And while I can't confidently exude my capability as a minimalist packer, I do thoroughly enjoy preparing for a weekend brimming with exciting outdoor activities.
The semi-annual trips up north are always a welcome addition to the mundane and occasionally slow periods of summer humidity.
And while I can't confidently exude my capability as a minimalist packer, I do thoroughly enjoy preparing for a weekend brimming with exciting outdoor activities.
A positive outlook on weak Wi-Fi signals is the opportunity it creates for off-screen interactions. For many Canadians - especially central-east coast citizens such as myself, we crave for nothing more than to be able to embrace the great outdoors as weather conditions permit. After all, it won't be long until piercing gusts and ample snowfall strike again.
Cycling, rowing, hiking, stargazing, and swimming are only a handful of the activities we partook in during our past and present stays, however the options remain as vast as your heart is capable of conjuring.
The previous night's tossing and turning had left a scarring impression. Lowering the room temperature helped to offset this pattern completely, which had me feeling a lot less sloth-like when morning rolled around.
Majority of the rest of the party were still snoozing away, so another trip to the gym was made. I caught up slightly on Absolute Boyfriend before heading out again. Interestingly enough, we had yet to drop by Barrie at all, consequently resulting in a modified series title for the purpose of maintaining accuracy.
We returned to Orillia - Lake Couchiching, to be exact. Instead of taking following the 30-kilometre bike path though, we were on the lookout for something else: an aquatic activity whose true potential could only be unlocked at temperatures of twenty degrees Celsius and greater.
Last year's weekday afternoon rowing segment had been successfully executed with courtesy of Narrows Canoe. Having planned this season's retreat around the predicted climate conditions, the activity happened to coincide with a weekend, which introduced a significantly larger number of rental options and destinations.
The top contenders were: A Breath of Fresh Air in Orillia, Swift Georgian Bay in Waubaushene, and Bass Lake in Oro-Medonte. Swift's coordinates fell outside our geographic scope for the day, and also appeared to rent kayaks on a daily basis as opposed to the hourly we were considering; Bass Lake was fees were steep as could be at $30 per hour per individual kayak/canoe/paddle board. By process of elimination, A Breath of Fresh Air seemed most suited to our needs. That along with the fact that it wasn't far from Cafe Seoulista, a spot I desperately wanted to revisit before our departure. (I mean, it only seemed fitting to grab an icy, post-kayaking treat, right?)
A Breath of Fresh Air wasn't too difficult to find. Google Maps had specified a location north of the pop-up, though we were eventually able to locate Al and his kayaks by shifting our gaze to the
He warned us of the windy weather prior to waiver collection, even noting that the safest path was to travel along the shoreline and allow the waters to return us back to shore later onwards. We were also kindly provided the option of paying afterwards, such that our time on the water wasn't restricted.
The kayaks were vivid in hue, and much easier to control than the heavier ones present at Kayakity-Yak's stall at Tudhope Park. Most important to note was the price difference: only a mere nine dollars were charged per hour! For our ninety-minute session, the total came to fourteen per person; the half hour had been rounded up to the nearest dollar.
Along the dock were calmer waters; rougher waves met us as we inched north, but we persevered until just past Fittons Road, a point marked by a trio of luscious shrubbery, before turning back. Newly acquired for the return paddle were sore shoulders and a very discernible band-aid tan.
Clouds appeared to be copied and pasted across the sky: all very uniform. Almost reminiscent of those Windows XP window glitches, where dragging a frozen window across the screen would result in identical, translated images.
By the time we pulled into the sandy dock area, the clock read 2:30 PM. The fastest source of sustenance resided with the hot dog and hamburger shack just outside the parking lot, however other members of the party suggested heading directly to Cafe Seoulista in the name of time. We did just that, since any further detours would have delayed our suppertime.
The smiley couple welcomed us back into their cozy café. With a larger group in tow, they assisted us in combining a two-seater with their largest four-person table.
