Tag Archives: holidays

Exploring Canada’s Capital City: Ottawa


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 Piña 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’s 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 🙂

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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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Vacation Time!

Once every year, I try to take a real vacation from work where I am virtually off the grid (no email or phone) so that I can take my mind off of the office and just enjoy myself. For my two weeks this year, I went to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau with my sister, my mother and her friend (also one of my best friend’s mother). It was quite the journey – full of activities/sightseeing, food, and hanging out with friends.

My original list of things to do and eat included (in no specific order):

  • Celebrate Mom’s birthday
  • Go to the Peak
  • Eat lots of street food (especially chee cheong fun AKA rice noodle roll since it’s served with a peanut sauce, hoisin sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Here’s a good example of how it’s made)
  • Shopping at the markets
  • See the Big Buddha
  • Visit Ocean Park
  • Jog
  • Dim Sum
  • Visit museums (Here’s a list of the museums and it’s free admissions every Wednesday)
  • Hang out with friends and family
  • Take the ferry
  • See the Hong Kong night skyline at Victoria Harbour
  • Relax
  • Visit immigration about getting a HK identification card

It’s an extensive list but I was being very ambitious until the end, when I realized that I managed to accomplish most things minus seeing the Big Buddha and visiting Ocean Park.

It was a learning experience in terms of: learning more about myself (how I like to travel, personal growth, lifestyle choices), learning about my mother and her travelling style, learning that my sister has a whole different side to her when she’s with her boyfriend, and that I’m not sure I could live in Hong Kong.

Let me elaborate. Hong Kong is a fantastic city to visit because it’s a modern city where there is constant movement. The pace of life is definitely faster than life in Toronto, even their escalators are moving twice as fast so you don’t need to walk up them to go past people; it already gets you to your destination faster! Time is money and money helps you accomplish more things in life (this is true for most places) but people of Hong Kong also don’t have time for bullshit. Eating at a restaurant is often about ordering when you sit down, get your food quickly, hoover your food down and getting out of there as soon as you’re done to move onto your next task. This process is repeated for most of your day: buying groceries, getting on public transportation, and shopping.

After being there for two weeks, the constant go-go attitude of Hong Kong people made me not really want to live there because it’s fast, really fast and if you don’t get on the bandwagon, it’s hard to fit keep up in all aspects of life. However, it did make me realize that I should be more productive with my time and do things that I want to accomplish without procrastinating. You end up feeling better about yourself because 1) you’ve accomplished your goal, 2) you have more time to accomplish your other goals and not having any regrets and 3) hard work yields results (an intrinsic feeling of success).

This post has mainly been about Hong Kong. More on Singapore and Macau to come!

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