Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Scotland Highlights – Part II 


After my near miss I settled nicely on my train to Edinburgh Waverley where I then connected to a train for Birnam and Dunkeld in the Perthshire region. I came here to listen to some traditional music at a pub known as The Taybank. They hold trad music sessions every Thursday.  Plus I wanted to see a small Scottish town and this one fit the bill nicely. I lucked out too as during my full day there it was sunny and a bright 21C. Now my face is red – who knew I’d get so much sun in Scotland?! I had booked my stay at Jessie Mac’s Luxury Hostel. The price was good and the location superb. Only 5 minutes from the train station and a pretty 10 minute walk from Dunkeld. I was met by Dot just outside the hostel as I was arriving late. Located in a beautiful old building it was more like a lovely B & B than a hostel. My 4 bed female dorm was clean & cosy. It also had an ensuite which is always a nice touch. Complimentary tea & coffee in-room, clean linens and towel, large lockers, extra blankets, plugs and lights for each bunk – it really had everything. Oh and free WiFi, a large full service self-catering kitchen and a nice lounge area. It was also quite secure. I had pre-purchased a hot breakfast at time of booking (online). I had a choice of full Scottish Breakfast or Vegetarian Breakfast plus all that came with the Continental Breakfast. It was a bit expensive in my opinion but the food was good. The next day I opted for the Continental Breakfast. 

The ensuite

My dorm room

view from dorm room window

My full Scottish Breakfast


Dunkeld and Birnam are both cute little towns. It was perfect for me to start here and adjust to jet lag. I was happy to discover the Beatrix Potter Gardens across the street from my hostel. I learned a bit about her family’s summer visits to the area. There was also statues of Mr Fox, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Benjamin Bunny and of course, Peter Rabbit. 

A short jaunt away, over the bridge is Dunkeld. A cute town that has a number of walking, hiking and cycling trails. There is also a place for off-road rentals. Fly fishing on the River Tay is popular and there are many places to rent equipment. The Aboretum in Dunkeld is perfect for a lovely walk. The area has been referred to as a “Tree Zoo”. Native and transplanted trees can be found here.  I love trees so it was a perfect walk for me after perusing the grounds around the old church. And yes, I did hug a few trees. The town itself has some historical aspects. One in particular has a tie to Canada. The second Prime Minister of Canada, Alexander Mackenzie lived in Dunkeld. I learned that on a small placard stating what many of the buildings in town were. 

That evening, after a two hour nap (ugh, jet lag) I headed to the Taybank Pub. Not a big place but certainly great for music. I grabbed a pint and chatted with an older woman who filled me in on these “trad music” sessions. Most of the musicians this evening were in town for a fiddle workshop. Part of the program is performing at the Taybank. There was a good number of musicians, over a dozen.  They did take up most of this small pub but it was certainly worth hearing them. One of the musicians was a woman I met earlierthat day at my hostel. She had come all the way from Washington, DC in the US for this workshop. 

The next morning, after a bit of difficulty trying to get train info for Inverness I lucked out. A woman I briefly spoke to at the pub was staying in my hostel. Ends up she was driving up to John O’Groats to catch a ferry to Orkney. She offered me a lift and I paid her for the gas. I made a new friend and has a nice drive up through the start of the Scottish Highlands. I love travel!! 

View of Dunkeld from the bridge

Dunkeld Cathedral

Flowers along the River Tay

Arboreteum Walk

Arboretum Walks


All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

Sunday Special – 2 Cellos


Today’s feature is not a place but a musical duo that are beyond talented. I saw them in concert here in Vancouver this past Friday and I have to write about them. I first heard of 2 Cellos when a friend posted one of their videos from YouTube onto Facebook. When I watched the video I was amazed, simply amazed. Upon opening the video link I did not expect to hear their rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana played incredibly on cellos. I watched the video again. Then I looked up some other videos. And frankly I was hooked. A new spin on popular songs. I love it!

Classically trained cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser make up this genius musical duo. They both studied in Croatia and for a time were rivals at music competitions. Now they tour and produce albums to modern songs. They also have drummer who helps out with some of the tunes. When I attended their sold out show at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre they had the crowd enthralled. With the audience cheering, applauding and a grand standing ovation these two good looking musicians brought down the house. Their enthusiasm in their playing is evident – they are rock stars.

Some of the songs they played included:

Unfortunately my video quality is poor so I do not have any videos to share. I only took one photo as I realized quickly that my camera phone was not going to do justice from where I was sitting. Though I do encourage you to click the links above for their YouTube videos. I would be surprised if you are not impressed.

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2 Cellos concert at Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, BC on 15 April 2016. Photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju/Wanders The World