Is there such a thing as too many Oysters! In Maine!

We headed off from our Portland hotel and walked the cobbled streets. It’s an up and coming tourist destination (perhaps it’s already arrived!) and the township near the port is filled with fun shops, bars and restaurants.

We followed the suggestion of the hotel receptionist and went to J’s oyster bar.

it’s a modest place but packed with atmosphere. We tried two types of local oysters. A salty and a sweet. Both delicious but the sweeter one won.

Washed down with a Prosecco for me and a Guiness for Steve it was a winner. After a big breakfast we had skipped lunch so we’re ready to eat.

We left J’s and walked along the sea front

Then headed to Oyster Bar #2 called Eventide. Back a few streets it was just superb. Right on trend I’d say!!!

Cool guys working there but very friendly, we sat at the bar and ordered 6 different Maine oysters each. They came with a choice of sauces. I chose horseradish ice and Steve had lemon pepper ice.

We worked our way through the menu. We definitely had our favourites.

But all were delicious. Again washed down with Prosecco and beer(s)!

The rock on the bar was set up for oysters and the guy shucking them was a machine.

After some time there we walked a little, went to the hotel to regroup then went to Scales for our last plate!

http://www.scalesrestaurant.com/menus

What a great place.

We just had to try local lobster. We ended up slightly messy but it was worth it. And so was the Santa Barbara Pinot Grigio.

Slightly messy plate. Well worth it.

Portland is a foody paradise.

Vermont to Maine

A beautiful, silent night’s sleep in the four poster bed !

Followed by a wonderful breakfast made by Willa at the BnB we stayed in.

If in Woodstock you should stay here

. http://charlestonhouse.com

I guarantee it’s terrific. Breakfast was beautiful. Egg Pie, sausage, fruit and croissant. All while chatting to Willa from Montreal and husband Dixi a former Austrian ski instructor.

We headed off to explore the covered bridges. There are over 100 covered bridges in Vermont. They say they are covered to make them stronger and protect them. It seems to work as most are standing well – though some have had work done on them after storms back in 2011.

They are beautiful.

Woodstock : you may see me in the window!

Lincoln: a fully enclosed one.

Then onto Quechee. It was amazing as the river dropped and the water rushed under it.

Then we headed north to the White Mountains. It’s not the season to be here. No autumn colours ( like when I visited with my sister ) but still snow around.

Locals are heartily sick of winter. Roll on warmer weather!

We wound our way through the mountains. Stopping for the view. And the odd covered bridge!

We made our way to the coast, to Portland, our next stop and decided the drivers are more polite than in Australia. For a start, when crossing a road in a small town, the cars automatically stop for you. Not even at a crossing! They also don’t drive fast!

We arrived in Portland, a beautiful coastal port (which is undergoing a big surge in tourism, ) with plenty of time to explore.

We’re staying at the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa which is considered an historic hotel. It’s well located and helpful staff guided us to the best oyster bars. We’re keen to try the oysters.

http://www.theregency.com

So we left our bags and started walking!

From Canada to Vermont USA.

Leaving Montreal by bus is easier than flying. No airport queues. No hassles.

We decided to travel over the border to Burlington then hire a car to drive.

It worked well including the part where we had to exit the bus and all crowd into one room and file one by one to the two custom officers. I was just sorry we were about 10th in line. I was quite enjoying hearing the questions and answers. ‘Where have you been? ‘ where are you going?’ ‘What will you be doing there ?’ ‘What did you buy?’ What’s in your bag?’

Most were allowed back on the bus except the man of colour on crutches who could barely walk. He was taken behind the doors. Along with a family with 3 children! We had to get back in the bus and just wait. We were told we couldn’t even get off to use restrooms! Of course that made me need to!

Finally on our way into the US of A and into Burlington Airport to pick up our car. The enclosed verandah linking the airport to the car park was nicely fitted out with rocking chairs facing the tarmac. I wondered if the elderly were left there for a few hours entertainment!

We headed down the 95 in Vermont heading to Woodstock. I stayed there back in 1990 with my sister for our girls trip. We had a wonderful 3 weeks ‘long service leave ‘ from our families. We went from NY to Boston, got a car and explored Maine and Vermont.

Now 28 years later I’m re visiting some of the places!

Woodstock didn’t disappoint. It’s still a charming little town. Lots of sweet shops a lovely town Main Street and Library and a gorgeous covered bridge.

I think this is the shop I took a photo of and painted when I returned.

This is the land of the covered bridge. We intend to explore a few.

We walked the Main Street , found somewhere for dinner, bought a second hand book at the Library, went into fascinating general store ( which truly had everything) and finally checked into our BnB at the end of the Main Street in an appropriately named Pleasant St. Because it was. The house was charming and the owners Canadian Willa and Austrian Dixi, a couple about our age were lovely.

Our room at the back of the 9 room BnB was large and inviting with a grand 4 poster bed. A comfortable night coming up.

We decided on an early dinner having no eaten much today. We choose The Prince & the Pauper. Mostly because there wasn’t much else open. But it was surprisingly good in a gentle old fashioned way.

Cocktails seem very popular here so we had to try one for me it was a Vermont Cosmo and for Steve a a Maple Martini!

After smoked salmon and a lovely pork dish we walked home satisfied.

We planned our next day then fell up onto the High poster bed!

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 “modest suburban” 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 – 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 unmarked 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 minutes 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 Dion’s 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 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 past Céline Dion’s house.

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 answered 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!