Category Archives: Travel

New Orleans Food Explosion

New Orleans has been on my list of places to visit for a while and this year, my friend and I got the chance to visit the city (there was a seat sale and it was my birthday, not that I needed an excuse). Upon arriving at the¬†Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, it was hot – even at the end of February, it was easily 25C plus humidity. From the designated Uber and Lyft pickup area at the airport, we hopped into an Uber and headed to our hotel, The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The 35 minute drive to the hotel was quick because I kept on asking our Uber driver questions mainly related to where we should eat and places to visit. Drivers are a wealth of information ūüôā

We had chosen to stay at The Roosevelt New Orleans because I fell in love with the pictures I saw online. It had old-world charm with beautiful ceiling tiles and gilded walls and a rooftop pool. The location was fantastic; right by the French Quarter but not within it, walking distance to most attractions, and near the streetcar lines.

Our main goal for this trip was to try as many foods as possible. We kept on adding to our list because we’d talk to people and they’d make suggestions and we’d add it to the list. Below are the places we ended up eating at.

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Top left: Wahlburger at the airport. Top right: Fried chicken from Krispy Krunchy Chicken (inside Chevron gas station). Bottom row: Butternut squash pizza and Italian cream cake at Domenica (at Roosevelt Hotel)

  • To kick off our trip to the USA, we ate at the Walhburgers at the airport. Burger government cheese (cheddar) with tater tots.
  • Domenica¬†(123 Baronne Street, located in the Roosevelt Hotel): ordered the butternut squash pizza and Italian cream cake for dessert. Both were delicious but I couldn’t finish the pizza, it was huge! I loved the combination of sweet and savoury of marscapone cheese and the dates/butternut squash.
  • Krisy Krunchy Chicken¬†(447 N Rampart St): The one we went to was located inside the Chevron gas station on N. Rampart St. It was recommended to us by Jack, the bartender at the Good Friends Bar. The fried chicken was surprising crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. I’m going to have to try more gas station fried chicken.
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Top row and bottom left: Charboiled oysters, drum amandine, pecan bread pudding from Antoine’s. Bottom left: Fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese from Willie Mae’s Scotch House

  • Antoine’s¬†(713 Saint Louis St): This was a recommended place from my friend’s friend. It truly is an NOLA establishment with 14 dining rooms and we spoke with the current owner who seated us at the table next to the picture of his mom as a little girl. We¬†tried the winter special: charboiled oysters, drum amandine and pecan bread pudding, which were all very yummy, well portioned for a three course meal. Plus they have $0.25 drink special everyday, we had the lemon drop! You can also ask a waiter to walk you through the other dining rooms or just explore on your own. It is a must – the private dining rooms upstairs will make you want to hold your next party there.
  • Willie Mae’s Scotch House¬†(2401 St. Ann St): won the James Beard Award for ‚ÄúAmerica‚Äôs Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Ordered the fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese. I DREAM about this fried chicken. The chicken is covered in a layer of hot sauce and then battered and fried – it’s so juicy and flavourful and the crispy outside was to die for. Definitely worth the wait in line!
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Top left: Fritai from Fritai (St. Roch Market). Top right: PB, B and J Wings from Faubourg Bistro (inside 700 Club). Bottom left: Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins and pickled turnips from Cochon Restaurant. Bottom right: Braised pork from Green Goddess

  • Fritai (2381 St. Claude Ave, inside the St. Roch Market): Fritai consists of¬†two fried plantains with pork shoulder in between, avocado, mango sauce, and pickliz. Served with plantain chips. This was a cool atmosphere since it was more of a food hall with other food stalls.
  • Faubourg Bistro (700 Burgundy St, located inside 700 Club): The PB, B(acon) & J wings were recommended to us while in line waiting for a table at Willie Mae’s. This I would say was the least favourite meal we ate because it was very one note. The wings were cooked perfectly but the PB & J on top of it wasn’t anything special and there wasn’t a crunch to it (would have preferred wings on its own). Would definitely go back to try some of their other menu items – it looks good.
  • Cochon Restaurant (930 Tchoupitoulas St, not to be confused with Cochon Butcher, though they have the same owner): We stumbled upon this place thinking it was the butcher (which is actually next door, down the side street) and so glad we found it.¬†This was one of my favourite meals:¬†Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins and pickled turnips. The pork melted in my mouth and when combined with the other elements, it was a very happy marriage of flavours and textures.
  • Green Goddess¬†(307 Exchange Place): This restaurant is on a cute pedestrian only street in the French Quarter and we wanted to give it a try. I was super excited to try the Duck Off! only to be disappointed that their online menu is old. I can’t find a current version of it online and can only remember that I got a braised pork dish with fresh salsa, pumpkin seeds and a delicious sauce. I only wish they had updated their menu or kept the duck on the menu.
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Top row: Drinks and crawfish quartet at Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant. Bottom left: Breakfast sandwich and daily iced tea from The Daily Beet. Bottom right: Glazed Pork Belly PoBoy from Killer PoBoys

  • Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant (841 Iberville St): This was our first taste of crawfish in NOLA and we were in love. We shared the crawfish quartet:¬†Louisiana¬† crawfish √©touff√©e, crawfish bisque, fried crawfish tails and crawfish balls, served with fries and coleslaw. Portions were huge! My friend also got the Coconut Custard Bread Pudding that was creamy and straight from the oven.
  • The Daily Beet¬†(1000 Girod St): Perfect breakfast place (kinda too hipster for me but food was good). The breakfast sandwich is made of avocado mash, fried pastured egg, white cheddar, tomato jam, arugula on toast (though the menu says ciabatta). I also got the daily iced tea (a hibiscus berry blend). It was a good meal to start the day.
  • Killer PoBoys¬†(219 Dauphine St): Instead of the traditional oyster or shrimp PoBoy, we tried the glazed pork belly PoBoy with NOLA rum & ginger cane syrup, lime slaw, garlic aioli. It was piled high with pork belly and the slaw was a perfect combination of acid to cut the fat of the pork belly. Make sure to have lots of napkins on had, it’s a messy one!
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Top left: Birthday Champagne from the Good Friends Bar. Top right: Seafood omelette from Daisy Dukes. Bottom row: Muffuletta and Zapp’s chips from Central Grocery & Deli

  • Good Friends Bar (740 Dauphine Street): Though we didn’t eat here, the drinks were great and I got a bottle of free champagne for my birthday!! Our bartender, Jack was awesome – we got a couple rounds of drinks and even watched an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. A very fun atmosphere!
  • Daisy Dukes (121 Chartres St): It was recommended that we try the seafood omelette and it didn’t disappoint! Full of¬†crawfish, shrimp, tomato, mushrooms & cheese and the homemade biscuit was soft and flaky. I also tried the sweet tea – which is made in house and sweetened with tons of cane sugar. It was different from what we have at home but quenched my thirst.
  • Central Grocery & Deli (923 Decatur St): Home of the Muffuletta. “Each sandwich is made on a 10‚Ä≥ round Sicilian sesame loaf that stays crusty despite all it‚Äôs messy fillings. It‚Äôs stuffed with ham, salami, Provolone and a signature briny marinated olive salad filled with Kalamata and green olives and other tasty pickled veggies.” I wasn’t sure about it since there were things in the sandwich that I don’t normally like but once again, it was delicious (have I used this word too much??). The ingredients were fresh and it held together. The chips are a local brand and the Spicy Cajun Crawtators flavour was a slow spicy build up in your mouth. At first it seemed okay to eat lots but as you ate more, it got spicier and spicier. I had to stop.
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Top left: Croque Madame, waffle fries and Cola from District. Top right: Oyster PoBoy from Cajun Mike’s Pub n’ Grub. Bottom row: Eggplant Napoleon from Joey K’s

  • District Donuts (2209 Magazine St): Another great breakfast and lunch spot. We stopped by here before heading to the Lafayette Cemetery for a walking tour. I saw the croque madame on the menu and knew I needed it inside me. Nueske’s applewood smoked ham, havarti cheese, dijon, bechamel sandwiched on a griddled donut, topped with a fried egg. We also shared a keylime donut and waffle fries. I was in heaven! Thank goodness we did the walking tour afterwards because it was a lot of food.
  • Cajun Mike’s Pub n’ Grub (116 Baronne St, across the street from the Roosevelt Hotel): We had passed by this local bar enough times that we needed to try it before we left. The oysters were massive in this PoBoy and perfectly fried. I wish we ate there before our last day so we could eat there again. The bread was soft and when topped with mayo and lettuce, it was perfect.
  • Joey K’s (3001 Magazine St): After the cemetery walking tour, we were hungry again. Walked down the road and saw this place – they also had outdoor seating. Original plan was to just grab a drink but once I saw the food going to other tables, I knew I needed to try it. The eggplant napolean had breaded & fried eggplant medallions stacked with fried shrimp, topped with crawfish cream sauce and I got it with angel hair pasta. They were perfectly fried with a nice crunch to it. After this, it was truly time to head back to the hotel and pass out.

Needless to say, by the end of our trip, I was craving some veggies and got a salad at the airport. Can’t wait to come back!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these places or your favourite places in NOLA ūüôā

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Visiting Canadian Cities Part II

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As you may remember, I visited a couple of Canadian cities last year. For 2016, our events season is in full swing¬†and this past week sent me to Calgary and Banff. We flew to Calgary a couple of days earlier to ensure everything was¬†in place. On our way there, to our surprise, we got food on the plane (had forgotten that we pre-ordered food with our flight).¬†That¬†was one of the best decisions we could have made because there wasn’t enough time before getting on the plane to grab a bite to eat and we got served food first, which was a bonus. This would be my first time in Calgary and Banff.

Calgary, AB

I spent most of the time at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Calgary since that’s where our event was happening. We ate at both the hotel restaurants: Thomsons Restaurant and the Sandstone Lounge (there’s also an oyster bar restaurant that I didn’t get to try). Thomsons had a good buffet breakfast selection but it was pricey at $24. They had eggs benny to order and smoked salmon (see picture below). The Sandstone Lounge carried a variety of snacks and dinner options along with a good beer selection. The nachos were really delicious – the chip to cheese ratio was perfect and the cheese was layered. I also tried the pulled pork tacos with a light slaw on top, which was tasty but missing a crunch to it.

As for the banquet food, we got to do a tasting the day before our event and it was heavenly.

Calgary Food Tasting

Appetizers

  • Chorizo Meatball with Tomato Sauce
  • Smoked Local Lamb Loin, Onion Jam on a Crostini
  • Mini Haddock Fritter with Lime Aioli

Starters

  • Summer Corn Chowder, Peas and Corn
  • Chef’s Blend of Micro and Petit Greens, Sliced Strawberries, Pumpkin Seeds, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Entree

  • Roast Peppered Alberta Bison Tenderloin, Green Pepper Corn Jus, Potato-Mushroom Charlotte, Sauteed Baby Kale, Heirloom Carrots

Dessert

  • White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Prairie Berry Compote and Apricot Glazed Strawberry

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Since the hotel breakfast was pricey, I needed to¬†find a cheaper option and that’s when Chef’s Cafe | Market (101 6 Ave. SW)¬†came into the picture. My colleague and I went on our the second morning and I got a bagel with cream cheese and the potato vegetable hash. It was nicely flavoured and within budget (paid $4.81 for the pair!!). The next day we went back and¬†ordered what the two guys in front of us ordered, the chef’s special thinking it was the breakfast wrap. It¬†turned out to be an omelette with potato vegetable hash again – it was still very delicious and I ate it all! It was a good meal to have before getting into the car and driving one and a half hours to Banff.¬†Calgary Breakfast food

Banff, AB

The drive into Banff started out uneventful but as we neared, we started seeing the mountains – granted it was raining/snowing so we didn’t see any of the peaks. It was raining/snowing, IN May, which was crazy and unexpected!! I’m really glad I brought a thicker jacket. The mountains, every direction that you turned, they were there. I couldn’t stop looking out the window and pointing at them – I was a child in awe¬†and couldn’t contain my excitement, which is most of the time.
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Built in the year 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel was styled after a Scottish baronial castle (according to their website). This can be seen throughout the corridors and rooms, which were all beautiful and luxurious. The staff were friendly, attentive and helpful; my clogged sink was fixed with one phone call. There were restaurants, shops and lots of meeting spaces inside the hotel and plenty of green space, hiking trails and nature outside. Upon meeting our catering sales manager for our site inspection, I could tell we were in good hands. She was pleasant in manner and easy going, which was very comforting for us since we would be working with her over the next couple of months to make sure our October conference would run smoothly. The tour of the hotel and the meeting spaces gave us a good sense of how long it would take to get to one room to another and where to place tables and have registration, etc.

After the site inspection, we went to the 1888 Chophouse since we couldn’t do a menu tasting – they had only released the banquet menu the week prior. I think we got the better deal because the food was exquisite.

  • Bread: Rye, French Baguette and Sourdough with whipped butter and whipped butter with bone marrow (I have no words to describe how good the bone marrow butter was)
  • Starter:¬†Roasted Beet Salad (pecan, goat cheese, lemon, pear) and Alberta Beef Tartare (pickled Mann egg yolk, a√Įoli, potato skin)
  • Entree:¬†Brant Lake Wagyu 8 oz,¬†1888 Classic AAA Filet Mignon 6 oz, and lobster
  • Sides: Roasted Asparagus with Shaved Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Cranberries, and Mac and Cheese
  • Dessert:¬†Sticky Toffee Pudding (Medjool dates, earl grey toffee, granola) and¬†S’more √Čclair (smoked milk chocolate ganache, graham crumble, vanilla marshmellow)

On top of the food, we also had champagne and wine. The company we kept was fantastic and the conversations were down to earth, definitely a night to remember! Stay tuned for more on Banff.

