Where Are We From?

It happened again recently. We were sitting in a rooftop bar in Montreal, sipping palomas and enjoying the view of the waterfront, when a woman at the table next to us leaned over and asked, “So where are you from?”

“Uhh…,” I offered hesitantly.
 
“Umm…?” Bob said questioningly.
 
It’s a difficult question right now, “Where are you from.” How do we answer it?
 
We’re from Mexico. At this moment. Sort of. Except where in Mexico? A few months in Guadalajara/Tlaquepaque, a few in Guanajuato. Next up, Mexico City.
 
But we’re currently living in Ludlow, Vermont.
 

But …

But we’re not “from” either of those places, because we just finished living for a decade in Colorado.

But we’re not “from” Colorado, either, because before we moved west, we lived for about 20 years in New York.
 
But we’re not really “from” New York, either, because we were both born in Pennsylvania (Bob in Mechanicsburg, outside Harrisburg, and Lisa in Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball). And we both lived in a ton of different places before meeting in New York.
 
In Mexico, when they ask, “De donde es?” (“Where are you from?), they are asking, “Where you were born?” We can say “Somos de Estados Unidos” or “Somos de Pennsylvania” (We’re from the United States, or We’re from Pennsylvania.)
 
But to everyone else? Lately I’ve been saying, “We split our year between summers in Vermont and the rest of the year exploring Mexico.”

Ask the Kids

We asked the kids how they would answer the question, “Where are you from?”
 
“Easy,” Gavin said. “I just tell them I’m from Colorado. They want to know where I came here from before college. That’s Colorado.”
 
“Colorado,” agreed Aryk. “Except that I was born in New York. And I live in England. But I just say Colorado.”
 
And that’s where we’re from. Right now. What would YOU say?

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Two Days in Montreal – A Couple of Foodies Drinking Tequila – Part 2

Old Montreal and the Port

We enjoyed walking around Old Montreal, with its parks, old building, art galleries, shops with Canada-made items and Native American crafts, ice creameries, outdoor restaurants and friendly Canadians. At the bottom of the hill is a waterfront park with a busy bike trail, which we crossed to get to the bustling old port. There we boarded a Bateau Mouche (fly boat) for a 1½ hour tour of the Saint Lawrence River. Unfortunately, the acoustics were bad inside the boat and we couldn’t hear the bilingual tour guides information about Montreal. But the wine was decent and the views were excellent. Some of it was very industrial and reminded me of the Port of Hamburg. 

Bateau Mouche selfie
View of the Montreal skyline from the boat
We embraced the tourism and spent a lot of time at the Old Port of Montreal, taking a 1.5-hour river tour on a Bateau Mouche (flyboat), and then taking a few turns in the Grand Roue (big ferris wheel).
 
 
 

Notre Dame Basilica

Of course, we had to visit the Roman Catholic Basilica of Notre Dame on the Old City, Montreal’s premier attraction, and it did not disappoint – except that Bob was annoyed that they charged an entrance fee, unlike any other of the more than 100 churches we have visited around Europe and Mexico. Still, the majestic space was amazing, and the free brochure explained what we were seeing. Around the central alter were four scenes from the Old Testament that foretold the birth of Christ. 
 
Above the cross was a scene of God crowning Mary the Queen of the Heavens. The Priests lectern rose above the congregation on the left side, and the organ in the rear was enormous. We could have taken an earlier tour and touched the organ, or a later tour for a light show. It felt more like a tourist attraction than a church.
 

That’s the giant organ behind me

The plaza out front, with its buskers changing shifts every half-hour, offered a welcome surprise when we emerged from what felt like Rome to a woman singing a glorious Italian aria.

More Booze

We finished our visit at a liquor store, where we purchased a bottle of Wayne Gretzky Reisling (in case you’ve been wondering what Canada’s favorite son has been doing since he retired from hockey) and a Maple Cream Liquor.

Wayne Gretzky Reisling

We’ll Be Back

In the end, we only had time to partially explore a couple of neighborhoods in Montreal over less than 48 hours. We didn’t have time to go for a run, or a hike, or to ride a bike. We didn’t get to experience the subway system. So we plan to return for a longer visit next month with Aryk after we drop Lex off at college in Burlington. 
 
Next time we will visit the Olympic Museum, the Science Museum, the neighborhoods of Le Plateau and Gay City, Mont Royal, and so much more.
 
So watch for more from Montreal!
 
 
By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Two Days in Montreal – A Couple of Foodies Drinking Tequila – Part 1

We just spent a whirlwind two days in Montreal, a visit that was barely long enough to get a taste of this fascinating, bilingual city and want to come back for more. We loved it!

