The airport is super tiny and we had absolutely no line to get through security. We ended up taking the smallest plane I’ve ever been on with Air Canada using a EVAS – everyone had a window seat (minus the first 2 seats – which I had one of) and you can see the pilot and all the gears and buttons. It was a relatively smooth flight however because of the geography of where PEI is located and Newfoundland & Labrador, we had to stopover in Halifax before making it into St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador.
We stayed in downtown St John’s at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland (115 Cavendish Square, St. John’s NL A1C 3K2). Since we arrived in the evening, we took to Signal Hill to catch the sunset. We definitely did not pack appropriate clothing for St John’s weather having gone from 25 back home to 8-22 in Nova Scotia to PEI to 3-5 degrees in St John’s. The view is spectacular from Signal Hill both sides (water side and city side).
St John’s reminds me of San Francisco with all the hilly streets but the beautiful coloured homes makes this town so much more enchanting. We made our way down to George St – one of their famous streets condensed with all the pubs/bars you would ever need. We ate at Piatto Pizzeria (377 Duckworth St, St. John’s, NL A1C 1H8) that night. We started off with Bruschetta and olives and among the 3 of us, we ordered 3 pizzas. We ordered the VPN Margherita ($15CAD) A base of San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil, EVOO + Grana Padano.), Americana ($17CAD) (Fresh fior di latte mozzarella + garnished with pepperoni) and Dolce e Fumoso ($17CAD) (Roasted garlic cream base, chili flakes, smoked mozzarella, crispy prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of honey + chopped parsley). The best overall of the night – Dolce e Fumoso.
We had spoken about waking up early and taking in the sunrise at Cape Spear (The most Eastern point to take in the first light of day) however the weather called for rain. I ended up waking up at 430-5AM to find a layer of fog taking over the skies.
Our final breakfast before getting to our last shoot location of the week long trip was at Bagel Café (246 Duckworth St, St. John’s, NL A1C 1G8). This place is known as the spot for breakfast and no not just bagels. St John’s is also known for their local favourite dish of Touton – (pronounced “tau-tin”) which are deep fried pancakes that is considered a breakfast food. To me personally, it tastes and resembles the Chinese dessert fried dough sticks (Yeoteww). Such a comfy restaurant with all the kitschy interiors you want. I ordered the Harbour main deep fried cod with hollandaise and smoked salmon touton ($17CAD). It was a little heavy but so worth it.
After our shoot, we had a few hours left before we needed to depart to the airport to head back home to Toronto. We had to return to the hotel to check out and once we did, we ventured out to Quidi Vidi (a small fisherman’s village). We went down a steep single laned road and came upon a quaint little neighbourhood. We wanted to have our final meal at the Mallard Cottage (8 Barrows Rd, St. John’s, NL A1A 1G8) but the place was packed and booked up. We walked over to QVFC (Quidi Vidi Fish & Chips) (31 Barrows Rd, St. John’s, NL A1A 1G8). Regina ordered the single piece of fish and poutine as I ordered the Fresh fried Cod bites – the tartar sauce was intense but in a good way and tasting the fish was super fresh and the poutine had more than a good amount of cheese curds to make anyone happy. We drove back up the road and ended up taking in our last sights at Quidi Vidi Battery before making our way to the airport and finally flying home.
I will be back one day to explore more. Our goal of seeing Puffins, Whales and icebergs was not fulfilled. However, from St John’s, a 3.5 hour drive to Elliston you can find the trifecta. Fishers Loft is the best accommodations in the woods but there are also many Airbnb’s out there too. If you want the true feel of Newfoundland & Labrador – visit Trinity Bona Vista.
Back on the road we went enroute to Prince Edward Island (PEI). We drove across the Confederation bridge into PEI with such a scenic view. The sky was surreal. If you are driving over, there is a $47CAD toll upon returning across the bridge leaving PEI.
We took the first exit off the highway once we had gone over the bridge and stopped to see the bridge in all its glory by a small lighthouse.
Back on the road towards Charlottetown and when I mean road, there is only one road and this road is like a roller coaster – up and down and up and down – extreme angles at times.
We finally arrived to downtown Charlottetown and oh boy the architecture is stunning with all the old houses and all the colours. We stayed at The Holman Grand – (123 Grafton St, Charlottetown PE C1A 1K9). Unlike Nova Scotia & New Brunswick, the weather started to get a little colder.
