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! 🔥🔥
Toronto Day 1: A Fast-Paced Metropolitan 🏃♂️🏃♂️
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!
Wake Up, Snorlax!
This Sunday, I felt like a Snorlax… 😅😴💤💤💤
A Long Hot Weekend ☀️🔥
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?
A State of Unknown
In the past week, I have found myself reflecting a lot about the 6 years since I moved to London. I started postgraduate teacher training, and then went straight to teaching without really a clue about what I was doing. I had a lot of challenges and pain at the beginning, and almost wanted to quit, but somehow managed to stick with it (call me stubborn I guess). Just as I finally started to feel more at ease with my job, then the pandemic hit and the uncertainty with lockdown made me learnt not to take anything for granted. When society gradually reopened, post-lockdown chaos piled on like a ton of bricks, and new circumstances made me decided to go back to studying – and at last I am two weeks away from officially starting my sabbatical and facing a brave new unknown.
I moved out of my flat yesterday and am staying at a hotel as I finish my last two weeks of work. Funny enough my last night in my apartment was instead mostly spent elsewhere as I was away at the annual BBQ with my colleagues (and marking my last bake with a fruit tart which I thought would go well with a summer BBQ! 🔥☀️) It’s probably our largest gathering yet with old and new faces all coming together, which I guess put into perspectives of all the people I have met throughout my five years here. You would think I should be feeling stressed about moving, but I wasn’t back home until late after midnight 😂 (and bizarrely ended going outside again to buy some grilled chicken 🍗 and chips 🍟 after finishing my final pack at 2am!)
Everything felt like a blur in the morning as I dragged my bags and luggages down the stairs and boarded the Uber, and then rushing back on the tube to drop my key off at the agency before it closes… (Bizarrely a carnival was held there and the reception lady went outside with her young son to the face painting booth and made me stood outside for half an hour! 😂 Though I grabbed a hot dog whilst waiting! 🌭)
I wonder how these final two weeks will turn out? First thing foremost is to make sure I can get up for my hour-long journey to work tomorrow morning! 🏃♂️🚆 🌅
Made this cake a few days ago for a best friend’s BIG 3-0 birthday! 🥳🥳 Had so much that evening at the bowling alley, and now I am enjoying the glorious sunshine ☀️ at Folkestone for Jubilee weekend. Really don’t want to go back to work on Monday… 😪😅
Last Trip of the Summer: Back to Brighton
Going back to work this week really did make me realise I will be soon facing reality again and back to routines. So I decided to make use of the bank holiday weekend to do one last trip to Brighton before the end of summer, hoping for some nice sunshine! ☀️ The last time I visited Brighton was all the way back in October last year with my mum during the half term break (come to think of it that was before the last national lockdown- time really does fly!)
On arrival it was all bright and sunny and I headed down to the hippy area of The Lanes, stumbling this vegetarian café for food. I ordered their mushroom and courgette lasagne and it tasted really good (I do enjoy having plant-based stuff 🌿🌿 every now and then, it just feels less heavy at times lol!)
While the sun was indeed out, the beach was generally still quite windy so it felt actually colder than it looked! 🥶 However, after checking into the hotel and having rested a little, I decided to head out to the beach for a mini picnic.
Afterwards, I journeyed along the beach (passing the naturist’s beach at one point haha! 😆) and reached the Brighton Marina Square.
I also got to enjoy the beautiful sunset and the vibrant night lights of the Brighton seafront 🌅🌃 (making the most of staying in a hotel by the beach this time! 😂)
The next day, I also paid a visit to the Royal Pavilion (which was doing renovations when I was here last time.) Also pleasantly surprised to find out that the normal ticket is all year around, so I can visit again and again for free! 😁
After the visit to the Royal Pavilion, I still had time to revisit the other side of the seafront and sit down for a seafood lunch at a restaurant by the i360 tower! 🤤🤤
Summer is finally over, but I know plenty of adventures are still out there! 🙂
Strawberry Love 🍓❤️🍓❤️
I just love love strawberry! Especially when it is in season in the summer and nothing can get better than a classic British strawberry and cream dessert! 😋
When I visited the Silver Darling in Aberdeen earlier in the week, I was very inspired by its strawberry tasting platter, so I decided to do my take on it last night. This strawberry dessert platter was composed of a strawberry & mint sorbet, eggless meringue (made from aquafaba), strawberry shortbread (coloured and filled with dried strawberries), strawberry jelly cubes, fresh strawberry coulis, whipped cream, and last but not least, a strawberry-mint vodka cocktail shot! 🍸😉
We might have gotten a little carried away on the alcohol! 😂
The Feeling of Being At Home
It’s been a few days since I have been back in Edinburgh – felt like I haven’t been in my family home for so long… but it’s so good to just sit down and be able to relax completely, thinking and worrying about nothing else in life right now! 😂
One of my favourite things to do whilst here (especially in the summer if you have been following my past posts 🤪) is to utilise the big freezer in my mum’s house to make some homemade ice cream. 🍨🍨 (The freezer at my London apartment is tiny and not really cold enough to freeze things.) And I decided to go full on restaurant-like this time 😛, also making a mango millefeuille with wholemeal filo pastry to accompany my mango ice cream! 🥭🥭🥭 (Who doesn’t love mangoes lol?)
