a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Feb, 2020

Imagine Van Gogh (the Montreal edition)

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

The girls were home for Spring Break last week. We did a lot of Family Things, much of which involved making popcorn and watching movies, and eating too much. I took the day off on Thursday. The youngest was going for an overnight visit at a friend’s in Montreal so we agreed to drive her and check out an exhibition we’d been hearing a lot about called Imagine Van Gogh while we were there.

I will summarize the drive to Montreal in one sentence: I’m glad I wasn’t the one doing the driving. Ugh. It’s awful. But I digress. We planned to arrive early for lunch, which we managed. We opted for Sushi Taxi, which was a good choice as it was close to Arsenal art contemporain Montréal (home of Van Gogh for the winter of 2020).

Lunch was good. I ordered a poke bowl. (Speaking of which, did you know it’s pronounced PO-KAY?)

Poke Bowl from Sushi Taxi, Montreal

We lingered over lunch and green tea and then decided to make our way to the Van Gogh exhibition. There are some very cute shops in that part of Montreal, including one antique shop that simply blew my mind. It was stuffed to the rafters with STUFF. There was a wall of boxes, a wall of glass containers, a wall of cuckoo clocks… I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a photo. (But I did buy this bird-shaped thing. I am unsure how old it is or what its function is. If you have any theories, please drop me a line, ok?)

Bird sculpture (?)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. Tickets to Imagine Van Gogh are timed, so we had to get moving.

I should mention that we congratulated ourselves on finding free street parking nearby. Paid parking near Imagine Van Gogh is very limited, and I think it was $15.

I kinda had a good idea of what this was going in. I knew that Van Gogh paintings are projected on to walls, but the truth is that you don’t really get the scale of the thing until you’re standing right in the middle of it.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

You can walk around, or sit on the floor, or sit on a rock. (Yes, there were rocks there.)

Music plays, and the paintings are animated in a way that’s hard to describe. They are not static.Sometimes they slide across the wall, or disappear. It’s all timed to classical music; kind of a perfect pairing, really.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

I liked how the paintings were displayed. Sometimes one painting was projected across every wall. Some of the walls have smaller screens, and that one painting would be cropped in a way to emphasize one aspect of it. It brings your attention to details you may not have noticed otherwise, like brushstrokes or use of colour.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

The whole cycle takes about 30 minutes. We stayed for about 45, although I would have lingered longer. (I joked with Mark afterward that if I could enjoy it from a comfy sofa with a hot coffee in hand I could stay there all day. It’s very peaceful.)

There are display boards in the entrance that describe Vincent Van Gogh’s life, which, if you didn’t already know, was tragically short. He died by suicide when he was only 37, after many years of poverty and mental illness. As someone who couldn’t give his paintings away, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have thought of his sunflowers being projected on a warehouse wall 50ft high, which people lined up to see.

We had a good discussion in the car on the way home. Is Imagine Van Gogh art? I don’t think it is. It’s a projection of art. It is art that is artistically displayed for people to enjoy, but it is not art. It was pretty cool though.


22 Feb, 2020

Weekend reading: February 22 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

16 Feb, 2020

Weekend reading: February 16 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The House We Grew Up In: A Novel

As some of you know, Mark and I are pretty much empty nesters now. It’s kind of weird. Not just WEIRD, to me, but it might also be weird to you, especially since some of you have been following our family adventures from the day the girls were born. (!)

Life is different in a bunch of ways. The house is quieter. And tidier. The dishwasher takes ages to fill up before it needs to be run through. There are no debates around the dinner table. We spend less on groceries. No one eats the bagel I was saving for lunch or drinks juice out of the container. There are no dirty socks gathering dust under the couch or boots to trip over in the mudroom.

Of course it goes without saying that I miss those extra kisses and hugs. I miss playing Uno and I miss our conversations. I even miss fighting over the blanket while we all watch a movie together.

On a Friday night about a month ago, I was alone, at home. Mark went out with friends and I was eating my dinner while hunkered down in front of the television. I was just about to take a big bite out of my slice of pizza when I heard the side door open. I wondered why Mark was home so early. I had just dropped him off at the LRT. Why on earth was he home?

And that’s when I realized it wasn’t Mark. It was our ELDEST CHILD. She had decided to pay us a surprise visit and totally unbeknownst to us she had grabbed a bus in Kingston earlier that afternoon. (!)

Of course, because today’s kids are so digital, she recorded her arrival on her phone, but she cut it off just as I walked over to give her a big hug. As I wrapped my lonely arms around her, the tears immediately overflowed. I didn’t quite expect that, but then again, I didn’t quite expect a surprise visit either.

I knew I missed her, but I guess I didn’t exactly know how much I missed her.

I miss her. I miss both my girls, very much. It’s as if a part of me is away from me, all of the time now.  I’ve adjusted to this new reality, but sometimes it hits me. Does that make any sense?

02 Feb, 2020

The risk that paid off

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

In the most recent chapter in this series, the youngest daughter and I had just visited Big Buddha, a religious site in Phuket, Thailand. Thankfully, we found our driver waiting for us in the parking lot, just as he had promised. (Phew.)

Until that moment I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to book the return part of our little excursion. I assumed I’d just book a ride on the Thai-Uber app and that he’d be the driver, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

As we approached the car, he turned to me and made me an offer: If I just paid in cash, he’d take us back to our residence but include a stop at Wat Chalong, a historical landmark and Buddhist temple in Phuket. The dollar figure would be the same as what we’d paid for the drive there.

I briefly conferred with the youngest, checked my cash reserves, and agreed to the deal. After all, we were planning on visiting a temple at some point, right?


But the youngest was not happy with me.

“Mum,” she said afterwards. “If I accepted a ride in a foreign country and paid under the table for it you would probably be mad.” Then she pointed out that ride-sharing apps have security features built into them. If we went missing we’d have a record of the transaction as well as our route. (In other words, plenty of clues for the Thai police to follow if we went missing.)

Of course she was right, but this conversation didn’t happen until we got home.

The drive to Wat Chalong was as scenic as the drive to Big Buddha. And when we arrived, well, let’s just say I was agog the entire time. It was so gorgeous I have no words to describe it. It was a postcard come to life.

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

No shoes please

Inside Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

Visiting Wat Chalong, Phuket

So, yes. I took a chance and no one died!

That night we went to Patong Beach and marvelled at a sunset that glowed with a million colours. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

Patong Beach sunset

Patong Beach sunset

Patong Beach sunset

Patong Beach sunset

(Click here to watch a time-lapse I took at the beach.)


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  • andrea tomkins: Thanks Lynn! I will keep doing it as long as I enjoy doing it. :)
  • Lynn: just chiming in to say how much I still enjoy these weekly reading lists. That Google food one was fascinating!
  • Nick: In February, only one thing is good - this is the last month of winter and spring will come soon and it will be warm)
  • Tannia: I someone today who said he played polkaroo.
  • Tannia: What was the actor's name who played polkaroo?
  • Lynn: Oh man, I can see this as my future in just a few short years. Between you and Allison (who's oldest is off in America for university), I can hardly r
  • Amy: Although what your daughter says makes sense and I'd follow her advice when you can, keep in mind that ride-sharing apps are a very recent way to trav

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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