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Where to eat in Montreal

There are thousands of food options in Montreal, and here is a short list of my faves – this is where I go every time I go to Montreal. Now, try and be good and spread these out over at least a week. Don’t be like me, and try to do it all in one weekend. I’m still recovering.

Breakfast

L’Avenue
This place doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page, but they don’t need it. The lineup – and the food – speak for themselves. Get here before 9:30 on Saturdays or Sundays if you don’t want to stand outside for half an hour, but I promise that the wait is worth it. Among other things, this place has ridiculous smoothies, eggs benedict and french toast. Bonus: they drop a full can of maple syrup at your table!

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Now, I’d love to recommend more breakfast places, but this is my go-to, every time. I actually went twice last weekend. I used to go to La Grand-Mère Poule, another delicious restaurant, and Bagel St-Viateur is a good place for you to try Montreal bagels (which I don’t actually like!)

Lunch and bites

To be honest, I’m usually so full of breakfast from L’Avenue that I rarely grab lunch in Montreal! Here are a few options… I tried to go to Jarry Smoked Meat after L’Avenue the other day and I just couldn’t handle another bite. I’m still sad.

M4 Burritos
A build your own burrito place, with delicious options like quesadillas, tacos, and salads, with amazing pulled pork and great topping selections. It’s right by Berri-Uqam metro station, so easy to grab a bite on your way to or from anywhere.

Jarry Smoked Meat
A bit out of the way, and tricky to get to by public transit, but oh-so worth it! Montreal is well known for its smoked meat, and this place just can’t be beat. The juiciest, most delicious smoked meat you’ll ever have.

Dinner

I’m only ever in Montreal for a few days at a time, and by the time I get there, I miss my old favourites, so my plans never vary very much. Unmissables include:

Poutineville
My favourite, favourite, favourite place. When I was in Mali last year, this place is all I could think about. They have the most amazing make your own poutine menu, which includes 8 kinds of cheese, 10 kinds of vegetables, 10 kinds of meat, and four kinds of sauce. They recently won Montreal’s Poutine Week contest, with a mouthwatering General Tao poutine. Don’t miss this place (they have three locations, so no excuses!), but just make sure that you have nothing planned afterwards! You’ll need a long walk, and then you’ll need to lie down.

Chez Chine
Ok, this is a random one. This restaurant is located in the Holiday Inn in Chinatown. I go here every time I come to Montreal, for one reason only – they have crispy duck pancakes. Everything else is over priced, and not necessarily delicious. But the duck… oh the duck pancakes! If ever you’re craving them (or wondering what they are), this is the place to go.

Maria Bonita
This is the place to go for delicious, authentic mexican food in Montreal. The owner has dedicated his life to finding the best product, to create dishes that taste like you’re in Mexico.

Dessert

Finally, my favourite category!

Rockaberry
Do not, do not, do not miss this place. Giant, fluffy cheesecakes in so many flavours (highlights include caramel fudge, oreo, and apple crumble cheesecake), as well as amazing crumbles. I think that I’ve said it all. Go, go now.

Juliette et Chocolat
All chocolate, all delicious.

Dr. Frost
Like Marble Slab or Cold Stone, but cheaper, and more delicious. Plus, the actual shop is super fun.

 

I hope that this list helps you decide where to go next! I just got back from Montreal, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip there…

 


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San Francisco’s Rickshaw Bagworks

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I have a really nice camera bag from Crumpler, and a very pretty purse. However, the camera bag will only hold my camera and cell phone, and my purse will only hold my iPad and cell phone. I’ve been looking for something for a while now that could hold everything I need for one day of exploring, and I’m so happy to share with you that I’ve found it!

As you can tell from blog posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, I recently went to San Francisco. While I was there, I discovered Rickshaw Bagworks, a fun little shop that makes a series of bags that you can custom design to your liking.

Mine came in the mail today, and I was oh-so-excited!

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When I was in the store, I got to see all the models, fabrics and accessories, and decided to go with the Small Zero Messenger Bag, with a bordeaux exterior, a funky green print for the inside, and a peacock trim.

