun, we would be at Verdun Beach often.


First day of vaca! Sleep in as late as possible. Then pack up for a beach day! 

Ashley picks up fresh baked goods from a local boulangerie and Justin grabs some adult beverages from a dépaneur. Skyler complains for the entire 15 minute walk to the beach.


Skyler makes friends at Verdun Beach. He plays in water with another family for an hour. 

Skyler complains the entire walk home. Everyone has a snack and takes a nap to rest up for the evening.


Ride the train to Old Town; walk to the Old Port, where the First Friday Food Truck festival was expanded to a full weekend event alongside a latin American fiesta. Skyler plays mini golf for the first time. 

Skyler carries a leaf all the way home, which includes a 20 minute train ride.

Aug 6 | Sunday


Watch this hilariouos squirrel!

Earlyish wake up time to be on train by 10. Go to Museum of Fine Arts for Free First Sunday. Skyler complains the entire time. We leave after one hour. (This is why I didn’t want to pay for tickets and insisted we go when it was free.) 

Walk up a very steep street to hang out at the playground at Percy-Walters Park and encounter a hilarious cat-like squirrel.


Walk around. Eat overpriced lunch in Centreville (3 Amigos). Take train home. 

Go back to the beach! Make new friends!


Dinner with new friends at the Garage Cafe. 

Family movie night: Sing! Fluffy gets cuddly with us on the couch.

Aug 7 | Monday


First day of PTO! It’s rainy and we’re all feeling kind of lazy. Very slow morning.


Train into the city to go to the Biodome only to realize we hadn’t bought tickets far enough in advance. Whoops.

Pivoted to finding an awesome playground and spent a long time there. Rode the train to dinner.


Dinner at NYKS. Took train home. We meet another neighborhood kitty! 

Skyler gets tablet time. Justin gives me a powerpoint presentation about his home theater ideas. (Yes, we give each other presentations about things.)

Aug 8 | Tuesday


Another lazy morning. Ashley walks to the boulangerie to pick up fresh baked goods.


Train back to the Biodome with tickets. Then the Insectarium! Took the train to Le Central Food Hall where we all got what we wanted to for a late lunch, including delicious cocktails. 

Walked around some more, took the train home.


Stopped at the patisserie for treats. Lazy movie night at home. Fluffy gave me so many snuggles!

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal in Old Town

Aug 9 | Wednesday


Late morning train into the city, walk around Old Town and Old Port. Ashley buys some art from local vendors.


Early lunch at an overpriced but tasty cafe. Walk 3 miles up Saint Laurent, going through Chinatown. Stop at a large park and let Skyler play on a playground for an hour. 

Walk to the bus that takes us to the Mont Royal chalet. Bribe the child to stop complaining with ice cream. 

Take the bus back down the hill, take train home.


Dinner at home. Everyone has quiet screen time by themselves.

Aug 10 | Thursday


Late morning walk to Cafe Chato, the local cat cafe.


Walk to St. Lo bagels to experience this Montreal obsession (nbd, tbh). Walk up Rue Wellington, buy Skyler a new game at the bookstore. Late lunch at a tasty Greek place.


We see a rainbow! Laundry, frozen foods, starting to get our stuff together to pack, watch our shows.

Aug 11 | Friday


Ashley goes to the pharmacy and boulangerie. Laundry, cleaning and packing all morning. Tear down workstations.


Go over to new friends’ apartment. Mom is working, so Dad and daughter take us in their car down to the Rapids park and bird sanctuary. We slowly wander, taking photos, and getting to know one another. 

A couple hours later, they drop us off at home. We continue packing and cleaning.


Dinner at El Sabor de Mexico. Drinks at Bar Palco

Meet up with our new friends to enjoy live music and drinks al fresco on Rue Wellington. We spend a couple hours wandering, stopping for food and drink, and wrangling children along the way. Home by midnight.

Aug 12 | Saturday


Shower, dress for travel, and finish packing. Relax and wait for our home exchange partners to arrive. Stave off anxiety attacks.


