Yo!

I’m still coming up to speed with my Canada posts and hope to complete them all before winter there is actually over! But now that I’m sitting here writing this in humid 35 degree Celsius weather, it seems like ages ago that my teeth were chattering in bone-chilling -40 degrees Celsius, in what was Canada’s coldest winter in over 5 decades!

niagara canada

niagara falls in winter canada

Like I’ve said before, it’s hard to describe how being in such extreme weather feels, but if there’s one place where it can actually be seen, it’s at Niagara Falls. As you can imagine, it’s a piece of cake for a small pool of water to freeze in seconds, but at Niagara Falls, 60,000 litres of water surge down every second! While the entire waterfall doesn’t actually freeze due to the sheer force and volume of moving water, there are certain sections of Niagara Falls that actually do, making it a breathtaking sight.

niagara falls canada

I’ve been blessed to have seen the Niagara Falls in summer, on the 4th of July with a mind-blowing number of fireworks exploding at the horizon, on the occasion of neighbouring USA’s Independence Day. If you’d have told me then that something could ACTUALLY surpass the experience of watching glittering sparkles and flashes of light in the sky over the mesmerizing Niagara Falls, I wouldn’t have believed you. Turns out, visiting the Falls in winter actually does!

horseshoe falls frozen

niagara falls frozen in winter The cold weather means that visitors can’t get on boats that take them to the foot of the falls or walk through the tunnel that leads you directly behind the waterfall to watch it cascade down a few feet front of your eyes. However, the touristy Clifton Hill strip and all its attractions, as well as in the indoor butterfly conservatory are some of the things you can still do.

niagara falls frozen

Shady trees I saw in summer were mere frozen branches covered in pristine white snow, literally bowing to the falls with the weight of the icicles on their branches, like natural Christmas ornaments. As you carefully inch closer to the falls on the icy pavements, you get your first glimpse of the freezing water swiftly crashing onto the river below, with mist rising up into the air…mist that can be felt from quite a distance away.

misty niagara falls

niagara falls thatgoangirl It’s this misty spray that freezes on everything it touches – the walkways, the railings, lamp posts, the plants and the windscreens of cars parked nearby. If you’re lucky, you’ll see huge blocks of ice being pushed over the falls where they swirl like mini glaciers.

thatgoangirl niagara falls

niagara horseshoe falls

Such is the beauty of Niagara Falls in winter that thousands of tourists brave the frigid weather, cameras in hand to get that prized photograph of it. The icy wind that numbs not only your fingers and toes, but entire face, making it difficult to smile or speak, is the only downside. Fortunately, I visited on a Monday morning after the Christmas – New Year rush had subsided, and Canadians were back to work, which meant the Falls were almost deserted! That is pretty darn rare!

niagara falls in winter

Photos definitely don’t do it justice, especially those shot on a camera phone! However, if you were planning on visiting Canada and were crossing off the idea of visiting the country in the winter, I hope they nudge you to reconsider!

My next and final post on Canada will be up this week! Until then, come over to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

<3

Hey guys!

Man, we’re one week into February! I have a LOT of catching up to do on That Goan Girl and to be honest, I’ve had writer’s block since I got back from Canada a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed it, I did write about Restaurants in Toronto for every budget and my experience at Langdon Hall, where I had a taste of the food through an 11 course tasting menu.

But here’s the thing. I can write about ONE specific topic pretty quickly. But if you ask me to write about my experience in Canada in general, like many of you have, I don’t know where to begin. Where do I start? How can I describe a month in another country on one page and do justice to it?

winter downtown toronto

As someone who has lived in a tropical country all her life, and whose experience of winter was a lukewarm 18 degrees Celsius, spending the season in Canada was mind-numbing.  Have you ever got really bad or good news that just refused to sink into your brain? That’s how I’d describe it! My mind refused to accept the evidence of the snow falling like tiny clumps of powder and the crisp, cold air biting at my cheeks.

Thankfully, you’re not cold ALL the time. While North India sees extreme winters with -15 to -20 temperatures and even Delhi’s winters touch single digit figures, we’re ill equipped to deal with it, and are shivering under layers of blankets, even indoors. On the other hand, unless I was outdoors in Canada, I was warm and toasty all the time – in a cotton tee and track pants at home, and a woolen turtle neck and jeans with thermal leggings when out in the mall and other indoor spaces. In the car, more often than not, I felt hot, even as the mercury dropped to -36 degrees outside the window. Yes, the key to surviving an outdoorsy winter in Canada is to throw all sense of fashion out the window and layer up like an onion.

Speaking of cars, I was amused at how one has to warm up their car for 10-20 minutes before being able to drive it. What do you do in the meanwhile? If it’s a snowy day, you take a long brush out of your car and dust a thick layer of powdery snow off. If it’s a sunny day, yay, head back in and grab a coffee – it tastes SO much better in chilly weather! Sometimes, cars freeze and at one point, our doors were solidly frozen shut, causing us to get in and out through the one door in the front that opened. Ah, winter experiences!

ducks in winter canada

winter in canada

The best way to enjoy the winter in Canada is to get out and do some winter activities – skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding… there’s a lot to be done if you’re an adventure enthusiast. Mississauga, the town I lived in didn’t have a lot of winter activities, and I spent my time trying out various restaurants (no surprise there) and  got a bit of sightseeing done. It’s amazing how different Canada looked with a fresh dusting of snow! Almost unrecognizable from my last trip there in summer.

food truck toronto (1)

Pristine snow on the sidewalks quickly turns into yucky blackish slush, before melting away. And with the next snowfall, the melted water turns to black ice, making it almost invisible and so easy to slip on. Be sure to wear boots that have a good grip and the thickest woolen socks you find, because you can feel the cold slowly numbing your toes and it could lead to frostbite.

