Tag Archives: Trips and Experiences

Feeling at peace on the coast of Chiba, Japan.

ChibaCoast1

If you are in Japan and haven’t made it to the beach yet…no worries! With temperature hovering around the 36 degrees (celcius) the summer is still on and the conditions are perfect for a visit to the Pacific coast of Chiba. Here’s a little taste of Moriya Beach at sunset!

A bit of Paris in Tokyo at Quatre Café.

If you happen to be in the beautiful and mind blowing Tokyo, are feeling overwhelmed with the crowds, dazed from the culture shock, and in need of a delicious cup of coffee, then take a breather and head over to the welcoming  and intimate Quatre Café.  This jewel is tucked into the 4th (hence the name) floor of a not so attractive business building.  The atmosphere alone will make you want to spend the whole afternoon chatting up with someone special as you try the many delicacies on offer.  From Shibuya station, head up the Miyamasuzaka about three blocks.  On the left hand you will find Quatre…and you’ll be glad you did.

Address: 〒150-0002 東京都渋谷区渋谷1丁目8−5

For more information on Quatre Café you can visit their website:

http://ctn139.com/shopmap.html

Other links:

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13024336/

Si de casualidad te encuentras en la hermosa y alucinante ciudad de Tokio, te sientes abrumado con las multitudes, aturdido por el choque cultural, y con el deseo de beber una buena taza de café, toma un descanso y  prueba el acogedor e íntimo Quatre Café.  Esta joya está escondida en el cuarto piso (de ahí el nombre) de un no muy atractivo edificio de negocios. El ambiente solo hará que desees  pasar toda la tarde conversando con  alguien especial en compañía de las muchas delicias que aquí se ofrecen. Desde la estación de Shibuya, sube unas tres cuadras por  el Miyamasuzaka. A mano izquierda se encuentra Quatre … y sin duda alguna haberlo encontrado te hará muy feliz.

Dirección: 〒150-0002 東京都渋谷区渋谷1丁目8−5

Para mas información puedes visitar la página web de Quatre Café:

http://ctn139.com/shopmap.html

Otros enlaces:

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13024336/

Summer days in the Land of Green Gables

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After 15 years of living in Canada, I figured it was finally time to grab my backpack and my camera and head out to the East Coast of this vast and beautiful land.    For some time now, I have been determined to get out of the comfort zone – Ontario and explore the many other to-be-discovered places that the land of the Maple Leaf and the Moose has to offer.

With the car all packed-up and ready to go, my girlfriend (traveling confidant) and I embarked on a week-long road trip to the east coast…final destination, Prince Edward Island (PEI).  With our expectations high, our minds imagining dishes full of oysters and fresh lobsters, and our butts unprepared for 2 days of driving, we were set to experience the PEI way of life.

From the moment we got on the Confederation Bridge, I knew we were in for quite a treat.  Crossing the Abegweit Passage onto the Island, felt like entering a faraway and imaginary place.  But there was nothing imaginary about were we had arrived…PEI was now real.  I loved the freshness in the air and all the greenery that surrounded us.  You read correctly…GREENERY!  Not only is PEI surrounded by water but it is also full of hilly fields and lots of agriculture.

On the first day on the Island we headed straight to the beach at Rice Point to check off “clam digging” from our to-do list.  At Rice Point we confirmed why PEI is recognized for its red sand and long beaches.  As the tide pulled back, it gave way to the best spot on the beach to catch dinner.  A dip in salty waters and a couple of hours later….a dozen clams ready for dinner!  The tide started to rise and we had just enough time to head back to safety as the red sand disappeared back into the ocean.  The day activities also included a quick visit around  Charlottetown to get a refresher on canadian history and the first settlements back in the day, and a drive around 9-mile Creek where we discovered that life as an Islander has a lot to do with working on the land and being self-sustainable.

For the second day, our friend and local tour guide, Natalie took us to the Penderosa Cottages (www.penderosacottages.ca) for a glimpse of the North Shore way of life.  On the way to the North Shore we had to stop at the birth place of Anne of Green Gables and visit L.M’s Montgomery’s home.  You definitely feel like you are a part of the story when driving through the hills and creeks.  At the cottages we had the pleasure of meeting the Pendergasts, a very sweet couple and the proud Islanders who have made the Penderosa land what it is today.   We couldn’t leave this land without some apple picking, swimming in the Atlantic ocean, and cooking up fresh lobster and oysters bought straight from a local fisherman near by.

As our stay on PEI came to an end, I could not help it and felt a bit nostalgic.   This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have visited in the world and one to which I will go back.  If you are thinking about making this trip I highly recommend taking more time off then we did and stay for at least a full week.  Two days was not enough to see everything this island has to offer.

Until next time PEI!

