Tag Archives: shopping

A Belated Happy New Year!

I can’t believe it’s already February 2014 – I want to wish everyone a belated happy new year and lunar new year. I ended the year with at trip to Montreal, Quebec for four days with the bf and another couple. Montreal is a place that my friends and I often went to throughout university because we had friends who were studying there so we had a place to crash. Now that we’re all working, these trips are seldom, which made my visit in December a treat. We were greeted with warmer temperatures and I stayed in a hotel for the first time in Montreal. The days went by really quickly filled with lots of food, drinks and sights!

The drive from Toronto to Montreal took only six hours and with three drivers (I don’t drive), it was great to make a quick stop every two hours to change drivers and stretch the legs out. There are service centres every 75-90kms along the highway, which were very convenient for bathroom breaks and food along the way. I managed to sleep most of it. There’s something about being in a moving vehicle that I get some of my best sleeps! It helps also to have our taco pillow and blanket in the car!

Taco pillow

Taco Pillow!!

We splurged on a 5-star hotel: The Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile. We got a great rate from Hotwire.com and the hotel didn’t disappoint. We drove the six hours there and was greeted with valet service upon arrival (it’s $35/day for parking but totally worth it when split between four people). The check-in process was quick and we headed to our rooms.  With free wi-fi, it seemed that everyone was more eager to be on their gadget than outside – granted we were looking up places to go for food.

Our first breakfast was at a place called Nocochi. They had a great brunch menu with lots of vegetarian options on the menu. Most of the food came with orange juice, which was a treat! We set out to wander Montreal after a delicious meal and it brought us to Old Montreal, an area I’ve always loved to walk around. The buildings are a mix of residential and commercial (stores, restaurants, business offices). I love the cobblestone roads! After a long day of walking and sightseeing, food and drinks are in order.  A favourite place of mine to go to when in Montreal is Les 3 Brasseurs because they brew their own beer and you can get a metre of beer!! The food is delicious and a great atmosphere for small and large groups.

If you like shopping, there is a series of underground paths that connect several malls with one another and you never have to go into the bitter cold. My friend and I opted to go shopping and the spa while the guys went to the Casino de Montreal. We spent the morning at the Spa Escale Sante for the Thermal Experience.  It was going from different temperature pools to the sauna and steam room. Super relaxing but I would recommend going to the Scandinave Spa – Vieux Montreal instead. I was there last year and it had a better layout and bigger space as well as better facilities. Moving on, after the spa and a long day of shopping, it was time – poutine time. For those who don’t know what poutine is, it’s a Canadian specialty: fries, gravy and cheese curds about sums it up. We settled on Frites Alors! because it was close by and we were hungry. There were tons of options and we settled on La tunisienne (merguez sausage and fried onions) and the veggie burger. The guys came later so they didn’t eat.

I would like to point out that you can get alcohol (mainly beer and some wine) at the convenient store. Coming from a province where you have to go to specifically licensed places to get alcohol, it was so nice to pick a some beer on our way back to the hotel to enjoy. Plus, it’s cheaper and they came in the 750ml bottles so you can share them 🙂

On the day we left, we stopped by La Banquise – one of the best poutine places in town! It even has it’s own Wiki page. One winter when I was visiting Montreal, we trekked out to La Banquise amidst a super windy and snowy night, just so we could get poutine from one of the best – definitely worth it. I got La Taquise (guacamole, sour cream & tomatoes) and it was so delicious: freshly chopped tomatoes, guac and the real deal on sour cream (not the low fat kind but the kind that is so thick, you can turn a spoon upside and it’ll still stick kind). I got the small one because looking at the portion sizes around me, the large was huge. I didn’t want to be that bloated on a six hour car ride home.

It was a fantastic couple of days to be away from home and relax. A great way to bring in the new year!

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So…how did you like India?

Sorry for the delayed post, I have been sick since I got home and have not been able to muster up the energy to post. So my apologies for the long-winding sentences and possible incoherence.

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As we went around visiting many of S’s relatives, there were a couple of questions that were routinely asked of me:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Where do you work?
  3. Questions about my family, what my parents do and if I have any siblings
  4. How do you like India?

