Sunday, July 31, 2011

Burlington beer

view of the Lake Champlain shoreline from the burlington bikeway

I've been finding that Vermont folks are incredibly friendly. Cars will actually stop for you if you look like you want to jaywalk, as opposed to in Toronto where they'll start speeding up as though they're playing Grant Theft Auto and hope to get points for hitting pedestrians. 

Also, I feel like Vermont folks really love dogs.

Our hotel is located near the cosy campus of University of Vermont, which confirms my theory that every campus is nicer than York University. On the other side of campus is the compact downtown area. On our first night, we strolled down the surprisingly lively Church Street pedestrian walk, which my sister commented looked a bit like Sparks Street but seemed a heck of a lot more fun at night. It was lined with lots of bars, bistros, boutiques, record stores, lovers and sidewalk poets selling their poems for fifty cents.

 We popped into the Church Street Tavern to try a glass of their local Church Street ale. We'd forgotten how cheap beer can be in Americaland. Sis had the Long Trail Ale, also brewed in the state. Mom drank the Church Street Root beer.
 We slept well.


That's vacationing with my family.

In the morning we biked along the coast of Lake Champlain on the Island line of the Burlington Bikeway. Vermont is a very bike-friendly region and we know a lot of people who have made the trek down here by bike. The path has a beautiful view that almost rivals the Ottawa Parkway, taking bicyclists along the pretty beaches and incredibly luxurious lakeside properties. The weather was just perfect.

mom and dad decided to get a tandem bike, because they are totally cute pre-hipsters

mom and dad, totally having no problems whatsoever with the tandem bike...

For lunch we found ourselves back on Church Street, dining at the Three Tomatoes Trattoria, one of those restaurants part of the Slow Food movement that's been becoming popular these days, to try their locally brewed Three Tomatoes Ale. I also ha a glass of Vermont's Switchback Ale. I have only been in Vermont for just over twenty four hours but I feel like I've developed a really solid appreciation for Vermont-brewed amber ales, especially in this summer heat.

This was especially confirmed through our afternoon tour of the Magic Hat Brewery,  a converted lumber factory that also hosts many band practices and parties, with some of the best interior design i've ever seen in a brewery.  The Magic Hat is one of the many small breweries that don't advertise but only spread through word of mouth. I enjoyed their sampling station, as you might imagine.

In the afternoon, we checked out the Farmers' Market in City Hall Park which was full of yummy foods (look maple syrup! Wait, we have maple syrup) and ingenious crafts that were far too tempting, like a mini-version of the Young Designer's Market in Manhattan. I particularly enjoyed the buskers as well as this one deejay spinning some awesome afternoon tunes in an empty alley beside the Red Square establishment. Downtown seemed totally alive and everyone was out enjoying themselves with their multiple dogs.

We also shopped at the disproportionate numbers of trendy boutiques and vintage stores downtown.  Burlington surprisingly has a strong hippie aesthetic, with all these stores advertising an emphasis on the organic or the local. Obviously you can imagine I loved that, although admittedly I scored the most retail deals at a discount store in the less busy University Mall where the owner was really excited to see us and told us about all the times he has had Chinese tourists come into his store.

By evening we were tired from our busy day and full from feasting and sampling brewskies all day, so we stopped off at the mall food court where I met a Congolese man running a shawarma stand who sold me yummy "African food made from Vermont ingredients".  I have my doubts as to whether the mango from the Shawarmaman mango juice came from Vermont, but my dinner made me super excited that in a few months I was going to discover a whole new continent of food.

Church Street at night

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The road to Vermont

Well, my family's now arrived in Burlington, Vermont, a destination we went to for no reason other than the fact that it's only a few hours from Ottawa and we've never been there before.

It was a fun adventure getting here. We stopped off for dinner at  a Ponderosa Steakhouse, which unfortunately turned out to be nothing like the Ponderosa restaurants that we remembered from living in New York some twenty years ago. Maybe it's a different chain? Maybe they've re-vamped the chain? Maybe we're getting old and our memories are faulty?

After dinner, it began to ran, and we drove through the  heart of Akwesasne Mohawk territory, amused at the alternating signs inviting people to gamble at the casino and signs urging people not to gamble.

  The route we chose was not, I suspect, the most direct route but it was certainly scenic. The landscape was dotted with trees, houses, and the occasional giant wind turbines. I have, by the way, an irrational distrust of wind turbines. 

We took a small ferry across the long lake that makes up the Champlain.  I have an irrational distrust of small ferries. But luckily despite the fast pace of the boat, it barely felt like we were moving, except for the wind blowing through the sun roof, which felt great because it was still humid after the rain. 

Finally we arrived in the quaint city of Burlington, where even the smallest most ordinary looking houses have grand white columns adorning the entrances. Whenever I mention Vermont, I'm usually told that it isn't very densely populated but it is a beautiful state. Kind of like Namibia, I guess. When I mention Burlington, the biggest city in the state, all I'm ever told is:

1. You'll be the only Asian there you ever see.

2. Phish is from Burlington.

3. Seriously, it's a really white.

It's true. Everyone's very friendly though, and my parents could probably stand to abstain from Asian food for a few days.

but then again, there are the dumpling stands on Church Street

Friday, July 29, 2011

Big changes ahead

As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, there are some big changes ahead in my life and lots of traveling. Today is my last day at my current job at the Federal Court. It was a fantastic challenging job that I loved very much, but these positions are only for one year and it's time to move on. Now I'll be leaving my comfortable government job (as well as my comfortable five digit salary, sadly) for new adventures! In less than two months, I am moving to Namibia, located on the southeastern coast of Africa, to be working in human rights at the Legal Assistance Centre. I'll be working in particular on law reform with respect to domestic violence against women, as part of their Gender Research and Advocacy project. For those of you that know me, it's been my lifelong dream to work in international human rights law, and I have wanted to take part in this CIDA/CBA sponsored program since I started law school, so this is essentially a dream come true for me!

Obviously I'll be blogging all about my African adventures. But until then, I'll be doing a little more domestic traveling, and I'll be writing about this too. Today, after I finish cleaning out my office (ugh), I'm heading off to Vermont, then a ten day road trip to Prince Edward Island. On Labour Day Weekend, the Song family's going back to Syracuse for some epic shopping. And - I'm really trying to make this happen - I'm pretty sure I'm going to stop by Amsterdam on the way to Namibia. So stay tuned!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I am going to be moving to the African country of Namibia by September. After a year's worth of hanging around my hometown Ottawa, i'm going to be on the move again! Obviously this means that this blog will be revived. Stay tuned.