*Special Civic Holiday Post* – Top 10 things to do in Ottawa this summer

It is not necessary to travel very far to enjoy the summer. There’s no need to wait until you’re on vacation to go hiking or to take that fun class or to go to the beach. You can have lots of fun just exploring your own city. And my city is Ottawa. Ottawa’s winters can be cold and long, so why not take advantage of the good weather when it’s actually here! The summer is more than half over, so I figured I should write this post before it’s too late.

So, here is my list of 10 things to do, in no particular order:

Check out a music festival

Whether it is Blues Fest, Folk Fest, West Fest or Jazz Fest, there seems to always be some music festival going on. Check out the line up and you can decide which ones you want to check out!

https://www.ottawatourism.ca/ottawa-insider/ottawas-summer-music-festivals/

Celebrate Canada Day

Of course, one of the biggest events every summer is July 1st, a huge celebration of Canada Day right in the country’s capital city. If you don’t mind crowds, then go ahead and try your luck downtown for some live performances all day long as well as fireworks at night. This year, we tried something a little different and spent most of our day at Dominion Day – a craft beer festival at the Experimental Farm and it was quite fun. I’m not sure if they will do this every year but it’s worth looking into. We enjoyed a few local beers, took a look at some farm animals, ate some good food, then only headed downtown later on for fireworks. Driving downtown is not a good idea. If you’re ok with surge prices, then Uber is an option. Otherwise, public transportation (free that day) is the way to go.

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Fireworks on Canada Day.

BBQ at Mooney’s Bay

Head over to Mooney’s Bay for a BBQ and then lie on the beach. If you’re still hungry, they have a burger shack with live music sometimes. If you have little ones, don’t forget to check out the super expensive new playground there.

Hiking in Gatineau Park

Gatineau park is merely at 30-minute drive away and here, you will find many different trails with varying difficulty. I enjoyed the King Mountain Trail’s view but I appreciated the Luskville Falls Trail for its more difficult ascent. Just remember to put on some sunscreen and drench yourself in insect repellent.

http://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/hiking-and-walking

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View from King Mountain Trail. Photo credit: Aaron.

Water sports at Dows Lake

Alternatively, you can stay around town and head to Dows Lake for some stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking or pedal boating. You can also walk across the street after to check out the gardens.

http://www.dowslake.com/summer_rentals.php

Fireworks at the Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light

If you are a fireworks fan, this is the show to watch out for. There are usually 5 nights of fireworks for your enjoyment and it’s happening right at the gorgeous Canadian Museum of History across the bridge. Get your tickets online and bring some folding chairs to enjoy the show!

http://www.feux.qc.ca/home/

Watch the Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill

An annual tradition since the first year I moved to Ottawa, this show is visually impressive, using the Parliament Buildings as a backdrop. You can even pick up a few tidbits about the history of Canada!

https://www.ottawatourism.ca/member/sound-and-light-show-on-parliament-hill-northern-lights/

Take a free salsa class at City Hall

Did you know there are free salsa (/kizomba/bachata) classes every Wednesday from 6-7pm at City Hall? If you are lucky and there are no other events happening and the weather is nice, it will even be held outside! For those who want more, there is social dancing right after until 11pm! No experience is needed and the basic steps are taught again every week. They change up the DJ, instructors and dance styles every week!

https://www.facebook.com/OutdoorSalsaOtt/

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Salsa at City Hall.

Eat your heart out at a cultural/food festival

Ottawa is truly the city of festivals, especially when it comes to food. It feels like every weekend there is some kind of festival happening and sometimes they occur on the same weekend and requires you do to some festival-hopping. Whether it is Asian Fest, Greek Fest, Lebanese Festival, or the Japanese Natsu-Matsuri Festival, head out and enjoy some good food while learning something about another culture. Otherwise, you can always check out the always popular Rib Fest or Poutine Fest as well.

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Yakisoba (in a hot dog bun) at the Natsu-Matsuri. Interesting… Photo credit: Aaron.

