Lunch at Café Stash and a Play at the Centaur Theatre

Thank you to everyone who checked in to ask if I’m still alive. Work has been a tad… busy. But I decided to take today off so as to accept my cousin Lee’s invitation to join her for a play this afternoon. She’s the cousin who visited me in Maz my first winter there. She has a season’s pass to the Centaur Theatre and with that, she gets one complimentary guest pass for any show. Aren’t I lucky that she invited me?! The Centaur Theatre is an icon on English Montreal and the premiere English theatre in the province. I hadn’t been in about 20 years, but used to go often when I lived in the area.

To my surprise, there are hourly buses to Montreal from Chambly on Sundays. I was  meeting Lee and a friend at noon for lunch and had a choice to leave at 10:05 and arrive around 10:40 or leave at 11:05 and arrive around 11:40. I picked the first option so I’d have a leisurely stroll from the bus station to the restaurant (about 20 minutes) and then be able to walk around the neighbourhood.

On the way, I saw that construction is underway for the replacement to the Champlain Bridge. I cannot believe that the bridge is already obsolete when we were paying tolls until 1990 to use it.

Approaching the terminal at 1000 de la Gauchetière, the building I think looks like a carpenter’s pencil.

Doesn’t it?

From there, I headed down Mansfield towards Old Montreal, parts of which look a lot like Europe. There are buildings dating back to the late 1600s!

I found my lunch destination, Café Stash, without any difficulty. I was a full hour early, so I made a note of the location and then continued down rue St. Paul Ouest to a café.

I settled myself with a cup of coffee and one of the trashiest newspapers in the city, Le journal de Montréal. There was an interesting article about Cuba courting Quebecers for medical tourism. Healthcare here is so bad, with terrible wait times and many people not having a family doctor (I was something like 157,000th in line for a family doctor in Quebec the last time I tried to get one, circa 2004). I’ve been looking at basic (emergency) health coverage in Mexico and while most Canadians find it inadequate, Quebecers generally praise it.

A bit of good news is the the drought crisis in California is officially over.

I lingered at the café a full 30 minutes and then went out to enjoy the first sunshine I’ve seen in about a week.

This is the Pointe-à-Callière archeology museum. Last time I visited was way back in 2010.

A very European-looking alleyway.

I loved the contrast of new and old here.

Isn’t this a pretty building?

I finally met up with Lee and her friend at Café Stash. She and I were famished and went with the “table d’hôte,” which is a set menu for a fixed price. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, Vicki, but here’s what I had:

-barszcz (beet consommé, which was unbelievably deliciously. Nothing at all like the thick Russian borscht I was expecting);

-two kielbasa sausages (served with Dijon mustard) with boiled potatoes (that I doctored with sour cream) and sauerkraut;

-coffee

-apple crumble.

Lee had their sampler meal with a bunch of different things and graciously passed over one of her precious pierogis for me to try. She went with the peach crumble for dessert. By the way, she considers Stash her favourite restaurant!

Her friend had two cabbage rolls with beet salad (cold) and boiled potatoes and said his food was excellent.

My menu was priced at $25, but, of course, you have to add 30-35% to prices when eating out in Quebec (15% for taxes and a 15% to 20% tip) so my total was $33, which I found to be really good value!

We then had a very short walk to the Centaur Theatre. It really hadn’t changed since the last time I was there.

The play we saw was “Clybourne Park,” which is both a prequel and sequel to “A Raisin in the Sun.” It is a tale of race relations, gentrification, and how the more time progresses, the less things change. It was funny, shocking, and sad. I’m actually surprised by how much I loved it, considering I knew nothing about the source material. Most surprising, I came out of it even more certain of the kind of expat I do not want to be when I settle in Mexico.

The play finished around 4:15, so I didn’t have time to make the 4:35 bus home. With the next one being at 5:35, I decided to accompany Lee and her friend to a nearby Tim Horton’s by a métro.

