Family

Weekend Trip: Montreal

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Last weekend Victoria and I went to Montreal, we left on a Friday and came back on Sunday afternoon, so we enjoyed a Canadian Halloween. It was very short, there's a lot to see in Montreal, but during the school year is hard. The reason for us going was that my brother and his family were there, studying some french. You know, when I was in France I automatically switched my thinking to a different language (my french used to be good, but is very, very rusty), but in Canada, my brain didn't get it. I couldn't say anything in French, the first thing that came out of my mouth was English. Faster than I could stop it, very frustrating.

Montreal is in the French-speaking part of Canada, so everything you read is in French first, than English. When you walk in restaurants or certain stores, they greet you in French, than English, which I find it double the work for the employees, but quite cool.

The Hood

My brother stayed in a very centrally located area, Milton Park, about 20 min from the airport by taxi (C$44). They were there for 3 weeks, and booked a flat on airbnb, which they were very happy about. It was super cute, with everything they might need, perfect for a family of 3. They also bought a pair of folding bikes, so they could explore the city, and then take it back home, excellent idea!

Milton Park nowadays is a hip area, full of artists, college students, and parks, there were also a few playgrounds for the girls to enjoy. This is basically what we did Friday all day, and they loved it. Playground hopping is the new cool thing, did you know? You can tell at some point it was an area of struggle, but it looks like it's changed a lot.

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park.

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park.

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park.

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Weather

The weather was beautiful, but so cold! On Saturday morning it was 26F, and coming from Arizona... with no real winter clothes... we were freezing our bums off, seriously. Besides being so cold, which I actually enjoy, but come on, you need to wear the right outfit, the combination of blue skies, colorful leaves on the ground, squirrels everywhere, it was just perfect.Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park.

Public Transport

Taxi - We took a taxi from the airport to the flat (about C$44). It's very easy, the airport is not very big, so, just follow the signs and you can either take the bus or the taxi. Any questions, do it like me and ask the information desk. They can direct you to either the taxi or the bus. I had a feeling he was kind of pushing for us to take a taxi, but to be honest, we had woken up at 3am, Victoria was knackered, so choosing taxi over the bus wasn't a big deal. The good thing is, all taxis from the airport take credit card, the driver told me they prefer cash (of course, who doesn't), but honestly, he accepted my card without a problem (the only choice in the matter, ha!).

Bus - The only day we took a bus was on the last day, heading to the airport, so I can't really comment on it, but my brother and my sis-in-law used it a lot and it seemed very reliable. There is an app for the schedules for both iPhone and android or you can get the same info on their website or via sms.

The bus to and from the airport is the 747, a very important number to remember. It has a few stops around the areas near the hotels. Right now there is some construction going on and some stops are closed, so it's important to pay attention to that, because you might have to walk a little to the next stop, they tell you where you must go to.

747 bus

Oh and before I forget, wait for the 747 right at the bus stop!!! I mean, right under the sign. On Sunday it was raining and we took shelter in front of a building (5 steps from the stop), suitcases and all and the driver was not going to stop! Luckily the traffic light was red and he saw Victoria in the rain, I'm pretty sure this is the only reason why he opened the door. The bus looks just like a city bus, some of them have wi-fi, and inside there's space for the suitcases. On a Sunday morning, the trip was super quick, but I'm sure on a week day, it can take up to an hr to get downtown.

747 bus in Montreal. Halloween in Montreal

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Metro - The metro system doesn't have many lines, but it has many stops, which is great. Since I don't know Montreal all that well, not sure how much it covers of the city, but we could get to where we wanted with the metro, no problem. And honestly, I was being guided, so I didn't really pay attention to anything, I just knew which stop took me home, in case I needed.

Tips:

  • Buy ticket before getting on the bus, otherwise you will need the exact change.
  • Children under 11 don't pay on weekends, with at least one adult and up to 5 children together. Children under 6 don't pay ever.
  • Tickets are valid for buses and metro and the daily pass is valid for 24 hrs, and not only until midnight.

