“Scotchy scotch scotch”, so quoth the anchorman. So serveth Whisky Café in the Mile End of Montreal. Over 150 single malts – staggering. Also quite a lot of other aged brown booze (cognac, rum, port, etc), as well as a separate cigar room with numerous classics from Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, and others (Havana of course). They offer tasting flights of whiskies, arranged by distiller or region, as well as whisky and cigar pairings.
The main bar is reminiscent of a classic, elegant French café, the cigar room more a clubby, plush den. Both very nice (though definitely stay in the main area if you don’t smoke, as the air in the latter area is quite thick).
All in all a very distinctive place, the only such of its kind in Montréal, it seems, and truly a world class whisky selection. As it happens, it won the Canadian Whisky Bar of the Year award in 2008Try the Lagavullin 16, it’s peated perfection. Here’s just the single malt menu:
Sir Winston Churchill, in all his whisky-guzzling, cigar chugging Hard Ballerness, would approve.
Bonus: across the street is the Royal Phoenix Bar, which is to be entered at your discretion, but by all means stand on the street corner and watch the parade of alternative young Montreal life stream forth from it – black, white, straight, gay, girls, guys, and almost everybody dressed and decorated off the wall and mashed up. Pure entertainment!
5800 Boulevard St. Laurent
I may live mostly in DC, frustratedly adore Beirut, and enjoy travelling round the world, but only one place is my true love: The Metropolis; Her Majesty’s Capital; London. Having lived there twice and visited so often I’ve lost count of the times, London is truly where my spirit resides. When I arrive at Dulles, I groan; when I arrive at Heathrow, I think “I’m home.”
Given a little thing called the Olympics is going on there now, it’s a great time to tell you why London deserves every bit of attention it’s getting.
Svaneti (Georgian: სვანეთი) is situated on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountains in the northwestern part of Georgia. It is the highest inhabited part of the Caucasus.
The characteristic landscape of Upper Svaneti is formed by small villages situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains.
I’ve said Georgia is the place for wine. The oldest evidence for wine-making has been found in Georgia, dating back to 8000 years ago, and wine has been in steady production there since then. Even their indigenous word for wine, ghvino, is thought to have influenced Indo-European languages – vinum (Latin), oinos (Greek), and, of course, vino (Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc). As of 6000 years ago, the people now called Georgians essentially created the method of winemaking that remains in use today. For those Georgians who make wine at home, they follow roughly the same procedure. Almost all commercial wine, however, has begun to be made using Western European methods, in an effort to appeal to a global palate. Appealing they are, some even excellent. Pheasant’s Tears has stuck to the ways of their distant ancestors, and their wines are nothing short of amazing.
So I’ve told you where to go and what to see, how about some more practical information? Transportation, costs, accommodations, food and drink…How to make the most of your time and money once you’re there.
Transportation: For far-flung trips to Kazbegi or Kakheti, or even further, it can be useful to rent a car – without doing so, getting to Davit Gareji would have been a huge pain in the ass, and all these stops after the jump, going to and from Kazbegi, would have been unlikely if not impossible without hiring a taxi at an exorbitant fee: (more…)
So you’ve decided that Georgia looks beautiful, the people sound lovely, and the food delicious. Right you are! Now you want to visit. Hurrah! Tourism is a quickly growing sector of the economy, and as I’ve said before, it’s definitely worth it.
Now then, you may ask : “where and when should I go, what is there to see, how do I get around, and what does it cost? And I have other questions too!” Today we focus on the where…obviously it’s biased towards where I went in the limited time I had, but having done my research, as a hard baller should, I determined that the following would be the highlights of the country, and I was right.
Hidden from whom, you may ask? Certainly for anyone with any background in the Eastern bloc, the Republic of Georgia is no secret; ask any Russian about khachapuri and expect drooling. But for the majority of us here in the West, the Middle East, or Asia, Georgia and the Caucasus in general remain largely unknown. At only 4 million people, it’s smaller than just the capital of American Georgia, and often the latter is what pops into people’s heads when they hear the unqualified name. At least Wikipedia takes you to a disambiguation page…
But I want to change that. Georgia is a lovely, remarkable country, with an ancient and distinctive history and culture, some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve set eyes on, and people that give even Arabs a run for the money in the hospitality department. Let’s not forget that the food and wine are brilliant and plentiful, too. (more…)
No, not where Outkast is from. The country, in the Caucasus. The Republic of Georgia, Sakartvelo. One of the most lovely places I’ve ever been, where at almost every head turn something gorgeous and unexpected pops into view, where the people shatter your notions of hospitality with their unending kindness and warmth, and where the food and wine are so good that “moderation” ceases to be in your vocabulary. Here are some photos for the time being:
I’ve said Beirut is laid back, it’s a good place to relax, and more. As one Lebanese rapper put it, “the national sport of Lebanon is called chilling.” I’ll also nominate mentalist driving, but let’s go with chilling for now, because it’s hard to imagine anyone ENJOYS driving here, although I’m sure some people take perverse pleasure in pretending it’s the Monaco Grand Prix on the crowded streets (“Shou, Monte Carlo is a party town on ze Med, we are too!”)…but I digress. More than partying, more than their fabled ski-and-swim in the same day, more than anything else, the Lebanese love to sit back, relax, and enjoy life. Usually that involves a café, with coffee, tea, beer, snacks, and often an argile (hookah). The king of all such places in Beirut is Al Falamanki.
Now that I’ve introduced you all to Lebanon, its complexities, frustrations, beauty, and dichotomies, here’s some practical information. To review from last post, my rules for Lebanon are 1) keep an open mind; 2) take things as they come; 3) avoid the coastal highway at rush hour (this is a BS rule, but good advice); 4) expect the unexpected. I’m convinced that if you keep all that inmind, you’ll have a much more enjoyable visit. Here are some other tips.
So I’m back, wish I were still there, but c’est la vie, habibi. Lebanon and Beirut have got a lot of press in the last couple years, as parodied brilliantly on the Now Lebanon! blog:
First, I will romanticize Lebanon into a chic, post-war brand so you can buy into this cliché article about why “Beirut is back.” I will tell you that there was a 15-year civil war in the country from 1975-1990, and then contrast several buzzwords and phrases like “battered” “bruised” and “once-divided” with notions of “rebirth” “glamorous” and “united.”
As sharp as Ms Nassar is, this series shall be nothing of the sort. Rather, it shall highlight the realities of Lebanon and how to get the most out of it. Rule 1: develop a strong sense of patience…
If the mad awesomeness of the Bernese Oberland wasn’t enough for you, we have one more stop, featuring Switzerland’s most famous mountain of all. The one on the Toblerone bars:
Today we head to the hills, or rather, the Alps. From Luzern, the legendary Bernese Oberland is only about an hour’s drive or train ride away. Our destination: the world-renowned trio of mountains: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, or, the Ogre, Monk, and Maiden. Feel free to create your own fairy tale featuring these mysterious characters.
(More words and many pictures after the jump)
It’s twice the size of New Jersey, but all other comparisons to that state are brutally unfair. Despite its small size, figuring out what to do on a limited schedule in Switzerland can be challenging simply because EVERYTHING THERE IS SO COOL. Do you want to go on a cheese tour (this is a real thing)? Do you want to climb serious mountains? Do you want to go sailing? Every inch of the country is picturesque, and even small villages are worth stopping at for a drink, snack, and to take some pictures. So if priorities have to be made, what are they?
Warning: long and very pic-heavy after the jump.
You’ve heard of luxury cars, luxury hotels, luxury watches, and all that. Have you ever heard of a luxury country? While the UAE might like you to think that Dubai is what I’m talking about (and much love goes out to the UAE), Switzerland is the embodiment of a luxury country. (more…)