After 3 long weeks in Texas, it’s time to go back home and lose the weight from all the food I ate! 😂 Here are some of the highlights though one thing I won’t miss is the heat! 🔥🔥
After the first busy day in Toronto, think maybe I should give myself a little break? Nah, it’s packing in more and more! Two of my destinations on the itinerary were Graffiti Alley (recommended by my friend who visited before) and the legendary Niagara Falls! So it was up early in the morning and journey on! 🏃♂️☀️
Graffiti alley was a decent half an hour walk from the Union Station, so it was perfect to walk off the breakfast calories lol! The artistry there really was very impressive, and it were pictures after pictures with my phone! 📸 📸 These are some of my favourites below (and I still have even more pics but I thought let’s not go overboard! 😂) Which one of these is your favourite? 😉
Afterwards, I found a little spot for lunch and ordered the Canadian national dish of poutine. I won’t say it was very impressive (to my British brain, it was essentially chips, gravy and “halloumi”-like cheese 😅). But what’s not to like?
I then returned to the Union Station area as I await my pick up bus to Niagara Falls. I ordered via FlixBus online, costing me just under £40 for the return journey (it was expensive 💸💸 though it appeared to be my cheapest option from the recommendations at the tourist information centre. The only cheaper option was the seasonal weekend bus which I unfortunately would miss- apparently they are only CA$10 for a return ticket in comparison!!)
The bus pick up spot was at a weird cross junction down by the Harbourfront (8 York Street). It was hidden right behind some large scaffolding, so I almost missed it until I spot a large group of people queueing by the bus.😅 The bus itself is around a 2-hour journey to the Niagara Falls, so it was time to sit back and relax (and charge my phone lol). 😂📱🔌
Upon arriving, I took the inclined railway down the cliff (costing only CA$3 and it was super quick) to the Nigara Falls. And the spectacular views really were worth the journey! 😍😍
With four hours to spend until my return bus, I decided to head over the State side of the Niagara Falls (in the state of New York) by crossing the Rainbow Bridge through to the US border. 🇺🇸 Just a short tour before my flight to Texas tomorrow 😂 and it was a straightforward crossing plus a small fee (make sure you have all your travel documents with you though!) The only extra thing right now (due to current COVID restrictions) is you will need to fill in the ArriveCAN form again before reentering Canada.
By the time I got back to Toronto downtown, it was already almost 9 at night 🌃 (and I got an early morning flight the next day urgh 😪). But I did manage to capture the beautiful red sky form the sunset! 🌅 (And enough to tempt me for a short wander around the city hehe!)
After a small dinner back in my hotel room (with the leftovers noodles from Chinatown I left in the fridge yesterday 😂), I made sure my alarm clock was set for my flight to Texas tomorrow morning! 🌄
See you guys in USA! 😉🇺🇸
So finally it’s summer and my sabbatical has also officially begun! 😎 And this August, I have planned for a long trip away from the UK as I will be visiting both Canada 🇨🇦 and USA 🇺🇸 for the entire month, so let the adventure begins! 🏃♂️
Jetting off from Glasgow Airport in the early morning (spent a night over there after taking a bus from Edinburgh), the flight ✈️ lasted around 7.5 hours before landing in Toronto. Though I had been running very low on sleep 😴😪 since leaving home, but I managed to muster enough energy to head to downtown after checking into my hotel located near the Pearson airport.
From Terminal 1 Pearson airport. one may take the UP Express at the cost of just under CA$13 to Union Station in downtown (and they only offer one-way and no cheaper return option… 💸💸) I stayed near Terminal 3, but it was a very easy change to Terminal 1 using the free terminal changing train.
Toronto was a huge, busy metropolitan (in my opinion, rivals New York!) and a fast-paced city with an almost futuristic feel to it. I was a bit blown away by the intensity at first, but at the same time, it was totally unforgettable. 😊
After a brief lunch break, I headed to Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to board the ferry ⛴ heading to Toronto Island Park. The glorious sunny weather was perfect for a combo of sailing, park day and being by water! 😆☀️
I also visited the Franklin Children’s Garden – temporarily turning back into a kid again as I navigated around the bushes and joined in the scenes! There was something quite magical about it!
