Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yeh! Frozen Yogurt, Fafa Purses & Other Montreal Tidbits

After our Indiana Jones adventure on Saturday, Janice and I discovered Yeh! - a new way to eat frozen yogurt. Started in 2008 by two entrepreneurs who wanted to make frozen yogurt more "fun", this company has three locations in Montreal - and wow, do I hope they expand to the rest of Canada soon.  (excuse the blurry picture; it's from a Blackberry!)

The concept? Choose your frozen yogurt flavour (no preservative, no fake stuff, just frozen yogurt). Then, you have your choice - either stay healthy and top it with an assortment of fruit - OR, dive into a delectable, delicious assortment of gummies, candies, chocolates, Girandelli sauces, nuts, and more - it is literally like a candy store! Of course, seeing as both Janice and I were on vacation at that point (well, ignoring the fact that I still have two final assignments due next week) - we chose the more fun way to enjoy a Yeh!

Mmmmm...dessert!

Fafa purses are another company I must rave about. While my original plan was to buy a leather purse from M0581 (high quality and manufactured in Montreal; click here), my budget thought otherwise. Coach purses are of comparable price!  So, my last weekend included a trip to two "Fafa" locations (see ADD LINK HERE) to dig through the 50 to 70% off sale (this seems to be a popular way to have a sale here, 50 to 70% off, and I'm definitely not complaining...). Wow, is a leather purse more stylish in Montreal.  Go to this link to check them out!


For the other tidbits of news, I'd like to add "Crepe to Go" to my list of highly recommended Montreal places. They're quick, a bit pricy, and remind you of crepes in France.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Indiana Jones: National Geographic's Treasure Hunt & Archaelogy Exhibition

Saturday morning was a foray into  National Geographic's take on the fictional Indiana Jones and other (more realistic) archaeological phenomena. Janice's brilliant idea introduced me to the world of Indy and his adventures (wow did I miss out, dismissing the three originals in childhood and only watching part of the 4th film)

Steven Spielberg's best clips were displayed on screens, but the entire experience was much different to most museums. In fact, it is like an adventure - you receive an audioguide, which you can follow for commentary (like most museums), but you can also choose an "artifact" to find, made of nine "pieces".  Each time you find a numbered post (1 through 9), you tap the audioguide against it - and voila! A challenge appears, which you must answer to electronically receive the "piece". After the 10th piece, you receive a reward (I won't ruin it for you...)

While much of the exhibition discusses the movie, and contains real props and costumes for movie buffs, a good part uncovers the history and archaelogy behind many mysterious sites, including the Nazca Lines in Peru and mummification  (click here and here to see my post on my trip there!) and Montreal's history from 1642 onwards. It really is the perfect blend of education and interaction!

This exhibition is on at the Montreal Science Centre in Vieux-Montreal, until the end of September. Check out The Montreal Science Centre for more information. It's $23 but definitely worth it, and certainly not just for kids!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Montreal Tam Tams & Jean Talon Market

         This past week has flown by, with five of the McGill's assignments due this week and my Graduate Certificate coming to a close.  Sunday's Tam Tams were a definite highlight of my week, as Janice, Kiara and I spent the day in Mont Royal Park. The drummers are regular people with amazing skill, and dancers join in the procession, every Sunday from 1pm to sunset!

We can't get over how gorgeous this giant park, right in the middle of a bustling city, is, andd how many people show up there every day! Designed by the people who built Central Park, this aesthetic wonder has made me invent a new moniker for my home city "Deadmonton"!  Compared to Montreal, there is nothing to do in that city - all the festivals are the same every year, and in 5 years you could outgrow the city, even if you went to every place worth going to...not a place to settle, for sure!





Kiara gets water and treats from strangers! Cutie!
Check out the pics and the video below (definitely not great video skills, but you get the idea...)

Jean Talon Market  is a great way to get a healthy and fresh dinner - and wow - does it beat Strathcona's market in Deadmonton! Janice and I bought $2 garlic by mistake, not understanding the reason in rapid, rapid, French that the woman responded (the rest of the transaction was fine, but why organic garlic is $2, I cannot tell you!)