I don’t usually watch much sports, but for the past week I have been watching the Tokyo Olympics obsessively, staying up at night tuning into all the fixtures! (I am a big Olympics fan! 😝) So glad to see it back on our screen again after the delay from last year. The last Olympics game in Rio was when I moved in to my first flat in London 5 years ago, and it’s crazy to think how much has happened since then. I wonder where I will be when Paris 2024 happens? 🤔
Also all these actions in Japan has made me really wanted to revisit the country again and craving Japanese food lol! 🤤 So, last night I made one of my childhood favourites – Chawanmushi, which is a savoury steamed Japanese egg custard. It was a little messy, but I jam-packed it with a lot of fillings and flavours (because I am greedy with fillings haha! 😬) Even my mum likes it and she is normally VERY critical! 😂
Who else has also been enjoying the games like me? 😁
Day 3 & 4 in Reykjavik: The Land of Ice ❄️ and Fire 🔥
Nature in Iceland is definitely one to behold! It’s a shame my schedule didn’t allowed me to see more of it (which is why I intended to come back again in the future! 😂) But for my final days in the country, I was blessed to witness many beauties of nature within this short amount of time! 🥰🥰
My first stop after a brief morning soak in the park was Perlan Museum on the hill just by Reykjavik Airport. It was a tightly packed day as I needed to make sure I wouldn’t be late for my bus to the iconic Blue Lagoon at half one, so everything was a bit snapdash in the morning! 😂
The best part of the museum for me was definitely the ice cave! The temperature inside stood at -10 degrees Celsius 🥶, but it was a lot fun running around and exploring as if you are in a real frozen fantasy world! ❄️❄️
After the museum visit, I had just over an hour to use before meeting my scheduled pickup at the bus station by Hallgrímskirkja (where I was staying just on the other side of the road.) So I headed to Kol Restaurant next door to my hotel as well as conveniently dropping off some stuff in my hotel room. 😛 The restaurant appeared to be a fusion Japanese place. They were doing a brunch sample menu but I felt like eating something lighter, so I ordered just the tuna tacos as well as the duck & waffle. The tuna tacos were delicious as the tuna tartare in the centre was perfectly seasoned and sandwiched between the crispy wonton skins. 😋 (Honestly I could have eaten another two!) On the other hand, I will say the duck & waffle was more average – seasoned well but I would have personally liked my waffle to be crispier.
And now, for the main event of my trip- and this is the iconic Blue Lagoon! The place is extremely popular among tourists (honestly the place was packed!) For someone who loves bath like me, this place will be number one on any visiting list! 😁
I pre-booked my visit online before travelling to Iceland, including the tour bus to and from the spa. (Met a lovely American lady on the bus and chatted for some time!) If you don’t drive, there aren’t really much other alternatives from buses besides taking very expensive taxis. (The place is located around 45 minutes drive away from Reykjavik, though a fairly short 20 minutes drive from Keflavík airport.) I went for the cheapest Comfort ticket, costing 8990 ISK (about £56). The prices depend on the day. (I came on Saturday which I think it’s more expensive than weekdays.) The Comfort ticket covered a free drink and a silicon mask, and doesn’t include any bathrobe or sandals and you only get a towel in the end (that caused a lot of confusions with some people including me because we were all like how do we dry ourselves after the initial shower then!? 😂)
The rule is that you must shower (without swimwear) and clean before entering the lagoon. Past the changing rooms, there are cafes and other services which you can paid with the band they provide on entry then finishing any payment when you exit. And to put it quite simply, this place is just heaven to visit with the comfort and the amazing views it provide! 🥰🥰 (I stayed there for a good 4 hours! 😂 Just make sure you stay hydrated/not overheated and don’t miss your return bus!)
Returning to Reykjavik, I finished the day with a dinner of local Icelandic delicacies in Fjallkonan. I have always been bold enough to try different things (being raised in a Chinese household, we pretty much eat everything haha! 😚) hence I went for their signature Icelandic platter. That whale meat was definitely my favourite of the three – it’s like a really soft steak topped with a delicious sauce and purée! 😂
On the rainy morning before my return flight, I decided to head to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja tower, gazing down to the colourful city from above. (It was just before Sunday service as well, so there were a lot of people coming inside the church and the place was super busy.)
And after checking out the hotel, it was my last Icelandic meal (for the time being) in Apótek restaurant. Talk about saving the best ’til last though! Both dishes were outstanding- I dare to say that beef carpaccio is a 10/10! 🤤 💯 The lamb rump steak was also super tender and perfect with the delicious sauces! 🧡🧡 (Definitely worth a revisit in the future!)
And now it’s finally time to fly home (popping to Edinburgh to see my mum there for the summer!) ✈️ And I bid a rather tentative farewell to Iceland (for the time being!) ☺️
SIDE STORY: That journey in Keflavík Airport to the Edinburgh flight ended up as an absolute mad dash! 🏃🏻🏃🏻 After arriving a bit later than I intended in the airport (missed my first transit bus… 😓), all was good with checking in (after all the COVID-related checks and I was sure I will be on time) but the security check proved to be my undoing. It was so packed full of people, I had to ask to be moved to the priority queue when I realised there were 10 minutes left until gate closing. (Even then it was still moving way too slow… 😖) Hearing the announcement that the gate was closing after I just passed security, I sprinted and leapt through the airport and passport control (it was one of the furthest gate away too! 🙀🙀) and made it just in time! (Didn’t even have time to put my iPad and laptops back into my bag and was carrying them all in my hands! 🤣) One good thing that came out of it is maybe I have burnt a couple of calories from all the food I ate! 😝
But I also just want to say how nice and helpful all the people in Iceland were ☺️, especially the drivers who alway let me cross the road! (I never get that in London lol! 😂) Can’t wait for when I come back to visit again! 👋