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I need something to hold my camera, but Rickshaw doesn’t yet make an SLR sleeve, so I decided to go with an optional pocket on the inside. Eventually, my goal is to make my own padded, removable sleeve (unless Rickshaw makes one first!), but this sleeve will do for now, as long as I remember not to trow my bag around too much. I also got them to put on a longer adjustable shoulder strap.

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It’s great to have a beautiful bag that meets my needs, looks great, feels even better, and is made in the US! All great things.

Thanks Rickshaw!

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Travel Photo Tuesday

In 2006, I spent a week in Dakar. There was a 12 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco along the way, and the airline provided us with a bus into the city and a hotel room. Now, I am not the type to miss out on seeing as much as I can of a new city, no matter how tired I am. So, I dropped my luggage off in my hotel room and powered through, and went exploring with a girl that I met on the plane.

We were told ahead of time that it was Eid, a religious holiday, and that everything would be closed and we were likely to see a lot of dead sheep everywhere. We were not disappointed! I asked these two boys if I could take their picture, and they were so excited to pose for the camera! Afterward, they asked us what we were doing, and we told them that we had been hoping to visit the city, but that everything was shut. The man standing behind them to the right was their uncle, and offered to drive us around the city and show us the sights. Airplane girl and I jumped at the opportunity, and got a private tour of different Casa neighbourhoods, including a stop at this man’s mother’s house where we watched her clean and prepare the sheep (we were invited to dinner – a great honor – but had to decline because of our flight) and a private tour of a palace, where we ate sheep intestines with the guards. What a great day!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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Lost and found in Toronto

I was in Toronto this week for three days of meetings, and yesterday evening, I met a friend for dinner and offered to pay for our first round of drinks. As I reached into my purse, sure enough, my wallet was missing.

I’m not the type of person to freak out about this kind of thing, so I stayed pretty calm and pulled everything out of my bag and looked at the ground around me, just to be sure. My next step was to mentally retrace my steps:

– I took my wallet out at the office to take out a subway token

– I left the office, and took the subway

– I stood on the subway for 30 minutes.

– I walked West on Queen to University, waited there for my friend for 15 minutes, then continued on to my final stop, Queen and Spadina.

I called my boss, who was still at the office, because I figured that that was the most likely place for it to be (while fervently hoping that I hadn’t dropped it on the subway), but checked and found nothing.

I decided to retrace my steps back to the subway station. I knew that there was no way that it would just be sitting on the ground, but I felt better knowing that I had done everything I could. An hour later, I met up with my friend again – lucky for me, she paid for my dinner!

I started thinking about the next step – what did I need to do about the situation right now? Step 1 was to put a hold on my credit card and confirm that I could get a new debit card in the morning, and step two was to figure out how I could fly home next week without ID. I had no idea what to do – Air Canada tweeted back to me, which was really nice, but only to wish me luckWhen I was mugged in Peru, my situation was much worse, but at least I knew to go to the embassy and get myself a new passport. Does anyone know how to fly domestic with no ID?

Beyond that, there was nothing I could do until I got home, so there was nothing else that I needed to worry about, and I got on with my evening.

As  was lying in bed last night, I started trying to think about everything that was in my wallet, to figure out if i had anything irreplaceable. All I could think of was my credit and bank cards, a couple of gift certificates, and some cash. I was also thinking about all of lost receipts for my travel expenses.

I got up early this morning and went straight to the bank, where they gave me a new debit card after asking a series of very specific questions. I got to the office, and was still hopeful that someone had turned in my wallet. My plan of action was office -> subway lost and found -> Eaton Centre lost and found -> give up hope. My wallet hadn’t been turned in, but I was still hopeful. I went into a meeting, and by the time I came back at 11am, my wallet had been returned! Someone found it late last night, and put it in their desk. She was late coming into the office because of subway delays, but she had it!

Everything turned out really well, in the end! But I still wonder what I would have done to get home.

Just for fun (I’m currently sitting on a train), I decided to figure out what I would have lost, had I actually lost my wallet.

– Two credit cards and one bank card

– Health card + insurance information

– Driver’s license

– $310 in gift/cash cards

– $80 in cash (I never carry cash! This is the first time I’ve had any in months! Figures.)

– $150 in work expense receipts

– A bunch of loyalty cards

– An mystery 8Gb SD card containing 1500 photos, most of which I haven’t seen since I took them. Thanks to my misadventures, I discovered cool things!

This picture from a market in Mai

This picture from a market in Mali

Never before seen pictures of my adorbs nephew!

Never before seen pictures of my adorable nephew

Teaching my Katimakids how to bake bread!

Teaching my Katimakids how to bake bread

My pictures of Key West!

My pictures of Key West

Photos of me at Hopewell Rocks!

Photos of me at Hopewell Rocks


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FAQ – How to breeze through airport security, in 7 easy steps!

I was just at a conference in Winnipeg, and I caught a ride back to the airport with one of the other attendees. She seemed a bit nervous about what to do at security – what goes where, what do they look for, etc. and had a lot of questions for me, so I figured I’d write a post since some of you might also have some questions. I’ve posted about carry-on luggage a few times, so it makes sense that I should now talk about how to prepare your carry-on to get yourself through security as efficiently as possible.

It’s all about being organized! It’ll help you get to your gate faster, the security guards will be friendlier, and it’ll make the people behind you happy. Wins all around! (Hint: the person behind you could be me. I fly almost every week. Let me help you make my life easier.)

This is my personal advice, based on what I do when I travel. I’ve heard a million stories from other people, who have gotten away with a bunch of stuff, and that might be you too. However, by following this list, you can be certain that you will fy through security.

1. Have your travel documents in hand – boarding pass and ID!

2. Make sure that your laptop and 3-1-1 bag are within easy reach

3. Make sure that your pockets are empty

4. Take off any jackets/hats/scarves/belts

5. Take off your shoes.

6. Know what’s in your bag

7. Get out of there quick!


1. Travel documents

I’m not going to lie guys, this is my biggest pet peeve. You check in, and about twenty feet farther is the security check point. Hang on to your boarding pass! If you’re like me and you want to eat and sometimes shop before you head to security, make sure that you keep your ID and boarding pass together in an easy to access place. The time to look for your boarding pass is NOT when you are standing in front of the agent!20130520-103227.jpg

2. 3-1-1 bags

A 3-1-1 bag is a small ziploc bag in which you put whatever liquids that you are taking on the plane. You can use the ones that the airport gives you, but a regular sandwich sized bag works too.

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– Make sure that all your liquids are together in one bag.

– Make sure that your liquids are under 3oz/100ml. I recommend putting your liquids in bottles that are 100ml or less. I’ve heard from other people that it’s ok to use bigger bottles as long as they are not full, but since there’s no way of proving how much liquid you’ve got, I’ve also heard about security agents not letting them through. If you run out during your trip, you can easily buy refills anywhere. The only thing that I haven’t been able to find everywhere is contact solution. If you are going on a longer trip and bringing only carry-on, I would bring more little bottles of contact solution, and bring dry versions of the other toiletteries I need, or buy them when I get there. TurnipseedTravel has compiled a beautiful list of options for you.

– Make sure that the bag is the right size.

– Make sure that it’s quickly accessible. There’s nothing worse than holding up the line because you’re rummaging through your suitcase, trying to find your little bag.

2.5 Electronics

The only thing that I’ve ever been asked to take out is my laptop, and that’s every time I’ve travelled. Be prepared!

3. Make sure that your pockets are empty

I’m just talking about metal here – change, jewellery, watches: these all need to go through the scanner. Otherwise, they’ll send you back and forth until they figure out what’s beeping.

4. Take off any jackets/hats/scarves/belts

Doing this means that they don’t have to ask you! I promise, they’ll love you.

