An Overnighter in Parc National du Bic | Rimouski, Quebec

This was stop one on our Gaspésie road trip. To see the full road trip itinerary, click here.

par du bic sunset on lake

Helping friends out can really have its benefits. We helped a friend move a few weeks ago (Jordan helped move; I provided the food for the guys who carried stuff). During this, we were introduced to a friend of a friend, who heard we were taking this road trip. He recommended Parc National du Bic near Rimouski. We’d been considering staying there, but hadn’t yet decided where to spend day one. Happy to have had the extra encouragement.

SEPAQ (Quebec’s park system) really has their stuff together. The facilities were great, everything went smoothly. We had reserved online and pre-paid our entrance fees. It was super easy. We got in a bit late for a long hike, so spent the early evening hiking (really just walking) along the Chemin du Nord. There’s actually a tea house along the trail, which is a lovely idea, but we never stopped in. We got too distracted by the deer, ducks, and porcupine. We also tried to spot seals, but didn’t have any luck. The trail leaves from the information center you see pictured here.

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord sunset

parc du bic chemin du nord sunset

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord sunset

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

parc du bic chemin du nord

We popped into a different cove where the seals typically like to hang out. No avail.

parc du bic chemin du nord

We then headed back to camp across the river to get to work on some grilling.

parc du bic

shish tauok on campfire

The next morning we ate breakfast at the campsite before heading off on a hike.

camping breakfast

camping breakfast

parc du bic campsite

camping breakfast

camping breakfast

Our morning hike was Pic Champlain. The hike is uphill on the way there, but pretty short, so has an intermediate classification. At the trail head, we met a smiley woman of about 70 years who was off to hike by herself. She talked to us a bit in French. I had trouble understanding her pronunciation of specific word…leading to some confusion….then leading to giggles. We saw her later on during the hike, too, and exchanged some smiles, waves, and saluts.

The hike up wasn’t too impressive, so you’ve got to commit to reaching the summit. Then it’s worth it.

parc du bic pic champlain

parc du bic pic champlain

parc du bic pic champlain

A lovely stop that I’m happy we decided to make. Sure, we could have saved some park fees by choosing another nearby campsite and then had a bit more time setting up camp later in the evening, but then we would have missed this. And those confusion giggles.

parc du bic pic champlain


Somali Food Attempts and Resources to Try Your Own

I interrupt this travel post week to reflect back upon our month of Somali food. Gaspésie recaps coming your way soon.


This month was definitely humbling in the kitchen. It was hit or miss in terms of my Somali food experiments. I definitely learned a lot about what types of food Somali cuisine consists of. I also found three great online resources for Somali recipes (read ahead). I had a few recipes successes.

somali food

But I also discovered that it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on an English-language (or French…it has to be in a language I can read, after all) Somali cookbook. I spent two afternoons searching through African cookbooks at Quebec’s National Library (which has a hella good cookbook section) to find Somali recipes. Through all of my searching I only found a handful of recipes, scattered throughout several books. Many African cookbooks have hundreds of recipes and zero or one dedicated to Somali cuisine.

CAM00421Then there’s the fact that my anjera seemed a little less spongy than it ought to have. My cookies weren’t as pretty as they should have been (though the cause of this is my impatience in the kitchen). I lacked some of the necessary ingredients and tried to replace them as best I could. This, ever so unfortunately, ended up with me poisoning myself with never-boiled red kidney beans. Oh, the picture makes my stomach turn just looking at.

What a month. Here’s my rundown on where I found my information, what I learned this month about Somali food, and what I attempted in the kitchen.

The Best Somali Food Blogs

Xawaash — This food blog is a treasure trove of recipes, the large majority of which are Somali recipes. It’s the most well-known of the three food blogs. I also really enjoy that it’s available in four languages so I can practice my French while cooking. And finally, the blogger behind this food site provides well-done how-to videos to help us out.

The Somali Kitchen — A well-maintained food blog started by a man interested in combining his passions for cooking and Somali culture. While the site has fewer recipes than the one above, it’s a little easier on the eyes (less clutter). The author provides a bit of cultural insight with most dishes and takes some hunger-inducing photos.

My Somali Food — The most visually appealing of the three websites. The recipes are good. The Somali Kitchen and My Somali Food are very similar in terms of content and recipes provided.

A Somali Cookbook

somalicookbookThe only Somali cookbook I found on the market was Somali Cuisine by Barlin Ali. However, it wasn’t available in an electronic form and has to be ordered used. The author appears to be living in the state of Minnesota, so I’ll keep an eye out while home to see if it happens to be available. I’d love to hear from anyone who owns it or has had a chance to try it out. Do you recommend it?

My recipe attempts

Mini muufo — A semolina flatbread, just smaller. These turned out well and were dipped into the eggplant dip of number 2. Mine weren’t shaped so perfectly, but taste was approved by my official tester (aka husband).

Mutabbal — Eggplant dip with tahini and garlic and spices. Delicious and easy.


Anjero/Canjeero — A spongy, sourdough flatbread made out of teff flour or corn meal. I splurged on buying the teff flour. It’s a bit pricey and I tried to justify the purchase saying that the husband has a month of Montreal time to use up the remaining flour, but I’m skeptical of that actually happening. But hey, maybe he’ll make it again. He did help in this process. I actually started a sourdough starter about five days ahead of time for this recipe as well. It looks close to a success and tasted okay, but wasn’t as spongy as it should have been. We’ll work on the technique…and actually use self-rising flour next time.