Check out some Canada 150 events

Since it is Canada’s big 150 birthday, there have been quite a few special shows going on this year. The most impressive one, of course, was La Machine, which happened at the end of July. I heard people in the crowds saying they cannot wait to see this next year. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but my understanding is that this was truly once in a lifetime. I don’t think they will be coming back again 😦 #LaMachineWithdrawal. On to events you can still catch: Get a free ticket online and check out Kontinuum – another very unique experience, happening in the light rail station on Sparks Street until September 14, 2017.  Cirque Du Soleil, Volta, is happening August 3 – 27, 2017.  I still haven’t had the chance to see it, but I’ve seen pictures of the plant sculptures at MosaïCanada 150 at Jacques-Cartier Park which looks amazing. You can still catch it until October 15, 2017. Download the Ottawa 2017 app for more events you might be interested in.

http://www.ottawa2017.ca/ottawa-2017-app/

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La Machine. Best show ever.
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Kontinuum. Photo credit: Aaron.

Los Angeles Day 6: Getty Centre, Mount Wilson, Silver Lake

Los Angeles Day 6: Getty Centre, Mount Wilson, Silver Lake

Photo of the day: The gorgeous architecture of Getty Centre. Photo credit: Aaron.

Getty Centre

Aaron had planned to do a road trip up to the mountains today and our first stop was at the Getty Centre, which we did not get to see yesterday. Like the Getty Villa, entrance is free but parking is $15 ($10 after 3pm). Again, if you plan on visiting both the Getty Centre and Getty Villa on the same day, you only need to pay for parking once. It is not as simple as presenting the parking ticket though. Apparently, you will need to go to the information desk to pick up a voucher to present at the other museum. There is a tram which connected the parking lot to the museum and it provided a nice view on your way up. At the entrance, there was a restaurant with gorgeous views of the city, as well as a cafe and coffee cart for snacks. We decided to relax and sit down for some wine and cheese at the restaurant before exploring the centre. There were multiple free guided tours at the centre, each lasting around 45 minutes. We managed to catch the architecture tour and it was very informative and interesting learning about the story behind the design of the Getty Centre. Apparently, after Mr. Getty died, he left a hefty sum of money in the Getty Trust. With this large sum, the Getty Centre was built over 17 years as designed by the award winning architect, Richard Meier. The stones found on the walls of the building are from the same quarry as those used to build The Colosseum in Rome. The square tiles throughout the site were all 30 by 30 inches and this same theme was found throughout the building, on the walls, windows and even the seat cushions and garden hedges! There were also informative iPod audioguides you can borrow for free if you leave your ID with them. As someone who does not particularly love museums or art, I still spent 2 hours here wandering around and admiring the architecture and outdoor sculptures.

 

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In-and-Out

 

We ended up spending more time than we intended at the museum, and we were once again hungry. Aaron had already planned out a route for our drive and we were running behind our schedule, especially with the always present traffic of LA. On our way, we had to stop by In-and-Out. From our fancy breakfast on the hip-top this morning, we now turned to some greasy burgers and fries for lunch. We tried the cheeseburger and fries, both regular and "animal style". We were both impressed by how the burgers had load of vegetables and was definitely more substantial than a cheeseburger you can get at McDonald’s. I cannot distinguish the burger "animal style" vs. the regular burger to be honest. We were both not a fan of the fries compared to McDonald’s tasty salty delights. The "animal style" fries, however, was quite tasty, with its secret sauce and grilled onions. I would probably come back here for its burgers, but I’ll stick to McDonald fries.

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Mount Wilson

After lunch, Aaron had a ball driving along more windy mountain roads with the top down. We finally made it to Mount Wilson. Unfortunately, the observatory was closed by the time we got there. On our way back, we got to enjoy the view at various lookout points.

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Silver Lake

For dinner, we had originally wanted to go check out the 626 area for some soupy Asian noodles; however, from our research, we found out that there was a good Taiwanese restaurant in Silver Lake which was ranked as the number one Chinese restaurant in America on Foursquare. We knew we had to try it! We have not yet been to this area during this trip and we were very intrigued with all the restaurants here. We found a very popular Northern Thai restaurant close to where we parked. Our plan was to check out Pine and Crane, the Taiwanese restaurant, then restaurant-hop here afterwards. Pine and Crane was not easy to find as the roads were blocked off for an outdoor movie event. As soon as we saw the long line in front of the restaurant, we knew we were at the right place. It was actually quite nice that there was an outdoor movie showing, as we were able to enjoy that while waiting in line. The line moved quite quickly and we reached the front counter in maybe less than 30 minutes. We ordered the beef noodles and Dan Dan noodles, along with a side of their seaweed salad. We saw many people ordering their bubble tea so I ordered the Salted Cream Jasmine Green Tea with boba and Aaron had the Taro Milk Tea. We were then given a number and were seated pretty quickly. The drinks arrived first and we were both very impressed. My Salted Cream Jasmine Green Tea was aesthetically pleasing with its layers of cream, tea and boba. After some mixing, I took the first sip and was further impressed with its taste! I haven’t had too much bubble tea in the recent years and when I tried it again the week before in Vancouver, I felt it was overly sweet and artificial tasting. This had a strong tea flavour and was not too sweet. It was the perfect balance. Aaron’s Taro Milk Tea had real chucks of taro in it! The seaweed salad was refreshing, similar to a Japanese wakame salad with more flavours from the bell peppers. Then the Dan Dan Noodles arrived. I’ve had quite a few different versions of Dan Dan in the past and this was probably my favourite. It was not too oily compared to other ones. The sauce/soup was amazingly delicious. The best part was the noodles which had the texture of instant noodles and soaked up the flavours of the sauce so well. This meal kept getting better as the beef noodles was truly the star of the night. The beef was so tender and flavourful. The soup had a good profile of salty and sour. The noodles were thick and looked handmade. Then there was some bok choy as well to change the taste and texture up. This was the best beef noodles I’ve had in North America. It is comparable to the first time we had the Rod Yiam beef noodles in Chiang Mai. We had already toned down our ordering by not getting appetizers but we were both too stuffed to eat any more. We were both super pleased with this meal but wished we had another stomach to order more food here or to check out the Thai place we had intended to also visit. I guess that will have to wait. We ended the night driving down Hollywood Boulevard and it was even more lively now than during the day.

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Vancouver: Richmond Night Market Food Adventures!

The Low-Down

If you are in Vancouver between May and October, and love street food, you cannot miss the Richmond Night Market located at the River Rock Casino. There are multiple night markets in Greater Vancouver but this is definitely our favourite. Sure, they sell new fads, like fidget spinners and old favourites, like cell phone cases, but we all know that most of us only come here for the food. Over the years, this night market has gotten a lot more sophisticated with free parking onsite with attendants guiding you to minimize chaos. There is now also a nominal admission fee of $3.75 per person. If you are coming in a big group or planning to make multiple visits, I would suggest getting the Zoom Pass. With this pass, you can have 7 admissions for $25. The best part is you can bypass the large line up by going through an express gate. Don’t head towards the long line. There will be staff standing around the entrance and the parking lot selling these. At the entrance, there are ATMs available since most vendors on site are cash only.

Intro to the Food

For my foodies out there, once you enter the gate, you can take a few seconds to gawk at some of the ridiculous “trendy” items being sold, then just head all the way to the back of the market for a culinary adventure. There are usually a few rows of stalls for you to explore. Just like the merchandise sold here, there are more traditional stalls (such as the takoyaki, dimsum, rotato and bubble tea stalls), as well as the new stalls that open up (such as the glowing lightbulb cocktail, Thai fried ice cream and rose popsicle stalls this year).

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The food stalls @ Richmond Night Market.

Deep Fried Squid

We started off our night with some reliable spicy garlic deep fried squid. It comes with curry leaves, so you can tell that it’s legit. Don’t you worry about the squid being chewy because this some of the most tender squid I’ve ever had in my life. The flavours are perfectly tasty without being too salty.

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Deep fried squid. Photo credit: Aaron.

Dimsum + Hotdog

Next, we had some dimsum with some super spicy curry fishballs, shrimp dumplings, and rice rolls. Because we spent more than $12 here, we even got an order of chow mien for free. The fishballs definitely had heat, so I would not recommend for those who cannot take spice. I prefer my fishballs less spicy, so next time, I would probably get the regular curry fishballs, also available here. The shrimp dumplings were shrimp dumplings. Good, reliable flavour. No surprises. Same with the rice rolls. The chow mien was not the best. The guys decided to dip it in the spicy curry sauce, which apparently significantly improved the flavour of the noodles. Aaron also was craving some hotdog, so he got one with nori and mayo, which basically made it a Japadog. It was not bad. You can’t go wrong with nori and mayo. The only complaint is that he had ordered the cheese-stuffed sausage, but we did not see or taste any cheese. Disappointing, I know.

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Shrimp dumplings, chow mien, super spicy curry fishballs, rice rolls, and hotdog. Photo credit: Aaron.

Korean Fried Chicken

We decided it was time for some Korean fried chicken and chose the one with melted cheese topping or “cheese fall” as they called it. I thought it would be too heavy but it was amazing. The cheese was not too overpowering but at the same time added just the right amount of creamy flavour to the boneless deep-fried chicken in sweet and salty sauce.

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Korean fried chicken in sweet and spicy sauce with “cheese falls”. Photo credit: Aaron.

Thai Fried Ice Cream

After ingesting all this salty food, it was time to change things up by getting some Thai “fried” ice cream. Basically, they pour the cream over this cold plate, put in some syrup depending on the flavour you choose, then roll these frozen sheets of ice cream up. These rolls are then placed into a cup for your consumption. We choose the strawberry and oreo flavour, which in hind-sight was not a good choice. The strawberry syrup was terribly sweet. On top of that, they drizzled chocolate sauce and added fruit loops. It was definitely sugar overload.

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Thai fried ice cream – strawberries and oreos.

Fried Fish Stick

It is time to switch back to something savoury. We chose the fried “fish stick”, which is basically deep fried fish fillet on a stick. The amazing thing was it was 90% batter so it was so fluffy and light. We had the terimayo one with shredded nori, which made it that much more delicious.

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Fried fish stick. Photo credit: Aaron.

Strawberry Lemonade

At this point, we were super thirsty with all the deep fried food we’ve consumed. However, when I look around, I find that most drink options are full of sugar. We decided to get some strawberry lemonade with soda, which was actually quite refreshing. If not, there was also a matcha stall, that sold iced matcha without sweetener. I would recommend bringing your own water bottle if you do not want to have this yo-yo between deep-fried salty then super sweet attacks on the taste buds.

Japanese Fried Chicken + German Pork Hock

With only limited stomach space left, we decided to get the classic Japanese fried chicken as well as some German pork hock. I’ve had the fried chicken before at this stall and knew it was good but it was the pork hock from the adjacent stall that really amazed me. It was so tasty and tender, it reminded me of good Chinese roasted pork. The portion size was definitely not small but luckily they cut it up into small bite size pieces for easy sharing with a group. It came with a size of sauerkraut and you can drizzle your choice of sauce on it.

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Japanese fried chicken and German pork hock. Photo credit: Aaron.

Outro

I am actually quite impressed by how much the Richmond Night Market has evolved over the years. There are benches and standing areas for you to eat but usually we just grab and eat while standing in front of the stall or walking around. They have even gotten pretty high-tech, where you can scan the QR codes at the stalls to vote for your favourite food items. The winners are posted on signs around the market for you to reference when you are making those difficult food decisions, since we all know that stomach space is valuable. There is a stage onsite for live performances, but we did not catch any during our stay there on a Friday night. For those who have little ones and/or can stomach a ride after eating all the good food, there are amusement park rides on site as well. Before we left, we had to end the night with Aaron’s favourite fried squid. I was not disgustingly full but at this point, I couldn’t actually take anymore deep-fried food, so I had to pass. Shocking – I know.

Vancouver: Korean Desserts Obsession

After returning home from Korea, we have been longing for some good Korean desserts. Our opportunity has finally arrived once we set foot in Vancouver.

My favourite place for Korean desserts would have to be Snowy Village. There are multiple locations in Greater Vancouver: Vancouver, Richmond and Coquitlam. They must be doing well because they are planning to open stores in Langley as well as Surrey. For those who have never tried Korean shaved ice AKA bingsoo, let me introduce you to this lovely, super light and fluffy dessert. North American snow cones, Taiwanese shaved ice, Chinese red bean ice, Vietnamese che ba mau and Malaysian ABC cannot compare to this amazingly tasty dessert. In the aforementioned shaved ice, it is literally shaved ice pieces. The ice itself has no taste. It relies entirely on the syrups and toppings to give it flavour. Once you eat all the toppings, the ice is not that appetizing. The chunks of ice can sometimes been so big and hard, that the experience can be quite unpleasant at times. Here, the bingsoo is not only made with frozen milk. It is so finely shaved, that it feels like you’re eating creamy snow. The closest thing I’ve ever had to it was the shaved ice we had at Lot 10 Hu Tong in Kuala Lumpar . As for toppings, you can choose anything from mango to green tea, oreos to the traditional red bean. The serving size even for a regular is quite impressive, so I would recommend sharing one between 2 people. I’ve tried both the green tea and mango and I would have to say my preference is towards the mango one. The downtown location can get quite busy, so you can always get the bingsoo to-go, as they package the dessert in an insulated bag which keeps the dessert frozen for 45 minutes! Haven’t tested this out for myself though since I usually couldn’t wait to consume it right away.

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Mango bingsoo @ Snowy Village.

Not only is Snowy Village well-known for its bingsoo, it is also known for its croissant taiyaki or bungeo-ppang (in Korean), which is apparently not available at all locations. It is definitely available at the downtown location. Those who have followed me on my Asia adventures, would recognize this dessert. Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped dessert most commonly filled with red bean paste. The pastry itself has the texture of waffles. Now imagine that the pastry is transformed into a flaky croissant crust. And voila – the croissant taiyaki! Unlike some of the street vendors in Korea and Japan, these are made to order so they are fresh and hot which makes them even more delicious. The pricing is quite reasonable and you can even get 3 for the price of $10.

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Croissant taiyaki @ Snowy Village.

For those to live in the Hastings-Sunrise area, My. Frosty1 recently opened with pretty comparable bingsoo right close to home! We actually had this the day after we had Snowy Village (for science…), which allowed us to compare the two more easily. I prefer Snowy Village for its taste but for the days/nights that you do not feel like venturing downtown or to the burbs, this is a great alternative in Vancouver East.

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Redbean injeolmi bingsoo @ My Frosty. (We also had the mango bingsoo that day, for direct comparison with Snowy Village.)

Hope you enjoy these sweet delights!

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1. N.B. Many people, including myself, have mistakenly called this shop Mr. Frosty, which I have decided is actually a better name, so I will continue to call it as such. However, for the sake of accuracy, so you can actually find it, I will reluctantly call it My. Frosty here.

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Photo of the day: The view from the Stawamus Chief.

Coming back to hike the Stawamus Chief made me very nostalgic, as it reminded me of my high school days when we would start off our camping trips with this hike. It is classified as an “intermediate” hike, but it can definitely feel challenging for beginners. The only route that I’ve ever taken is up to the first or the south peak, which is only 500m in elevation but the trail is quite steep so it will definitely get your heart rate up to get you huffing and puffing. The hike takes around 3 hours to complete round-trip at a good pace. On our drive to Squamish, it was pouring, which made me really worried since we will be hiking up a large granite dome, which can get quite slippery when wet. Luckily, the ground was dry when we arrived.

You can find free parking right at the trailhead. Just follow the signs to “Stawamus Chief”. Here you there are simple toilet facilities to use as well as a campsite. The first part of the hike is probably the most difficult. It consists of many steep wooden steps to really give you a good cardio exercise. The rest of the path is less manicured, mostly consisting of dirt paths and large rocks.

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The terrain of most of the trail.

There was only one true lookout point along the way, looking at Shannon Falls, so it can get a little monotonous. As soon as you see the ladders and chains to help you up the smooth granite surfaces, you are near the summit!

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Climbing up the chains near the top.