There, I picked up a wonderful Earl Grey tea to go since Lee and her friend decided to walk with me to Place Bonaventure since her friend was catching a bus from there as well and Lee could take the métro. By the time we arrived and said our goodbyes, I only had about 20 minutes left to wait for the bus and there was free wifi.

I took the above photos with the camera on my new-to-me iPhone 6, which I was able to get since I got a free flight home to SK with my travel reward points and therefore had some space in my budget. I cannot believe how much of an upgrade this already obsolete phone is! I was out all day with it and didn’t even lose 50% of my battery capacity. It is very responsive and has some nice features like iTouch (signing in with just a fingerprint), a bigger screen than my 5C, and Apple Pay. I’m super happy with it and glad that I’ll have a reliable phone for my upcoming insane journey across two of the biggest countries in the world.

So it was a great day in downtown Montreal. My time here is winding down, but I have a full week left. The way things have been going, it’s going to be pretty much nose to the grindstone the rest of my time here!

Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a £2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45 to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. 🙁 I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at £5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally give a shoutout to her and her  Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! 🙂 Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…

English Sun Is Particularly Lovely

Today was so lovely! It felt like a proper late spring day. Landing in snow and freezing weather on Wednesday afternoon is going to be shocking!

Since the weather was so suitable for exterior line drying, my wonderful host suggested I throw some of my laundry in with hers today. How thoughtful! This way, I won’t land in Montreal desperate to put a load on. Let me tell you, I’m more than a little tired of wearing the same clothes every day…

I had so much work to do ahead of my time off, but I couldn’t spend all of today indoors. I powered through a a large file due at 3PM and was able to head out just before 2PM for lunch and a walk around Hove before going back to work. Tomorrow, my last day (!), is going to be a proper exploration one, but I am going to  fit in a couple final hours of work.

But at any rate, a two-hour lunch break today was definitely in order. I was quite famished since I was well past my lunch hour. So when the second restaurant I passed after the train station had a £5 burger special for takeaway, I was set. I figured based on their menu that this would be a high quality, healthyish, burger and I was right. It was very plain, but was a nice juicy piece of 100% beef and it had lots of veggies on it. I wish I’d thought to ask for some sauce on it, but it was pretty good on its own and wasn’t too heavy of a lunch.

I then decided to wander down a main thoroughfare and then head down to the water to come back the way I came by a different route.

I passed a really pretty church made of flint, just like the Lewes castle.

That’s a florist set up in front of it.

This pub had a striking façade. The sign at the top says “The Wick Inn — rebuilt in 1873.”

Just as I was thinking of turning back, I discovered a gelato shop! I sure wasn’t going to turn down a chance to eat an ice cream by the beach on such a warm and sunny day! They had so many flavours, but the hard to find chocolate-orange was an obvious choice.

I headed towards the water in front of the rows of beautiful houses. Turns out they all have ground floor flats, most of which have beautifully tiled courtyards. The flats must be rather dark on an average day, though.

There are so many beautiful churches in Hove. Here’s another one I passed very near to home.

And here’s a map of my walk. I didn’t realise I’d covered so much ground. 3.9mi is just over 6KM!

I came in and got right back to work, stopping around 6:30 to heat up the other curry I bought yesterday. It was another fantastic one. Oh, Tesco, I will really miss you. I then put in another 1.5 hours of work before having a shower and watching on the ITV website the last episode of Broadchurch I’ll have easy access to.

Now, it’s time to do a little research about what I’ve bought tickets to see tomorrow! 🙂

A Day in Lewes — a Castle, an Ancient House, Priory Ruins, a Great Pint, and the South Downs, Oh My!

Today, I decided to head to the nearby town of Lewes (pronounced just like Lewis) to visit its castle (and other sites) and get a chance to walk on the famous South Downs. I headed out around 9:30 this morning to catch a 10:08 train to Brighton and then the first train to Lewes. Since my Airbnb is right near the train station, I was very early, even after collecting my ticket, and on top of that my train to Brighton was delayed. So I headed down to the Barclay’s to do a withdrawal so I wouldn’t have to do that in Lewes.

