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 nights 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.m

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, retiring 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 sled 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 local 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 dining 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 maybe 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.

Wandering the Hamptons

A slow start was in order after our 20+ hours of travel from Australia to New York!

Our hotel is just great. great.https://www.sagharborinn.com

Beautiful beds and large rooms overlooking the marina it is peaceful this time of year.

We sat in the comfortable breakfast lounge and planned the day.

It was raining but if it didn’t put off the runners passing our hotel in a fun run it shouldn’t worry us!

Our view from the bedroom!

We decided to go to the Main St for coffee then head off for the half hour drive to Montauk to visit the Lighthouse.

The Main Street is a mixture of pretty businesses and shops. The flowers have been planted for Spring but the weather’s still cool and rainy.

The marinas are still empty waiting for the season to start, so the town is quiet which suits us.

We got back into the van and headed off through East Hampton to Montauk.

We visited the lighthouse which was shrouded in fog, taking the rocky path near the water to get the best views.

Moving on we went to the Marina which must be so lovely in season but is super quiet now.

Feeling thirsty we stopped at the Montauk Brewery. This was most crowded place we’ve been so far.

The beer is good and their marketing spot on.

I had the watermelon ale. A touch of sweetness to take away the bitter taste. A great aperitif for lunch to follow.

Driving through the still foggy streets I loved seeing the washed grey shingled houses. And the lobster shacks like the one featured in the TV series The Affair

The signs were catchy…..

And the beaches quiet and dreamy.

Back in Sag Harbour I couldn’t help think how different it would be in Summer.

Back to our hotel for a little R&R before dinner. The jet lag has just about gone.

Family Time in the Hamptons

Our flight over was smooth and uneventful- just the way I like it.

We landed in LA to blue skies. We’d like to have stayed a night to catch up with our friends Dan & Isabelle Garr but time didn’t allow. It was s short stopover before the 4 1/2 hr flight onto New York.

Unfortunately it was grey skies and light rain that greeted us here. We landed early but the taxi back to the terminal took about 35 mins. Waiting to cross a busy runway of plane taking off provided a plane spotters ideal but I was anxious to get off the plane.

Walking off the plane and into Terminal 8 we passed a wall mural that summed up NY. It was shiny and glittery and beautiful!

Lisa and John were there to meet us with a van and directions to Sag Harbour in the Hamptons. Traffic out of NY was the usual – stop, start, slow feature that leaving any city for the coast has.

The kids Rob & Jordan had arrived in the afternoon and were waiting for us at our hotel. The Sag Harbor Inn. We finally arrived and headed straight out for dinner. It was so lovely to see them again.

After eating a lovey meal at Il Cappuccino we planned tomorrow then fell into bed.

Start Spreading the News!

Yes we are flying off to New York tomorrow!

It’s almost exactly a year since our son Rob married Jordan in Santa Barbara. They have been living in NY and we haven’t seen them since then.

So we are excited!

We land in NY on Friday at 5pm and will head straight to Sag Harbour in the Hamptons for the weekend. Sounds good doesn’t it.

So follow along for our three weeks in New York, Quebec, Montreal, Vermont, Boston and Newport.

Walking through Historic Forte Kochi

Up early for our walking tour. We booked with a lady at the hotel next to our homestay. She said she had an elderly gentleman who was a very good historian.

So at 7.30 sharp a very well groomed man appeared outside our homestay. Mr Anthony Thommen was smiling widely and spoke in a gentle way. He launched into a little story about himself telling us he was born in the area, was a historian an author and guide and lived alone since his wife’s death and his only child had moved away.

We began the story of Fort Cochin or Kochi as it’s known locally, in Princess St. We heard about the Portuguese arriving and settling up trading, then the arrival of the Dutch and finally the British. We wandered along the narrow streets stopping at Anthony’s street and then the large Catholic Basilica.

We heard about the rebuilding of the Basilica and how Anthony spent a year in the Seminary.

We moved along through streets dotted with houses showing distinct Dutch and English influence.

