25 DAYS WORKING FROM HOME: TIPS FOR COPING

white minimalist workspace, white chair and simple white desk with laptop, plant, coffee cup and papers
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WFH ROOKIE

The last time I worked from home (WFH) was for a few days in 2018 when I strained the tendon in my right foot and couldn’t walk for days.

I’ve always preferred to go into the office than work from home I think it’s partly because I like to keep those two aspects of my life separate, there’s no proper workspace at home (no standup desk or ergonomic chair), and partly, my commute is fairly short and I enjoy that (I don’t have to contend with hours on a crowded train and traffic).

When the world began to grapple with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and everyone who could, was told to WFH and #StayHome and self isolation began trending, well, I, like many people, I became a WFH rookie. I had no choice but to figure out this new normal and to come to terms with the fact that this would likely go on for several months.

I wasn’t sure how well I do on the coping scale, 10 being awesome, one being image needs medication. What with my previous struggle with burnout and anxiety, and dealing with the winter blues well, I was thinking maybe I’d end up scoring a four (extra points for resilience).

Woman sitting on a bed working on a laptop

The first few days were a bit disorienting, it felt like every day could have been Monday…or Saturday. But now 25 days in, I’ve got a much better handle on this WFH thing and can share with you guys a few things that made the transition from office to home, less uncomfortable.

Firstly, being an introvert definitely came in handy! The quiet and so much time without people hasn’t been much an adjustment (I do miss social interactions and my morning chats with the baristas such a normal way to start my day). I get this point clearly isn’t helpful if you’re more extroverted but keep reading, I’ll share more practical WFH strategies.

It’s also finally spring and the sun is out and the weather is warmer. Since I swear I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), having this kind of weather and all this sunshine has been pretty awesome! My mood and attitude are better for it.

5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME

My introvert personality type and sunshine mood booster remedies asides, here are 5 practical tips that I’ve found helpful for adjusting to WFH if you’re new at it:

1. Stick to your morning routine – I try to stick to my mellow morning routine (with the major adjustment of not heading out to start my day, but staying in). I wake up at the same time each morning as if I were going in to the office, do a 10- minute meditation, and then 20-minute yoga using a free fitness app (mostly stretches for my lower back because sitting all day hurts), then shower and get dressed (in comfy clothes) and finally have breakfast before I log-on and start my workday. I treat it like any other workday and this routine helps me find and keep my daily rhythm.

Infographic of a morning routine from wake up to start of the day.

2. Designate a specific area to work – I spent one day working from my sofa and realized that was a horrible idea (avoid working on your bed, unless you’re doing a photoshoot for Instagram, it’s really not practical).

I have a plain $30 Ikea desk at home that was being used as a dumping ground for magazines and papers but now serves as designated workspace with a chair from my dining table.

3. Take a real lunch ‘break’ – This is very important. It’s the perfect time to cultivate a new habit if you’re the type to work through lunch. Please step away from your workstation and take regular breaks. Eat lunch away from your desk, go for a 15-minute walk (social distancing of course) and feel the sun on your face, and simply enjoy the break to the fullest. It’s good for your health.

4. Move your body- I have chronic lower back issues and I don’t have an ergonomic set up at home so it’s important for me to avoid sitting for hours on end.

5. Stay connected – Keep in touch with the coworkers and have a virtual coffee break, a laugh and enjoy that time of staying connected and virtual social interaction.

Numbered List of five tips for working from home set against a pink background

Theses simple and practical steps have helped me to have a smoother transition to WFH than I expected.

I know I said I didn’t much care for WFH but I’m so grateful for the ability to do so when so many people around the world don’t have that opportunity. I think having a sense of gratitude is the biggest impact on my mental wellness in a time of self-isolation.

Hope these tips have been helpful!

Cassandra

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My Experience with Fibroids & 7 Things I Learned as a Black Woman

photos of african-american woman sitting on bed with up of coffee. Caption reads, 7 Facts About Fibroids and Black Women

I decided to write this post because this topic has come up in conversation lately. It caused me to reflect on my own experience with uterine fibroids and wondered what, if anything was different about the experience about this particular health issue as a black woman.

