Lagoa do Fogo

The Perfect Spot for a Week of Adventure, Relaxation and Charm — Azores

The perfect combination of adventure, relaxation and Salto do Pregocharm can be found in São Miguel, the principal island of the Azores. With its botanical gardens and crater lakes, this island brings you back to a simpler time. You can spend days hiking around strikingly blue and green lakes, eat food cooked in boiling water underground or even bathe in thermal springs surrounded by tropical vegetation. The island has everything one could ask for while exploring unknown territory.

Tips while travelling in the Azores:

  • Do not plan in advance. The weather can change drastically by the hour as the island is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s best to rent a car and when you have a sunny day capitalize on it and go to some of the lookout points. We went after it had rained and spotted a beautiful rainbow over Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) from Pico do Barrosa (947m), pictured above. Had we been there ten minutes earlier with a tour it would have been fogged over.
  • Stay in Furnas, about a 45 minute driveFurnas from Ponta Delgada. This is where the island’s regional dish, ‘Cozido”, is prepared. The hotels have both indoor and outdoor thermal spas and excellent restaurants. After hiking up Pico do Ferro (570m) for a breathtakingly beautiful view of Lagoa das Furnas, we couldn’t wait to get our muscles into these thermal pools. We stayed at the Furnas boutique hotel which also has an excellent restaurant.
  • Buy snacks from the supermarket. Kitchens are open at select hours meaning if you get hungry between 3 and 730 you’re out of luck.
  • Hike a trail with a reward at the end.  Yes, all trails on the island are beautiful but some are greater than others, particularly those that open up to crater lakes or waterfalls. For example, Faial da Terra trail leads you through the once abandoned village of Sanguinho, along a stream of water and opens up to Salto do Prego, an incredible waterfall.
  • Take the scenic route. Travel along the east sideAzores of the island for the gardens. There’s plenty of spots to stop along the way for a picnic or even outdoor BBQ if you have the supplies. Stop at Ponta da Madrugada and Ponta do Sossego on your way to Nordeste, the furthest point on the east side of the island.

We spent one week travelling around the island and it was the perfect amount of time. Since we weren’t quite ready to head back yet we decided to hop on a short flight over to Lisbon for a few nights. Post on Lisbon will be coming out soon! Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Azores Waterfall

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NYC Central Park

Detailed Three Day Itinerary for NYC

NYC is one of the best cities to visit over a long weekend. Being a directionally challenged traveller, the 1811 development plan of Manhattan to use numbered avenues and streets makes it by far one of the easiest cities to navigate through. Unlike the wandering you might do in cities like London or Paris, you purposefully charge forward at the pace of a New Yorker. Below is a three day itinerary of the best sights, shows, sweets and eats. Enjoy!

DAY 1: Arrival in NYC 

Accommodation is expensive, so if you’re only a short flight away, pay the additional cost to fly out in the morning. If flying into Newark, take the train to Penn Station. This will cost you $12.50 USD per person and is around a 20 minute ride. Since my husband and I were staying for only two nights we packed light, bringing only our backpacks so we could hit the town as soon as we arrived. From Penn Station start walking west to the top of The High Line park.

City parks are one of my favourite locations Highline Park NYCto visit while travelling. The High Line, an old rail road track from 1934, is an excellent example of how a group of people can revitalize a city’s past into a beautiful public space. The elevated park provides you with fantastic views of Manhattan’s west end and leads you right to Chelsea Market on 14th street! You get off just before the shops under the bridge.

Chelsea Market is located in the Meatpacking District, where the High Line once served butchers in the area. We lucked out as Pop Up New York had pulled together a showcase of the best food vendors NYC has to offer just outside of Chelsea Market the day we arrived! Before heading into the enclosed market we tried pan-Asian inspired tacos from Domo Taco and pho packed dumplings from Phumpling. Both incredible and we highly recommend you look them up.

From there we walked down to Greenwich Village where some of the best old-time jazz clubs and restaurants are located (20 minute walk). After many recommendations on where to eat, we followed the line ups and waited for a table at Buvette. The part restaurant, part bar, part café is the perfect neighbourhood lunch spot and well worth the wait.

