Thanksgiving: not about the where, all about the who!

In a travel writing course I took, the main ideal was a travel story did not have to revolve around the actual act of traveling. The story can be about an event or a gathering or an experience.

This week’s blog is dedicated to Thanksgiving – one of the biggest travel weekends of the year. But this post is not about the journey to get to where the turkey is being served. It is about the opportunity to spend this special day with loved ones – related or not. A tradition that started in our family 21 years ago, when my son was born the day before Thanksgiving. I was in no condition to cook a large dinner, so my husband did most of the cooking (which has now turned into a tradition of it’s own), and invited his college roommates to join us under the condition they each brought one side dish.

In recent years, we have taken this tradition of spending Thanksgiving with whoever is front and center in our lives that year and celebrate those relationships. These gatherings have culminated in many gatherings inclusive of non-family members either because of circumstance and location. We have celebrated from Regina, Saskatchewan (Yay Roughriders – 2013 Grey Cup Champions!) to New York, New York to Calgary, Alberta to Phoenix, Arizona.

Friends sharing turkey carving duties, Regina, SK

Friends sharing turkey carving duties, Regina, Saskatchewan

Thanksgiving spread, Regina, SK

Thanksgiving spread, Regina, Saskatchewan

Family and friends sharing a Thanksgiving meal in Arizona.

Family and friends sharing a Thanksgiving meal in Arizona.

Yes. U.S. Thanksgiving in Canada. No, it is not also Canadian Thanksgiving – Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, and not nearly the massive celebration it is in the U.S. So why you ask would we leave our beloved U.S. to travel to a place where we can’t even buy a turkey without special ordering it a week in advance?

Family! As my 22-year-old daughter, who lives in New York, said, “I don’t care where we celebrate Thanksgiving, as long as we are together and celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day!” Touche’! For years this has been an ongoing challenge for a family that is spread far and wide across many states and two countries. Whether it was because of our son studying at a Canadian university or my husband working in Canada, we have learned to work around these differing schedules.

Stuffing the bird, Calgary, Alberta

Stuffing the bird, Calgary, Alberta

Thanksgiving spread, Calgary, Alberta

Thanksgiving spread, Calgary, Alberta

Often we found ourselves in locations that our immediate family was our only family. As it is a near impossibility to make a Thanksgiving meal for only four people, the quick and easy solution was to open our doors to expand our ‘circle of love’ to friends when we celebrate in these ‘out of the norm’ locations.

When in Canada we have had Canadian friends join us to experience a real, full-out Thanksgiving dinner (request for return engagements have been made.) Or, we have had Thanksgiving dinner for many of our displaced American friends living along side us in Canada.

Our Thanksgiving in New York was the first time we did not fix the actual Thanksgiving dinner. We found other ways to make this experience equally special. Taking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; eating a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner at a riverside restaurant in Brooklyn looking across the East River at the New York skyline; flying in my son’s girlfriend to surprise him for his pre-Thanksgiving birthday; having my daughter’s boyfriend join us because he could not get home to his family in California.

Catching the end of the Macy's Day Parade, NY, NY

Catching the end of the Macy’s Day Parade, NY, NY

Snoopy floating down Central Park West, NY, NY

Snoopy floating down Central Park West in the Macy’s Day Parade, NY, NY

Family and friends enjoying a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner in Brooklyn, NY

Family and friends enjoying a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner in Brooklyn, NY

Thanksgiving is about making memories, sharing time with loved ones – related or not, and overloading on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and all the other fixins’!

From one of our many extended family and friends gatherings to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

From one of our many extended family and friends gatherings to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! No matter where your Thanksgiving Day plans take you or who is sitting at your table!

Montreal, Quebec – Vive la French Canadians

Montreal! One of only a handful of North American cities with a genuine European flair. French is spoken as the first language in most of the city. The history of the area competes with some of the most historic European cities. It even has an Old Town.

For me, Montreal was all about culture. As our tour guide said, “…when people say they are going out, they mean they are going to the opera or a museum, not to a movie or dinner.” Although Montreal does have some outstanding restaurants to rival any top European or NYC restaurant.

Every local I came across set out each day with one goal in mind – live life to the fullest. A varying contrast to what I have experienced in France, where most French, at least in Paris seem to be unapproachable and crabby. The energy emanating from the local Québécois was refreshing and captivating. Maybe because Montreal isn’t as overrun with Americans as Paris is.

There are 68 festivals each year in Montreal, many lasting for weeks, so there is never a weekend, year-round, there isn’t something fun and unique to enjoy. The Montreal portion of this blog is dedicated to three exhibits I attended. There are too many great pictures to share within the blog post, so I will add individual galleries for each under the blog ‘Gallery’ tab.

Chihuly: Dale Chihuly, born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941. I have admired his works in my favorite restaurants, a neighbor’s home, the Botanical Desert Garden in Arizona and now in an amazing exhibit in Montreal.

Chihuly Exhibit, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Chihuly Exhibit, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Chihuly's glass ceiling exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Chihuly’s glass ceiling exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Chihuly learned glass blowing at various universities in the US, but has received awards and requests for his exhibits worldwide. An auto accident and a body surfing accident, in the late 1970’s, left him unable to do the actual glass blowing (gaffing), but through his drawings and direction his artistry lives on in fresh exhibits.

Seguin Poirier: a local artist and true francophone (French is his one and only language). I took a tour to visit his 1600’s era gallery/home/workshop, just outside of Montreal.

Seguin Poirier (which means pear in French), Montreal artist

Seguin Poirier (pear in French) – Montreal artist

Seguin Poirier's chapel lined completely with his artwork

Seguin Poirier’s chapel lined completely with his artwork

Monsieur Poirier’s médium is enamel on copper. He has been doing this form of artwork for 46 years. He takes a special paint powder and sprinkles it on different size pieces of copper. Then, using a metal tipped instrument he draws his subject in the powder. Next, this is put into a specially designed kiln to reach a specific temperature of 1500 degrees. Once this temp is reached, the artwork has to be immediately removed or it will burn. This intense heat turns the powder to vibrant liquid, and the instant the artwork is pulled from the kiln this liquid turns rock hard as soon as it is hit by air.

Mosaicultures Internationales Montreal 2013: a living exhibit displaying over 50 botanical sculptures from all over the world competing in the ‘Land of Hope’ theme. The Jardin Botanique is heaven on earth for this landscape designer and horticulturist. Add in this amazing exhibit and an absolutely perfect fall day and I wished I had scheduled to spend a full day at the gardens.

Winning Jury Grand Honorary Award - China's 'A True Story!'

Winning Jury Grand Honorary Award – China’s ‘A True Story!’

Fan favorite award winning - Canada's 'The Man Who Planted Trees'

Fan favorite award-winning – Canada’s ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’

Other must see and places to eat: The blue ceiling of The Notre Dame Basilica (old town), the views from Mount Royal and a visit to the Olympic Stadium can only be out done by taking in a Montreal Canadians game. All Canadians LOVE their hockey, but the French Canadians take that to an even higher level – like Europeans and their football.  Two higher end dining experiences – Bis Italian (center Montreal) and Gibby’s Steakhouse (old town).

Check out more pictures under the Global Gallery tab.