The downtown seems to run on a nice grid like system with everything within walking distance. I ended up walking around a bit by myself and found myself walking on Victoria Row which I guess is the Chinatown area of Charlottetown. Many stores of Anne of Green Gables. Cows Creamery also originates from PEI. Cows Ice cream is to Canada as Ben & Jerry’s is to USA.
After a quick rest, we walked over to Hopyard (151 Kent St, Charlottetown, PE C1A 1N5) for dinner. This was by far the best experience we had in terms of East Coast hospitality. Once we walked in, the atmosphere was laidback and cool. We took to a booth seat and was approached by a server. The server was amazing. He let us know the rundown of the restaurant and the food and drink list. Hopyard is exactly what their name says – Beer – Food – Vinyl. There is a table of vinyls in the middle where you can browse and find a record you would like to play and bring it to the bar so they can put it in the queue. If you feel the need to own the record, you are more than welcome to purchase it as the vinyls are brought in directly from a nearby records store.
The menu itself is complex but great value and a variety of flavours. The menu changes every few weeks and the top of the list are the vegetarian options while the bottom half are the meat options with some fun dessert options. Majority of the things on the menu are $8CAD each. The menu is a complex fusion of Asian flavours and a play on new mixes. The theme for the dishes during our stay was Qingdao to Incheon. The beer menu is also a long but great list to choose of for local and slightly further Canadian brewed craft beers.
Among the 3 of us, we ordered a bunch of dishes and they all had distinct flavour.
What we ate:
-Nuoc Cham Spring Rolls (Crispy Veg Rolls, Nuoc Cham, Fresh Cilantro, Black Sesame Sour Cream), – the black sesame sour cream was AMAZING!
-Bun Mi (Marinated Roasted Tofu, Salted Cauliflower Relish, Shredded Carrot, Cucumber Kimchi, Hoisin Mayo, Spicy Salt on a Brioche Bun)
-Qingdao Fried Broccoli (Fried Broc, Shoyu Mayo, Cherry Sauce, Hot Salt and Scallions) – The biggest surprise in taste was the broccoli – it tasted like candy.
-Sesame Hot Wings (Sesame Candy, Chili Salt Mayo and Cilantro BBQ Sauce)
-Crispy Fish Taco (Flour Torts, Iceberg, Black Bean Sour Cream, Wontons, Jalapeno Ginger Tartar, Cashew)
Unfortunately one of our subjects bailed so we had the morning free to explore PEI. We found ourselves indoors at Receiver Coffee & Co on Victoria Row (128 Richmond St, Charlottetown, PE C1A 1H7) because it was raining outside. We had breakfast in the cute little coffee shop. I ordered the Smoothie Bowl (avocado based smoothie with cinnamon, blueberry, strawberry and cucumbers) and paired it with a chai latte. We ended up staying here for majority of the morning before we hit the road to explore a bit before catching our flight.
The server from the previous night mentioned that we need to check out Brackley Point beach and drive through (shoe horse) via the PEI national park before making our way to the airport. With our laidback morning, we ended up not really having enough time to explore. We drove 20 minutes to Brackley Point beach but unfortunately we only had about 30 minutes before we needed to get to the airport and because it is part of the national park, we were unwilling to pay the fee to see the beach for a few minutes and drove to the airport. We were told that once you make it to Brackley Point Beach, if you go under the bridge, you can walk on the sand dunes. The park itself is suppose to be worth its while and should not be missed if you have the time.
Back on the road, we continued to our drive to Moncton, New Brunswick which was our next shoot location. 3 hour drive into the sunset with high winds. We stayed at the Chateau Moncton & Suites – (100 Main St, Moncton NB, E1C1B9, Canada.)
Wear bugspray as the winds die down a bit here and the slight humidity brings out the bloodsuckers. After our tiresome drive, we were seeking a good meal and down the Main St strip we went. We found a place called Tide & Boar Gastropub (700 Main St, Moncton, NB E1C 1E4). We luckily arrived with 15 minutes to spare as the kitchen was about to close. I ordered the Tuna Poke ($20CAD) (with ahi tuna, macadamia nuts, avocado, apple, sticky rice, scallions and soy). We sat outside on their alley patio which was the perfect spot (minus the mosquitoes).
The best coffee shop we found in the area was Café Codiac (666 St George Blvd, Moncton, NB E1E 2C2). I ordered the Moncton Fog which is their twist on a London Fog but they used Peppermint instead of Earl Grey – Delicious. The others had soups which they said were hearty and delicious.
Before leaving town, we stopped by Notre Dame De Parkton (376 St. George St, Moncton, NB E1C 1X2). The interior is what you think a small town restaurant should look like and we got our meals served to us on plastic school meal trays with old VHS recordings of Wheel of Fortune being played on the television. It was perfect. I ordered the Cubana with chips ($13CAD) while I am told the coleslaw is amazing. An extra bonus for those with a sweet tooth, they have an array of candies you can take from at the front desk.
Coming from Toronto and spending more money and time at Bubble tea places than bars, Chatime in Moncton brought me back home for that sliver in time. Taro milk tea with coconut jelly to made the next 2 hours on the road to PEI that much more relaxed.
If we had time and the weather was in our favour from Moncton, we would have taken a detour to Hopewell Rocks (131 Discovery Road, Hopewell Cape, NB E4H 4Z5). It is about a 30 minute drive south from Moncton. Hopewell Rocks is also known, as the Flowerpots Rocks which are 40-70 feet tall rock formation that you can walk through when the tide is low. It is a destination that I visited my first time road tripping the East Coast with my family almost 20 years ago.
After flying and driving a bit, we found ourselves looking for a good meal. We ended up going to The Five Fisherman (1740 Argyle St, Halifax, NS B3J 2B6). We all ordered The Five Fish ($44CAD) – Scallops, shrimp, lobster, asparagus risotto, salmon and swordfish. It was the best way to taste a bit of everything and the start to our East coast food experience.
We took a day trip to Windsor & Falmouth, Nova Scotia for work. While there, we ate at Fry Daddy’s (109 Gerrish St, Windsor, NS B0N 2T0). I ordered the Seafood Chowder ($9.95CAD) – Scallops, local haddock and shrimp all simmered in a potato chowder base . Served with homemade biscuit.
After heading back to Halifax from our day trip, we had a reservations to The Bicycle Thief (1475 Lower Water St, Halifax, NS B3J 3Z2). It might be a little touristy but this place is a MUST! By the harbourfront, you get great views overlooking water but also come upon a cozy interior with great energy and even better food and staff. We got a round of NS oysters and they were so tasty! I also ordered the The Infamous BT housemade chopped Tenderloin Burger, double smoked Bacon, Caramelized onions, very old Cheddar cheese, lettuce & tomato, Sea salted Frites ($20CAD).
After our delicious breakfast, we started our adventure to Peggy’s Cove on our day off.
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
It is a long yet windy 45 minute drive to get to Peggy’s Cove from the core of downtown Halifax. We walked to the Lighthouse and rested on the rocks taking in the sounds of the waves crashing and the warm sun beating down with the wind blowing over us. We hopped back into the car and went back down the road (Prospect Rd) to an area where there were a few spots alongside the road. We parked and followed the trail into the roads and trees towards the water. It’s like a different world and looks amazing. The lighting was absolutely perfect however the breeze was strong but the sun was warm. Bring a sweater!
On our way back to Halifax, we stopped at Shaw’s Landing (6958 Peggys Cove Road, West Dover, NS B3Z 3S8). It is definitely a hidden gem of a restaurant to find. You will see a giant Lobster in a yellow rain jacket standing on the roof that marks the spot. The portions are quite large and the view is great in the patio to overlook a small inlet while you eat. We ordered fried pickles and I ordered the fish and chips (Fresh deep-fried haddock). The tartar sauce had dill in it and was very tasty.
Before heading to Moncton, New Brunswick, we stopped back in Halifax to meet up with a friend who moved to the East Coast at Seahorse Tavern (2037 Gottingen St, Halifax, NS B3K 3B1). It has a Kitschy interior that continued out into their patio. Perfect for a summer day with a laid back atmosphere and is attached to Propeller Brewing Company. I ordered the Cove Kombucha.
Maritimes in a blink of an eye. I had the opportunity to travel throughout the Maritimes with Photographer Regina Garcia for a week as a photo assistant accompanied by James – Account Supervisor from the Agency – Zulu Alpha Kilo.
We started in Halifax, Nova Scotia (with a day trip for work to Windsor & Falmouth) then drove to Moncton, New Brunswick. We continued on the road to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and finally to St Johns, Newfoundland & Labrador. In the short span of a week, we covered quite a lot and outside of working, we tried to get our fill out the East coast experience.