Lady Liberty NYCStomachs full, we walked through Washington Square Park and down Broadway to the World Trade Center memorials (40 minute walk). The memorial is set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers and features the largest man made waterfalls in North America cascading over the sides. The memorial is not far from Battery Park at the bottom of Manhattan and is worth walking along the Hudson River to get to (20 minute walk). Take in the sights of The Statue of Liberty in the distance from Battery Park. If you want to see her closer and are on a budget, take the Staten Island Ferry (no cost) and you will go right by. After all this walking you will need a drink and must experience the NYC cocktail!

The cocktail was invented in NYC so it really should be included in your itinerary every day. Since we were at the south end of Manhattan we went to The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. With a taproom on the ground floor and a parlour upstairs, it’s the perfect spot to take a break. As in the traditional “spirit groceries” of Ireland, you can also purchase hard-to-find Irish and British imports.

Depending on time, either take a cabNYC Skyline Night back to your hotel or a more scenic route along the east side of Manhattan via ferry. The ferry will take you under Brooklyn Bridge. If you feel like stopping in Williamsburg, now is the chance. If it is before six, you can check out the Smorgasburg at Brooklyn Flea. Since we were staying in Midtown, our hotel was walking distance to Rockefeller Center where we could marvel over NYC’s famous skyline, a view we will never forget. For a late night snack, stop for a cupcake at Magnolia bakery just outside Rockefeller Center.

DAY 2: The Art of Music, Theatre and Baking

As I am a baker, when I turned to friends and co-workers Levain Bakery yNYCfor their must visit locations for NYC, they provided me with an extensive list of bakeries to check out and they did not disappoint. Our first bakery stop was at Milk Bar where we were introduced to the incredible Cornflake-Marshmallow-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie. Since my husband and I were on holiday, cookies for breakfast was absolutely acceptable. We took our cookies to go and headed out to find a spot under a tree in Central Park.

We can all thank the 1853 New York State Legislature for setting aside the incredible space that is now Central Park. Having over 750 acres of land available to the public, it contributed not only to the formation of a civil society but became a leader among urban parks across America. You could easily spend an entire day here.

When we were on the west side of the park we took a slight detour to check out Levain Bakery for their world-famous six-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookie. Only in NYC will you line up for 15 minutes for a cookie. From there you are a short 10 minute walk from the Lincoln Center. During the summer months it is worth looking into the free concerts and events put on at the Lincoln Center. We met up with a friend for lunch across from the Lincoln Center at The Smith and then headed back for a free show in the afternoon.

After listening to some great musicOn the Town NYC Times Square it was time to head to Times Square. It is one of the NYC sites that is a must see but you only want to see it once. It’s beyond crowded. It’s also one area where food is hit or miss. We set out for Shake Shack, a successful NYC chain that sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square park. The best part of Times Square is the surrounding theaters and choosing a Broadway play. On a friend’s recommendation, we went to check out On the Town. The Broadway play could not have been more fitting for a NYC visit as you follow three sailors with only 24 hours in New York. The production also has the largest orchestra on Broadway!

DAY 3: Tours

For our final day in the city we chose to have more of a sit down breakfast at Sarabeth’s, an award-winning jam maker. One of their locations is directly across from Central Park so we took one last stroll through before heading to NBC for a studio tour. My husband works in TV so he had the opportunity to geek out a little with all the equipment sound boards and such. I do not know the proper lingo to use here but bottom line is it’s a pretty cool experience seeing the inner workings of some of your favourite shows.

After the tour we hit up as many of the remaining recommendations we had from people as possible. Since we were exhausted we took a cab to East Village and hit all our spots as we walked back up to Penn Station to catch the train back to the airport. We started off our food tour with none other than our favourite indulgence, Ice Cream.

Morgenstern’s finest ice creamMorgernsterns NYC was incredible and we couldn’t believe we hadn’t had ice cream until our last day in NYC! I’m going with the fact that we got side tracked with all the cookies to justify such a crime. This ice cream parlour is incredible and the flavours are outstanding. My sweet tooth at the time overruled my better judgement consuming way too much Pretzel Salted Caramel ice cream while my husband decided on the smoothest Strawberry ice cream I have ever tried.

