Weekend Trip to Taichung from Taipei

One of my classmates invited us to tour her ancestral home in Taichung, so I took up on her invitation with another friend and away we went, making it into a weekend getaway. We thought we might as well stay overnight to check out Taichung. Taichung is located central west of Taiwan, and it’s the third largest city in Taiwan.

We picked January 16th, Election Day, to go; not a smart move as we found out the day before and on the day of. However, being foreigners in Taiwan, when we picked that weekend in advance, we honestly had no idea it was Election Day. We learned that the Taiwanese are extremely patriotic to their country and take their voting right seriously. Many Taiwanese work in Taipei but their home city is elsewhere, so they went home to vote. Therefore, bus and train tickets on Friday and Saturday were SOLD OUT! Travelling by bus and train to Taichung are the cheapest options, so people actually bought them in advance.

However, if not for Election Day and the sold out bus and train seats, we would not have discovered the convenience of travelling by Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). Yes, it’s triple the price of bus ($250 NTD) and double the price of train ($380 NTD), but very well worth it, in my opinion. We got to Taichung in 50 minutes as opposed to 2.5 hours if we travelled by bus or 2 hours by train. I’m a big fan of the High Speed Rail now; it’s the best way to see Taiwan. Compared to travelling within my own country, $30 CAD ($675-700 NTD) one way is so cheap to go to another city that’s far! The only downside I can think of taking High Speed Rail to Taichung is that the HSR station is in Wurih, 20 minutes away from downtown. Nonetheless, there are plenty of taxis and public buses that go downtown.

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Because all reserved seats on HSR were sold out, we saved $25 by getting non-reserved seats ($675)! Non-reserved seats are slightly cheaper, and non-reserved sections are from cars 10-12. On our way to Taichung, we got lucky and found seats. However, on our way back to Taipei, we had to stand but standing for 50 minutes is not tiring at all.

We took the taxi to our friend’s ancestral home from the station which was about 20 minutes away, so we paid around $250 NTD. For the rest of our Taichung trip, we either walked or took the public bus. Public buses come around frequently and it’s the cheapest ($15 NTD) way to see the city if you are not rushed for time. We were thrilled when we discovered that our Taipei’s Easycard worked on public buses in Taichung, so we used that to pay our bus fares!

Here are highlights of my short trip to Taichung:

1.The Wufeng Lin Family Mansion & Garden

This is my friend’s ancestral home which is now open to the public by appointments. To see the inside, visitors are required to either join a tour, or request for a private tour guide. Our friend booked an English-speaking tour guide for us so we could really understand the history behind this magnificent site. I learned that my friend’s ancestors, the Wufeng Lin of Taichung, used to be one of the five powerful families in the early days of Taiwan.

This mansion compound is beautiful from architecture, detailed carvings to the layout inside etc.

I took some photos of the place, and will share with you here. 🙂

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Detailed pattern/carvings on a window. Do you see what they are supposed to represent? If I remember correctly from our tour guide, they are turtle shells. Turtles represent longevity and the Wufeng Lin wished that for themselves and their descendants.

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The view from the tea parlor, where we rested and had a nice cup of homemade herbal tea.

The next photo shows the doorway leading to my favourite part of the mansion: 大花廳 (direct translation: Big Flower Hall). It is absolutely gorgeous in here.

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The Big Flower Hall was where the Lin family used to entertain guests, and also where they could enjoy outdoor theatrical plays, performed on the exquisitely designed stage below.

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This is where outdoor seats were placed for family members and guests to enjoy the plays.

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Stage as seen from outdoor seating area

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A close up of the detailed carvings on stage, including the ceiling with a flower, very fitting for the Big Flower Hall.

Something visitors can do at the Big Flower Hall is play dress up! Traditional clothing is available for free, and visitors can choose any outfit they want and wear it to take photos with the beautiful backdrop. Of course we couldn’t resist, so we dressed up and had fun taking a variety of photos, in front of a big tour group of American tourists, who were watching. 🙂

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For location and hours of operation to The Wufeng Lin Family Mansion & Garden, see:

http://travel.taichung.gov.tw/en-us/Attractions/Intro/1049/The-Lin-family-Mansion-and-Garden-in-Wufeng

 

2.Drinking the original bubble tea at 春水堂 (Chun Shui Tang)

Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the late 1980s and this tea house claims to have invented it. We didn’t have time to go to the flagship store but went to the one located inside ModeMall, as it was more central. It is located very near to the train station. The bubble tea was really good…not too sweet and the tapiocas were small and extremely chewy just the way I like it! 🙂

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We ordered two traditional Taiwanese snacks to go with our bubble tea and were not disappointed. The brown sugar mochi and pork shao mai were delicious!

