Category Archives: Travel
I just got back from a fabulous business trip to Ottawa which I extended to go hang out and visit some friends in Montreal. I had a wonderful time but also feel very happy to be back to my Halifax routine.
Although I was only gone for a week, I feel as though I’ve just come back from three or may even four trips.
Chapter 1 of my trip was spent in Ottawa attending business meetings and also attending a great conference. I learned so much in just 3 days and met so many great people. I even met a few people from Halifax. Yay – new friends! While in Ottawa, my parents came to see me from Toronto, so I was able to spend my evenings catching up and spending some quality time with them.
Chapter 2 was spent with my good friend MC. As former roommates, I always find it neat how when we visit each other, we like to slip into our old roommate habits. We planned to spend our Sunday afternoon the same way we did when we lived together: lounging around in our pj’s with our laptops and the TV on, playing music and chatting periodically. When we visit each other we also have a traditional meal that we like to cook for old times sake. I will save that recipe for another post, but I can tell you this: it is one GOOD pasta dish!
Chapter 3 of my trip was spent visiting my friend Kristin who I met last year, but who I feel like I have known for so much longer. Kristin and I had the good fortune of working with a group of wonderful women (there were about 5 guys in our group of 30 clerks), whom I feel so blessed to have gotten to know. Anyhow, visiting Kristin and her roommate Kia was a lot of fun. I spent my days working in coffee shops around Montreal (Kristin made a very detailed walking tour of the city’s coffee shops for me, which I absolutely LOVED). In the evenings, we would visit with friends or just hang out in their charming Plateau apartment. Before going to bed, we chatted over a scoop of Kristin’s delicious coffee ice cream with a cup of tea on the side. That is a bedtime routine I could definitely get used to! A highlight of this chapter was visiting the new Bota Bota, which is a posh Scandinavian spa built into an old boat! If you are planning on making a trip to Montreal anytime soon, you MUST save som time for this activity!
Chapter 4 was my trip back to Ottawa where I spent the day catching up with my in-laws before taking a flight back to Halifax.
Overall, it was a perfect trip! Thanks to all of my wonderful and gracious hostesses!
Thought it was only a week, this is the longest trip I’ve taken alone since getting married. Coming from a very traditional background, I have to be honest, I was a bit unsure as to whether it was ok for me to leave my husband and go gallivanting by myself. Since J is toiling his way though exam season right now, he really encouraged me to go. We agreed that this time would be good for both of us.
Funnily enough, the day after I got to Montreal, MC and I watched a season 4 Sex and the City Episode where Carrie ponders the question “to be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?”. In that episode, Carrie is engaged to Aidan and finds herself missing her single life. A few episodes later, they are broken up. Though my situation is different, I can definitely relate to Carrie’s question. In fact, I pondered it a lot myself while travelling last week.
I think everyone’s answer to this question is probably slightly different depending on who they are, who they are with, and what exactly it is about their single life that they miss. For me though, I think the answer is definitely no. I’ve learned (in my ever so long 1.5 years of marriage), that having time to “my single self” can make me into a better partner. Taking trips like the one I just took, allow me to re-connect with myself and with my friends, which I think is very healthy for me. Before I got married, I got to do my share of travelling and one of the things I loved most was exploring a new city on my own. I also love hanging out with my girlfriends and having sleepovers. When you get married, of course you get to do a lot of amazing things with your partner, and one of the best things about it is that you no longer HAVE to do stuff alone! Despite this, I think it is always important to make time, when you can (obviously don’t abandon your partner and kids!), to check-up on how your ‘single self’ is doing.
What do you think?
Happy Monday dear readers! This week I dug out one of my favorite fall shots taken a few years ago in the Byward Market in Ottawa. I’ve really been enjoying this season over the past couple of years and though I haven’t been out to take many fall pictures this year, I thought that this one captured the beauty of the season.
What are you up to this week? I think that one of my favorite things about this time of year is that by now most of us have settled in nicely into our daily routines. I am continuously amazed by how uneasy I am with lack of routine. It brings me comfort to now have a regular daily and weekly pattern to follow. Halifax is starting to become more and more of a home for us as we get to know the city and the surroundings a bit better. We’ve also been blessed to have met some wonderful people here which has also made this place more homey for us.
