You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
Hardly as exciting as a Zoo, and sans Matt Damon, but we did it. We bought an Inn. This morning, while we were scrubbing pots and pans in the kitchen a reflection unlike any other had washed over me. A quiet nod to our accomplishment. Until this moment I had not acknowledged our successes, strangely enough this is happening as I am covered in greasy water and bits of uneaten food.
A move to a small tourist town, was the last thing I thought my husband and I would do. Prince Edward County is only two and a half hours from Toronto (not the long flight Costa Rica would have been). But might as well be millions of miles away in pace. Businesses close at 6 and restaurant kitchens close at 9, people honk there car horns to say hello not to say get outta the way. And if you pass someone on the street, you look them in the eyes and share a greeting. It's an easy life in the country. Hardships do occur but it's is a way of life, having to replace your septic system incites less drama than when a "city" friend loses their phone. Running out of water is almost a sure possibility (which means not bathing twice a day). You waste less in the country.
Originally published October 16, 2014
"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R Tolkien
With a different bed every night, two islands, two cities a ferry and a lot of mileage in our Audi A5 we discovered the diverse landscapes, people and culture of Scotland.
I had a few cringes and eyebrow raises when I told people that I would be traveling with my in-laws, especially on a journey that had us confined to a car for hours at a time. Seasoned travelers themselves, I was more interested in what they would offer and contribute to my experience (ha selfish me), than the possibility of a National Lampoon style vacation. I give them huge props for going in blindly and trusting me with the itinerary.
We arrived in Glasgow via Reykjavik, Iceland. If you have not had an opportunity to fly with Icelandair, next one you get, take it. I have flown with them a handful of times and they always manage to exceed my expectations. They are quirky and unpretentious, but offer genuine feel good service. Plus if you have an extra day or two, you are able to stop in Iceland, at no extra charge.
In Glasgow, we were privy to the hot political scene and the leftovers of the 2014 Commonwealth games. The city immediately gives off the aura of a being built around the working class, a charm and delight for anyone wanting to experience Scotland without the bells and whistles that adorn many tourist cities. My hiking boots had their inaugural trek up to the Glasgow Necropolis where I was treated to a view of the city and the cathedral. We walked side by side through the sea of passionate Glaswegians as they rallied for the upcoming referendum vote. And it was here that I was introduced to Marks and Spencer's Percy the Pig.
Heading north, we made a detour from my original itinerary to stop at Stirling Castle, which was highly recommended by the customs agent as something we couldn't miss. On reflection we could have bypassed it, my schedule already had us seeing half a dozen castles, and I personally felt that Stirling was a great example of gaudy over-priced tourism. If your starting point is Glasgow head to Edinburgh Castle instead (20 minutes extra to your drive) the prison alone will make up for what you think you will be missing at Stirling. Up for a drive? Surrounded by mountains and three converging lochs, Eileen Donan Castle, is Scotland's most photographed and for good reason. Even if you don't have time to visit inside, the spectacular vista will be sufficient. Duvegan castle on the Isle of Skye is currently still a residence and is fully furnished, a living museum and has been home to the Chief's of Macleod of the MacLeod clan for over 800 years.
Have I mentioned that we had really great weather yet? Uncharacteristically sunny and warm, which made for great outdoor excursions. The Nevis Glen gorge is conveniently situated only a short drive outside of Fort William. With Ben Nevis in the foreground we hiked our way along a steep, rocky trail towards Scotland's second highest waterfall, Steall Falls. A few days later on the Isle of Skye we embarked on a little known (not found in our travel guide books) but incredible trek where we were led past a succession of crystal clear pools and waterfalls, known as the Fairy Pools. I may have been dehydrated but the landscape felt enchanted and mystical.
Everything was running so smoothly. We were now in the middle of our trip and as we drove alongside Loch Ness I refrained from blinking, hoping to share a moment with the famous resident Nessie. She was asleep, but instead of a sighting we were offered a fairy tale sunset, everything was perfect. We entered Inverness with hopes of rest. Unfortunately everything was booked; hotels, motels, B&B's, for no apparent reason Inverness was full. As our hopes and patience were diminishing, we were rescued not only by a beautiful guest house outside of the city but also a handful of really nice locals (seriously, one actually led us to the location in there car).
