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MARCH OF THE LIVING

As many of you loyal readers know, I have just returned from Poland, where I participated in the March of the Living (MOL) from Auschwitz to Birkenau. The trip itself is a 2-part educational journey, from Poland to Israel. Originally designed for 17-year old students, there was so much interest that there is now an adult trip, as well as a young adult trip. For more information, click here.

A bit of background: I went to Prague for my 30th birthday, 16 long years ago. It was a magnificent city. And I hated it. For me, it was like the Epcot Center for dead Jews. We went to Terezin (Theresienstadt), a concentration camp masquerading as Jewish settlement, complete with gas chamber and crematorium. Thousands of people were murdered there and, after visiting the town/camp, I had no interest in seeing any others.

Until January 2014 when I attended an exhibit at the UN in NYC. Entitled “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness”, the event showcased photos from previous Marches, as well as testimony from survivors.  As the survivors spoke it was impossible not to be moved to tears. I decided I wanted to join my parents on the March of Living, to travel to Poland and visit these places with people who survived the horrors. I wanted to bear witness, and hear the stories first-hand, before those who had survived were no longer alive to tell their stories.

As the departure date neared, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth I was thinking. Why was I choosing a trip of tears? Why hadn’t I just booked a beach vacay? Friends and family were wishing me bon voyage with some trepidation – no one wanted to say “have fun” or, “enjoy”. It simply wasn’t that kind of trip. Was it?

The night before I left, my Man and I spent some time on-line, googling Poland and Warsaw and checking out what else there was to see, aside from death camps and cemeteries. Admittedly, I was nervous to go to a place where, in my mind, they hate Jews. First thing I learned was that, among all the Nazi-occupied countries in Europe, Poland was the least collaborative. In fact, of all of the “Righteous among the Nations”, the highest number came from Poland.

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LOT Polish airways was phenomenal. The flight attendants were lovely and helpful and friendly. Was this a taste of the Poland to come? Turns out, it was. When my bag disappeared and I arrived in Warsaw without a change of clothes, I hit the local mall where the people I dealt with were nothing but nice. And normal. It was like being at Yorkdale, just a lot whiter. A lot. Being used to multi-culti Toronto, that was the one thing that stood out in Poland.

With the arrival of 3 busloads of Toronto-based Adults, our trip began in earnest. First stop were cemeteries in Lodz and Warsaw, with a visit to the Radegast train station memorial, the sight were thousands of Jews were deported from the Lodz ghetto to certain death.

lodz memorial

It was a long day with tired, jet-lagged people and an overwhelming amount of gravestones.

Jewish Cemetery in Lodz

Jewish Cemetery in Lodz

With each stone, a story:  LL Zamenhof, an opthamologist who created the international language of Esperanto; Marek Edelman, a commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who survived, participated in the Warsaw Uprising and eventually died in Lodz in 2009, age 90; Janusz Korcak, the Dr Seuss/Dr Spock of the day, a famous educator and pediatrician, who ran an orphanage in the ghetto. When offered shelter on the Aryan side, as well as special treatment, he refused, sticking with “his” children – all the way to Treblinka where they were all murdered. The list goes on….At the Lodz cemetery, thousands of markers have been placed by Israeli soldiers to commemorate those who were killed. Each year, more are added to the growing field of memory.

Gensha Cemetery in Warsaw

Gensha Cemetery in Warsaw

Our brilliant tour guide, Mike Hollander, reminded us at every turn: for the Poles, the Holocaust was a Polish tragedy in which 6 million Poles died, half of them Jewish.  This can be seen at the Treblinka memorial.

treblinka 1

Treblinka, a death camp in which over 800,000 human beings were murdered was destroyed by the Nazis as they retreated. It is now a contemplative, beautiful memorial built by the Polish government as “a tragic monument of martyrdom”. Over 130 stones have been placed, each to commemorate the name of a town from which Jews were deported and killed.

One such town was Tykochin where, in the summer of 1941, 2000 Jewish men, women and children – half of the town’s population – were taken from their homes. Marched into the nearby Lupohowa Forest, they were forced to dig ditches before being shot. An entire town, obliterated in a matter of hours, buried in a handful of mass graves.

Tykochin Shul

Tykochin Shul

The synagogue still stands in Tykochin, a memorial to the town’s once thriving Jewish community. One of our accompanying survivors, Irving Eisner, led our group in a rousing sing-song in which it was impossible not to partake.

Warsaw Old Town!

Warsaw Old Town!

We spent a day wandering the rainy streets of Warsaw: the gorgeous and interactive Chopin museum; the Historic Centre of Warsaw, completely rebuilt after being destroyed by the Germans and now a UNESCO-heritage site; the New Museum of Jewish Life; memorials to the Ghetto uprising; Mila 18 – the bunker the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising used as their headquarters. For those who’ve read the Leon Uris novel, it was a bit of a pilgrimage!

Mila 18.

Mila 18.

Next stop: Krakow. We visited the old Jewish quarter, the ghetto, and the pharmacy belonging to Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Catholic Pole who rescued many Jews and who bore witness to the abuse, deportation and death of many more. We did a drive by past Schindler’s factory and walked around the market square. Pope John Paul II was canonized that day, so the streets were packed with worshippers, revellers, and fans of the near-local priest who made it to the big time.

Krakow.

Krakow.

And then there was the day of the March. Max Eisen, the phenomenally wise and well-spoken survivor who accompanied our bus, walked us through Auschwitz, the camp where he survived while the remainder of his family was murdered.

Max Eisen

Max Eisen

Clothing of all sizes. Suitcases with the names of adults and children still chalked on them. Prosthetic limbs, canes and crutches. Eyeglasses and shoes. Several tonnes of human hair. All stolen from humans before and after their death, and now on display. Personally, I found it repulsive. I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of such things. Seeing the display cases filled with children’s items – from bonnets to toys to dolls –  I lost it.

Empty, ready for Marchers.

Before: Empty, ready for Marchers.

Outside, in between the barracks, were the holding areas for the Marchers. Placards representing over 10,000 people from 40 countries were lined up: Canada, US, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Hungary, Austria, Germany, England, France, Israel and, of course, Poland were just some of the countries from which I saw people.  Everyone wore matching blue windbreakers.

After: filled with Marchers.

After: filled with Marchers.

We began our march, from Auschwitz to Birkenau.

As far as can see

As far as the eye could see there were marchers in blue jackets. There was no beginning, no end. Poles lined the streets to watch and, contrary to rumours I’ve heard, there were absolutely no people throwing stones or yelling insults. Au contraire. There was nothing but love and humanity along the 3Km route.

Polish supp

Traditionally, the march is silent but where we were it was anything but. Israelis sang songs and survivors shared stories. School children from all over, Jews and non-Jews, all marched together in remembrance.

birkenau

As we entered the gates of Birkenau, we walked along the train tracks. People placed markers in honour of those who had perished. I was walking on behalf of my friend Sue’s mom, Lynn Mumford, nee Lisl Lichtenstein. At age 7 she was sent to live in England. Her brother, Erich, was 12 or 13, too old to be a part of the UK-bound Kindertransport.  He perished, along with the rest of the family.

