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Archive for September, 2008

Food is important, so important in fact without it we would die! In Québec, food is very important to, so when you’re coming you need to find a good supermarket.

Off the top of your hat, where would you go?

Maxi, IGA, SuperC, Loblaws, Rachel Berry, Metro, Tau, Walmart

Confused? Yep, it’s normal. Coming to a new area means new supermarkets. Here’s my instant guide to finding your bonheur.

 

Organic / Healthy:

Rachelle Berry

Tau

Major supermarkets have almost no organic fruit and vegetables in them. They’re at least 10 years behind Europe, so you’ll need to pass by one of these companies to get your fresh food.

 

Upscale supermarkets:

Metro

IGA

Look for Metro plus and IGA extra as they’re larger. Metros tend to be franchises.

 

Midrange:

Loblaws

 

Discounters:

Maxi (Part of Loblaws)

Super C (Part of Metro)

 

Warehouse:

Costco

Walmart (doesn’t sell much food)

 

It’s been explained to me that Québeckers will go to the supermarket once a month and buy lots of frozen stuff as the only time they have to cook is the weekend. This may explain why there are so many greengrocers around specialising in fruit and vegetables. They are wonderful shops and often have upscale epicierie products. I would recommend Valmont on Mont-Royal and at Brossard. Unfortunately, most have almost no organic products.

Most supermarkets distribute flyers each week with their special offers and promotions. If you need to save money, it’s worthwhile getting hold of these.

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University is becoming more and more expensive these days, so it makes sense to start saving early to help pay for your child’s education. The Canadian and Québec governments think exactly the same thing and offer incentives.

Financial institutions offer special savings accounts called RESPs (Registered Education Savings Plans) which the goverment will add in additional funds as you save. You can receive up to $400 for every $2000 you put in up to a maxium of $50 000. It’s possible to withdraw funds from a RESP (depending upon your financial institution) at any time and keep the federal funds and interest earned.

The federal government’s contribution must be used for an agreed study course or; if your children don’t attend university; the funds paid must be returned to the government. 

RESPs are available either as a family savings plan, or for an individual child. 

It’s a really nice way of incentivising families to prepare for the future!

To apply for a RESP you must have a SIN for your children that you can request from your local Service Canada office with a PR card and passport or your child’s birth certificate if they are born in Canada.

Revenu Québec also offers a tax credit to help pay for studies which is linked to the funds you put into a RESP. They will pay up to $3 600 per child.

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In Québec there are two forms of child support that are available to parents. I was quite surprised that as new immigrants we were given information on them proactively.

The first form is The Canada Child Tax Benefit from the federal state of Canada, and the second form is from the Government of Québec

When we arrived at immigration to land we were immediately given the form to fill in by the federal immigration official who dealt with us. All we had to do was to fill in the form and sent it off. It does help through if you have your SIN number first, which is easy to get from Service Canada.

It’s a bit more complicated to request support from the Government of Québec. We received the forms from an information session that we attended which was organised at the airport after we’d been to the federal immigration desk. The form can be filled in on the internet, but you need to provide some documents to the Regie des Rentes who manage the grant.

The Regie prefer that you send them your documents and they promise to return them quickly. However, as a new immigrant you often need your documents for lots of things so we felt it best to use the other option which is to go to an office and have them copied. 

Looking on the internet site of the Regie you won’t find their address! You have to call to get it. So here it is:

Régie des Rentes

4th Floor

1055 Boulevard René-Levesque East

Montréal.

It’s right in the heart of the Latin Quartier so you can combine your trip with some sight-seeing. The office is open from 8:30 to 16:30 and we waited only about 10 minutes to be seen. We were told though that it would take 12 weeks to process our request!

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Philippe Quesnel   © Sépaq

Walk in Mont Saint Bruno Park - Credit: Philippe Quesnel © Sépaq

Only 40km from Montréal, Mont-Saint-Bruno park is a wooded delight. It’s managed by Parks Québec and thus is part of the Sépaq network.

 

The park consists of a lot of forest, some grassland, five ponds/lakes and some historical buildings. We took the kids on a 3.5km walk through the forest which was really nice. It was very flat so was pretty easy going, although the paths are earth so it takes some effort to push a stroller. We heard the sounds of birds you usually don’t get to hear in Montréal. The trees are generally quite young, so again it’s a different kind of atmosphere from most of the Sépaq parks. For the kids, the big reward at the end is the nice new playground which is handily surrounded by picnic tables so you can have lunch or afternoon tea while the kids play.

It’s also possible to pick your own apples from the orchard, visit a historic mill and of course have some food at the park’s restaurant. At the time of writing, the restaurant had moved to its winter menu and was only serving chicken soup and banana cake so think to bring a picnic. During the winter time there are lots of cross-country skiing trails and even a ski-school to get you started or improve your technique.

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Botanical gardens Montréal

Botanical Gardens Montréal

Montréal’s Botanical Garden is one of the largest in the world and is well worth the visit. Situated in the Hochelga-Maisoneuve district it is just next to the Olympic park.

The gardens consist of three different parts:

  • the gardens themselves
  • the greenhouses
  • the insectarium
The gardens are vast – you can spend all day if you take the care to really look at everything that there is on offer. They are split into smallish sections with different themes. For example there are common vegetables, a rose garden, an Alpine garden and most notably the Chinese and Japanese gardens.



These latter two really do transport you though their smell and atmosphere across the Pacific ocean. The Japanese garden is very calming with soothing curves and gentile water lapping across rocks. There is also the Japanese pavilion with expositions of Japanese art (pottery when we visited).



The Chinese garden is altogether different in that it’s a completely different style, very lively and colourful. From mid-September until the end of October there is a festival of lights called the “Magic of Lanterns” that adds even more colour to this garden. In the Chinese pavilion there was an exposition dedicated to the soya bean.



As the gardens are so big, there is a small red train which will take you on a tour around the jardins where you can hop on and off at the major attractions. It runs about every 20 minutes and was very popular when we visited in September. It’s probably even more so in the high of the summer tourist season, but the ride is to be recommended.



The restaurant of the gardens has two very agreable terasses to sit on and have a coffee. Overall the cleanliness and the high level of maintenance of the gardens must be applauded. They really are a must-visit destination when you come to Montréal.



It’s worth noting too that the car park is quite expensive at $5 an hour or $10 for the whole day. You can arrive by métro and alight at  Pie-IX metro station.



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Montréal Police in Colourful Trousers (Journal de Montréal)

Montréal Police in Colourful Trousers (Journal de Montréal)

It’s a bit wierd to see policemen in jeans and a bullet-proof vest, but this is Québec and we have things to learn.

However, it’s even weirder to see a motorcycle policeman wearing pink trousers! Pink trousers. How strange.

Apparently Montréal Police’s fetish with trousers is a statement against their contract negotiations not being complete. There’s more information here on the CBC.

An article in French is also available from Le Journal de Montréal.

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Is it snowing yet in the cold Canadian climate. Well, no! It’s approaching the end of September and the weather is still really nice here.

The mornings are quite cold, and the evenings are cool, but during the day it’s pleasantly warm. If the sun is out and the sky is blue, which is often the case, the temperature is around 25°c. There is very little wind.

In the evening as the sun goes down the sky is often lit up with beautiful shades of blue, mauve and purple. A wonderful sight.

We’re just waiting now for the snow. It’s due to arrive in December and will stay until around March/April time.

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