Category Archives: La belle ville

Lazy days of summer

I am back. I am not sure if I haven’t lost my faithful readers of 3limes during my summer hiatus, it was the longest break in the the 3 years I have been writing. 3 years that has seen me through Trinidad, the Uganda years and now here we are in Bahrain. 3 years, 3 moves, 3limes.

But before we say hello to Bahrain I think we need a look back at the Summer of 2011.

 

 

London Montreal San Francisco Montreal London

8 flights

15 beds

Oh Canada

Canadian lakes

canoes and docks

fishing and champagne

sisterhood

forest walks

Montreal dining

sushi and cappucino

I love America

Toe dipping in the Pacific

girls surfing

wine tasting

California driving

family reunions

God Save London

London days

theatre

cousin love

country walks

pub lunches and old friends

Art, red buses and pavement pounding

From the Pacific to the Thames, icy Quebec lakes to the warm Bahrain sea, this summer has crossed time and memory. I have slipped through the shadow of years, made a tiny chink in the wall of time, visited the past before diving into the future.

And nearly 2 months without writing, reflecting and giving pause for thought. I have missed blogging but needed that in between space, the freedom to live unconnected with no screen and no keys to tap my days.

 

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, La belle ville, Photography, Travel

A little quiz to help you on your way

How do you know that you are living in Kampala? And not London or Montreal? Or even Trinidad?

Let’s do a quiz.

You are walking along the road and you trip. Not realizing what caused you to fall, it is early and there was no Baileys in the morning coffee, you look down and see one of the following.

a)     A discarded rum bottle, empty and left to roll inconveniently into the path of pedestrian traffic

b)    A baby goat, sleeping and unaware that his mother has climbed the grassy bank to chomp on some grass

c)     A greasy half eaten slouvaki roll

d)    A huge chunk of ice that has been spat out from under the wheel of a passing car.

You are awoken early in the morning by a strange sound. You have no idea what it is until you lift you head up from under the pillow and remember where you live.

a)     A pack of cats fighting over a pile of flying fish that leapt with no rhyme or reason out of the water and landed in an unfortunate pile in the garden behind the house.

b)    The clanging of metal pots and pans joined with the serenading of a boisterous and horny rooster from the garden next door. Simultaneously there is the distance echo of some China men singing early morning Lionel Richie Karaoke.

c)     The squeaking and lurching of 20 buses that have all arrived at the bus stop at exactly the same time, angering the cold, shivering, commuters who have been waiting for that one bus for the past 42 minutes.

d)    A huge chunk of ice slipping of the roof and crashing onto the roof of your car.

It is a Friday night and you feel like going out for dinner. What do the restaurants have to offer?

a)     A healthy assortment of Chinese, American and Indian. Or, if you like, all the choices under the same roof and possibly rolled into a warm and buttery thick slab of pastry. Either way, everything would be eaten with a chaser of rum and a very loud thumping soundtrack.

b)    Indian, Thai, Indian, Indian and some Pizza. The service will be painfully slow and the waitress will visit your table 4 times in the first 30 minutes before you even order. Once because she didn’t understand the order, once to verify what kind of Gin you want, once for the ice that you had asked for the first time and once more to tell you that there is no Gin and the ice machine is broken.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    A cosy warm bistro featuring the imaginative creation of one young trendy dude, considered the “latest thing.” His hair will be spiky, the cafe will be warm and feature alternative music and mildly out of focus black and white photographs. There will be just as many people having a cigarette outside in the snow as there are drinking good wine at the bar waiting for a table, ‘cause they don’t take reservations.

Time to go grocery shopping. What do you find?

a)     Hot spices, plenty plenty hot sauce, Amos Chocolate chip cookies, Ribena and Mangos. And rum.

b)    Nearly everything but you will have to go to 4 different stores. One for the eggs with the yellow, not white yolks, one for skimmed milk, one for whole milk, one for cheese, one for chick peas, one for fruit. Oh it goes on and on and on.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    Everything, in supermarkets with super wide aisles. The music will be muzac but the cheese and bread is good. You will bump into many people you know.

It is Sunday and you have plans for a great day out. What do you do?

a)      Beach. Body surfing in the waves, bake and shark for lunch, Carib beer and friends to lime with. You will go home sticky with salt and sand, sun burnt and happy.

b)      A day spent by the pool with some scrabble on the side.

c)       Well you have the option of the latest offering at a world renown museum, a walk in the park, a bike ride on a Boris Bike, lunch with friends, a stroll by the river or a lazy day at home with a pile of newspapers and some good food. It will be bloody cold.

d)      Skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, movie, brunch, walk the dog on the mountain or home with newspapers and good food. It will be seriously bloody cold.

