Saturday, 31 March 2012

on traveling alone

PhotobucketFrom the bus, on the way back to Montreal from Quebec City. March, 2012. 

Today I went to Quebec City. :) It was one of the best days I've had so far. And not in the typical touristy I-managed-to-see-a-lot-of-places accomplished sort of way. In fact, I really did take my time when we were let loose to roam around in the afternoon for about 3 hours after the formal tour ended before the tour bus driver would take us back to Montreal. I spent most of the free time eating a leisurely lunch and not very long after, taking my time with a scrumptious almond and chocolate croissant at a bakery. (I'm in love with that flavor now!) Not really what the ideal tourist should do I suppose, given such a short amount of time to see things, but I'm of the opinion that if you can't take your time to enjoy things, might as well not bother. Thus my aversion to the Louvre. Because there's no way you can finish the entire place even if you give yourself an entire day. But I'm going on a tangent here. 

On the bus ride back, I started thinking about this whole idea of traveling alone. It's something that's been on my mind for quite a while now since that's essentially what I'm doing at the moment. I'm here in Montreal for my elective for about 2 months and apart from the 5 days that my mum spent with me before my elective began, I've pretty much been doing things alone. I'm lucky to have found a really great roommate whom I think I'll be getting to know a lot better in the next month since we're planning on going for desserts and to some restaurants to get our middle eastern cuisine (we actually have similar tastes! >:D) fixes. But apart from her, there haven't been people I've been meeting to go out for meals with. Not yet at least, and I must admit, it's also in part due to my own passivity in inviting people to go out. 

But you know what? I've really been alright by myself. :) I know some of my classmates are the sort who can never imagine traveling alone and I know this because so many of them gave the same sort of jaw-drop/surprised gawk when they asked who I was going to be in Montreal with and I cheerily replied, "No one!". For me, these past few weeks have really allowed me to know myself a lot better. Or at least, for the thoughts I've always vaguely felt inside to have really manifested to the surface in a more coherent form. There are of course, moments when I've felt this desire to be with someone I know JUST SO I can look at a familiar face, smile, laugh and chat about the incredible moment that we both experienced together. I felt it most strongly after watching a fantastic play called, The Leisure Society, in this beautiful, cosy theatre that was perfect for an intimate sort of performance. It was so good and it even included some nudity which I was surprised by (but not bothered) and would have liked to have giggled over it with somebody. So there are indeed those moments when I wish I could be with someone/ the people who mean the most to me just so I can share these incredible experiences with them.  

At the same time, there are also times like today when I feel so incredibly happy just to be by myself. Over lunch, I read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'engle, which I know, is really meant to be a children's book but it was SO GOOD. I've always heard about that it was good and I think another one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler's Wife, might have referenced it (?) but I simply never got around to reading it. I'm not used to reading science fiction/fantasy very much because it can be so challenging to suspend that level of belief for the course of the book. But every single time I read a good piece of science fiction/fantasy, I'm so drawn in. This was no different. And I enjoyed every moment of reading it over lunch, keeping warm with hot tea, feeling happy with a tasty meal of croque monsieur (ham and cheese croissant! but in this case it came out as a baguette). I just had a feeling that if I could spend weekends in the future, reading while having tea or over lunch at cafes... I would be really happy. Something simple but also rewarding. I love how comforting books can be and how within a split second of flipping open a book to a page of words, you can be transported off to another world altogether. Certainly helped with this 3 hour bus ride there and back today. 

A part of me also feels that I should really treasure this period of being able to do more things by myself because really, will I ever get the chance to travel alone for such an extended period in the near future? Possibly, but unlikely. Travel with friends and family is going to be top on the list for any sort of travel and it makes sense for it to be that way too. But there's something so liberating about traveling and being alone that makes me feel happy/relieved that I'm the sort of person who's able to feel comfortable with myself. I can take as long as I want in a clothing/bookstore/design store (probably 3 of my favorite types of stores ;D) (and that can really amount to a LOT of time) looking, feeling, browsing, walking around in circles appreciating things over and over in that small space... I can't imagine doing the same with another person, regardless of how patient that person is. 

