The Great White Manatee


I took the kids to see the Shark Exhibit and movie at the Montreal Science Centre.

We took the subway to get there. Kids under 12 are free. Ben is not yet twelve and Emilie is only 10 so we got a pretty good deal on transportation.

Emilie and Ben in the metro heading towards Place D'Armes.

Emilie and Ben in the metro heading towards Place D’Armes.

We made a great day out of it.

Our first activity was to locate food trucks in and around Montreal. This is new for us Montrealers (or for Montrealers by proxy like Lavalites). We typically could not have food trucks on our territory. Now, there is a trial project that if a restaurateur owns a fixed address establishment, they can also own a food truck and serve food in one of the 9 food truck locations: http://cuisinederue.org/en/pilot-project-in-ville-marie/

Now, I knew I had seen food trucks in the old port and this is where I went. Only to discover that the trucks encountered there are actually fixed address trucks that rent lots on the old port grounds and not part of the food truck association.

We ate at Dic Ann’s and Deli Vieux Port de Montréal. There were picnic tables laid out for us. It was a great unhealthy but tasty start to our day.

The Kids ordering from the fixed food trucks In the Old Port of Montreal

The Kids ordering from the fixed food trucks In the Old Port of Montreal

Emilie with her Poutine

Emilie with her Poutine

Ben with his hamburger

Ben with his hamburger

Then, we walked on towards the Montréal Science Centre to see the Shark Exhibition.

The Exhibition includes a 45-minute Imax movie about Great White Sharks and a 3 room exhibit on the various shark species, etc.

The entire Family pursued by a shark. Is it Bruce from Finding Nemo?

The entire Family pursued by a shark. Is it Bruce from Finding Nemo?

Now, what I found most interesting is that we got to see shark teeth from Megalodon. My son and I are fans of the Meg series written by Steve Alten.

Steve Alten Meg Origins

Steve Alten Meg Origins

What is interesting in the Imax movie we see is the Great White Shark is shown as an almost placid creature. Very smart but almost placid. Almost like the Florida Manatee.

However, there are moments of sheer beauty when a lone diver is in a water with a great white and they are having an eye to eye. That is a thing of wonder. I do not think you can stare at a lion or a jaguar or a crocodile like that and live to tell the tale.

We do not see them eat any creatures, we see what shark tourism can bring to communities, etc. It’s a very very pro-shark movie. Now, I’m all for preserving sharks but what makes them worthy of preservation is their keen hunting skills, their longevity on the planet.

Sharks are made of cartilage and not bone. Their teeth grow back. They are lean mean surviving machines and this is why they need to be preserved. If we can’t save the Great White, what hope is there for us feeble humans?

Ben in a Shark Cage

Ben in a Shark Cage

Afterwards, we were sharked out. We went to visit the Science 26 exhibition and got to make science with our minds and hands. We got to play with science which is absolutely marvelous.

Emilie in a bubble Shower

Emilie in a bubble Shower

We stayed until closing time. They actually had to kick us out! You should make sure to visit the Montreal Science Centre on your next trip to town: http://www.montrealsciencecentre.com/

Emilie Feeding Duck Chicks

Emilie Feeding Duck Chicks

Then, we walked up Beaver Hall to reach Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream.

Both kids at Ben and Jerry's in late afternoon

Both kids at Ben and Jerry’s in late afternoon

Afterwards, we shopped at Zara’s and went to Chapters to peruse books.

The Producer joined us there and we went to dinner at a Japanese Brasserie.

Stay tuned for that story.

Enjoy your Sunday my friends.

Yours Truly, Cooksploratrice

 

 

 

 

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Interval Cycling


When I’m cycling and I feel the rush of wind in my helmet, I’m happy. I’m happy but not carefree. I’m always thinking of the next big hill in front of me. Hills are a source of slight terror for me. It’s all in my mind, I know. But my mind is a very fickle creature prone to concern and bouts of abject terror.

See, my thighs when I go up too many hills, they get filled with lactic acid. They become pure cement. It makes future hills appear impossible.

My physiotherapist recommended interval cycling. So 2 rides a week, I would go up and down a hill 10 times after a 10 minute warm up. I tried for the first time today and I went up and down the hill 7 times. I’m looking forward to seeing if on Sunday, I’ll be able to do 10 times and if any of this will help me navigate the hills better on tomorrow morning’s ride through the Oka National Park.

