Archives: travels

i’ll say it just this once…


With only a month and a half left before our baby’s due date Steve and I decided to take some advice from our friends who have children, and go on a mini-vacation just the two of us (before we lose this privilege for what many claimed would be an eternity). It was also really just a great excuse to escape from the city for some real relaxation: no computers, no phones, just good food, pool side swims, afternoon snoozes and time to enjoy the fleeting moments of summer and life as just the two of us.

Not wanting to go too far we looked into a few inns around Niagara on the Lake but opted instead for something a little more out of the summer wine country tourist trap area and alas we came upon Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario!

Taking only the country back-roads it took us just less than 45 minutes by car from downtown Hamilton to reach this little 100 something year old country estate and oasis.

The grounds of the inn were quite beautiful, and included tennis courts, croquet course, heated outdoor pool, vegetable garden, pond, 12km of wooded trails (for hiking or biking), plus a spa with free access to their sauna, hot tub, and steam room.

They had a gorgeous vegetable garden that Steve and I drooled over at length.  Purple plum tomatoes, bell peppers, purple kale, and pumpkins ripe on the vine already!

A little pool side reading that I had picked up from Mixed Media (thanks Dave!).

I frequently get told that I’m carrying small so as luck would have it I could still fit into this dress and I think I may have just made the cut for the Langdon Hall dinner dress code (dinner at Langdon Hall was a formal affair: no denim or shorts, and a suit jacket is recommended)!

The food was devine, delicate and ornately beautiful. We sampled some snow crab with edible flowers, raw elk with oyster (Steve sampled that), duck, beef, dessert or a choice of sampling from the cheese cart of exclusively gourmet Canadian cheeses, and then again more dessert.

A three course dinner came with our hotel stay plus a gorgeous country breakfast in the morning. If you so fancied you could get a seven course meal with wine pairings, as well as pairings of scotches, brandy or cognacs to go with your gourmet cheeses and dessert sampling platter.

I have to admit this was an extravagant visit and we will likely not indulge in something so exquisite again for a long time. I don’t think I would’ve been able to comfortably camp this summer so a fancy hotel was our ONLY alternative -right?  I am sure that we’ll make up for it for many years to come when our summers will be spent camping and exploring the far reaching corners and wilderness of Canada and the US -sounds pretty dreamy to me!

*Langdon Hall Country House & Spa, 1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge, Ontario, 519.740.2100

market pit stop to guelph

Typically on a Sunday, if heading to Guelph for a visit, we would’ve likely made a stop at the Aberfoyle Antique Market.  But having recently come to know of Mizener’s Antiques & Flea Market (while en route to a day trip to Christie Conservation Area earlier in the week) we thought it would be nice to check out another market that just so happens to be a short 10-15 minutes drive from Hamilton.

It is definitely a scaled down version of Aberfoyle with cheaper prices, fewer people, and a needed keen eye to find those vintage gems.  Mizener’s is the perfect kind of place for breezing through in and hour or two leaving ample time for visits to surrounding areas: local farms, Webster’s Falls, Christie Conservation Area, or wherever it is you’re heading to.

While at Mizener’s we stopped for a classic market bite to eat: peameal bacon on a bun, and fresh cut fries. AND we found a steal of a deal with a stall that was getting rid of its inventory of antiques -an already priced to go vintage 60′s dresser with 40% off.  We grabbed it for $25 dollars just barely fitting it into the car.

Here it is in its new home in our bedroom (the dresser I had before was from when I was a kid, it was definitely time for an upgrade).

We got to Guelph with time for a pit stop for ice-cream at the Boathouse Tea Room before heading to a backyard BBQ for our friend’s birthday.

I sometimes forget that when we go to Guelph to visit this crew of friends that the ratio of children tends to exceed the number adults.  At this particular event I believe that there were over twenty kids under the age of six! The backyard was perfectly suited for little ones, painting, dirt, shovels, a wheelbarrow -what more could a kid want?

When it was time to get the BBQ going the call went out for little hands to help in shucking the corn.  The kids were so awesome and enthusiastic to lend a hand.  SO adorable seeing nearly twenty little hands shucking away. That corn was ready to go in no time!  Oh sweet summer corn.  We feasted on tandori burgers, sausage, sweet corn, and a homemade blackforest cake! A perfect summer time feast -thanks so much for the BBQ Ben and Christina!!

lakeside park

If you’re looking for a nice strip of beach not too far away from the old hammer then head to the little oasis of Port Dalhousie.  Just outside of St. Catharines proper is this beauty of a lakeside park.  With its whispering silver poplar trees and long sandy banks perfect for wading you could spend a day lounging and picnicking.  We went before school was out, so the beach was quiet and calm.  People were busting out their picnics for dinner, and firing up their hibachis for hotdog roasting and bbq’d burgers.

