Easter Sun Shines in Montreal

Happy Easter all.

Last night we had a fun night at Modavi in old Montreal. The food was good, the wine delicious, the live music great after we asked to be moved away from it and the waiter friendly though somewhat disappointed in my tip. I thought it generous he obviously didn’t!

What do you tip when eating out? It’s stand practice here to start with 15% and work up! In Australia, where the wages are higher, tipping happens, often generously if the service is great, but not to the amounts that are expected here!

We woke to Easter Sunday bells ringing from Notre Dame Cathedral and Sunshine outside our windows. What a gift.

We headed off to explore other areas of Montreal. We took an Uber to Fairmont Bagels. THE place to get your perfect bagel. It’s in Mile End , an arty, hip area to visit in Montreal.

We joined the queue and ordered our bagels and a tub of cream cheese then we walked two blocks to Cafe Olympia where we joined another queue for coffee then sat outside in the SUN and spread cream cheese on our bagels and enjoyed with hot coffee. It was so good.

We joined other church goers and went to the church opposite for a part of their Easter Mass – in Polish.

Then we walked towards Mont Royal. The day was fine , the sun shining and lots of others had the same idea. It was like a pilgrimage to the top. And up we went – taking the path less travelled as son Rob likes a challenge- not to mention a short cut. And it was beautiful.

We made it to the top, stripping off layers as we walked. We made it to the top and the view was great.

It was wonderful being with Rob and Jordan and to be celebrating Easter. It’s also almost one year since their wedding in Santa Barbara. How time flies.

We headed back down the mountain and once again took a cross country route.

We crossed a running stream – the snow us melting.

Fortunately I have a strong son who helped me on the steep parts.

We made it ! and walked through the street looking for a lunch place.

We passed a squirrel and the Grey Nuns House which is now part of Concordia University.

Lunch was a well deserved beer and a salad and Poutine!

Another Church stop

Some sculptures- we still were walking !

Back to old Montreal past Notre Dame and back to our apartment.

A short rest, legs up ! We walked many kilometres!

Then to a wonderful restaurant down behind the Cathedral. Jordan picked it on recommendation from friends. It was behind an in marked door.

And it was good. Very good.

http://www.gardemanger.ca

Delicious food and wine & great company are the best ingredients. And the waiter was happy at the end of the meal!

We walked back through the streets and enjoyed the cities initiative on bringing history alive. Images projected onto walls each one telling a story. Absolutely beautiful.

Back past Notre-Dame to our home away from home.

Tomorrow the kids leave us. Back to work in New York and we get a car and head for Woodstock in Vermont.

Family Time in Montreal

Fortunately the weather Gods are with us and Rob & Jordan are on their way from New York.

It will be fine timing but we’ll make our 11am walking your. Luckily it starts just 2 mins away outside Notre-Dame Cathedral.

We got George as our guide. He’s local, older and very knowledgeable about the area.

We started inside the Cathedral which we hadn’t entered as yet.

It’s beautiful.

It’s gothic on the outside and French inside with its blue ceilings with stars. It was originally built in 1672 it became too small so was enlarged and rebuilt in 1830’s.

George gave a very good tour of the Cathedral and included that it’s famous for Pierre Trudeau’s funeral and Celine Dions wedding!

The tour continued through the streets of the old town past some of the buildings Steve and I had seen on our own walk yesterday. I had time to notice a few of the smaller finer details. The chattering ladies sculpture, the iron crosses and the flags, Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

We finished the tour near the Marché and decided it was lunch time. Poutine was selected as it is local warm and filling!

By now it was not raining and not quite as cool – after eating and a very good hot chocolate and coffee mochas from Cacao70. Apparently the best in the city!

So we continued exploring before heading back to the apartment for a little rest!

It’s now almost 8.30 which means time to go out for dinner.

Tonight it’s Modavi. http://modavie.com/en/

Montreal. In the Rain

After travelling a few days and staying in an apartment it’s nice to have breakfast ‘at home’

I scrambled some eggs and it was lovely!

We set off walking around our area Old Montreal East.

Follow along with us.

Note the temperature. It’s not warm! I think we’re not seeing Montreal at its best. It’s s bit grey and damp but we are making the list of it.