Over a loudspeaker, a list of children who had been killed was being read. As people filled into the area, some took seats, some sat on grass, and some simply stood. There were performances, songs and speeches. Among the more memorable speakers were the President of Hungary, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry; the grand-niece of Raoul Wallenberg who, using his diplomatic office, saved over 100,000 Jewish people before disappearing into the Soviet Gulag at the war’s end; the Head Sephardic Rabbi in NY who ran through a list of Sephardi communities that were decimated. Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, the former Head Rabbi in Israel, and Chilean philanthropist Leonardo Farkas also spoke. Finally, 6 survivors helped complete a Torah scroll that would be accompanying all future marches of the Living.

After such an emotional day, I was ready to go home. I wanted – needed – to be with my people. But we had a couple more stops to make.

First was Kielce, famous for the pogrom which killed 42 Jewish survivors after the war was over. There was also a beautifully touching memorial to the 45 Jewish children of Kielce who were marched into the cemetery and then executed by Nazis. Vile. The next day we joined many other groups in Lublin, an ancient site of Jewish learning in Poland. We visited the Yeshiva and then we made our way back to Warsaw via Madjanek.

majdanek

This concentration camp, almost fully intact, is mere minutes from the city of Lublin. It was here where particularly sadistic and chilling stories were set. Barracks still stand, some filled with shoes, others with other remnants of Jewish life. And death. The camp is enormous. At its end, a mammoth stone monument representing the weight of memory covers a mountain of ashes of the victims collected by local civilians and preserved in an open-air mausoleum.

The sun shines on the ashes of the victims of Madjanek.

The sun shines on the ashes of the victims of Madjanek.

What an intensely moving and incredible week it was. That there could be so much humanity where one of history’s darkest moments took place is difficult to fathom. So many tears shed, yet many uplifting moments as well. I’ve brought home more hope and faith than I left with. For those thinking about making this difficult journey, I can’t urge you strongly enough to do it NOW, while there are still survivors left to share their stories. While the physical structures hold their own meanings, it’s the words and memories of the brave and incredible survivors who accompanied us and allowed us to bear witness that had the most impact. As Mike, our guide, reminded us countless times: it’s the presence of absence, and the absence of presence that leaves us with more questions than answers.

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May 4, 2014   No Comments

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Canyon Ranch

I’ve just returned from a week at Canyon Ranch Spa in Tuscon, Arizona with my mom and step-sister. I was looking forward to it – mostly because I’d be away. And it would be warm. But Other People? They were delirious on my behalf, extolling the joys and wonders of the place with almost cult-like adoration. My mother made the plan a year ago. My step sister had been counting down the days. Envious friends gave me pointers – the best classes, the best treatments, the Mongolian Salmon. Me? I viewed it with a sense of trepidation. I’d been there 25 years ago and, aside from hanging with my pal Jayne and doing meditative breathing with Yoko Ono, the highlights were few and far between.

Camp Canyon Ranch

Camp Canyon Ranch

I remembered a kibbutz-like place with cheesy Southwestern furnishings and dark carpets. A dining room with faux-alcoholic drinks and fitness cheese. Portion control and aerobics. Handwriting analysis and cooking demos. Feeling the burn inside and out.

Those were the late 80’s. Those days are done.

After being there for a week and being home for all of 3 days, I can safely say: I’ve been Ranched.

Canyon Ranch in 2013 is no mere fat farm. In fact, I think I gained weight (OK, I know I did but I’m pretending it’s muscle!). While it still retains it’s kibbutz-meets-summer camp vibe, the rooms have been updated and the decor is charming. As if it even matters – you’re never inside.

Pool with a view.

View from the pool.

Portion control has been replaced with All You Can Eat: salad and pasta bars, breakfast buffet and omelet station. And if the calorie count and nutrition data on the menus doesn’t stop you, sharing meal after meal cruise-style (lamb chops for the table!) most certainly will.

Aerobics? Bah! No feeling the burn in these classes. You’re feeling the music: DJ Dance Party (with live DJ), World Beat (live drummers), Long & Lean Barre Class (live leg shakes). Zumba (live hot instructors). Spin and stretch. Cardio Combat. TRX ‘n Flex. Yoga. Pilates. Straight up cardio machines and weight rooms. There’s something for every body. Morning walks, hikes and bike rides.

Kinda proud. Kinda scared.

Kinda proud. Kinda scared.


A long way up....A long way down...

A long way up….A long way down…

And then there are the treatments. I was scrubbed, rubbed and…um…tugged. Salt exfoliation. Deep tissue manipulation. Lazy Yoga Thai Massage. I was whacked with herbal poultices, Loofah’d with dried Ayurvedic herbs and Infused with oxygen. I even had 20 minutes worth of hot oil dripped on to my hair and scalp.

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Hot tubs. Cold pools. Eucalyptus inhalation. Alpine steam. Sauna. Swimming. Even shopping! With a high end boutique and a Ranch General Store, our nights were busy with browsing. And Bingo.

The week we were there the average age hovered around 67. So, naturally I felt very young, fit and spry. No celebs (that we knew of), nothing too fancy. Early to bed. Early to rise. Good, clean living. Topped off with a cookie-of-the-day. Every day.

As the week went on, our extended group planned for next year. I humoured them, knowing more exotic, exciting and far flung locales awaited me. Or at least Miami.

And then I came home. And now? Listening to the raindrops and the hum of my heating I’m surfing their site and planning my next visit.

Yup, I’ve been Ranched.

Giving our Canadian "spring" The Finger.

Giving our Canadian “spring” The Finger.

April 10, 2013   No Comments

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NY NY

Almost 4 years ago, my brother asked my kids what they wanted for Chanukah. One said “candy”. The other, older and wiser at age 5, answered “I want to see you in your house”. Since said house was in NYC, my brother sent over tix – one for my boy and one for me – and off we went. This child had an agenda. No Broadway shows for him. He had other business. He wanted to see Central Park and The Statue of Liberty, following the escaped footprints of Marvin the Ape. He also needed to check out The American Museum of Natural History (thanks, Night at the Museum).

And so we did. We traipsed through Tribeca and Soho. We wandered through the Park by foot, carousel, and handsome cab. Butterfly exhibits, dinosaurs, and tableaux. The Museum shop (our favourite part!). Coffees a-plenty. Neighborhood parks. River walks. Taxi boat tour. Lady Liberty. Visits with friends. A side trip to cousins in Jersey. We did it all.

Cut to: present day. It’s 6-yr-old son #2’s turn to visit his uncle. So off we flew, down to the Big City.

This time, there were no museums. Pas de parks. Forget the friends. Our agenda was simple: dining and retail. This was a boy after my own heart. He had things to eat and stuff to buy. And so did I!