I suppose one thing that sort of struck me recently is how wanting to explore new places through travel is something I enjoy and crave doing so much not just because it's so much fun but also because it's a way for me to assert my own unique-ness. Modern Family's Mitchell said it so well. There was an episode in season 2 where Manny's feeling sad because he wasn't invited to a classmate's sleepover and well, he's always had problems with being different since he's from Colombia and everything. And Mitchell turns to him (in full funky tribal anorak glory) and says, "This is the funny thing about growing up. For years and years, everybody's desperately afraid to be different in any way. And then, suddenly, almost over night, everybody wants to be different." I felt it to be such a true statement. I feel it applies to so much of what I do and sometimes it's not even something I do consciously. It's almost as if I just don't want to be tied down to any one specific thing that I'm supposed to be good at. 

Along those lines, I don't mind traveling alone because it's not something that everyone would do and thus, it makes me more unique. Something that I can sort of feel proud of given that not everyone would be comfortable with being by themselves in a new place. But it is precisely because it's special and not everyone would do it, that it also can become lonely. I suppose it's such a basic statement but it was sort of a eureka moment when I thought through it in my head. The same thing applies for practically everything in life in which we strive to achieve excellence in. Everyone wants to be exceedingly good at something so that they can be different from each other and have something they can call their own. People want to get to the top position because that's where the recognition and status lies. But in differentiating yourself from other people, you end up alone. And with that, I can only say that it just depends on which area of life you want to differentiate yourself in. For me, I'd rather do something different that defines me, as a hobby, rather than a job, because I'd like to work with more people :). One reason why I'd never gun for a top commanding position. It can be lonely at the top. 

Sometimes though, when I'm in a public place such as a restaurant by myself, I do often fall prey to the rather self-centered thought of -- "What does everyone think of me?" As I tell the waiter, "table for 1 please" and get ushered into a seat by myself, I do sometimes wonder what other people around me think about me eating alone. Or even other things like taking a tour alone. Haven't we all, at one point or another, looked over at someone else sitting alone at a table and think, Aww poor thing. Hope he has someone to go to at home later on. But it really depends on how they look. ;p Because if it's a young female like me, reading a book, I think, COOL. Kindred spirit! If it's an old man who looks rather haggard and isn't smiling or entertaining himself with a book or phone or anything, I often get a sinking feeling of pity in my stomach when really, I shouldn't feel that way because, that's just a different version of me! 60 years older and after a sex-change. There's really no point in judging people based on their appearances in such situations. It's not all about us. I'm pretty sure hardly anyone will be focusing on someone who's dining alone unless they are really bored with their dinner partner. In which case, which is worse eh? So to anyone who has a fear of eating alone in public because you're afraid of feeling embarrassed, I say, no one is really going to care. And once we let go of that concern about how we appear to others, we can finally start learning to be comfortable with others and enjoy our own company. 

Surprised by the first lengthy post? :) I am. But I wanted to get these feelings out into the world. For quite a while already. Or void more like. Not sure if anyone's actually made it all the way to this part of the post but if you have, I would love to hear what your feelings are about this. That said, I say that for a lot of posts but hardly anyone comments! O.o 

Too lazy to go through the Quebec photos tonight but sooooon. They will come soooooon! :) Along with Montreal ones so far. Unfortunately I do have to work on a presentation tomorrow (SOBBERSSS!) for which I have been procrastinating SO BAD this past week. I hope I can finish it entirely tomorrow and then relax after that over the next few days. Next week is the end of my first posting and then I'm taking a weekend trip to Toronto! :D To finally spend time with some friends. Looking forward to that <3

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Crab Pot

Whew. I've not blogged so much since...forever!! But since I've got the time now I'm going to churn out as many as possible since there's definitely going to be a hiatus soon enough. ;p Almost done withe the Seattle photos! Then it'll finally be time to work on the Montreal ones. *Chugs down more green tea* (cos I can't stand Red Bull.) So since Seattle's supposed to be famous for its seafood, my uncle brought us to this famous seafood restaurant down by the bay called *drumroll* -- THE CRAB POT. It's fun, noisy, gimmicky and totally family-friendly. Helps that the food is good too!

