Tag: ADVENTURES OF J AND C

Market Battles

Ahhhh the St. Lawrence Market.

Did you know that we live next door to the St. Lawrence Market? Y'know "the Market"... the one that was named one of the Top 10 food markets in the WORLD by National Geographic. (Yes, in the WORLD!)

It's a pretty awesome place to visit. Which is why it's also such a big tourist attraction in our city.

There's a little bit of history, a lot of food and some entertainment too. We like to buy our fresh produce there. And our bulk food, our cured meats, maybe our cheese, and veal parmigiana, apple tarts, peameal bacon sandwiches... okay, we like to buy pretty much anything we can eat there. Are you getting hungry?

Living next door, we've also discovered how much more the Market offers above and beyond weekly grocery shopping or a quick lunch on the go. First we discovered Evening at the Market (tickets on sale now for this year's event!) Then it was Chef Scott's Friday Night Market Feast (awesome date night idea, you won't be disappointed!) And this summer they added the delicious Market Battles series to the rotation. 

They hosted 3 Market Battles over the course of 3 Summer Months. Each time, 6 Market vendors would vie for a "best" title. We love trying anything new that the Market does to entertain us and this was a great alternative to cooking dinner on those Friday nights.

Month 1 was the battle of the Burgers. Month 2 was the battle of the Smokehouse BBQ. The 3rd and final month was the battle of the Skewers. Want to see how tantalizing and delicious all of the food looked? Watch our videos below (of course we made a video, it's what we do!)

*WARNING* watching these videos may cause drooling and a rumbling in your stomach. 

How do you say, “Toronto”?

Riddle me this...

Is there a "right" way to pronounce the name of our big, beautiful city? 

Is it Toronto? Or Turrono? How do you say it? 

Jon and I do not pronounce it the same and it has been an ongoing discussion between us for LITERALLY years and will likely last for years more. 
(You will find a portion of this ongoing discussion in the video below.)

We've come to the conclusion that there is no right way to say, "Toronto" and at the end of the day, it's still the best city in the world!*

(*this reflects our opinion, as we are speaking for ourselves with regards to this statement. Although we know some of you might agree!!)

“Mini Toronto” – Kensington Market

Unique. Eclectic. Colourful. Vibrant. Diverse. Charming. Artistic.
Community. 
Kensington Market.


Those who know this neighbourhood, know those words don't even begin to encompass the experience that is Kensington Market. 

Colourful Victorian houses, old synagogues, vintage shops, cafés & restaurants, a "garden car" and so much street art. Add in a pedestrian only party in the streets once a month, and it is easily one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Toronto.

For the short and sweet history of Kensington and it's diversity ☞
The 1880's brought the Irish & Scottish labourer immigrants, followed by eastern European & Italian Jewish immigrants. After the second world war there were Portuguese immigrants fleeing the Azores from political conflict and a wave of both Caribbean and Eastern Asian immigrants. Then there was the American political refugees after the war in Vietnam. The Chinese immigrants joined in as next door neighbourhood Chinatown grew too large. The 80's & 90's brought in groups of immigrants from Central America, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran, Vietnam and Chile. 
Jon and I noticed that it seems with each diverse group that immigrated to Kensington, they didn't take over the area to call it their own. Each group and era it came in added a layer beside the already existing layers. As you look around today, you feel each and every immigrant community who once called the streets of Kensington Market home. 

In saying all of this, you can see how all of your senses will be at work as you walk around the world in these few city blocks. And there is literally something for everyone and anyone. Beside an organic vegan café may be a Tibetan restaurant. Next to the Italian pizzeria is a vintage clothing shop. Beside one of the many cannabis dispensaries is a Mexican tortilleria.  You want a good Jamaican patty or a Chilean empanada and then go shopping for your fresh produce and meats, we know a few places.  Do you like to people watch? Dog watch? Street musician watch? You can do all of it on practically every street corner. 

But I digress, let's get back to this pedestrian party I mentioned earlier. 
The last Sunday of every month, from May until October, Pedestrian Sundays happen. From noon until 7pm there is a party in the streets that you won't soon forget. The streets are closed to any car traffic and then becomes a great rolling sea of people. Most of the shops and restaurants set up outside on the street to tempt you as you walk by, while musicians and artists litter the areas to entertain. From the Pedestrian Sundays we've been to, you also never know when you might find a flash mob or an unexpected parade erupting. I will put a disclaimer here *do not attempt Pedestrian Sundays if you don't like crowds*. It is the perfect opportunity to people watch until your eyes bleed, but for some that isn't their cup of tea. For those who try to stay away from crowds, mid-day during the week is when it's the calmest.

I could type for days about the history and feel of the Market, but since we are only aiming for a prologue sized blog (and not a novel) to add to our video, I will now glide into this segue ➟ watch our next vlog below! The first in our "Toronto Neighbourhood Series" — Kensington Market.  