Sanuunad Hilib Adhi — A lamb stew with potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. We added in some spices that are commonly found in Somali cuisine, cumin for example, to jazz it up a little. We served this with our flatbread from above. We joked about how it’s basically a Midwest roast recipe. A good choice for those who are a bit nervous about trying new foods. It looks simple on the plate, but was delicious. We cooked ours slow-cooker style.

somali lamb stew

Icun — Somali shortbread cookies that are traditionally made at Eid (the period at the end of Ramadan). You’ll see my attempt pictured above. I wasn’t going to buy and glace cherries when I’m trying to whittle down our pantry contents, so I decided to decorate mine with pecans and cloves.

 Cambuulo — A very common bean dish made of red adzuki beans. The beans are cooked from dried beans, eaten with sugar and oil and sometimes other garnishes, such as raisins, and served on rice. The recipe here calls for white corn as well, but others I’ve seen omitted it. My problem was that I couldn’t find dried adzuki beans. I decided to make a swap and used red kidney beans as a replacement. I cooked them in my slow cooker…after soaking them. They cooked for a good while. And then I ate them for breakfast. And then an hour later, I didn’t feel well. By the time 2pm rolled around, I was good and sick. I won’t go into the details, but kidney beans need to be mega-boiled to get rid of their toxins. Ugh…bad day in the kitchen.


And finally….

Somali Shish Taouk — Campfire Somali chicken kebabs. Delightful. We loved it. The recipe provided was pan-fried, but if you’ve got a grill, please do.

somali shish taouk

somali shish taouk

There are no after pictures, because we didn’t wait to eat it 🙂

What I Learned

Somali food is influenced by many, many cultures.

Tea is serious business.

Sambusas are ubiquitous.

Lots of lamb and goat.Carbs come in all types: sourdough flatbread, semolina breads, rice, pasta, etc.

Stews are prevalent. Desserts appear to lean Italian.

Good pastries seem important.Lots of meat, but also many legumes (lentils) and vegetables in the stews.

Seafood is also important because of Somalia’s location.

Red kidney beans are not a good replacement for adzuki beans/I am an idiot.

Somali sweetened and spiced coffee called qahwe looks heavenly.

There is an enormous amount of variety in Somali cuisine. Much left to try.

What I’m Still Going to Try

Sambusas are little pockets of food bliss. Look for various sambusa recipes here. If you’re familiar with Ethiopian food, you’ve probably tried something similar. They can be filled with many different fillings and seem versatile. I couldn’t find the sambusa wrappers in the grocery stores I looked in, and not even prepared frozen sambusas in the freezer aisle. I wasn’t ambitious enough to make them from scratch.

A Somali Restaurant

My parents have informed me that there is a Somali restaurant close to their home in Wisconsin, so we’ve made a mental note to make our way to it while I’m home. I would love to see a menu full of options and things cooked the way they are meant to be…as opposed to how they looked in my kitchen.


I never got around to trying this coffee drink recipe this month, but it sounds amazing. This has mommy/daughter coffee date written all over it.


I wish you happy and smart cooking! Did anyone else try any Somali recipes this month or lately? Have a favorite?


Roadtripping to Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula | 7 days and 6 nights of camping, hiking, and eating

We are back!

gaspesie road trip

That’s me waving from the passenger seat of our rented Nissan something-or-other. In the last week, I spent countless (they could be counted, but I’d rather not) hours there. We’re back from our road trip out to Gaspé and Percé. Wondering where those are? Here’s a quick map reference of our road trip itinerary. For those with rusty Canadian geography (I don’t judge, I was there before we moved here), note the position of Maine.

Gaspesie Road Trip Itinerary Map

Percé, or point D to the right, is about a 12-hour drive from Montreal. Meaning a minimum of 24 hours on the road. Ugh…BUT…

This was a pretty epic vacation. Yeah, I mean that in the way we all overuse epic in our vocabulary. But it was still really great. I saw wildlife galore, hiked six trails, watched gorgeous sunsets on a nightly basis, filled up on Quebecois guilty pleasure foods (including, but not limited to poutine), practiced my French, drank Pit Caribou on tap, and even got to cook.

To me, the funniest part about it all, is that I really had no clue about any of the places we visited until we moved to Québec.

After moving here and talking with locals, I deduced that a road trip to Gaspésie is long, but worth it. And I was pretty sure that I’d never have a better chance to visit than during the two years we lived in Québec.

The biggest deterrent to this trip is time. Otherwise, it can be quite affordable. In fact, the neo-hippies hitchhiking their way along the Gaspesian Coast did it much cheaper than we did. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many hitchhikers in such a short stretch.

If you’re worried about a lack of French, don’t. It’s true that many of our servers didn’t speak much or any English, but a good portion did. And you can also take a pocket dictionary or phrase book just in case. Being able to speak French made our trip a bit easier and probably more rewarding, but wasn’t really necessary. Just be apologetic about your lack of skills and be nice enough to use the easy words like Bonjour, Merci, Bonne Soirée, etc. For those who are learning but get frustrated with the Montreal servers who tend to speak to you in English, you’ll be pleased to know that this rarely happens. If you’re trying to speak French, they’ll gladly help you along.

