Tag Archives: Canada

Taking the bronze

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Have you seen this? It’s The Economist’s list of the top 10 cities in which to live.

City chart

Whether your city is on there or not, I think we should all just take a moment to notice that Canada is represented 3 times. Yessiree. (Also, high five to Australia, but apparently The Economist forgot about all the creatures that can kill you in Australia. Just sayin’.)

The beautiful city of Vancouver is right up there in 3rd place, and I can confirm, after a trip there this July, that it wholly deserves that spot. We were there for 3 days, but our first remark about how we could live there happened in the first 4 hours. Do you do that? Walk around after a particularly satisfying lunch and say things like, “We could live here, right? I mean, couldn’t you? Right? That was amazing tabbouleh. And plus, look at this place. Yeah, we could live here.”

Granville

The glory of our trip to Vancouver was not only in visiting a great city, but in visiting a great city WITHOUT our kids. All the parents out there can pause now and savour that.

Van street

Our kidlets are superb travelers and they go everywhere with us, which is exactly why a few days without them is so very sweet. And we really reveled in that. We stayed at a boutique hotel downtown where I didn’t have to think about where to put the roll-away cot, we went out for dinner at 10pm (!) where I cut no one’s food but my own, and we even went to a performance of the incredible Vancouver Symphony Orchestra where I didn’t have to sneak out of the row to take anyone to the toilet. It was freeing, people.

Orpheum theatre

We borrowed bikes from our hotel and cycled a portion of the Sea Wall which is a 22 km path along the Vancouver waterfront. We joined up with the path and followed it around the stunning Stanley Park. With the fresh sea air, the views of the city skyline, and the sound of the water lapping at the shore, it is quite possibly the loveliest place to cycle. Plus, I did the whole thing using only 2 gears which is my kind of “active”.

Sea wall

Stanley Park is truly a treasure – a huge forest with ancient trees and peaceful trails right next to the bustling city centre. It felt like a refuge…a refuge with its own brewery. Actually, that sums up Vancouver in a nutshell: a healthy  balance of an active lifestyle and gourmet indulgence. Oh, Vancouver, thank you.

Stanley Park

Totems

Vancouver is an extremely walkable city. This is a blessing because you will want to balance out all of the food you are compelled to eat while you are there. One place to fill your belly is at Granville Island Market. Wowzer, this place is a sensory overload of fresh fruit, tubs of bright pesto, savoury breads, sweet pastries, wheels of cheese, hot mugs of french onion soup, and hissing espresso machines. We went there after a big breakfast – a mistake that I still regret  – so all we could do was walk around admiring the incredible food and the beautiful artwork until eventually we walked enough space into our appetites for a singular golden pecan pastry. Sigh.

Granville fruit

But I will be back for you, fresh fish and chips! And maple fudge!

Van boats

We also ate at Salt Tasting Room – a unique restaurant which pairs cheeses and cold meats with top notch wines; perfect for late night nibbles. However, with its exposed brick and naked light bulbs AND the fact that it is down a dark lane called Blood Alley (I was sure it was the end of me), Salt felt a bit too cool for me. Luckily the food and wine were outstanding. Triple cream brie with local honeycomb has a mysterious way of making me feel at ease.

Salt menu

Cordova street

Rooftops

Van vines

Vancouver, for us, was the ideal combination of nature, culture, beauty, great food, and friendly people. Way to overachieve, Vancouver! I loved it all. I might not ever get to live there (I have a little problem with a place where people use umbrellas when it snows – I am sure you understand), but I will most definitely visit again to soak up more of this city’s wonders.

Maybe I will even take the kids….nah, they’ll end up eating all the maple fudge.

Van buildings

Van downtown

 

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” 
― Hans Christian Andersen

Long Time Gone

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Well, I am not sure how this happened, but I haven’t published a post around these parts since October 2013. I am not certain, but I believe that leaving nearly 11 months between posts is breaking some kind of blogging rule…the rule of actually writing stuff, for example.

You know how it gets, though – you have good intentions and plans, and yet somehow the days pass by and nothing has eventuated. Like you and that plan to eat more chia seeds or to get rid of that pair of jeans that you bought one size too small. Y’know, it just doesn’t happen.

Mind you, I wasn’t being completely lazy during those 10 months. I was taking a lot of photos and doing some incredible traveling (and, let’s be honest, watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube). The trips I took were so eye-opening and wonderful that I think you will want to get your own glimpse of these places, too.

I will try to share the very best of it with you because we all love to know that special places exist, not so we can put them on some bucket list, but just to know that beautiful parts of our world abound even if they are not right outside our window.

Places like these…

NZ Beach

 

Argentinian lunch

 

Colombian hills

 

Brazil beach

 

Alberta rocks

Now, if these places ARE outside your window, then congratulations..and also, whaaaat?! Open those curtains for criminy’s sake!

I hope you are all still out there and willing to stop by for a blog visit from time to time. I do hope that these last 10 months have been good to you, or at least civil to you, or maybe just that you have survived them? I am not sure where our standards should be.

Okay, let’s do this! You go give away those jeans already and I will get writing! xx

Friday Photos: Stampede Edition

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Every July, Calgary, Alberta transforms into a boot-stompin’, hay-balin’, two-steppin’ kind of town. The Calgary Stampede takes over this big, booming, oil metropolis for 10 days which means that everyone from police officers to corporate executives wear cowboy hats, there is no shame in having free pancakes for breakfast every day, and everybody becomes an expert on chuckwagon racing.

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The Stampede is a rodeo, Ag show, fun fair, art exhibition, circus, concert, and party all rolled into one wonderful package.

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Plus there’s lots of deep-fried food…on sticks. What’s not to love?

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This year the whole city, including the Stampede grounds, was devastated by floods a mere 2 weeks before the Stampede was to begin. The tragedy seemed insurmountable. Maybe in its 101st year the Stampede would have to be cancelled.

But it wasn’t.

That good old cowboy spirit prevailed and the Stampede was as great as ever. Thank goodness, really, because those police officers in black Stetsons? The best part of my year.

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Friday Photos

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Hellooooo! Sorry for disappearing on you for the month of July. I was in Canada with my lovely family, and although I ALWAYS think I will have heaps of time to blog, I never, ever do because the choice between typing something worth reading and having a cup of tea with my sister is an easy one. Needless to say, there were many cups of tea consumed (thanks to the delightful DAVIDsTEA).

Other than being very well hydrated, I also did many other wonderful things in Canada, and I will endeavour to share those with you as long as you all agree that Canada is the loveliest country in the world (and one which puts a ‘U’ in endeavour).

I’m kidding! (But, seriously, LOVELIEST.)

To whet your appetite for all things Canadian, here are some photos of the incredible Alberta skies. They will wow you, even more so when I say that I have done nothing to amp up the colours – all credit goes to Mother Nature herself.

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“…up north it’s saddle broncs and it’s hockey and honkytonks…
And he may go to Hell or even Vancouver
He’ll always be Alberta’s child”

“Alberta’s Child” by Ian Tyson

This ain’t high school physics

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Don’t look now, but there is a gaping hole in my archives list. Between January and, ahem, April. Remember when I said that you don’t necessarily need to have things figured out by the new year? Well, I would like to amend that to say, you don’t need to have things figured out for months and months.

And months.

In the meantime, I hope life has been offering up goodness to you: freshly laundered sheets, good parking spots, sunny Sundays, and the like.

In February, I had a wee bit of visa trouble which meant that I took a completely unexpected trip to Canada to spend nearly 4 weeks with my family while I waited for the rusty cogs of bureaucracy to turn.

Good news? Weeks of softly falling snow, laughing with my sister, cozy fireplaces, and Indian takeaway.

Bad news? Well, there can be no bad news about time spent with your family when you least expect it. Fact.

Snow

Plate(s) of food: My family cooked a full-on turkey dinner with ALL of the trimmings (including a “salad” with pasta pearls and Cool Whip. Don’t ask, just know that it somehow works) to which nothing can compare, except the bliss of leftover turkey dinner stuffed into a white bun and eaten at 11:00 at night.

Tricky for you to enjoy, though, isn’t it? So, here are some plates of goodness that you can get for yourself if you happen to be in Calgary:

Baked brie at Avec Bistro – gooey cheese accompanied by baguette, baby potatoes and gherkins for dipping. Perfect for sharing with someone lovely, over a glass of wine, as you discuss in whispers the state of the couples on either side of you. First date? Getting serious? About to break up? Business partners? All of the above??

Banana Bread pudding at Avec Bistro – warm, dense banana bread with a delicious pool of caramel sauce. Even better when eaten with the salted caramel ice cream that Matt ordered. Note to the people at Avec, I think you should just go ahead and serve those up together. I’m so happy you asked my opinion….

Calamari at Candela Lounge – this is no soggy, chewy calamari. These are delicate, coconut-crusted morsels of squid topped with just enough ancho chili to wake up your tongue and enough lime salt to refresh it. I don’t care how far away Calgary is from the sea – this dish was superb.

