Tag Archives: Market

Travel Guide: Montreal

During the annual summer trip to see our grandparents, my siblings and I had the chance to do a little exploring. My sister and I were born in Montreal but we moved when we were very young. We’ve been there somewhere around a million times to visit family but have rarely seen or experienced Montreal as a living, breathing city. It was great to have a chance to do so this time!

We spent our first afternoon in Old Montreal, charming with old buildings and architecture that makes it feel more European than particularly Canadian. French and English heritage are obvious in the signage, statues, and bustling activity of restaurants and sidewalk cafés.

Old Montreal is especially busy during the summer when the weather is warm and festivals are in full swing. (We were really excited to accidentally find ourselves at the Jazz Festival a little ways away!) There were street vendors selling everything from ice cream to jewellery and it was fun to look around. The restaurants were crowded with people enjoying the sun, and everyone we met was friendly and helpful.

As with many old cities, Montreal is located on the water. The Port of Montreal was full of people riding bikes, eating snacks, shopping for souvenirs, and celebrating Canada Day.

The Port of Montreal even has its own flag, which unfortunately didn’t photograph as well as I would have liked.

From left to right are the flags of Canada, Quebec, Montreal, and the Port of Montreal

We had dinner as a family to celebrate my grandparents’ anniversary. It was so normal – grandparents, uncle, aunt, and grandchildren all in one place! – and spent the evening laughing as our grandparents reminisced about their 61 years together and the spaghetti dinners they used to buy for 69 cents. 69 cents!

After breakfast the next morning, we the children went off to Jean-Talon Market where none of us had ever been. As you know, I love markets anywhere and my travelling companions felt the same way. We loved the fresh and local produce . . .

. . . herbs and flowers . . .

. . . and speciality shops and prepared foods.

There was even a cookbook bookstore!

I would have loved to do some shopping and cooking but we had other plans for the day and they were not to be missed. Rather than eating at the market we headed for Schwartz’s, a Montreal institution located on the popular Saint-Laurent Boulevard not too far from McGill University. In my limited excursions around Montreal, I’ve been to Schwartz’s more than a few times, which should indicate its prestige in the eyes of my family. They serve smoked meat sandwiches on rye bread with mustard and various sides like fries, coleslaw, and pickles. And that’s about it. (The Wikipedia page has a bit more information.) After waiting in the ever-present line out of the door, this vegetarian even ate half a piece of smoked meat!

We spent the rest of the afternoon continuing our walk through the neighborhood between Schwartz’s and McGill. We visited campus and then followed the street art through the main shopping area of downtown. Like markets, I love street art anywhere in the world and it was fun to get a sense of the cultural life of Montreal.

I was also very excited to see signs of community engagement in the painted piano sitting out for anyone to play and a very cool ground mural marked with the best spot for a photo.

Considering how little time I’ve spent in the city of my birth, it was really lovely to do some exploring. I got a sense of the city’s geography and can now better understand the streets that my grandparents and parents mention in conversation. I was able to practice a little bit of French and enjoyed being somewhere simultaneously a little bit familiar and quite a bit new. And, of course, it was great to see my family. It always is.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Rochester Things

Rochester, New York is a lovely place and I’m not just saying that because I grew up here. It feels like a community and the people of Rochester are very proudly Rochesterian. There’s even a wiki by the people, for the people! As I suspect is true of most places, I lived in a very different Rochester as an adult than the one in which I grew up. I have very fond memories and warm feelings of both and if my dreams were different, this would be a satisfying place to remain.

At any rate, Rochester is my summer home and it really is a good one. What have we been up to? Read on!

Jazz Fest

The Rochester International Jazz Festival is an annual event that began in 2002. My dad really loves jazz and I’ve been going to Jazz Fest possibly for as long as it has been around. I have distinct memories of a particular night when I was in grade 10, but that definitely wasn’t my first experience. My photos don’t capture the pulse and atmosphere or the sounds, rhythms, and cheers that fill the streets but hopefully you’ll get a sense of why it’s something we look forward to every year.

Most of the shows aren’t free but I really enjoy the experience of those that are. And there are at least four free shows per day so there’s no good excuse not to go! It’s a really good feeling to share moments of joy with others, strangers or not, and I find a lot more of that during street performances than the indoor shows. Indoor shows are smaller, though, and the intimacy of that setting is a treat.

The people-watching at Jazz Fest is always a highlight in itself and the food trucks serve just about anything. It’s also a great way to run into people I haven’t seen in a while and immediately gives us something to talk about. Jazz Fest is one of the events that makes Rochester look and feel like a destination, which we always appreciate. It’s the same week of June every year, rain or shine. I was sorry to miss it last year and I’m really glad to be back.

Public Market

I’ve waxed poetic about the Rochester Public Market before and I was tempted to leave my camera at home this time because having free hands makes it easier to shop. But it really is a lot of fun to take pictures and I wasn’t doing a full order like I used to so the camera came along!

The Public Market has been in its current location since 1905. It’s the most diverse place anywhere in the city, in my experience, and a remarkable display of how much work it takes to feed people.

The market also sells dry goods, locally produced alcohol, artisanal products, and various flea market goods like clothes and kitchen supplies. And, apparently, flags!

