Archive for ‘montreal’

March 30, 2012

Au Revoir MTL

We’ve got everything packed and ready to go, just a very few odds and ends left to chuck in a box. We learned after the last move to have aces things out of boxes as possible. The last move took way longer than we expected because we weren’t fully finished packing. We anticipate a bit of chaos tomorrow, but not nearly as chaotic as last time.

Tonight is our last night in Montreal. Part of me is sad, but the majority of me feels ready to go. The sadness part is that this adventure turned out to be a lot different than I expected. I turned out to react a lot differently than I thought I would. My anxiety was a lot higher, and my interests here were a lot different than I expected as well. In the end, even though I am a little sad things didn’t work out quite as expected, I learned a ton about myself at a very important time in my life. Some big lessons, some small lessons:

1) The Hubby and I don’t get sick of each other. We’ve spent 6 months with each other, with very scant contact with other friends and family, both working from home in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment. Close quarters, sometimes not being away from each other for 24 hours, with and at a certain point with some very significant financial stresses. We never once got angry at each other, and never felt like we needed the other out of our hair. It’s kind of unreal, but I feel really lucky.
2) Despite the above, I don’t do well without my family and friends. My anxiety has skyrocketed here, to the point where I’m suffering some health problems from it (stomach issues, sleep issues, etc). We have a very deep network of amazing people out west. Some of it I inherited at birth, some of it I gained through marriage, but a large part of that network the Hubby and I built through careful selection of awesome people, nurturing friendships, and joining of groups. We came here to see if we could create a new group like that. We did meet some cool people, no doubt, but our Tribe as we like to call them are really exceptional. We don’t just love having friends, we really love our specific friends. We don’t just love having family, we love OUR family.

3) I have growwed up. How the heck did that happen?! Part of coming here was to try and delay becoming an adult. Marriage felt adult enough, and I didn’t think I was quite ready to start saving for a house and kids. Montreal was supposed to be a distraction into that collegiate lifestyle: going to shows, hanging at bars, late nights, and restaurant food. But once we got here, I was far less inspired by it than I expected. I get tired of bars pretty quick. I am less interested in concerts and late nights on a regular basis. I would rather cook food for people than eat out all the time, partially because it’s fun and partially of the serious lack of gluten free dining in Montreal. I’m not as content going out drinking as I once was. Staying in and drinking with board games or instruments, video games or a hockey game is more enticing to me now. Also, things like walks in the park and hiking, visiting the Biodome, and Montreal’s family friendly festivals appealed to me way more than the club scene. I guess it’s time for that transition as I near the end of my 20s, but I didn’t expect it at all!

4) I don’t like being poor. This seems silly to say, because no one likes being poor. And it’s not that I can’t budget – being poor has actually taught me much better budgeting than I had before. The kind of complete paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle everyone experiences as a student, the not being able to afford much outside of the basic necessities, poor because you aren’t working enough. I don’t like it, and a new scene is not motivation enough for me to stick with it. In other words, money and a certain amount of frivolity and luxury is actually a value of mine. I hate admitting it, but I can’t just pretend I’m not that way.

5) A positive lesson: I like the cold! Everyone told me I’d hate the weather once I got bogged down in it. Once it wasn’t new. After the first few snows I’d hate it. It never happened. I know it was an easy winter, but the temperature was low enough that I got enough of a taste for cold. I found out I like it. I like -15. I don’t even mind -20. After -25, things get tough, but that’s because humans are not meant to be alive at those temperatures. When it drops that cold, the thing is, everything is dry. The air becomes crisp. The sun and cold air to me are uplifting. My mood skyrockets. It is the one thing I am not looking forward to about Vancouver. I’ve seen what it’s like when it doesn’t rain for 9 months, and I like it.

6) I belong on the West Coast This lesson is harder to explain than the others. In “San Diego Seranade”, Tom Waits has two separate lines that really hit home: I never knew the east coast until I moved to the west…I never knew my hometown till I stayed away too long. Something about being away has made me appreciate what home really is. I don’t really fit in over here. I feel like I’ve lost my centre. The west coast has a ton of thing I like. I like green things, mountains, salt water, fusion food, mid-century housing, cargo pants, and knee-high boots. I am polite and cheerful but a little aloof. I am very socially and politically liberal, I crave the beach, I pick up after my dog, and I like my city clean. I belong on the West Coast and in Vancouver in particular.