Growing up, I vaguely recall other black women in my family, and in the community, sisters of friends, who had this thing called “fibroids” but that was it. It wasn’t discussed, no details were shared. I didn’t know what it really was and no one explained it to me. I just knew that some women had it and then you had to have surgery that would leave you unable to have children. This of course wasn’t exactly true, but that’s what I believed. Until I was diagnosed with fibroids in my mid-thirties.

What is Fibroids, anyway?

Aside from my struggle with migraines, I was pretty healthy and fibroids was never on my radar as something I needed to worry about.

So, what is fibroids? Fibroids are growth(s) in the uterus that are noncancerous, are different sizes, and often happens to women in their 30s – 40s. Fibroids affects about 80% of women before the age of 50. Alarming stats.

There isn’t a known cause but it’s likely linked to genetics, hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and pregnancy. I would later learn that family members also had this issue.

Are There Fibroids Symptoms?

I got annual check-ups and made sure I underwent the dreaded PAP tests (Argh). I was given the all clear in terms of my health. Then, one month I noticed that my period was messed up – flow was very heavy and lasting longer than usual. I knew something was wrong. I also had a bit of an enlarged abdomen but honestly thought it was just weight gain that happens with age.

Typically women don’t have any symptoms but if there are symptoms they really look like they can be related to anything or nothing. These include:  

  • heavy flow or last longer than a week or very painful.
  • pelvic pressure or pain
  • need to pee a lot more often or you have trouble peeing
  • lower back pain 
  • swelling of, or larger, abdomen

When I realized that my period was abnormal, I immediately went to see my family doctor who sent me to get an Transvaginal Ultrasound (I still shudder thinking about it and yes, it’s as invasive and uncomfortable as it sounds) and then to see a Gynecologist for another pelvic examination, another transvaginal ultrasound (double shudder) and finally a diagnosis. I had fibroids and needed to consider my options.

woman sitting on bed, with a cup of coffee, and looking at her mobile phone

What Really Scared Me About Fibroids

When I found out that I had fibroids, I was initially freaked out. I mistaking believed that my only option was to have a hysterectomy. I didn’t know if I was going to have children but I wanted that choice to be mine.

According to research, no what women with fibroids worry about? Women who are dealing with fibroids tend to worry about the same things that I was worried about, what negative affect this would have on our future health and our bodies – would it cause cancer? how would it impact our relationships with our partners?

Black women and Fibroids

photo of a black woman in a graphic tee shirt of a black woman with an afro. The text includes Fibroid and black women and lists seven factors.

What also surprised me to learn from doctor, and later reading some research on the topic, was that fibroids tends to happen more in black women.

I’ve since learned that there are also some differences where it comes to how black women experience fibroids.  

According to the Mayo Clinic and Journal of Women’s Health’s national survey, there are a number of facts that affect African-American women when it comes to fibroids than white women:

7 surprising facts about fibroids affecting black women:

  1. Are at a higher risk of having fibroids than women of other racial groups. 
  2. We have fibroids at a younger age 
  3. We tend to have larger fibroids
  4. We tend to have more severe symptoms
  5. We are more likely to report a fear of future fibroid growth
  6. We worried a lot more about fibroids impacting our ability to have a successful and healthy pregnancy
  7. It would lead to depression

Looking back, a lot of these facts make sense to me now. In fact, I didn’t realize how many of black women I knew had experienced fibroids until I spoke openly to family and friends about what I was going through.

I spoke with the doctor about my options. A hysterectomy is one option but not the only one. It’s always good to have options and to think about what is best for you given the circumstances and sound medical advice. But, this can only happen if you pay closer attention to your bodies and go get checked out in the first place.

Finding Gratitude and Raising Awareness

The crappy part of this experience for me was finding out that the fibroids might grow back at some point. This was disheartening news but also totally out of my control.

I’ve decided to focus on the positive. The fact that this was a common, treatable health issue and noncancerous. As a Canadian, I also have access to good health care to address the issue if it comes again. For that I am grateful.

I know that we all experience our health issues differently but given that this is a common occurrence among women, and particular for women of colour, you would think there would be more information made available to us, especially if black women are known to more likely wait for years before getting a diagnosis than their white counterparts.

