Montreal Says–It’s Winter, Have Fun, Here’s How!

At La Binerie Mount Royal, you can find all of the specialties that Montrealers love.

At La Binerie Mount Royal, you can find all of the specialties that Montrealers love.

I’ve spent the day here in Montreal taking in the local sites and enjoying the fresh winter weather outdoors.  No doubt, this is a city and a province that celebrates the winter–embraces it with zeal and encourages its citizens to do the same.  This week, for example, is the city’s Igloofest, where fans of electronic dance music celebrate outside with their special brand of trance music played al fresco on a pier on the St. Lawrence river, with small igloos to warm themselves up.

A fun activity in the city is to explore Mount Royal Park on snowshoes.

A fun activity in the city is to explore Mount Royal Park on snowshoes.

In a small park in Old Montreal, we came across four black metal fire-pits, part of the ‘Cozy Zones’ set up where people can warm up by the fires. Next to the pits is a sign that provides advice-the top 10 things to do in winter, like run a holiday movie marathon, lick a cold post, dress to impress in your finest onesie at Igloofest, and most of all, keep calm and carry on this winter.  The point is, it’s cold here, we all get that, and the best advice is to layer and go out and have fun.

We enjoyed a snowshoe trek in the Mount Royal park, with an enthusiastic guide named Amanda Coffey, who told us she takes people out on Friday and Saturday nights in the dark along these trails, and they do the tours one night in English and the other in French. “You can see because of all the light that comes up from the city, your eyes adjust.”

The trail was paved with fresh snow, and after we got the hang of keeping the snowshoes on, it was a relaxing and fun activity–enhanced by the hot chocolate we enjoyed while viewing the city from the beautiful Belvedere look-out, that provides commanding views of the St Lawrence and the city and the distant mountains.

While we were walking the streets of the Mile End neighborhood, we stopped by what has been called an institution here in Montreal. That would be La Binerie Mount Royal, a little joint where Montreal specialties are served, like Pate Chinois, Ragout de Pattes et boulettes, and poutin. Binerie has to do with the baked beans that are served in little dishes. These hearty Quebecois dishes are mostly simply meat and carbs, but are to any Montrealer, they are as dear to their hearts as the Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal and Mt Tremblanc Mark the First Trip of the Year

It’s time to hit the road again. This time, a long, windy and snowy road that heads up north out of South Deerfield and goes 272 miles to the north and then northwest to the city of Montreal.  I’m heading straight for the Queen Elizabeth hotel, and I’ll trust my hosts to show me a great time in the city that always feels like Europe.  Anyone who’s been up to Montreal in recent years will say that.

I like to keep my itinerary a bit of a surprise, opening it up every day like a box of candies. So I’m not really sure what is on the agenda, but I’m sure we’ll see some museums, some city sights, and meet interesting locals along the way. On Friday I’ll head up to the big mountain of Quebec, Mont Tremblanc, where I”ll ski and do other snowy kinds of things.

Follow along, I promise to fill you in tonight about what I saw, heard and tasted!

It’s Time for the New York Times Travel Show in the Big Apple

There's always a big line of travelers waiting to walk the aisles and see the attractions at the travel show.

There’s always a big line of travelers waiting to walk the aisles and see the attractions at the travel show.

This time of year is always exciting…because tomorrow I’ll join Paul Shoul and we’ll spend the next three days at the NY Times Travel Show in the big city!

We will be staying at a new place that I’m looking forward to sharing. It’s called Furnished Quarters, and they offer fully furnished apartments and lofts. We will be staying at 70 Pine St. in the financial district, which is great because for some reason every party that takes place always seems to be in the Village, right nearby.

We have a long history with this travel show. Many years ago, we used to bring a booth and we would meet writers, readers and tourism people there. It was fun but a lot of work putting up the booth, lugging all of the brochures and give-aways, and mostly, just doing so much talking, all day long. Now instead of manning a both, we take our time and visit the people we want to connect with. After doing the trade-show booth for five years, we realized why so few other websites man booths. It’s too much for too little.

