Today I found out about the very sudden passing of my dear friend and most devoted lunch buddy, Allen Lee. I met Allen when I started my "new" job back in 2011. We started out as co-workers. Of course, you get to know someone over time, especially when you are on the same team at work. Allen was soft spoken and nice, a "typical engineer", if you will. Fast forward to 2016, I found out through casual conversation with Allen that he's been eligible for retirement but have not done so because he's used to coming into work. He had lost his wife a couple of years before and didn't think he had much to do other than going into work. Needless to say, I sat him down in my office and gave him plenty of retirement to-do tasks! Well, he soon took my advice and submitted his retirement papers! I promised him that I would take him to lunch and celebrate the occasion. Allen and I were also "neighbors", he lived only about a mile from me and very close to my kids' elementary school. Sometimes we will see him walking his big dog when I drop the kids off at school. Ever since his retirement, Allen and I have been going to lunch every two weeks, barring any vacation/travels (with a brief COVID break) on my end. Allen was very devoted to his dogs and did not like to travel much. He liked to work on his house and cars and walk his dogs. At our regularly scheduled lunches, we "shoot the breeze" about our neighborhood politics, work (though he discovered that he didn't care about that anymore), and gardening. Once, after a year of retiring, he mused to me that he "doesn't know how he had time to go to work back in the days!" after telling me about all the clubs he got involved with! I was always happy to hear how much he loved retirement.
I ususally never take pictures when we go to lunch because we just hit hole-in-the-wall lunch places that had good food. Allen was game to try new restaurants that I suggest and he liked a variety of foods. But back in August, I had a meeting to get to so he agreed to meet me at a local market less than a block from my house. It was a beautiful day and we sat on the patio. I had gotten a bowl of split pea soup which looked so good to him that he went back inside to order one for himself. That's when I snapped the two pictures below...he sat in the white chair that day. Now, the empty chair will always remind me of all the missed lunches with Allen. The news is so unexpected that I am still floating in the space between "nothing's changed" and "everything's changed".
Posted on September 26, 2022
Mr. BAW and I are absolute foodies. We LOVE to eat and try new restaurants. A huge part of our travels involves and revolves around food. So it's no different on our trip to Montreal and Quebec. We had some amazing and unique experiences with dining, especially in Montreal.
One reason I love Montreal so much was the abundance of amazing restaurants accessible by public transportation. Although we had a hard time booking reservations, most of the very popular places (high number of Yelp/Google review places) were all booked up on the days we were visiting, a testament to the popularity of these places since we were in Montreal on Monday and Tuesday! So after a few failed attemps at reserving the popular places, we finally secured two reservations at the "less" popular places for dinner. However, as we discovered, both of the restaurants turned out to be amazing in different ways. My favorite restaurant of the entire trip, and I would go back to dine there if we ever go back to Montreal, is Monarque
. I believe it's the best meal I've had in as long as I can remember! Of course, having an entire lobster doesn't hurt, the Lobster Thermidor was amazing. But everything else we had was amazing too, including the bone marrow...was the best bone marrow we've ever had. The entire restaurant was really fun too, it was a vibrant atmosphere but not too loud. I really enjoyed people watching, even though it was a Monday night, the restaurant was full of diverse diners. The wait staff was very attentive. I had a wonderful time. The second restaurant we went to was another amazing meal for a different reason. Bar George was a whole experience that I would recommend once. The food at Bar George was good, but not worth the price they charged. But, the restaurant itself was AMAZING...it's inside Lord George's mansion. Check out the pictures of the place below, we were told that all of the woodwork in the mansion were handmade. The restaurant is on the main floor, but they encouraged guests to wander around after dinner and check out the place. I really felt like royalty dinning at Bar George.
