Toronto Day 2: Graffiti ๐ŸŽจ and Waterfall ๐ŸŒŠ

After the first busy day in Toronto, think maybe I should give myself a little break? Nah, itโ€™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! ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธโ˜€๏ธ

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! ๐Ÿ“ธ ๐Ÿ“ธ These are some of my favourites below (and I still have even more pics but I thought letโ€™s not go overboard! ๐Ÿ˜‚) Which one of these is your favourite? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Afterwards, I found a little spot for lunch and ordered the Canadian national dish of poutine. I wonโ€™t say it was very impressive (to my British brain, it was essentially chips, gravy and โ€œhalloumiโ€-like cheese ๐Ÿ˜…). But whatโ€™s not to like?

Poutine

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 ยฃ40 for the return journey (it was expensive ๐Ÿ’ธ๐Ÿ’ธ 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.๐Ÿ˜… 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). ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ“ฑ๐Ÿ”Œ

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! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

The roaring Niagara Falls
It was very cooling – cause the splashes even sprinkled on you on the high cliff! ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ฆ
The ferry โ›ด braving the storm! ๐ŸŒŠ (They do tours down there in the water but I was a bit short on time plus they were a bit too expensive for me especially after spending so much already on the bus tickets! ๐Ÿ˜”)
Rainbow ๐ŸŒˆ at the waterfall (how lucky!)
Rainbow bridge to the US borders

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. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Just a short tour before my flight to Texas tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜‚ 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.

Crossing the borders
Leaving Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ๐Ÿ‘‹
The flags marking the two borders
Welcome to USA! ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ
New York, New York!
Looking over back at Canada from the US!

By the time I got back to Toronto downtown, it was already almost 9 at night ๐ŸŒƒ (and I got an early morning flight the next day urgh ๐Ÿ˜ช). But I did manage to capture the beautiful red sky form the sunset! ๐ŸŒ… (And enough to tempt me for a short wander around the city hehe!)

CN Tower in the sunset

After a small dinner back in my hotel room (with the leftovers noodles from Chinatown I left in the fridge yesterday ๐Ÿ˜‚), I made sure my alarm clock was set for my flight to Texas tomorrow morning! ๐ŸŒ„

6am at the airport ๐Ÿฅฑ and juice breakfast ๐Ÿฅค
Very small plane! My head could almost touch the ceiling! (And I am 5 ft 6โ€ฆ ๐Ÿ˜‚)
Flying over Texas โœˆ๏ธ

See you guys in USA! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

First Landing in America! (Part 3) ๐ŸŒž๐ŸŒž

Morning, Austin! โ˜€๏ธ
Taterscape brunch in Arturoโ€™s Underground Cafรฉ – fried potatoes, eggs and avocado (for the third time this week!!)

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! ๐Ÿ˜›

Inside Central Library
The rabbit and the Mad Hatter
Depiction of all the famous murals in Austin
View from the library rooftop

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. โ˜€๏ธโ˜€๏ธ

Crossing the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
The cutest bridge I have ever seen! ๐Ÿ˜
Look itโ€™s Pac-man!
The Picnic Food Truck Park in Barton Springs
A funky display of caravans next to the food truck park

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 โ€œsecret ingredientsโ€โ€ฆ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿน)and OMG that drink was so so strong (literally tasted like pure alcohol)! ๐Ÿ˜ต But I was adamant to finish it since I paid over $10โ€ฆ ๐Ÿ’ต 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 hahaโ€ฆ ๐Ÿฅด

This Earth Rita drink literally killed meโ€ฆ ๐Ÿฅด๐Ÿ˜ต
A Louisiana fried fish and oyster platter – can barely remembered how it tasted haha. I assume it was good cause I finished the whole plate! ๐Ÿ˜‚
Gelato truck
Lemon pie, coconut and hazelnut gelato (the latter saved for my friend)

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!๐Ÿ˜€) And it was free entry on Thursday (with free lockers provided)! Here are some snapshots of the artworks inside. ๐Ÿ–ผ ๐ŸŽจ

The Blanton Museum of Art also has a special chapel-like exhibition piece (called โ€œAustinโ€) by Ellsworth Kelly.

โ€œAustinโ€
Beautiful! โค๏ธ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ
Dinner was Tex-Mex grilled chicken with beans and rice. Tasted much better than it looks hehe!

After a brief rest in the evening, we then decided to make full advantage of Austinโ€™s busy night life and headed to clubbing in the downtown! ๐ŸŒƒ Havenโ€™t been out in ages, and it was definitely hot and sweaty on the dance floor there haha! (So unprepared for it! ๐Ÿ˜‚) But it surely was nice to feel like I am back in uni again! ๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿ•บ

Clubbing at rainbow crosswalk ๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿ•บ

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.

Bullock Texas State History Museum
Inside the museum
The shipwreck remains of La Belle
The diary of the captain
Bison ๐Ÿฆฌ
The history of USA ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ
Movie time inside haha! ๐ŸŽฅ
Felt like I was in a western movie ๐Ÿค 
Moon landing! ๐ŸŒ•
๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ

We then continued our sightseeing tour, visiting the campus of St Edwardโ€™s University and Lake Austin.