The unbelievable view at the top is definitely worth the climb. There are no facilities at the top. It’s just you, the view and some friendly chipmunks. There are also no lifts or gondolas here, so once you go up, you are committed to hiking down. Because the hike is quite steep, you need to be very careful.

 

Overall, I found this to be a nice challenging hike. Those who would like even more of a challenge can try to hike up the second or third peak as well.

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Top 5 Tourist Attractions

I recently came back to my hometown, Vancouver, BC, for a visit and coincidently, my relatives from out-of-town were visiting at the same time. While showing them around, I was able to be a tourist in my hometown for a few days, which allowed me to compile a list of top tourist attractions in Vancouver, BC.

1. Queen Elizabeth Park

If you like beautiful gardens and views of the city and want to make good use of your newly-purchased camera, this is the place to go. It is so picturesque that many people decide to hold their wedding ceremonies and snap their wedding photos here. If you enjoy tropical plants and birds, you should pay the Bloedel Conversatory a visit. Feeling hungry after all the walking around the park? Want to indulge in a nice meal while further embracing the view? Check out Seasons in the Park.

2. Stanley Park

This park is truly versatile and meant to be enjoyed by people of all ages. For those with children, there are waterparks, outdoor pools, and the Stanley Park Train. Those who love the outdoors and staying active can jog/skate/bike around the seawall while enjoying the beautiful coastline of Vancouver. Those who prefer to relax can lounge on the several beaches in the park. The park is situated right beside downtown so finding good food nearby is never a problem.

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The totem poles in Stanley Park.
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The view from Prospect Point in Stanley Park.

3. Downtown and surroundings

First time Vancouver visitors can probably spend a few days here. The waterfront is one of my favourite parts of Vancouver. Here, you can enjoy views of the water with the mountains as a backdrop. You can also see the huge cruise ships docking and the seaplanes taking off. It is also where our Olympic Cauldron is from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.  For my shopaholics, there is plenty of shopping either at Pacific Centre or along Robson Street. For those who like gorgeous architecture, you should head over to the Central Library, again a hot spot for wedding photos. For my hipster friends out there, you must check out Gastown with its various local coffee joints and eateries. For those looking for a more snazzy dining experience, head over to Yaletown. Mister is a hip liquid nitrogen ice-cream place to check out here. We were lucky enough to be here on their first year anniversary where all of their ice-cream are ONLY $5. You can deduce what their regular prices are.

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Central Public Library in downtown Vancouver.

4. Granville Island

Another popular tourist spot for first time Vancouver visitors, Granville Island is a great place for everyone to visit – especial lovers of local arts, crafts and food. There is a kids market for those with little ones. There is a local brewery on the island as well as a boutique Japanese Sake winery for some 19+ fun. Take a stroll along the public market to try some fresh produce and goods. Don’t forget to stop by Lee’s Donuts for some deliciously fresh donuts. I personally really enjoyed the honey-dipped one. If you get tired, there are plenty of benches on the island for you to sit and enjoy the street performances. Just watch your heads in case the seagulls decide to give you a little present.

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Enjoying a honey-dipped Lee’s Donut in Granville Island.

6. North Vancouver/Squamish

If you venture to this part of Greater Vancouver, you can visit the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you want to opt for a similar experience without paying the exuberant prices, you can go to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead. By heading further north, you can also visit Squamish. Depending on your preference, you can either hike up the Stawamus Chief or pay $40 to take the new Sea to Sky Gondola up and then do some light trails at the top while soaking in gorgeous views from the viewing platforms. The views from both are surreal but I would highly recommend the hike for a more rewarding experience. Check out my next post for more details about the hike itself.

These places are nice to visit at least once as important landmarks to check out but there are definitely other neighbourhoods that I frequent for food. Stay tuned for the food posts to come!

 

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – Food and Drinks Reviews

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – Food and Drinks Reviews

Featured Image: Beer flight @ Quidi Vidi Brewing Company.

You know I wouldn’t visit a place without reviewing its food, so here is the post you were looking for. St. John’s has a surprising number of fine dining restaurants, as well as more laid back pubs and microbreweries.

