Trial and Tribulations of getting a Canadian Passport

It shouldn’t be hard to get a passport – right? You know who you are – they know who you are – job done. Like getting a driver’s license renewal when you are under 60 – what’s the big deal.

But here I sit in amongst over 50 people – similarly on hold – for someone to say – yup – you can get a passport. Worst part – it’s my 2nd long long sit for this benefit.

It all started 5 years ago – when I applied for Canadian Citizenship. After waiting, being interviewed, and waiting and waiting – I went on with my life – and planned a trip in the Spring of 2015.

Low and Behold – literally 5 years from the date of my original application – the Canadian Government decided to offer me the privedge of citizenship – so Wednesday last – I became Canadian.

Why is that an issue – Well – I have a trip planned. And while I can use my US passport to leave – if I want to return to Canada – my home, my house, my job – I need to prove that I’m acceptable. And during the citizenship process – they took away my Permanent Resident Permit.

No problem – as per the people I asked – just apply for a Canadian Passport. You’re a citizen!

Right – so online to find the form, fill it in, go to the office, be told that you didn’t have your guarentor sign your photos (hey – can’t you tell they are me? They were taken yesterday for goodness sake), leave, get them signed, come back – take a number again. Wait. Wait. Wait. During my first attempt – there were about 30 people waiting, and one person serving. Slow.

Finally – my turn. But you need the passport soon. We don’t do passports quickly here – you have to go to another office.

So – another office, another number, another wait. I’m surrounded by the Canadian Mosaic – Diversity is Us! There are several different numbering systems – A for simple, one person, new passport, B for multiple passports, F for just a question, D for difficult – involving legal documents. The numbers flash up on a screen over our heads – and if we aren’t quick enough when our number is called – the greeter hustles us along.

I think the greeter here must have trained at Walmart – or maybe SouthWest Airlines. He’s jovial and friendly – and frequently gets a burst of laughter out of what has to be the most somber crowd – Ever! A042 – Come on Down! D346 – You are going to miss your flight….

Eventually – job done. Money changes hands – and my passport will be ready the day before I leave.

That’s a comfort. After my travels – I’m going to be welcomed home!

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Is Travel Broadening?

Travel plans – or is it true that Travel is Broadening?

I love travel – I hate flying. Too bad teleportation is still in the future. I had hopes when I was younger that by the time I reached the impossibly OLD age of 65 – someone would have figured out the technology.

But no. You can send information around the world in seconds – but yourself – 35 hours of travel time from Montreal to Bali – going either way around the globe. You have got to be kidding me.

Speaking of Bali – I officially blew it. I could have done a round the world trip – flown Montreal, Paris, Singapore, Bali, Toyko, Vancouver, Montreal – but I lost focus when I saw I could get first class for only $1000 more – and opted to go and come via Paris. Missed opportunities.

So – is Travel Broadening? I think the answer depends on your definition of broad. If you mean fattening – I think that depends on who you travel with. When I travel with the Intrepid Traveler – we live cheap and simple – and we walk everywhere, eat little. So nope – that kind of travel is not that kind of broadening.

When I travel with my husband, it’s a bit trickier. I don’t generally put on weight – but I do have to watch how much I’m eating because the meals tend to be more elaborate, longer, and often fattening just because they last so long! But still – in general – I’d say that for me – travel isn’t that kind of broadening. I have friends who complain that a trip = 5 extra pounds, but I don’t think that’s the way it has to be.

What about the other kind of broadening – learning about new places, new cultures, learning new things. Again – this can depend. I’ve chatted up fellow travelers and discovered that they are accidental tourists – not travelers. They came armed with a certain point of view – and are determined to leave with the same. Been there – done that – don’t need to do it again seems the dominating characteristic. And they don’t give places enough time. I’ve been guilty of skimping on time too – so I know what I’m talking about. It takes time to experience a place, to get past the running around – need to see that museum today – headset and start just being there.