Grabbed a fried chicken and burger whilst waiting for the bus ๐ŸšŒ๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค
St Edwardโ€™s University
View of Austin from St Edwardโ€™s
Beautiful sunset ๐ŸŒ… at Lake Austin
Tea break at Mozartโ€™s Coffee Roasters by the lake

And on my penultimate night, after making a quick pass through Waterloo Park, I finally get to sample some Texan BBQ brisket. ๐Ÿ”ฅ I went to Stubbโ€™s which was very close to my hotel. It wasnโ€™t highly recommended by a lot of people I spoke to (Franklin which was quite well known was pretty much fully took up ๐Ÿ˜•). However, I actually did enjoy my brisket which was tender and also the sides of mac and cheese and collard greens. ๐Ÿ˜‹ (Though the cheese and jalapeรฑo sausage were slightly on the dry side for me).

Waterloo Park
Inside Stubbโ€™s
Finally a Texas BBQ! ๐Ÿ–

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! ๐Ÿ˜™

All you can eat in 1 hour!

And finally after saying a proper farewell (also slightly ready) to my friend, it was also time to say bye bye to the city. ๐Ÿ˜ข Until the next time, Austin! I hope I can come back soon!

Bye bye Austin! ๐Ÿ‘‹

First Landing In America! (Part 1) โœˆ๏ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

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! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ 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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿงญ๐Ÿ˜!) Resting in the heart of Texas, Austin is a city with a very diverse culture and artistry. ๐ŸŒƒ A perfect place for someone like me!

Austin at night ๐ŸŒƒ
Downtown Austin
Capitol of Texas
UT Tower
Rainbow Cowboy ๐Ÿค ๐ŸŒˆ
Rainbow crosswalk ๐ŸŒˆ ๐ŸŒˆ
Frost Bank Tower from the distance
My friend calls it the โ€œchubbyโ€ pigeon ๐Ÿคญ
Beautiful pavement โค๏ธ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ
Love these!
A beautiful building that turns out to be just a car park! ๐Ÿ˜‚
Love the look of this neighbourhood!
Quite empty traffic (surprisingly!) ๐Ÿš— ๐Ÿš™
More colours of Austin! ๐ŸŽจ ๐ŸŽจ
Vietnamese dinner at Pho Thaison on the first night (my friendโ€™s recommendation haha!) That lime soda was huge lol!!

Despite being firmly in winter, my first few days in Austin were blessed by glorious sunshine and heat! โ˜€๏ธโ˜€๏ธ 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.

Never ate hotelโ€™s breakfast on a sofa with paper plates before! ๐Ÿ˜‚ The sausage was dry but the patties arenโ€™t actually that bad (went back for seconds haha!)
AOC at the political rally
Lunch at Chili Parlour
Top: Queso (Mexican Cheese Dip) with Chips; Bottom: Pork Tamales and their signature chili

We then headed over to lunch at the Chili Parlour (cause I was dying to try some local Texan/American food! ๐Ÿ˜‚) 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! ๐Ÿฅต Loved their chili especially the fact they are chucks of meat rather than mince which I was used to. ๐Ÿ˜‹ 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.

Inside the Capitol of Texas
The incredible ceiling of the Capitol
The rotunda floor
Courtroom inside the Capitol
UT campus (blending in quite well with all the college students!)
UT Tower and the two โ€œballsโ€
UT Tower up close
The famous cat of the campus- Domino ๐Ÿˆโ€โฌ›
Eating zongzi again after so many years remind me of my late grandmother ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿ˜ข (Also ended up missing pretty much the whole of Super Bowl during this haha!)

After a rather early night back in the hotel (fell asleep ๐Ÿ˜ด ๐Ÿ’ค with the Winter Olympics playing at the background ๐Ÿ“บ lol), I then visited the Austin city hall on the next day as well as the LBJ Library.

Austin City Hall
Inside the city hall
LBJ library
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
As a child, I loved Sesame Street! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ
LBJ
More inside the exhibition – love the old TV ads ๐Ÿ“บ
A replica of the White House
One of Ladybirdโ€™s dresses
Olmec Statue outside the library (reminded of something I saw in a childhood anime movie! ๐Ÿ˜‚)
So sunny in Austin today! โ˜€๏ธโ˜€๏ธ (Quite hot too ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ! Is it really February!?)
Brunch at a sidewalk ๐Ÿ‘ Really enjoyed this sandwich made with Jalapeรฑo & Cheese bread.

When the night falls again, I met up with my friend for a Italian dinner in Quattro Gatti Ristorante e Pizzeria! ๐Ÿคค๐Ÿคค (Also Happy Valentineโ€™s Day, everyone lol! โค๏ธ) FYI everything tasted amazing! ๐Ÿ˜‚

What a treat! ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿ‹
A classic Italian dinner: Meatballs and rosemary focaccia; lobster ravioli with vodka sauce; truffle sausage rigatoni; and finally chocolate and Strawberry with a cookie that tasted the cannoli shells! Yum! ๐Ÿคค๐Ÿคค