Summer Staycation

La Terrasse St Ambroise

La Terrasse St Ambroise

Due to budget cuts and the need for austerity this summer we had a stay-cation in Montreal.  Montreal is actually a popular tourist destination so there’s actually a lot you can do.

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J enjoys a beer at St Ambroise

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La Ronda Main Entrance

St Amboise Brewery Terrace was one of the highlights.  During our staycation we left Amelia in daycare so it was like having a baby sitter while we go do fun stuff.

We planned to Bixi to St Ambroise but found there were no Bixi stands nearby so ended up driving instead.  So I could only try 2 kinds of beer in the two hours we were there.  The beer was excellent though and being right where they make it the prices were great too.

Another day we used Bixi to bicycle to Cafe Art Java for coffee followed by movie.  Since we couldn’t agree we went to see a compromise movie.  Total Recall.  It was OK but I can’t recommend it.  J agreed it was pretty average.  Nice thing was we didn’t have to pay as we had vouchers for a double movie pass from J’s old work.

In North America they have amusement parks called Six Flags. The one in Montreal is called “La Ronde“.  We didn’t have time for many rides due to day care pick up times, but had a blast on “Le Vampire” and “Le Monstre”.  We took the Bixi again between the park and the metro station.  They should have a Fast Pass like at Disney parks.

The other slightly crazy thing we did was to go to Plattsburgh, NY.  The main purpose of this trip was to go to a USA KFC.  This is because they have potato and gravy whereas the KFC (a.k.a. PFK) in Quebec has poutine.  I don’t care for PFK/KFC at the best of times so this one was a treat for J.  Plattsburgh was a nice place though and we enjoyed a walk around town and coffee and muffins at a nice cafe.

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B on the balcony at the Koffee Kat Cafe in Plattsburgh, NY.

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Banner commemorating the War of 1812 vs. Canada

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A Turns One

In July, A turned one year old.  She had a very adventurous year travelling to Australia, New Zealand and home again.

A's Birthday Cake

A’s Birthday Cake

In honour of her first work “ducky” we had a duck shaped cake made by J.  It was a banana cake which was one of A’s favourite foods at the time.  That is to say bananas, not banana cake.

To celebrate we had some of A’s friends over, some from baby class, some from church and some neighbours.  We had NZ lamb burgers on the barbeque which were awesome with the cold beers.

Best birthday presents were here little people farm and duplo set.  Another favourite was a piano which plays songs that A likes to dance to.  Can be a little tedious for the adults but it’s fun to watch her dance.

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Hooray for Long Weekends

Last weekend (21 May, 2012) was Victoria Day in Canada.  This is the equivalent holiday to Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand.  Since Quebec is generally against any “english” influence, we have Journée nationale des patriotes (National Patriots Day) instead.

It was a weekend of sun and barbeques.  And ice cream.  And fruit.  And mojitos.  I would post a picture of that but I must have been too busy having fun. :)

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Unhibernating

It’s been a while since I posted here but now that winter is over it’s time to wake up.  There are a few green shoots poking above the ground and temperatures are getting warmer.  We have already moved to daylight/summer time and we all feel like we survived another winter.

I dusted off my bicycle over the last weekend and got back on the road on Monday.  It was a chilly start (-3°C) but warmed up in the afternoon.  Tuesday (today) I got a lift to work with someone which was good because my muscles are quite sore after a winter long hiatus.  Tomorrow got to get back in the saddle or I’ll never get used to it.

Work has been crazy lately.  We have a very obscure bug in our software that makes it crash randomly.  We’ve had people working on trying to find it for 2 weeks now and we’re still not there.  I look forward to finally getting a weekend off at Easter.  Yay.

