Two Years On….

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Two years ago; this one, the pup and I, all got on a plane to Montreal with no idea what would be waiting for us on the other side, yet with a naïve hopefulness that it would be something good. We were lucky. Or maybe we weren’t lucky, maybe it was that unfaltering optimism we had that things would be okay which meant that they were. Regardless, in Montreal we found not just a city that we love but a home and wonderful friends but more than anything we found an adventure that brought out the best in each of us and also brought us closer together as a couple. There’s been plenty of bad days too, of course there has, but for the most part they’re still very much outweighed by the good.

Two years has gone by in a heartbeat. When we first landed in Montreal and had that two year visa stapled into our passports I remember thinking that two years felt like an eternity. I suppose in some ways it has been, it’s hard to imagine a life now where we didn’t live here but in other ways it has completely flown by. The fact that today our two years are up seems unbelievable. I was so sure back then that I would be ready to return to Scotland at the end of the two years but it would seem now that that isn’t quite the case.

Our future is still uncertain and I suppose it might always be. We don’t know where we’re going to be in a year, or 5 or 10. At some stage we may just wake up one day and think, “We’re done! It was fun while it lasted but we’re ready to head back home.” Because as I’ve said before Scotland will always be home to us. Whether we return in a year, 10 years or only ever for holidays it will always be home.

For now though, despite how I anticipated two years ago I would feel at this point, we aren’t ready to leave Canada. For now, it is our home, providing us with the opportunities and quality of life that we’re looking for. Despite the difficult days, the homesickness and the days when you wish so badly you could just magic yourself back to your mum and dad’s for a cuppa, we are happy and that’s not something to take for granted in this life.  So for now we’ll be raising a glass to toast the next stage of our Canadian adventure, whatever that may be and for however long it may last.

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Ta Pies, A Little Taste of Home

Living abroad there are many things about Scotland that we miss, other than obviously our friends and family, and I have to say food items are very high up on that list. Some of this is specific items; for me, diluting juice, diet Irn-Bru, potato scones and British chocolate but others are home cooked meals that no one can make quite like family, or favourites from local eateries. Something that is definitely missed by my other half is a pie, primarily a steak pie.

A pie is very much seen as comfort food in the UK, and is something that us Brits eat on a multitude of occasions;  in winter, for Sunday dinner, New Year’s Day, it’s also perfect hangover food and it of course tastes so much better when someone else makes it for you. However it’s something you don’t really get here in Montreal, at least not in the same form as we do back home; or at least so we thought, until we discovered Ta Pies.

Located at 4520 Avenue du Parc, just off the corner of Parc and Mont Royal, Ta Pies has most definitely in recent months filled a void for us and many of our expat friends. It specialises in Australian and New Zealand cuisine but it seems that the Aussie/Kiwi version of a pie is very similar to ours back in the UK. Pie Gods we thank you!

The shop itself is small but there is a couple of tables if you’d prefer to sit in and tuck into your pie there and then. There are options to buy their pies hot, ready to heat or frozen and in small individual form or in a larger family sized pie.

When it comes to variety of pie there are so many different types that there is sure to be one to please everyone – steak, steak and Guinness, steak and cheese, steak and mushroom, butter chicken, lamb rogan josh and for the vegi’s amongst us there are 3 different options – spinach, ricotta, tomato and mushroom;  sweet potato and curried vegetable (my personal favourite) and vegetable chilli.

They also offer all the trimmings – mashed potato, mushy peas, gravy and a variety of sweet treats from Oz including lamingtons, anzac biscuits, afghan cookies, as well as my favourite the Yoyo, a shortbread cookie with a passion fruit buttercream filling.

They also stock some goodies such as Vegemite and Branston Pickle and also some Cadbury’s chocolate (the good stuff not the Canadian version).

Price wise you’re looking between $5-$6.75  for an individual pie or between $15-$18 for a family sized one. A trio of mash, mushy peas and gravy will set you back a very reasonable $4.50. Trust me though it’s all worth every penny. They get extra bonus points because they also deliver through the Just Eat app, or you can call them directly for delivery on 514-277-7437…… hello perfect Sunday dinner with zero effort required. So if like us you’re missing a little bit of British home comfort food I highly recommend you check this place out.

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Get Your Skates on (One Last Time)

The start of March in Montreal has shown us that winter is most definitely coming to an end. It slightly feels like we’re living in the twilight zone as we have very little snow left and the temperature on Wednesday reached 9 degrees! Don’t get too excited though, as if the weather reports are to be believed it could reach as cold as -30 over the next few days. However, whatever the next month may have in store for us weather wise, winter is definitely on its way out, sooner, rather than later. So, before the snow is completely gone it’s time to make the most of the few weeks of winter activities that we have left this season.

Rather controversially for living in Montreal my favourite thing to do in winter is ice skating (I know it’s expected here that this would be skiing but for me skating wins every time). Perhaps because this was a childhood favourite of mine, which despite not having done for 15 years, it turns out I still love. So time to don those skates and have one last shot on the ice, before it melts. The outdoor rinks in Montreal are scheduled to close for the season this Sunday, so this weekend really is your last shot!

There are over 100 outdoor ice rinks in Montreal (wild I know!) but there are 3 which, to me, stand out, and if you haven’t already checked these out I recommend you do so this weekend.

Beaver Lake

beaver lake ice rink 3Beaver lake (or Lac aux Castors) is located at the top of Mont Royal. However, don’t panic if you don’t feel like a walk up the mountain, or the thought of facing those stairs puts you off, (who could blame you) you can always jump on the number 11 bus from Mont Royal metro. However you choose to get there it is beautiful once you’re at the top and you won’t be disappointed seeing it in it’s winter glory. A relatively short walk from the ice rink will also take you to the lookout point giving beautiful views out over Montreal, and killing two birds with one stone (or one climb rather). There is a refrigerated section to the rink, meaning that part of the rink is open, even on the milder days (not a problem I think we’re going to have this weekend but you never know). The rink is open from 9am-10pm Friday and Saturday and from 9am – 9pm on Sunday. Skating itself is free and if you need to hire skates this is $9 for two hours, however if you have your own you can just turn up and head straight on.

 

Parc La Fontaine

parc la fontaine ice rink 3As my favourite place in Montreal, it’s no surprise that the ice rink in La Fontaine makes it into to the top of my list. It’s a natural rink so it is weather dependant but it was open last weekend so fingers crossed it will also be open for this final weekend (highly likely with the forecasted temperatures). Being able to ice skate in our local park is, for me, something pretty special. I’m sure to those from Montreal it’s such a normal thing to do that they don’t even give it a second thought but the first time I saw people on the ice here I was so excited as it’s so far removed from anything I’d had the opportunity to do before.  La Fontaine is a truly beautiful park in all seasons but in the snow (and despite the thaw La Fontaine is still pretty white) it’s magical and being able to skate there is, for me anyway, a total dream. Like Beaver Lake the skating here is free, and skate hire is $10 for up to 3 hours. The skate hire and rink are open 10am- 10pm while the rink is still usable.

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Old Port

old port ice rink 2The ice rink in the old port is the one that you can guarantee will definitely make it open to its end date of Sunday as it has a relatively decent sized refrigerated rink (the natural rink was closed when we went skating here last weekend and I think it’s quite unlikely, with the weather we’ve been having this week, that it will reopen by the weekend). The setting for this rink, at the Bonsecours end of the Old Port, is quite beautiful, especially at night, or even better if you can catch it as the sun is setting. Unlike the other two rinks though you do have to pay to skate here, though it is pretty reasonable, $6.95 for adults, $4.60 for kids aged 6-12 and under 6’s go free. It is also probably the best option if you are a beginner and want to be able to hold onto the barrier as the other two don’t have any barriers around the edge to cling onto, so if you’re not too sure on the ice you will need a friend/ partner for that purpose. The rink in the old port is also groomed every three hours making it a much smoother skate than the other two options. It will be open all weekend from 10am-10pm.

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Maybe by now you’ve had enough of the winter activities but if not I highly recommend checking out one of these beautiful rinks this weekend before it’s too late.

My Top Tips

  • All three rinks have an on site café where you can buy a bite to eat and a hot drink to heat you up afterwards (or as somewhere to keep the spectators warm)
  • Layering is key, clothes wise; especially if it is a cold one like we’re expecting, as skating is hot work and you’ll be surprised how quickly you heat up when actually on the ice and similarly how quickly you cool down when you come off.
  • All three rinks update their status (if they’re open and what the condition of the ice is) each day online on the sites below so check that before heading so you don’t have a wasted journey. Or call 311 for information on the rinks.