Tomorrow it’s packing everything into the trailer and a short drive to Ottawa. Then on to home!

March 18, 2012

St. Paddy’s

St Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. It could not be more perfectly designed for my personality: Irish music, plaid things, and whiskey are all held in high regard. Also the casual, unintentional racism, but you know.

This is also our last holiday in Montreal. It is our last real chance to see the city on a “big night out”. It’s one of our final weekends here. Our plan was to play the night by ear. There was a potential reddit meetup, but that seemed really disorganized. And there was talk of all the bars filling up really fast, so we had reservations about even getting in anywhere. Luckily, the night turned out pretty awesome.

I really feel we entirely hit on the key to good traveling insta-friend-making all in one night. You would think we would have figured this out by now, but when you move somewhere to live, you approach things differently. Tonight, we approached things as “what will make us enjoy the night the most”. Not “how to make a lasting connection/peer group”, which is a key difference.

After tonight, for traveling in pairs, I’ve discovered the key to meeting people:

1) Pick a busy hotspot and show up early. Get a table with more spaces than you have people for. For 2, find a table for 6-8. For one, find a table for around 4-5.
2) Have a few drinks. Not so many that you’re incompetant, but enough so you’re “squiffy”. For me, that’s around 3. Then maintain the buzz by alternating water/juice/soda and slowly-sipped drinks.
3) Ask questions. Basic questions, but really look for follow-up questions and opinions. Answer all questions with the typical straightforward answer, plus some leading information tacked on the end of it. In other words, lay as much on the table as possible. A good example is someone asks “What do you do for work?” you could answer, “I’m an engineer” OR you could answer “I’m an engineer, but I (insert opinion about your field/education/job experience)”.

Step 3 is really the hardest to intuit as an older traveler. You forget how you made your current friends at home, and you probably made them in an obvious-common-ground environment like high school or university dorms. On top of that, most of us are less guarded when we’re younger.

The key is being more obviously open. If you tack leading information onto answers, you give someone an easy follow-up. The hardest part of beginning conversation is going from not knowing a thing about the other person to feeling like you make a connection. You have to throw a little more on the table about your opinions and history if you expect to make it past awkward pleasantries. And throwing your own shit on the table will make it easier for your companions to do so as well, which makes for even better conversation. Let go of the formalities. This is naturally easier with a touch of alcohol (but not too much!).

The final key, of course, is to have a partner in crime you can bail to if the people you’ve wrangled turn out to be less than interesting. We had a hit-or-miss group tonight. The first group that joined our table were a bunch of coked-up frat/sorority types. I don’t like to judge people that harsh, but one guy was in a muscle tanktop and one girl kept playing with her hair and dipping it in her drink. From an outsider perspective, hilarious, but did not make for easy conversation.

The second group were redditors. Nice people, but pretty awkward. Plus after the first group, we were a bit doubious about letting out too much info. We got a bit more relaxed as more people and drinks showed. But it was short lived, and the redditors left to find another bar. We decided to stay, mainly because the Canucks game was finally on and we were a little more confident if the night just ended the two of us.

We switched tables with a really large group, and ended up with a medium table, only to be joined 10 minutes later by a group of 6 or so theatre kids. I say “kids” because it turned out we were almost a decade older than them. Theatre kids aren’t shy, and really hammered home the “laying it all on the table” thing. It was a fantastic end to the evening with “this is who I am” conversations, as well as superficial hockey and travel talk. It was a wonderful final holiday in Montreal.

Now I have to sleep. The Hubby has an alarm set so we can make it to the St Paddy’s parade in the morning. Every year he hauls me out of bed to go. It’s our ritual squabble. I hate the parade, I’m usually a tad hungover, and I always go because he loves it and I do like seeing him giddy like a 4-year-old. I’m never mad or make it unusually difficult. But I’ll be damned if I don’t put up a fight! At least Montreal is civilized, and their parade doesn’t start till noon!


February 6, 2012

Fête Des Neiges and Parc Jean-Drapeau

Welcome to the first MONTREAL MONDAY! Every Monday I detail something new about la belle ville! Updates on things going on in the city, or new neighbourhoods I explore. This week: Parc Jean-Drapeau and the annual Fete Des Neiges!

This past Saturday, the Hubby and I experienced our first festival in Montreal. It happened to be Fete Des Neiges, an outdoor celebration in Parc Jean-Drapeau. It is part of a larger schedule of winter activities at the former site of Expo ’67.


The crowds of Fete des Neiges, with the Biodome in the background

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January 1, 2012

Bonne Année


Happy New Year, everyone! Ottawa has been a blast – a good late night party last night, and a day of sleep and recovery today. We’re just lazing about watching Super 8 after all-you-can-eat sushi. My New Years goal of getting down to a tentative “goal weight” will begin when we return to Montreal on Tuesday. The food in Ottawa doesn’t conduce itself to dieting.
The weather here has dropped considerably in the last few weeks. It is the rare day that the temperature is above zero. The snow is starting to pile up. Ottawa salts a lot, which I have heard is terrible on your shoes. Luckily it seems Montreal salts less and uses gravel instead. It is more of a pain in the ass for cleaning, but less destructive.
This extreme of cold is something I have never experienced. Thursday afternoon the temperature was -18 Celsius (0 Fahrenheit) and the wind chill dropped it down to -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). Cold like that causes weird, unexpected changes in your body. A capillary in my nose broke at -15 C, and I had a small nose bleed. My poor west coast nose, what a wuss! Another weird nose-phenomenon: once you hit -10 C, any moisture in your nose freezes when you inhale. Basically it feels like you suddenly have big giant boogers in your nose. So weird.
Last Thursday was the most insane. The locks on the truck froze, and were completely encased in ice. We tried de-icer, then warming them up with a lighter. Note: de-icer is just isopropyl alcohol and ethanol, but even fuel-and-fire didn’t work! Finally, we went to Shaika and got a glass of hot water. Worked like a charm, but froze really quickly afterward. It froze so quickly, in fact, that when we threw the rest of the water out, it froze mid-air!
I’ve handled the cold pretty well, actually. I’ve got these old sweaters my grandmother made many years ago. She was a mountaineer, and the sweaters show she understood what worked for cold. Layered with thermals, a 100% wool coat, hat, scarf, and mittens, and I’m pretty tolerant of everything we’ve encountered so far. The hardest part is the face. Your face gets unbelievably cold. Luckily, after 5 minutes or so, your face is so numb it isn’t a problem.
For someone who hates cold, I am surprisingly not miserable. I would take the -18 C days over the +2 C days, no questions asked. Most days are either sunny and crisp or cloudy and snowy. Even with the gray of the clouds, the snow reflects the light. It’s much less gray than Vancouver. I can feel my body physically reacting to the light. My first winter back in Vancouver is going to be an adjustment.
Tomorrow we’re planning on going rock climbing (indoors of course). We’ll head back to Montreal on Tuesday, as there’s no snow in the forecast. Our windshield wipers are also west coast grade. They will need replacing before we are confident enough to brave the snow and crazy Québécois drivers!
I hope you all had a fun New Years Eve, and I wish you all a prosperous and joyous 2012!

December 3, 2011

Moms Visit Part 1

The moms have arrived in Montreal, and we’ve started our touring! We picked them up at the airport late Thursday night/Friday morning. I attempted to make Swedish mulled wine, grög, but left it cooking for too long and it morphed into a delicious reduction sauce – a happy accident, since we were having dinner at our place Friday night. But it meant no wine before bed – how tragic!


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November 19, 2011

Le Tourist

We’re back to our regularly scheduled cheerfulness after last week’s mini-meltdown. Which is good; I would take being consistently moderately content over wild swings of ecstatic and devastated any day.
Part of the reason for the happy is that Jm has come to stay for the weekend. Nothing beats old friends. They can make anywhere “Home”. His visit is also an excuse to be a tourist. When you live somewhere, it is so easy to get bogged down in making a life, you forget to see the things that make where you live great!
We stayed up super late last night watching the highly under-lauded Alan Tudyk movie Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The premiss is that these 2 rednecks and this group of college kids both think they are the protagonist in a horror film and the other is the killer. Which makes for a lot of gory hilarity. I highly recommend, even if the mechanisms are a bit see through.
Today we slept in, took the Dahg to the park, and then went to climb Mount-Royal. I like “mountains” in this part of the country. They are easily scaleable in 90 minutes time. We had ourselves a hot chocolate at the top, and then wandered down the hill through the McGill campus. I was struck how all college campuses had different layouts but the same buildings. It immediately transported me to UBC, though older and more compact.
We decided to have dinner in Old Montreal. If you get off at Champ-de-Mars, leave the Metro and are transported across the Atlantic to Paris, France. It is crazy! And also pricey and touristy. So, yes, Paris 🙂 And in typical British colonial fashion, a giant column with Horatio Nelson at the top. I’m not a huge Anglo-Navy-phile, but I do love monuments to Lord Nelson, if only because he is always shown sans arm.
We’re sitting now at Shaika, the café bar downstairs, where there is purportedly a Celtic-gypsy-bluegrass band supposed to play. I’m telling you, the thing I will miss most about Montreal is the concept of the “café bar”. Coffee, sandwiches, baked goods, simple alcoholic beverages, and nightly live music. What more do you need?
Tomorrow we’re going to explore Jean-Talon and the Plateau. Farmers market and vintage stores. I’ll post pics Of our excursions tomorrow!