With not too much downtime, we managed to get a taste of each Province. I wish we had more time to explore but at least everywhere we went, we experienced the East coast hospitality that showcases Canadians and amazing food along the way.
If you are heading out East, there are an abundance of English and French speaking people and I have been told (for meat eaters) you need to try the Donair.
What I also noticed when driving in these areas, no one is in a rush anywhere. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick driving is somewhat a desert compared to Toronto traffic. They do however have 2-laned highways where you stay in the left to pass only and NO ONE REALLY SPEEDS – They go the speed limit. PEI was a little different once we made it into town. St John’s also has its cluster of traffic too but not too overwhelming.
8AM – Meet at Office (Green Discovery – Sales Office – No. 10 Rd & No. 46 Rd) – Store our luggage in the Office. Drive an hour to Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong (Paksong); hike 1-2KM to site
11/14 – Pakse
-Tree Top Explorer
-4-5PM – Drop off at office/hotel
-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center
-Dinner option – Champady – restaurant off the main st – good pad thai; passion fruit and strawberry shake are amazing.
-Sunday street market – Nightmarket – 4-5PM-11PM – the market starts at Tha Pae Gate and goes all the way along Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh in the center of the old city (about 1.5 km). This is the place for souvenirs, t-shirts, artwork, hand made items and just about everything in between.
-Siam Rice Cooking class – 800 baht – evening session
–Blue Elephant – Thailand Tours – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe. 830AM pickup – 630PM drop-off – Mae Rim, Longneck Karen & Big ear Kayor Hill tribe village, Muang Kud Valley and raft along the Mae Tang River, Makha Elephant Village – 22000THB – 4c pp – BRING CASH TO PAY ON SPOT! (http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/package/tour-detail.php?id=107)
-Akha Ama – Ahka Hilltribe Coffee – Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh
– Graph Café – one of city’s best coffee – nitro cold brew coffee on tap -9AM-1PM – Rathvithi Soi 1
-Mao Coffee – mao gafaae – drunk coffee -8AM-5PM – Kankhlong Chonprathan Road heading south towards Hang Dong
– Chiang Mai has a beauty contest as well that is preceded by the Loy Krathong parade that begins at Tha Pae Gate the first evening of the festival. The temples also feature their own private celebrations where the devotees release khom loy and float their krathong and they welcome visitors to share in this deeply intimate event.
-Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang – epicenter for paper lantern festival
FLY – CHIANG MAI -> BANGKOK – $73CDNpp – Air Asia – 125PM-245PM
I had the opportunity to live in Vancouver for a month in 2014 with my friend Yolande. I spent a lot of time getting to know extended family, meeting new people from all walks of life and just enjoying the West Coast lifestyle with my “Toronto Crew that now reside in Vancity”. Instead of detailing the day-to-day of my time out west, this post will showcase what I ate and what I wanted to eat during my time in Vancouver.
EAT SUSHI! I cannot get over how cheap it is to dine on sushi here – a maki roll is around $3-4 but back home its like $8-14. Even with the cheaper price, the quality is superb in Vancouver- absolutely fresh.
The original Guu is located on Thurlow and it is the not only the original Guu but also the first Izakaya in Vancouver. As you enter, you will receive a very warm and loud welcome and same as you leave. Izakaya is similar to tapas and are all rather small sharing dishes to go along with drinks. The menu is quite diverse with food that is grilled or fried but they also have Udon noodle soups to beef sashimi to salads. The Original Guu is a small cozy establishment but you will be satisfied with all the flavours and atmosphere. There are multiple locations in Vancouver and also in Toronto.
Hubbub is the place to go if you want a fresh sandwich served on a toasty baguette. All you need to is to choose your protein and each sandwich comes with a base of pickled jalapenos, creamy garlic sauce, romaine lettuce, cilantro, and crunchy caramelized onions. I chose the pulled pork and it was absolutely delicious and with a sweet heat kicking.
Japadog offers gourmet hot dogs that are served Japanese-style. The location on Robson St is the only sit-down location. If you can’t make it to the actual sit down joint, you can find a few carts located around town such as the corner of Smithe & Burrard, Burrard & Pender. There is also a Japadog truck so keep an eye out. The Japadog truck and the restaurant location are the only ones that have the full extensive menus and offer their shaken fries. On one particular visit, We had the croquette (Fried mashed potato) dog and their Shichimi & Garlic tossed fries.
