Monthly Archives: April 2016

Discovering Montreal

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This is part II of my short vacation. You can read about my Ottawa stay here.

A short train ride from Ottawa took me to Montreal, where I met up with my friends and hung out with them for a few days. They had moved to the St. Henri neighbourhood, which is a little further away from downtown Montreal. They have a family now so it’s a quieter neighbourhood and they have room to grow. I mainly stayed in the St. Henri neighbourhood and walked around, getting the lay of the land.

The weather improved a lot since Ottawa so on my first day, we took a long stroll along the canal to Chinatown. Gentrification has taken over the area with many new buildings under construction and new restaurants taking on old store fronts – this can be seen mainly along the canal. However, the neighbourhood has retained it’s charm – it can be seen at the local Atwater Market, the churches and the residents. The walk was really nice to finally feel the sun on my face, brightening up my day 🙂 I wasn’t aware that there was a path along the canal that took you all the way downtown to Old Montreal/Downtown.

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When we arrived, eating was first priority. Originally we wanted to eat Vietnamese but they didn’t have any high chairs so we went for dim sum at Le cristal chinoise. The service was slow (we were seated for 1.5 hours, with a 10 month old) and we had to remind them that there were still items missing. No cart service, you ordered from a list. However, the food was delicious when it arrived. Try going on a weekday instead of the weekend, it should be less busy. I didn’t realize how much I missed Chinese food until my stay in Montreal because my friend’s mom was also  in town and staying with them, so she cooked a few of the dinners while I was there and dim sum – it’s so good and tasty; think of it as Chinese tapas where the portions are bite sized and you can try a lot of different things. After eating, my friend and her mom did groceries and I wandered around with the baby and the baby’s dad. Many new sights and sounds but also very familiar – elderly people playing music in public had assembled to perform tai chi, the delicious smells of baked goods, various dialects of Chinese being spoken that I don’t understand, and people just standing in the middle of the sidewalk so you have to walk around them. It had been a long day and we headed home on the Métro instead of walking.

The night, we took advantage of them having them having mom around to be babysitter for a night so we went out for drinks at Ludger and then some snacks at Satay Brothers. Once again, the theme of Asian food continued and Satay Brothers had Singaporean/Malaysian street food to offer. We got some pork buns and some veggie fritters that were delicious. The best part was, one of the servers (maybe owners??), Phil started chatting with us and we got onto the topic of Hong Kong street food (he’s mixed, half Chinese and half French Canadian). It was so nice to talk to someone in Cantonese about some of my favourite foods – I had to translate for my friend and got her interested in possibly taking a trip to Hong Kong. I will definitely be paying them a visit on my next trip to Montreal in June.

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Throughout the rest of my trip, my friend had a back spasm and was immobile for a bit so I helped around the house and with the baby. It was really nice to spend time with her since I hadn’t been in Montreal for a couple of years and only get to see her when she’s home in Toronto. I did take some time for myself and walked around. I went back to the Atwater Market and got a Croque-monsieur to enjoy. Didn’t have as many pastries as I would have liked but there is my next trip. Also, a trip to anywhere really isn’t complete without getting tacos, so we went to Café Frida. It was a small place with seating for maybe 15 people max. The interior was bright and colourful. The food was delicious! I got the conchinita and carnita – one of each. I really do love food a lot!! Other than eating, I also spent a lot of time reading and napping, which are both things I haven’t done in a while. Since the weather was really nice, we also got to BBQ – made sausages from the Market and grilled eggplant.

For the train ride home, I got two sandwiches from Sandwicherie St Henri: a pork and a chicken salad since the ride was almost six hours. They really hit the spot. The train ride was pretty uneventful but I got a window seat and had a little table in front, rather than getting a fold down table like on the plane.

I cannot wait to go back to Montreal in June (will be there for work and I’ll be staying the weekend with my friends again).