We saw our first lot of young men playing cricket! On a dusty ground.

And visited the Bishops House and Museum.

Next stop was the Dutch Cemetery. This was turning into a history / religious tour of Kochi. Not that I minded.

We visited the elephants I had seen yesterday and then spied a lot of photographers along with couples posing. Seems it is ‘post wedding photo week.’ Just before Valentines Day. Some lovely couples posed with just one in a wedding dress.

Our last stop was St Francis Church and Vasco de Gama’s house

Mr Anthony was more than keen to continue but after 2.5 hours we were ready for breakfast!

We paid him and he asked if we’d like to buy his book. How could we refuse. He was so sweet. So he found us later at the breakfast place and three of us bought his book!

By now all power was off. The poor shop keepers were beside themselves. No one was coming into their dark hot shops. Our rooms were hot and noisy – the hotel right next door had a generator making a huge racket. So I went walking by the water and eventually took my book out and enjoyed a read in the sea breeze.

Marlene and I also had another stroll and visited our Homestay’s brothers guesthouse a little further out.

It was charming. If you’re coming to this area the Delight Homestay looks good. It’s opposite a park and has lovely big rooms set in a garden. it’s also very reasonably priced. Around $A30 a night.

We had a lovely last night dinner at a hotel by the water. We all decided we had to wear something we had bought on the trip.

To top it off three of us Marlene, Linda and I all bought the same white dress! We decided we chance not ever wearing it on the same day!

Tomorrow we leave. I’ll miss the smiling faces and the colours.

It’s been such a wonderful holiday. Temples, the history, the bronze casters, mud bricks, tea plantations, dancing Shivas, beautiful people, colourful saris and men in dhoti, great food, elephants, farms, fashion, yoga and lots of laughter.

To my travelling Sari sisters. Thank you.

Fort Cochin : an Indian port with flavour.

Saying goodbye to George, Dai their daughter Susan and baby and Grandma is sad after a truly genuine Kerala experience.

But a new adventure awaits. This time in Fort Cochin or Fort Kochi. It’s was a small fishing village settled in the 1500 by the Portuguese. They were here for 160 years so the influence can be seen – a little evidence remains. Then the Dutch came and for 112 years took control. Again they left their mark after destroying many of the Original buildings. Finally the British arrived and fought for control. They stayed until 1947 so once again the building and customs reflect British influence.

We arrived around lunch time and checked into Walton’s Homestay. It’s more a hotel than a homestay but the family who run the business are very lovely people Mr & Mrs Walton and their daughter Charlotte.

http://www.waltonshomestay.com

We settled into our home for 2 nights and walked out onto Princess St for a spot of shopping. We’d had a detox from shops at our last farm stay and were ready for action. We all separated to explore ourselves and I headed for the water and checked out the Chinese fishing nets. These are something to watch.

Legend has it that a Chinese explorer introduced these nets over 500 years ago.

Dawn and dusk is when you see these in greater action but they were working some early afternoon!

Over four fishermen operate them

check out this video. It’s fascinating to watch.

I continued along the water front and came up a wonderful exhibition. It’s a travelling one and is here in Kochi for a few weeks.

It’s about the co existence between man and elephants. There are 100 elephants on display all made out of lantana.

It’s wonderful.

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/english.manoramaonline.com/lifestyle/news/2019/01/27/lantana-elephant-biodiversity-message.amp.html

I continued on and found some wonderful buildings of Dutch and English influence and then gave in and looked at the wonderful cotton clothes for sale. I bought two dresses at Anokhi

https://www.anokhi.com

There are some wonderful hand blocked clothes. I couldn’t resist!

Dinner was at the hotel near our homestay. The Jetty restaurant at the Forte Hotel. It’s lovely with the most beautiful staff. But it doesn’t serve any alcohol. The water was lovely!

After dinner we walked a little and enjoyed the cooler night air.

Tomorrow our hotel will be without power from 11-5pm as are all the businesses and hotels without generators. We could be revisiting the Forte Hotel!