Savoury options were minimal at the establishment, so the famished members of the party simply opted for a Croissant Sandwich (with a $1.99 side of organic greens). Turkey Breast or Ham acted as the main source of protein; fresh tomatoes, sliced cheese, and a light layer of dressing were the remaining constituents.
Airy and buttery were the croissants, and slightly moist rather than flaky. This precise texture paired well in a sandwich formation, all while eliminating the fallout commonly experienced with the fragile, fresh-from-the-oven renditions. Each individual component within could be tasted without fear of overpowering its partners; the inclusion of seasonings had been done tastefully as well - adequate amounts contributed depth of flavour instead of outright overkill.
< Pictured above and below: Ham Croissant Sandwich, Turkey Breast Croissant Sandwich, Brewed Coffee, Ice Cube Latte, Red Bean Latte, Honey Brick Toast, Banana Chocolate Bingsoo, Mango Bingsoo >
Brewed Coffee was presented in a muted mint mug, its no-nonsense appeal offset with a cute cat spoon.
My own choice of drink had bounced between the Korean Apricot Tea (otherwise known as "Green Plum/Apricot" or 매실) and Honey Oolong Iced Tea at first. It was later that my eyes fell upon the "Espresso Bar" section, in which the Seoulista Blend and Ice Cube Latte swiftly booted the less caffeinated options out of mind. The former was depicted as a Korean-style Double Double, bearing no more sweetness than that of Timmies' original. Considering my lack of fondness for the national concoction, I steered myself in the latter direction.
It wasn't my first time seeing an Ice Cube Latte, but Seoulista's variation instantly distinguished itself from the rest. Organic lactose-free milk is poured on top of several cubes of frozen espresso, intensifying in concentration over time as opposed to being diluted. As the coffee ice slowly disintegrated, a cool slushy effect was also witnessed.
An initial concern on my part was that the Ice Cube Latte was only available in one size: Large. However, I quickly grew to enjoy and savour the drink as it underwent its three stages of evolution. Bold, flavourful, and potent, it's easily a great choice for coffee lovers looking to extend the life of their typical iced latte on a scorching summer day. One also had the option adding sweetener or leaving it "Black" (my pick).
The first day had terminated with a restless night of overheating, terribly soft pillows, and maximum stuffiness. I awoke to a different issue every two hours or so, then eventually to the buzzing tune of Morning Flower.
There was no time to lose. Glancing outside at the sunny skies - with tufts of fluffy clouds like outstretched arms - I prepared a relatively familiar breakfast, in a relatively unfamiliar residence.
My participation in an AquaFit session spanned forty-five minutes. Water aerobics was an activity I hadn't tried before, especially not the morning classes with my sordid sleeping patterns. It was fun and engaging: a low-impact, resistance routine that felt like play time at the pool.
Feasting locations had been researched the night before, thus there was no hesitation towards our lunch destination. Such plans entailed a drive to Orillia, where we would reside for the remainder of sunlight hours.
The Shack Eatery had surfaced on my radar; depicted as a wonderful spot offering comfort food in the form of ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, we inputted the address and off we went!
It was a shack, in the most literal sense. Even with the assistance of navigation technology, I had managed to zip by without batting an eyelash. There was a drastic difference between expectation and reality. Having said that, to dismiss the restaurant as a result of its gritty gravel parking lot or unassuming storefront would have been a loss on our parts.
Being located at the corner of a busy intersection (West Street S and Hwy 12) meant a solid scene capable of appealing to both travellers and workers of the nearby industrial businesses, and we were about to discover just exactly what the restaurant was capable of delivering.
The menu was straightforward - just as advertised on its website. Fuss-free "Shackwiches" and "Shack Plates" were the only two options available, and, frankly speaking, the only ones necessary in leaving an impact. Smoked Sausage, Pulled Pork/Beef/Chicken, and Smoked Ribs were the primary focus of these orders. Sandwiches could be ordered solo or in combo format to include a side and (soft) drink, while Plates included up to three sides.
