Un petit morceau de Montréal

Disclaimer:

Dear French people,

Please forgive the very likely possibility that all my French words/expressions are wrong and/or misplaced. Je suis sorry :(

Last weekend I took a trip to Montreal. Granted it’s already been five eight days (I started this post on Friday)since said trip so some parts of this post might be made-up hazy on the details. The last time I went to Montreal, it was one of those single girl Eat, Pray, Run from hobos weekend.

This time it was more of an Eat, Eat, slow-comatose-jog away-from-hobos type of deal. I learnt a lot about my digestive capabilities, much like how Elizabeth Gilbert learnt how to make millions writing about hers.

Regardless, I tossed a dollar into one certain hobo`s venti Starbucks cup; he was a real entertainer. He was outside the Metro, theatrically jumping up, down and around a milk crate giving a gallant French sermon in a booming voice that would make The Tenors want to tranquilize him, steal his vocal cords and leave him with a ten dollar bill, bleeding from the neck in a ditch behind a Montreal poutineri.

Many people asked me whether I was visiting friends in Montreal or whether I was taking a trip with someone. Apparently,  the idea of going alone for no conceivable reason isn’t something that crosses the minds of normal people. This is why I never update my Twitter. It’s easier to just shrug a no then it is to type ‘Solo getaway to Montreal, bitches!! #foreversingle’.

Is it really so bad  that I find sitting awkward and alone in fancy restaurants infinitely more appealing than taking long knee-busting yet dreamy romantic walks through the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal? #sarcasm

Speaking of fancy restaurants, I went to many! When I say many, I mean two.

It was Friday night when I had my first food experience. I was perusing online for places to eat when I stumbled on one very close to the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at. It was a tapas place. Tapas make me nervous. Who knows how the hell to order them?

The place I wanted to go to was called Confusion Tapas du Monde. The irony of its name was not lost on me while I spent the next 45 minutes goggling what is tapas and how to order it. The best answer was: Ask your waiter.

I called the restaurant. This was the actual conversation we had:

Tapas waiter: Bonjour!

Karen: Hello sir. Do you speak English?

TW: Yes ma’am. I actually speak very good English.  (Dollop of politeness with rich warm undertones of french sarcasm)

K: Great! I was just wondering….do I need to make reservations for one?

TW: You’re coming for dinner on a Friday night by yourself?

K: Yes.

TW: We can give you a table at the bar.

K: At the bar?! Can I not have a table?

TW: But the bar is actually quite pretty.

K: I’ll think about it.

I thought about it. As much I’d like to brag that I decided to have my Montreal adventure on my own terms, did I really want to sit alone at the bar of a restaurant where I’d be too culturally handicapped to properly place an order?

Of course not! But I went anyway. I have no Eat, Pray, Love reasoning behind embarrassing myself except that I was just very hungry.

Confusion Tapas du Monde. The bar (against the wall) WAS very pretty. Yes, those are swings. Genius.

I had three dishes.

Exaggeration alert: The broccoli soup was THE BEST I ever had. It came in a mason jar. 

The coolest and most ineffective way to eat soup

I also had escargo on a slice of zucchini and some grilled calamari. I couldn’t take pictures of everything on account me looking like a complete moron. So I drew you the closest thing.

I even ate the leaves.

Average rating of Tapas Confusion: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. An extra half eaten one for the smartass waiter.

_______________________________________________________________

The next restaurant I want to talk about is Verses. This is a restaurant that I stumbled on by accident which is why I’m so pleased with myself. I originally intended to go to another restaurant that I checked out on Trip Adviser  But when I got there, it was looked like a truck pit stop with penis drawings on its Closed sign.

N’importe quoi! (my cheap googled french way of saying whatevvverrr!)

I walked around hungry looking for alternatives but everything seemed unnecessarily expensive. Finally, in the heart of Old Montreal, I found a cheaper oasis called Verses. The interiors were fancy enough. And yet their prices were deceptively cheap(er). $22.00 for a two-course meal was acceptable to me.

I ordered the cream of cauliflower soup because I`m a toothless old woman at heart.

The best part of this soup was that I didn’t need my dentures to have it.

The entrée was where I had a similar conundrum to Confusion Tapas. There were three items I could pick from: 1) Boring salmon. 2) Interesting sounding beef tartare 3) Good ol` steak.

The beef tartare looked very intriguing. Mainly because I had no idea what the hell it was and this weekend was all about treading into the unknown. I had no google on my phone, so I texted one of my friends and asked her. No response. I decided to bite the bullet and asked my french waiter whether he recommended the beef tartare or the steak.

“Madamoiselle, beef tartare is raw beef.“

Steak it was. I`m all for treading into the unknown, but you have to draw the line when the unknown involves the possibility of explosive diarrhea.