Science is Fun at the Ontario Science Centre

I don't even know where to begin! Maybe I'll start with this - the Ontario Science Centre is SO. MUCH. FUN! I've been dozens of times as an adult and I still feel this way every time I'm there. This was Jon's first visit to the Science Centre and I believe you will be able to see his first impression and how much enjoyment it gave him, in our video below.  

Keeping with every other stop along our CityPASS adventure, this day was educational and entertaining. More than any of our other stops, it was much more interactive. There are hundreds of engaging activities throughout the 4 levels of this science museum. The subjects that are represented range from geology, nature, astronomy, technology, communication, human anatomy and more. Sounds boring, right? No, no it is not. You can see much of the museum in one day, but it is also a place where you will discover new aspects every time you visit. And if you really want to experience every area and every exhibit, you will need to visit multiple times. 

Unfortunately we went on a cold rainy day at the end of the winter and we missed out on the musical water fountain that lives outside of the building. It's a hydraulic action pipe organ that anyone can play. But it's closed in the cold months to avoid freezing and damage (similar to me, I shut off in the cold months too!) So I think we will have to go back and make some music sometime this summer.  

What to look out for when you are there: the daily science demonstrations (and the hair standing on end when you the touch the ball), the KidSpark area if you have children, the IMAX theatre and like the ROM and Aquarium, the Science Centre also hosts birthday parties and sleepovers ($64/person, find out what is included in the orange link) to spark the ultimate creation and innovation in kids. 

I could go on and on about the museum and all that this attraction has to offer, but I believe it may be more interesting just to watch us below:

This concludes our CityPASS adventure. We did it! And we would do it all over again. 

That being said, we would recommend any of these attraction in Toronto - to tourists and locals alike. We would also recommend anyone to see them using CityPASS (because who doesn't want to save money!)

If anyone has any questions above and beyond what we've covered, please don't hesitate to ask. We are here to help. 

Captivated by The Royal Ontario Museum

We continue on our CityPASS adventure series, bringing you the Royal Ontario Museum (otherwise known as, "The ROM".)

The Royal Ontario Museum is not one to be missed and you literally cannot miss it. If you can't remember if you have seen the building before or not, you most likely haven't. The Daniel Libeskind architecture and the polarizing facade known as the Michael Lee-Chin crystal, has an undeniable unique identity that could best be described as unforgettable. Those who know it generally love it... or hate it. Jon and I personally love that such a provocative and innovative building exists in our city and is now synonymous with Toronto architecture. Makes for great photo opportunities too! 

Enough about the outside, let's get back to the BIG, beautiful INSIDE of the building. (And by big, we mean biggest museum in Canada and 5th largest in North America!)

While we were visiting the ROM we learned that the experience is part art, part culture and part natural history. Oh, and part fun! (I think we have found quite the balance of this entertainment AND education thing as we've been wandering around our city.) 

Like our previous CityPASS installment the Ripley's Aquarium, the ROM offers so much more than meets the eye. For example, they host ROM sleepovers for the little kids and Friday Night Live for after-hours fun with the big kids (a.k.a. adults). Unlike Ripley's Aquarium though, the ROM may take multiple visits to be able to fully experience everything that it has to offer. There is just too much to see and do and feel and interact with. 

Trying to think of how to sum up the museum and all of the fun you can have while exploring this attraction, I think may be best left to our video below:

There you have it - The Royal Ontario Museum. (It's really not just for kid's school field trips!)

A Love Letter to the Toronto Blue Jays – #LetsRise

Let’s Go Blue Jays! (Clap Clap ClapClapClap)

Early 1980’s at the CNE Grandstand. Where it all began. Where I became a hardcore baseball fan. Correction, where I became a hardcore Toronto Blue Jays fan.

My parents would take my sister and I to games. We would usually sit in the bleachers. Those “cheap seats” behind the outfield. My sister has memories of hating every minute of being forced to watch a sport she didn’t understand. For me, it had the exact opposite effect. These trips to the ball games created the monster (of a fan) that I am today.

I was a young and impressionable 17 year old when the Toronto Blue Jays made it to (and won) their first World Series. I watched that final game on the JumboTron in the SkyDome with 50,000 other fans. The Blue Jays made history that night with the first time the World Series went north of the border! I was so proud to be a Jays fan.

Then I was 18 and living in downtown Toronto while attending university when the Blue Jays completed their BACK TO BACK World Series win. Anyone who knows baseball knows how we won the World Series in this year. The iconic Joe Carter home run. Myself and my 4 roommates watched the incredible moment on my 13” TV (the only TV in our apartment).

The excitement and electricity that surrounded those seasons were enough to make anyone a fan.

 

And then we had a few not so great decades.

 

Following these record breaking years, I stuck with my Blue Jays. I still took tickets whenever someone would offer them and had a few different friends who knew to think of me when they went to a game.

Most thought I was crazy for my loyal love of the Jays. Many Toronto sports fans sound like this; “I love basketball and the Raptors” or “I love hockey and the Maple Leafs”. In response to their declarations I would say, “I love baseball!!” I would often get strange looks and a response that was something to this effect, “but baseball is boring” or “the Blue Jays suck.” Yeah yeah okay, you’re right. Sometimes baseball IS boring and the Jays did kind of suck, but I didn’t care! I just loved them!

2015 the tides began to change and we made the playoffs. Jon and I were working on cruise ships and away from home at the time. Being away from Toronto for the 2015 season was breaking my heart though. I wanted to be home to feel that excitement again.

We watched one of the playoff games on TV, while we were in Vancouver that year. That’s when we began to realize that the Blue Jays weren’t just Toronto’s team, they really felt like Canada’s team. Their slogan for the 2015 season was “Come Together” and it felt like one team was pulling our country closer together. Over baseball! Everybody’s favourite major league sport to hate!

Last year, 2016 and we were finally off ships and back at home in Toronto. I was convinced the Jays had lost in the playoffs the previous year because they wanted to wait until I was home to win. Lo and behold, we made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row! “History is Now” was the team’s slogan. We fought hard to get there but ultimately lost and never made it past those playoffs.

Bring on 2017. “Let’s Rise” is the slogan for the team this year. My wonderful mother gave the gift of baseball. She gifted Jon and I a “20 pack” of Jays tickets. WE ARE GOING TO 20 GAMES THIS SEASON!! (Correction - 21, my mom’s never even been to a game at the Dome so we are also taking her to a separate game.) Now I’m convinced that’s why we just missed conquering the World Series last year. Our team was waiting for this year while Jon and I are breaking our own records with number of games we’ll be going to!

This brings me to the point of this long winded story.

We’ve decided to vlog (video blog) our way through that 20 pack.

So stay tuned… the adventure starts in two days.
AT THE HOME OPENER!

(Tuesday April 11, 2017)

#LetsRise

For the 20 game Blog

click HERE.

Under the Sea – Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

5.7 million litres of water, 16,000 species of marine animals with two very happy adults wandering around wide eyed with big smiles (and their cameras). 

(⬆︎ That was a description of Jon and I in Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.)

Who said you have to travel to tropical locales to get a peek at what swims beneath the sea? If you are in Toronto you don't have to splurge on the flight south, you can find almost every type of sea life imaginable right in the city, at Ripley's Aquarium! 

We took on the great task of conquering the Ripley's Aquarium as part of our CityPASS experience that we thrust on to ourselves. (For more information on the Toronto CityPASS, you can read our blog HERE.) We were NOT disappointed. And this wasn't even our first visit to the Aquarium!

Ripley's offers so much more than just "fish." It's an interactive experience. Education and Entertainment. With capital E's. 

Interactive with touch pools (I pet a hard shelled crab... it was hard. You can also pet a stingray or a shark, we passed). Education with dive shows. There are viewing "bubbles" where you can watch Nemo swim by feeling like you are swimming with him. Then there is the moving walkway that moves through North American's longest underwater viewing tunnel, as you watch the sharks swim around you. There's a kids play area, a cafeteria. But wait there's more - Friday Night Jazz on the second Friday of every month, they host birthday parties (for kids OR adults), yoga classes, Paint-Nites and SLEEPOVERS! Seriously, you can sleepover as a family, a group or a school trip for $99/person. For more information on the Aquarium and all that it offers, click HERE

Now immerse yourself in a thrilling underwater adventure with us:

Need advice on where to park? When are best times to go? If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask. We're here to help!

Toronto’s Top 5 Attractions and CityPASS

If you are reading this, I probably don't have to remind you --> WE LOVE TORONTO! We love Toronto in the day and in the night, in the hot and in the cold, in the good and in the bad. It's our favourite city in the world. 

Although Toronto flourishes in the summer, you aren't "out in the cold" in the winter. I grew up in Toronto surrounded by the idea that you were supposed to hibernate in the winter. In adulthood both Jon and I disagree with this, fully and completely. 

So far on our website we've covered some of the outdoor fun you can take advantage of in the city during the winter months, but for those of you who really do prefer to stay indoors, there is so much for you to see and do too!

Enter CityPASS - A pass that allows you to see 5 of Toronto's top attractions, for 42% off the regular admission price. I know that sounds like there's a catch, but there really isn't. You buy it, you use it and then brag about how much fun you had!

Attractions included (site links in orange):

CN Tower
Casa Loma
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Royal Ontario Museum
Ontario Science Centre (OR) The Toronto Zoo

Regular admission price: $126 + tax
CityPASS: $72 + tax 
CityPASS Children: $46 + tax
(please don't make me do the math tax, just add our ridiculous HST of 13%)

Even if you don't visit all 5 attractions, you can still be saving money. Wait there's more - once you have your CityPASS booklet, you skip most lines for entry! And let's not forget that you get to visit 5 of the top attractions in the city! 

You have 9 days to use the CityPASS.
(We took all 9 days to use it. We probably could have used it even quicker but we didn't in order to avoid crowds over the long weekend. Although 9 days seems like a long time, it goes by quickly. Especially if you will be using CityPASS with your children, so please be prepared. *Note* You will need a full day for almost all of the attractions.) 