We cooked buckwheat pasta with cherry tomatoes (red, yellow AND purple), fresh blueberries, peaches, nectarines and plums. Yum!  What a treat to have the time to cook this Wednesday night :) Definitely worthwhile, even if you are swamped with papers, lesson plans and projects. Montreal, I will miss you! v

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Girls Nights, Les Nuits Afrique & Scena by the Pier in Old Montreal

Janice arrived last Thursday and is joining me for my last week in "La Belle Ville". To break up harried study sessions, we have been enjoying movie nights, long walks with Kiara, wine and desserts! 

Saturday night's trip to Vieux Montreal was spectacular - like a mini-European paradise (albeit a touristy one). We had been walking all day, and decided to return back to my apartment for the fireworks (there are fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday here, as part of the annual International Fireworks Festival - click here. ) 
Fireworks are visible from my apartment!

Les Nuits Afrique, a beautiful series of African music, dance and jewelry, could also be seen from my apartment balcony. We spent the night drinking wine, listening to African music, watching fireworks and enjoying movies on my one month free Netflix trial (I wouldn't recommend more than a month, because they don't have much of a selection!) Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carell is a hit, though!



Dressed up for girls night!
Janice by the pier
 Dinner at Scena  on the pier was a definite highlight, as our waitress Geraldine let us practice our French, rather than automatically switching to English. The vegetarian burgers were amazing and homemade, with sweet potatoes and lentils, and the salad was delicious.

Puppy & Janice having fun



Delicious French wine
This is what having time to cook looks like!










Ahhh...chill time! My new goal is to incorporate more of it into my life :) 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Les 3 Brasseurs Brewery, African Cuisine, Simons & A Weekend to Relax

 Lorina's perfectly timed visit to Montreal allowed for a mini break in between my two intensive courses to see a bit of the city. Here's an overview of our two day adventure in the heart of "La Belle Ville".

3 Brasseurs is a definite highlight of Quebec, a chain of breweries that have amazingly smooth, fresh, tasting beer (and decent margherita thin crust pizzas). There's a large one on St. Catherine's street that has an large patio, or an air-conditioned interior to beat the 40 degree heat and humidity!   http://www.les3brasseurs.ca/


Lorina and Puppy
 We spent Friday night roaming around St. Denis and St. Laurent, trying out a few pubs, and a restaurant that is on the definite "NO" list! 

Abiata African Cuisine is a terrible venue with mediocre food and appalling service .With hardly any patrons, they took TWO hours to serve us a plate of curry and bread, without checking to see if we needed drinks or were doing well. To "compensate us" for us complaints, they gave us free dessert - and they couldn't even get that order right! 

Luckily, word of mouth is the best marketing service, and we made sure to mention to those waiting outside the next day, that they should choose another venue!  Montrealers, be sure to avoid this disastrous, but expensive, dining experience !







Sapna & Lorina!
 Saturday was a girly day of shopping, manicures and pedicures, coffee and brunch! L'Avenue is a must-hit for brunch - and wow, the service impressed us after the night before's fiasco.  I didn't bring my camera to this event, so I borrowed a picture to show you the delectable plates. (Thanks, http://nmaraval.site11.com/)


Janice and I will definitely hit that up when she's in town =)

We spent Sunday afternoon shopping at Simons, an amazing chain of department stores only in Quebec Go to www.simons.ca   to check out their European inspired clothes. This is one store that Edmonton, with all of its retail savoir faire, is definitely missing! 

 We also checked out my favourite cafes (although Lorina's caffeine-free kick lead me to try peppermint London fog!). What an amazing break leading up to another two weeks of intense education and teaching!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cafes & Spas - Downtown & Old town Montreal

Fourteen days into my stay here in Montreal, I've made a regular habit of studying at local cafes, walking Kiara through downtown streets and enjoying the gorgeous weather, in between intense study sessions.

Here's a snapshot of my coffee sessions, for those of you planning to visit the area. (The pictures are all borrowed, since my intensive education courses are turning out to be a 50 hour a week endeavor, on top of part-time tutoring. I'm about to have two visitors to liven up my experience here (Lorina and then Janice), so real pictures are coming soon, I promise!)

Second Cup Saint-Laurent
Second Cup Ave de Pins - Open 24 hours!

