Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One of *Those* Days

Ever have one of those days when you think it's almost the weekend, then you realize it's only Wednesday?

Or a day 10 weeks after you started a new process - 2 weeks after you thought you were done - when you find that there's one more step you have to do before you *might* (or might not) be done?

Or a day when you realize that you're 44 and you're making less than you did when you were 28 - and have less free time to show for it?

Or when you realize that you no longer know what the passion and drive in your life was supposed to have been once upon a time?

Or when you push back at the people who are trying to help you for no apparent reason?

I'm having one of those days, today.

And, unfortunately, on those days I tend to take it out on the people around me. Which wouldn't be so bad if I let it out at work. But today at work I was perky and polite and made all the right "gee, I care" noises at all the right times.

On the other hand, tonight at home I kind of snapped (well, via email) at someone offering help. And it took all my might not to - in the middle of a conversation - curl up in the fetal position in the hallway and stay there until the middle of next month - or maybe until September 25th when the next season of The Amazing Race starts and I'll need to be able to see the TV.

Yeah. It's definitely been one of *those* days.

Luckily, in just over 2 hours the calendar switches over to tomorrow. One day closer to the weekend. One day closer to the project being done (I mean... it has to conclude at some point, right?). One day closer to the Amazing Race premiere. And, hopefully, one day closer to re-finding my workday passion - and if it comes with a decent paycheck, well, let's just say that I'd love it to be one of those days.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Monday - Positively Pleasing

In the past week, I actually got to see two movies in the theaters. And, yes, both of them had Ps in their titles. One of them even had a character with a propensity for playing with P-words.

The first P movie was "Mr. Popper's Penguins." I gotta admit that I wasn't sure I wanted to see it, since Jim Carrey and a bunch of penguins (one of which is named "Stinky") kind of made me think that it would be a throw-away movie. Then I found out that Angela Lansbury was in it. And, of course, I had to go.
It's a perfectly pleasant way to pass some time. Perky, perhaps a bit too reliant on the bathroom humor, but pfun, overall. Jim Carrey really can be pfunny at times, the penguins were cute (they're about half live and half CGI'd, and it's honestly pretty hard to tell the difference), and Angela Lansbury... well... she's always practically perfect in every way (my apologies to Julie Andrews). And, yes, there's a character named Pippi who speaks in preponderously large number of P-words. I don't have any idea how the actress did that without breaking up.

One of the best things about seeing the movie? We were there with a bunch of little kids around us. When the potty humor got to be too much, the kids would giggle and giggle. It made it much easier to put up with.

Overall rating: B. Possibly higher if I was a bit younger.

The second P movie of the week was "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which Christopher and I saw yesterday. Basically, they've gotten rid of most of the old cast (keeping Johnny Depp, his nemesis Barbosa, and his first mate), and tossed in Penelope Cruz and a bunch of new people. And some deadly mermaids. And the Spanish Armada. Oh, and the Fountain of Youth. And a great cameo by Judi Dench.
In fact, I think they spent so much money throwing things in that they ran out of money for lighting. Or for a humor writer.

I've heard mixed reviews about the movie. Some critics have loved it because it has reinvented the "Pirates" franchise. Some have said it went too far away from the formula that had worked so well in the other three movies. I'm somewhere in between.

I liked Penelope Cruz's character (strong-willed woman who is also a pirate and a thief), and I liked some of the ancillary characters (like the missionary who falls for the mermaid), but I missed some of the humor of the first movies. And I have to admit that the ending felt like someone had decided that they needed to wrap of the movie so it just kind of stopped.

Did I like it? Sure. But mainly because I felt like it was setting up for the next one. And, yes, I loved the one scene that was straight out of the amusement park ride.

Overall rating: B-. Better than average, but - at least for me - it deserves a great big "Needs Improvement - not working up to potential" in red ink.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Celebrating Pride

I blame the weather for the fact that, honestly, I had forgotten that it was Gay Pride weekend in the Twin Cities this weekend. It just hasn't seemed like June with the cooler temperatures and all of the rain.

I've seen the signs downtown about it. And I knew that the 35W bridge was going to be lit with rainbow colors last night (some day I'll learn how to embed video on here, but for now you'll just have to click through and check it out). And I've seen postings all over the place about parties going on. But, still, I kind of kept forgetting.

This morning, while I was out walking the dog, one of our neighbors was in her yard doing some work. She asked if Christopher and I had any big plans for the weekend - picnics, parades, parks, that kind of thing - and it took me a second to realize what she meant.

I know there are a lot of people who say that the best way to celebrate a culture (be it Irish, Greek, Hmong, or Gay), is to have a huge festival once each year to show your colors. It's a chance to be out in the open and proud of who your are "en masse" for the world to see. A chance to focus on the diversity and strengths of the group, in that "we're stronger together" way.

And I'm really happy for all of the people who make up those crowds to watch the parades and cheer for the concerts and re-connect in the parks.

Me, I'm not so much a crowd person. I get a little claustrophobic when surrounded by masses of people. I hate using porta-potties. And trying to find parking for a major event in an area with no parking lots is just not my idea of a good time.

So I'll be celebrating Pride the same way I celebrate it pretty much every weekend. I'll spend time with Christopher. We'll go shopping and eat something as a couple for all the world to see. We'll hang out with some friends. We'll celebrate living in a world where we can do all of those things while living together as a family.

Okay... so we can't get married in the state of Minnesota - yet - but New York State has made it legal this weekend. And we've got until November of 2012 to work on changing that attitude in Minnesota.

For this weekend, I plan to just be mostly happy... okay, and a little proud, too.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Like a Dog with a *New* Bone

Last night, we realized that the good-for-her-teeth, manufactured-not-real bone that the pup was chewing on was getting... well... sharp.

She actually kind of spit it out at one point, and then pawed at it on the bed, kind of giving it a "that bit me" look. It took some coaxing before she'd go back to chewing on it, again.

Tonight, while I was doing some early-summer planting in the yard (replacing some annuals which had become bunny food), the pup had been running around in the yard chasing her favorite tennis ball. Unfortunately, this meant that the tennis ball - which I had been tossing with my mud-covered hands - got a little dirty. To the point that it needed to be scrubbed off when we got back inside.

This meant that she had to move to her back-up tennis ball. Which, as we all know, is not nearly as much fun to play with as the main tennis ball, even if the main tennis ball is currently in the sink drying out after being scrubbed down.

In exchange, Christopher rummaged around and found a new bone which we had purchased a few months ago when we had one of our "loyalty points" certificates from our favorite pet food store.

This means, of course, that the pup has a new bone. She proceeded to carry it around in her mouth for a while. Then chew on it. Then carry it. Then lie down with it. Then leave it, as she searched for her tennis ball. Then go back to chew on it.

Obviously, life is good when you're a dog with a new bone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Today at work, we had a "lunchervention."

We decided that one of the newer employees - who has really been getting pounded this week by all sorts of strange situations - really needed some time out of the office to regroup and just hang out.

So two of us decide that the three of us should order in lunch (sandwiches from Erbert & Gerbert's), and go out into some other area of the building to eat it and talk. The idea worked great, mostly.

You see, my building only has 2 chairs in any common area. They're near(-ish) the vending machines one floor up from our office. And, as luck would have it, one of them was being used for a nap. So we just kept climbing the stairs. On the fourth floor we didn't find any chairs, but we did find a very large open area, so we spread out on the floor and picnicked.

We vented about work. We chatted about non-work things. We ate our sandwiches. And, amazingly, when we went back to work none of us were in the mood to throw in the towel and go home for... well... forever.

I suspect there will be more luncherventions in the future.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Movie Monday - Source Code - Green Lantern

After having not been to a movie in a while, I actually saw two last week.

The first was "Source Code" - a movie about an experimental process through which someone can go back in time to a specific eight minute window and try to solve a mystery (in this case - try to find out who planted a bomb). It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga (possibly my favorite person in the movie, really).
I have to admit that at first I was leery about how they could stretch eight minutes into a full movie. Then, once I figured out the movie, I wasn't sure how they could keep it from getting boring. I'm happy to say that a) they did stretch it, and b) it did not get boring. In fact, it got more interesting as the movie when along.

Overall rating: A-. I found myself actually caring about the characters - and not just the main two leads; and I gotta admit that I like the end (or, more precisely, a specific frozen moment very close to the end which I won't describe further so as to not spoil it for anyone else).

