Cabane a Sucre

In the early spring, when Canada begins to thaw, the Maple trees get drained in order to make Maple Syrup. This has not happened on time this year because of the longest-winter-ever we’re experiencing, which means no new syrup, but I read somewhere that Canada has emergency reserves of the stuff. I like to believe this is true. And now I also understand what kind of national emergency would require such a thing. Anyway, the point is that it’s a Quebecois tradition to go eat at a Cabane a Sucre, or Sugar Shack, to celebrate the fact that it’s gotten warm enough that the sap is no longer in solid form and can be tapped, harvested and turned into liquid gold.

The taps are drilled into the trees and have buckets that hang below them to catch the sap. These were empty, and yes, I checked.

Sucrerie du Terroir

Sucrerie du Terroir

So off we went, because when in Canada…consume Maple Syrup. The Sucrerie du Terroir is a log cabin about half an hour from Ottawa, in the countryside. There is a pretty walk around the grounds, which you can also do while riding in a sleigh pulled by the most gigantic horses I’ve ever seen.

Sucrerie du Terroir

Sucrerie du Terroir

The snow is deeper than it appears and it will not hold your weight. Instant regret.

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Inside you dine family-style at large wooden tables. In fact, this is clearly a family tradition and most of the other parties were family groups of 8 or more, which gives the place a great, cozy atmosphere. There’s traditional Quebecois music playing, the waiters are dressed in some kind of colonial garb, and you don’t even need to bother ordering – everyone gets the same thing and you can order more of any of it, it’s all unlimited. It’s also BYOB (the Pink Zinfandels and Rieslings we took worked well, their sweetness goes well with food covered in syrup).

Sucrerie du Terroir

Sucrerie du Terroir

I walked out of there feeling like it was Thanksgiving. First, split pea soup.

Split pea soup

Then, an egg soufle in a cast iron skillet, potatoes, maple ham, sausages, maple baked beans, and super crunchy bacon. And, the star of the show, Maple Syrup. I poured that ish all over everything and it was amazing.

Egg Soufle

Sucrerie du Terroir

Then there were pancakes and pastries with Maple butter cream for dessert. All in all, a diabetic’s nightmare. Oh, and then when you think you couldn’t possibly consume more maple… Maple taffy cooled on snow.

Maple taffy

Maple taffy

Maple Syrup

Ok, no joke this was a lot of Maple syrup and we consumed almost all of it. It turned out that the owner – who told us his story – bought the place because he read in the newspaper that it was closing down. He had fond memories of going there with his family and felt sad that it would close, so he bought it and now runs the place.

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One month Canadaversary

Today marks a special moment for Canada and me. It’s our one month anniversary. Right about now I really miss my boyfriend, my dog, and temperatures above freezing. But I’m not dwelling on it because I actually really like it here. I feel at home. Maybe it’s because everyone speaks English and even after four years in Spain it still feels so good to speak English. Like somehow I’m more me. There is also that trait particular to North Americans, that “please, thank you, and sorry” thing. It’s like, everyone is sooo nice! I heart Canada! Rainbows and puppies!

But then there’s the cold. And dayum is it cold! Before I left Spain there would be mornings when I’d take Rolo out at -4 (Celsius) and be convinced that I would die upon exiting the plane in Ottawa, it just felt so cold. And you all know I dislike the cold. I’m a California girl, before I moved to Spain I really thought scarves were just accessories. But now, and it still feels strange to say this, -4 is a beautiful, let’s-go-outside kind of day. Because I now know what -25 with a wind-chill of -32 feels like. That’s the kind of cold that knocks the wind out of you.

Is it strange that I have personified my coat and feel an emotional friendship towards it?

It’s a lot of paraphernalia everyday: snow boots, big-ass wool scarf, coat with an eskimo hood, gloves… and that’s just what you put on the outside of your body. But, you know what, I’ve come to realize it’s not that bad. Our bodies are way more resilient and able to change than we give them credit for. Not only that, our need for fresh air and contact with people is so strong that we WILL go outside. And once we go outside, we realize there are fun things to do out there in that cold. Canada is used to this and they make the best of it.

Though there are mornings that look like this:

Ottawa

There are also evenings that end like this:

OttawaAnd there are things to do! I mean what kind of Canadian capital would it be if it didn’t have the worlds longest outdoor skating rink? The 7.8 kilometer Rideau Canal – kinda have to buy your own skates for that!

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal Skateway

Or what about an outdoor festival with an ice sculpting competition? Winterlude runs for a few weekends from the end of January through February.

Winterlude

Winterlude

There is also beautiful architecture. The Canadian Parliament Building.Ottawa Parliament BuildingAnd yummy treats!! (You knew it just HAD to be coming!)

OK, Maple Syrup. Amazing! But what about maple syrup taffy cooled on snow?