My mind is also always proud when I am able to go up a hill at 19 clicks an hour without faltering until the top. I feel a great sense of accomplishment. It makes the ride down the hill that much sweeter.

How do you feel about hills and cycling?

Climbing, feel the burn. Steep effort ahead, great reward as well

Climbing, feel the burn. Steep effort ahead, great reward as well

The Chihuly Exhibit: A great Find


What is more brilliant? The Sun or the Beautiful Girl in front of the sun? Together, they are absolute magic. I am enchanted by the vision. I might be a bit partial but sue me, that's my flesh and blood up there.

What is more brilliant? The Sun or the Beautiful Girl in front of the sun? Together, they are absolute magic. I am enchanted by the vision. I might be a bit partial but sue me, that’s my flesh and blood up there.

Miss Emilie is an “artiste.” She’s extremely creative and we try to feed her interest by visiting art museums and perusing art books. She also took art classes and will be taking some again this fall. The men will have their pig skin this fall while the women will work on canvas. Is it not stereotypical? Maybe, but it’s okay!

Incidentally, she has her own blog where she posts her creations. Please check it out: http://emilieroyartiste.wordpress.com/

I had heard about Dale Chihuly in La Presse. He’s an American who has managed to establish glass as a fine art medium. His creations are dreamscapes that are lovely to behold. There is a current exhibit at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts of some of his blown glass creations.

Dale Chihuly At Work

Dale Chihuly At Work

Chihuly visited the Michal and Renata Hornstein museum and created 8 beautiful custom environments: the sun, turquoise reeds, Persian colonnade, Persian ceiling, chandeliers and towers, mille fiori, the boats as well as glass forest number 6. If you’ve seen Chihuly’s work elsewhere in the planet, you will not have seen them presented this way. Each Chihuly exhibit is unique which is particularly thoughtful of the artist and shows proper respect for the venues in which his works are presented.

Dale Chihuly was injured in 1976 while on a trip to Ireland and does not see with his left eye. This handicap has not stopped him from creating some of the most beautiful works of glass known to man.

This exhibit is a good enough reason to visit Montreal. You have until October 20, 2013 to come and see it. For more information on the exhibit, please click on this link: http://www.breathtaking.ca/. For more information on visiting Montreal, please click on this link: http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/

Emilie’s favorites were the boats and the reeds. Understandably so, Emilie is a very blue girl. Very different from her pink loving mom.  I enjoyed the boats and the chandeliers and was flabbergasted by the sun and its warmth.

The Chandelier Room and the cubs circling the creations

The Chandelier Room and the cubs circling the creations

Don't they look like gorgeous marbles you'd want to play with or incredibly luxuriant beach balls?

Don’t they look like gorgeous marbles you’d want to play with or incredibly luxuriant beach balls?

A Boat overfilled with rainbow colored serpents. If they bite, can you really taste the rainbow? Are they the Skittle Ad brought to life in its most wondrous application possible?

A Boat overfilled with rainbow colored serpents. If they bite, can you really taste the rainbow? Are they the Skittle Ad brought to life in its most wondrous application possible?

The kids at play in the sculpture garden outside the museum

The kids at play in the sculpture garden outside the museum

Cooksploratrice and the Producer with a very happy statue behind us

Cooksploratrice and the Producer with a very happy statue behind us

Emilie takes Manhattan


I’ve mentioned my gorgeous bold daughter in the past. But this article will be all about her. Emilie has wanted to see New-York for months. We were supposed to visit last May but my injury prevented us from travelling. Her dream came true last week. She was quite jazzed and was quite intent on 2 days of “gulp” shopping. She may be light as a feather but she’s not so light on the family wallet. I was scared to see her in a shopping frenzy. Like a shark smelling a drop of blood in gallons and gallons of water, Emilie can spot a sale from miles and miles away.

She’s got the shopping gene.

But I also was intent on making her dream come true. So on to NY we went but she had a budget cap. She was not allowed to spend more than $50 and she gave us $20 of her own money to convert to US currency. So, she had 70$ to shop with. I’ve done much much worse in NYC in the past. Ok OK! I’ve done worse in Montreal, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, etc. Her shopping gene did not fall from a tree. Baby Bear Ben had 50$ to shop with. He ended up spending 70$ on a helicopter with 6 minutes of independent life. But I digress…let me return to our trip and this travelogue entry.