The other movie I saw last week was (obviously if you read the headline) "Green Lantern." Of all of the comic book-y movies that are out this year, it's the first one I've seen. I haven't seen the latest "Pirates" movie. I didn't see "Thor." But I have to admit that I have always liked the Green Lantern character, and I also like Ryan Reynolds. Put the two together, and I was happy to go to the movie.
Christopher and I went with some friends last Friday night (opening night of the movie), and we sat in the VIP section of a theater we enjoy. Reserved leather seats. Alcoholic drinks (brought in from the lobby bar). A removable arm between our seats, but lots of space between our two seats and the next ones. And - since the VIP section allows alcohol - it's an over-21 area, so no little kids.

Oh, yeah, the movie.

It was good. It was a comic book movie. The good guy looks good in his superhero suit. He flies. He gets the girl (in this case, even without the mask on). He defeats the super-bad-guy. And, yes, the movie sets itself up for a sequel before you leave. I'm not a huge fan of 3-D (the glasses hurt when you wear them over regular glasses for 2 hours), but I did okay with this movie.

Overall rating: B+. It pretty much did what it set out to do. But, as someone who grew up reading the comics, there were a few things that I'd have liked to have seen included. Maybe they'll show up in the sequel.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday = Nap Day

I had every intention of spending this afternoon with Christopher and his family celebrating Father's Day. I had called my dad, yesterday (since I wasn't going to be home today), and wished him a Happy Father's Day early.

Then we had some friends over last night for wine and cheese and conversation. For the most part, we ate and talked - no one really had that much to drink. They left around 11, and Christopher and I did a little tidying, then went to bed. Believe it or not, the bedroom was actually a little chilly, so I pulled up the covers and went to sleep.

That worked until about 4:30 this morning when I woke up HOT and kicked off the covers. I also felt kind of dehydrated (to reiterate: not a hangover - I only had 2 drinks over the course of 4 hours last night). And although I got back to sleep fairly quickly, when I was awakened by the pup at about 7:30, I was still feeling the effects of the not-great sleep.

By the time 11:30 rolled around, I'd already done some baking, washed the dishes from last night, and read the newspaper. And it was time for a nap.

I tend to take after my dad when it comes to napping. Basically, I can do a 15-minute nap and be set for the rest of the day. (I did that on Friday night between work and going to a movie.) But today I hit the bed and didn't wake up until about 1. I headed for the shower, got myself dressed, and was mostly put together by about 1:30.

At which point I asked Christopher to give his father (and the rest of his family) my best, and told him I was going to be staying home. I've spent pretty much all afternoon on the couch. I've watched some TV. I called my dad to wish him an actual Happy Father's Day. And I celebrated my heritage by napping a bit.

And now it's about a quarter to seven and I'm done with all that I was planning to do. Christopher and the pup aren't home, yet. I don't expect to go to bed for at least another 2 or 3 hours. Do you suppose it's too late in the day to get in another nap?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Egg and Tomato Sandwiches

(Okay, so "Friday Food" came a little early this week...)

I have to admit that "un sandwich oeufs-tomate" sounds better than "an egg and tomato sandwich." But, having had that sandwich up in Saint Sauveur, I have been thinking about it ever since.

I bought a tomato earlier this week, fully intending to slice it and put it into a turkey sandwich to take to work with me. But I opted for just plain turkey, instead, so the tomato was still on the counter today when I got home from work.

Since we always have eggs in the house (because I bake a lot, which you probably know by now), I decided it was time to try making an egg and tomato sandwich on my own. In a couple of months I hope to be able to do this with home-grown tomatoes (possibly of varied colors, assuming they all continue to grow and don't get eaten by critters), but for now it was a large Roma tomato.

I toasted up the white sandwich bread, fried the eggs "over hard," sliced my tomato and layered it all with a little Mayo (I'm trying the Kraft mayo that has Olive Oil in it - not that you can really tell any difference).

I kind of wish I had taken a picture, because it was just so good. On the plus side, having been successful tonight (I even flipped the eggs without them tearing!), I suspect there will be more of these in my future.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Tiz List de Montreal

Bien. On a deja decrive les hotels, les restaurants, et presque tout.

(Hmm... Yeah... That needs accent marks something fierce, so we'll go back to English.)

