J’adore Montréal – Top 10 Reasons

There are so many things to love about Montreal

  1. Awesome vegan restaurants
    Lola Rosa Nachos
  2. Separated bike lanes and BIXI
    Bike Lanes at Dusk
  3. Pedestrian streets
    Pedestrian Street
  4. Festivals
    Just for Laughs
  5. Patios
    My favourite parts of Montreal
  6. Complete bilingualism – including Shakespeare in the Park
    Shakespeare in the Park
  7. Parklets and street reclaiming
    Montreal Parket
  8. Public markets like Jean Talon
    Jean Talon Market
  9. Old buildings and Old Montreal
    Old Montreal's Pedestrian Zone
  10. Apartments with staircases
    Montreal Staircases
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Cycling in Montreal

Biking is a Breeze
After spending 3 days cycling through Montreal, I have to admit they are years ahead of Vancouver.

Montreal BIXIFor only $15, I picked up a 3-day BIXI pass and used it to zoom around the city. I was impressed with how quickly the bikes turned over. Bikes were constantly being taken out and returned by users – a lot of them locals judging by how quickly they unlocked the bikes and pedalled away. The bikes are heavy and slow, but still way faster than walking and more interesting than taking the metro.

Montreal Separated Bike Lane Bike Lanes at Dusk
The separated bike lanes downtown are good (especially around the universities), but the real highlight was the network of separated lanes along commercial streets in the neighbourhoods around downtown, like the Plateau (think Commercial Drive in Vancouver).

There is also a good network of bike routes on quiet streets, salmon lanes against the traffic on 1-way streets, and trails along parks and train tracks. They even have cleaners ensuring the bike routes are free of glass and debris.
Bike Salmon Lane Route Vert Bike Trail Bike Lane Cleaner

Vancouver has some catching up to do.

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Rand Paul and the Scariest Email I’ve Ever Read

Rand Paul recently penned an excellent op-ed in Time Magazine arguing against the militarization of police forces. It reminded me of the email I got from Rand Paul last month. It was sent to me in error and it had a very different tone. It urged me to sign up defend America’s gun rights. For only $10/month I could be “automatically entered into the FRONTLINE DEFENDERS monthly gun giveaway to win a Remington Versa Max 12-gauge shotgun with Realtree camo. Each month we give away a new gun. It could be an AR-15. It could be special high-end handguns, shotguns or hunting rifles.

Frightening stuff.

I agree with Rand Paul that turning local police forces into small armies is a bad idea. But I’m not sure how giving ordinary citizens (especially the paranoid ones) camoflauge, shotguns, automatic riffles, and ammo is any better. In fact, it sounds a lot worse.

Rand Paul Email 1
Rand Paul Email 2
Rand Paul Email 3
Rand Paul Email 4

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Eating Vegan in Montreal

On our recent trip to Montreal we were delighted to discover that the city is a hotbed for vegan cuisine. Who knew? We had a chance to eat at six vegetarian restaurants (five of them strictly vegan), with a long wishlist of places we didn’t have time to visit. Normally I would rank the restaurants we visited, but all of them excellent with little separating our favourites (Aux Vivres and Lola Rosa) from the rest.

  • Aux Vivres
    Aux Vivres is a vegan restaurant with mass appeal and wide acclaim, but when I see menu items like veggie butter, vegelox, and coconut bacon I’m always a bit leery. Happily these weren’t overly processed soy knockoffs. The veggie butter was mostly nutritional yeast and the lox was made from carrot pulp and herbs, with a bit of liquid smoke (recipe). For dinner, we had the Aux Vivres burger and an Indian platter. Both were excellent. I highly recommend trying to get a seat on the awesome patio behind the restaurant, as the main seating area is loud.
    Aux Vivres Appetizer Aux Vivres on Urbanspoon
  • Lola Rosa
    I really loved the atmosphere at Lola Rosa. The tables are old, wooden desks with drawers that customers have stuffed full of love letters and poems. We found a paper fortune teller that said: “choose the menu item you least considered, everything is amazing” and then “actually, just get the nachos“. So we did, and they lived up to the anonymous hype. Everything is vegetarian with lots of vegan options, often substituting Daiya for cheese.
    Lola Rosa Nachos Lola Rosa Cafe on Urbanspoon
  • Propulsion
    A great little vegan restaurant in the gay village with a fabulous patio in the summer. We sat outside and ate our lunch while a nearby quartet played classical music. The menu was a bit confusing (language barrier?). We tried ordering a salad, but although they’re on the menu, salads apparently aren’t available. We got a quinoa bowl and tempeh sandwich, which were both hearty and delicious.
    Propulsion Lunch Propulsion Cantine Végétalienne on Urbanspoon
  • Invitation V
    Excellent food but ridiculously slow service. Our meal took 3 hours, including an hour wait between the appetizers and entrees. Everything is vegan. The appetizers and mains were good (especially the crabless cakes and hot pot) but the desserts were disappointing. I’ve had much better vegan crème brûlée and as much as I like kale, it was overpowering in the kale-chocolate cake.
    Invitation V Dinner Invitation V on Urbanspoon
  • Green Panther
    Simple but tasty vegan food. We tried the veggie burgers, Poppin’ Carrots cake, and a Peanut Munch Break cookie. They have more than one location, but this one is in a cluster of vegan restaurants, along with Crudessence and Cafe Verdure, between Mcgill and Concordia University.
    green panther The Green Panther on Urbanspoon
  • Crudessence
    Crudessence’s Golden Square Mile location is located next door to the Green Panther. Everything is raw and vegan. We sampled the desserts, all of which were superb. We didn’t get a chance to try any of the entrees, but they looked good.
    Crudessence Dessert Crudessence Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Posted in Food, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where I Run – a Strava Heatmap

running-heatmap-strava
I’m lucky to live in close proximity to so many great running routes. I’m minutes away from Vancouver’s Seawall, where I can run for hours without having to stop for a single traffic light. Vancouver’s greenways and bike routes are also great, traffic-calmed running routes.