Posted in Weather, Work | 2 Comments

Atlanta GA

Having missed our summer holiday because due to the arrival of Amelia we managed to squeeze in an end of summer break to visit Atlanta.  We had a few glitches in organising it all.  The first thing I have to say is don’t fly Delta.  They didn’t have the cheapest price but they did have direct flights so we initially decided to book with them.  After entering the credit card details and clicking confirm, it came up with a message saying the original price is no longer available and flights are now $75 extra per person.  Complete BS.  I restarted the process and the original price came up again, but still at the final step it tried to add the $150.  I then phoned the reservations line and asked to get the original price.  They said it’s only available online and they change extra to book on the phone.  Eventually I settled for American Airlines and paid more for flights requiring a connection but at I didn’t give any money to Delta.  Yay!

The next complication was our friend who we were visiting and planned to pick us up from the airport, her grandma passed and the funeral, in New Orleans, was the weekend we were supposed to arrive.  Everything worked out though and we were spoiled with a pickup from 5 Star Limousine Service. :)

Day 1:  Sat – Was a very busy day to try and get 3 people out to Montreal Trudeau airport for our afternoon flight.  We got there nice and early and our friendly American Airlines check-in agent kindly reserved us seats in a row of three.  So we had an extra seat that we didn’t pay for during our flights.  It made things a little easier.  On the flight Amelia was really good and hardly did any crying.  After the aforementioned pickup from the airport we arrived at our friends place around 1am and went straight to bed.

Day 2:  Sun – We slept in.  J fed the baby, we mooched around the house.  We went for a walk up the road to the shops to find some food and some wrapping paper for Teyt’s present.  It was her birthday the previous week so we brought some Canadian gifts for her, but ran out of time to wrap them.  There was birthday cake in the fridge, two kinds and both good!

Day 3:  Mon – Another lazy day.  I played fetch with Sadie the dog.  She was very excited to play.  The weather was warm and resulted in a lot of dog slobber on the tennis ball very quickly.  Luckily the dog got tired and decided to sit on the lawn and chew on the ball for a while so I was able to go back inside and wash my hands.  It was fun.  The weather in  Georgia was still warm and sunny so it was nice to spend another quiet day enjoying the sunshine and watching the hummingbirds hover while having a drink and then flying off.  In evening Peyton, Teyt and Peyton’s parents arrived back in town.  I think Teyt remembers us (she just turned 3) and liked her presents.

Day 4: Tue – Today was shopping day.  We went to Best Buy and purchased a video recorder.  I thought it was a good plan to catch some memories when Amelia was small.  It was hard to buy, HSBC canceled our credit card again.  We tried one from NZ, also denied.  In the end we tried out debit card and luckily that worked.  After a couple of other errands we went to Bahama Breeze for lunch.  That was pretty sweet.  We had awesome cocktails with our lunch and J had giant Key Lime Pie for dessert.

Day 5:  Wed – Driving to Lake Oconee we stopped at a Waffle House.  This is a chain of road side restaurants that are common in that part of the states.  It was a nice American experience.  I had a Cherry Coke.  Atlanta is the home of Coke.  It was good.  We carried on and got to the lake early afternoon.  Then it was time for margaritas!!  Peyton has a traditional family recipe which was awesome.  We BBQ’ed for dinner and had more margaritas.

Day 6: Thurs – Today we had pancakes and syrup for breakfast.  After we took the boat out on the lake.  Since the school holidays were over and it was a week day we were the only ones out on the water.  We cruised around with some tunes for a bit and then I went on the tube behind the boat.  Peyton made sure I had a good time.  We also had some margaritas on the boat.  In the afternoon it started raining so we watched movies sitting on the couch.  (Apollo 13 and Easy A)  For dinner we BBQ’ed again and had some more margaritas.  After we sat on the desk outside over looking the lake and chatted.

Day 7: Fri – After tidying up and putting everything away it was time to head back to the city.  On the way back we went to Piedmont Park for a walk around.  After we went to a frozen custard place called Rita’s.  I had a blizzard which is a mix of frozen custard and ice cream with cookie bits.  Once we got home enjoyed another Sam Adams (an award winning Beer) and a Wheel, which is a kind of ice cream sandwich we don’t have in Canada.  We made a plan to go tailgating in the morning if we got ready for the airport early enough but it didn’t eventuate as baby schedules are hard to control. :)

Day 8: Sat – Time to head back to Montreal and home.  We had breakfast, packed up and then started to head for the airport.  On the way home we were in much smaller aircraft.  We had a connection at NY (La Guardia) and got some treats from Aunt Annie’s Pretzels.  Arriving back home we found the cold snap we had before we left and passed and the weather was a bit warmer again.  All in all, a good break away.