 

How did you do?

Mostly a)s and you are in Trinidad.

Mostly b)s and you are in Kampala.

Mostly c)s and you are in London

Mostly d)s and you are in Montreal.

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, La belle ville, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

A Montreal love fest

It is a whole bunch of goodbyes again. Every time I come home to Montreal I fall in love with my friends and the city and the lakes all over again and start to wonder whose crazy idea this is to keep saying goodbye. By the time I am old I will be hard and calloused around the heart from leaving people so often.

 Montreal has been rarely sunny this summer but for two glorious and sunny days I walked around the city, camera in hand remembering why this place is home. I looked up at buildings and down at feet. I watched people ride bikes and eat bagels and I saw way more pregnant women than is normal. It started to become a little game. Who will spot the next one?

I am bewildered as to why I counted over 30 pregnant women in 3 days. And all about 7-8 months along, looking just fetching in stretchy dresses that lovingly wrap the bump and flowing glowing hair. One theory that I am supporting is that there was a power cut one night back  around February 1st. Can anyone check that for me?

Montreal has its own flavour. It is a place where people drink a beer at midnight at a famous look out spot on top of the mountain where you think you could lean over and touch the dreamy night lights of the city. And if a cop car should come by while the beer is being sipped, the kind cops mildly suggest that the beer should be popped into a bag out of view. ( So I hear.) It is a place that is famous for its bare-all strip clubs but is also a hot house of strong and fascinating women. Writers, artists and chefs have all left their mark on this city with the famous mountain. Jazz, comedy and Francophonie all bring festivals right onto the street for free.

Montrealers are laid back and generally happy liberal people. They creatively dress from a mixture of second hand shops ( called Fripperies) and high end designers. They love their food and any tourist wondering these streets would quickly remark upon the number of restaurants and boutique bakeries. The girls are pretty, the architecture is interesting, the festivals are abundant and life here is sweet. Until the winter.  Then it turns into some awful frozen horror flick, complete with people fighting with icy sidewalks, falling down stairs, shoveling mountains of snow just to get out of the house, scraping cars and looking grim.

But I have had a summer’s time here in my favorite city and as I depart yet again I leave you with these Montreal moments.

 

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This is a typical Montreal home in the Plateau neighbourhood.

 

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A great coffee scenc, pregnant woman and all.

 

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Those glorious Montreal Fairmount bagels.

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And this is how they make them.

 

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The famous Plateau Mont Royal.

 

Reserve

I think you need a PHD to figure out the parking rules in Montreal.

 

cobbled streets 2

 

Fixing the cobbled streets of Old Montreal.

 

And now off to London before we leap of the cliff and head to Africa.

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More summer limes.

 

Sun desperately trying to get through these dark clouds. I haven’t been this cold in a long time. In London during the snow storm of the century I was cold, but then, it was snowing, it was to be expected. It has been forever proven that I am a warm weather girl. I get very sad when my bones ache with cold. At night I sleep clenched, trying to stay warm, longing for a hot water bottle. Last Saturday, at 4pm on July 4th as I sat huddled, practically in the fire place, I decided once and for all that I will never own a country house here in Quebec. That was quite the epiphany moment there. This is my home, the place I love and I have decided that I will never again own a home here. I simply hate to be cold.

Now please don’t imagine that I am complaining. Yes, I might grumble now and again as I borrow another sweater but I am still happy to be here.

 

And I do live in hope, I have a pretty Trini sundress hanging in the closet.

 

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Does anybody know a remedy for the problem of teens and their selective blindness? Pull out a pack of cigarettes to have a quiet and sneaky cig and they are as sharp as a hungry seagull. Walk into a room and see a pair of crotch in your face underwear left centre stage and they are as blind as a mole. I point them out. Even walk them through the room like a private visitor to an exclusive gallery, but even if they see it, the mess, the strewn clothes, it is with the blurry vision of the carefree teen. These things are just not important!

But I think they are, along with table manners, talking back and general politeness. I know a lot of parents, tired from the constant fighting, just give it up and sweep the discord under the proverbial rug. Then bitterness ensues, complacency and the eventual silence at the dinner table. Parents then become so surprised to learn that it was their child who gate crashed the party in a bikini.