If you are hankering for a good burrito go no further than Steamrollers. The burritos here are fresh, tasty and made quickly. As their namesake tells you – they don’t deep fry or use grease but rather cook with steam. A traditional burrito starts around $7.25CAD and also have vegetarian options. You can also get gluten free options.
Breka Bakery smells heavenly with in-house baking of fresh breads. Not only does this bakery serve up some scrumptious breads, it also offers pastries to suit anyone’s tastes. Muffins, pretzels, cookies, donuts, pies and so much more. I ended up leaving this establishment with a cheesecake brownie which was large enough for 2 people. There is also a large selection for drink and meal options.
A spacious spot with welcoming vibes brings you to Greenhorn Café. Coffee, tea and espresso as well as breakfast and lunch are available. On weekends, the brunch selection is opened to include baked eggs and eggs benedict. I met a good friend here and grabbed a crimson berry (house blend) tea and a croissant.
The always-busy Twisted Fork Bistro serves up brunch the right way. Be sure to make a reservation because this place is always packed for the brunch run. It is a rather cozy spot but very comfy. I got the Gruyere baked eggs with sourdough toast, bacon, tomato, rosti and baked beans. Very flavourful and rich. Not sure why but we had decided to workout after this meal. Perfect meal on a cold day.
Sejuiced, is a vegetarian / vegan joint located in Kitsilano. It is the west coast version of Toronto’s Fresh – http://freshrestaurants.ca/ . There is an array of items on their menu such as soups, yogi bowls (bowl with rice or quinoa), sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, salads and even veggie burgers. They also have an extensive shakes and juices menu. For my visit, I had the mega protein salad with tofu ($12CAD).
This café is very quaint with French-inspired pastries. I went the sweet tooth root and had to get myself a peanut butter cookie sandwich and a croissant that almost rivals Thomas Haas’ double backed croissant. They also get very inventive with their pastries here.
A small yet cozy place with a patio to boot. The double baked almond croissants are amazing and go fast. It is a must stop if in the area. If a croissant isn’t up to your flavour, they offer a wide selection of chocolates, macarons, sandwiches, cakes and so much more. It is very difficult to choose just one item but don’t worry, you can purchase to take away with you for later. There is even a chance you might actually see Thomas Haas working while you visit.
49th Parallel is a coffee shop that locally roasts their own beans and serves pastries as well as Lucky’s Doughnuts. It is a great place to people watch through their glass walls and also get work done. I grabbed a salted caramel & a Mango /Passionfruit Bismarck donut from Lucky’s Donut. They were both delicious!
For fresh in-house handmade noodles, Shaolin Noodle House has a small selection but make that selection really well. You have the option to get the noodles dry or in soup and also different options for the type of noodles you want. Dragging noodles are hand-pulled and very long. Pushing is noodles that are flattened with a rolling pin then cut. Round is similar to pasta and udon shaped. And Cutting are pieces that are literally cut off from a ball of dough directly into the soup while it is cooking. I had the seafood and vegetables cutting noodle in soup and we shared lamb skewers and steamed dumplings – all so tasty and good.
Close-by to Shaolin Noodle is Peaceful Restaurant. Peaceful Restaurant was featured on Guy Fierti’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives but even without that, this place deserves to be known – they do Chinese food well. They have hand pulled noodles but also amazing selection of dumplings. We got the Peaceful House Noodles, Spicy & Tangy Dumplings and Green onion beef (tender beef rapidly stir-fried with green onions & ginger). The green onion beef rolls were hands down the best thing ever and the noodles tasted so fresh.
Suika is a Japanese Izakaya – very animated decor with a sake bottle chandelier. Suika serves up creative and intricate mixes to provide a strong menu to make you come back for more. We (3 of us) shared the Tuna Avocado, Beef short rib, the Chicken Kara-age & the Kakuni Bibimbap – stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp & scallions on rice served in a hot stone bowl.
I absolutely love sushi and Vancouver seems to be the place for quality sushi for decent prices. A popular place for Sushi is California Sushi. I got the Energy Roll (unagi, asparagus etc) and it was of generous portions for being only $4CAD which is half the price than Toronto standards.
For family style chinese food – Congee Noodle is the place to go. Its more spacious than some other restaurants in the area. Between four people, we ordered the Giant fish congee, Gai lan (chinese broccoli), Dough fritter with rice roll around it, Scallop rice roll, Seafood chow mein, and half a chicken.