5. Take off your shoes. You don’t always need to, but doing it in advance means that you’re set if they do ask you.

I just went through security wearing new Keen slip on shoes. The agent looked at them and told me to keep them on, and they beeped – apparently, there’s a metal shank through the bottom. Now I know! Two options: make sure your shoes are metal free, or just take them off.

6. Know what’s in your bag – toss any liquids, and leave awkwardly shaped things at home.

This kept happening to me: I have a nifty key chain that’s a spoon handle. EVERY TIME I go through security with it, they pull me aside and check by bag. They always let me leave with it, but I’ve decided it’s not worth the extra time, so I just leave it at home now. Same goes for you – know what you’re travelling with!

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7. Get out of there quick!

Once you’re through the metal detector and your bags are out, pick up your things and organize your bag somewhere else. This especially helps when it’s busy. At a certain point, when everyone puts on their shoes and belts right after the detector, the conveyor belt gets too full of bins to continue rolling, and stops the whole process. They have handy chairs and tables a few feet away from most security areas – use them, and help everyone out!


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Travel Photo Tuesday

I was just on a Gogobot Twitter chat yesterday, talking to Jenny about her upcoming RTW trip. Her first stop is the Inca Trail, which had me looking back through my pictures of Peru. I thought I’d make you smile today with this picture. There are llamas in so many pictures and postcards of Peru, and especially Machu Picchu. However, Marina and I weren’t able to frame a shot of a llama in front of Huayna Picchu, so we took matters into our own hands.

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San Francisco in pictures, part 8 – Big Sur

We decided to rent a car for a day and drive down Highway 1 to Big Sur, and I’m really happy that we did! I LOVED San Francisco, but nothing says holiday to me more than the ocean, and I was so happy to see the wide open Pacific Ocean. It was a three hour drive south of SF through beautiful scenery, and worth every minute of it. Big Sur itself was a bit confusing – it’s a national park, with hard to access beaches, but we found one and enjoyed ourselves. It was really cold and windy, but so lovely to get out of the city for the day.


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San Francisco in pictures, part 7 – Muir Woods

To be honest, I didn’t really get it. We rented a car for the day to drive down to Big Sur, and my travel buddy Matt said that he wanted to first drive up to Muir Woods. It’s only about 40 minutes north of SF, so we went ahead with his plan. We got there, looked at some trees for about half an hour, and then we were done. Maybe we didn’t look up enough – I think that the deal is that they’re really tall. Maybe because I live on the West Coast, I wasn’t excited to see more big trees. All this to say that we should have done more research before coming here – it was nice, but we weren’t blown away by any of it. Anyone who’s travelled with me knows that when I’m bored with something, I’m over it, and I’m happy to just move on.

 


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San Francisco in pictures, part 6 – Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a must see. We chose to take the bus all the way to the bridge, and then walk across. We kind of forgot to plan for the other side of the bridge, except to say ‘We’ll take the ferry back form Sausalito’

It’s pretty straightforward to get from the bridge to Sausalito, but it’s about 3 miles away, so be prepared! The walk across the bridge was crowded, but worth it, at least one way. Sausalito is a beautiful, if very commercial, little village, and it’s much warmer there than in San Francisco. We were happy to enjoy delicious burgers and ice cream in the sun for a while, and then take the ferry back ($9.00) to the city. A great day out!


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San Francisco in pictures, part 5 – Chinatown

Chinatown is a great neighbourhood to visit, but I would definitely recommend going off the beaten path – look through your guidebook for some routes, or talk to the staff at either of the HI Downtown Hostels (these awesome hostels offer free tours of different parts of SF… every day!) On the main road, you’ll find a lot of touristy shops that sell the same thing over and over, and on the side roads, you’ll find a bunch of little stores that sell things you don’t recognize… and owners who don’t speak enough English to tell you what they are! There are many teashops, make sure to stop in one for some tea tasting. Vital Tea has great service, and Uncle Gee will give you advice like no other! It’s also worth it to figure out how to get to the Golden Gate Cookie Factory, where you can watch women handmake fortune cookies. You can pay $0.50 to take a picture of them, and $1.00 for a custom fortune cookie.