Posted in Out & About | 1 Comment

Visitor

It was really good to have a visit from Steph this month.  She came for a week after going to her cousin’s wedding in Germany.  B was off work and we were able to do some sightseeing around Montreal.  The highlights were going to the Bio-dome and an evening walking around in Old Montreal.  We also spent a day at the Jardin botanique.

While she was here we got Steph to try poutine and her comment was “better than expected”.  It is kind of a strange dish of chips, gravy and squeaky cheese bits.

Otherwise it was just like old times.  We hung out and just talked and had beers and wines and an unfortunate mediocre premix tequilla.  Do not buy it.  The real one is way better as we were to find out in Atlanta the next week.

B’s birthday was on Thursday but we had a pancake breakfast on Sunday morning.  Steph cooked pancakes and J organised a delicious gâteau au fromage aux framboises and other treats from our local patisserie.  Sophie made B a treat of quelque chose du chocolat.  Yum.

At the end of the week we had to say goodbye to Steph. :(   The only bad thing was she didn’t stay long enough.

It reminds us we miss our friends and family but we are looking forward to seeing all our NZ and Australian peeps in 11 weeks or so.  We leave for Australia on Dec 17th.  I’ll post some related photos tomorrow.

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Bicycle!

This week it has been difficult to get to work on time.  Thursday was a particularly bad day.  A decided to wake up early, meaning everyone else woke up early too.  Later in the morning my alarm sounded and after falling back to sleep between several snooze cycles managed to turn the alarm off.  Then it was still a while before I managed to get out of bed.

I made a coffee to have with breakfast.  Marie blend #2 is the best.  I enjoyed that while catching up with the latest on BBC World News on the tele.  It helped some.

Running very late for work by now I set off on my bicycle.  I rode down through The Glen and over the railway tracks before I felt some vibrations coming from the back wheel.  Flat tyre.  First one for the season so I had a good run, but it couldn’t happen on a worse day.  How come these things happen when you’re already late?  I wheeled the bike to a patch of grass so I could sit down to investigate.  I found a nail wedged about 4cm into the tyre… mmm, that could be the problem.

This all happened almost exactly half way between work and home, a roughly 10km trip.  So it was going to be about a one hour walk in any direction.  Too long.  I decided to change to my spare inner tube.  Having made the change I tried to inflate the wheel but it wasn’t working.  Turned out I had pinched the tube and made a hole when levering the tyre back on.  Oops.  So now I removed that and decided to attempt a repair on the tube.  In the meantime I was getting later and later for work.  I quickly found the hole and got out my rubber cement.  I tried to squeeze some out but found that due to a crack in the lid, the glue had dried out.  I was now getting pretty annoyed.  I gave up and threw everything into my bag and reattached the back wheel to the bike thinking I would wheel it to Canadian Tire where I could get a new repair kit.

So another half an hour later I finally show up at the store.  After searching for a bit and standing in a long queue for the only open checkout at that time of the morning I finally managed to buy two repair kits.  (They were only $2.49 each + tax (always plus the tax))

In the meantime still getting later and later for work.

Outside the store I decided it was probably still faster to do a repair than walk the rest of the way.  So having finally made the repair I made it to work at around 11h.

The weeks cycling dramas were not over though.  The next day I was riding to work and suddenly my rear wheel switched into top gear.  The cable had snapped.  This resulted in it being rather difficult to take off from a stop, even with the front gear on the lowest setting.  I think she is crying out for some attention.  She has been starved since A arrived and I have been meaning to do some maintenance for several months.  I will have to do it this weekend, but at least it’s a long one.  Labour Day here in Canada and Labor Day across the border in the U.S.

