Tag Archive | travel

Algonquin Park Camping, summer 2015

The first time I went to Algonquin Park was back in 2007, when I went for a long day trip. I hugged a big tree, saw a moose and a chipmunk and was generally delighted with how lovely it was there. It’s astonishing I haven’t made it back until this year, so I got pretty excited at the prospect of a 4 day weekend of camping there!

Friends Dan & Kirsty had been camping in Algonquin Park before & are all set up with great gear & know-how so they were our bastions of excellence for the trip! We decided on a pet-friendly campground (Canisbay Lake) so we could bring our dogs, and got all set with plans. Pals Fiona & Dan were coming too, so we bundled into their car with Jake for the trip! Luckily Dan & Kirsty had a lot of what we needed, and we were able to borrow a tent from friends here in Toronto who camp often.

It was so nice to get away for a slightly extended long weekend (thanks, civic holiday!). While the weather wasn’t perfect (rain showers each day, and big rain overnight our last night there), we made the most of the non-rainy parts of the weekend. For starters, we went canoeing! I had never done this before and was slightly nervous about being out on a big lake in a small boat – but it was so fun. Once we got ourselves sorted out and paddling nicely, we had a couple of trips. One was to toodle around a small island in the lake not far from the main beach, and then the other was to follow a bit of the shoreline around in a loop. It’s a calming thing, having a nice paddle on a gorgeous lake.

We also went on a nice big hike on the Track and Tower trail – it was lovely to be properly out in the woods and see a couple more lakes, and go up to the lookout there. We weren’t exactly right in the wilderness with our campsite, so the hike was great to have a taste of that and get some exercise. The dogs loved it too! Jake really took to wandering up and down the trail with us, and investigating everything. We didn’t see any wildlife, but heard a bunch of birds and saw gorgeous flora and geology!

Apart from the great outdoor adventures, it was just super to hang out with two of my fave couples! We did some fun camp cooking (and Dan and Kirsty were the BEST about bringing delicious stuff for Adam and I to add to our tofu etc), and I had my first smore and made a fire cone! And when we weren’t eating (which, let’s face it, we were eating a lot), we played some games! We also had some fun with weird fire and sparklers on our last night before the rain hit.

It was a great weekend, and I felt so rejuvenated being out there in Algonquin, which is a stunning provincial park. Having a dip in the lake, sitting by the fire, cuddling Jake and Adam in the tent and waking up to the sounds of birds was just what I needed! Sure it was nice to come home to creature comforts, but I’m already thinking about the next time I can get away camping!

If you enjoyed the photos here, my full set is on Flickr.

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Things I love Thursday – the ‘things I miss Thursday’ edition

See as I’ve been traveling/living abroad since 2007, there’s a few things I miss not just about home, but also my first ‘home away from home’, London. Getting a bit nostalgic today for things & places that I can’t have with me here in Toronto.

Beaches. Not that there’s no beaches in the UK or here in Canada. But I miss those beautiful sandy Pacific beaches! This is Avalon Beach in North Sydney, where I spent many summers as a kid. Things only get better as you go north up the coast into Northern NSW and Queensland, too!

I miss the stuff I packed up & left in boxes with my mum. Books, records and comics. And awesome art like this gorgeous museum sketch by artist Phil Jimenez.

There’s tasty things I miss. I seriously was so in love with these tofu bites, it’s like they were laced with something addictive. Last time I was in London I ate a whole package riding transit back to my friend’s place.

And wonderful Australian vegan treats like these cruelty-free versions of Tim Tams and Mint Slices! omg.

And never mind all of the sweet, tart, amazing ciders that I used to have access to living in England. And drinking my fair share at the Green Man pub in Central London!

But I don’t have to be far away from some things I love to miss them. While I still bake for fun and treats, I do sometimes miss the fun of making delicious vegan (and some gluten free) treats like I used to at a certain board game cafe. I was proud of my work, even when I was undervalued for my contributions. Like, c’mon. Check out these donuts, man!!

Halifax (and other bits of Nova Scotia) – the places! [photo heavy]

Not long after I got back from our mid-September trip to Halifax I posted a bit about the food/drink we enjoyed, and then promptly lost steam to post about the rest of the trip. So let’s think back to those lovey autumn days, shall we?

Halifax itself

The waterfront boardwalk in Halifax is a wonderful stroll, and I highly recommend if you’re there in nice weather. There’s lots of activity on the water, and plenty of stores, cafes, art etc to see along the way.

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Across the water in Dartmouth, there’s also the peace pavilion. An interesting structure, with all sorts of things (rocks, bricks, pottery) on display from cities around the world (like some of the Berlin Wall from Germany).

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A little tucked away (luckily we had a friend to drive us and see it) is this memorial to the Halifax Explosion.