If you are from Toronto, you may be thinking, 'Oh I've been there on a school trip in elementary school, I don't need to go again.' If I may be so bold as to say - YES, YOU DO. I have been to all of these attractions dozens of times in my lifetime. I have enjoyed them every single time and exhibits are always changing too, so there is always something new and exciting to check out. Jon and I had SO MUCH fun at all of the attractions. We learned a lot - about history, about science, about Toronto. Educational AND entertaining!

This was Jon's first trip to the Science Centre and he said this was his favourite stop in our adventures. As for me, Team CN Tower. Even though I used to work at the CN Tower, I never ever get sick of the views. I mean, #views.

We've put together a video highlight reel of sorts, of all 5 attractions. Either to sell you on the idea of CityPass or just entertain you with our charm.

You can find it here. Right below this writing.
See it? Click play and enjoy!

If you are planning a visit to Toronto or you already live here, we at J & C Toronto can now weigh in with our opinion.
JUST DO IT!

(If anyone has any specific questions about the attractions, how to get there, what's included in each place, etc... please let us know, we're here to help!)

Cheryl’s pick – Top 10 Beaches

Now that we are smack in the middle of winter, I was thinking that it may be a good time to daydream for a moment, to when life was a little warmer for us.  

After working on cruise ships for so many years, one of the questions that Jon and I get asked most often is; what have been your favourite beaches around the world?

I've narrowed my list and I now have a Top 10 that I'd like to share with you.

I should preface this list with a few facts on how I rate my beaches.

✼ I'm obsessed with clear water/white sand beaches. My travel list, before I started travelling, was filled with places that looked pristine in travel brochures. 
✼ Weather.

✼ And one of the most important factors for me to enjoy the beach is the temperature of the water. (Being the big baby that I am with the cold, that normally means the water has to be just about the temperature of bath water before I will be able to enjoy it.) 

 

I whittled down my list and we will begin in Europe.

#10: Chiaia Beach, Procida, Italy

After telling you all that I'm obsessed with white sand/clear water beaches, my #10 beach is a black sand beach. 

At first glance it's not as beautiful or striking as some other beaches, but the black sand feels like powder. And that soft powdery sand continues out into the sea, as far as your feet can touch the bottom. It's perfectly clear water as well, although it doesn't seem like it with the dark sand giving a false impression (alternative facts?)

In the summertime the water was almost like bath water and since it is in more of a cove on a protected side of the island, the water is normally very calm.

Your view is Marina Coricella to the north-west and on a clear day the island of Capri (CAH-pree) with the odd cruise ship cruising by is straight ahead. Now top that off with the addition of Italian cuisine (such as pizza Napolitana and gelato), and a day spent on this beach is close to perfect. CLOSE... but we're not there yet.

Oh and the downside to Chiaia Beach - the 180 steps (I counted) that you have to walk down to arrive at the beach (and then walk back up again to return home!)

Chiaia Beach

The view of Chiaia Beach from above

The view of Marina Coricella

The view of Capri and a cruise ship from the beach

The dreaded 180 stairs

We stay in Europe for my next beach pick.

#9: Barcelona, Spain's city beaches - from Sant Sebastian and Barceloneta (with the sail shaped W hotel at the western most edge) to Mar Bella and the nude beaches farther east, and every beach in between. 

There are many great city beaches around the world, but Barcelona is my all-time favourite. This is in part because of how much I loved Barcelona as a city. A lively, modern, cosmopolitan European city that has shopping and nightlife and museums and history, beautiful architecture, famous cuisine AND an incredible beach, all walking distance from one another. Sounds like a perfect spot to vacation or maybe even live.

The 4 km of golden sand beach areas are MASSive. There are all sorts of restaurants and bars that line the beach and there are boardwalks and bike paths too. The beach runs the span of multiple neighbourhoods, so you experience different walks of life as you leisurely explore the waterfront along the coast. 

The sand is light coloured and the Mediterranean shores are an emerald green. Because this is the Med, you won't find the calmest of waters, or the warmest. But there are too many other pluses++ that make this beach one of my top 10.

Barceloneta Beach facing east

Barceloneta Beach facing west towards the W Hotel

Barceloneta Beach facing south

Panorama of Barceloneta Beach

Jon and I have been so very lucky in our life, exploring and travelling the world. We have been able to visit many beaches all over the world, and especially the Caribbean. It is somewhat true what they say, that once you see one beach, you've seen them all. But you need to see them all in order to know this! When exploring the Caribbean there are so many beautiful beaches in Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, US and British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica and you can see where I'm going with this. For #8, 7 and 6 I chose different islands and different beaches that belong to the Caribbean. I'm leaving out so many beaches that are equally as beautiful but if I were to name them all this list would be Top 100 not Top 10, and we just don't have time for that!

#8: Palm Beach, Aruba

Many people say Eagle Beach is where it's at on the Dutch island of Aruba. But my heart belongs to the 3 kilometre strip of Palm Beach. The activity, the hustle bustle and the great people watching gets me every time.