But one thing we really love is a chance to do a presentation. This year Paul and I are back up on stage with “Travel Writing for Beginners,” where we will provide the most beginner writers some ideas about the best ways to write, get published, and prosper as a travel writer. Paul and I have put a lot of thought into our presentations, and the butterflies we both have in our chests will do nothing but make our session better! It’s taking place at 1 pm on Sunday January 10, downstairs in the seminar rooms of the vast Jacob Javits Convention Center. I hope to see you there!

Bernie Sanders Brings Promises and Hope to UMass

Mike Rooney, the lone heckler at the Bernie Sanders speech at UMass on Saturday.

Mike Rooney, the lone heckler at the Bernie Sanders speech at UMass on Saturday.

Bernie Sanders, refreshingly familiar in his dark suit, windswept hair, and Brooklyn monotone, came to Amherst today.  We knew it was going to be a tight squeeze in the UMass Fine Arts Center, but we wanted to be a part of it, so Toni and I popped out on North Pleasant St. to survey the scene of people waiting to get in. It stretched way past the North Pleasant St. bus stop and all the way down the concrete of the FAC!

We were happy to stand right in front of the TV screen with several hundred supporters. Not the ‘thousands more outside,’ referenced by the candidate, but an enthusiastic bunch and not bad considering the students are on vacation. It’s interesting to think of what the turnout would be if The Donald himself had a rally in Amherst. I actually think he’d draw quite a number, so many people want to grab the heckler spotlight!

Candidate Sanders is appealing–a 30 plus year record of voting most of the time the way I would, a shared disgust for our egregious defense spending and for the billionaires who run Washington, and a personal vendetta against income disparity.  But I was beginning to feel like he was Johnny One Note today, at least while he was outside.

This is my rub with Bernie. I don’t care half as much as he does about the Waltons, the other billionaires and whether it’s unfair that they make so much. I want a candidate who cares about terrorists, and even more, the environment. Well here I think we are on good grounds.  I do think that compared with Trump or any GOP candidate, the environment will be in much better shape with a Democrat in the White House.

But Bernie hammered home his main point, that the billionaires are controlling too much, but threw in a few additional points that I agreed with.

He said that pot has had a deleterious effect in the poor parts of the cities, where many African American men have gotten criminal records due to being busted for weed.  So he advocated changing the status from Class 1, the same as heroine, down to a lesser and misdemeanor status.  I can definitely agree with that idea.

He also focused on women’s income parity with men, that he’s make sure both sexes earned the same, and giving moms more paid family leave… along with a $15 minimum wage.  But who pays for this, both Larry Kelley and I asked?    And Bernie also threw in the free college for all promise. Again, who really is going to foot these bills?  I love these ideas but I’d like to see the breakdown.  I bet there aren’t enough fatcats to bankroll the huge cost of free tuition.

I think that the oversimplification of every issue that we see in Donald Trump really scares me. It’s not that simple, we need smart reasonable people in power to solve the huge problems. A guy who has publicly insulted 68 different people we know about, as has been published about the Donald–that just makes me nervous.

I think I would give Bernie the vote here in Massachusetts but I think he won’t make it through the whole country and win the nomination.  Still it would sure be an intriguing match-up to have Trump vs. Bernie–the loudmouth capitalist versus Vermont Socialist!  It’s a hard decision because I really like him, and want him to win, but I remain like so many people, skeptical and wishing I could combine his ethics and sensibilities with Hillary’s experience and broader experience, to make a better candidate.

My Resolutions for 2016

I’ve found that there is power in putting thoughts, ideas and especially, goals down in writing. So every year I try to come up with some goals, obtainable ones I hope, to further my life and my business. So not in order of priority, here is what I hope to accomplish in 2016.  I did pretty well with last year’s resolutions, so I hope to continue my streak in 2016!

Read more books.  Despite owning so many books, and getting great books sent to me by publishers, I don’t read enough of them. So I ordered a new book from Amazon last wee, which will be my first read for the year. As modest as this might appear, I am shooting for reading a book a month, or twelve books over the year. Lame, yeah, but this year I don’t think I finished more than one or two. I’ve gotta carve out that time before bed, hide the TV remote, and leave my phone out in the car. Then maybe I’ll finish more books!  First up, a novel called “Geeks” about a family of carnival show freaks who roam around the country.