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I took some time to walk up from the Board Room Game Cafe and see the Halifax Public Gardens one sunny morning, and it was such a relaxing and rejuvenating visit. It’s beautiful and the landscaping makes it very tranquil, despite it being surrounded by main roads.

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We also walked a little around Point Pleasant Park in the south end of Halifax, which is a little like Toronto’s High Park. We saw critters like a blue jay and a red squirrel! It was awesome.

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Some museumy things

Look, you all know that of course I’ll try and visit museums/historic sites wherever I go. I quite liked the Maritime Museum (the parts on the Halifax Explosion were very moving and interesting, and upstairs they had visible storage!

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We also went to Fort George/Citadel Hill with our friends Liz and James! We saw a cannon go off, and lots of gents in uniform, and also Adam signed himself up to serve by drawing Trogdor. Legit.

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Other places in Nova Scotia! The South coast.

We drove out along the south coast of Nova Scotia a couple of times to see the landscape, small towns and lighthouses. It’s very pretty out there. We saw Mahone Bay, and Lunenberg. Lovely seaside towns! And we took the scenic coastal route back into Halifax. Can I say how much I love the tailored signs off the main road to towns, too? So cool.

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We also visited Peggy’s Cove on a pretty dull grey day with Liz and James, but it was still amazing! Such a gorgeous glacial landscape. Plus, that famous lighthouse.

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I encourage folks to head out to Nova Scotia and see Halifax and the surrounds! I would love to see more of the internal Nova Scotian sights too.

Throwback.. Tuesday?

I keep meaning to finally follow up my initial ramblings about Halifax with the rest of that trip’s photos, but they’re on my external hard drive which means.. I forget, a lot. So instead, I’d like to share some pre-blog photos just for your visual fancy and a little nostalgia. (One day I’ll get all my actual, physical photos back from Australia and scan them. Wouldn’t that be rad?)

That time when I climbed to the top of York Minster.

It’s pretty weird looking out over a skyline and seeing pyramids in the distance. Cairo, 2008.

I love how present parts of the Berlin Wall are all around the city there. Incredible transformative effect. Berlin, 2008.

Roadside America is strange and wonderful. On our way out of South Dakota, 2009.

Sweet art on the street, NYC 2010.

Colourful symmetry, Toronto 2010.

Palenque, Mexico. This trip, 2002, seems like a lifetime ago.

St Kilda, Melbourne. This is so Melbourne to me! I miss that place. 2006.

Halifax trip – the foods!

So, we had a really amazing time in Halifax – it was awesome to be away for a whole week, and see/try/do new stuff. Rather than put it all in one giant post, I’m going to break it down into a couple (a few?) to spread it out and to not have it be tl;dr.

When you think about the Canadian Maritimes food-wise, it’s unfortunately mostly seafood. (Side note: having live and dead lobsters that you can buy and take on the plane home is grosssss.) I’m not into that, so I hunted out some vegan eats and was not disappointed! Go Halifax! Now please bring EnVie to Toronto kthx.

Our first stop was the Board Room Game Cafe (OF COURSE), and because my friends who own/manage it know me so well, they immediately made sure I had delicious cider in my hands. Bulwark is a Nova Scotian cider, and I think I had the blush one almost every day I was there. SO GOOD. I also tried the regular which was pretty good.

A glass of pinkish cider on the table

Bulwark’s blush cider, at the Board Room Game Cafe

As a pleasant surprise, the Board Room’s also pretty vegan friendly when it comes to snacking, not just drinking. Fruit bowl, tortilla chips & salsa, delicious popcorn (popped in coconut oil with vegan seasonings!) and the ‘Guac’ sandwich (which I paired with hummus & crudite as my side) means vegans won’t go hungry while gaming. Good for you, Board Room!

Sandwich with hummus and vegetable side

The Guac – grilled sandwich with a hummus/veg side at the Board Room Game Cafe, Halifax.

Bowl of popcorn with a board game in the background

Popcorn bowl snack at the Board Room Game Cafe, Halifax!

Our first full day we went with our friend Kris to enVie, a fully vegan restaurant cafe. It’s light and airy in there, and they have a small patio outside (but we chose inside as it was a wee bit cool). There’s a real emphasis on them creating stuff from whole foods in house (all their cheeses, for instance!) and sourcing ingredients from the local region. It’s all incredibly delicious – so flavourful! The menu’s a great mix of salads/healthy and comfort food. We went back when Liz & James were in town and I stuffed my face again, and wasn’t disappointed. Plus, I tried another local cider which was really great, and had a very crisp flavour – Stutz.

Bowl of poutine

The enVie poutine – delicious wedges, incredible savoury gravy and amazing house-made ‘cheese’ curds. I want it always.

