Travel Bug: Day 4,5,6 – Seattle: Emerald City

Driving all the way to Vancouver I would be remiss not to drive down to Seattle for a quick visit. Just a three hour drive away (the distance from Edmonton to Calgary), The Emerald City is worth the cross over the border.

My favourite west coast city (it was my THIRD visit), Seattle is filled with interesting history and amazing sights. There is too much to see in one day, but that was all the time I had. Here are a few must-see highlights:

  1. Pike Place: THE market hot spot of the city. This eight story building has everything from shops, food, market vendors to even residential living! The first Starbucks (kind of, it is actually their first storage space, the first actual Starbucks is located at Seatown, at the end of the corner) is located just outside Pike Place. They have a fantastic, enthusiastic staff working hard to fulfill orders, and will maybe sing you “Happy Birthday” if you happen to claim your birthday treat at this location (which I did, of course.)
  2. Underground Tour: Modern day Seattle has an underground city. It goes back to the origins of the city and how it was part of the engineering plan to manage sewage and to counter the tides coming into the city after The Great Seattle Fire of 1889. This hilarious hour-long tour is quite the hike up and down the streets of Seattle, but is totally worth it – I definitely gained a greater understanding of the city and somehow fell even more in love with the city amidst the damp and dark tunnels of the underground.
  3. Space Needle: As a tall tower, it has no other function than being a tourist hot spot with the best view of all of Seattle. It was built in 1962 especially for the Century 21 Exposition. Once at the top, it is also a very peaceful place to sit and ponder life after marvelling the view.
  4. EMP Museum: The Experience Music Project Museum is a must see at Seattle Centre. Just steps away from the Space Needle, this modern-age museum has many exhibitions for gamers to music lovers and even film aficionados. The exhibits are super interactive and fun for the whole family. What I find most incredible is the recording studio on the third floor. Visitors can record their own songs, play around with sound arrangements and even test out some cool music techniques.
  5. Walk everywhere: The whole of Seattle downtown is quite dense and very walkable! Given a non-rainy, the city is best enjoyed on foot!

Travel Bug: Day 2 & 3 – A Wedding & Beautiful BC

Part of vacationing in Vancouver was to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful, simple backyard wedding with close family and friends. The weather held up, and the day went smoothly. Like with my other cousin’s wedding last year, the groom first heads to the bride’s home to perform the tea ceremony for the bride’s side of the family. Afterwards, the bride will leave her home with the groom and head to his home, where they will perform the tea ceremony for the groom’s family. Following, my cousin decided to go with a small western backyard style ceremony. The night wrapped up with a reception at the University of British Columbia’s University Golf Club.

Day 3 took us to an easy day out on the town. I started the morning by heading down to the Fisherman’s Wharf at Steveston. A lovely walk by the water, there are many different shops and vendors alongside at least 5 different coffee shops, the perfect way to start the day. 

The afternoon took me to a blueberry field where I was picking blueberries, eating them as I went. I ate almost as many blueberries as I picked in the field! It was quite the novel experience for me as there aren’t really any bluberry farms in Edmonton. It was a quiet pass-time but enjoyable. Very peaceful to just get lost between the rows of blueberry trees. Definitely something I will do again.

If you can’t tell, it’s been an exhausting 3 days, time to sign off and to prep….tomorrow we head to the beautiful city of Seattle!

Travel Bug: Day 1- Beautiful British Columbia Day 1

Traveling and vacationing in BC is quite a wonderful thing. Just a 14 hour drive from Edmonton to Vancouver, it is a gorgeous place to visit, especially with family. This time around, I find myself on a 10 day vacation on the west coast.

Normally when travelling to Vancouver, I actually visit Richmond – the mini Hong Kong of Canada, and bypass the rest of Vancouver proper. This time around, I actually get to visit the city of Vancouver. It is quite the novel thing for me.

First stop this morning, Granville Island. This little tourist hot spot has everything I relish in a coastal city – amazing seafood, bustling market, good coffee, friendly vendors, yacht dock, local entertainment and great shopping. A must stop destination for first time visitors to Vancouver. The first stop on Granville Island was the Public Market. JJ Bean Coffee serves up a piping hot drink and has a variety of blends and even teas for teaholics like me. Wandering around the market and chatting with vendors was the highlight of my day. They are super friendly and more than happy to share their story. Also, being able to try different food samples made the day even more enjoyable!! What I love about the public market is the variety of offerings. Check it out!

After the Public Market, I meandered around the docks. Watching liver performances as well as shop around all the cool little shops. There is a whole bunch to do, and a half a day exploration of the island was enjoyably exhausting for me.

In the afternoon, I made my way back to Richmond and went indoors to Aberdeen Centre. This mall is unlike any other in Canada (I think anyways.) The food court is filled with many different varieties of Asian cuisine for very decent pricing. It took me about 30 minutes to decide what I wanted to eat! The shopping is stellar as well. There is a Japanese $2 Store – Daiso, with very good quality things. However, it is very easy to get carried away in Daiso, I had to make sure what I was getting was a true novelty and I could not find anywhere else! There are a bunch of other stores in the mall with so many varieties (Yvonne, you’ve said that already! Yes! But variety is the best word to describe to Vancouver!)

There is quite a lot to see still in Vancouver! I’ve only scratched the surface of what this gem of a city is all about…

Travel Bug: Day 4 & 5 – AGO and Endless Food

Toronto is filled with art left, right and centre. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is home to art from around the world. Did you know if you are a Contributing Member of the AGO, you can treat up to 2 friends to see the beautiful works in the AGO. It’s a great way to introduce friends to the world of art and one of great iconic spots of Toronto. I was treated to a miniature ship model exhibit which was incredible. There were so many different models made out of so many different materials with a rich history and story attached to each ship. What I also love about the AGO is that you can make up your own stories to go with each creation and sometimes the work just speaks to you.

Food is something else Toronto is renowned for. New restaurants, dessert places, bubble tea shops, anything else you can imagine, pop up every single day. You can literally stop anywhere on the street and eat. It’s fantastic! One of the new places I tried out was Ramen Raijin. Delicious ramen and perfectly crispy karaage, my tastebuds were well satisfied.

There are also a number of great snack-time places downtown. Two of the new ones I tried were Chatime and ShareTea. Two great places for bubble tea, there are endless combinations and what I absolutely love the fact you can choose the level of sweetness and iciness. It’s worth the try for sure!

Travel Bug: Toronto Day 3 – Queen West

There is never a shortage of things to see and do in the Big T.O. Today was a day of wandering around downtown just enjoying the busy city life. 

I forget how lovely it is to take the streetcar around town. It’s a fantastic way travel around the city and to see a lot in a short amount of time. Riding on the streetcar (or tram, as I am used to calling it) is relaxing.Whenever I am looking for a quiet time to rejuvenate and getting lost in thoughts, riding on the tram is exactly what I do. I know, I know, it sounds a bit weird…but really, it’s fantastic. Sitting in a vehicle that makes a gentle whirring noise while the scene of the city just passes you by –  it’s incredible. So some ideas got flowing in my mind and I was able to think to myself without any distractions. 

Today I took the tram down to Queen West and had a mini-adventure with Katie. We drove past Trinity Bellwoods and arrived deep into Hipsterville. There were so many cool little shops, from clothing to pastries, to trendy hotels and bitters stores, this area of Queen Street carries the kitschiest things. It is worth the trip down to the west side of downtown; every little shop has something unique and amazing to offer. I certainly miss being able to wander aimlessly down a street and finding things that will catch my attention and drive my creativity.

Tomorrow is going to be another exciting day just wandering around downtown! I can’t wait to share more about my visit back to the place I call home.

Travel Bug:Toronto Day 1 – Taking the Time

Apparently a little time in the air and travel is all I need for a bit of inspiration. It is always difficult to pull away from work, but it is necessary to do so! It’s not just about recharging and relaxing, but it is also letting yourself rest and focus on things not relating to work, to regain perspective, in a way.

After a rather enjoyable flight to the Big T.O., I landed to find out that Arsenal won the FA Cup for the second time in a row and for the 12th time overall (the most any club has ever won!) The rest of my day was bound to be positive after the result. Being picked up by my friend and spending a normal afternoon together is a great way to start my vacation. We reconnected, caught up and enjoyed an afternoon full of delicious goodness.

First we went to Mama Bear Taiwanese Cuisine which was satisfying for my starved tummy. The noodles were super silky and the right amount of chewy with the perfect ratio between sauce and noodles. There were also a wide variety of popular Taiwanese snacks including one of my favourites, a doughy thing pancake wrapped around pork floss and egg.

Fittingly, Chinese dessert was to follow. Along Highway 7, there is a complex called Times Square which has A LOT of food places. We went to one called Health. Herb. Harmony. Yes, that is it’s actual name. And it has some of the most authentic Chinese desserts I’ve ever had in North America. There is nothing fancy about this place, in fact, it looks like a rundown old Chinese restaurant. But the dessert is absolutely phenomenal. Trust us and just try whatever on the menu, it will not disappoint. Try 207 and 219 for those with extreme sweet tooth, and for custard-loving souls, my personal favourite is 132 with ginger. Just trust us.

Finally, we wrapped up the night with good ol’ soondubu jigae, a Korean soft tofu soup. Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu has a menu dedicated to soondubu, there are six different kinds of soondubu and three alternatives for those who do not like tofu soup. The portion sizes are perfect for individual eat, not too much and not too little, and thoroughly satisfying.

That’s about my first couple hours in Toronto. There are a lot more places to try out, and places to view. Keep coming back to read about my time in Toronto and follow me on Instagram to visually enjoy!

First Day of Spring

Ok yes…the first day of spring was actually YESTERDAY, but really, with the weather like it is, it pretty much is the second coming of winer. And not a pretty one. Snow is not fun when you have to shovel. Anyways, I am getting away from what I am trying to write. So!

It’s already the middle of March and I haven’t made a list yet! So here’s a list of goals I want to achieve this year. Since starting a new job, I haven’t quite looked after myself as much as I should, and I haven’t looked for ways to grow and learn outside my profession. If you have any suggestions to help me with my goal, please let me know! You will be rewarded with tea and lots of smiles.

  1. Write once a month (and simultaneously try something new in Edmonton)
  2. Go swimming (more than once)
  3. Learn a new skill (last year it was horseback riding, what will it be this year?)
  4. Re-learn basic French
  5. Try 3 new tea companies and profile them
  6. Develop an awesome business idea
  7. Get into grad school

Too boring? Not awesome enough? Or just amazing goals?! Let me know what you think and let’s make these things happen!

Olaff Spring