Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Best Cure for "Itchy Feet Syndrome"

It had been almost 3 whole months since my last travel episode, and I was ready to go on another mission of exploration and see new sights and experience new places and people. My gypsy genes were ready for another adventure and just in time, the Montreal trip materialized!

My friend The Lady Killer and his gf Ms. Perfect in Pink have been making an annual pilgrimage to Montreal's tiny brew pubs for some years now. Back in January he discovered that Via Rail Canada was advertising for fares to Montreal for as low as $59 each way and after a few mass emails out to the gang, voila, 3 days later we had a posse signed up for a trip over the Easter long weekend.

Deciding to make the very most of my foray into new territory (i:e Quebec), I pitched the idea of meeting some Montreal based clients at the same time. Boss Lady jumped at it and thanks to the hard work and efforts of my eager beaver intern, I had a bunch of meetings set up for the Thursday before. Equally nice was the fact that my organization agreed to pay for my travel costs there and back as well – hurrah!

My meetings were set to begin bright and early on the Thursday, so I caught the evening train in to Montreal on the Wednesday night. 4 hrs and 10 minutes later I was wandering around Montreal’s central station looking for long lost family friend who I was to stay with for the first two nights until my friends got into town. Had not met him in over 10 years so had given him a brief description of self that ended with “look for the brown girl in the bright red winter coat!”

The Boy was nice enough to drive me to my first meeting the next morning as it was an utterly miserable day with spitting rain and a good measure of wet snow as well. As luck would have it I stepped out of the car and into a puddle which of course meant that part of my pant leg and my entire shoe was totally and utterly soaked! Urgh! Thankfully I was carrying my “meeting boots” and was able to mop up most of the mess off my pants in time to meet clients. After the meeting, made my way directly to nearest shoe store and bought a pair of nice, comfy and happy rain boots. (Did I mention that the weather was crap?) Feeling much better after my purchase – party because my feet were nice and dry and partly because I had actually found the store using my rudimentary French and partly because the boots were really quite cute (and cheap) – I proceeded to the rest of the meetings feeling lovely about life.

Caught up with the Boy over dinner that night and traded stories about eccentric uncles, nagging mothers, interesting jobs (he is a Human Rights lawyer) and travel adventures over a rather LARGE jug of Sangria. After dinner (with more Sangria) staggered around looking for the car. Decided that he was too buzzed to drive anyway, so went off for dessert and actually ended up taking the subway home.

The next day dawned bright and sunny, but with butt freezing temperatures, which is of course what you get when you go to Montreal in March. After retrieving the car (and the accompanying parking ticket) Boy drove me to the famous St. Joseph’s Oratory where I spent ages checking out the amazing collection of nativity scenes from over 135 countries.

Then over for a winter walk in the Mount Real Cemetery. Winter walk soon turned into full blown snow fight (more like hard packed ice fight) which resulted in more than one disapproving look from other walkers/visitors. It was a terribly odd feeling scrambling up onto a 6 ft high bank of snow that was packed solid so that you could walk across the top! Most annoying was the fact that boy was able to run lightly across the top while I kept sinking in every few steps. (Gah to people who can run like Sanghai deer across snow banks)

Made my way over to the hotel that afternoon to meet up with the friends. True to form they were sitting in the restaurant drinking beer, waiting for check in time!

And that is pretty much how the rest of the weekend played out as well! Over the next 3 days (and nights), we went a wandering in downtown MontrĂ©al, checked out the famous Simon’s department store, drank out of a 4ft beer “pole”, visited several watering holes and sampled a lot of the local fare.

Rambled through the quaint lanes and by lanes of Old Montréal, got lost quite a bit, but always managed to find ourselves again!

We even managed to stumble upon a shoe store that was having a liquidation sale and I found the nicest (and cheapest) pair of brown winter boots! (For those of you at home keeping count – yes, that was the 2nd pair of boots I bought in the span of 3 days)

Other than the boots, the other important purchase that I made was Mackenzie Moose II. The first Mackenzie Moose was purchased before my mega trip in Dec 2006 and he was my constant companion in Scotland and England. Somewhere between London’s Heathrow airport and my grandparents’ house in Bombay he got lost and I dearly missed my furry friend on my travels. On my return to the T Dot, I looked high and low for a replacement Mac, but no such luck. Imagine my delight on finding him again! Look for Mac in my travel pics henceforth.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Book Review - King of Bollywood – SRK and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema

More popular than Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt rolled into one, Shah Rukh Khan has dominated the Bollywood movies for over 15 years. A veritable ruler of the box office, “King Khan” story is the stuff that dreams are made of. Hailing from a small middle class family who’s roots are in modern day Pakistan, Shah Rukh Khan did what so many others only dreamed of – broke into an industry that has traditionally been controlled by only a handful of film making families and held his own against all odds. A Muslim hero in a dominantly Hindu industry (and country) The Khan’s story is one that blends family heartbreaks, guts and grit and sometimes sheer luck as we meander through one man’s journey to the dizzying heights of fame and success. The author, Anupama Chopra (who also hails from a “filmy” family) has a nice breezy style of writing and through this book we learn not only about Khan’s story but also that of Indian cinema – in all its gore and glory.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dance Dance - 2008!

