Monday, August 18, 2008

From the Air

Flew from Philly to Los Angeles on Saturday. It was a beautiful day across most of the U.S. I had my wonderful little Panasonic Lumix camera with the leica zoom lens, so I tried experimenting with taking pictures out of the plane window. It really is a wonderful little camera. Here are a few pictures of Chicago, mid-west farmland and small farm towns, clouds over Colorado somewhere, red rocks of the area around St. George Utah, Las Vegas, the southern California mountains and high desert, and Los Angeles. My favorites are the clouds which look like a herd of flying sheep to me and the “sky view” of Randy’s Donus…an iconic donut stand just near the airport (and always my last stop before going to the airport to fly home…the best donuts…yes better than Dunkin Donuts by far!)
Chicago and Lake Michigan

A large river and farmland somewhere in probably Iowa or Missouri

Somewhere over Nebraska or Kansas - Who let the sheep out?

Red Rocks of Utah (near St. George)

Somewhere in Utah (I think) or eastern Nevada - an interesting illustration of the effects of irrigation and the influence of a river in what otherwise is desert!

Las Vegas Strip and McClaren Airport

1)Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles...that is Hesperia and Victorville in the distance

2) Hacienda Heights from the air - the house with the pool is Rey and Eva's house!

3) Los Angeles residential area - somewhere between downtown L.A. and the airport and north of Santa Monica Freeway

Randy's usual last stop before checking in my rental car and heading home on US Air. Love their chocolate donuts! Just the best (sorry Dunkin' Donuts)

Close to Home - Las Mariachis in Phoenixville

Always in search of authentic Mexican food we followed the recommendation of a Chowhound message board entry and drove up to Phoenixville (northwest of Villanova) to search out Las Mariachis. Located in a primarily residential area of old downtown Phoenixville, the restaurant is located on the ground floor of a corner building at 201 Gay St. It is a small, high ceilinged space that seats about 30 (but also offers take-out). The walls are painted pink (rosa) and detailed with painted “bricks” around the windows, stylized roses, and a virgin mary. Sequined decorated mariachi hats adorn the walls and pinats sit on a shelf in the corner. Mexican kitsch at its best and most honest. We had a delightfully helpful and friendly waitress. We tried the ceviche of the day (with shrimp) which was fresh and refreshing. Corn chips were homemade and fresh. Salsa (red and green) spicy (but not too). I had the carnitas with beans and rice and warm corn tortillas (very good). Jerry had the carnitas in a salsa verde (green chili sauce)…it was excellent. I tried one of the pork tamales and was delighted to see it served without sauce…sauce was offered but they didn’t immediately assume you wanted it smothered in sauce past recognition (which many restaurants do and isn’t what my experience was growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles county). The menu is divided up between 3 “spacilties” Mexcian, Tipica, and Tex-Mex. So there is something for everyone. I didn’t ask what region the Tipica food is from because I zeroed in the carnitas immediately…next time I’ll ask. And there WILL be a next time…soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Montreal

Rainy Day and Good Food

We are home from Montreal and missing it already. We had a lovely last couple of days. Wednesday we slept in listening to the morning rain outside the windows. Craving our dim sum fix from Maison Kam Fung...we got out the umbrella and walked up to Chinatown for an early lunch. (hint...get there by BEFORE noon if you don't want to wait for a table). As always it was just fabulous....I wish I knew the names of everything we eat...maybe next time I'll take pictures.Everything is so fresh and the flavors so fabulous.

Then it was time for a long, long walk (we ate a lot of dim sum). Found a lovely small park we'd never seen before...small and tucked into the downtown near ST. Patrick's Basilica (the first English speaking Catholic Church built in the mid 1850s to serve the exploding Irish population that was streaming into Montreal escaping the famines in Ireland). It's on rue gaucheterie and is designed around the foundations of an old building formerly the Father Dowd Memorial Home which was used for over 150 years as a home for the aged, infirm, homeless. A little oasis at the foot of St. Patrick's.

