Mathilde, a Ladurée Tea

The last time we visited some family in France, I got the chance to raid a Ladurée store. Now, if ever you are going to Paris, I highly recommend visiting one of their uniquely cute pastry shops. Mind you, they don’t have a huge selection of vegan treats, but the feel of the store is so luxurious and Parisian that it’s worth it on its on. Splashes of happy colours are arranged in a very tasteful and delicate way to create an atmosphere of calm and pleasure. So, I was admiring their cuteness when I spotted rows of colourful boxes: TEAS!

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To my boyfriend’s dismay, I flew right in front of them and started smelling the most wonderfully scented teas: magnolia, jasmine, orange blossom, cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry: there is something for everyone! I think I was very reasonable and selected two teas: the house blend and the Mathilde.

 

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Le thé Mathilde, so fresh and delicious!

 

The Mathilde has probably become my favourite tea of all times. A mix of Chinese green and black teas with a generous side of orange blossom. That’s it.

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I love how simple the scent of this tea is: it really allows the different aromas from the green tea and black tea to shine through while leaving you with the feeling of having walked in the most magical orange tree orchard. It’s sophisticated without being heavy, scented but not fake.

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If ever you have the chance to visit Paris, or have someone you know going, you must try this tea out. It’s perfect for every occasion, so tasty and tasteful, and so delicious!

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Floramama and beautiful organic flowers

In my ideal world, my house would be filled with flowers all year long, in every room, multiple bouquets per room, in all colors, all the time and for no particular reason but to enjoy them. Flowers are so wonderful in their variety and simple elegance. I feel that adding flowers to any room suddenly makes everything more fun and lively. However, even if all flowers are beautiful, they are not equal when it comes to their environmental footprint. Think of it a minute. Flowers are plants, cultivated in fields and are therefore treated in ways similar to ‘regular’ agriculture and all that implies. That’s why I try to buy local and organic flowers when I can. And, luckily enough Floramama is here to save the day!

Floramama is a flower farm in the Eastern Townships that has been created a few years ago by Chloé, a passionate young farmer. Since then, she has put a lot of time and energy into producing exceptional fresh flowers. I have a particular soft spot for her ranunculus and anemones.

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She too brings her flowers to the Laurier Farmers Market every week. Check out her facebook page to see when she’s coming and also have an idea of the flowers that will be ready for the market. I love her flowers because they have a simple charm to them: I don’t know if it’s because they are not your typical flowers or if it’s because they are so fresh, but they make me feel shabby chic just looking at them. They also keep a lot longer than most flowers you can find at your florist.

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If you fall in love with these beauties, Chloé offers a ‘basket’ option where you get to support her farm through a CSA kind off system: you can subscribe to receive bouquets every week or every two weeks. I did this last summer and loved it: fresh, beautifully composed flowers every week! What a dream!

I really suggest checking her out if you are in the Montreal region, or if you love flowers! Even if it’s just to take a look at her wonderfully colourful market stand, you won’t be disappointed. And, as you will probably succumb to the temptation and buy a few flowers, take a minute to thank Chloe for her amazing work. It’s so inspiring!

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An afternoon in Montreal: Les Jardins d’Ambroisie and strawberries in the park

Summer is definitively in Montreal! The sun was out this morning, the breeze was refreshing, and it was just the perfect day for a picnic. So I put my ginormous pile of need-to-be-corrected exams, and went for a stroll with my boyfriend.

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We were really excited because today the Marché Fermier was starting again! Near the Laurier metro, the marché is made out of different stands were you can find fresh vegetables and fruits, baked goods, cider and even fermented vegetables. We really like buying our produce there in the summer because we find the freshest and best vegetables and fruits for a good price directly from the producer. Win-win-win situation!

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We have two favourite stands at the market: La Ferme des Petits Cailloux for their wonderfully juicy and flavourful strawberries, and Les Jardins d’Ambroisie for the incredible quality and freshness of their organic greens and vegetables. Seriously, Francis, the owner of the farm, is an incredible farmer who always has new or unknown species to offer: at his stand we discovered lemon cucumbers, which are deliciously crunchy and fresh, and purple potatoes that are the best pan-fried and served with a chutney. He also has great recommendations as to how to prepare his produce. If you are out of ideas, I strongly recommend going to visit his stand: you will leave with loads of incredible veggies, recipes and ideas!

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If you are interested in trying out these fantastic products, you can support the Jardins d’Ambroisie as they offer market shares and CSA baskets. You can of course visit the market every Thursday and Sunday afternoons as well. For more details, visit the Marché Fermier’s page. After finding some greens and strawberries, we continued our stroll and ended-up in a park where we got to feast on our delicious finds! Summer, I’m really glad your finally here!

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Let me know if you have a farmer’s market where you like to go or what you do to take advantage of every drop of summer!

 

Summer is coming!

With the warm weather coming back, I have but one thing on my mind: TRAVEL! Every time I hop in the car or on the bus, I feel like shouting, “To infinity and beyond!”

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However, as we don’t have any trips planned for this summer, I’m starting to think that exploring our province would be a good alternative. To help me in my quest for the perfect outing, I have selected four books. I hope they might inspire you to check out your piece of map a little this summer too!

  1. Prenez le champ! by Julie Aubé: This is a new one coming out this week. I was so intrigued by this book that I decided to go check out the book release and bought it there on Monday night. I really didn’t feel too cool with my bright orange raincoat while everyone else was cruising along with drinks in their hands, but the book is amazing! It is filled with itineraries regrouping different farms and local producers. I’m really excited to go explore Québec’s countryside, coasting from food stop farm to farm. The book in itself is also really well made with hand-drawn maps, amazing pictures and descriptions that really make you want to leave right away to go taste Mr Poncelet’s asparagus or go wine tasting on Orleans Island.
  2. Le Montréal Gourmand de Philippe Mollé, Ulysse: Philippe Mollé used to have a cooking show that I would religiously watch with my mom. Our excitement when meeting him last winter at the Salon des Métiers d’Art, where he was selling a really nice maple syrup, was just ridiculous. He was charming, and so we bought maple syrup, and I took out this book again. Filled with restaurant and café recommendations all in Montreal, this is a great companion for those week-ends when you don’t feel like going out too far. Some suggestions are even vegan!
  3. Escapades au Québec, La Presse: This is a really beautiful book filled with amazing pictures of the nicest places to visit in the province. There’s something for everyone: lovers, kids, hermits (traveling separately), beach enthusiasts, foodies and more. I wish I had enough time to visit each one of these wonderful spots!
  4. Randonnée pédestre au Québec, Ulysse: Because I will probably double in size this summer (I blame the incredible food all the other books are promoting), I want to select some hikes too. Québec has a great variety of landscapes ranging from fields to beaches, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of the great outdoors during the summer! This book is really well put together with tips, maps and difficulty levels for each hike.

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I feel like it will be impossible to choose from the amazing selection these books bring forward! I’m really excited to skim through them and to discover new favourites. Let me know if you have any recommendations, or if you have fun travel plans for the summer!

Two Peas in a Pod

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This week was our 5 year anniversary. My great boyfriend had made reservations for us at Le Domaine du Diable Vert, which is a  wonderful site in the Eastern Townships where you can rent different size cabins and pods. Only two hours away from Montreal, this “mountain resort” is near Sutton.

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Pods are really fun one-room cabins equipped with a wood stove and possessing an amazing bay window.

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Because they are so small, they can be installed practically anywhere, and they make you feel like you are completely alone and secluded, while still remaining toasty. Speaking of toasty, we realized that we were complete novices when it came to wood stoves: we succeeded in creating a blazing hot atmosphere into which it was impossible to sleep, let alone think, while not being able to boil water on top of said-stove. Quite talentuous people we are.

Anyways, the whole point of this week-end in the “wilderness” was not to stay in and boil water, so we went out and did some hiking and some snowshoeing in the wonderful setting. Here are a few pictures to make you jealous:

As you can maybe make it out for the pictures, the Diable Vert has an amazing view on different mounts. It is always breathtaking to get up there and to see the open space, which is not what you would expect from the road.

Overall, a great week-end away from the city!

 

San Francisco Series: Welcome Back Home!

We are back in Montreal after a week in San Francisco!

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Our favourite sport in SF, the beaches!

We really had a lot of fun exploring this city, but we were also very surprised by a few things. I hope these few pointers will help you out if you are traveling to San Francisco soon. Here they are!

First, San Francisco is a really expensive city. As Canadian, we were expecting to spend more money than back home. However, we were not prepared to pay as much for simple things. Food was particularly expensive: I don’t think we ever found any sandwich for less than 10$. Ouch!

Concerning food, beware that not much will be vegan in the main attractions. Of course, San Francisco is a seaside city, and, therefore, seafood is everywhere. Vegetarian options are usually available, but you’ll have to ask for no cheese or no eggs if you want to stay vegan. Also, make sure you visit Greens because it is quite amazing!

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Greens’ chocolate banana cake with coconut sorbet. Yum!

Second, San Francisco is weirdly shy about grocery stores. We had trouble finding fresh vegetables and fruits, which is why we were so happy to bump into the Fort Mason Farmers’ market. After that, we wandered in the city a lot and couldn’t find any food stores, until we used a GPS to go to Whole Foods. I definitively recommend googling for food stores because you might not find any by chance.

Third, layers are key! Any travel guide will tell you that San Francisco’s weather can change quickly. Well it’s true. Bring a warmer sweater or coat in your backpack because the city can turn out to be colder than expected.

Fourth, some parts of the city are better explored with a taxi than by foot. We were quite surprised to see as many homeless people hanging around the city’s main attractions. However, most of the time we did feel safe. One time we were quite happy to get to our destination was when we were looking for the Asian Art Museum. We thought it would be okay to go from downtown to the museum. Well, we walked quickly and were weirded out by the ominous feeling of some of the street corners. Nothing happened, but we decided to take a taxi to Japantown after our visit. So listen to your guidebook and be careful where you go on foot.

Speaking of feet, bring comfortable walking shoes because things are far from one another. Also, hills are really no joke in San Francisco, and you will be happy to have some friction with the ground.

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Enjoying the Pacific with my Winter boots.

Overall, we were quite happy to visit San Francisco. We really enjoyed the bay, the beaches and the nice weather. The sun was amazing and the break from the rain and snow was a true blessing.

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Home sweet home… ah, snow!

Let me know what are your travel plans for 2016, if you have any recommendations or other travel tips! 🙂

San Francisco Series: Day 6

Today, we walked all day! But, as we have learned from our experience, we stayed close to the water and ended up crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

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On the way, we stopped at the Wave Organ, but there was not much music going on today. Still, it was a great spot to take a break and enjoy the view.

We then moved on to the Warming Hut and saw the most photo-loving pelican.

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We then proceeded to cross the bridge which was a lot of fun and wind. The view of the city was also quite exceptional.

Today was a perfect way to start the year: sea, sunshine and great company! We even saw a hummingbird!

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San Francisco Series: Day 5

Today we took a car and drove on the Golden Gate bridge to Muir Woods.

If you are planning to visit the giant trees, make sure to get there early: we were there by 8:15 and easily parked and did not pay the entry fee as the office was not opened yet (a signed said we could go in, no worries). Double win! Or should I say triple win: by coming in early you avoid big crowds and really take advantage of the magic, mystery and ambiance of the forest.

After a great walk, we headed to Sausalito where we enjoyed a great view of the San Francisco bay. We walked along the water and took in the great scenery. The sun was so nice!

We then rolled on to the Napa Valley where we were amazed by the size of the vineyards. It was so much bigger than expected. It was really impressive to see these giant fields!

When we came back to San Francisco we were really hungry, and so we stopped at Whole Foods. This store is so exciting for me as we don’t have them back home. We found great fruits, spreads and breads for our new year celebration.

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We started our celebration near the water, which was quite nice as the sun was setting on the bridge and the bay. Perfect way to end the year!

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For 2016, I wish you all to find something that your care about and explore that passion. I also hope that you will give yourself some time to take care of yourself and the people you love. Have fun in 2016 and take time to enjoy it!

San Francisco Series: Day 4

Today was our first rainy day, and the lazy weather went perfectly well with our lazy mood after yesterday’s walk-o-ton.

We started the day with the Exploratorium which was a really fun place, but we felt like this is the kind of museum you really enjoy if you are a kid, or if you have one with you. Filled with fun and interesting hands-on activities, the place was buzzing with excitement.

After this, we continued to the Ferry Building where we saw some seagulls and sea lions in action in the pier. It was quite surprising to witness such big animals feasting on fish. We went inside and feasted too: special mention to Stonehouse California Olive Oil and their extensive olive oil selection (I couldn’t resist the lemon infused one). We found great vegan food at Delica: delicious fried tofu, sea weed salad, lotus root salad, wild rice roll, and potato croquettes. Yum!

We then moved on to Union Square and the Asian Arts Museum. This museum is really nice and has a rich selection of magnificent pieces. We strolled along for a few hours then went back to Japan town to eat some more.

It was a really fun and relaxed day which was really nice. So far, so good San Francisco!

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San Francisco Series: Day 3

NO MORE WALKING TODAY!!!

We were clearly on a roll after yesterday, but let me tell you that there is no way we will walk as much as today tomorrow!

Our day started with what we thought to be a little walk to the Golden Bridge Park. It seemed so close by on the map… Well along the way, we walked some crazy steep stairs (some of them were so steep, I preferred to look at my feet while climbing up), saw amazingly beautiful homes and enjoyed the sun.

When we got to the park, we were a little bit confused as there are roads and many cars circulating all over. We thought the park was going to be a green oasis. The Flower Conservatory was a sight to be seen, and the many orchids we saw there were delicately beautiful. It was also interesting to be in such an old greenhouse.

After that, we went to the Shakespeare Garden. It was a little bit disappointing as there was not much going on due to the season. It was however a great spot to take a peaceful break from the crowd.

We then found our way to the Japanese Tea Garden, which is apparently the oldest or biggest garden of the kind (my mind is a little mashed up because of the exhausting walk). It was clearly a sight to be seen, and we felt far away from North America. The different sculptures and plant arrangements were mesmerizing.

By that point, we were starting to be hungry. So, after finding our way out of the park (which is not as easy as you might think), we trotted to Kabuto, which is a sushi restaurant. They didn’t have a lot of vegan options, but we did discover the mountain potato roll. Mountain potato is quite different from our regular “field” potato: it is slightly gooey and has a mucilaginous (think okra) texture. Well, paired with ume (pickled plums) and warm rice, it was quite good!

From there, we continued to Lincoln Park where we did not end up where we wanted to be. We were aiming for Land’s End, but found the Legion of Honor Museum instead. Well, at least the view from there was quite breathtaking, and we were on the other side of the bridge.

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At this very moment in the story, we were both tired, out of water, with sore feet and without a clue as to how to get back to our hotel. So after  walking in the rough direction of the hotel for about an hour, we went in a launderette to call for a taxi. We were welcomed by the Asian owner and a “No business?” Only 5 minutes later, our yellow (see golden with angels flying around it) cab arrived, and 30 minutes later we were in front of a warm and tasty meal from ‘Hot Spuds’: deliciously creamy and warm potato skins with vegetables and a thai salad (all vegan!). Yum! A perfect way to end a walking extravaganza day! (According to google maps: 20.7 km)

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