We arrived and immediately went for lunch at Bubby’s. Child-friendly, lots of fried stuff. Crayons. Perfect.

Mac n Cheese w a side of fries....

Next stop: FAO Schwarz. I still have buyer’s remorse. And non-buyer’s regret. I wasn’t that impressed. And my son? He was downright cranky. Why? Because his current obsession, the never-ending spend-a-thon that is Skylanders, wasn’t available. He was sick about it. And no amount of remote control UFOs, big-piano manoeuvres, or FAO Schweetz bulk candy could save the day.

All gummies.And, oddly, bacon-flavoured treats!

The wii was left behind, but was threatening to ruin our trip. As we edged our way down 5th, I stared at the forbidden fruit….Bendels, Sax, Bergdrof’s….I even forced my young traveller into a packed Sax. Crazy shoes, crazier people. And so miserable!! I figured if these folks were browsing the $1000 plus footwear range, surely they’d have something to smile about?? We made our escape and found a cab. As we headed back downtown, the high street stores mocked me with their sale signs. But I was here for my son. It was his trip. And it’s not like I couldn’t find the same stuff here at home, right?

The next day, we headed straight to Central Park.

It was about 500 degrees and we all humoured each other. My brother pretended he was happy to act tourist-y. I pretended the park wasn’t making me melt, and my son pretended he’d rather be running and playing than searching out evasive characters to battle Kaos on the Portal of Power. “Fake it ’til we make it” was our motto. And it worked. We had a blast, despite toilet line-ups, creepy “human statues” and nutritional data on the front of the pretzel cart.

Did you know NYC street meat is practically dietetic? A mere 200 cals. Compare that to a classic Big Apple pretzel, which packs upwards of 400 cals for its salt-crusted goodness. Crazy right?

We headed to my bro’s diner of choice. Which happened to be stationed directly across from Barney’s. What kind of cruel joke was this? I mentioned popping in…just for a few minutes… but was met with steely silence. Not this trip.

“It’s not my trip….It’s not my trip….It’s not my trip….”

And off we went to Times Square. On Memorial Day weekend. Packed with military pomp. My son loved it. He climbed a tank. He faux-drove an armored hummer. He even posed with a sweaty shrek. The reason for his glee and happiness? We hit up the supersized Toys R Us and hit the Skylanders mother lode. $150 dollars worth of made-in-China later and I thought I’d be in the clear. I was wrong.

After Times Sq (and a celeb spot! Snoop Dogg … Can we call him Snoop?) we headed back downtown. My brother skipped out on us, and my son insisted we go back to our place to relax. The poor little guy was exhausted. We found ourselves stuck in traffic. Again.

“It’s not my trip…It’s not my trip….” The boutiques continued to beckon. “It’s not my trip…It’s not my trip…” Maybe we should go back to my brother’s. My son could crash out, I could do some on-line browsing, maybe have stuff delivered express…And then the glorious pink awning of Olive & Bettes appeared right outside my taxi door.

PULL OVER!

And we did. My son was given my iphone and instructed to remain seated. I’d had enough. It was my trip, goddammit. The cranky clouds of grumpiness lifted with each dress I tried on. And 90 minutes later, we were on our way, laden down with bags, going to meet my sister-in-law and niece for coffee, cake and combo comparisons. Now THIS was my kinda town (yeah I know it’s a Chicago reference. Too bad). And my boy felt it too. Suddenly, he wanted to stop in anywhere and everywhere. He was thrilled with his new light up shoes and endless other bribes. We were in NYC, goddamit. Screw the sites. We were shopping.

everyone loves retail!

Even a jaunt out to Greenwich CT the following day couldn’t dampen the afterglow of my spree. Despite the 60 minutes it took (instead of the 20 we were quoted!). And despite the train being packed. And sitting backwards. I knew a quick stop at Scoop would make it all alright.

Retail therapy? Hell yeah! The doctor was in, and taking visa!

Trains, planes, automobiles and boats. Restos, diners, sushi bars and coffee shops. Heat waves and thunder showers, friendly faces and complete psychos – we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Big Apple. Especially once we/I gave in to the temptation facing us/me at every corner.

A New York State of mind indeed. And we’ve got the new outfits, shoes and toys to prove it.

June 11, 2012   1 Comment

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Hopgood Burgers Priest

Two hotspot restaurants. Both offering up comfort food. Both hailing from the East. One from the far-off coast of Nova Scotia. The other from the wilds of Leslieville. Yep, we’ve been eating well….At Hopgoods Foodliner and Burgers Priest. Terrible non sequitur. Terrific eats.

BURGERS PRIEST

First off, we head east to Burgers Priest. But not all the way east. The iconic burger joint, recently ranked third best resto in TO by Zagat’s, has opened a spot on Yonge between Lawrence and Wilson. There’s a bit of a backlash of course, with claims that the new location isn’t as tasty or friendly as the first but whatev. I’m a bit late to the meat patty party and I just wanted to see what the dealio was. In the battle of the burger, this is the King. The spot with the secret alterna-menu. The one that has burger lovers lined up out the door, down the street and around the block. The real question is: is it worth the hype?

HELL YEAH! Especially if someone else does the picking up. I was blessed with a meat-lovin’ man whose absolute pleasure it was to head over to Burgers Priest and bring home the bacon (-double cheeseburger). With a couple of extra burgers on the side, no less. We mowed our way through the aforementioned classic with all the fixin’s. Yes, it was that good. Bacon was perfectly crisp, tomato slice tasted like a tomato. And were those Vidalia onions? Because they were sweet and crisp and delicious. Next up, “The Priest”. Picture two portobello mushroom caps with a whack of cheese. Now drop it into the deep fryer. YUM! This is the Official Vegetarian Option. They call it…The Option. We took that Option and raised it – atop a real beef patty. Oh yes we did. Veggie/real deal combo. Slide some panko-crusted deep-fried jalapeno peppers underneath and we found our winner! As an added extra, we also sampled “Jarge Style” per their suggestions. This was a burger fried in yellow mustard and topped with fried onions. That sucker put us over the edge. A bit of a lingerer, that final burger was not needed for so many reasons (and calories and fat grams). But now we know for next time. And despite the major meat hangover, there will absolutely be a next time. We failed to taste the piece de resistance of the secret menu: “Vatican Style”. Or perhaps “Tower of Babel”. Every website has a different name. Either way, they’ve replaced the bun with….grilled cheese buns!! Top and bottom. Disgusting? Delicious!

Pictures don’t do these meat parties…I mean patties…justice. Nor does this:

Out. Of. Control.

These are the homemade candy bar desserts at Hopgood’s. One is a maple square. The other, some kind of ridiculous fudge/rice crispie combo slice of heaven. Beautifully wrapped up. Could’ve had several. Then again, my compadres and I had tried almost everything. Marinated lemony halibut. Oysters. Smoked mackerel on homemade oatcakes. And even – gasp – lamb heart tartar. Full confession: loved the surf. Not the turf. I’m not a huge tartar fan at the best of times. But lamb? heart? Too lamby. Too organ-y. I tried to be adventurous. And failed. Tho’ the dehydrated cream bits – which sounds vile – were delicious. Like little morsels of dried ice cream or something. The others liked it.

