Thursday, 27 February 2014

Meet "Paloma & Nancy"

As I mentioned in my previous two posts, I got my ticket for Ane Brun concert at the last minute and I didn't mind going alone, so when I reached the venue, I picked an empty table, had a glass of wine and took a seat, but had 3 empty seats on the same table, and a bit before the concert two ladies asked me if they can share the table with me..and "of course" was my answer..

They got a bottle of wine and they insisted on me sharing a drink with them.. We tried to have a quick chat before the concert started, and we kept talking a bit between the songs..

Paloma lives in Montreal, and Nancy lives in Ottawa, they both work for the police, this is how they met and became close friends.. And Nancy was visiting Paloma and they decided to attend the concert..

Paloma and Nancy were extremely friendly, I felt as if I knew them for quite some time and they definitely made me enjoy even more the concert without feeling odd of being alone, and it was much nicer to share with them our enjoyment with the wonderful performance of Linnea Olsson and Ane Brun.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Meet "Da Silva"

Ok.. Time for a bit of drama..
It was February 14, Valentine's day.. I was enjoying a walk alone in Montreal, taking pictures, especially of the beautiful graffitis on St Catherine street and St Laurent street, it was around lunch time, and I felt Like have a bite, so passed cross this little restaurant, looked from the window and was attracted but the charming interior, it was a Portuguese restaurant.. Da Silva, Grillades Portugaises..

They had at the door a poster with a special offer that day for couples.. And here I had this dramatic look on my face.. What about the single people like me? But still I walked in and ordered a grilled salmon with rice and vegetables.. It was great.. And the ambiance was super cosy and warm and the staff very friendly..

I enjoyed my meal, payed and left wishing that next year I won't be alone, so if I'm in Montreal I'll be definitely going again to this restaurant but at least I can get their special Valentine's deal :)

Joke aside, if you're in Montreal and feel like having Portuguese grills, give Da Silva a shot, I'm sure you'll enjoy it the way I did.

Meet "Linnea Olsson"

I shared yesterday in my post "Meet Ane Brun" how I booked my ticket for her concert at Salle L'Astral and how excited I was to attend that concert..

And while waiting for Ane to go on stage, a beautiful women wearing black, holding a cello came on stage, and started playing.. It was like magic.. And then she introduced herself.. Linnea Olsson, a Swedish Cellist.. 
it was the first time I heard of her..

She continued playing her music and started singing.. My God.. She had a very charming voice.. You can't get enough of it.. And I was so happy when she mentioned that we can get her first album "Ah" at the door.. Which I did.. T
he entire album is composed of only Olsson’s velvet, gravityless vocals and her cello.

After few songs, she left the stage for Ane, but then joined her again playing the cello and contributing with vocals.. They made a fantastic duo on stage

I was so happy discovering a new artist, a real talent, which I became a fan and we'll be definitely looking forward for more of her.. More songs, more cello music, and more outstanding performance.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Meet "Ane Brun"

Last year, My dear friend Michael downloaded for me three CDs for Ane Brun, and strongly recommended that I listen to her songs and her great voice.. It was the first time I hear of her, and I was so pleased with this discovery as I really fell in love with her amazing voice and her music.. And I started following her on Facebook to know know her updates and her latest releases..

Ane Brun is a Norwegian international songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. Since 2003 she has recorded eight albums, six of which are studio albums and one live DVD. She has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2001, where she writes, records and runs her own label (Balloon Ranger Recordings) when not on tour.

And couple of weeks ago I discovered she's coming to Canada in a tour and three concerts between Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and that weekend I was supposed to be in Montreal, so I looked for tickets but didn't book one waiting for my friend to confirm if he will join.. Then I kept postponing and the night I arrived to Montreal first thing I did is calling TicketMaster to check if there is any tickets left so they informed me that I have to call the venue as I'm calling super late..

I called L'Astral, where the concert is taking place, and I was so happy to know that there is 4 tickets left so I urged them to keep one for me as they don't take payment through the phone and I rushed to get mine..

By mistake I took the west side of Saint Catherine street where I had to go east, and when I realized I'm heading in the wrong direction I started running like a crazy in super cold Montreal until I reached the venue and got my ticket (huge smile)..

My mobile battery was dying, and I thought I need to take some picture of the concert, I had an hour left before the concert so I rushed to the hotel where I plugged it on the charger for 20 min and ran back to Salle L'Astral..