So... We've already talked about the hotels, restaurants, and - honestly - pretty much everything about the trip. I thought I'd pass you some basics that have stuck with me, and then we'll move on. Kind of a "Tiz List de Montreal," if you will.

1) We went to a small antique store/gallery while we were wandering around near the Musee des Beaux Arts. Amid the millenia-old (yes, really) stuff in the shop, we came across four Narwhal tusks. One was at least 8 feet long. It was standing against the wall between two cabinets, with all of its papers attached to it. The shop owner said that he could sell it to us, but it couldn't leave Canada.

2) For those of you not sure what a Narwhal is, it's a whale with a single long tusk, sometimes called the "unicorn of the sea." It's also thought that the tusk could actually have been one of the things that made people believe in unicorns in the first place. Here's a picture I found of one:

3) We stopped at the Nespresso cafe on Crescent Street. Christopher and I are always looking at Nespresso machines when we're out shopping - especially when people are offering free demos (and, thus, samples). The problem: I don't especially like coffee. So I had what they were calling a "liegeois" - basically a tiny scoop of amazing vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it.

4) Sitting with Christopher in the shop, sipping that and eating mini madeleines from out of a martini glass, even I could imagine liking espresso.

5) Cretons are this weird little potted pork meat food thing. They're a little spicy, but mainly just taste like potted meat. I fell in love with them at first bite.

6) The container of cretons that I brought with me accidentally didn't get refrigerated when we got home, so I had to throw it out.

7) It took two days to throw it out because I felt so bad.

8) The Delta Sky Clubs are kind of fun. Christopher gets free entry for himself and a guest thanks to one of his credit cards. They're really not all that special, but the food and drink is free (yes, even alcoholic beverages) - although they do ask that you enjoy it all on-site. Would I pay to get the perks? Probably not unless it came with one of my credit cards. But it was fun.

9) Yes, I still send postcards. People are always surprised to sell them to me.

10) In case you're wondering, a Volkswagen Tiguan is actually quite comfortable for 3 (or 4) people to drive around in - and not so big that it was a problem to park.

11) Just don't get me started on the annoying "doom and gloom" woman at the rental car counter who was trying to get us to quadruple the rate of our car with multiple different kinds of insurance (even though we had checked with our insurance company and were completely covered).

12) When leaving the Burlington International Airport to drive to Montreal, please turn RIGHT out of the parking lots.

13) For the second time in as many trips, Christopher and I didn't see the right street signs and went left. Next time we'll remember. I'm sure.

14) There's a really random pizza place in Burlington between the highway and the airport. Couldn't tell you what it's called, but it's big and the food is actually pretty good.

15) The most expensive place in the world to buy a postcard is in the airport. I'm almost sure of it.

16) Christopher and I both enjoyed the fact that, in Montreal, it's kind of like going to Europe, but the people look more American. In other words, they're not all stick-thin. We fit in much better in Canada than we do in France.

17) I'm still, occasionally, speaking French in my head. Two weeks after getting home.

18) Have I mentioned the market near my aunt's? Les Halles d'Anjou. Amazingly European place with an outdoor (covered) section with plants and fresh vegetables and such, plus (indoors) multiple butchers and a high-end deli, and a liquor store, and an entire store which is just fruit and veg, and all sorts of things. If I lived in that area, I'd shop there every day I could.

19) We spent our last night in Montreal out at dinner with my aunt and my (non-related-to-me) cousins. Christopher and my cousins were talking about all sorts of tech things (like whether Netflix is available, and how computer service is). I never think to talk about things like that, but Christopher is so good at finding out about day-to-day life stuff.

20) One final comment: The trip was amazing. My first real vacation in over 2 years. A trip with no cellphone, almost no internet, great sights and sounds and food, and - most of all - incredible people. Jetlag wore off after a couple of days, but (as I'm sure you've noticed) I'm still having a kind of "post-trip hangover" of the very best kind.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Montreal Monday 2

So, when last we discussed Canada food, it was Sunday and we were in Val David at Au Petit Poucet on the way to Mont Tremblant. Ahh... such a good brunch it was worth mentioning again. :-)

That night, after checking in at our amazing hotel (Le Chateau Beauvallon), we went up to the ski village of Mont Tremblant, rode the gondola up to the top of the main street, and then walked back down. At the base of the hill is La Cabane du Sucre - The Sugar Cabin - where I found one of my favorite sweets in the world: Barbe a Papa a l'Erable - Maple Sugar Cotton Candy. Ohmigod. I've had it before and was kind of searching all over for it. It's an amazing sweet - lightly maple-y and... wow... you've got to try it if you can.