Second cup is my coffee norm, and this city hasn't quite changed that! Kiara and I study almost every night at the Saint Laurent location, enjoying the scenery and people and trying to balance on my chair (which Kiara is tied to) every time she sees a dog walk by and tries to jump for him or her!  The Ave du Pins location is right next to the laundromat, which is great for multi-tasking!

Cafe Noir 

Situated right across from Second Cup Saint Laurent, it tempts me to switch cafes every day - I may have to try this tomorrow!

Cafe imagination

Located on Sherbrooke, just before Jeanne la Mance, this cafe was not very impressive. The espresso was decent, the prices reasonable, but the atmosphere a little small and "blah"!
 
Caffe & Cucina
 
Also on Sherbrooke, I have a a feeling this cafe is better known for its "cucina" than its caffe! Perhaps I'll try something Italian there in the future...

Cafe du Jour

This has become a regular morning place for me, though it is quite pricy (Starbucks prices, decent quality - a good "javacino" iced coffee, though!) Be sure to ask for skim, as I think they don't really believe in 2% and skip straight to whole milk!

Ice cream place on Saint Denis

I've yet to find out the name of this place - a little patio on the corner of Ave du Pins and Saint Denis, but it's chocolate mousse is a delight! Coffee is pretty decent, as well!

 So you can see the trainer's diet is failing in this city of food, food, food. Wow - I'll have to use more of that protein powder I bought in the next two weeks. Yoga is hopefully keeping some of the calories off!  

 
 Cremerie Meu Meu on Saint Denis  - For all those in favour of natural, soy frozen yogurt, this is your place! I tied Kiara up outside on the perfect banister (though she did try to sneak her way in!)  Wow - okay, it's not "healthy" but it's better than the mousse above, for sure!  (I'm hoping that walking everywhere is helping the calories as well, but I am definitely missing the gym!)


Juliette et Chocolat (Saint Laurent/ Saint Denis)

As part of our "Best of Montreal" lesson plan unit at House of Friendship, we had a subtheme that covered restaurants, desserts in particular. Juliette et Chocolat follows Tripadvisor's polarized reviews exactly - great desserts, great coffee - but wow, for a place like that, the service is atrocious!

Onze

This boutique was a pleasant, affordable surprise on Saint-Denis. They boast European imports at affordable prices, and a select few Canadian goods (like the Tom's shoes I bought - Toms donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, and wow, are they comfortable!) See www.tomsshoes.ca

Bota Bota
 
One little adventure I didn't mention on my first weekend here - Bota Bota, a spa at which I made a mini-splurge on my second day here, is located on a ship, docked on the Quay at the Old Port. Dogs aren't allowed in that area of town, but wow, amazing service, and what a relaxing way to get a manicure on the water! www.botabota.ca/ 
 

Lorina  will be in town Friday night, and my first course is complete (although I have a couple assignments for it due Monday), so I'm looking forward to enjoying the weekend here! At last count, there are five festivals going on this weekend - African Nights, Canada Parks Centennial celebration (1911 to 2011), Outdoor movies in Park La Fontaine, Weekend du Mondes at Parc Jean Drapeau and the Just For Laughs Comedy festival, which begins Friday. Not to mention the summer -long International Fireworks Competition, every Saturday night, which I plan to see this weekend or the next! 

Imagine, I'm not even planning to drive anywhere, and there is so much to do, I don't know where to begin!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Learning to Teach: ESL in the Classroom!

The first week of McGill's intensive summer institute has flown by and I have learned more than I could have ever imagined! First of all, let me say that teaching a class of 16 adult ESL students (even with a partner teacher) is significantly harder than my one on one tutoring sessions. The professor brings an amazing background and insight to her teaching, and it's so engaging to interact with teachers from all different backgrounds. Wow, is there ever creativity in this profession - and I must say the Quebec Education Program (QEP) seems very interactive, innovative and liberal. (Somehow I don't think Conservative Alberta would go for type of learning). 

Let me say, kudos to all you teachers out there that teach so many teens and kids at once - I can barely manage all the lesson planning for the adults! (but I love it).

So, my mornings have been filled with learning to teach reading and writing strategies, afternoons with lesson planning and ESL research and Tuesday and Thursday nights with three hours of volunteer teaching at Maison de Amitie, a volunteer centre for refugees, new immigrants, and francophones who want to improve their English. (They also run French classes). It is really inspiring to see these individuals, who have just arrived in Canada, SO motivated to learn the language, heighten their careers, and change their lives. It really lets you believe that anything is possible.
           Thanks to a few late night tutoring sessions for my summer students, my first PhD thesis editing client (so exciting!) and some other online tutoring, I have been able to squeeze the tight budget and buy a pass to Moksha yoga Montreal, a yoga mat and a Yogitoes anti-slip mat! (Lululemon lets dogs into their stores here!) While I still love Bikram's intensity, Moksha does allow me to slow down a bit. In fact, I'm looking forward to the challenge of Saturday evening's Hot Yin class (I finally have time to take a Yin Yoga class!)

My tired, happy puppy
This weekend will be filled with studying (in each 2 week intensive course, we have 4 major assignments, including a portfolio of our lesson plans), a modest 6 hours of tutoring and as much exercise with puppy as possible! We narrowly escaped having to look for a new place when Kiara's barking got too much - luckily I found a dog daycare (dog walker actually, who takes care of 12 dogs and runs them all day. 
Joyce even picks Kiara up and drops her off, for the same price I pay in Edmonton for doggie daycare! Doggie daycares, though, are not walking distance (I have been walking everywhere!) and cost $30 per day here. Luckily, the dog walking is working and I have a tired, happy, puppy :) 

Well, I'm off to go out with puppy, who is allowed on cafe patios here until early in the morning (24 hours in the second cup on Ave du Parc!). It is such an amazing feeling to only have stress from a part of my life I love.
Stay tuned for this weekend's post on what I love about Montreal (and places to go!)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Canada Day, Parc de la Fountaine & Parc Mont Royal in Montreal

McGill University, rue Sherbrooke & McTavish




Arriving in Montreal, Quebec after 6 long years was a refreshing breath of air, multiculturalism and history.  Canada's Europe, Montreal mixes culture with big city class.  While their Canada day celebrations were a bit tame (regular parade and cake, fireworks and a Quebecois pop artist named Jacynthe), walking in the city's downtown core with Kiara made my first two days in Montreal incredible.

 My month off adventure started last weekend, actually, with Pets in the Park in Edmonton, Alberta's Hawrelak Park. The one day of the year dogs are allowed in city parks (here in Montreal, they are allowed EVERY day!), Pets in the Park was a bit of a disappointment on the activities end, but it was great to see Pam, Dani and Stephanie K. before I left


Mr Dee & Kiara
Pam & Kiara (Pets in the Park, Edmonton)
Yes, they were herding sheep.. too bad we didn't get to try!.









As soon as we arrived in Montreal, we met Pascal, and his girlfriend Pascale, who picked us up from the airport. Kiara did SO well on the Westjet flight - she was her happy, smiling self, as the kennel came down the luggage belt on Terminal 25 (just very anxious to get out!).                                                                                                                           I'm so glad I found www.airbnb.com,  which is kind of  like couch surfing but paid, and safe (guaranteed by the company itself). I had so much trouble finding a place that would let Kiara in, but Pascal and Pascale have no problem with their guests having their animals stay, too.  The apartment is gorgeous!  It has a projector TV and is literally a minute's walking distance from the downtown core.  They even gave me a credit on the rent since the washer and dryer haven't been installed yet - laundromat time!                                                                                                               Canada Day in Montreal means all the stores, including grocery stores are closed! There is a parade downtown, fireworks at night, and everything cities usually have. The Jazz Festival is what made the evening great - I can hear the music until after midnight from my balcony!                                                   
Other than that, Kiara and I have been hanging out at parks (although I haven't found a fully off-leash one yet),getting groceries, checking out a couple of cafes, and sleeping in (yes, I slept in until 10:30 the last TWO days, which means I woke up at 5am this morning!)

 Check out the pictures below for this morning's  walk in Mont-Royal Park. Don't forget to check out the slideshow for city pictures, apartment pictures and Kiara's gorgeous pictures in Parc de la Fontaine from yesterday afternoon.

P.S.  On the coffee "Yes/No" list,  L'Evidence Cafe is a definite yes (for brunch, too) and Cafe Coffee Depot is a definite no!