Banff food 1 Banff food 2

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Discovering Montreal

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This is part II of my short vacation. You can read about my Ottawa stay here.

A short train ride from Ottawa took me to Montreal, where I met up with my friends and hung out with them for a few days. They had moved to the St. Henri neighbourhood, which is a little further away from downtown Montreal. They have a family now so it’s a quieter neighbourhood and they have room to grow.¬†I mainly stayed in the St. Henri neighbourhood and walked around, getting the lay of the land.

The weather improved a lot since Ottawa so¬†on my first day,¬†we took a long stroll along the canal¬†to Chinatown. Gentrification has taken over the area with many new buildings under construction and new restaurants taking on old store fronts – this can be seen mainly along the canal. However, the neighbourhood has retained it’s charm – it can be seen at¬†the local Atwater¬†Market, the churches and the residents. The walk was really nice to finally feel the sun on my face, brightening up my day ūüôā I wasn’t aware that there was a path along the canal that took you all the way downtown to Old Montreal/Downtown.

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When we arrived, eating was first priority. Originally we wanted to eat Vietnamese but they didn’t have any high chairs so we went for dim sum at Le cristal chinoise. The service was slow (we were seated for 1.5 hours, with a 10 month old) and we had to remind them that there were still items missing. No cart service, you ordered from a list. However, the food was delicious when it arrived. Try going on a weekday instead of the weekend, it should be less busy.¬†I didn’t realize how much I missed Chinese food until my stay in Montreal because my friend’s mom was also ¬†in town and staying with them, so she cooked a few of the dinners while I was there and dim sum – it’s so good and tasty; think of it as Chinese tapas where the portions are bite sized and you can try a lot of different things. After eating,¬†my friend and her mom did groceries and I wandered around with the baby and the baby’s dad. Many new sights and sounds but also very familiar – elderly people playing music in public had assembled to perform tai chi,¬†the delicious smells of baked goods, various dialects of Chinese being spoken that I don’t understand, and people just standing in the middle of the sidewalk so you have to walk around them. It had been a long day and we headed home on the¬†M√©tro¬†instead of walking.

The night, we took advantage of them having them having mom around to be babysitter for a night so we went out for drinks at Ludger and then some snacks at Satay Brothers. Once again, the theme of Asian food continued and Satay Brothers had Singaporean/Malaysian street food to offer. We got some¬†pork buns and some veggie fritters that were delicious. The best part was, one of the servers (maybe owners??), Phil started chatting with us and we got onto the topic of Hong Kong street food (he’s mixed, half Chinese and half French Canadian). It was so nice to talk to someone in Cantonese about some of my favourite foods – I had to translate for my friend and got her interested in possibly taking a trip to Hong Kong. I will definitely be paying them a visit on my next trip to Montreal in June.

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Throughout the rest of my trip, my friend had a back spasm and was immobile for a bit so I helped around the house and with the baby. It was really nice to spend time with her since I hadn’t been in Montreal for a couple of years and only get to see her when she’s home in Toronto. I did take some time for myself and walked around. I went back to the Atwater Market and got a Croque-monsieur to enjoy. Didn’t have as many pastries as I would have liked but there is my next trip. Also, a trip to anywhere really isn’t complete without getting tacos, so we went to¬†Caf√© Frida. It was a small place with seating for maybe 15 people max. The interior was bright and colourful. The food was delicious! I got the conchinita and carnita – one of each. I really do love food a lot!!¬†Other than eating, I also spent a lot of time reading and napping, which are both things I haven’t done in a while. Since the weather was really nice, we also got to BBQ – made sausages from the Market and grilled eggplant.

For the train ride home, I got two sandwiches from Sandwicherie St Henri: a pork and a chicken salad since the ride was almost six hours. They really hit the spot. The train ride was pretty uneventful but I got a window seat and had a little table in front, rather than getting a fold down table like on the plane.

I cannot wait to go back to Montreal in June (will be there for work and I’ll be staying the weekend with my friends again).

List of places that I visited:

 

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Exploring Canada’s Capital City: Ottawa

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I recently took a mini-holiday to visit friends in Ottawa and Montreal (it’s been a long overdue visit).¬†Taking the train (VIA Rail) was super relaxing and didn’t require all the hassle that comes with taking a flight – trekking out to the airport and having to arrive early. I got¬†to Union Station, found the boarding gate and lined-up. Tickets get scanned and then you board, super simple. I would definitely recommend taking the train if you have the time for it (took 4.5 hours to get to Ottawa). Also, you can take in the scenery without having to fuss with traffic.