More info on Chun Shui Tang Tea House:

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/chun-shui-tang-cultural-tea-house

http://chunshuitang.com.tw/

 

3. Feng Chia/Fengjia Night Market

We had a blast at this night market from eating, people watching and shopping! It claims to be the biggest night market in Taiwan, and we definitely agree it is. It seems to go on forever from street to street, packed with many people, waiting in line to buy street food,  or going into shops to buy things. The vast size of it is astounding and we have now declared it as our favourite night market in Taiwan because of the wide variety of food options available, and the shopping is simply amazing, so many choices and oh so cheap! We bought beautiful stylish good quality wallets for just $100 NTD! Both food and shopping at this night market is so much cheaper than in Taipei. Since we didn’t have enough time to finish exploring this night market, we made a pact to return in the summer time to do more eating and shopping! 🙂

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This Japanese savoury pancake that I bought from a stall (right photo above) was so yummy! I got tuna with all the extra toppings for just $65 NTD! It was large and filling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More info on Feng Chia/Fengjia Night Market:

https://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/taichung/feng-chia-night-market.html

http://travel.taichung.gov.tw/en-us/Attractions/Intro/850/Feng-Chia-Night-Market

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/fengjia-night-market

https://www.englishintaiwan.com/shopping-in-taiwan/taichung-night-markets

 

4.Miyahara Branch of Dawn Cake (日出宮原店)

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and desserts, like me, then this place is paradise for you! This building used to be an eye clinic built by a Japanese optometrist by the name of Miyahara. However, it has now become a pastry/dessert/ice cream shop with a restaurant, all owned by Dawn Cake.

The interior design has a “Harry Potter” feel (see photos below) and it is definitely a tourist and/or foodie powerhouse. The main floor sells a variety of its special sweet products, beautifully packaged, from honey, chocolate, jam to traditional cakes, all promoted by its fine-looking employees, dressed in traditional clothing. Outside they have an ice cream shop, where tourists and locals can buy its ice cream specialty and eat it outside, standing.

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Since it was a rainy day and we wanted to treat ourselves, we decided to go all out, and dine on the second floor of Miyahara, where the restaurant was located. As we approached the stairs, we were politely greeted by a host, and then ushered upstairs for a very scrumptious and special dining experience including excellent attentive service!

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The layout at the table for each dining guest: There are 3 menus for each guest. If I remember correctly, one was for tradition Taiwanese dishes, the second one was for desserts and specialty dishes, and the third one was for drinks.

We learned that the Moon Pavillion Sundae is Miyahara’s signature dessert, the must-eat that every tourist or foodie needs to have at least once while in Taichung. The ice cream shop downstairs sells it as well, but with no fancy seating available like at the restaurant.

The sundae is ginormous, can be easily shared between 2-4 people. It costs $450 NTD (approximately $19 CAD). We get a choice of 4 ice cream flavours and 5 toppings. There are 10 unique flavours available: Irwin mango, Kyoho grape, Heiye lychee, Lugu green tea, Ceylon black tea, raisins Mascarpone, cactus and native pineapple yogurt, Alpaco 66% floral & fruity chocolate, Vanuatu 44% milk chocolate and Uganda 80% smoked chocolate.

We were very overwhelmed with all the interesting ice cream choices, since we have never tried some of these flavours and wanted to try them all, but could only choose four. Our server patiently described each flavour for us, and made suggestions (e.g. pair a sweet one with a not so sweet one etc.) until we made our final four choices: Heiye lychee, Lugu green tea, cactus and native pineapple yogurt, and Uganda 80% smoked chocolate.

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Once the four ice cream flavours were put in front of us, our server came over with a huge movable tray filled with the special toppings. When she lifted the lid, we were astounded by the variety and the sheer size of some of these toppings. For example, the pineapple cake was quite big. In the end we decided on these 5 toppings: pineapple cake, soft cheesecake, a cacao ball, hard fruity jelly candy and the butterfly pastry.

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Our sundae was decorated carefully by our server and at the bottom of our ice cream serving bowl, was another hidden sweet secret. There was mascarpone cheese which allowed us to dip our butterfly pastry and cone pieces into it.

Our final verdict is that the Moon Pavilllion Sundae was decadently delicious and worth every single expensive dollar! 😉

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On our first day in Taichung, my friend asked what’s a Canadian food, and I proudly told her poutine is very Canadian. She said she never had it before and as luck would have it, it was at this restaurant! So, we also tried another food item on the menu: Poutine (French fries with gravy and melted Gouda cheese).

Even though it’s not authentic, the presentation and flavourful taste of this poutine definitely made up for it!

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The french fries were elaborately stacked into a pyramid, and our server poured the melted gouda cheese with flair as we “oohed” and “aahed”. 

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Next he poured the gravy on top. I was pleasantly surprised that pieces of meat was added to the gravy.

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Final presentation of Miyahara’s Poutine. 🙂

More info on Miyahara:

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/miyahara

https://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/taichung/miyahara-eye-hospital.html

In Chinese: https://www.dawncake.com.tw/

 

And there you have it, my whirlwind weekend getaway in Taichung, with my two new friends from Taiwan! We think Taichung is a city worth visiting especially for foodies and shoppers. We also heard that Taichung is the gateway to other nearby natural scenic attractions such as Sun Moon Lake and Alishan. Many people use Taichung as the main base and do day trips to these places. Therefore, we are definitely returning to Taichung this summer! 😀

“Fall-ing” Back into Routines & Avocado Vegan Milkshake Recipe

While I was away in South Korea, I didn’t have frequent access to the internet/computer so I didn’t really have a chance to announce the winner to my book giveaway. Congratulations to my reader Safu79 for winning the book! 🙂

Even though September has arrived and a new school year and season has begun, which is always a busy month for me as I adjust back to regular and new routines, trying to achieve work-life balance again, I plan to slowly catch up with what all my blogger friends have been up to, and will be posting some more summer adventures or discoveries in Vancouver and Korea whenever I have time. I have so many things to tell you about!!

Without further ado, I would love to tell you about this new drink I discovered and fell in love with…

When I returned from Vancouver, my friend Faith and I met up at her favourite Vietnamese restaurant. Every time she has a meal there, she also orders the avocado milkshake. I was curious as to how it tasted since I love avocados so I ordered one to try that night. To my delight, it had a very creamy rich taste and it wasn’t as sweet as I thought. Therefore, I felt it was healthier than most milkshakes.

Before I left for Korea, I recreated my own healthy version using almond milk and pure maple syrup as the natural sweetener. Today I followed the same recipe with only one more addition which was the banana, and it tastes absolutely divine! This milkshake is reserved for days when you feel like having something totally decadent but at the same time you want something healthy too. 🙂

Below you’ll find my Vietnamese-inspired dairy-free naturally sweetened Avocado Milkshake recipe. Enjoy and savour every single sip! 🙂

Happy Fall & September!

XO,

Violet

Avocado Milkshake

 

Makes: 1 milkshake

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Blending Time: 1-2 minutes

Total Time: about 8 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 ripe medium avocado

1 ripe banana, chopped

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 cup unsweetened cold almond milk (if you prefer a sweeter taste, go with original)

Optional: 1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs for topping

 

Instructions:

1. Put all ingredients (except the cacao nibs) into the blender and mix.

2. Sprinkle with cacao nibs on top, and enjoy drinking with a straw! 🙂

 

Special Note:

I also added 1 tablespoon of Macro Greens. It is a greens product that is abundant in antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and probiotic cultures.  It is also gluten-free, raw, organic and vegan. I have it almost every day. I find it boosts my energy level and helps with keeping my immune system stronger.

If you would like to learn more about it, this is the one I use: http://www.iherb.com/macrolife-naturals-macro-greens-nutrient-rich-super-food-10-oz-283-5-g/7385

 

 

PappaRoti: Most Delicious Bun in Vancouver!

 

PappaRoti_frontshop

While we were in Vancouver, we discovered this cute little café, PappaRoti, right across from our hotel. We fell in love with its signature caramel coffee bun! In my opinion, it’s kind of like a mix of a Chinese pineapple bun and a fluffy pancake. Its caramelized-coated top is crispy and crunchy while the inside is soft and warm, filled with butter that simply melts in your mouth! This bun is a combination of salty and sweet.

PappaRoti_bunandtea
The bun can be eaten separately, paired nicely with a cup of coffee or tea, or with a combo which consists of a variety of toppings (e.g. local organic jams, kaya etc.). I tried their recommended combos: Banana & Nutella, Strawberries & Whipped Cream, and Ice Cream & Maple Syrup. All these combos were delicious. The Ice Cream & Maple Syrup adds a little Canadian flavour and is simply decadent! I found the toppings from these 3 combos were a lot, so I had to order a second bun to enjoy every single indulgent bite. 🙂

Bun with Kaya (coconut jam)

Bun with Cream Cheese

Bun with Banana & Nutella

Bun with Banana & Nutella

Bun with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

Bun with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

Bun with Ice Cream & Maple Syrup

Bun with Ice Cream & Maple Syrup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We loved the buns so much that we actually returned to this café a few times during our week stay in Vancouver. The cafe seems to have a steady flow of customers from morning till night, from tourists, to regulars in the neighbourhood to friends finding it as a nice place to hang out. We even observed what seems to be an English conversational group holding a session there in the morning. This means that people find the environment very comfortable, and conducive to conversations.

Aside from its signature bun, PappaRoti also has…

-a warm and welcoming ambiance

Cozy back area for people to sit and chat comfortably

Cozy back area for people to sit and chat comfortably

A view of cafe from the front

A view of cafe from the front

A nice sunny area during the daytime to sit and even read a book from the bookshelf if you like!

A nice sunny area during the daytime to sit and even read a book from the bookshelf if you like!

A communal table facing the TV

A communal table facing the TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-friendly and courteous staff

-beautiful presentation of food as shown in photos above

Sample of bun for customers to try

Sample of bun for customers to try

-an array of local organic jam and tea

Samples of local jams and teas that they serve

Samples of local jams and teas that they serve

-this cool tea timer to make your perfect cup of tea!

PappaRoti_tea timer

For someone who has been gluten-free and dairy-free for over a year now, eating PappaRoti’s bun is worth breaking my dietary restrictions, while on vacation. The way I see it, just like its motto, I’m enjoying life one scrumptious bun at a time. 😉

PappaRoti is a must visit and eat place in Vancouver!!

I’m excited to find out that PappaRoti is actually an international chain and has one in South Korea, which is my next summer travel destination. I’m looking forward to finding it there!!

I’m excited to find out that PappaRoti is actually an international chain and has one in South Korea, which is my next summer travel destination. I’m looking forward to finding it there!!

To check out PappaRoti Canada, go on their website: http://papparoti.ca/

PappaRoti on Urbanspoon

10 Vancouver Must-Dos List

I just came back from a much-needed relaxing one week vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia after one intense month of wrapping up the end of the school year, and getting ready for my exciting summer teach abroad opportunity, and moving to a new school for September.

The past week has been incredible as I was able to explore and discover the beauty of Vancouver and its surroundings, and experience the laid back lifestyle of the Vancouverites. Part of this vacation was made so much better with the companionship of my good high school friend Sheena, and also my Vancouverite friend Greg, who has such a wealth of knowledge of his city and province. Thank you to both! 🙂

Vancouver is such a beautiful and eclectic city in Western Canada. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, a history buff or interested in trying out a variety of activities, there is definitely something to do for everyone there.

Here are my top 10 favourite things I enjoyed doing and seeing while in Vancouver and hopefully this list will entice you to visit Vancouver as your next travel destination!

1. For Cyclists: Biking around Stanley Park via Seawall

StanleyParkBiking

Stanley Park is a huge public park located in the West End of Vancouver and it is very bike friendly. It has a path called Seawall, where one can bike, cycle or in-line skate around the park. Sheena and I enjoyed a very pleasant day biking all around the Seawall, savouring the scenic views along the way and stopping whenever we wanted to take photos or rest. There are benches spread throughout the park and logs placed on the beaches for sitting. This urban park is like a peaceful paradise in the midst of the city.

Tip: End your biking at Kitsilano Beach where you can get a beautiful view of the sunset around 9pm.

 

2. For Lovers of Shakespeare: Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park

BardonBeach

If you love Shakespeare as much as I do, this summer festival cannot be missed! It runs from June to September and is located by the beautiful waterfront in Vanier Park. Plays are performed in open-ended tents, where the backdrop is the magnificent view of mountains, sea and sky. We saw an evening performance of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and loved it a lot because it added a modern twist to it with some 21st century fashion and music thrown in as well.

Tip #1: If you have time before the show, walk around the waterfront in Vanier Park so you can see the natural beauty all around you.

Tip #2: The weather cools down in the evening, so dress for the evening weather by either wearing layered clothing/long pants or bring a light jacket.

 

3. For Yogis & Yoginis: Yoga Everywhere!

YogaRobson
Vancouver is known as the yoga capital of Canada and literally everywhere you go, there will be signs of a yoga studio nearby. Of course I had to try a yoga class! Luckily, I found one right in the heart of where I was staying in West End Vancouver. The exciting part is that this local yoga studio is a secret gem in the neighbourhood and not a lot of people know about it. I will be blogging about my yoga experience there soon so stay tuned! 😉

Tip: BoredInVancouver has a good post on free yoga around the city so check out
http://www.boredinvancouver.com/listings/free-yoga-vancouver-by-donation/

 

4. For Nature Lovers & Hikers: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

CapilanoBridge
You can easily spend a few hours here because the suspension bridge is not the only attraction; it also has trails for walking/hiking. As well, it has its Treetops Adventure and Cliffwalk where you can walk to get closer views of the rainforest, and the Capilano River and Canyon. I found it fascinating that in the middle of the city there is a rainforest. I learned a lot about vegetation in this part of the province during this trip. This place is another peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Tip #1: Even though it is about 10-15 minutes away from downtown Vancouver, we really appreciated the free shuttle bus service offered by the park for tourists like us who don’t like driving a car. The shuttle bus service is frequent; it runs every 15 minutes. The stops are located in several key places in downtown for pickup and drop off. Here is the free shuttle bus service schedule: http://www.capbridge.com/visit/shuttle-service/

Tip #2: The fudge is freshly made here and is a must eat! There are so many flavours to choose from and the fudge shop is located in the souvenir gift shop called “Trading Post”. I think the sea salt chocolate fudge is out of this world!!

Tip #3: If you’re not too tired after this adventure, you can drive over or take the bus to nearby Grouse Mountain to hike up the challenging and steep hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind. It takes about an hour and a half to hike all the way up. Once you’re up there, you can get a beautiful view of the city, sea and mountains.

 

5. For Foodies and Sushi Lovers: Sushi is a Must!

Sushi selection at Fujiya Japanese Foods

Sushi selection at Fujiya Japanese Foods

As my friend Greg pointed out when we were on our city tour walk, Vancouver is a highly Asian-populated or influenced city. It seems almost around every corner, we were greeted by Asian restaurants. Therefore, what better place to have freshly made sushi by Japanese chefs than in Vancouver? We tasted a variety of sushi from restaurants and even bought some from this Japanese supermarket (“Fujiya Japanese Foods” on 912 Clark Drive) for a picnic at Queen Elizabeth Park, another beautiful park with gardens and panoramic view over the city. There were so many different kinds of sushi to choose from in Fujiya that it kind of got overwhelming. 😛 My final verdict on the sushi from Fujiya is that they are not only cheap, but also fresh and super delicious!

Tip: If you come all the way to British Columbia (BC), you have to try the BC Roll. It is a roll that has barbecued salmon and cucumber since BC is known for its wild pacific salmon. I think it’s so yummy!

 

6. For Shoppers, Foodies & People Watching: Robson Street

We discovered this cute Japanese cafe on Robson street that specializes in yummy parfaits for desserts.

We discovered this cute Japanese cafe on Robson street that specializes in yummy parfaits for desserts.

If you love to spend a day strolling, shopping, eating and people watching, this is the street for you! This busy teeming street is filled with ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, sports bars, lounges, grocery stores and shops. There are a variety of shops from big names to little boutiques, and even a few souvenir shops in between. If you get tired from shopping, you can simply buy a cup of coffee/tea and sit outside on a patio and people watch for fun! 🙂

 

7. For Beach Goers: English Bay Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach (located in Stanley Park), Kitsilano Beach & Sunset Beach

Third Beach

Third Beach

Vancouver is surrounded by beaches, so it is definitely worth to hit up one or more of these beaches and enjoy them whether you want to swim, walk, windsurf, sail, bask in the sun or just play in the sand. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting on one of its many logs placed on these beaches, observing the beautiful landscape.

 

8. For Photographers: Scenic Route along Whistler

The drive from Vancouver to Whistler and vice-versa is simply breathtaking. There were so many scenic views along the way that I’ll share some notable stops with you here:

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

Green Lake Provincial Park

Green Lake Provincial Park

 

Stawamus Chief (a.k.a as the Chief) where people challenge themselves by rock climbing!

Stawamus Chief (a.k.a as the Chief) where people challenge themselves by rock climbing!

Porteau Cove, Provincial Marine Park

Porteau Cove, Provincial Marine Park where scuba diving is possible

 

A view of Vancouver city from the peak of Cypress Mountain

A view of Vancouver city from the peak of Cypress Mountain

 

9. For History Buffs: Victoria

A view of the waterfront and British Columbia  Parliament Buildings

A view of the waterfront and British Columbia Parliament Buildings

We thought if we come all the way to Vancouver, we might as well take a day trip to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, known for its British charm. This city is named after Queen Victoria of England, and is one of the oldest cities in Western Canada. The British settled here in the 1843. The British influence is evident in its historical buildings, architecture, double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens and tearooms around the city. We enjoyed leisurely strolling around the major streets and the waterfront area which is pretty and buzzing with activity from buskers performing to artisans and artists selling their work of art. As passionate foodies, we could not resist trying two British meals in famous places while here in Victoria. We had fish and chips for lunch at the popular Red Fish Blue Fish and Afternoon Tea at the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel. I will be blogging about both food experiences so keep an eye out for them. 🙂

Tip #1: When we arrived to Vancouver, we learned that Victoria is actually very far from Vancouver, and it takes about 4 hours to reach Victoria via bus and ferry boat. At the suggestion of our hotel’s front desk, we decided to book our transportation to and from Victoria through a company called Pacific Coach. They specialize in their Cross Water Service and we found it very easy to reach their bus terminal (Pacific Central Station) from our hotel to board their bus and then we didn’t have to worry about the rest of our trip. See http://www.pacificcoach.com/Bus-Coach-Travel/Crosswater/Vancouver-to-Victoria

Tip #2: The scenic views from the ferry boat was simply stunning. Make sure you go on to the top deck to experience the magic and natural beauty all around you. Bring a light jacket/sweater as it tends to be cooler outside.

Morning ferry ride to Victoria

Morning ferry ride to Victoria

Sunset ferry ride back to Vancouver

Sunset ferry ride back to Vancouver

 

10. For Lululemon Addicts: Lululemon Lab

LululemonLab
If you are a fan of Lululemon clothing, you have to visit this place, where it all began! Be prepared that it is a small retail and fashion space where innovative Lululemon items are designed, produced and sold all in one space. The majority of the products are in neutral colours of black, white, gray and navy blue, and are created in limited quantities. I found the staff to be super friendly, helpful and honest.  The cool feature of this store is that you get to see the seamstresses at work, creating the designs for this shop only, based on the design boards. Lastly, you get pleasure knowing that when you walk out of this shop, you are one of a very few people owning a piece of unique Lululemon clothing, made in Vancouver, that will most likely not be sold in the regular Lululemon stores.

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

One day I really missed having banana bread, so I looked into my kitchen to see if I had ingredients to quickly bake a fresh loaf of banana bread for my afternoon tea. Luckily I had one egg and one extremely ripe banana left, so I decided to experiment and see if it was possible to make a gluten-free and dairy-free banana bread with only one egg and one banana. I added chocolate chips because I’ve always loved the combination of banana and chocolate. To my delight, the result was one delicious, naturally sweet and dense loaf, perfect for my afternoon snack!

Since then, I have tried this recipe a few times more, and even had family members and friends taste it. After tasting this gluten-free and dairy-free version, some friends asked me for the recipe, so I have decided to put it here for all to enjoy. 🙂

Happy Baking my dear friends and readers!

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread: The perfect morning or afternoon sweet snack with a cup of tea or coffee! :)

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread: The perfect morning or afternoon sweet snack with a cup of tea or coffee! 🙂

Makes: 1 loaf

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: about 35 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Wet Ingredients

1 ripe and mashed banana

1 egg

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk/non-dairy milk

2 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)

 

Dry Ingredients

1 ½ cups gluten-free all purpose baking flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 heaped tablespoon cacao powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chia seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup bittersweet/non-dairy chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line small-medium loaf tin with baking/parchment paper.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into a blender/food processor.
  4. Combine dry ingredients (without chocolate chips) in a large bowl.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  6. Add chocolate chips slowly into the mixture.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm.
  8. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Note: I would love to try “egg free” for this recipe sometime soon. If you are trying this recipe with an egg substitute, please let me know how it turns out! Thank you. 🙂

Inspired to Bake Vegan!

I’m so excited to share with you that today I baked vegan cookies successfully!!  It was my first time too!

I was inspired to give it a try after reading my dear blogger friend Celeste’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe.

I followed Celeste’s amazing recipe step by step with a few substitutions/additions to make it gluten-free and nut-free for an Easter celebration.

Please click here to see Celeste’s recipe: http://honkifyourevegan.com/2014/04/17/orange-chocolate-chip-cookies-vegan

I love reading Celeste’s blog (http://honkifyourevegan.com), as she writes about so many interesting and diverse topics on veganism, has fabulous ideas and  yummy recipes, and shares her personal plant-based diet journey along the way.  Check her blog out when you have time, and I guarantee you’ll be better informed on veganism and inspired by her! 🙂

 

If you like to make these cookies gluten-free and nut-free, here are the ingredients I used:

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

6 tablespoons water

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons orange zest

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

 

*I baked the cookies for 10 minutes so they are soft and chewy.

 

Here is a close up of these delicious Orange Cranberry Chocolate Chip  Cookies:

The combination of orange, cranberries and chocolate makes this cookie very refreshing! :)

The combination of orange, cranberries and chocolate give these cookies a delicious refreshing taste!

 

Thank you for the vegan baking inspiration dearest Celeste! 🙂  You totally rock!!

 

I wish you all a beautiful week ahead and if you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! 🙂

XO,

Violet

 

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I feel like I haven’t posted a recipe for a long time, so to match with today’s freezing cold wintry day (where I live), here’s a scrumptious, soft and sugary but healthy bite sized cookie to go with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee!

Also, I have it on good authority that children love eating these cookies as a healthy snack, so I’ll say this recipe is kid-friendly too! 😉

Here is my Cinnamon Sugar Cookies recipe, adapted from Bulk Barn’s Sugar Cookies recipe.  Enjoy! 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Makes: 24 cookies

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 13-15 minutes

Total Time: about 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 cup organic coconut flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Mix eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and oil together.
  3. Stir in coconut flour and leave batter for 5 minutes so it can thicken.
  4. Combine cinnamon with 1 tablespoon sugar in a little bowl.
  5. Take 1 tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball.
  6. Roll ball into cinnamon mixture completely.
  7. Put on cookie sheet and flatten ball a little bit.  Cookies should be placed 1 inch apart.
  8. Repeat steps 4-6 until dough is done.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes.
  10. Let cookies cool completely or enjoy a warm one after waiting for about 10 minutes! 🙂

 

Special Note:

-Cinnamon: This sweet and fragrant spice has a lot of health benefits.  To name a few: it regulates blood sugar, reduces pain linked to arthritis, is anti-microbial so may help to stop the growth of harmful bacteria or fungi, and has fibre, calcium and manganese which are all good for the body.

 

Resources on Cinnamon:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html?page=1

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68

http://www.livestrong.com/article/22014-cinnamon-health-benefits/