Posted in Out & About, Work | 1 Comment

One Day One Year

It’s been one year to the day that we arrived in Canada and had J break down the door to Canada Immigration.  (Not exactly, but there was lot’s of knocking until someone let us in!)  It’s been a pretty eventful year.  Here are a few notable happenings.

The highlights for me were Montreal’s great bars and restaurants.  I actually enjoyed walking around in snow, although that might wear-off this winter.  Someone from work did comment they were impressed that I caught the bus all winter long.  Someone else also said I was crazy for not having a proper coat, although I did give in to the cold somewhat and get an improved version.  Hardly as awesome as this one though.  Living here was also useful to improve my French which is still really, really bad, but it has gotten better over the year.

B and Goran at Les 3 Brassuers

The lowlights were probably the unexpected passing of Goran.  We did enjoy our time together with many a beer, partially cooked cookies and Ticket to Ride.  Two off the top.  We miss you guys.

The only other lowlights, and they are not that low in comparison, were some stressful projects at work, having a winter cold for two weeks, and not seeing everyone back home for a whole year.  The good news there is we are booking a trip home this (Canadian) winter.

Posted in Out & About, Work | 3 Comments

Settled In NDG

We will miss you downtown digs…

Three weeks ago we left our sweet as downtown place to move into suburbia.  We now live in an area of Montreal called Notre-Dame-de-Grace.  Housing is still relatively dense, we live in a building of four units.  It’s a duplex of two floors, with each floor split in the middle.  We live in the left hand upper unit.  It’s probably 1920′s and features some lead window cupboards, claw-foot bath and squeaky wooden floors.  There is also a fireplace and balconies at the front and back.

Nearby we have PFK, Subway, McDonalds, video store, Vendome metro station, patisserie, bouloungerie, metro supermarket, Westmount pool, Westmount park, Queen Elizabeth centre du sante and also BIXI and nearby bicycle lanes.  The down side is no more direct route to work for B using public transit, but the bicycle route is slightly shorter.

It is a very family friendly neighbourhood, there are often kinders playing in the street.  Also a plus, the neighbours underneath us, who we share a porch with, are english speakers and have a young family and they offered to lend us some stuff for the baby.  We already borrowed a rocking chair with rocking ottoman.  J says, “It rocks!”

The last tenants left paint marks on the walls on Manu’s room, so we decided to paint it.  It was not an exciting colour in the first place, white.  But none the less, it provided a good undercoat for our new colour.  Here is a shot of the before and after.  J picked a sunny and warm neutral tone.  We also got some cool circus animals for keeping Manu entertained when awake.

This new place has plenty of room for visitors, so if you are ever passing though Montreal, let us know and we might be able to put you up.  We have 4 bedrooms, so there is a good chance we will have room.  So let’s take a quick tour of place.  Here are some pictures.

This lounge is nice and cool with lots of leafy trees shading the front windows.

The view out the front windows. There is a handy medical clinic across the road. Nice leafy trees too.

The second lounge and dining room combo. We settled into this one a bit more as we expect it will be warmer in the winter.

The kitchen is also big compared to our apartment. J is cooking me some eggs. (Not really.)

Finally the bathroom. Kind of old school just like we had in NZ.

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Canada Culture – The Rental

So, it turns out that when you rent a place, certain items are provided by the tenant rather than the landlord. This varies from place to place, and for appliances can even include stove and dishwasher. We are lucky that the place we are renting includes stove/dishwasher and even fridge (yes!), but the real surprises were more in the curtains and paint. Yes, its BYO curtain rails and curtains in Canada. And you rent the place as is, but if you don’t like the fact that one of the rooms is scrappy white with splashes of colour on it, on the upside, you are allowed to paint it! (at your own expense of course). B has decided we will do this with the baby’s room. So have a nice shade of yellow picked out. Baby due in a week (ie any day now) so will let ya’ll know how this goes, and hopefully add some photos!

Luv J

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