There was an article I read recently that talked about cancer being a taboo subject in the black community (and the impact of lack of health data on Black Canadians) to the point where families don’t talk about it to the detriment of their relatives who later are diagnosed with cancer, not knowing there was a family history.

Although the research study mentioned in the article looked at breast cancer and cervical cancer among Black Canadian Women, I could relate to the taboo surrounding the issue and lack of available data on black women’s health. This is one of the reasons, I decided to write this post. I hope by openly talking about my fibroids experience and sharing the little I know is even a tiny bit helpful in raising awareness on the issue.

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How to Create an All-Star LinkedIn Profile in 5 Easy Steps

If you’re an entrepreneur, looking for a new job, a second career, wanting to become a recognized thought leader, but aren’t sure you’re profile is the best it can be, then read on!

I recently completed the Learning Linkedin online course through LinkedIn. Then used what I learned to help others update their LinkedIn profiles (even using my photography skills to take a few head shots!). I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you on what you need to do to have a complete and kickass profile.

Do you have an incomplete LinkedIn profile?

I hate to break it to you but quickly throwing up any old photo and doing the bare minimum in terms of completing your profile is not good enough.

If you want to have an amazing LinkedIn profile, first things first, take the time to complete it correctly.  If you’re going to put yourself out there, then it’s probably a good idea to make time to put a solid professional foot forward.  Make sure you’re the image and information you publish is how you want to be seen by others professionally.

(there are over 600 million registered members on LinkedIn btw, and a majority of recruiters use LinkedIn)

Just as important, LinkedIn operates as a search engine. The more complete your profile is, using relevant keywords and phrases targeted to your industry, the more you’ll increase your chances of being discovered by others.

Before we get started on some LinkedIn basics to get your profile looking profesh quickly, you’ll need to TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS so that your connections won’t get updated on changes you make! Trust me, this can be pretty embarrassing.

Alright, now that you’ve done that, here are some simple steps you can take to get your profile looking polished and ready to get noticed.

STEP 1: All eyes will be on the top 1/3 of your profile.  Make sure this section is on point, so people want to learn more about you.

(a) Profile Photo: Make sure your headshot is a sharp, clear and professional-looking image. Notice I said “professional-looking” and not professional.

In my opinion, you don’t have to hire a professional photographer unless you want to (or use that as your excuse for using a photo that does not allow your beautiful personality to shine).

(b) Header: Change out that standard LinkedIn blue background header. You can use customize the header with your own image that aligns with your personal brand and will help your uniqueness shine.

Tip: You can use an app like Canva to find backgrounds that you can also customize to really get something that reflects your style and personal brand.

(c) Headline/ Tagline: You have 120 characters (each section has maximum word counts). Use the header to add relevant keywords or a tagline that tells the viewer something unique about you or the expertise you possess and not just your job title.

STEP 2: Take some time to write a kick-ass Summary

Complete the About section. The first two sentences should be attention-grabbing. You want to see the viewer on why they should want to keep reading. Here’s a summary of word counts for each section.

This section is a “Summary” so try to keep it concise.

The best part of the summary is that this offers the chance to use relevant keywords and phrases that prospective employers or recruiters are searching for.

What relevant keywords should you use? Look at the job postings for positions you are interested in, and you will be able to identify the appropriate keywords and skills that you should be highlighting. Keep in mind that you should highlight skills that you actually have and can prove examples of your work successes (accomplishment statements).

Another strategy for including additional keywords is to add a “Areas of Expertise” section following your summary. You can then list the relevant skills you possess that the prospective employer would be interested in.

STEP 3: Showcase some of the noteworthy accomplishments of your Work Experience.

Don’t just list your job title and move on. This section should line up with the information on your resume.

This provides yet another opportunity to provide searchable keywords and phrases while highlighting significant accomplishments or the relevant skills an employer would be interested in.

Include your previous work experience as far back as you think is sufficient.

STEP 4: Skills section

Be strategic in how you use this section. Make sure that if you are putting an “Areas of Expertise” in your Summary section then those skills should also be in this section.

STEP 5: Make sure you complete the other sections

To finish your profile, you’ll need to complete the rest of these sections. LinkedIn will reward you with an All-star status!

