Tag Archives: street art

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: Christchurch

After a quick stop in Geraldine where we were told we’d find antique stores and cheese and after 2,500km of driving, my friend Sharon and I finally arrived at our last stop, Christchurch. We had the good fortune to meet the wonderful Rosie Mac, a nurse-turned-artist with a story that gave us reason to pause. She’s in the middle of a spectacular mural project and her work is beautiful – take a look! We spent a lot of time with Rosie during our time in Christchurch. She has the soul of one who gives and she gives so much – life, joy, wisdom. (Every so often I meet someone who makes me rethink my concept of the soul, which isn’t that well formed to begin with.) It was an apt place to conclude our journey through Aotearoa.

In addition to good company, Rosie also provided us with useful maps and local hints about what to do in Christchurch. She told us her story of the 2011 earthquake and its aftermath. Signs of the damage are visible everywhere; Christchurch has relatively few buildings and a great deal of construction. But there’s a wonderful sense of joie de vivre in Christchurch, too.

There’s art everywhere, which was fun to look at and adds a lot to the emptiness of downtown.

There are also really beautiful public parks in the middle of everything and we spent some time sitting in a wonderful playground with a waterpark, turf hills to climb, and so many things to run to, jump off, play on, scramble up, and slide down. People really seemed to care about taking the time to spend together, which is harder and harder to find.

We also really loved people watching (and eating!) at Little High Eatery, basically a fancy hawker center or what New York would call a food hall. Think mall food court with real restaurants. Something for everyone!

We spent our only full day in Christchurch walking as much of the city as possible which, because it’s not so large, is quite possible. We followed the Avon River to the Botanic Gardens where we visited the most amazing rose garden I’ve ever seen. The flowers all smelled so good!

Our walk along the river also took us to some interesting landmarks, including a monument to the firefighters who died on 9/11 in New York . . .

. . . and a Maori sculpture and the Bridge of Remembrance for World War I.

And then it was time to better understand the earthquake. There was a wall with names along the river and it was interesting because not all names were in English; they were written in the languages of the people they were meant to commemorate. I saw Hebrew and several Southeast Asian languages and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a memorial wall like that. And like nearly everything official that we saw in New Zealand, much of what was written in English was translated into Maori, too.

The 185 Empty Chairs memorial, however, was particularly moving. We had walked by it the night before and it was so simple and unadorned that we didn’t stop to see what it was. The artist statement made it that much more poignant and I appreciated it for its simplicity and emphasis on individuality. So many memorials make all victims the same and this one decidedly did not.

Finally, we went across the street from the 185 Empty Chairs to the site of the CTV building. A park had been built over the cracked, broken, uneven remnants of the foundation. That was moving, too, in the way that the 9/11 memorial in New York is moving. Life goes on and we remember. We remember and life goes on.

Afterwards, we walked down New Regent Street and enjoyed looking at the pastel buildings, coffee shops, and cocktail bars. It was very pretty and felt like it would have fit well in Napier, the North Island’s art deco city.

The next morning, thanks to another recommendation from Rosie, I headed to C1 Espresso for the best cup of coffee in the city before flying home to Singapore. C1 Espresso is built in the old post office and still contains some elements of the old building, like letterboxes repurposed to hold matchbox cars. There’s a secret door that is actually a bookshelf of Penguin Classics and instead of music, Harry Potter on tape was being played in the washroom. And if that wasn’t enough, the pneumatic tubes that would have delivered mail now deliver certain menu items straight to your table. Quirky and full of laughter, like much of Christchurch.

And then it was time to go. Three weeks in a magical fairyland and I cannot say enough good things about it. If you get the chance to go to New Zealand, go. Without question, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been (Norway was in first place for 9 years) and I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel there.