Out and About in Downtown Toronto

If you are thinking of where to spend your next summer holiday, take a good look at Toronto. It is nice and warm in the summer, vibrant and not short of places to visit or things to do. I spent a couple of weeks there and had a really great experience. I had a great view staying in a high rise building

If you are wondering what to do in Toronto, keep reading.

  1. There are lots of places to eat: Downtown Toronto is not short of places to eat. Expect to be spoiled for choice in this vibrant part of the city. In fact, you are more likely to find places to eat than you are to find places to shop for fashion. I am not kidding. I stayed on Dundas Street East all through and was grateful for it. Not only is it close to the famous Dundas Square (Toronto’s version of NYC’s Times Square), it was easy to access a wide range of restaurants from here. There are a lot of Asian restaurants on Dundas Street West, so if you are craving Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai…the whole shebang, Dundas Street West is definitely the place to be. I had really good culinary experiences with Hong Shing and Zen Q.

Downtown Toronto also has some cool breakfast spots. If you are looking for a delicious and filling weekend brunch without having to go to through the stress of making reservations, check out School on Fraser Avenue. The ‘Krispy Krunchy’ French toast with raspberry compote and brown sugar butter is to die for! The ambience is relaxed, welcoming and for a nerd like me, appealing. Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you. They serve juice in glass beakers! Haha! I mean laboratory glass beakers. The scientist in me couldn’t be more pleased!

If you are looking to eat at a chain restaurant, Sunset Grill is great to check out. I ordered an omelette and was told by a friend later on that I shouldn’t have. It was not as exciting to eat as I had hoped but I did see other customers eating more exciting stuff

OK. Enough about food. I could go on and on because I ate a lot from a lot of places but let’s move on.

2. Be sure to check out the art! Toronto is an artsy city, well, at least the downtown area is. I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario with a friend and saw really beautiful exhibitions. The ‘Infinite Mirrors’ exhibition by Yayoi Kusama was on at the gallery and it was quite the ‘limitless’ experience. Going through the gallery, you will be sure to find other interesting pieces of art.

3. There is a place for critically acclaimed films and documentaries. That place is the Ted Rogers cinema on Bloor Street. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the Toni Morrisson movie due to unforeseen circumstances, but it is a great place to hang out in the downtown area if you are into those kinds of movies.

4. Hire a bicycle and ride around the city. There is a lot to see in Toronto and one of the best ways to see the city is hire a bicycle and ride around town. Bicycle rentals go for about $35 for the whole day and an extra $10 if you want to keep the bicycle overnight. Here are some pictures I took around the downtown area.

5. Get on a sightseeing tour bus and see the city: This is as touristy as it gets. The tour bus has a pick up point at Dundas square and tickets are about $40 if I remember correctly.

6. Check out ABC books on Yonge street: If you are into old books at pleasingly low prices, then this is the shop to check out. I left with two fiction books and a memoir of imprisoned women in Iran, and parted with only five dollars. Yep $5. Definitely the cheapest purchase I made in Toronto!

7. Go to the beach: Yes, there are beaches in Toronto and if you are there for the summer, the beach is a great place to go and let loose. Volleyball is one of the popular beach sports in Toronto.There were groups around almost every volley net playing very competitively, I might add. The great thing is that Canadians are really friendly people, and will likely invite you to join them. I went to Woodbine beach, which is about twelve minutes drive from Dundas street, met a couple of guys, had some Canadian lager, went out to dinner with them, and at the end of the evening, we were all following each other on Instagram. Yep! And Oh I discovered I have lost my volleyball touch.

8. Some noteworthy additions: China Town and Kensington market are great places to check out in the downtown area. If you are looking to purchase souvenirs, tourist hoodies or decorative material, China Town is certainly your plug! And your way there, stop by the Lucky Moose grocery store to get your dose of fresh fruits. If vintage clothing is your thing, then certainly you must visit Kensington market!

Toronto is certainly not the cheapest place to holiday, but it is really lots of fun! I went to the Niagra area and visited a winery, a wastewater treatment plant (can’t run away from being a water specialist), and of course Niagra falls, but I will save that for another post.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Do share your fun holiday moments if you have been in Toronto!

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Hello Toronto!

I love travelling! There is something about it that opens my mind and removes from me, mental barriers that I can’t shake off in my regular space. Perhaps it is my constant desire to find something new and exciting that makes travelling a worthwhile experience.