Maple

The maple tree is the symbol of Canada, it's on their flag and it's everywhere. When I lived in Toronto, I didn't really notice the love for this tree, but then again, I was 15 and couldn't care less. But while in Montreal, I tried, maple water (yes, that's a thing) and brought maple biscuits home. I didn't even buy the famous maple syrup, but they're everywhere.

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park. Maple syrup, maple leaves, maple trees

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park. Maple syrup, maple leaves, maple trees

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park. Maple syrup, maple leaves, maple trees

Halloween in Montreal. Milton Park. Parks. Playgrounds. Homes in Milton Park. Maple syrup, maple leaves, maple trees

By the way, that market is such a cool market, it smells of freshness with cute little stores that you just want to buy everything. If I'm not mistaken it was the Jean-Talon Marche, but they have other farmer market styles in Montreal.

Planetarium, the Botanical Garden and The Olympic Stadium

On Saturday we passed by the Botanical Gardens and the Olympic Stadium.  It's a little far from downtown, as they usually are, but worth the trip. The Olympic stadium has a football stadium in the back of it, there was a game going on when we were there, I am assuming they use it for concerts, but it was closed the day we went.

The Olympic symbol behind me is amazing.

We went quickly inside the Botanical Garden's restaurant to get something for the girls (and that's where I found the maple water, ha!), so I didn't see much of it, but they said it's small and very nice, but not super amazing, like some others that I've been to.

My sis-in-law bought us tickets for the planetarium, so that's where we headed. Before the show the kids can play and during it, you lay on giant bean bags so you can see the whole ceiling. I loved it, the kids thought it was too loud. They're not very long, about 20 min, and after 30 min you can watch another one, but the kids weren't into it, so we left.

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Halloween

Before I went I had a few people ask me if they celebrated Halloween in Canada. I assumed they did, but I wasn't 100% sure, and let me tell you... they do and they do it well. Very scary indeed.

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We took the metro to a different neighborhood because we didn't see any signs that there would be much "candy giving" going on where we were. It was great, we walked a few streets, my brother and his family saw what Halloween is like, Victoria, besides almost having the scare of her life, enjoyed her favorite holiday of the year (after Christmas) and we headed home. Due to the weather, you must ring the door bells or knock the homes with Halloween decorations and lights on. Unlike Phoenix where most people giving out candies sit outside, and make potluck with their neighbors.

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Halloween in Montreal is really cool.

20151031_180813 Halloween in Montreal

 

Montreal is a city with such great charm, the houses are so cute, the people are very friendly and polite, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I'd love to go back at some point.

How to Use Technology to our Advantage as an Expat

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So, there I was writing a super cool post at Starbucks on my IPad, and when I pressed save... it all went into space and disappeared into thin air.  Funny enough, the post was all about using technology while living abroad... go figure...


Today, technology is so amazing. Sometimes I wonder at it. How did we get here? A few years ago, I was writing letters to my friends back home. I remember these letters were so full of feelings, so palpable, many tears were shared, happy pictures...  And the excitement when coming back home from school (in Morgantown), checking the mailbox. Nowadays there are only bills. Yeap, no more letters from friends and family.

I do get to see them all the time on Instagram (no Facebook for me). We talk on whatsapp or Viper, I know "almost" everything that is happening in their lives, whether they're traveling or eating pizza. I was ever so grateful for whatsapp when my Paul and Victoria went to England this year. Although I was left behind because of work, I felt like I was part of their trip, because Paul was taking pictures and just sending them to me all the time. It was truly great.

Another great example on how technology can be helpful when you're traveling or moved away? Imagine this: Victoria was 3 months old when we moved to the UK, the move was crazy in itself, then I was in a different country with a newborn, no sleep and climbing the walls, I was so lonely. I talked to my parents everyday on Skype and since our house had 2 stories, with the family room upstairs and the kitchen, laundry, bedrooms downstairs, I "had to hire" a babysitter. My mum! Yeap, all the way from Brazil my mum would babysit Victoria via Skype. It was hilarious. If you're rolling your eyes, that's ok, I am not as perfect as you, and besides keeping my sanity, it gave me a great work out, climbing up and down the stairs everytime Victoria moved away from the camera and I'd hear my mum calling my name. I'm glad to say that no babies were hurt in the process, and I have a story to tell. Thanks to technology.

Now, because with technology, everything seems "easier", I've noticed that when people are away, especially for the first time, they are skipping the experience of being. I mean, to go out, fend for yourself and discover. They're still in touch with their family and friends in real time (or a few hours difference), and there is no urgency to get to know the other culture, make friends for life, and learn.

Imagine a student, now, going to college in Japan, let's say, versus a student 15yrs ago, also going to Japan. The latter would have a much more intense experience than the student heading to Japan in 2015. All things being equal, the student 15yrs ago, knew that if he didn't communicate with anyone in school, it'd be a very lonely year/2yrs, he'd have made friends for life. The 2015 student, would also have made friends, but the process would have been longer. The process of "letting go" to start a new life would have been different and yes, it would happen, but maybe without the same intensity.

All you need to have is balance. Just like I mentioned above, all of it is good, the time when we wrote letters to each other is over, and the time when we take our friends from back home "virtually" together on our trip is now. But at the end of the day, at night, you are still in a foreign country, learning a different language and trying to keep up with the cultural differences. It's all part of of the experience and expanding our minds. Enjoy the moments, they won't come back, soon enough you'll be back home with family and friends again.

You should control your technology and not let it control you.

I've mentioned through out the post the types of technology I use and here they are:

Hangout/Face time - video (on IPad and Galaxy)

Whatsapp/Viber - instant messaging/photo sharing (on Galaxy only)

Instagram - social media for photo sharing (on IPad and Galaxy)

 

7 Rules to Follow When Going back Home for Vacation

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Believe me or not, one of the most stressful holidays you can have is when you go back home for a visit. Don't get me wrong, I love going home, but it's stressful. It's a lot of planning and at the end, there's never enough time and you won't see everyone you wanted to see, do what you wanted to do and eat what you wanted to eat. Before you go you should make some rules, nothing strict, of course, but a few will help along the way:

  1. Make a priorities' list
  2. Be flexible, plans (might) will change, remember! You're on vacation! Go with the flow.
  3. Try to meet up at home or somewhere where you can invite a lot of people and see them all at once, Even if they don't know each other, it will be fun because they are there to see you.
  4. If you plan on traveling, make sure you black out dates and don't be scared to tell people you won't be available.
  5. You are on holidays, but everyone else isn't. Your family & friends have their routines and believe me, they love you very much, but they won't drop everything just to see you.
  6. Enjoy as much as you can, and
  7. Be ok if not everything on your list gets checked off.

In my opinion, the most important thing about going home is to see the ones we love, be with them and at the same time enjoy ourselves. It's hard enough to miss weddings, birthdays, graduations, funerals, so make the most of it when you get the time to visit.

Just remember the list above and have fun!! In any case you will need another holiday when you leave.

Knowing vs. Not Knowing: Which One Are You?

I like to watch TV, movies, but I don't like to find out anything about it. I like surprises! Who doesn't? My husband, that's who. He really, really annoys me, after 12 yrs, you'd think I'd be used to it, but I'm not. He doesn't mean it, but he just says stuff. Paul reads it on the news or hears it from a friend and he feels the need to share the information.

Years ago, I remember my disappointment when I watched Titanic.  I was so excited! I had seen the adverts and couldn't wait... just to find out that they had shown almost the whole movie in the trailers I'd seen on the telly. Seriously, I'd seen all the exciting parts. I was annoyed.

So, tonight we were watching Grey's Anatomy, and for those who watched it, you know what I'm talking about, for those who didn't, I'll try not to spill too much out. Then my husband says: "They said a few weeks ago that was going to leave the show" !?!?! What, are you telling me what's going to happen?? Nooooo, please rewind, I heard it now, but I don't want to hear it...

That's it, that split second when you hear what's going to happen in a show or in a movie, it's over, it's all over!

You want to know what's going to happen in Nashville next week? Ask Paul, he will tell you.

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Love you baby!

So, what about you? Do you like to know in advance, or keep it until the show.