The venue wasn't huge but the ambiance was really warm and cosy, had a glass of wine waiting for Ane to come on stage..
I was alone but I was feeling so happy.. Listening to her wonderful voice knowing all the songs and enjoying her pleasant character..
I didn't want the concert to end -the whole audience didn't want it to end- and make her go on stage again for another round of 4 songs..

I will not talk much about her golden voice.. Her songs and let you enjoy few links..
After this concert I became a bigger fan of Ane, and her songs are my friends making my moments more enjoyable every time I listen to them.

Ane brun "One"

Ane brun "Do you remember"

Monday, 24 February 2014

Meet "Au Kouign-Amann"

Before going to Montreal, I agreed with my friend and ex colleague Bassem that we have to meet at least for a coffee to catch up, and discuss so far our experiences in Canada.. Bassem left Dubai around 8 month ago and moved with his family to Montreal.

So in my second day in Montreal, Bassem called me early morning and didn't accept to let me take a cab, so he picked me up from the hotel, and he asked me if I have any preference for breakfast, and being very flexible when it comes to food told him I'm fine with anything, so he decided to take me to a small cosy bakery where everything is so yummi..

We went to "Au Kouign-Amann" on 322 Rue Mont-Royal E, Montreal, a very modest place, when you look at it from outside, nothing fancy, and you can feel the charm this place has from its facade and once you're in you got taken by the wonderful smell, and your eyes feel already full from the delicious pastries..

It took us some time to decide what to order, and between the two of us we ordered four different pastries and they were all incredible so we enjoyed our hour there, having our coffee and catching up and sharing our stories from Montreal and Toronto and Bassem telling me how his kids are adapting to the new life in Canada..
And then Bassem was kind enough and offered to drop me to Laval to visit my cousin and her family..

I loved Au Kouign Amann, so unpretentious, simple and fantastic..So next time you're in Montreal and feel like having a good breakfast, do not miss!!!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Meet "Laura"

I was very excited about my weekend in Montreal to catch up with my cousin, with my friend Hadi coming from New York to visit his parents, and on top of that to discover this beautiful city, its cultural scene, its night life and of course meet new friends..

After a five hours trip by train from Toronto, I arrived to Bonne Aventure station, and walked to my hotel which was a 10 minutes walk but the crazy cold made it feel like hours, and I couldn't wait to reach my room at Espresso Hotel and feel a bit warmer..

An hour later, my friend Hadi arrived to my hotel, I was so happy to see him after almost a year and a half and the plan was to join him to the birthday party of his close friend Laura..
So we went to the Vieux Port to a nice venue, Espace 64, with beautiful artistic pieces, and nice music and of course met Laura, her husband and lots of her friends..

At the beginning I was a bit shy, not knowing anyone except Hadi, but people were extremely welcoming and friendly and half an hour later I was talking to most of them, and as usually being to new immigrant they were all making sure I'm fine, well settled and managing to handle to cold and the snow, especially in Montreal, where it's was colder and a lot more snow than Toronto..

Laura was very sweet, happy surrounded by her friends, she kept making sure we're all having drinks and enjoying the food, and by midnight it was the time to cut the cake, so we all wished her happy birthday and then she delivered an emotional speech thanking her friends and parents for always being there for her..

We kept dancing till around 2am and then I left with Hadi to catch a cab..
It was a great evening, celebrating Laura's birthday with great people and I hoped to see them all soon in my next visit to Montreal.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Meet "Scene"

When you like movies, when u like cinema theatres, the best thing they can offer you is a loyalty card where u can collect points, get offers, discounts, and free movies..

After watching couple of movies in different theatres around Downtown Toronto, a friend of mine recommended to issue a Screen card, especially that I can use it in most of the cinemas, all Cineplex theatres around my place.. and the first time I went to ScotiaBank theatre I filled the form to issue my Scene card and a week after I received it by mail, and since then, my Scene became my new friend, always in my wallet, and helping me collecting points and making my cinema experience even better to escape to the wonderful world of movies. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Meet "Ashraf"

I got a message on Facebook from my friend Kevin who lives in Rio, putting me in contact with a friend of his, Ashraf, who used to live in Toronto for seven years, then he moved to Budapest for two years and now he decided to move back again to Toronto, and since he's into Advertising too so Kevin was keen on introducing us and asking us to meet..

And just few days after he landed, Ashraf sent me a message and we arranged to meet for a coffee, so we met at one of my favorite caf├ęs that u know by now, Dineen coffee, we ordered our drinks and we were lucky to find a table as it's always super busy.