Photobucket My Uncle and cousin, Samantha, all ready to EAT. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Now for the pièce de résistance: Photobucket 
HUMUNGOUS amount of crab, oyster, sausage, corn... did I miss anything out? It's a lot of fun just eating straight from the table and basing at crab legs and shells with a wooden hammer. Things fly about at great velocities so they provide you with a plastic bib that you'd be well advise to wear. 
 Seattle Waterfront 
1301 Alaskan Way, Pier 57 
Seattle, WA 
Definitely a must-try for a fun night of dinner with the family. :D

Elliot Bay Book Company

The Elliot Bay Book Company is one of my favorite bookstores in the world, hands down. :) Of course, I still have about 98% of the world I haven't covered but from all that I've seen and places that I've been to, it's still one of the most awesome bookstores. I'm so glad that I managed to go there this time round because it's tougher for me to get downtown by myself from my aunt and uncle's place in the neighboring city but thankfully, when I was out with Jess for Molly Moon's ice cream at Capitol Hill, this happened to be right within walking distance! :D Oh, happiness.

Nothing gets my heart beating faster than rows and rows of books, all ready and waiting. 
Photobucket PhotobucketOne thing I love about this place is the individual pieces of post-its stuck all over the place reviewing books of all sorts. There must be hundreds of them in the store and it's always great to read a short review of the book by someone other than published book critics. I like this sort of attention to detail.  
Photobucket Photobucket 
There's even a cafe where customers can read their books, chat with friends, relax and have a good time. My kind of place. Photobucket Photobucket  
Honestly, I could've stayed for hours and hours here just looking through all the shelves. There was even a section selling Elliot Bay Book Company tee-shirts! :) I'm such a fan of such merchandise though of course the real fans probably wouldn't even bother with such superficial shows of loyalty and would just show up faithfully every week for a book or reading. I wish I could do the same. If I lived in Seattle I would definitely be going to this place every week, at the very least! It's cosy, charming, rustic and makes you want to READ. A couple of things I walked away with:

1. In Pursuit of Silence by George Prochnik 

2. Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs 
(Both of these were in the Bargain Books section! I've only started on the first but it's a great read so far.) 

3. If There Is Something To Desire by Vera Pavlova This is an EXCELLENT book of poetry!! I'm in love with this poet now. And to think it was a completely unplanned find. It helps that the book cover was so intriguing. But I love her poems. And I like the fact that most of them are short and succinct yet still are able to elicit a rush of emotion from within me. 

4. The latest issue of BITCH Magazine which I promptly left at my uncle's place :(((( But thankfully, they've got a website. Check it out! After reading a few articles such as this one on blogging, I knew it was a keeper. Where has this publication been all my life?? Makes me feel kinda guilty really, reading that article about lifestyle blogging but really, there are so many truths to it. Might do a more lengthy post about it soon but in the meantime, if you're a blogger or have been following lifestyle blogs, it's a really interesting and thought-provoking article to read! 

I'm glad that now I've got a little more time to read. These past few weeks have really made me think a bit more about what I want to do with my life and one of the conclusions I've come to is that no matter what, I'd like to do something that will allow me to have enough time in life to do the things I enjoy. Something as simple and enjoyable as reading shouldn't be something we do once a year when we are on holiday or finally taking a break from work. It should be something we always have the time for. Just my thoughts. 


when it's cold outside... ice cream! I was thinking of one of those sayings like "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade". I know, sounds a little insane, but that was exactly what we were doing. I have problems resisting desserts no matter how cold it is outside or how bulging my belly is. After our brunch at Le Rêve , Jess and her friends had heard about an ice cream place down at Capitol Hill which we totally had to go to.

