Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mama Does Montreal

Appearing on today

Since ballooning like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka with my third pregnancy in four years, my husband and I decided to forgo our long awaited adult-only trip to Paris and go to the next best thing on the North American side of the planet, Montreal.

I had just returned from a week in NY covering Fashion Week and felt a little guilty that I was leaving my kids again, but that wore off.

The plans for our week excursion to the predominately French speaking city were left to my husband. To break up the drive we decided to stop in New York’s Finger Lake area on the way up. Patrick tried to be thoughtful and booked us into a farm house yoga retreat. Did I mention he has never taken a yoga class in his life?

We drove up late because I waited until the last minute to pack, go figure. The roads back to the yoga farm were dark and not well marked. I was on edge for good reason. The place was an old house on a farm next to a lake.

Our host was a kind older woman with long braided hair. She led us to our room that was so freezing I couldn’t pee. We were left with an electric heater that looked like an old radiator. Sharing our room were five very large spiders on the ceiling. I was livid and weeping all at the same time.

After I burst out of our room to find a thermostat our host offered me tea to warm myself and to call the nearest hotel only an hour away. However, there were no rooms available for miles around. So I took a Benedryl, a pregnant woman’s sleep aid, and slept the lights on.

In the morning I forced Patrick to participate in morning yoga. The house specialty was Dance Yoga. Patrick wore my Mama-jamas for lack of any suitable attire. It was so funny he refused to let me take a photo. My morning laugh quickly faded when we got to the farm house yoga studio that was laid out with carpet mats instead of rubber mats and had a distinct smell of animal. Of course, I got the mat with the mysterious stain on it. I refused ‘Down Dog’ and ‘Child Pose’ along with any other position that put my head too far to the ground.

There were animals everywhere along with peacocks and horses. It was pretty, but I am one of those people that try to admire nature from a distance because it makes my skin crawl with hives. This country girl has gone urban much to the dismay of my backpacking husband. One day when I am dead I will become dirt so there is hope for me yet.

Needless to say, I was very anxious to get over the border. The road to Montreal took us past a Thousand Islands which was fun to see in the autumn sun from the Canadian side’s lookout tower.

There are island castles from the early 1900s. Most notable is Boldt Castle that was built by George Boldt, the founder of the luxury hotel industry and New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. When his wife died he stopped his ambitious construction on the island and the huge austere castle was abandoned like a ghost mansion in the middle of the water. In recent years, Parks and Recreation bought the estate for a dollar, but had to invest millions to restore it.

Onward to Montreal where urban comfort awaited me.

Driving in the city limits the freeways immediately felt different. The interchanges were high above the ground level and entangled messes of spalling and cracking concrete that appeared unstable as if they were ancient ruins. It was lovely and bizarre like a European movie from the Eastern Block of Communist countries.

We stayed in Old Montreal at a cute little hotel that had big beds, tall windows, and exposed brick walls called Auberge du Vieux-Port with a view of Lawrence River. It was a welcome change from my experience at the yoga farm. The first night we took the hotel’s recommendation and ate at a restaurant not far from the hotel. The place had a nice jazz ambiance, but the food was lackluster.

I wanted French cuisine and dag-nab-it I wanted my husband to speak French. His mom and sister are French teachers and he was fluent until now it seems. So I made a new rule: No French speaking, no nookie. It didn’t really work, but I tried.

The first day walking I got pooped on by a bird. I guess these days I am a large target. My way-too-small-for-a-pregnant-lady Missoni for Target sweater got hit along with my Doncaster blouse. I felt so dirty.

On a lark I sent a message to my Canadian double Sarah Lolley, who happens to be a journalist with beautiful red hair, the monopoly on all domains with our name, and lives in Montreal. I discovered her years ago when I Googled my name and was trying to create a Twitter account and domain url for my work. Surprisingly, she responded quickly and suggested meeting for lunch.

We met her upstream in Old Montreal at a little café tucked away in an old industrial building. Sarah was working that day, but aglow with her plans for her wedding only a week away. We discovered that we are the same age and the same Zodiac sign, Aquarius, and wore the same nail polish color.

The Canadian version of Sarah Lolley grew up with a physician as a parent like me, but she studied Pre-Med and wrote in the field before turning to covering feature stories. Did I mention she possesses an effortless beauty and has gorgeous red hair? The name Lolley is English and she is first generation on her dad’s side. Funny enough, we both knew there is another Sarah Lolley that lives in Birmingham, England, who strangely enough is also a writer.
As we compared our parallel lives she mentioned that there were hill-billy Lolley’s that live in the Deep South, could you believe?! Umm, yeah I can because that was where I got my name. My Louisiana granddad was ostracized by the family because he married a Jew so I don’t know any of them personally. My dad has an old family Bible that traces our name back to Lincolnshire, England. This Sarah was an original well-spoken, well-educated, well-languaged, and well-coiffed Lolley. On the other side of the table was me, a well-rounded, like a watermelon, version that had spent the last fifteen years writing about rock’n roll and fashion not really contributing to civilization until having babies.

She left us with a list of restaurants that were all freaking amazing. Tip: Don’t ask the concierge for a restaurant recommendation; ask a local or your Canadian double.

Auberge Saint-Gabriel
is artsy, bizarre, innovative, and meaty. The restaurant’s lobby is more an art museum like Louisville's 21c hotel than a bar. At the entrance, a huge whale skeleton hangs from the ceiling. A circular grassy turntable seats people waiting for a table. End tables for drinks seem to levitate from metal chords. The ambiance was all me and the menu was all Patrick, meat. The menu reads: "Everything from snout to trotter." He had a veritable food-gasm ingesting their pure style of smoking and curing various forms a meat. Rabbit was even on the menu. I ate salad and dessert while he drank an entire bottle of wine by himself while eating his chosen prey.

He was so happy and goofy walking through the old cobble stone streets I was wondering what they were soaking the pig in. Then it dawned on me that he isn't use to downing an entire bottle of wine by himself. All the times I have seen my husband drunk have been when I am pregnant and of course sober. His drunken state reminds me of my high school boyfriend when he first got high, laughing a lot and unable to wipe the grin off his face. All that was missing was Patrick singing songs to wake the spiders hanging from the street lamps.

This was how every night went and I should have been more ambitious to take a video of my beloved Patrick drowning his face in bits of animal parts and fermented grape elixirs.

The last night we spent at DNA an amazing contemporary ambiance supported by a Vancouver benefactor who supplies Canadian wines and farm goods from his own vineyards. Apparently, the meat is so fresh that the farmers can be seen carrying goats into the restaurant on their backs from their cart.

Can you tell I am a bit of a vegetarian?

Next week, Accidental Mama goes to see Jean Paul Gaultier and shopping!

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