Off the beaten path: ♪ Montreal Jazz Fest ♪

We planned our trip to Montreal to coincide with the world’s largest Jazz Festival. It features all kinds of artists, big and small, and it is free to enter!

Read more about our 48 hours in Montreal


We didn’t know what to expect so we walked around enjoying the street performers and sampling various stages. And of course the food and drink in the area! We made sure (as always) that we tried only local beers, and (again, as always) loved them!


At the Heineken stage there was a rock and roll party. Israel Proulx band was playing Elvis, Jerry Lewis and so on. Despite being a relatively unknown band, the crowd loved them, as did we. The lead singer even climbed onto the piano during his act- all part of the fun spectacle!

The highlight of the night was Jamie Cullum. If you haven’t heard of him check him out- he’s a super talented jazz musician from the UK, complete with the dry sense of humour! He mixed some original jazz numbers with jazz covers of popular songs. We liked his rendition of Mike Posner’s ‘I took a pill in ibiza’ best of all.

 

And please don’t stop the music – which was an unexpected, but delightful inclusion in his repertoire.

Check out Jamie Cullum’s entire performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2016 (link)

If in Montreal around the time, we’d definitely recommend attending the Jazz festival. Even if most of the artists are unknown and unheard of, there is a good chance of stumbling upon someone who makes it completely worth the time!

Sechseläuten: Spring festival in Zürich

Sechseläuten is a traditional spring holiday in Zürich, one of the first unique Zürich traditions that we got to witness!

The tradition of Sechseläuten, which directly translates to the six o’clock ringing of the bells, dates back to 1525. While the light faded early in winter causing workers to end their days by 5pm, with longer days in summer, it was decided that work should continue until 6pm. The ringing of the second largest bell in the Grossmünster at 6pm, signaled the beginning of spring and the new working hours, and the switch to summer time was the cause for celebrations.

The Böögg, or bogeyman, is said to have ancient (read pre-christian) roots. In Zürich, the Böögg was designed in the form of a snowman, symbolizing winter, and burnt on the spring equinox. Each quarter burnt its own Böögg, independent of the Sechseläuten celebrations. In 1902 the two merged into one tradition and the Böögg became the protagonist of Sechseläuten celebrations.

Today, Sechseläuten is celebrated on the third Monday of April (unless it is Easter Monday, then it is celebrated on the 4th Monday- they have a rule for everything!). It begins with a parade of the guilds, comprising up to 350 horse riders and almost 3000 guildsmen, all dressed in medieval costume, and ends with the burning of the Böögg, filled with firecrackers, at 6pm precisely. Zürich’s inhabitants claim that the Böögg serves to predict the weather in the coming summer, faster the Böögg’s head explodes, the finer the summer will be. The one we watched took 9 min 56 sec – here’s hoping for a really good summer in 2017!

1.jpg2.jpgThis is followed by the largest outdoor BBQ.

Having read this, we arrived armed with toasting forks, sausages and sides, and beer (of course) but from the cordoned off streets, the parade and the big blaze, it wasn’t clear at all how the BBQ would happen. Fortunately most people had picnic bags, so there was hope. What followed was very interesting. Once the parade was completely over, the area around the huge bonfire was covered with damp sand and the barricades were lifted, opening it up to us all. All you needed to do was find a spot, dig a shallow ditch in the sand, bring a shovel-full of hot embers, and voila- the BBQ pit was ready! Fortunately there were enough people with shovels to let us borrow one, and soon we had our own little fire pit, tiny, and cute (we’d like to believe), that it even drew an ‘awww’ from a passerby..!

Note to self: next time bring foil, bacon wrapped sausages and s’mores!

Satiated, and grateful for the balmy evening, it was a great way to begin, what we hope, will be a fun-filled, warm summer!

Interestingly, it reminded us of the fires lit during the festival of Holi. While the stories behind the festival are different, the underlying motives seem similar, both symbolize the end of winter and are an excuse to come out and celebrate!

48 hours in (and around) Amsterdam 

Amsterdam during Easter is super busy, in 2017, 1 million tourists were said to have visited the city, which is more than the total population of the city itself!