Ashraf had lots of insights to share about the market and the advertising industry and how to approach the job hunt, and he confirmed what other people where telling me about the importance of networking and just sending CV to recruiters online is not enough.. And we talked about Egypt and his view on what's happening there (Ashraf is originally Egyptian), and about his experience in Budapest, and his expectations from his move again to Toronto..

Ashraf was kind enough as he shared my CV & portfolio the second day with one of the great agencies that I would like to work with, and invited me to his "Welcome back" drinks that his friends organized for him.. And I really enjoyed that evening where i met many interesting people, that I will definitely introduce in my future posts, and got to hear some interesting stories, and of course laugh and get Tipsy (not to say drunk) :)

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Meet "Angelica"

Up to Summer 2011, I was always afraid to try Thai food as I'm not a big fan of spicy food and in general Thai food is known to be very spicy.. Until I went in August 2011 to Bangkok for a TV  commercial shoot and my colleagues started pushing me to try, and they made sure to ask for the mildest version possible.. And I realized that I didn't need all this fear and that Thai cuisine has a lot to offer for people like me who can't handle spices.. And since then I became a big fan of Thai food, of course by knowing what I can pick and always asking for the level of spiciness of the dish if it's not clearly mentioned on the menu.

In a cold evening I went to Sukhothai restaurant on 52 Wellington Street E, alone, after I've been to it with my friend Maz, and I liked the food a lot so decided to go again..

Even though I can be boring when it comes to food and when I like something I stick to it, but at SukhoThai, I tried many things so far and all of them are real flavorful and so tasty..
Starting with the mango salad, to the creamy coconut and chicken soup Tom Khai Gai, and from the main the two curries, Gaeng Kiaw Wan and Gaeng Masaman.. Each dish is better than the other and the ideas is to go with friends and order different dishes and share to be able to try their wonderful different flavors..

Angelica was the waitress who took my order and was so kind and reassured me that what I ordered can come very mild , and after serving the food she kept checking if I'm, if I liked it and if I like anything else.. And here of course she recommend the dessert and I didn't say no :)

We took a picture with the daughter of the owner and I left thanking her for a great food and a very nice Thai experience, and I know for a fact that I'm hooked to SukhoThai and will be going often, so who's in?

Reading more about the restaurant on their website, here is the interesting story of how SukhoThai started as told by its owner Ving Rhames:

"IT ALL STARTED ON AN ELEPHANT (hence the logo). That's where I met the girl of my dreams. I was backpacking in jungles of Northern Thailand. One special day had me as the comfort of a terrified stranger on an elephant ride.  After making Nuit's acquaintance I found her to be a kind, hard working nurse at the local hospital and, wow, could she cook! The flavours that came out of her little kitchen was extraordinary.
Fast forward a couple of years and we open a cozy little restaurant in Pai, Thailand, called the Curry Shack. Nuit would come in to cook dinner every night after her shift at the hospital.  Everything was prepared to the finest detail as she infused her meticulous nursing habits and knowledge of health to her cooking, creating her own unique style.  It was a hit with the frequent travelers as well as the Thai locals.  People just couldn't help but notice the enthusiasm of the local nurse who finally got the chance to showcase her other skills.
I finally snatched her off the 'singles' list in 2004 and Nuit came with me back to Canada.  By 2008, with the much needed help from family and true friends, we opened Sukhothai.  Our goal was simple:  Make real Thai food.
Blessed with a talented and hard working staff, who share that passion to make great food, Sukhothai invites you to experience a taste of Thailand.
Yeah… that’s Ving Rhames!"

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Meet My "Canada Goose"

My dear friend, my dear companion, for long hours every day.. Almost every single day.. The friend who is keeping warm, and protecting me from the cold..

What a great brand with great reputation.. Even before moving here, everyone was telling to wait until I'm in Canada and buy a Canada Goose Jacket.. And this is what I did..
After checking few brands I was convinced that the Canada Goose one is my preferred in terms of look, quality and budget as some other brands were even more expensive, and I shared in a previous post "Meet Faisal" how we went to Harry Rosen and get my Jacket..

I was impressed to know that Canada Goose was Founded in a small warehouse in Toronto, over fifty years ago, and since then it has grown to be recognized internationally as one of the world's leading manufacturers of extreme weather outerwear.