Standing on the platform, I could look up the stairs to the locked gate onto the pedestrian bridge.

Not sure I would want to live somewhere called “Bad House”…

Brighton train station was quite impressive!

I didn’t have to wait for a train to Lewes so I ended up having a very quick trip. It was one stop to Brighton and then four or five to Lewes.

Looking out over Brighton from the train to Lewes.

I still can’t get over the daffodils in early March!

The Lewes train station was similar to Hove’s.

I headed uphill from the train station to find the High Street and the tourist information centre.

I liked the turquoise trim on this house.

The lady at the tourist information centre was super helpful. I asked her about walking on the South Downs if I had only an hour or two and she gave me a map, a leaflet, and excellent directions for what sounded like exactly the perfect walking option. I decided to start my day with the castle, though, and she sent me in direction of it.

This narrow street rather reminded me of a Shrewsbury shut.

From the High Street, there’s a sign saying to turn right for the castle. You do so and, boom, there’s its gate!

I bought a combination ticket for the castle and an old Tudor house for £12.50. The lady who sold me the ticket gave me directions to the house and then a route to another location that would let me do a nice circle back around to the High Street to find lunch after.

It is very, very, very late, so I’m not going to get into the very complicated history of this castle. It’s been built and rebuilt many times and has had many owners so it’s not really that old.

Stocks.

My first destination was the top of the barbican, over the entrance gate.

That “guy” scared the heck out of me when I came into the room!

I had fun trying to figure out how to use a medieval crane.

Ah… the famous chalk hills of Sussex, or the South Downs. I first learned about them when I was reading the Sherlock Holmes stories as this area is where he retired.

Shame it was so misty. I was tempted later in the day, when the sky cleared, to ask if I could come back up, but I was too tired and foot sore.

The castle is made of local flint.

Looking out over the bowling green, the lumpiest in England! Thomas Paine (Rights of Man) played there in the 18th century when he lived in Lewes!

Remains of an old cooking fireplace, when this part of the castle would have been indoors.

I headed inside to climb to the very top of the castle.

Looking out to Lewes prison.

It was surreal to be here! This isn’t even the most famous view of the chalk hills and I didn’t feel any need to go seek it out.

After the castle, I did the little attached museum. This tapestry was impressive.

Mirror

Swords

Flint tools

This is apparently what a medieval felt hat would have looked like.

The floors in the upstairs of the museum was embarrassingly creaky!

After the museum, I continued down the High Street.

Little did I know I would be back to the Brewers Arms.

The 15th century bookstore, where I had to turn off the High Street.

I passed what looked like a pretty garden and was thrilled that it was open to the public.

My tour of this lovely garden done, I continued on, passing yet another lovely church.

My next destination of Anne of Cleves House. She was one of Henry VIII’s wives. She won this house in their divorce settlement, but never actually lived here although she might have visited. I have so much information about this house that I may come back and do a page about it when I’m not so knackered. There’s no way I can do it justice tonight. It’s a fine example of a Tudor manor, but it was much improved upon over the years and does not resemble its original form.

The entrance is the former great hall.

From there you can go right (left looking at this picture) into the east bedroom.

It was a really vast and voluminous space. Two ladies and a little girl were there and we had a chat about the history of building and how mind boggling it is that it took so long for Western society to start using insulation. We also had fun playing with those costumes!

This could serve as a chair, table, or chest!

The floor of the parlour was incredibly uneven and not level!

I find that expression hilarious.

Remember his thoughts on Shrewsbury?

This represents an avalanche in Lewes in the 19th century.

Hops!

The tour of the house ends with the garden.

I found the Anne of Cleves House was very interesting to walk through. It smelled exactly as it should, so musty and old, and the exhibits were interesting. But I paid £1.50 extra for a leaflet that had pretty much the same information as on the walls and it was not laid out in a logical manner. I found that the museum could have done a better job with it and to help guests through the rather confusing layout.

more palm trees!