Sandwich with side salad

The ‘Filet-o-Fresh’ sandwich, with a tofu pattie and strangely delicious butternut squash ‘cheese’ slice, and kale caesar (AMAZING) on the side.

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The Pumpkin Pie with whipped coconut cream at enVie. It was somewhat a hybrid of pie/cheesecake – a pastry base, but with a very firm topping. Anyhow, it was the most incredible pie, so who cares!!

Sandwich on a plate with side salad.

The Philly ‘Cheesesteak’ sammie with kale caesar side at enVie, Halifax. Absolutely amazing.

Can of cider next to a glass full of cider

Stutz Cider at enVie, Halifax.

Me with a sandwich.

I’m pondering how one sandwich can be so amazing. Food daze.

Adam eating lunch

Adam is protective of his kale caesar side (he tried the GF version of the filet-o-fresh!).

The Wooden Monkey is the most convenient spot for downtown vegan eats specifically marked as such on a menu. It’s a little pricey, as they source a lot of stuff very locally, but it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t eat there regularly but it’s nice to know that option exists in the downtown area.

Two pocket pitas filled with seitan donair.

The Seitan Donair at the Wooden Monkey, Halifax.

Around the area we were staying was the Wild Leek, a small 100% vegan cafe. Charming, with a great menu, terrific smoothies and baked goods! (I had the best lemon poppyseed loaf i’ve ever tasted! Plus they have nanaimo!) We saw they had a brunch menu daily, so went in before heading out on a day trip with friends. Highly recommend this spot – tasty, cosy, with friendly staff.

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All day breakfast at the Wild Leek! Delicious tofu scramble, potatoes, bread & a side salad (I’m not sure about salad with breakfast, but it was tasty with the dressing).

While out in the Annapolis Valley area of Nova Scotia, we stopped by the small town of Wolfville for a wander and a bite to eat. The Rolled Oat came up as somewhere that had listed vegan options, as well as a part of the menu for vegetarians and omnivores, so we all sat down for lunch. They have sandwiches and bowls and salads, plus some baked goods (a couple of vegan things there too!) I had a wrap – it was fresh, and filling but not super tasty (mostly bland, definitely needing hot sauce) – but a welcome change from just having to eat Vega bars while out for a day. Plus, it was a cute and quaint little place.

A wrap on a plate with a dish of sauce.

Peanut Tofu wrap at the Rolled Oat Cafe, Wolfville NS.

Jars of dried beans on a shelf, and a book called Travels of a Rolled Oat.

Some of the stuff on the walls at the Rolled Oat Cafe, Wolfville, NS.

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On Saturdays, it’s the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s market – bustling with all sorts of vendors. There’s not loads of vegan options beyond the fruit & veg stands, some raw food stalls & a nut stand – but there’s a storefront that’s open other days as well as the Farmer’s Market days, called Fruition. Raw foods and snacks. Good stuff! I had a light lunch consisting of a raw burger wrap and a spicy thai salad. I also got a really tasty sundried tomato walnut pate to go, it was intensely flavourful!

Burger patty wrapped in lettuce.

The raw Garden Burger at Fruition, Halifax.

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Tangy Thai salad (lots of zucchini noodles, carrots, sprouts) with a nice spicy dressing. Fruition, Halifax.

One afternoon for a late lunch we wandered to Heartwood, a cozy little spot on Quinpool. It’s a vegetarian cafe with a very vegan and gf-friendly menu. I also noticed after paying they had lots of little jars of cookies etc that were almost all vegan & gf – I wish I’d not been so full so I could have tried them, they looked great. (HUGE COOKIES!). I’d been craving pizza, and gravitated toward something green with olives – I could’ve had it with Daiya, but chose to go with their house topping of a creamy dressing paired with generous nutritional yeast flakes. It was a GREAT and delicious topping. Mmmm.

Fries and dip on a plate

Heartwood’s herbed roasted fries with a chipotle cashew dip (they call it mayo, but it’s not that consistency).

Rice bowl with veggies and sauce.

Adam’s spicy peanut Heartwood bowl.

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The Green Dream at Heartwood – spinach, broccoli, olives, onion, pesto, and the delicious vegan creamy dressing and nooch flakes! Mmmmm.

We also found a couple of really nice local coffee spots – Two if By Sea (I had a great Anchored Americano) and the Smiling Goat (where I had a delicious Trifecta but the pic isn’t that wonderful).

Espresso machine and cups

The machine at Two if by Sea

Overall I was really impressed by the food Halifax had to offer – two fully vegan cafe restaurants, a vegan raw takeout place at the Seaport, and a couple of other places with really solid vegan options. We also ate in a bunch with friends while in town, so we didn’t really explore the vegan options outside of the above. (The day we discovered $7 Daiya pizzas at Sobey’s was pretty sweet, and we had two BBQ nights of delicious Sol burgers and wonderful grilled veggies and corn, which was all fantastic!). I am still thinking about those sandwiches..