List of places that I visited:

 

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Exploring Canada’s Capital City: Ottawa

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I recently took a mini-holiday to visit friends in Ottawa and Montreal (it’s been a long overdue visit). Taking the train (VIA Rail) was super relaxing and didn’t require all the hassle that comes with taking a flight – trekking out to the airport and having to arrive early. I got to Union Station, found the boarding gate and lined-up. Tickets get scanned and then you board, super simple. I would definitely recommend taking the train if you have the time for it (took 4.5 hours to get to Ottawa). Also, you can take in the scenery without having to fuss with traffic.

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Every trip that I had taken to Ottawa consisted of going to the Winterlude, skating on the Rideau Canal (the world’s largest skating rink), eating Beavertails and lots of drinking and birthday shenanigans. However, I have never actually explored Canada’s capital city so with this short trip, I decided I would do just that! The original plan was to spend time with my friends but they actually were driving back to Toronto on my second day so instead of cancelling my trip, I found an AirBnB place and spent the next two days seeing what Ottawa had to offer. I visited the Canadian Museum of Nature for free (they have free admissions every Thursday evening, 5:00-8:00pm), went up the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill (saw some great views of the city), walked to Byward Market and tried a lot of great food! It was very refreshing to be travelling by myself and being on my own. I talked with strangers and had a great time despite the heaps and heaps of snow that wouldn’t stop falling.

I love food so here is a list of all the places I tried:

  • Wilf and Ada’s (510 Bank Street) – the eggs in purgatory are a must-try!! Perfect blend of spicy and tomato goodness. I met to older gentlemen while having brunch by myself. One wanted to know if and what kind of phone he would need to get if he wanted to just access the Internet while he was hiking through northern Spain.
  • Arlington Five (5 Arlington Street) – same owners as Wilf and Ada’s and around the corner. Cute coffee shop and delicious muffins. I got one with pineapple and coconut, basically a Piña colada in muffin form. Super moist and filling.
  • Elgin Street Diner (374 Eligin Street) – a staple and must visit when in Ottawa. The burger was decent but the desserts were so good – we tried the peanut butter chocolate pie and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.
  • Manx Pub (370 Elgin Street) – according to their website, they are “a social hub for Ottawa’s arts scene and those who cherish good food, beverages and even better conversation”. It definitely was a place of that since I met a Mexican artist there and talked a lot about food, especially tacos and Mexican foods. The bartenders are friendly and really know their beers. I tried two local beers: the Kichesippi seasonal (didn’t get the name of the brew) and from the Cassel Brewery, Lil’ Red Steamer (a delicious Irish red ale). Also ended up chatting with a Rhode Islander who’s daughter was working in Ottawa. She was a graphic designer and we talked about the printing industry (since it was her specialty). The description on the website is very true, for me anyways.
  • El Camino (380 Elgin Street) – This was a really hard place to get a seat at, even if you are by yourself. The wait was over an hour and I ended up getting take out instead. They don’t take reservations either, so if you want to go, get there early or put your name on the waiting list and then go to the Manx Pub for a couple of brews until they call you. I ordered the beef taco, ox tongue taco and Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf (these were my favourite!!). Everything was tasty but I could have gotten more of the prawns in betel leaf – something about the crunchiness on the outside and the sweetness of the prawns really worked. This was recommended to me from a Manx Pub bartender.
  • The Whalesbone Oyster House (430 Bank Street) – Oh man, this place had such a good vibe – super chill and relaxed place. I got a half dozen of oysters and a Kichesippi 1855 (recommended by the guy sitting next to me at the bar). There was homemade bread and whipped butter. The oysters were served with homemade sauces – Mignonette sauce, hot sauce and a third one I don’t remember. The hot sauce was made from a mix of ghost peppers and chilies that had a kick to it but didn’t linger too much. Oysters were super fresh. It was on the pricey side so I decided that the beer and oysters would be my appetizer.
  • Bramasole Diner (428 Bank Street, next door to The Whalesbone) – This was recommended by my AirBnB host (it was also down the street from where I was staying so didn’t need to go too far). Decent diner food. I got eggs, sausage, home fries, toast and coffee. There was a constant stream of people coming and going and the staff were friendly and service was fast.

Next time, I want to venture further out into the suburbs, such as Hintonburg (there’s a place called Hintonburger, with a name like that – I need to try it!!).

More to come on my trip couple days in Montreal 🙂

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