I like groups of objects arranged in rows & sectioned with other like objects. Especially when it is produce. ESPECIALLY when there are free samples. What better way to get me to buy a peach then to say, “Hey, try a piece of this peach!”
Even rows of (pure) maple syrup are alluring when stacked appropriately. Sometimes I take photos & think they are so Canadian. The maple syrup is one of these. Marché Jean-Talon was one of my favorite parts of Montreal. If we lived there, it would definitely be a part of my grocery routine. I would also be putting pure maple syrup on everything…
When I’ve heard people talk about food in Montreal, it’s the same 3 things: smoked meat, poutine, & bagels. Well, the first one is out (vegetarian, y’all!), the second should be out (lactose-intolerant, y’all!), & oddly enough, I’m currently in the process of figuring out if I have a gluten sensitivity.
I know, I’m no food-fun at ALL right now. Good thing I sowed my wild oats with this delicious-ness.
As a transplanted Californian, I had never heard of poutine “pre-Canada”. Now it seems to be my mission to explain it to friends and family in the States. I think this photo will do the talking for me.
Yep. That’s what I thought. & with vegetarian gravy. La Banquise has over 25 different varieties of poutine. Not pictured above but also truly enjoyed was the Mexican version with the addition of guacamole, sour cream, & tomatoes.
Look, we’ve all had bagels before. But Montreal-style bagels are pretty magnificent. We requested whatever was warm out of the oven, made our way to the nearest park with a coffee to go & munched through delicious sesame seed heaven.
& no, there aren’t any photos of the actual bagels. I was too busy eating & all you’re left with is a photo of the sign outside & our empty paper bag.
Prompt #17: Tell us what you’d do with three months in New Zealand – whether you’d base yourself in one place or travel constantly, what activities you’d make sure to do, and what you’d skip.
Kakapo. You’ve heard it before & I will say it again. I want to see a kakapo, perhaps more than one kakapo – in person. They first captured my imagination when I read Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. The whole book was full of heart-breakingly beautiful descriptions of creatures that have been negatively affected by humans. Kakapo are a species of large (flightless) nocturnal parrots that are endemic to New Zealand. Currently there are only 126 kakapo (all named), even with a seemingly strong conservation effort. So for my hypothetical three months, I would love to volunteer for the Kakapo Recovery Program.
The kakapo is a bird out of time. If you look one in its large, round, greeny-brown face, it has a look of serenely innocent incomprehension that makes you want to hug it & tell it everything will be all right, though you know that it probably will not be.
Prompt Number #15: How has travel changed your life? Can you pinpoint a single moment – a day, an hour, a split second – when you knew that things had changed? How did that change impact your life, both on your travels and at home?
Wearing sunglasses in an airport. No, really – I think everyone should do this at least once. I’m a fan of internally pretending I’m someone else at airports. Sunglasses have the power to add a bit of extra ‘oomph’ to helping you walk with a purpose while in transit.
I love that no one knows who anyone else is at the airport.
I could be carrying my banjo because I’m on my way to play on a late night talk show. You could be traveling to Paris to find yourself. They could be flying in to surprise a relative on the opening night of their play. Sure, wandering through the airport aimlessly is an option, but where is the fun in that?
I think travel has a transforming quality because of the lack of consistency. Our daily lives are (usually) schedule-based. We eat the same things, do the same job, see the same people & structures. Our lives retain the same basic skeleton. I know that with myself, I am really able to thrive on consistency. But when I am nudged out of the nest, I take deeper breaths. I stretch more.
If you step outside your boundaries in a way that thrills you, your boundaries will expand to encompass the latest version of you. If you step outside in a way that isn’t right for you, your boundaries stay strong as a safety net to catch you.
You can even stretch from within your safety net, just like a hammock. Don’t forget your sunglasses.
Prompt #14: Tell us about the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “world’s most dangerous road.” What’s your general inclination toward things with names like “most dangerous” – does it draw you in, or make you run screaming from the room?
Neither. It intrigues me to do more research (love ya, public library!). Most of the things I’m drawn to aren’t particularly ‘on the edge’. Danger alone doesn’t challenge me to achieve, accomplish or experience. Besides, the things I consider to be dangerous could be the things you do before you even have breakfast. I enjoy hiking but I don’t need to climb Mount Everest.
Also, let’s keep things in perspective here. I’m the type of person who gets unnerved by the thought at being at the edge of an infinity pool. For now I think I will aim for adventures like a hot air balloon ride; if I am feeling particularly optimistic I will aim for skydiving.
Prompt #13: What country(s) or city(s) in Eastern Europe appeal to you as a place to visit? Or, more generally speaking, how much does knowing about the history of a place inspire your future travels?
I like knowing the historical significance of places I’m visiting. Not necessarily political & not necessarily what would qualify as ‘history-book’ history. There are usually little bit of factoid knowledge that I then do further research in to round it out. I met someone from Slovenia several years ago & surprised her by knowing that Lipizzan horses get their name from a town there. & why do I know that? Because a beloved childhood book was an illustrated encyclopedia of horses that I pored over.
I get travel ideas or destinations from reading. If the author describes a place just-so, I could very well be hooked. This is why places like Idlewild Books in NYC fascinate me: a bookstore devoted to travel. Not only that – but a literature & fiction section organized by country? How wonderful to immerse yourself somewhere – even when you curl up at the end of a day with a good book.
As to specific countries…since I’ve never been to Eastern Europe, I’m certainly not going to rule any place out.
I chose to abstain from last week’s prompt. It was a “March Madness” (basketball) style rating game of the supposed ‘best’ country. No thank you. But this week? This week is about trains!
Prompt #12: What is it about train travel that captivates the imagination of travelers in every corner of the world? What about it makes the word “romantic” so apt? Do you have a rail experience that perfectly captures why we love trains so much?
I have a hunch that my love of trains originates from Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Combine that with the fact that I grew up about 20 feet from a train track & the seed was sown. Friends sleeping over when I was younger always were startled by the occasional nearby sounds of the train but I had internalized it. I liked counting the freight cars & waving at the passengers.
I like that trains are part of the journey. (With crowds & the increase in security, planes feel more like the trials & tribulations to get to where your journey begins.) Trains are right there setting you into motion; they leave you to enjoy a bit more leg room & better food options. Plus, don’t you love that first moment when the train starts to take away from the station? The moment of possibility.
Prompt #10: What have you done in your own visits to Europe to make it more budget-friendly or to get away from the crowds? If you were going to spend several weeks – or several months – in Europe, where would you go (and why)?
When I went to Paris with a friend in 2005, I think the item that saved us the most money was purchasing the Paris Museum Pass. This was our first time in Paris & we made excellent travel buddies because we had the same priorities. Museums. Art. Cheese (I still claim this was before my stark realization of lactose intolerance).
Brie aside, we knew we wanted to see a lot of Parisian ‘sights’ & monuments that the Pass included on its list. You pick a length of time (2, 4, or 6 days) & get unlimited access to the locations on the Pass List. We made a list of what we’d like to see, checked it up against the list & quickly realized we would save some money if we consolidated it all under the Museum Pass. Plus, we could always go check out some of the locations that we hadn’t previously considered! No extra cost, no pressure to stick around if it wasn’t our thing.
A lot of cities offer this type of City Exploration Pass: Toronto, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. Totally worth checking out while you’re on the go if you haven’t seen a lot of the ‘sights’ that are what visiting someplace for the first time are all about!
Prompt #9: What’s the place you’d like to go in Italy more than any other (and why)?
I have two places in Italy that I want to go, no further discussion required.
1. Cinque Terre: I first heard about Cinque Terre from Robin, who visited Italy while still in high school. We’ve all seen the beautiful photos & read about the Five Lands. & if you haven’t prior to this…the cat is out of the bag. You’ll want to come with, I know it.
2. Palermo: First of all, the above photo was taken by Giuseppe, who lived in Toronto for a while but is now back in his Italian homeland. We want to visit him in Palermo (seen above). I also want to see the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, which is apparently both touristy, historical & macabre. Jackpot. I love seeing places that have all of those things. I will settle for sights that are just historical as well, for the record.
Prompt #8: Find one major expense to cut from your daily life. How much can you save for travel by cutting it? How many other expenses (large or small) could you reduce in order to put that money toward travel?
I am constantly getting sucked into budget posts along the lines of “Save a Zillion Dollars a Year in a Month!” I click. & quickly discover that somehow, people think that ‘bringing your lunch instead of eating out’ is new to the budget-hungry. Don’t fret – I still get suckered into clicking. I love saving money.
Is saying that redundant? Doesn’t everyone enjoy saving money?
My point to this is that how I live is scaled-down as far I can go.
So let’s concentrate on all the things I do actively.
- Movies – We use Zip.ca instead of going out to see movies. We don’t have cable/tv. When we do see movies out, we see them at the neighborhood second-run theatre for half the price.
- Groceries – I don’t enjoy grocery shopping at all, but I do enjoy the after-effect of well-planned meals that don’t leave us scrambling over our general food budget.
- Transportation - We don’t own a car. We walk. We ride our bikes. & occasionally take public transit if needed.
- Divacup – I use a menstrual cup (since 2006) cutting out disposable products entirely out of my spending. This is amazing for me budget-wise, comfort-wise, & makes me feel good environmentally, too.
- Pampering – I do my own nails. They aren’t perfect, it’s not equatable to getting them done somewhere else. However – taking the time to spend it on myself is nice & saves going elsewhere + tip.
What’s your favorite thing you do to save money?