Ottawa, ON

Every trip that I had taken to Ottawa consisted of going to the Winterlude, skating on the Rideau Canal (the world’s largest skating rink), eating¬†Beavertails¬†and lots of drinking and birthday shenanigans. However, I have never actually explored Canada’s capital city so with this short trip, I decided I would do just that! The original plan was to spend time with my friends but they actually were driving back to Toronto on my second day so instead of cancelling my trip, I found an AirBnB place and spent the next two days seeing what Ottawa had to offer. I visited the Canadian Museum of Nature for free (they have free admissions every Thursday evening, 5:00-8:00pm), went up the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill¬†(saw some great views of the city), walked to Byward Market and tried a lot of great food! It was very refreshing to be travelling by myself and being on my own. I talked with strangers and had a great time despite the heaps and heaps of snow that wouldn’t stop falling.

I love food so here is a list of all the places I tried:

  • Wilf and Ada’s¬†(510 Bank Street) – the eggs in purgatory are a must-try!! Perfect blend of spicy and tomato goodness. I met to older gentlemen while having brunch by myself. One wanted to know if and what kind of phone he would need to get if he wanted to just access the Internet while he was hiking through northern Spain.
  • Arlington Five¬†(5 Arlington Street) – same owners as Wilf and Ada’s and around the corner. Cute coffee shop and delicious muffins. I got one with pineapple and coconut, basically a Pi√Īa colada in muffin form. Super moist and filling.
  • Elgin Street Diner (374 Eligin Street) – a staple and must visit when in Ottawa. The burger was decent but the desserts were so good – we tried the peanut butter chocolate pie and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.
  • Manx Pub (370 Elgin Street) – according to their website, they are “a social hub for Ottawa‚Äôs arts scene¬†and those who cherish good food, beverages and even better conversation”. It definitely was a place of that since I met a Mexican artist there and talked a lot about food, especially tacos and Mexican foods. The bartenders are friendly and really know their beers. I tried two local beers: the Kichesippi¬†seasonal (didn’t get the name of the brew) and from the Cassel Brewery, Lil’ Red Steamer (a delicious Irish red ale). Also ended up chatting with a Rhode Islander who’s daughter was working in Ottawa. She was a graphic designer and we talked about the printing industry (since it was her specialty). The description on the website is very true, for me anyways.
  • El Camino¬†(380 Elgin Street) – This was a really hard place to get a seat at, even if you are by yourself. The wait was over an hour and I ended up getting take out instead. They don’t take reservations either, so if you want to go, get there early or put your name on the waiting list and then go to the Manx Pub for a couple of brews until they call you. I ordered the beef taco, ox tongue taco and¬†Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf (these were my favourite!!). Everything was tasty but I could have gotten more of the prawns in betel leaf – something about the crunchiness on the outside and the sweetness of the prawns really worked. This was recommended to me from a Manx Pub bartender.
  • The Whalesbone Oyster House (430 Bank Street) – Oh man, this place had such a good vibe – super chill and relaxed place. I got a half dozen of¬†oysters and a¬†Kichesippi 1855 (recommended by the guy sitting next to me at the bar). There was homemade bread and whipped butter. The oysters were served with homemade sauces –¬†Mignonette sauce, hot sauce and a third one I don’t remember. The hot sauce was made from a mix of ghost peppers and chilies that had a kick to it but didn’t linger too much. Oysters were super fresh. It was on the pricey side so I decided that the beer and oysters would be my appetizer.
  • Bramasole Diner (428 Bank Street, next door to The Whalesbone) – This was recommended by my AirBnB host (it was also down the street from where I was staying so didn’t need to go too far). Decent diner food. I got eggs, sausage, home fries, toast and coffee. There was a constant stream of people coming and going and the staff were friendly and service was fast.

Next time, I want to venture further out into the suburbs, such as Hintonburg (there’s a place called Hintonburger, with a name like that – I need to try it!!).

More to come on my trip couple days in¬†Montreal ūüôā

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My first all-inclusive vacation

By the pool

Wow, I can’t believe another year has come and gone. I know it’s a little late but it’s my first post of the new year! For the holidays,¬†the bf and I decided to go on our first vacation¬†together.¬†We did research online for destinations and resorts to go to that ended with us booking our stay at the Memories Holguin Beach Resort, outside of¬†Holguin, Cuba. It was my first time at an all-inclusive and wasn’t really sure what to expect other than unlimited food, alcohol and pool/beach time. We even splurged and got their “Diamond Club” upgrade.¬†Unfortunately, there were perks to the upgrade that we weren’t aware of and inconsistencies carried out as we found out while talking to other travellers.