So I might be the nag, the mom who forces then to pick up, the recipient of many a rolled eye ball, but I believe in the old fashioned fundamentals.

 

So bring on the dropped knickers and I’ll lead the gallery tour.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 




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Summer limes

A few slices of summer lime

 

Yesterday I sat in front of a fire with two sweaters on. Welcome to July in Quebec. It was bloody cold, especially for my spoilt disposition so attuned to the tropics.

 

Yet today it is beautiful here. Very still, calm and fresh. It feels Northern. The green is as fresh and pale as a Boreal forest should be. The sky crisp, the sun sharp. 

I had been sensitized to the northern climate, the trees, sounds and tastes and now I have a new found appreciation for what was once ordinary. That is the beauty of living away; I can retain the pleasure of experiencing the new.

 

 

We went to a market over the weekend in a small country town. I saw happy hippies and city weekenders shopping for their lunch, greeting each other with familiar smiles. The small kiosks were proudly selling their homemade foods. I sampled wine, cheese  and maple syrup but I could have also tried milk fed piglet or gourmet sausage. There was a pride in their food and the tasteful (and sometimes kitch) presentation. This is a land of food snobs.

 

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Since arriving in Montreal I have eaten meals that have tasted intense and fresh. I had not experienced a sensation quite like a fresh Quebec strawberry in some time. My taste buds have been deprived of these northern flavours, the sweet but tart berry, the pungent wet cheese, the nectarine dripping in juice. And visually the food looks perfect, the carrots are small and neat and orange, the eggplant firm in its purple fatness and the lettuce looks as crisp as its crunch. 

 

A Canadian summer means drinks at the dock, laughter with friends, the icy dip or the comfort of a roaring fireplace. For me it also means a return to my adopted home and time spent with my sisterhood of girlfriends. There is comfort in returning home to the familiar and seeing the gasp of recognition and joy spread over my daughters’ faces.

 

Things are often too long. Movies, books, classes, days, plays; but a Canadian summer is always too short. Staring at a Canadian lake bordered by gentle hills is so relaxing that after a while you feel akin to floating.

 

I must confess that no part of my anatomy has yet dared to experience the piercing and heart thumping cold of a lake swim.

 

Saving that for another day. Not quite that brave yet.

 

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snow

Montreal is supposed to get its first snow storm tonight. At about 2 am everything will suddenly appear to stop as a thick silence falls upon the city.

In the morning if you are lucky and open the door before the monster snow clearing truck passes you’ll be greeted by a white carpet strewn street, branches tipped with the weight of snow, cars shrouded in white, a low white sky. All will be quiet and quite beautiful.   Once the monster truck passes and disturbs the peace the scene will be transformed into one of messy black and white chaos. Cars will have 5 feet of snow pressed against their sides making it near impossible to dig out, the once pristine road will now be rough and brown, all soft feathered snow pushed angrily to the side.  People will open doors and crossly stomp towards their cars, shovels brandished at their sides. Children will stiffly walk down stairs so tightly squeezed into boots, gloves and hats that they look like petrified mummies.

I hate the cold. I hate winter. I love snow. 

I spent 13 years scraping, digging and shoveling my self out of the snow. There is nothing quite as long or disheartening as a cold winter city.  A Montreal winter lasts 5 months.  Once a year, maybe twice if we were lucky we got a chance to go away for a few days to the country where the snow was white and soft and very very clean. Best of all the place was absolutely silent. There is no silence in the world like a place blanketed in thick snow. Trees dip mournfully to the ground bearing the weight of weeks of snow and since no monster trucks ever pass by, the snow piles up window ledge high. 

On those weekends we fall in love with winter all over again. We lie on our backs laughing and tossing snow into the air and we ski or toboggan or skate. Normally the children don’t come inside unless they are very hungry. They even play in the dark.  We warm up by the fire place and sip tea until the tea turns to wine. We eat huge meals and play toasty scrabble. We stuff hot water bottles into the foot of our beds and listen to the silence as we fall asleep.

These are the winter memories I pull together but I know that unless we move to the Canadian country side that bucolic version of winter will ring false. It is waking up an hour early to shovel and braving the steep city hills slippery with snow that would prove my reality. I would rarely go outside and sit in my house grumpy and anxious for the hell of winter to pass.

Time to go to the beach.

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