The best: Spark Science Centre. This is a museum like no other. It is modern, flashy, awe-inspiring, and magical.

Spark

Everything is interactive and the technology you get to play with is so advanced and slick. Just ignore the 8 year old who is probably launching a rocket beside you while you hit buttons and say, “But…how…huh?”

Sky colours

All your senses will be dazzled here: listen to a thunder storm! watch your shadow dance in slow motion! make a river basin with your hands! have memories triggered by different scents!…eat some crinkle fries for lunch! (Okay, not all are scientific, but c’mon crinkle fries are the best).

Magnets

I leave this place feeling such a creative boost. Plus they have adults only nights with WINE. Go. Now.

Story that needs to be told: The pure joy I feel from seeing my kidlets play in the same house where I grew up and watching them discover snow, ice, hockey, and tobogganing all for the first time is matched only by hearing my son repeatedly refer to my brother as “that guy that lost his marbles”.

That is one misunderstanding that I will happily not clear up.

Hockey sticks

“There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.”

– Cicero

Birds of a feather picnic together

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Where: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Canoe

Plate of food: We stayed at the beautiful Rimrock Resort which feels blissfully tucked away from Banff townsite. Little did we know that Rimrock Resort has a cracker-jack of a restaurant, Eden. This is the only 5 Diamond (Canada’s foodie ranking system) restaurant west of Ontario which is important because there is a *touch* of East/West animosity in Canada. Ahem.

We decided to book a table and see what 5 Diamonds gets you.

We were seated at an intimate table in front of floor-to-ceiling windows which offered us dramatic views of the forest and the surrounding mountain peaks. There was a team of 3 people, two waiters and one sommelier, who referred to us by name, and were perfectly attentive and discreet.

Then they started presenting the food. And I realized that 5 diamonds are so gastronomically fabulous that THIS is clearly what they were talking about when they said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.

While enjoying our welcome glass of champagne (yes, please!), one waiter brought a spruce log to our table. Yes, a spruce log. It was slightly smouldering on one side, just enough to give off the evocative aroma of the forest. Perched near one end were two bright red “lollipops” skewered on spruce twigs (of course, because someone in that kitchen is a bona fide genius). We popped them in our mouths and were greeted with the pleasant surprise of smooth foie gras encased within a thin layer of tart cherry gelatin. Oh, Eden, you 5 Diamond minx!

I wanted to do THIS at dinner, but not sure if that is completely appropriate.

I wanted to do THIS at dinner, but not sure if that is completely appropriate.

The chef also impressed us with his interpretation of High Tea (thyme infused broth in tea cups with blue cheese biscuits and savoury macarons), fresh bread served with hay-smoked butter ( just enough golden earthiness to transport you to a picnic on a farm) and a cheese platter that could bring about world peace (teeny, tiny jewel-coloured checkerboards of fruit jellies to accompany the cheese – have they got pixies working in the kitchen?! What is the labour law on pixies?).

In case we weren’t yet ready to pledge our undying love to Eden, they sealed the deal by presenting us with a gift bag full of chocolate glazed banana cake to TAKE WITH US.

I surrender.

The best: Hiking in Sunshine Meadows. This is an area near Banff, surrounded by stunning mountain peaks, milky blue lakes, and, in the Autumn, golden larches which are deciduous coniferous trees (go on, just take a moment with that).

Larches

Our waiter at The Bison (another great place for a meal in Banff) recommended that we hike up to Sunshine Meadows. He had such an enthusiastic, positive spirit that I would have done pretty much anything he told me to…well, that’s not true because he also expressed great passion about kayaking over waterfalls.

Death in a kayak. No. Sunshine Meadows. YES!

We were stunned by the beauty of what this hike had to offer. After a steep climb and an amble across a scruffy alpine plateau, we discovered vast swaths of golden larches carpeting the hills. Bathed in sunshine, the needles glowed; the most incredible autumnal sight.

Larches

Although the shuttle bus to the trail head was full, the group quickly dispersed and we spent the entire day on our own, enjoying the views and the fresh mountain air. (And some good quality chocolate, obviously.)

Hike

We just happened to be there at precisely the right time to see the larches in all their glory. Lucky, lucky us!

Story that needs to be told: We visited the breathtaking Chateau Lake Louise for lunch one day. After gawking at the view along with 1/4 of Japan’s population (only a guess), we decided to buy sandwiches and drinks at the hotel deli. The 90 minute wait at the hoity-toity cafe was too much for us (oh, yes I did use hoity-toity. I’m bringing it back into common usage). Plus, what could be better than an impromptu picnic in one of the most stunning locations in Canada? Okay, okay, not being denied the shot of apple brandy in my warm cider due to public drinking laws would have made it marginally better.