The facilities were nice: 5 pools, 3 bars (including a swim-up one), 4 a la carte restaurants, 1 main buffet restaurant, 1-24hr snack bar, beach access, grounds were nicely maintained, and much more. Check out Sunwing’s website. One thing we didn’t expect were the amount of stairs. Our room was in the 300s, which was closest to the lower pools but to get to the main restaurants, we had to hike up a lot of stairs – it was leg day, everyday.

My favourite was the swim-up bar because the bartender was awesome and kept us very inebriated most of the time. It was a good flow of drinks. Also, this was where we met a lot of other guests, mainly Canadians (not sure if the Americans have been travelling to Cuba yet, due to the lifting of the embargo). ¬†It was a delight when the entertainment staff would yell out Canadian provinces rather than American cities when asking where you’re from. Since I’ve never been to an all-inclusive, the drinks kept on flowing and after the second night,¬†I realized that I can no longer drink like I used to from my university days, which I was¬†absolutely okay with. It can be super dangerous and now that I’m an “adult”, I need to be responsible for myself.

I’m really glad we did the day trip to Holguin and got to get a glimpse of Cuban life (even though I was very hungover – too many rum and cokes¬†the night before). We visited a cigar factory but it was closed for the holidays, so we only went to the shop and got a couple cigars. In the town of Holguin, we had free time to wander around and visited a couple of churches. Life seemed hectic but also a lot calmer than home, in downtown Toronto. For lunch, we had to climb to the top of the Hill of the Cross (Loma de la Cruz). It was a great view of the city! I have to say though, it felt like we had travelled back in time because a lot of the vehicles on the road were old American cars that some had seen better days, while others were in pristine condition. Then there was the tricycle taxis (see image below) that looked like a makeshift vehicle but was definitely cheaper to get around than in a real taxi.

Before leaving, we are also warned about the food. However, to much of our surprise, it was quite good – and there was ketchup available on the resort (they had started importing it from Mexico, about six months ago). The food was plentiful and mostly delicious. They know how to do a great pork! We found out that one of the restaurants close to our room also did breakfast (Cuban Restaurant) so we didn’t have to trek all the way up to the main buffet one. The staff were friendly and service was quick.

After spending a week of relaxation, I was ready to go home. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy it but I wanted more adventure and less confinement to one location. Onto my next adventure soon!

 

 

 

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Visiting Canadian Cities

It’s been a busy couple of months – I got a new job, moved out of my parents’ house and have been on the road.

With work, we are hosting events in different Canadian cities so I’ve¬†had the opportunity to glimpse into some cities in Western Canada: Vancouver, Fort McMurray, and Saskatoon.

Vancouver, BC 

I was there for 36 hours since I needed to be home for a wedding the morning after our event. I fell in love with the place (mainly the hotel and being able to see water from my hotel room). The city is vibrant and chill at the same time – they have mountains! I managed to eat at Fatburger, lemon meringue dessert at the Fairmont Waterfront (that’s where we stayed and had our event) and had a great view of the water.

Fort McMurray, AB

It snowed when I got off the plane and continued snowing until I got the plane. This was my first solo work trip was so I was a little nervous about running the show on our event. However, everyone was extremely nice and the venue¬†staff all pitched in and we put on a great keynote presentation. I got to try a local beer, Wood Buffalo Brewing Co.‘s Overtime IPA and the cheese burger was awesome! ¬†Also, at the Sawridge Hotel & Conference Centre, they have a pool, Jacuzzi, koi pond and palm trees in the centre of the hotel portion. It was very humid. Who would have thought there would be palm trees in the middle of Alberta??

I also learned that there is a huge transient work population where people fly in from all over the country to work in the oil fields (95% of the people on my flights were men). I sat next to a welder who was doing a 2 week on, 2 week off work schedule and flying in from the east coast. ¬†It dawned on me that I don’t know much about the oil industry at all because the impact that it has on a community is felt by all – whether it’s a good or bad. Previous events we’ve held in Fort McMurray were attended by over 200 whereas this time, we had around 120, which isn’t bad but not like when the area was booming. However, after talking to some people, the community is still growing but at a slower pace. Amenities that were slated to be built are coming later than expected but it’s still in the schedule. Overall, it was a great experience, too bad we aren’t doing an event there next year.