As with most cities nowadays, the best way to get a good feel for the city is to take a free walking tour. We took the one by Sandeman’s and our guide Kendra was great!

Some of the highlights in and around the city, for us, were:

Walking the canals. There are 4 main canals in Amsterdam, the Singel, Herengracht (Lord’s canal), Keizersgracht (Emperor’s canal) and Prinsengracht (Prince’s canal). Although in the beginning all the streets lining the canals look exactly the same, walking around is a good way to get more comfortable with the layout of the city. And of course, it is really pretty too! 1.JPG
Visit to the Rijksmuseum. April showers in Amsterdam weren’t always fun but made for a great excuse to spend an entire morning taking in the wonders in the Rijksmuseum. Since Amsterdam was so busy, the lines to enter all the museums were hours long. Buying tickets online in advance and starting fairly early in the morning, helped a lot and allowed us to spend the time inside the museum, instead of waiting in line outside. The collection is very impressive and stories on the audio tour in the museum app made it even more interesting. 2.JPGPaying homage to Anne Frank. The line to enter the museum was 3 hours long on every day of the Easter weekend and advance tickets were sold out, so we couldn’t make it inside. But it remains on the list and will be one of the important reasons to go back one day. The Anne Frank house helps to humanize the war and is a good place to pause and reflect on the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting on each other.

3.jpg

Visit to Keukenhof for the tulips. Yes, it probably is one of the most touristy things to do, but in spring, when the tulips are in full bloom, it is worth every minute! The combination bus + park entrance ticket, saved time and money and it was fairly painless to get there. No photographs could do justice to the magnificent sights, the endless rows of tulips and the myriad hues in the park, but we did try! 4.JPG5.JPG

Day trip to Den Haag. Only about an hour away from the Keukenhof gardens, the Hague makes for a short fun trip- including, of course, a visit to the iconic Peace Palace. 6.JPG

Local food and drink. A big part of most of our trips is sampling the local fare. Dutch food and drink was delicious and did not disappoint in the least! Read all about our food tour in our post here.

Amsterdam’s alter ego. The other side of Amsterdam, the red light district and coffee shops definitely add to the character (or strangeness) of the city and need not be avoided like the plague! While there aren’t any photographs to document it (not for a lack of trying, photography here is strongly discouraged and often isn’t allowed), walking through the streets lined by windows with women showcasing their wares (themselves) and littered with smoke-filled coffee shops definitely makes for an interesting experience.

Cycling everywhere. True to their reputation, the cities in the Netherlands have wide bike lanes, making cycling a convenient mode of transport, but the locals do not like to be interrupted on their commute so, as a tourist, only do it only if you can ride!

Food guide for Amsterdam: (i)Eating iAmsterdam!

As with most places, sampling the local fare constituted an important part of our trip to the Netherlands. Joining a structured food tour could’ve been an option but doing it on our own, added the thrill of discovering new places and allowed us to explore the city and try the food at the same time. Of course, we ran the risk of not finding anything good, but  fortunately that didn’t happen!

First up, waffles. The aroma wafting from the stall at the Easter fair at Dam square was too much to resist!

1.JPG
Waffle with nutella!

How often can you get hot food from a vending machine?! The delicious croquet from the Febo vending machine served to balance the sweetness of the waffle very well.2.JPGNo trip to the Netherlands could be complete without a healthy portion of Vlaamse frites, we were told. We had ours with the ‘special sauce’ which was mayonnaise and a peanut-based curry sauce (it tasted like satay sauce)- they absolutely hit the spot! 5.JPG

To wash it all down, and because it is what we do (and love), Dutch beers were sampled. We visited Arendsnest, with 52 beers on tap, and Brouwerij ‘t IJ, with its iconic windmill. Both did not disappoint! Arendsnest had a wide variety of beers including a lot of darker and stronger beers, ‘old enough to drink’ boasted 21% ABV! Brouwerij ‘t IJ felt like a local watering hole with a very relaxed atmosphere, and had fewer, inexpensive beers on tap. 4.JPG7.JPGDutch pancakes constituted dinner one evening, and although they looked a lot less substantial than their American counterparts, they were delicious and quite filling. We had one with ham and cheese and one with apple strudel and ice cream. 9.JPG

Since it is the birthplace of the famous Gouda, we tried a number of flavoured and aged varieties, and preferring the sharp clean taste of the aged cheese, ended by buying half a kilo of 2 year old Dutch Gold! How long this lasts (how much self control we can exercise) remains to be seen….!