Hope you all have a great day – and just so you know, this week on B&B I’ll be reviewing an album by an artist I was recently introduced to named Duane Forrest. He is my favorite type of artist: a musician with a mission. More on that later!
One of my favorite things about living in the Maritimes so far is the splash of colour that I get to see all over the place. Here are some pictures that I took on a recent visit to Lunenberg and Mahone Bay. Coming from Ontario, I find the architecture here to be so different and interesting to look at! I especially like this house – wouldn’t it be fun to live in a pink house?
A little while ago I mentioned that I was reading the book “Teta, Mother and Me”. It is a wonderful memoir in which the author explores her life growing up in the Middle East while also looking back at the lives of past generations of women in her family. As I was reading the other day, I found one of the stories that she recounted to be particularly powerful. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.
This week the world looked back 10 years ago to a day which many people believe proves the theory that the major source of conflict in our post-Cold War world is the “clash of civilizations.” This story is highlights how easily and tragically cultures and civilizations can and do indeed clash. As I read this story I could not help but be amazed at the ways in which we as people can be so the same and yet so different. I find it fascinating how different cultures place value on such different things. As a result of these differing views such huge yet simple misunderstandings arise.
Here is the excerpt:
In Marjeyoun, Youssef Badr [the author’s grandfather, who was a pastor] had a helper, a sort of deacon who had a large family. As time passed, this man found it increasingly difficult to live on the meagre salary paid him by the mission, and one day in desperation requested the pastor to intervene urgently with headquarters on his behalf. Seeing the fairness of the man’s request, Rev. Youssef agreed to do what he could. He wrote a letter to the mission [which was composed of Americans] headquarters in Beirut, explaining his helper’s problem. He received a positive response from the mission: on their next trip to Marjeyoun, they would visit the deacon and discuss his financial needs.
Elated, and overcome with anticipation, the deacon insisted that the visitors should lunch at his house on the forthcoming trip. Admonishing his wife to honour the visitors properly, together they made preparations for the traditional hospitality. To make their poor house fit to receive the great men from Beirut, she sold the gold bracelets and earrings that had been her dowry, and with the money bought the necessary furnishings and food. When the time came, they slaughtered the goat from whose milk they made their cheese and yoghurt, and with the meat made kibbeh and other delicacies. When the great day arrived, they slaughtered the chickens whose eggs had been a mainstay of their diet. The meal was a triumph of Arab generosity and hospitality; they had sacrificed their living to honour their guests.
The Americans, having eaten and drunk plentifully, and having given the matter some consideration, wrote from Beirut that the man seemed comfortable enough and in no need of financial improvement. ‘We should have fed them olives, onions and lentils instead of honouring them as we did,’ cried the man, beating his forehead with his fist when he heard the news. ‘We should have fed them what we ourselves eat instead of treating them as honoured guests.’
The author then adds “I have always remembered this little story as it shows the difference between two world visions, and the boundary between the imperatives of that world in which hospitality defined human relations, and the more practical, but crueller, imperatives of modern economic relationships”. So true.
Our vacation to the Cabot Trail was rather impromptu. In fact, we only decided to go the night before when we saw that we would be getting a few days of sunshine (this has been pretty rare this month). We left with our tent and some blankets, still not sure whether we would camp or check out some bed and breakfasts along the trail.
On the ride up, we stopped for some lunch in New Glasgow. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend stopping at Baked. It is a cute little place with some scrumptious food.
Our first night there, we set up camp in an area along the trail called Ingonish and went looking for a place to have dinner. We ended up at a pub called the “Thirsty Hiker”. We weren’t really expecting much when we walked in but we were simply grateful to have found a place that was open past 9. To my surprise though, that night turned out to be one which neither of us will never forget. We met and were invited to join a Cape Bretonian family that was gathered for a wedding happening two days later. We sat with the parents of the bride, uncles and cousins. They taught us all about the island of Cape Breton, its history, its people’s and its culture. J and I loved every second of it. In between stories they sang along with the performer (who was singing some Celtic folk songs). We were in awe of how they knew every song seeing as we had never heard any of them. The whole atmosphere felt magical, maybe because it was so unexpected. We felt like we were in a different world and yet we hadn’t even left the country. What fascinated us the most was how this little island (which is a part of Nova Scotia) has managed to blend and preserve its Scottish, Irish and Acadian roots so nicely. One side of the island is more Scottish and Irish (creating a general blend of Celtic culture) and the other side is completely Acadian (the descendents of the initial French settlers). That night we were on the Celtic side (hence the music), and the next day we would be continuing along our journey towards the Acadian side.
Our friends told us all about the history of the Acadian people and how they were expelled from the island in the 1750s because of their culture. Anyone choosing to stay had to assimilate rather quickly. In fact, our friend told us that one of his ancestors was named “Jeune” (French for “Young”) and that in an effort to assimilate, she changed her name to “Young” and completely stopped speaking French. It was terribly sad to hear about how these people had been treated, and even sadder that this is barely talked about today. J and I had heard parts of this story here and there but had never really put everything together. Interesting fact – when the Acadians were literally shipped off of the island , many of them wound up in Louisiana. We learned that the word “Cajun” actually comes from the word “Acadian”. Fascinating stuff! Only much later did some of them start to return to the Maritimes.
We left the next day with a much greater appreciation of the people and history of Cape Breton and felt more ready to see the Acadian side of the island. As we drove through many little fisherman villages, we admired the beauty of the land, but both agreed that it was the interaction of the people with their land that really spoke to us. As a side note, the soundtrack to our trip was the Peter, Bjorn and John album “Gimme some”. I recommend giving it a listen.
It was amazing to arrive to the other side and hear the Acadian French mixed in with English where the day before we had just heard Gaelic.
On our last day there we took a break from driving to relax. We went on a whale watching tour, saw some whales – and even spotted a moose! We also went to check out a beach near our camp site and spent a few hours relaxing and reading on the beach (I am reading Teta, Mother and Me and am really enjoying it). We felt like we had our own private beach because we were literally all alone there with our books (for anyone planning a trip there, this beach was called “Petit Étang”). Once we had enough sun, we decided to go for a swim. We had the option between the Ocean and a lake but chose the latter because it was warmer. Our experience in the lake added to the serendipity of our day because since it was fairly shallow and not too big we actually decided to walk all the way to the other end. WE WALKED ACROSS THE LAKE! At the other end was lush, untouched natural beauty. We were in a valley surrounded by trees and mountains and just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, an eagle perched itself on one of the trees nearby. We stood there watching the eagle and admiring the scenery for quite some time. Neither of us had ever seen a bald eagle before. We went home that night and grilled some turkey sausages and roasted some marshmallows and counted our blessings. What a special little vacation this was.
This is one of my favorite shots taken on our trip to Cape Breton. These lobster traps were all over the place in the tiny fishing villages that we drove through. As a born and bred city girl, I had never seen these before and though I am really not a lobster eater, I liked what they added to the landscape. I think that the locals thought I was kind of silly for taking so many pictures of lobster traps, but they were new to me and they caught my eye so I thought you might like them too. Happy Friday!
We’ve been able to get away from the boxes and the house work over the past little while and have gone out and to enjoy Halifax – we even took a road trip to Cape Breton to see the Cabot trail!
Last week-end we went to check out the Al Fresco Film Festo which is an outdoor film fest on the Halifax Seaport. It was so beautiful to be sitting outside with about a thousand other people watching “What about Bob?” (Did I mention that the theme of this year’s festival is “Bill Murray”? So random but amazing at the same time. They are screening a Bill Murray film every Friday!). We felt so Atlantic as we watched a few sailboats pull up next to the dock to watch along with us.
The next morning we checked out the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market which we also absolutely loved. Lots of vendors selling fresh, organic veggies as well as a variety of things from home cooked ethnic foods to pies to jewellery. It was fun to be out early exploring the market and tasting the yummy pastries. Once the market started getting a bit too crowded for our liking, we headed to Point Pleasant park for some Yoga by the ocean. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I am all about the outdoor Yoga. Having loved “Yoga on the hill” this summer, I was pleased to see that I could now join up something just as beautiful here. To me, there is just something special about being outdoors and in community with others. Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed the class and will be going back for sure. For such a small city, this place has a lot going on!