Saskatoon, SK

It snowed when I got off the plane and continued snowing until I got the plane. This time we landed in a huge storm. My manager couldn’t resist and had to take a pic of me bundled up in my snow gear to send to co-workers. In the office, it has now become a running joke of what cold place¬†to send Gloria next – we’re going to Yellowknife in March 2016 ūüėČ Anyways, we arrived 2 days earlier before our event as neither my manager nor myself had seen the event space (it was booked a year in advance). The TCU Place (Saskatoon Arts Centre) was massive and after doing the walk through of the place, I felt better but was hesitant about the timing since we needed to be on schedule for our Conference. The day of the event was great! We received a lot of positive feedback and people can’t wait to attend next year’s Conference ūüôā

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Saskatoon Downtown. Now, before you say anything about staying at a Holiday Inn, this one was fantastic and fairly new (built 4-5 years ago). The restaurant downstairs, The Hub had fantastic food to the point where we had all our meals there! The staff were friendly and accommodating while the rooms were spacious and clean. I say accommodating because I was missing my bf’s boxing match back home so we brought a laptop down to dinner and set it up so we could stream it while having our meal. It was a great meal but a disappointing loss for the bf (split decision from the judges). Overall it was a great stay and we’d definitely go back!

Summer Vacation on Manitoulin Island

The last couple months have been hectic at work and I’m going to be moving out of my parents’ place soon (I’m super excited but also scared at the same time) so my mind has been in other places. It’s time to get back to writing and sharing my adventures.

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Puppy digging

I went up to Manitoulin Island for Canada’s Day week with the bf, some friends, and a puppy for some much needed relaxation and electronics free time. It was so nice not to have my cellphone on or internet – just tv, books, cards and the beach! There was a huge change to the property from last year. The septic system and tank needed to be replaced because the tree roots had damaged the tank so all the trees were cut down ūüė¶ It was for the best but now the front yard is mainly sand/dust, ant hills and some grass. There are a lot of ants on the Island.

I spent a lot of time reading and finally finished Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth“. A light-hearted and optimistic book that speaks to his life experiences and advice on how you can live a more fulfilling life. I started on a sci-fi book called “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Not usually into sci-fi but seeing how intrigued the bf was, I wanted to read it as well. Basically, it’s about surviving on Mars, alone and relying on your instincts and abilities. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who are planning to read it. Let’s say it was a page-turner and I couldn’t put it down.

We did some swimming and hiking on the Cup and Saucer trail as well as out to the lighthouse on the other side of the bay. I miss climbing rocks and jumping over water – can’t do that in the city. Though when I tried to jump over water, it was too far and I ended up with a wet sock and running shoe for the remainder of the hike.

On Canada’s Day, there were fireworks down at the beach. It was awesome! There is something so magical about explosives being blown up in the air to create beautiful images. The bf also took his camera down there and got some amazing shots. It’s been a while since I’ve taken time to go see fireworks on July 1st because it’s always crowded at home so it was nice to have some space on the beach to ourselves.

We ate really well on the Island. Breakfast and lunch were casual meals but for dinner, on most nights we barbequed and ate together at the picnic table. We even managed to catch the pancake breakfast at the curling club, since it only happens on the first Thursday morning of every month. There is a butcher shop called Manitoulin Island Meats where we got sausage, bacon and burgers. It used to be Papa’s Meat & Deli but they took it over and it’s lost some of the mom and pop feel to the place. However, the meat is still delicious. For farm fresh eggs, we go to a nearby B&B that has a bar fridge stocked with cartons of eggs where you put money into a mason jar and take a carton of eggs. the first time we saw the sign, it was very shocking that people are very honest and only take what they pay for. It would never work in the city, which is another reason why I love being up there.

Being on the Island always makes me feel so free and joyful. I’d love to be up there all summer, like Matt, of the Lake Huron Fish & Chips. He’s opened up shop on the Victoria Day long weekend and will be up there for a couple of months. He is one of the nicest people I’ve met and the fish and chips are delicious! We went a couple of times for lunch and there’s always a line up but totally worth the wait.

For next year, the bf wants to have a bat house building contest. There used to be a lot of bats in the old garage until it was rebuilt to keep them out so he wants to create homes for them again (on the outside of the garage). On the plus side is, bats eat mosquitoes and their poop is good for fertilizing. Everyone wins!

Very glad we got to spend the week instead of a couple of days at the cottage because sometimes, you need to take a step back from the hectic city life and be able to enjoy a campfire with friends.

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Potsdam, Germany

Neues Palais (New Palace)

What a week it’s been!¬†Meeting new people from our other offices, walking tours, conference meetings and lots of food were all a part of the itinerary.

We flew into the Berlin РTegel Airport and then made our way to Potsdam. Our accommodations were at the Dorint Hotel Sanssouci Potsdam and it was huge! There were several dining rooms, restaurants and quite a few amenities. It was a very comfortable stay.  The breakfast buffet was delicious with lots of options.