Lake Louise

As we sat in the sunshine and admired the view across the lake to the glacier, we nibbled on smoked salmon bagels and salt & vinegar chips (the only flavour that should pass your lips, I believe).

Being in the Rocky Mountains, nature surrounds you and alpine creatures scurry about. We were joined at our picnic by a few birds who landed nearby to chirp and cock their heads, then move on.

I noticed that a large, grey bird with a chip on his shoulder (I could just tell) alighted in the gravel near our feet. I continued to wax lyrical about the mountains and our good fortune of being there at that moment, gesturing with my free hand while the other clasped one half of my salmon bagel.

Suddenly and with deadly accuracy, that bird swooped at my bagel, his claws grazing my hand as he tugged once at my food with his beak. Luckily my instincts kicked in to protect such a tasty morsel as smoked salmon and I held on tight. His wing brushed against my hair and, with that, he was gone.

Well, I can assure you that I reacted in a very calm manner (there are no witnesses except for Matt and he ain’t saying a thing), but I was outraged at the audacity of this bird, even with his refined tastes. I abandoned that half of my bagel because his claws and his beak had made contact with it and – do I really need to elaborate here?

I continued to rant about the sheer balls of this bird who would try to take the lunch right out of my hand to Matt who was already over it (no surprise there) when – GET THIS – the bird swooped again. This time he came from my blind side and tried once more to pilfer my bagel. I was not impressed.

He and I spent the rest of the time eyeing each other suspiciously. Him hopping around with his wee beady eyes, me shouting out “OY!!” like I had Tourette’s every time I saw his feathers shift.

You know, I really felt like I convened with nature. I clearly have a gift.

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“It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw.”
– Emily Carr

In the cold light of January

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Hello friend! Welcome to 2013! Here’s hoping that your holidays were magical and bright.

Now we are into the first week of January which is THE biggest let-down, is it not?! Jiminy. All the sparkle is gone, the decorations are packed away, and I’m left with the realization that my resolutions are exactly the same as last year (not because they are so awesome, but because inevitably I did not accomplish them).

But I say January does not necessarily have to be a shock to the system. You can begin a new year gently, tenderly. You do not have to know everything by this first week of this first month.

You will have seen all of the “Year in Review” questionnaires bouncing around. Here is my take on it, in the spirit of A Year of Travel:

Top destination in 2012:

Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Iguazu Falls. That country ticks all the right boxes.

Favourite plate of food in 2012:

Sweetcorn pancakes with bacon, asparagus, and Hollandaise sauce in Australia. I would eat that meal again in a heartbeat. (Then again I would eat most meals again in a heartbeat.)

Best thing about 2012:

I found another piece of myself through starting this blog. Truly.

Oh, and this song. I played it so much that my children can sing along to it. My work here is done.

Story that needs to be told about 2012:

Oh, so many! But thankfully the stories coming out of last year are happy, blessed ones.

There was a surprise helicopter ride in New Zealand; there was a trip to Banff with no children along (!); there was my large-ish 50/50 raffle win on Canada Day; there was the “hilarity” of our dishwasher taking 10 weeks to be fixed; there was my brother getting married (just like a grown-up…when did THAT happen?); there were visits from family which acted like a well-meaning cattle prod and made us explore Rio more; there were trips that renewed my faith in nature, people, and hotel upgrades…..So much. Thanks for it all, 2012!

A word that sums up 2012:

Travel (doing it, writing about it, planning it…)

A resolution for the new year:

Well, there are those pesky ones from last year, but….

I have some hopes for 2013. I hope to discover more of Brazil in particular, to carve out more time to enjoy this blog, and to not take things so seriously (it’s kind of laughable how grave I believe things to be – “WIPE HIS CHIN! QUICK! THAT CHERRY JUICE WILL BE IM-POSS-IBLE TO GET OUT OF THE TABLECLOTH!”….that was some insight you did not need).

May this year offer up the things you least expect, but need the most.

Here was my 2012…

January

Old world Portuguese charm

Old world Portuguese charm in Petropolis.

February

Best winery experience in Chile

Best winery experience in Chile

March

So, a helicopter showed up and....

So, a helicopter showed up and….

April

Seeing the city with my sister!

Seeing Rio with my sister!

May

Birthday bunting for my sweet girl.

Birthday bunting for my sweet girl.