Shoot and Post more videos.  We do a great job at GoNOMAD publishing long form travel articles, and thousands of photos. But we need to beef up the videos.  In line with the way the whole world of media is going, I vow to post at least a few videos every month on our YouTube.com , as well as shoot double or triple the amount of video footage on all of my trips. First up, Providence RI, then Montreal, two places where I bet I can find some great things to film.

Take Drumming lessons.  I enjoy drumming so much, now that I’ve become a firm member of Joe O’Rourke’s weekly rock and roll jam, and as a result, I need to step up my game. Yeah, I’m good at keeping the beat, but I have to push to the next level by getting lessons from better drummers. I have to invest in chops so that my fills will be better and I have  more dexterity on all of the drums, not just the snare and high hat.  I want to move to a higher level of musical proficiency.

Redesign GoNOMAD Travel.   We’ve got a re-design in the works, but it’s stalled. And I know that I spent many years anticipating our last re-design that took place in 2012.  Now it’s time to figure out how to build a truly responsive design with photo galleries on all the pages and a very modern cool look. We have the content, we just need a cooler skin.  I’ve gotta push hard not to let this one fade and accept things…onward is the only way up!

Go Back to the Gym.  Ok, Ok, I’m jumping on the old favorites when it comes to resolutions. But even though I’ve gotten into a routine of running, I need to get the upper body strength back. So it’s time to find a gym and put a few sessions of working out into my daily routine. Oh, and keep running too, despite the weather!

Find a Place to Work with Other People. This has been a tough one ever since I closed the cafe and my office in late 2011.  I have no where to go, and despite keeping busy and having lunches with friends, I need to find a co-working space that will work for me. I am intrigued with what’s happening at the Left Click work space, being constructed in Northampton. Maybe that will work. I’ve also put out feelers with the state that offer grants to people who want to start co-working spaces. Can this be the year that I create my own space, or collaborate with other like-minded folks to that we can open one here in Deerfield or North Amherst?

Find the light, focus on the positive.  I said this last year, and I want to continue to be the positive one–give compliments, give encouragement, praise friends and colleagues and find the good in everyone. Sure, it’s sappy, but it’s the way to live a happier life by paying it forward.

Play more Poker or bridge.  Another one from last year–in 2015 I think I only played cards about four times, and this year I want to play more regularly. And finding three other people who can play bridge, as well as keeping our poker games going, would be fantastic!

The Hunt: Watching a Life Get Shattered

In The Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen is the victim of lies that are almost impossible to deny.

In The Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen is the victim of lies that are almost impossible to deny.

When everyone believes something, does it make it true? In the 2012 film “The Hunt,” we watch a schoolteacher’s life become completely unravelled after allegations of child abuse bubble up from a dubious source. And like a slow motion train wreck, what results brings out the worst in nearly all the members of the small Danish village where he lives.

Mads Mikkelsen, who played a villain in the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale and is one of Denmark’s most famous leading men, is Lucas, a beloved teacher, the kind of guy who gets down on his hands and knees to rough-house with the youngsters. He has gone through a bitter divorce, and his station in life is low, but he’s happy, surrounded by good friends, hunting buddies and a budding romance. One of the tots in the school hears her older brothers talking dirty–and then we see her make up a tale of being touched by Lucas.

The predicable tsunami of outrage begins to wash over the village.  “Are you sure he did that, Klara?” asks the sincere school director, and the investigator is also sure that kids can’t be lying. It doesn’t take long for Lucas to be summarily tried and convicted in public opinion, as we watch his best friend Theo and his wife turn against him and reject his claims of innocence.

All the while, Klara is confused by the chaos her allegations have caused, as even the local grocery store won’t allow Lucas to buy food for his Christmas table.  He loses his job, and it seems everyone, except his son’s godfather, believes he did it.  He finds solace when his son comes to his door, another who still has faith in him, and as the holidays commence, he has no where to go.  Even his budding love affair is dashed on the rocks of doubt and mistrust. Even after he’s acquitted in court, the public still shuns him and violently attacks him at every turn.

The movie is well paced and to the end, we’re rooting for the truth to win out…but it takes time, and it’s clear that one year later, things are mostly healed.  But the last scene where an errant gunshot nearly kills him proves that sometimes, you can never undo other people’s lies.