Rooftops and Observing

Last summer I discovered a beautiful restaurant called Lavelle on King Street West in Toronto.  I stopped by in the afternoon before the crowds to observe the beautiful skyline and enjoy the gorgeous rooftop patio.

Something about rooftop patios designed with such luxury automatically gives me a burst of energy and pumped for a fun girls night out or a hot date with handsome husband.

What are some of your favourite rooftop patios?

 

Culture and Food in Toronto

It doesn’t matter what city we go to, we always want to know about the food. People love to eat and finding great restaurants is a must for my tummy and I’m sure for yours too. What I love most about Toronto is all the different cultures and being able to experience them at festivals, street parties, community centers and restaurants. I love West Indian food and I’ll devour a roti any day. I first tried this Trinidadian restaurant, Island Foods, back in year 2000 and since then this restaurant has never disappointed me.

Pictured below is the goat meat seasoned in a curry stew with potatoes wrapped in roti (Indian flatbread). Every single bite had me wanting more, even when I was full.  I waited about 25 minutes to place my order and it was worth every minute of the wait. By the way, the lineup of people there was a good reflection of who makes up the population of Toronto and you have not seen diversity until you experience Toronto! We had all ages of people in the line both male and female from Latino to Indian to West Indian to White to Korean to African to Middle Eastern and multicultural peeps all waiting for West Indian Food. I loved it!!!

Now let’s talk about the ambiance of this place.  I’m a little surprised there has not been a round of renovations for 20 years. The ambiance is extremely laid back and it is more of a takeout place than a spot you’d want to host a party in.

The food gets five stars!! If you have never had a roti before, let this be a place of choice when you visit Toronto. Vegetarian options are available.

Have you had anything awesome in Toronto? I’d love to hear about it. Please share!

 

 

Airport Car Rentals in Toronto Part 2

My experience with EZ Car Rentals turned out to be okay in the end.  The speed of return was like it sounds, easy.  Upon arrival the staff quickly checked the car and within 3 minutes the shuttle driver was ready to get us to the airport.  The whole process this time was about 10 minutes and that included a quick stop to another lot for EZ Car Rentals.

Word of advice:  You should still arrive at EZ Car Rentals at least 30 minutes before you want to arrive at the airport because you may arrive at a time when the shuttle is not ready to go.  If I had arrived a couple of minutes later, I would have waited at least 20 minutes.  I believe they only have one driver and this driver is also picking and dropping off guests for their partner hotel, NU Hotel.

 

Airport Car Rentals in Toronto

Have you ever booked a car and just weren’t sure how the rental experience would go? I’ve rented cars too many times to count yet I still read the contract before leaving the lot because I want to be sure there aren’t any surprise charges.

I also like to reserve car rentals through priceline.com and I always choose pay later and the free cancelation option because let’s face it, we all never know what might happen with our flights.

I normally rent cars from the big names like Avis, Budget, and enterprise, which are all on the property at the Toronto Pearson Airport. This time my reservation was made on Priceline for an off-site rental company called ez car rental.

The name implies ease, but from the start it didn’t seem easy to me. I arrived at terminal 3 and then took a train to Viscount Station, which is about a ten minute trip (including your walk through the airport to get to the train). When I got off at Viscount, I took the escalator to the bottom and began to figure out what to do next.

I saw other people come down the escalator with puzzled behavior too.

There is a phone in the corner that you have to pick up and alert your rental provider that you have arrived. The shuttle bus will take 15 minutes or more to show up. I waited 20 minutes and the place was literally 5 minutes away.

I still have the rental car now so upon return of the car I’ll do an update on how the full experience panned out.

So far, I don’t like having to rent a car off-site from Pearson Airport. The price was good though, so I’m grateful for that.

I’ll be back next week with my update.

Off Airport shuttle pick up in Toronto
Off Airport Car Rentals shuttle pick up at Pearson International Airport, YYZ

Fast Track Through the Airport

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YVR (Vancouver) airport at 10:00 PM. The Nexus lane is closed at 10 PM and everyone goes through the same line. Don’t even bother expecting to be expedited here.  Your Nexus status doesn’t apply after 10 PM.

Frequent travelers heading to the U.S. have the option to apply for a Global Entry card to speed through the customs and immigration.  Before being approved to obtain this status, you must pay and then go through a full screening process and an interview.  The whole point of getting this status is to fast track your way through security after you check in or upon arrival at the airport, depending on your port of entry into the U.S.  With this status my husband and I have shaved at least 30 minutes each time.

For U.S. and Canadian residents, you also have the option to apply for a NEXUS card.

The following statement is taken directly from the CBP website:

NEXUS 

The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing when entering the United States and Canada. Program members use dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada by air and Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States via Canadian Preclearance airports. NEXUS members also receive expedited processing at marine reporting locations.

The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing when entering the United States and Canada. 

Unfortunately, if you arrive at YVR after 10pm at a time when you absolutely need to speed through…you will run into the madness you see in the above photo.

