Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 - CNE

I have been coming back to this annually now and even though it doesn't change much each year, it is still a nice way to enjoy a day or evening.  This year, the admission price for weekday nights went from $5 to $6, not a big difference but it seems like inflation is creeping up everywhere.

To those who don't know, the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), takes place usually 2 weeks before Labour Day (first Monday of September) until Labour Day itself.  It is a fair, you have games, rides, carnival performers (saw the same acrobats as last year right outside the international center, caught some river dance inside), international center which has shops representing areas all around the world, sand sculptures, a farm, casino, and more!

This year, the new thing was Thanksgiving Waffle which is, well, thanksgiving in a waffle!  It turned out a lot better than we all thought (it even looked better than we imagined).  $10 gets you one and I think it is enough for two people.  We also got the chicken waffle which was $9 but nowhere near as good.

It truly does signify the end of summer for many since it officially ends on September 1, September 2 being the first day of school.

Enjoy some pictures!

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 - Crook's Hollow Hike / Burlington Waterfront

Having seen pictures of the Burlington Waterfront, I have been trying to visit this year and I finally had my chance to this past weekend (August 24)!

A month or two ago we did a hike to see Weber's and Tew's falls in the Hamilton / Burlington area and we decided that we should try another one since it turned out to be pretty neat with an awesome lookout at Dundas Peak.  This time we went and did the Crook's Hollow Hike which takes you from Weber's Falls to Christie Lake, the self-guided walk says it is 3.4km roundtrip.

We start the morning with the hike, the map said we can park at Greenville Optimist Park if the gate is up and fortunately for us it was!  You do need to pay for parking though, $2/hr, but the parking meter didn't accept any of my credit cards and Tracey's credit card always rebooted the machine (yes, you read correctly, each time she inserted her card into the machine, it rebooted the whole system).  After a few tries, we gave up and began our hike!

I never really know what to expect from these hikes.  I understand that it is usually for health purposes but I always feel that we should have something to expect at the end of the hike as a 'congratulations, you made it!'.  There isn't a whole lot to see for this trail.  It is relatively flat though, so it isn't view difficult to walk.  It has some nice scenery, but this pales in comparison to Dundas Peak.  I wonder if we will see anything like that again.

The hike itself kind of reminds me of G. Ross Lord Park, so, in that sense it is a bit of a disappointment.  Lots of greenery, you follow a stream from start to finish.  At the end, we reached the dam which was pretty cool.  Next time we might try to walk around the lake since there is a hike that walks you all around it as well.

We broke for lunch at The Poacher, located in Burlington.  It is a British-style pub / restaurant with what I thought would be average food.  This place turned out to be better than I expected.  Most entrees cost $10 which is a steal for what you get.  I ordered the Steak & Mushroom pie and the girls got the Shepherd's pie, both of which were awesome.  I'd recommend stopping by if you are in the area.

Just down the street is the Burlington Waterfront.  It was funded as a revitalization project for the harbourfront areas (I believe this is the starting point and it will go all the way to Toronto).  It has a nice pier which reminds me of the pier at Center Island.  It probably takes maybe half an hour to do everything.  I wouldn't make an effort to go there, but it is nice to stop by if you are in the area.

Stopped by Kelly's Bake Shoppe for some ice cream which is highly recommended on TripAdvisor.  Unfortunately, they only have soft-serve ice cream when I expected scooped.  We did end up getting a cupcake though.  While the cupcake was average, when we thought about what wasn't in it, we kept wondering how it was made.  It is both vegan and gluten free.  They do have some crazy flavors though, Root Beer Float Cupcake anyone?  The price is a bit high at $4+ per cupcake, so I'm not sure we would come back.

After that we went to R C's Boardwalk Fries & Ice Cream Parlor for ice cream.  The ice cream is okay, all by Nestle, not quite the locally made stuff that I was expecting.  If you do go here, just get the kiddie scoop.  The single scoop is ridiculous, it was enough for me and Allison and it bested Tracey (she got about half way until she gave up).  Good value though, under $4 for a single scoop, I think the kiddie scoop is under $3.

Until next hike!

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 - La Paletta Mansion (Wilson and Sally's wedding)

Wilson's wedding!

Our friend Wilson is having his big day on August 16 and we, as former coworkers and friends, were invited to his wedding which was held at La Paletta Mansion.

La Paletta Mansion is located on Lakeshore between Appleby and Walker's Line.

As we drove there, I found it really weird that there were signs about La Paletta Park.  Apparently this is a mansion that is located within the park.  So, even though the mansion itself is private property, the park itself is not.  In the end, you see a lot of people wandering around in the park but they weren't part of the wedding itself.

The place is nice because it is right by the water, you can see downtown Burlington from there.  The interior had one really cool looking library with dark stained walls, everything else looks nice but nothing unique to it.

Cocktail appetizers (there was a really good bacon wrapped steak) were good and so was dinner (salad, main [prime rib or salmon], creme brulee for dessert).  I didn't expect the prime rib dinner to be roughly 1cm thick (maybe I'm just used to having it at buffets).

Before dinner, you had the option to use a photobooth for some pictures.  This is the second time that I have seen this (last time was at Ella's with Allison's neighbour's wedding) and I think it is a really cool idea.  Unfortunately this would only work with a smaller group unless the company is capable of having multiple photobooths at one location at once.

After dinner was dancing and we danced a bit when the dance hall emptied (due to heat I think because the room is very hot when there are a lot of people).  Also, since it was open bar, Harold and I were having a somewhat drinking contest.  We more or less tied.  Roughly 4 rum & cokes, a scotch and soda, maybe 7 shots (some mixed, some straight), and a 1/4 bottle of red wine each.

Overall, had a lot of fun.  It's a nice place, check it out if you are interested.

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 - Presqui'ile Provincial Park

This is the second year that I have gone camping with Mike and based on past experience, even if the campground is dull, at least the food won't be!

Presqui'ile Provincial Park is a section of land that juts right out into Lake Ontario roughly 1.5 hrs east of Toronto, just after Cobourg.  It will be Mike, Christina, Harold, Allison and myself for this camping experience.

We left Friday afternoon in order to try to beat the traffic and we failed.  Who knew the highway east of the city would be busy at 2:30pm?  It took us roughly 2 hours to get there.  I took local roads and Mike took the highway, we were there slightly before Mike, but we did get in a pit stop at a yard sale (there are lots here!).

Last year we went camping around the same time (early August) but we went to Awenda and based on our experience, we all agree that this is a much preferred place between the two.  It is easy to get to, has nice water, and a few other things to do.

The area that we stayed at, High Bluffs, is a mixed site with power/no-power/trailers all in one site.  It was a different experience for all of us since we didn't expect that.  Some trailers stay here for weeks at a time!  We were initially shocked that the trailer behind us had a satellite dish only to discover that several trailers have this!  Then we were shocked by the flamingo at the trailer next to us only to discover that a trailer a few sites away had a freaking PALM TREE outside of theirs.

The camp area is pretty flat, so bring your bikes, there are a lot of cyclists here.  Also seems very family-friendly since we saw quite a few children, there was even a playpen at the site next to ours.

Mike, as usual, created a crazy menu for the weekend (we left on Friday and returned on Sunday) which consists of beef ribs, chicken skewers, chinese sausages, beef jerky, pork chops, wings, amongst other things.  Sooooo goooooood!

Attractions / activities:
- Beach 1 (there are 3 parking lots listed as Beach 1, Beach 2, Beach 3 which all end up at the same beach, just different areas)
- Lighthouse (it is nothing fancy, worth a look if you are there, although it is quite far from the campsite)
- Park Store (stop here for some good ice cream, $2.65 after tax gets you 1 scoop which is about the size of a baseball)

Lessons learnt
- We should make a checklist to make sure we get everything.  We pretty much covered everything except a few important things like paper towels.
- Avoid the areas listed as Beach 1 / Beach 2 / Beach 3.  We stayed at High Bluffs and just at the beginning of High Bluffs is a rock area where you can go and swim.  The water is much cleaner and less busy.  The downside is that there is no sand, it's a rock beach, so be sure to bring some shoes or flip-flops.

Character impressions
- Mike makes great food and fire!
- Allison cannot stop eating marshmallows.
- Harold is continuously confused by the conversations that happen between Allison and Christina
- Christina likes to burn everything

Campground: $90 (includes 1 parking permit)
Additional Parking Permit: $22
Food/equipment: $200
Firewood: $19

Total: $67 per person (we did eat and drink like kings though!)

Until next camping trip!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 - Tobermory (Day 3)

Today we head back to Toronto.

We woke up at 7:00 AM so that we could head home before the crazy traffic that we expect from all the people heading home back from the long weekend.

Princess Hotel is where we went for breakfast.  Your typical breakfast set you back $8 (eggs, choice of meat, toast, home fries and a drink).  The breakfast here was pretty good.  I'd suggest coming here if you wanted a quick bite to eat.  The sausages seemed like typical breakfast sausages but the ham was actual ham (compared to luncheon meat I had two days prior).

