Tag Archives: vacation

Ottawa Winterlude: Day 3

Mon. Feb. 15, 2016:
Train back to Toronto

We lucked out, it was family Day and that meant that the National Gallery of Canada would actually be open unlike on a regular Monday. On our walk back to the hotel yesterday we had passed a place near Byward Market called Planet Coffee, what better place to get my morning coffee fix from? Checking their Facebook page I discovered that they were going to participate in a hot chocolate competition at the market! I was way too excited about these prospects.

It was still cold out, a cool -21C but the weather report promised it would warm up as the day wore on. I caved into temptation at Planet Coffee and got a mocha with whipped cream, they were after all entering a hot chocolate contest therefore it must be good. Right? It was delicious and if it was any indication of the quality of their hot chocolate, they had the contest in the bag.

Byward Market was very small and not at all what I had expected. There were only a few vendors and it was just two rows of them. We peered down at them from the walkway above and decided that the wood-fired oven Montreal-style bagel place down below seemed like a good place to grab breakfast. It was fun to watch the bagels cooling near the oven, and it raised my hopes for breakfast. It was a really popular place and there were no free seats. The hot chocolate contest was only being set up, we decided if we had time we could pop by later.

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The herb and cheese bagel was amazing and it was crammed full of smoked meat, egg and cheddar cheese. My only regret was not having a drink on the side. By the time we were done breakfast and packed up the temperature had risen to -19C, a cause for celebration- even though we were walking one block. Still that one block was a cold walk, I only had on one pair of tights and one pair of socks and I did not double up my long sleeve shirts. We would be walking around a gallery for a few hours and it would be way too hot.

We had double lucked out at the Gallery, it was the last day of the Monet show. After having been to many art galleries I still do not understand contemporary art or colour block painting or any of the other weird stuff. We did get to see some gorgeous Inuit art pieces, the most miniscule carvings imaginable and it boggles the mind. This was the first time in a gallery or museum where I did not end up freezing cold. We managed to finish the Gallery in three hours, earlier than we had expected.

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We went to Dunn’s for smoked meat sandwiches. But we had so much time that Brent suggested we get the sandwiches for later and go elsewhere for lunch. Hooch Restaurant did not open until 5pm. There had been an Irish pub on my list and as Brent was about to look up the address to the Aulde PoorHouse I saw it across the street. The hot chocolate contest across the street was well under way and we figured it would make a good dessert option afterwards. We were in an Irish pub so of course I had to get the BBQ Guinness chicken wings. It was too early in the day for drinks, instead I opted for a green tea with lemon which was perfect after all the cold weather. The spicy curry chicken with fries was also delicious.

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They had managed to take down the event tent and everyone had cleared out. As we left the pub it was as if the hot chocolate contest had never even happened. They had vanished without a trace. Instead we stopped in at Sugar Mountain where I went a little overboard. It was a long slow walk back to the train station, my legs were dead. The stupid highway made our route quite inefficient as we had to make a giant detour to get around it. It made me mad because I could see the hotel near the train station yet we had to go all the way around, adding on an extra 15 minutes that felt like eternity.

In the train station Brent opened his smoked meat sandwich from Dunn’s and the pickle smelled so good I had to open mine and eat it, after all the pickle might make the sandwich soggy. I could not resist a bite of the sandwich. It was underwhelming to say the least, which is too bad as thus far all of our fooding had been quite good. The WiFi in the train station was lackluster and I was getting antsy. It did feel good to sit though. It turns out that being really cold really does a number on one’s body and is exhausting.


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Ottawa Winterlude: Day 2

Sun. Feb. 14, 2016:

As soon as I had climbed out from underneath the covers I was freezing cold. It was going to be another freezing cold day with the temperature hovering around the -30C mark (without the windchill). This time I put on regular leggings and fleece-lined leggings overtop. I also doubled up on socks. I thought I was a brilliant genius, how could I possibly end up cold with so many layers?! The outdoors was barely tolerable, I was glad that my breakfast choice was just the down the street. After about 10 minutes outside I was ready to warm up. Bluebird Café was wonderful, the coffee was amazing and the chocolate chip muffin hit the spot. We sat in the window, but there was not much going on for people watching save some people moving in across the street. The lady ran outside in a t-shirt and we both cringed and yelled at her (through the window, quietly) to run back inside.

We walked to Rideau Falls, passing a few embassies along the way and trying to guess the countries based on the flags. I did poorly. As we walked by the Canada Research Council Brent joked that the place was now empty thanks to Stephen Harper. The first half of the falls was unimpressive as the view was obstructed by the power generation station. It was cool to see that the mist from the falls had landed on nearby trees as a layer of fine snow. It was that cold outside. The second half was much more impressive and it looked so cool because it was frozen and misshapen. My hand froze as I desperately tried to take pictures with my cellphone. I had deemed it too cold to even bring my DSLR as I would never get a chance to use it. Seeing as we had already walked all this way, we continued on Sussex drive to the Prime Minister’s house. 24 Sussex Ave was well guarded and very uninviting, from what I could see, which was barely anything. It even had a wooden barricade, which somehow made it quaintly Canadian.

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Walking by the Royal Canadian Mint there was not much going on. Once we got to Majors Hill Park we were greeted with a strong and super cold gust of wind- and no Winterlude festivities. We had a good look at the canal and we could see Quebec across the river. We walked up to Parliament Hill but again, other than the increased police presence, there was nothing really going on. Except for renovations, there were a lot of renovations going on. The East Block was really pretty to look at. Even though I still have no idea what it is or what goes on there. On our way back to our hotel we passed by the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and made note of how to get back, for we were switching to that hotel in the afternoon.