A Day in the County

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Ever had a moment where you sat and wondered…”what the heck am I gonna do on my day off work?”? Several ideas might have come up in your head; tackle the pile of laundry colonizing your bedroom, finally clean the bathtub, pay some past due bills and eventually go shopping, head down to the nearest swimming pool and work on the tan, or simply sit on the couch and catch up on some reruns.  I recently found myself in this exact situation and, after thinking it over, I decided I was going to take full advantage of my day off by making a 1-day road trip.  Destination:  Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.

I heard from friends about the beauty that P.E.C. has to offer; so I had some good expectations set in my mind.  With my girlfriend, we planned to checkout some wineries, go for a dip at the Sand Banks Provincial Park, and take a some photos along the way.  The trip was not exactly as we planned but it definitely exceeded our expectations.

We started at the Norman Hardie Winery where we stumbled upon some delicious and very refreshing white-Chardonnay and Riesling,  and a very friendly sommelier named Lucie.  As per Lucie’s suggestion we skipped the dip at the Sand Banks and, instead, headed over to a public yet secluded beach…such a great call!  We had the whole beach pretty much to ourselves and enjoyed a dip in warm, clear blue water for as long as our fingers began to wrinkle!  And yes, believe it or not,  you can find amazing swimming spots in Lake Ontario.  For the rest of the day we drove around the County, enjoying the landscapes, exploring the hidden roads, and discovering the magic that this land has to offer.  Great wine, beautiful beaches, colourful and lively agriculture, and amazing people.

I now have a new place on my list of favourite destinations in Ontario.  I also have a new alternative for my next day off.  So if you are ever in the area, do take the time and visit Prince Edward County, you will not be dissapointed!

Ramen Delight in New York City

I don’t know what it is but I’m definitely hooked on Ramen.  It could be the freshness of the ingredients, the perfect combination of pork (such a weakness), noodles and broth, or simply the whole experience of sitting right in front of the chef and following step-by-step the hypnotizing process of preparation.  Whatever it is, I’ve decided to go on a quest and try out the different varieties and styles of Ramen that I can find, be it here in Toronto, New York, Tokyo, or anywhere my travels may take me.

I recently got the chance to try out Totto Ramen;  a highly reviewed and visited Ramen Shop in Midtown Manhattan (366 W 52nd Street, NY).  Although I have never been to Japan, this is very close to what I imagine of a dining experience there.  A rustic small shop, with a lively atmosphere, sitting at the counter watching the chef (of course wearing a head scarve) tossing up noodles and stirring up the broth as if that was all he was meant to do in life. And of course…delicious food.  I highly recommend the Chicken Paitan Ramen: straight homemade noodles cooked al dente style in a whole chicken and premium soy sauce based soup topped with scallion, onion, char siu pork, and a nori.  For US$11, this is a very accessible delicacy that your taste buds will thank you for.  If you can overcome the long waiting time at the door (no reservations), then you are in for a treat.  Check out the menu (http://tottoramen.com/?page_id=50) for  more delicious treats available at Totto Ramen.

If you are visiting the Big Apple please follow my advise and go to Totto Ramen.  You will not be disappointed !

ITADAKIMASU!

Croissant Perfection in Montréal

I have always been a firm believer that every turn you make in life has a consequence in your future.  Opening one door instead of another, biking to work instead of taking public transit, or taking a new route different from your usual one to get home; These simple decisions can sometimes provide us with experiences that might have never occur if we had continued our routine.

Well, this is exactly what happened while in Montréal a couple of months ago.  While visiting the Plateau neighbourhood with my girlfriend (Kako) and her  sister (Moeko), we stumbled upon the very authentic and unpretentious “Au Kouign-Amann Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.  Our plan was to try out Le Couteau, not to far from Kouign-Amann, but (fortunately) it was close and we had to wonder in search of another option.  Wether destiny or not, we made a couple of turns around the neighbourhood and voila!

Kouign-Amann has the best croissants I have ever tried!  Baked to perfection, the croissants are always crispy and fresh.  Of course fresh, every hour the baker needs to bring out a new batch as most of the customers walkout with at least a half dozen of this golden delicacy.  Other treats on offer, such as the sandwiches and clafoutis, are equally delicious.  And on top of the delicious food…the service is friendly and welcoming!

I will definately be heading back to Kouign-Amann next time I visit Montréal.  What are you waiting for?

A Classic Gem Montreal Style

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The search for the best and most authentic farmers’ markets took me recently to Montreal’s iconic Marché Jean Talon.

Having been to Montreal several times in the past, I don’t understand how I’ve never included this gem on my “to-see” list while in town.  It is by far one of the best markets I have visited recently and from now on, it will be a the top of my list of things to do when visiting Québec.

