Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2009

A Train Ride to Toronto

Early in the morning, we headed to Grand Central and took the 57 from Montreal to Toronto. It was pretty much uneventful. The scenery looked mostly misty due to snow. This evening, though, we may see the fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square across from Toronto’s Old City Hall.

Climbing, Sort of

After having brunch at Au Pain Doré, my sister and I headed off to Mount Royal Park. First we passed by Victoria Hospital (where my sister was born) and General Hospital (where I was born). Victoria Hospital had, well, a Victorian sensibility in its architecture which I found interesting. General Hospital was more modern and appeared to be under construction for a new wing. Unfortunately, the hiking trails were closed due to snow so we took a circuitous route via Côte-des-Neiges. At the park, we walked around and went inner tubing.

On our way to visiting the pièce de résistance, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, we passed by firetrucks in front of a smoking residence. But aside from that, the visit to the cathedral was intriguing.

And after all the hiking, we went to La Banquise which specializes in poutine. We got a classic one and one topped with chicken and peas. All I can say is: if you get a regular size (the smallest size), you can share it with two people. And it was a good thing we were hiking all day and were hungry because otherwise it would have been way too much.

Oh, and my sister dragged me to more stores to look at boots. Still no perfect boot.

From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal

Boot Insanity

Was mostly dragged through Montreal’s underground city to what seemed to be every store that sold boots in my sister’s quest for the perfect boot. No boot found, however.

Other things done today: visiting Christ Church (only the exterior since it was closed), visiting the interior of Basilique Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, and having lunch at Boustan famous because it was frequented by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (very good, by the way).

From 20091229_Montreal
From 20091229_Montreal
From 20091229_Montreal

Mostly Métro

Once we finished breakfast, my sister and I headed off to the Musée Juste pour rire (or Just For Laughs Museum) because theoretically, they were open on Mondays. Unfortunately, the museum didn’t have any shows scheduled for today so they were in effect, closed. So that was a bust.

That left us more time to explore Vieux-Montréal or Old Montreal. First we wandered around the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal which is an impressive and ornate cathedral. When we got there, there was a service going on in a chapel behind the main chapel–which I thought was a little odd. Afterwards, we spent a little time at a small shop called Canadian Maple Delights where we had maple tea, a maple tart, and maple gelato–definitely a recommended visitor’s spot. A warning: the maple tart is very rich–so it was a good thing that my sister and I were splitting one. It was interesting sitting in the cafe and watching the snow come down outside. The atmosphere was sedate and relaxing as very few tourists stopped by. For about another hour, we wandered the shops and boutiques of Old Montreal before heading to the Métro.

Ah, the Métro. We had decided that we were going to pass or visit every single stop on the system. Before today, we had traveled partly on the Green, Orange, and Yellow lines. So today, we basically went on all of the Blue line, the rest of the Orange, and part of the Green line from Berri-UQAM to Angrignon. We will try to get the rest of the Green line to Honoré-Beaugrand and the Yellow line to Longueuil tomorrow. While one would think that this would be something tremendously boring to do–it actually wasn’t so. When we got off the subway car at Côte-Vertu to take a brief look around, Métro emergency personnel rushed into the train to look for something. I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on, but we’re being optimistic and guessing that they were just trying to fix some sort of mechanical failure.

For dinner, we went to Café Saigon downtown. It was actually quite good. I think my sister put it best when she said that it reminded her of our parents’ cooking. There’s a certain quality to the food of most Vietnamese restaurants that makes their food scream “restaurant”. Café Saigon had a more home style taste to their dishes. Definitely a good choice to end our day.

From 20091228_Montreal
From 20091228_Montreal
From 20091228_Montreal
From 20091228_Montreal
From 20091228_Montreal

Breakfast and Pictures from Yesterday

Currently we’re having breakfast after treking in the snow one block away to Second Cup for some hot drinks. The bagels that we got yesterday from Dad’s Bagels (poppyseed and sesame seed) are good but a little more sweet than I am used to.

And here are some pictures from yesterday (Grande Bibliothèque, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, and sandwiches at Reuben’s):

From 20091227_montreal
From 20091227_montreal
From 20091227_montreal

Crazy Museum Day

Just a brief update since we got back around midnight. No pictures on this entry since I’m still in the process of uploading them. They’ll be up later when I’m not feeling so tired or so busy.

