Category Archives: travel

Montreal Girls Weekend

A few weekends ago I went on a long weekend trip to Montreal with one of my childhood best friends. Between living in different cities  and hectic schedules, it’s been hard to find time to see each other lately. So we booked this trip to catch up!

Today I wanted to share with you a bit about the trip:

Where we stayed

We booked a room at Hotel 10, a boutique hotel in the north end of downtown. Our double queen room was pretty standard, but I loved the modern look of the lobby and bar area!

hotel 10 montreal room

It also had some great services, like a courtesy car that will drive you within the city free of charge. Although, it was in high demand, so we only got to use it twice. But the hotel was actually within reasonable walking distance of most places. I say that, but we still Ubered almost everywhere because it was cold!

hotel 10 montreal lobby

Photos by Guy Hamelin. Used with permission from Hotel 10.

What we did

Our first morning in the city we went to Scandinave Spa for massages and their Scandinavian baths. I’m not someone who can relax easily because my mind is always going at full speed. But I think this was the most relaxed I’ve been in ages! The bath area is completely silent, so it sort of forces you to shut down and just be in the moment.

scandinave montreal

Photo used with permission from Scandinave Monreal

The next day we started our morning at the Atwater Market. We had brunch beforehand, but this would have been a great spot to buy some bread and cheese for a picnic. I would have loved to buy some Quebec cheeses to bring back with me, but I didn’t want to have to carry it around all day!

We also spent an afternoon at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which is actually free of charge for admission to their standard exhibits. I’m not a huge museum buff but I took a bit of art history in university to take a break from all my science courses, and I really enjoyed it.

montreal-boutique

And of course we did some shopping too. We did some shopping at chain stores on Rue Sainte-Catherine and also found some cute clothing and housewares boutiques on Boul St-Laurent  in the Plateau neighbourhood.

Where we ate

We decided to wing our meals for this trip, but realized that was a mistake when we got to our hotel and the concierge strongly recommended reservations at restaurants. We saw the truth to this when we tried to go for dinner at a new Italian restaurant, but they were completely booked. Oops.

But our spontaneity worked out in our favour for a few meals! After our early afternoon at the spa we were starving, and we stumbled upon Modavie for a late lunch. It had such a cozy feel to it and we got a great spot right by the window! We decided to split the mushroom risotto with duck confit and the lamb cavatelli with fennel and sun dried tomato. Both were fantastic!

modavie-montreal

One of my other favourite food spots was Lemeac, one of the top French bistros in the city. We split the salmon tartar for an appetizer – my first time having tartar, which is odd considering how much I love sushi! It was extremely fresh and I loved the hint of mustard flavour to it. My steak frites was a disappointment, but only because I thought hangar steak was the same thing as flank steak. News flash: it’s not. It’s a much tougher cut with a more gristley flavour. The fries were good though! And the French toast dessert more than made up for it. It was like a cakey French toast served in the most addictive maple caramel sauce.

Sunday morning I botched our breakfast plans. We wanted to do bagel sandwiches at St-Viateur, one of the most famous bagel shops at the city. So we took an Uber there… only to find out we were at one of the bakery locations, not the cafe location. We each bought a half dozen bagels to-go anyways, then headed back out to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at the nearby Arts Cafe which had the cutest decor!  I had the shakshuka with fried polenta and Lauren had cod cakes with a poached egg and dill mayonnaise.

arts-cafe-montreal

Other places we ate at were Pullman (just okay), Bevo Bar + Pizzeria (trendy atmosphere but their pizza wasn’t great), and Foiegwa (a hot new French diner).

It was a great trip and one I would definitely do again! Although now that I know there’s another Scandinave Spa 2 hours away from me, I think I see another trip in my future…

What was the last trip you took? 

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My First Trip to NYC

For someone who has never lived in a big city before, I really do love them. I think it has something to do with my introverted nature. I feel like big cities balance out my personality or something. So I like to head into Toronto frequently, which is the closest big city to me. But New York City is in a league of its own. I literally could not wrap my head around how big – and tall – it was!

NYC skyline

There was so much I wanted to see on my first trip to NYC that we ended up making a pretty packed itinerary for ourselves. If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw some of my posts about our trip, but today I want to relive it on the blog by chatting about what I ate, did, and drank!

NYC-eat

I’ll start with one of my favourite parts of the trip – the food, duh. For me this trip was as much about the restaurants as it was about the sightseeing. And it’s not just because I like to eat (true as that might be), it’s also because I feel like I get such a good grasp on the culture of a city through its food.

H&H Midtown Bagels East

So naturally we started with its bagels. For our first lunch we hit up H&H Midtown Bagels East, which had a fantastic selection of fillings, although I wasn’t crazy about the bagels themselves (I’ve yet to have a bagel better than JC’s Bagels in my hometown!).

New York pizza was also an iconic meal we knew we had to partake in. So on our third morning after seeing the 9/11 memorial site and the Statue of Liberty, we took a quick jaunt over to Brooklyn for a meal at Grimaldi’s thanks to recommendations from friends and family. We had a custom pizza which ended up being overpriced IMO, but it was still pretty tasty and a relatively cheap meal for NYC.

grimaldis-pizza-NYC

But the standout meal of the trip for both me and John was Lafayette where I had the most mindblowingly delicious duck bolognese pasta. If there was every a meal that would cause me to go reenact When Harry Met Sally (you know the scene I’m talking about) in a restaurant, this would be it.

Lafayette Grand Cafe: Duck bolognese pasta with fried rosemary

Other notable eats were crostini at Fig & Olive, this insane plate of potatoes and vegetables covered in cheese at Raclette, huevos rancheros at The Smith (although thumbs down to their imposter French toast), and an acai bowl at Two Hands. I also had my first nut-free ice cream parlour experience at A La Mode Shoppe. For most kids, going out for ice cream is just your average Friday night. For me, it was non-existent because of my allergies. So yeah, this experience was a pretty big deal to me! And a delicious one, my goodness.

A La Mode Shoppe ice cream

NYC-do

We did more than just eat in NYC though – we also spent a ton of time walking everywhere. By the end of each day our feet were so tender we could barely drag ourselves back to our hotel room. And then we woke up and did it all over the next day. Honestly I had such a blast just walking through the neighbourhoods and soaking them in.

me-and-john-nyc

But we also hit up some hot spots like the Chelsea Market, a smorgasbord of restaurants and food stands offering everything from lobster to noodles to doughnuts. I grabbed some grub at Los Tacos No. 1 as well as a chocolate ganache cupcake from the nut-free bakery Eleni’s.

los-tacos-no-1

To get to the market, we walked the High Line, a stretch of old railway converted into a walkway above the city. It was lined with greenery and had gorgeous views of the city on the one side and the Hudson River on the other. If you love walking with good views, I also recommend walking the Battery Park City Esplanade along the Hudson River.

High Line, New York City

Thanks to John’s parents we also had tickets to see Wicked, which I really enjoyed. The music wasn’t all that catchy to me, but I loved the storyline and seeing how it was woven into the story of The Wizard of Oz. For a lower key evening the previous night we had reservations at the Comedy Cellar. This came highly recommended to us and it didn’t disappoint!

To escape the city for a while, we spent the better part of an afternoon wandering Central Park, which is so much bigger than I imagined! And I quickly learned that just because shoes are comfortable for an hour of walking, it doesn’t mean they’re comfortable for 20km of walking. Womp womp. Luckily we found a pharmacy close by to the park to stock up on band aids!

central-park-fountain

And of course I probably can’t talk about what to do in NYC without mentioning shopping! We found a lot of great spots from 5th Avenue to Soho to the Meatpacking District to Bleeker Street. Yep, we did a lot of shopping (well, I did). Tip: If your men are getting tired, drop them off at the cafe at Bloomingdales for a beer while you spend hours getting lost in their shoes!

NYC-drink

It’s not a vacation without a little bit of imbibing (bonus if it’s day drinking)! On our second day in the city I saw one of the most beautiful patios I’ve ever seen at The Standard Grill, which was reason enough to stop for a post-lunch drink. I just had a riesling, but I wish I’d ordered John’s lime and basil cocktail.

We were also lucky enough to get reservations on our last evening at PDT, although they weren’t easy to come by – John had to call them 53 times (not even joking) at the designated time before he actually got through! It was worth it for sure though – I think the special Pimm’s cocktail the bartender whipped up for me was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.

the-standard-grill-patio

NYC, you were grand. Until next time!

Have you ever been to NYC? Have you been to any of these places? What were your favourite things to do, eat, and drink there?