Lion's Head is a small down that is just off Hwy 6 which is on the way home.  Roughly a 30 minute drive from Tobermory.  We were going here to check out the lighthouse.  When we arrived, we were a bit disappointed.  The lighthouse itself is as tall as a 2-story building.  Oh well, it does provide a nice view of the lake though.

While we were there, we got some pictures and talked to a couple of ladies.  One of them was from around here (she said she was 69) and was showing her friend around.  She had pictures of the area from 50 years ago!  Wow, that would be pretty cool to compare her old photos to how it looks now.  They told us that they were staying here for the weekend and came from London.  It sounds like a better place to stay than Tobermory.  During the long weekend there was a sandcastle competition, fireworks, stargazing (there were telescopes set up for people), pancake charity breakfasts and much more.  After listening to her talk so proudly about her hometown, we thanked them for their time and headed over to the beach which was just a short walk from the lighthouse to see if we could catch any of the sandcastles.

The sandcastles were still somewhat intact although you could see that the rain from early this morning broke down a bit of them.  It was really cool.  I wish that we would've stayed here inside of Tobermory.  Oh well, live and learn!  This area seemed nicer since it was smaller and less touristy since there aren't too many motels / B&Bs to stay at.

We headed for the scenic route from Wiarton to check out the drive that was suggested by the server of Sidekicks.  The drive is nice, mostly along the water.  There are two lookout points, Colpoy's and Kemble Women's Institute lookout.  They are both worth a short stopover and break from driving.

Midway between the two lookout points, we stopped at a garage sale where Allison was able to get some cookie presses that she has been looking for for awhile.  They seemed okay and she was happy with them.

Also, we stopped at Big Bay General Store.  Allison was pretty excited since most of our general store experiences were pretty cool.  This was really just an ice cream shop which happens to sell snacks as well.  No fancy cool old things here.  The ice cream here was really good though.  It was the first time that we saw Apple ice cream and decided to try it.  It was really good ice cream.  Nice and hard, none of those cheap ice creams that melt as soon as you take it outside of the shop.  Stop by here for a quick ice cream if you are in the area.  It seems like they are quite a popular ice cream stop.

We drove back and stopped at Super Burger on the way home for lunch.  I thought it would be worth it to stop by one of these burger joints since I saw them about a month ago.  Super Burger actually has an old TTC street car connected to it and it has tables and seats inside that you can eat at.  Very cool!  The food was okay, nothing special.  If the line up looks long, don't be deterred, it goes by pretty quick.  It reminds me of a Harvey's but slightly more expensive (hamburger combo was roughly $8).

And this concludes this trip.  I would say it's definitely worth going to Tobermory if you are into scenery / hiking / water.  I would suggest staying at Lion's Head though since it is less busy.  Go here for a long weekend to see if you like it enough to return.

Adventure The Bruce Inn : $517.76 ($129.39 per person)
Cruise: $41.64
Flowerpot Access: $3.67
Provincial Park Parking Pass: $11.70 ($2.34 per person)
Food: Roughly  $65 (3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners)

Total: Roughly $245 for 3 days, 2 nights.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014 - Tobermory (Day 2)

Today we are off to an early start in order to ensure that we get a parking spot at Cyprus Lake.  While we were at the Visitor Information Centre yesterday, they told us that the lot would fill up really early in the morning, so we were trying to arrive before 9:00 AM.

We woke up this morning to try to get out of the hotel by 7:00 AM, grab breakfast and try to head there as early as possible.  I was hoping that Little Tub Bakery would be open by 7:00 AM, but unfortunately it wasn't open when we arrived slightly before 7:00 AM so we headed back to town to see what was open.

Luckily Craggies was open for breakfast.  We ordered a BLT sandwich for roughly $5.  It was expensive, but it tasted really good.  The others had a western omelette, not sure how they liked it.  It was weird since I noticed that their western omelettes don't include pepper.

Off to Cyprus Lake!  We arrive and we noticed some large gates with the gates up and a car was waiting there as if they were waiting for a park ranger to pay for the parking permit.  I got out of the car to check and right behind us was a car who told us to just keep going because this was the point where they would turn back people since they parking lot is full.  Thinking back, I thought this is ridiculous, how could something like this fill up that badly?

We kept driving, and noticed why the gates are where they are.  It was another good 10 minute drive to actually get to where the park office is to buy a parking permit!  If you drove all the way in to get turned back, I would be really disappointed.