I have been to more than 25 airports and as much as I love YVR, I have to say I was recently disappointed with when I was ready to go through the Nexus line only to be told that it is closed.  It is only open from 8AM-10PM.  What kind of foolishness is this?   The whole point of having this Nexus card is to avoid these sort of lines. Shame on you YVR Customs.

 

How to Spend 2 Days in Halifax

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I arrived in Halifax on a Monday evening and I just missed the $22CAN shuttle into town. The next one was coming in nearly 2 hours, so I decided to take the city bus for $3.50.  You do have the option to take a cab for $65.00, but I prefer to use all that money for something more important.  The bus ride was easy and I had a nice view of surrounding areas and Dartmouth before arriving into the core of Halifax.  The bus ride had a couple of easy transfer points and it took about one hour.

When I arrived at my hotel the sun was starting to set and it was a good time to have my dinner and then head out for a walk around the waterfront.  Halifax is the largest city in Canada’s Atlantic provinces.  I was excited to be by the ocean and experience this quant city with an urban population of just over 315,000 people.  Nova Scotia is a very small province with a lot to do.  I had only 2 days to pack in what I felt would make for a sweet trip because you know I like to have short and sweet trips. So here we go, this was my itinerary.

Visit the waterfront

Halifax is a very walkable city.  I stayed at the Atlantica Hotel and walked about 20 minutes to get to the waterfront.  On my way, I walked through the beautiful Public Gardens, which is just across from the Veterans Memorial Cemetary.  Then I reached the Central Library, which draws attention from around the world.  The architecture is funky and quite a free-spirited space as noted in Where magazine.  When you get to the waterfront you will find tourists and locals taking in all the shopping, services, and excellent dining options.  The waterfront has really cute little houses and storage units where the vendors are set up selling ice cream, Canadian pastries like Beavertails, and seafood.  You will also find storage unit converted into shops selling kayak rentals, and other sporting goods.

Eat Seafood

While you are on the Atlantic coast you have to eat lobster.  We ate at Bicycle Thief and indulged in the seafood platter.  I give this restaurant 5 stars for everything that you can think of, even the music on their playlist had me slow dancing with my husband before we left the restaurant.

Have a Donair

We were told to have a donair in Halifax, which struck me by surprise.  As I flipped through the visitors guide, it was confirmed that a place called King of Donair was winner as the official food of Halifax. Say what? On that note, we had to have one.  The serving size was quite small, but enough to fill me.  The meat was so flavourful, but they don’t add any veggies in the donair like I am used to.  King of Donair does not do any chicken donairs, so they told us to go up the street (we were in Dartmouth) to Robert’s Donair on Windmill Road.  The owner was extremely hospitable and everything was made to order fresh.  The chicken donair was fantastic and deserves an award too.

Drive out to Peggy’s Cove

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We wanted to head up to Cape Breton, but we will have to save that venture for next time we visit this magnificent province.  We were super tight on time so on Tuesday evening we drove out to the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, which was only about 1 hour away from Halifax.  Here you will find the famous lighthouse and enormous rocks that you can walk along and take great pictures.  Be careful here as the rocks can get slippery and you want to be here in the day time or at least well before the sunset.  There is a community that lives nearby in a variety of cute colourful houses, which are picture worthy too.

Take another short trip to Crystal Crescent Beach

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As Nova Scotia is a coastal province, there are so many beaches to discover.  Whichever beach you choose, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  Crystal Crescent Beach has three white sandy beautiful beaches along the stretch with a cool breeze. The drive is only about 90 minutes from Halifax. On your way there, you will drive through a village called Lahave.  Stop at Lahave Bakery for fresh pastries, breads, breakfast or lunch.  I had the oatmeal cranberry scone and a blueberry muffin.  This is probably the best scone I’ve ever had!  I also found something called Fundy Dulse.  I had never heard of it until that day.  It is a red seaweed that grows attached to the rocks in the North Atlantic.  I bought a bag to bring home with me.  I put it on my salad and it is very tasty.

Visit the Citadel Historical Site

This historic site was built in 1856. It is a fort that overlooks the city and the harbour.  This fort was occupied by the British army until 1906 and by Canadian forces during the world wars.  It is now operated by Parks Canada and is one of the most visited national historic sites in Canada.

Take a very short drive to Africville/Seaview Park

This neighbourhood is just a few minutes drive from the waterfront as it is on the edge of the shipping docks.  Africville held the black community of first settlers in Halifax and sadly this community was bulldozed out and their land was taken away from them in the 1960s.  The museum here is a replica of the historic Seaview Baptist Church that stood on this site. The tragedy that occurred here is a shameful piece of Canadian history.  When you complete your tour, you may get a chance to speak to Canada’s longest protester in history, Eddie Carvery.  He has a silent demonstration with his trailers on the edge of the property and he usually sits there with his dog.  I spoke to him for about 30 minutes as he shared his life stories with me.  He is now 71 years old and has been protesting for 50 years.

Just like that the time was up.  I was filled with joy on this trip and I would definitely go back.

Have you been to Nova Scotia? What did you love about the province?

 

 

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