Gaspesie Road Trip

A quick note about our type of travel: We camped because we like it, but also because it’s affordable. Our focuses when traveling tend to be nature, good (and local when possible) food, merry drink, walking or hiking, and neat atmosphere and architecture. We like to indulge from time to time, but we are also fans of cheap eats and making our own meals if possible. This itinerary is best for those who happen to be the same types of travelers, but something on the trip should appeal to all types of travelers. 🙂

Now, on to the good stuff.

Day 1-Drive from Montreal to Parc National du Bic (near Rimouski)

5.5 hours of driving

We left Montreal around 9am after picking up the rental and filling it full of our camping gear. We had a cooler full of ingredients, but decided we needed to take advantage of the drive and make a few stops along the way. During the trip you’ll notice many, many fromageries (cheese producers/shops), poissoneries (fish/seafood shops), cantines (non-chain fast food joints), and casse-croûtes (pretty much like a cantine). My students and our friends say that stopping at these are musts. Not every one–that’d be freakin’ impossible.

On day one, we stopped at La Fromagerie du Terroir de Bellechasse and a casse-croûte (just okay) along the way. Wisconsites, check out the homage to cheese curds.

fromagerie quebec gaspesie road trip

We bought a salted cheese braid for the road. Good, but super salty.

gaspesie road trip cheese braid

And we indulged in a sucre à la crème ice cream sundae. Because we’re in Québec and Jordan still hadn’t had any sucre à la crème. No, this wasn’t the actual dessert, but at least now he has an idea what it’s like.

gaspesie road trip sucre a la creme ice cream

I never said this was a healthy road trip, okay? Next up, my first poutine of the trip. Casse-croûtes are not normally a place where you eat off of real dishes. I think we chose the most high-class casse-croûte option. If such a thing exists.

gaspesie road trip veggie poutine

Around 4:30ish, we reached Parc National du Bic, where we camped for the night (hikes and camping recap post to come).

gaspesie road trip parc du bic

Day 2-Drive from Parc National du Bic to Parc Forillon | poutine pit stop in Rimouski

5.5 hours of driving–Click here for link to the Parc National du Bic post.

The next day, we stopped at La Cantine de la Gare in Rimouski, which came highly recommended by friends. Supposedly, this is some of the best poutine in the province. It probably was the best I’ve had. The service was nice (didn’t have problems dealing with stuttering tourists) and the place seemed very popular with locals. All that said, I think I’ve given up on trying to convert myself into a poutine-lover. I recognize its cultural value, but I don’t have poutine urges. And that’s okay. I don’t have to like it all.

gaspesie road trip cantine

gaspesie road trip poutine rimouski

gaspesie road trip poutine

Husband got the Slovak version, complete with sausage and coleslaw. Ha.

We waddled our poutine-filled selves to the car and continued on along the coast of the Saint Lawrence. Here, the Saint Lawrence becomes something of an enigma. Is it really just a river at this point? It’s not really a sea or an ocean either, though…

You can stop for lighthouse pics and watch for seals along the rocks on the way.

gaspesie road trip lighthouse

gaspesie road trip lighthouse

We had a dreary driving day past this point. It became cloudy and chilly. The small towns seemed isolated and eery enough for a few good I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer-like movies. Maybe it’s just the fisherman theme making me think that…

gaspesie road trip

Finally, we reached Parc Forillon around 8pm and set up camp.

Day 3-Visit to Town of Percé, Percé Rock, and Bonaventure Island

less than an hour drive to town of Percé from Parc Forillon. Click here to see the full Percé, Park Forillon, and Bonaventure Island post.

We spent a little bit of time in the town itself and then hopped the boat tour for Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island. Probably my favorite day of the trip. (Detailed post to come).

gaspesie road trip percé rock

bonaventure island

Day 4-Hike in Parc Forillon and Drive to Parc National de la Gaspesie

Potentially only about 3 hours of driving, check for road conditions. Click here to see the full Percé, Park Forillon, and Bonaventure Island post. Click here for the Parc National de la Gaspésie post.

forillon park

After getting our morning hike in at Parc Forillon (will include in post with Percé day trip above), we stopped in Gaspé for provisions. There’s a great market called Marché des Saveurs where we were able to buy local charcuteries and cheeses for our camping and hiking meals. Nice staff as well. We loved the Grey Owl cheese.

marché des saveurs gaspé

Next, we drove from Gaspé through Murdochville to Parc National de la Gaspesie. We chose this route because it saved us time, which we were a bit short on. However, the bridge on Route 16 in the park was out and Route 14 was washed out, so we ended up driving up to Saint-Pierre and then down that route. Okay drive. Lots of trees. Lots of green. Those interested in copper mines might want to stop in Murdochville.

We decided to stop for some nourishment since we had to venture further north than planned. If you’re looking for the lobster roll on the menu, you are searching for a guédille au homard.

gaspesie road trip lobster roll

gaspesie road trip cantine on coast

We reached Parc National de la Gaspesie around 4pm (the Jacques-Cartier campsite).

Day 5-Hike Mont Jacques-Cartier and Camp in Secteur Mont Albert

45 minutes to 1 hour of driving from one side of park to the other

Click here for the Parc National de la Gaspésie post.

We hiked in the late morning and early afternoon and then drove over to the other campsite area of the park, where we sneaked in an early evening hike before taking shelter from the rain and spying on moose. (Post to come)

mont jacques-cartier gaspesie

Day 6-Morning hike and then drive to Kamouraska

About 5 hours of driving

We took our time the next morning, deciding not to hike Mont Albert, but instead the simple Lac aux Américains trail. Around 1pm, we headed toward Kamouraska for camping and quality eating and sipping.

In Sainte-Félicité, Jordan saw a sign for a crêperie and decided to swing by on a whim. Good choice. The café-crêperie Les Gamineries was a wonderful stop. I highly recommend it. There is also a hostel here is anyone’s tired of pitching the tent. The waitress was super nice and the food was exactly what we needed after so many cantines and casse-croûtes. Here I learned how to say “sunny-side up” in French. 🙂 We played tourist big time while here.

gaspesie les gamineries

gaspesie les gamineries sainte felicite

gaspesie sainte felicite creperie les gamineries

dessert crepe sainte felicite qc


gaspesie road trip

Along the way, we raced to beat the sunset.

bas saint laurent

bas saint laurent sunset

We finally reached Kamouraska around 8:30, just in time for the sunset. (Rest assured, this small town will have a post coming your way). Supper here was delicious, snacky, and accompanied with a couple local microbrews.

Day 7-Kamouraska to Quebec City to Sherbrooke

1.5 hours driving plus 2.5 hours driving

We skipped a camping breakfast on this day, instead rushing to the bakery before heading to see Quebec City in the summertime. We’d been there in the winter, but I had a hunch it’d be different with a bit of warmer weather.

kamouraska bakery

We found parking in Quebec City in time to catch a little bit of the US World Cup match. A loss, yes, but at least we found a really neat pub to watch it at! Look for Le Sacrilège. Great terrasse (aka patio) in the back.

quebec city

quebec city bar

We spent about two hours after the game just strolling. We ventured into the Château Frontenac lobby, peered into adorable restaurants that we would have eaten at if we’d had time (or a bigger budget, I suppose), and watched the tour buses full of golden-aged tourists. After a week of hearing almost only French, it was strange to hear English-speaking tourists around us.

quebec city bookstore

quebec city bookstore

quebec city artist alley

Look! I had real clothes (read: not only hiking clothes) packed in my bag, too!

DSC_quebec city chateau frontenac

quebec city

quebec city

quebec city

quebec city

quebec city

DSC_quebec city

quebec city

quebec city

I loved seeing the city in the summer. Very charming. If I lived in Montreal long term, I’d rent a Quebec City apartment one week every summer. It’s cozy and feels intimate somehow, even among the tourists and bureaucrats (provincial government employees were everywhere). But alas, we had to keep on the road.

We left around 4pm to drive to Sherbrooke. Sherbrooke doesn’t usually make it onto the typical tourist itinerary. It’s a nice medium-sized city, sure, but mostly we went to stop in to see some of our friends who recently moved there.

We spent the evening eating a dish prepared with Matane shrimp, catching up, and making faces at their three-month-old baby girl.

Day 8-Sherbrooke to Montreal | pit stop at the St-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey

2 hours of driving

abbaye saint-benoit-du-lac

Remember way back when, when my parents came to visit? We stopped into the abbey to pick up some delicious cheese, honey, and apples at that time. Since the husband had never been, we decided to stop in to pick up some cheese, honey of course (if you know the guy, you know he loves sweets), and a bottle of the hard cider. We’ve got it chilling, waiting for the right moment.

We reached Montreal around 5:30, but then managed to get seriously stuck in traffic. Being stuck in traffic for an hour reminds you about the downsides of the city. Especially after a week of camping.

But once we got that car returned, we headed out for Indian thalis, gelatos, and a meander through the Jazz Festival. Camping is great.

montreal jazz fest opening night

The road trip was great, but the city ain’t so bad either.


In the next couple days (before my flight to visit the family!!), I’ll sort through our trip photos and post recaps for the highlights of our trip. Usually, I do this just because I love to, but after doing some searching for this trip, I didn’t see that many blog recaps about these stops, so here’s hoping my post helps another wife out there to convince her husband that they really ought to take the trip 🙂

If anyone happens to be planning a trip and needs more details than what is provided in the post above or the forthcoming posts, feel free to contact me either by comment or email: therestoflhistoire (at) gmail (dot) com for more information. As other posts are added, links will be edited in.


Sunday Mont-Royal Stroll

mont royal summer

Strolls on summer Sundays in Parc du Mont-Royal are really something. It seems like everyone’s there. Really, everyone. Those medieval knights you were searching for all week? Check. Those sun-bathing beauties? Check. Those large, happy extended families? Check.  Those members of the Rastafarian drum circle? Check. Those skateboarding teenagers? Check. (There actually pretty respectful and wait for walkers and joggers to pass). Those young moms jogging with strollers? Check. The adorable old couple walking hand-in-hand? Check. The circus performers and wannabes practicing their tight-rope walking (okay, sure, slack-lining)? Check.

Quite. A. Sight.

I’ll probably get another run or two in before July 1, but my strolls with the camera in tow are probably over. So I tried to document the experience one last time so you might imagine what it’s like.

No beach in sight? Doesn’t mean you can’t pretend…

mont royal summer

Prepping for the next battle/joust/God only knows:

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

Brief moments of near solitude can still be found if you’re patient.

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

Can you spot him in the next picture?

mont royal summer

May your day be beautiful and filled with smiles.

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

mont royal summer

Just your average Sunday here.

Like This? Watch That! | A Quick Guide to Quebec Television

blog reading, at computer

blog reading, at computerAhh, the hours I’ve spent watching television in Quebec.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for such a long time. When I first learned that I was moving to Quebec (and then still when I got here obviously), I wanted to know what local shows would be good to watch. While I might not have been understanding anything more complicated than Bananas in Pyjamas, I still wanted a show that I could get invested in. Something that seemed interesting to watch. I got to googling and found a list of the “most-watched shows” in Quebec. This gave me a list with a couple of the regular morning talk shows, mixed in with some really outdated examples. I’m sure there probably are newer and more helpful lists out there, but what I really wanted, was for someone to say, “Oh, you like watching Orange is the New Black? Then you will love Unité 9.” This list, to the best of my television-watching abilities, is that list.

Many Quebecois television shows have English shows that bear a resemblance. No, there are not exact equivalents. Sometimes, I really thought a Quebec show deserved to be mentioned, but the English-speaking equivalent is a bit of stretch. I’m not trying to say they are the same or had the same influence. I’m just trying to say that if you liked one, you might like the other. It’s a good place to start if you’re trying to find a show that interests you.

Another thing that I feel ought to be mentioned is that Quebecois television is not only different because it’s in French. Many of your favorite English dramas can be found dubbed over in French. This is great from time to time. I’ve certainly watched a few 2-4pm Lifetime movies on Channel 5 between classes. You’ll still pick up some vocabulary and expressions, but you’ll miss out on some of the cultural aspects that shows made in Quebec will provide. Oh, yeah, you’re more likely to hear the “f-word,” which isn’t really considered that strong in French.

One last point. I am not claiming this list is exhaustive. It isn’t. It couldn’t be. This list is a result of the knowledge I’ve picked up in the last year and a half. I’m sharing it in hopes that it will help someone else out. If anyone has suggestions to add, please feel free to send my way. I’ll edit as suggestions come in.

FInally, my code for recommendations:

  • *I watched it often and enjoyed it
  • **I loved it and highly, highly recommend it
  • ***It was a guilty pleasure. Therefore, I liked it, but don’t you dare judge me.


  1. NYPD Blue, The Wire–>19-2** This has also been remade into an English language version. I’m partial to the French, because I got to know the characters. This series is very, very well-made and widely acclaimed.
  2. Friday Night Lights–>Les Béliers I didn’t actually watch this, so can’t recommend it, but if you want to follow a football team, this is for you.
  3. How I Met Your Mother–>Tu m’aimes-tu ?** There’s only one season, sadly. This rivals the top spot as my favorite Quebecois series. How I met your mother might not exactly be a drama, but both follow 20 and 30-somethings in a quest for love.
  4. Gray’s Anatomy–>Trauma, Médecins de Combat Attractive doctors saving lives. La Presse has an article discussing the Trauma’s exportation to the US.
  5. Orange is the New Black–> Unité 9** The Quebec series began before the Netflix series, actually. Both feature women inmates. I really enjoyed the first season of this. Season 2 was less intriguing, but I still made a point to catch up on every episode.
  6. Sex and the City–>La Galère*** There’s a lot less Manhattan and a lot less glam here. That said, you’ve still got a neurotic writer who is constantly surrounded with her three best gal pals.
  7. Law & Order–>Toute La Verité Get your legal drama fix here.

Food on TV

  1. Top Chef–>Les Chefs
  2. Come Dine With Me–> Un Souper Presque Parfait*** People (usually with a wide range of personalities) cook or each other and invite them over to their homes. Each person rates the others’ meals.
  3. PBS’s Test Kitchen–>L’Epicerie** Very useful, practical cooking knowledge in most cases.
  4. Parts Unknown, but with a less caustic host–>À la Di Stasio** The likeable host tours Montreal, Quebec and the planet while eating great food.
  5. Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri, etc.–>Ricardo* Ricardo is the chef to know. My students and friends always mention his recipes and cookbook. His program follows the typical invite-a-guest-to-cook-a-nice-meal-with-you-in-a-neat-half-hour pattern.


  1. The Simpsons–>The Simpsons** The premises of the episodes will be the same, as well as the jokes that translate. But they do a great job of adding in regional jokes and references. (The characters can be difficult to understand for newbies).
  2. SNL–>SNL Quebec SNL Quebec is just starting. Last I knew, it was produced on a monthly basis as a trial. The show format was exactly the same, and the sketches were of a similar style. Expect to hear anglophone accents exaggerated. (I would maybe find it funny if the anglophone accent wasn’t actually easier to understand for me).
  3. Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report–>Infoman* THe host reports the news of the week in a satirical fashion. Many of my students really enjoyed this as well.
  4. The Middle, Everybody Loves Raymond–>Les Parents** Witty family show for all ages.
  5. Portlandia–>Les Bobos** Sooo good. This might be favorite of all of them. And I probably only caught 2/3 of the jokes (they speak quickly for me). Portlandia’s humor and themes meet Montreal’s Plateau residents.
  6. If SNL happened once a year–>Bye Bye** The New Year’s Eve program with great comedy sketches.
  7. Fargo (the TV Series), Dexter–>Série Noire* Even the husband, who couldn’t understand more than a few words, liked this show. I guess he could just sense the clever, dark humor. Where you think the show won’t go, it goes.
  8. Modern Family–>La Vie Parfaite A quirky sitcom about a blended family.

Reality TV

  1. Shark Tank–>Dans L’Oeil du Dragon Almost exactly the same concept.
  2. Mythbusters–>Les Stupéfiants Almost exactly the same concept.
  3. Who Do You Think You Are–>Qui êtes-vous ?* You get to learn about celebrities and the history of Quebec at the same time. Well done equivalent.
  4. My Strange Addiction–>Les Accros I can’t watch this stuff. Gives me the willies.
  5. Judge Judy–>L’Arbitre Exactly the same premise. And the same type of sass you expect.
  6. Real World meets Survivor–>Occupation Double I have never actually watched it, but people make references to it from time to time.

News and Documentaries

  1. Frontline–>Enquête** Take the time to look at a few news stories a bit more in-depth than the nightly news can.
  2. General Nightly News–>Téléjournal This is as you’d expect.

Home and Lifestyle Shows

  1. Design on a Dime–>Decore Ta Vie This is an old standby. Everyone I’ve asked here seems to know it.
  2. Cribs–>Design V.I.P.* Okay, not exactly the same thing. But there is a focus on interior design and you get to see parts of celebrity homes. With Design V.I.P., there is renovation on one part of a celebrity’s home.
  3. What Not to Wear–>Notre garde-robe des rêves

Children’s and Teens’ Shows

  1. Sesame Street–>Passe-Partout People actually asked me if I was from Quebec because I made mention of this childhood staple (surely, it wasn’t because of my accent).
  2. Saved by the Bell–>Watatatow Okay, this one is probably a stretch. But how I feel about Saved by the Bell defining my generation is how many people of my age feel about this show.
  3. I’m brainstorming to add more here…

Games Shows

  1. Cash Cab–>Taxi Payant 
  2. Family Feud–>La Guerre des Clans*** I never watched Family Feud. I have no idea why I always seemed to end up watching La Guerre des Clans here.
  3. Match Game–>L’Union fait de la Force Good for learning vocabulary along the way.

Talk Television

  1. Good Morning America/The Today Show–>Alors, On Jase ! or
  2. Jimmy Fallon/David Letterman–>En Mode Salvail* or Penelope McQuade
  3. Hardball (but not all politics)/Bill Maher–>Tout le Monde en Parle The name of this show is fitting. Everyone really does seem to be talking about it. The host, Guy A. LePage, hosts guests to discuss a wide range of timely topics (not just politics). This could be celebrities or people in the middle of their fifteen minutes of fame.


Nights Out in Montreal

montreal plateau therestoflhistoire.comWhen your days our numbered in a city, you become selective and susceptible all at the same time. If I already knew about something and it wasn’t on my list of musts, I don’t feel too tempted to schedule it in. I have absolutely no interest in going to La Ronde. Sorry, but I’m over amusement parks until my nieces and nephews start begging to go. On the other hand, if someone mentions a great new place that I hadn’t heard of (which happens, oh, I’d say, every other day), I am filled with urgency and/or regret.

As for the things I’ve already done, I’m getting to that annoying nostalgic stage. You know the one.  The stage when you want to stroll around every neighborhood and eat at all your favorite places just one, last time. It’s a little ridiculous when you become a bit sad when you realize it’s going to be your last Bocadillo arepa. And you’re going to Latin America. (Although, I don’t know how many arepas I’ll find in Argentina??)

Anyway, the last week has felt kind of calm, but has been busy at the same time. This week, my classes are slowing down (that tends to happen when they know you’re leaving, huh?), so I’m hoping to spend a couple days next week exploring. This week, we visited the Big in Japan speakeasy with some friends (super, super cool! p.s. the door isn’t red anymore), strolled the streets of the Plateau in the evening and stopped for a coffee, picked out which house in Outremont we’d prefer to live in (if one day we stop being students/nomads) and even went to a Montreal Impact game (that’s Major League Soccer, FYI). They lost, but it was fun to watch the fans and the game anyway.

There are really only three places left on my Montreal wish list: Maison Publique (going to try and twist husband’s arm), St. Joseph’s Oratory and Poutineville. But I think I’m going to eat poutine along the road trip route in lieu of filling up at Poutineville. My, my, how time is flying.


Somalia | A Crash Course for the Armchair Geographer

I couldn’t help it. I liked researching and focusing on one country/culture for one month. As the end of May approached, I began thinking about what region I might want to study next. I’m going home next month and I wanted to dig a little deeper into understanding some of the cultures that are present in northwestern Wisconsin.  For a bit, I considered exploring my Norwegian or German heritage and exploring how that’s expressed throughout the state.

That would have been fun and totally worth exploring, but truth be told, I will do that a little bit anyway. (Though I obviously think it would merit more of my time as well). And I wanted to explore something I knew [even] less about.

Minnesota and Wisconsin (and the county I went to high school in, in particular) are home to a sizable Somali immigrant population. Despite this, I could only tell you the basics about Somali history and culture. And yes, sadly, a lot of those basics came only from what I saw flash across the television screen on CNN. Time to dig deeper. So I focused my June on Somalia.