The ocean water in Aruba is a beautiful turquoise, but it isn't clear. It may be better described more as a light 'murky' green. Under the water the sand is a soft powdery white and sometimes even pink. And the temperature... like a bath. Just how I like it!

Palm Beach is lined with hotels and piers every so often jetting out into the ocean. On these piers you may find a local run restaurant or bar (such as Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill, our favourite), where you can buy a cold beer or enjoy a fresh ceviche that will make you want to go back for more. The water is a little calmer than what you may find on Eagle Beach and since I'm not a strong swimmer, this always appeals to me.

The area off the beach is filled with trendy shops and fancy restaurants too, giving the island a feeling of luxury and satisfies the wants and needs of most people visiting this island.

Their slogan: One Happy Island. 

Palm Beach

Aruba

Somewhere between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach

J & C on the beach

The view of Palm Beach from the Radisson

Travel a little north in the Caribbean to find my next choice. 

#7: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The entire eastern beach coast of Punta Cana is 32 kilometres lined with more than 50 hotels of all shapes and sizes. Some southern parts of the beach are more protected with eco-areas and a calm clear oasis. Other areas in the more northern part of the resort town are less protected and are more of a surfing paradise. All of it in the most beautiful colours of blue, green and turquoise, lined by powdery white sands and palm trees, so many palm trees, that dot the beach areas. 

 

Super Cheryl getting ready to take off from Punta Cana


The northern beaches

The middle beaches

The southern and calmest beaches

Onto my next Caribbean pick.

#6: Antigua & Barbuda - Dickenson Bay

Antigua & Barbuda is an independent commonwealth country and one of the more luxurious islands in the Caribbean. My favourite fact about this island, the 365 powdery white sand beaches. A different beach for every day of the year. I chose Dickenson Bay not because it is necessarily the nicest, there are just too many to choose from. I chose it partly because it is the most accessible beach from the port when you are travelling by cruise ship. I also chose it because it has everything I want in a beach - white sandy beachfront, warm clear waters, restaurants, bars, every type of water sport to take advantage of and a reef for easy snorkelling right off the coast. As well, it's a bay. So the water is generally calm. Win-win-win-win for me!

Dickenson Bay Beach, Antigua & Barbuda

 

 

 

 

 

Dickenson Bay Beach with C & her friend A

C & A on the beach

Moving away from the Atlantic Ocean & the Caribbean sea, we jump into the Pacific Ocean for my next pick. Hawai'i!

#5: Ala Moana Beach Park - Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Where do I begin in Hawaii? Ala Moana is just one of SO many great beaches in this chain of islands that makes up America's 50th state. I could do a Top 10 list in Hawaii alone!

My first visit was to Ka'anapali, Maui in 2005 and it was for a 10 day vacation that didn't leave me wowed. I have to be honest, I thought, 'what's so special about Hawaii?' It was after visiting Hawaii a few more times on a cruise ship that the beauty began to overwhelm me. Looking back, I think my company in 2005 may have had something to do with why I was underwhelmed the first time. I began to realize that each island and beach offered something special and unique from the last, for such vastly different reasons. And the people. Hawaiian people and their culture is something that in itself, without any beautiful beaches, could leave you amazed. 

Jon and I have been so fortunate to see all of the islands and have even had a few personal tours from our friend and Hawaiian artist, Walfrido Garcia. Because we've seen so many places, narrowing it down to one beach was so difficult! But I made my choice - Ala Moana Beach Park. 

Ala Moana is a Honolulu city beach of warm clear waters, big sandy beaches with ALL of the amenities (including restrooms and showers). If you keep walking along it's shores for a short distance, they will lead you to the famous Waikiki Beach. Although Waikiki is beautiful, Ala Moana offers a less touristy feel and wider sandy beaches, with a better view of Diamond Head! It also doesn't hurt that it's across the street from my favourite shopping mall in the world (Ala Moana Centre)!

 

 

 

Sunsets from Waikiki

Lahaina, Maui - rainbows

Baby Beach, Lahaina

Now we find ourselves in the South Pacific. I have always described the islands that I've visited in the South Pacific as the views screensavers are made of. I remember being in awe and I couldn't stop telling people that it looked exactly like screensavers and it's NOT EVEN PHOTOSHOPPED! 

Like the Caribbean, there are so many beautiful islands and beaches in the South Pacific and I had to fight my natural long windedness to not choose them all. 

#4: Yedjele BeachMaré, New Caledonia

The French territory, New Caledonia is a chain of dozens of islands. The main island is surrounded by a massive barrier reef and includes a 24,000 square foot marine-life-rich lagoon that is one of the largest in the world. Being a French Territory, you will also find Carrefour grocery stores and McDonald's with Le Big Mac and Le Royal Cheese on the menu. 

Yedejele Beach is just a big beautiful beach on the rustic and not as developed island of Maré. If you are visiting by way of cruise ship, you tender into port. Then you can rent a scooter or a bicycle or take a bus to this incredible beach for a day trip to remember. It's perfectly suited as a tourist retreat. The under development of the island gives you an authentic experience and leaves you humbled by the incredible locals.  