I would definitely come back here for a day to enjoy the sun and sand.  There’s ice-cream shops, pubs and patios all before you hit the beach, as well as, an old school carousel from the early 1900′s that charges only 5 cents a ride!

Truth be known Lakeside Park and Port Dalhousie were not on my radar of places to visit.  Steve on the other hand, being a huge Rush fan, had secretly known about this park and had suggested we go.  According to Steve, Neil Peart drummer of Rush, had grown up in Port Dalhousie and had written the lyrics of song Lakeside Park specifically about the park in Port Dalhousie.

Midway hawkers calling
“Try your luck with me;”
Merry-go-round wheezing
The same old melody
A thousand ten cent wonders
Who could ask for more
A pocketful full of silver
The key to heaven’s door

Lakeside Park
Willows in the breeze
Lakeside Park
So many memories
Laughing rides
Midway lights
Shining stars on summer nights

Days of barefoot freedom
Racing with the waves
Nights of starlit secrets
Crackling driftwood flames
Drinking by the lighthouse
Smoking on the pier
Still we saw the magic
Was fading every year

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display.
Dancing fires on the beach,
Singing songs together…
Though it’s just a memory,
Some memories last forever.

A 1976 live performance of Lakeside Park by Rush.

day trippin’

On a recent hot and sunny weekday Steve and I decided to do a mini day trip to St. Catharines’ old downtown strip.  To be truthful I had not been in St. Catharines since I was a little kid and the only thing I remembered about the city were its 1970′s suburbs and that huge bridge that crosses over the Welland Canal that makes you feel like you’re driving right up to the sky.  I’d never been to the old downtown St. Catharines and I was pretty excited to take a looksy.

St. Catharines’ downtown is capital O-L-D (for a Souther Ontario city).  According to Wikipedia:

The area was originally known as a storehouse for goods at the crossing of an Iroquois trail over Twelve Mile Creek. Curving Indian trails formed the foundation of the downtown streets as they appear today. Among them remains the largest and most historically-significant of the city, St. Paul Street.

Unlike many planned North American cities whose downtown streets run in a straight grid-like line St. Paul Street curves and meanders along a little ridge mimicking the winding rivery creek that used to run behind it.  There’s no creek back there now, but there is a highway.  This is just my guess as the only indications that there was an old running river was from some old writing I noted on the side of current artsy occupants of Bang On hair salon‘s building that says that it used to be an old flour mill -presumably powered by the current of the river that used to flow behind St. Paul Street?

In any case, our first stop on our mini trip was the  Niagara Artists Centre, which I had been wanting to visit for a quite a while.  It is not by any means a monstrosity of a gallery but similar to the 1-2 room gallery space of  Hamilton Artist Inc.

Artist Jared Charzewski‘s exhibit Salvage Swell was installed in the back gallery.  It was awesome! His sculpture was made up of piles and piles of used clothes.

*Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St.Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.641.0331

A few doors down was vintage clothing store Out of the Past -I know, I know Hamilton has one too but this one is the numero-uno original and I loved it! The prices were so right, and there was such a great collection of items for both men and women.

*Out of the Past, 340 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.288.6007

The next place we happened upon was a real treat.

The Write Book Shop is one of those bookstores that you can get lost in for hours and hours and still have a stock pile of rainy days banked to come back for further exploration. They had two floors plus several back rooms of books ranging form rare antiques to classics, children’s books, books on Ontario, history, crafting, cooking and sewing. You name it they have it.

*The Write Bookshop, 285 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.684.8426

For lunch we stopped in at a vegan restaurant/bakery/café called Rise Above. I first heard about this place via the folks at Mjolk and it looked so good that we decided to check it out for ourselves. The lunch was great and so was the Bill Murray painting exhibit (Still Murray by Grant Redman) but my favourite part of this stop were the vegan donuts. Yeah, it IS possible -vegan donuts!  AND they were good.

You can read more about the creator of these vegan donuts -Kyle Paton here.

I would love for both Kyle (owner of Rise Above) and Bruce Worden (chef or Rise Above) to open up a fresh and contemporary place like this in downtown Hamilton. Can’t you just picture it in one of the storefronts of Treble Hall?

*Rise Above, 120 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 289.362.2636

I was reading that similar to Hamilton downtown St. Catharines was rampant with one-way streets. In effort to rejuvenate the core they converted their one-ways to two-ways and low and behold look at the new businesses opening up. I’ve even heard rumours of the rerouting of the Niagara Wine Route so that it will eventually pass through St. Catharines’ downtown. Gotta love good city planning and investment in the downtown core!

