Thursday, June 26, 2008
Hey all. Finally getting around to doing a quick post. This has been a very busy and hectic week. We had a super time in Montréal. We flew to Halifax first and then on to Montréal. It was a nice, new Air Canada jet and one of the flight attendants was really old school (definitely not the norm for Air Canada!). I asked for one of those small bottles of red wine that you get on planes, but all she had was a big bottle. She said she'd look for a small one, but in the end there was none on board. So she opened the large bottle and poured me two glasses from it. I was prepared to pay for it - had my money in hand actually - but she just set the glasses down on my tray and said enjoy. A few minutes later as she was walking by - she looked at Brad sitting beside me and said with a smile, "What? Do you one one, too? Is that why you're looking at me like that?" Brad said, "Well, if you're offering..." So she poured him a free glass of wine as well and before you knew it, we were gliding our way into the big city.
Maurice picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel downtown. We stayed at the TravelLodge, which is a modest, but very clean and reasonably priced spot on René Levesque. After checking in, Brad and I went out for an evening of fun and frivolity on our own.
On Monday, after a very late night, we availed ourselves of the free continental breakfast at the hotel (great croissants!) and then walked down to Le Vieux (Old Montréal). We had lunch at a super spot, Marché de la Villette. The waiter was incredibly friendly and efficient, greeting each new person with a warm, "Bonjour!" and chatting with everyone as he weaved his way among the tables. I departed from my usual quasi-vegetarian ways and had a delicious ham crepe and Brad had a nice tuna sandwich in a baguette. After lunch, we took the Metro out to Westmount, where another friend lives, and I hit my cookbook shop, Bon Appetit. It's a great store run by a very sexy owner who also does cooking classes in the evenings. But alas, with a bank account dwindling from two weeks of eating and drinking my way through Italy, I left empty-handed. Actually, I was saving up for a purchase at our next stop, Senteurs de Provence. Usually, I use only unsented soap at home, but this place carries some great soaps that are all vegetable based and very subtly scented. I got 6 Verveine bars, which has a light hint of lemon, and 3 Santal (sandalwood) bars for about $50. That will keep me going for a while. The bar I was really looking for (Carotte, which I had purchased on a previous jaunt) was out of stock, so the owner gave me her card and told me to e-mail her later on if I still wanted some and she would mail it to me. We then hooked up with Lynn, our Westmount boy, at Patisserie de Gascogne, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best pastry shops in the city. I had a - okay, okay, so I had two! - chocolatines and a delicious hot chocolate (I know, it's June, but I couldn't resist!). Brad and I then headed over to Maurice's place, a terrific apartment that he just moved into in April, where we shared a bottle of wine and caught up a bit before meeting Lynn again, this time for dinner, at O Thym, a wonderful, bring-your-own-wine restaurant on Maisonneuve Est. I highly recommend this place. I started with the Poêlée de petoncles avec salsa de mangues et chayottes (seared scallops with mango and chayote squash salsa) - They were heaven-sent! Brad and I both had the poisson du jour, which was a grilled swordfish - equally divine! I ended with a cheese plate, which I was unable to finish as I was so stuffed. Three bottles of wine and lots of laughs later we made our way down to the Gay Village and Maurice and Brad and I went to see the boyz at Campus. Lynn was tired (and respectable) and headed home. It was another fairly late night without a lot of sleep, but hey, we were only there for three nights and had to make the most of our stay!
The next morning we again had breakfast at the hotel and then headed up to the Plateau neighbourhood of Montréal. It was June 24, St. Jean Baptiste Day, a holiday in Québec. A lot of the small shops were open as were all of the restaurants. We didn't come across much of the celebrations, parades and whatnot, and it seemed like a fairly low-key holiday this year. We had a delicious lunch at a small bakery on the Plateau, La Première Moisson, where I had a very tasty hot salmon croissant and Brad had a Brie and tomato sandwich and a raspberry tart. Later on, we made our way back to Westmount and hooked up with Lynn for drinks at Mess Hall.
My sister called us as we were having lunch and said that she and her husband had arrived in Montréal (they are driving back to Edmonton after a visit home) and would be able to join us for dinner. I had made a reservation at spiffy Chez l'Épicier in Old Montréal for that evening, but I had only made it for two people. Since the restaurant was closed basically until our 6:30 slot, we crossed our fingers that they would be able to accommodate the four of us. Thankfully, they were able to. And they gave us the best table in the room to boot, right by the front window, We had a fantastic meal there. I started with a glass of white port and the special app of the day, a succulent piece of red snapper served with baby vegetables and an unusual, but to-die-for vanilla sauce - clever chef, rich, sweet, and savoury all in one bite! I then had the halibut steak, also yummy, and the homemade sorbets & ice creams for dessert - only the pistachio ice cream disappointed. This is a great space, the service immpecable, and the food delicious. Again, I highly recommend it, but be forewarned, it is on the pricy side - our meal came to just over $450 for the four of us, two bottles of wine and other libations included.
After the memorable meal, my sister and brother-in-law walked back to our hotel with us and then caught a cab out to the airport Hilton where they were staying. Brad met up with Maurice and the two of them went out for a drink. This time, it was me who was too tired and I opted to stay at the hotel and turn in early. We had a 05:45 wake-up call the next morning in order to get out to the airport for our 8:00 a.m. return flight home.
It was a quick, but very fun and enjoyable trip to one of our favourite Canadian cities. It was great to catch up and reconnect with both Maurice and Lynn. Brad and I agreed that we have to make a habit of visiting Montréal more often.
In the last few days, we've also been watching lots of soccer from Europe. A lot of great, nail-biting matches! Unfortunately, our favourites (Italy) were knocked out on Sunday, and now we're down to the final on Sunday between Spain and Germany. Hard to say who will win that one, but if I were a betting man (HA!), I'd lay money on Michael Ballack and Germany...
Oy... Time to wrap up this not so quick post. So with the thought of laying money on Ballack (ahem), I bid you good night!