< Pictured above and below: Pulled Beef Bun and Pulled Chicken Plate >
Generously portioned between two halves of a soft kaiser bun were tender sections of slow-cooked, seasoned beef. The roll was lightly dressed with a mild sauce (though one could have opted for medium or hot), horseradish (optional), and the most mindblowing moiety of sweet caramelized onions. The Pulled Beef Bun hit all the right notes, leaving us feeling utterly satisfied.
Read Part 1 HERE !
Because of the previous day's ceaseless rainfall, we had thought it a better idea to steer clear of gravel paths. A ridiculously informative website enabled me to select a trail that aligned most accurately with our needs, including time restrictions and location preferences.
Uhthoff Trail commenced in Orillia, then crossed Hwy 11 into the township of Severn. Categorized as an "Easy" thirty kilometres with parking available by Lake Couchiching, it was also listed to be part of the Trans Canada Trail. Curiosity piqued, we had loaded our bikes back into the car in preparation for a quick ride.
Two-way, paved bicycle lanes curved about the shoreline, just between Couchiching Beach and its several parking lots. We followed this path until Jarvis Street, where I took a daring turn into the woods instead of continuing on paved asphalt.
Contrary to our initial belief, the ground was not sodden at all. We swung onto Lightfoot Trail with ease, then followed its slope-less path to the next intersection. It remained sturdy underneath our wheels, while the trees diffused harsh UV rays from the skies above.
Past Wilson Point Road was Millennium Trail, which eventually turned to gravel and wound underneath Hwy 11.
We persevered until just past Division Road, then readily stopped for a break by a small creek.
The entire trail was largely devoid of elevation changes - and defining landscapes too for that matter. Uhthoff made for a rather uninteresting ride, but nonetheless a good escape from UV rays and muddiness. Trenches had been dug on both sides of the trails, presumably to assist with drainage of the main path.
The start of another Barrie trip commenced with a disarray of last-minute packing. And by "last-minute", I mean scrambling to gather not only outdoor clothing, but also downsizing skincare essentials with the departure time ticking down to its final sixty minutes.
It was early afternoon as we made our way northwest. Lunch was skipped, naturally, due to the deadline that lay before me; instead, an Egg McMuffin, Iced Coffee, and Nature Valley Bar summed up the components of my mid-day meal.
The forecast had warned of precipitation, but little was I aware that the droplets would only increase in size and density with every passing minute. To say that it was merely pouring when we pulled in was an understatement: it was raining cats and dogs!
As such, we turned to indoor activities for the remainder of the day - namely a brief gym session (where I finally caught up with a bit of Absolute Boyfriend) followed by swimming. The events eased us into the evening, simultaneously leaving us ravenous yet uninspired to hunt for sustenance beyond a 10-kilometre radius.
Food delivery services were nonexistent, whether it be Foodora, UberEats, SkipThe Dishes - you name it. The luxuries of urban and suburban neighbourhoods could not be applied here. It was then that we bit the bullet and dove back into the car, taking no breaks until we arrived near the highway exit.
Amiche Restaurant had been passed by on several occasions, whether it be to visit Chelsea Chocolates or simply since it was situated at a busy tourist(y) intersection. For the duration of our visit, it wasn't too busy. Rather, guest volumes had seemed to slow with the angry patter, leaving both the asphalt lot and interior relatively quiet.
We were seated immediately, then shortly provided menus and our beverages of choice. The waitress batted not even an eyelash at my frizzy head of post-swimming waves - "volume" as orangecane calls it - which was something I greatly appreciated in my famished state.
The menu was scanned briefly, and items of interest were narrowed down accordingly. Primarily Italian with a few options for pub grub (this term never fails to bring a grin to my face), we settled two dishes: one carby and the other protein-heavy. As Bruschetta seemed to be a prominent side on quite a number of assortments, I suggested adding the nine-dollar appetizer to start. This was later revealed a very poor decision on my part.
Given its title of a "Social House", I had anticipated orders to be received, processed, and delivered at a leisurely pace. Perhaps it was due to the low flow of traffic, but the Bruschetta emerged without much delay, and the entrées followed after a mere ten minutes of its complete consumption.
< Pictured above and below: Bruschetta, Seafood Linguine, and Brie and Asparagus Stuffed Chicken >
Our final day on the East Coast was not marked by a roadtrip, but an on-foot adventure about the downtown area.
With a return flight slated for early evening, there was just enough time to prance about like a local before making our way to Stanfield once again.
Being a weekday, the food court in Scotia Square was in full operation. Nearby coffee shops were also open for business.
I took to a solo expedition in search of a caffeinated pick-me-up, eventually arriving at one of Dalhousie's campus buildings. Along the way, souvenir shops were visited and horse-pulled carriages were spotted.
The intention was to find coffee at Chimneys Cafe, but, when it came to the exchange of funds for goods and services, it was discovered that I had not a single cent on me. Oh, the crisis associated with switching bags!
Apologizing and then bidding farewell, I trekked back to retrieve my wallet. At the same time, I did a quick search for potential lunch destinations. Dora-Q looked promising, and so the suggestion was thrown out for voting. The response was positive.
In the name of time, I opted to hop on local transit for my second outing. Buses along Barrington and Spring Garden from Scotia Square were very frequent (on weekdays anyway), so it wasn't long before I found a suitable route.
To a certain extent, the Halifax buses did not differ too greatly from Miway or TTC. The layout was similar, but the degree of cleanliness was far beyond my anticipation. There was no griminess to be spotted here, nor dust-incrusted seats. Moreover, the floor was spotless.
I later learned this to be a result of strictly enforcing unsealed beverages. Commuters were not spotted feasting mid-transit either.
Route 7 Robie travelled parallel to the waterfront for some time, then turned sharply onto South Street. This area was unique in that it as equal parts residential and commerical; its proximity to the Halifax rail terminal also suggested convenience for post-secondary students studying away from home.
Read Part 1 HERE !
The 7-day Atlantic roadtrip came to an end.
Venturing to the East Coast was a first for two-thirds of the party, and I quickly came to the realization that despite having lived in the country for my entire lifetime, I had rarely stepped out of Ontario and British Columbia.
We retraced our initial path at Stanfield to reach the domestic gate. But this time around, we caught sight fresh lobsters near the baggage drop.
Other souvenirs such as caramel popcorn and alcohol were also spotted, thought swiftly deemed unnecessary.
Having arrived at the airport on weekday afternoon, one would anticipate majority of the shops and dining kiosks to remain open. Lo and behold: the East Coast was not so different from Richmond; Booster Juice closed its gates just as we settled into the waiting area.
A solid hour-and-a-half had been allocated for exploring the post-check-in area, however, it turned out that there wasn't a great deal that bedazzled us.
Read Part 1 HERE !
Following lunch, the party engaged in a stroll along the Digby waterfront.
Clear skies, minimal wind, and ripples upon ripples of brilliant Bay of Fundy waters accompanied our southbound trek on Water Street
Only a handful of pedestrians were spotted during our stay: a few dog-walkers (presumably local) and a small group of camera wielders (presumably tourists such as ourselves).
At 6 AM the next morning, I meekly pried open my eyes at 6 AM sharp. "Morning Flower" sounded a bit different.
I heard faint tapping noises, which I presumed to be rainfall at first. But the sound reverberated from within the room, not on the other side of a glass panel.
For a millisecond, I contemplated the possibility of it being the tapping of laptop keys. But no one else was awake.
Pitter patter. It was unmistakably water droplets.
And it sounded as if it was taking place in the general area of my most valued possessions.
Scrambling with the daunting realization that I may never be able to access the sole device that enabled consistent connection with the world, I grabbed my glasses and a flashlight.