The Ville de Montreal portal page (http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=5977,94954214&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL )

http://www.oldportofmontreal.com/activity/skating-rink

  • La Fontaine’s skate hire takes cash only.
  • Take a padlock with you to store your shoes/boots/bags etc in a locker without having to pay to hire a padlock (the locker rental is free at all three rinks but they will charge you to rent a padlock if you don’t have your own)

Have fun and be sure to let me know if you check any of the rinks out!

Every time a bell rings…

One of my favourite pastimes at Christmas is escaping the cold, and in Montreal the snow; and curling up in my pyjamas, with a hot chocolate  (I have recently developed a great love for Bailey’s hot chocolate which is not remotely diet friendly but is incredibly festive), and watching a Christmas movie. This is one of the activities that I hold off on until December 1st so I am then able to savour it for the whole month of December.

There are some truly wonderful Christmas movies to choose from but I have to say that the old ones are definitely the best. In recent years there just hasn’t been the same calibre of Christmas movie. The most recent ones that I have really enjoyed include ‘Elf’, which graced our screens for the first time in 2003, still some 13 years ago. For me this is Will Ferrell at his best, a giant elf searching for his father in New York City, comedy gold.

Another wonderful Christmas film that came out the same year as ‘Elf’, is the romantic comedy ‘Love Actually’. It’s fairly cheesy but in a good way and it has a stellar cast, portraying the stories of a group of Londoners at Christmas whose stories are all interlinked but which all share the one common theme, love. I’m a sucker for a rom com so ‘The Holiday’ also gets my vote. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet both fed up with their lives and about to spend Christmas alone decide to do a house swap from LA to the English countryside and in doing so find themselves getting more than they bargained for from their agreement. It was slightly more recent, being released in 2006 but in the ten years since it’s release I’m afraid there haven’t been any that have really captured my Christmas spirit.

My all time favourite Christmas film is one of the oldest ones there is, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, telling the story of George Bailey who, falling upon bad times, contemplates suicide; only to be visited by his guardian angel who shows him what life would be like if he had never existed. It may not sound like the happiest of Christmas stories but if you haven’t seen it stick with it, I promise it’s worth it. I absolutely adore it and it’s famous quote “Every time a bell rings an angel somewhere gets their wings”. In Glasgow the GFT (Glasgow Film Theatre) shows it in the run up to Christmas and I was delighted to find that a number of the cinemas in Montreal also screen it and I already have my tickets booked to go see it on the 22nd. There’s something about seeing this magical Christmas film up on the big screen that feels so festive and puts you right into the Christmas spirit. It’s also a very good way of reminding yourself of the true message of Christmas.

I didn’t actually watch It’s A Wonderful Life until I was an adult but once I did it became my firm favourite. However my other close contenders for the top spot are all ones that I watched as a child and when watching them I am magically transported back to that age again. Christmas films have a special ability to do this as they’re a little bit of magic. They undoubtedly have a happy ending (I’m the person that turns Titanic off once the boat starts to sink so I love this) and there’s usually a heartfelt, feel good message to them too. You never feel bad after watching a Christmas movie.

‘Home Alone’ and it’s New York sequel are prime examples of what makes a good Christmas film – a cute kid beating the bad guy(s) and ultimately getting their Christmas wish. ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is another classic which I always love, where Macy’s Santa Claus, Kris Kringle helps little Susan to ‘Believe’ in Santa and the magic of Christmas. I have never actually seen the original 1947 version of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ but it is on my to watch list this year. I can’t quite believe that the remake is 22 years old this year!

There are numerous other Christmas crackers (pardon the pun) worthy of watching. The many variations of ‘A Christmas Carol’ are always worth a watch and ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ which came out the year I was born will always be one that I watch over the festive period.

Whatever your favourite Christmas film is I hope you get the chance to enjoy it over the holidays and with it, to bring a little Christmas cheer to a cosy afternoon or evening. Don’t forget your Bailey’s hot chocolate!