To celebrate the end of the 2008 Winter term, the students of Toronto Dance congregated at The Westway Club last Friday night for an end of term dance session. In spite of the location being rather far out and generally quite inaccessible, there were still over 120 members of Toronto Dance present and ready to shake a leg - a record number for the dance school! The last time I went to one of these dance nights, I was fresh out of my Level 1 Ballroom class and was quite bedazzled by the quick-stepping, fancy-foot working, salsa-savvy couples on the floor. This time, I could join in the quick step (with the basic steps true, but still!) and with some fancy footwork of my own I Foxtrotted, Jived, Quickstepped, Waltzed, Cha Cha Chaed, Rumbaed, Salsaed and Tangoed my way through 4 straight hours of dancing!

The next morning my feet were crying foul - but I'd had an incredible night... so I shushed them up with a warm soak and some pedi TLC.
Classes for Level 3 Ballroom begin next week, and I can hardly wait.

For anyone who will be in the Toronto area in May, and would like to indulge in a weekend of West Coast Swing dances, activities, workshops and more check out Julie Epplett's website. The costs for each of the workshops is as low as $15 and you can even get a "day pass" for 2 or more workshops/dances.
To the folks out there who have always wanted to dance and wondered what style they could possible start with - WCS is a great option for you! Its not as fast moving as Latin dances like the Cha Cha or the Salsa and I find it relatively much easier to learn. It's not a bopitty-bop dance and so its much easier on the back, hips and knees for all those damaged bods out there! I like to call it the "Jazz of Dancing" or the "Martini of Dance Drinks" - looks good when done right, and goes down smooth with the ladies!*
FYI, Julie's next beginner session starts April 1.

Starting tonight is ABC's 6th season of Dancing with the Stars. Yes, dance purists hate this show, but a purest I am not. There is room in my heart (and my TV time) for all kinds of corny shows! Half the fun of watching this show is actually watching my dad's reaction to the dancing. He rivals judge Bruno Tonioli when it comes to shouting out bizarre compliments and is far more sarcastic than head judge Len Goodman when it comes scathing criticisms. So far, he hasn't emulated third judge Carrie Ann Inaba in any way - which is good!

And finally, to end my "dance dance" blog post, I'd like to say a big "Thank you" to my 'Frisco pals Diabolical Villain and Mrs.D for inviting me to come stay at their place on my vacation. If they hadn't done that, I would not have been wandering around their neighbourhood one night.
If I had not been wandering around their neighbourhood, I would not have discovered the tiny wee little shop that sold dance apparel. If not for that, I would not have found (and bought) my first pair of dance shoes. If I hadn't bought the shoes, I would not have been able to dance 4 straight hours and yet not have a single blister!!!!

See, it pays to go to new places and visit friends!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sights and Sounds of the City

As the subway trundled over a bridge this morning, I looked out onto the football field below. Someone had taken the trouble to spell out F*CK YOU! across the field. Now, if you're going to take the time, energy and effort; and you are an obviously innovative person, wouldn't you at least TRY to come up with something a little more creative?

I went to the ladies washroom mid afternoon. As I pushed open the stall door, I saw that the toilet seat was up. Either we have someone on the floor who is a chronic "hoverer" or someone who is on Estrogen shots. More investigation needed.

On the way home last night, I was sitting besides 2 teenage girls. As I tired to drown out their incessant chatter (which consisted of the words "like", "um" and "you know" used every other word) I happened to overhear an interesting piece of information:
Girl 1: "I found a Bon Jovi concert ticket at Union Station. I wanted to put it on EBay, but it's for tonight. Damn."
Girl 2: "Why don't you call around to sell it? Someone would want to go."
Girl 1: "I guess I will. Too bad, I could have made a lot on EBay. I heard the concert is sold out. Or I should have walked over to the ACC and sold it to a scalper."
.....and so on.

They talked about the ticket and their options for about 15 mins. Not once did either of them say "I could have returned it to the box office - the person who lost it must be worried."

What ever has happened to common decency?

We turned our clocks back for Daylight Savings this past weekend. It was simply LOVE-ER-LY leaving the office at 6pm yesterday and still waking out into sunshine!!!

On the subway in to work this morning, a little Asian lady was trying in vain to maintain her balance as the train swerved and swayed on its way downtown. She was too short to reach the overhead bar, and too far away from the vertical poles. After she had almost fallen over for the second time, a young man standing besides her put out his arm and told her to grab on.

She was quite steady the rest of the way.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Promise of Spring

Here's what the past weekend looked like through the eyes of my camera lens. The snow began on Friday afternoon and didn't stop until Saturday evening.

The city has recorded more than 176 cms of snow in total this winter. This is just shy of the 207 cms record set in the winter of 1938-39. Judging by this week's forecast along, we're probably going to break that record this year!

I came back into the house after almost 2 hours of shoveling and cleaning the driveway and sidewalk, sank into my bed and switched on the TV.

And there it was. The very first "Spring Themed" commercial advertising patio furniture or something along those lines.

Ah, the promise of Spring - sweet sounds to my cold and frozen ears!

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