Cheers, Montreal! / Santé, Montréal!

McAuslan brewery's terrasse. Photo: Patricia Maunder

McAuslan brewery’s terrasse. Photo: Patricia Maunder

If you’re fond of a drink, especially quality alcoholic beverages served in venues of distinction, Montreal is a fine place to wash up in. It’s not on the New York scale of extraordinary bars, but after three years here I’m still a long way from working my way through the best on offer.

Even so, I’ve done quite a bit of first-hand research, from classy cocktails to craft beer, rooftops to an art hotel bar. So if you’re visiting Montreal, or a local looking for something new, read on! Continue reading

Gasping in the Gaspé / Haletant en Gaspésie

Percé Rock, from my balcony, around 4am. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Percé Rock, from my balcony, around 4am. Photo: Patricia Maunder

As described in previous posts, I’ve had a lot of outdoor fun during the winters here in Québec: skating and snow-shoeing, as well as the odd bit of dog-sledding and snow-mobiling. However, I’ve not got around to nearly as much hiking and canoeing or kayaking during the warmer months as I would like. So last week’s trip to the Gaspé Peninsula (Gaspésie in French) was a welcome and truly wonderful parade of outdoor summer adventure (full disclosure: I was a – very fortunate – guest of Tourism Québec and Québec Maritime Tourism).

It was an action-packed five days, because the weather was sunny and the days long (just past the summer solstice, being 49 degrees north and just west of the next time zone meant sunrise was around 4.15am, and dawn light began around 3.30!). It was also action packed because there are so many spectacular sights in the Gaspé, both on the coast and in the forested interior. In no particular order, here are five of my favourite things to do in the region, from grand hikes to relaxing with the local microbrew … Continue reading

Quebec’s sweet temptations / Tentations sucrées du Québec

Fried taters, cheese curds and gravy - what's not to like? Poutine and Quebec craft beer at La Banquise.

Fried taters, cheese curds and gravy – what’s not to like? Poutine and Quebec craft beer at La Banquise.

We’re between seasons here so for a change I’ve nothing to say about the weather (or, more specifically, the remarkable pleasures it brings, from blazing autumn colours to ice hotels). Indeed, as the last snow melts and spring’s first shoots and buds appear, Quebec would be a dull, grey place if it wasn’t the ‘sugar season’. At this time of year, in the province that produces most of the world’s maple syrup, maple sap is harvested, transformed into everything from maple butter to maple tea, and inspires Quebeckers to stuff themselves lumberjack-style at les cabanes à sucre, or sugar shacks.

As I grabbed the huge jug of maple syrup, and poured it over the endless feast at a cabane à sucre not far from Montreal last weekend, I marvelled anew at the abundance of this divine syrup here. Elsewhere in the world, it’s expensive; the worst thing about that is not the absence of bottomless jugs of the stuff, but the abomination that is ‘maple-flavoured syrup’. It got me thinking about other tasty treats on Quebec’s table, some of which were unknown pleasures a year ago …

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