In the afternoon we stopped in at Le Baldaquin, a wondeful boutique located on Rue de La Commune on the ground floor of our building. The owners also live in our building. Collette has a wonderful collections of bed, bath, table and baby linens, hand-made beds, accent pieces, throws, pillows, towels, robes, home fragrances, candles and spa products. We bought the cutest baby things for a friend. check out their store

We ate at Holders, one of our old standbys on McGill. Jerry had the mussels, I had a salad and the asparagus soup. very good. Took a long walk through Old Montreal until it started to rain and we ran in from the rain.

The Sun Came Out and We Visit Another Park

In our quest to sample and savor the Parks of Montreal we visited yet another gem - Park des Rapides. It is a wonderful nature park located along the Lachine Rapids. There are ponds (left over from when the site was a hydroelectric power facility, walking paths, birding, views, fabulous gardens...and did I mention the views. It is a wildlife sanctuary for birds in particular the great blue heron. It was a lovely afternoon with a strong breeze and fabulous temperatures. For more info:,5683676&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

Here are some pictures of a lovely spot in Montreal:

And eating...

Yes we did that too...lunch (before the park) at Bombay Mahal - a little hole in the wall on Jean Talon near L'Acadie Blvd. FABULOUS dosas...great lunch specials...really divine mango chutney. Dinner was at Le Souper on McGill...its been open about a year but its our first visit. A busy bistro with big windows, warm colors, retro light fixture. We shared a delicious flank steak and I had one of my favorite things...roasted beet salad. I first had roasted beets at a restaurant in Yountville, CA years ago on a trip to the wine country with my friend Dana...i've tried to find a salad as good as that one for years. The one at Le Souper comes pretty darn close. Very fresh tasting.

More Rain, the Olympics, and Boris Bistro's Strawberries and Marscapone.

Rain returned on Friday giving us incentive to stay in and pack and clean up the apartment. We rose early at 7AM to watch the opening ceremonies for the Olympics Canada they are broadcasting a lot more of the Olympics live than here in the US...go figure. Later I read that they broadcast the opening ceremonies on a big outdoor screen in Montreal's Chinatown and there was a huge gathering there of Chinese (including a dancing dragon)...that would have been fun to go too...however, staying in my pjs and eating breakfast on the sofa was pretty good too.

After a quiet day around the apartment we ventured out umbrella in hand to wander the streets and ended up for an early dinner at Boris Bistro (on McGill). We ate outside under an awning (although it had been raining it wasn't cold). We laughed because they had these big pots of flowering bushes - oleanders. For anyone whose ever spent much time in California, oleanders always conjures up California freeway plantings because they are so ubiquitous there. But I suspect in Quebec where they must be treated as annuals or hot house flowers they are considerably more exotic!

Dinner was good...we shared a steak which was delicious. But the BEST thing was my Friday treat...dessert...the strawberries with marscapone cheese and a drizzle of balsamic syrup...oh my gosh...I could have licked the plate if I was at home alone! I will be back for that dessert!!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Fireworks!

I know I've blogged about the International Firework Competition more than once (and just earlier today) but I love it! They are fabulous 30 minute plus shows and I don't have to fly to Disneyland or wait until the 4th of July to see them. Tonight was the grand finale ending 6 weeks of competitive displays (once or sometimes twice a week).

We've watched the fireworks hanging out our 3rd floor window and while standing in the middle of Rue de la Commune (which had come to a stop with traffic) while Jason smoked a cigar. We've walked to the river's edge with beach chairs and staked out a spot (reading while waiting and enjoying watching all the power boats line up in the marina entrance below us). Tonight we watched them from the rooftop terrace at our apartment. We were about 7 stories up and the view was fabulous. The rain had stopped (about 15 minutes beforehand) and the skies had cleared. There were other neighbors watching from the roof as well.

It was the best..AND I got some pictures...using the railing as a makeshift tripod. Here are a few....

of course...there are a few more on my flickr site.

Good Food, Great Park and MORE good food!