The atmosphere at Jean Talon is colourful and very lively.  The beautiful food displays all around, entice the visitors to try everything, and try they do!  The “GOUTEZ-Y” signs invite you to try samples of the fresh fruits and vegetables…THIS IS HEAVEN!  Bright tomatoes, juicy pineapples, tasty cucumbers, crispy brussel sprouts, you name it and they have it!  A must while at Marché Jean Talon is definitely Aqua Mare.  The oysters, which are chuckled right in front of you and served on a wooden box, are to die for!  Also try the bhajis, which although not the classic ones, they are delicious.  And don’t leave the market without getting a pint or two of Québec’s Maple Syrup…it is worth every penny!

The wonderful food is complimented by the merchant’s friendly attitude.  Always with a smile on their face, they make the experience at Jean Talon an unforgettable one.  Drop-by Aqua Mare and say hello to the very funny and charismatic fish munger…yes, the one playing with the fish!

Jean Talon…á la prochaine!

B&B Heaven in Haliburton

 

I recently came back from a weekend get-away in Haliburton, Ontario, and  my very first Bed & Breakfast experience courtesy of Akané B&B.  Oooh my…how fortunate I was, having found this wonderful and homey wood cabin in the middle of the Algonquin Highlands!  From the moment I pulled into Akané, I knew I was in for a treat.  The dream-like winter scenery of its surroundings, the comfort of its wooden architecture, the exquisite food (Shabu Shabu dinner, oven-baked eggs and waffles for breakfast), and the unsurpassed hospitality of the wonderful hosts Mieko and Gary, made my long weekend vacation perfect.

To all the B&B lovers out there, it would be wise to add Akané B&B to your list (www.bbloghome.com).  You will not be disappointed.  As for me, I’m already looking forward to visiting them in the summer!

Translation: Acabo de regresar de Haliburton, Ontario, y de mi primera experiencia en un Bed & Breakfast cortesía de Akané B&B.  Wow…que afortunado fuí al haber encontrado está maravillosa y acogedora cabaña en medio de la región de Algonquin Highlands.  Desde el momento en que estacioné sabía que lo que se venía era de lujo.  Los paisajes invernales de ensueño, la comodidad de su arquitectura, la comida exquicita (cena Shabu Shabu, huevos al horno y waffles al desayuno), y la insuperable hospitalidad de sus anfitriones Mieko and Gary, le dieron el toque de perfección a mi fin de semana largo.

Para todos los amantes de los Bed and Breakfast, sería muy sabio agregar a Akané B&B a su lista (www.bbloghome.com).  Les aseguro que no se arrepentirán.  Por mi parte, no veo la hora de regresar en el verano.

Finds at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market

Recently, my quest to visit as many farmers market as possible this year, took me to the historic Hamilton Farmers Market (HFM).  Lately, I have been curious about what makes “Steeltown” tick, and being only about a half hour drive away, it seem only fitting to pay a visit to this popular community gathering.  Although, the HFM is missing the quaint and country-style character unlike other markets I’ve visited, I found a very special community feeling and a warm atmosphere in this market.

The vendors at the market were very friendly and the product offerings were culturally diversed.    Two vendors that stood out the most on this visit and for which I will definitely to go back are Vinnie’s Fresh Pasta Factory and Odessy Olive Oils and Vinegar (http://www.odessyoliveoilsandvinegars.com/index.html).  Vinnie’s fresh pasta is a mouth-watering treat (spinach-red pepper fetuccini) for a very reasonable price of $4 per lb; not only is it made fresh right in front of your eyes, but it is also made with a smile.   At Odessy you will find a wide variety of organic olive oils and vinegars (a yummy sicilian lemon balsamic) and the expertise and great service of Robert Lalla.

Farmers market are all about the people that gather every week to showcase their goods and about finding those special treats that give visitors joy.  Based on these two factors, the Hamilton Farmers Market is worth the drive  and a visit!

Market Saturdays

 

Saturday has arrived again and with it a new chance to visit one of my new favourite places, the farmer’s market!  Although I have been visiting these markets for a while,  only until recently have I started to fully appreciate the beauty of the community gathering, the freshness of the produce, and the excitement of indulging on a new treat never tasted before.  I recall how much of a hassle it was, as a kid in Colombia, having to stop playing with friends to accompany my grandmother to the market…fortunately I have grown up!

Today I would like to share with you a small collection of photos from some of the recent farmer’s market that have caught my attention:  The “Mercado Municipao” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with its electric atmosphere and filled with perfectly displayed product.  The Farmer’s Market at Union Square, being an oasis of freshness in the middle of bustling Manhattan.  And, the more quaint and historic St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, with the special touch of the mennonite tradition.

More markets to come…stay tuned!