To make a great week-end even better, we checked out a local Pizza place called Salvatore’s that was recommended to us by a friend. We weren’t really in any particular mood for pizza, but it was the only place we could find that was open late so we decided to try it. I don’t even know where to start about this pizza. We got the “Pomodoro” – sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and fresh garlic. It was a perfect pizza. A ten out of ten. I’m not sure if I should be happy or concerned that we discovered this place at the beginning of our time here…
So we have been here for about a week – and I have already found a place to buy candied chickpeas!
Lucky for us, there is a Middle Eastern grocer about 5 minutes away from our home and, though it’s relatively small, it carries everything I would have wanted to find. Besides the candied chickpeas, I was hoping to find some Pomegranate molasses (and I did!). The Lebanese use this a lot in their cooking and I’ve been meaning to try it out because the few times that I have tried it, it was just so good. My mother in law makes particularly good use of this stuff and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps. Once I’ve had a chance to try a few recipes with this little secret weapon, I will report back. Expect greatness.
J and I found ourselves feeling particularly at home in this shop and as a result we bought a lot of items simply because they were comfort foods, and not because we had any particular craving for them (though they will not be going to waste, I can tell you that). Its amazing how just having certain items in your fridge can make your little abode feel like that much more of a home. Here is a list of what we came back with:
- Labneh: a soft Lebanese cheese made by straining yogurt
- Pickled turnips (or in Arabic “lift”): you might have had these in a shawarma sandwich
- Macedonian feta cheese: this is what my dad always has in the fridge at home. J and I are hoping that the kind we bought will be just as good
- Za’atar: a mixture made up of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It can be used as a seasoning or can also be eaten with lebneh.
- Mango juice: reminds me so much of my visits to Egypt
- Halawa: a sweet crumbly spread usually eaten with bread at breakfast time but it can be eaten in a variety of ways any time of the day
- Candied chickpeas: these were not freshly made in-store as they are in the roastery in Ottawa and as a result they are quite expensive here!
The funniest part about this list is that the majority of these items are not ones we are accustomed to buying. They are tastes and flavours which we are usually fed when visiting family, or which our parents will just pick up for us when they go to the Middle Eastern grocery store. In fact, save for the chick peas, this is probably the first time I have ever purchased any of these items for myself.
The outing was special to us though. Though the Middle Eastern grocery store is not a regular stop for us in Ottawa, we naturally gravitated towards it here. I think it might be because we both have an unspoken desire and need to preserve our cultures and to integrate them into our new home. When we live close to family, we really don’t need to put any effort into this. Now that we are further away, it seems to have happened organically.
Since my last post we left Ottawa, drove through 4 provinces, and made it to Halifax – our new home.
Our trip over was long but a lot of fun. For a long time I’ve felt like it was almost wrong to have seen so little of my own country. Making the drive fulfilled that desire to see what the rest of Canada looked like. Though you can’t really get much of a taste for how the rest of the country lives by quickly driving through the cities and towns, I still feel as though I’ve gotten a little sampling of what’s out there. Sort of like flipping through a magazine before going back to read the content. I hope to get to see more soon.
Another major highlight of the trip was that I got to drive a UHAUL truck for the very first time. I absolutely loved it. I felt like I was queen of the road!
For J and I, this move is a big one. It is our first time moving away to a new and strange new place by ourselves and it is also our first time being home owners. To add to this, we sort of kind of bought our place without having actually seen it in person (we did our due diligence, but still). You can imagine the build up to finally getting to see it in person when we arrived. Thankfully, we absolutely love our new place and are so excited for the life we are going to build here. I’ll post pictures once everything is up and ready.
Our first few nights in Halifax were met with much rain. In fact, within only a few hours of being here we took out the rain jackets that we were advised to buy before coming out here. Here we are in our new snazzy matching jackets.
We experienced what was apparently one of the biggest rain/thunderstorms that Halifax has ever gotten. We’re finding that the weather here is very different from what we know coming from Toronto/Ottawa. The weather here generally just seems to be more temperate – which is fine for us. We are told to expect a little less heat in the summers and a little less cold in the winters. Sounds good to me. They are forecasting lots of sunshine for tomorrow – so we plan on taking advantage of that and enjoying our very first Saturday in Halifax! Happy week-end all – wherever you may be!