Heart of Lamb. The toasties were tasty....

All this was followed by a seared tuna in/on seaweed broth – divine. Scallops were ordered because the mashed potato balls on the side sounded too good to resist. The creamy kale was fantastic. Best of all, however, was the steak ‘n shrimp. We were warned that it wasn’t a steak per se, but more like brisket. Call it what you will – it was sublime. Definitely the winner of the night.

Room was plain -and packed. Great vibe. Great food. Great staff. They’ve clearly drunk the Hopgood KoolAid. They were as excited about each plate as we were. In some cases, more so! They didn’t serve coffee, as they were trying to keep the party going. They did, however, bring us some kind of milk liquor which was a creamy, dreamy dessert of a drink.

The big debate was whether or not Hopgood’s was a 10. Perhaps not, but it was pretty damn close. The place was packed with happy diners, tho’ no line out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-door. Not yet….

April 10, 2012   1 Comment

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Mmmmmm….MIAMI!

Aaaahhhh, Miami…. America’s Riviera. Playground for the rich & famous. Southern home for Canadian Snowbirds. And some damn fine food. Everybody’s got their go-to’s in Miami. For every name dropper at Joe’s Stone Crab, there’s someone waiting at Prime Italian. While Micheal’s and Michy’s battle out over in the design district, fressers cruise the inland strip mall “Bagels” looking for jumbo bakery baskets and salad scoops in sloppy second reincarnations of Wolfie’s and Rascal House. Locals claim there are no Asian restaurants in the 305! They oughtta head on over to Hakkasan or Zuma. Or stop into any number of sumo/samba/samurai spots for fabulous maki and bizarre sushi combos.

Yup, everybody’s got their fave Florida finds. Herewith, some of mine!

PRIME

Be warned: at this hip American steakhouse they make you wait. And wait. And wait. Luckily, their cocktail list is sublime and, better still, the complimentary bar snacks:

Yep - that's one tall glass o' bacon!

The menu is outstanding – carnivore or not. In fact, for us the steaks were the least interesting part of the menu. It was all about the starters and “accessories”. We went for tuna sliders, house chopped salad, rapini and truffle fries. And of course a lovely whack of tenderloin. Tater tots and beets ‘n blue? I’m coming for you next time!!

Tuna sliders on Brioche. Just as tasty the next day!

Hardly healthy. But oh so tasty. Enough for 6.

Deep fried oreos. That's right. Deep. Fried. Oreos.

My pal and I split everything. And we shared the entire meal again the following day. Yup, we doggie bagged half of it – and there were leftovers from the leftovers. All in all over the top, in the best possible way.

OLA and THE DINING ROOM are sister restaurants. Actually brothers. I was torn between the two Latin lovers so, in the end, had both!

OLA – or, Of Latin America – has Chef Douglas Rodriguez at its helm. My pal loved loved loved her meal at his eponymous, now closed, resto at The Astor so this was a must-dine for her. Slick and sophisticated in The Sanctuary Hotel with over ten ceviches to choose from, it was crudo paradiso. We ordered a few but the lobster ceviche was the standout. Homemade corn bread nearly put us over the edge, but we pushed our way through shortrib empanada, braised pork, and sugar cane tuna…..YUM!

Gedempt pork.

Seared tuna pops!

Little brother’s The Dining Room was just as good. A tiny space south of 5th on Lincoln with only a handful of tables, we sat street-side, protected from the rif raf (ok, hungry starers) by a sweet white picket fence. We were warned that they didn’t serve OLA’s crazy bread (thanks goodness, a girl’s gotta bikini to fit into!) but that their butter was better! Garlicky – and true! Ceviches lobster and cobia were fresh and tasty, while the duck salad was a hit. We taunted our friend M for ordering the vanilla squash soup….Until we tried it. Divine! Next up came a delicate halibut, fantastic filet churrasco flanked by tomato, blue cheese and chili salad, and a crazy crispy brazed pork.

I still don’t know which sib I preferred! Do both!

One of the prettiest places in town has got to be Cecconis.

Beautiful. And boasts a retractable roof!!

Located in the old school glamour of the chic and understated Soho Beach House hotel, it boasts an extensive Italian menu and incredible staff. Sure they meander off the menu a little – shrimp became lobster tail, accompaniments were swapped – but they do it with such aplomb that it works, even when it shouldn’t! Chopped tuna salad is made table-side with bespoke spicing. The pizza is paper thin and perfect for sharing, the risotto with sausage was surprisingly light and delicious, and the snapper carpaccio was practically inhaled. In fact, at our dinner we were so busy chitchatting with the enchanting waiter we forgot to take pictures!! Except for the dessert.

Disappointing Dolci

The list of “must-eat” Florida resto’s goes on….Sra Rodriguez, Carpaccio, Barton G, Wish, Nobu, The Miami food trucks. No wonder there’s an obesity problem in the States. Miami alone is a 5-pounder weekend. But worth every ounce.

February 26, 2012   2 Comments

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What Happens in Vegas? Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao, Pride of the Philippines.....

Sin City. Lost Wages. The Entertainment Capital of the Worrrrld.

I’ve just returned from my maiden Vegas voyage and am already plotting ways to get back to that desert oasis. Yep, it could be an addiction. Garish, smoky, crowded and cheesey, I absolutely adored it. And I’m not even a gambler! I tried to be. I really did. Roulette, craps, blackjack and slots – gave each one a shot and lost, lost, lost and lost. I got on a bit of a…. ahem …roll at “Casino War” but my luck soon turned.

Did I care? No! Because Vegas is fantastic. Shopping, eating, checking out the human freakshows, both on stage (“O”) and in the streets (never seen so many surgesized racks). What’s not to love? And we went on a quiet weekend! Sure, I would’ve liked to have lounged poolside, but this was a special occasion getaway. Not only was it my man’s birthday, but we were there as VIP guests of renown photographer David Drebin as his incredible Manny Pacquiao book hit the stands (and the web!).

From the shops....

To the screen via Miss July...

To the toilets...The Book is everywhere!

Our all-access pass took us from the pre-party (Giovanni Ribisi! Jason Lee! Jeremy Piven!) to the floor (Mike Tyson! Magic Johnson! Too many basketball players to name! Or recognize!). Playboy playmates and Idol castoffs, Mexican Grammy winners and “Eye of the Tiger” Survivor singer, this show had it all. Plus Bill Compton.

Team Bill ('til Eric shows up)

The fight itself was somewhat lukewarm, but being there was hot!!!

Modern day Coliseum

I’d always liked Rocky (and, um Sugar Ray Leonard) but now I can honestly say I’m a fan of the bloodsport. Bring on the Boxing!!! Or at least, another trip to Vegas!!