Le Cartet

Tuesday we were up fairly early and decided to walk over to McGill to have breakfast at Le of our favorite breakfast spots in Old Montreal. They have remodeled since we were there last. They now have an open kitchen, rearranged the counter, have enlarged their "takeout" selection, and have the coolest hanging lights. Fortunately the food is as good as it ever was. I had the Brunch Sante: two poached eggs on toast with, I believe, arugula. Le Cartet granola with yogurt, and fruit and a little cheese. Jerry had the Brunch des Cantons which came in a skillet!!! (i should have taken a picture). Egs, canadian ham/bacon, bacon, beans, and potatoes. Great beans! Next time we'll order ONE of those and share! located at 106 McGill in Old Montreal.

Walk around the Old Port of Montreal

Needing to walk off the larger than expected portions of breakfast we walked around the old port. It was a beautiful morning (see photos below). There were several interesting boats in the a long wooden motor cruiser called the Dolphin. She is in fantastic shape and beautiful. A little searching on the web came up with this: Built in New York and launched in 1929 from Consolidated Shipyards, this beautiful river boat was acquired by the Simard family from Sorel, Canada and has been maintained in pristine condition by the following two generations. The 67’ hull is made out of mahogany and she still runs in the summertime the rivers of Eastern Canada. There was also a beautiful sailboat/motor cruiser called the Cheshire Cat from St Joseph, Missouri!!! Boy I bet she has stories to tell.

Park Bois de l'ili Bizard

Then it was off to another park...this time...the other end of Montreal...Park Bois de l'ile Bizard. THIS WAS FABULOUS! It has a naturally sandy beach on Lac duex montagnes, a fishing pier, and lots of walking and biking path through beautiful forests and swamps/bogs/wetlands. It has wonderfully maintained boardwalks over the wet areas and bird, birds, birds. We saw beaver lodges (3 that we saw easily from the boardwalks), too. We saw the very secretive (and small) least bittern (photo below), turtles sunning side by side with ducks, parents teaching their kids about dragonflies and bugs, and beautiful skies. It was just great. And again..we didn't even get to all of the park...another day. for more info:

Ran a few errands (checking out light fixtures) and then decided to eat on the way home at one of our favorite places - Le Croissanterie on Hutchinson and Fairmont near Rue Laurier. We've eaten there a number of times and always like the simple casual bistro atmosphere and simply but deliciously prepared food. We had delicious salads (again...the house and the chevre chaud) and split a nicely prepared grilled chicken breast with vegies and mashed potatoes. We are on a white marble table top under a panoply of creme colored chandeliers. There is an open kitchen, dark brick walls and brick colored floor and big windows overlooking the terasse. I beat Jerry in a really close game of dominoes (it went into "overtime")...yeah!

So between the long walk, the longer bike, fresh air, and really good food...I was in bed by 9:30 and as Jerry said "was asleep almost before I finished saying "I have to go to sleep now".

The Natural Side of Montreal

Black Crowned Night Heron

In Monday's Gazette (montreal's english language newspaper) there was an article on Montreal's 17 major parks (just the ones within the island of montreal). Looked like a check list to us. We have been to small parts of Mount Royal (great views and adjacent cemetaries) and Jean Drapeau Parks (Grand Prix) but frankly hadn't even heard of the other 15. So we grabbed our bikes and off we went. Day One: Ile de la Visitation. This park is located on the northshore of Montreal on the Riviere des Prairies and also includes a small island. It has a wonderful set of walking and biking trails, overlooks onto the river, historic structures including an old general store, mills (ruins) and a cider press. The bistro (Le Bistro des Moulins) is located in the old general store, a building built in the 1700s. After our bike ride, we ate on the terasse and enjoyed a fruit salad with cheese and a delicious broccoli soup. Down in the rushing waters that flow through the old mill ruins were two black crowned night herons, patiently...oh so patiently...waiting to pounce on dinner. They were lovely and quite unpeturbed by our presence on the bridge above.
We will return to Ile de la Visitation because a) we didn't even get to the trails on the island and b) the food and the setting at Le Bistro was worth the trip alone. We were there mid-week and no "special events" were going on but apparently they have some kind of "train" weekends and "theme" dinners in the fall. For info: 514 280 6733 or

Jerry on one of several bridges spanning a side channel of the riviere des prairiesA hydroelectric dam over riviere de of the oldest dams still operating in Quebec...constructed in 1929

Detail of windows in the building that now houes the "old general store" and Le Bistro des Moulins. Built in the 1700s...started out life as a mill.