I was very glad to have stayed in Potsdam instead of Berlin because the pace of life was slower and more peaceful. During the day we did walking tours around the city and¬†it’s beautiful. The architecture of buildings with the vast amounts of green space gave me a sense of relaxation. It was very inviting to go for a walk and just explore. We walked through the Sanssouci Royal Park¬†and saw an array of buildings and palaces. The Sanssouci Palace¬†is on top of the hill, overlooking vineyards and fruit trees.¬†It was¬†former summer palace of Frederik the Great, King of Prussia. Our guide explained that there weren’t any female servants or guests, making it the ultimate “man cave” in my opinion.

How could you not love this place with sights like this?

 

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5 Packing Tips for Business Travel

I have spent this weekend fretting over what to pack for my upcoming business trip to Berlin/Potsdam, Germany. This will be my first time travelling for work and it’s been a challenge trying to figure out what to pack because I usually¬†backpack everywhere and¬†it doesn’t matter how I look. However, I got the itinerary for my trip and it’s consisting of: lots of walking/hiking, conferences, walking property tours, an opera show and fancy dinners. How do I not pack my entire closet for this? Well, after talking to some colleagues and doing some research, I’ve come up with the following five tips on how to best pack for a business trip:

  1. Plan your outfits!¬†If you have the itinerary ahead of time, you know what you’ll be doing so you can plan ahead. Depending on the length of your trip, you can usually wear the same bottoms a couple of times. A blazer can¬†dress up a pair of jeans for casual dinners while it can be worn with dress pants for the more formal occasions.¬†Take notes/photos of your outfits.
  2. Check the weather. Look at the forecast¬†for the days you’re there¬†and it can help you decide if you really need that parka or a light rain jacket will do. Potsdam is going to be 15-20C so I’ve decided not to pack my fleece layer because it’s going to be too warm and just taking up space.
  3. Bring the essentials. If you have a specific shampoo/conditioner that you absolutely swear by, then pack it. If that’s not the case, the hotel you’re staying at will probably provide the basic toiletries. This goes the same for clothing –¬†if you can live without it for a week, you don’t need to bring it with you.
  4. Electronics. Nowadays, we travel with¬†a phone, laptop, tablet, camera,¬†etc.¬†and have all the accompanying cords for it. I ask, why not just bring what you need? Depending on what you’re doing on your business trip, a laptop might be necessary but that means you don’t need to bring a tablet. If your phone has a camera, then leave the camera at home. Also, don’t forget to bring the appropriate adapters/converters for your gadgets. ¬†If you’re going to Europe, I found this article to be very helpful on what adapters/converters to bring.
  5. Footwear. This can be a tricky one because as a women, we have a lot of choices. This goes hand in hand with which outfits to wear as well as¬†what is the most comfortable. For my trip, I’m bringing a pair of running shoes, flats, heels, and flip flops. This covers all my needs for each activity/dinner.

At the end of the day, remember you are going for business so¬†you’re not gone for too long. Plus,¬†with all the extra room in your suitcase, you can fill it up with souvenirs ūüôā Happy packing!

 

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Euro Trip Reflection

Happy Easter everyone! I’m very glad it’s a long weekend because I’m finally¬†sitting down to catch up on¬†my blog¬†and have some relaxation time.

I’ve been wanting to create a map of all the places I went to in Europe and finally did that today. Now that I see it all in one picture¬†– it’s a bit overwhelming to think that we visited over 30 cities in 13 countries¬†in only¬†nine weeks!

Euro trip places

List of Europe destinations from my trip

I remember this time last year, I had just resigned from my job and was¬†still¬†planning for our Euro trip. How quickly a year goes by. Looking back on things, I’m really glad I took that leap of faith and¬†made my dreams for travelling a reality. It was a very hard and scary decision to make since I would be going into the unknown. Questions like these popped into my head constantly:

  • What if I ran out of money while on the road?
  • What if something happened to me and I got sick and couldn’t come go home?
  • ¬†What if something happened at home and I had to cut my trip short?
  • What if I got in a fight with L? How would I handle travelling with her for the rest of the trip?

The “what if” questions kept of going and at some point, I realized I was asking myself the wrong questions because we had planned for the unexpected as much as we could. Money was budgeted and there was an emergency fund. We had gotten travel insurance for any medical emergencies and travel interruptions. We knew where we were staying and had gotten directions and maps ahead of time.

The planning took away a lot of the scary unknowns and I began to get more excited because I could start asking questions like:

  • What are we going to see in each city?
  • Who I’m going to meet in hostels?
  • What are my friends’ addresses? I want to send them a postcard!

I am very grateful to have had a travel buddy. It made doing everything and going to different places a lot more fun – whether we had gotten lost or we found some delicious local food. There was always someone to share the experience with.

From the places we visited to the people I had met, it was a very memorable trip and I can’t wait to go back to Europe in just over a week (even if it’s just for work).

What has been your most memorable trip? Let me know in the comments section.

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