Christmas Traditions

Every family has Christmas traditions, whether they’re conscious ones or not. What time of day do you open presents? Do you get dressed up on Christmas day (I mean in a nice outfit not as an elf or Santa, though maybe you do that in your family?) or do you spend the day in your jammies? What time do you eat your Christmas dinner? I bet you do these things pretty much the same every year. In my house we open our presents first thing in the morning, we get fairly dressed up and we eat dinner at 3pm…..every year!  I also bet that your family does things that are unique to it too, be it a certain film you watch on Christmas Eve, specific things you eat, the order you do things in on Christmas Day, how you spend Boxing Day; every family has their own Christmas traditions and any change to them can feel a bit unsettling. (The year my mum stopped buying the Sara Lee Double Chocolate Gateaux for Christmas dessert is still a sore point for me).

On their own these little traditions may not seem like much but it’s all these small, apparently silly things, that add up to make Christmas really feel like Christmas. As the years go on though inevitably things change. We lose people we love and with that we find an extra empty seat appearing at our Christmas table, something that can be incredibly difficult to deal with. Especially because the traditions of Christmas mean that someone’s absence is felt so hard when they are no longer there to partake in them with you. Things can change for positive reasons too. People, just like us, find an adventure that takes them away from home. And more often children grow up and get married, have their own families and make traditions of their own but the majority of the traditions we take forward into our adult lives are those that are imbedded from our own childhood.

For me the biggest of these traditions is spending Christmas Day, and in particular having Christmas dinner, with my Mum and Dad. So I am over the moon that they will be arriving here next week as this year for the first time we will be spending Christmas in Canada. This will be the first time ever that we’ve not been in Scotland for Christmas so having them here with us is very important to me. This will also be the first time that I’ve ever cooked a Christmas dinner, though how that will go still remains to be seen! We have two of our closest friends in Montreal also joining us for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to this, normally on Christmas Day we wouldn’t spend time with our friends so to have two of them with us for Christmas will be lovely.

So this year Christmas will be different. We aren’t in Scotland so some of our Christmas traditions just wont be able to happen this year. We can’t visit Mark’s family on Christmas morning and watch our niece open her presents.  I can’t go and place a wreath at my gran’s grave. I won’t get to join my friends for our annual Christmas girls day out. We won’t get to spend Boxing Day doing Christmas all over again with my wee cousin or the evening having dinner with Mark’s family. These things are all part of our yearly Christmas traditions and the fact that we won’t be able to do them this year or spend time with our other family or friends does make me sad. So yes, this year some of our traditions will change. But some will stay the same; the ones that can be transferred across the miles. And the exciting thing is we’ll also make new traditions. Ones that we can carry forward with us into future Christmases, wherever it may be that we spend them.

I know that things wont be the same this year, this will be a different type of Christmas from any we’ve had before but I hope that it will still be amazing. It’s our first Christmas in Canada and we get to celebrate it along with some of our favourite people so that seems like a pretty good start to me.

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(Just a little bit in love with my Christmas tree this year!)

May the Christmas Cheer Commence!

Today is the 1st of December which in our house means it is now officially time for the Christmas fun and festivities to begin. Up until this date I purposefully avoid all signs of Christmas. I swallow back down any Christmas thoughts I have, force myself not to smile at any decorations I see and turn the channel if I see a Christmas movie is on TV. I am completely and utterly unwilling to enter into anything Christmas related until 1st December. No Christmas cheer, nothing, zilch, nada… Other than Strabuck’s Christmas drinks, that skinny gingerbread latte should be enjoyed as many times as possible while it’s here!

I’m not Scrooge, far from it; I absolutely love Christmas but I love Christmas in December. I don’t love Christmas in November, and I definitely don’t love Christmas in October….who are you people?! Starting to celebrate early, I feel, causes Christmas to lose some of it’s magic. And it is magical. For the next 25 days I will love throwing myself into everything Christmas related. But if I’d started that a month ago by now I would be losing my excitement for it, and quite possibly the will to live too!

But now that December 1st is here it’s perfectly acceptable for me to get excited and this year I am really excited. This will be our first Christmas in Canada, (we travelled back to Scotland for Christmas last year) and my parents arrive in 15 days…not that I’m counting, to join us for the holidays. Although I’m really sad at the thought of being apart from the other members of our families at Christmas and not seeing our friends over the holidays I am also so excited to spend Christmas in Montreal.