I could not resist stopping at the Nestle Tollhouse Café for a small snack. We hung out in the hotel as I attempted to warm up while eating cookies. It was an easy walk to our next hotel as we had just come from that direction. We got there just after noon and thankfully they already had a room ready for us.

It was a 5 minute walk down to the canal from our new (and better and warmer) hotel. It was really scary walking on the ice on the Rideau Canal as we slowly made our way over to the skate rental place. We made a pit stop for beaver tails and hot chocolate. I downed the hot chocolate in one big warm gulp. The warmth did not last.

I did not last very long on skates, it had been years since I’d skated and I was really nervous. Add to that my foot cramping and the freezing cold. Yeah it was a poor show on my part. I skated a little way down the canal, at least I got past the people filming an A&W commercial. There’s my future cameo appearance in the background awkwardly and slowly skating to look forward to. Brent skated on ahead, I skated back to the rental place having been defeated. I walked up and down the canal looking down on the skaters below. It was getting really, really cold. I had resorted to taking photos with my nose (the joys of a touch screen).

Near the canal was Confederation Park. They had lots of ice sculptures and a demonstration and even an ice sculpture fire pit. Some of the ice sculptures had seen better days, we were there for the last few days of Winterlude, and they were falling apart. I was starting to get really cold. My double-socked feet were starting to go numb. As we circled the park I got free samples of cookies and tea. This was not enough to entice me to stay and watch any more demonstrations. I was freezing cold and I needed to go back to the hotel to warm up.

During our warm-up break I turned the heater to maximum and turned off the auto function. I brewed a cup of tea, grabbed my cookies and a bathrobe and headed to the heater. I pulled up a chair and wrapped the bathrobe around my legs and feet and over the heater. The tea was good, the sample had worked and now I am a fan of Four O’Clock’s almond biscotti tea. I was finally warm enough and before heading out I added one more layer, an extra long sleeve shirt. I was ready to go to the final location on our Winterlude tour.

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We crossed the bridge over the Ottawa River. The river was mostly frozen but had broken in some parts. Yet people were still walking out across it. It made me uneasy to watch.  Looking back we had a gorgeous view of Parliament Hill overlooking the river. Gatineau Park was where the fun was. They had made ice slides, however I was not going to risk getting my jeans wet and thus being uncomfortably cold again. Instead I watched Brent slide down. We did go down another slide in a two-person tube. It was dizzyingly fun, as we had requested being sent off with a spin. The last activity they had was the chance to go around a track with a dog sled. You could hear the dogs in the pen down below all howling, it was sad. And I was too cold to stand in line.

It was Valentine’s Day and we did not have reservations anywhere. The plan was to walk past the Murray Street Kitchen and peer in, if it did not seem busy we would have dinner there. The backup was to keep walking to Dunn’s for sandwiches instead. Murray’s didn’t seem too busy so we went in and asked about a table. They had one, however we would have to clear out by 7:30pm. It was just past 5pm, we looked at each other and at once understood we would be out of there way before then.

We decided to order the charcuterie as nothing else on the menu really caught our fancy. Again we got to choose which meats and cheeses (gouda, raw cow’s milk cheese, smoked duck, kiełbasa and headcheese). Once again the charcuterie was outstanding, I am beginning to think that Ottawa is a great place for charcuterie but I have no idea why. The nachos with beef heart were also delicious, especially because they were made with kettle chips. And the feta cheese was minimal. We had overheard from a nearby table that the poutine had been featured on a TV show (it was on You Gotta Eat Here) and we wondered if we had made a mistake? When the server came back with our second round of drinks we ordered it- without really knowing what we were getting. Poutine would obviously have fries, right? Not here it doesn’t, it was some weird doughy noodle-shaped things. It was a small serving but even still it was difficult to get through. Who does that? Who messes with poutine like that?

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On our way back we passed some kids that were booing every dinner option their parents presented and every business they passed. One of which was a cupcake shop, The Cupcake Lounge. We had not ordered dessert and it was Valentine’s Day, why not? I got the last maple cinnamon cupcake and Brent had the Oreo one which was way better.

I snuggled up under the covers and brushed all the cupcake crumbs off the bed. It was time for my all-time favourite vacation activity: mindless stupid TV! We watched Bob’s Burgers followed by an SNL Valentine’s Day special that was truly terrible. I flipped back and forth through channels, having lost my patience for commercials a long time ago. I kept switching between Family Guy and a comedy festival. I thought for sure John Cleese would be funny- he was not. And then there was nothing on which was fine by me, being freezing cold all day is exhausting.



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Ottawa Winterlude: Day 1

Sat. Feb. 13, 2016:
Toronto train to Ottawa

For Valentine’s Day Brent surprised me with a weekend getaway to Ottawa for the Winterlude Festival- which just so happened to coincide with the start of my reading week, so I was all in. Our VIA train was set to leave Toronto at 2 in the afternoon, but there was no way we were walking to Union station. It was about -35C with the windchill. The train ride itself was about 5 hours long. The Wi-Fi was weedy and I ended up doing all of the readings I had loaded to the iPad and I was unable to load any more. I resorted to getting mad at the browser on the iPad and constantly refreshing web pages for the last 40 minutes of the train ride.

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It was a freezing cold walk to the hotel from the train station once we got to Ottawa. It was unbelievable how cold it was. Under a minute of bare hands as I tried to put my earmuffs on over my hat and it hurt. Even with fleece-lined leggings under my jeans I was still cold. It was indescribable how cold it was, but in the air it was at least -30C and that is not even counting the windchill. We kept getting lost as the Google maps print out was not exactly clear. Then Brent’s phone started malfunctioning and restarting, it did not like the cold either. In fact only the 100+ crows we saw in the trees did not seem to mind. Eventually we had to resort to using my phone. Thankfully it had a touch screen and voice commands so my hand did not have to freeze. We stopped in at an LCBO just to warm up. However I had not turned off the turn by turn GPS on my phone and the nice lady was trying to give us directions from my pocket.

In hotel I cranked the heater to the maximum which was 26.5C and turned it off auto. I crawled under the blankets and snuggled in for some really crappy TV. Border Security was on and it fit the bill perfectly. I never managed to fully warm up and was shivering as I was getting dressed to go back out. I left the heater on in the hopes of returning to a warm and toasty room.

We had reservations at Brother’s Beer Bistro, I had not mapped it out beforehand and we lucked out. It was across the street from our hotel. Any further and we may have had to turn back. Despite an awkward wait with no service when we first entered, the restaurant soon won my heart. They had my all-time favourite beer, Mort Subite. I was overjoyed. We ordered a charcuterie plate because it had the option of picking and choosing the meats and cheeses. We settled on: chorizo, a smoked meat with a weird name and a soft cow’s milk cheese. The written description of the cheese reminded me of camembert- and it was even better. I was in heaven. The charcuterie board was amazing, possibly the second best one we’ve ever had. One of our choices for mains was sold out so we decided to order the beef short ribs (our other choice for a main) and see how we felt afterwards. The beef short rib was not impressive at all, the French fry underneath (yes, there were literally only two giant fries underneath) it was better than the rib. Having only split one main instead of two, we had room for dessert. We decided to change it up and not get the crème brulee (I know!) and got the beer brownie instead. It was topped with cinnamon honey ice cream and underneath there were strawberry preserves. I was worried about the banana cream on the side but it was delicious. I may be wrong about mild banana flavour, it might not be the worst thing on the planet after all. The brownie was delicious, it was still warm and just perfect. At the end of dinner I was still not fully warmed up, even though I had kept my scarf on.


As we walked back to the hotel, a guy in the crosswalk yelled “stop right now… thank you very much” which was confusing, because if this was a reference to the Spice Girls song the next line is rather inappropriate to shout at a stranger.

After a hot shower and with the heater still going full blast I was finally starting to warm up. This was helped by the extra blanket I found in the closet.

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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel, Uncategorized


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Los Angeles 2013- Day 1

Fri. Mar. 15, 2013:

Our first vacation of 2013 also marked my first direct flight. The few times I have flown anywhere there was always a layover- not this time, this time I was to spend 6 hours straight on an airplane to Los Angeles, California. Thankfully I wasn’t alone, I had a giant bag of snacks ($25 worth) from Bulk Barn, I was set. I also managed not to devour it all before even boarding the plane, yet another first. I was too distracted, playing my last game ever of Dominion on the isotropic website.

There are perks to having one long direct flight rather than two shorter ones, the main one being that you can watch an entire movie or two. Air Canada featured a great selection of movies, not so much on the food though. On a 6 hour flight we were offered no free food, not even peanuts. I wasn’t too mad about it, as I was watching Wreck It Ralph– it is impossible to be in a bad mood while watching it. Just to even it out, I watched Seven Psychopaths next.

And that was all I ever wrote in blue ink in any of my travel notebooks thus far.

As soon as we got off the plane I beelined to  Starbucks (that is what it says in my notes, just to put it in context: I was running on maybe 4 hours of sleep and had not ingested my morning coffee). I was desperate to get some sweet, sweet sustenance in the form of caffeine. And real food, I was also craving that. The problem was that my only options (aside from the sugary bakery sweets on offer at Starbucks) were a bakery or Burger King. I was too lazy to give up my spot in line and look at sandwiches, thus I soon found myself trying to eat a junior Whopper while juggling a coffee and luggage. Yes, I did manage to spill it on myself, while picking the tomatoes and lettuce out of my burger at that.

We took a cab to the hotel and had our first taste of Los Angeles traffic, enhanced by a horribly bumpy highway and construction. Off in the distance we also had gorgeous sites- all marred by smog. We were staying at the Luxe hotel, which was rather quite fancy. They drove us up the hill in the shuttle car, even though it was a 2 minute walk. As usual, we dumped our stuff in the room, turned and left. We had a busy day planned, even if we had just gained 3 hours in the time zone diffe rence. We were going to the Getty Centre to look at some art. It was high up on a hilltop, just behind the hotel. Yet there was not direct route (ok, fine, hike) to it so we had to walk in a giant circle to the other side of the hill. As we walked we saw a service entrance and asked if we could just walk up there, apparently we could not. We continued on but the only problem is that not all parts of Los Angeles are pedestrian friendly. We had made it around the block when we encountered construction on one side and no sidewalks on the other, not even lawns to walk across. Our options were to turn around or walk along the side of the road. We turned around and headed back, defeated, our corneas being burned by the blazing California sun.

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Back at the hotel we inquired about calling a cab and they informed us that the shuttle car that had taken us up the hill earlier would also take us anywhere we liked within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. What should have been a 5 minute drive turned into a 30 minute drive, we were sharing the shuttle with another pair. The driver was trying to make a left turn to drop us off first, we were closer, but he missed it. And so he decided to go right instead, towards the UCLA campus where the other pair was going. It wasn’t a total loss; we did get to see campus and more LA traffic, always fun.

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The Getty Centre was great, the admission was free and the views were fantastic- despite how hard it was to see thanks to the smog and the glaring sun frying my retinas. The architecture of the Centre was just as cool, the galleries were contained in a few buildings spread across a nice garden and patio. It was mildly frustrating to look out and see the hotel on the next hill over given it took us almost an hour total (from when we first set out) to get there. By far the greatest gallery was the Impressionist gallery; it just does not get better than looking at gorgeous Monet paintings. In the last gallery- which we had almost missed- there were some odd people. The girl was complaining about the guy’s apartment and how childish it was and he said he had a court order stating she could not move or touch anything. Thankfully they were slow going through the gallery so we quickly left them behind.

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We took a cab from the Getty Centre to downtown Hollywood. As it turns out driving anywhere in the Los Angeles area (especially downtown) is a bad idea. The slow drive and lack of sleep resulted in me falling asleep. We were going to dinner at a restaurant that was famous from the old days of Hollywood Blvd., Musso & Frank Grill; however we were not dressed for it. We did not have time to go to the hotel and change. We decided to walk by and scope the place out, see if it was fancy or not so much. I didn’t think it would be given it was on Hollywood Blvd. amidst all the tourist traps, but sadly it was. Instead we wandered the Blvd.- it is awful. Hollywood Blvd. is one of those things that you go and see once for the sake of seeing it- and then you never return to it again. It is crowded and loud, and everyone is everything handing you flyers or trying to get you on their bus. As you turn to get away from them you find yourself face to face with a guy dressed as the creepy doll on a tricycle from the Saw movies- something that will inevitably scar you for life no doubt. And if that was not bad enough, the next street performer was a guy with two pythons on his arms and neck, real, living pythons.

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As we walked along trying to figure out our dinner plans, Brent noticed a crowd of people at an outdoor mall all looking in one direction. They were looking at the Hollywood sign. I must say, I had much higher expectations for it. I knew it would be hard to see because of the smog, but I did not think it was that far off in the distance. It was barely a blip on the horizon. It was nice to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we contemplated how easy it would be to install a fake one.

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Sick of the crowds we headed south to Sunset Blvd. and I noticed an In N Out cup on the ground- there had to be one nearby! Back to Hollywood Blvd.- so that I could ask one of those nice tour bus people where it was. Before I could do that though, I spotted a McDonald’s, so instead Brent tried to use their wi-fi and check the address. It was being slow so I asked a tour salesperson. It was two blocks over and south, on Sunset Blvd. Rather than walk along Hollywood we turned south. There was a Fatburger there, hungry and tired we went there instead. I had wanted to try Fatburger, as I had heard that it was on par with In N Out. It is not. In N Out is much better. Fatburger does still rate quite high on my list of awesome burgers, somewhere around 4th place. I was mildly intrigued by the XXXL challenge, where you have 40 minutes to eat a giant burger (24oz of meat) but I had to resist. We were after all on our way to Pink’s Hotdogs. It was another 40 minute walk to Pink’s, in addition we anticipated a rather long line-up. That is why we stopped for burgers, but did not go all out. As we walked, the next block over there was an In N Out. I joked about stopping in for a burger.

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As we made our way south to Pink’s we passed the Jim Henson Studios, complete with Kermit the Frog on the roof. The line at Pink’s was actually not that long- I had heard stories of people waiting for hours. It was just long enough to give us enough time to contemplate the menu. I must’ve changed my order 5 times at least. Right as we approached the register I changed my mind once more, deciding on the Mullholland Drive: a 9” hotdog with nacho cheese, bacon, onions and mushrooms. It was a good hotdog, super messy to eat. However by the second or third bite most of the toppings had slid off. I had to periodically grab pieces of bacon and mushroom and cram them back into the cheese. The meat was ok, nothing compared to Chicago though. The true draw of Pink’s is the sheer outrageousness of the hotdogs. Where else can you go and get two hot dogs in one bun piled high with an absurd amount of cheese, bacon and other such delicacies?

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We walked back to Sunset Blvd. to catch a cab back to the hotel. As we walked we passed a wrecked car. It had jumped the curb and hit a planter, somehow missing the parking meters. The taxi ride back was less than stellar; I did get to see the stuff I had missed while I was asleep though. I slept through the entire drive through Beverly Hills, this time I got to see the sign and the huge mansions. The less than stellar part came when our driver hocked a loogie out the window at a stop light. I was really sick of riding in taxis, having spent a good portion of my day in them. Plus it was getting expensive.

Even after having eaten Fatburger and a giant hotdog (Brent did not finish his hotdog I might add) we pigged out on candy back in the hotel room. In my tired state of mind (I had been awake since 3am California time) I could not even figure out how to use the shower. I was considering going to be and it was barely past 8 o’clock.

Day 1 celebrity sightings: zero, not even any false alarms.

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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


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Best juice in the city was won by a little place on Church St. aptly called Juice Box. And it literally is just that. It is more of a shoe-closet than a storefront. And there are piles of fruits and veggies all over the place. It quite literally is like walking into a juice box. And the juice? What more can you expect? It was amazing. It was just fruit blended with more fruit! I actually enjoyed mango for once in my life.


