Travelogue: Montreal Part Deux (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Everything in downtown Montreal is easy to get to, by foot or by metro. We walked to Chinatown for breakfast.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Chinatown is quite small. This street is lined with bakeries and souvenir shops.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

We went to a HK-style cafe called Patisserie La Legende. I loved that everyone here spoke Cantonese.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Food was nothing to rave about, but it was cheap and actually not… horrible. After that, I got egg tarts to go from the bakery across the street. Also pretty okay…

A few blocks down was Quartier des Spectacles, an entertainment district designed as a centre for Montreal’s cultural events and festivals. There was an art installation (limited time, now over) of musical swings titled 21 Balançoires.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

There were lots of swings that lined this entire area and made different tones when you swing on them.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

After that, we took the metro to St-Viateur Bagel & Cafe.

They have several locations but I picked this because it’s a sit-down cafe.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

I still have no clue what the difference is between Montreal and NY bagels. They tasted the same to me. I know, blasphemy. Don’t kill me. I’m not a bagel connoisseur.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

We walked along the avenue and saw some street art, which I love to find in every city that I visit.

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Banana in front of the Mont Royal station.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Walk down Rue St Denis and you’ll find lots of red. It’s a hip street lined with restaurants and stores (I HAD to stop by Lululemon).

Montreal (Sept 2015)

“What is wonderful is that by slowing down we finally manage to best enjoy the scenery and to be interested in something other than ourselves.” – Dany Laferrière

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Old Port

Montreal (Sept 2015)

From Old Port, you can see Habitat 67. I originally planned on going there to take pictures of this marvelous community of architectural gem up close, but it didn’t work out. This is probably one of my favorite structures in the world.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Of course, Joe Beef. One of the top rated restaurants in Montreal. I made my reservation 3 months in advance.

For this:

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Duck for 2 ($90). It came with foie gras (Did I not tell you we ate duck and foie gras every night?)

It’s such a tiny restaurant, dark and homey. I loved our waitress, who talked us through the menu since it was written on the chalkboard behind us and we were turning our necks like owls just to read it. You can get up to look at it, which I found really awkward as people were sitting in front of it similar to tourists in NYC who would look over my head to check the subway map. Just take a picture of the menu with your phone and go sit at your table.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

Side of grilled cabbage… it was actually pretty amazing. I don’t even like vegetables.

Montreal (Sept 2015)

For dessert I picked a concord grape ice cream… we made friends with the table next to us and they offered to let me taste their cake too. Yes, I accepted their offer.

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Travelogue: Victoria, British Columbia (June 2015)

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast. From Port Angeles (Washington), we took the car ferry there. I reserved ahead of time here. Sailing time is 90 minutes. You just park your car and sit upstairs or you can walk around and take pictures.

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We arrive in downtown, Victoria, right by the water and close to Chinatown and the Parliament building.

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It’s pretty cool that there are houses right on top of water.

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Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown.

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The Empress Tea Room – I made a reservation ahead of time for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress. We got a table by the window and I loved the whole experience. They treat you like royalty.

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The sandwiches were delicious!

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At the end, they gave us tea to bring back home.

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The Parliament Building.

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We bought a Groupon deal for half off admission to the Butterfly Garden — well worth it. You’re free to roam around and see butterflies up close.

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Right near the Butterfly Garden is Butchart Gardens. At this point, I had gone to so many botanical gardens that I didn’t find this extraordinary. However, it was still a nice place to visit and take a stroll through its many gardens.

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Prettiest garbage can ever.

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After that, we took the car ferry to Vancouver. This time, we took BC ferries from Swartz Bay (Victoria) to Tsawwassen (Vancouver). This ferry had more food and gift shops for you to enjoy, and even a cafeteria. You can reserve here. Make sure to check their schedules and time it so that you can enjoy a full day at Victoria. We got to see the sunset when we arrived in Vancouver.

Travelogue: Chicagoland: Day 2 (Chinatown & Alinea)

We started the morning with coffee and hot apple cider with caramel (obviously mine).

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Robust Coffee Lounge – definitely hipster, definitely good coffee, definitely people working on MacBooks. The one thing I love about Chicago is the availability of cafes with free wifi and outlets everywhere.

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I had not been to Chinatown before, so since my friends were driving, it was the perfect time to explore. They explained to me that there is an “old” Chinatown and a “new” one, which are adjacent to each other but with different shops and restaurants. We went to the “new” one and ended up at a really good dimsum place: MingHin.

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After our stroll in Chinatown, we went to shoot pool at Lucky Strike. Then we went back to the hotel to change clothes for Alinea, which was one of the main reasons why we went to Chicago.

I first heard about Alinea from a food blogger that I met randomly at a burger joint in DC back in 2012. We bonded over food and he mentioned Alinea as being one of the best meals of his life.

To dine at Alinea, this is a carefully planned effort. First, you must buy a ticket on their website in lieu of reservations. The date you are aiming for opens up about a month in advance. I went on the website as soon as my date opened in order to get the 5pm reservation. After all, this is a 3-hour event and I like to dine early. In retrospect, this was a good decision because there are no barriers between you and other diners in the restaurant. I can see the surprises being ruined for the subsequent diners around me.