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I’m excited to watch the city turn itself into a Christmas wonderland, and to visit all of the wonderful festive activities that the city has to offer over the coming month – Christmas markets, outdoor cinemas, outdoor ice skating rinks, the largest Christmas tree in Canada……I think we’re going to be busy. But most of all I’m excited to make new traditions and create some amazing memories, and maybe, if we’re very lucky, also get a white Christmas 🙂

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So for now it’s time to look out the Christmas jumpers, get the mulled wine on the go, buy a tree and decorations, do our Christmas shopping, and of course eat, drink and be merry. That diet can wait till January!

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The End of Autumn

Walking around Montreal today and hearing the leaves crunching under my feet there is now no doubting that autumn is packing up it’s bags and preparing to leave the city. It seems no time at all since it arrived; though actually we’ve had a rather long autumn this year, by Montreal standards. The arrival of autumn is always a little bittersweet for me as it of course signals the end of summer. We had a lovely summer and this sun worshipper was extremely sad to see the last of it. But despite this I can’t help but love autumn and what it brings.

Autumn may be one of the shorter seasons here but what it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in beauty. Instagram filters are no longer required come autumn in Montreal, the city does a sterling job of making itself quite stunning enough already. I don’t ever remember appreciating autumn when we were back in the U.K., definitely not in the way I do here. I’m not sure if this is because the seasons are so much more defined here, you can actually pinpoint the days where summer ends and autumn begins whereas back in Scotland our unpredictable weather makes the change of seasons a little more hazy. Regardless of the reasons behind it I have definitely, since moving to Montreal, became a great lover of this season.

I feel the need to constantly have my camera in my bag at the moment and I definitely take more pictures in autumn than I do at any other time of the year, as everything is just so pretty. The colours of the trees are indescribable in their vibrance, making me feel at times like I have stepped right onto a Hollywood movie set. William Cullen Bryant described it as, “Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” and I can’t help but agree with him.

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Autumn also brings with it a different array of activities, pumpkin carving. apple picking, Halloween and as much as I adore the picnics, pool days and BBQ’s of summer there’s something quite lovely about spending an autumn afternoon wrapped up in a big cosy jumper with a hot mug of tea and your favourite book. I spend the summer months feeling that I need to make the most of every single sunny day (It’s the Scot in me, I still can’t get used to having an actual summer) so autumn for me brings with it a bit of a reprieve – ‘You don’t want to go out today? Well that’s okay you don’t have to, it’s chilly anyway. Why don’t you grab a blanket and put a boxset on?” Oh, okay autumn if you insist 🙂

I don’t spend all of my autumn days in the house though, I promise! I love nothing more on a cool and crisp day than getting wrapped up and taking a long walk, dog and camera in tow. My dog Max loves autumn as well – summer is too warm for him to walk too far and in winter he has to wear snow boots (it’s required in Montreal to protect his little paws, it’s not a fashion statement) but Max detests these boots (in his defence they do make him walk a bit like a camel so I can see his point) but these autumn days are perfect for him to go on long walks and if there’s a big pile of leaves for him to throw himself into, well, even better.

As I watch the leaves fall from the trees now and the temperature slowly start to drop a few degrees (we’ve been very lucky with how mild November has been so far) I am very aware that winter is just around the corner and with it a large dusting of snow and sub zero temperatures will come. Winter is a magical time in Montreal and I’m really excited for it (you can tell I’m still relatively new to the city as the novelty hasn’t worn off yet) but for now I’m going to cling onto autumn as long as possible, as I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to it just yet.

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A summer weekend in Montreal

Last Friday was Saint Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec’s national holiday which meant a long weekend as most of the city shut down on the Friday. I remember being surprised on this day last year at just how little there was open. On public holidays in the UK banks and public services will be closed but that’s about it; bars, restaurants and shops will all still be open, however here there is very little left open with shops and supermarkets all closing and the bars and restaurants which do open tend to have reduced opening hours. I actually like the fact that most places are closed on these holidays here, it’s only one day and I think it’s important that people get a proper break to spend time with their families.

We had very little planned for the holiday weekend so it was lovely to be able to just relax in the sunshine. Summer has very much arrived in Montreal and with it there seems to have been a notable shift in atmosphere. Everyone’s mood appears brighter and it’s like they wish to spend as much time as physically possible outdoors, be it cycling, running, walking, in the parks or on one of the countless outdoor terrasses and rooftop bars that have popped up throughout the city. The winters in Montreal may be harsh but it’s residents certainly know how to make the most of the summer months. It’s as if the whole city has been let out of prison ( a very cold, snowy prison) and they want to resume their (summer) life with gusto.