The Terrasse of Le Bistro des Moulins

It's Raining - A Good Day to Sleep In and Blog

It's Wednesday and we've been having so much fun that I haven't had a chance to blog about Montreal since our arrival on Saturday. So here goes:

Steak Frites and Pyrotechnics
Our first night (Saturday) we walked just a short block from the apartment and ate at "Steak Frites". The Rue St. Paul restaurant is one of several locations in the small restaurant chain. The food was good. Service was a little slow...but it was a kitchen thing not a waiter thing. They have several types of steaks in several sizes, a salmon dish, and a few others. It is "apportez votre vin" or a BYOB. Salads (salade maison and the salade au chevre chaud (a green salad with goat cheese melted on top of small pieces of toast) were excellent and refreshing. The Onion soup was REALLY good. Our steak frites (which we shared) was cooked exactly as we asked. Jerry thought the frites could be a little better, I thought they were very good. It was a nice start to our week here in Montreal. They are first come first we had to wait in a line for was worth it.
Later in the evening (as I worked on my photos) we heard the pop pop boom of fireworks. Throwing open our double windows and hanging out just a bit we could see China's entry into this year's International Fireworks Competition that runs here from June to the first week of August. The finale is tonight, so I'm hoping the rain lets up, we want to go up on the roof to watch them.
March Jean Talon - Farmer's Market
Sunday morning dawned lovely and we were off to pick up my old bike (now refurbished with a basket and new tires) and stop by our favorite Farmer's Market - Marche Jean Talon. The market is located in the middle of LIttle Italy and this time of year is overflowing with the bounty of Quebec and Canada. Everything we bought came from Quebec (except the cherries which were from BRitish Columbis): cantaloup, tomatos, dill, basil, sausage, baby carrots, raspberries and teeny weenie bluets (blueberries).

Fresh Blueberries

Costco in Quebec

For any of you who knows of my husband's fascination with Costco you'll know just how special the following statement is: There are 18 Costcos in Quebec and 11 within 6.5 miles of our apartment!!!! When we starting coming up here 5 years ago there were 5 in the region. 11..think of that...there are only 2 in the entire Philadelphia area (3 if you count the 45 minute trek to the one in Christiana Delaware!). We usually hit the one closest to us in the Old Port area but also we usually make one trek out to the one off the 40 at the St Jean Blvd off is the one that usually has more books in English! So that was our Sunday midday outing.

Rue Bernard
The last night we were in Montreal we walked along a few blocks of Rue Bernard Ouest (just west of Park Avenue) while we waited for our dinner reservations at Milos. We made a mental note to return this visit for a closer look. Located in the Outremont/Miles end areas...rue Bernard is a great street for walking, eating, and shopping (and a few errands as well).
Sunday we ate at La Moulerie...a restaurant specializing in mussels (one of Jerry's favorite things). On the corner of Rue Bernard and Champagneur and across from the artdeco Outremont Theatre, the restaurant has a lovely terrace. We ate early so it wasn't very full and we enjoyed sharing the terrasse with a man and his "little white dog"...she was adorable. Although after the rotweiller being walked down the street lunged under the table to sniff at her (we hope that is all it had in mind) she wanted to be NOWHERE ELSE other than on her owners lap...who could blame her. The mussesl were great as were the salads. I had a fish soup filled with little bits of all sorts of good fish and crustaceans...delicious! La Moulerie 1249 Bernard O., 514-273-8132