After boarding the ferry back to the main land of Toronto, there were forecasts of heavy rain and severe thunderstorms 😨 (and also just when I left my umbrella 🌂 in the hotel!) But, after some initial hesitance, I decided to take the risk and walk to Chinatown for dinner – praying I could make it back before the rain falls! 🏃♂️💨
Toronto Chinatown was certainly unlike any in the UK – the moment I entered the community I completely felt like I was back in Hong Kong/China and the nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks. After some wandering around (it was so big and I was totally spoiled for choices), I managed to find an eatery that really resembled those I used to visit as a child in Hong Kong and ordered some old classic favourites. 😋
And it turned out the weather forecast didn’t happen 😆😆, so I skipped down the streets of Toronto with my takeout bag and bubble tea in hands as I crashed into a deep sleep back in my hotel room! 😴 A long day was finally over!
For those of you in the south of England like me, you would know that we have been hit by a massive heatwave 🔥🔥 (red warning alert! 🚨) With Monday and Tuesday forecasted to be the hottest days ever, I am so glad that my workplace has decided to switch to remote working for the two days (like come on, we don’t even have air con!!), which means I also got a “sort of” 4-day long weekend as I head into my final week in London! 😉 My work colleagues have been so nice doing leaving-dos with me going bowling and meals for two days in a row, which means I only got some alone time until Sunday and I sure kept my day busy that day!
On Sunday, despite a massive broke down in the Central line, I managed to cross back to the other side of London via the overground visiting the Van Gogh exhibition I have been wanting to see for weeks. (Like literally it’s popping up every other day on my Instagram lol! 😂)
I was so surprised when I learnt that Van Gogh has been heavily inspired by Japanese culture (a favourite of mine!) Moreover, it was so amazing to see many of his arts brought into 3–D form.
I then also had a play around in the colouring room! 🎨 😂
And finally into the Immersive Room watching the show as the amazing arts are projected live in the giant room. Here are some of my favourite snapshots!
After the exhibition, I spent more time exploring the hipster neighbourhood of Shoreditch and the famous Brick Lane, and ended up eating lots of street food. (Was supposed to cut down a bit but I got so tempted! 😂)
And after 5 years in London, I finally got around visiting to the famous Brick Lane Beigel Bake! Worth the wait though! (A massive chunk of salt beef covered with gherkins and mustard- what’s not to love? 😂)
After a rather lazy day on Monday shading away from the heat, I eventually managed to brave the heat in the evening to see the new Minions movie! 🎥 🍿 Such a cute and whole movie, have you seen it yet?
After almost three years, my trip in Paris still stays as one of my most memorable journey of all times given it was my first time travelling solo oversea. So, for this bank holiday weekend, I can’t be more excited of going back!
This time, however, instead of travelling solo I will be exploring it with my bestie! 🏃♂️🏃🏻♀️ And we kicked the first night with a late, boozy dinner at Déviant! 🍸🥂
Hoping we weren’t too hungover the next morning, we stopped by a beautiful smelling bakery on our way to the Louvre museum! 🤤 I ordered a delicious gammon quiche which as I was taking a picture, dropped onto the floor!! 😱😱😱 (but 10-second rule right?? 😂)
The Louvre was packed full of people on the day just like last time. However, this time I was smart enough to reserve a ticket beforehand, but it still took quite some time queuing to get in! Finally, I get to meet the famous Mona Lisa (my friend wasn’t as enthusiastic about her though! 😂)
After a brief rest, we then embarked on our long walk towards the Eiffel Tower, passing by Café de Flore and Luxembourg Garden on the way! (Completely broke my record of steps that day haha! 😆🏃♂️)
The next day we then visited the spectacular Petit Palais. A perfect spot for some morning relaxation and a light brunch! 🥰🥰
Maximising the time spent outdoor in the glorious weather, we also went picnicking back at Tuileries Garden by the Louvre as well as visiting the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette.
My bestie was heading back to London a day earlier than me, so after saying goodbye 👋 to her at Gare du Nord, I am running solo again for the rest of trip! My first stop was the famous red windmill of Moulin Rouge (after unknowingly wandered passed the red light district of Pigalle 😂🔞 probably won’t shared pics here in case people needed parental guidance haha! 🙈🙈)
I was initially planning to visit Le Petit Canard nearby in the area for the famous duck à l’orange, but unfortunately they were fully booked up (and also closed for the following day). 😔 So, I took the metro line and headed back to one of my favourites from last time – Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie! The onion soup was one of the best I ever had! 👌
And on my last day of my Paris stay (which coincided with Labour Day), I visited Marché Saint-Quentin and the Arc de Triomphe before taking Eurostar back to London. Somehow I gradually got a bit lost track of time and ended up being a bit of a mad dash home! (Typical! 😂)
Happy birthday to my mum! 🎂🎂 And it’s the B-I-G 6-0!! Though I was a week late getting back home to celebrate due to work, but I finally managed to pick up the spatula and whisk again and start baking! 👨🍳 (Was worried I might have gotten rusty after quite a long time of not baking haha!)
We also visited Hibiki in Edinburgh for a Japanese birthday lunch! 😋😋 A bit pricey but we loved all the food there!
My final post on my week-long trip to Austin as I count down my final few days in my first trip to America! Just like the rest of the week, the sun shined brightly across the river on Thursday with my first stop being the central library by the river. Not only is the library well facilitated, but it also has a rooftop garden overlooking the scenery nearby. And I managed to squeeze some work in there for an hour or so haha (as the reality of being back at work soon was starting to hit me)- such an amazing working environment! 😛
I then walked across the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, enjoying every bit of the scenery nearby as I headed to my next place of interest, which is the the Picnic Food Truck Park in Barton Springs in the south of the city. ☀️☀️
I was dying for the toilet when I arrived at the food truck park but unluckily the toilet there was locked, so I decided to sneak to the bar/restaurant next door. Out of embarrassment (and I doubted they will lend me the toilet for free), I ordered a drink to sit in. I unwittingly ordered the cool-looking Earth Rita (not realising it was probably short for margarita, partly blaming the unclear menu who only said “secret ingredients”… 😂🍹)and OMG that drink was so so strong (literally tasted like pure alcohol)! 😵 But I was adamant to finish it since I paid over $10… 💵 Ended up stumbling my way back to the food trucks and hazily ordered a Louisiana fish and oyster platter that I can just about remember what it tasted like haha… 🥴
In a bit of a drunken stumble, I headed back to the central library, meeting my friend there before we headed north to the Blanton Museum of Art together (and I managed not to have the gelato melted all the way haha!😀) And it was free entry on Thursday (with free lockers provided)! Here are some snapshots of the artworks inside. 🖼 🎨
The Blanton Museum of Art also has a special chapel-like exhibition piece (called “Austin”) by Ellsworth Kelly.
After a brief rest in the evening, we then decided to make full advantage of Austin’s busy night life and headed to clubbing in the downtown! 🌃 Haven’t been out in ages, and it was definitely hot and sweaty on the dance floor there haha! (So unprepared for it! 😂) But it surely was nice to feel like I am back in uni again! 🕺🕺
Not being too hungover from the night before, we then headed to the Bullock Texas State History Museum the next day (with my history buff friend acted as the tour guide!) Truth be told I know very little about American history, let alone the history of Texas so it is nice to be able to get glimpses of their culture and all the stories behind its making.
We then continued our sightseeing tour, visiting the campus of St Edward’s University and Lake Austin.
And on my penultimate night, after making a quick pass through Waterloo Park, I finally get to sample some Texan BBQ brisket. 🔥 I went to Stubb’s which was very close to my hotel. It wasn’t highly recommended by a lot of people I spoke to (Franklin which was quite well known was pretty much fully took up 😕). However, I actually did enjoy my brisket which was tender and also the sides of mac and cheese and collard greens. 😋 (Though the cheese and jalapeño sausage were slightly on the dry side for me).
On the last day, before heading to the airport, my friend and I managed to squeeze in an All-you-can-eat meal in a Japanese restaurant near to him. The food was average but I thought $27.95 was quite reasonable for the quantities you get! 😙
And finally after saying a proper farewell (also slightly ready) to my friend, it was also time to say bye bye to the city. 😢 Until the next time, Austin! I hope I can come back soon!
Four days into Austin, and I still need to get over my jet lag problems! 🥱😴 Hence I started my morning with a very Tex-Mex brunch of tacos! 😂🌮🌮 (Weather was as glorious as ever! ☀️☀️ Though I still can’t get over the extra tax charges at the end of bills! 💵)
After a filling breakfast, I then visited Harry Ransom Center within the UT campus to see the Julia Child exhibition inside (recommended by my friend living here). I started this blog back in 2019 after watching the movie ‘Julie & Julia’, so it did give me a sense of nostalgia and coming back full circle to see snapshots of her journey again. 😁 (And also at last grabbed a copy of her famous cookbook for myself!)
Following some more wanders around the city centre, I headed back to the hotel for a change of clothes before meeting up with my friend again to head to the upscale Japanese restaurant Uchiko. And what a feast that was! 😍😍 Some of our personal favourites were the soft shell crab makimono rolls (absolutely love their unusual use of apple in them! 🍎), foie gras sushi, unagi sushi and the jasmine cream dessert.
After having such a satisfying meal, it was even more of a treat to use the outdoor hot tub in my friend’s apartment to round off a perfect night! 😂 🛁 👌 👌
After a good night of sleep, I woke up for a crepe brunch before visiting 99 Ranch Market, a Chinese supermarket in the northern area of Austin by Crestview Station. I thought it was a perfect day for some home cooking for a change after days of eating out! 😉
I try to go a bit more budget as some of the items (particularly meat) are actually quite expensive, but they sold quite cheap seafood, hence I went with some peeled shrimps and squids (dissected and cleaned the squids all by myself – haven’t done that in years since my last visit back to my home city of Hong Kong! 😂) It was also quite challenging as my friend didn’t have stoves installed in his kitchen (beside one self heating electric pot), so I kept things quite simple for the night.
Austin is a vibrant city with a busy night life, so after dinner, we both went for a walk along Congress Avenue Bridge and explored the beautiful Downtown Austin and its amazing skyline. 🌃🌙💫
For the first time in my 28 years, I have finally leapt across the pond of the Atlantic Ocean to visit our neighbouring country of the USA! 😂😂 This was a long trip coming but was delayed due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, and I used my half term break to grab this opportunity! 😉
For my first ever trip into the State, I decided on Austin (since I have a friend there who can help me with the navigation if needed 🧭😝!) Resting in the heart of Texas, Austin is a city with a very diverse culture and artistry. 🌃 A perfect place for someone like me!
Despite being firmly in winter, my first few days in Austin were blessed by glorious sunshine and heat! ☀️☀️ After finishing the hotel breakfast, my friend (being a political student) took me to a political rally featuring the amazing AOC that was reported in local news.
We then headed over to lunch at the Chili Parlour (cause I was dying to try some local Texan/American food! 😂) Really enjoyed the homemade nachos chips which were nice for a change. The cheese dip and salsa were nice too but the heat was getting to me haha! 🥵 Loved their chili especially the fact they are chucks of meat rather than mince which I was used to. 😋 The tamales were slightly on the dry side, but I did enjoy the flavourful rice and beans they came with. Following this, we paid a visit to the Capitol of Texas and UT campus at the heart of the city.
After a rather early night back in the hotel (fell asleep 😴 💤 with the Winter Olympics playing at the background 📺 lol), I then visited the Austin city hall on the next day as well as the LBJ Library.
When the night falls again, I met up with my friend for a Italian dinner in Quattro Gatti Ristorante e Pizzeria! 🤤🤤 (Also Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone lol! ❤️) FYI everything tasted amazing! 😂
Happy New Year, everyone! May 2022 be your best year yet! 😁😁 Hope you had also enjoyed your holiday – my new year’s resolution definitely needs to be to work off all the food I have eaten over the past weeks! 😂