To attend JazzFest in Montreal, we traveled our usual route - we exchanged, or "swapped" our home in Hoboken, NJ.
After many emails concerning proximity and accessibility to New York City (from Hoboken), questions about the one-mile square city of Hoboken and whether our mutual needs would be met, we (our swap partner, Joan) agreed on a one week exchange in early July. Virtually all of the correspondence between Helen and Joan was done by email and the message boards on the Digsville.com website, with neither feeling the need to pick up the phone. Many logistics were hashed out through email communication: how the keys would be transferred; dates and times of arrival and departure; phone and Internet usage; and, parking rules in each location. Additionally we learned about the best roller blading areas in our new neighborhood, and where a few out of the way second-hand shops were located for old jazz and blues recordings. We in turn, informed Joan about our home town, the wealth of eating spots, the stunning view of Manhattan from the Hoboken waterfront parks, and also about some hot events in New York City occurring during her stay, such as the OpSail and the awesome July 4 fireworks display on the river.
Montreal or Bust
With the car trunk and back seat over-packed as usual, we called our dog Sam to join us as we left the house. He had a gleam in his eye in anticipation of a road trip. In fact, Sam would be having his own mini-vacation staying with personal friends of ours - also Digsville members - in their terrific lake community home in Putnam Valley, New York.
We easily found Joan's apartment thanks to Mapquest, and parked the car in free non-sector parking right in front of her duplex. Having the keys to the apartment on Rue Mentana previously mailed to us, we eagerly entered her apartment to check out our digs for the next week. Comfort was ours in every room of her home. We momentarily felt a little nervous about our own child and pet-friendly home not being up to par with Joan's swank place. Our fears were immediately allayed when we heard from her via email that they too had happily settled in at our place in Hoboken, and were eager to visit the Big Apple.
With our energy ebbing after the long drive, we walked to the local market and
picked up some cheese, olives and a baguette and retired to our terrace for a
meal alfresco. Lily huddled on the couch with her blanket and some Cheerios
that we brought from home, and enjoyed the Cartoon Network in French on the TV.
We relaxed sipping some wine that Joan had left for us, listening to the distant
rumble of fireworks before nodding off.
Beginning the next day we discovered the appeal of our immediate neighborhood. Block after block of duplexes and triplexes with terraces and brightly painted doors became the subject of numerous photographs. Small patches of garden, many adorned with varied arrangements of flowers of every hue celebrated Montreal's summer season. The pedestrian-friendly streets and parks were a steady stream of enjoyment for us and Lily. Casual strolls through the alley ways paralleling the streets brought new and interesting finds. One afternoon's discovery was a one-of-a-kind button shop, a long-held passion of Helen's.
Our Local Guides
Joan provided us with a comprehensive list of her favorite places to eat and
shop. Her recommendations were very much in step with our taste, and we found
Montreal to be a haven for outstanding restaurants. Each day we treated
ourselves to lunch out, and bought the ingredients for our other meals at local
patisseries and produce shops recommended by Joan and our neighbors. At Joan's suggestion, we took a trip to the Jean-Talon Market in the Little Italy section of town. We decided to take the Metro four short stops from our place on Mentana. At the market we purchased farm fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, bread, cheese and pates, all to die for! Leaving the market we passed residences typical of the early 20th century - elaborate wrought iron winding staircases and front yard vegetable gardens, often shaded by grape vines.
Back home, we headed straight to our favorite spot on our terrace at home which overlooked a grid of back yards, reminiscent of Hitchcock's film, "Rear Window". Here we sat back enjoying the sounds of typical family life as neighbors arrived home after an average workday. The fact that we couldn't understand a word they were saying allowed us to interpret it all as fun and lively banter. Hopefully nothing Hitchcockian was going on!
During our stay we met several helpful neighbors and a local policeman who, when he learned we were in town for a week at a friend's house, recommended that we sample the smoked meats at Schwartz's on St. Laurant, and the cuisine at the Hong Kong Restaurant in Chinatown. We tried both establishments and were reasonably wowed.
A daily ritual of Joe and Lily's was to pick up fresh croissants at a patisserie around the corner. Next they were off to visit one of several playgrounds within ten minutes of our home. Lily loved all the new playground equipment and communicated just fine with the other kids through laughter and pantomime. One particular day, the parents of a child of similar age to Lily informed Joe of a performance that evening in LaFontaine Parc. The performance entitled, "Cirq' Art" was fun for the whole family- live music, dance and acrobatics, all within ten minutes of where we were living.
It has been said, "the Jazz Festival is the highlight of Montreal's summer, the
expression of the city's vitality, its admiration of art and music... in short,
its beauty". This year marked the 21st JazzFest to be held in Montreal, and
from all signs, the event will be a keeper well into the future.
We managed to get to the JazzFest at the Place-des-Arts and listened to Blues, Dixieland, Louisiana Gumbo, and danced in the streets. Who says Mardi Gras only happens in New Orleans? Lily also had her own fun activities at the festival, and got a little jazz education at the La petite école du Jazz program which introduced children to the various genre of jazz.
Off to plan our next exchange!