Needing to walk off some of those splendid mussels we wandered up and down both sides of the streets. At 211 Bernard West (on the east side of Park) we came across an oddly but creatively titled bookstore: Drawn and Quarterly. What a find!!!!! One of my favorite places now in Montreal. Drawn and Quarterly, the company, is a Canadian comic book publishing company based in Montreal and focussing on graphic novels and underground/alternative comics. The store offers Drawn and Quarterly publications and a lot more. Art books, "regular" novels...a small but discerning selection of current bestsellers and classics, wonderful illustrated childern's books. There website is

Inside Drawn and Quarterly at 211 Rue Bernard West

A couple of days later we returned for more exploring, starting off with..yes, Had an early lunch at Lester's (Mr. Smoked Meat) famous for its smoked meat (Pastrami to those in the US). Great sandwich, good slaw, divine pickle, and a great table outside on the sidewalk on a warm sunny day.

Once filled with delicious smoked meat and a diet coke, we were off for a bit of shopping and errands. KoKoon is located right next door to Lester's and is a fun off -beat gift store. Everything from kitchen gadgets to jewelry to wonderful one tell her...but I bought Laurel a green lily pad umbrella for Christmas (she need it moving to Seattle).

But the REAL find of the day was a place called Territoire where a man named Louis-Phillippe Lamarre makes the most beautiful purses and backpack purses. We had seen them in the window on Sunday when it was closed and his purses were the REAL reason (not Lester's meats) that we came back the next day). He is moving soon so he was having a sale and I got TWO wonderful purses..that are one of a kinds too...not that it matters...I love them so much I wouldn't care if everyone I know had the same purse (although it would look strange on Jerry).

There is a great gourmet market, the Outremont Theatre, a key maker (that was our errand), Printemps (another interesting gift store), many other restaurants, etc on Rue St. Bernard. It is also in an area that appears to have a very large population of Hassidic Jews as we see lots of children, mothers with children, and fathers (in their long black coast and tall hats) with children. There are a number of good kosher bakeries as a result.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Last words on Cape Cod and the drive north

Before I start blogging about our current week in Montreal, I have a few more pics to post and stories to tell...not in any particular order.

The Drive from Cape Cod to Montreal

We left Cape Cod and drove up to Montreal through New Hampshire (I-93 through Boston and NH) to the 91 just west of Littleton, NH. North to Magob Quebec and then due west on Canada 10 to Montreal. It was about 6 hours of drive time.
The drive through New Hampshire was a bit overcast but quite lovely. The White Mountains may be white underneath...but they sure looked Green to us. We drove through the Franconia Notch State Park (which used to be home to the "man in the mountain" a natural geological sculpture high on one of the mountains...but its nose slipped off a few years back and "the man" is but a memory!).


We stopped in Littleton, NH. It is a tidy town of about 6000 people on the edge of the White Mountain. The Ammonoosuc River flows through the town and along its banks is the Littleton Grist Mill. A mill that was started in the late 17oos and is what really got the town started. It was restored just a few years ago and is in working order. They even do some milling of wheat there. It sits on the banks of the river next to another restored building that houses a cafe and further downstream is a lovely covered pedestrian bridge built in 2004.

The view from inside the Littleton Grist Mill on the Ammonoosuc River, Littleton, NH

The Mill

Littleton has more to offer in addition to historic sites. There is Chutters...a megaemporium of candy with the Guiness World Book of Record certified longest candy counter in the world. It's 3 tiers measuring 111ft 3/4 inches and supporting 800 jars of all kinds of candy (including sugar-free so Jerry wasn't left out). The Chutters Candy should have seen all the different kinds of licorice they had!!!! And this doesn't even include the fudge counter!!!

After we each out our bags of candy, we strolled down to the Village Book Store...a wonderful independent bookstore right on Main Street. Great selections...children section too. I liked the travel section...all the books for caribbean, mexico, hawaii were in the section marked "WARM". Jerry picked up a new Robin Cook book and I got Erik Larson's new book on Marconi and a mysterious murderer (shades of The Devil and the White City).

People were very nice in town and treat pedestrian the way everyone who lives on the Main Line of Philadelphia would like to be treated. THEY STOP FOR YOU! In fact I think they have been given special radar...they know when you just start thinking about crossing the street and there they are waiting for you! Sidewalks come complete with signs and stencils "Stop, Look, Wave"...I thought at first the "wave" part was so get them to I think it was to remind you to thank everyone for being so considerate.

Final Tidbits on Cape Cod

Lobster Rolls. Our last evening we went to the Raw Bar at the Popponessett Marketplace near the Popponessett Inn on Cape Cod. This place has BY FAR the LARGEST lobster rolls I have ever seen much less attempted to eat. No filler (no celery or lettuce), VERY little mayo, just great bighunks of lobster on a untoasted/unbuttered bun. It's a very casual place (we shared a table with a family and their shitzupoodle "rosie"). These rolls are at the top of our list right there with the ones at Falmouth's Clam Shack and the Seaview in Mystic Seaport. (I would have a picture but I forgot to put the memory card back in my camera!!!)

Swimming on Quamquissett Beach. I finally got to do something I'd always dreamed about. Swimming out in warm ocean water to a floating platform and laying in the sun. Having grown up on the Pacific Coast where the water is never calm enough for a swimming platform, I'd always felt cheated. On Friday, we went to a small private beach near Quissett Harbor which comes with a civilized deck (both upper and lower) for sitting and the coolest boardwalk that descends right into the water (past all the gooey stuff and rocks). The water was the warmest Peg could remember. It was delightful!!!!

Quamquissett Beach

Green Frogs: The house we stayed at has a beautiful pond down a path at the base of hill out the back door. There are at least 14 Green Frogs in residence (who are very good at hiding...they stay very, very, very, still). They entertained us with their call...if you'd like to hear it...go to this website: We also heard them around the local ponds too. It's hard to say if there are more frogs or rabbits (since the coyotes has disappeared there seem to be more of both).

For more photos of our week in Cape Cod (with more tidbits and info) please go to:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Eating, Walking, Snapping (pictures) and Shopping

Shucker's - "World Famous Raw Bar" - Woods Hole, Cape Cod, MA

A delightful casual spot on Eel Pond in Wood's Hole with covered patio dining and a casual bar. We had a great meal. I had GREAT steamers with a fabulous herbed broth. Jerry had the "italian" Mussels which he liked (although they were only warm not hot). Peg was craving she said "after 5 weeks of fish" and had a wonderful burger. Jeff enjoyed his cioppino and Em liked her scrod. The corn on the cod was REAL... freshly prepared corn on the cob...not the soft mushy steamed corn that you get so many places. It was sweet and firm. The cherrystones appetizer was fresh, fresh, fresh...very tasty.

Late Afternoon in Quissett Harbor

Wednesday afternoon Peg, Jeff and Em went for a sail in Peg and Jeff's Herreshoff S-Class Sail Boat. The Aeolus was built in 1932 and 1997 - 2000 by Doug Cooper in Sippowissett on Cape Cod. Peg and Jeff bought Aeolus in 2006 and sail her when they come to Cape Cod every summer. She is moored in Quissett Harbor. While they went sailing, Jerry and I walked around the very pretty harbor and took the trail out to "The Knob" which is a small rocky knoll at the end of the spit of land that forms one side of the entrance to the Harbor. I took my cameras and we took pictures of Aeolus as she sailed out of the harbor and out in Buzzard's Bay. I'll post a couple of pictures here...the complete set is at my flckr site:

Girls Outing in Falmouth

Peg and I took a couple of hours and went into Falmouth for some girl time. Went and had manicures at 10 Perfect Nails on Main Street. Then we popped into The Black Dog to check out their "summer day" sale and walked across the street to Rosie Cheeks a wonderful boutique which has beautiful and unusual clothes, shoes, and jewelry. Beautiful fibers and fabrics. Then we popped down to Falmouth Harbor area and visited one of Peg's favorite needlepoint stores.