Pleasures & Productivity

Dog sitting in the front seat of a car.

I often fantasize about having a 9:00 to 5:00 job with a physical office to go to. However, there are perks to working remotely – such as running off to Montreal for a week. It was Valeria’s birthday weekend and I could get a $30 round trip from Toronto through Megabus if I arrived on Wednesday and left the following week. I had a free place to stay – so why not?

My first working day in Montreal was a productive one – although not as productive as planned. However, I guess that is usually the way. I set my alarm for 6:00am, but kept hitting snooze until 7:00am. I’ve been having pain in my trapezius for 5 days and the pain was so horrific this particular morning that any movement, no matter how subtle, sent my muscles into painful spasms. I had the unnerving thought that I might be bed ridden for my whole visit to Montreal! I had so much work to do, yet it was painful to type or click a mouse!

Eventually, I mustered up the courage to crawl out of bed and run myself a hot bubble bath. I slid into the lavender scented bubbles and put on Espace Musique while I soaked in the deep cast iron tub. I felt better after and managed to hobble over to Jean-Coutu to pick up some pain relief.

Cup of coffee and doughnut sanwhich at Chez Boris

I decided to go to Chez Boris to do some work. I had discovered Chez Boris on my last trip to Montreal. It’s a nice little cafe which great character. I was hungry, so ordered a sandwich. To my surprise, all their sandwiches were made with doughnuts in place of bread. I ordered one with cream cheese, cured salmon, and sliced cucumbers.

It was pleasant working there on my laptop. The music was the kind that I associate with Montreal and the Batista was dancing away behind the counter. I messaged a friend about advice for my debilitating knot and she put me in touch with Albert, a local Thai massage therapist. To my relief he had an opening that day. There was hope for me yet!

I had been very cranky all morning, but my mint lemonade helped to conquer my foul mood. Once done I completed my morning tasks online, I went for a walk in the sun. It was a beautiful sunny day – a real summer’s day! I stopped in Renaud-Bray to look at music on my way back to the apartment. I always enjoy stopping in there as French jacket design is fascinating and they have a great selection of classical music.

glass filled with maple water and garnished with a mint leaf

I popped into L’inter Marche to pick up some groceries. I thought I’d get some lemonade as I had enjoyed it so much at Chez Boris earlier. However, to my dismay L’inter Marche was charging $5 for a container of generic lemonade! So, I decided to go with the cheaper option: maple water. I had read about it in the latest Food and Drink magazine and was curious to give it a go. It reminds me of coconut water, and goes well with a slice of lemon and fresh mint.

Once home with my bounty, I made some lunch and continued doing work until it was time for my massage appointment. The therapist lived a 5 minute walk from where I was and had a beautiful home studio. I’d never done Thai massage before. It was very relaxing.

White flowers

The walk home was lovely. There was a cool breeze breaking the heat of the day that carried the scent of fresh blossoms. I stopped in the health food store to pick up something to eat on my way to the Web Accessibility Meet-up. The health food store was a source of great amusement. There was a golden retriever sitting in the driver’s seat of a vintage car, women smoking outside the health food store, and beer was stocked by the Ezekiel bread. “Only in Montreal…” tweets were born!

The Accessibility Meet-up was at Place-Saint-Henri metro station. I had heard many great things about the neighbourhood during my time living in Montreal, but had never been there. I was greeted by an urban landscape of graffiti upon my exit of the metro. The walk lead me through a comforting mix of generation old businesses and gentrification to a beautiful park overlooked by old stone houses with wrought iron balconies. It made my Toronto apartment hunter heart weep. Oh to live in apartments such as these…

Red mailboxes on a brick wall

The Meet-up was very small – only 7 people were in attendance. In usual Montreal fashion, the crowd was very welcoming despite the fact I was a foreigner who did not speak the language. Everyone told their story and discussed plans for an a11yMTL Conference in 2014. It was so great to sit in an intimate group of people excited by accessibility. Toronto may have the largest accessibility meet-up in North America, but we lack the sense of familiarity that the Montreal meet-up has.

