Our last dinner in Paris – Le Grand Café Capucines

July 2, 2015 (Thursday) – After a day of exploring Bastille, Le Marais, and the Canal Saint-Martin, we made our way back to the shopping centre of town in and around Opéra. We ended up making our way down one of the boulevards radiating from Place de l’Opéra and found ourselves at Le Grand Café Capucines.

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Photo from legrandcafe.com

It had been another hot day in Paris and just like everywhere else we went, there was minimal air conditioning. So after running around all day, we were really warm when we sat down and had to fan ourselves constantly until the cold beverages hit the table.

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A chilled glass of white wine is what I needed. We’d be having some seafood this night. So this should be the perfect pairing. I’m not a wine connoisseur. So the house wine was just fine. Nothing too fancy for me. Also a glass of tap water, or une carafe d’eau.

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Le Grand Café Capucines is a beautiful Art Nouveau restaurant. The stained glass ceiling, the luxurious red velvet chairs, the fancy 6-light lamps, and the wonderful murals all give a sense of beauty and elegance to the restaurant.

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The murals are especially striking and each one is unique. All the wall space here is beautifully decorated with these paintings and framed exquisitely with curvaceous and ornate wooden details.

However, the main draw of any gastronomic establishment should be the food. After watching Anthony Bourdain eat his way through a seafood platter on The Layover Paris, I had a craving to try something similar. I don’t think my wife and I could have done a seafood tower, but we wanted to dabble in some shellfish that we rarely have.

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So we ordered some whelks and winkles. I’m sure we could probably get some of these here in Vancouver, but it’s not something I’ve noticed on our menus. It’s probably just me not being aware of their existence. The whelks were the larger shells (left side of photo). These had more meat inside and were a little rubbery in texture. The periwinkles were the small black shells and it was a lot of work to get the meat out of them. From a work-to-food ratio perspective, I don’t think it was worth it. In other words, it was a lot of work for getting out a tiny piece of shellfish meat. I probably wouldn’t have periwinkles again.

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The other dish we had to try before we left Paris was the beef tartar, or tartare de boeuf. My experience with beef tartar in the past has usually been small bits of somewhat raw meat on the side with plenty of bread to eat it with. Our dish this evening looked like they had just opened up the supermarket package of minced beef and plated it. I know that’s not the case, but it sure looked like it to me. I’m willing to try everything at least once. So I just dug in. It was definitely raw, but tasty. I’m not texture sensitive either, but I could see some folks not liking the raw, slimy feel of the beef in one’s mouth. I only wished there was more bread to go with the beef tartar.

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We didn’t have a lot, but we definitely had enough for dinner. I think we were still full from our escargot lunch. As we left, we took a look at someone else’s seafood platter. Look at that lobster’s head. If we were more hungry, we could have demolished a seafood tower.

We also noticed our dining neighbours were Asian, but they spoke Russian. It always fascinates me when I encounter folks of one ethnic background that speak a language that you don’t expect. I suspect they may have been ethnically Central Asian or Mongolian, but they obviously grew up in Russia.

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That was it for dinner and that was it for Paris. We’d be flying out early the next morning and back to our regular lives back in Vancouver. It was a great week in Paris that realized a long-time dream to visit France. My wife and I still dream about the food and gush about our experience. We’ll be back…eventually.

Toronto’s Transit Rollercoaster

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Ever since I lived in Toronto back in 2003, I’ve always kept an eye on transit developments in the GTA. In the early days, there was David Miller’s Transit City, which promised to criss-cross the city with light rail. Then Rob Ford rumbled into office and promised the gravy train along with the light rail trains. Instead, Rob Ford planned on fewer lines, but with all of them being heavy rail subway lines. Then most recently came John Tory and his SmartTrack which was a vaunted “surface subway” that would start moving Toronto in a new way.

Three mayors with three very different visions over the past 13 years. It’s enough to make any transit follower’s eyes spin.

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Happy Chinese New Year 2016

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Year of the Monkey displays at Aberdeen Mall

Happy New Year! Chinese New Year, that is. Welcome to the Year of the Monkey in 2016. My celebrations included a visit to Aberdeen Mall in Richmond the week before. However, they were only setting up and the “flower market” wasn’t really open yet. The displays, though, were already all up. We were thinking of joining the countdown last night, but we had food and dog in tow. So we couldn’t go to the mall.

