After a few years of living in Toronto I am proud to say I have finally been to Krinos Taste of the Danforth! Celebrating its 21st year with an expected 1.5 million+ attendees, this incredible festival is put on primarily by volunteers from the local community. Community has always been at the core of the festival’s success since its creation back in 1994 . A group of restaurateurs collaboratively decided to work together to attract as many people as possible to try their authentic Greek cuisine instead of advertising individually. They pooled together their resources and set up tasting tables for visitors to try as many different restaurants as they choose.
As we tasted our way through the street it was Ellas Meat Market that stole the show. This family run business has been treating their customers like family since it was established in 1977. We were lucky to have gone shortly after lunch hour to miss out on the super long wait lines. In saying this, that means we did get the summer sun at its strongest and went home with a true Canadian suntan.
Every spring, members from the small town of Elmvale wake up from hibernation to the smell of pancakes and one of Ontario’s best maple syrup festivals. Maple syrup vendors line the streets, handing out samples from this year’s batch. If you’re new to this world of liquid gold, a Sugar Bush tour is a must! This year you could visit Greenlaw Maples or Lalonde’s Sugar Bush and children under 12 can visit for free. Here you learn about all the hard work that goes into making maple syrup, how much sap it takes to make a one litre bottle of syrup, and are taught why you must always refrigerate it.
No small town festival is complete without a main stage featuring local talent, a log sawing competition and naturally, a pancake eating contest. After the initial sugar rush wears off you enjoy the fact that spring is here and summer is just around the corner.
This past weekend my husband and I traveled out of London and down to the waterfront of Brighton. A few of our favourite musicians were playing at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival only 20 minutes from Brighton at Glynde Place so we decided to check it out. It was an amazing day with perfect weather. Glynde Place in itself is worth visiting if you’re close to Brighton. The 16th century Elizabethan country house made for the perfect back drop for the festival where you could camp out if you were staying for the entire weekend. The house has been lived in by only three families in over five centuries and is currently under renovations. Every performance from the festival was memorable, however my favourite by far went to Gregory Porter and I highly recommend going to one of his shows if he is playing near you. We wiggled our way to the front row for both him and Esperanza Spalding.
The best thing about being in London over the summer is the number of FREE events. Sure the weather might not be the best, but when you can go see performances from every west end musical over the course of two days, you don’t care if it rains! West End Live provides you with the opportunity to witness a small piece of what each musical will be like. From there you can then decide which one (or few) to go spend the money on. We Will Rock You definitely got the crowd involved while I think I might just have a crush on the Jersey Boys. I will be saving my pennies to go see Top Hat or Singing In The Rain next. For theatre ticket deals check out TravelZoo UK.
If you plan on visiting Trafalgar Square over the summer double check to see what events are taking place. Next one for me will be the Canada Day International on July 1st. I’ll be volunteering in the morning so if you have any questions before the event please comment below.
Winter Wonderland is a holiday infused carnival you don’t want to miss! It’s located in Hyde Park and runs from November through to the first week in January every year. We just made it this year and went with friends who are visiting us in London from Canada. Within Winter Wonderland is a Christmas Market, the largest outdoor ice rink in the UK, an ice and snow sculpture exhibit, lots of rides and best of all plenty of festive foods and drinks. It’s also free to enter so more to spend inside.
We started out shopping the Christmas Market. There were over 150 little wooden chalets selling everything from handmade crafts, winter gear, jewellery and some London themed Christmas ornaments. After the market we carried on through the park stopping at almost every good smelling food booth around. There was everything here! Good thing we didn’t go on empty stomachs or else we definitely would have been broke by the end of the night. We stopped for some mulled wine and German beer and carried on. We finished the night off at, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire experience, the Carousel Bar. This beautiful traditional carousel slowly spins as you dance the night away.
While our friends were visiting we also had our first London theatre experience. I love comedy and musicals and when they are combined I just can’t get enough. We saw Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre. The guys loved it and I didn’t want it to end. We were laughing the entire time and singing along at the end. We definitely left with the attitude of “always looking on the bright side of life”.
If you wander down to Southbank area in London you’re guaranteed to see or learn something new. Last time we were here I learned about sheep, this time it was chocolate!
The Chocolate Festival happens twice a year in London, first at Easter then of course at Christmas. Dozens of booths are in the area showcasing their artisan chocolate, all made from pure ingredients. They have chocolate everything here, from your basic truffles and cakes to chocolate chili and chocolate mulled beer. My personal favourite was learning about Water Ganache, The Chocolatier – A Niche by Aneesh. I had never heard of this concept before and it is simply amazing! The truffles have no cream, no butter, no eggs and no gelatine. Aneesh will only pair his chocolate with high quality fresh ingredients and water. In doing so there is nothing masking the flavour of what you really want, the chocolate. Seriously, his chocolate is so smooth and the best part it doesn’t stick to the top of your mouth. You can buy his chocolates online here.
After the chocolate festival we walked down near the river where the Christmas Market was taking place (pictured in the featured image). This traditional Christmas market is German themed with 80 individually decorated wooden chalets, famous German Bratwurst and “Glühwein” (German Mulled Wine).
Across the bridge from the Christmas market is Somerset House. Here they have outdoor ice skating and a variety of pop-up shops for the Christmas season called The Christmas Arcade. It celebrates British design from exclusively British boutique brands, featuring over 50 designers. I love this idea of popup Britain, truly giving the chance to entrepreneurs who don’t have the finances to take on running a shop on their own. There’s one of these also in Greenwich that I will be sure to get some Christmas gifts at.
This year Carnaby Street collaborated with the Rolling Stones for the most rocking out Christmas decorations of all time! We went to the street party last night to celebrate the launch of their art installations and check out the pop-up store GRRR! that was selling exclusive limited edition Rolling Stones merchandise and their recent album (image right) The street at night is turned red, and is designed by Patrick Woodroffe, who has done the stage lighting on every Rolling Stones tour since 1989. The gold vinyl records hung over the street with photos, artwork and album covers inside them. The famous arches were also dressed up with the Rolling Stones iconic logo (image featured above) These decorations were a tribute to the bands 50th anniversary with their association to the area rehearsing for their very first gig in nearby Broadwick Street.
We then were led by all the twinkling lights to Kingly Court, a three-storey courtyard just behind Carnaby Street. Each store was beautifully lit, and the court was full of unique boutiques, tea shops and cafes. Here we found something perfect to send home for Christmas! I’m not going to tell you what since I know our parents are probably reading this but you’ll just have to trust me it’s a great place to shop ;)
My favourite shop was Atelier Millinery. When you walk into her shop you’re surrounded with my favourite accessory, hats! It smells like glue in there with tons of drawers and stands of ribbons and bows for the many different classes they offer. From beginner to intermediate they will teach you how to build your own hat! It makes me want to switch professions or pick up a new expensive hobby. Hat makers are very talented and I was amazed with the lady in the store working away on a fedora while engaging with us in conversation.
We couldn’t just end our evening there but had to visit the world famous Hamleys! One of the largest toy stores in the world and 7 floors of fun, fun, fun. William Hamley opened up his first toy store in 1760 and it’s now a London landmark. The Hamleys we went to on Regent Street opened in 1881. David was thrilled with this store trying out all the toys and looking for things to “send back home to Etienne (our 4 year old nephew)” yah right. He looked very comfortable trying out the Nerf shooting range they had. This store is amazing and definitely worth the walk through. They had an entire floor of lego with the entire royal family built out of it! The lego guards stood just as still as the real ones too.
We love food! Unashamed to admit it, whenever there is a food festival happening it rules out almost anything else that is happening at the same time. Today we went to our first food festival in London! The Realfood Festival at Southbank Centre runs all weekend and every weekend celebrating the very best in sustainable and ethically produced food (image left). What’s unique about this festival compared to your usual food festivals is all the producers are hand picked on quality, not their ability to pay for a booth. This keeps the festival genuine and you know you’re getting the best the British Isles has to offer!
Along with the great food is also live music, street performers and a variety of shows such as let’s talk farming mini sheep show (image right). They introduced 3 breeds of sheep, (Suffolk, Norfolk Horn and Southdown) and then they do a demonstration of how to properly shave a sheep. One sheep’s wool is bought from the farmer for around £2 (the highest it’s been in years), he then pays the people who roll it around £1.50 per sheep so at the end of the day he’s only making a 50p profit. This clearly is not enough to feed a sheep until it’s time to shave it again and is a reminder that the farmer is not shaving his sheep for the money but to keep them healthy.
There was a company there called WoolCool who uses the wool to insulate packaging for temperature sensitive products that can then be shipped by courier. The wool acts as an insulation and is also fire resistant. Wool is actually a pretty amazing sustainable material with many uses.
After walking around the booths a few times, seeing a man blow fire out of his tuba and a performer floating without touching the ground we decided it was time for a drink! We both tried Toffee Vodka from Thunder Vodka and it wasn’t that bad! Now you all know this must’ve been good if I even managed to keep it down. With dinner David had a London Lager from Meantime Brewing Company and for dessert a latte and cappuccino from The Ethiopian Coffee Company.
Southbank Centre was the perfect place for this festival and we’re happy that the food drew us in to discovering it! The centre is surrounded by 5 venues all revolving around the arts with over 1,000 performers annually. The area has plenty of restaurants and shops as well! My favourite is pictured to the left, it’s all about the props ;) There is also a great skate park with some talented graffiti art covering all the walls. We also had the chance to watch some dancers perform the waltz, fox trot and cha cha.
Overall this is a great spot for a walk around the water, seeing some talented street performers and eating from some of the best street food vendors around!