Monday, July 21, 2014

Next Stop: Martinique Magnifique

It's been a busy summer and a huge highlight is traveling to the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Although the island is noted for lush vegetation and dozens of orchid varieties, I'm excited for the chance to delve into Martinique's multi-faceted culture, courtesy of Martinique Tourism Authority. My introduction to Martinique has been through  the exuberant rhythms of zouk music, the poetry of Aime' Cesaire and through my favorite movie, Sugarcane Alley so I'm thrilled to experience it firsthand. I'll be visiting the Aime' Cesaire Museum and the vibrant covered market in the capital city of Fort de France as well as Le Petibonum, the restaurant famous for creole dishes, as well as the cook charmingly dubbed chef hot pants. So please stay tuned for some lively Martinique posts!

Photo of Martinique's Pitons Du Carbet courtesy of Steve Bennett,of Uncommon Caribbean

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Day At The Beach--In Montreal

I love the excitement and action of big city travel but I also love the relaxation and natural beauty of beaches. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover a beach just five minutes from the bustling streets of downtown Montreal. I caught wind of it as a guide was explaining the city's many parks and he casually mentioned the beach in Parc Jean-Drapeau. My ears perked up. What's this? A beach nearby? As a certified beach baby, I grabbed my sunscreen and dashed over. A short Metro ride landed me at Parc Jean-Drapeau, which is actually two islands sprawled along the St. Lawrence River. Islands? You know I was excited. And the adventure was just starting because the park boasts tons of other attractions before you can even get to the beach.

This pretty strip of tranquility beckoned me to sink my toes into the sand and lounge for hours. It was quiet, with just a few families enjoying the water. Before I located it, I found myself at La Ronde, the amusement park that draws teens and adolescents from all over the city. It turns out that I had grabbed the wrong shuttle bus.

Then I strolled by the glistening dome of the Biosphere environmental museum. Nearby, vendors were setting up for Piknic Electronik, the weekly summer music fest that serves up electronic music for a non-stop, outdoor dance party. But I still didn't spot a beach. Finally, Francois, a shuttle bus driver who watched me wander around, hopped into his car and personally drove me to the elusive beach. His helpfulness was par for the course for friendly Montrealers but I was touched by his gallantry.

On the way, he pointed out the casino and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve racetrack, which hosts the Canadian Grand Prix every June and supplies a smooth course for bikers, skateboarders and runners for the rest of the summer. We rolled up on the other side of the racetrack and he delivered me to "la plage."

Being near the water is always worth the journey for me and I spent my last few hours in Montreal sprawled on the beach, grateful for still another Montreal discovery.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Montreal Street Art

Montreal overwhelms me. In a good way. For art lovers like me who live for connections with artistic and cultural expressions, Montreal is truly a dreamland. There is absolutely no place you can go in this stylish city where you will not be surrounded by art in some form. Metro stations, sidewalks, buildings, cafes, schools, markets, everywhere you turn, you'll be greeted with visual, musical or performance art. Montreal actually enforces a law that at least 1% of  a building's budget must go to public art. I thought it was just me honing in on every art form but no, Montreal really is covered in art. I find that it's an uplifting feeling to always have art close by. I think that's one of the reason's that Montrealers always seem so good-natured and vibrant. The mural above, was created during Montreal's Mural Fest (There is a fest for everything art-related in Montreal) and drew me in with the vivid colors and trippy designs.

This painting lines a wall by a park and displays Montreal's history.

There's lots of super hero/comic book figures peering out from Montreal buildings. I was told that this guy represents a particular event coming up. Obviously relating to blue hair and bionic back packs.

Music is an art form that Montreal clearly adores, you hear live music everywhere Jazz is a ubiquitous favorite. I was walking back from Old Montreal when I spotted this lovely tribute to Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

All metro stops are splashed with art in Montreal. I found myself lingering in the stations, just to take in the art.

I like the mix of colors and patterns on this piece that adorns an alley. The face on the right looks like Ringo Starr to me but I don't think that was intentional. What city do you enjoy for it's art scene?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Next Stop: Montreal Mon Ami

It's been three years since I've dipped my feet into the European charm of Montreal. I love the city's dynamic energy and elegant architecture. Of course, I also love the legendary Montreal Jazz Fest, the world's biggest jazz festival. Thanks to Tourisme Que'bec, I'll experience more of the city's gifts, from the also legendary circus arts festival, Montreal Completement Cirque, pictured above, to the museums and bustling neighborhoods. Montreal nightlife is the focus for this trip so I'll be documenting the exciting foodie scene as well as the nightclubs and non-stop festivals. I'm especially excited about pedaling through a night bike tour of the Mount Royal neighborhood and a visit to Bota Bota, the floating spa fashioned from an old ferryboat and boasting sublime views of the St. Lawrence River. So stay tuned for culinary, music and arts posts soon.