Ringside!

EAT: We hit Milos for fine Greek (via Montreal) dining. Their octopus and stone crabs were divine, but their “Milos Special” (razor thin fried slivers of zuchinni and eggplant on a bed of tzaziki) were sublime. Their whole fish was, I thought, overrated, its consistency not unlike chewed gum. Eeeewwwww.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi at (The?) Paris was hilarious. French signs, servers greeting us with “bonjour” and baguette served in paper bags. All we needed were some cyclists avec paniers to make the experience complete. Funny thing is, apparently they have ’em, but we didn’t spot any in Le Casino.

Wolfgang Puck – he’s not just for airports! The guy’s got spots all over the town. We headed over to MGM’s version post-fight for pizza and salads. Tasty.

Beso, Eva Longoria’s Latin Steakhouse, was recommended to us. We were hesitant. But it also happened to be attached to our hotel. So we went. And, despite the stacking of chairs and closing up rituals of the servers (while we were still eating!!) la comida está buena. As were the drinks – in particular their Skinny Colada (coconut vodka, pineapple juice, lime. Zoinks!)

The Buffet. You can’t go to Vegas and not sample their legendary hotel buffets. Or can you? We went once and loaded up on shrimp and bacon. The rest was, well, too buffet-ish. Still, had we known the all-you-can eat extravaganza was included with our daily rate we may have gone back to sample the breakfast pizza (for real) or the award-winning dessert.

I lied. We did sample the award-winning desserts at Jean-Phillippe Patisserie. Their cinnamon danish? Not. Normal. Mind you, the brown sugar coffee cake at the hotel beanery wasn’t too bad either!

Despite eating like piggies, we managed to squeeze ourselves into some new duds. For as much as Vegas is a gamblin’ town it really is all about the shopping.

My fave find was DNA 2050, located in the slick ‘n stylish Cosmopolitan Hotel. His ‘n hers, jeans ‘n tops with a side of footwear. Loved it. Shopped it. Bookmarked it. Also fell for Dutch cosmetic emporium Skins. See ya Sephora, this all-white, upscale product shop has stuff we’ve never seen – nor heard of!

But they was just the beginning. Forum Shops at Ceasar’s (where they really do have folks in Ancient Roman get ups announcing the arrival of the emperor! And Scoop NY!), Crystals for the hoitiest of toity (even the…um…adult shop, Kiki De Montparnasse was couture-ish), the Fashion Show Mall for weekend Runway shows and a myriad of department stores, Miracle Mile for more common finds, and of course the Outlets. It’s impossible to get to them all. But it can’t hurt to try!

VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!

View from (almost) the top of The Aria

November 16, 2011   1 Comment

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Glutton for San Fran

My man turned 40 last week. Trying to figure out where to go and what to do for this particular fellow was a bit of a nightmare. He’s one of the most social cats I know, so a party could be deadly – in every way. And trying to pick a handful of pals for an intimate soiree would result in no end of ribbing, jabs and possibly even stabs, so that was out. A weekend away with the family was out of the question. Aside from the fact that we’d be going South in December, hanging with the under-6 crowd wasn’t really the ideal way to ring in a 40th. Plus we do that every day, so no chance Lance. The whole thing was giving me enough anxiety to give me a mid-life crisis.

So away we went. Gone. Outta here. Sa-yo-na-ra. Adios suckers.

Aaaaahh….if only it were that simple. Planning an escape in mid-November is less than ideal. The hot spots aren’t hot, the exotic spots are too far for 3 days, and the close ones had the same weather sitch as being home. Hit or miss. My man claims he’d be happy in a neighbouring basement with a couple of bottles of wine. But we all know that would suck. Everybody says that – they don’t care, they could go anywhere, etc. CRAP! Having spent one birthday in Niagara Falls, and another in Los Angeles, can you guess which was infinitely more enjoyable?!? Uh-huh, go west young man.

And so we did. Our surprise destination was San Francisco. My man always talked of it adoringly and I’d never been so it really was a no-brainer (once I got the idea into my head, that is).

The big reveal came the day of his birthday. In verse. I contemplated the at-the-airport suprise but post 911 airports aren’t so festive. Plus half the fun of going out of town is bragging….I mean, getting excited about it. Plus, let’s face it – it’s hard enough to pack for myself, let alone choosing his outfits.

He read my dare-I-say awesome poem (which I wanted to post but he wouldn’t let me and it is/was his birthday) and, as I suspected, he hadn’t a clue. Genius surprise! California wasn’t even on his radar for this birthday, which could be why it was all the sweeter…

That, or the food.

Who knew the City by the Bay was such a gourmet paradise? “Fog City”??? Totally inappropriate. Every day was sunny and glorious. It should be renamed “Food City” because, aside from walking off all the meals on those crazy hilly streets, all we did was eat. And some other stuff which I shall leave to your dirty little imaginations. This is a family site for f&cksake!

Frisco. NorCal. SF. San Fran. In three days we couldn’t possibly sample all the city had to offer….Nor did we have a chance to venture away from the city limits, let alone the rest of the Bay Area or 49-Mile Drive. But we did see – and eat – blew our mind.

First off, the Hotel.

Campton Place
in Union Square. We thought of a couple others but this was the winner for us terms of location – and price. It’s part of the Taj group of hotels. Swanky swanky. Tho this once was kinda Taj-lite, it was still AOK. Especially because of the INCREDIBLE concierge, Kyle. He figured us out in about 7 minutes. Maybe he’s somewhat telepathic, or maybe we’re easy reads, but either way, he had us down and pointed us in the right direction.

Taj Campton Place

But back to the food….

First stop, Yank Sing. Best Damn Dim Sum. Ever. Apparently there are two locations. We hit the one in the Rincon Center. As we walked through a deserted (and very clean) financial district we hit this odd – and empty – mall. And then we followed the waft of garlic and found ourselves in dumpling heaven. Traditional dim sum like Har Gow and Sui Mai? Stupendous! Szechuan chicken? Crazy. And the chili fried green beans? We wanted to take the sauce home….Oh, wait, we did! Yes, you can even get their “delightfully spiced” (their words) chili sauce to go. the only regret? That we didn’t buy some more when we had the chance. And they don’t do mail order (I’ve already checked).

From there it was a short walk to the Ferry Building. On Saturdays there’s a farmer’s market there. We were too stuffed from our dim-sum-a-thon to go too wild, but there’s an old saying that you feast with your eyes. So we did.

After sleeping off the jet lag (and dim sum hangover) we hit Spruce in Pacific Heights. The bar and main dining room were pretty amazing sights to behold. Which is why we were somewhat amused to find ourselves sandwiched between the pensioners’ table in the back room. Kinda felt like losers, to be sure, but, as would be proven time and time again in this town, the food made up for it. Fine food, fine wine, and the nicest waitstaff in the west.

Sunday found us skipping breakfast and hitting the hotel’s open air gym. Nothing like a sweat to get you ready for brunch! Especially at Absinthe in Hayes Valley. Kyle pointed us in its direction, but we ordered two massive breakfasts and some (literally) bad-ass pork product sides all on our own. Duck Confit Hash? Corn Cakes with wilted chard and poached eggs? Homemade sausage and bacon? Accompanied with beers and cocktails? We were outta control. And so was the food. Again. Best Bacon we’d ever had. And, like so many of Our People, we know bacon. A little too well…This one was smokey and maple-y and ridiculous. And stayed with us for hours, so we could enjoy it throughout the day.

Next stop was Foreign Cinema. No, not a movie, another bloody restaurant! This one was in the Mission. With an enormous outdoor patio and screening of flicks on their outdoor screen, we’d heard this place was not to be missed. But to be honest, we could’ve. Missed it that is. The setting far-surpassed the meal. It was tasty enough, and the wines were nice, but we probably should’ve blown it off for a Sunday night movie instead.

Monday took us to Nettie’s Crab Shack on Union Street. We stumbled across it by mistake and it was a damn fine find. Especially the Cobb Louis. And the Bloody Mary. Oddly enough, the woman who ran the place had worked at all the restaurants we had been to. In fact, she overheard us arguing about the gluttonous theme of the weekend and insisted we keep the reservation we had for dinner that night.

Yes, we argued. Once. All over Gary Danko. The restaurant, not the man. I managed to snag us a reservation – apparently quite a challenge. And I’d heard that if there was one place you HAD to go to, it was there. And my man felt full. He was finished with eating. He couldn’t stomach another restaurant meal. It was our last night in Frisco and he was done with dinners.

Except, in the end, we went to Gary Danko. And, in the end, he didn’t like it. He LOVED it. Riding the cable car over there helped, but the meal was over the top. The service was impeccable, the food divine AND they brought us a birthday dessert. They remembered why we were there in the first place – even tho’ I seemed to have forgotten! They have a roving cheese plate that they cut ‘n serve table side. They have petit-fours that come with the coffees. And they send you home with a prettily-wrapped breakfast cake for the next day. Yum yum and yum.

We did other stuff too! I swear. Union Square was shopper’s paradise. A little overwhelming but we managed. Hayes Valley is a great afternoon out. Restaurants and cake shops aside, they have some awesome independent boutiques. Sean, Gimme Shoes, Flight 101 to name a few. Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, Cow’s Hollow… All walks, all the time. And yes, we walked UP Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world.

We also hit Alcatraz. The cruise, the walk, the audio tour. Aside from being iconic, cool and a great morning out, it saved us hundreds – in shopping and calories. We needed the break between meals. And we needed to NOT spend it shopping. Being shipped off to The Rock was just what we needed to round of our 4-pounder weekend.

If you’re heading to San Francisco, enjoy….And bon appetite!

November 22, 2009   No Comments

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LA Woman

I’ve wanted to go to Hollywood since, well, forever. As a little kid I’d sing songs from Annie, hoping to be discovered… in the privacy of my bedroom. If anyone came even close to my door I’d immediately clam up. Broadway, Hollywood – it was all the same in my 9-year old mind. When I finally got to Hollywood it was the Florida version. And even a 9-year old knew it was pas la meme chose.

And then, I wet my feet in Show Biz, where all roads lead to Hollywood. Except the one I was taking. It went directly to Toronto instead. Yeah, yeah, Hollywood North (or is that Vancouver?). Whatever. I wanted the real deal. And finally, this past weekend, I got just that. My Man took me away from all this and we headed West. To Los Angeles. Hollywood, California. Sun, Sand, Sea…

Stars!!!

Yes, kids, I went on my very own private Celebrity Safari!!!

Everyone who’s anyone knows that when you’re on safari it’s all about the accommodations, the food and of course, the animals. Wildebeest and giraffes are cool as hell, but it’s the Big Five that count. Lion. Leopard. Rhino. Elephant. Buffalo. And when you go to LA it’s no different. It’s about where you stayed, where you ate, and who you saw. With a side of where you shopped.

Off we went, eyes peeled, looking for stars and pretending not to. Which is, of course, the Canadian way. Except in the end we may have been a little too nonchalant. We came, we ate, we shopped. But the celeb sightings? Few and far between.

Our safari began almost immediately, with a sighting of Tanya Kim. I know, I know…. Who? OK, she’s not technically a star, but she is one of the hosts of an entertainment show and, as such, counts as a celeb. A local one, sure, but she was in business class. In full makeup. At 11AM. On the safari equivalency test, we’ll say vulture.

We landed at LAX, rented our love machine, and hit the road. First stop, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. A vision of loveliness by the Pacific, it would’ve been even more idyllic had we not arrived at the same time as June Gloom. Never heard of it? Neither had we when we booked our trip. And, apparently, neither had The Weather Network. But it’s the annual cold front that reaches LA at the beginning of June. Accompanied by grey clouds. Lots of ’em. And blustery winds. Especially by the beach. Still, it was perfect walking around weather. Except we were in LA, where everyone drives everywhere, and we’d rented a car. A convertible.

Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

But we wrapped ourselves up in our new scarves and jackets – that’s right – and hit the town. We were on a mission: to relax, eat well, see friends and shop (in no particular order). And of course we presumed we’d see stars on every corner. Because that’s what people do in LA right? Right?!

My Man decided it’d be fun to play a little game where he tells me about the various actors he’s spotted while my head was turned. Kind of like those annoying Euros on African Safaris who claim to have been chased down by rhinos, faced off with leopards etc. Only the Hollywood stars were far more elusive than the Big Five. And my husband was way funnier. Except he actually did see Silver (real name unknown, and unimportant) from 90210 while I tried on outfits. And he did work out with Dennis Leary in the hotel gym while I was sampling free chocolates at See’s Candies. Harumph. I saw Atom Agoyan at LAX. From behind. But my guy didn’t think that counted. And it probably didn’t. Too locally accessible. Raccoon.

Strange thing is, all the locals know that all the visitors are looking for the stars. They know where they hang out, what they do, and no one’s shy about telling you where to go to find them. The watering holes they like, the best season to find them. They’re starf&cking and we’re star-hunting. And everybody knows it. It’s weird.

So it became all about where we ate and who we saw. Ivy by the Shore – pas de. Apparently all about the one on Robertson. We shopped and idled a bit but no sightings. But food at the Shore was awesome. And massive. Seriously. Too big even for us. And for those in the know, that’s saying something!

Next day was a local spot to start- Cora’s. Perfect for breakfast. Not so much for movie stars. Followed by Robertson shopping a cruise down Sunset and lunch at Mel’s Diner. Because it’s funny. And it was en route. Mel’s Diner! Hilarious (tho’ the real one is in San Fran….But you make do with what you’ve got, right?) Out with friends for the food and the vibe at STK. Both very good.

