Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Je me souviens les neiges d'antan

Snow on Easter. That's not the only reason I'm fleeing Lake Snowbegone for California come Friday, but it's certainly one reason I'm happy to be kissing upstate NY bye-bye. Actually, though, the fact that we were dodging snowflakes on Sunday may have had something to do with being in Canada. Yes, who knows why, but we went north last weekend, to a place even grayer and colder than this one: Montreal!

It was freezing when we arrived, and as we shivered down the street we did look at each other to wonder why we weren't in Florida, K.'s warm and lovely home state. When K. called her mom on Sunday, she said they were having a bit of a cold snap, so it was only 70 degrees. If she weren't such a nice lady, I'd have cussed her out.

But, weather aside, Montreal was as close to Europe as we could get driving. We didn't have too much time, but we did see lots of old stone buildings, the inside and out of the Basilica Notre Dame, carriages drawn by horses wearing bunny ears, and the gay Timmie's in Le Village.

What did we drink? Vin chaud, hot chocolate with cinnamon and cardamom at the hip, cute Au Festin de Babette tea salon and chocolate shop, locally brewed beer with polar bears on the label. And we ate maple everything, from the divine "danoise" (that's danish to you, mate) pastry smeared with pale maple cream at the Patisserie Premiere Moisson to chewy maple taffy poured out on snow and rolled around a stick (known there as tire d'erable, or what we'd call sugar on snow). There were maple products everywhere: tiny ice-cream cones filled with maple syrup, maple sugar hard and soft, even maple liqueurs. Maple syrup in a can was in every shop. The Quebecois maple obsession makes the maple-makers of upstate New York look like pikers, I can tell you.

What else? We went to the wonderful Jean Talon Market, indoors for the winter, and lined with shop after shop selling veal, pork, lamb and sheep's milk cheese, fromage cottage in numerous flavors, sticky Moroccan pastries and hot mint tea, rabbit sausage, live spiky-legged crabs from the Gaspe peninsula, and fabulous French-language cookbooks . After sampling everything in the market, we didn't have the appetite to brave the trotters and blood puddings at Au Pied de Cochon; instead, we ended up with cheese and beer and apples in our room, watching Charlton Heston perform all his own miracles.

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