Not to backtrack – But Montreal is home to some amazingly fun Festivals!

Ok – I know – I am part way thru a trip in Business Class to Bali – and I’m writing this while sitting in the Air France Executive Lounge enjoying free drinks, free food, and comfy chairs in Paris. So a blog on the Festival of Lights in Montreal is going to appear out of the Blue.

But bare with me on this.

Montreal – in February – is cold and dreary. And the PTB (Powers that be) in the city decided that having a festival in February – which didn’t conflict with Mardi Gras (March), New Years (January), Jazz (June), Laughter (July), Graffait (who knows), etc. was a great idea. And thus the Festival of Lights was born.

At the end of the Festival – which runs for 10 days of entertainment and restaurant craziness – is Nuit Blanche. Also not a new idea – or even an idea unique to Montreal – but with typical half French/half English style, organization and verbe – springs to life in our Beautiful City. The basic idea – keep the lights on all night – with free entertainment in basically every venue in the city that can host a crowd – churches, museums, bars, you name it – there’s something happening! Frozen Pianos, Casual Art, Singers, Jugglers, Musicians, Art happenings, Art tours – the city bumps and grinds and parties till Dawn.

For The Intrepid Traveller and I – it’s an occassion to stay up just a bit later than normal – and its a time to take in (for free) a show that we would never ever even consider attending. Our selection criteria is simple – has to be inside (we get cold), has to have seats (we can’t stand for even 5 minutes, let alone hours), and it has to be multi-lingual – my french is horrid.

Several Nuit Blanche ago – we discovered the caberet at the National Theatre School. They take a long thin space, fill it with chairs – put performers in front and in the middle of the space – and just go at it. The first year they must have had more funding – because there were at least 20 performers. Each year the number of performers has decreased – but that’s been more than made up for by the quality of the acts.

This year was the best ever for quality – a group of 4 young men who cloned the harmonies of the Beatles – in French. They looked, acted, and played the parts – even if the songs weren’t familiar – the joy and abandonment felt absolutely right. We loved it.

What we actually loved even more was a performance of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucassion Chalk Circle. This was put on in the big theatre of the Theatre School – by the junior professional and extremely talented students there. As is typical with the Theatre School – no expense was spared on costume, set design, and quality of performance. These kids are not interested in impressing me – it’s the Montreal andToronto Theatre folks who come to see and hire that they want to amaze. We’re hangers on that profit from the opportunity to see the future in performance today.

So – enough on the Festival of Lights. It’s over for another year – but listen up if you aren’t from Montreal – this is a reason to come to our fair city. And if you do live in Montreal ask yourself – are you missing something amazing?

Signing off to go back to blogging about travel – The Soup Lady

7 Unique and Lip Licking ways to Enjoy Maple Syrup

Hey – I’m from Montreal – and Quebec accounts for over 75% of the world’s production of Maple Syrup. That’s an awful lot of Maple, people! You have to assume that over the years we’ve come up with some pretty creative ways to use the stuff!

1. Maple Fondue: Talk about gilding a lily. Like Chocolate fondue wasn’t good enough. Nope – take your fondue up a notch by adding a splash (or two or three) of Maple Syrup. Yummy

2. Spicy Maple Almonds: I adore almonds, and the thought of combining them with the heady taste of Maple is just delicious. And it’s easy. Preheat oven to 350. In a skillet melt 1/4 cup of butter, remove from heat, add 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 of cayenne (for a bit of a kick – optional of course) and 3 tbs of Maple Syrup. Mix well. Add 2 cups of whole almonds and stir gently until the nuts are covered. Now just spread the nuts on parchment paper, put on a baking pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Season with salt as desired. Yum.

3. Maple Milk or Dark Chocolate: Melt good quality Chocolate in a double boiler and spread it on parchment paper. Sprinkle with maple flakes. Cool and Crack into pieces.

4. Maple Vinaigrette: Quebec’s quintessential salad dressing! Make your standard vinaigrette recipe, but just a bit of Maple Syrup to add that sweet delicious kick.

5. Maple enhanced Jams: Buy any commercial jam – preferably a savory one like Onion – and just blend in a bit of Maple Syrup. Use on a cheese plate to take something ordinary on an elevator trip to the sky!

6. Maple Beer: No seriously – can you believe they take beer to the edge of disaster by adding Maple Syrup. It’s too sweet for me – but if you want to go crazy…

7. Or better – just pour it into your baked beans, add it to a cream soup (I adore maple syrup in Pea Soup), or make an omelet and pour it on top. Or do a tire! Get some clean snow, heat up your syrup to near boiling and pour a thin strip onto the snow. The syrup will start to freeze, and you can create your own home-made Maple Lollipop. Now that’s sweet.

The season is so short, the maple syrup so delicious – why not just Sweeten your life – it’s Spring!