  • Education section
  • Languages
  • Volunteer work
  • Certifications, Training, courses or workshops that would be relevant to the type of role you are targeted
  • Add the Alumni page of your university
  • Follow companies you are interested in (you can follow up to 50 companies)

TIP: It’s important to keep your profile updated and make sure your resume and profile information remain consistent as you make changes.

If you’ve followed these steps, you should have a nicely completed profile that you can be proud of.

I hope you find this information on LinkedIn helpful to get you started on how to set up your profile so that you put your best professional foot forward.

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3 Things I’ve Learned from doing 10 Minutes of Daily Meditation

Woman sitting cross-legged on sofa with eyes closed in meditation

Finding Meditation to Deal with Burn-Out

Yoga and meditation, two practices that I thought were reserved for seniors, hipster moms and hippies. But then again, when I was in my 20s and 30s I thought 40 was really old. Ha! The joke’s on me.

Now, as a woman over 40, I don’t consider myself old and I wish I had been more open-minded of both these mind and body practices years ago.

Meditation, well, this came to me rather recently and out of a need to take of my mental health and wellness. I wanted to find a way to help me cope during my burn-out.

Flatlay of Selfcare magazine and candle

3 Things Meditation Has Taught Me

Lesson #1: Making “me” a priority doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming

For 10 minutes every morning I sit and meditate (or try to meditate as it doesn’t come easy most days). I’ve been doing this for over 200 days straight at the time of writing this post – a personal record!

I used to wake up each morning thinking about all the things that needed to get done that day. I’d be so caught up in the swirl of thoughts and stress that I barely ever noticed when I showered or left the apartment. One minute I was just getting out of bed, next I was at my desk in the office. What happened in between was a blur.

With meditation I’ve made the decision to carve out that time to intentionally slow down. Time to sit, be still and seek to find some sense of calm, clarity, and focus.

This small mindfulness meditation practice has become my morning routine. It’s a self-care practice that I never thought I’d embrace let alone come to rely on as a way to start my day off in a much better way no matter how I’m feeling and particularly when I’m not feeling so great.

Because it’s only a 10 minute meditation practice the time commitment is minimal. It’s way easier than my attempts at committing to regular workouts at the gym (and I never have to worry about sweat ruining my blowout!)

Woman sitting on bed, legs crossed in meditation pose

Lesson #2: Meditation doesn’t have to cost a lot unless you want it

Meditation doesn’t have to be an expensive practice.

When I signed up to join a 5k Running clinic with a friend a few years ago, I went all out and bought new outfits! I’m talking a running jacket – water resistant and with a hood, running tights, new sports bras, pretty tank tops (bright colours were a must), socks and of course new running shoes – I ‘needed’ proper running shoes if I was gonna be a runner.

I convinced myself (didn’t need much convincing) that I needed all that stuff. I simply had to look like a runner even though I knew I hated distance running and had zero desire to enter a race once the clinic was over. My personal best would be to actually stick around long enough to finish the clinic! Yet there I was, looking cute in my running outfit, hating every minute of it, and suffering in silence because I had painful shin splints every single time my feet hit the pavement. Let me also mention the hot mess that was my hair from all that sweating! Black women, you know what I’m talking about. Cha-Ching, more money at the hair salon to deal with the aftermath.

Have you ever decided to sign up for a new activity and then gone all out and splurged in new gear – clothes, tech or even fancy smoothies and energy bars cuz that’s part of the experience? I can’t possibly be the only one who does that?!

Meditation can be no cost or low cost

In my head, this is what my ideal meditation might involve. Fancy candles, a really pretty cushion to sit on, all plush and soft to the touch, never mind that my hips would be screaming bloody murder if I even attempted to sit cross-legged for more than a minute (or long enough to take a photo!).

The thought of setting up a nice little meditation corner in my space sounds exciting, plus the photos in the magazine make it look super chic and very zen. Y’all this is really where my headspace would have been before learning my life lessons from meditation.

All style first and foremost and then the substance after.

Learning to meditate for me so far has cost very little. I took the free trial of two apps first and then decided on the subscription to the Headspace app which I’ve used regularly for well over a year and a half now. I could have probably watched some free YouTube videos as well but I really like Headspace.

