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Sweet Maple Syrup!

8 Apr

This weekend was what seemed like the first real weekend of spring. We finally got some nice weather, meaning there was some sun, it was above freezing and there wasn’t a snow storm. Since the weather was nicer than it had been we decided we needed to get out of the house and have some fun in the great outdoors and maybe grab a bite to eat. Around here (eastern Ontario and western Quebec) this time of year is all about the maple syrup. When we get temperatures that are above freezing during the day and below freezing in the night, the sap in maple trees starts to flow and it’s time to turn it into syrup.

IMG_1051Canada is famous for our maple syrup. So famous that the maple leaf is on our national flag, you can buy it as a souvenir in most Canadian airports and it makes the news when a large amount of maple syrup is stolen. (Great Canadian Maple HeistMost people think about putting maple syrup on pancakes, which is delicious but there are so many other uses. You can use it to flavour coffee, make maple butter, in baking, on oatmeal and in so many other ways. Not only does maple syrup taste great, it also brings back fond memories of sticky breakfast with friends and family.

IMG_1049This past Sunday, Sarah and I decided to go out to Proux Farm, where they have a sugar shack. A sugar shack is always located in a forest and is where a lot of syrup is made. Maple syrup is made by drilling into the trunk of a maple tree and placing a tap. As the syrup moves from the roots of the tree to the top, some of it flows down the tap and into a waiting bucket. The sap is then boiled until enough water has evaporated to make it into syrup. It’s amazing how much sap is needed, for 1 litre of syrup; you need 20 to 50 litres of sap.
IMG_1050At Proux Sugar Shack, you can see the sap being collected, sap being turned into syrup and get a meal at the buffet. Sarah and I took advantage of the buffet to douse our food in lots of syrup. The food at the buffet was pretty good, nothing amazing but the whole experience is worth the $20 per adult price. If you do decide to go for the buffet, be prepared for a wait and for there to be a ton of children. By the time we were leaving the line just to be seated was at least 40 minutes long. My favourite part of the morning is when we got the maple syrup snow taffy. This is when hot syrup is poured onto cold snow and then wrapped around a popsicle stick. If you’ve never had one of these sweet treats, you need to head out to your closest sugar shack and give it a try!

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Europe Adventures…

5 Sep

With the fall fast approaching and the summer disappearing, I wanted to take a post to talk about my summer that was mostly one big adventure. I haven’t been blogging as often as I normally do for the simple fact that I haven’t been in the city for most of the summer. Unlike most other summers that are spent traveling between sporting events, camping and spending time at a cottage or two, this summer I went for the whole enchilada and took a month off to travel around Europe. The only other time I’d been to Europe was for a two day stop in Paris on my way to Tunisia. While it was amazing to see Paris, two days was only enough to get me infected with the traveling bug. So this year, when my brother asked if I wanted to travel with him for a while after he finished his exchange in England, I jumped at the chance. He could only travel for about two weeks but I wanted more! So I asked Sarah if she would join me for another two weeks. So for the month of July I explored Amsterdam, Berlin, Florence, Rome, Paris and London.

 

The first city my brother and I visited was Amsterdam. While many may think we were only there to take part in the local coffee shops and visit the Red Light district, there is so much more to Amsterdam. One of my highlights was renting bikes and exploring one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. We also got a taste of Amsterdam at the Heineken brewery, which has a great tour and you get a few free beers. Another highlight was the Van Gogh museum where you get the chance to appreciate the work of a true master! Don’t forget to get your picture taken with the IAMSTERDAM monument nearby.

Berlin is a fantastic city and is one of, if not the most important city in modern history. Having been the centre of the Second World War and then playing a central role in the cold war, Berlin is filled with history and amazing sights. They have amazing museums, nightlife, art, restaurants and people. Before the Second World War the city held close to 7million people, now it only houses about 3.5 million people. This gives the city a kind of empty feel but also helps keep costs down, making it one of the most affordable cities in Europe to visit. There is so much to see in Berlin that I recommend taking a tour. In almost every city I visited I took advantage of Sandemans New Europe tours. These tours are put on by freelance tour guides who only get paid by tips. If the tour is good they get paid better than if it was ok. All of the tours I got were great but the one in Berlin was particularly good! The three hour tour took us from the Brandenburg Gate to Check Point Charlie to museum island. There is so much to see and do, you’ll leave Berlin already planning your next visit there.

 

 

 

 

After Amsterdam and Berlin, my brother and I were ready for some nice weather, so we made our way down to Italy. Our first stop was Florence. I hadn’t done any real research on Florence and wasn’t expecting much but was I ever surprised! Florence is an amazing city. It feels like you’ve gone back in time as you walk down the narrow cobblestone streets, always in the constant gaze of the Duomo. The Duomo is the massive 13th century cathedral located in the centre of town. If you visit Florence you have to take the time and walk up all of the stairs to the top, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views! After Florence we made our way down to Rome. Walking around Rome feels like you’re on a movie set, with the Coliseum, Vatican and Trevi Fountain all to be seen.  While I enjoyed visiting Rome a lot, it was so hot that I was happy to head north to Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick stop in London to meet up with Sarah, it was off to Paris. If I was forced to choose a favourite city, I would choose Paris. Not only is Paris a beautiful and photogenic city, it also has some amazing food. While in Paris we did everything from visiting the Louvre, Versailles, l’Arc de Triomphe and climbed the Eiffel Tower. While these were all amazing things to do and see, my favourite thing that we did was to visit a couple of shops to buy everything for a picnic. Then head down to Place des Invalides, open a bottle of wine and enjoy a picnic while watching the world go by. If you’re ever in Paris I would highly recommend taking the time to go for a picnic! After Paris we were off to London

 

 

 

 

London was amazing! We were there for the first week of the Olympics, which was great. Leading up to the Olympics everyone was telling us how insane London would be, giant lines and an overloaded Underground. Well we hardly had to wait in any lines at the tourist attractions and other then busy times, the Underground was a breeze. The best part of being there for the first part of the Olympics was seeing my friend Michael Tayler compete in the white water kayaking salmon event. It was amazing seeing someone I know, in person, compete at the highest level. Remember his name because he is sure to be a force to reckon with at the next Olympic games!

 

 

 

 

 

London is an all round cool city, it has it all. If you like museums you need to visit the British Museum, which houses the Rosetta Stone and other amazing artifacts from around the world. If you like theater, there are tons of shows to see in London and you can even stop in and see some Shakespeare at the Globe Theater. London sure has some amazing food for a city which is the capital of a nation not known to have the best food. If you’re visiting London my top recommendation is to visit Borough Market. This local market has all kinds of amazing food, from raw ingredients to readymade meals, you’ll find everything here. It goes without saying that London is steeped in history; everywhere you look there is a piece of history. You have to visit London Tower, where you can see the crown jewels and meet a Beef Eater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on and on about my adventures in Europe. I’ve got stories about losing my bags, booking the wrong flight, watching a dog jump into a fountain at the Louvre and so much more. But the best way to experience it isn’t through my stories but by going on an adventure yourself! So go buy a ticket!

If you haven’t had enough pictures yet, check these out…

Amsterdam

Berlin

Florence

Rome

Paris

London

Traveling using AirBnB

13 Aug

Florence

July is the time of year where everyone seems to be off on vacation. This year I was one of those people, for the last month I’ve been traveling in Europe, first with my brother and then with my girlfriend. So you can expect the next couple of posts to be all about my travels. There will be posts about food, adventures and tons of pictures (I took about 1400!). One of the things that really made my trip was the places I stayed. While a lot of people stay at hostels and hotels, I found most of our places on AirBnB.com.

Berlin

AirBnB.com is a service that matches travelers looking for short term rentals with individuals who are renting out their property. On the site you can find almost any type of rental you might want, from tree houses (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/50435) to castles (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/70895), there is something for everyone. I chose to look for places to star on AirBnB.com for a couple of reasons. Being a young professional in the not-for-profit sector, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on a month long adventure. AriBnB lets you filter your search by price and find something that fits your budget. On average we spent $97 a night on accommodations; this works out to be $48.50 a night. While there are cheaper options available, these rentals had some serious advantages. For one, all of the places we stayed at had kitchens that we could use. This let us make some of our own meals. When you’re travelling for a month, it’s great to have a home cooked meal, plus you can save a little money. There was also a couple of places that had laundry, this doesn’t seem like much but when your bag gets lost for three days and you’re walking around in 35+ degree weather, laundry becomes a life saver!

Paris!

Amsterdam

One of the best things about our trip was our stay in London. Not did we have a chance to experience the Olympics and the amazing history that London has to offer but we also had a chance to stay with a Londoner. One of the choices you have on AirBnB is to look for rentals that are either of the whole home or renting a room in someone’s place. In London we chose to stay in someone’s room and it ended up being one of the best choices of our trip. First off we saved a bunch of money by staying with someone, especially during the Olympics. The more important of the aspect of staying with a Londoner is that we got to meet an amazing person. Our host was super friendly and shared our passion for the Olympics. She would share her knowledge about London with us, pointing us in the right direction for some really cool things to see and do. She also shared her laptop with us, so that we could all watch the Olympics! Having a friendly personable host added another dimension to our trip. We were no longer travelers meeting other travelers while visiting a foreign city. We got to really know a local and feel like a part of the city! So next time you’re planning a trip, check out AirBnB.com look for a cool, different, fun place to stay!

Big Ben – London!

Just so everyone knows, I wasn’t asked to write this by AriBnB and I am not getting anything from them. However, if they do read this I won’t say no to some free stuff! Also this is all based off my personal experience, so take it for what it’s worth.

Rome

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