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Healthy Eating 101

A new doughnut shop recently opened on my walking route to Brent’s house. The poorly named Glory Hole Donuts was also just recently voted best doughnut in the city.  I was walking to his house.And it was Kyle’s birthday, so we had an excuse for eating so many doughnuts. It was meant to be.  We settled on a half dozen. I ordered two of each, that way we could try all the good flavours on offer (no one wants cinnamon sugar, gross). Maple had just run out, and there was no sign of lemon meringue or Elvis (marshmallow, peanut butter and banana chips), instead we had: black forest cake, chocolate pretzel and chocoalte pistachio. We started with the chocolate pretzel: it was amazing! The doughnut was soft and fresh (but sort of chewy). The pretzel bits in the chocolate icing were the best part, a nice contrast of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy. The chocolate pistachio lacked that crunch that made the pretzel so good. The black forest cake was nothing spectacular really. First of all: where is the chocolate?! There was a just a tiny drizzle of chocolate in the pink (but just sugar-flavoured) icing. There was the option for whipped cream and cherries, but that was not enough to save the doughnut or bring any semblance of black forest cake to it.

Not surprisingly, a few pieces of various doughnuts is hardly a lunch. I insisted on going to Little Dog for a steamie. I was not in the mood for anything fancy. I just wanted a quick filling bite (we had other matters to attend to, namely building a fort in Kyle’s room). I had the Chicago dog, despite Brent’s protestations that it was awful. It was not awful. It was delicious. Rare is it that a hotdog is gross. Unless you get sauerkraut on it, as Brent did.
P.S.: the city really needs some chardogs.

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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, ~Food Reviews


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Om Nom Nom

This is a double-post.
Who would have known: kimchi on fries is delicious. We recently went to Banh Mi Boyssandwich shop for a quick lunch. And what a lunch it was! Nothing beats sandwiches and french fries. Even when you cannot identify all the components of your sandwich, such as the weird yellow thing. Which if I am reading the website menu correctly were cucumbers? That can’t be right. Regardless, it was a delicious and filling sandwich, yup, even the pickled carrots. You just can’t go wrong with grilled chicken. The sandwiches were also huge, I ended up only eating half. This is one of those places you have to go back to a few times to try all the different sandwiches on offer.

Dinner at a wine bar sounds nice and fancy doesn’t it? Midfield was not fancy. It was charmingly low-key, in a nice unassuming way. When I hear wine bar, I think “Oh God, they are going to laugh at me as I incorrectly pronounce the name of the wrong wine pairing for my food”, but Midfield is the opposite. The wine menu is printed on line paper and given to you on a clipboard, you can also read it off the chalkboard. The food menu is limited (still, despite rumours of expansion back in March) to charcuterie (cheeses and meats), oysters and a feature item. We shared the venison terrine and a 3 item plate of charcuterie (chorizo, some other kind of meat, and a cheese I cannot find the name of anywhere). The terrine came with an apple chutney, that on the terrine, on a piece of bread was amazing. So delicious! The charcuterie plate came with hot mustard, pickles, almonds, apricots and what I can only assume were pickled peppers? The meats were delicious both on their own and with toppings. The cheese, oh my the cheese. I got a whiff of it and nearly lost my appetite: it smelled like stinky feet. And Googling that got me the name of the cheese. It was munster cheese. It smelled so bad, but I was set on trying it, then I could really claim to not like it- only, it tasted really good! It was a bit confusing, as I brought it to my mouth it stunk, but then it tasted so good, not at all how it smelled. This was also the first time I ate cheese in its unmelted form and enjoyed it. The problem with a charcuterie plate is that it is difficult to get the right amount of bread. Halfway through we ran out of bread, so we asked for more. We were expecting a few slices, instead we got another entire bowlful. Which actually worked out perfectly in the end. The only gripe I have is that the wine list was surprisingly small, and it featured only one sparkling wine and no rose wines. In total, I don’t think they had more than 15 wines on offer, which is pretty bad for a place claiming to be a wine bar.
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in ~Food Reviews


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NYC 2012- Day 5

Sun. Sept. 9, 2012:

I wanted to sleep in so badly, but there was still so much to see and it was our last day in New York City! I hastily packed up my bags and ran downstairs to get some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee- while Brent kept sleeping. I rushed back and started getting on his case: there was so much to see!! We left our bags with the concierge and headed out for our last day in the city. We cut through Grand Central Station on our way to the Waldorf Astoria; I was feeling remiss about not having gone in to see the interior. I wanted to see what it actually looked like, whether it was as depicted in the movie Home Alone 2. It was not, at all. The floors to the elevator were carpeted; there is no sliding across carpet into a closing elevator.

Our next stop was Ess-A-Bagel, in the lobby I had looked up the address to it. From across the street we spotted it- and the giant line snaking out the door. Moving on, I was starving and could not wait to get to William Greenberg for some black and white cookies. I still have no idea what they have to do with New York City, all I can say is they are scrumptious. The cookie was borderline a dense cake, and the icing on top was just thick enough to not be too much. A woman walking by even commented that it looked good. And it was not just because I was starving that I was so crazy about the cookie, it really was a delicious cookie. I cannot say the same for the brownie, it was subpar.