With my 10 minute morning meditation routine, I don’t need any fancy props our outfits. It’s just me, myself and I, sitting on a chair in my pjs. I’m only required to bring an open mind, curiosity, patience and a real desire to learn from the practice of mediation.

This no-spend or minimal spend approach to my extracurricular activity was a first for me and I love that I don’t have to think about cool gadgets or stylish workout gear.

This isn’t to say that I won’t spend money on a meditation class in future. I do want to participate in a group learning environment and meet new people but I know I can plan to do the and set aside a budget for it and not fall prey to getting this season’s hot new print for yoga pants.

Lesson #3: Meditation is a Judgement-free zone and being kind to yourself is required

Meditation teaches us to have a non-judgemental attitude starting with how we relate to ourselves. Surprisingly, this has been one of the biggest and hardest lesson for me to learn so far.

With mediation I’m leaning to have more compassion for myself by being more aware of the negative self-talk that happens say, when my mind wanders during the mediation or if I have self-doubt about whether I’m doing it right, or if I’m simply not in the mood that day to meditate. It’s about being kind to myself, saying “it’s ok” if it’s not working out today. I can try again tomorrow. I’m trying and that’s a good thing.

Self-love and self-compassion sounds simple and a no-brainer but it doesn’t come easy for a lot of people, myself included. It’s a work in progress but it is one of my favourite lessons from the practice that I go back to regularly when things get hard.

Final Words

I’ve only provided three lessons here but I find with each daily meditation session I learn something new, even with sessions I repeat. I now appreciate why mediation is a life long journey and why it’s still remains such a powerful self-care practice that’s good for the mind, body and spirit.

Peace out!

P.s. I did finish the 5km running clinic and exceeded my personal best by running in the pouring rain during one class …I will never do that again.

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Where We Ate in Montreal (Plus Montreal Restaurant Recommendations)

 Eating Out on a Montreal Weekend Getaway 

You’ll probably not get any argument that Montreal’s food scene is amazing and that it really is a foodie’s paradise. Italian, French and Mexican, Pub grub and cafe style! There are great restaurants aplenty in the city and if you failed to make a proper plan like we did on our recent weekend getaway to Montreal, you’ll not be at a loss for find a place to have a good meal.

In case you want some ideas of where to eat, I’m sharing the Montreal restaurants where we ate along with a list of suggestions of where to eat that was shared with us by a friend.

Where We Ate:

On a recent weekend getaway to Montreal, Quebec we didn’t do much planning, the food choices were rather random and based on proximity to where we were at the time. I must say I wasn’t disappointed. But before I get into that, I want to share a couple of tips with you:

Tip 1: Make reservations if you can, even if there are only two of you. I was surprised to see how busy many restaurants were in Old Montreal (the patios for packed)

Tip 2: If there’s only two of you, try to be flexible in where you are seated – at the bar or by some bar stools by window might be available and you may get seated even if you didn’t have a reservation- this happened to us twice and we were seated right away.

Le Warehouse (pub food chain in downtown Montreal)

Wall Art is a rabbit in a suit at Warehouse Restaurant in Montreal

We chose the Warehouse because it was a short walk from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, our first stop of the morning and was one the only places along a row of restaurants and pubs that was open at the time we were looking to grab a quick bite.

Maison Christian Faure

For the French pastry / any kind of pastry lover in you! We stopped by Maison Christian Faure for some afternoon tea while we were walking around Old Montreal. It’s a chic little cafe with desserts that will make your eyes a big as saucers and may cause you to drool. Talk about a sugar rush! Also, it was just all very pretty to look at.

They also serve lunch as well and from what I spied on the tables beside me, the lunchtime dishes looked as yummy as the desserts.

Inside pastries

We had pastries from the selection on the pastry tray and tea from a variety of teas. Sorry, I cannot recall the names of what we had but seriously, does it matter? Look at the selection! 

We did have to wait for about 10-15 minutes for a seat. It was around the afternoon rush hour so seating was limited and the place was busy. 

The service was efficient and friendly. They also had a takeaway counter – I noticed people coming in to get macaroons and cakes to-go.