During the day, we visited a couple of places–The Grande Bibliothèque (holy crap, their media collection is extensive. You could just borrow DVDs instead of subscribing to Netflix), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (like all contemporary art, some of it is amazing, some of it is crap. Particularly loved the art installation by Tricia Middleton–personally I think just that is worth the price of admission), Reuben’s for lunch (because we wanted to try Montreal’s smoked meat–great atmosphere, highly recommended), and the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (Squee! We came just in time for a Waterhouse exhibition–that was awesome).

As evening fell, we headed to the Biosphere–which is pretty interesting architecturally and has a good view at the top floor–but it is obviously geared towards kids. If I had been ten, I would have been more excited.

Later, my sister and I met up with one of her friends who grew up in Montreal. And he brought along more of his friends who were all loopy after getting stuffed with wine and chocolate. After a near accident involving skidding tires on ice, we managed to get to a theater to see Sherlock Holmes (a fun movie, although lacking a bit in the plot department). And after that was dinner at Mirana–a decent place although the wait for the food was kind of long considering how many other people were in the place (i.e. there was just us and maybe five other people).

And just before we got back to the hotel, we bought some bagels for tomorrow’s breakfast at Dad’s Bagels, a bagel and curry place that my sister’s foodie friends swore was it. We’ll see tomorrow morning.

Hello, Boxing Day!

After a brief turn at the tourist office on Peel where the lady who attempted to help us claimed that today was Friday rather than Saturday, my sister and I headed off to Chinatown where we wandered around and found one dim sum place that was open on Rue Clark called Restaurant Ming Do, distinctive because it has a circular entrance way. The prices were reasonable and the food was all right (although the turnip cake was a little burnt). We ordered five dishes but by the time we finished four, we were already stuffed–so we saved the pork buns later for a snack.

We then headed on the metro’s green line to Pie IX where we walked about the Olympic Park and had an awesome time at the Biodome–the birds there are absolutely fearless of humans. Then we visited the Insectarium where we mostly spent time searching for insects in the terrariums and watched gardener ants harvest flower petals to put in their fungus gardens. My sister attempted to take a movie of the ants, but her camera battery decided to die at that moment. Since the ticket to the Insectarium was also good for the Botanical Gardens, we went to the Garden greenhouses since the outdoor gardens are blanketed in snow.

By evening, it had started to rain ice and snow. We managed to make it downtown and find a restaurant listed in the guidebook serving North African cuisine, but it looked a little shady (i.e., nobody was eating at the place despite being open). So we settled for Restaurant Amir which is basically a Middle Eastern fast food place before heading down into the underground city to look at shops. However, it was already pretty late and most shops were already closed.

Tomorrow, I think we’re going to try to cram as many museums as we can in a day since we got a 3-day museum pass. (Can’t spread it out to Monday since they’re all closed that day!)

From 20091226_Montreal_Biodome_et_al
From 20091226_Montreal_Biodome_et_al
From 20091226_Montreal_Biodome_et_al
From 20091226_Montreal_Biodome_et_al

Christmas Day in Montreal

After a five hour trip on Air Canada where my sister ate one too many pineapple pastry buns that we had gotten from the grocery store the day before, we reached Montréal. We took a taxi to our hotel to drop off our stuff before heading out for dinner.

The Montreal Notebook had recommended Ristorante Otto as a place that was still open on Christmas Day. I think their website should have clued me in to what sort of place this was because I think my sister and I stuck out like sore thumbs when we got there. It’s a swanky chic place playing techno with waiters looking like Lotharios and waitresses in mini-skirts up to here. (You’d like this place if you’re a man with a leg fetish. Otherwise: “Ack, my eyes!”) My sister had cavatelli in a tomato and basil sauce (like “plump maggots” she whispered to me) and I had risotto with black truffles. Both dishes were on the salty side. Also, I think our waitress hated us for some reason because our check came back a bit damp.

We dawdled a bit while we walked back to the hotel. It seemed as if there was a lighted Christmas tree on every corner. There was a particularly impressive one on Place Ville Marie. We also passed by the Basilique-Cathedrale-Marie-Reine-du-Monde and the tourist office on Peel–which we will be visiting briefly tomorrow morning. Rue Sainte-Catherine is a bit interesting–ordinary shops and restaurants interspersed with more than one strip club. There was also a drunk guy blowing a horn at passing drivers.

From 20091225_Montreal_Downtown_Evening
From 20091225_Montreal_Downtown_Evening

My sister has things semi-planned out for tomorrow. Me? I think I’ll just go with the flow and not get stressed out about anything. If something crazy happens, it’ll just be another story to tell.

Traveling on Christmas Eve

Perhaps only the insane travel on Christmas Eve, but this was just how it fell this year. After getting up at an obscenely early hour and getting to the Pullman-Moscow airport, I was kind of amazed at the number of people who got tunnel vision and thought that enormous Christmas gift lotions could go on carry-ons. Then I ended up sitting next to a biology professor who gave me much unsolicited advice on where to go for a post-doc after I graduate.

Otherwise, the plane trip to Seattle and the subsequent bus trip to Vancouver was uneventful.

I met up with my sister in downtown Vancouver and after stashing my luggage at her place, we hiked around town to find an open sushi place. Because the Olympics are to be held here next year, flags of different countries have been painted on some of the streets in downtown Vancouver–for example, Granville. (For any Americans planning on visiting next February, the United States flag is located on the northwest corner of South Granville and 11th.) We ended up at Ohako Sushi and tried the all you can eat lunch special. It was okay–my sister and I have had better. Then we went to the local T & T Supermarket at the International Village to get pastries for tomorrow morning. And before we caught the bus back to my sister’s apartment, we wandered to Robson Square which had been converted into an ice skating rink.

From 20091224_Robson_Square

Currently, I’m helping my sister pack for tomorrow. And I think we may be having Vietnamese for dinner.

T Minus Whatever: Not Really a Countdown, Just Some Musings

Winter breaks are usually not a terribly exciting time, for me at any rate. On most years, I fly back to my parents’ house and pretty much vegetate. And during that time, I feel terribly guilty for not being productive. Or even semi-exciting.

This winter break is going to be different.

I don’t really know why it’s this year. Perhaps lately I’ve been feeling that life is too short to not seize the moment. Maybe it’s because the big three-oh is less than a year away. Or a vague sense that if I don’t somehow jumpstart myself, I’ll end up as dusty as a defunct instrument in a dark corner of some lab. As I’ve been telling people, if I don’t do it now, when will I do it? Oh sure, I could do it later, but as life goes on most people have the tendency to put things off.

So here’s the itinerary for the next two weeks (I’m pretty sure I will have internet access so I can post the occasional photo–but if you don’t see any posts here, hope that we’re just having too much fun and not accidentally stuck in the boondocks somewhere):

1. Meet my sister in Vancouver on Christmas Eve.

2. On Christmas Day, take a flight to Montreal. Possibly visit Ristorante Otto if we’re not totally exhausted from traveling.

3. Spend a week in Montreal. Probably hike Mount Royal. Eat dim sum. Visit the hospitals where we were born. Try poutine and generally get dragged along by my sister’s quest to find foodie heaven. Visit a cathedral. Visit the botanical garden. Ride the metro. Shop in the underground city.

4. Before New Year’s Eve, take a train to Toronto.

5. Have no idea what we’ll be doing, but we’ll definitely try to find the Greek neighborhood where my parents lived while my Dad was doing grad school at the University of Toronto.

6. After New Year’s: see my sister off as she flies back to Vancouver. Take The Canadian to Vancouver.

7. Approximately four/five days on a transcontinental train! Read, write, talk to strange people, and see the rest of Canada go by.

8. Get back to Vancouver. Meet up with my uncle and then back to ol’ Idaho.

But despite all this, my schedule is pretty flexible. So I’m asking all of you readers–what’s an awesome must-see place we could visit? Keep in mind it shouldn’t be far from the city–we won’t have a car since we will primarily use the subway. Let me know if you have a suggestion for Montreal, Toronto, or what to do on a really long train ride.

Note: I’m giving out Google Wave invites to the first ten people who comment on this post and send me a note via e-mail that they want to enter this contest.