Home exchange partners arrive home, we spend a few minutes catching up, they go get lunch. We call our uber and get to the airport far too early.


Arrive at our house at 10:17 pm

How much did this trip cost? 

Skyler got such a kick out of being the ONLY people on the bus that took us up Mont Royal.

Slow travel is about more than just adventures; it’s about making travel attainable and affordable. For this reason, we believe that real-world numbers matter. Sharing our expenses and costs adds a practical edge to our story and tips.

So, let me share some financial insights I hope will help demystify the experience (and show why we love home exchange so much).

Accommodations: $0

Airfare: $2096

Cash: $157

Entertainment: $79

Food & Drink: $1216

Shopping: $613

Travel: $126

Total expenses: $4287

Total cost per day: $286

Cost per day per person: $95

The average cost per day per person for Montreal: $212 (according to

Understanding our numbers

My awesome work station for the week! Swapping homes with fellow remote workers is the best.


Having a FREE place to stay for two weeks was the only way to do this trip affordably. If we were to rent an apartment for the duration, we would not have taken this trip this year due to the other big trips we’d already taken. But home exchange allowed us to make this a reality! 


While we try to pay for airfare with miles whenever we can, it was not feasible for this trip. Could we have landed cheaper airfare? Probably. But we had to book our flights back in March, when our home exchange partners were ready to book theirs. Since no money is exchanged between exchange partners, you have to establish accountability and commitment in another way. This time, we agreed to buy our tickets on the same day; with flights booked, we were all in this together! This category also includes additional fees related to the flights, including baggage and seat selection. 


We wanted to have some cash on hand. We mostly used it at the dépanneurs (convenience shops) and to leave tips. We had $30 or $40 CAD leftover at the end and just left it with our home exchange hosts. 

Walking up a very steep hill to check out Percy-Walters Park, after visiting the Musée de Beaux Arts


We do not spend much on paid activities when we travel. Instead, we usually opt for as many free activities as we can find. 

We walked a lot, taking in the sights and scenery. We visited the Fine Arts museum on the Free First Sunday of the month, because I knew Skyler wouldn’t last long and I didnt want to waste money on the visit. We sought out many playgrounds. We hung out at the beach. And Rue Wellington offered free entertainment as well! 

Food and drink

When we travel, we eat out every single day. Eating our way through a city is part of how we discover the local culture. Not only do we get to taste so many new, delicious flavors, but we talk to everyone and usually learn a lot about the locale from the locals. 

When we travel, we don’t want to limit ourselves in terms of where or what we eat. We don’t go for the most expensive (we do have a young child after all) but we also don’t seek out deals. We eat when we want to eat, where we want to eat. So we expect food costs to be 30-40% of our travel budget. 

But one of the great things about using a home exchange is having access to a full kitchen. So if one were so inclined, they certainly could save a lot of money by cooking at home most nights. That’s just not how we currently travel.


This category includes the many trips to the grocery store and Jean Coutu (like a Walgreens), the random clothes I bought on sale on Rue Wellington, the game we bought Skyler from the bookstore at the end of the trip, the activity books I bought at the beginning of the trip, the art and souvenirs I bought in Old Town, and Justin’s visits to the vape shop. 


This includes 4 uber rides (to and from both airports), and refilling our metro cards. Our home exchange hosts kindly left us two metro cards already funded with a bunch of rides. We rode the train and bus a lot that second week, so we did have to refill the cards (leaving some leftover funds for our hosts, of course). 

Conclusion: Montreal’s Magic Awaits

As our journey through Montreal comes to an end, the memories we’ve made will forever hold a special place in our hearts. This is a city we would love to spend more time and could actually see ourselves living in – if it weren’t for those winters! Skyler even keeps asking when we can go back to Montreal, and if the 4 year old is a fan, then you know it’s a winner. Ha!

So, whether you’re a solo traveler, a family adventurer, or anything in between, Montreal welcomes you with open arms. Go, explore, indulge, and savor the magic that this wonderful city has to offer. Your next adventure awaits!

Verdun’s Parc des Rapides is a great place to spend a couple hours getting close to nature.

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