Don’t be intimidated by the sleek, modern, minimalist decor and well-dressed servers. Alinea is the first restaurant to have bare tables, and you can see their tables are well-built and the materials used were carefully considered.

I’m not going to go into each dish, because really, you should experience it for yourself. Don’t read too many reviews because trust me — you want to be surprised!

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Passionfruit foam!

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These vapors lasted for a long time. So whimsical.

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They brought out logs for “ambiance”.

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Remember the logs on fire? He cut them up and revealed the wagyu inside, perfect meat…

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This was so refreshing, I loved it! I really appreciated the designs of the plates.

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This was a time-sensitive dish, which meant I was supposed to eat it as soon as it came out, but I was too busy taking pictures and they came out blurry. Hot potato and cold potato. It was only a one bite item but was one of the more memorable ones!

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This was one of my favorite dishes. They don’t tell you what any of these are, and you’re supposed to taste and test and guess.

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Some of these are alcohol!

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Duck. Different parts.

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Dessert #1. Mascarpone, strawberry, black walnut, pistachio…

And then…

balloon

The server brings out the green apple balloon filled with helium! You are encouraged to put your lips on the balloon and suck out the helium and talk like a cartoon character. Loved this. Delicious too.

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The dessert chef came out and spread this on the table. What a show!

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Really wish I could’ve met the Chef, but being able to see the kitchen was a great end to the meal.

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Mission Accomplished.

Travelogue: San Francisco (Day 1 of 4)

It was the week between my mom and my birthdays. Perfect for a girls only getaway! We went from Monday to Thursday; I can’t imagine the amount of tourists that would crowd around the city on the weekends.

This was my first trip EVER to SF, and I learned many things along the way. I’m already planning my next trip out here!

Mistake #1: At SFO (San Francisco International Airport), I purchased two one-day muni passes ($14) for both of us. It was later that I rendered them useless; you would have to take public transportation at least 7 times in a day to get your money’s worth. In other words — NOT worth getting! We walked everywhere and took the cable car only once, just for s&g. We did take the buses maybe 4 times, but they’re only $2 each way!

Mistake #2: From SFO, I decided to take a cab ($60) to the hotel in Union Square only because I was with M. We could’ve taken the BART for $8.25 and it probably would’ve taken the same amount of time. I specifically chose a hotel close to the BART and cable cars for this reason, but I didn’t want M to complain on the first day.

After we checked into the hotel, we started our adventure!

First stop: Chinatown.

We walked from Union Square to Chinatown, which took only 10-15 minutes.

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We took some obligatory Chinatown arch photos and walked down Grand Street.

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Festive decorations everywhere due to upcoming Mid-autumn Festival in September!

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You can sneak a peak at the Bay Bridge.

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Yin Du Wonton Noodle
648 Pacific Ave
(between Columbus Ave & Beckett St)

M always reminisces about the wonton noodles in Hong Kong — New York noodles just aren’t the same. San Fran came pretty close!

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(Random lady sitting across the table from us eating delicious noodles)

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Next stop: Ferry Building/Pier/Embarcadero

We walked East towards the water — about 20 minutes. This was a farther walk, and not very scenic. But we got there with no damage!

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The Ferry Building Marketplace reminded me of Chelsea Market in New York, tons of little shops out in the open, blue bottle coffee, restaurants.

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We waited a bit for the F to get to Fisherman’s Wharf, but decided to walk along the Embarcadero instead and enjoy the view!

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Got some chocolate from TCHO along the way.

Stop #3: Pier 39

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It’s actually worth checking out — more shops, restaurants, and of course the famous sea lions! Just go past the carousel and follow signs to the stairs:

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Found them!

Stop #4: Fisherman’s Wharf

Walking further, we got to the wharf. It was chow time. Rather, clam chowder time…

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Walk up the stairs to Bistro Boudin:

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We got the famous bread bowl New England clam chowder — too much bread, too little soup.

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One of the best crabcake sandwiches I’ve ever tasted.

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Really tasty crabcake inside!

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Stop #5: From the Wharf, we walked over to Ghirardelli Square.

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We went into the chocolate store, aka chocolate galore:

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In addition to the ice cream and chocolate shop, there are also cute little boutiques that sell gift items and mementos.

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Jackson and Polk — I absolutely adore this gift boutique! They have really cute, endearing jewelry, bags and trinkets.

Next to Ghirardelli Square is the main stop of one of the cable car lines — Powell-Hyde. You can see huge lines form and wrap around.

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We saw the line for the cable car and decided to walk the rest of the way back to our hotel in Union Square — I don’t recommend this for those with weak knees; SF hills are no joke!

I underestimated my mom. She walked the whole way without complaining. We stumbled onto the other attraction that I hoped to see, Lombard Street.

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It was a beautiful walk, thanks to the great weather in SF. It was 70s and sunny everyday that we were there!