With our slight sugar rush we needed a snack with more substance – carbs. We walked on over to Cafe Habana, who had a fantastic take on mexican corn and the cuban sandwich. Stomachs full it was time to walk it off. If you head west on Prince street it is recommended to pick up a small snack for the plane from Once Upon a Tart. However, we were headed to another restaurant, Joseph Leonard, so we took the most direct route. It took us about 22 minutes to walk, just enough time to get hungry again.

Joseph Leonard was recommended to us as the ultimate place for brunch. The restaurant sits very few people so be prepared to wait as you cannot make reservations. I knew I would like the place as soon as we walked in due to the simple fact that they had their own Gerkin pickles on every table. My husband and I split the lamb meatballs and a hashbrown. The hashbrown is a full meal and the size of a small skillet! Each were equally delicious.

So, what next you ask? Well ice cream of course! Not just any kind though, soft serve, Big Gay Ice Cream to be exact. Starting out as a food truck, Big Gay Ice Cream opened shop in 2011 offering customers fun unique toppings. I went for the classic rainbow sprinkled cone however next visit I will definitely be trying Salty Pimp.

With all the walking you do in NYC you can eat whatever you want for the three days you’re visiting. We walked roughly 8km per day! Comment below with your favourite spots in the city.

NYC FoodNYC Food

Gramma’s Little Helper – Scottish Butter Tart Shortbread

Thank you Danielle for the lovely write up on the Buttertart Festival and my mini business :)

honeydobliss2

My favourite part about summer time is all the festivals; especially food related festivals! This year one of my best friends, Emily, had her amazing butter tart shortbread  for sale at the Midland Butter Tart Festival. Yes we have a butter tart festival in Ontario and yes it’s amazing!

I had no idea that butter tarts are distinctly Canadian and one of our “quintessential desserts.” What’s better than flaky pastry, brown sugar and butter? Delicious! Add in either pecans or raisins and it’s even better! (well I like plain or pecan not a fan of raisins altogether).

It was my first time hearing about a festival dedicated to a butter tart, plus I had never been to the cute town of Midland. Midland is located on Georgian Bay and as you walked around the festival there’s a beautiful view of the waterfront. Classic Canadian cottage country vibe for any downtowners from Toronto.

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Oscars 2015: The Best Dress Over The Best Dressed

Let’s celebrate the extremely talented designers of these gorgeous gowns. Incredible talent all around.

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The Oscars’ red carpet was a breath of fresh, fashionable air! I love red carpets because they are an opportunity to witness the craftsmanship in design, and construction that is a couture gown.  While with the Grammy’s red carpet, I struggled to find one dress I even liked, at the Oscars almost every star that stepped out was impeccably dressed and had me fawning over the television. To the celebs, way to put on an awesome dress. But, to the designers whose imaginations, ripe with magic, dreamed up these beautiful designs, and to the skilled hands that undoubtedly, painstakingly brought them to life, thank you for inspiring this designer to pour out everything in her head and heart and turn her own dreams into dresses! Here are my top choices for best dress!

Im usually not a fan of red, but this Yves Saint Laurent gown worn by Dakota Johnson…

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Celebrating My 26th Birthday in Nassau, Bahamas

This might sound crazy but the best birthday cake I have ever had was from a bakery in the Bahamas. For my 26th birthday my entire family was in the Bahamas visiting my friend Shavanti. Shavanti, knowing I am a baker, went out of her way to find this extraordinary cupcake. Although the icing had melted and the candle would not stay lit, it still out shined cakes I’ve had from Paris, London and back in Toronto.

Shavanti showed usConch around the city and we finally got to try Conch Salad, something she had been talking about since I met her first year of university. She took us out back of this restaurant where they showed us how they get the Conch out of the shell and what part we actually eat. We perhaps should have watched this after we ate however it was still delicious. The restaurants are brightly painted and built on top of the conch shells. Thousands and thousands of them as this is a very popular dish. Some chefs will make a couple hundred conch salads in a single day! We also tried conch fritters and grilled conch.