Sometimes people can’t help but limit their exposure to a new place. In South Korea we ran into a delightful Indonesian family that had very severe diet restrictions – so they had to cook all their food at the hostel. And they couldn’t even use the pots and pans provided – they brought their own. Trust me – they missed out on a lot of what South Korea has to offer – the food there was amazing. But I get the need for restrictions – it’s a tough choice.

What can you see in a city like St. Petersburg or Rome in just 2 days? It takes a day just to figure out how to get back to your hotel. 2 days is enough to say been there – but not enough to say – BEEN there. Which is why the Intrepid Traveler and I generally try to a lot a whole week per city.

It’s still not enough – but it’s a gesture in the right direction.

And then there’s preparation. I always want to read up on a place before I arrive – in case there’s something that needs to be organized prior to travel, in order to give myself a chance to get more comfortable with what I’ll see, and to map out the must do vs the can do options.

My preferences for planning are a combination of Tripadvisor (if 1000 people love it – you should at least check it out) and print media. I find on-line sources are too often about selling you something (their services, their bus company, their tour plan), and less about reporting what is and is not great about a particular activity. Guide books are quickly out-dated – we have all carefully followed a suggested route to discover that the thing we most wanted to see changed it hours, closed, is under re-construction – what ever. So checking on-line (watch those last updated dates!) and a guide-book and tripadvisor – and common sense – all of these play a part in organizing the perfect trip.

All of this muttering is leading up to my next blog – clearly another trip!

Keep eyes peeled.

Signing off – The Soup Lady!

The ROM – Big, Overwhelming, Awe-Inspiring, Probably a Must Visit – Certainly a Must Shop

The newly redesigned entrance to this grande dame of the museum world says it all. The ROM is here to stay – and determined to stay impressive. We showed up at opening time – wanting to avoid the crowds that a civil holiday Monday were sure to inspire.

Like most major museums – there are the ‘permanent’ exhibits, and the traveling shows or special exhibits. We opted for a combined ticket that gave us access to everything – $26 each, but we’re talking a full day of walking, reading, listening and thinking. Worth it for adults, maybe not as child friendly as today’s kids might expect.

The ‘Special’ Exhibit during our visit was a very interesting one on Mesopotamia. Replete with some pretty new technology – like carved stone reliefs that came to life to show you the story they were telling in a more ‘modern’ fashion, seeing just this one exhibit took us most of the morning. That said – people shot past us frequently – either unable or unwilling to read and listen. But I found the content fascinating, the short ‘expert interviews’ appealing, and some of the technology on display impressive. My favorite, the recreation of the city of Babylon, complete with people walking the streets.

The permanent exhibits represent a quick look at just about every thing that caught the eye or interest of curators in the past. The guide gives you a handy hot list of the 13 or so ‘not to be missed’ exhibits – easily identified by the presence of a video monitor on a post nearby. Watching these quick intros into the why and wherefores of these major collectables was interesting to say the least. And believe it or not – took up all the rest of the day. It’s a huge place. Trust me on that!

For those who eat in Museums – I must say that I had some of the best food I’ve ever had in a museum in the unassuming ROM cafe. Delicious, reasonable, kid friendly, attractively presented. What’s not to like.

Is this my favorite museum in Toronto? No
Is this a must visit museum? If in Toronto, probably Yes
Would I see this one first? No
Would I see this one on my second day, or if the weather were terrible? Absolutely Yes

There you have it. The ROM
Visited August 2013

Mezcla – Tiny, Delicious, Fun – A South American Winner

We’d had the Mezcla recommended a couple of times – both for the price point (not too expensive), and the quality of the Tasting Menu. At $49 for 6 courses – it’s a bargain of outstanding proportions!

The Mezcla is located on a side street in Montreal’s ‘Latin Quarter’. At the heart of the district is St. Catherine Street – which becomes a Pedestrian Only throughfare packed from dusk till late with couples of all descriptions. It’s one of my favorite parts of the city – and the thought of a great restaurant within easy walking distance was enough to make me call for reservations – pronto!

