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NaBloPoMo Day 15: The Best Meal We Ate in Montreal

We ate very well in Montreal, but naming our “Best Meal” was no contest. After our 2nd visit to the spa that weekend (IT WAS VACATION WE DO WHAT WE WANT), we called up Bouillion Bilk to see if they could fit us in, and they were happy to oblige. To be honest, I did not do my homework in advance of our travels. Sometimes the time gets away from me. I was perusing the restaurant reviews on Yelp, and the one for Bouillion Bilk was glowing, so we decided to try it. I am so, so glad that we did.

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First, the food was perfect. Amazing.  It’s hard for me to describe the varied, unexpected and delightful flavor combinations, so you will have to make do with the pictures.  Sandy and I are both fairly comfortable with wine lists, but we were baffled by this restaurant’s. The server told us that because their menu is novel and ever changing, their wine list matches by being interesting and inventive. The only wine I recognized on the list was Rioja, so I had that. Sandy asked for the server to recommend wine based on her dishes, and he did an excellent job. This is a place where you can trust the servers to steer you in the right direction.

Urchin Amuse Bouche

Urchin Amuse Bouche


beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries

beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries


scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette

scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette


venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles

venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles


chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee

chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee


kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn

kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn


Second, the ambiance was dead on for our moods that night. The food was fancy but the mood was completely casual and unpretentious.  During most of our trip we were surrounded by all these twentysomethings and it just felt weird.  Boullion Bilk was full of people more in our age range, and the whole place had the feel of people just wanting to enjoy a relaxed night out with a delicious meal.

Third, the people-watching was beyond compare. The host was Alex’s Canadian long lost brother (the host was incredibly friendly, although Alex has the edge on humor). There were many couples with whom we played “guess their story,” which is always one of my favorite games. I think the restaurant is fancy enough that it is a hot spot for couples on early dates, still trying to impress each other. New couples always make for the best people watching. (I say this as my husband and I are sitting in a hotel lobby, drinking wine, and looking at the internets to make the most of our relaxation time now that we have sent our daughter to the Kidz Klub to hang out. #old).

The tastes of this meal are so vivid in my memory that it pains me that the restaurant is so far away. Hopefully I make it back to Montreal soon, and when I do, Bouillion Bilk will be right at the top of my “must visit” list.

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NaBloPoMo Day 9: Return to the Homestead

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Return to the Homestead

It’s incredible how refreshing a weekend away can be. Although our vacation was only 2 full days and 2 days spent mostly traveling, I have returned home feeling at least sane again. It’s not full on rested bliss, but I am rested enough to feel capable to dive back into real life.

When traveling, I try to hit as many “local favorites” as possible, even if totally kitschy. Before leaving Montreal today, I enjoyed a Montreal bagel (totally legit), as well as one last helping of Timbits (also legit, but in a totally different way).

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Timbits

Travel was smooth going. In the course of this weekend away, I started and finished one book (The Beach by Alex Garland, in case you are wondering) and also made significant progress in another audiobook (The Scorch Trials by James Dashner).

Baby Beez Spiderman

Returning home with presents was mandatory, of course, and the pom-pom slippers and Spiderman comic book en Francais were very well received.

I know it’s not even late enough to be grown-up bed time, but I’m beat. So g’night.

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NaBloPoMo Day 7: Old Montreal Walking Tour and Essential Canadian Activities

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Old Montreal Walking Tour and Essential Canadian Activities

For our first full day in Montreal, we followed an online walking tour itinerary for Old Montreal and saw a number of the lovely sights. I would guess the high tourist seasons are summer and Christmas, because it is not very hectic right now. Although the tour map looked like it was a lot of walking, everything is pretty close together.  We did walk a lot today, but not like Disney-world lot, so we feel a bit tired but not like OMG exhausted.

Notre Dame

Our first big stop was Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal, which is very important because THIS IS WHERE CELINE DION GOT MARRIED YOU GUYS.  Even without her heart going on-and-on, it is a very beautiful cathedral, with all kinds of carvings and stained glass and beautiful things.

Notre Dame de Montreal

Notre Dame de Montreal

We also visited its sister chapel, which was smaller (albeit still the size of a “normal” church) and also very lovely.

Chapel Notre Dame

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As we walked through the Old City, we stopped to have crepes because this is Montreal and WE NEEDED CREPES. Sandy had the Parisien crepes with apples and brie. I had crepes with ham and caramelized onions and brie. I need more crepes in my life.

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As we continued to wander throughout the city, we kept seeing more and more of these curious telecommunications contraptions….

A relic from times past...

A relic from times past…

We continued on to Montreal’s market building, which I had hoped/expected was a kind of indoor farmer’s market. It’s more of a collection of boutiques, but there are some eateries.

Marche Bonsecours

Also, we were inexplicably trapped in the middle of an ongoing vegan festival…but we located Pub BreWsky with a nice long list of local microbrews, so all was very very well.

Pub BreWsky

Pub BreWsky

There was more wandering around to be had.

Clock Tower

After this wandering, I had THE HUNGRY, so it was very necessary to stop at Montreal’s Dunn’s Famous for Montreal Poutine (smoked meat, cheese curds, gravy, fries).

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Poutine

Properly refueled, we undertook some very necessary shopping, Canadian style, including wandering around Montreal’s vast underground walkway/mall, as well as a stop at Roots, which I just LOVE, and got myself the worlds biggest comfiest sweatshirt dress, which I plan to lounge around in just about every day this winter.