As we walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art we passed by The Whitney Museum and there was a line out the door and around the block. This worried us a bit; what if there were as many people at The Met? Thankfully there was no huge throng of people vying to get in. We got there just before noon; we had plenty of time to see everything. We did not have to leave until 6:30 to head back to the hotel. We set out at a leisurely pace. We had decided to follow the room numbers this time so that we would not miss anything. The first set of rooms was all sorts of cool Egyptian stuff and I learned so much: for instance, the problem of house hippos goes back to Ancient times, who knew? I thought it was only Canadians who were affected by it during the 1990s. It was really weird to transition from Oceanic art to a Dali painting and then back to other artifacts. There was a painting by Munch on display and it hit me: I only knew of his one painting, I had no idea what else he had painted; I had never seen it before. In the modern section there was a weird mirror piece by Anish Kapoor, sadly it did not hold a candle to Cloudgate (The Bean) in Chicago. As if we were not sick of him, there was even more Degas works. I can only look at so many sculptures and paintings of dancers before they all start looking the same. At one point there was an entire room of a house on display, and being the geeks that we are we both correctly guessed that it was Frank Lloyd Wright’s handiwork (the uncomfortable looking chairs were a dead giveaway).

We had to stop for lunch in the café; there was no way we were going to make it out of there with time to spare to stop en route to the hotel. Something that no one seems to mention is just how large The Met really is. We spent six and a half hours in there and we finished the first floor, but barely even made a dent in the second floor. There is just so much stuff on display and such a large variety, it is unimaginable. They have entire interiors and exteriors of houses, the storage area where they keep stuff that is not on display has been turned into a display showing how they store stuff, there were even some door hinges on display and there is an unbelievable amount of little tiny shards of stuff even! My legs and my back were killing me, I was so tired. And the exhibit halls just kept going on and on, there was no end in sight. We eventually had to forfeit and leave, lest we miss our flight. The Met bested us: in order to see everything we would have needed an entire day, from open til close.

We walked a little bit north so that we could see the exterior of the Guggenehim Museum, because it was designed by our favorite: Frank Lloyd Wright of course. We walked back to the hotel through Central Park so that I could see the Alice in Wonderland statue and carousel and Brent had wanted to see the Sheep Meadow (which does not have any actual sheep in it, I am sad to report). There was also a weird obelisk in the middle of the park. As we walked we saw a weird sight, weirder than the obelisk: some LARPers engaging in a battle. There were about as many people off to the side just staring and watching out of curiosity. The Alice in Wonderland statue was covered in kids, climbing and crawling all over it. The lake was full of people rowing around in little boats. The carousel was actually closed, there were doors around it and I couldn’t even get a glimpse of it and the band shell was blocked by construction.

The walk back to the hotel was so unbearably exhausting, my legs were throbbing. It felt so good to sit down in the hotel lobby while waiting to get our bags back. Equally nice was sitting in the cab, driving to La Guardia airport, going over a suspension bridge instead of the smelly tunnel. La Guardia airport, at least the terminal we were in, sucked. There was no promised Five Guys Burger, just a lame pretzel shop. It was not all bad, I did get to sit some more: that was nice. On the plane we did not have seats together. I was stuck beside a zombie of a woman. She kept falling asleep and slowly leaning over, falling onto me. Back home when trying to get through Customs, the guy asked me if I had bought anything, I answered truthfully: no. He raised an eyebrow, I, a woman, had not purchased ANYTHING while in New York City?! And I responded in a deadpan: no, I am broke. He laughed and waved me through.

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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


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NYC 2012- Day 4

Sat. Sept. 8, 2012:

I woke up relatively early despite the fact that 1.) the previous day’s exhaustion and 2.) I did not sleep all night, just tossing and turning pierced by horn honking and sirens. With my Dunkin’ Donuts fix in-hand we walked to Magnolia Bakery. The streets were a lot less crowded because the commuters were not in town, it was the weekend. I made a beeline for the cupcakes, no time to dillydally looking at inferior baked goods. We split a lemon coconut cupcake and a chocolate cupcake with boiled icing. The lemon cupcake had lemon custard in the centre, but it was no match for the boiled icing. It was amazing! The cupcake itself was not as good as the Georgetown cupcake, not as creamy and soft. They were setting up for a parade, but it looked like Mother Nature was going to rain on their parade and by that token us. It started slowly and then it was just pouring rain. What else could we do, we kept walking.

We arrived at Dylan’s Candy Bar soaking wet. The candy selection was quite good; it would have to be for there are three floors. We had Chewy Runs, a Rocky Road Bar (marshmallow goo with cashews all covered in chocolate) and a chocolate covered marshmallow blob with a salted caramel centre. The third one was essentially a Viva Puff cookie without the cookie base, Brent hates Viva Puff cookies yet he ate up that little chocolate.

The rain stopped for all of 5 seconds, just enough time to give us a false sense of hope. Drenched and dripping we hid out in the Frick Collection Museum for a bit. This museum is run by geniuses: the admission is only allowed for kids older than 10! Subsequently we were not bothered by screaming children; we could look at fine paintings by the likes of Renoir and Turner in peace and quiet while people stared at us as we left puddles everywhere.

When we got back outside the rain had stopped, for real this time. We took the break in the weather as a chance to go to the Central Park Zoo (had originally been planned for later in the day). Also the Frick Collection was a lot smaller and had taken less time than anticipated. Soaking wet and freezing cold we made our way through Central Park, eating chewy runts. Well trying to, I kept getting banana ones and having to forfeit them to Brent and keep digging in the bag for non-gross ones. We found the Zoo using a map of the park on a lamp post.

Here is where my illusions of the Central Park Zoo as formed by the movie Madagascar got shattered. One by one it all fell apart. First: you had to pay admission to get in! Second: there was no Senior’s Day listed. Thirdly: there were no lions, giraffes, hippos or zebras. There were some penguins, but they smelled to high heavens and had no interest in stealing spoons. There were monkeys, but not the newspaper-reading-coffee-drinking kind. And still, I loved it, except for the sad and depressing polar bear: he would swim back and forth, eyes closed, he knew the route. And he just did that, back and forth back and forth, over and over. We headed back north through the Park, stopping at Bethseda Fountain on our way to get lunch. We were voraciously hungry as we had spent the whole morning walking and had eaten nothing more than sugary goodness.

First we went to Lansky’s Deli because it was closer, but the line was to the door and we had no intention of standing in line waiting for food. Off to Gray’s Papaya for hot dogs! The place had a great set up: all they sold were hot dogs and fruit juice, and there were really only three things you could have on your hot dog making for fast and efficient service. The hot dog was delicious, which was helped by the fact that I did not get sauerkraut on it. Satiated we headed to the American Museum of Natural History. We got lost along the way, taking a dead end to what we thought was an entrance, then trying to enter through a side entrance that just led to the planetary exhibit. Eventually we made our way to the grand front entrance. There was a giant line-up of people at the admissions windows, but no line-up at all near the self-serve kiosks. It is crazy how many people were just standing in line.

There was so much stuff to see in the museum, we spent over three hours walking around, our backs and legs were hurting, we were hungry again- but we saw it all. It was great; we got to touch fossils, multiple fossils and not just a little sliver of a tiny piece of it. There was a confusing display about the size of stuff in space compared to the size of other stuff, and eventually we figured out how to get to the lower level of the display and it was so crappy down there. There were broken scales that would have told you how much you would weigh on other planets.

We headed back to Lansky’s and fortunately there was no line-up this time, we were seated right away. I had to order the motza ball soup, out of curiosity’s sale. Alas I also wanted a knish but was told they were all sold out. So I just stole some of Brent’s fries. I attempted to bite his triple-decker sandwich but it took multiple bites to get everything in one mouthful. The soup was delicious, the motza balls were just bland and weird and oversized chunks of bread-like stuff. The service there was slow, which on any other day would have been fine. But we were glued to the TV as the U.S Open had been cancelled because a giant storm was heading our way. We wanted to get out of there quick. It did not matter, the rain got us anyways. We had made it maybe two blocks. We still had a good 20 blocks back to the hotel. It was really bad down near Times Square. There is nothing worse than being packed into a slow-moving space with rain-soaked people while street vendors try and sell you an umbrella: you are already drenched, what good is an umbrella now?!

Back at the hotel, in dry clothes, we headed down to the lower level; the elevator button said there were vending machines down there. It lied. There were just construction materials. We sat there watching Storage Wars, rain soaked and exhausted. A movie came on HBO that we had both heard critics rave about, so we started watching it. About half an hour in we were both confused and not enjoying it. As we were about to change the channel a new character was introduced and it got kind of interesting. Then it got dull again. In the end: we watched the entire damn thing. The cravings got the better of me and Brent went out to get candy and soda while I stayed behind waiting for the room service guy to bring us a bottle of wine. Brent had tweeted that he was staying at the hotel and for that they gave him a free bottle of wine. It took the guy forever to show up. And then we did not have a bottle opener. So I had to call again for room service, and again had to wait an inordinate amount of time.

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


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NYC 2012- Day 3

Fri. Sept. 7, 2012:

Having completed the lower half of Manhattan I was now headed out to the middle half. When I was planning the trip I took a map of Manhattan and divided it into sections, and then I plotted what I wanted to see and whatever quadrant it fell into I would go see it on the assigned day. It was a flawless plan really. I walked with Brent for a bit, and we branched off: he went to his business meeting, I went off in search of what I assumed was Ess-A-Bagel. It was the first stop on my map and I never skip breakfast. I got to the address and was surprised to instead find Magnolia Bakery. Oops. That had been moved to the next day’s itinerary when we could go together. It took all my willpower to not go in and get cupcakes. Up ahead I saw Radio City Music Hall so I went to check that out, it made more sense to head north to the LOVE statue anyways. It was a pain waiting for a clear moment to photograph the statue, there was always someone in front of it.

Rockefeller Plaza got the 30 Rock theme song stuck in my head. I saw the entrance and the gold statue. There were crowds of people staring down below at a patio which confused me to say the least. Brent later told me that it was where the skating rink is in the winter. I did not know what was next on my itinerary, I had this small hope that it would be Ess-A-Bagel, I was starving. Instead I found myself staring at the Waldorf Astoria. I was too hungry to go in and explore and the outside view was marred by ugly scaffolding. Confident in my navigational skills, I turned down a street thinking I was going to Grand Central Station. I kept looking up and around and did not see it. A quick glance at my map showed that I had turned down the wrong street. I got to the side entrance of Grand Central and got to wander through it to get to the main entrance. I swear, inside there were more tourists passing through and gawking than there were travelers. It is easy to see why: the interior was absolutely gorgeous. I spent a lot more time than I had allotted here just taking it all in. When I got outside and looked up at it I could see an upper ramp but I could not figure out for the life of me how to get up there. I did still get to see the exterior though, so all is not lost.

My next stop was the Chrysler Building. I could not see the address numbers on buildings, so when I got to the intersection where it was supposed to be, I just guessed which building it was. But this did not sit right with me. I walked a bit up the street to try and see the number: I was right!! Just down the street was the New York Public Library, my next stop. I had originally planned on going down to the basement to the card catalogue and pulling out cards and throwing them in the air. I got distracted by the architectural details inside. Just when I started to remember, I saw that they had an exhibit about lunch. My eyes widened and I slowly drifted over. I was still very hungry; I had stopped on my way to the library at Baked By Melissa for some mini cupcakes. They were tiny and delicious, and because they are so small I had three different flavours: chocolate chip cookie dough, cinnamon and tie-dye. Thankfully the exhibit did not make me hungrier.

