Browsing "Canada"
Aug 2, 2012 -

Catching Up With Friends in the NCR

Yesterday, Wednesday August 1st, I had a lunch date with my former colleagues at Industry Canada. I was delighted that what was supposed to be a quick meeting at the food court was turned into a proper reunion at a restaurant and that the organizer even remember that I love Thai food, so she reserved at La papaye verte (The Green Papaya) on Laurier right in front of the Museum of Civilization.

The old gang hasn’t changed, I apparently haven’t changed, and the work environment has changed. It was great to see everyone, catch up, laugh, and be reminded that I was lucky to work with those people for three years.

After work, I headed up to La Pêche (fishing), the community in the Gatineau hills where I lived for five years (one year in an apartment, one year renting my house, three years owning my house). The community has a number of villages, the biggest ones being Masham and Wakefield.

Wakefield is very picturesque and touristy. A popular thing for visitors to the National Capital Region to do is to take the steam train from Hull to Wakefield for a lunch at a quaint bistro and an afternoon of shopping in the boutiques. The steam train was having financial difficulties when I left and is not running this summer. I hope this is a temporary setback.

The drive to Wakefield along autoroute 5 was a little different as the autoroute is finally, after 30 years of planning, being extended. It used to stop at Tulip Valley, but not goes a few kilometres farther to Farmpoint, just before the grocery store. It will soon come all the way up to Wakefield and the junction with the 366 to Masham. There is no way that kind of road work won’t change life up in those sleepy little hamlets. Wakefield now has a Tim Hortons, a major sign that life is about to change radically.

I was early to meet my friend for dinner, so I decided to push on to Lascelles to see if the old homestead is still there. It is! There were cars parked out front, so I didn’t go up the laneway to get a better look at the house because I used to freak out when people did that.

Back in Wakefield, I parked outside the Black Sheep pub and grabbed an outside table at the Rutherford Bistro on the main floor of the pub. I had time to check out the menu before my friend arrived and was rather disappointed that my top two choices for dinner were sold out. I wound up having a decent buffalo chicken burger with delicious fries.

After gabbing for ages, I headed out to my friend’s house. She has been building it with her dad for six years as time and money are available. It is her dream home in her favourite place in the world.

The house is inspired by the Swiss chalet style, but is built with modern eco features, including walls lined with styrofoam and filled with concrete. The house feels really out in the middle of the bush, but she’s only a couple of minutes on a horrible dirt road from main highways and the autoroute. She can get to Ottawa in 25 minutes now and it will soon be no more than 20 minutes. The extra 10 minutes I had to drive to get to my house combined with the lack of services made a future there unappealing.

A lot of people, including politicians, have cottages in the hills and I think that the extended autoroute will bring more people to have their full-time home in the hills. Even without the autoroute, it takes much less time to commute from Wakefield to downtown Ottawa than it does to go from Orleans or Kanata (the eastern and western edges of the city respectively) to downtown.

The drive back from Wakefield was not without incident and I will get into that once I’ve caught up on sleep. 🙂

 

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Jul 23, 2012 -

A Sunday in the Eastern Townships

Sunday, I’d promised my dad’s brother that I would go visit him at his trailer in East Bolton in the Eastern Townships. I took off around 8:30 and arrived around 9:30.

Uncle K has had a trailer in that campground for about 30 years. Until a few years ago, his trailer was from the ’60s but he has since upgraded to a trailer from the ’70s. The RV spot is large and he planted all the trees on it, so he saw them grow from saplings to the mature, shade-providing, trees they are today.

The campground is on Trousers Lake, so named because the general shape of the lake is a pair of pants. It’s a lake with an inlet and an outlet, so the water is cool, but clean. Motorboats haven’t been allowed in years, so the fishing is very good (bass and pike mostly).

Uncle K took me for a brief walk to see some of the sights and then we were joined by Uncle J (dad’s late sister’s husband) and his grand-daughter (my second cousin).