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The Imminent Parking Re-Think

I just read a long, but worthwhile article on “An End to Parking?” on Mother Jones.

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An giant empty parking lot in Sapporo, Japan

If you haven’t heard, the future is coming soon to a road near you. And the future is self-driving cars. There’s been a lot of talk about self-driving cars over the years. I’ve even sat in one back in 2006 at a Toyota Showcase building in Odaiba area of Tokyo.

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Place de la Republique and the Canal Saint-Martin

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July 2, 2015 (Thursday) – I had no idea what or where the Place de la Republique was before I visited Paris. My only exposure to the name was through a beautiful and melancholic French song that is named after this iconic square. Beatrice Martin, or Coeur de Pirate, is the one who got me interested in this square at the crossroads of the 3rd, 10th, and 11th Arrondissements.

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Vancouver-Victoria Passenger Ferry – Will it work this time?

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image from Vancity Buzz

A Vancouver to Victoria passenger ferry is not a new idea. It’s been tried before in the past in various forms. Will it succeed this time? The new ferry is aimed at tourists and not so much at the local market. Maybe that will be the key to attracting riders.

Here’s a look at some past Vancouver to Vancouver Island passenger ferries.

HarbourLynx

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image from Vancity Buzz

The HarbourLynx was a passenger ferry between the city centres of Nanaimo and Vancouver.  It ran for a short time until 2006, when mechanical problems sidelined the service and the company never really recovered.

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Royal Sealink Express brochure (credit: westcoastkidjst)

There was also the Royal Sealink Express. This service was announced back in 1990/91. I remember this ferry clearly because I did a Social Studies project in high school talking about the ferry. However, the ferry didn’t last very long and succumbed to financial difficulties.

So we’ll see how the new ferry service turns out. It’s a much needed passenger-only connection to Vancouver Island. It will be much easier to board a ferry in Downtown Vancouver rather than carting oneself out to a BC Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay. However, since the new ferry is targeting tourists, the prices are certain not to be cheap.

Miniature Wonderland on Google Maps

Das Miniatur Wunderland, or Miniature Wonderland, in Hamburg, Germany is now on Google Maps. It’s also featured on a neat YouTube video above.

I love places like this. The closest thing to me would be Victoria’s Miniature World, which amazingly I’ve never visited. There was also the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad, which I missed when I visited Osoyoos because it closes on statutory holidays.

However, Miniature Wonderland has now made its proverbial mark on the map with Google Street View directly at miniature street level. One of the views you can find is of this tiny central German town.

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Or check out the view inside Hamburg’s central train station, Hamburg Hauptbahnhopf.

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And the railfan salivation continues throughout the exhibit.

You can check out the Google Maps Street Views of this magnificent miniature exhibit your self. Still not convinced? Watch the official video of Das Minatur Wunderland.

Well, that’s another item for my geek bucket list then. It just better be open when I do arrive; otherwise, I’ll be one brooding railfan loitering around Hamburg.

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The Covered «Galeries» of Paris

July 2, 2016 (Thursday) – One of my personal interests in Paris was to explore the covered shopping galeries, or passages couverts, of Paris. Because we had a lot of other things planned for our one week trip, I ended up seeing only one of these famed galeries. If I ever go back, then exploring more of these galeries would definitely be on my list.

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The New Little Mountain

The New Little Mountain project has been on my blogging backburner for at least a couple of months. There’s a lot of changes afoot in the neighbourhood at East 37th Avenue and Ontario Street.

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Little Mountain homes boarded up (July 2009)

Originally, the whole plot of land was social housing. It was the first social housing project of its kind. I personally know of a couple of people who grew up in what they affectionately called  “The Projects.”

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Adam Ruins Everything, including Cars

 

I had been meaning to share these Adam Ruins Everything clips, but only got around to it now. Cars and car dealerships have changed the North American landscape. We don’t question the environment we live in, but it doesn’t have to function this way necessarily. Adam may ruin everything, but he definitely gives us food for thought.

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