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup TaffyAnd BeaverTails (copyright, trademark and patented, or whatever). Flat, fried dough with a choice of toppings like cinnamon sugar, chocolate, or **Maple Butter**. You know which one I got…

BeaverTails

BeavertailsThese are the most decadent, filling things ever, but they taste like heaven after a long day (like 1 or 2 hours, because let’s face it, that’s all you can handle you tourist!) out in the snow.

So there you have it. One month in Canada. Not bad, if I may say so myself. Now, if I can just get drunk enough to try Poutin…
Canada

Third Anniversary of Frog Legs

Almost exactly three years ago Frog Legs and Heirloom Tomatoes was created – though I can’t say much for Year Two, we all know I was otherwise preoccupied. But, now Year Three starts with many changes. First of all, I’m no longer “Lisita In Spain”…I’m now “Lisita Freezing Her Ass Off in Canada”. Thanks to that beautiful masters that occupied all of my time last year, I’m now beginning a new adventure in my life: 2014 in Ottawa.

But before I talk about what new Food, Drink, and Travel will come out of this experience, Germany. My final hurrah before going back to the grind was a two-week trip with my brother to spend Christmas in Bavaria.

Germany knows what’s good. So does the Czech Republic and Austria. Sausages, Goulash and Spaetzle, Dumplings, Beer, Glüghwein, Christmas Markets… The list goes on and it’s all amazing!

Our itinerary was an ambitious one: Augsburg to Berlin to Prague to Vienna to Augsburg, all in two weeks. But we happily walked, toured, and, most importantly, ate our way through all four cities.

I realize this will be a long post. But it’s cold outside – I’m fairly certain it’s lightly snowing – and I have no desire to brave the icy sidewalks on this Sunday morning.

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Berlin, Germany

Berlin

Berlin is a really interesting city. It’s contemporary history is full of conflict, like much of Germany, and WWII left its mark on all the monuments, many of which have chunks of stone missing or patches where they have been repaired.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate – the gate dividing East and West Berlin when the wall was still up. And below, the remaining stretches of wall were left up as a monument. To the left, East Berlin and to the right, West Berlin.

Berlin Wall

Our first day in Berlin this happened:

BerlinAnd this…

BerlinYes, that is one liter of beer. And from here on out, these things started to happen a lot.

Berlin - Augustiner

The point is, this is one of the most characteristic dishes associated with Germany. And now I understand. Sausages, mustard, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes – I now have a new appreciation for all of these things. It’s just a really good feeling to walk into a tavern after walking around all morning in the cold and to get to sit down and eat this.

Another incredible food is Goulash with Spaetzle. Slow cooked beef (or venison, a version we tried on Christmas) with a thick gravy sauce. The sauce in this particular one was made with a dark beer from the Augustiner Brewery. And Spaetzle is like pasta, hand made, so each piece is irregular in size and shape with a consistency somewhere between pasta and gnocchi. I will forever remember this Goulash…

Goulash and Spaetzle

But seriously, we can’t talk about Germany at Christmas without talking about Christmas Markets and Glüghwein. There’s one in every city center, and in large cities, they are all over the place. The stands sell everything from baked goods and hot wine to wool socks and Christmas decorations. And they are so festive and alive; the whole thing just makes you happy.

Glughwein and pastries

“Cheesecake Doughnut Balls” – literally how the girl selling them described them to me. Um, yes please! And a little hot, mulled wine by the fire.

Cheescake doughnut balls

Glughwein

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Prague, Czech Republic

PraguePrague is spectacular. There’s something to look at on every corner.Astrological Clock

The Astronomical Clock – it was installed in 1410, making it the 3rd oldest astronomical clock, and it’s the oldest one that still works. On the hour, the bells chime and there’s a little show – the statues come to life representing the evils of society and the apostles go by the the windows above the clock.

There’s just so much to show, I’m having trouble picking pictures!

Prague

Kafka PragueIMG_2546 IMG_2571 IMG_2575

There are a lot of similar foods in the Czech Republic, but then you realized that they are named the same, but have their own twist. For example goulash. Served with bread dumplings mixed with herbs and bacon instead of spaetzle.

Goulash

And this particularly tasty treat found at the Christmas market. I don’t know what it’s called…but it’s a sweet dough with ground almonds, coiled around a wooden spool and cooked over an open flame, then tossed in sugar. We got one to share, but had to go back for another, it was so good!

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Vienna, Austria

The last stop before heading back to spend Christmas in Augsburg. Vienna is fancy! The architecture definitely reflects wealth and royalty. Belvedere Gardens

The Belvedere Palace and surrounding gardens (complete with its own Christmas Market…seriously, say hot wine and sausage and you’ll find a place to buy one). Inside is a museum which houses the paintings of Viennese artists, including Klimt and it’s there you can see the spectacular, and probably most recognized painting, The Kiss.

Summer PalaceThe Summer Palace. I want to tell you more history, but I have a hard time remembering. Google it if you must know names and dates. The the main thing is that its ginormous and its the summer palace, as in there’s another one. The gardens that surround it are beautiful and give you a spectacular view of the city.

SausageMore sausage. This time with flat bread from a wood burning oven. We only had one day in Vienna, it wasn’t too cold, so we opted to not sit down the whole day. Later we paid for that, but in the meantime, we ate at the Christmas Markets all day.

Christmas Market Vienna

Even the Christmas Market is in front of this amazing, beautiful building. By the way, that’s Merry Christmas in German.SausageSorry, this picture is blurry, but this was too amazing not to include. The stand had all these baguettes with one end cut off and they would poke them onto these metal rods that heated the inside and made room for the sausage. I realize as I write this how…um…this may be sounding, but seriously, it’s brilliant!

pastries

Pastries… Pastries everywhere!

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Augsburg, Germany

The final destination. Don’t worry, we’re almost done. Bear with me, I promise it’s worth it.

The first day (this was before the above, but I’m going to group all of the Bavarian adventures together) we saw Augsburg. It’s a cute little town, very characteristic of the style of Bavaria. It was almost completely destroyed in the war –there was an airplane factory in town– and then rebuilt, keeping what they could of facades that hadn’t been reduced to rubble.

Augsburg IMG_2345 IMG_2353 IMG_2344

Our second day we went to see one of the Crazy King Ludwig’s many castles. He was famous for two things: one, for building a lot of extravagant castles that bankrupted Bavaria, and two, for being diagnosed insane and then drowning the next day with his doctor in a mysterious accident in a lake. Ok, three things, but this is post-mortem — this is the castle that inspired Walt Disney when he made the princess’ castle at Disneyland.

Castle LudwigIt’s so unfortunate they don’t let you take pictures inside because it really is over the top. There’s a room that looks like a cave with a grotto so that they could perform his favorite Wagner opera, complete with the swan scene. Also, he built this castle just across the way from another one. You know, squandering the kingdom’s money, all day, every day.

Castle 2 LudwigWe also visited the Wieskirche, or the “Pilgrimage Church of the Scourged Savior”, though something tells me that’s not a direct translation. Anyhow, it’s the most ornate thing I’ve ever seen. Visual overload to the point where it’s hard to focus on any one detail. I think you would have to spend days there to actually see everything. Yet it’s so unassuming from the outside…

Wieskirche IMG_2364 IMG_2370 IMG_2371

And that brings me to the end. Christmas Eve was celebrated with a delicious home-cooked meal and Christmas Day with a party, complete with carol singing, and though I had the words printed in front of me, I did not attempt to pronounce them as it was so beautiful and I didn’t want to spoil it with my total butchering of the German language.

Christmas in Augsburg IMG_2680 IMG_2685 IMG_2686 IMG_2687

The End. A shot of Spanish Brandy (which I did not bring) and Auf Wiedersehen.
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Catalunya

This post is long over-due. Mostly because I was in Barcelona with my family in September. Still, its worth mentioning that Barcelona is crazy cool. There’s funky architecture everywhere, delish food, and a generally good vibe. Gaudi had a big influence on the city and there are a few apartment buildings like this one.

IMG_2066BarcelonaIt rained our first night and I got this creepy beautiful picture of the Cathedral of Barcelona. (Its a little blurry on account of wanting that flash-less shot at night)Barcelona Cathedral

And then of course, the Sagrada Familia, which is over the top in all the right ways. From the outside, which looks like a sand castle, to the stained glass, the carving, the towers… Its beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.

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Sagrada FamiliaSagrada Familia

Sagrada FamiliaSagrada Familia

The view from the top of the tower is spectacular! You take an elevator up and then you can walk back down a tiny, steep, spiral staircase. If the view wasn’t enough to cause vertigo, then the walk down will do it for you. Seriously, at one point you only have a banister on the left (the inside of the outer wall) the steps are about 2 feet wide, and at the end of if you can see down the center of like 50 feet of spiral staircase.

Sagrada Familia

After a day and a half in Barcelona, the next stop was a little beach town called Cadaqués on the Mediterranean coast. A series of winding roads leads through the mountain to get several tiny coastal villages that are spectacular.

Cadaqués

This is the view of the town from the apartment we called home for 5 days.           Its just gorgeous.

Cadaqués

CadaquésCadaqués

Cadaqués

This area was home to Salvador Dalí and in a nearby town called Port Lligat, his home, which he abandoned when his wife died, is just exactly as he left it. Its a museum now that perfectly demonstrates the eccentricity which Dalí is famous for. This adorned bear greets you at the entrance to the home.

Dalí

Dalí

Dalí

Dalí

“Trash Jesus”
Dalí

DalíDalí

Dalí

I can’t wait to go back to Barcelona and spend more time exploring it. And a special thanks to my friend R and his girlfriend for an amazing tour.