There are also restaurant staples, the most popular of which is Juan and Maria’s. That was the first place I ever had an empanada. The Market underwent a renovation of the indoor section in the last couple years and there are a few additional restaurant stalls in addition to the meat and cheese sellers who operate there. And there are also a few food trucks!

In addition to everything else, the market sells herbs and flowers. So everything, really. When I was living in Rochester it wasn’t uncommon for me to get everything I needed for the week early Saturday morning at the Market. I loved it every time and it’s something I really miss living away.

There’s a pretty good street art scene in the area, too, mostly due to Wall\Therapy, another fantastic community project that aims to improve life in a city that can be very harsh. There is a lot of work to be done here.

The Market is open year-round Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The greatest number of vendors and widest variety of people come on Saturdays and it’s really good fun, even in the rain.

Wine Tasting

Rochester is located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, the part of the state known for its wine production. Cayuga, Keuka, and Seneca Lakes are all famous (really!) for their wine trails. I’ve been to wineries on Cayuga and Seneca multiple times and have been drinking Finger Lakes wine since, well, before I was legally old enough to do so.

The wineries here are better known for their whites than reds because of the climate but there are some vineyards that produce excellent reds. The best part of wine tasting is that you get to do just that – taste! And spend time in pretty places with friendly people. That’s another best part.

Many of the wineries are pet friendly and the staff tend to be very knowledgeable and also friendly! Some have restaurants on site while others have meats and cheeses and various accoutrements that you can purchase to enjoy along with your wine. And if you decide to buy a bottle (or ten) there are lots of options.

In Conclusion . . .

. . . there’s a lot to love about Rochester in the summer and I’m really glad to be here. Let me know if you make it out this way! I’d love to show you around.

We are very proud of our Flour/Flower City logo

Travel Guide: Kyoto and Around

April is cherry blossom season in Japan and it’s as beautiful as everyone says. April is also early spring, which means the weather is highly variable. Umbrellas and layers were key to feeling comfortable wandering around Kyoto, Japan’s Imperial capital beginning in the 8th century. It remained the seat of power in Japan for over a thousand years and historic monuments, shrines, and temples abound. Renting a kimono for the day is a common activity in Kyoto and it was fun to see people dressed up – almost like going back in time!

This was my first trip in Asia with both parents and it was a fully immersive experience. (Dad and I went to Thailand and Vietnam a few years ago when I first moved to Singapore.) We took the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto immediately after we landed and that made for a long day of travel; we were glad to finally be there!

We settled in and then went to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which was beautiful in the rain. The sound of the trees and smell of the earth was a lovely change from urban life in Singapore.

The next morning was sunny and we started early at Fushimi-Inari, a Shinto shrine known for its red torii gates. Fushimi-Inari is guarded by foxes and statues of them are located around the mountain. It was a beautiful walk and felt other worldly, as though passing through each set of gates was a doorway to somewhere else.

The view on the way up was stunning, too.

My dad wanted to visit Tofukuji Temple because he’d read that it has beautiful gardens, which I’m sure it does once spring actually blooms. But trees were budding and the ground was covered in moss and that was good enough for me.

From there, we went to Nishiki Market, a covered arcade of streets selling all sorts of food products, clothing, and souvenirs. I was mostly interested in the food stalls and we returned a couple days later to explore further. It was so enjoyable to smell new smells, taste new tastes, and just look around. Markets are always a travel highlight for me because they bring so much life there in so many different forms.

We ended the day wandering through some lovely streets with little shops and visiting Kodaiji Temple. The gardens around the temple included a bamboo forest and an exquisite cherry tree in full bloom, which was definitely the main attraction.

I really appreciate how Japanese gardens are sculpted and landscaped but not manicured. It makes them lovely in a very believable way.

Among the many nice elements of traveling in Japan is the convenience of trains. The Japan Rail pass allows foreign tourists access to most of Japan’s trains (like the Euro Rail Pass) and trains don’t require reservations. They are also very clean and extremely timely and comfortable!

Kyoto is an easy base for day trips and we took one out to Himeji Castle, Japan’s largest castle and one of very few that have remained intact. I was really glad that we opted for the guided tour. The tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly and more than made up for the lack of signage.

From there, despite the chilling rain that had begun to fall, we got back on the train to visit Osaka where we hoped to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. Mum and I walked around the moat of Osaka Castle (Dad got a little lost or left behind – long story), occasionally putting up our umbrellas for the rain that alternated with patches of bright sunshine.

When it began to hail, however, we realized we needed another plan. After battling the driving rain and wind to get to the train station we returned to Kyoto and sheltered indoors to dry off. Not all plans work out and travel is an adventure, right?

Our last day in Kyoto was the nicest we’d had and I’m especially glad it was sunny because we went to Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple, and it was utterly stunning.

We walked to a pretty shrine surrounded by a garden of cherry blossoms and food stalls on our way back to the center of town . . .

. . . and then spent the rest of the morning in Nishiki Market where I took most of the photos above. From there, we visited the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, which was informative as well as free! It was useful in explaining much of the handiwork we’d seen and some of Kyoto’s history, particularly in terms of the geisha culture that still exists in a much smaller form.

After dinner in Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, it was time for one more sleep before boarding an early train to Hiroshima.

We had experienced all kinds of weather, tried new food, visited beautiful places, and were excited for something new. Stay tuned!