Maré, New Caledonia's paradise

J & C

Even the beer thinks Maré's beaches are the best!

Our Kiwi friend knows that you should always wear a hat while spending lots of time in the sun!

We are now into the top 3. 

#3: Champagne Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu 

Many people who have visited this beach have been known to describe it as, heaven on earth. I tend to agree. The crystal clear turquoise water, white sandy beaches, locals grilling fresh lobster, fresh chopped coconuts will have you pinching yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming. 

Chamagne Bay beach gets it's name from a natural phenomenon. At low tide when the water is shallow it fizzles like champagne as it passes through volcanic rocks on the sea floor. The beach is surrounded by lush tropical forest and there are fresh water blue holes close by for swimming.

And if you find yourself in Vanuatu or Fiji, don't forget to drink the kava. 

Beautiful Champagne Bay

#2: Half Moon Cay, Little San Salvador Island, Bahamas

This beach was my #1 for a long time. Although it is in the Caribbean and is an island in the Bahamian chain of islands, it isn't a beach you can get to easily. It is a private island owned by Holland America Cruise Lines and used by HAL and Carnival Cruise Lines exclusively for their passengers. I was able to visit when I was cruising on Carnival ships and felt so lucky I had been able to. 

It's an uninhabited island that is a cruise ship playground. 

It's the perfect port beach. Whiter than white sand and clearer than clear sparkling water. I've only ever visited in summer months and therefore the water was borderline so warm that it was not refreshing. I mean for normal people. I didn't complain. 

The cruise ships unload their own food and beverages into the pre-built area for service, just for the day. There are water sports also run by the cruise ship. Beds and chairs line the beach awaiting the passengers to pile off the ship and onto the sandy oasis. They have activities such as horseback riding and jet skiing to snorkelling and scuba diving excursions .There are volleyball courts in the sand and parasailers all around the cruise ship that will always be anchored at sea. Basically a playground in paradise.


This brings me to my top pick. And we have a tie!

#1: Cayo Santa Maria & Playa Pilar (Cayo Guillermo), Cuba

Both of these beaches are off of a Cayo in northern Cuba. They are the most perfect pristine beaches I have ever experienced. They took my breath away.
Both were similar in that the sand is fine and white and so powdery that it sticks to you. They both have soft sandy bottoms that feel pillowy as you walk and shallow for some time out from shore. The water is so clear that you can even see a clear colourless fish that may swim by. The sun reflects on the water and makes it look like a sparkling diamond. The shades of blue and teal and emerald had me mesmerized. The water was warm enough in the winter months for me to sit and not want to leave. I actually felt sad leaving both these beaches when the time came.

Had I experienced bad weather when I was on these beaches, my opinion may be different. But for both of these picks, the weather was perfect on the days I was there and it was truly bliss for me. These beaches were everything I had hoped all the beaches I wanted to visit looked like. The type of beaches that (my) dreams are made of. 

And they aren't far! Travelling to islands in the South Pacific may take a day long flight and a big bank account to find. Cuba is a 3 hour flight from Toronto, to an island country only 50 miles south of Florida.

J & C Cuban adventures

Somewhere between Playa Pilar and the Iberostar Playa Pilar resort

Clear waters of Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria

Playa Pilar perfection

Playa Pilar shines bright like a diamond

 

Cayo Santa Maria beach

Melia Buenavista lagoon - Cayo Santa Maria

Playa Pilar - Cayo Guillermo

My list is not done yet!

Honourable mentions go to:

◦ South Beach, Miami (another amazing city beach)
◦ Dravuni Island, Fiji (uninhabited paradise)
◦ Isle of Pines, New Caledonia (A+ snorkelling)
◦ Turtle Bay, St. John's, US Virgin Islands
◦ Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

◦ Orient Bay, St. Martin (the French side)

Orient Bay, St. Maarten/St.Martin

Turtle Bay, St. John's, USVI

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

J&C Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

J&C hiking Dravuni Island, Fiji

Dravuni Island, Fiji

J&C Dravuni Island, Fiji

South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA

I haven't been everywhere and still have many beaches on my bucket list.
I would say it still still reads like a novel. Or maybe a short story.

BUCKET LIST:

◦ (everywhere in) Thailand
◦ (everywhere in) Indonesia
◦ (everywhere in) Philippines
◦ (everywhere in) Vietnam
◦ Seychelles
◦ Maldives
◦ Bora Bora, French Polynesia (of course)
&
◦ the one that got away - Whitsundays, Australia
(We have been to Airlie Beach and Port Douglas multiple times, both being gateway ports for travel to the Whitsundays. Sadly I never was able to get there... One day Whitundays, one day.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled program... Winter. 

WINTER!

From Sunset to Sunrise: Nuit Blanche 2016

Nuit Blanche
/nwē ˈbläNSH,ˌnwē ˈblän(t)SH/

noun

a sleepless night.

One night, from sunset to sunrise, a city is transformed by artists.

The first weekend of October, Jon and I woke up with the birds at 5:30am. This was the day of our second real estate exam. We had to be out the door for 7am to make it to our exam. Needless to say, it was a tiring day. By the time we arrived home later that afternoon, we were both looking for excuses to stay home and not leave the house for Nuit Blanche that night. We were soooooo tired.

There was an 80% chance of rain and we were both (not so) secretly hoping it would rain. Our first year home full time and our first Nuit Blanche together. That sentence right there was our motivation to get off our lazy butts. It was our first Nuit Blanche home! We HAD to go.

We found the energy and pushed ourselves out the door (without an umbrella, stating that rain would be a sign to come home.) We were so happy that we did! The rain stayed away for the entire night, with temperatures that felt more like a mild summer evening than the early weeks of fall. It was almost too perfect. We were off to experience 90 different projects strewn throughout the city, by 300 artists. Our city was illuminating.

We began our Nuit Blanche journey walking to Union Station, worked our way up Bay Street to Nathan Phillips Square, then on to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and down John Street. Just a 4 km loop around the main downtown core.

As we walked down our street, we noticed that the CN Tower looked more like a guiding spaceship than our usual landmark. Maybe just a weeeee bit creepy, but these low hanging clouds and humidity in the air seem to only add to our experience of the night.

 

We had a map of all of the art, but Toronto was organized with signage everywhere across the city directing us where to go. Great job Toronto!
---->   <----  

 

First stop - Union Station. Here we found 3 installations and the crowds were just beginning to build.

On to the Design Exchange where we easily walked into the building without any line up.  We headed straight to Vertigo Sea, a video installation by John Akomfrah. This multi-screened video installation had both Jon and I completely under it’s spell. We were mesmerized by Vertigo Sea, the beautiful and haunting visual story of the “sublime sea”. We were so taken with this installation that when we returned home later that night, we searched online to see if there was somewhere we could view it again. Fortunately we found a small portion of it online. Click here to view (and I highly suggest you do!)

After watching much of this film, we joined the small line up to head into the second art installation inside the Design Exchange. Although we were close to the front of the line for the elevator, we were told that it may be a long wait since the room could only hold 30 at a time. We spent about... mmmmm... 10 seconds deciding on whether we should wait and we decided to come back later. When we exited the Design Exchange building, there was a MASSIVE and growing line up just to get into the building! It became clear to us that we may have missed out on that second art installation and there would be no going back at the end. It also became clear to us that the threat of rain was not scaring away the crowds! 

As we wandered up the (now pedestrian only) Bay Street in the Financial District, we encountered many different installations. There were some inside the buildings and some out on the street. We stopped only momentarily at each one knowing there were a few must sees that we wanted to get to before we lost steam.

(*Note* Click on any photo to enlarge. Most words that are orange in colour contain information links.)


We took a small detour down Temperance Street to Cloud Gardens and Robert Montgomery's: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

We then headed for the Eaton Centre to feast our eyes on Literature vs. Traffic by Luzinterrupts and Hand-Held by David Rokeby in the Church of the Holy Trinity. By the time we had arrived, they had relocated Literature vs. Traffic to somewhere that we never found. And the line up to get into the Church looked like this (no thanks).  --->

Oblivion

Oblivion

Nathan Phillips Square was next and this was the absolute highlight of the night for me. We didn’t experience enough of the art that night, but at least we were able to take in all that was ‘Oblivion’.

Oblivion was broken into 3 parts. The first we came upon was Pneuma by Floria Sigismondi. You might know Floria from her video direction career (Christina Aguilera, The White Stripes, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Katy Perry) or her feature films (she wrote the screenplay and directed The Runaways starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart). I was so excited when I realized she was the artist behind Pneuma because I had met Floria in 1993 at the Ontario College of Art (OCAD)! My grade 13 class had taken a field trip to different Colleges and Universities in the city to explore our school options. Floria was one of the students sharing her Photography experiences at OCAD and I was there. The then yet to be famous Floria was incredibly appealing to me and I immediately had felt inspired by her. She was of Italian decent like I was, she was into Photography like I wanted to be, she had an artistic darkness about her that I felt drawn to. I think you could say that I had a lady crush. Getting to the point - Pneuma at Nuit Blanche was amazing. I posted a photo on Instagram telling Nuit Blanchers not to miss it. I wasn’t just saying this as a bias fan. Dark and spellbinding video was projected into the fountain of water in the reflecting pool at Nathan Philips Square. It was set to beautiful and haunting music that only added to the experience. If you missed it, there are many videos on ---> YouTube.

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

You couldn’t ignore what was right beside this fanciful fountain. Your peripheral vision guided you to a big white globe that read, #TheSunWillComeOutTO. We didn’t realize at the time that this meant we would be observing an artistic death of the sun. Death of the Sun was the name of this installation. It was created by Torontonian, Director X (who you may know as the director of Drake’s ever so popular music video, ‘Hotline Bling’.) 