Raymond’s

Last year I had the chance to visit Raymond’s, which was at some point rated the number one restaurant in Canada. We ordered the 5 course tasting menu along with the wine pairings and it definitely did not disappoint. Regretfully, I did not take any notes during my visit, so I really don’t have too many details for you. I just remember that there was a lot of thought put into each dish and the wine pairings were perfect.

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Starter @ Raymond’s.

Basho Restaurant and Lounge

Those who know me will know that I will not choose to eat Asian food randomly at a new place, unless I’ve heard really good things about it. Growing up in Vancouver and having just spent 2 months in Asia, I am quite spoiled in terms of good sushi. I’ve heard great things about Basho and I reasoned that the seafood in the maritimes should be amazing so I really should give it a try. The ambience was really nice and upscale for a Japanese restaurant. Looking at it’s menu, there was a variety of Japanese and non-Japanese dishes. Some dishes did have a fusion flare, such as using Yuzu as an ingredient. I decided to try their Nigiri and Sushi special but was advised that this was mainly tempura and cooked sushi rolls. As if the server could read my mind, he encouraged me to get the “exotic” special instead if I was looking for raw fish. I paired my sushi with a glass of pinot noir, in keeping with the loungey ambience. The sushi were nicely presented on a large plate, with the nigiri, wasabi and ginger on a banana leaf and the soy sauce on the side in a nice asymmetric bowl. The rolls were definitely on the smaller side. I didn’t catch the names of the rolls but I believe one was an avocado tuna roll and the other was a negi-hamachi roll. They both very tasty and did not require dipping of soy sauce as they had enough flavours as is. The nigiri were also very good, with pretty good quality fish, especially the butterfish. Overall, I would say it was above average sushi but with an incredibly over-inflated price tag.

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Sushi @ Basho Restaurant and Lounge

Rocket Bakery

This was a cute cafe and bakery great for getting some work done. I didn’t have too much time to blog during my trip but I did end up coming here to try their latte while listening to some locals perform at their open-mic. Apparently their bread is very good here but I did not get the chance to try. Their latte was definitely tasty, comparable to the ones I get at Bridgehead (who makes the best lattes in my opinion). I only caught the end of the open-mic but I was very impressed with the talent. Definitely come by to check this cafe/bakery out if you have the chance to visit St. John’s.

On my second trip I was actually more impressed by the beer scene than the actual food:

Quidi Vidi Brewing Company

We decided to stop by this brewery on our way back from our iceberg hunting adventures. One of us was very well-prepared and called ahead to find out they had tastings on Saturdays during the day only (when we had to work) but they invited us to come on a Friday night anyway to enjoy some of their beer. They opened at 6pm and ran out of food by the time we got there around 7pm but it was not a big deal because we were able to enjoy some flights of good local beer (see featured image). Usually with beer flights, I find I only enjoy 1 or 2 of them. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually quite liked all 4 of the beers I was presented with. And the price was very reasonable! They were all pretty light and easy to drink. I, of course, preferred the British IPA and ended up getting an extra pint of that. My advice would be to come here on a Saturday during the day to enjoy a beer tour with beer tasting!

Yellowbelly Brewery & Public House

We decided to visit another highly-rated brewery on our last night in St. John’s. For food, I decided to get the seafood chowder, again with my assumption that it’s a requirement to eat seafood when you’re in the Maritimes. To be honest, I was disappointed with this, as it was just too salty. My favourite seafood/clam chowder would still be either the one I’ve had in Boston or at Art-Is-In Bakery in Ottawa. More importantly, though I wanted to try their seasonal beer. They were very generous to give us both a sample of of their seasonal, which was apparently made from bread from Rocket Bakery. I quite liked the taste. It was flavourful but very easy to drink. My suggestion is to come here to try out their beer. As for food, they did have good reviews for that too, so perhaps don’t order the seafood chowder and go ahead and try something else on their menu.

And that ends my review of the food/beer scene in St. John’s! I heard other good food picks are Mallard Cottage, St. John’s Fish Exchange and Oliver’s. These will remain on my “go to” list to visit in the future.