Overall it was a great little day trip to St. Catharines. I think that it has something going on, and besides I’m always up for a new place to explore.



It’s a different world just a short 30 minute drive away from downtown Hamilton.  Straight up Upper James for a few kilometers, and you will hit the small and quaint town of Caledonia.  I had no idea it was so close!  We wanted to check it out over the weekend for the city-wide garage sale.  However, leaving the house after 10am meant that we had basically missed most of the good deals and sales.  With the rain managing to hold off for the afternoon it was still worth the trip to discover some of these Caledonian gems.

Caledonia, Grand River, Ontario, railway bridge, fishing

Searching the residential back roads for good sales we came upon a stretch of road along side the river, and when we came upon this I couldn’t help but gawk at the old Grand River Mills.  What a building!  It was a wheat flour mill built in 1853.  Powered by the flowing river, it milled wheat into flour from 1857 until the 1960′s! Currently you can’t enter the building, but since it is a designated historic building you can rest assured that it is being preserved.  There are plans for its eventual reuse that I believe are currently in the works.

Old Grand River Mill, Caledonia, Ontario

After scouring a few more garage sales and coming up empty handed we decided to make our way.  Our first stop before crossing the river back to town was at this antique shop at the old Haldiman House, which just so happens to have been built by James Little, who also built the flour mill by the river.

Caledonia, Ontario, antiques

Next to the antique store was an 85 year old snack bar called the Oasis.  We grabbed an ice-cream there for our first of what was to be several Caledonia treats.

Oasis, old burger joint, Caledonia, Ontario, old signage

Heading back over the bridge I spotted Jones Bakery.  Another old establishment still baking with a brick oven!  We sampled a butter tart, and some bread.  Prices for treats in Caledonia sure can’t be beat.  Steve made a payment of less than $2 and it covered everything.  We should have bought a fresh rhubarb pie.

Jones Bakery, Caledonia Ontario, Brick Oven, Established 1904

Jones bakery had a fine selection of candy too, beautifully displayed in that old-fashioned way.

 Jones Bakery, Caledonia, candy and baked goods

Well, we left Caledonia empty of garage sale finds, but I left feeling satisfied having explored a new area that I’d never been to before.

spring romance

No doubt spring is in the air!  What better way to celebrate the romantic nature of spring than with these vintage postcards.  A few years back when I travelled through Belgium I picked up some cheesy love postcards in the small and picturesque town of Bruges.

I love corny old postcards and that crazy artificial sky-blue.

And my favourite: the head tilt chin lift. “Look into my eyes”.

in the streets of philadephia

Since Philly is so close to NYC it was worth a little jaunt over to visit some friends and check out the city.

When we got off the bus at around lunch time our number one priority was to get a Philly cheesesteak sandwich stat.  We were strictly advised not to get one from any of the touristy locations, as we’d be surely disappointed AND we wanted nothing but the real deal.  Directions were given to go directly to Paesano’s in the Italian market. So that’s what we did, and this is what was ordered; The Paesano -beef brisket, roasted tomato, sharp provolone, horseradish mayo, the signature fried egg all stuffed into a hot and fresh hoagie bun.  A delivery of hot buns arrived as our order was being taken, so you knew everything was going to be fresh and melty good.  Steve took one bite of his sandwich and nearly died right then and there -it was so damn good!

Besides the awesome sandwich, and fantastic Italian market, Philly is rampant with about a million murals that spread throughout the city.  It’s actually really gorgeous, and a lot of them depict specific historical figures and events that occurred in that particular area.  One of my favourites was this pixelated mural of trees in blossom coinciding perfectly with Philly’s early spring tree blossoms.  You can see some of the fabulous murals of Philadelphia here -you gotta love cities that invest in community and art projects like this one: The Mural Arts Program.

We ended our afternoon in the city of brotherly love in a gorgeous 1800 Victorian themed brew house called the Farmer’s Cabinet, where deliciously unique and exquisite beers were sampled.

I definitely want to come back again to Philadelphia to spend a little more time checking out all of its history and secret dug-out spaces.


red hook

There’s a definite consistency to what I like and find intriguing about certain places.  I think part of my love for places like this has something to do with industrial spaces that are in transition -one half still a little rough and industrious while the other is moving into new transformative territory.  I believe that Red Hook is one of those places.  Located in south-west Brooklyn a little off the beaten track it’s home to many new businesses like the outstanding gourmet Fairway supermarket, the Lobster Pound -lobster bisque sandwich shop, the Good Fork, Hope & Anchor diner, Fort Defiance café, and the Bait and Tackle bar.  Hmm there seems to be something going on here.  It is a mixed neighbourhood sandwiched by loading docks, and warehouses on one side, government subsidized housing on the other and gorgeous brownstones neighbourhoods just a short walk up through Carrol Gardens to Cobble Hill.