I searched to know which animal fur they used for their jackets and it's the coyote fur because it never freezes, doesn't hold water, and the uneven hair lengths create a windbreak that protects exposed skin, helping to reduce heat loss from the face.
And I know that this issue created lots of debates and till now lots of people are against killing animals to use their fur and many people are putting Canada Goose ethics into question.

I can Easily say I'm grateful to such a great brand because it's helping me to embrace more the winter and get to love going out even in the hardest weather conditions.
Check more about Canada Goose on their site and read more stories on their blog.

Meet "Diana & James"

Another great people I met through my cousins in Ottawa, during the Winterlude Festival, where we met Diana and James at the Ice park, we had a freezing dance, on the snow, we tried our best to handle the cold, and Diana kept telling me to move my toes while dancing.. It was tough for me but we had a good laugh and the music was nice so it kept us going for an hour..
And after that we decided to go for a bite and few drinks, so we went to The 3 Brewers where I had the famous Poutine and a nice beer..
Diana was upset cause she couldn't make me"Get Nipped" , where u should have a whiskey shot, you toast in the direction of the parliament, you drink it then you kiss a beaver.. And this way you become an Ottawan, so this wasn't possible at the 3B, but we still had our shots.. And the rest was laughs, jokes, Olympics, and weather.. I like how people always start their conversation with me by asking how I am handling the cold and if I miss the Sun in Dubai.. Which honestly I do, big time, but heyyy.. There is so many other great things other than the cold weather, like that fun night and meeting nice people like Diana and James..  
We did a long walk to reach my cousin's car, said good bye to my new friends and wished to see soon in my next visit to Ottawa and of course invited them to visit Toronto for a weekend where I can take care of them the way they did with me during my lovely Ottawa weekend.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Meet "The Subway"

During my 9 years in Dubai, I had my car and taking Dubai Metro (which was inaugurated on the 09/09/09) was more of a touristic ride to show around friends and family visiting Dubai, so it was never part of my daily routine. But I was always a big fan of the underground, especially when visiting London or Paris, and believe it saves traffic hassle and money, and decided that when I move to Toronto I don't want to buy a car at least the first year and use instead the public transportation to go around which it seems it s accessible and covers big part of Toronto city..
And when I was looking for an apartment, one of the main criteria I had to judge a place on was how close it is to the Subway, and especially that the first few weeks after I landed were extremely cold, so I felt the closet I can be to the subway the less I have to suffer outside walking in the snow and the insane low temperature..
I was lucky to find a place where the entrance to the Subway was right at the entrance of my building, and I started a love story with the subway.. A story that will last for very long time..

I remember the first trip I did was from Bloor/Yonge Station to Union station and since then I rarely remember a day passed without me taking the subway at least once, and it feels nice when you know you will reach your destination without the hassle of driving..
Every time I take the subway I like to look around at people, try to imagine their stories, their lives.. Observing people is my number one source on inspiration for my work, because when you only understand the behavior of people you can come up with real human ideas..
Even though I miss my car, and sometimes the delays or sudden closure of stations for emergencies can be annoying but I think the subway will be my friend and my way of going around for the years to come, and I like it.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Meet "Julie's Snack Bar"

This was my first time trying Cuban food, my friend Maz who' s been there before recommended we go have dinner at Julie's snack bar, the Cuban restaurant at 202 Dovercourt Road, Toronto.. I had to say, I now am a fan of Cuban food.

The atmosphere was wonderful. It was homey and friendly, and it felt like you were in someone's house while the host was cooking your food. I even liked the bathroom downstairs was super cute.

We started off with the tapas. They were all amazing, especially the plantains. We shared couple of entrees and they were extremely flavorful and full of interesting spices (even though we asked for mild versions as I m not a spice fan) and to ended we had to try the Tres Leches dessert which was a bit of disappointment and not as good as the Tres Leches at tried couple of times at a Mexican restaurant..

Julie's snack bar opened in 1954 and used to be a convenience store of sort. She (Julie) eventually even started selling fresh made sandwiches. After Julie passed away, her daughter Syvlia took over. Her and her Cuban husband turned the place into a mini homestead Cuban restaurant.

The place is warm, inviting and ambient. The setting inside with the shelves and the decoration and the different Cuban items are beautiful and super charming..The servers are unbelievably personable.

If you visit Julie's, expect a warm inviting, almost romantic atmosphere. Order a few drinks and a few tapas.. Then you'll have an amazing time and you'll get the charm of Julie's.