But where were all the movie stars?

We headed to Joan’s on 3rd. A guaranteed celeb hangout. Just not while we were there. But incredible food, and hung out with an old friend who happens to be married to an actor who we actually recognize – by face. We imdb’d him on the spot and shared an “I love that guy” moment. So that was kinda neat! Especially since our pal invited us over to meet him in person if our celeb safari turned out to be less than fruitful. We never had to take her up on it – tho we would’ve loved to, had there been more time….Stopped in at that great Los Angeles equalizer, In ‘n Out Burger and went animal style. Bun for him, lettuce for me. Incredible. All they say it is – and less. No frills, no fuss, lots of muss (mess) and deeeeeelish.

It was Saturday night. That’s the equivalent of mid-day on safari. You see nothing. Still, Katsuya held some promise for us. Food was incredible, and the place was crawling with paparazzi – and loads of loser civilians with cam-corders at the ready. According to the bartender, some Lakers were coming. Whatever. Sports stars don’t count. For me. My Man was on the edge of his seat. But no luck. No shows. We were then befriended by a wacky makeup artist who, I was convinced, was looking to grift us in some way. Told us she was working the red carpet the MTV Movie awards the next night and could get us in to all the parties. Even offered to do my makeup. Thought she was just some freak (until we got home, checked out her website and learned she was totally legit. Ooops. Too late.) As we waited for our car, the gawkers whipped themselves into a frenzy….Over Zach Braff (not that any of them knew who they were looking at. The just knew he was “Someone”) . And yeah, he was. He is. But I don’t watch Scrubs. On the safari scale? Impala.

Where were the Lions? The Elephants?

There’s nothing remotely elephantine in LA, despite it being the land of good food. And also, presumably, the land of pukers, druggies, exercise fanatics. Or probably some sort of combo platter. Chateau Marmont showed us the most magnificent creatures we’d ever seen. Ever. One stunner after the next. Had no idea who they were, but it didn’t matter. They just were. Magnificent to behold, fun to watch in their natural habitat, and interesting to witness life behind The Bubble first hand. Breathtaking. Migration of the Wildebeest.

Sunday was the day of rest for us. No safari. Biking in Venice instead. Carney boardwalk. Drum circle that managed to walk that fine line between between cheesy and cool. Freakshows left, right and center. And the laid back hipster vibe of Abbott Kinney. Which I LOVED. Ate quite well at 3 Square Cafe and spotted what looked like Hank’s wife, Karen, from Californication. Which is kinda funny ‘cuz we were in Venice, it’s set in Venice…And it ended up being her! Natascha McElhone. At last! Someone we knew (not personally) from something we’d seen (and pvr’d!). How exciting! How thrilling! We even ooh-ed and aah-ed over a puppy together, cooe’d over her baby together, and acted like we were really cool and didn’t know she was a star of stage and screen (even tho we did) together. We had a moment. A brush with stardom. More a giraffe than a leopard, but still…

Ended our Celeb Safari in Malibu. At the impossibly romantic (yet borderline geriatric) Geoffrey’s. Which they pronounce “Joffrey’s”. Strange. But tasty. And host to two wedding receptions and many dates. Fun fun fun!

On the very last day I drove. By myself. In our car. It was a bit warmer, the sun poked its head out and I realized I’d fallen in like-a-lot. Despite the dearth of sun and stars, my Man and I had the best time. Amazing what 4 nights in a hotel sans kids can do. And who knew LA was such a perfect destination for a long weekend getaway? Definitely beats Buffalo.

As the good guv says, we’ll be back.

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

sounded great.. the best part.. YOU AND YOUR MAN

June 2, 2009   No Comments

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Hola Punta Cana

Forgive me readers, it’s been a while. One filled with ups, downs and – oddly – airline travel. That’s right, I’ve been on vacation!

Remember back at school you’d have to write essays about your summer vacation?

Anyone? Anyone? No? (Me neither. Once you were back, you were back. Party’s over) And yet, they always seem to in movies. So, without further ado, may I present:

Ten Things I Learned on my Winter Vacation. (Part I.)

1. I learned that Charter Flights blow. Bite. Suck. And not in a good way, pervs.
I always kind of knew this, but when travelling with small children, beware the cheap ‘n cheerful charter. Or beware of other people’s children (ie. mine) who, after being in transit for nearly 12 hours due to delays on their 4-hour flight might be somewhat, erm, antsy. They might lose interest in the massive bag of books, toys and personal DVDs. They might figure out how to open the tray table. And close it. And open it. And close it. And, well, you get the picture. They might be soothed by massive lollipops but, as everyone knows, the ramifications of the sugar highs can be brutal.

2. I learned that said Charters, despite having a planeload of cranky (irate) passengers, think that by giving out crappy earphones and cheap credit vouchers, all will be OK. It won’t. Not after handing out $15 “lunch vouchers” to be spent at night when all the restaurants close. Nor by keeping the overhead lights on during the all-night flight. Nor by pushing the bloody duty-free after we all spent countless hours in the airport browsing… in duty-free shops. Nor by handing out measly $100 credit vuchers for future travel on the same airine – non-transferable to boot. Oh – and another newsflash – staffing the plane with rude teenagers doesn’t help either. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure they were tired too – but they were being paid time-and-a-half for their trouble. We certainly weren’t.

DEEP BREATH……

3. I learned that sometimes weather reports calling for daily showers in the Carribbean can be correct. Even if you surf every single travel site looking for good news. When they say torrential, they mean it.

3a. Thankfully, I also learned that those daily showers only last for 10 minutes.
3b. But can strike at any time, any place.
3c. But the really deep puddles they leave behind can be almost as fun as a swimming pool. For a few minutes at least.

4. I learned that the best ways to entertain your kids is by enlisting other people’s kids. Preferably older ones. And if they have accents, even better – endless amusement for everyone.

5. I learned that is really is possible to drown in a mater of minutes, in less than a foot of water. NOT THAT ANYONE DID (god forbid poo poo poo). But when you watch your 2 year old get pushed into a pool, leap out of your seat, jump into the water to find him floating motionless on the top step of a mini pool and fish him out, hysterical – well, let’s just say you have a new appreciation for vigilance, paranoia, and landsports.

6. You learn to navigate buffets. Somehow, after walking through day after day and complaining about the cuisine, you manage to fill up your plate. And refill it. And maybe add a little bit more. And then you suck it back. Day after day. And pound after pound.

7. You learn that bulky strollers are RV’s. And you love them. Portable beds, baggage handlers, detention centers – these babies really can do it all, not to mention how well they clear traffic. Think big, act big and everyone’s outta your space.