To warm up, watch this video! Is this how you picture Somalia? Those beaches are amazing…

When writing this post, I had originally started a post like last month’s, with sections on save face facts, touchy subjects and interesting topics you that you could discuss with new acquaintances around the dinner table. And then somewhere along the way, it just didn’t feel like the most appropriate way to lay things out. Instead, I’m breaking things up a bit differently this time. I’m starting with some fast facts and background, which some might see as more of a review. Then I mention some of the issues facing the country at this time before moving on to explore some of the things that make the Somali culture so interesting.

Why is it important to know more about Somalia?

Juba river downstream Jamaame
By Sylvie Doutriaux (Juba River, downstream from Jamame) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1. A stable and prosperous Somalia matters for all of us.

You’ve probably heard about the political and security issues surrounding Somalia (If not, keep reading). These are important to understand. As always (the under-30 idealist in me, maybe), I believe that understanding each other just a little bit better could help in some small [or collectively large] way. If you need a better answer about why a stable Somalia is best for Somali people and for all of us, read the UK Ambassador’s explanation about “Why a Stable Somalia is in Our Interests.”

2. The Somali diaspora means you’re more likely to meet a Somali at work, at school or in your community.

The Somali diaspora” is the expression used to described Somalis leaving their country and settling in different regions of the world. In Canada, many Somalis live near Ottawa and Toronto. In the UK, many live around London, Liverpool or Birmingham. In the US, you’re most likely to meet Somalis in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Introduction and Fast Facts

All right. Let’s get to learning a bit. We all agree that asking questions and admitting you don’t know something is the best way to learn more, right? (There’s a cool Freakonomics podcast about that). Right. While it’s usually better to be honest about not knowing something than faking it, it’s still advised to go in with a bit or prior-knowledge, in my opinion. Here are some basics that will help you save face when you want to discuss the country with Somalis or brainy academics or well, anyone.

Fast Fact #1: This is where it is.


Somalia is found in the region referred to as the Horn of Africa (sometimes shortened to HOA). HOA includes the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

As you can see from the map and the video above, there’s a lot of coast. Somalia is home to many beautiful, sandy beaches and fishing is a very prominent part of society.

Somalia 16.08.2009 08-30-13
By Simisa (Own work Simisa (talk · contribs)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fast Fact #2: The Right Terminology: Somalia is the country; Somali is the adjective.

If you were on the fence between saying Somali and Somalian, go for Somali. It’s the name of the language, the noun used for a person from the country or the ethnic group and the adjective.

Fast Fact #3: Religion

Somalia is predominately Sunni Muslim. Alcohol is prohibited and fasting during Ramadan should be observed (at least in public). Other religious minorities do exist, though. There is a small Christian minority within the country.

A Little More Background

Quick history lesson here. I mean really quick. Here are some key points that will help you understand what you might read or hear about Somalia’s history.


People sometimes simply see Somalia as homogenous, or being the same throughout. But it’s not that simple.

It’s a big country and there is diversity within it. (My post is obviously generalizing out of necessity).

There was no such thing as the Somali people (in the way it would be characterized today) before the second half of the 20th Century (source on this is the Kusow article listed at end of post). There have been nomadic (Samaal) clans, agro-pastoral (Saab) clans, many sub-clans within clans, and other minority groups that aren’t really clans (but are often labeled as such) for a really, really, really long time. Each is distinct. Clans provide a deep sense of identity. And it’s not so easy for all to agree on the best way to govern the country.

Colonial History

In the 1800s, Britain, France and Italy came along and divided the country into five parts. It wasn’t until 1960 that the Somali Republic was formed, grouping together many clans and distinct groups.

So, where are Puntland and Somaliland then?


You’ll hear a lot about the different regions in Somalia. Here’s a map that breaks it down into four main regions.

  • Somaliland (in green on map) is in the north and is considered to be politically stable, relatively speaking. If someone is visiting Somalia as a tourist, they usually mean here. It has declared itself independent, but isn’t internationally recognized.
  • The name Puntland (in purple on map) comes from the ancient land of Punt. Puntland has become infamous for piracy in recent years. It is also self-governing, but did not entirely declare itself as independent.
  • Central Somalia and Southern Somalia are the regions most commonly described when someone says Somalia. This is where you’ll find Mogadishu (the capital).

If you want to read a full report/document with more details about clans and regions in Somalia:

Hard Times

I want this post to be about learning, understanding and celebrating the cultures of Somalia. That said, if you find yourself in a conversation about Somalia, you’ll need to understand that things aren’t easy going right now. Here are some of the issues facing the country.

Famine and Drought

A severe drought hit the region between 2010 and 2012. In May of 2013, a study was published that said over 260,000 people had died as a result of this famine. One half of these deaths were children under the age of five. That’s an estimated 4.6% percent of the population. This famine was declared over in February 2012 by the U.N. However, Somalia is facing another drought and the warning signs of another famine are starting to pile up.


Problems of famine are made worse by the level of instability in the country. Except for Somaliland, the country is a current war zone. Starting with a coup in 1991, Somalia has been engaged in a civil war. On top of this, the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group al-Shabab and clan rivalries further contribute to the violence. And yes, modern-day pirates are a real thing.


In September 2013, Refugees International estimated that there were over 1.1 million displaced people in the country (people forced to relocate) and over one million outside the country. Many Somalis are forced to walk to neighboring countries in search of refugee camps. One of the largest is Dadaab. To see a documentary of a young man’s return to the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, watch this Voices of Dadaab video.

What can you do?