The first three questions were always easy to answer because they were things that have been constants in my life. The last question was something that I wasn’t quite ready to reply to because I realized that I hadn’t seen enough of India to make a good assessment of the country as a whole.

My answer always revolved around aspects that I had the pleasure of enjoying, such as the food and people I had met as well as the different places that I had been to. I always ended the response with “I’d like to come and visit different places” because I felt that even having only been to a couple of the major cities in India, there was a different feel for each of them.

The response would most certainly be along the lines of: ” India is so big that many people come and stay for months or years and have not been able to form a whole opinion about India.” I completely agree with that. There are so many things to experience and everyone goes to India for different reasons: some to seek spirituality, for the shopping, for the food, to volunteer, etc – whatever the reason maybe, it will help to define one’s opinion of India and whether it was a positive or negative experience.

I went to India because I wanted to cross two things off my bucket list: attend an Indian wedding in India (I was very lucky to have gone to two) and to see the Taj Mahal. However, both of these were achieved within the first two weeks of my visit so with the remaining two weeks, there wasn’t a purpose/goal that I wanted to achieve. However, what I found was that there are many beautiful temples in Southern India that are still well maintained and used regularly by locals, as well as an opportunity to feel as if I was living in India.

In Chennai, we stayed with S’s aunt and family for the full two weeks. It was very much a luxury – sleeping in until 10am every morning, three home-cooked meals a day and went about our planned activities. In retrospect, it felt more like I was living in India rather than being a tourist because we lived with family and went through the daily routines of life with them. I got to know the neighbourhood and could walk back if I ever got lost (I wasn’t really allowed to go anywhere by myself so this didn’t apply – but if I ever did get lost, I could find my way back).  I recognized landmarks and different parts of the city as we were travelling. The two weeks went by very quickly and before we knew it, it was time to go home.

All in all, my thoughts on India are as follows:

  • The food, shopping and sights were all amazing! Regardless of which city I was in, each one had their specialties, tourist attractions and local cuisine to offer.
  • I love the people I’ve met along the way, aside from S’s family members. Everyone is always willing to help out, especially if they know you’ve already been sick once and will always inquire about your health
  • The modes of transportation are abundant, cheap and super accessible. I will forever want to have auto rickshaws at home because they are a way to travel short distances and cheaper to take than taxis. You can bargain for how much you want to pay.
  • There is definitely a lack of privacy/personal space. All family members live in close quarters and often share bedrooms with one another. Also, no questions go unasked regardless of how personal they may be. I’m very glad to be back in my own bedroom, sleeping in my own bed.
  • Political events and issues are discussed and on television all the time. There are shows that have a devoted hour for current issue debates where different people within the community are featured as guest speakers on the show. Very interesting comments are made, especially in light of the gang-raped victim and the general treatment and attitudes towards women. I wish we had more of this at home because it would help inform the general public on which policies and issues the government needs to work on/working on.
  • Home-cooked foods are made differently depending on the cook. Many people cook the same foods but have their own spice blends that are added to the food so it’s always slightly different when you try it. There are no recipes, they are just ingrained and learned from parents and grandparents. This has inspired to cook more at home and to revisit old recipes that I can add my own twist to.
  • Traffic lights, pedestrian walkways and lanes are all used as guidelines. At times when walking through markets and streets, vehicles and pedestrians fight for the road. The sidewalks are not often used for walking but more for vendors to display their goods so people just walk on the side of the road in between parked and moving vehicles. Kind of scary at first but you get used to it. The traffic is very congested, especially during rush hour! All vehicles on the road fight for space, you honk to signal you want to pass and you don’t have to stay in your lane when waiting to cross an intersection, smaller vehicles will just fit into any space they can find. Something that I got used to but don’t miss.
  • There are a lot of wild animals wandering everywhere! I have seen the following animals just walking around: cows, dogs, buffaloes, camels, pigeons, crows, peacocks, goats, pigs, horses, elephants, Indian squirrels (they look like North American chipmunks), chickens, roosters and parrots.

I definitely want to go back to India and experience more of the nature/outdoor adventures it has to offer. Also, wouldn’t mind seeing more beaches 🙂


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Chennai – home away from home

I was very fortunate to call Chennai home for two weeks. We stayed with S’s family and I’m so grateful that put up with all our antics and disrupting their daily routine. I found the best thing about Chennai were the people. Everywhere we went and everyone we met was very polite and helpful. To me, I could see a fundamental change in S’s personality and attitudes – she truly felt at home. I was very lucky to meet a lot of her family members – many took me in as an extension of her.

The city itself is big yet super walkable. Shops usually surround neighborhoods so you can walk out and grab groceries or take a short auto ride to where your destination. Street shopping in Chennai is best found in Pondy Bazaar and T. Nagar. There are a lot of stalls and a lot of people so you need to keep on moving and looking at the same time. The pricing is a little higher than Bombay and Delhi because they don’t have as much competition.  Also, the variety is not as good as the other two cities but you’ll be able to find most of what you’re looking for. Spencers plaza is a mall that was built in three phases and has a combination of retail shops and offices. We managed to find some north Indian souvenirs there.

Do not eat street food there because there isn’t much, but what is there is not that great. You’re better off going to a nearby restaurant.

I really felt like I was living in India rather than just visiting because we fell into a daily routine of getting up, bathing, eating breakfast and moving on with the day’s activities and then coming home for dinner. It felt nice to live with a routine for a bit compared to the constant on the go schedule.

We’re currently on our way back home, so I’ll post more when I’m settled in.





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Delhi – Shopping, Wedding and Protests

I have been in Chennai for the last two days and spent the previous 10 days in Delhi. The shopping in Delhi was very different from Bombay, more street markets than shops. We did our fair share of shopping getting scarves, clothing and accessories. There is a store completely devoted to bangles! There are multiple rooms all housing bangles – a magnificent place since we were actually buying from the supplier instead of a third party seller. It doesn’t even have an official name, it was definitely one of my favourite places!

The wedding events that occurred were so over the top and probably the grandest wedding I will ever attend in my life. The sangeet was held at a place called Kingdom of Dreams. There was dancing and singing to celebrate the couple and it was so much fun! The wedding itself was held at a private residence near the Shangri-La Hotel – also a decadent place to stay! The wedding ceremony occurred at 1:30am and lasted until 6:15am. Longest night of my life, it was pretty amazing to see the entire ceremony through though. I got a sense of what was happening with each ritual and why it was taking place.

Last but not least, I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the protesting that has been taking place near India Gate and Jantar Mantar in Delhi. It started off with as a peaceful student protest in the wake of the recent gang-raping of a 23 year old women – who is in critical conditions right now. The students were protesting for various reasons: what will the punishment be for the rapists and how long will it take to convict them, what measures will the government take to actively prevent future tragic events (other rape cases have also occurred in the last couple of days – victims being a 3 year old and 13 year old). These incidents are often putting the blame on the women – she should not have been out late at night or she should have been more careful. There is no onus on the man to take responsibilities for their actions. There are constant debates on television as to what has happened but the government’s response appears to be too late and halfheartedly. I’m not sure if the protests have been televised or reported at home but there needs to be more awareness on the issues of women safety and abuse.

Heading to Madrai tonight for a couple of days for temple seeing.

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends!


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Bombay Dreams

After being in Bombay for the last six days, there are some observations that I have made:

  • The gap between rich and poor is enormous – it can be seen in everyday life from people living on the streets to one of the richest man in the world building a multi-storey home complete with a ballroom floor and helipad in the roof 
  • Anything can happen in India – such as a man riding a white horse down a busy street and totally owning it
  • Tele-communication is very fast in this country – a lot can happen with just a phone call
  • The cost of living has to be compared in the local currency rather than converting it back to our currency because it has to be relative to what it’s worth in India. For example, a top can cost 300 rupees which is around $6. To us, that’s not a lot to us but in reality, it’s probably only worth 150 rupees. Knowing market value is an important piece of knowledge
  • Getting sick in India is not fun. I got something like the 24 hour flu/food poisoning symptoms and it felt horrible; luckily it was after the wedding festivities.  I’m very grateful for having a friend who knows what to do when someone falls ill. My sickness was most likely a result of exhaustion, eating a lot of street food and not staying hydrated enough. With a lot rest and sweating out the fever, I eventually ate a little bit. I was given some herbal medicine, peppermint and mint tablet, glucose water and harjmola (a candy that helps me to suppress nausea), which in the end made me feel a whole lot better.
  • People have huge appetites here. We would meet up with friends after work at 6 and we would go for a “snack” but in meal portions, walk around and then go for dinner at 9pm, eat a full, meal and then walk to get dessert. Insane amount of food that I would never imagined eating, especially so late at night
  • Working is a way life. Many people will leave their homes for work at 6am and don’t return until 7-8pm. Then when they get home, dinner still needs to be made and then possibly more reviewing of work and then bed. Work-life balance doesn’t exist here. You’re expected to pick up your phone and check emails when on vacation as well as respond to them
  • Street food!!!!! Keep cannot imagine why any city would limit the varieties and availability of street food because what I’ve had in Bombay was amazing!! Pani puri is a little puff ball filled with lentils chutney and mint water – one of my favourite foods of all time. Vada paved which is bread stuffed with deep fried potato patty with red and green chutney – had this at a street stall that was delicious. Kareem’s was a street side restaurant. That served great tandoori food. Paneer, tandoori mushrooms, chicken, raita, dal and a Thumbs Up (similar to Coca-Cola). The food is worth the wait
  • Shopping – one of my loves of life. Both street shopping and showroom shopping (going to the actual brand’s store) is heaven!!! The amount of variety plus low cost is bound to put you over budget – that is if you had one to begin with 🙂 We’re shipping some items back with my friend’s cousin so that we have more room to shop in Delhi

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Bombay because Delhi is our next stop. More adventures to follow!


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Bombay aka Mumbai – updated

It has been quite a journey so far. The flight to Bombay was an adventure. We learned that you have to pay for Internet at some airports such as Zurich and it takes a long time to fly halfway across the globe. We landed and quickly found the driver that was to take us to our accommodations near Coco Farms – where the wedding was to take place. The entire car ride took just over an hour. We didn’t really get to see the place until the morning where I realized that we were staying at the Samara Gardens and the wedding ceremonies were taking place at Coco Farms – a whole 5mins walk where we were staying.

With that said, the wedding ceremonies were great! I got some great photos of the bride and groom performing traditional wedding rituals. Long story short, I learned that there different rituals you perform depending on which part of India you’re from.

More to come soon, very tired and sleepy right now -it’s been a very long day. Also, we just got Internet so I’m going to try and update more often.

After a good night’s sleep, I’m ready to continue this post. The wedding rituals in the morning was in the south Indian style and started at 7:00am the day after we landed so we had around four hours of sleep and got up to get ready. Completely exhausted, my friend and I were running on adrenaline which was great until we hit 9:30am when I was ready to pass out. There was a second ceremony in the evening done in the Bengali style – east Indian – because the bride’s mother is also Bengali. Following each ceremony, there was food! My favourite part of the day. There is something about eating with your hands that you just feel more connected with the food you’re putting into your body. The food was great and we got to eat on banana leaves! A feat that I wasn’t sure I could handle since I’ve only done once.

I wish I took pictures but was so excited that I just ate it all! The food on the following day was quite different since it was just the reception,there wasn’t a formal ceremony; it was all passed appetizers and there was a bar! However, I didn’t end up getting a drink, which is probably shocking to those who know me but I didn’t eat much that day so didn’t want to embarrass myself.

The following day, many people were leaving early so we got up and had birthday cake to celebrate my friend and her cousin’s birthday. It was awesome cake! Pineapple cake is amazing with fresh cream – perfectly moist cake and delicious pieces of pineapple. Anyone know a good recipe for upside down pineapple cake? I want to make it when I get home.

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