The Drive There
We left at 2h00 AM to drive to NYC from Laval. My son had called shotgun and stayed up with The Driver the whole time. (The Driver is one of the Producer’s key roles in the family) I slept in the back with Emilie. the funny part is that I would wake up every 15 minutes to say: “Are you OK Greg?” It was the big joke of the trip.

We had downloaded car games on our ipad and played quite a bit of car bingo. My conclusion is: “where have all of the yellow cars and orange cars gone to?” They are nowhere to be found on Interstate 87 and pink cars simply do not exist unless you encounter a Mary Kay representative.

We barely noticed the drive. It literally flew past which is encouraging as family trips to neighboring big cities are important projects that we hold dear to our hearts. Boston and a return trip to Manhattan are in the plans for this fall. I also aim to visit DC with the family in 2014.

Getting into the City
We stopped in Albany, NY for a quick breakfast at 7h30 Am and we reached Secaucus, NJ at 9h30 Am. We checked our bags and took the shuttle to the Port Authority bus terminal. Within 20 minutes, we were on Broadway. We then took the subway all the way down to Battery Park to have a quick visit with the statue of liberty. The subway was clean and air conditioned. We felt safe.

She’s so small
Lady Liberty is on an island far from shore. All the cruise tickets to visit her and Ellis Island were booked up for the entire month of July. Emilie saw her from afar and was not impressed. We aim to visit with Lady Liberty on her own island next time we visit NYC.
Here she is in a store:

See Lady Liberty at a tourist shop

See Lady Liberty at a tourist shop

Here she is for real:

Lady Liberty on her Island

Lady Liberty on her Island

Notice my bad hair day. That comes from wearing a sun hat. It has unfortunate side effects. I had better pictures but this one was funnier.

And on to the Bull
Of course, the whole point of the day was to walk our way up to Time Square. I wanted the kids to see Wall Street and its brokers. There was a statue of George Washington. Baby Bear Ben had done a report on him in school so we took a picture of the two great minds together. That might be a bold statement but I stand by it. I love my son’s rational brain and inherent sense of justice and ethics.

Ben and George Washington

Ben and George Washington

And then, on to the lucky bull.

We took snapshots of the bull with both shop girl and polar bear cub

The bull for financial fortune accompanied by the great shop girl herself

The bull for financial fortune accompanied by the great shop girl herself

The Bull and The Boy

The Bull and The Boy

The restaurant that never was
After that, we took a gander at Trinity church (being restored but still a thing of beauty)

Trinity Church

Trinity Church

And continued on to Ground Zero and its Tower of Hope (still under construction)
and then, we walked on to Chamber Street to visit Burritoville (a restaurant recommended by our travel book “Cartoville”.) This book had been borrowed at the Municipal Library of Daddy but was from 2008. Under an uncompromising sun, we trekked on and on only to discover the restaurant did not exist anymore.

Note to self: Always get a recent version of a travel book or look into the restaurants you want to eat at online prior to your visit to make sure they still exist.

I was faced with a very cranky family until we encountered a quaint affordable diner called the “Square Dinner.” We took the time to sit and enjoy our meal.

The Square Diner, air conditioned, good service and affordable. A NY rarity.

The Square Diner, air conditioned, good service and affordable. A NY rarity.

The Compromises that had to be made
Some family members had been up since 1 A.M. It had been a very long day and Hell must have been cooler than Manhattan on this scorcher of a day. We were feeling the heat. The first sign that we feel the heat is that I cease to talk. Yes, I know. Some might consider that a miracle on its own but it’s not a good thing. Then, polar bear cub becomes very cranky and less open to compromise. He starts complaining *all the time.* We both become hard to live with.

As the adult, I had to give up a few things:
– No Skyline
– No visit to the UN building
– No visit to the New York Public Library

We just continued on Broadway and visited Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal), Soho (South of Holland) and further North until we reached Time Square.

Shop Girl got her shop on at the Gap and at the Toys R Us.
Polar Bear cub got his shop on at FAO Shwarz the next day.

To finish the evening off as a treat to the kids, we went to Dave and Busters.

Dave and Busters

Dave and Busters

The kids got to play some arcades and had a great time.

Inside Dave and Busters

Inside Dave and Busters

We then walked to the Port authority bus terminal and took the shuttle back to Secaucus, NJ. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Meadowland Secaucus. The beds were really comfortable, the service was excellent, the breakfast buffet was quite voluminous (waffles, eggs, cereal, oatmeal, etc.) Our bellies were full when we headed off to the Big Apple.

Day 2
We took the shuttle back to NYC and our main goal for day 2 was to visit Central Park and then the Central Park zoo. We stopped for coffee at the Magnolia bakery (beautiful.)

Magnolia Bakery, good treats and in tones of tasteful pastels

Magnolia Bakery, good treats and in tones of tasteful pastels

Emilie with her new dress in the window of Magnolia Bakery

Emilie with her new dress in the window of Magnolia Bakery

And then we stayed in the cooling shade of Central Park. We almost reached the reservoir but had to stop because of, you guessed it, the heat. Central Park is gorgeous and my favorite part of the trip. It is much bigger than Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo though quite similar.

Our family by the pond

Our family by the pond

Emilie with Alice in wonderland

Emilie with Alice in wonderland

We then walked on the Upper East Side to take a look at how the other half lives.

Before circling back to Times Square for a few souvenirs and to revisit our favorite stores.

Ben is a minion

Ben is a minion

Imagine bringing this home?

Imagine bringing this home?

We stopped to eat the best pizza in NYC.

John's Pizza, a slice of heaven on Broadway

John’s Pizza, a slice of heaven on Broadway

On the way home, we did a post-mortem of the trip. We know that next time we intend on seeing the MoMA, the Central Park Zoo, on walking Central Park from East to West as well as North to South, on visiting the NY Public Library, the UN building, on seeing a Broadway show, etc. We know we all want to go back which is the surest sign of a successful trip. We plan on eating at John’s Pizzeria again and on taking the kids to play at Dave and Busters. It’s kind of fun. (don’t tell the kids I said that.)

And what about Emilie? What was her take on the trip? She enjoyed it but wished we would have shopped more. I think we did make her dream come true. I love this picture of her with the famous piano. Can you not feel her joy?

My Princess on the Piano

My Princess on the Piano

So, now, the biggest struggle is deciding for the fall: NYC take 2 or Boston take 1? What’s your take on it? We bought the 2013 edition of the Boston Cartoville.

Happy Thursday my Friends! Tomorrow, I will talk about the Dale Chihuly exhibit.

A family hike to Ausable Chasm


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When I was young, we travelled to Myrtle Beach every year and we would stop in Lake George or Lake Placid on our way home. One year, we stopped in Ausable Chasm in keeseeville. I had been impressed by the canyon, the walkways and the wooden bridges that would crisscross the gorge.

I decided to bring my own kids there for a day trip with The Producer. We planned to eat a big American breakfast which was accomplished in Plattsburgh at Perkins restaurant. We felt heavy and bloated after that meal. But, we wanted the experience and we got it.

By the time we got to the chasm, it was eleven am. The sun hit us full blast. Now, you all know I have a family of polar bears i.e. the sun is not always our friend as a stroke of sunshine sometimes means a bad case of heat stroke soon after exposure.

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We walked the Inner Sanctum Trail followed by a foray into the Dry Chasm as well as a portion of the rim walk. This was supposed to be very demanding and long. By 2 pm, we had done it all. The scenery remained gorgeous but everything felt much smaller. It felt exactly like one does after revisiting your elementary school. Something that had struck you as larger than life suddenly appears so small.

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The whole family enjoyed the day trip but we were slightly disappointed with how quickly we covered the grounds. There is more to see and do in our own national parks than at Ausable Chasm.

The one lasting souvenir was my son and I suffering from heat stroke on the drive back home. As polar bears, we should stay inside during the deadly hours of 11 am to 3 pm during the warmest summer days. Do you think we will listen to our own advice? Of course not.

I saw two kids with a great haircut at the Chasm and The Producer used his barber skills on baby boy bear to mimic the style. What do you think? I love the clean-cut mohawk look.

Happy Monday my friends.
Ps: i visited Manhattan with the kids last week, wait for that blog entry. It should be interesting. It seems the Producer failed to share the photos from the trip with me so I will wait until I have the pictures before I write about our visit to the City that never sleeps with baby girl shopaholic bear.

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New-Orleans in my Own Back-Yard? It is possible if you visit Café Mardi Gras in the Village.


Let me start this off with a confession.

