Sunday, October 27, 2013

Montreal in a Weekend

Owie! Zowie! – as my husband would say! We have had a busy fall, to say the least. If you remember, in one of the last posts I was insisting that it’s still summer … Well … I kind of feel like, with everything that went on this fall, I missed the season entirely, almost altogether!

In the end of September, we flew up to Montreal where my mom was visiting my sister and her family, so we can spend her 60th birthday with her. Visiting Montreal is always a gift to us – it’s half family trip, half sightseeing (when we get enough time). Although still in North America, Montreal feels “foreign” and cosmopolitan and like a trip of a lifetime, really. 

The fleurs-de-lis everywhere reminds you constantly that you're not in just North America anymore.

In the past couple of trips up there, we went up for family “stuff” and we always went in a hurry. We had no time to see the city or to savor the local foods. This time, the days were few again, but somehow my sister managed to squeeze some “touristy” time in the 2 full days we stayed there. And what a treat it was!

On a Friday (when the kids are in school, still), all of the adults went to Old Port/ Montreal and had lunch at this very chic Japanese bar and then walked about the city. 

We had lunch at Kyo, a Japanese bar. The food was traditional Japanese and delicious. This place was all rice, fish and ... wood. The bamboo slab you read the name of the restaurant on is actually the back of our menus. And the sake came enclosed in this tiny wooden box.
Just gawking at cobble stone streets and stone walls can make my pastime enjoyable. For some reason, I have always loved cities with a waterfront: Charleston, Wilmington, Savannah, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Quebec City and … Montreal. There is something timeless about a city’s old buildings strung together, like priceless beads, along a river front … You can see the history, its happy times, and its dark times, all along the water… The walls start talking, telling tales of good and bad, rich and poor, bloody and fair. 

Nothing says "old European city" than streets lined with statues and piazzas full of pigeons! 

 Walking along the Saint Laurent River, in Vieux Port of Montreal

I love taking in the smell of street foods on these old streets, peeking at artists creating, oblivious at the carefree passersby, watching perky pups pulling onto their owners, happy to be “out”; I love hearing the sound of the old tram horns or the horses’ feet, clip-clopping over the cobbles; I love eating random treats while trying really hard not to trip, and trying to figure out what is a better spending of my time: opening my own eyes and really enjoying every second of this, or grabbing my camera and trying to capture as much of this rich spectacle for posterity?! I have never been able to prioritize in such situations.    

Taking in the Old City: artists, beautiful flower arrangements on street patios and boutiques - lots of them.

This was my first trip to the Old Port with my husband – so, this will remain in our family album as our first discovering the maple ice-cream and cookies, our first visiting the Notre-Dame Basilica, our first shooting The Port, together. 

What can possibly say "Montreal" more loudly than poutine and maple?! Sorry, America can keep its claim of perfecting mashed potatoes and gravy, but fries and gravy belongs to the Quebecois, people! Hands down! When in Old Port, make sure you visit the Maple Museum in the basement of the Maple Delights store.

If you ever wander around those parts, please do remember to do two things: visit the artists’ corner, of the Old Port. The jewelry and paintings you’ll find are some of the most affordable and beautifully original art I have seen anywhere! And, secondly, pay the $10 (or … so) to visit the Notre-Dame Basilica. A replica of the famous French church, it is a breathtaking Gothic structure that will leave you gasping! The art inside is old and awe inspiring, and done in a manner obsessing with perfection and detail. Not one stroke of painting or chisel is at random. And simply put: they don’t build churches like this anymore! 

 The Notre-Dame Basilica, outside and in

The rest of the time up there was spent in the family, chasing around my nephews, cooking out and talking, eating and drinking too much. My mom almost had a heart attack on her birthday, when my dad showed up at the door, to wish her Happy Birthday. This is a 24 hour, 5000 mi trip, in case you were wondering. He flew totally unannounced and unplanned to surprise her. 

Maybe the last grill of the season

All I can say is: thank God for family, and thank God for love!

This is how you say "cheese" in my family: my whole family reunited, at last! Do you know how rare this moment is?! Thinking about it makes me cry! Thanks to dad's adventuresomeness, we are all together again. Click on this last picture to see the whole album from this trip.

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