In keeping with this we spent a large part of the holiday weekend in my favourite place in Montreal, Parc La Fontaine which we are fortunate enough to live just a short 5/10 minute walk from. There is just something about the park that makes me feel so relaxed. I appreciate the beauty in all of the parks in Montreal but there’s something special about La Fontaine. I think it was the first place I felt truly at home here and that feeling’s stuck with me. Even in winter, when it was deserted and covered in snow, a walk through it (a very careful walk in winter so as not to slip and break any bones) could always cheer me up on a bad day, and well, now that the sun is shining, it truly is my happy place. We were due to meet with friends there on Thursday night for a picnic and some drinks, though due to me and an ongoing issue of throwing my iPhone out of my hand, (this happens ridiculously often) I missed the actual picnic by being in the phone repair shop but I did get to join them later which was a lovely way to kick off the holiday weekend.

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On Friday, after a lazy morning, we returned to the park just the two of us and Max (our dog) for a day of sunbathing, picnicking and a few drinks in the sunshine. Montreal’s “picnic law”makes it legal to drink in Montreal parks as long as you’re eating at the same time – undoubtedly the best law Quebec has. The atmosphere in the park on Friday was truly lovely, it was very busy but still very chilled, as couples, families and groups of friends all with big smiling faces enjoyed their day off in the sunshine. We found ourselves relaxing there until early evening.

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On Saturday, Mark, who is training for the marathon in September, went to do his long run and I would like to say that I joined him but the lure of the sunshine was too much for me, so I once again returned to my favourite spot with my book for a quiet few hours. The heat on Saturday was intense and it didn’t cool down even in the evening. At 10pm it was still 26 degrees so we felt a few glasses of wine on a terrasse was deserved. Again we didn’t venture far, in fact other than to fix my phone on Thursday evening we didn’t leave the neighbourhood once this weekend and it was nice just to walk everywhere. So on Saturday night we wandered up to Terminal on the east end of Mont Royal Avenue where we found a spot on their terrasse and watched the world go by for an hour while we enjoyed a few drinks. Terminal has recently became a firm favourite of mine, it’s very low key, nicely decorated, the wine is nice yet not overpriced, the music is good but low enough that you can still chat easily with those you are with – it would seem that turning 30 also turned me into one of those people who complain when they have to shout over music to be heard. Yes I am officially now that person.

Waking on Sunday to another scorching day, we decided this was the perfect excuse to spend our first day of the year at the pool. The Scottish in me still can’t quite get my head around the fact I live somewhere that you can actually get use of outdoor pools, but I’m definitely not complaining. We went to the nearest public pool to us, (there are 74 outdoor public pools in Montreal),at Parc Baldwin, just 10 minutes walk away. The pool is a decent size and has a diving pool and also a small kids pool too and is $5 for adults to enter and $3 for children. It was busy, understandably so on such a beautiful day, but not overly so – there was still plenty of room to find a spot to lay your towel. There’s no sun loungers so if just lying on a towel on the ground isn’t for you make sure to take a fold up chair with you. You can’t eat around the pool area either which is a bit of pain but I suppose is fair enough, especially if it helps to keeps the area clean, and there is a separate picnic area just outside the pool area for this purpose. I suspect we may spend a lot of time here over the next few months.

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We finished our Sunday and our holiday weekend off with heading back home for a BBQ, a relaxing end to a lovely, very chilled out summer weekend in Montreal. On a weekend like this winter now seems a very distant, chilly memory however I know that before long it will of course rear it’s icy head again. But until then, here’s to a wonderful summer in Montreal, let’s make the most of every warm minute.

Food Truck Fridays

Last weekend saw the first Friday of June arrive which could mean only one thing…..Food Truck time! The first Friday of each month (from May to October) sees a huge event, known locally as “First Fridays”held at the Olympic Stadium on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life to honour Montreal’s wonderful offering of food trucks.