June

Colour of the sky exhibit in Calgary.

Colour of the sky exhibit in Calgary.

July

Yeehaw! Stampede Centennial!

Yeehaw! Stampede Centennial!

August

Best restaurant discovery of the month.

Best restaurant discovery of the month: Quinta.

September

Golden larches in Banff National Park.

Golden larches in Banff National Park.

October

Best meal in Rio of the entire year. Fact.

Best meal in Rio of the entire year. Fact.

November

The breathtaking Devil's Throat Falls in Argentina

The breathtaking Devil’s Throat Falls in Argentina

December

My Brazilian gingerbread beauties!

My Brazilian gingerbread beauties!

Friday Photos

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Hello friends! I am in a post-travel fog at the moment. The symptoms are: falling asleep while reading a storybook to my children, being unable to finish sentences, and making ham sandwiches for the past 3 meals. I’m doing GREAT, though!!

Obviously, being in a fog is the best time to do a blog post, right? I thought I would ease back in by doing a photo post which some could call “lazy”, but I call “diversifying”.

Inspired by Patrick Latter’s blog post featuring his photos from the Calgary Zoo, I approached my recent visit to the zoo with a new outlook. I almost never take photos of the animals at zoos because, well, they look like photos of animals in enclosures. But Patrick’s stunning photos made me experiment a bit more to try and capture some shots that don’t look like they come from a zoo.

This is regrettably not a great photo of a grizzly bear, but I had to include it so you could see those claws. Butt-clenching stuff.

Hope you enjoy these! Have a great weekend. I’m going to spend mine getting myself de-fogged.

 

Something stinks in the fridge

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Wowzer, I’ve been away from this (and you!) for a long time. It feels like when you return from a trip and find that the yoghurt you left in the fridge has gone feral, the mail piled up and got rained on, the house is stuffy, and your cat is being aloof (rather that than going feral like the yoghurt). We need to clean out the fridge, open the windows, do some laundry, and reintroduce ourselves. Y’know? Great, you deal with the cat…

So my disappearance from the blog was due to a lovely holiday in Canada where I did so many wonderful things it really deserves its own post. I was a tourist in my own hometown and that felt great. Have you done this? I took in all the sights and was reminded of how spectacular my native city is. Consequently I was perhaps overly gung-ho, exclaiming loudly and repeatedly, much to my family’s chagrin. It was just so…FANTASTIC.

  • I attended the Centenary of the Calgary Stampede. That’s big, people, HUGE. And there were cowboys everywhere which helps…a lot.
  • I ate amazing food: salted caramel ice cream, Chinese bbq pork buns, coconut crusted shrimp, bison ribs, corn on the cob, homebaking, mini cinnamon donuts…and I did not gain a pound. Amazing. Aaaaand potentially untrue; I don’t have a scale to confirm. Oh well.
  • I drove through the prairies in all their flat, expansive, yellow canola glory.
  • I went to the BEST Canada Day celebration I have ever witnessed AND I won the 50/50 draw! Can you believe it? Let’s just say, it paid for my holiday. Thankyouverymuch.
  • I reveled in the comfort, hilarity, support, and ease of being with family. Be thankful if that is something you have access to regularly.

I’ve been back for a few weeks now, but it took some time to convince my spirit that returning to reality in Rio was a good thing. I think I have it (mostly) convinced now.

So with life ticking along nicely, it is time to get this blog going again, too. I’m ready. Thanks for not forgetting about me! I’ll pay you back by posting gratuitous photos of those cowboys. You’re welcome.

Today’s the day!

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Holy Shazam! Remember when I said that my goal was to surpass 30 views of my blog in one day? Well, my kind friends, you did it! 32 views today! Thank you. Now go celebrate with a glass of red wine, a piece of chocolate, and an episode of Downton Abbey. How rock and roll is THAT?!

Now, we must always look to better ourselves, so we are now aiming for 1000 total all-time views of my blog. We stand at (drum roll)…934. Oh, we are so close now. There will be a reward when we get to 4 digits, people. Some blogs give away iPads, KitchenAids, signed books, etc. I will freely give away…heartfelt compliments. If you leave a comment on the ol’ blog, I will lay the love on thick. Yessir.

Man, I know how to motivate people.

On another note, Canada is by far the country that views my blog the most. Yeehaw! Thanks, Canucks! I will take that as a vote of confidence from my homeland…or just as a vote of solidarity from my extended family. Either way, it’s great. Love the Great White North!

Seriously, though, thank you. The fact that you guys are reading this and coming back for more is humbling and simply wonderful. xx