Lo and behold, the sight was jarring: the lightweight, yet heavy duty camera bag I had researched so extensively was soaked to the core, dampened by what I can only presume to be nasty, used bathwater (and whatever foreign material utilized in ceiling tiles).
Somewhat gratefully, the droplets had only missed the rest of my equipment by a mere centimetres. Two cameras and an unsheathed, charging laptop had barely avoided the calamity. The contents of my backpack, though, were tell another tale.
Desperate attempts were made to remediate the inflicted damage. However, the irritable musty smell persisted.
And just when I thought it was all over, crashing down with a bang were the permeated fragments of tile.
My first concern was the potential asbestos content of the tile; it is not uncommon for old materials to rely heavily on the cancerous substance, and once made friable, residents of the room would have been directly exposed to its hazards. Had the piece not given way due to dampening, the compact quadrants would be immediately become a zone of invisible danger.
More alarming was the very fact that these droplets could have easily saturated an area with a live current, and consequently resulted in an explosion with energy contributed from neighbouring electronics.
The overall mood at breakfast time was grim - and could you blame me? I settled for the Matcha Custard Mini Gangs acquired the previous night, then took to the streets of Downtown Halifax once again for coffee. Alas, it was Sunday, and few cafes in the area had opened for business.
We then set off for another adventure shortly afterwards. The trip involved routing through Dartmouth, which involved crossing the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. It was my first time coming across a toll bridge; Hwy 407 is the only P3 method of transportation involving tolls (or at least that I've used anyway). The fee for the Macdonald Bridge was only a loonie though, making it signficantly more economic than tolls back home.
Our primary destination was Digby, a town on the southwest coast of the province renowned for scallops. En route was Annapolis, where we stopped for a quick tour of the Annapolis Tidal Plant.
The renewable energy plant was grand in scale, and even featured an information seminar and interactive presentation on the upper floor of the Interpretive Centre.
Read Part 1 HERE !
We rolled into Halifax just before 6 PM, which granted us a brief slot for exploration prior to dinner.
I was first to abandon the car. The road trip had been a lengthy one - too lengthy, if I'm completely honest - and since we had returned to civilization (and data reception!!), there was no longer a reason to avoid using our lower limbs.
The streets of Downtown Halifax weren't so different from that of walk-able suburban neighbourhoods back home. Objectively speaking, they were cleaner. Shop variety was as about as diverse as The Danforth, with about as much pedestrian traffic as Bramalea City Centre at 7 AM, and closed as early as major malls in Richmond.
Students in sweats made up the bulk of the citizens wandering the streets. This group became more prevalent nearing Barrington Street and Spring Garden Road. Located at the T-intersection was Saint Mary's Cathedral, a large commercial building, and restaurants featuring an outdoor patio.
The odd Cantonese bakery was also discovered while heading downhill towards the waterfront. At this point, many eateries had shuttered for the day; Kee Heong was no exception.
Traversing the waterfront trail, I came across a jewellery boutique specializing in pewter, COWS' ice cream-only kiosk, a playground of abstract attractions, a 360 experience dome, and an open historical exhibit. This journey was accompanied by perpetually breathtaking perspectives of the harbour.
A new multi-level building was in the midst of construction just north of Prince Street. To accomodate pedestrian and visitor traffic, a Seabridge had been laid in place. The boardwalk permitted a beautiful view of the waters, unobstructed by boats and sailing equipment; on the south side of the bridge were orange pillars, each baring a snippet of information regarding the city and its history.
Small bulbs had also been wound about each side of the bridge, providing a soft glow after nightfall.
Who Am I?
I'm the one that talks fashion and K-Pop randoms behind Quirky Aesthetics, the one who contributes honest opinions about commercial beauty items on Review Junkie, the one that obsessively shares photos of food on Pinterest, the one that loves her DSLR more than her own being and the one that wants to work in the transportation sector for a living.