 

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This will be the fifth year that the event has ran in Montreal and it has became the largest gathering of food trucks in Canada. Up to 47 different food trucks can be found in attendance at each event offering delicious food offerings such as Poutine, Ribs, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Burrito Bowls, Dim Sum, Tacos, Salads and Pizza, as well as numerous sweet treats like doughnuts, ice cream, cupcakes and waffles. There is something for everyone and vegi’s and meat eaters are both very well catered for.

After much debate we both opted for a Naanwich – a naan bread twist on a sandwich which was utterly delicious and so, so fresh. The naan bread was the tastiest and lightest I’ve ever had. I opted for the vegi version and my husband had the chicken version. They both got a huge thumbs up from us. Although on this occasion we were both won over by the look of the Naanwich, the beauty of the food trucks is that if you don’t fancy the same type of food as your dining companions you can all choose something entirely different and then still grab a spot to eat together.

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There are now also bar and seating areas for up to 300 people where, after stuffing your face, you can sit and partake in a few cold beverages in the sun while listening to some live bands or DJ’s. This past Friday was the perfect evening for this as the sun shone and the temperature stayed nice and toastie right up until closing time creating the perfect atmosphere for a chilled Friday night. It really is a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a Friday evening, be it with family, friends or your partner and if you haven’t yet been I would highly recommend heading along to the next one on Friday 1st July. Maybe see you there 🙂

Points of Note

  • Admission is free
  • Only food and drink purchased on site can be consumed there
  • Event runs from 4pm to 11pm (the earlier you go the quieter it will be)
  • Family friendly fun
  • No dogs allowed, only guide dogs
  • You might need to queue for food at peak times
  • Event is entirely outdoors so take an umbrella if there’s rain forecast

 

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

Homesickness, it’s a funny thing. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is. Sometimes it’s a fleeting notion that you wish you were somewhere or were with someone. Other times it’s a physical ache, for a person or a place. Sometimes it lasts just a few seconds, maybe brought on by seeing a Facebook post, a familiar smell, the mention of someone’s name. Other times it can last for days. Homesickness tends to have very negative connotations. It’s something that people are often ashamed of but to be homesick you have to have something, or more likely someone, back home that you love very much, and what’s the shame in that? That makes you very, very lucky.

Before I arrived in Montreal homesickness terrified me. I thought that if there was any reason why this move wouldn’t work out, homesickness would be it. I suspect a few people at home thought the same, ‘They’ll be back in 6 months, she’ll miss her Mum and Dad too much.’ and I can’t blame them, I wondered myself if this would be the case. Yet a year later and we’re still here and yet, yes I do miss them, I miss them terribly. But where I have surprised myself is that for the most part I am able to rationalise my homesickness.

Don’t get me wrong there are days when I find myself in tears, and my poor confused husband asks me what’s wrong, only to be met with a sobbing “I just want to go to my Mum and Dad’s for a cup of tea.” But in spite of these slightly irrational breakdowns I do know that I’m in a wonderful situation and that I’ve been given an amazing opportunity which I shouldn’t waste. I also know that my Mum and Dad are happy to see us happy. That’s a parent’s goal right? I’m not one myself but I think if your kids are happy then you know you’ve done a good job. Mine did a wonderful job, they are amazing parents, hence why I miss them so much. So even though I miss them terribly I do know I’ve done the right thing. I also know that the time I spend with them means so much more to me now. I truly value every minute I have with them, and this can said for my best friends too.

I will never again take for granted a catch up with a friend over a cup of coffee or nipping to my Mum and Dad’s for my dinner. I value every minute of the time I get with them. It might be much less frequent these days but at least it is now quality time. Last summer when my Mum and Dad visited I got to spend two weeks with them, a full two weeks! I would never have had that opportunity were I still back at home. This year when they visit I’m meeting them in Toronto and travelling to Niagara Falls with them, something I would also never have got the opportunity to do if I was still at home. Creating these wonderful memories with them is what gets me through the hard days. Because despite my rationalising, some days are still hard.

What I have found very surprising is that I can be homesick on a good day. Homesickness and happiness are not mutually exclusive and I didn’t expect this. I assumed the days I would be homesick would be the days when I’d had a bad day here  or  when I didn’t have much on but I can have had a lovely day, had great company all day and still have moments of homesickness. Because being homesick does not necessarily mean you’re unhappy. I’m incredibly happy here. I really do love my life here but there are still times when I miss home. When I talk about being homesick I seldom mean the place, I do love Scotland and to me it will always be ‘home’ but I don’t really miss it per se, other than living beside the beach, I do miss the beach, but for me it’s the people that I’m homesick for, my family and best friends.