My favourite places to run
Seawall, around False Creek, Kitsilano Beach, and Stanley Park
Central Valley Greenway, occasionally as far as New Westminster
Point Grey Road, a joy with the new traffic calming
Ontario and Heather bikeways up to Queen Elizabeth Park

Interactive heatmap available on Strava.
Follow me on Strava

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Foraging for Blackberries in Vancouver

Blackberries
Emily and I were planning on spending a sunny, Saturday afternoon biking down to Richmond to pick blueberries, but we got lazy and decided to spend the day closer to home foraging for blackberries. U-pick blueberries cost about $1.85/lb, but blackberries are free assuming you can find them.

Blackberry Picking
We started biking down the Central Valley Greenway in search of blackberries. It’s a great ride and follows the train tracks and the edge of several parks, which are perfect spots to find blackberries. I knew the Still Creek area in Burnaby is loaded with blackberry bushes, but we didn’t make it that far. 8 minutes from our home, we discovered unpicked blackberry bushes along a quiet street off Great Northern Way.

Blackberry Haul
It took us 30 minutes to fill up 3 containers full of berries. Now we just have to eat them. Some of them will be turned into chia seed jam, some frozen, and the rest eaten fresh.

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10 Tips for an Algonquin Canoe Trip

Algonquin Canoe Trip
Here is some helpful advice I wish I had when we were planning our Algonquin canoe trip.

  1. Pack like you would for a multi-day, backcountry hiking trip. Keep it light. Lots of small drybags are convenient for loading into a boat, but they’re a pain to carry. We spent almost as much time portaging as paddling. You’ll want most of your gear in as few backpacks as possible. (Christina says: “bring proper shoes for the portages”)
    Portage Fail
  2. The portages and campsites are all well marked with signs visible from a long distance away, but you’ll still need a map. We printed multiple copies of Jeff’s Algonquin Map (cropped to the area we were going) and put them in ziplock bags.
    Smoke Lake to Kootchie Lake
  3. Think about how far you want to travel each day. We were able to cover 10-12 km at a leisurely pace in 4-5 hours, but we never encountered a strong head wind. I know some groups like to cover more ground and will do 20 km in 8 hour days. The shorter days gave us lots of time to relax at the campsites (bring a deck of cards and a book). I found that my exhaustion level at the end of the day was more dependent on the portages than the paddling. Portages under 500 meters were easy and anything over 1 km was tiring. Having lots of little portages was never a bad thing (you get really good and getting gear in and out of the canoes quickly), but the bugs were often worst along the portage trails.
    Beaver Damned
  4. In addition to the usual backcountry camping gear (tent, water filter, etc), I recommend packing a tarp, carabiners, ziplock bags, and lots of rope. A handy way to setup the tarp to prevent water pooling is to tie it low to the ground (waist height) and then use a paddle to prop up the middle.
    tarps
  5. Learn how to setup a bear bag to keep your food safe overnight. What not to do:
    • Don’t throw all of your rope into the tree. Hang on to one end.
    • Don’t put lots of knots and your carabiner on the rope before throwing it over a branch. It will only get snagged. (There’s a reward for the rope and carabiner I left stuck in the tree on Big Porcupine.)
    • Don’t pull your food bag too close to branches. You want it high enough to be out of the reach of bears but not too easily accessible to chipmunks. We had chipmunks chew holes in 3 dry bags.

    Rope Stuck Bear Cache Rope Retrieval

  6. Campfires are allowed, assuming the forest fire risk isn’t high. Every campsite has a nice fire pit and you can scavenge deadwood. I’d recommend bringing extra paper to help get it lit. We only had a fire on two nights, but it was handy for drying clothing.
    Michael's Pants are on Fire!
  7. Pack lots of toilet paper and keep it dry. No one likes to use leaves. There are box toilets at every campsite and outhouses along some of the portages. They’re rudimentary but better than digging a hole.
    Treasure Chest
  8. For food, I like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables in the first few days, and rely on dehydrated meals at the end of the trip. Cans and bottles are prohibited in the backcountry, even if you plan on packing it out. This is in response to litter problems (likely beer bottles and beer cans). Most of our food was in ziplock bags and plastic containers, but our group did have a few contraband cans of beans. The wardens never checked when they visited our site. I’m guessing the rule is only enforced with troublemakers.
    Camping Dinner
  9. You have to get away from the highway where the lakes have motorized boats before you have a chance of seeing wildlife. We saw two moose on our 3rd day, the midpoint of our trip, on Kirkwood Lake.
    Moose
  10. Prepare for all kinds of weather. I was amazed by how quickly the weather changed from sunny and warm to a down-pouring thunderstorm. Bathing suits and a rain jacket are a must. A hat helps to keep the sun and rain out of your eyes. I also found biking gloves handy for paddling.
    Algonquin Canoe Trip

Enjoy your trip!

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