Photobucket  So off we went to Molly Moon's Ice Cream! Funny name eh. But one that's hard to forget, maybe that's why. Photobucket There were SO MANY crazy flavors and in the end we ended up getting Salted Caramel and Balsamic Strawberry. It's interesting how all those opposing flavors tend to really work well together. Like how in order to bring out the sweetness of a dish you need to add some salt? An example would be adding salt to chocolate milk a la Modern Family :P but I have never actually tried that before. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket  
(Me, Si Xuan and Jessalynn with Krayon at her feet.) 

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream
917 E Pine St (between Broadway & Nagle Pl) 
Seattle, WA 98122 
Neighbourhood: Capitol Hill


Another neighborhood I fell in love with in Seattle this time round was Ballard. My uncle took me and my mum for lunch there one afternoon and it was such a great area - serene, with a hint of activity behind the glassed windows of stores, restaurants, cafes... and I could just imagine the lights and bustle as night descends.

Photobucket Photobucket For lunch we went to this great restaurant called Volterra. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you're ever in the neighborhood! :) It's got a great selection of mainly casual Italian cuisine (pastas/sandwiches and the like) but at really decent prices. The portions were of a good size and all the dishes we ordered tasted great. Here's what we had: Photobucket 1. Can't quite recall the exact name of this dish sadly and it doesn't seem to be on the menu anymore on their website! But it was basically mushroom and a huge slab of cheese. Since I'm not a fan of cheese, I can only say the Focaccia bread was yummy. Always a fan of that. Photobucket 2. I think this was pasta with pork jowls and wild mushrooms. UMMZ. Photobucket 3. Left: My mum and uncle. 
 Right: Dungeness Crab Ravioli! With actual crab meat! That should totally be a disclaimer for menus that offer anything crab. You know how sometimes they sneak in random crab sticks or just outright use that instead? Nothing of that sort in this dish! :) DELISH. It was probably my favorite out of the three. And seriously, there were soooo many more dishes that I wanted to try. How about some Pan Fried Duck Confit and Focaccia? Or Lamb Meat Balls with Roasted Spaghetti Squash? Sigh. Sometimes I just wish we could all eat as much as we wanted and not get full/fat. Ok not sometimes. All the time. Photobucket  
5411 Ballard Ave Northwest 
Seattle Washington 98107 
Tel : 206 789 5100  Photobucket
Quick sibling shot outside the restaurant. Photobucket PhotobucketRight: After a very filling lunch, we still stopped by for Gelato! Only a few doors down, it's called D'Ambrosio Gelato. Even though it was pretty chilly out, we still couldn't resist getting a double scoop of hazelnut and pistachio gelato and nursed it while we walked down the street window shopping. Not for long though. My mum and I ran into a shoe store within no time so my uncle ended up finishing the bulk of the gelato. So at least he had something to do while waiting for us. :) 
PhotobucketHappened to pass by a restaurant that was closed but I LOVE the way it's set up outside. Mind you, this was taken through a glass screen that covered the outer al fresco portion of the restaurant but already I can imagine how gorgeous it must be at night. And on a wilder more romantic thought, it's the sort of place I wouldn't mind having my future wedding reception at! :) Ahh, well I've been too taken in by Alice Gao's gorgeous wedding photography. PhotobucketI quite like the way someone decorated the grill outside their house. I'm pretty sure something so impeccably looking has to be maintained with great care by someone. PhotobucketSigh, I have sort of realized that in the winter/early early Spring when it's still too cold for anything, the only piece of clothing that matters is your sweater and the outermost coat you put on. Everything else underneath can't be seem anyway. 
Anyway, can't wait to go back there one day. :) Another reason why I love that neighborhood is because of this great shoe store (the same one my mum and I ran into leaving my Uncle out there in the cold with the gelato) - re-souL. I bought a really nice pair of ankle boots! And I'm pretty sure had we walked around a little more we would have discovered tons more great spots to spend the rest of the afternoon at. MMM. Photobucket BTW. LOOK CAREFULLY.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Le Rêve Bakery and Cafe

Oh yeah. So this has been another night of full out chillaxing. It started off by ending the afternoon session pretty early at around 4, talking a leisurely stroll back and enjoying the sun (the weather has been SO GOOD this week! :D), reading a little in bed, taking a cosy late afternoon nap (really love those), skyping with Donald and then going out for Chinese food with my roommate. :D I really didn't expect to eat much Asian food here in Montreal BUT for some reason I was really craving something strong and flavorful. And it was pretty decent food. Comparable to what you'd get at the SG hawker centers but of course at like 3 times the price. In my relaxed state I've managed to go through even more photos of Seattle. :) 
Here are some from when I met up with Jessalynn, her bf and another friend Si Xuan, for brunch at this really awesome cafe at the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle. Honestly, why haven't I explored these neighborhoods those numerous times that I've been to Seattle? I suppose I usually just end up spending a lot of time with my cousins either at home or at their Girl Scout activities ;p so this was quite a nice change - to actually explore Seattle a little more than before.

Photobucket This place is just incredible. Tons and tons of pastries and the delicious homely scent of flaky crust everywhere! It took us agessss to decide on what to order because everything looked SO GOOD. The place was bustling but we managed to get a table at the back of the restaurant within no time. The staff here are incredible friendly. While I was busy taking photos, a lady comes up to me and says, "Thank you for taking photos of our store!" and I look up in surprise, half-embarrassed and half-nervous because well, normally the only time store owners speak to you when you've got your camera out is to tell you to put it away, no? This lady turned out to be the owner to the place! And she actually thanked me for taking photos and encouraged me to post it on facebook and share it with friends. That's an enlightened businesswoman I'll tell ya that. :) Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket  
After much deliberation, we finally decided to get a bunch of pastries to share! Photobucket  
1. The Kouign Amann was recommended by the guy behind the counter. I think it could have been one of my favorite! It's basically a plain sweet pastry but it had just the right amount of sweetness to it. Combined with the soft doughy texture on the inside and the sweet crispiness on the surface...ohhh I could've eaten a whole lot more of that for sure. Photobucket  2.Ham and cheese croissant! Actually SUPER tasty. ;DPhotobucket 3.Almond croissant which was another recommended pastry. Basically if you're not sure I think you can just ask them and they'll recommend a whole bunch which you can't go wrong with. :)Photobucket  4. The double chocolate croissant. SIGH. <3 I don't think I need to say much more. PhotobucketLeft: You should definitely check this place out if you happen to be in the neighborhood! And there's a space outside for al fresco dining so I can just imagine how gorgeous it'll be in the Spring when the weather's warm enough for lazy brunches and teas outside the cafe.

Le Rêve Bakery and Cafe 
1805 Queen Anne Ave N
Ste 100 
Seattle, WA 98109

Right: A store near where the car was parked. I think it sold Children's Toys but I was really intrigued by the way they decorated the side of the house! :) Definitely an eye-catcher. 

Btw, in my previous post I'd mentioned that I had come across an even cuter dog than Krayon right? :D Well, here he is!!!


Meet Newton! :D This dawggy is seriously one of the CUUUUUUUUTEST dogs I've ever seen/come across in my entire life!! I fell in love with him the moment I saw his big old black eyes widen in shock when he spotted Krayon walking along in the opposite direction towards him. It was hilarious and oh-so-adorable.
Photobucket Basically what happened was that we were walking along the same sidewalk and the two dogs spotted each other from a distance away. It was so obvious that when Newton spotted Krayon, he got a real shock. Because his eyes completely widened and he came to a stop. Look at him the picture. XD TOO CUTE. Photobucket Next came the inspection. We asked the owner who said that Newton's about 7 years old! So he's an old grandpaw while Krayon's still really young, only about 1 year old! So it really was akin to an old grandpa meeting a young spritely boy on the street. Think UP. Photobucket Photobucket Finally, lots of nosing!!! SNIFF. X) These two were just plain sweet. 

Does anyone have any idea what kind of dog Newton is?? (He's the one on the RIGHT incase you've had trouble following. After all, they are both cute and white. ;p) I really wanna get a similar dog in the future!! And I hope he's pudgy and squat just like Newton is. I can imagine the two of us taking our time with walks in the afternoons...stopping by cafes for coffee...and then doughnuts on the way home. :)

Thinking about this cutie makes me happy. That was a great brunch all in all.   