I realise though how fortunate I am to be living abroad in today’s modern times where technology definitely makes it easier than it would have been, even as little as 5 years ago. It really is an amazing thing that there are now so many ways to keep in touch – WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Skype and the person that created FaceTime, well I will always be in their debt. As through FaceTime I was able to meet my best friend’s new baby when she was just a couple of hours old, I’ve watched a friend get married, I’ve been at baby showers, hen weekends and birthdays.  I have however still missed not being physically there for the big things, these important events that, if there wasn’t an ocean separating me, I would never ever miss. But as hard as missing all of these milestones is, they’re other people’s milestones, not ours. Realising this was one of my hardest hurdles to get over to begin with. Although the big things are so important, I also miss the small things. The cuppas with my Mum, the Sunday dinners with my family, the impromptu lunches and drinks and coffees with friends. Moving the year that I and my friends turned 30 probably made things a little harder as well. I missed being there for so many friends birthday celebrations and not having my family or friends here to celebrate with me when I turned 30 was also hard.

Being so far away inevitably forces you to re-evaluate the relationships you have back home and some of our relationships sadly probably won’t survive this move, at least not in the way they once were. But you know as hard as it’s been to realise that, I have accepted it now. This is just the way of the world, people change and people move on and for some people out of sight is out of mind. But those who are meant to be part of our journey for the long term will be and the distance separating us won’t ever change that. Our family will always be our family and our best friends will always be our best friends.

The relationships I have with the little people in my life are also very important to me, my beautiful nieces and nephews, both those that are family and those that aren’t. I love them all and being apart from them brings a different type of homesickness entirely. They change so much every week and the differences in them from one month to another astound me and not being there to see them grow is tough. The fear that they won’t remember me or worse still that the littlest ones will never know me to begin with is hard to take.

When we went home for a visit at Christmas, having been in Canada for seven months at this point I went to visit a very good friend and her two little boys. One of whom I was meeting for the first time as he had been born while I was away but the other is 3 and before I left he lovingly called me Auntie Dawn and was my loyal little playmate. I wondered on the drive over there, with a lump in my throat, if he would even know who I was anymore. After all, 7 months is a long time when you’re 3!  Well thankfully I needn’t have worried as he ran down the stairs and straight into my arms giving me the tightest squeeze of I think anyone I met on my trip home, before proceeding to play as if he’d seen me the day before. The relief I felt that I could pick back up my relationship with this special little man I can’t even describe. But I do know this won’t always be the case. There will be times I’ll visit home and these little people won’t know who I am. I do know though that their wonderful mummies who tirelessly send me photos and videos of them  will make sure they know their Auntie Dawn loves them, even if she doesn’t get to see them as often as she’d like.

Not being there when people need you, whether it’s for good reasons or bad, is the hardest type of homesickness and at these times I can feel every single one of the 3000 miles separating me from them. There’s a part of me that I’m sure will, in a way, never forgive myself for having this adventure and so putting ourselves first –  and in doing so leaving my parents at home, missing special birthdays, friends weddings, babies being born and not being there to support our families and friends when they need us. Because as wonderful as technology is, it can’t let you be a shoulder to cry on, or give someone a hug and there are times when a FaceTime just doesn’t cut it. I’m sure that the thought of having let people down by our selfishness of moving away, is something I won’t easily forget. You see moving away does makes you selfish, just by the act of doing it in the first place, and by knowing that realistically you can’t just hop on a plane whenever someone needs you, despite how much you may want to.

Here again I have to force myself to rationalise or the guilt this brings will eat me alive. I have to hope that all of this is worth it. That one day I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about when Gran and Papa moved to Canada and all of the adventures we had here. And I hope that they’ll be proud of us, because I’m proud of us. I’m proud of us for trying it and even more so for making it work. I hope that wherever we are in the world by that point, be it Scotland, Canada or somewhere else entirely, that we will have given ourselves and subsequently one day our children, a better life because of the experience we had here and the people we became as a result and so for that I hope that the homesickness and the events and people we miss will have been worth it.