One section of the many beers from around the world sold at Fairway market.  Why oh why Ontario are your restrictions and regulations on alcohol so strict?  Why do you limit the possibilities of potential sampling and tasting all those delicious beers out there?

Local Red Hook watering hole; Bait and Tackle.

Off a side street behind some warehouses we came across two gorgeous buildings home to Cacao Prieto chocolate factory, and Botanica wine bar.  The murals painted on the fences are for both of the spaces.  I believe they are open seasonally and were slated to open up in just a few weeks.

We spent a lot of our time in Red Hook and it was where we called home for the duration of our visit.  Thanks Andrea for graciously hosting us in your lovely apartment! I loved being able to see places that as a tourist I wouldn’t know about.  My highlights of this trip really were just walking around Brooklyn.

i love ramen

It’s true.  I love ramen!  When I lived in Japan I even joined an I love ramen club.  We sampled ramen in various different cities and small towns wherever there was ramen, and it was everywhere.

Over the past few years I’ve seen multiple ramen shops open up in Toronto, but I find that they’re never quite right; the soup’s too salty, not hot enough or the noodles are too soft…  I know, I know, I’m a ramen snob.

So whenever I’m in New York, where all food is just better, I always scope out the ramen shops.

Here’s the run down.

We checked out Hide (he-de)-Chan Ramen, which is a Japanese-run mid-town Manhattan ramen house.

I loved how you could choose your noodle firmness!  A ramen lovers dream come true! I went with medium firm.

We could not pass up draft Sapporo beer and the classic deep fried chicken karage, which was to die for -crispy, gingery, lemon zested, and delicious!

I went with the Hakata Kuro Ramen, with roasted garlic.  It was rich and delicious.  The noodles were skinny and perfectly firm.

*Hide-Chan Ramen, 248 East 52nd Street  New York, 212.813.1800

Our next ramen stop was to Ramen Misoya another Japanese-run ramen house on the lower east side.  It was actually on a strip of other ramen noodle shops all in a row.

The ramen was good- well I’d say alright.  Half a potato on an already heavy bowl of noodle soup with 3 honking slices of pork!?  That wasn’t necessary.

*Ramen Misoya, 129 2nd Ave, New York

My all time favourite NYC ramen has to be Rai-Rai Ken‘s.  We actually had this ramen on our last visit to the city.  This east village beauty of a ramen shop could not go without an honourable mention.  The establishment itself stays true to form as an authentic sit-at-the-counter ramen house, although some might argue that their ramen is not so traditional.

I ordered the Mapu Dofu Ramen, which was Chinese meets Japanese ramen.  Not your traditional bowl of Japanese ramen, but it was amazing!

*Rai Rai Ken, 214 E. 10th St., New York, 212.477.7030

I have sampled Ippudo Ramen too.  Which was also good, but it was a long line and wait considering it’s a large chain ramen shop.

I think I will absolutely die if an authentic ramen shop opens up in Hamilton.

i don’t want to go to chelsea

One of the perks of getting back into the teaching profession is March Break holidays and trips!

Steve and I headed down to New York City over March break to visit some friends, explore more of Brooklyn and indulge in some NYC art and food.

On a visit to the big apple last year, we checked out Chelsea and decided that we really wanted to go back to do some more exploring (I really did want to go to Chelsea!).  We actually ended up spending a few days hanging around there.  We walked the High Line, which was in glorious spring form.

The High Line is a 2.5 km park that winds around Chelsea.  It’s actually an old raised rail line that has been transformed into a pedestrian walkway with natural vegetation, flowers, wild grasses, urban landscaping, and amazing city views.

On this particular day the sun was shining, and all the early spring foliage was already budding and blooming.

We also checked out the contingency of contemporary art galleries that are concentrated in Chelsea -nearly a whole 5 city blocks worth!  The galleries are privately owned but occupy huge industrial spaces, representing some major players in art like Georg Baselitz and Roy Lichtenstein.

In terms of art we arrived in perfect timing to catch the last day of  The Armory Show.  It is one of the largest international art show and sales in the world and is only open to the public for four days.  We concentrated mostly on the contemporary art section that took nearly 3 hours to walk through.  It was a lot to take in visually all in one go and I left with my head in a bit of an art spin.

Once the art fix was satisfied it was on to the food! That’ll be my next post.

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