Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Looking for something 'awesome'?; Townships blog's a good start

Friday, March 7, 2008
By Claire Biddiscombe
Sherbrooke Record

When Alex Roslin first moved to the Townships with his wife and two young daughters last June, he wanted to find the local treasures that the area has to offer. As many people would do, the former resident of Montreal, who now calls Knowlton home, turned to the Internet.

What he found was not quite what he had hoped for.

"It was almost like the Yellow Pages," Roslin said, citing lack of description as the biggest problem with the directories he found.

Roslin, a freelance writer, and wife Rhonda, a translator and copywriter, first toyed with the idea of creating a biannual directory of places in the Townships that were off the beaten track, but scrapped the idea for logistical reasons. They settled instead on a blog, as a medium that could be easily updated, easily found by others and allowed for readers to participate in building the site.

Now, Roslin regularly gets emails from locals who send suggestions and photos of places to add to his listings. He admits though that his site is very much a work in progress.

"We've scratched the surface of finding stuff just around the corner from here," he said, adding that the site lists a "disproportionate" number of businesses from the Knowlton end of the Townships.

"It's just an example of some of the places that stick out for me," he said.

Many of the places listed on "Best of the Eastern Townships," Roslin has visited himself, and has rated as "Very Good," or even "Awesome!"

Among his recent favourites are an Eastern European grocery store in Mansonville that he described as "better than anything in Montreal," and Amis de la Terre du Voisinage de Waterloo, a service that allows buyers to pick and choose from among hundreds of local farm-fresh products.

"People from Montreal who want really good food -- not gourmet, but good, fresh food -- where do they go? They go to the Townships," Roslin said.

He and his family initially chose the Townships not for the food, however, but to mirror the feeling of their former neighbourhood in Montreal. As much as they loved the city, they needed a larger home for their family to grow.

"Where we lived, it was pretty much like Sesame Street," he said. "We really wanted to find somewhere like that, but a community."

After looking in the Sutton area, they found their current home on the outskirts of Knowlton, which Roslin describes as a "slice of paradise."

Being away from the centre of everything in the big city has not affected his ability to work, Roslin said. He still writes for the publications that he worked with before the move, and added that he can now bring them new story ideas, based on happenings in the Townships.

"It's a great place for a writer to be," he said.

Roslin's blog can be found online at www.bestoftheeasterntown

• Photo: Alex Roslin is looking for cool spots from readers, so he can then share their great finds.

[TAGS: Eastern Townships, Knowlton, Sutton]