Once we got to the park office, we got out to notice that they office itself wasn't even open yet!  They open at 8:00 AM!  Luckily we were only 10 minutes early, enough time for the girls to take some pictures and go to the washroom.  The parking permit at this time cost $11.70 per vehicle.  Good for all Parks Canada parks for the day.  With the permit bought, off we went to see how tiny this parking lot would be that turns back people!  The parking lot itself is actually pretty large.  I would say over 100 cars can fit here, but I guess if you don't carpool, it isn't that many spots.

Off we go!  Off to the Grotto!  Our first stop was a pebble beach at the Indian Head Cove.  I have never seen such blue water in Ontario before!  The view is beautiful.  Since we were early, we got to see the area with just a few people and it was great for pictures since you were alone with nobody in the background.  We stayed here awhile and wandered a bit and took A LOT of pictures.  I really enjoyed this area and was glad that I actually made it here.

After this, it is a short walk to The Grotto.  I didn't know what to expect, since looking at pictures is not quite the same as looking at it with your eyes.  The Grotto itself is actually right underneath The Grotto area.  You can't actually see much of it from up top and you need to climb/jump down to get the full experience.  We were told that there was a hole that you can actually climb down into to get there.  I stared at the hole wondering how the heck I was going to get down because it is a pretty small hole.  After the initial small opening, it actually widens up pretty quick and after a few guess-work steps and handholds, we were down in The Grotto!  Looking at it, I'm glad I went rock climbing because it did give me a better idea of what I could use as a foothold/handhold.  All but Nancy went down, so she actually got some nice pictures of us climbing up and down into The Grotto.  Nancy, if you read this, do try to go down next time if you can.  It's worth it.

The Grotto is really nice.  If you don't mind the climb, you should definitely try to get down there.  I think a combination of it being early and the fact that it was a bit more difficult to get to meant that there were less people there.  This also meant that we were worried about bringing our real cameras down so we brought waterproof ones and Sharon's iPhone down.  When we were at the bottom, there were probably 10 other people there.  We decided to do a different climb up to get to the top instead of using the side hole that we went down with.  It was a little bit more difficult, but still manageable for all of us.

At this point, Nancy decided to head back to the car since we were heading to the Overhanging Point and she has been there before but didn't want to go.  Sunny joined her to the car since it was his car and we agreed to meet there to have lunch when we go there so we part ways for a bit.

The walk to the Overhanging Point was rough, it wasn't flat like the Georgian Bay Trail which is the trail from the parking lot to the Indian Head Cove.  It was hilly and rocky.  It is not difficult, just watch your step and wear proper footwear (don't try with sandals or flip flops).  It probably took us half an hour to get there.  We stopped a few times to take some pictures and eventually got there.  The lookout is nice, although the rock itself is weirdly porous, so I couldn't tell whether or not the thing would just snap.  Since it is not flat, it was actually somewhat difficult to step because one wrong move and you are off the cliff and likely dead.

While there, we met this old couple who was telling us that you could actually make it to the bottom of the area through this side hole.  What's up with this place and holes that you can climb?  During our lunchtime I kept teasing that Sharon would go down the hole and have a look.  In the end, I went down first and Sharon followed.  I would tell Allison whether she would make it since I am taller, I could grip things a bit easier than she would.  I would say that it isn't anything special.  If you don't want to climb down the hole, don't.

Next we headed down the Marr Lake trail to go back to the parking lot to meet up with Nancy and decide where to go to next.  We were told it would take an hour to get back and the total distance is 0.9km.  I don't think you actually need that long.  There isn't much to see on this trail in my opinion, so you can just head back the way you came, although distance-wise, this is probably quicker than going back to The Grotto and back to the Georgian Bay trail.

We met up with Nancy and head back to the hotel so that we could rest up and decide on what to do next.  In the end, we planned to head to Half Way Log Dump (as per the receptionist from the Visitor Centre) and Singing Sands Beach before heading to dinner.  Half Way Log Dump is a bit of a bust compared to Cyprus Lake.  Maybe if we came here first we would have liked it more.  It is similar to Cyprus Lake, but not as pretty.  After a few quick pictures, we left to our next stop.

Singing Sands Beach is a sand beach!  All the other beaches that we went to were pebble/rock beaches, so if you walked barefoot, it would hurt.  This is an interesting beach.  While we didn't go into the water, there were a lot of people here.  If you plan to swim, I would avoid this place.  It looks like you would walk out for at least a kilometer and you still wouldn't be able to swim.  It is THAT shallow.  We saw people really far away and they were just standing there in the water.  I found this really odd.

For dinner we ended up at The Fish & Chips Place.  For $80 we got 12 pieces of fish and a family size portion of chips.  A much better deal than Shipwreck Lee's.  This fish is a bit fishy for me, so I didn't enjoy it as much as Allison did.  I wouldn't return, but only because I don't like fishy-fish.

We stopped at The Sweet Shop for ice cream after dinner.  It was slightly more expensive than Ice Cream & Treats, but we much preferred this place.  It does have to do with the flavor though since we liked this one more.  We got toasted s'mores ice cream, not quite as good as Greg's Ice Cream but still good.

Big Tub Lighthouse is our last stop before we called it a night.  A short drive from the downtown area is a lighthouse that has been there for over 200 years.  It was cool to see a lighthouse, there is a good view here, but unfortunately you can't actually go inside the lighthouse.  It is probably a 10 minute stopover.

Tomorrow, we go to Lion's Head to see the lighthouse and head back home!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 - Tobermory (Day 1)

After some planning, our first trip of the summer is here and we are off to Tobermory!  Tobermory is on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula roughly 4 hours north of Toronto.  We will be going for 2 nights (leaving Saturday morning and returning on Monday) and there were 5 of us on this trip, Sunny, Sharon, Nancy, Allison, and myself.

Our initial itinerary is as follows:

Day 1 - Flowerpot Island
Day 2 - Cyprus Lake / Singing Sands Beach
Day 3 - Lion's Head

For Flowerpot Island, based on Sharon and Nancy's previous experience, it was decided that we go there for roughly 6 hours.  With a 11:15 AM boat departure time, we decided to head out at 5:00 AM giving us some time to grab breakfast and check-in early if possible.

Our first stop was Sidekick Cafe for breakfast, which is in Markdale, roughly 2 hours into our trip which I thought would be a good stopping point for rest and breakfast.

The servers were really friendly at this breakfast spot, gladly provided us some information (and a map) on how to go to Tobermory and what we can do based on our schedule.  The breakfast there was okay, your typical breakfast food, nothing to write home about.  But they were very curious about how we found out about the place and thought we found it through Facebook since we were younger and foreign (all other patrons were older white folk and we were a group of 5 Asians in our 30s).  Your usual breakfast (eggs, meat, toast and home fries for $6, coffee extra).  I've had better breakfasts (the bacon and sausage looked like they came from cheap frozen packages and the ham was luncheon meat), so, unless you need some information or some hospitality, you can look elsewhere.

After breakfast, we headed to the motel to see if we could check in.  For this trip, we decided on Adventure in the Bruce Inn, located just a short 10 minute walk away from the downtown area.  Unfortunately, we arrived too early for check out, so we headed downtown to walk around the area.

We stopped at the Visitor Information Centre and got some maps and things to do for our weekend.  We already had a rough idea of what we would be doing, but it was good to learn about some extra places to visit and what times we should head to certain places.  As a bonus, you can park here all day (as long as you move your car at night).  It is a 5 minute walk from the downtown area.

The downtown area is pretty small (you can walk it all in 5-10 minutes), it is just shops, restaurants and boat cruise stores.  The area is nice and quaint with it being a dock/marina where you see a number of ships and boats and as a bonus you can see the sunset from this location.  Unfortunately, it was too hazy/cloudy every night we were here to catch the sunset.

At 11:15 AM, we board the Bruce Anchor Cruises' Crusader and we were on our way!  The first two stops were two shipwrecks which you could see from the glass bottom of the boat that we were on as well as from just looking over the side of the boat (it is very shallow here).  It was cool to see, although I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought it would.  Afterwards, it was off to Flowerpot island.  The total time from coast, shipwrecks to Flowerpot was probably 35 minutes, the boat is really quick (they said it can reach 45km/h).

Flowerpot Island is very pretty.  There is one main loop on this island, estimated time is 4-5 hours to do the complete loop which covers all of the island's sights (small flowerpot, big flowerpot, lighthouse station, marl beds), since we are on the island for 6 hours, that should be more than enough if we stopped for lunch and took our time wandering around.  The island itself has no restaurants, so be sure to pack a lunch.  Also, as a national park, it has a 'leave no trace' rule where whatever you bring with you, be sure to bring back with you.  There are no garbage bins or recycling bins (except at the dock), so be sure to bring a bag to pack everything back with you.  We had more than enough time to visit everything.  By the time we were done, we still had an hour to spare.  I think you can do everything within 4 hours, (flowerpots and lighthouse station, you can skip Marl Bed, there isn't much there).