Located by the docks, this little shack serves up some fresh fish & chips options. We had cod fish and chips and the portions were large and a steal for it’s price. The island has little shops similar to Stevenson and a market place like Toronto’s St Lawrence Market
There are tons of local eats in Granville Island as well as great local coffee choices. Closed on Mondays.
You cannot leave Chinatown without visiting New Town Bakery. It feels like home when you are in there. An assortment of pastries & steamed buns are the main draw. The BBQ pork buns are to die for. It gets busy so grab a number once you enter. Cash Only.
Pizzeria Farina makes the dough fresh every morning and when they run out, they are done for the day. The freshest of ingredients. We were lucky enough to get the last 3 pizza doughs. We got the Funghi, The Speciale and the Finocchiona – they were all amazing but the funghi stole the show for me. The pizza’s range from $10-17CAD in price. They also make their own oregano and chili infused olive oils which you could also purchase.
Phnom Penh is probably one of the most talked about musts for places to eat in Chinatown. It is hard to get a spot in this restaurant so make reservations. Serving up Vietnamese – Cambodian dishes, this institution is always busy and the food always worth the wait. I ate with a group of 8. We got individual items but shared a plate of fried chicken wings to share and the spice that put in it were so good that it made up for the fact there wasn’t actually too much meat on the bones. I got the beef stew with egg noodles, a dry egg noodle dish with organ meat like liver and other meats and a rice dish with meat, a over easy egg and cabbage.
Wildebeest is a meat centric offering in Gastown prepared and served family-style. They also source ingredients from local sources to create a fun and intricate menu. It is also a secret spot for brunch.
Save on Meats – http://saveonmeats.ca/diner/ – 43 West Hastings St
This building was built in 1891 and you can’t miss the neon pig sign on Hastings. This place is serving up the classic diner foods and all day breakfast. Sheppard pie, Salisbury steak and burgers make this place what it is.
Revolver Coffee is all about the simplicity and quality of their coffee and the experience around it. There is very intricate selection of coffees and also methods of brewing. The décor is an add plus.
In the heart of Gastown, this establishment is a slightly pricier restaurant with a good selection of alcohol but also delicately put together menu. I went with a group of 6 and we came with an appetite. We ordered pretty much 75% of the menu to share. Everything was delicious.
Our Appetizers to share:
-Brusselsprouts and bacon
-Mac & Cheese
-Albacore Tuna with Artichoke
-Butter Lettuce & Citrus
-Beet and endive salad
-Oysters with mignonette sauce
-French Onion Soup with Gruyere & Croutons
-Grilled Cheese with Spicy Tomato & Fennel Soup
-Roasted Bone Marrow with Sea Salt, Pickled Radish, Parsley, Grilled Bread
-Smoked Salmon with Potato Salad, Dill, Crispy Capers, Beet & Endive Salad with Apple, Walnuts, Blue Cheese Dressing as starters.
The main course meals we ordered:
-3 Cornish Game Hen with Grilled Romaine (romaine that is dressed in Caesar dressing then bbq/charred – need to try this out at home!)
The main chef at Red Wagon uses french inspiration in his cooking which turned this place from a hole in the wall into a cozy diner for good eats. Guy Fieri left his seal of approvable from Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. This place has line-ups out the door but luckily it wasn’t too busy and we only had to wait 15-20 minutes. I had the Pulled Pork Pancakes (3 buttermilk pancakes layered with pulled pork with Jack Daniels -spiked maple syrup) and let me tell you it was so filling and so unbelievably good. Usually I crave pancakes because of the smell but the taste is usually not as satisfying and only a few bites in I no longer desire to eat it but I cleaned my plate (took some time because it was so filling). The chef also opened up le wagon rouge, which is their bistro restaurant.
If you are craving matcha then Basho Cafe is the spot for you. Basho is a family run Japanese café that will feel like home. You can choose to indulge with a matcha latte or the wide array of pastries that feature matcha.The pastries are baked daily and the menu changes daily. They also serve up a special set menu that includes a small cup of soup, veggies as well as mini sweets in addition to your main.