We walked to the Bonsecours markets which is in a magnificent building

Inside it is now home to little shops selling all products from local manufacturers. Clothes, artefacts and food. And maple syrup of course.

We enjoyed a coffee at Cafe sea Arts before heading next door to Musée Marguerite-Bourgeoys. Unfortunately it was still closed so we headed up the hill and visited one of the historic homes Château Ramezay. It’s a beautiful home built by the first Governor of Montreal. Fortunately it was saved and exists today as a museum. It’s set out well in the elegant rooms of the house and has some very good multimedia interactive displays with stories from people who lived in the house over the years.

Back outside we stood and watched the long Good Friday procession of at least 500 people led by a young man carrying a simple large cross. They were on their way to Notre-Dame. In silence.

As it was raining we decided to do a bus tour of Montreal. Not on the big red bus! But on a Grey line tour bus.

Before it started we visited Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. It’s beautiful. And who should arrive but the walking pilgrims. They had walked across the city from Notre-Dame to here. We sat and listened to the music.

It was a good decision.

Then it was time to join the tour.

It took us around the main sights of this lovely city. The main boulevards, the Olympic Stadium from the 1976 olympics, the Grand Prix race track, the charming houses with their external stairs. They must be hard in snow! But they saved room in the houses.

We drove up Mont Royal past Justin Trudeau’s house in the hill – when he’s in town. Also a Céline Dions.

We were entertained not only by our guide a lovely lady named Marie Clare. But also by one of our fellow travellers a young man who had much to say – asked and answers questions, commented on everything and spoke to everyone around him. He was harmless, likeable and on the spectrum.

We drove on through the rain and were grateful we were dry.

Unusual apartments of world renown

A rain soaked St Joseph’s Oratory getting ready for Easter celebrations

We finished back where we started and headed for the underground city. There are 20 kilometres of underground tunnels that connect the city and shield the locals from the harsh weather in winter. They are like shopping malls with all the shops, restaurants, Church, Theatres, a wax work museum….. with access to office blocks, apartments,metro stations. everything you need to keep out of the weather. Brilliant. And it worked for us today.

Part of the 20 km underground city

We somehow got a taxi back to our apartment where we had R& R until an early dinner at Brassiere 701. A very smart place to eat.

We were meant to be eating at Moldavi with Rob & Jordan but their flight from NY got cancelled due to bad weather!

So we are eating without them and hoping they make it tomorrow.

We have a walking tour booked for 11am so fingers xxxx

Montreal – in the Rain

Our trip from Quebec to Montreal was great. We took the train. No airport queues and security.

It was very relaxed and lovely viewing the snow covered countryside. There’s still so much snow around.

A cemetery viewed from the train.

We arrived at midday and got into our apartment with no problems. It’s huge!

For the moment there’s just two of us so we are rattling around! It’s an old warehouse space with high ceilings and creaking timber floors. You can hear the upstairs neighbourss moving around. I hope they aren’t party people!

We left our bags and went walking. I think we’re a little too early for spring. It’s grey and cold and rain is threatening.

City Hall

There is a lot of building going on – platforms outside restaurants and bars being constructed in anticipation of the warmer weather.

We went to Notre-Dame Cathedral – a 2 min walk away. Unfortunately their evening light show Aura is not on for the next few days due to Easter celebrations. And the red tour bus starts at the end of the month!

So we ate lunch at a French style bistro – soup for me and a croque monsieur for Steve – and then walked.

We covered a lot of streets, popping into shops and galleries as they took our fancy. Two streets down in Rue St Paul there are many galleries.

By late afternoon it was cold and damp so we headed up our warm apartment and relaxed.

In fact we relaxed so much we bought wine and then slid across the road to a great little pizza place for a take away. They had the best crushed cauliflower gluten free base for me.

It was time for a night in and we really enjoyed it.

The Sun Shines on Quebec City

We woke to brilliant blue skies which was sure to put a spring into our step.

Steve was keen to walk the Plains of Abraham after yesterday’s history lesson. I wasn’t as keen to walk through the snow! My Frankie4 boots are good but I didn’t want to slip and slide as the snow is hard and slippery.

I decided to visit the Morrin Library and the city public Bibliotheca. I’d also spotted a good book shop I wanted to browse. It had a magnificent glass ceiling.

So Steve headed off on his adventures and I on mine. Sometimes when travelling together we follow our own interests and when we meet up have lots to share.

I walked back along some of the streets we discovered yesterday. But with the blue skies and no wind it felt completely different.

I arrived at Morrin House – the site of the first jail, to find it didn’t open until midday.

That left me time to explore the Bibliotheca nearby , the bookstore, Simons, a department store and have coffee laced with clover flower essence. Delicious.

Steve, the explorer, met me for an early lunch time at a crepe restaurant. Then we took the funicular down to the port. It’s lovely there – quite touristy near the funicular but then interesting to walk further afield around the streets of the port. Lots of little galleries and antique shops.

We finished by walking back up the steep winding road and headed for the Morrin House. No tours but we went into the Library and the lovely man there – a volunteer, gave us quite a good overview of the history of the house. http://www.morrin.org/en/

It’s a centre for historical and cultural purposes and has a large beautiful library – an English speaking Library. All the books are in English. The language here in Quebec is absolutely French. Quebec city is a place where the French and English languages and cultures live together.

I noticed a sign saying ‘ the weather is cold and snowy, stay and curl up with a book’ What great advice and if I lived in Quebec this is where you’d find me!

I noticed a cutting from a Writers Festival they had there a few years ago. Louise Penny, a local , wrote a book set in this very library. So I just had to buy it. Has anyone read it? Will keep you posted.

They had a good children’s section

We spent some time chatting before heading off in the beautiful afternoon light stopping for a drink at the red roofed hotel near the Chateau.

We rested up and packed before a sit in the cocktail bar watching the afternoon light play on the tin roofs across the river.

A walk through the town to admire the lights before a delicious dinner at Boulay. A really lovely restaurant.

It was a pity out lovely day was finished by involuntarily listening to the American couple in the room next door arguing – shouting insults at each other at 11pm isn’t good for anyone.

I was tempted to knock on the adjoining wall but thought perhaps I might cop a mouthful for my trouble.

Hopefully we don’t wake them when we get up early to get to the station for an early train to Montreal.

The Battle for Quebec

The afternoon was spent visiting the Museum of the Plains of Abraham – about the French English Seven Years War.

The battle was fought on some land (owned by Abraham Mary) outside the walls of the old city. Quebec is the only city in Canada with a fortress wall.

We walked up Rue St Louis and out the old city gates to get to the museum. It was well set out with interactive displays and a film showing both sides of the fighting. The war went on for seven years and must have been so hard in the weather they experience here.

After our visit we went to the Inox brewery nearby for a local beer. We walked by some houses needing snow removal from their steps.

My beer had a secret ingredient. Maple syrup! It wasn’t bad at all.

We got talking to the young barmaid and found out she likes to surf! In Canada she needs a very thick wet suit. No surprise there. The brewery had a dart board that works electronically. They don’t allow regular darts boards as they are too dangerous and people were being injured by darts 😱and I though Australia was a bit of a Nanny Nation.

It’s always a good idea to leave time for a little R & R before dinner so back to the beautiful bed before leaving for the restaurant La Buche. We had visited it today as part of our food tour but coincidentally that morning had already booked it for dinner. It’s a Québécois style restaurant. We got talking to the waiter who remembered us and pointed out a few favourite dishes. We decided on something light!

Steve had the local ‘second favourite dish after Poutine’ – the Mac n’ cheese with bacon and sausage. It looked small but was so filling. I had a small serve of fresh salmon with hazelnuts, apple and dill with a high pile of fresh salad green. Yum!

The restaurant is decorated in local Québécois style but it the downstairs bathroom that provides the biggest surprise. Our guide Sam from the food tour told us not to miss it!

With good reason. It’s unlike any other bathroom I have seen ( except perhaps one from Beijing years ago!)

Take a peek.

Now there’s a new decorating style!

Walking the snowy streets of Quebec

Sleeping in the Chateau bed was like sleep on a cloud. So soft!

We woke to soft skies and a little bit of sun. After last night’s snow it was good news.

We didn’t organise breakfast at hotel. We just can’t keep up eating three meals a day. So it was off for a walk and a quest to find coffee. It was cool and breezy so we walked up and down the streets admiring the beautiful buildings. The French Canadians know how to do special ironwork.

We found cafe Paillard. It seems the owner has had restaurants in Quebec for many years. This included three MaDonalds (are they really restaurants?) He sold them, retired to travel, got bored, so started a cafe bakery after seeing great cafes in Paris. Well this one is huge and does have wonderful croissants and coffee and hot chocolate in bowls you could swim in.

We walked some more feeling the cool breeze picking up!

Then it was time to meet for the ‘Old Quebec Food Tour’. The Chic Shack was the meeting place and Sam our guide. We did the usual introductions and we are the only Australians along with Canadians and Americans and one lone Englishman who was married to an American.

We started the food tour with Poutine. What is Poutine? It originated in Quebec and rumour has it it occurred after someone dropped a more formal meal of potatoes on the floor – grabbed it up and poured gravy over it. Anyway it was a delicious mix of chunky potatoes in a rich gravy with cheese curds and topped with pink pickled onion. It’s a real comfort food and was delicious!

We set off the the promenade outside our hotel and Sam gave us a history lesson on Champlain, the founder. And lots about the battle between the French and English. And pointed out a long toboggan ride !

We followed Sam along Rue St Louis and the group personalities started to show. The chatters, loners, the one who answers all the questions and those who are happy to bond. We rather liked the English man and his wife. He played rugby and now coaches in the US.

Next stop was La Buche. Quebec is still more French than the French. So this Québécois style restaurant is a very French treat.

Sam organised us onto a long table and we were served a cube of Salmon with a maple sauce. Unusual combination but strangely it worked!

Then we had a local version of Shepherds pie called Chinese Pie. Beef braised in red wine with corn mash and fruit ketchup. It screamed Comfort Food!

Then a small cup of pea soup. Yellow peas with bacon, fried peas & glazed carrots. Warming. Remember it’s cold outside.

To truly finish us off we each were given a quick lesson on making our own maple taffy.

Back on the streets and it was getting colder. We heard more history of this beautiful Unesco city and viewed a clock presented to the locals by the Swiss. Modern and precise it cost the Govt a lot to house it in a weather proof container.

We talked about the houses, the snow and what a long cold winter they have had.

We went past the Morrin House and ended up down the hill and back to bakery we had visited this morning.

I spotted some wonderful carvings on the stairs we walked down and marvelled at the snow almost covering them.

Back in Paillard everyone ate a croissant and I was given a gluten free macaroon. Not a bad substitute.

We did a little detour to a lovely small deli style place Chez Boulay – Comptoir Boreal for a cream fudge. Just a bite sized piece!

Then our final stop. A lovely bistro. Belobe Bistro. This very smart little restaurant has it own smoking room for its ham , bacon etc. They served us mac ‘n cheese. Always a crowd pleaser. It looked creamy and yum with larger smoked bacon on the top.

I couldn’t eat it. Too much gluten. I had a smoked beef and pickle sandwich. We warmed up especially with the glass of red wine.

Walking back to the hotel we called into the Anglican Cathedral as they were preparing for a small concert. They are trying to become Quebec’s version of London’s music church St Martin’s in the Field.

We sloshed through some snow at the back of the church taking a short cut to the hotel. Not a good idea! Wet boots.

Taking a break before a later afternoon trip to the Military museum.

Sightseeing is pretty exhausting!

Bonjour Quebec

The morning in NYC was spent recovering from last night – with a walk around West Village finishing with breakfast at Buvette.

We passed Rob & Jordan’s place admiring the plaques on the wall outside their neighbour.

We passed a wonderful locksmith where the walls and even a chair are covered with keys.

Back past the Speakeasy from last night.

Then into Buvette. It’s wonderful.

Check out the website.

https://ilovebuvette.com/about

We sat and enjoyed the atmosphere, the coffee, the food but not the rain that started while we sat inside.

It meant an Uber back to the hotel to pack up for our trip to Newark airport for a flight to Quebec.

It was all pretty easy and we liked the airport. Big and clean it had great cafes all with iPads on the tables so you can order your food and drinks quickly and easily.

Then it was onto an alarmingly small plane.

Some tall men had to crouch!

Thankfully it was a trouble free flight and just over an hour later we landed in a very snowy Quebec.

We’re staying at the gorgeous Château Le Frontenac.

https://m.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com.au%2F

Such a beautiful old hotel.

Our king size room overlooks the river and parks.

And our room is so comfortable. In fact the hotel is so big and lovely to explore that we’re trying the Bar for a cocktail and the Bistro for dinner. We’ll start to explore the city in the morning.

We have a walking food tour booked. I hope there’s no rain!

Have any if my readers got an hints for Quebec?

New York City Never Disappoints!

We arrived back into NYC in good time dropping Rob & Jordan at their apartment block.

We didn’t offer to go up with them. Their 90 odd stairs put us off! We continued on to our hotel. John is a member of the Marriott and had booked us all in for the night.

Leaving our bags we headed off for a Sunday afternoon stroll through Soho. It was slightly drizzling but not enough to worry us as we walked along window shopping. Some great windows.

One amazing shop we stepped into was called Paracelso. Run by a little old woman with theatrical make up including a blue mono brow it was amazing.

I asked could I take her photo and she said ‘only if you buy something!’

We browsed picking up some of the unusual clothes. She said she had them all made – but labels had been cut out. There were clothes all over the shop. Randomly flung over hooks and chairs draped here and there!

What an eclectic collection.

We walked on checking out the street art, the spring plantings and the other strollers. Mostly young – this is a fairly young trendy demographic in this area.

By now it was time to head over to the East Village for dinner. A quick Uber ride gave us time to go into the bar next door to the restaurant. Slightly seedy and empty the barman really didn’t want to serve us! He was too busy fixing lights and the juke box. I could have suggested he also mop the sticky floor.

We ordered beers and cocktails and settled onto the bar stools waiting for Rob & Jordan who were riding city bikes over.

The restaurant Root & Bone is a Southern style place. It was clean and friendly and a great menu which included shrimp and grits and fried chicken, ribs and a great devilled egg.

I had a simple grilled chicken with faro risotto. It was delicious.

It was too early to head back to the hotel so we left the kids to cycle back to their apartment ready for work tomorrow and we headed out to Marie’s Crisis Bar.

John and Lisa found it last week and what a find. That’s if you enjoy singing ‘Show Tunes’ with a bunch of talented strangers. It was hilarious and so much fun. The pianist sits in an enclosed area with a bar with stools around it. Everyone else just stands around the small floor space and just joins in. The tunes are all from musicals and it’s amazing how everyone just knows the words.

There we were singing the words to Oklahoma, South Pacific, Hair , Cabaret just to make a few. I bet you’re all starting to hum along right now!

We met a few people – some of whom have sung in musicals.

We dragged ourselves away and walked home but not before dropping into a speakeasy.

Well it used to be – back when alcohol was banned so went ‘underground ‘. It was behind an unmarked door, a dark bar found after climbing down steep stairs. A jazz trio played and we had one last drink before bed.

What a night in the Big Apple.

John & Lisa are so much fun. Aren’t we lucky to have such great in laws?

And so to bed in the city that never sleeps.

Sunday Stroll in Sag Harbor

A beautiful sleep always restores you and Sag Harbor https://www.sagharborinn.com

is a beautiful quiet place to stay.

We had dinner last night at Lulu’s a rather smart restaurant run by Italians. http://www.lulusagharbor.com/index.php

I was still a little full from my chicken salad at lunch – it also may be from the beer at Montauk brewery.

Do you ever get to the stage in holidays where you just can’t decide what to eat when you are always in restaurants? Well it’s day two and I already feel that way! I’ll have to get over that. We’ve got three weeks of eating out! I have to pace myself.

So the girls – Jordan, Lisa and I ordered a few plates to share. Octopus with a touch of pork belly , burrata and grilled artichokes. Followed by a small shared pizza it was perfect.

We took a lovely Sunday morning stroll around the streets of Sag Harbor. It was clear weather and so quiet. The houses are lovely. Such distinctive Hamptons style.

The gardens have wrapped their shrubs to protect them from winter frosts. It looks like they have their pjs on!

There are many impressive buildings and churches in this lovely town.

I popped into the Catholic Church as the congregation were arriving. They were so well dressed! It’s Palm Sunday.

We continued down the street past the old clock and the Spring flowers.

We decided on a Mexican place for brunch and had a short wait for a table so sat in the large garden.

Estia. It’s a great place for brunch. http://estias.com/sagharbor/breakfast/

They had the best omelettes!

We seem to do a lot of eating !

This afternoon it’s back to New York.