To Pike's Place We Go!

So I'm finally getting around to showing some of the photos I took in Seattle! :) I LOVE Seattle, seriously. It's such a nice place - the people are so friendly (well, I know a lot of an impression of a place is based on luck, because you just need to meet the right sort of people to fall in love with a place; I've been lucky so far!) and there's a great laid back, peace-loving culture...Or so it seems. :) Tell me if you think otherwise. I do happen to really like downtown Seattle because it's near Elliot Bay and there are all these great places to spend the afternoon traipsing around in... And of course, one place I always enjoy going to is Pike's Place Market. For those of you who don't already know, it's a famous public market that's been around since 1907 (thank you, Wiki) and there are lots of well known stalls and restaurants that have been referenced in movies, books and the like. For example, there's this place called Lowell's Restaurant and Bar that was featured in the rom-com Sleepless in Seattle :D and my aunt brought me there once for some great seafood. I'd been to Pike's probably 2 or 3 times before this but you know what, each time it's a different experience (and with a different camera) so I really never get sick of it.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Check out these cute piggy banks! :D The funny dark spots on them are actually surfaces that you can write on with chalk. Man I do think I need to get a piggy bank for myself to remind myself to save everyday. But I can totally imagine myself sleep-opening the piggy bank in the middle of the night while dreaming about a dress or something I'm thinking of getting. ;p I know. Self-control, where have you gone?? Photobucket Ocarinas! :D You know what, I remember my mum getting my a small blue ocarina once many many years ago and I think it was actually from this market! I seriously remember thinking I could be the next big star in music armed with my cool-ass ocarina since I couldn't play the piano for nuts. But really it's about as hard to play as a recorder and there's a reason why there aren't really any famous Recorder ermmm players. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Then comes the food section! :) We tried some of this honey and MAN it was good. Suddenly I'm reminded of the Berenstain Bears who used to have snacks of bread and honey. I'm still really upset that Jan Berenstain (the author) passed away recently. :( Definitely getting those books again for my kids in the future. Photobucket Photobucket Left: I had no idea what those were. Fruit logs?? Dried fruit rolled out into those shapes? 
Right: Elephant Garlic! MMM speaking of food, we happened to get some really huge and juicy apples called Pacific Rose Apples. Try to get some if you're there since it's really mainly from the Pacific Northwest. Photobucket Oh the colors. :) Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket There's a famous seafood stall called Pike Place Fish that's known for having fishmongers who know how to give good service and have a good time at work - complete with fish-throwing antics. They file orders by throwing fishes to one another and that can be with regards to a HUGE salmon or sth. It's called Pike Place Fish and if you've read the book Fish!, it's actually based on the work culture at this particular stall. They normally have this huge fish head that sits notably on the ice with a sign that says something like Touch Me! or Come Closer! and so when customers go really near the fish, one of the fishmongers on the other end will pull a string that brings the mouth of the fish to a sudden close! And of course the customer freaks and the audience laughs and it's all in good fun. :) Unfortunately this time they didn't have the fish out. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket AND, another place we went to that was nearby was the ORIGINAL Starbucks cafe! It opened in 1971 and still has the original starbucks logo from the time. Photobucket Before I forget, meet Krayon! :P This cutie belongs to my friend Jessalynn and her boyfriend who study in California but happened to be able to come to Seattle that very weekend that I was there! So we managed to meet up and they brought him along. Honestly, he attracted SO much attention. Everyone LOVED him. Which brings me to my conclusion that dogs are the same as babies in terms of how they elicit the whole gushing/cooing/"soooooo cuuuuuute" comments from passersby. They are great conversation starters and best of all, the ''parents'' don't mind people taking photos of them. Photobucket For Krayon, it was really all about his fashionable orange rain booties that made him such a star. And I must admit, he was a really good doggy who hardly barked! BUT the cutest dog was another dog that we happened to meet the day after. >:D PHOTOS SOON!