My blackberry camera makes everything on this plate look rarer than it actually is

Average rating for Verses: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. And extra one for the waiter not judging me.

For the sake of this blog post not becoming 72 pages long, I will now only post some more very bad photos I took of my food from all the other places I ate at. This neither diminishes nor takes away from the fancy feel of everything.

Like this whole wheat crepe filled with walnuts, pesto and goat cheese at La Brioche Lyonnaise- a cute little cafe on St. Denis:

I endured three stares and a dramatic eye roll for taking this picture. You’re welcome.

This tiramisu that I took to go without taking a fork.

When our minds fail us, we have hands.

And the most terrible crime of manners in the history of manners: A sneaky shot of the first course of my lovely THREE COURSE homemade breakfast that our host Nathalie made for us. This was poppy-seed bread pudding.

Each following course does get bigger in portion size

And for good measure, here’s the farmer’s market where I got the best honey and maple syrup in the world.

Beautiful fall day at the farmer’s market

I just noticed that there are grapes hanging from the ceiling.

And that was my awesome food adventure in Montreal. I hope you enjoyed these photos as much I enjoyed eating whatever is in them. I have officially decided that a spring and fall trip will be a Karen tradition from now on. Where else would I get honey for my tea?

Ten things I`ve learnt from being a WordPress blogger

I’ve been blogging for a little over two years now. You would think I would have been a best-selling author and have publishing houses begging for my signature on book deals by now. But alas… it’s been a slow journey. I have no complaints though. While my personal life has seen better days in the past few years, blogging has been like the first sip of morning coffee. Warm and comforting.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said there were no low points of being completely uninspired and unmotivated. But even at those times, I always knew that I had a little niche that was all my own. I had a small following of people who gave me the satisfaction of having clicked on my blog link even if they could have cared less for its content. Every single view that shows up in my blog stats gets a celebratory smile of gratefulness and satisfaction even till today.

And so, for all the ups and downs of this blog, here are some lessons I managed to take from it:

1. WordPress is the best platform for bloggers. And I’m not just saying that because I’m dying to get Freshly Pressed. (HINT, WordPress. Hint)

2. I’m a much better writer than a speaker. Which means if you are a regular reader of my blog, you’re getting a much better deal out of me as a writer than my real life friends get out of me as a verbal-diarrhea-inclined noise box.

3. The best blog posts I’ve ever written were borne out of social tragedies such as imbeciles on public transit, embarrassing myself in front of attractive men and dating disasters, rather than Google search results for ‘best blog post ideas’.

4. To write well, you have to write what you know. If all you know is how to unsuccessfully run a small business of selling stolen articles, then starting a blog filled with posts on why this a bad idea from your jail cell may be the best idea you could have ever had. Knowing your niche is key.

5. You may be a good writer when you start writing. But you will be a better one if you keep at it… and then maybe even a great one someday without even realising it. But one thing’s for sure, regardless of whether continued blogging makes you a good writer or a great writer, it sure will make you an expert typer.

6. For some bloggers, writer’s block is just another word for fear or stress. But for me, more often than not, it’s another word for laziness.

7. I have the best blog readers in the world.

8. If you can capture your reader’s attention in the first paragraph, then it can be said with a significant amount of certainty that you’ve got them hooked for the rest of it. If however, your way of capturing attention is by posting a nude photo of yourself as the first paragraph then maybe blogging is not for you.

9. Sometimes, the difference between a great blog post with 40 views and an average blog post with 250 views is a catchy blog title. Actually, that’s ALWAYS the difference.

10. Rome wasn’t built in one day. And your blog will not be a smash hit in 3 months. Unless you get Freshly Pressed 15 times in a row. In which case, you’re probably awesome and I’d want to be featured on your blog and ride that wave with you.

There are other lessons that I have learnt but that would throw off the perfect number 10. If you are a blogger, I`d like to know what you`ve learnt from this whole experience? And if you are a 15 time Freshly Pressed blogger, make yourself known.

UPDATE: Dear Everyone,

On March 13th, 2012, over a month after I published this post, WordPress actually Freshly Pressed it! I was only (half)joking about getting Freshly Pressed. And now I am overwhelmed with all the sweet and encouraging  responses this is getting. I cannot thank you all (and WordPress of course) enough for this. Please know that every single one of your ‘likes’, views, follows and wonderful comments got a VERY happy “celebratory smile of gratefulness and satisfaction”. (I haven’t stopped smiling). I will try my very best to respond to all of your comments. Thank you all so much once again.

A socio-musical experiment in morning serenity: Does listening to Nicki Minaj and her pink pepto posse perk up your AM?

This post is very likely to piss off a few people so before I go anywhere with this, I’d like to offer you some twitter stats.

