Welcome to Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) in Mongolia

Welcome to Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator is the capital and the largest city of Mongolia. A federal municipality, the city is not part of any aimag (province), and its population as of 2014 was over 1.3 million.

Located in north central Mongolia, the municipality lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial and financial heart of the country, the centre of Mongolia’s road network and connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.

The city was founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre. In 1778, it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Before that, it changed location twenty-eight times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. In the twentieth century, Ulaanbaatar grew into a major manufacturing centre.

Mainstream tourist guide books usually recommend the Gandantegchinlen Monastery with the large Janraisig statue, the socialist monument complex at Zaisan Memorial with its great view over the city, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, Chinggis Square and the nearby Choijin Lama Temple. Additionally, Ulaanbaatar houses numerous museums, two of the prominent ones being the National Museum of Mongolia and the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum. Popular destinations for day trips are the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, the Manzushir monastery ruins on the southern flank of Bogd Khan Uul and Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue.

Welcome to Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) in Mongolia

Important shopping districts include the 3rd Microdistrict Boulevard (simply called Khoroolol or “the District”), Peace Avenue around the State Department Store (simply called Ikh Delguur or “Great Store”) and the Narantuul “Black Market” area (simply called Zakh or “the Market”). Ulaanbaatar presently has three large cinemas, one modern ski resort, two large indoor stadiums, several large department stores and one large amusement park. Food, entertainment and recreation venues are steadily increasing in variety. KFC, Round Table Pizza, Cinnabon, Louis Vuitton, Ramada and Kempinski have opened up branches in key locations.

A 309m tall tower called the Morin Khuur Tower (Horsehead Fiddle Tower) is planned to be built next to the Central Stadium. It is scheduled to finish in 2018. Other future skyscrapers are the 34-floor Shangri-La Phase 2 luxury hotel project (construction ongoing and scheduled to finish in 2015) and the 41-floor Mak Tower being built by South Korean “Lotte Construction and Engineering”.

Discover the best things to do in Tel Aviv, Israel

Discover the best things to do in Tel Aviv, Israel

Spend some time in ‘The Bubble’ and discover the best things to do in Tel Aviv, including restaurants, bars, hotels and attractions.

With an influx of 2.5 million international visitors every year, Tel Aviv is one of the most visited cities in the Middle East. A lively 24-hour carousel of activity, Israel’s second city – though many locals consider it the country’s first – has things to do for everyone.

With inbound Jewish influences from the East Coast of the United States to Ashkenazi Eastern Europe and the Mizrachi Yemen – and in recent decades, a large number from Russia – Tel Aviv is a cacophonous mixtape of heritage. As such it offers an exciting melting pot of cuisines, cultural traits, accents and worldviews. Palestinian and Arab influences are most evidently assimilated in what was once the sleepy port of Jaffa – the Arab town from which a Jewish suburb first relocated in 1909, before expanding into one of the most exciting metropolises on the Mediterranean.

In contrast to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is avowedly a secular city. It is known for its 24-hour nightlife and is seen as licentious by many Israelis who live outside of ‘The Bubble’, as proud hedonist Tel Avivim refer to their town.

Discover the best things to do in Tel Aviv, Israel

Perched on the Mediterranean coast, and blessed with a strip of perfect white-sand beach that runs almost the length of the city itself, there are plenty of things to do by way of wild party nights and lazy, sunny afternoons. You’ll find an array of modern restaurants, clubs, cafés and bars dominating the blocks by the beach and the centre of town.

Taxis are relatively cheap but traffic periodically chokes the city and the best way to explore is usually on foot. This will give you more opportunities to mix with the Tel Aviv locals who are arguably one of the city’s greatest selling points.

Museums and Attractions

When travelling through Israel’s cultural capital, the journey can be as invigorating as the destination. One place to make sure to explore is White City, home to 4,000 Bauhaus buildings built in the 1930s. The largest collection of such architecture in the world, the area is so unique that it has been placed under UN preservation – sign up for a guided tour from the local Bauhaus Center.

Another area to visit is the port town area of Jaffa, which is home to many Israeli artists and dozens of contemporary art galleries. Keep your eyes peeled for converted warehouses, which host performances and installations that rival any on the international stage.

It is impossible to miss the city’s abundance of incredible street art. Make sure to stroll down Allenby Street or Rothschild Boulevard to take in the stunning graffiti. For a different kind of wall art head to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where you will be greeted by two giant Roy Lichtenstein panels in the entrance foyer. The museum’s permanent collection includes everything from Old Masters to Israeli art and ranges in specialism from architecture and sculpture to photography.

Finally, be sure to wander around the Suzanne Dellal Center, a must see for any culture junkie. The dance complex was established in 1989 and continues to be host many of Israel’s greatest social and cultural voices.

Museums and Attractions Details

Bauhaus Center 99 Dizengoff Street. +972 3 522 02 49.
Tel Aviv Musuem of Art 27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard. +972 3 607 70 20.
Suzanne Dellal Center 6 Yechieli Street. +972 3 510 56 56.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Discover local recommendations for the best things to do in St Petersburg – for the perfect break in Russia’s second city.

Russia’s northernmost city has existed under several names – it became Petrograd in 1914 (to appear less German) and Leningrad in 1924 to honour the Soviet leader and once more became St Petersburg in 1991. Most of the five million locals, however, lovingly refer to it simply as Peter.

Russia’s second city proudly wears the remnants of its turbulent history on its sleeve; the Aurora battleship that signalled the start of the 1917 October Revolution floats poignantly on the Neva River, and Soviet emblems stand proudly from the pediments of grand 19thcentury palaces that now host vibrant and hedonistic fashion shows. Recently, local activists scuppered plans to erect a 400-meter tall Okhota Center skyscraper in place of an old Swedish-Russian fortress. However, while its inhabitants are keen to preserve Saint Petersburg’s heritage, the city continues to evolve.

Throughout the 1990s, St Petersburg was a truly European city, home to raucous parties in its historical buildings and abandoned prisons. And since the 2000s, the city has rapidly become a place of affluence and prosperity. Siberian oil, rising taxes and an influx of five million tourists per year has funded fresh waves of restoration, a new port on an artificial island and a 20-mile long dam across the Finland Gulf.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

In recent years a creative scene has blossomed around the city’s historical centre, bringing the pop-up galleries, art hubs and boutiques that are defining a new metropolitan style. The city’s nightlife has also flourished – Dumskaya Street is a bar hopper’s dream, with a small club on every doorstep, while Konushennaya square is home to clusters of trendy restaurants. Visitors to St Petersburg might expect its wealth of history, but are likely to be surprised to find a city in bloom where there many, many unforgettable things to do.

Museums and attractions

St Petersburg is home to an incredible number of museums – 182 in total. Some are enormous (like the Russian Museum), others are tiny (like the cosy Russian Vodka Museum), but regardless of scale it’s the State Hermitage that always has the longest queues.

The largest art museum in Russia, and one of the oldest museums in the world, the State Hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherine The Great and now occupies six buildings and houses 350 exhibition halls. It is home to an astonishing three million pieces of art – ranging from the prehistoric and ancient Egyptian to Renaissance and Russian collections – and includes famous works by Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Not far away stands the Russian Museum,which holds the largest collection of Russian art in the world and is home to the renowned Summer and Mikhajlovsky gardens. Tucked just behind the Russian Museum is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the eccentric architectural monument erected on the spot where Alexander II (the tsar who emancipated the serfs in Russia) was killed.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

For an insight into contemporary Russian art, check out the Loft Project ETAGI (once a five-storey bakery and one of the city’s original squats), which is a vast gallery space as well as a design attraction in its own right.

There is also the Erarta Museum, which opened in 2010 and now homes 2,300 works of contemporary art from more than 150 Russian artists, making it the largest private museum of its kind in Russia.

Ballet and dance

The spirit of the Soviet ballet lives on in the city of St Petersburg, and during the winter holidays you can watch a dozen different adaptations of Swan Lake. But until recently, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Alexandrinsky Theatre were the only companies to continuously breathe new life into their productions – even those (such as the Dyagilev plays or historical ballets) more hundred years old.

The Mikhajlovsky Theatre recently gained new management and has undergone an overhaul in attitude. An injection of funds has also meant that the theatre has gained Spanish contemporary ballet legend Juan Ignacio Duato Bárcia – aka Nacho Duato – as artistic director, which can only mean good things. The company has also already booked in a guest run from Chicago troupe, Hubbard Street Dance (known for their athletic mix of modern, jazz and ballet), which sets a high bar for the rest of the line-up.

Ballet and dance venue details

Alexandrinsky Theatre 6 Ostrovskogo Street. +7 812 380 8050.
Mariinsky Theatre 1 Teatralnaya Square. +7 812 326 4141.
Mikhajlovsky Theatre 1 Italjanskaya Street. +7 812 595 4305.

Black Box or History of Cold War in Berlin Wall

Black Box or History of Cold War in Berlin Wall

Information pavilion on the history of Checkpoint Charlie.

The 200 m² (2,150 ft²) of the Black Box at Checkpoint Charlie informs the public on the history of this most famous border crossing point. With the use of large-format photos and numerous media stations, not only the impact of the Berlin Wall on the history of Germany is illustrated, but also the entire international dimension of the division of both Germany and Europe will be made tangible.

The external design of the pavilion refers to the two Great Powers of those days, the Soviet Union and the USA. The black colour of the external façade stands for the Black Box – the recorder of events for posterity. The red colour of the column signifies the Soviet Union and the blue window the USA.

In 2015, it is intended to establish the Cold War Museum on this site.

A nice day in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

A nice day in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

While the only remaining city gate of Berlin formerly used to represent the separation of the city between East and West Berlin, since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Brandenburg Gate has now come to symbolise German unity. In addition, this gate made of sandstone is one of the finest examples of German classicism.

Built according to the plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791, the Brandenburg Gate is modelled on the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis. On both sides, there are six Doric columns supporting the 11 meter-deep transverse beam, which divide the gate into five passages. In 1793, a quadriga designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow was placed on the gate, which points to the east in the direction of the city centre.

In light of a decision made by the Berlin Senate, since October 2002 the Brandenburg Gate has been closed for traffic, including buses and taxis.

Pariser Platz

The Pariser Platz in Berlin is considered as the city’s “best room” and indeed is also one of the most beautiful places in the capital. Around Pariser Platz, elegant town houses, embassies and the luxurious Adlon Hotel were built.

The Liebermann house and the Sommer house, recently constructed at the left and right side of the Brandenburg Gate, are meant to be conceived as twins, whose architecture is based on the historical models of the Prussian architect Friedrich August Stüler. The building of the Dresdner Bank follows the conventions of the architectural design of Pariser Platz, without degenerating into historicism.. The French Embassy and the Embassy of the United States are two additional prominent establishments to be found at this historical place.

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Your insider’s guide to the best food, accommodation, sightseeing and nightlife in Paraguay’s beguiling capital.

Asunción is one of South America’s oldest cities, its poorest, yet also its safest. Having lost roughly 60% of its population in the Triple Alliance War of 1864-70 and suffered several oppressive dictatorships, landlocked Paraguay was left out of the tourist boom that took hold of neighbouring Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia towards the end of the last century. But the past decade has seen a stirring in the capital; world-class restaurants, contemporary bars and fashionable boutiques are popping up all over the city, alongside a vibrant cultural scene. In turn, this has brought new business and tourism, leading to further rejuvenation and a wealth of exciting things to do in Asunción – the ‘mother of cities’, according to its nickname.

The capital remains a city of crumbling colonial buildings and precarious public transport, and its basic infrastructure is still leagues behind that of Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires. English is spoken by few and traces of globalization are scarce (incidentally, Paraguay is one of the only South American countries to have kept a native tongue in current usage: Guarani). But this makes it the perfect place for those wishing to experience the antiquated charm of a little-known South American city. Give Asunción half a chance and it will reveal itself as a hidden gem of the sort that adventurous travellers yearn for. Although for how much longer remains to be seen…

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Sights and attractions in Asunción

The best way to get to grips with Asunción’s historic downtown area, dotted with dilapidated pastel-coloured edifices, is by foot. Start your walk at the aptly named Plaza de la Democracia, a rallying spot for the younger generations in times of celebration and discontent.

It’s also home to the city’s most iconic building, the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes, whichhouses the remains of several former presidents and is dedicated to the war heroes of the country’s chequered past. The neighbouring Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) attests to the city’s equally resilient Catholic foundation (you’ll notice many religious street and place names – not least the city’s itself).

A short walk away is the Palacio de los López (Presidential Palace), an arrestingly beautiful construction that serves as a reminder of the strong governmental presence in the country, while managing to look like an illustration from the pages of a fairy tale. For those interested in Paraguay’s political history, the nearby Casa de la Independencia Museum charts the country’s journey from colony to freedom and is a monument in its own right.

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Around the corner, the rosy-hued El Cabildo (Cultural Center of the Republic) hosts exhibits on the country’s turbulent past; like the palace, it looks spectacular when lit up at night. Another must-visit is the Museo del Barro: founded to showcase Paraguay’s cultural diversity, it displays a huge array of art and artefacts, from indigenous craftware to contemporary paintings and political caricatures.

Asunción boasts jewels beyond conventional sightseeing. At the beating heart of the city is the Mercado 4, a market selling everything from homeware and clothes to animal hearts and medicinal herbs. Recently rejuvenated Loma San Jerónimo is the city’s oldest district, its brightly painted houses and artisan stalls reminiscent of La Boca in Buenos Aires. This quaint barrio comes alive on Sundays when street performers, market stalls and food stands conjure up a festival vibe.

It’s not all buildings and bustling squares. Asunción is well known for its green spaces: those after some respite from the midday heat should head to the Parque de la Salud or the Jardín Botánico y Zoológico, and settle in the shade of the mango trees and pink-blossomed lapachos (the national tree). Elsewhere, the Costanera has undergone huge redevelopment of late. This strip of beach by the Paraguay River was once heavily polluted and pretty seedy, but it’s now the perfect place for an early evening stroll. In the day, catch a short boat ride across the river to picturesque Chaco-í, a traditional Paraguayan village.

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

One of the most surprising reasons that people don’t travel isn’t a lack of money or time, it’s the fear and anxiety about all of the what-ifs? Even people who claim to have a strong desire to see the world have often never traveled more than a few states away from their homes because they just can’t seem to get over the idea that something bad will happen that will ruin their trip, or worse, put them in danger.

There are surely horror stories about terrible events happening to people traveling abroad in unfamiliar countries, but these are actually very rare events. You are statistically in more danger just driving to the grocery store in your home town. Read more to find out some of the most common travel anxieties, and how to overcome the fear of the unknown.

Going abroad is dangerous

Well, it can be, but so is getting in your car every day and fighting your way through rush hour traffic on the way to your mundane office job. You’re no more likely to encounter a dangerous situation abroad than you are staying right where you are, although how you deal with a crisis may need to be handled a bit differently.

Do a bit of research and educate yourself about the particular dangers at your destination, and take steps to avoid any known issues, like people that try to scam tourists. Get in touch with the local embassy when you arrive, and make sure you know who to call if you find yourself in need of assistance. Make sure you’ve researched the monetary system, so you know whether or not you’re getting a good deal when making a purchase. If you use common sense and plan ahead, there’s no more danger in traveling than there is in staying put.

I don’t speak the language

While it’s always intimidating to go to unfamiliar territory, going to a new place where you think you can’t communicate with the locals can be a terrifying prospect. English is becoming more and more common throughout the world, and most people in populated places will have a working knowledge of basic conversational phrases. People working specifically in tourism-related industries, such as hotels, airlines and tour guides will almost certainly have a higher level of English fluency.

Spend a few weeks prior to traveling learning some essential phrases, especially “please” and “thank you”. There are very few places in the world where you can travel that you will simply be unable to communicate, and as a novice traveler you should probably avoid venturing that far from populated cities. Begin your travel career in countries that are similar to your own. Enjoy European destinations or the UK. There is plenty to do without the inherent risks of culture shock or inadvertently offending the locals.

What if I get sick or hurt?

Most of the governments keep a travel advisory list for countries around the world. There you can find information about recommended vaccines, and what types of food and drink to avoid while traveling. Odds are if you do become ill, it will be a minor issue. For the record, diarrhea is the number one complaint of travelers. Make sure you bring some over the counter medications for common ailments and a small first aid kit, and you should be fine.

Prepare ahead of time and contact your insurance company about coverage for emergencies when you are abroad, as well as researching the hospital facilities available so that you can give some direction if you do wind up needing emergency medical care. In truth, most doctors and professional medical staff will likely be well versed in English no matter where you go, and there are good facilities that can be found even in the poorest of countries, as long as you know where to find them.

What if disaster strikes?

Disaster can mean many things to many people. Loss of identity papers, thieves, scam artists, terrorism, natural disasters, and the list goes on and on. This is where it’s important to remember that disaster can strike anywhere, even at home. You’re much more likely to have your credit card information stolen while sitting at your office than you are having your passport stolen while traveling.

If you’re truly concerned about violence or other political unrest, do your homework before you travel and avoid places with a higher risk. Stay in touch with family and friends, and have someone you trust back home keep some emergency funds for you – ready to wire to you instantly in the case of a theft or loss of critical documents. Again, remember that you can contact your embassy to assist you at any time when you are traveling abroad, but that incidents like these are truly very rare.

What if I get homesick?

It’s not really a “what-if?” It’s a what do I do when I get homesick?. It’s nearly impossible to make it through any journey without a longing to sleep in your own bed, or to curl up with your dog who is boarding at the vet’s office. Remember that it’s temporary and you’ll be home soon enough. Try to remember the reasons that you decided to take this journey, and consider the memories you’ve already made. Make appointments to regularly Skype with friends and family and stay in touch via social media. By the time you do return home, you’ll probably feel like it was over too soon, and wish you could have stayed longer.

If in the end you’re really unhappy, you can always cut your trip short and head home sooner, but you’ll probably find yourself wishing you hadn’t sometime in the future. Traveling is a wonderful way to bring excitement to your life, and once you get started you’ll most likely spend all of your free time looking forward to the next great adventure.

Feeling tropical in Costa Rica with beachs, adventure, hotels and food

Feeling tropical in Costa Rica with beachs, adventure, hotels and food

This small country is perhaps the best in Latin America for a tropical adventure, thanks to its misty jungles, incredible wildlife, active volcanoes and glorious deserted beaches.

The essential itinerary for Costa Rica was defined long ago: Manuel Antonio for the beach, Monteverde for cloud forest, Tortuguero for turtles, and Arenal volcano for outdoor adventure. Add in the area of sandy beachfront in Guanacaste that has also been set aside for large hotels and you have all the elements of most package tours to the country.

But the true beauty of Costa Rica lies in its smaller, emptier spaces. And though there is plenty of adventure on offer (when they say you can zipline from one end of the country to the other, they’re only half joking), it’s the V-formation of pelicans flying over your hammock, lightning over a silver sea, pink orchids against turquoise houses, a passing cowboy with silver stirrups, the white sand and deep blue sea that stay in the memory – along with the state of the roads.

Costa Rica has a mountainous spine, so crossing from Pacific to Caribbean coast takes forever. Resign yourself to loops in all directions out of the capital San José, which sits in the Central Valley, and remember that internal flights will save time and stress. What looks like a quick journey on a map will not be: the 65-mile drive from Arenal to Monteverde, say, can take six hours.

All prices are for the current high season (December-April) and include tax of 13%. In the low season, from May-November (less crowds, rainy mornings), there are substantial discounts if occupancy is low.

Feeling tropical in Costa Rica with beachs, adventure, hotels and food

San José, The Capital City

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the old capital has been left to rot while a replacement, made of condos and strip malls, is built around it. The gridlocked downtown blocks aren’t pretty, with their cracked pavements, stinking drains, seedy bars, pickpockets, rusting tin roofs and ocarina sellers. But old San José has its sights, from Museo de Jade (Plaza de la Democracía) and Museo del Oro (beneath Plaza de la Cultura), both with unrivalled but unsung pre-Colombian treasures, to the warren of the Mercado Central, and the pay-to-view grandeur of the Teatro Nacional.

Start at the city’s western edge with a visit to Museo de Arte Costarricense in the old air traffic control building of what used to be the airport, then head down Paseo Colon.

Where to stay

For San José’s airports and exits for Pacific highways, hotels in the western suburbs are best. For a quick stopover, white, clean, super-value Hotel Luisiana in Santa Ana (doubles from $62 room-only) is a good option, but for a treat try Xandari (doubles from $299), just 20 minutes from the international airport. This colourful gem, with thatched spa and pools in tranquil tropical gardens on the northern flanks of the Central Valley, offers spectacular views of the city. In San José itself, the boutique Hotel Grano de Oro (doubles from $186) is a luxurious, charming oasis filled with art and plants just off Paseo Colon.

Wealthy coffee barons built their homes in Barrio Amón, five blocks north of the Teatro Nacional. Hipster entrepreneurs have turned several of them into bars and restaurants. Try hole-in-the-wall Café Miel (Avenida 9, Calle 11 & 13) for great cake and coffee; atmospheric and arty Alma de Amón (Calle 5, Avenida 9 & 11) for cocktails, empanadas and ceviche; and coolly scruffy Stiefel Pub (near the INS building on Avenida 7) for lively crowds and craft beer. Near the top of Paseo Colon, stylish Aquí Es (Avenida 2 & Calle 38) has live jazz and big steaks.

Tiquicia (+506 2289 5839), above San Antonio de Escazú, offers city views and folk dancing. It’s cheesy and sentimental, but this is where Ticos go for a night of chicharrones (pork rinds), a casado of rice, steak and plantain, and loads of Nicaraguan Flor de Caña rum with Coke, limes and a bucket of ice.

Pompeii at the Montreal National Museum of Arts

Pompeii at the Montreal National Museum of Arts

“You can see how the Pompeians lived until the last minute,” says archaeologist Laura Vigo of her latest curated exhibit, Pompeii, which is now on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts after a successful stint at the ROM. “You can see small pieces of carbonized bread left in the oven; people were just caught in the rush of trying to flee this incredible disaster …”

While aristocratic Pompeians are frequently the subject of exhibits on the ancient Italian city, Pompeii instead focuses on bringing exhibit attendees into the everyday lives of Pompeii’s common people before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The 220 artifacts on display are organized in three central themes: public life, private life, and the science behind the eruption.

Pompeii at the Montreal National Museum of Arts

Visitors are invited to explore a series of rooms that seek to recreate a sense of an average life in Pompeii; the exhibit’s entrance is through the atrium of a traditional Pompeian house, with an open roof and a shallow pool which was used as a catchall for rainwater. By way of a projected video, water appears to drip into the pool and the faint sound of its descent can be heard through positioned speakers. “The exhibit is atmosphere,” Vigo explains. “We’re trying to show the context of where the artifacts were originally so people have a better understanding of how they were used.”

From the atrium, visitors can enter the banquet, which displays, among other artifacts, unearthed Pompeian musical instruments. The sounds of five different types can be heard in the dining hall, the result of researchers’ recent attempt to recreate ancient melodies. A traditional bed chamber can be explored, “which has all things related to the woman,” Vigo says. “We look at how they embellished themselves with jewellery and perfumes.”

Pompeii at the Montreal National Museum of Arts

The bed chamber leads out to a garden, where traditional marble statues are contextualized with projections of historically accurate flora and garden birds: “You hear the birds singing and the leaves shaking in the wind,” says Vigo. The last section of the exhibit describes the science behind Mount Vesuvius’s 19-hour eruption in detail, using both Montreal-based electronic media company Graphic eMotion’s immersive technology and textual explanations, followed by the display of 10 synthetic casts of bodies excavated from the city’s rubble (the original casts never travel).

The placement of the plaster casts near the end of the exhibit is deliberate; the entombed bodies gain resonance in the context of their former lives. It’s a powerful exhibit, and Vigo is ardent about its message: carpe diem, “because you really don’t know what’s going to come tomorrow.”

What to do in Montreal, Canada

What to do in Montreal, Canada

Montreal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is the second largest city in Canada, 18th largest in North America and the 26th largest in the Americas. Originally called Ville-Marie, or “City of Mary,” it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold snowy winters.

Montreal, anyone can attest, is a dynamic city. It’s full of life, and constantly building upon itself, with new shops, cultural spaces, and restaurants sprouting up like dandelions in every nook and corner. Its particular sense of energy is inspiring for visitors from all over the world. Here’s an excellent city guide for Montreal.

Where to Go

I live in Plateau. It’s a neighbourhood full of artists, young families, and streets full of brick houses and colourful façades with complementing spiral staircases. It’s a very walkable area where you can easily meet with your friends for breakfast and go to a coffee shop 10 minutes after. You can then stop at the bakery to get a baguette, by the cheese shop to grab a slice of brie and park your Bixi bike in front of the depanneur to get something to drink before heading to a picnic in the park. People from all around the city come to Plateau to hang out in the coffee shops and high-quality bistros, and to spend time in the parks to just walk around and enjoy the surroundings.

What to do in Montreal, Canada

To me, Outremont always has a special place because of its architecture. Little Italy is also a very vibrant neighbourhood with Jean-Talon market right around the corner and all the amazing pizza places and coffee shops, and the sights of people chatting in front of stores. Griffintown and a walk by the Lachine Canal offer an amazing insight to Montreal’s history and the current direction in which the city is heading.

what to Do

My perfect day in Montreal probably starts with a good breakfast/brunch at either at a classic spot like Lawrence or a new restaurant like Petite Maison. After, I’ll walk around with my friends and probably go to Café Olimpico to hang out in the terrace and soak up the sun while enjoying a latte freddo. If you need a bite after all the caffeine, I’d stop by at St-Viateur Bagel to have a sesame bagel. Hop on your bike, go to Rue Bernard to check which new books and magazines have arrived at Drawn & Quarterly. I’d then spend the afternoon at Parc Laurier or shopping at Frank & Oak or visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art if the weather is chilly.

Where to Dine

The list of great restaurants in Montreal is constantly evolving. There are 24 restaurants from Montreal that made it on the Canada’s Top 100 list this year. From those I have tried I recommend: Joe Beef, Maison Publique, Lawrence, Damas, Impasto, and Satay Brothers. It’s hard to have little-known gems in Montreal as everybody seems to be in trying new spots. However, here are my recent favourites: Le Mousso, Petite Maison, Adamo, Foxy, Hoogan et Beaufort, and Trilogie.

I have tried almost all the independent coffee shops in Montreal and more new spots are opening up each month! From these it’s hard to pick a favourite, but there are different spots that serve different moods and needs. If you’re going to meet with an old friend, I’d recommend Pikolo. For an afternoon read soaking up the sun, Olimpico is your best choice. If you’d like to have lots of light, either Soupesoup on Wellington or Cafe Falco would do it. For great coffee, Myriade on St-Viateur, 8oz, Café Artiste Affamé, and September Surf Café are the places to go!