Sadly, we only had two nights in Montreal and then it was off to Quebec. Our experience with the restaurants in Quebec is that they are a little more touristy and less innovative than those in Montreal. We had one dinner at a popular place inside the old city and a cute little hole-in-the-wall place, Le Hobbit
, just outside the old city. Le Hobbit was very cute, the staff was super friendly. Each place we made reservations at, we always indicate that we were celebrating my 50th birthday (albeit it was an early celebration). But Le Hobbit was the only restaurant that brought me dessert with a candle and sang to me! We had such a lovely time at Le Hobbit that I didn't take single picture there but we had sweetbread and duck. To add to the coziness of the place, it was raining that night we dined there. I didn't realize how much I missed the rain until we experienced it. It was simply magical dining by the open window while it sprinkled in the night.
Since the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
is the most photographed hotel in the world, we wanted to have a meal there. Sadly, we were not able to get a dinner reservation so we settled for a nice lunch at one of the feature restaurants, Le Sam Bistro. In concert with the hotel, this restaurant is simply gorgeous, with an amazing view of the St. Lawrence River. The food and service were both good. But the ambience is really the star of this place.
Overall, I had some amazing dining experiences on this trip. I do consider the dinner at Monarque my "birthday" dinner because the food was amazing and the experience was fantastic. And to think that we didn't even get to dine at the "first choice" restaurants!
Posted on September 20, 2022
MONTREAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
We took the metro from Mount Royal to the Montreal Botanical Garden. I just wanted to also mark that day, August 16 2022, as the day that I outwalked Mr. BAW. Mr. BAW is notorious in his family as someone who walks everywhere. When his office was on the 22nd floor of a building, he would walk up the stairs the entire way! Both his brother and I have been walked to anger on separate vacations with him. But that day in Montreal, we went from hiking up Mount Royal to walking to a poutine place (only to discover that it was closed)by the Botanical Gardens. Mr. BAW was so hungry and tired that we forgo the hunt for poutine and just grabbed a quick bite at the botanical garden. But luckily, after lunch Mr. BAW recharged and we were able to enjoy the rest of our afternoon at the botanical garden.
The Montreal Botanical Garden is a huge place. The highlight of the garden to me was the Chinese garden. It was very elaborate. We spent a good chunk of our time there exploring the Chinese garden. I also really enjoyed the vegetable garden, trying to get ideas for my own garden at home. Overall, it was a nice visit and we thoroughly tired ourselves out that day. Enjoy the pictures.
Posted on September 16, 2022
MOUNT ROYAL HIKE
To me, a great vacation involves lots of restaurants, cafes, museums, shops, and maybe a few boat/train/funicular rides. But when I travel with Mr. BAW, I know I have to plan in at least one physical activity for us. Luckily, Montreal offers a great option for nature and city folks alike, Mount Royal Park. Specifically, we climbed Mount Royal Stairs, 400 wooden steps up to the top of Mount Royal for a bird's eye view of the beautiful city.
After we finished a hearty breakfast at Tommy Cafe
, we took the bus and metro to Mount Royal Stairs, right next to McGill University. The only minor snag was that there were some road construction going on and our bus stop had moved. We ended up walking a few blocks to our next bus stop but all was good otherwise. It was a hot day, at around 80 degrees with pretty high humidity. So the hike up the steps were a bit more strenuous than it would be on a cooler day. But I was proud of myself for being able to complete the climb and not be completely dead at the end of the day! It was even hotter at the top of the climb. Inside the Mount Royal Chalet at the top, it was pretty unbearable! We took a few pictures inside but had to go out for some air. Overall, it was a good break from all the gift shops we visited the day before!
Posted on September 9, 2022
Following the previous blog entry, I am going to jump from one sacred place to another, cafes! Oh how do I love cafes, especially the ones with unique and beautiful spaces. Montreal happens to offer up two beautiful cafes, all within one bus ride from our hotel. In fact, one cafe is just steps from the other and they are both just a street over from Notre-Dame Basilica. So we got to try both places during our two-day stay at Montreal.