Pizzeria Mangiafoco – Mozzarella Bar

(Located in Old Montreal)  Great vibe and fast service. There was a live DJ but the music was just right (not too loud), the place was busy and pizza really good.

Escondite

Tasty Mexican food in a lively atmosphere (also has a small side-walk patio). We arrived at 6:30 pm on a Sunday and without reservations. We were met with a small lineup and the place was already fully booked…almost. We lucked out and since we were a party of 2, they checked and found one table available for 1.5 hour so we jumped on it! We weren’t planning on a late night so it was perfect.

The service was excellent and fast. The food – we opted for tapas – was great! The vibe was lively and casual atmosphere, great spot to have drinks with a small group of friends (with reservations made well ahead of time). 

Olive + Gourmando 

For the brunch lovers out there and the pastries! We enjoyed breakfast very much and regretted not getting a brioche or croissant to go.

Tip for getting a seat at Olive + Gourmando:  The restaurant is not that big and it looks like they also provide to-go service as well so the small entrance way can be lined up with people.

We arrived for breakfast super early on a Sunday morning (they open at 8). We were glad we got there at 8:30 because it quickly started filling by 9:00 and people were still coming. I was told the brioche comes out at 9:30 or so – if you wanted brioche for breakfast you’ll have to wait.

BONUS: MONTREAL RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS

I know, I know, I’m awesome! Here is an additional list of restaurants in Montreal that was recommended to us for our recent trip. Ok, so I cannot take any credit for the actual list. We also didn’t get a chance to check out the restaurants on the list either.

I’m sharing the list of restaurants in Montreal because I have the list and it’d be shame not to share it with you guys and also I wish I had access to the list like this whenever I travel – recommendations from friends of friends who’ve actually eaten at some of these places. It would be a nice starting point for my own research. I hope you find this useful as well.

Brunch | Lunch

O’Thym

Crew Collective & Cafe

Olive + Gourmando

Dinner

Garde Manger

Bocata – Restaurant and Wine Bar

Au Pied de Cochon

Patios | Terraces

Montreal Poutine

Pub BreWskey

Terrasse Sur L’Auberge

Again, I’d suggest you call head and make reservations if possible, especially if you are a party of more than one and it’s a popular spot. Alternatively, go early or prepare to wait. In any event, I’m sure you’ll find great food to enjoy as much as we did.

Bon appétit!

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6 Things You Can Do On Your First Montreal Weekend Getaway

Woman standing in front of a giant Ferris Wheel in Old Port Montreal
Old Port, Montreal

Taking A 2 Day City Break in Montreal

It was Victoria Day long weekend for us. It signals that Summer is Coming! It’s a time when families are headed to the cottage, others take the kids to Canada’s Wonderland, and if the weather is decent we all expect sunshine and some serious fireworks to celebrate the holiday.

This year we took advantage of the 3-day weekend went to do a city break in Montreal, Quebec (in Quebec it is National Patriotes Day on May 20th).

There was rain in the forecast for the weekend and we had our fingers crossed they got it wrong! Whether rain or sunshine a few days in Montreal provides opportunities to have a great time. It’s Montreal after all. It’s a great city, lots of art, culture, interesting architecture, shopping and great food (ahhh, the pastries!).

Keeping Montreal Weekend Trip Planning Simple

This was not really a planned trip. It was planned in that we bought tickets a couple weeks before we left and only because we decided to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit at The Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Musée des Beaux-Artes).

We weren’t too committed to ‘doing’ much and content with taking a slow, relaxed unplanned approach to the two days we had in the city.

I checked out a few sites for tips and put together a simple itinerary that included more museums because of the weather. We also asked friends for a list of recommendations for places to eat and decided not to make this a ‘shopping’ trip – we’d save that for another time.

We also decided to stick to downtown Montreal and keep it simple. The last time we visited we checkout a few neighbourhoods and that was great but since this was a last minute trip and we weren’t interested in having a jam-packed exhausting time of it, we were keeping the planning simple.