6.JPG

Of course, there was another waffle, this one fully indulgent, smothered in all the toppings possible- Nutella waffle with whipped cream, strawberries and more chocolate sauce! Needless to say, it was one of the best we’ve eaten, ever! 8.JPG

Walking around the Hague, we found the last two pieces of street food we’d read about, that added the finishing touches to our food tour.

Poffertjes, mini Dutch pancakes, with butter and powdered sugar, eaten hot during a drizzle, lent a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling that helped combat the cold very well! 10.JPGAnd of course, the herring. Eaten raw, with onions, under the awning of the shack to prevent being attached by the vicious sea gulls, it made for an interesting, one time only, experience! The smell lingered on my fingers for hours!11.JPG

Finally, because Amsterdam is (in)famous for its special foods, no post about the local fare would be complete without a special mention! 3.JPG

8 photos from 8 hours in London

London is a huge city. You can spend days walking around and still not cover everything. Here’s a quick list of things to do if you are there for a short stay like us. We used our 8 hour layover to perfection.

Gaze upon the Palace of Westminister which houses the London Parliament, and the impressive Big Ben

2.jpg
Palace of Westminister and the Big Ben

Check out an iconic double-decker red bus and the London eye.8.jpg

Find a red phone booth!3.jpg

Visit Trafalgar Square

4.jpg
Trafalgar Square at Christmas

Get a pint near Covent Garden

5.jpg
Arthur Guinness- you genius!

Check out the blinding lights at Piccadilly Circus and the West End6.jpg

Discover the London underground, and try not to get lost!7.jpg

Eat mince pie (if its Christmas)163116_714336082706_3515186_n.jpg

This short trip was extra special as D accepted my proposal and we decided to get married 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

48 hours in Montréal: explore and eat! 

While the Montréal Jazz festival was the main draw to visit the city, we found that it was a great place to visit, with a wide variety of fun things to do! Here are our top 10:

1. Walk around old town Montréal: Take a free walking tour– the guides are locals who know and love the city, and do a really good job! It is a great way to see the city and learn about some of its more obscure quirky stories.

The Englishman with the bulldog and French woman with the poodle at permanent odds with each other!
 Montréal’s own LOVE sign

 Botero has reached Montréal too!

2. Walk around the old port: While the city is not entirely in favour of the gentrification and renovation of the vieux port, it makes for a nice stroll by the water.


3. Watch a Cirque du Soleil show: For the uninitiated (like I was until this trip), Montréal is the birthplace of the concept of the Cirque and most shows originate here. We were lucky enough to watch Luzia as it premiered in Montréal before it reached the rest of the world. It was fantastic!


4. Hike up Mont Royal: The mountain that gives the city its name, makes for a relatively easy uphill climb (as if that exists!) and offers spectacular views of the city!


5. Drink orange Julep: Especially if it is a warm summer’s day!


6. Eat smoked meats at Schwartz: The long line might be off-putting, but it is totally worth the wait. The food is delicious!


7. Search for the best poutine: No trip in Canada is complete without a lot of poutine! While the taste is definitely a huge selling point, it can be eaten as any meal- we had poutine (on different days) as breakfast, lunch and dinner and apparently that wasn’t strange at all!

8. Surf the St.Lawrence River: Surfing in Montréal seems to be a hush-hush activity that not everyone knows or talks about, but once you know where to find them, the surfers are all definitely there, and pretty awesome to watch!

9 & 10. Attend the Jazz festival (and drink the local beer during it)! Read more about it in our post here.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: