We hosted a young family from Japan last week. Keiko (I used to tell people she's the daughter of the cousin of Mark's father - and then found out I could just say that she and Mark are second cousins! Much simpler!), her husband Toyoyuki, their 7 month old baby boy Shunta, and their friend Yoshimi, arrived on Sunday night. Toyoyuki has been studying English in Iowa since January, and is taking a vacation from his studies. He had been away from his baby for a month and a half. I can only imagine how much he missed his darling! The family decided to reunite in Montreal and to see the sights and spend time with their distant Canadian relatives during their stay. The timing was great because although there was plenty of snow, the temperatures were quite mild ... well, by our standards, at least!
Last Monday, we walked through the cobbled streets of Old Montreal. The tour started at the Old Port along rue de la Commune, and we stopped at Gandhi restaurant for lunch (Indian cuisine). We continued along rue Notre-Dame where we stopped into the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a must for every tourist. We continued to the Jacques Cartier Square which was nothing like it is during the summertime. Very quiet, but pretty nonetheless. We ended our walk at Marché Bonsecours, where of course we had to mention that we were married! Supper that night was at Shambala on St. Denis (Tibetan cuisine). It was a great day for vegetarian food, hehe!
We spent a very baby-centered day on Tuesday, starting at EM Café in the Plateau for breakfast. Mark's cousin Julie works there, and Julie's soon-to-be sister in-law owns this new trendy café. See how crazy-big my extended family is? On to Mums & Tots of Brossard for some time with other moms & babies. Keiko wanted to see how a playgroup is run here, so it was a perfect opportunity to do it and hang out with moms, babies and toddlers. The above top photo was taken there. Too bad there wasn't any coffee made, but no worries. Our next stop was Maman, Bébé et Café in NDG. We let the kids hang out in the play areas while we all had coffee, tea and snacks. The bottom of these 2 photos is a shot of Shunta and Calvin enjoying themselves and each other's company, with Yoshimi. Back to the Plateau to see how bagels are made and to eat some fresh, warm bagels at the famous Fairmount Bagel. Our evening ended at Byblos, our first experience with Iranian cuisine. We all really enjoyed it. A lot of spreads with bread like pita for me. Mmm, very tasty and worth another try. The ambiance was also very nice and laid back. Here's a photo of the appetizer spreads.
We had the day off on Wednesday, when our guests went to Ottawa to check out the nation's capital.
On Thursday, we met up with Keiko, Toyoyuki, and Shunta (Yoshimi was feeling ill and stayed in town to rest and recover) at a cabane a sucre. We invited some family and friends to make it a big gathering! There were even guests from Germany joining us for an evening of traditional Quebec culture. Unfortunately there was no entertainment that night, but the usual sugar shack fare came out: salads, soup, chutney, bread, pork & beans, omelette, ham, potatoes, pigs' ears, and a selection of sweet, maple-filled desserts! Oh, and of course the "tire" (maple syrup poured on snow, then rolled onto a stick to eat! There is definitely an English name for this, but I can't remember what it is!) I hope all our international guests understood that we only tend to go once a year out of tradition and that we don't eat like this regularly! :) Unfortunately the hall was too dark for me to get any good photos. Here is a photo of our friend Maiko in the gift shop with all that mapley goodness!
Friday was our relaxed day when we hung out at home for the most part. At night, we hosted a potluck supper with about 20 family members - a moderate gatherng by Takeda standards! Keiko and Yoshimi prepared some delicious chirashi zushi and the rest of the family members contributed towards a yummy and varied feast!
Everyone had a chance to socialize and to meet each of our guests. Baby Shunta got a lot of attention! What a cute baby. :)
Our final full day together was spent rather quietly as well. Our poor guests had barely got over their jetlag and their trip was coming to an end. So we had a late breakfast and relaxed a bit, and then they all went for some downtown shopping (the famous underground shopping is perfect for tourists who aren't used to our cold weather!) before we were to meet up for our final supper together. We heard afterwards that they barely had any time to shop, because they spent 2 hours at Loblaws! Heehee... then Mark recalled that we had done the same thing in Japan. What we think is so everyday mundane is actually quite interesting for visitors from other countries! There were about 20 family members gathered once again, this time at Mythos, a fantastic Greek resto that we discovered a couple of years ago. Wow, we had a lot of different kinds of cuisine throughout the week! Good food, good times. A great way to end the visit with our family from Japan.
The Manabe family and Yoshimi left us early Sunday morning (Keiko, Shunta and Yoshimi flew back home to Japan while Toyoyuki went back to Iowa to continue his English studies). Our house was suddenly quiet and Kira asked almost immediately, where baby Shunta had gone. We're hoping we can keep the memory of this visit fresh in her (and our) mind so the next time we meet, she'll remember that she has family and friends in Japan!