 

Director X: Death of the Sun

Director X: Death of the Sun

See our (quick) time lapse video of the Death of the Sun below:

The third part of Oblivion was inside City Hall and it was a kinetic sculpture called Ocean by Philip Beesley. One look at the line up that wrapped around the building and we knew we would have to come back another day to experience the Ocean. Although it was on my list of things I wanted to see at Nuit Blanche, Oblivion was running for more than a week after Nuit Blanche finished. We didn't feel the need to stand in line because of this. PHEW!

Although not as spectacular as photos that were taken the night of Nuit Blanche, here is our photo of Ocean:

Philip Beesley: Ocean

Philip Beesley: Ocean

We were beginning to tire (and feel a little cranky) but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I still wanted to at least try to see what was going on at the AGO. I’ll tell you what was going on… a miracle! NO LINE UP! We realized when we walked inside the AGO that it was open in it’s entirety! This was done so that the public could also take advantage of free admission on this night. (We weren’t too excited about that, since we are fancy pants and have an AGO yearly membership.)

We did however watch the performance art happening in Walker Court. Artist Rebecca Belmore was painting New Project in what looked like clay, on the floor.

Rebecca Belmore: New Project

Rebecca Belmore: New Project


She is known for her political and social activism as well as her art and although to the eye it appeared to only be a quiet woman painting ordinary words on the floor, it felt like so much more. There was a strange sombre feeling in the room and we walked away feeling as though there were more questions to be asked.

Leaving the AGO we couldn’t believe the LINE UP to get in now! No rain AND we had made it in moments before the crowd!! Score! (<-- do people say that still?)

At this point we made a decision and began our journey home.

 

 

This is a guy who believes in safety first while riding your bike. -->

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Heading down McCaul Street we came across another line up to get into OCAD, so we passed. Outside of the building was a mural called The Merging by Nicola Verlato. We only walked by, not stopping for any length of time. Home was our mission now. We stopped to look at Utopia’s Ghosts by Arturo Duclos. This was a collection of images of the world’s fallen flags. I took this photo upside down because I believe my brain was feeling upside down at the time. Or some may say I had "bed on the brain."

 

We started to hit thicker and thicker crowds as we walked through Queen Street and King Street’s Entertainment district. Both Jon and I began to feel impatient with the crowds. We unfortunately only glanced at most of the art on John Street because of this. We turned on to King Street with all intentions of walking in the underground PATH to avoid the crowds, but decided to take our last few photos outside, especially since the mild temperatures were continuing to work with us. 

Although we had only experienced a small portion of the art and installations that we were hoping to see, we had to admit that we finally hit our wall. 10:30pm felt like our bed was bellowing to us to come lay in it. We had really wanted to go to Kensington Market and the Bata Shoe Museum and the Waterfront and experience more of what we were now seeing on social media. There seem to be so many exceptional installations and works that we didn’t even know about when we first began this journey. We knew we had missed out on additional spectacular art. We kept wondering if maybe we should have planned better and chose a different date to write our exam. That hindsight... always 20-20.

To sum up our night: 

Our city had so much wonder in store for those of us who were out and about. There was a feeling of community. Smiling and laughing crowds enjoying their night. Dazzling art for your eyes and ears. And line ups, so many line ups.

For those of you who have never experienced Nuit Blanche, we highly recommend you do it. As one of the taglines said, you can sleep Sunday! It will wow you in so many ways. Some installations were more thought provoking than others and some were more visually stunning. One of the things that had surprised me the most was the attendance. In general, I have so much excitement realizing the support and love that our great city receives and Nuit Blanche highlighted that for me. Young, old, families, couples, every race, religion you name it… people were wandering the streets sharing this experience of (artistic) inclusion. Other than the graffiti on our beloved Toronto sign, there were seemingly no major issues. I love that so many people constantly come out to experience all that our city has to offer. 

(Side note: days later we saw a young Toronto worker scrubbing the graffiti off of our Toronto sign. I had said to Jon, “that is such a thankless job, but I’m so thankful he exists. I hope people tell him.” We were quite far from the worker and without a thought, Jon walked over to the young man and thanked him for helping to keep our city clean. The young man thanked us for thanking him, as you do.)

I wish we had better photos of all of these wonderful artistic installations to share. On one hand I’m glad we experienced it and weren’t focused on taking photos. On the other hand, I wish we had better photos to show all of our wondrous readers how incredible the night really was.

After the wonderful night that was Nuit Blanche, we returned to Oblivion at Nathan Phillip’s Square three more times. Oblivion was showing for 10 days in total. In my opinion, it was magical and deserved multiple visits. Below are a few of the photos that we took in those days following. 


This gentleman above knew there were people taking photos of the fountain and the art that was a part of the fountain. 
He was being inconspicuously conspicuous and allowing us all to photograph him and his bicycle as well. 

DEATH

OF THE

SUN

Thank you for joining us on our journey!
For more information on Toronto's Nuit Blanche 2016, the art & the artists and the breakdown of sponsorship & curating, click HERE.

P.S. We aced our exam!