After a stop at the casino (to spend money - in no hopes of winning anything), we went back to the hotel, changed clothes, and headed for dinner at La Petite Cachee ("The Little Hideaway"). When we arrived, we were the only ones there. The place truly is "petite" - probably about 10 or 12 tables in the main room around a fireplace. The woman who waited on us (probably the owner?) was amazing. She explained the menu and the specials. She helped us with wine selection. She paid attention without being pushy. And, well, I won't mention the last thing she did just yet.

I really don't remember the full meal that everyone had. I know that my aunt had a salad to start, and Christopher and I started out with a to-die-for grilled blue cheese sandwich. My aunt had a chicken and gorgonzola pizza with arugula - I snuck a piece of it and it was perfect, both crispy and chewy. I can't remember what Christopher had, but I had the most amazing little Shepherd's Pie, a layered column of meat, leeks, and mashed potatoes. Amazing. Dessert? Of course we had dessert. Christopher had a chocolate cake, and I had a "soft apple" cake, which came to the table with a candle in it - and the woman who had been helping us out actually sang me "Happy Birthday." She had overheard us talking about it being my birthday, and took the step of making the evening almost perfect.

Back at the hotel, we started up our gas fireplace, turned on the A/C, and sat and watched a little TV before bed. And... yeah... could there be a better way to cap off a birthday?

I've already told you about the great breakfast we had the next morning. Lunch came to us a little late in the day in Saint Sauveur, where we stumbled across a little cafe (Cafe Denise, maybe?). The service... well... it was pretty awful. And Christopher's croissant sandwich with cheese actually had American cheese on it. But my aunt's fruit plate was beautiful to look at - and pretty huge. My "Sandwich oeuf-tomates" (Sandwich with egg and tomato) came out "sans oeufs" when it got brought out. It took a little discussion, but when it came back it was a great sandwich with a perfect over-hard egg, juicy tomato slices, mayo, and lettuce.

Monday night we had true "leftovers" for dinner - trying to clear out the leftovers from the fridge before we left. Granted, it was all much better leftovers than we ever get at home (great cheeses, bread, multiple desserts). There really is something nice about being in a place like Montreal.

Our final night in Montreal found us out to dinner at Le Jardin de Panos. A very nifty little Greek place near St Denis street on "The Plateau" in Montreal. We all had various kinds of Kebabs. I think three of us had lamb, Christopher had filet, and my aunt had shrimp. The food was incredible. It was another "Apportez Votre Vin" restaurant, so we had great wine, and even had room for dessert. Going with the recommendation of our waiter, we had galaktoboureko. It's... well... there's this custard... and there's filo dough... and it has cloves in it... and honey... and it's not overly sweet. If you find it at your local Greek restaurant, do yourself a favor and get it!

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about the last place Christopher and I stopped to get food in Montreal. We were running errands on our last morning, and went to a shop that my cousin had recommended. La Maison du Macaron. Yes, it was a little out of the way. Yes, the info on the website was wrong about their opening hours. Yes, it was worth driving to and waiting for. Not only were the macarons incredible (perfect texture, great flavors), but they actually also offered *frozen* macaron. We each had one - mine was lemon, and if I focus really hard on it, I can still taste and feel it in my mouth. Cold, fragrant, tart, sweet... seriously... worth going back for.

And, well, there you go. The food listings from my trip. Tomorrow, for Travel Tuesday, I'll try to hit a few other highlights. Then, maybe, we can get back to our regularly-scheduled blogging.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday at the Tonys

I owe you more details about Montreal, but last night Christopher and I were out for a wine and cheese night around the fire pit in some friends' backyard. (And I had spent much of the day editing.)

Tonight, I'm camped on the couch in the basement watching the 2011 Tony Awards. As this is the one night each year when Broadway actually takes over one of the broadcast networks - and since I will always have a huge section of my heart dedicated to Musical Theater - you'll forgive me for focusing on that show, instead of my computer.