The Empire State Building was fairly recognizable; I did not need my map. The tourists staring at it was a dead giveaway. I had only one last stop before meeting Brent. It had to be Ess-A-Bagel, what else could it be?  I got to the address only to find that it was an office building. Thankfully two doors down there was a bagel shop, Best Bagel & Coffee. You cannot argue with a name like that, I figured I might as well go in. The bagel was HUGE and so cheap! And of course delicious, Brent is lucky I managed to hold back and not eat the whole thing. At this point I was running late, so I had to hoof it about 12 blocks south to the City Bakery where we were meeting for a mini-lunch. I got there exhausted and boiling, the sun was on full-power that day. We were meeting at City Bakery because I had read (in a Christmas guide no less) that it was the best place in the city to get a hot chocolate, and heat wave be damned, I wanted it. It was so rich and creamy and you could taste the cocoa- except it was so hot out that towards the end it got to be a bit too much for me. The cookies had also been recommended and I second the motion. I could not even finish it, it was so big.

We got to the corner on my map that should have gotten us to the HighLine only it was just a regular street corner with no sign of an elevated park. After some frustration and asking people, people who had no idea what I was talking about, we finally started making progress. I had insisted we keep walking west this whole time, and finally we found someone who told us, that yes we should keep walking west. Then I remembered the nifty NYC City Guide I had downloaded to my iPod. I fired it up and confirmed my gut feeling to keep walking west.

The HighLine was so cool. Unfortunately we had arrived at high noon and the sun was baking us. We walked north along it towards our hotel. It was a nice walk, not very crowded and it had some unique views of the city. We got to the end and found a map. Turns out we had missed the entire south half of it. Rather than backtracking in the heat, Brent still in his business suit, we headed back to the hotel, planning to come back to the HighLine later in the day. We headed out to where my map said Times Square was. It was the only stop I had run out of time for earlier in the day. Alas my map was wrong, so we postponed it to later in the day on our way back to the hotel.

We got to the Plaza Hotel, but at first we doubted that it was the right place. But any further north and it would have been in Central Park, so that had to have been it. We confirmed that it was the Plaza Hotel when we went inside to wander around. We were not just in there to loiter; we were looking for the Plaza Food Court, as recommended. There was nothing spectacular on offer and neither of us was too hungry. We arrived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and found out that in less than an hour and a half it would be free admission, as in the place would be a zoo. We started at the bottom and worked our way to the top, going about it quickly. Most of the art on display was interesting and worthwhile ranging from Ed Ruscha’s books to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. And we also saw some of our old “favourites” such as the giant piece of plastic leaning against the wall, only this time it was pink. This was the fourth time we had seen it. There was also the thought-provoking and ingenious art piece by Jeff Koons that consisted of three basketballs in a fish tank. Some of the pieces made you want to grab your head and scream: how is this art?! Other pieces were hard to see because of the giant crowd around them (Van Gogh’s Starry Night in particular).

We were hungry and exhausted, but we did it. We saw the entire MoMA. We walked into Le Meridien and had no idea where to go. There was a supposed burger joint somewhere in there, but where? We wandered around and as we approached the lobby, down a dark hallway I saw a neon sign with a burger on it: bingo! I found it! The giveaway should have been that upon entering the hotel, one was overwhelmed with the smell of burgers. It was a tiny little hole in the wall, the walls were covered in graffiti and there was barely any room to sit. The burgers made from fresh beef, not frozen, so you also had to wait a while. But you got to choose who well done your burger was! It was well worth the wait and having to listen to stupid people. The burger was medium-rare, with some really really good cheese on it. The bun to meat ratio was also very well done: just enough bun so that I am not holding meat, and just enough that it soaks up the grease without disintegrating.

We walked back through Times Square. It was awesome, so bright and so much stuff happening and to look at. At the same time it was way too crowded, I could barely move. We somehow ended up on a big screen in Times square, I was at first oblivious to it, photographing everything around me. In the hotel, we loitered in the lobby for a bit, mooching the free wi-fi. I was adamant about heading right back out, no lollygagging about the hotel. I wanted to see the HighLine before it got dark; it was after all September already and later afternoon/early evening to boot. On the way there we passed a cab driver who was flipping out because apparently someone had thrown a garbage bag onto the hood of his car. At first I thought he was freaking out because of a crime, Brent later wondered if maybe that was a crazy guy who had murdered the cab driver and was just having a freak-out? We will never know.

We got to the HighLine right as the sun was starting to set, which made for a very beautiful scene. There were still a lot of people out and about on the HighLine. Including an odd bunch that all had matching shirts on. It was nice to be able to just walk and enjoy the city without getting trampled by hordes of tourists or nearly run over by a car. We could actually hear each other as well; our conversation was not periodically punctuated by car horns. Further south on the HighLine there were vendors selling food and artists selling their work. There was even a band playing. We split a nectarine ice pop, it was so delicious: it had real fruit in it!

We stopped at CVS for the usual: candy and soda. We changed it up this time, getting Berry Sour Patch Kids instead. They are not as good, for some unbelievably stupid reason there is grape flavour in there: grapes are not berries!! Artificial grape flavour is about as bad as it gets!! With a nice supply of snacks (we still had some popcorn left over and a cold slice of pizza) we settled in for a night of TV. Some really awesome TV I might add. Of all the shows that could have been playing on a Friday night, CSI: NY was on, I was beyond thrilled!

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


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