I love to read about vampires and werewolves. I’ve read all of the Anne Rice Novels, the Sherrilyn Kennyon books as well as Charlaine Harris. Both fictitious universes take place in and around New-Orleans. I absolutely must visit New-Orleans, it is a DREAM of mine. The swamps, the quarter, the people, the music, the rich historical heritage of voodoo, the humidity, the heat, it all seems wonderful.

Some words sound particularly pleasing to my ears: crawfish, beignets, po’boys, chicory coffee, etc.

I was able to visit New-Orleans from Montreal. I was able to live my dream with my taste buds thanks to Café Mardi-Gras. My taste buds flew there while my feet were firmly rooted in Montreal’s Village at the Corner of Papineau and Sainte-Catherine at a charming restaurant called Café Mardi Gras.

Café Mardi Gras, a little slice of New-Orleans directly in Montreal

Café Mardi Gras, a little slice of New-Orleans directly in Montreal

Café Mardi Gras is located at 1684 Ste-Catherine East, Montreal, Qc, H2L 2J4. They have a website: http://www.cafemardigras.ca

The Café Mardi Gras flag

The Café Mardi Gras flag

The first thing I want to say is how cheerful everyone was. The chef was dancing and singing. He was working in a virtual inferno and enjoying every minute. I do not remember his name but I remember his smile and his steps. The owner, René, was also extremely friendly and hospitable.

A nice Open kitchen, friendly staff and NOLA beads everywhere make this a magical place to visit

A nice Open kitchen, friendly staff and NOLA beads everywhere make this a magical place to visit. See the happy chef laboring away. 

The level of courtesy and friendliness guarantees I will come back for seconds and thirds. This will most likely become a classic restaurant for the producer and I.

We chose to sit inside because we had been in the sun all day but Café Mardi-Gras has a lovely terrace.

The view from the terrace

The view from the terrace

Now let’s talk ambiance. There was music (cheerful music, not too loud.) The menu was written with chalk on black boards. There are Mardi-Gras beads on the ceiling and in the centerpiece of the table as well.

Mardi Gras Mask and Beads as a Center Piece

Mardi Gras Mask and Beads as a Center Piece

It’s a casual atmosphere typical of “Let the Bon Temps roule” The fact that the restaurant is in the Village also adds to the atmosphere. It’s laid-back, open-minded, fragrant, inviting.

For starters, we ordered fried okra. It was light and delicate tasting.

Fried Okra, A delight

Fried Okra, A delight

We shared the Taster’s platter. At 20$, it’s a steal. You get a portion of Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole. The crawfish étouffée was my favorite, the jambalaya was the Producer’s favorite.  I would have liked to have a bit more crawfish in the crawfish étouffée. The flavors were bold yet aromatic and harmonious. It was perfect. I loved every mouthful.

The Taster's Platter

The Taster’s Platter

For drinks, I had a white beer “Dominus Vobiscum” and the Producer had a strong beer “O’Born Evil”. My white beer tasted of bananas (I prefer a more citrusy tasting white beer) while the Producer’s beer was quite good.

O'born Evil, Strong and manly beer

O’born Evil, Strong and manly beer

Dominus Vobiscum, Banana Tasting White Beer, Bleh!

Dominus Vobiscum, Banana Tasting White Beer, Bleh!

For desert, we had beignets. WOW! Delicious. We had gone on a long bike ride during the day so the desert was an indulgence we could afford. I also had the chicory coffee which I ordered iced, I would have preferred it warm but that’s because I don’t like iced coffee that much.

Beignets and Chicory Coffee, hmm good!

Beignets and Chicory Coffee, hmm good!

When we come back to Café Mardi-Gras, we know what we want to order: crawfish étouffée for me and jambalaya for the Producer. We will order two “O’Born Evil” beers to go with that. Desert will be beignets and the coffee.

Thank you René for a wonderful evening at Café Mardi-Gras.

Thank you René for a great night in New-Orleans without my passport.

Thank you René for a great night in New-Orleans from the comfort of my own city: Montreal. I will see you again soon! It’s a PROMISE! 

A pretty picture to start off the week


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On this plate, there is a small raspberry cupcake, an old fashioned bread pudding and a date and chocolate chip homemade muffin. Each one of them are in small bite portions but loaded with flavour.

I invite you to do lots of sports so that it becomes okay to eat all three in one sitting.

So, get on your bikes or go for a run, desert will be waiting when you get back.

Enjoy your week, my friends.