Ferme Guyon: Llama Llama sans Pajama

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Ferme Guyon

Ferme Guyon was something the whole family enjoyed. Lunch at the cafe Cuisine Mathurine was reasonable good for a cafeteria style setting. But you’re not there for the food. You’re there for the experience – the petting zoo, the plant nursery, and the butterfly pavillion.

The butterfly pavillion was hands down, the kids’ favourite. It was not gigantic and I expected us to zip through it and head straight for the petting zoo. 400 butterflies are supposed to call this pavillion home, including the Monarch butterfly but we didn’t have our hopes up. I was pretty sure we’d see a handful of butterflies and be disappointed.

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But disappointed we were not. The butterflies were flying around freely and they weren’t shy either. They would land on our clothes, on top of our heads and pretty much anywhere. There were little feeding areas with cut fruit and if you liked, you could rub some fruit on your hands to attract the butterflies to land on your hands. My daughter made it her mission to always have a butterfly on each hand the entire time we were there.

There’s also a hatchery at the butterfly pavillion where you can see the entire life cycle of the butterfly in different stages. Really cool.

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I’m not sure what kind of animals you envision when you hear the words “petting zoo”, but I certainly don’t expect to see a llama. And I most certainly don’t expect to see two of them. There are also chickens, bunnies and ponies to pet and feed. Apparently there are emus and sheep too but we didn’t get to see them.

The plant nursery was also pretty, but the kids weren’t interested in it, except for riding on the flat trolleys. There’s also a store selling food products as well as gardening supplies, but prices are similar to supermarket prices.

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In case you were wondering, the toilets were clean and there were hand sanitizers around the petting zoo. To be honest, this wasn’t a really farm-y farm. But still, it was a fun visit and worth a drive if you’re visiting Montreal. It’s big enough to move around freely yet small enough for young children to explore fully. Set aside about 2-3 hours for this, including lunch.

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About Ferme Guyon

Ferme Guyon is located at 1001 Rue Patrick Farrar, Chambly, QC J3L 4N7, Canada. Tel: +1 450-658-1010. It’s open daily 8.30am to 7pm although some websites mention that they are only open in the months of April to December.

Prices: To visit the butterfly area and farm: Adults $9, children $6, under 3s go free. Or if you like, butterfly area only: Adults pay $7, children $3.50; farm only: Adults pay $9, children $4.50.

It’s about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Montreal. Take Highway 10 East from Montreal towards Sherbrooke, and get off at exit 22.

 

Horse-Drawn Carriages: Yay or Neigh?

Old Montreal is, undoubtedly, beautiful. But to be honest, our reasons for visiting this part of town is always food, and one restaurant in particular. And it isn’t even for Canadian food. It is however, for the best Vietnamese pho in the world – we have no recollection of the pho we ate in Vietnam but Pho Bac? Whoa… we’ve been going there over 13 years and it’s always amazing, and the prices are easy on the pocket. Take the grilled chicken pho. Do yourself a favour and order a bigger size. You won’t regret it.

Pho Bac Specialite Soupe Tonkinoise is located at 1016 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2Z 1J3. Closest Metro station is Place d’Armes. Promise me you’ll go!

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Like any typical old town with European influence, the streets of Old Montreal are cobbled. And if you’re thinking that all this cobble-stoned old town lacks is the clip-clop of horses, then head down to Old Port, where you’ll find horses with fanciful carriages (not in Cinderella style, no, these horses have got their own style).

We’ve gone on the horse-drawn carriage ride (known as Calèche!) twice, and paid CAD $50 for a half-hour ride (first with 3 people, and 4 years later, as a family of 4). We took both rides in the Winter and the drivers will very kindly tuck you in with a nice thick blanket before leading you through Old Montreal at such a gentle speed that if your kids aren’t wound up with all the maple syrup they’ve had at breakfast, they might just doze off.

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Yes, they do stop at traffic lights. No, they do not pay parking fines. We’re told that horses have a really good sense of hearing so they can hear the tiny clicks in the mechanism of the traffic lights, and that’s how they know when to start moving.

I’m not sure if there’s a fixed pick-up/drop-off location because we got our rides at two different spots. Perhaps it’s dependent on weather conditions. I recommend you check the Notre-Dame Basilica (Celine Dion got married here!) first as that is a shorter walk, and if there aren’t any carriages, try walking down to the Old Port, near the Montreal Science Centre.

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We enjoyed both our rides tremendously, and so did our kids. It’s a really interesting way to view the city, and a good chance to rest your tired legs. Feel free to chat with the drivers prior, and go with someone you feel comfortable with. The friendlier ones will give really fun commentaries and share anecdotes during the ride, while others may simply take you for the standard route and back. If you can’t speak French, make sure you choose a driver who can also speak English.

On our last trip, after our ride, we saw a public sign which twisted our hearts a little. Sometimes we are so engrossed in our own enjoyment that we fail to see the big picture, and this was a reminder for us.

I thought it would be fair to share that here – we enjoyed the rides, we really did, but if I had seen this sign earlier, I think it would have affected our decision. The horses did not appear to be ill-treated or in distress. In fact, many of the drivers we saw would feed or lovingly stroke their horses’ manes while waiting for customers.

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There’s no ticket booth for this; simply approach the drivers and ask for their prices. We paid CAD $50 for a half-hour ride with two different drivers so that could be the standard rate.

Closest metro stations are Place d’Armes or St Laurent, though the former is a better choice if you intend to start off with a really super yummy pho – it’s a really good food choice for a cold Wintery day!

La Ronde: Home to Le Monstre

Operated by the famous Six Flags (known for their out of this world death-defying roller coasters), La Ronde is the largest amusement park in Montreal, Quebec. It sits on Saint Helen’s Island, and covers a cool 59 hectares of land. Be prepared for a whole lot of walking!

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The park is huge so be prepared with good walking shoes. The roller coasters are humongous as well. To me, they all ranked high in the puke factor, and when we visited, our kids were too young to appreciate them. But my husband, who visited La Ronde many times in his childhood, was very excited to go on Le Monstre, Goliath and the Boomerang.

Le Monstre is the largest wooden roller coaster in Canada and is also the tallest two-track wooden roller coaster in the world. All I say to that is “No, thank you”.  The kids and I had enough rides to keep us entertained while my husband relived his childhood at the bigger and more thrilling rides.

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For thrill seekers, Le Boomerang, Cobra, Vol Ultime, Vampire , Goliath and of course, Le Monstre will keep you busy. But descriptions like “menacing ride of relentless loops and twists” do not appeal to me so tata for now, see you in a couple of hours.

Park signage is mostly bilingual, and so is the staff, so don’t worry – you’ll still get along fine if you can’t speak French. Although, a lot of the park’s rides are in French and although names don’t really matter , it would be useful to be able to quickly identify the rides based on the names.

Tip: Visiting with small children? Instead of having to split your group up when the small ones can’t go on certain rides, use Baby Swap – One parent stands in the queue, the other waits at the exit line with the little ones. When you reach the front of the queue, tell the ride attendant that you’d like to do the Baby Swap so one parent gets to go on the ride, then return, and takes over babysitting duties while the other (the one that was waiting by the exit) goes on the ride. How cool is that!

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La Ronde is only operational in the months of mid May to late October (seeing its last visitor in the last week of October) due to weather. In the other months of the year, it is simply too cold to visit. Our visit was in late June, just before the school holidays, and it was just crowded enough to enjoy an amusement park.

Try to avoid late June to late August (or sometimes early September), unless you want to jostle with thousands of kids on their Summer break. The park’s opening hours also vary, depending on day and time of year; check here for updates.

Ticket prices are pretty standard for a theme park – it’s CAD 63.99 for adults, CAD 46.99 for children under 1.37m as well as guests above 60, and free for children 2 and under. At some point, they allowed tickets to be purchased online and in advance at a discount, now it seems that option is no longer available.

Tip: leave your selfie-stick at home! La Ronde forbids the use of selfie sticks! Perhaps they’ve had one too many eager beavers try to have their pictures taken while on the coasters? Also, no form of any photo taking devices are allowed on any of the rides.

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Food options are worthy of theme park standards, meaning to say that you should probably not bother too much about nutritional value. There are lots of kiosks all around and to be honest, none of us were in the mood to sit and eat a full meal so we pretty much snacked on wraps and pancakes and pretzels throughout.

Tip: There are some theme parks that are small enough for you to simply wander about and try out rides as you go. La Ronde isn’t one of them. If there are particular rides you want to go on, it’s best to grab a map, and plan your route to avoid disappointment. The park is huge; it is impossible to go on every ride! Or better yet, familiarise yourself with the park map before your trip. Park map available here.

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Look out for the archway that says “Au pays de Ribambelle” because if you visit with little kids, that’s where you’re going to be stuck at for a while. All the kiddy rides are housed there, even a mini roller coaster. There’s a good mixture of really kiddy ones, and miniature adult rides – rides like Air Papillon, the Carrousel, Joyeux Moussailons and La Danse des Bestioles are great for little riders accompanied by their parents.

Rides suitable for slighter older kids (from 8 years perhaps?): La Marche du mille-pattes is a mini roller coaster that I feel is good enough for a little thrill seeker, but it really depends on the child. There were both exhilarated faces as well as those in tears at the exit line. Marais Enchante is similar to a Viking ride except that it swings back and forth and rotates.

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Since I did not get to go on the adult version, Monsieur L’Arbre was my favourite ride. I pretty much had to ask my little one to accompany me on it a couple of times until she was too embarrassed riding something that was too boring for her. You could end up getting wet on the Pitoune, but it’s all in good fun.

And finally, for the tiniest of tots, Pommes d’Api and Tchou Tchou are bound to have them squealing in delight.

All height restrictions are clearly shown so check before, to avoid disappointment!

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In our opinion, La Ronde is a good place to visit for families with older children. Else, ticket costs aren’t really justified if all you do is spend your entire time just in the kids’ section, and queuing for 2 roller coasters.Would we recommend a visit? Yes and no – it’s got lots to offer to those chasing speed, but on the whole, it is starting to show its age (it was opened in 1967) in some parts. I also got the feel that some parts looked and felt quite dated. But if you’re traveling with children, there’s a high chance they will enjoy themselves tremendously and remember their trip as the best day of their lives.

La Ronde is situated at 22 Chemin Macdonald, Île Sainte-Hélène, QC H3C 6A3, Quebec, Canada. Directions on how to get there both by car and public transport can be found here.