Nassau is a beautiful city. Shavanti was explaining to us how all the buildings in Nassau are colour coded. Government buildings are pink (conch pink) and white, hospitals are yellow and white and finally the police and fire stations are green and white. We had just missed Junkanoo where thousands of people flood the street dancing in bright costumes in a celebration of freedom. The islands of the Bahamas is the only place you can experience Junkanoo and something I hope to experience one day. We saw some of the floats/costumes on the side of the road as we drove around. Some of the costumes are so intricate they can take up to a year to create.

Thank you Shavanti for showing us around!

Bahamas Family Birthday

Distillery District

Toronto Distillery District Christmas Market

One of the largest and best preserved examples of Victorian industrial architecture in all of North America is the Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery in Toronto, ON. It is one of my favourite places in the city, particularly at Christmas time. During the month of December the cobble stone, pedestrian only streets are beautifully decorated and lined with local vendors selling crafts and sweets. Christmas markets originated in Germany in the early 1400s and thankfully for us made their way over to Toronto.

Being downtown in this pedestrian only village,Sinterklaas walking through the Christmas market ignited a special flame inside my heart for all of our exchange students who spent Christmas with my family. My husband and I were down at the distillery on December 5th, the most important day in December for Cleo (one of our exchange students) from the Netherlands. Exactly two years ago on this day, we were in Holland visiting her for Sinterklaas, St. Nicholas’ day. This same celebration, including a procession with Sinterklaas riding a white horse through town happened down at the distillery district. It was incredible to be surrounded by so many people celebrating with us. We even bought some dutch sweets from one of the vendors.

There are many other events and celebrations that happen down at the distillery district, check out their calender here.

Dreamforce Concert with Bruno Mars

How to Survive one of the Largest Tech Conferences in North America as an Introvert

I recently had the privileged to attend Dreamforce, a conference hosted by Salesforce. Salesforce is the world’s most innovative company, according to Forbes, for four years in a row. This year it was held in San Francisco. This was my first year attending and little did I know about the size and intensity of this action packed four day conference. With over 140,000+ registered attendees, this can become incredibly overwhelming for an introvert. Excessive stimulation at every corner, cumbersome small talk from the moment you get up and the feeling of being alone among so many people create a need for introvert survival. I created a survival guide to embrace my introvert self and  ultimately get the most out of this incredible conference. The struggles an introvert faces can be addressed with the following;

 

1. Network in Small Groups

Networking for introverts (read: small-talk) can be stressful if you are not mentally prepared. Small talk can create all sorts of unnecessary anxiety attacks. Try to network in smaller niche groups over the larger mixers. This is what I did and kept to myself at the larger concert type events to reduce levels of stress. I had a few value add conversations with connections I made at these smaller events, however once this conversation took place I could feel the energy draining from my body and knew it was time for me to turn it in for the evening. Pay attention to whether you are losing or gaining energy from being around others. It also helps if you prepare a mental list of conversation points and questions to ask.

2. Take Time to Recharge

DreamforceAs an introvert, time alone to recharge can make or break you.  This is one of the fundamental characteristics of introverts.  While an extrovert would get bored spending this time alone it is completely necessary and satisfying as a introvert. If you are sharing a hotel room with a coworker take time to zone out, meditate or do yoga to get back your fuel. The outdoor seating at Dreamforce was where I would recharge in a bean bag chair under the sun before heading to another session.

3. Avoid Shows that Involve Audience Participation

Now, Tony Robbins was one of the keynote speakers at Dreamforce and I must say I deliberately avoided this session and chose to instead watch from outside. This is one of the most terrifying things as an introvert, especially if you are not stocked up on your energy for this type of activity. Huge gatherings and essentially parties just aren’t my thing and it’s been scientifically proven that introverts and extroverts differ significantly in how their brains process these type of experiences.

 

For the “Old Souls”, those not “coming out of their shell”, and everyone who “needs to speak up”, not everyone at the conference is an extrovert so stop struggling against your nature and maximize your natural gifts as an introvert.