Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Bit of Everything...

Joyeuses fetes, and all that. I'm almost on my way home to TO from Montreal, where we spent our holidays with my parents.

For the first time, we rented a house here - on the Plateau. After countless visits to Mtl over many years, I've never actually stepped into any of the homes I've discretely ogled from the street. The place is fantastic and I only hope we can stay here again.

The fascinating fact about this home is that the people who rented it to us (whom we do not know - although I feel I understand them quite well at this point!) actually live here on a regular basis. They've simply gone on vacation too. I never thought I'd say this, but I LOVE living in someone else's house. I love to discover how they organize the kitchen in ways I'd never have considered. I love how they use their own kinds of face soap and shampoo, kinds that I've never tried - drug store brands. I love how they leave dried chili peppers in a little bowl on the wooden counter top. (Um, I love that they are crazy enough to install butcher block counters.)

I love that they trust people to come into their space and to be respectful, that their hearts are open enough to take a chance on others being in their space.

In a zillion years, I would never reciprocate in this fashion. I am 8000 times too controlling. But my mind is expanded by traveling like this and I am done with hotels, whenever possible.

Now, we've had a great time here but, let me say, if this was the first time I'd ever come to Montreal, I suspect it might have been the last. Apparently my perfect-weather-in-this-city luck ran out and Lord, what a disaster. It rained for 3 days straight, the kind of rain that trashes your 600 dollar, water-proof boots. The kind that will not remit. The kind that soaks through your umbrellas. The kind that turns a toasty winter-wonderland into a grey, dull, flat, dirty mess. Honestly, it made Toronto look good.

I'll let that statement soak in. I'm actually suggesting that Toronto - one of the Unesco sites of Utter Winter Hideousness - is actually more attractive than Montreal under similar circumstances. My mother, who will truly go anywhere, has indicated that she'll not be returning. I suspect it was the beige, tattered futon sitting on someone's unleveled balcony, dripping, that threw her over the edge, but we'll never know for sure.

Furthermore, we stayed east - in the French part of town. My parents are decidedly west-central sorts. "Real" isn't so much their scene. They prefer the muted lines of affluence.

What can you do? I'm imagining this adorable house with its wall of windows facing an utter gem of a backyard, ensconced by tatty walk-up rentals, on a warm summer night. Oh, I'm looking forward to that. Almost as much as I'm looking forward to getting the hell out of this pollution-coloured landscape.

Really, there's no pollution like the kind you understand.

Today's questions: Do you rent homes/apartments when you travel? If no, why not?? (People, you can dine at home in the evenings when you can't stand the elements...) Have you ever made a festive meal in a totally foreign kitchen? Do you love the idea of experiencing someone else's reality as a way of expanding your own? Let's talk!

Next up, I'll tell you about my fantastic winter gifts - my husband really pulled out the stops this year...

14 comments:

  1. We stay in apartment sometimes when we travel. The last time was in Argentina, but it was obviously a rental property for the guy- inexpensive linens, dishes, furniture, etc. More often we stay in hotels. Speaking of we'll be in Toronto next week- any suggestions on fabric stores? We'll be staying downtown.

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    1. Hey Nicole: King Textiles is a great place to check out - so is the Leather and Sewing Supply depot. They're close to each other on Spadina. There are lots of others that start at Spadina and Queen and go over to about Bathurst. Do check out Mokuba at Portland and Queen. Very gorgeous ribbons and accoutrements - but super cher.

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  2. So, the past few times we'd travelled we've gone the Air B&B route and. Have to say this is my preferred way now. I love staying in a neighbourhood, getting the personalized suggestions on where to eat and what to do from the owners and living like a "local" if only for a few days. Also, anytime you want to go to Montreal, I'll go with you. For real. Oh, and expect delays on VIA today - my train Belleville to TO was 50 minutes late!!!

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    1. I didn't realize you'd done Air BNB too A, I must be on my own planet... Next time we go to Mtl together and we stay at this place. We'll bring Gail and Sara too... We weren't as delayed as you, thankfully. What's up with that Belleville train??

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  3. Whenever possible we stay in apartments, like we have several times Paris and in NYC before we moved back. My husband for a company for many years and HATES hotels, so b&b's, apt.s for us. You can have a light breakfast, and if you don't feel up to a large restaurant meal, get something from the local markets, sip wine, relax. Never had a bad experience!

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    1. It's so true Gloria! I love having a light breakfast where I'm staying. No fuss. No going to a resto (or paying a bomb for room service). And I tend to enjoy eating dinner in also. Lunch - well that's when I splurge in all the ways.

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  4. I just don't know . . . do you have to clean the house before you leave, or do they do it when they get back? I definitely wouldn't want strangers in my space, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about staying in someone else's space. But I know I wouldn't be into the Air B&B thing, for the same reason I don't like normal bed & breakfast places - I really don't want to have to be social with people I don't know, because that's a lot of work for me. Don't want to work while I'm on vacation!

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    1. But you don't have to clean (there is an extra modest cleaning fee so they do it when you leave) and you get the place to yourself! It's just like a hotel, only bigger and while there is no room service, you can Always eat out.

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    2. No! As A said, there's an extra fee. It's generally about 60 bucks CDN. Air BNB is not only BNB scenarios - the name is misleading. All of my rentals have been through Air BNB and I just get a whole house or apartment where there are no on-site hosts.

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  5. I have become a huge Airbnb fan over the last few years. We've stayed in apartments in New York, San Francisco, Carmel, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, and each has been charming and interesting in its own way. One of the things I like best about it is that it often takes me into a part of a city I might not have considered before. Somewhere not right downtown, that's a neighbourhood with its own little shops and caf├ęs, none of which would make it into a guide book and are all the better for it.

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    1. So true! The little gems that you find because you know a place like a local. You just have to choose carefully - as you well know. I'd rather spend a bit more and be in a great place. In a terrific 'hood.

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  6. Planning to do more of this in retirement, possibly house exchanges as well (did one many years ago with a family in France). Haven't tried AirBNB but have rented apartments, which is great. I do also like hotels, especially small family-run, and if money were no object, I'd be Happy to check out some glorious luxury suites...glad your Montreal home worked out well, too bad about the weather, though!

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    1. Oh, so you can get with the house exchange! How chill you must be, Frances. The weather in Mtl was a bit of a gift, in retrospect. TO looked so good when we returned. Even as it was its regular grey, depressing self. Mtl looked truly rough in a way I've never discerned before.

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  7. I haven't rented an apartment, but we've certainly done a lot of B&B's. We're actually going to one at the end of the month in the Plateau area of Montreal for a wedding. It's always been a positive experience and so varied in levels of service and experiences.

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