November 11, 2011

Ikea hate!


This week was a time vacuum! I had every intention of doing neat things and writing more, but between grocery shopping, unpacking, some real work, and waiting for the Internet Gods to show up, the week got away from me. Oh, also Ikea. It was not just one night sacrificed to the big blue box, but two. So exhausting!
No matter how many times I tell myself I’ll never go back, I’ll just thrift store and Craigslist it all, it’s just a waste of money, etc, I always end up back there. It’s just cheap enough, and necessary when you just want your bed off the floor.
We went to get a bed, because all the beds on Craigslist and Kijiji were actually more expensive than one from Ikea. We went Monday night, expecting to set the bed up when we got home. We left at 6:00, arrived at 6:30 (Montreal traffic!) and set to wandering the showroom, deciding on a bed (the Lillesand), picking out some other things, having dinner, then heading to the warehouse. Then something happened that I have never seen at an Ikea.
They were out of stock of the Lillesand.
I was so choked. I really liked this bed, and in my mind, it was far more stylish and less “Ikea-looking” than the other beds, but was still a good price. Rather than be deterred, I decided I wanted to go to the Ikea in Boucherville (east of Montreal, just over the river). According the the Ikea website, the bed was stocked there.
Fine, another night at Ikea. We started late, left at around 6:15 for what was supposed to be a quick 30 minute drive. Our GPS decided to take us on a “shortest technical distance” detour, which ended up making the trip take an hour. Then we got lost in the showroom, and had difficulty finding some things we’d forgotten to get the night before. We went down to pick up our bed, and GTFO.
Boucherville was also out of stock of the Lillesand. Fine, back-up bed it is. But we had to navigate the warehouse database in French, and French + Ikea-language is really complicated when you are exhausted and disoriented. Plus we had to find a work-around to our lack of box spring. Ikea has an easy solution, but they don’t advertise it, and it cost $50 for pine slats attached with muslin strips. Sigh. We decided to get the bed and to not get the bed, returned the parts and hunted down the parts, tried to see if we could get the Lillesand headboard with the back-up bed’s side slats, decided we couldn’t do that, pouted (me) and measured everything possible (Hubby), and finally made it through the check out at 8:20. The trip to Boucherville also paid off, because the bed was cheaper there than at the Montreal store (wha?!).
We then rewarded ourselves with hotdogs for dinner.
I have since discovered that we didn’t account for a few things that Ikea could be helpful with (curtains since apparently we’re west-facing, spice rack, hooks, etc) but I will be damned if I set foot in Ikea again.
For at least 6 months.
In other news, my kitchen is about 90% unpacked, and I intend to get back to homemade, gluten-free deliciousness in the coming days. So look forward to that! I am cooking up some of my white-bean chili at this exact moment! Yum!

October 20, 2011


Today’s photography post has been rescheduled into a dual post tomorrow. I have better news that having fun with photography.  That news?


We got accepted for a sweet apartment in Montreal today! Cheap rent, near McGill (but not in the McGill Ghetto), a block away from the best dog park in the city. We’re just off of Rue Sherbrook and Boulevarde Décarie, which is considerably more urban that we’re used to living.  The street itself is lined with trees and duplexes, so it will feel a little more homey.  There’s a yoga place, a coffee shop, an antique shop and a used clothing boutique, and a cheap grocery store. It’s a sweet, old apartment with moulding on the walls and a big living room and big bedroom.  We’re hoping we’re allowed to paint (we just need to confirm with the landlord, but I don’t think it will be a problem).

Here are a few pictures from the listing to function as “before” pics so I can post decorated pics after we have some time with it!

This is the far wall of the living room. It gets a fair bit of light during the day.

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