Montreal is just a two-hour drive from Burlington VT, where we dropped our youngest, Lex, off for a college orientation weekend and then headed north. We met a surly Canadian at the border crossing, who ordered Bob to turn off the video camera and unsmilingly peppered us with questions.
 
And then we were off, driving north through cornfields and flat farmland that presented a striking contrast to the lush green mountains we had just passed through in Vermont. After an hour or so, Montreal swallowed us up rather suddenly as we entered the city, which is actually an island. We crossed a long bridge that seems to still be under construction. (In fact, much of Montreal seems to be under construction – the city is clearly experiencing a building boom.)
 
 

A European-Feeling Capital

Despite a large crop of green glass apartment buildings at one end of the downtown, there were enough majestic old buildings to make us feel we were visiting a European capital. All the signs are in French, the official language of the province of Quebec, and everyone in Montreal speaks both French and English. 
 
Montreal, Canada’s second-most populous city and host to the Summer Olympics in 1976, is clearly a growing city with a kinetic energy. A lot of the architecture was interesting and cutting-edge and construction was going on everywhere. 
 
We used a few credit card miles Bob had accumulated to treat ourselves to two nights at the Marriott Chateau Champlain, a luxury hotel with breathtaking views of the downtown and Mont Royal from our arched 28th-floor window.

Night view

Alas, all the walking we did made our legs too tired to run, or even
walk, to the mountain, so we had to be satisfied with the view.

Ideal Weather

 
The weather was perfect, warm and summery each day with just enough clouds to keep it from feeling oppressive. (Bob kept reminding me that winter would be a far different story.)

First-Class Food

 
The reason I started with the weather is because I want to talk about the food, and to us, the two were intertwined: we ate almost every meal outdoors while enjoying perfect weather. I had read that Montreal is a true foodies’ city, and we definitely found that to be true.
 
We found genuine Mexican food at Escondite in the Old City, where we sat at a corner table of the fenced in sidewalk dining room. I had tacos with crisp fried cauliflower, black bean paste and chipotle cream, so tasty! The guacamole was genuine Mexican, which meant no tomatoes or onions but lots of lime and cilantro. Que rico! The chips were fresh-made, light, crunchy and perfect. Bob enjoyed tacos al pastor, lots of meat the way he likes it with pieces of pineapple.

I had cauliflower tacos with chipotle cream and spicy black bean
Bob had tacos al pastor
We wanted to enjoy jazz music at Mondavi, across the street, but the weather was just too glorious to go inside. (That was OK, though; we enjoyed wonderful buskers in the parks – a cellist, a singing guitar player, a violinist and even an opera singer.)
 
We had a mouthwatering French breakfast at Maggie Oakes on Place Jacques Cartier, where I had Le Santé (the healthy one; maple oatmeal, fresh berries and organic yogurt) with perfect café au lait and Bob chowed down on eggs benedict with fresh fruit and perfect fried potatoes. That experience was made even more delightful because we sat at a corner of the outdoor patio and watched the artisans and vendors in this popular pedestrian square set up for the day. The highlight was the bagpiper and a mini-squad of men in Revolutionary War-era costumes who marched down the street with rifles and a drum.
 


Our last dinner was a Paradiso in the Old City, where we
enjoyed lasagna and pesto while watching the world go by.

In the morning we set out from our hotel in search of breakfast and found it to be mostly a shopping and business area. But a few blocks away, we stumbled into an underground mall and food court with a spectacular array of reasonable prices, delectable choices. Bob enjoyed a coffee-flavored muffin and I had one of the best chocolate croissants I have ever had the privilege to experience, as well as coffee from a coffee bar that offered about 20 flavor choices and an additional four cream choices. The bagel place across the way also beckoned tantalizingly, but a girl has to make
choices sometimes: I took the French option. Oh, la la!
 

Gifted Bartenders

 
We discovered a couple of choice rooftops for imbibing in alcoholic beverages while enjoying the view. At the Observatoire, we took the elevator to the 44th floor, sunk into a couch and indulged ourselves while looking at the downtown in all directions. (We declined to pay for entry to the actual viewing observatory, two floors up, and instead invested our money in a couple of well-made drinks.)

Rum and coke at the Observatoire, 44th floor
View from the rooftop bar
Afterward, we wandered toward Vieux Montreal and stumbled upon a tequila bar. Realizing it was actually July 24, International Tequila Day, we went in and ordered a couple of reposados. Mine was white when it should have been light gold from aging 18 months in oak barrels, but I drank it anyway. Salud!
We also enjoyed at a rooftop bar over the St. Lawrence River, where Bob and I enjoyed palomas while visiting with a friendly Canadian couple, Luc and Patsy.

Drinking palomas, overlooking the Old Port
 
Recipe for palomas
Luc and Patsy
Coming next: Part 2, The Old Port and Notre Dame
 
 

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt