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.
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." John Muir
Ten miles? I can do that, right? Well I can and I did, but let me tell you, a more in shape version of myself would have be a lot more comfortable. There is an immense sense of accomplishment in making it to the finish line, whether it be a marathon, fun run or a hike. When I first set eyes on Havasu Falls and then subsequently the land surrounding I knew that this would be my next big adventure. The crystal blue waters had captured my imagination and transported me to a world that would rival Narnia or Wonderland.
Because we were going in the off-season, I was lucky enough to get someone on the reservation phone almost immediately , some fellow travelers have not been so lucky. I booked into the bare bones guest lodge and at the same time they issued us our permit. Lacking modern amenities such as a television or phone, this lodge did have access to pretty strong WIFI (which I only discovered the second night), hot water and comfy clean beds. Which really after hiking all day this is all you will require.
Starting from the Hilltop (this is where you will park) you begin a steep 1.5 mile rough descent down into the canyon. Making my way down the switchbacks, overly cautious of the narrow paths and debris, I almost wasn't able to enjoy the vast expanse of the canyon, glowing and rust coloured walls stretching almost infinitely. Once we arrived at the bottom of the canyon, we were able to set a comfortable pace, the air still being a bit chilly hugged us and the strong gusts of wind seemed to nudge us towards our destination.
Two hours later (be nice, I have short legs) we arrived. Supai is simple and to modern standards almost barren. With a town square that houses a general store, community center, cafe and post office you will find all your necessities here. A small church, a elementary school and the Guest Lodge are the other main buildings. A spider web of dirt roads connect them.
Havasu Falls was everything and more. A moving oasis of streams and waterfalls, transparent blue, surrounded by the red rock of the desert. Spring fed, the waters are consistent in temperature and even though warned that it would probably be too cold, I decided to swim in one of the magical pools.
Fidel (pronounced Feedel) a local Supai tribesman was just finishing up his lunch at the head of Mooney Falls, I had made the decision the descent would be too dangerous for myself, and we were taking some pictures of the falls from above. Fidel whom may be part mountain goat told us stories of sleeping in cliff side caves, of the flooding that almost wiped away the water falls all together and the charred remains of a once thriving forest, accidentally set ablaze during a controlled fire. He was so passionate about the surrounding area, and he genuinely seemed pleased to be sharing some of his tribes history with us.
Because we were visiting in late February , we didn't have to worry about weather very much. The temperature didn't rise enough to be uncomfortable or give us worry to make sure we had enough water, (in the summer months they recommend not heading out without at least a gallon of water) to keep us hydrated.
Originally published November 20, 2014
An apple a day keeps the Doctor away. ~Mom~
This includes cranberry apple pie right? How about a steamy caramel apple latte? For sure it must include honey crisp apples, covered in honey and double cream brie cheese, served panini style? If you have been following along, you should know that I love road trips, and I love travelling around Ontario. I am crazy about food, and I don' t mind heading out solo. So try to imagine my delight when I found out about the Apple Pie Trail. A planned route of destinations around Georgian Bay totally devoted to everything apples.
First point of business. Download the Apple Pie Trail app. (yes we can really say that there is an app for everything). I was able to put a pretty star next to my favourite attractions, have addresses at the ready and a really handy GPS map. (Ill admit later on in the post that I got a bit lost). Oh and a really cute photo feature.
I was really excited for my first stop, not only because I was headed towards highly regarded food, (Espresso Post has been featured in Blog TO and it's not even in Toronto), but because I have never stopped in Collingwood before. I have driven around the perimeter many times on my way to Craigleith or Blue Mountain, but have never had a reason to park myself.
Guys, music was playing as I got out of the car, I did not have to pay for parking and I was already entranced by the picturesque street view. I would have skipped to the Espresso Post if the ground hadn't been snow covered, so, bundled up I strolled. I wanted to try everything, and admittedly I had to allow a couple of people ahead of me in line because I just couldn't decide! I stuck with my apple theme and ordered the Brie and Apple Panini and a caramel apple latte. Oh my goodness. I knew apples and cheese went together but wow.
History has a way of humbling you, and my next stop at the Craigleith Heritage Depot had that exact effect on me. We have a habit of forgetting that life was significantly different than it is today. The strong and resilient people that shaped the country and the way that we live need to be remembered. Housed in an decommissioned rail house (not a replica) are treasures of the surrounding area, with invaluable information and artifacts. No charge to enter, but I strongly encourage leaving a donation.
It was a no-brainer that one of my stops would be The Honey House in Clarksburg. My culinary obsession with honey may rival butter tarts, and I am always looking out for that perfect batch. What was really neat about this place was that I was a novice, people were lined up with empty jars ready to get a refill. I treated myself to a jar of regular honey and another creamed honey and thanked the bees for their hard work.
On route to my last stop, I paused at Almonds Farm Market, this is not on the official itinerary but I still hadn't grabbed a pie. If you want that no fuss home baked goodness this is a great place to stop. I wanted to try something new so I picked up an apple cranberry crumble. It didn't make it past the weekend.
Two questions, have you ever seen a country side road after a snow storm, and do you ever argue with your GPS? My last planned stop was going to be to the Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery for some wine and sparkling apple juice, but because of natural barriers and my stubbornness I threw my hands up in the air and started heading home. I only tell you about this missed connection because sometimes everything doesn't go as planned, but that is part of the adventure! I was so thrilled to see that I could order wine online and wouldn't have to wait until I planned my next trip.
There are 37 stops listed on the Apple Pie Trail, I only made it to 3 and I was gone for about six hours. When I returned home I was rejuvenated, I was excited about my finds, and could barely wait to try my pie and honey. I am looking forward to the day when I get back on the trail. Luv K8e
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 September 23 2014
You know what's fun? Sobbing on an airplane while watching a movie. Because of course you can't hear yourself, so amplify what you can hear by like a thousand and that is what all the other passengers just woke up to. The Fault in Our Stars killed me, I never read the book, and because of Shailene Woodley's misinformed statements regarding feminism, I was a little disenchanted with her, (as a lead character, come on girl don't you want to be paid as much as your male counter parts?), but it was the only option I hadn't seen yet. So as the tears ran down my face right from the onset of the movie, my thoughts also went into overdrive.
I had also just finished catching up on Alicia Keys new project the #Wearehere campaign, a fantastic effort to tackle many different social issues, and I was already a little sensitive to the injustices of the world. I love when celebrities lend their voices to causes that hopefully they believe in, it is something and it is important. But I truly respect and admire a celebrity that is fully invested of their own accord, because they believe in something so passionately. Alicia Keys, Bono, the different UN Goodwill ambassadors such as Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson, newly appointed Leonardo DiCaprio as the messenger for peace, bravo and thank you from my heart.
So together these two things created the perfect storm.
I wondered why we need triggers to remind us that we have one go at this thing called life. Why would you want to be remembered as a bully, a tyrant, or ignorant. What is the point of these ongoing wars? Of discrimination based on skin colour, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. How do we build a society based on compassion and love? I am sure like many of you, I want working solutions. I want to live in a world where we reach out to people with less hope, with less fortune, where everyone lives equally and without fear. I want to live in a world where this conversation is no longer happening. But until then...
You have a home base (it is not your physical home) it is right where you are standing now. Where the people that surround you are as important and as equal as yourself. Domino this effect into your family and friends, neighbours and strangers, and then the world community. We all have an opportunity to help shape the world that we desire. But as the old saying goes, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself. We must start with ourselves.
Home base (yourself, myself) - Taking care of oneself both physically and mentally. Just like a car we need proper fueling, oiling and maintenance. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Have fun, and dream. Believe. When you truly love and appreciate your whole self you can move on.
Family & Friends - Be involved, forgive, assist and share. Recognize and appreciate uniqueness, be thoughtful and empathetic.
Neighbours- there is nothing that makes you feel more secure than living in a healthy community. Be present and active. My neighbours share garden vegetables, and lend out lawn mowers, they greet each other on the street, most of the time by name, and sometimes we even have BBQ's.
Strangers- You never know what is going on in someone's life. Respecting boundaries, but at the same time lending a hand, or an ear can sometimes make a wonderful difference in someone's day. Have you heard of paying it forward, this phenomenon actually works, so start a chain reaction today.
Humans of the world - What can one person do you ask? Ok sure the majority of us do not have the capabilities or resources to single handily stop a war, or feed a starving nation. But in a democracy your vote could help. Your activism can help. Your funds can help. There is always something you can do. It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to cost you a penny. It just has to come from somewhere good.
I like that I cry on airplanes, it makes me real. I like that I have an unwavering belief that one person can make a difference. That hope is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone and that compassion is essential. The only person you are truly accountable for is yourself, so you have no excuses. If you want to join me and start our own movement leave a comment and let's start brain storming, or if you have a cause you support leave a link. 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) .