Water taxi along the Waterways of Kerala

Breakfast is becoming a feature in our Kerala home stay. What do readers like to eat when on holidays?

Staying in a home Stay you are given something different each day. In fact all meals we have shared here have been wonderful and I’ve lived not having to choose from a menu. Dai, Georges wife has prepared the most delicious local foods using produce almost entirely from their farm – except for the fish and chicken which have cone from the other local producers. All organic.

Today’s breakfast was puttu. George served us pineapple to start then came to the table with a pan with what looked like rice rolls. He cut a section off and put it on the plate then squashed it down. Then he peeled two tiny bananas and mashed it in and mixed it round before topping it with a palm sugar syrup. Quite a treat. Along with coffee roasted from the coffee trees on his organic farm.

We set off along the lane way beside the small river. We had a 40 min walk and three bridges to cross to get to the local ferry.

It was a lovely shaded walk with houses dotted along the way. All different coloured houses.

The houses here are being redone after the devastating floods experienced last year. All the houses along the river were flooded including George’s homestay. It’s had an effect on tourism in the area. George said it’s been slow for the tourists to return.

I can reassure you all that it’s now safe to come here. It all being refreshed and looks good. So if you’re thinking of a holiday in this area of Kerala please come. The people are lovely. It’s clean and the food is great.

As we travelled along the river we saw people on their way to work and children off to school. The uniforms are neat and clean and the girls have big white bows in their hair. Little girls seem to have short hair and as they grow so does their hair. And they plait it finishing each plait with a white bow.

We spotted flocks of ducks all paddling away and glided past rice fields almost ready for harvest. We noticed many of the house boats used by tourists for a few days on the waterways. So many empty ones. The lack of tourists is hurting this area.

The locals on the ferry were friendly and like asking us questions always starting with our names and where we live.

The 1hr 45 min trip down cost us 65 rupee. The equivalent to $A1.30 for all 5 of us. Unfortunately Marlene has an upset stomach today. Hope it wasn’t the fish!

The journey ended near Muhamma on the Great Lake so we got off the boat for a walk and found another St George Church. He’s a favourite saint around here. We’ve spotted many St George , St Anthony and St Joseph churches and schools.

After the boat refueled we reboarded for the trip home. I’m having time to take photos and write up my blog.

Only problem is after last nights rain the internet at George’s place is down. So I have several posts to upload!

We arrived home for lunch. Today delivered by George to our terrace. Dosa with potato curry filling. Later today after the last three have their massages we made another attempt to go to the Temple.

After an early dinner – this time a delicious chicken curry, we boarded the two tuk tuks from last night. We had these two guys last night so they greeted us like old friends and we set off in the evening light to the Temple 15 km away. It felt strange being back in the busyness of a small city after the quietness of George’s village.

We arrived at the Temple with its big car park in front. It’s festival time and everyone was out ready to enjoy it. The car park was abuzz with flashing lights and stalls not unlike those at sideshow alley at the Ekka of a fairground. There were balloons, lights, clackers and other junky items being bought by locals and Indians from regions surrounding this area.

We left our shoes in the tuk in preparation for entering the temple. But I’ve now learnt that the ground can be hard and pebbly so decided to wear some socks which I would have to throw out later. I noticed George also wore his socks!

We made our way through the crowds stopping to admire the twirling whirlwinds – men with huge tree like structures on their heads turning around so fast I’m surprised they could stand up!

We entered the temple – unlike any we have seen in the Tamil Nadu area and were immediately awe struck. There in a line were 6 enormous elephants decorated with headdresses with 3 men sitting atop them. They were chained and stood facing men with big fire sticks. The noise was incredible. The elephants looked happy enough – especially as they were constantly being fed palm fronds but one wonders how they are really feeling about this circus going on around them. We watched, totally fascinated, before taking a walk around the temple.

It’s quite a different feel. People are sitting on the steps dressed in their best saris and dhotis – all chatting.

An hour or so of people and elephant watching was enough so we headed back to George’s peaceful farm.