We went on a relatively ‘quiet’ Wednesday night – expecting diners to be few and far between – but the place was at least 3/4 filled. I can easily imagine waiting lines on the weekends. The place is tiny – I’d guess a max of 20 tables, and there’s a ton of staff. I saw at least 5 different wait-persons for sure. So I wasn’t surprised that the service was at a high standard. Dishes were presented by multiple servers, ensuring that everyone got to enjoy their dinner at the same moment. The only serving failure was at the very end. For no discernible reason, there was a considerable delay between our dessert course and the presentation of the bill. Rare that – generally they want to turn the tables! I guess we’d passed the turning point – and I will admit, we were definitely not rushing our charming, and very knowledgable server.

But at the Mezcla – the food – and the presentation of same – was clearly the highlight. I was amazed. Course after course was seriously delicious – and surprising. The Mezcla claims a South American vibe – so flavors were definitely different. Lots of citrus for sure.

My favorites of the 6 courses – and I have to say that I’m picking dishes that were absolutely outstanding – not just seriously good – were the Ceviche and the Scallops. They were stunning – not just in flavor, but in presentation as well. The Ceviche was a bowl full of deliciously marinated fish chunks, large enough to be easily identified as salmon, tilapia, and octopus. At the table, the server poured the positively yummy sauce over the fish – explaining that we were to eat the fish with our fork, and when it was gone – she’d bring us spoons to enjoy the sauce. But I couldn’t hold out that long. So I used my spoon to eat both at the same time – reveling in the multiple textures and flavors. Yum just doesn’t describe it.


But the stand out for me was the scallops. Such a pedestrian protein – here presented in a fried ‘nest’ made out of strips of puff pastry and topped with a foam. Pictures simply can’t do it justice – it was sweet, and crunchy, and delicious! I ate my entire portion – and then ate 1/2 of another serving. Yes, it was that good.


For dessert, they served a light, yet satisfying tropical home-made ice-cream with a dulce de leche sauce. Not too sweet either. A wonderful way to end an outstanding meal.

Complaint – like most ‘modern’ bistro restaurants, there’s little space between the tables, and the hard surfaces guarantee a noisy environment. Not too bad when we first sat down, but increasingly annoying as the meal continued. At the end, I could barely hear anything the people at our table were saying, nor understand the explanations given by our server.

Despite this – the Mezcla is a winner, clearly a winner.

Mezcla on Urbanspoon

Mezcla on Foodio54

Bob’s on the Bay – Eat at your own risk!

Oh dear – I blew it. Had I read the reviews – I would have known that Bob’s on the Bay in Brockville was a bad choice – but I got busy, forgot to check – and ended up there with no other options but to make the best of a bad idea.

Does admitting it make it better? Probably not. But at least I can join the masses in not recommending Bobs.

Or maybe I should just quip – Bob’s should swim in the Bay!

We opted for Bob’s for the reasons most other people would – the ‘On the Bay’ part of the name. It sounded lovely. And we drove up – I thought it was going to be perfect – lots of people enjoying a moment of sunshine on the High terrace. But the problem is – they are not on the Bay. There’s a huge – multi-store apartment building between them and the Bay – and to the west – another one. So yes you can see the water to the East – but on the Bay it’s not.

But it’s supposed to be about the food right. So how was the food?

If I’m not terribly hungry – I’ll order an appetizer for dinner – and at Bob’s – that was clearly the smart choice. I definitely enjoyed my Quesadilla, it was well made and yummy. But my husband thought his French Dip was downright terrible, and my grand-daughter ate her garlic mashed potatoes – and none of her salmon. Moral – if you are in a bar – order bar food, for which Quesadilla works, and salmon is a loser.

Oh well – at least the view to the east was nice and the service was fine.

My quick summary – when visiting Brockville – pick a different place!

Bud's on the Bay on Urbanspoon