I want to again emphasize that my main reason when choosing to learn a bit more about Somalia was (and still is) to dig deeper, understand more about the culture, the history and find ways to more easily connect with any Somali I might meet. But after reading and watching about what is happening, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about what you can do if you feel like you want to.

Nothing happens just because we are aware…but NOTHING will ever happen until we are.

-Gary Haugen

Hope and Culture

Almadow Overview
By Abdirisak [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common
We would be doing a huge disservice to the country and its people if we stopped exploring here. Things are far from easy, but that’s not all there is to the story. People are strong and resilient. The culture is unique and deep.

Hope on the Political Front

There’s some hope politically as of late. First glimpses of political hope: Also, the Obama Administration has  just named an envoy to Somalia for the first time in 23 years.

Literature and Folklore

Folklore and oral tradition history is rich in Somalia. There are efforts to preserve these stories and share them with other cultures. (More on this in my book/reading post, I promise). Two of the most well-known authors of modern-day literature include Nuruddin Farah and Farah Mohamed Jama Awl. The Woyingi blog shares a list of Somali Literature. (as well as other African literature)


Somalia has been referred to as “A Nation of Poets.” Poetry was used not only for art and expression, but to support clans and communicate during disputes. Probably sounds nicer than listening to our elected officials argue on CNN in the morning, right?

Hadrawi is considered by many to be the world’s greatest living poet. (He also writes songs) He is the Somali Shakespeare.

To browse several Somali poems translated to English, check the Poetry Soup Somali page.

There’s a really cool poetry website with videos of young people sharing their work at The Poet Nation. There is no shying away from issues in their poetry. Below is a video from this group (most Poet Nation videos seem to be in English).


There is a large and growing Somali film industry. The arguable capital of this industry? Columbus, Ohio. There’s a great article outlining more of the inspiration and reasons for the Somaliwood interest in Columbus. Many film shorts can be found on YouTube. I’ll be sharing reviews and thoughts of ones I find important to share later in the month.


Somali food
Ahh, my old stand by.

Because of colonization and Somalia’s key location along the coast, its cuisine is varied and has influences from many other cultures. Somali cuisine is known for canjeero (a spongy bread similar to Ethiopian injera…that I may try to make at home) and sambusas (which are like Indian somosas). Breads make with semolina flour (Italian influence) are common, as are pasta and rice, which are apparently often served with bananas on the side. Main courses often include lamb, beef, chicken and lentils. Adzuki bean dishes also seem to be favorites. Dishes are flavored with various spices, including cumin, cardamom, coriander, and a berbere spice mix, but dishes are not usually considered hot-spicy.

Like last month, I’ll write a recap with some of my favorite cookbooks, online resources and photos from my recipe attempts. I’m excited to try some new things. We’ll see if I can figure out a way to cook any of these over the campfire while we’re on our road trip!


Somali varies from region to region and there are many dialects within the language. However, generally Somalis from different areas will be able to communicate with no problems. There are several videos online that will help you get started if you want to learn a few phrases and words in the language or just see what it’s like. This gentleman has many useful videos on his YouTube channel.

Music and Dance

It’s hard to sum this up in a neat little paragraph, since covering everything from traditional folk music to hip hop is a bit difficult. To listen to some of the traditional music bites (unfortunately very short) for free, check out the Smithsonian Folkways page. This article does a wonderful job of introducing the modern Somali music scene. Also, Hiraan Online’s music page provides oodles of music links to explore. I, personally, have liked listening to the Dur-Dur Band and Sahra Halgan (her song featured in video below). K’naan is a very famous rapper, who is reportedly dating Lupita Nyong’o (I’m not above celebrity gossip from time to time). Waayaha Cusub, a Somali music collective,  hosted a music festival in Mogadishu last year, the first since before the war began.

Where can I find out more?

As you know, during the rest of this month, I’m going to be sharing some posts. My posts will be recaps of the movies I’ve watched, reviews of the books I’ve read, and one awesome food recipe and resource post.

Besides these upcoming posts and resources, feel free to check out the following:

  • BBC Somalia Country Profile
  • Daily Somali news updates are posted at Hiiraan Online.
  • Following Poet Nation on Pinterest has been a great resource. There are over 25 boards with educational pins. They do a great job of sharing issues and celebrating culture with their selections. Many links to other resources.
  • To hear and see the story of a Somali Christian woman, check out the website The video is well-made and has great images of dress and daily life (heads up: it is meant for evangelist purposes, but you can’t deny that it’s her truth).
  • The Somali Heritage and Archaeology website has many  interesting links about how they are attempting to preserve heritage and culture, even in the face of war.
  • The free booklet about Somali culture and issues is offered by Year of Pray for Somalia. This is meant as a year-long prayer guide for Christians, but if that is of interest to you, it will also double as an educational tool.
  • Those in the Twin Cities area could check out the Somali Museum. Would love to get there when I’m in the Midwest this summer.
  • Whatever suggestions I get from readers to add here!


If anyone has any corrections or suggestions for what really should be added, feel free to comment. Remember, I’m not an academic [or real] geographer, just an armchair geographer.




Below are the sources which are not already linked above.

  • Kusow, Abdi Mohamed. (1994). The Genesis of the Somali Civil War: A New Perspective. Northeast African Studies. 1, 1, 31-46. DOI: 10.1353/nas.1994.0004


Thanks to my Dad and his friend Wade for sharing some links and recommendations with me. 

Featured image attribution: Mk 90: