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Thursday, 25 November 2010

MONTREAL:Est ce que "Je me souviens.."? Part 2

Shopping & Restaurants:

I was in a shopping mood...when am I not! But was soon disappointed by my lack of finding anything I really wanted to buy. Everywhere I had hit the mother load in last year yielded nothing this time. "La Vie en Rose", Canada's answer to "Victoria's Secrets", a place that had some good basics had now turned into "The Best Little Whorehouse in Quebec" with enough plumes to fill a birdhouse and garter belts to supply the whole of Moulin Rouge for the next 10 years. "Gap" looked despondent and downright suicidal, "M0851"this great Canadian leather design boutique I bought a handbag in last time,didn't seem to have evolved much, "American Eagle" for tshirts and casuals was frankly too youthful for even I(menswear far more interesting ) and don't get me started on shoes! I voiced my disappointment to my sister who simply replied:" Montreal isn't exactly the fashion capitol of the world..." I tried on and fell in love with a pair of Mou's but refrained from buying them at my BF's nagging behest...if he had his way , I'd be doing laundry and the cooking in stiletto heels and Agent Provocateur nipple tassels...as if! I guess it wasn't worth arguing about nor was it worth it at Holt Renfrew where I finally tracked down the Tory Burch wedge heel booties I have been coveting for months.
"Are those the ones you have been talking about? Well forget about them." This coming from Calvin Klein himself.
Tis the season to be jolly careful anyway...Recession is a bitch and then you over buy!
Shoes in general are a tricky subject in Montreal..where they lack in style and grace and trend , they make up for in function,durability as well as unmitigated ugliness. Seriously outside of Holt Renfrew, where there was a small but decent shoe department,  everywhere else was quite tricky in trying to find anything that slightly resembles a half decent looking shoe.The extreme weather conditions dictate function over fashion and that is understandable but can anyone explain these to me?....And this was somehow the standard shape we came across on many men's feet without the festive tinsel and brocade. The only term I can think of using in describing these is :a sawn off shot gun in drag.
So to recap: if you are in the market for Uggs in every shape and colour,puffa coats, puffa jackets,puffa boots, Burburry anything... Lumber shirts, waffle tops,duck boots or LuluLemon sports wear...than go nuts! If not....go have lunch.  

 I may be watching way too much MasterChef and Top Chef but my heart was set on finding a molecular gastronomy restaurant in Montreal and was guided online to: "Bar&Boeuf"which only happened to be up the road from our hotel.  I was excited at the prospect of discovering some fabulous restaurant on our doorstep and even more in indulging in one of our delights. My BF chose a lovely entree of smoked trout,all beautifully arranged on the plate with dabs of this and smears of that...I was impressed and it tasted good. I was looking forward to my Heirloom tomato salad with pumpkin seeds and greens...I got a big bowl of salad..no more,no less and one that simply refused to end...salad from Hogwarts anyone?
For the main dish we both decided on the Angus tenderloin which was to be served with fries. It didn't sound very molecular...maybe the fries would actually be a fries tasting mousse!As the waiter put down the machete style steak knives we were brought our next dish . At the sight of all those fries strewn across half the plate...I'd rather hoped he'd also bring a shovel.
I picked up my machete expecting to slice through my beef like a knife through butter only to find resistance coming from tendons as thick as guitar strings. Of course my BF,God bless him, was slicing his piece like a skater on ice and enjoying every morsel. When I declared defeat and finally layed down my weapons did a  waiter sidled up to me and ask:" Madame,Is everything to your liking?"
"Yes,lovely thank you...Just a little too many fries for me and what is left of my meat is being held hostage by a tendon."
"M:Brgr/Brgr Bar" on Drummond is a fabulous joint for all lovers of the ultimate burger.I kid you not..this place is a trip. The menu in itself is an adventure and a feast of choices in how you construct the burger of your dreams. Fancy Kobe beef and white truffle shavings ? This is your place...or your basic AAA grade beef with Swiss,bacon and caramelized onions..no problem whatever you fancy is there on the menu. Knock yourselves out,the burgers are delicious,the side orders perfection: I highly recommend the sweet potato fries,the wedges are so more-ish with each yielding bite, you don't know what to eat first or where to take your next bite. A Montreal Must.
One night we were desperately trying to find a restaurant for dinner behind our hotel on Rue Saint Paul when a door suddenly opened and out popped a guy exclaiming:" Man! That was good!" We stopped,turned and looked into the window of this unpretentious restaurant filled to the rafters with jolly faced patrons tucking into steam filled plates of what looked like a down to earth home cooked meal. This was "Stash Cafe" a Polish restaurant and a cuisine I had never tasted.We didn't hesitate long after glancing at the menu and then at the faces of happy,sated people. They had us at "Pierogi"...
Pierogis are dumplings filled with either meat,cheese or cabbage and served with the most delicious and aromatic sauerkraut that has ever passed my lips.This was divine and I had to ask for more...
My BF went with potato latkes (4 huge pieces) served with sour cream and between the two of us going "mezze style" we had us a feast,sipping on beer and listening to the hearty crowd enjoying the food and each other while we all were treated to a pianist tickling the ivories and all our fancies with  renditions of Rihanna's"Umbrella",Supertramp, Ave Maria, even Lady Gaga. It was surreal and therefore most memorable and believe it or not we returned twice for lunch and weren't disappointed.
We didn't have too many "gaseous"moments due to our large intake of cabbage although my BF  firmly insisted to the contrary the following morning.He declared in no uncertain terms that I had "tooted a 5am bugle reveille" loud and clear.
 Pity it didn't deter the bell boy...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

MONTREAL: Est ce que "Je me souviens.."? Part 1

1) Hotel Saint Paul & Rediscovering the city:

My BF and I went to Montreal together in September 2009 and had a gorgeous time in this vibrant,youth filled little city with a heart of gold. The fact that we chose to return so soon should have been a deterrent but while I was well aware that we could not relive the same experiences,I was convinced that there would be enough the second time round for us to enjoy this city once again. But Montreal isn't London,New York or Paris and what you saw the first time,is what you get the second time...with a change of season,wardrobes and window dressing.
We had no problem with the dry cold or the wind that gave me brain freeze whenever I forgot my hat. What we did have a problem with was that the area in which we chose to stay in: Old Montreal with its art galleries,cobbled streets and quirky restaurants was dead calm in November. I had specifically chosen the modern,minimalist Hotel Saint Paul on Rue McGill in order for us to discover another area in Montreal. I foolishly thought that it would have the same vibe as Soho in NYC.... Forgedabboudit. The deadly calm spread up and around Square Victoria making it blatantly clear that this was very much an area that came to life during business hours Mon to Fri and that during the weekend it is tumble weeds and echoing silence. We soon  discovered for ourselves that the only crowd we were going to come across were at breakfast in the hotel. 
The hotel itself was everything we expected it to be.The free standing fire place encased in marble is a welcoming vision in itself and sets the scene for the lively weekend crowd that dine and huddle around the bar at Vauvert: the in house restaurant and bar. It draws a lively crowd and with the DJ spinnin' his tunes, I heard that the tables are pushed back for the crowd to let loose and bust their moves. We didn't bust anything other than our backs schlepping backwards and forewards to and from our hotel and civilization. Come Sunday the whole thing grinds to a halt and the place attracts a quieter crowd of diners and travellers here on business.
Our room on the 8th floor was spacious and the view was on the river and Rue McGill with a window seat to watch the world go by or not..as the case may be. With all the minimalism going on someone forgot the basics : a decent chair to sit in and that horse hair and metal contraption that requires a winch to extricate you from and a visit to a local osteopath was hardly the winning ticket although it looked very nice we stayed well away from it and its deadly jaws.  The hotel was generally quiet,no rowdy revellers nor major traffic starting up at 6.00am...other than our bell boy thwacking down the newspaper outside our door and every other door on our floor...thwack,thwack,thwack...You'd think he was bush whacking his way across the jungle!