Do you have a travel wish list? I have one, but it is extensive; to be able to visit all of the UNESCO world heritage sites. A visit to the Orkney's, (a cluster of islands just north of the mainland) allowed me to check off a few. Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness make for a mind blowing experience. Skara Brae (a neolithic village) is older than the Giza pyramids and the Great Wall of China, and was discovered by fluke quite recently. I was humbled by time. This was possibly my favourite part of our trip.
The conclusion of our trip found us in Leith, a suburb of Edinburgh along the waterfront, which was an ideal spot for us to plant ourselves. A quick bus ride to the Old City and a fantastic selection of restaurants nearby on a strip dubbed The Shore we were more than delighted to be a bit of distance away from the more touristy areas. A couple of my favourite meals on this trip were eaten in Edinburgh, a piping hot shepherd's pie at The Doric (with claims to being the oldest gastro pub in Edinburgh) and a hog roast roll with crispy crackling and apple sauce straight from the farm at Oink, a simple restaurant serving up a roast of pork, with different dressings. Visiting the Old City is easy, starting off early (avoid the lines) at Edinburgh castle and continue down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. At dark we joined a haunted tour (City of the DeadTours, The Double Dead walking tour), that led into underground vaults where we were regaled with stories of ghosts and poltergeists. The tour concluded in the Covenanter's prison, a concentration camp of sorts with it's history of hauntings.
Oh my, I could keep going. With the small town hospitality of Fort William, Portree, and Kirkwall, to the landscapes, the food and the mythology, Scotland really has something for everyone. If you have any questions or would like more details, comment below. If you have been, what was your favourite part?
A huge, huge thank you to my in laws, you make wonderful travel companions. I will treasure this adventure for the rest of my life. And may you never have to drive 1000 plus miles on the left hand side again. Cheers to Scotland, you surprised me, you taught me and most importantly you welcomed me. I will visit again. Luv K8e
Originally published June 11th 2014
It was nearly four months ago, when I was strolling down Avenida De Mayo, with my back against the Casa Rosada, and the faint sounds of chants and drums from the peaceful protesters. We were heading towards food, which isn't exactly surprising. It was food in the present that triggered this memory, a conversation about empanadas that got me thinking of Buenos Aires and all of its culinary delights.
We were on what I like to call a "foot to food" adventure, because we were on our feet from early morning, to late evening, and any guilt that could have accompanied the many meals was almost non-existent. The first night was the exception as we had been sitting in a plane for 13 hours, and almost immediately after arriving I was introduced to the emperor of pizzas the fugazzetta rellena, an insane version of Chicago's deep dish pizza. This deep pan, double crusted pie oozed with cheese, ham and onions. Sharing in Buenos Aires is typical but we had not clued in right away and had ordered three separate pizzas. A slow walk back to the hotel was the only option.
Every morning, in a state of lifelessness we ate our breakfast quietly in the hotel. The Savoy Hotel which is situated in the best possible location for our main mode of transportation, our feet, is a nod to a bygone era. You instantly feel a little glamorous walking into this architectural beauty, it's grand elegant lobby bar is fit for the graces of guests such as Albert Einstein and Eva Peron (Evita). The rooms were clean and comfortable, and the staff were very helpful. Just as time is predictable so were my movements in the early mornings. Like a zombie I would grab my coffee, non-decaf (which was a treat), a plate of cheese and meats and a danish. Just enough to energize me for our first stretch of walking.
The first culinary highlight of the day was lunch, and by that time the scents of barbecue had started to filter onto the streets. Our lunch picks were always random, and aside from Cafe Tortoni never researched beforehand. A childlike giddiness overcame me as I would stir my piece of chocolate into my glass of steaming hot milk, the submarino, had become my new best friend. My eyes would widen in search of empanadas only to discover that sorrentinos were on the same menu. Defeated, sometimes I would have to get both. Almost always lunch would take place on a patio. And almost always we would over eat.
Now dinner was an event of its own. Be prepared to eat late, (if you show up at a restaurant at 8:00 pm you are probably going to be the first ones there), and be prepared to eat. Hold the table for support as your server brings you piles of different grilled meats. Hiding any pleasure will be hard as you cut into the warm provoleta and start dishing out the rosti (potato pancake). You can not escape the feeling of sitting at a large family table during the holidays, the atmosphere is very celebratory. And when you start to wrap up you realize it is almost midnight.
Heads up. no surprises, servers are great but very laid back and you will almost never be offered the bill, you must ask. If you are not travelling within a few blocks, once dusk hits taking a taxi cab is highly recommended for tourists, as it is almost unavoidable to cross certain parts of the city that are less desirable.
I could not possibly convey our entire trip in one post, I do try to keep my word count at just enough so I can keep your attention. That being said, if you are heading that way let me know and I would be more than delighted to share. Need a link for a restaurant, comment below. Luv K8e. Thank you Michael Bacinello for your exceptional photographs (above in slide show) .
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I have had this on my Ontario to do bucket list for a couple years now, river tubing through the Elora Gorge, on the Grand River. I have strolled alongside this spectacle a handful of times whilst stopping for lunch in this picturesque town. When I found out this was actually a thing, I had to do this. A couple years went by though, and even a couple visits to the town (mostly off season in the fall), and I still hadn't braved the river.
Now that I have a job, my days are limited. I am not sure when I will get vacation time and how I should even plan for it. So when I finally had the chance and a willing companion I dove in head first. Not exactly, but you get the idea.
Our early morning exit out of the city was slow, one hour of crawling through traffic added onto the already hour and 20 minute drive to Grand River Conservation Authority. The weather was surprisingly chilly considering it was mid-August and there were clouds in the sky. What good timing. Not to be deterred we continued on our journey down the highway. Once arriving at the park ($12.00 admission for a vehicle) we snaked our way down the road to the tubing rental center.
They had everything that we needed: a permit to float on the river, a tube, and a life jacket and helmet. The entire package was only $25.00 plus a refundable deposit of $75.00 for the equipment. We finished signing waivers (eek), and collected all of our gear. The process was really well organized and seamless, and they even offered a complimentary shuttle to the river launch site, (we chose to walk the fifteen minutes). Once at the river our brave demeanor faded and second-guessing came into play, the launch site was a mini waterfall, well not really, but for first time tubers it might as well have been. We opted to walk a little further down so that we could gently enter the thankfully warmer-than-the-air water. What a trip! A couple white water rapids that had us clenching our bodies to the tubes, followed by lazy floating while surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. We even spotted a regal looking heron on the shore. It was both the longest and shortest hour I have every experienced. Relaxing and thrilling all in one.
After changing and drying ourselves off in the very clean on site washrooms, and returning all of our equipment, we said good bye to the park and headed into town for a well deserved meal. River tubing is a lot more work than I thought it would be!
I immediately feel relaxed in small towns. You can tell who the locals are, and I always envy the relaxed manner they have about them. Elora has one of the prettiest main streets in southern Ontario, and a lot of different shops and eateries to choose from. We made a quick stop at Sweet Distractions a candy emporium where I purchased the freshest Turkish delight ever. And a delightful lunch at The Cat's Meow Cafe where we both had the Alley Cat, a delicious open face tuna melt (how come I can't figure out tuna like this). I also may have left with a peanut butter marshmallow square.
Elora and it's surrounding area is a wonderful place to wind down and take in the ambiance of a small town life. With unique boutique shops, cutesy cafe's, and variety of dining options it caters to the discerning city day tripper.
I am looking forward to my return trip.
I am always looking for small unique towns to explore, is your's one of the? Leave a comment below!
Another quick link, I fell in LOVE with this shop and made a quick purchase while there and placed an online order when I returned home. Ephiphany!
Originally published September 2nd 2015