8. You learn that your children are vampires-in-reverse. By day, nothing beats the joy you feel as your angels frolic by the seaside. You’re all children again, building sandcastles, and playing in the pool. How romantic it all seems: long walks on the beach holding hands, sharing fruity drinks under the palms, posing for family snapshots…Even cheesy organized drinking competitions seem sweet when you watch ’em with your little ones. It’s all so wonderful, everyone is deliriously happy, even without their regular naps and routines. Bliss by day…

And then…

The sun sets. And you learn about a new kid in town. Sprung from your loins. Sharing your room. Darkness falls. The moon rises. And with it – El Diablo. Or, even worse, Los Diablos: your very own flesh and blood who, quick to turn on you, remind you of everything you needed a vacation from: them!!!

9. I learned about how quickly we forget. No sooner had we touched down after another, erm, antsy, flight than we started dreaming up the next family vacation. We looked at pictures, reminiscing about the good times….the daytimes…

10. I learned that some of us don’t really forget. Sure, for entertainment purposes I’ve tended to accentuate the negative – that’s what creative license is all about. Let’s face it, no one wants to read about perfect getaways and happy endings. We’re all ambulance chasers, looking for the dirty bits, riveted by the nightmares, thanking the universe or god or whoever that those problems are someone else’s, and that we get to hear all about them…. Fact is, it was a fantastic trip – angels and devils notwithstanding. A family love-in. OK, once we were home for a day or so it was back to normal.

But not completely. For within days of returning from our family holiday, I was off on a trip on my own. And I’ve learned that even sitting alone at a friend’s desk, blogging and reliving certain funny-from-far moments, can be a real vacation.

3 comments:

Anonymous said…
AAAAAAAAmen!

Laughed out loud!

Sitting anywhere alone is a vacation! A vacation for the brain!!!!!!

Thanx for the humour!

Love, jj

10:53 AM

Anonymous said…

LOL I love your blog ! so entertaining my vacation consist of me my laptop and portable beds !

January 21, 2008   No Comments

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Montreal Mon Amour

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they look at their wonderful children, thank god (or whoever) for blessing them with such wonderful treasures, and wonder how to get the hell outta Dodge.

At least that’s what happens in our house. Regularly. Sure, my man and I love our babes to bits. But we also love each other, which is why we skipped town, hit the 401 and headed to Montreal.

Montreal, je t’aime. Stunning, accessible, and a helluva lot cheaper than Toronto, what’s not to love? Everyone’s got their fave places and spaces. And here are mine:

HOTEL: Montreal is home to Canada’s largest selection of boutique hotels. Or so it seems. We stayed at Hotel Gault, an award-winning, newish hotel in the self-described “Old Montreal’s bustling west end” neck of the woods. First off, it wasn’t bustling. But that’s OK. Because it was only on the cusp of Vieux Montreal, you felt closer to the city itself And we liked that. Then again, the whole town feels a lot more compact than Toronto. And we liked that too. Anyhoo, Hotel Gault is gorgeous. Loft-like. Exposed stone walls. Concrete floors (heated in the bathroom). Tres moderne. Tres cool. And with a special $99-for-the-second-night deal, tres resonable. Especially when you consider they also include breakfast. Not a loser continental one either. Full menu, full buffet, or full combo. Full being the operative word. Dee-lish. They threw in a dinner too, but who wants to hang in their hotel the whole time?

Actually, don’t answer that.

FOOD: Sit back, ‘cuz this could take a while….The weekend may have been a 5 pounder. But I’ll never tell. What I will tell you, tho’, is that we ate like piggies. Or kings. Whatever.

Our friend insisted we try his home-away-from-home bistro, Lemeac. We did. Superb. And it has a cheapy menu for the hotshots who come in after 10PM. Like my Man and me. Check us out: we get to Montreal and, suddenly, we’re all French and chic and late-night diners. But back to the food. We went prix fixe. There were a couple of translation issues, but it didn’t matter because the waitress was lovely and it was just good grub. Especially the enormouus pain perdu dessert. Basically a massive hunk of carmelized french toast. Was better than it sounds. Much much better. Lemeac also had an extensive, if somewhat intimidating, wine list. Or so it seemed to non-vintner types.

There’s a hot vegetarian resto on St Denis that also does a brusque take-out and casual lunch business. The mini version is called Chuch. Can’t remember the name of the papa place. Anyhoo, it’s cute to look at and has damn fine Thai foood – so good in fact, you wouldn’t even know it was veggie! (No offense.) Actually, you might know. But if you get the deep fried seaweed and spinach you won’t care.

Marathon Mike Schwartz. OK, that’s not really a restaurant. But all good all the same. We went to Marathon Souvlaki to relive a childhood dream. Not mine. And was it worth the drive to Laval? Absolutely. Or so my Man says. I’m not a major souvlaki person, but I know a good tzaziki when I find one. And this was good. Very very good. (maybe not as good as Arahova‘s, but this was somebody else’s memory lane, OK?) Mike’s Submarines – ditto. Not my thing, but apparently tasty enough to make someone very very happy.

Schwartz’s. Oooooh Schwartz’s. Does deli get any better than this? I don’t think so. Spectacular. Even cold and in the car. I’m telling you now, Montreal friends, I’ll be putting in take out orders when next you go home.

But people, I’ve saved the best, le meilleur, for last. Le Club Chasse et Peche. Apparently the hottest spot in town. According to our concierge, it’s worth moving to Montreal for. Well, we aren’t moving (yet) but if we did…. Unreal. Spectacular food, simple yet terrific menu, and sexy as hell. It’s the kind of place when someone says you have to go, you have to listen. So if you are planning a trip to Montreal, remember, You Have To Go. We had fois gras and beet salad and Tasmanian Char and Sweetbreads. No, not all together, morons. All fab. Even the veggies on the side were incredible. For dessert they had some kind of postmodern rice crispy square but, sadly, we never got to try it. We went for something else – some apple, caramel, pastry concoction. Who knows, it might’ve been awesome – but I was too full at this point to judge.

SHOPS: Aaaah shops… For many folks, Montreal equals shopping. For us, these are the handful that stood out:

Zone – pour la maison. Awesome homewares and gifty stuff. They have a few of these scattered round town (plus one in Ottawa). In fact, you could spit and hit a great home furnishing place. We’ve decided when (if) we move house, we’ll be taking a truck to Montreal and loading it up. They’ve got a great thing going on in the design department and, best of all, it’s kind of on the cheap side!

Factorie – for ladies and gents. Divide and conquer. And if you can get the oh-so-chic and helpful owner to help you, do. He knows gorgeous.

Lola et Emily – great ladies wear. Like a combo of my two beloved NYC stores, Anthropologie and Olive & Bette’s. If I need to say more, then just skip it. It’s pas pour vous.

Mortimer Snodgrass – kitschy and fun. Gifts for suckers of all ages.

And, and, and….The list could go on and on and on. But we only had two days and we were driving, so this is it. For now.

Sure, the days of long haul, far flung, exotic vacays may be on hold, but we’ll always have Montreal…

1 comments:

mortimer snodgrass said…

as the owner of Mortimer Snodgrass, I thank you! I was just playing Google the Store and found your post. Thanks again!

December 18, 2006   No Comments

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