And oh, the trees! They’re all bare, except for the evergreens, aka. Christmas trees, and boy, did they look magnificent with snow on them! And the occasional icicle, of course, but those are a common sight too, clinging to the edges of almost every roof. In summer, the sky was bright until 9 pm, but in winter, as evening drew closer, you’d find it bright at one moment and dark in a matter of seconds, even before 5 PM! Crazy!

christmas tree winter

The efficiency of Canada never fails to amaze me, and after every snowfall, there would be snow-blowers on the road, clearing the snow to facilitate smooth traffic. I was hoping to be snowed-in.. like in the movies. Naturally, that didn’t happen because we kept having to shovel snow. Okay, I only shoveled snow twice, but my cousin Daren was a pro at it and I was merely making things worse. Try your hand at shoveling snow, if you can! It’s kind of fun as long as you don’t have to wake up and do it every morning like most Canadians.

winter in toronto

Possibly the worst thing about Canadian winters is the wind-chill. Freezing cold, strong wind that makes the temperature seem colder than it actually is and literally pricks at you through your gloves and jeans. That, and chapped lips! I’ve never used a chap-stick so many times a day! That 100 bucks I spent on Nivea chapstick was money well spent.

thatgoangirl winter in canada

There are a lot of positives about living in a literal freezer. Need chilled beer? Just leave the case outside in the yard and when you crack one open, it’s just short of being icy! I’m not kidding – people ACTUALLY do that!

Like most of you know already, I have a lot of friends and family in Canada, so many of my days were spent indoors, indulging in feasts of epic proportions. To top it off, my trip was planned around Christmas and New Year, so… more food! Also, I did visit a couple of outdoor Christmas markets that really got me in the holiday spirit. I wish I could have taken more photographs, but my fingers were so numb that that they hurt on touching ANYTHING. Even sliding them into the pockets of my jeans made my skin feel raw and painful. Owww!!

winter experience n canada

Canada may be pretty frigid, but it’s also a beautiful winter wonderland when that snow starts to fall. The climate makes you want to hibernate for 5 months and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate. Then again, it is too breathtaking to waste the entire winter inside. So suck it up, layer up and head on out!

churches in canada

What was your first winter in a really, really cold place like? Comment and let me know! Also, come over to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and let’s chill!

Bye now!

Trying to write about the restaurants in Toronto is akin to writing about all the restaurants in Mumbai – virtually impossible, even in a lifetime. So I’ll leave that to the restaurant-curation folks at Blog TO and tell you about the places I personally visited, during my second trip to Toronto. There’s something for budget travellers and the occasional splurge. Read on!

THE BURGER’S PRIEST (Multiple Locations) – I’ve had my fair share of burgers and I’ll go so far as to say that the Burger’s Priest served the best I’ve ever tasted! The quality of beef is apparent from the first buttery soft bite, and they do maintain that “you won’t find yesterday’s beef in today’s burgers.” From there on, every aspect of the mouth-watering burger is divine – onions caramelized to perfection, pillowy buns, gooey cheese, crispy fries on the side… Perfect! Definitely an upgrade from the striped-down burgers in many other fast food joints. I was amused to see the burgers sport biblical-sounding names like The Vatican, The High Priest and The Red Sea.

Cost – CAD 5.99 – CAD  14 for one

burgers priest

BOODLE FIGHT (Pape) – Boodle Fight in downtown Toronto served the 5 of us in the traditional style practiced in the Filipino army – on banana leaves, to be eaten by hand. We picked two boodle fight meals which served four, and came with a pile of rice spanning the length of the table. The owner-server then arranged a variety of seafood that almost covered up the rice. Squids, huge prawns, 2 types of fried fish, clams, octopus and more – all plainly seasoned with salt. Some raw carrots, grilled eggplant, a slice of grapefruit and pork belly skewers, the only item that had sticky-sweet sauce brushed on, also featured on the banana leaf. Go if you like trying out new things.

Cost – CAD 10 – CAD 15 for one

boodle fight

EL LOCAL LOCO (Church Street)It’s hard to not love this place! Energetic and trendy with colour-splashed murals on the wall, a variety of seating options, friendly staff and a short, sweet menu! We ordered nachos with guacamole (delicious!!) and the nacho bowl was refilled when we were done. For mains, we went with the fried fish tacos with avocado, coleslaw, cream and lime – which was lip-smacking!  Carnitas – Pork shoulder with salsa verde, fried beans and pickled carrots, was great too, but not as amazing as the fish tacos.

Cost – CAD 20-25 without alcohol for one

el local loco

CANYON CREEK CHOPHOUSE (Multiple Locations) – A great blend of casual dining meets elegance. This is one of those restaurants that lists only 8-10 items under every section but focuses on flawless execution with subtle twists. Being a ‘chophouse,’ you should try their top grade meaty items – prime rib, lamb rack, pork loin, steak, and fresh seafood. They’re also known for their selection of wine by the glass as well as cocktails. I opted for the ‘meal’ menu where one can choose a soup/salad, one of three mains and one of two desserts which, cost-wise, is equal to one main dish on the regular menu.

Cost – CAD 30-50 without alcohol for one

chophouse chipotle sirloin steak

CHEF’S ASSEMBLY (Richmond Street)– I visited Chef’s Assembly before it fully launched, so I didn’t get the whole experience, but that glimpse was enough to make me want to return. It’s a chance to sample global cuisine from 17 of Toronto’s top chefs under one roof, without having to go to high-end restaurants. Walk around browsing through the menus at different stalls and take your food over to the trendy, spacious seating area where you can maybe get yourself a glass of wine, too! This makes a great space for entrepreneurs to work and have meetings, especially since they have free wi-fi.

P.S. I tried the Love Chix counter – their burger was super crispy and the brussel sprouts was cheesy, salty and fried (deliciously unhealthy!)

Cost – Varied, but only card payments allowed.

chefs assembly

OSMOW’S (Multiple Locations)Osmow’s serves delicious middle eastern and Mediterranean food that’s popular among the young folks. Funky names like chicken on the rocks, chicken on the sticks (de-constructed shawarma), fatoush, tabouleh, souvlaki plates and more feature on the menu. Generous portions and quite tasty when you dine in as opposed to take-out.

Cost – Approx CAD 15 per person for one

PANDA EXPRESS (Multiple Locations)– I’ve got to admit, I loved Panda Express probably more than I should have, given that I’m not really a fast-food junkie. It’s probably not the healthiest, but oh man, it’s sooo goood! Take your pick of two-three items from the display. Mandarin beef, panko fried shrimp, sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, dumplings, rice and noodles and so much more that you’re spoiled for choice.

Cost – CAD 6 – 12 for one

panda express

DENNY’S (Multiple Locations)– Another chain restaurant worth mentioning because who doesn’t love all-day breakfasts! Pancakes, eggs your way, bacon, sausages, hash browns, milkshakes! Sadly, no pictures here because the food wasn’t photograph material.

Cost – CAD 6 – 12 for one

PAI (Duncan Street) – If you’re heading here for dinner, make reservations. When I went, there was a waiting list for the waiting list! We came back a few days later for lunch and had the most amazing Thai food in a setting that had a dope hipster vibe. Loved the earthy wooden accents and twinkling lights, and while my Pad Thai was delicious, I wouldn’t call it authentic as it lacked the citrusy, savoury, nutty flavour. A good rendition, nonetheless!

Cost – Approx CAD 20 for one

pai thai

LANGDON HALL COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL (Cambridge)This isn’t the kind of restaurant one goes to every weekend. The high-end, fine dining restaurant in Cambridge, has been awarded the prestigious five diamond award, making it one of the Top 50 in Ontario. Expert chefs create the most beautiful dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients, skill and molecular gastronomy to wow the palate. More on my experience here.

Cost – CAD – 150 +

sweetbreads-and-lobster-langdon-hall-1440x1080

CAPTAIN’S BOIL (Multiple Locations) – Order seafood by the half-kilo, in one of the four sauce options which comes boiled and served in giant plastic bags. You empty the contents straight on the table (no plates!) and dig in with your bare (actually, plastic gloved) hands. Sounds gross? It is! It’s one of those places you could love or hate, but the food, no doubt, is delicious – especially the crab! I like my seafood hot and it was sort of lukewarm when it arrived. Service could be improved.

Cost – CAD 50-60 for two

CHAKO (Multiple Locations)One of the best restaurants I visited on my trip to Canada was Chako, a large Asian eatery that allows diners to grill ALL the meat and veggies they can eat. The beef and pork marinade was divine and the experience of grilling on your table-top burner over drinks and conversations make for a fun evening. Since everything is so finely sliced, you only have to watch them brown and char for a minute before devouring the smoky meat. They also serve sushi which was nothing to write home about.

Cost – CAD 20-30 for one

chako toronto

HEART SUSHI (Heartland) – This modern-looking, all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant has a smart iPad system of ordering so you can order throughout the evening without having to flag down a server. Go here for the sushi and sashimi, however, try as much as possible because everything is pretty darn good. The soup, dimsum, teppenyaki, tempura, fried rice, stir-frys, spring rolls and omg! – The fried banana with ice cream is dope!

Cost –CAD 20-30 for one

heart sushi heartland

SWEET JESUS (Multiple Locations) – I was pretty excited on seeing the Sweet Jesus Instagram page, but on visiting, felt it was a tad overrated. I have to wonder if perhaps that’s where the appeal lies – in Instagram-worthy toppings on a traditional soft serve. Red velvet crumbs, toffee bits, crumbled cookies, cotton candy, custard and dozens more, slathered over ice cream in cups or cones feature alongside churros and coffees on the menu.

Cost – CAD 4 – 10 for one

sweet jesus

PARAMOUNT FINE FOODS (Multiple Locations) – Healthy, fresh, halal Middle Eastern Food in Toronto. I first had their freakin’- huge shawarma in 2015 and still craved the taste 2.5 years later. The shawarma is wrapped in fresh, airy wood-fired pita which makes all the difference. The pita paired with hummus and tabbouleh, it is a match made in heaven!  I’ve never had space for dessert after a meal here.

Cost – CAD 6-20 for one

paramount fine food

ARKADY BISTRO CAFE (Mississauga) – From the food, to the people and music to the news playing on TV, it’s all Polish! There’s a wide choice of healthy, wholesome food to choose from and the portions are huge enough to share. Lamb shanks, ribs, Polish schnitzel, fish, salads, buckwheat and simple veggies make up the most part of the menu. The dessert selection as well as desserts themselves are large but you won’t feel guilty for over-eating here, that’s for sure!

Cost – CAD 30 for two

arkady bistro cafe toronto

That’s a wrap! Have you visited any great restaurants in Toronto? Comment below, and I’ll add them to the bucket list for my next trip.

My three cousins in Canada all have starkly different tastes when it comes to food. One loves his fast-food (burgers, pizzas, all-you-can-eat – the faster and tastier, the better!) The second loves discovering unique restaurants, local joints and trying out new cuisines, just like I do. And the third, a perfectionist by nature, has an appreciation for fine food and gastronomic experiences.

I couldn’t be any luckier – for that meant getting a tiny glimpse into the entire food scene in Toronto. I’ll share the restaurants I tried with you in a later post, but this one is about my fabulous Christmas gift from Cousin #3 – a night out with her at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, Cambridge to experience an 11 course tasting menu!

langdon hall cambridge

Before I get into the food, let me tell you something about Langdon Hall. This isn’t the kind of place you go to every weekend – it’s one of those where you hope a reeeeally special occasion comes around just so you can celebrate there. The food is refined, beautifully crafted and presented – meant to be savoured, not just eaten.

Having being awarded the prestigious 5 Diamond Award by the AAA, you can expect leading cuisine prepared using the finest ingredients. The dishes are prepared by an acclaimed chef (Jason Bangerter), served by gracious service staff, led by maitre d’ in extraordinary surroundings. Yep, this is serious business, and in fact, Langdon Hall is among the Top 50 restaurants in Ontario.

I happened to visit one snowy night and couldn’t appreciate the architecture from the outside, however the interiors are plush, mid-century modern and palatial.

The tasting menu at Langdon Hall is a seasonally evolving affair, reflecting the inventiveness of its chefs with a slight inclination to the fads + fetishes of the foodie revolution.  Every course is bite sized, and if you follow me on Instagram and Facebook, I’ve recently shared why fine dining restaurants like these serve tiny portions. Have you seen it yet?

At Langdon Hall, the devil is in the details! Pristine white table cloths, candles lit on every table even ones on which no guests are seated, butter sprinkled with salt, and staff who appear and disappear as if by telepathy, carrying food, wine.

The first course was made of sunflower root, stuffed with a velvety truffle puree, coated over with sunflower seeds, fried and served on a bark of wood. It was so delicately crunchy, giving way to a rich, creamy filling! This curious little dish blew me away, straight off the bat! Another stellar dish followed, served in four tiny pieces of crockery. A deviled egg on a deliciously savory beetroot puree served in a cup holder shaped like a duck’s foot, brioche, crème fraiche and Canadian caviar. Together, they made a rich, creamy, decadent, sour and somehow great combination!

landgon hall tasting menu

best restaurant in canada

Brassica, a vegetable akin to cauliflower and broccoli, was spooned over with fermented chilli sauce, coriander and Ontario peanuts. Again, a one bite dish that was gone before I knew it!

brassica tasting menu langdon hall

Scallop, poached just enough to leave the taste of the sea intact, served with celery root juice, apple pearls and sorrel for a texture that was almost cucumber-like. The choice of the clear glass dish made it look even more vibrant.

scallop tasting menu langdon hall

Then came sweetbread and lobster served with brown butter, cinnamon and a creamy golden nugget squash dressing. Another feast for the senses thanks to the glimmering silver dish and colourful components that complimented each other perfectly.

sweetbreads and lobster langdon hall

The Autumn Truffle Puree was high on my list of favourites. I couldn’t get enough of this buttery soup that was so silky, it’s hard to put into words! Camel-hued with a spoonful of hen veloute foam on top, the quantity was such that it was gone in seconds. I could easily drink two litres of it!

autumn truffle puree jason bangerter

Venison with the right amount of gaminess came next with braised red cabbage, rutabaga fondant and fermented wild berry that was a bit too tart for my liking. See that leaf there on the plate? You could crack it like a chip, it was that crispy!

jason bangerter langdon hall

Finally, dessert service started with an airy gin meringue with frozen juniper and spruce followed by the second dessert, Terroir Noir with 70% dark chocolate, mulled cranberry and the absurd but wonderful element of crispy chicken skin, which added a delicious saltiness to the dessert, much like sea salt would.

langdon hall dessert

terror noir chicken skin

My cousin raves about how every meal here is better than the last and I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to visit. An unforgettable experience, for sure! If you enjoy great food, good wine and have a special occasion to celebrate, you’ll have a remarkable experience at Langdon Hall from start to finish.

Where have you had your fanciest meal? Comment below, I’d love to know!

You’d find street art tucked away in the nooks of every city, but there are only a few places where graffiti is celebrated with kilometer-long stretches of colourful murals.

thatgoangil toronto

Queen’s Street is one of them. Known to be a hip neighborhood in downtown Toronto, it helps that Graffiti Alley only adds to the trendiness. The area comprises of bleak buildings turned into canvases with splashes of colour, paying homage to an art form often seen as vandalism. The art represents all that is right and wrong with gentrification at the same time.

graffiti alley toronto

queen street graffiti

On a past visit to Canada, I visited Kensington Market that has more than just decrepit buildings. A creative mark had been left on everything with a surface – restaurants, cafes, boutiques and even old, wrecked cars!

zelocity by zivame

toroto graffiti

This time around, it was a frigid day when I headed to Graffiti Alley in Toronto. It hadn’t snowed in a couple of days and the pristine white fluffy blanket was turning into brown slush, the icy water almost making itself felt through our thick socks and boots. That’s probably why we had the place all to ourselves, save for the occasional snow plough that came through, spraying the lanes with salt to melt the ice, time and again.

canada winter graffiti

We spent a good 40 minutes getting lost in the maze of buildings. And when the cold really got to us, we popped into one of the many cafés in the area – Aroma Espresso Bar, for some hot chocolate with marshmallows before heading out into the alley again. If it was summer, I’m pretty sure I could have spent another couple of hours wandering through the buildings. The hipster vibe, the sound of the streetcar running up and down the street, people popping in and out of funky looking stores – I could soak it all in and never tire!

colourful street in toronto

Are you as obsessed with graffiti as I am? I’ve always thought of it as being a city’s outdoor museum. Stencilled quotes and urban memes talking about issues to those who care to stop and ponder; cartoon characters and menacing demons peeping out from alleys as you walk down the street – what’s not to love!

This Graffiti Alley stretch is popular in summer, when Torontonians and tourists decend upon it, posing in front of bright fish and pastel flowers, and marvelling at some pieces that are really worthy of a spot in an art gallery. And I’m not even exaggerating here! After all, anyone can spray paint a peace sign on a wall, but creating a mural that spans the length of a building, forcing people to stop, stand and admire it, well, that’s art.

thatgoangirl zelocity

graffiti alley ontario

The streets are sometimes dirty places, but it’s often in these same settings where splendid artistry meets rebellious spirits. It’s not just about aesthetics, but originality and provocation, both essential ingredients of a masterpiece. From stark to profound, colourful to gloomy and empowering to crass –Graffiti Alley has it all.

bob marley graffiti

winter queens street

This is one place to really spend a good long afternoon, wandering around, feasting your eyes on the smaller-easier pieces that are as astounding as some of the massive ones. Take a stroll through Toronto’s street art spots and get lost in a colourful maze of bright, dizzying, intriguing art.

queens street tourism

If you’re a self-respecting ‘grammer, here’s where you should be headed! I flaunted my new workout gear from Zelocity by Zivame that day, since the weather was a bit more bearable.

this is paradise toronto graffiti

Can’t wait to share more of the adventures in Canada with you soon!

Liked this post? Drop me a comment below, or pop over to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to say ‘hi!’

Hey!!

As I write this, it’s already Christmas in India, but there’s still another 8 hours or so for it to be Christmas in this part of the world. And it’s snowing like craaazy out there!

The last time I visited Canada was 2 years ago, in summer, when the temperature was just about perfect for exploring, outdoor BBQs, pool days and all other Goa-things! This time, apart from visiting Christmas markets and shoveling delicious food into my mouth, I’ve not done much yet.

DISTILLERY DISTRICT

I’d been in -3 to -5 degree weather since the time I landed, but that night at the Christmas Market in Distillery District was probably the coldest I’ve been in my life. We later learnt that there was a cold weather alert and the temperature would feel like -21. While the news is constantly on the TV at the house, we all just happened to skip watching it when it counts the most, lol!

toronto christmas market

Taking out my gloves to click a picture on my phone was a challenge I hadn’t anticipated, especially with fingers that were numb from the cold. But frigid temperature be damned, I had to capture the magic of a Christmas Market.

christmas market lights toronto

This pedestrian-only village is full of gorgeous Victorian era buildings, making it a wonderful setting for a Christmas Market. Ranked as one of the best in the world, it resembles those in Europe and even captures the tradition, heritage and romance. Cobblestone streets, ornate street lamps, and charming wooden booths shaped like cottages selling ornaments, baked goods, winter gloves and handicrafts were everywhere. Overhead, fairy lights streamed from one end to the other. And in the centre of it all loomed one of Toronto’s tallest Christmas Trees!

christmas tree distillery district

food christmas market toronto

distillery district christmas market

The main attraction though was a 100 foot long tunnel of lights! On long tables set with a small fires, fondue pots simmering with cheese were served, in which visitors dipped bread, sausage and steamed veggies for a quick warm snack. That apart, stalls also served chimney cakes, potato twisters and Christmas goodies. All that paired with Christmas Carolers singing joyfully in the background makes it impossible to suppress the child in you any longer.

tunnel of lights distillery district christmas market toronto

MILTON MARKET

A few days later, the family and I headed to the Milton Christmas Market. We went while it was still quite bright and much warmer at -3 degrees, so that meant a LOT more photos!!

milton market toronto

It was easier to spot Santa, too!

santa claus milton market

milton market jade

An entire street was transformed into a new Christmas avatar, with over 200 vendors in white tents on either side selling everything from gingerbread cookies to hot masala tea and poutine to one-of-a-kind gifts. Unlike the market at Distillery District, this one had a lot of food trucks! The other one was waaay more Christmassy though!

stall milton market

milton market food truck

Okay! I’ve got to go shower and change for the Christmas vigil in a couple of hours, so I’ve got to wind this post up!

milton market canada

Hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas wherever you are! Wishing you all the love and joy that this season brings! Merry Christmas!

Quebec, like a child of mixed parentage, has features of Europe and Canada, with her own distinct French personality. She takes you back to a time where people still valued the art of conversation, and sat at laughter-filled coffee shops that ran into cobbled streets, or worshiped at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral My days spent here were like a stone being skipped happily across the water. Time just slipped through my fingers and the days passed by as quickly as the stone takes the next leap forward.

It was only four days, after all, and we had to make the absolute most of it. Plus, when you’re on a sightseeing tour with a couple of dozen other people, there is a schedule to be stuck to. We did sneak away to explore the unexplored, which left us with less time for both – the exploring and the time-bound itinerary.
CANYON ST. ANNE
CHURCH OF ST. ANNE DE BEAUPRE 2
Before heading to the miraculous Church of St. Anne De Beaupre, we stopped at the 1.2 billion year old Canyon St. Anne. The short 45 minute trek lets you walk along the falls and cross over to the other side of the gorge on suspension bridges of various heights.

Both sides of the path were lined with lush, dense foliage, still glistening with rain from the morning’s drizzle. Apart from the rumble of the waterfall below and the twittering of birds overhead, there was silence. The road goes on, first uphill and then down, turning and twisting its way around the canyon.

The last of the three bridges is the one that is closest to rapids and to get to it, one needs to walk down 187 steps. At the bottom, we were met with a long, shaky, wooden bridge. It would have been amazing to zipline across the falls. but hey, when you have a bouncy bridge ahead of you, you jump!

Jade - That Goan Girl

 

The walk back up the steps is easy at first, and then every step gets more painful than the last. After puffing, panting, wailing and countless “five minute” breaks, we get to the top… only to walk back uphill and downhill to leave for the miraculous shrine.
CHURCH OF ST. ANNE DE BEAUPRE

The Church of St. Anne De Beaupre, like the Notre Dame Basilica, is one of Quebec’s priceless treasures. The entrance to the church are through beautiful copper doors made by Albert Giles. The interiors are warmly lit and give out a soft, golden glow. Every inch of the ceiling is covered in words and paintings so fine and regal, that it’s impossible to believe it was done by someone lying on a makeshift scaffolding for days with a paintbrush.


The sombre church captivates every sense from the moment you walk in. One can hear the mutter of prayers, smell the smoke wafting up from burning candles and look at rows upon rows of kneeling people writing petitions on little pieces of paper before walking up to the statue and dropping it into a box at the foot of St. Anne.


St. Anne is the grandmother of Jesus, and the patron saint of pilgrims. The church was named after her ever since sailors were rescued by her intercession. The first known miracle at the church happened during the shrine’s construction when a hired worker, Louis Guimond was cured of rheumatism upon placing three stones on the Shrine’s foundation. Ever since then, thousands have been blessed with miracles and thousands more throng in the hope that their faith will bring them one. In fact, the pillars at the front entrance are covered with crutches, canes, braces and other signs of disabilities left behind by pilgrims who have been healed at the church.

After admiring the ornate ceiling and feasting my eyes on a glittering gold Statue of St. Anne, I make my way to a pew and write down petition after petition. That done, I head to the Statue and kneel with a dozen others around the base. Tied to the armrest is a printed prayer to be said before placing one’s note into the box. With the prayer said and wad of paper stuffed in the box, it was time to wander around some more

Walking around the church is like walking into a fairy tale. The light from the stained glass windows light up the ceiling, while below, dancing candle flames cast shadows on the mosaic, marble and stone.

I come across the Pieta, a replica of Michelangelo’s world renowned statue, and walk along a circular passage that goes behind the altar and comes out the other side. The passage too, has its share of stained glass windows and statues of saints in white marble,

Stairs lead downwards to a wide underground chapel that’s relatively empty, with a gold statue of Mary beside the altar. This shrine is different in style and design, and it’s like stepping into a completely different church altogether. White frilly patterns criss-cross across the ceiling, breaking up alternating the star and floral pattern, all the way to the front altar.

More than spectacular architecture, intricate mosaic and polished sculpture – this church is steeped in history. Prayer mingles with the smoke of a thousand candles, making its way above. That’s what makes it more than just another tourist attraction.

When I’m in Goa, I often visit a St .Anne’s Chapel, a couple of minutes away from my house, to attend Konkani Mass on Sunday. So the next time I’m home, I’ll be sure to follow up with Her on my miracle. It will probably come my way when the time is right.

It must be pretty cool to have a family business that’s known throughout the continent, especially one that’s not related to food – those tend to gain popularity as the generations go by.

Albert Gilles Copper Art

What I loved about Albert Gilles Copper Art is that it’s a quaint little structure by the countryside in Chateau Richer, Quebec. By looking at it on the outside, one would never guess that this was the place where master craftsman Albert Gilles made magic with copper.

Albert Gilles Copper Art

While the incredible artist, Albert Gilles is no longer alive, his daughters keep the 87 year old copper smith tradition flourishing. Apparently, they are the last crafters of their kind, so I’m really glad I could go and appreciate the art. The method they use is Copper Repousse – pressing shapes into the reverse side of soft copper using wooden tools.

From tiny pendants to the gigantic doors of the Basilica Sainte-Anne church doors you see in the picture, the time and detailing required during this painstaking process is incredible. In fact, Albert took over 15 years to create 50 large silver panels telling the story of the Life of Christ.

Albert Gilles Copper Art

Although I love marveling at art, I’m not the artistic type. My grandmother did all art and craft related projects I was assigned in school… I hope no ex-teachers are reading this.

Here are three attempt at Copper Repousse – my cousins, my brothers and mine.

Albert Gilles Copper Art

I’m not telling you which one is mine! (hint – it’s the best one!)

Now that I think about it, I spent a lot of time in Canada on boats. You’re probably wondering what one does on boats besides fishing – but no, I did not fish.

The Tall Ship Kajama

Have you ever had a ride on a Tall Ship? You know, the ones with sails, carrying pirates?

The Tall Ship Kajama

It was a beautiful sunny day when we sailed out of Toronto Harbour on a three mast schooner. The Kajama is gorgeous, has a rich sailing history, and it’s hard to imagine that a ship from 1930 could look so sleek.

Boating in canada

This 90 minute cruise let’s you admire the Toronto skyline by day without the guide being too touristy and pointing out landmarks, allowing you to just “hang out.” Canadian Sailors sing shanties while getting the boat far out into the water… which was awesome! The few happenings during the tour are spaced out so you get a good balance of excitement and relaxation. If you’re lucky, you get a chance to raise the sails (hard work, by the way!) Everyone seemed excited about the canon they fired at the end. Oh well.

They offer food and drinks aboard the ship, but it is pricey, as one would expect. And unless your goal is to work on your tan, sunscreen and a hat is essential. 90 minutes was probably a bit too long for the entire thing – they could have perhaps cut down the time and subsequently, the ticket price.

Whale Watching

I was super excited to watch whales ‘Moby Dick’ style but *sigh*

It was dark, gloomy, rainy, foggy and overall, miserable weather.

The boat was impressive though – there was an open air deck on top, the middle deck was a semi indoor deck that was enclosed in glass, while the bottom was completely enclosed in glass and contained seats and a canteen serving below average food. We eagerly watched the whale positioning monitor and saw them swim below the boat. The guide jabbered on the mike incessantly… and I was trying to not feel sea-sick.

Three hours, guys! Three hours! And we finally saw a fin of a whale in the distance. Needless to say, we couldn’t capture it on camera. What a waste of CAD 80! But hey, it isn’t something you do everyday.

The Thousand Islands

The next day, we set off to explore the thousand islands by boat. The weather was clear and sunny, bordering on hot, and we were sure those whales must have been frolicking around in all their glory in Charlevoix. The spectacular thousand islands in Ontario is made up of 1864 islands in the St. Lawrence River, sharing the USA and Canada border. Some of them are so tiny, they can support only a couple of trees while others had lavish mansions built on them.

After a while, the islands do get a bit monotonous. However the highlight of the trip would be the Boldt Castle – I don’t know if I remember this right, but I think the guide said that the castle was built by a man who lived on the main island, and wanted to keep his mother in law near, yet far.

I bet everyone has wanted their own private island at some point. And these islands were pretty neat. I have to wonder though – what if someone has a cappuccino craving? Or needs to borrow something from the neighbour? Pretty inconvenient to start up the speed boat several times a day… What do you think?

I love your comments, so keep them coming!

It was a rainy weekend when we headed out to Ottawa, the very next day upon landing in Toronto. It was the 1st of July – Canada Day, and the streets were full of people dressed in red and white. Basically, everything you would NOT expect outside a parliament was there – food trucks, folks dressed as super heroes, soap bubbles in the air, street artists…

Canadian Parliament

THE GROUNDS

We couldn’t really tell how huge the Parliament grounds were, because of the hordes of people and a stage being set up right in the middle for A ROCK BAND! But the architecture of the massive building was just gorgeous. I would have expected a Parliament to be solid and white – like uhmm.. The White House, instead, it looked like something out of Harry Potter. Rows upon rows of dome shaped windows, innumerable little towers sticking up, a brick facade and a gigantic clock tower.

In the middle of the ground is the Centenial Flame, a flame that celebrates 100 years of Canada’s Confederation and burns all day, every day. The emblems of each of the Provinces feature as part of the fountain. In fact, one comes upon these emblems everywhere – on the door of the Senate, the ceilings and plaques.

Walking along the street and around Parliament Hill, we came across plenty of statues ranging from former Prime Ministers to important stories in Canadian History. There are apparently 17 statues on the grounds and 90 along Wellington Street. My favorite were these 2 old ladies enjoying their tea. Would be apt around Indian Parliament too, don’t you think?

Canadian Parliament

INSIDE PARLIAMENT HILL

The tour of Parliament Hill is a delight for history buffs. The guided tour takes one into the Senate and the House of Commons. The guide provides little known facts as you walk along the long corridors and stare in awe at the plush, stately interiors where the Queen sometimes sits when a session is in progress. What’s striking is the way they pay attention to detail while carving out the logo of each of the Provinces on the ceiling.

Canadian Parliament

I loved the Library here. It’s hard not to.. and you can see why.

Another interesting room was the Memorial Chamber – a tiny room with books containing names of soldiers who died while serving during war.The marble walls are inscribed with beautiful poems in honor of the soldiers. There’s a book for WW1, WW2, The Korean War and many others. A page is turned in each of the books at 11 am every morning to ensure that each of the soldier’s names feature on top.

Canadian Parliament

PEACE TOWER

The highest point in the Parliament, the Peace tower is a symbol of Canada’s commitment to peace and gives one a fabulous view of the grounds and buildings. A clock on the top is surrounded by 53 bells of different sizes and sounds, and they chime different tunes from Super Mario to the Star Wars theme song. How cool is that!!!!

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

The next morning, we rushed to see the changing of the guard, a tradition since 1959. Every morning at 10 am, the Governor’s General Foot soldiers (in red coats playing brass instruments) and Canadian Grenadier Guards (In green kilts playing the pipes) march to their own tunes, literally! With the Parliament Hill building as the backdrop, this 45 minute show is executed to precision and is really entertaining

Canadian Parliament

TGG TIPS

  • Arrive 15 minutes early and grab a good spot to watch changing of the guards
  • The Parliament Hill Tour is Free and available in English and French – but you need to collect tickets in advance.
  • Get pictures with the soldiers before or after the show as they will not move once they stand at their positions

Majestic, surreal, stunning, hypnotic, mind-blowing… none of these adjectives can describe the Niagara Falls.

By day, the silvery mist from the falls reaches up to the clouds and by night, it is illuminated from behind with a myriad of colored light strobes. From the sidewalk, one can see the deceivingly calm teal blue water before it crashes down with noise like thunder. Can you imagine 2,00,000 tons of water falling every second? How amazing is that!

Way down below, tourist boats, that look no bigger than the size of  matchsticks, painfully inch forward in defiance of one of the Earth’s greatest natural wonders.

The Niagara Falls is made up of 3 waterfalls – the American Side called the ‘American Falls’ the Canadian Side called the ‘Horseshoe Falls’ and a small one in between called the ‘Bridal Falls.’ Both sides of the border claim that the falls on their side is better.. . Toss a coin already!

Just visiting the it on a regular day would have been an experience of a lifetime, but I got to go the extra mile, and visit it on the FOURTH OF JULY!!! Our hotel room overlooked the Falls from a fabulous angle..the 22nd floor of the Mariott! AND we got to watch the American Independence Day Fireworks display from across the border… I cannot tell you what a spectacular display of fireworks that was. With all the lights switched off, our seats facing the ginormous picture window, and snacks in hand, it was a half an hour show that would send Diwali fireworks on a run for it’s money

Niagara Falls Canada

The next day was reserved for touristy stuff. First up: the Hornblower… a high powered cruise that takes you right to the foot of the falls. It’s the best thing you can do to witness the fury of the wind and get drenched in the spray, even with the raincoats provided. The lines are long. Really really long. But the thrill of being so dangerously close is exhilarating; not to mention, its a perfect opportunity for selfies!

jade that Goan Girl

If being at the foot of the falls isn’t enough, you can also check it out from behind. The Journey Behind the Falls was a walk through a rocky tunnel that’s actually behind the Falls! How they managed to excavate that tunnel is beyond me. The tunnel has multiple openings where you can watch the water gush down like no tomorrow. There is a little platform where you can step on with the falls just a few meters away. It’s intense.

Boat Niagra fallsThe walls of the tunnel are interspersed with boards containing snippets of information. One of them talks about people who tried to survive falling over the waterfall on a jet ski or a boat. And about a woman who ROLLED OVER the falls….in a BARREL… with a CAT!!

People are crazy.

So, if one has time. (and money) there are tons of other things to do, such as watching the Falls from the Skylon Tower – a place where one can dine and admire the Falls from above. There’s a butterfly conservatory, a bird kingdom, a botanical garden, Marine Land and loads of tourist attractions.

Oh, and there are also helicopter tours that gives one a killer view from above. If there’s an angle to view the falls from, they have it!

TGG Tips 

  • The Hornblower cruise is better when it’s done in the morning as the lines get too long by noon. The left side of the top deck is the ideal vantage point
  • Book tickets in advance!!!
  • Get the Adventure Pass- you’ll save 25% on the top Niagara Falls attractions: Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk and Niagara’s Fury (a 6 minute multi sensory extravaganza in a special theater showing how the Ice Age formed Niagara Falls!) You’ll also receive two days on the WE-GO transportation service: a hop-on, hop-off system connecting Niagara Parks attractions with all  hotels.