In our bid to discover new areas, we had read that the Blvd St.Laurent was the place for boutiques and restaurants.We now knew the Rue Saint Catherine and its companions by heart and could walk them blindfolded and don't get me started on all the interconnecting malls..we were up for a challenge. It was a sunny Sunday and we had all the time in the world..before the shops opened at 11/12am. We walked up its entire length from the old town all the way up to what they refer to as the "real" Montreal:the Plateau Mont Royal,an artsy,fun area that we had visited on the last trip and loved. But I felt nothing but disappointment as we walked the Blvd St Laurent, we passed seedy strip clubs,abandoned lots with winos out for the count huddled in empty doorways. There were a handful of interesting boutiques that were either closed or not yet open.... but not enough to keep me interested after having walked several hours to the promised land only to find it lacking. My 8 year old self soon surfaced and reared its ugly head:" Are we there yet? Wherever "there" may be? 'cos it sure as hell isn't here!"
My BF lost his patience: "Is shopping the only thing that interests you? Can't we just walk and visit the area without spending money?"
By then we had reached a residential area on our quest to find "The Mile"where outdoor cafes,bookstores and mythical boutiques were to be found. It would have been perfect had we found it before a rumbling truck drove by us on the main road and subsequently belched up a cloud of black smoke all over my BF.
"I think it is time we turned back,don't you?"
And we soon found ourselves in the green oasis of the park beneath Mont Royal and its breathtaking view over the city. And that was worth the schlep.
"What do you say we walk up the mountain?"
"Are you nuts? Do I look like I can climb Mount bloody Everest when I can hardly put one foot in front of the other?"
We did go up a few days later but like civilised tourists ,taking a metro and then a bus up the mountain to stroll over to the spectacular view that overlooks the entire city...spectacular.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

FYI: Fur your information

For anyone who is desperate to acquire the "furry creature shoes" I wrote about back in September(see post :"All creatures great and worn") I am happy to announce that not only are they still available but also in the exact same position they were in the last time I spied them in the shop window: beneath the same pair of jeans ,like furry gifts under a denim tree but now with added company, a fur blanket and a fur collared coat.
Now I must exert this word of warning...I know we are approaching Christmas and the desire to acquire pets runs rampant around this time of year. Pets are for life and not just for Christmas ! So think long and hard. After all what man wouldn't want to be swathed in so much fur ? A hairless one no doubt.Was the shop open at 10.15 am for me to poke my nose in ? Strangely enough, no...Probably out late trapping the night before. Have I committed the name of this fancy establishment to memory? For the life of me,I simply cannot seem to absorb that piece of information ...My mind simply refuses in the face of such tasteless and gaudy adversity. But what I can give you is accurate directions to this freak show.
Moving on to actual fashion trends: I spied a yummy mummy and her offspring out on a Saturday shopping run in a pair of Sasquatch hairy boots. Were they Chanel...I couldn't tell you but how many designers have embraced this particular whimsy? They definitely weren't Manolo's that much I am sure of.
 She wore them with a slim pair of jeans tucked in snug and a large Louis Vuitton monogram denim Sunrise bag slung over one shoulder.... almost the same size as the kid himself and shouldered with equal pride. She managed to pull off two trends simultaneously:last summer's "waiting list" handbag with this winter's "Someones got to buy'em" boots. Not that I am a fan of these hairy paws on elegant women, but I do find them to be a visually pleasant change from the overwhelming amount of Uggs being dragged under foot like road kill. Uggs should be sold with a health warning to all those who have to suffer the indignity of walking behind teenagers and their ilk who insist on dragging their feet in perfect harmony.... Street sweepers must revel in this daily occurrence...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"Say hello to my leedl' friend..."

I can now shop till I "frock".....in comfort and style!
Thanks Nike ID.