Roots

And in case you thought our day couldn’t get any more Canadian, now that we have stopped to unload our shopping packages, in a few moments we will be leaving for a Montreal Canadiens game!! Go Habs!  (Please pass more poutine)

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NaBloPoMo Day 6: Girls Weekend in Montreal with @orangechairblog

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Girls Weekend in Montreal with @orangechairblog

I’ve been in dire– dare I say desperate–  need of a break. Not necessarily a full-on vacation, but this weekend away with my pal Sandy was much awaited, and is shaping up to be exactly what I need.  We’ve been talking about visiting Montreal for ages, and since Porter Airlines just started operating out of PIT, they have been running excellent specials on flights to Toronto and Montreal.  Porter is a discount airline, but I thought it was all around excellent. Because they add on extra charges for everything like selecting seats and checking bags, etc., it may not be the perfect option for a long family vacation. For our needs, however– two women going away for a weekend, and just wanting some peace and quiet– it worked out just fine. Plus they serve a complimentary glass of wine on the flight. Even better.

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We had a layover at Toronto–Billy Bishop airport, which is the teeniest tiniest airport ever. It is right in the City of Toronto and has fantastic views. The flight there was quick and easy, and they have all kinds of buses, ferries, etc. that go into the city. For our next trip to Toronto (which I hope comes sooner rather than later, I love that place), the flight may be a quicker and easier option than the 6 hour drive.

We got into Montreal late this afternoon. We are staying at an AirBnB studio downtown, and we were easily able to get here on a bus running from the airport. We didn’t do a whole lot of advance planning, but I was recommended to visit the Bota Bota spa for their water circuit (hot tub, cold dunk, sauna, eucalyptus steam room, relaxation), so visit we did.

Bota Bota

It was absolutely lovely. It was completely relaxing and wonderful. Bota Bota is unique because it’s a spa on a BOAT(-a, boat-a), and has a modern vibe to it. I like that you can book treatments or, as we did, just go in for the water circuit. And they even run special rates during the “off” times (before 11am and after 6pm). Since we went in the evening, it was a very reasonable price.

Notre Dame

We spent a few moments sight-seeing while we were out today, but the day was really focused more on unwinding. Tomorrow we will get to know the city more. But first– SLEEP.

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My Erie Preview with @WholeFoodsErie Presque Isle State Park and Sara’s

My Erie Preview with @WholeFoodsErie Presque Isle State Park and Sara’s

I call my week in Erie an “Erie Preview” because I really did not do a whole lot of visiting or sightseeing. I was there for a trial in federal court, and until the jury went out for deliberations, I was (rightfully) all work-focus-work-focus-work-focus. I have to take a moment to be thankful for modern technology. I left bright and early Sunday morning, and did not return until Thursday evening. I missed my family. I was so thankful to be able to FaceTime with them for a few minutes in the evening, to talk about how much we missed each other and to wish each other sweet dreams.

FaceTime


I’m not going to talk about the trial itself, because frankly that would be inappropriate. But the jury went out on Wednesday afternoon and I had all the way through their return on Thursday afternoon to do a little exploring.

On the drive up. Game face on.

On the drive up. Game face on.


My first order of business once the jury went out was to go for a RUN. I hadn’t been for a run in at least two weeks. There was flat-out no time, and I was so stressed that I did not have the energy for running.But once that work was done, that energy flowed back! For my visit, I was staying at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront, with a room overlooking the little marina.

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I was able to run right out the hotel door onto the Erie SeaWay trail. The weather was absolutely perfect for a run. The sky was clear, the temperature warm, and the lake was a beauty to look at.

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After my run was done, I realized it was only about 6pm, and I still had the whole evening open and to myself. I have heard that Presque Isle State Park is very nice, so I decided to go for a drive through there. After getting there and seeing all the gorgeous trails, I realized it would have been an even more lovely place for my evening run. But I was not in a state to do 2 runs for the evening, so instead I went for a drive. And really, with gas prices being what they are, and with the rush rush rush of modern life, who goes for a leisurely drive anymore? I popped open the sunroof and wound my way through the park. It was just delightful.

I pulled over and stopped to take this selfie. No pictures while driving. Obvs.

I pulled over and stopped to take this selfie. No pictures while driving. Obvs.


The park is huge and full of trails, and there are beaches and lighthouses. The lake doesn’t have the waves of the ocean, but my kid cares more about the sand than the waves. I think it would be an ideal spot, and only 2 hours drive away, to take her for a little beach outing this summer.

After my drive, I stopped at local legend Sara’s for some summertime comfort food. Yummmmmmmm

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Afterward, I retired back to my room, to enjoy one last evening of watching whatever I wanted on TV  (read: Teen Mom) and sleeping basically sideways across the bed because OMG IT WAS A KING SIZE BED AND I HAD IT ALL TO MYSELF.

The next day while the jury continued its deliberations, I made my way over to the Whole Foods Co-Op. I picked up some necessaries (a mud mask for later, and a couple of bags of Food Should Taste Good multigrain tortilla chips, because they are the best). I also got lunch of a small wrap, a kale and beet salad and a chocolate chip cookie sandwich.

Whole Foods Co-op

All the food was extremely fresh and delicious. I must say, there is something special about the friendliness of a Co-Op. Since we are members of Pittsburgh’s East End Food Co-Op, the Whole Foods Co-Op extended their member discount to me. Also, I got to sign their guest book 🙂

Before this visit, I probably would have never considered doing a little family trip to Erie, but this trip introduced me to a lot of things my family would enjoy. Erie is now on my short list of destinations, when we are getting restless and just need to get ahhhhta tahhn. On a future visit, I’d like to take Baby Beez to the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum. Also, the Erie area has quite the local brewing community, including Lavery Brewing Company, Erie Brewing Company and The Blue Canoe Brewery.  Mr. Beez and I would very much like to check out their offerings.