Where We Stayed in Downtown Montreal

Interior lobby seating area of Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal
Hotel Bonaventure, Montreal

We decided to stay at the Hotel Bonaventure

  • It’s about 15-20 minutes drive from the airport (with no traffic),
  • It’s downtown across from the Via Rail train station (if you’re taking the train into the city)
  • Close to a number of metro stations
  • Greenery and pond with ducks
  • Heated outdoor swimming pool

There was a lot of places to sit in the stylish lobby, which was great because I sat out there for hours reading and people watching before dinner.

The hotel staff was friendly, check in was easy and the Concierge we met was so knowledgeable and friendly.

We would definitely stay there again.

6 Things to Do in Montreal in Two Days

#1 : Fashion, Art and History

Two large red heart statutes in front of the Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal

We started the morning at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit.

Tip: We got there around 10:00 am, well before the lineups. It’s was perfect as it gave us ample time to take in the exhibit with just a few other early birds and you can then spend some time explore the rest of the museum.

The exhibit was fantastic, btw. It was a large collection of his designs and images. We kept moving from room to room to room. I wasn’t expecting to see so many items on display and each room having a different theme and experience. I’d highly recommend it.

Image of one of Thierry Muglers designs
Thierry Mugler

#2. Do A Walking Tour

Since we did not have “must see” items on our list except for the Mugler exhibit, we opted to do a walking tour of Old Montreal to get some history, get a little more familiar with the area and basically kill a late afternoon with something to do before dinner.

We were lucky to get the last spots in the last tour of the day (thanks to the Concierge at the hotel – another reason why I like hotel stays). The tour was 1.5 hours well spent.

Interior of the Notre Dame Basilica- Montreal
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#3. Walking around Old Montreal and Old Port (Vieux-Port) on your own (Free)

Woman standing in front of Notre Dame Of Bonsecours Chapel

This is a tourist hotspot and restaurant hub. You can easily spend half a day there, taking a slow stroll on foot or in a horse drawn carriage if that’s your thing, check out some of the historical buildings, buy souvenirs, watch the artists and street performers at work or get ice cream or a drink on a patio at one of the many restaurants. There is something for everyone.

Marché Bonsecours (Free) – in addition to the attractive shiny dome and 100+ year heritage building, Bonsecours Market boasts a number of boutiques for shopping. I may or may not have purchased a watch (shhh!).

#4. Eat, Eat and Eat

Photo of breakfast dish

Montreal is not only known for it’s fashion but also it’s food. There are loads of restaurant options to choose from and at every price point. We saw some skipped the pricey joints and anything requiring we get dressed up (typically on vacay, I like to be out all day walking and exploring, so no wardrobe changes for me once I leave my hotel).

I’ll be sharing another post about where we ate in Montreal so be sure to check that out but here is the quick rundown of the not-so-fancy, but casual dining, and reasonably priced places where we ate:

  • Warehouse
  • Olive & Gourmando
  • Maison Christian Faure
  • Pizzeria Mangiafoco
  • Escondite

#5. Check out the Wax Museum

It was raining pretty hard so decided to check out a few museums. We discovered the Grevin Museum – Wax Museum of Montreal, a museum tucked away on the 5th of The Montreal Eaton Centre shopping mall which made it a little tricky to find. Also like most of Montreal at the time of writing this, parts of the Eaton Centre was being renovated.

This was a fun museum that was not busy so we didn’t have to worry about line-ups or buying tickets in advance. If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal when it’s raining, this isn’t a bad idea. It’s located inside of a mall so you can hang out with celebs and royalty at the museum and then do some shopping.

We also wanted to check out the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal but it was closed until June 2019 so we’ll have to save that for our next visit.

#6. Old Montreal – Vieux-Montréal

We spent an afternoon in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) walking around cobblestone streets and watching horse-drawn carriages with tourists pass by. We lucked out on the weather so this was an ideal way to spend time exploring this part of city at a leisurely pace.

There are lots of restaurants, patios, shops in Old Montreal. It’s also near Old Port (where you’ll also find the Ferris Wheel, zip-lining and other amusement park type attractions). You can easily spend the day here.

Horse and carriage rider in Old Montréal

It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Montreal. I was reminded of how much I love Montreal and should make it a regular summer travel destination, especially if I’m travelling solo or on a limited travel budget and larger scale travel isn’t doable (….or really if I want to do some shopping!).