Merchants is owned by Doug Stephen and one of the chefs was my cousin’s friend. They use locally sourced, organic ingredients. We started off with drinks – an old fashioned and myself a Gin Digger (did you know a digger is what a Caesar’s real name and it originated in Calgary). We decided to order we would order our own 4 course meals $40 (sharing as well). For our snacks, we both grabbed baked oysters with truffle cream. Before we got our 1sts, they brought out a special plate for us for an event they had prepped and had extras to spare. It was parsley served 20 different ways with a little help with panna cotta. My favourite item was the parsley chip; so tasty yet so delicate. For the first dish, we grabbed the beef tartare served on crostini with Sriracha and pickled shallots and Gnocchi with black garlic (this is expensive so not used in many places) & pickled garlic. We both got the Ling Cod with kimchi, smoked egg yolk and swiss chard. Finished off with chocolate ganache with cumin, caramel & pistachio as well as a Blood orange tart with browned butter and marshmallows. The food was phenomenal and the service was great.
This place is a cozy spot on Commercial Dr with live music courtesy of La Santisima – traditional Mexican songs – every Sunday. Their selection of mezcal spans the wall with an open concept kitchen and bar so you can see what they are doing and making. La Mezcaleria is such a cute little place. We took a sit up at the bar in front of the chefs working away at making all the dishes.
We had the Campechano Flight (a flight of both the red snapper and tuna ceviche’s, guacamole and pico de gallo served with chips), We also grabbed Tostadas de Pato (Fraser Valley duck confit, guava, fruit mole sauce (manchamanteles), chayote squash and radish), Tinga de pollo (free range chicken with chorizo in a chipotle tomato sauce, topped with Mexican cheese and sour cream) & Al Pastor (pork marinated in achiote chilli and pineapple) tacos and ended off with flan for dessert. I also ordered take-away for a friend. I ordered Tinga de Pollo and De Cachet (braised beef cheeks) tacos. Great vibe, great people and great food.
Since the long weekend is over, Vicky made it home for uni and Yolande had to work so Joanne and myself were on our own for the day. We drove through Stanley Park with occasional stops and walked the Seawall. Drove around Aberdeen area again to pick up something then drove over to Thomas Haas and grabbed a pumpkin pie, cheesecake and double baked croissants.
Afterwards, we met up with Ben to unload his truck with the BMO supplies leftover from the Race up in Kelowna. We had lunch at one of his favourite sushi places called Minato. He goes there for the special Minato roll which is spicy salmon and their homemade spicy sauce which tastes like tahini, peanut buttery, and a bit of vinegar. Joanne had made plans with her friends while we were here so when Yolande came home, she took me along her running route via English bay. We ended up at Cactus Club for dinner where we were accompanied by her friend Christian and his friend Robbin. I had the red Thai curry Lingcod and a Caesar. We said our goodbyes and walked on Davie St (it is like our Church St back in Toronto) and waited at Starbucks to meet another friend of ours – Jamie to catch up.
Off to West Vancouver to visit Jo’s “grandma” who lives in Chartwell. Her neighbourhood reminded me so much of Los Angeles. She has lived in the house for 45 years and now lives there with her eldest daughter. It is definitely a very California styled home with spiral steps to the backyard with a pool. She use to swim on behalf of Taiwan back in the day and now, 40 years later swims 18 laps every morning. We then drove across town to Richmond to have Dim Sum at Shiang Garden Seafood Restaurant with her aunties Brenda and Bonnie and her cousin Matt. After lunch, Joanne and myself drove a little more south of Richmond to Stevenson Pier and walked around for a bit. Her aunties suggested we have some fish & chips since it’s the best there but we were way too full. We returned to the apartment and left behind the car to walk Robson St. To no avail, nothing was purchased but we timed it perfectly so we could walk over to Kintaro Ramen for dinner with the Miranda, Tom and Nelson. It’s suppose to be one of the best in Vancouver with lines outside the door but luckily we just beat the rush. I got my favourite base – miso and added an egg to my ramen. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite ramen – still doesn’t beat Daikokuya in Los Angeles. After dinner, we all went over to Miranda and Tom’s somewhat new apartment and played games and hung out late into the night.
Final sleep and off we went early in the morning to catch our flight home.
Bright and early again we had awoken to hit the road towards Squamish. We arrived at 8AM and began our ascent. It is a slightly difficult hike/climb. All that heavy breathing and heavy legs going up plus the fact I kept stopping made me the last in the pack. It didn’t help the fact I was also carrying my camera bag up this steep climb. We made it to the fork in the road to Peak 1 and 2 so we decided to goto 1 instead of 2. We were lucky to have good weather as this ascension would have been even more difficult if it were raining and wet. There are parts that are actual wooden stairs that change into stepping stones to even areas where you need to hold a chain to pull yourself up. We made it to the top and had a little break and snack while taking in the views before heading down.