My last stop before a badly needed lunch was Priory Park, which is free to walk through.

From the priory, I had to go past the rail station to get back to the High Street. I passed one of the many “rail replacement” buses since there is a lot of work being done on the railways.

Exterior of Lewes train station.

I had lunch at the Brewers Arms pictured above. I went with the lunch special of sausages and mash with a pint of Harvey’s Best Bitter, a beer brewed right in Lewis. All was yummy. 🙂 I took my time with lunch since I was very tired by this point and wanted a rest before heading onto the South Downs.

After lunch,  I went down the High Street in the other direction towards the South Downs.

The High Street ends with a pedestrianised bit.

I was happy to find (very expensive) ice cream, to which I added a Flake!

Unfortunately, you have to book brewery tours eons in advance.

At the end of the High Street, I started up the very steel Chapel Road.

Not even all the way up, I already had amazing views of Lewes and the valley.

The walk on the South Downs takes you right by cows. That black one on the right had a shifty gaze.

I couldn’t believe how much this part of the South Downs looked like the rolling hills around Haven. And just like at home, the internet up with the cows was much better than down in the valley where the people live. *wry grin*

And the point of this gate is?

I descended into a valley full of sheep.

My walk leaflet mentioned this pond. Little did I know I would spend so much time here that it would be my final destination on the Downs!

It was full of frogs! I spent so much time watching them. I believe it’s mating season.

So cute!

I couldn’t believe the number of them there were, all around the pond.

One on the grass posed for me.

I was supposed to catch a 5PM train back to Hove and it was past 3:30 by this point, so it was time to go back.

But I couldn’t resist capturing one last cutie for posterity.

I headed straight back to the railway station, avoiding the High Street except for the pedestrianised bit.

I passed yet another church.

This was a rather lovely building. I like the rounded corner.

A clearish view of the chalk hills.

Somewhere along the day, I picked up a copy of The Big Issue. It is a very good publication that is sold by homeless people in the UK. They buy the magazines for £1.25 and then resell them for £2.50. So every copy they have is money the invested in their business. Please support a Big Issue seller if you come across one as the program provides gainful employment that contributes to some people getting off the streets .

The train station was a mess. Many trains were cancelled, included my 4:59 home. I was early, so I took the 4:41 into Brighton.

I then just barely made the train to Hove. Exhausted, I looked forward to popping into the Tesco by the station and then only have a short walk home. Well…

No one in my carriage got off at Hove with me and I was unable to get the door to open to let me off! I asked for help and people just laughed and said it was too late as we took off again! Thankfully, the next station wasn’t too far, but I was in a real pickle since UK public transportation in general does not look kindly on folks riding outside of their allotted tickets. I could get on a train back to Hove, but if an inspector requested to see my ticket, I could be in a lot of hot water. They really don’t care about sob stories and I’m pretty sure they make most of their money from fines.

I checked where I was and I was just a block from my road and then two kilometres away. The next train back was in an hour (!) so it made sense to just hoof it. Slightly problem, you have to scan your ticket to get out and I did not have a valid ticket for that station so I couldn’t get out. There was literally no legal way out of this jam since I couldn’t even buy new tickets since the machine was on the wrong side of the gate!

It was getting cold by this point and I was exhausted. Soon as I saw someone come through the wide handicapped gate, I squeezed through by her before they could close. Talk about a ridiculous predicament!

I was so foot sore by this point that I didn’t want to detour to get dinner. I figured I could have a bowl of cereal or maybe a slice of toast. Well, my host invited me to sit in the lounge by a proper fire with a friend of her’s and wine and eventually dinner materialised! Wow! I was inordinately grateful and that really helped make the train stupidity a footnote in my day instead of a spoiler of it.

I’m going to hit post on this as I’m starting to see double. Please pardon the typos. 😉