My favorite two cafes we visited were both in Montreal. The first one is Crew Collective & Cafe
just a stones throw from the Notre-Dame Basilica. The vibe at this place is simply incredible. I felt like I was inside a gorgeous university library only I didn't have to study for a test! I could've hung out there for hours working on my computer. The drinks were pretty good but it's the vibe you go there for! The next day, we ate breakfast at Tommy Cafe, just steps away, before heading out for a big day of hiking and site seeing. This cafe is a small, two-story space with lots of creative seating areas. I had the best salmon bagel sandwich and wished that Buzz could have tried it. He LOVES salmon. The coffee was not as good as the one I got from Crew Collective but the food was great. I thoroughly enjoyed that breakfast and people watching from our little bistro table on the second floor.
In Quebec, there are some nice cafes but nothing like the two we visited in Montreal. But we did stopped in for a nice refreshing iced coffee at La Maison Smith after a rigorous afternoon of walking around in 80 degree heat. We managed to snag a window table and I enjoyed people watching. We also went to a second La Maison Smith as our last cafe in Canada before heading out to the airport. That morning, it rained pretty hard in Quebec...it was so dreamy. It occured to me, while enjoying our croissant and coffee, that it was the first time I've seen rain in more than a year! We had to walk in the rain to the bus station to the airport but since the kids were not with us, I did not mind getting wet! I already miss the beautiful cafes in Canada...
Posted on September 8, 2022
No, I did not misspelled heatwave...what we are experiencing is more like a heatwage! It's been insanely hot this past week, I mean it's been in the low 90's where we are, and we are less than a mile from the beach! In the greater parts of LA, it's been in the hundreds. There are talks of rolling blackouts, turning off water, and other drastic measures. We have finally had to turn on our air conditioning. But we try to conserve energy by keeping bedroom doors closed, vents to unoccupied rooms closed, and keeping all windows closed. I even bought a cooling pad for Kepler so he can sleep better in his crate at night. It's looking like we will have another week of heat before things cool down.
Dispite the heatwave, we had some friends over for a Labor Day BBQ. However, we weren't able to go outside until about 6pm. Thankfully, it cooled down enough taht we were all able to dine outside. Hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend. We stayed in town for the long weekend. Buzz had a Taekwondo tournament at the LA convention center and he won a gold medal in poomsae (which is performing a sequence of movements/forms) and a silver medal in sparring. We are all so proud of him. Also, I wish my drear friend TNK a very happy birthday! I always still think of her as being in her twenties, but she's only five years younger than me.
Now that we are caught up on the latest happenings in my world, I want to continue showing pictures of my epic trip to Cananda. But before we get there, I also wanted to mention how lucky we were on all of our flights, from LA to Michigan, Michigan to Montreal, Montreal to Quebec, then all the flights back to LA. None of our flights were cancelled nor even delayed! On several flights, we even landed early! Considering the crazy airline issues going on in the world (record number of flight cancellations due to lack of staff) I was prepared for at least one cancelled flight and several delays. So I feel super lucky that ALL of our flights were on time! The only minor issue was getting a rideshare back from LAX. But that ended up being just a minor delay.
The next set of pictures I want to share with you are the two Notre-Dame Basilicas we visited, one in Montreal and one in Quebec. The Notre-Dame Basilica is the more famous one, more grand and, IMHO, more flashy. The one in Montreal also charges an admission. It was the very first thing we did in Montreal. The interior was quite amazing...the woodwork was pretty breathtaking. There was a spiral staircase that was just out of this world. However, as beautiful as it was, I actually prefer the more calm atmosphere of the Quebec Notre-Dame Basilica. The one in Quebec was free to visit, there were far less people. The interior was beautiful in a more subtle and calm way. The entire feel of the Quebec basilica is brighter and more tranquil. Ironically, admissions is free at the Quebec basilica but it was practically empty when we visited. But I guess we did go pretty early in the morning, too early for most tourists in Quebec. Now I really want to see Notre-Dame de Paris!
Posted on September 7, 2022