Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Trails

Just back home to Bermuda and the hot, sticky weather my first thought after 2 months away was how old Bermuda looks.  Not surprising I suppose seeing as it was discovered in 1609 and being small has been built over for years now, so there's precious little leeway to build big, new things.  Or money at the moment anyway although I do hope that changes soon.

Looking back on our time away though, here are some thoughts:


What a great City!

That's it.  Nothing else.  OK, one thing someone told me about was the Architectural Society's city tours and how good they were.  He was right.  And this really leads onto a theme running through the trip which is that exploring somewhere through history brings perspective and so much more enjoyment than simply rolling up and trying to get going.  My son, Ali, recently went to Paris for a friend's wedding and visited some of the museums there which he said he really enjoyed.  I found this pleasantly surprising as I thought the young today don't read that much (if its not on a digital device) and don't care much for history beyond the first 20 second sound byte.

Chicago Board of Trade's throne style art deco building


Many of the museums we visited had guided tours of displays, events and such like.  Do them.  These tours are provided for a reason.  They are interesting and informative.  If the guides are enthusiastic (and ours were), this translates into a wonderful experience which brings so much more to what you are looking at.

Warning: You are in danger of learning something…

In Montreal, for example, at the Pointe a Calliere Museum -- the museum of the city -- a temporary exhibit was of one district in the City just outside downtown.  I couldn't for the life of me understand why I'd care about some suburb but the tour convinced me otherwise and reminded me that everyone and everywhere has a story.  All you have to do is listen.

I now know for example why Montreal housing is built the way it is -- outside staircases because property tax at the time was calculated on living space, staircases being considered dead space were therefore built outside.  Made no sense of course as with the city being snowed in for 6 months of the year, these staircases were death traps!

Not many people know that.


The 2 games we went to were brilliant but make me wonder why there are so many games in a season. 162 regular season games is a lot so teams have to have large rotating squads and make sure they win 52% of their games to make it to the play-offs.  (Watch the movie Moneyball to see what I mean). This means the game can be managed statistically; beat that team, rest the good guys for this other team…

Takes some of the immediacy out of things.  Had we realised the St. Louis game was the final one in a 3-game series against LA and they'd already won the first 2 games, we may not have spent the $100 per ticket to watch a game that was fairly low energy (and importance to St. Louis anyway).

I think this is likely the case with NBA and NHL too.


I was hoping I'd like Bourbon but even the smoothest drink felt like a dagger in the throat to me (just like Scotch too).  But when incorporated into a cocktail such as an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan… whoo-hoo!

Draw daggers…

Old Fashioned and Mint Julep… that's what I'm talking about!

Interestingly as a side comment the barman at our cocktail course said that Canadian Rye whisky is the most popular US drink so that now many US distillers make rye too.  This is permeating into Bourbon making as well where the area in which it was originally distilled (Bourbon county in Kentucky) was expanded to the point where it could be made anywhere in Kentucky and still be called bourbon, and then again further still so that bourbon can be made anywhere… and still be called bourbon.

This would never happen in the EU who make sure that you can only legally get Yorkshire Pudding in Yorkshire.  Mind you the French are highly guarded over Champagne and Cognac so maybe the EU learned it from them.


We like movies and when away take the chance of spending lengthy periods in the local Cineplex 24 or whatever the local name is.  If you plan properly, you could spend an entire day in one of these places moving from screening room to screening room -- our record was 4 in a day.  The challenge is to find movies you like in the right order.

The biggest irritant is going out to buy multiple tickets and makes me wonder why these multiplexes don't just sell a day pass, or a week pass for that matter.  Double or triple a single ticket and enable movie goers to stay and go as much as they want.  They'd buy stuff at the concessions and probably generate more revenue for the cinema and at the same time obviate the need to hire people to check for those who hop from screen to screen without buying new tickets.

Make the experience better for moviegoers in fact.


We went out a lot in the last 2 months.  Pretty much across the board we found that service in bars, restaurants and hotels was excellent but stand out moment goes to the Toque Restaurant in Montreal (see link here).

We were recommended this as being one of the best restaurants in Montreal and expecting it would be French-ish, we went.  Montreal isn't as French as I thought it would be nor was Toque.  It was new, elegant and had some French components to it but it was new American… and very nice too.  I'd ordered a bottle of red wine I thought would be nice and while drinkable it wasn't great and for some reason I mentioned this to the sommelier when he asked.

He apologised and asked if he could change it for us.

I hadn't expected this as it was my poor choice in the first place that I was happy to live with.  I certainly didn't ask him to change it.  He offered.

He also said let him choose a wine he thought we'd like… and he did.  And we did.  And it turned out to be a Serbian cabernet.  Very nice it was too.  The sommelier said he didn't want to tell us first as we'd never have agreed to try it.  He was right, we wouldn't.  I wish I'd made a note of the name as it actually was lovely.

As was dinner and the stunningly unexpected service level.


We made some very poor choices regarding luggage in our trip earlier in the year and had cut things down to just the 3 bags … from 6.  Progress certainly but still not perfection.

What were we thinking?

Travelling these days with luggage is a real pain.  Virtually all airlines now charge for luggage -- AA I think was the hold out in the US but they gave up in April when they merged with US Airlines.  Yet another added cost on top of the quoted fare.  Security and Immigration controls are also a pain.  If the US ever increases its Amtrak routing, I'd consider trains more.  No immigration, no travel to/from the airport, no security… sounds wonderful.

Or we could just go tubing…

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