Overall, I enjoyed Flowerpot Island, although I think the price of admission is pretty steep.  It cost us $45 each to do the boat cruise and go on the island (you actually need to pay to go on the island, otherwise they just loop around it and return back to the dock).  Look at the pictures to see if you think it is worth it.  My issue is that it is a HUGE tourist spot (I know it sounds silly as a tourist).  It may be because we went during the long weekend, but the amount of tourists there was ridiculous.  When you see people with Chinese tour company stickers, you know it's a big tourist spot.

After Flowerpot Island, we went to the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre.  If you go on a boat cruise, bring your ticket to here and you will be able to go to the visitor area (it contains information on the Bruce Peninsula).  If you are brave, there is a nice observation tower that you can climb up for a nice view of the area.  The tower is 20 meters high, which is constructed from wood and steel.  When you get to the top, if there is a breeze, you will feel the entire structure move.  As a person who is afraid of heights, this feeling sucks.  I do admit though, this is a very nice place, as a plus, the observation tower is free!  Just make sure you don't look down.

For dinner we went to Shipwreck Lee's which is right by the downtown area.  We went based on suggestions but in my opinion, just walk further.  This place is a tourist trap.  Servers clad in pirate clothing with expensive fish and chips.  $20 for 2 pieces of fish with chips.  I'm glad we weren't overly hungry and didn't order much more.  The only plus (depends on if you are into this), the server we got was really friendly and provided us with pirate hats and posed for pictures with us.  I wouldn't suggest it.

After Shipwreck Lee's we went to The Fish & Chips Place for a fish taco, ya, I question why we didn't eat here first either, but someone in the group wanted some fish tacos and went here.  We looked at the menu, low and behold, 2 pieces of fish with chips for $12 and this is not even a 5 minute walk away.  The fish taco was okay, nothing special in my opinion, but I am not a big seafood fan.  If you like fishy-fish (fish that taste fishy or oceany), this is your place though.

Ice Cream!  We stopped at Ice Cream & Treats for an ice cream before we head back to the motel.  I forgot what we ordered, but the ice cream was okay.  We did a stroll down the marina to see what was there while we had the ice cream.

Allison and I headed back early and called it a night since we would have an early morning tomorrow while the others stayed to catch the sunset.  I thought that since there were 5 of us in a room, it would be better if we headed back to shower and clean up because the wait would be long since there is only one washroom.

Tomorrow, we head to Cyprus Lake to see the Grotto!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 - July (food)

Pantheon (Greektown Toronto)
Went here for Allison's birthday since she wanted Greek food.  Randomly picked a restaurant that neither of us had been to before and one that had somewhat of a line.

The food was delicious.  We got the chicken and pork tenderloin souvlaki.  Both of which were surprisingly tender.  I don't think I've ever had souvlaki that wasn't very tough.  I feel like I have been missing out all this time!

Dinner comes with complimentary bread (which we got refills on) and it even came with a free slice of cake!  We got the small versions which I didn't feel was enough for me, but seemed fine for Allison.  I would return!

Greg's Ice Cream (Bloor / Spadina)
A small ice cream shop located on the southwest corner of Bloor and Spadina.  Best known for their roast marshmellow ice cream.  Yes, roasted marshmellow.  I have successfully converted 2 people to this flavor, but I still like to try some of their other flavours.  They also have a shop in the Distillery District.  I'd recommend stopping by to give this a try if you are in the area.

Jelly Modern Doughnuts (College / Spadina)
Located slight west of Spadina is Jelly Modern Doughnuts.  We stopped by as we were walking to Castle Board Game Cafe for a snack.  Very bright and open area.  Their doughnuts have won some awards although I can't really recall any major doughnuts shops here.  They come in two sizes, a small and a large.  I forget what they called them, but basically your typical doughnut (small) and a pretty large doughnut (large).

The small was $2.50 each and I don't recall the price of the large.  At this price, I think it is a bit much, although they were pretty tasty.

I'm not sure I would return due to the price.

Lee Garden (Spadina)
Staple Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.  Well known about the locals and winning a lot of awards (you can see the list on their wall) it is a good Chinese restaurant.

We had 6 dishes and they were all pretty good.  Portions were good, everything came out quick and hot as expected.  Food seems a bit expensive for what we got, but everything tasted good, so it isn't a big deal.  Came out to roughly $100 after tax/tip for everything.

I have been here a few times within the past year and I have never been disappointed and I would return.  Although do make sure they have what you want because I have come here a few times and had a few items sold out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 - July (places / events)

I decided to split up my month postings from everything that has happened in the month into two postings.  One for events / places and one for restaurants (fixed restaurants, not food festivals) that we visit.  This will keep it a bit cleaner when I look back at places that we have gone.