This week I am in Toronto, Canada and boy oh boy, am I loving the vibe of this city! I took an Ethiopian airline flight from Johannesburg – the least stressful option in the category of non-direct flights. The route was Johannebsurg to Addis Ababa (two hour layover – change planes); Addis to Dublin Ireland (one hour stop for refueling, no plane change required) and then Dublin to Pearson International in Toronto. The airline service was excellent, lots of leg room in Economy class and good culinary service. I had to decline one of the meals because I really did not want to leave feeling like an oumba-bumba (nope, that’s not a word).

From Pearson International, I took an uber to my friend’s condo in the Downtown area. One thing to note if you are planning a trip is that ubers do not take cash in Toronto. If you select cash as a payment option, your booking will be cancelled. So remember to activate your card for your trip so you can use it for those bookings.

Toronto is beautiful, I am currently staying in the downtown region, a few metres from Dundas square (Toronto’s equivalent of Times Square in NYC) so I am right in the center of the action. I am here for a Young Water Professionals conference, and will explore the city more after the conference ends.

For now, here are some pictures I took with my phone.

Highway from the airport.
Dundas Square
Pride festival on the weekend of 22 June 2019

Beautiful Africa: I Visited Tunisia and I Absolutely Loved It!

This is a late post about Tunisia, considering it has been about nine months since I visited. But every time I look back on the pictures and reminisce about the few days I spent there, I find myself wishing I could be back there. The same applies to my trip to Greece. I constantly find myself looking forward to going back to Greece. I should probably write a post about that. But first of all, Tunisia.

Tunisia is located in North Africa, and is bordered by Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. The official languages in Tunisia are French and Arabic (from my understanding) and the official state religion is Islam. If you are looking for a great holiday spot at an affordable price, keep reading. I have outlined all the processes I followed.

Departure point: Johannesburg, South Africa

Arrival: Sousse, Tunisia

Visa Application Process: I applied for the visa at the Tunisia Consulate in Pretoria South Africa and it took about 20 working days for the visa to be approved. From what I understand, it is important to have an invitation letter form Tunisia in order to visit (not sure if this applies to other non-African and North African countries). The visa cost about 80 USD. I paid ZAR 1100. The process is seamless as long as all the required documents are submitted. If you are unsure of what you need, call the consular office in your city to be sure.

Flights: Surprise, surprise! Flying to Tunisia from South Africa is a whole process. The quickest airline that could get me there was Qatar Airways – not that I was complaining. Qatar Airways is an excellent airline to travel with. Irrespective of the cabin class you fly in, you can be assured of quality service and a comfortable trip! The entire trip to Tunisia including a brief two-hour stop-over in Doha was about 17 hours in total, and cost about USD 600 for a return ticket.

Arrival in Tunisia: We arrived at Tunis Carthage International Airport during the day. It is not the most ultra-modern airport you will see. It actually reminded me of the Murtala Mohamed International Airport in Lagos. There is nowhere to hang out and wait so it is really a good idea to have transport waiting for you by the time you land. Except you want to hire a car… which I didn’t. I had the hotel arrange my transport. From Tunis, we drove for about two hours to Sousse – a sea-side city. Besides the beautiful landscape, there was nothing much to see. The driver had bottles of water to keep us hydrated during the drive. The weather was quite warm but not uncomfortable.

Path on the beach leading from the hotel to the seashore. Doesn’t it just look like a wedding venue?
Picture was taken by me.

The Hotel: Concorde Green Park Palace Hotel is located in Port El-Kantoui in the city of Sousse. The hotel is magnificent! It is located on the bank of the Mediterranean Sea, has comfortable rooms and an amazing selection of foods at every meal service. As a foodie, this was, of course, my favorite part. I ate so much, I started to think the hotel attendants would have to roll me out like a car tyre on my last day.

Took through from the balcony of the hotel. Beyond the hotel grounds is the Mediterranean Sea – perfect for a walk in the evenings or even horse riding.

Things to do in Tunisia: From the front gate of the Green Park Palace hotel, I and my colleague took a cab and went to the Medina. We had a very friendly taxi driver who offered to drive us to Monastir – the next city. The distance between both cities is about 20km. In Monastir, we visited the souk sibit – which is the Saturday market. Here, I bought delicious candied nuts, a golden Africa pendant, small gifts for friends (e.g. keyholders), a sun hat and a couple of female jalamia. Things were much cheaper here than at the stores close to the hotel. At this market, you can get lots of fresh dates and fruits. If you would rather buy a Jalamia in a less busy environment. There are shops down the road from the hotel that accept both Dinar and Euro.

Candied nuts from souk sibit in Monastir

I also got to weave a rug in Monastir, but of course, the rug trader expected me to buy rugs. I couldn’t afford them so it was a no from me. This is something to bear in mind about Tunisia. The traders will do everything to convince you to buy their products. They will say all the sweetest words to make you think you need what they are selling. Know that you can negotiate their prices and work on your haggling skills if you want to get a good deal. If you are not interested, firmly say so and keep moving.

I also had a bracelet weaved by the roadside for about five dinars. It took less than five minutes and had the letters of my name woven into it. Pretty cool if you ask me! You can go horse-riding in a carriage for about 12 dinars, drive around the surroundings of Bourguiba’s palace and if I remember correctly, the driver said something about a Bourguiba museum, but I was knackered.

Note on Currency: You can spend euros in Tunisia, but if you choose to change to the local currency which is Dinar, you can do so at the airport. One tip though is that you must insist on a receipt before you go through with the exchange! If you don’t get a receipt, you will not be able to change your leftover Dinar to Euros on your way out. Some hotels offer currency exchanges from dollars and euros to dinar so you can do your currency exchanges based on how much you need daily. Tunisia is not an expensive place so you might not need that much.

So yea, that was Tunisia for me. It was great. The people were friendly, I did a couple of YouTube videos while I was there. Please check them out on my YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9CaGAuFNmM

Below are more pictures from the trip!

In Monastir
Weaving a rug in Monastir
A view of the hotel during the day

My Experience with Gluten-Free Spaghetti

Hello everyone! Welcome to this new section of my blog.

I have realized that motivation is not all we need to get through life yea? We need practical ideas and choices about our lifestyle. Sometimes, we need a little help with making the right food choices, visiting the perfect restaurant, doing the right kind of exercise… you know, everyday choices that help us live the motivated and fulfilling lives we desire. So, I have decided to blog about my choices, places I visit and things I eat to stay healthy, and hopefully the exercises I do (filming them still presents a challenge). I hope you find these posts helpful and I hope they push you to make good or better choices. Many of these posts are will be in the form of reviews so, let’s get started with the first one – gluten-free pasta!

Recently, I started to notice something weird about my body. My stomach was distended for hours after eating, my body felt blocked up and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed after eating like an overfed python, hoping for digestion to happen fast. But it didn’t. It was so bad that I felt slow, and my body felt like an extra weight I had to carry around with me. This happened every time I had carbohydrates – especially refined carbs. I could have a basket of fruits and vegetables and not have the same reaction. But one serving of pasta and I felt like I had to drag myself everywhere. I started to keep a food diary and voila! the common factor jumped out at me – gluten was killing me slowly!

So I decided to start trying gluten-free options. I live in South Africa where gluten-free options are more expensive than regular options and can sometimes cost five times more. Yep. You read right. Five times more. Thankfully, my gluten-free spaghetti did not cost that much. The regular option I used to buy cost R16.99 while the gluten-free option (image below) cost me R31.99 – twice as much. The option I found was made of corn and rice flour. My buddy in the USA told me she had gluten free option with corn flour only.

I got home and got to work. Sorry guys. I forgot to film the cooking but this is really what I did:

pasta-2.jpg
If you are in South Africa, you can get this from a local Pick n Pay grocery store

  • I let some water boil in a pot, added a sprinkle of salt and a teaspoon of grapeseed oil.
  • I added about 100g of spaghetti. I didn’t break them and left to boil. First thing I noticed was that the pasta dis not cook as quickly as the regular option. After boiling for about 8 minutes, I noticed it the pasta was getting sticky. I took it off the stove and poured it in a colander. I rinsed it with cold water to get rid of what I call the ‘starchiness’. The spaghetti was still tough as though it had not been exposed to any heat!
  • I put it back in the pot and poured some water over it. I put it on the stove for another three minutes and took it off when it had softened a bit. I had to do this because I had prepared meatballs and pasta sauce and planned to complete the cooking in the sauce.
  • I drained the spaghetti in the colander and added it to the sauce I already prepared. I lowered the heat and left it to simmer for an additional two minutes. I was scared of overcooking it.

Then I served myself a pretty portion (image below) and this is what I discovered. I will do the cons first.

pasta
I sprinkled some parmesan on it and some chopped parsley

  • the spaghetti was grainy to taste. It did not have the smoothness of normal semolina-derived pasta and that grainy-ness was annoying to me. It felt like I was eating bits of rice really.
  • It still didn’t feel like it had cooked through even though the packet said it cooks in ten minutes. From the way it felt though, one extra minute on the stove and it would have been overcooked.
  • It had an after-taste that came across as egg-ish. But hey, I don’t have a professional palette but that what it felt like.

Pros: 

  • No distended tummy after eating. I could still feel my abs – all one and a half of them.
  • My body did not feel clogged or slow. My energy level was boosted instead. I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to lie down like an overfed python.
  • A very good pasta sauce can cover up most of the after-taste. Mine was a thick sauce made with fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper and onions but I could still catch a bit of that egg in the middle of my tongue.

So there you have it. You know what to expect if you decide to go for gluten-free spaghetti. But if you’ve tried a different kind of gluten-free pasta and gotten different results, please share in the comments. XOXO

You Can Snap Out Of It

It is 2017, but to be honest, I feel like I carried 2016 with me into the new year. I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks that things don’t change, and everything really boils down to perspective. However, it is very easy for perspective to be clouded. It is very easy to see the things that are not working out, especially when we have high expectations that they should. We gradually dig ourselves into a dark pit because our perspectives are skew and before we know it, we lack the motivation to do what is necessary.

Image result for motivation

What if I tell you, you can snap out of it just as easily as you dug yourself into it? You probably won’t believe me, but the truth is you can.

You see, I have come to learn that everything we do in life boils down to decisions. Our decisions shape our lives, determine how we approach situations, and most importantly, how we rise up after a series of unfortunate events. I realised recently that making a decision to not stay down can easily evoke the motivation you need to get back up. Making a decision that defies the state you are in, can shift your perspective and help you power through.

So what’s that cycle you are stuck in? What’s that thing that’s sitting on your back, weighing you down and stealing your joy for everything else? Make a decision to power through irrespective of how you feel, and watch your motivation return. Have a super week! XOXO

Feed Your Body the Right Stuff

Junk food, sodas, lots of caffeine, loads of sugar, saline and growth hormone injected chickens… eating has never been more of a challenge than it currently is. I find myself having to read labels over and over again to ensure I have not missed anything. Then I start wondering if I can believe what I am reading. Are free range chickens really free range? Or have they been injected with all sorts of steroids and growth hormones to ensure they mature from birth within one week? Are organic products truly organic, or have greedy business people found a way to convince us to buy poisonous foods at more expensive prices?

Image result for junk food

The important thing is to make a choice to eat healthy. No, I am not asking you to be skinny, nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with having a little junk in the trunk. However, from personal experience, I have come to realize that when we eat healthy, we become more energized. We find it a lot easier to face the day, and we tend to be more attentive because our bodies feel lighter. When we indulge in junk food, our bodies become an extra weight for us to carry. We are less energetic and sometimes even slow in our thinking. Yes, it’s just food but it can make a big difference in how your day goes.

Start choosing the right foods; choose to prepare your own meals; aim for fresh produce when you cook; avoid processed foods. I found many ways to make vegetables taste appealing when I decided to get off the junk food bandwagon. I found recipes to combine fruits and vegetable for healthy detoxifying smoothies. Feeding your body with the right stuff is highly crucial to your emotional and physical health. Keep your body healthy and happy. It may seem insignificant, but it is a big contribution to your overall wellbeing.

Overdose on Gratitude

We tend to underestimate the power of gratitude. For some, gratitude is overrated; and I can tell you now that when you are going through a difficult time, gratitude is the last thing on your mind. How can you be grateful when it feels like you’re being thrown into a pit 50 feet deep? I have been to that point of difficulty and I have been back, and believe me, gratitude is better.

Gratitude is a drug – a good one you should gulp like vitamins. It’s like a ‘happy’ pill. When you start your day with gratitude, it is difficult for any trial or unexpected sad event to derail you. When you think of things you are grateful for halfway through the day, it is difficult for anyone’s ill perceptions of you to weigh you down. When you end your day with gratitude, it is difficult to be distracted by what’s not working out.  Let gratitude become a habit. If you look for things to be grateful for, you will find lots of them. If you find things to complain about, you will find lots. Wouldn’t you rather be grateful?