We piled into Uncle J’s tiny Nissan to go check out the site of the cottage my grand-father started to build in the ’60s and never finished because of his untimely death in an accident caused by a drunk driver.

The cottage was on Lake Gilbert. Today, you could drive to the site, but in the ’60s, you had to park on shore and pack everything over by boat. From shore, it was a 20KM walk round trip to get groceries.

The next stop was the Benedict Abbey (Abbaye Saint-Benoît), known for its beautiful grounds and superb cheeses. Had I not had several hours ahead before access to a fridge, I would have bought some treats at the large monastery store! Uncle J picked up a jar of caramel spread, something that was obviously a treat he gets whenever he’s in the area.

The abbey was founded in 1910

this is the older part of the abbey

the brickwork is gorgeous!

simple stained glass

floor mosaic

the left part of the abbey is ‘new’ from the 1980s

the little chapel

We drove around the countryside a little more after this, looking for, but failing to find, our family cemetery (I should have printed off the directions, but I can always go back later this summer; it’s not far). The Eastern Townships (Cantons de l’est) is one of the most scenic regions in Canada and very popular cottage country. You can run into politicians (eg. former Prime Minister Paul Martin) and movie stars (eg. Donald and Kiefer Sutherland) here.

We grabbed some goodies from a popular bakery for lunch, ate at the campground, and headed back to the Montérégie mid-afternoon. I was glad to have my iPod because I got caught in the expected Sunday afternoon traffic jam on the 10:

It started 3KM from the exit for Chambly and it took me almost a full hour to get home from that point. I could have walked home almost three times as quickly! I just cranked up the Cowboys Fringants and had fun watching the RVers run out of their rigs to use the bathroom and fix snacks!

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Jul 15, 2012 -

Chez Lien Vietnamese Restaurant, Saint-Constant

It was a spur of the moment invitation from old family friends and former bosses that brought us to a Chez Lien Vietnamese Restaurant in Saint-Constant, a place my mother had been to a few times and really enjoyed. Chez Lien is a chain, but she says that they have different owners and vary in quality. The one in Saint-Constant is the cleanest.

I’ll just make a parenthesis here to say that I started working for my bosses more than 20 years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long! I last worked for them 14 years ago. We are still close and I can’t believe their boys are all grown up and starting to have children of their own. It makes me feel about 10 years older than I am.

Anyway, back to Chez Lien. They have a basic but mostly authentic Vietnamese menu with some Thai and ‘Chinese’ items as well as a very opinionated server. My mother gets a kick out of him. Everyone else had a combination fish and seafood platter with soup. I went for one imperial roll and the lemongrass chicken sauté. I wanted rice but when the server told me he was bringing me vermicelli, I felt it best not to argue. My mother said that I would have heard about it for five minutes if I’d argued with him for wanting the wrong carb with my meal. That sounds unpleasant, but he was hilarious!

The hearty roll came with fish dipping sauce (a clear and sweet sauce made with fish but not tasting like it at all) and a nice salad with a yummy peanut dressing. My dinner was very late coming out; my companions were halfway finished with theirs when mine arrive. But it was worth the wait! I had a huge plate of perfectly sautéd veggies and nice pieces of chicken swimming in a thin and fragrant lemongrass sauce that had just a bit of kick to it. I threw the noodles in to absorb some of the yummy sauce. Mmm! I adore lemongrass!

Chez Lien serves a variety of fruits deep fried in a wonton wrapper as dessert. Only two of us opted for dessert. My mother chose banana and I chose apple. Dessert was a bit ho hum, needing a little cinnamon or nutmeg, but the sweet sesame sauce made it pretty special. The coffee was very good, albeit a little too close to tepid to really savour.

I really enjoyed our meal at Chez Lien, especially when compared to my last experience at a Vietnamese restaurant! If I were to go back there, I would most likely have the lemongrass chicken again. It was just too good to try something else!

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