Scarborough Ribfest (McNicoll / Kennedy)
Located at a local park, we headed to ribfest with Mike and Christina for lunch.  Having never been to a ribfest before, this would be my first and I was interested in seeing what it would be like.  The one in Scarborough takes place at L'Amoreaux park.  There is PLENTY of parking here (I was silly and stopped by the first available parking lot when I could have just parking right at the main ribfest parking lot).

As we entered there were a few shops that sold some odds and ends, nothing particular memorable.  Although there was an OLG spin-to-win wheel!  Can't miss out on this!  We won 2 $10 slot tickets good at any OLG slots location and 2 $10 slot tickets good at Ajax Downs.  Good to pass along to my parents or my grandmother.

The ribfest itself had about 7 BBQ vendors.  I picked the one that had the largest line whereas Mike picked the one that he had not been to before.  $25 got us 1lb of pulled pork and half a rack of ribs.  The pulled pork was nice, the ribs were okay.  Allison said that Mike and I make better ribs and I think I agree.

Along with the BBQ vendors, there was a shop for alcohol, one for lemonade / drinks, one for churros, one for ice cream and maybe a couple others that I'm forgetting right now.

My only complaint would be that there are no trees here.  If you are coming on a sunny day, bring some shade, whether you have a large brim hat or an umbrella.  After about 1.5 hours, Allison and Mike both got a bit burnt.

Eugenia Falls / Hawthorn Cottages
Went here for the first weekend of July with Sharon and a meetup group.  We left Mississauga at around 5:45pm and arrived there at around 7:30pm, so not too far away.  It did pass through a giant wind mill farm which I was surprised with since I don't recall EVER seeing so many will mills in Ontario.  They were not tightly packed, but there were lots of them.  I'd say at least 50 of them.

Hawthorn Cottages reminds me of a backyard that was split up into mini camping spots.  There are no trees to give you privacy so I hope you like your neighbors.  With the meetup group, we did occupy 3 campsites, so if anything, we hope they liked us!  The place does have washrooms with running toilets, one shower, all of which were pretty clean for a campsite (again, not really a campsite).  There is a small shop there where you can buy snacks and food at decent prices (cooked hot dogs and burgers for $3-$5).  It is right by Lake Eugenia, so you can go for a dip if you like.  They also have a water trampoline, fishing boats for rent along with bait and quite a few Adirondack chairs for lounging around by the lake.

While there we met this family who owns a trailer there and had some fun together.  In particular, there was this one girl who must have been 8 years old or so.  She was very social and talked to us quite a bit and even egged us on to do things that she thought that we wouldn't be able to do (jumping into pretty cold water, flips on their swing set, amongst other things).  We showed her who's boss!

Nearby is Eugenia Falls.  A nice waterfall and the start of our 12km hike.  The beginning of this hike slopes down A LOT.  I forgot about this until our return because we had to climb up this thing at the very end of the hike.  The end point of our hike was Hog Falls, not a very tall waterfall but it was nice.  You can walk to the bottom of it and go under it if you like.  The temperature was a bit cold so I opted out of it, but we did make it to the bottom as shown below.  We probably took roughly 4 hours to do the hike.  When we reached Hog Falls, we stopped for lunch as well which is included in that 4 hour time.

July really is not the season for me to go hiking in the forest (although I don't remember mosquitoes like this in June).  This particular hike has a lot of hills and valleys and a lot of in the forest, outside the forest.  The combination of sun and shade was nice, although it was a bit hot and the amount of mosquitoes in the forest was a bit out of control.  My insistence on no mosquito repellent probably resulted in the amount of bites that I got, but I thought I would fair okay since I was wearing long sleeve clothing, little did I know they would just bite through them.  On my right arm alone I must have gotten 20 mosquito bites.

Toronto Premium Outlets (Halton Hills)
Located just outside of Milton is the Toronto Premium Outlets.  I didn't know that Toronto extended that far out!  Even though we went on the World Cup Finals day, there was still a lot of people there.  Barely found parking ourselves and it looks like ample parking available.

You can check their website for the list of shops and even when they will have special sales.  This one reminds me of how the Chicago Premium Outlets are designed.  It is one loop with shops lining both sides.  The deals seem good for an outlet mall, although I think I prefer the new Niagara one more since it has more shops.  I'm also not sure how well this mall will work out in the winter since it is all outdoors.

Ellas Banquet Hall (Danforth Rd / Danforth Ave)
Was here for a wedding and I thought Allison was crazy when she told me to turn on Danforth when I was already ON Danforth.  Who knew there was a Danforth Rd and Danforth Ave and that they would intersect?

Ample parking in the back in case it looks busy out by the front.  The place isn't very large, but it was busy when we were there (there were at least 4 other events happening).  The front where you drop of people is nothing fancy but the side is pretty nice.  There is a fountain with statues and A LOT of flowers.

We were attending a small wedding and it was nice.  The room fit 9 tables well which could fit roughly 10 people per table along with the head table, a dance floor, and a bar.  Nicely decorated and with access to the room from the inside of the building as well as the outside and it had private washrooms so it wasn't shared with everyone else.

Food was good, not sure if it was catered or provided with the hall.  Came with typical salad appetizer, chicken/prime rib main with side vegetables and ice cream for the end.  There was a pretty big dessert spread considering how many people were there with a large variety of fruits and several cakes including the wedding cake.

Big on Bloor (Bloor between Dufferin and Lansdowne)
A street festival on Bloor that occurred in July.  I'm not sure why it is called Big on Bloor because there wasn't anything big there.  The road is closed in the area, so you are free to walk on the street.  There are shops lining up both side of the street.  Lots of small jewelry shops, a few shops that sell street eats among other things.

There was a good street performer that we fortunately saw from beginning to end.  Rarely do you see one that is so witty with his comments and jokes.  There were a bunch of kids there who were helping him with the act but they didn't always seem to help him as he liked.  At one point he was dropping a bunch of balls so that the kids would pick them up and hand them to him.  Once they caught on that he was always dropping more, they ended up throwing them at him instead.

He was a good juggler, did a balancing act and even a handstand on a stranger!  Cool stuff.

I'd recommend going if you are in the area but not if you plan to make it an event.  We probably walked both ends and saw the whole performance in about an hour.

Castle Board Game Cafe (College / Spadina)
Located just south of College and Spadina is Castle Board Game Cafe, one of the newer board game cafes in Toronto.  While we normally try to go to Snakes & Lattes, we didn't get a table due to the number of people so we headed down here and gave it a try.

The space is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside.  In the back there is a room that is slightly larger than what you see outside, so even if it looks packed from the outside, it may very well have space in the back.  The back is nothing to write home about, but it is spacious enough.

The board game selection seems pretty decent from what I saw.  Had everything we would try and some that we would like to try but didn't.  I'd say it has slightly less than Snakes & Lattes, but they have a good amount, they even had Zombicide which we were surprised with.

This place is a bit more expensive than what we are used to.  $2.50/hr per person.  Since most games that we play last about 1-2 hrs, this means that you may end up watching what you play since time is money.  By comparison, Snakes & Lattes is $5 flat regardless of how long you stay there.  Snack and drink prices seems normal ($3-$5 for specialty coffee drinks, $4-$5 for smoothies).

Staffing seemed like an issue.  We went on a Sunday afternoon and there were only 2 staff there and they seemed pretty untrained since they didn't really know the menu too well.  We didn't try to get them to teach us anything since we didn't really see them all that often.  They could use some work in this department since the staff at Snakes was generally really helpful and plentiful.

I would return if Snakes & Lattes isn't open.

Taste of Jazz (Woodbine Park)
Located within Woodbine Park is Taste of Jazz, a food truck even which happens just before the Beaches Jazzfest.

I think I recall roughly 15-20 food trucks there, all parked within the park itself.  There is ample parking if you decide to drive here or do as we did and just take the Queen streetcar over.  It is just a short walk from the streetcar stop to the park (maybe 5 minutes).

There were a few familiar names but a lot that I have never heard of before.  In the end, I tried Bacon Nation and there Drunken Stupor Sandwich (Thanks Rob Ford!).  It is a peameal bacon sandwich with beer-battered onion rings, bacon, and BBQ sauce.  It was heavenly, although the sauce I found a bit sweet.  It was $11 which I found was a bit high since it was from a food truck, but I did enjoy the sandwich though, so no complaints.

While wandering around, there were a few stalls that were set up for advertising purposes where you could get some freebies.  State Farm was there giving out frisbees and some toys.  Pure Leaf was there handing out samples of their Iced Tea and gave out coupons for free tea.  And there was a pasta seller there with coupons as well.

All in all, a fun spot.  While eating, there is also live music  there since there are bands on stage there during the events.  If you want to try food trucks, this does seem like a good place to go since I have always seem to fail when I go to bigger events (mainly the one in distillery which was a disaster when I tried a few years back).

August 2014 and beyond!
Slowly counting down the days until our big trip to Peru in September.  I feel like I have been asked when I am going away FOREVER at work since this has been planned for about half a year now.

In August we will be going to Tobermory, camping, wedding and a few other things!