For us forty-something women who want to travel solo, this is a great city to do so in that it’s walk-able and the metro (subway) system is easy to navigate – I suck at using maps so that’s important to me. I also like that’s just a cool city for art, food, culture and the pace is just right. I can’t wait to go back.

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This is How I Embrace Getting Uncomfortable to Find Happiness

Intentionally Getting Uncomfortable

I’m a lifelong learner – if I could get paid to take classes for a living, I’d probably be happy (assuming it’s not math…).

Every year, as part of my goal setting, which involves sitting down with a pen and post-it note and jotting a few things down, I try to list one new thing I want to do or learn for the year, sometimes more.

You see, what this boils down to for me is that variety really is the spice of life, to borrow an old saying. I honestly believe that this approach to being happier is what has kept me, in some ways, out of the clutches of prolonged melancholy or depression.

Trying new things, I discovered are a solid practice for maintaining my mental wellness. The odd thing is that I hadn’t connected it to my happiness before. If I’m not learning something new, then I’m usually pretty miserable.

5 Awesome Benefits of being Uncomfortable:

1. You’re in control. You decided what new thing you want to try and just go for it!

2. You’ll feel a sense of motivation when you take that first step (ok, you’ll probably also feel sick to your stomach, but that should pass, eventually)

3. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment having done it.

4. Your more risk-averse friends will totally admire you (yes, I am a Badass, Zumba rock star, that’s right!)

5. It has the power to be transformative. You’ll learn something about yourself from all that discomfort, like, that you’re in fact, a real badass.

So, should I jump out of a plane or climb a mountain to feel the fear?

Some people may feel that the idea of feel the fear and do it anyway, has to mean doing something scary big and very extreme. I personally believe that if you really desire to experience what it’s like to jump out of planes, do stand up comedy or pose nude for an art class like Marianne Power, author of Help Me, My Perfectly Disastrous Journey Through the World of Self-Help, then go for it!

I also think you can do things you are curious about, that you get excited about and yes, that scares you a lot or a little. This could be as extreme as hang gliding or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or less expensive and still risky like learning to ice skate (I did this and trust me, the fear of falling and breaking your bones is real!), learning to Tango when you are rhythmically challenge, or training for a 10k when can barely get up the flights of stairs at the subway without wheezing. Just sayin’ when it comes to getting uncomfortable for personal growth, you do you boo!

I have a friend who has a list of 50 new things she wants to try for her 50th year. I love that idea! Having a variety of new, interesting, fun and sometimes scary things to experience throughout the year is such a great way to keep active, to stay curious and to grow!

Here are 3 less extreme, yet uncomfortable experiences I’ve had:

1. Solo Travel: I know people who are scared of solo travel. I was one of them until I decided to ease myself into it. I started with a solo trip to visit family in England. I had a place to stay but was free to wander the London streets all day alone. Since then I’ve travelled solo to Chicago, Spain, Savannah, Georgia and Portugal.

2. Giddy Up: I rode a horse for the first time in Iceland in the rain, cold and strong winds. Horses scare me and riding a horse for an hour in awful weather, I was freaked out the entire time.

3. Getting punched in the face: I took a technical boxing class, at Cabbagetown Boxing Gym (I think part of that movie Cinderella Man with Russell Crow was filmed there). It legit smelled like what you imagined an authentic; old school boxing gym would look and smell like. The instructor, well, he looked like he coached many champs back in the day.

I tried to do a bit of sparring in the ring with a more seasoned boxer. I was terrified and I got punched in the face and lost a contact lens. That ended my boxing career before it ever started. I was completely fine, I was properly protected and the punch didn’t hurt (also my fault for dropping my gloves and leaving my face exposed).

Turned that I absolutely LOVED every, single, gruelling, sweaty workout! To this day, I will swear that boxing is the best fitness workout you can get!

Some Final thoughts

In all of these activities, I’m usually mediocre at best, or sometimes the classes were not that great, or the students are far younger or more experienced than me, but I’m still happier for silencing the self-doubt and fear and taking the time to intentionally get uncomfortable by putting myself out there to learn something new, maybe meet interesting people, have fun and be a happier me.

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