Ottawa: The Tea Party Cafe

Last Tuesday I was in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, to continue my own celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. I was on the hunt for a cool cafe with character because for me, a visit in a city is not complete without exploring at least one cafe or tea shop! Luckily for me, my cousin Flo, a local of Ottawa, knew just the place to take me!

Located on a quiet street inside the historical ByWard Market, The Tea Party Cafe is a cute cafe with two floors, and its own private patio, perfect for tea sipping and chatting with friends under the sunshine.

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It has a charming yet funky vibe, with Alice in Wonderland drawings all over the walls.

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We arrived around noon, and it was still calm. There were a few people outside in the patio, and only one table was occupied inside.

For vegetarians and vegans, the lunch menu was a delight. There were a variety of healthy options to choose from. I selected Daal Curry with basmati rice while Flo chose Thai Tofu Curry with basmati rice. We decided on the large size ($8.50) for our vegan dishes as opposed to small ($5.50), and were not disappointed with the generous portion size and price. Both dishes were extremely fresh and delicious!

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After our lunch, we ordered the “Cream Tea” for dessert, which included a pot of tea and their famous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Tea Party Cafe has over 50 types of tea to choose from including a series called “Alice in Wonderland”, which goes nicely with the theme of this cafe. The fun part of selecting our own tea was we could walk up to the tea shelves and open up any jar of tea to smell it, before deciding which one we wanted!

I opted for Japanese Kyoto Cherry Rose while Flo opted for Jasmine with Flowers. Both teas had strong flavours associated with their flowers. We enjoyed the taste of both!

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We got very lucky that we were served scones fresh out of the oven, since they ran out of all ingredients after the Canada Day long weekend, and made a stop that morning to buy the ingredients for the scones. With a dollop of clotted cream and a spread of strawberry jam over the scone, the scone simply melted into our mouths. As claimed by the cafe, they are definitely the best in the city!

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At the end of our meals, we came to the conclusion that The Tea Party Cafe is a nice cozy peaceful place to hang out with your friends, over yummy food, desserts and teas!

Next time I’m back in Ottawa, I would love to try their afternoon tea menu. The best part is that they also offer a vegan version of the afternoon tea! For a vegan afternoon tea, they only need two orders and 48 hours notice.

If you’re ever visiting Ottawa, check out The Tea Party Cafe!

Website: http://www.theteapartycafe.com/ottawacafes/

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

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

 

Finding Joy in Unexpected Places!

There really is joy and pleasure in discovering new places or things in our everyday life, unexpectedly.  Such is the case when I discovered two neat places that specialize in delicious, healthy & gluten-free food. 🙂

I would like to briefly share with you these two places I found in my own city with some friends.  If you’re a resident of or a visitor to Toronto or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and have time to spare, check out the following places!

1. The Victorian Tea Room in Thornhill

It was easy to see the difference between the "regular" and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side).

It was easy to see the difference between the “regular” and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side); and the gluten-free pastries were on a separate plate.

If I had to choose to eat only one meal in a day, it would have to be English High Tea or Afternoon Tea.  High Tea originated from England and refers to the mini meal accompanied by tea, served between lunch and dinner. This is my favourite meal of the day because I love its combination of sweet and savoury, ranging from scones with sinfully thick and smooth Devonshire cream and sweet jam, to delightful finger sandwiches and scrumptious tiny pastries.  Aside from the obvious enjoyment of munching on these afternoon treats, the best part is drinking the aromatic tea, presented in the prettiest teapots and cups and saucers, in a cozy and relaxing environment with close friends and/or family members! 🙂

Anyways, now that I’m gluten-free, I thought I had to forego this little indulgence, unless I work hard in learning how to make gluten-free scones and the rest.  To my absolute delight I heard about this new tea place that opened about 6 months ago, and I learned it offered a gluten-free menu!!  It was also perfect timing to check it out as I had a friend who recently came back from England so we thought it would be lovely and very “English” to go for high tea there, and reminisced about good times we both experienced in England. 🙂  I really liked how the gluten-free treats were divided from the regular treats clearly.  Also, I thought the gluten-free treats still tasted delicious, and after eating them, I did not feel as full as I used to after eating my high tea bite sized food.  This tea place also had over 40 different types of tea from around the world to choose from and we had fun deciding on which one to drink! When I’m in the mood, now I know where to go to for my high tea craving!

To learn more about the Victorian Tea Room, see: http://www.victoriantearoom.ca

 

2. Goodbye Gluten  in Toronto

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

This place was definitely an unexpected surprise.  We were going to try out one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, and got lucky and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.  As we got out of the car, we saw this store, which was right beside the restaurant, and of course we went in!  Despite its small space, it was very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products that you can think of, from noodles to desserts to health food and freshly made food.  It’s really a gluten-free foodie’s paradise and an one stop gluten-free grocery shopping experience!!  They also have a mini gluten-free bakery section, producing freshly baked goods daily as they have a kitchen downstairs.  The desserts looked really yummy, but we couldn’t buy any since we had a big dinner ahead of us.  I will most definitely keep this shop in mind if I ever need a gluten-free cake for any special occasion or need to buy some gluten-free essentials. 🙂

Here’s this store’s website if you’re interested in getting more details: http://www.goodbyegluten.com

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carry vegan products!  What's not to love about this store?? :)

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carries vegan products! What’s not to love about this store?? 🙂