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Things to do when visiting London

On my recent trip to the UK, my sister and I spent 7 full days in London, so you bet we did a lot of exploring. And I mean a lot! We walked so much that we actually had to take a day off just to recover because our legs and feet were hurting so much. Since I already talked about where to eat in London, in this post I’m going to focus things to do when visiting London.

Soho – Soho is a neighbourhood that’s a great place to go if you want to escape the hoards of tourists for a while. It’s part of the theatre district, and it also has a lot of great restaurants (check out 10 Greek Street, Bibimbap, Lick, and The Pudding Bar from this post), bars, and shopping. You’ll find stores like Diesel, Miss Sixty, and MAC, as well as independent boutiques and the department story Liberty.

Carnaby Street Soho

Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel – I saw this posted on Khushboo’s blog and I immediately added it to our itinerary. It was such a fun experience! First they let you choose your tea from a set of samples on the table, and they bring it out to you in adorable pots with paper crowns.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

Then the feast comes… there were finger sandwiches (ham and grainy mustard on sun dried tomato bread was my favourite), scones, and of course pastries and desserts. The matcha mousse in an edible chocolate cup and the Victoria sponge cake were probably my top two favourites.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

That wasn’t even it though – there was also a carrot meringue with filling, marshmallow mushrooms, and a “drink me” potion. The presentation of everything was seriously amazing, and it all tasted as good as it looked. I highly recommend this to everyone!

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

Borough Market – this farmers market is a foodie’s heaven. There are all sorts of vendors with produce, oil and vinegars, mushrooms, meat, and best of all, cheese. We must have sampled cheese from at least 5 or 6 different stalls.

Borough Market

There were also a million places with desserts like meringue and pastries, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any nut allergy friendly places except for Flaxjacks, which had a line of totally nut free granola bars. I went for the date bar, which was fantastic. There are also lots of stands with ready-to-eat foods like sausage on a bun, Indian food, grilled cheese, and Japanese. We split the gyoza and rice noodles with chicken – both were delicious.

Borough Market Japanese food

See a play/musical – we were lucky enough to get somewhat last minute tickets to see Matilda at Cambridge Theatre on my second Saturday night there. We had a hard time deciding amongst all the great theatre options: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, The Commitments, etc. But I’m glad we went for Matilda – it was great to see one of my favourite childhood books/movies on stage. And the male actor playing Miss Trunchbull was spot on hilarious!

Matilda the musical

Hyde Park – I literally had no concept of the enormity of this park until I saw it. It is massive! On my last day in London we enjoyed a picnic lunch of focaccia, cured meats, and cheese one from Whole Foods, then went for a bike ride on rented bikes throughout the park.

Hyde Park

Portobello Market – This is a huge market that runs down Portobello Road in Notting Hill. There was everything from jewellery to vintage clothing to antique dishware to souvenirs. And of course there was tons of street food and baked goods as well.

Portobello market

Department stores – London has some seriously cool department stores. Harrods is the famous one, but personally I found it overcrowded with a confusing layout. I much preferred browsing the designer clothes and accessories at Liberty and Selfridges. Bonus: Selfridges has an awesome chocolate section!

Museums – I didn’t know this beforehand, but all museums in London are free, so they’re a great way to amuse yourself cheaply. We checked out the Science Museum (great exhibit on medicine through history), Victoria and Albert Museum (very cool “Disobedient Objects” exhibit and jewellery gallery), British Museum (loved the ancient Grecian sculpture), and my favourite: The National Gallery. I took a class on art history once, and it’s fascinated me ever since. It was awesome to see some of the paintings I’d studied in real life! I also highly recommend renting the headset for only a few pounds – getting to learn about the context and interpretations of the paintings really adds to the experience.

Crouching Venus

Historical sites and monuments – This is kind of a given, but I figured I’d throw it in here at the end. The Tower of London is a really neat site – but unlike what we thought, it’s not just a tower; it’s an entire fortress. So you definitely need to devote a good 2+ hours to this site. I also recommend buying the audio guide to learn more about its history.

Tower of London

We also made sure to visit the other famous sites like Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, the Parliament buildings, the Marble Arch, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. They were cool to see, but definitely not something you have to plan your entire day around. Most of the time we just walked by and snapped a picture so we could say we’d been there!

londonlandmarks

So that wraps up my long, but not exhaustive list of things to do when visiting London as a tourist!

Anything I forgot to include in this list?

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