A Week in Montreal

We’re back on the Island after a week away.

Friday last we drove over to Halifax and, from there, flew Air Canada to Montreal. Other than an hour’s delay for the flight (we were frequently updated by the ground staff), the trip was uneventful. We arrived in Montreal at about 11:00 p.m., and faced with a complicated bus-metro-bus trip to brother (aka uncle) Steve’s (on the Plateau), we took a cab.

Oliver is at a difficult age for getting around without a car: we’ve stopped traveling with his car seat for the airplane, so when we take cabs, he gets belted into the middle seat at the back, which isn’t exactly the safest thing, but is better than nothing. I’d be curious to know how other parents traveling with small children handle this problem. Of course anything is safer than scooting around the streets of Bangkok in a Tuk-Tuk with Oliver clutching me for dear life. Everything is relative.

We were all happy to see Steve, especially Oliver, who obviously remembered our trip there in December (he may not be able to talk in complete sentences, but Oliver remembers everything detail of every place he has ever been). Oliver slept like a rock in his makeshift bed, made from the leftover cushions on Steve’s pull-out couch.

Saturday morning we woke up to a nice steady snowfall, which made our trip to the Fête des Neiges all the more snow-themed. We walked to the Metro (Steve’s house is about a 30 minute walk east of the Mont-Royal station), and then took the Metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau. When we emerged, we found the weather just on the cusp of bitterly cold, which we reacted to by trying to maintain constant activity: we took a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh (horse was Bella, driven by Danny), ate boiled maple syrup poured onto snow, and walked through the various displays of ice and snow carvings. There was a most pleasant warming hall set up, which included a baby changing area complete with free diapers, wipes, cream, and francophone grandmother to assist with operations.

Saturday night Steve cooked up a pasta feast (it’s so nice to shop along Mont-Royal at various specialized shops rather than slurping up everything at the super-giant grocery store), and we watched Secondhand Lions which was actually quite good, despite the presence of the robotic crying machine Haley Joel Osment.

Sunday we diddled and doddled, and then headed to Bill, Laurence, Jimmy and Juliette’s house for dinner near the Côte Vertu Metro stop. Oliver had a wonderful time wearing their Bear in a Big Blue House bear costume around and playing with their seemingly infinite collection of toys. We had a great meal, listened to some great music, and then headed off back into the night.

Monday and Tuesday I spent working with Bill and Laurence on secret modern dance projects (the nominal purpose of our trip) while Catherine and Oliver explored Montreal and Steve was at work at the CBC. Monday night we had an excellent Jamaican meal called Mango Bay on Bishop Street, just south of Ste. Catherine.

On Wednesday, Catherine went off on her own, and Oliver and I went out to lunch with Steve at a Japanese noodle bar near the CBC and then went magazine shopping downtown. Wednesday evening we took a taxi back to the airport and were in Halifax about 11:30 p.m.

Rather than a long late slog back to Charlottetown, we decided to head into Halifax for the night. With some Internet research assistance from Johnny and Jodi, we reserved a room for $99 at The Lord Nelson. I thought that by staying at The Lord Nelson we were going to have a comfortable, well-appointed room in the heart of the city. Instead we got a rather grotty room, with avacado bathroom fixtures, overlooking a noisy construction site. The hotel did, however, have a nice lobby.

Thursday morning we sped around Halifax grocery shopping, including the purchase of a rice cooker, which is something we’ve wanted to add to our kitchen for a long time. Given that rice is an almost daily part of our diet, it seemed logical to make the jump from the cheap, ineffective $45 Black and Decker model we’ve have for 5 years to something more substantial, so we now own a $210 Japanese-made rice cooker that claims to use fuzzy logic to obtain maximum quality rice cooking. The rice is cooking now, and we’ll know whether it worked out in about 25 minutes.

On the way out of town we stopped at Pete’s Frootique in Bedford (and spooted Pete himself getting white wine for his wife’s birthday dinner; note for future reference that she is allergic to shellfish) and stocked up on Ting, ginger beer, and exotic fruits. Then it was a quick dash back to the Island.

All in all a nice almost-week away. Steve is an excellent host, it was nice to see Bill and Laurence and Jimmy again (and Juliette for the first time). It was Catherine’s first trip to Montreal lasting more than 2 hours, and only my second since the long, cold winter of lonely unemployment back in the late 1980s, so we’re still in that nascent phase of our relationship with the city, but all signs are positive.

Oh, and I think I may have committed to driving to Murmansk next summer. Stay tuned for details.


Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on February 13, 2004 - 23:41 Permalink

I use a Paderno pot (and lid) and get perfect rice every time in 12-15 minutes, Gadget Boy;and it works for spuds and pasta too.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 13, 2004 - 23:59 Permalink

Millions of Koreans can’t be wrong.

Alan's picture
Alan on February 14, 2004 - 04:06 Permalink

You have to get the Spring Garden side rooms. It is trick with the Lord Nelson as there were two builds. My brother always gets the 99 buck that you have but the $129 suites are perfectly fine with new furnishings and still a few original brass fittings.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on February 14, 2004 - 09:08 Permalink

Rice is easy, just seems hard.

Get the saucepan you already have. A saucepan is what you might think of a smaller pot with a single handle and a lid. Measure a quantity of rice, say one cup. Measure twice that much water or stock or whatever liquid. Place the saucepan on a medium flame. Add a tablespoon or so of butter or olive oil, and the rice. Stir to coat the rice with fat.

(There are pilaf-y things you can do with chopped onions or broken bits of pasta, maybe orzo. These can happen here, too. But don’t wait. We’re moving fast, but sure and simple.)

Once the rice is coated, add the liquid (2:1, whatever it is). Raise the flame high, bring to a boil.

As soon as it boils, turn the flame as low as it will go without blowing out, cover the saucepan with its lid, and set a timer for 18 minutes. No more, no less.

When the timer sounds, move the saucepan to a cold burner and let stand for five minutes. Because this is so simple you’ve probably got other tasks to fill the time. There is no peeking: do not remove the lid, don’t fuss. We’re steaming. It’s about low heat, time, and little else.

After five minutes standing (longer if you need it) pop the saucepan lid, fluff the rice with a fork and serve. White rice never fails under this method, not even marginally. Brown rice might want a minute or two beyond 18, but if you like brown rice you won’t care. Short-grain and Arborio will behave the same as long-grain white or Basmati.

When you know the 2:1, the 18-minute timing and no-peeky, you can prepare rice over a campfire, and know that rice-makers seek to give you fish instead of teaching you how.

And always make twice what you need. Rice, the staff of life in the Orient (bread is ours) is incredibly cheap. You’ll find something to do with the extra — fried rice with ginger and garlic and leftover anything? — and if you toss it, who cares?


Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on February 14, 2004 - 09:33 Permalink

But enough about rice …

My favorite restaurants in Montr

Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on February 14, 2004 - 13:03 Permalink

How many people eat at MacDonald’s daily? Still doesn’t make it good. How did Niel Young put it? “…numbers add up to nothing…” I’ll talk to the Koreans too, everyone can use a Paderno Pot(and lid), lovingly crafted on PEI for your culinary adventures.

Montreal Suck's picture
Montreal Suck on August 25, 2004 - 05:25 Permalink

Give me a break with Montreal’s restaurants! Have a look at this link and then MAYBE you’ll change your mind… It’s in Frech by the way and it gives you a list of all the dirty restaurants every single month and believe me, almost all of the restaurants in this city end up on this list. http://services.ville.montreal…

Now you have a link in English that tells you about how this whole process works if you want to complain about dirty restaurants: