Channeling French in North America

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


THE annual summer rendezvous I usually take to meet up good friends from Los Angeles and New York took an unexpected French twist this year.

It all started in über cosmopolitan Toronto. And how else to soak in its vibe than to open your mind with its truly international scene! The panoply of Greek, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and even Afghan cuisines will definitely tickle every gastronome’s fancy. I've never uttered "bon appétit” with much gusto.

Discretely tucked along Yonge Boulevard is Remington's - a welcome affront to the sensuality as hunky Canadian men flash and wield their "wares" to the "gustatory" senses of its patrons.

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Nothing is more relaxing than to delight one’s self in the presence of these molded Greek gods. The only thing that matched and exceeded this smorgasbord was a day trip to witness the overpowering majesty of Niagara Falls. Seeing this wonder from the Canadian side is a sight to behold. To hear and feel the thunder of its roar up close is like being touched by divine hands. I've never felt so insignificant and inconsequential.

Day 5 of the sojourn means hopping onto a train for the six-hour trip to Montreal. The ride was quite uneventful save for the provincially green meadows we ogled along the way.

First agenda in Montreal was to check out Rue Saint Catherine— Montreal's answer to San Francisco's Castro District. We delighted our palates with the sumptuous duck confit and steak frites in a nearby French restaurant where we bought our own red and white wines from the Rothschild vineyard. The presence of eye candy waiters gave our crème brûlée a run for its money.

A visit to Montreal's Rue Saint Catherine would never be complete without a sneak peek at Campus and Stock Bar. Both bars showcased the men of Montreal at its finest (wink, wink!). Before embarking on a day trip to Quebec City, we never failed the customary visit to Montreal's Chinatown, the Notre Dame Cathedral (where Celine Dion got married) and its cobblestone -lined streets. We were all channeling Josephines.

And we thought Napoleon's love got the better of us in Montreal until we witnessed quaint and romantic Quebec City. The UNESCO-designated heritage site is a Francophiles' wet dream in North America. Catching a glimpse of the impressive Chateauq Frontenac, Musee du Fort, the winding cobblestone streets and charming, little shops where everybody says "bonjour" transported us back not to Napoleon and Josephine's time but to a time when Marie Antoinette herself enraptured France.

We have never felt more French when we bought a couple of paintings from street artists selling their artworks along the stoned streets and downing heavenly crepes with cappuccino and light wine while street musicians softly blared out their own versions of Liberte and La Vie En Rose. Edith Piaf would never have been prouder.

Montreal and Quebec have never seen the last of me. Viva Le France! In this case, Viva Le Quebec!* (Noel Iligan)

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Noel Iligan is from Bacolod City, managing various businesses such as a travel agency. He describes himself as a seasoned globe trekker and gastronome.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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