My workload was haunting me in the back of my mind the whole time I was at the Meet-up, so I slipped out after 2 hours to go back to work. I had been struggling with two projects and the Meet-up left me with inspiration and a new sense of motivation. I worked on my laptop during the metro ride home and spent a good solid four hours that evening being productive. I even managed to get out to Frite Alors for poutine and beer to work until close, then came home to continue working until 3:00am. Today was certainly a day of pleasures and productivity!


Icicles & Bird Cages

I went to Montreal for the weekend. It snowed practically the whole time I was there. My fondest memory form the trip was walking to a party at night. It was snowing (of course) and there were big fluffy flakes falling all around and glowing in the lamplight.

It was during this walk that we came across a cluster of old-fashioned wire birdcages hanging from a balcony over a florist’s shop. Icicles hung from the cages and sparkled in the lamplight. It was beautiful! I of course went back the next day to take pictures of them with my camera.

black and white photograph of a cluster of old-fashioned wire birdcages hanging off a balcony with icicles hanging off themBouquets of purple tulips with snow in their and white photograph of old-fashioned wire birdcages arranged in a curve and that hang off of a balcony with icicles hanging off them.

Oh, and I should note that across the street was the most wonderful spice shop! If you enjoy gourmet cooking, I suggest you check out the Spice Station (one location in MTL, another in LA, and one opening up in TO soon- I got chatting with the owner while I was there). Oh, and don’t be discouraged by their website. It may be out-of-date and difficult to navigate, but their products are great!

Montreal in May

Colourful balconies on a sunny day in Montreal.Pink flowers bloom next to a staircase in Montreal.Blue sky and wires above a shadowy alley way in Montreal's Plateau district.

I visited my beloved Montreal again in May. It was a lovely time of year to go. Even with all the political unrest, one could still enjoy the beauty of the city.

The Teasing Storm

A rumbling thunderstorm teasing us from afar.

With the end of June and the beginning of July, I realized I only had 2 more weeks left in Montreal. So, I focused this week on having fun!

With my new part-time hours, I had Wednesday off work this week. I met up with Hania and went to a yoga class with her at the Y which was fun. We then went out for a light lunch where we sat and chatted for awhile. She is always great conversation!

In the evening I met up with Mladen. We sat in a diner for hours laughing and telling stories. I didn’t get home until far past my bed time, but I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. We were both telling such funny stories about life.

I had a quiet night in on Thursday doing beading and watching Inspector Linely mysteries. The following afternoon, I met up with Dunter and we went down to the Old Port of Montreal. We checked out the Canada Day festivities, but it was too crowded and loud for my tastes, so we wandered the quiet cobblestone streets instead, away from the tourist traps. The old-time charm of the neighbourhood was captivating.

Later on, Dunter’s friend Jay came down to visit from Boston. When he arrived, we went for a walk, stopping to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace where we could watch the people go by.

The following morning we went out for crepes. I had a crepe topped with raspberries and cream, Dunter had sausages rolled up with crepes, and Jay had French toast made from cinnamon buns! It was most decadent.

We took advantage of Jay’s SUV by going to Home Depot to buy shelving for Dunter’s apartment and to pick up boxes for my moving.  It was a very hot day, so Dunter and Jay decided to go see a movie in the air conditioned theatre. There wasn’t any movie on that appealed to me, so I went home to nap.

I met up with Valeria at the end of the afternoon. We went to the Jean Talon Market where we had ice cream (I had masala chia flavoured gelato) and picked up a baguette, fresh goat cheese, organic Quebec-grown strawberries, and Turkish delight for a picnic.

We then went down to Parc LaFontaine where we ran into our friend Eva there which was nice.  After saying hello, we went to find a bench overlooking the pond to eat our dinner. We watched the dogs go by, the ducks swim in the pond, and a child’s ball float across the placid waters of the pond by a soft breeze. It was very peaceful there.

In the evening, I met up with Dunter again where we went to Mount Royal with Jay and his friend Katrina who happened to be on vacation in Montreal from DC Washington. We watched the Saturday fireworks from the top of the mountain, then were content just watching the city skyline at night.

In the morning, I made Sunday breakfast with turkey bacon, eggs, toast, and berries from the market. We went to Mount Royal again where we met up with Katrina who had been showing the mountain’s view of the city to her family after discovering it with us last night. We found some shade and lay in the grass relaxing for a long time together. It was the perfect thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

We had a late lunch where we went to Dunn’s for Montreal’s famous smoked meat and poutine. Katrina had never had poutine and became a fan. However, I must confess, that I ate most of it. I love poutine!