On our descent, we met a 45 year old lady named Deb who was originally from North York, ON and went to Queens and McMaster University but moved out to BC. She hadn’t climbed Squamish in almost 14 years but did it with her family so her kids would know how to get down. As we went down, we talked about travel especially Cambodia and Laos. By the end when we reached the bottom at Shannon falls, all our legs were quivering. The best is that we finished around 11AM so we had plenty of time to stop at lookout points such as Porteau Cove and had time to shop and eat at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond before Vicky had to catch her flight. The Daiso sells items for around $2 and has all sorts of products which I definitely recommend visiting – It reminded me of Japan so much. There is an extensive array of food in the food court.
We dropped off Vicky at 330PM and then dropped Joanne off at her cousins. We made it back to her apartment to hang for a bit before Jordan came and picked us up for dinner. We were meeting with one of our friend Lisa who also moved to Vancouver. Our location for dinner was The Eatery for some fun sushi. They had very interesting decor with a huge makeshift Astroboy above the bar and their slogan – miso horny with faces like Bruce Lee, Mao and a few others. That place was definitely dark though. We got the Queen roll, Paper Crane and San Francisco plus the seafood Okonomiyaki. The Queen roll was by far the best.
We woke up bright and early to make our way to Whistler. Arrived an hour ahead of time. We booked on the Whistler.com and booked the Superfly – Ziplines & Treetop Adventures – 3 Activity Combo. We chose Ziplining, Tree-top Trekking and Scandinave Spa. We started the day with zip lining. Our guides were Mel from Ontario and Fran from England. It was an amazing thrill to zip line down the world’s highest lines (1st and 2nd highest) and do 6 runs. We liked to make things easier for people so we introduced ourselves as Yo Ro Jo and Vicky. Along for this adventure were a couple named Brittany and Nick from Ottawa and Shane and Steve from Alberta.
Ziplining tips: You pencil or dolphin to go fast and squirrel to slow down.
The fastest line we went on was called Godzilla and when Jo and Vicky went down, Jo startled a doe passing underneath. The very last line called Base-runner had a challenge: if you can keep a note the entire run down you win a chocolate bar which Vicky tried to do. She sang “I came in like a wrecking ball” but fell short. As we were leaving the last platform, the girls turned to me and said surprise! They split the cost for the whistler adventures for me since it was my birthday then we turned to Yo and told her that we also paid for her adventure as well. I’m not one to celebrate my birthday but I am glad timing was perfect to goto Vancouver and especially with these wonderful ladies.
We ended up waiting until 130PM instead of starting at 1PM for tree top trekking because we were waiting for 4 more to join. Jenya our guide brought us over to the demo course to make sure we knew safety procedures and I was starting irritated because the group of 4 that joined us were too slow. Luckily, when it came time for the real thing, Vicky went first and we just sped through it. Some of the “games” were easy but some were so hard and required a lot of arm and leg strength. Secret to one of the games with logs was to step only in the centre because it teeters and another with the balls was to step on the sides because the balls spin. I think my fave were the bridges that you need stretch across or in my case, lunge across. The Tarzan rope swing was pretty cool as you propel yourself into a net then climb up. There was only one obstacle I had difficulties with at first as you hold on to a two handed pulley then you launch yourself off with no view of what is next until you have launched. Luckily, there is give in your safety line. The ziplining portion was good but the harness dug into your sides as you zipped. Jenya said we were probably one of the maybe loudest groups she has had. Good to have Vicky leading us through as we finished in an hour. It was also perfect timing to head back to Whistler Village. We got a photo with the Olympic rings then we walked over to Whistler Museum where I was able to see my dear friend Patricia Lynn who I haven’t seen in at least 2 years (my uni mate) who is now living in Whistler.
We were behind our schedule so after a short catch-up, we were on our way to the Scandinave spa. We had access to their pools where you soak in the hot ones for 10 minutes, transfer to a cold one for however long you desire then relax in a hammock or solarium for 10 minutes and repeat. All in silence. We were only able to complete 2 rounds of this before we had to leave and scurry over to Surrey for Joanne’s family Thanksgiving dinner. Ended off the night with good company and great food.