More about Montreal, tomorrow. I promise.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Food - Montreal

As promised, today we're talking about the food from up in Montreal.

I feel I should start by saying that my aunt is an A-MA-ZING cook. She has dangerously low vision, but she loves to entertain and puts incredible meals on the table. She is of the opinion that a dinner that last less than 2 hours was probably only a snack. Her idea of "something we tossed together" starts with cocktails and appetizers, moves through wine and lasagne, through an optional cheese course, and on to two choices for dessert with coffee.

And, yes, that's what we had on our first night in Montreal. We weren't sure when we'd get in, so she said "I'll just do 'potluck' and pull something out of the fridge when you come in" and that's what we had. No vacation is bad that starts out like that.

Our second night - still with my aunt - was a stuffed porkloin, after leek soup, and before another two home-made dessert choices.

I should mention that breakfasts while at the Quality Hotel were... well... we didn't get breakfasts there. Instead, whether with Marie or on our own, we stopped at Tim Hortons for donuts. They do great donuts (of all different varieties) as well as muffins and croissants, and apparently good coffee, too. Seriously. SO much better than Starbucks, without nearly as much attitude.

Our third night - when we were at the Le Meridien Versailles - we went to l'Academie on Crescent Street. We had gone to another location of l'Academie with my aunt three years ago. It's an "Apportez Votre Vin" restaurant, so we ran out and got some wine from the local SAQ, and then tucked ourselves in on their top floor for a great meal. Christopher started with a Caesar salad (apparently a slightly bland dressing), and I started with Coquilles St-Jacques. The first time I had Coquilles St-Jacques was also in Montreal - at my aunt's. If you've never had it, it's basically a "seafood stew" in a creamy white sauce, topped with whipped potatoes and a little cheese - and it's all served on a shell. It was amazing. Better than I had imagined it would be. I kept saying to Christopher "This is so good. I'm sorry you can't have any." (He has a possible shellfish allergy), but I couldn't stop myself from barrelling through it. Main courses were Chicken in a Pink Peppercorn sauce (mine) and Bacon-wrapped filet (Christopher's), and dessert was a Chocolate-Hazelnut torte with a crispy/crunchy crust. SO good.

Saturday, back at my aunt's, we had a couple of my cousins over, as well. Another amazing meal, this time centered on chicken. She obviously never runs out of recipes or ideas!

On Sunday, on our drive north to Mont-Tremblant, we stopped at what is apparently the ultimate "you've got to stop here on your drive north" breakfast place: Au Petit Poucet. What a great place! A great big, rustic interior - complete with a massive fireplace in the center (and various taxidermied animals on the walls). The staff were fun and polite - in both English and French - and the food was amazing. This is an eggs and bacon and hash browns and pancakes and ham and syrup kind of place. Tons of food. Not bad prices. Worth every good word we heard about it. Heck - even worth a trip up there from the city just for brunch!

Okay... That's a little more than half of the trip, so I think we'll stop there for now.

More food coming your way, soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Montreal Wednesday

(Sorry... This was written and - I thought - posted, yesterday. Not sure why it didn't go up online.)

It's strange. Since I got back from Montreal last week, I've found out that two different people I work with are both going to Montreal this summer. Independent of each other. And neither one has been there, before. This means, of course, that I've been getting to talk about Montreal a lot - which is good. And at work - which is even better.

As I've done this, I've realized more and more the things that stick out about my trip, so you'll get to benefit from this "distilling." For today, I thought I'd talk about our hotels. (Yes, I'm saving "restaurants" for later in the week to keep you all coming back.)

Over the course of our week in Montreal, Christopher and I stayed in 5 hotel rooms in 3 different hotels. No, not because we kept moving around but because... well... we kept moving.
When we got to Montreal, we checked in at the Quality Hotel (aka "Quality Inn" in the States) that is within just a minute or so of my aunt's residence. We took advantage of the Choice Brand's membership program, so we got an "executive" room (with a small couch and a mini-fridge) for less than a standard room would have cost. Checking in was great. The front desk staff were wonderful - speaking equally in French and English (since they knew we were coming from the States) - and we had a great view toward downtown and the actual "Mount Royal" from our almost-corner room on the 8th floor.