We then went for a walk by the LaChine Canal. It was thundering and lightening for most of the walk, but didn’t rain until we got home which was lucky!

We took Jay and Katrina to Juliette & Chocolat for more decadence. Dunter had a banana split, I had a thick hot chocolate with ice cream on top, Jay had a chocolate Sunday topped with fruit, and Katrina had a chocolate and strawberry crepe with a chocolate hazelnut martini.

Now I sit as home listening to the French radio and the constant whir of my fan. My apartment is full of empty boxes which I am uninspired to pack. Strange to think I only have 2 more weeks left until I move… then no more Montreal Moments.

Pretty Pear Pancakes

And it snows outside my office window...

I saw both of my dear friends Nicole and Caitlin this weekend. I went out for wine at an Italian restaurant with Nicole & Carlo. Nicole and I updated each other on our lives since she moved out of Montreal. She has decided not to go to Japan to teach English this summer due to the nuclear risk, but is looking in going to Korea instead. Should be exciting!

Later that evening I met Caitlin at the train station. There had been a fatal workplace accident at the train station, so she was two hours late. We went straight home to bed and in the morning had a relaxing morning drinking coffee and reading NOW Magazine and The New York Times. We went to Value Village in the afternoon where I found a blazer to wear work, a light summer dress to wear around the house, a Rudsak keychain, and brand new Michael Kors jeans! I was thrilled!

After we’d dropped our shopping off home, we walked around my neighbourhood. Unfortunately the medieval shop and pet store were closed early that day, but the artisan beer boutique and olive oil shop were open. We each got a bottle of blueberry beer for dinner, then Caitlin got orange & coriander beer and I ginger beer. They were interesting flavours!

After saying hello to the neighbourhood Westie tied outside the cheese shop, we went to Juliette & Chocolat. We were amused by their karma-sutra chocolate reliefs they had left over from St. Valentines. If I wasn’t feeling frugal I would have bought a bar as a gift. They were so unusual!

We each had a mug of thick peanut better hot chocolate topped with cream. I had forgotten how rich and intense their hot chocolate and ordered a caramel and pear crepe to share. We were totally sugar-ed out by the time we headed home where we made a point to have a nutritious supper. We made pasta with a tomato and spinach sauce, topped with asparagus and meatballs made from ground-horse. It was day of tasty delights!

Later that evening we met up with Val & Jason at the pub across the street from their house. There, we ordered yet another unique beer- rose hibiscus! Jason wanted to show Caitlin the Lego bar, but there was a line-up outside, so we went to another trendy bar near their house. There we had martinis, followed by poutine to give Caitlin a true Montreal experience.

The following morning Caitlin and I made blueberry and pear pancakes. Neither of us had ever put pear in pancakes before. I had bought maple syrup at the market the week before, so we had a truly decadent brunch!

We spent the afternoon at the Contemporary Art Gallery of Montreal. It was fun looking at all the different art with Caitlin as we tried to figure out how each work was created. My favourite piece was a UV light installation by James Turrell. From afar it just looked like a blue default screen projected on a white wall, but actually it was a hole in the wall filled with an eerie light!

Once we had checked out all the exhibits, we went to check out the small galleries nearby. Unfortunately they were closed as it was a Sunday, so we headed up St-Laurent to buy cheese and chocolate. We met Dunter at Shwartz for dinner where we had Montreal’s famous smoked meat, followed by lattes at a nearby café.

Caitlin and I had a quiet evening in. We made a pot of tea and watched an episode of Rosemary & Thyme, then the movie New York, I Love You. The film was the same concept as Je t’aime Paris which is a series of connected short films about love and city life. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t as good as the first despite the familiar locations and Hollywood stars.

Caitlin and I had grapefruit and pancakes again for breakfast on Monday. I escorted her to the train and arrived at work before the snowstorm hit that morning. It snowed heavily most of the day, but the snow was slush by the time I left work that evening.

Now I sit at home listening to harp music and enjoying a cup of ginger tea. It’s another quiet night in my cozy Montreal apartment.