Next time.. places? Or maybe board games! It’s a mystery. (And a marvel i’m even blogging again, heyyyyo.)

“Yoink!” – my quirky photo taking series.

Today’s post will be a little lighthearted for the sake of amusement and escapism. A while back, when I worked at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, we had a massive inflatable shark up on the roof to promote an exhibition. And one day I was all, “Hey, it’d be hilarious if I snapped a photo that made it look like I was picking up the shark.”  And then..

My hand reaching out to 'steal' a large inflatable shark from the Queensland Museum

Your giant shark! IT IS MINE.

So a tradition was born! It’s been a while since I’ve added to the collection, but there’s over 60 images I’ve taken over the years. I was reminded of the series thanks to the ‘wayback machine’ app Timehop that brought up the photo of me ‘stealing’ the London Eye back in summer of 2010.

I should start it up again.. find some steal-able things around Toronto that aren’t the CN Tower 🙂 Or get some good ones in Halifax when I go in September! Until then, here’s a few of my favourites for a laugh. You can view the rest in a set on Flickr, as I migrated them over there from my original Facebook album a few years back (I keep my photos etc locked down and private there now).

Me reaching out to pick up Glasgow's 'armadillo'

Your Armadillo! IT IS MINE. (Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow)

Me reaching out to pick up Stonehenge

Your mysterious stone monument! IT IS MINE. (Stonehenge, Salisbury England)

Me reaching out to pick up one of the great pyramids

Khafre’s Pyramid! IT IS MINE. (Cairo, Egypt)

Me reaching out to grab a t-rex skeleton

Your famous T-Rex! HE IS MINE. (American Museum of Natural History, NYC)

Me reaching out to grab Mount Rushmore

Your rock Presidents! THEY ARE MINE. (Mount Rushmore, USA)

Me reaching out to pick up a tree made of traffic lights.

Your traffic light of confusion! IT IS MINE. (Isle of Dogs, London UK)

Me reaching out to pick up the statue of liberty.

Your frenchy lady! SHE IS MINE.

I hope you enjoyed that little diversion from regular photo updates. Have a landmark/thing/place to suggest for this series? Comment!

A Farewell (or how I have too many friends spread out all over the world, damnit).

Fiona, Candice & Me. Those faces.

Fiona, Candice & Me. Those faces.

Having been temporarily living in places that aren’t my home country since 2007, I’ve had to say more than my fair share of goodbyes to friends. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life outside where I’ve now settled down (and great folks here too!) – keeping in touch can be tough, but I know everyone that matters to me makes an effort, as I do. Sometimes there’ll be visits, no matter how fleeting. I haven’t seen my BFF since I was living in London in, but he’s still a part of my life & will always be – as much as the time difference between here & Australia is a pain. When you have people in your life whose company puts you at ease, who you feel comfortable around and who you love, they are your family and the distance can be a pain in the butt, but isn’t the end of the world.

But knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a dear friend when you’re not sure when you’ll see them next. Brains and hearts are strange in that way. I’ve known Candice for a couple of years now – we met doing baking magic at a board game cafe and got along like a house on fire. A new friend at work slowly became a fast friend in life, seemingly effortlessly. That’s the kind of thing that makes you know you’ll know someone for many years. Through the board game nights, hanging out on patios, mutually experienced work woes/good times/dancing in the kitchen, playing Talisman and drinking with our friend Fiona, talking nonsense on the couch at the end of a party to the bemusement of onlookers, how wonderful it was to see the art she made, shouting Lemongrab-ian quotes at each other, and all of the times she would listen when I needed her to – that’s a damn fine friend. Without question.

After a few bar stops at her farewell last night, we ended up at the Victory Cafe in the Annex – a frequent home for our patio jaunts the last couple of years. It was about time for me to pumpkin & get to bed for work, and as I was getting my shit together I realised something. In that packed room, with about 20 or so people – we were all there because we have these wonderful memories and feelings for our friend, she means so much to all of us that we had to see her off with a rambunctious showing of love and drinking. It was so nice to be in that moment and see tangibly how awesome a person is by the outpouring of love and farewells for them! It made me recall my Australian / London goodbyes quite fondly, I’ll be honest.

So while the goodbye was inevitable, and kinda sucks, I look forward to the day where Candice and I will be in the same place again – I know it’ll happen. We can grab a pint and sit down to catch up on life, how much Adventure Time we’ve both been watching lately, and how she’ll probably be a famous artist and shit by then. It’s going to be awesome, just like it is whenever I get to see/hear from the rest of my friends sprinkled around the globe. What a wonderful bunch of folks I am lucky to know.

And bud, I’m gonna miss you. Give the motherland hell.