On Friday, we checked out of the Quality Hotel and headed downtown to the Le Meridien Versailles in the "Museum Quarter." The hotel was small, but we had been upgraded to a junior suite on the 12th floor, and Christopher is a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, so we had gotten a slight break on the price. It was a corner room, wallpapered in a kind of muted dark grey-blue herringbone pattern (which I loved), with a sort-of foyer which led into the main room, lots of windows on both sides, a small wetbar and mini-fridge (separate from the mini-bar), and a whirlpool tub in the marble bathroom. There were two "best things" about it: 1) We had a great view both of downtown AND of the Mount - even in the drizzle; 2) It was within walking distance of Ste Catherine Street (via Crescent Street) for shopping and dining - even in the drizzle. One drawback - the "included" morning breakfast buffet. It would have been fine, but the overseer was pretty much rude. And don't even get me started on the overly-loud way-too-American gay club couple seated a table away from us who obviously assumed no one else in the room spoke English as they kvetched and bitched all through breakfast. We just laughed it off and went back for seconds to get our money's worth of the cold buffet.

Saturday we were back at the Quality Hotel. Same side of the building as before (so same general view), but lower. We saw some of the same staff on the way in, so it started to feel kind of "homey."

Sunday we checked out of the Quality Hotel, picked up my aunt, and headed up into the Laurentians (the mountains just north of Montreal) for a day away. (I can't tell you about food or shopping, yet, but you'll definitely want to come back to find out about the food...) In the Mont-Tremblant ski area, there are a ton of hotels. Christopher and I had taken a long time debating on where to stay, and landed on the Chateau Beauvallon. We found that we could get a 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite (with a patio and fireplace) for about the same price as two standard rooms elsewhere. So we chose that. The Chateau Beauvallon is kind of set off from other places, and has been around for years but our room looked like it had just been re-done. The living area (with a miniature "kitchen" of cooktop, microwave, fridge, dishwasher, etc), also had a dining table, seating area, and - yes - a gas fireplace. Since it was *almost* chilly out on Sunday, we had a nice fire in the evening... with the air conditioning on. Breakfast in the morning was amazing. A full complimentary hot-and-cold buffet with the greatest guy taking care of all of the guests. You could get an omelette or eggs made to order, or pancakes (with bacon, sausage, or ham) and "fresh" maple syrup. There were croissants and cereals. Since I don't drink coffee, I was presented with a massive bowl of hot chocolate. Yeah. Amazing. Christopher got us a late check-out, so we didn't even have to rush to leave. SO nice.

Monday we were back to pseudo-reality at the Quality Hotel for our final two nights. We were on the other side of the building this time, but back on the 8th floor. So we had a different view... not probably as pretty, but at least different. And we ran into some of our favorite staff, again. Which made it that much nicer. Okay... so the fact that the city of Montreal was doing some repair work and so they had to shut off the water by 9am on our last day there was not so great. But, no question about it, we'd definitely go back if the need arises.

I have to admit that one of my favorite things about travel is staying in hotels. I've been known to go "away" for a night here in the Cities just to stay in a hotel. All things considered, though, I have to admit that getting home last Wednesday and collapsing into our own bed - in our own house - was amazing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Montreal Monday

No, I'm not currently in Montreal, but I owe you all reasons for why I haven't been online in the past week or so.

You see, Christopher and I - after a decent amount of early-year debate - decided on a trip to Montreal as my first vacation (longer than a weekend) in about 2 years. We left on the 25th, flew to Burlington (Vermont) with a stop in Detroit, and - after some rental car issues - crossed the border and headed into French Canada.

We spent the next week speaking in dual languages, eating amazing foods, staying in multiple hotels (and 3 different rooms in one of the hotels), sightseeing, and generally having a very nice vacation-y time.

We were, mainly, up there to visit my great-aunt. But running around town to go to museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants is NOT mutually exclusive of seeing relatives. Especially when the relatives love great restaurants, know where the good shops are, and can recommend driving routes to the best museums and gardens.

Coming home from vacation last Wednesday (the 1st) was a bit difficult. Granted, hanging out in the Delta Sky Club lounge in Detroit during our 2.5-hour layover did make some of that return trip much easier to deal with.

Over the next few days I hope to give you some listings of places we went and things we enjoyed. But, tonight, I'm still way behind on some freelance work I need to do, and I need to get back to that.

Thanks for your patience!