Number of Twitter followers of Nicki Minaj to date: Over 8 million

Number of Twitter followers of Katy Perry to date: Over 14 million

Number of Twitter followers for Rihanna: Over 12 million

And just of shits and bigger shits,

Number for Twitter followers for Ke$ha: Over 2 million.

That’s a combined total of over 35 million followers. That’s a lot of people.

Now, I haven’t blogged in a while, I know. Would you believe me if I told that my lack of freak encounters has caused me to have writer’s block? I know I should not be counting on the unsavory characters of society to fuel my blog, so I thought I’d take a different route. Let’s turn the freak spotlight on myself this time. 

Now, I’d like to think that I’m not the dimmest lightbulb in the basement but I seem to have trouble understanding how 35 million other people in this world can make  any sense of Nicki Minaj and her fellow bubble-gum radio wave surfers at any place, time, or state of mind other than on a Saturday night at a shady night club after ingesting 7 tequila shots and a Tim Hortons honey glazed donut on the drunken way home.

Mind you, before I go any further with this rant…err…I mean, findings of my socio-musical experiment, you have to know that I always had a bit of a proud, I-have-better-taste-in-everything streak in me that I have desperately tried to keep in check. For example, when I was 12, all my girlfriends were doodling the words ‘Mrs. Nick Carter’ in their textbooks. I, on the other hand, was making palaces in the sky over grainy photos of Prince William cut out from Kuwaiti newspapers. It wasn’t that I thought that Nick Carter and his Backstreet friends were beneath me. I just thought that Prince William (with all his hair back then) was so many levels above them.

(Dear 12-year-old Karen,

Prince William still >>> Nick Carter.

Love,

25-year-old Karen.

PS: you’re way better looking now.)

So what I want you to understand from this post is that I’m not hating on mainstream bubblegum pop. I’m just judging it…if  that’s okay.

Now that I got that giant disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on with my judging rant.

For once, I have actually given the other side a chance. I listened to Nicki Minaj and Rihanna this morning as opposed to my usual “suicidal hipster” easy listening music of Ingrid Michaelson and Lyyke Li.

My morning commute to work is neatly divided into three stages. Or rather, three bus transfers, so to speak. I’m not a morning person, so the music I listen to first thing in the morning is very imperative in influencing whether its going to be a day where I’ll be throwing up rainbows and daffodils on everyone I meet or whether I’ll be banging my head repeatedly against a large metal pipe.

I thought it would be wise to spare myself of all musical exposure for the first bus ride. You know, just to prep myself and make it a fair playing field for Minaj.

As it so happened, Katy Perry was first on my list. Not gonna lie , I actually enjoy her in small doses. Teenage Dream, which used to be a song that made me want to jump into a canon, had silently grown on me like dandelions.  

Yes, Katy. We can be friends.

Rihanna and Drake were next on my list. I listened to Drake justify getting high on his birthday and then trying to find solutions to tricky math problems like square roots that would drive math teachers worldwide to an early grave. It wont be long before he collaborates with Miley Cyrus and tries to find the cure for cancer while he’s high…on his birthday. It was a very honest effort to try and keep listening for more than 20 seconds before I absolutely had to stop for some air. Fail.

“I figured it out!! Its 8.3066..” (Photo: http://www.blog.muchmusic.com)

 For the grande finale, I turned my ear to the great Minaj. I have to say, “Superbass” is VERY catchy…but then again, so is the flu. I found that I could not listen to that song without imagining myself with no pants and swimming in a large ocean of Peptobismol. To my non-North American readers, peptobismol is a bubblegum pink colored concoction used to treat diarrhea. Ironically, just the sight of pepto gives me the runs. The thought of swimming in it was the final straw in effectively and completely ruining my morning. Metal pipe it was going to be.

 I tried not to be so hard on Nicki and gave her a second chance. When I came home I watched her new video “Stupid Hoe”. It’s the one where for 90% of the song, all she’s saying is stupid hoe and I’m 90% sure she’s talking about herself. Not to mention, the video gave me multiple seizures. I’m obviously missing something here that 8 million other people are not. 8 million people! Can one of you please school my goody-two-shoes, indie-music-loving, ignorant self as to what is worth following here? Sadly that was the end of Nicki Minaj for me.
 
Can’t say I didn’t try.
 

Exactly my reaction when I watched the video of "Stupid hoe", stupid hoe.

 
I didn’t bother with Lady Gaga or Ke$ha because I honestly didn’t think I had the strength to go through with it.
 
So, the verdict was in: The experiment was incomplete but very conclusive. Nicki Minaj and Drake perked up nothing but feelings of rushing for an important bathroom visit and maybe a brain aneurysm. I was going back forever to my suicidal hipster music….with an occasional splash of Katy Perry just to keep my humility in check.