I love to check out food and artisan markets in cities across the world. Most of the time, you can get a good feel for the flavor of a city by visiting the local markets and talking to the vendors. In Madrid, we stopped in the Mercado De San Miguel to check out the food.
This particular merchant served his goods in a sleeve, making it easy to walk and eat your way through the market.
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!
As you can probably guess, the airport in Albuquerque is pretty small and as long as you have no checked bags, you can get out quickly and shuttle to your car rental within 15 minutes.
Old Town is the most popular area to visit and see the artifacts, many of which are imported in from Mexico.
We spent only a few hours before making the road trip for a one night stay in Santa Fe. This place brought a warm energy to my heart as it has a homey and vibrant feeling that gets everybody. They don’t call this place the land of enchantment for nothing.
What to See:
Peruse through Old Town, and make a stop in the quirky shop, Guerilla Graphix, which is a great place for awesome souvenirs, trinkets, and unusual things that bring memories to your favorite episodes of Breaking Bad.
The architecture throughout New Mexico is a sight to be seen. The Pueblo Revival architecture is an adobe (mudbrick) construction and the walls are usually painted in earth tones. Wherever we visit in the world, we always admire old church structures. We took a walk through San Felipe de Neri Parish, the oldest church in Albuquerque. The original structure actually collapsed after a rain storm in 1792 and then this one was built the following year.
Where to Eat:
There is a new area called Restaurant Row, which we heard about from a local, but we decided to stick with the nostalgic icons of Albuquerque and went to The Frontier for classic Mexican eats. This restaurant first opened in 1971 and it appears the owners want you to feel like it is still 1971. The establishment is well maintained and the washrooms were well kept. Side note, my mom always told me to visit the washroom of an establishment before dining and if the washroom is well kept it’s a good indication that they operate with high standards in the kitchen. Anyway…the place really is a down to earth casual style. You order your food at the kitchen counter, step aside and wait for your order number to be called. The restaurant is huge, the food was cheap and the place was packed. We took our food to go and we were in and out in about 15 minutes.
Our next stop was a little wacky, but a lot of fans of Breaking Bad take a drive to the house where the show was filmed. An older couple has purchased the house as their dwelling and are forced to deal with dozens of cars that stop by to take a picture every day. They have even put up an iron fence to gate the home and pitched a sign that reads “take your photos from across the street”. Just as we pulled up, the couple decided to sit outside and stare at us and the others that pulled up for photos. They are obviously annoyed, but we got our pictures and didn’t need to linger for too long.
I’m sure there is more to discover in Albuquerque, but we ended there and ventured out to Santa Fe.
Guerrilla Graphix. 206 San Felipe St. NW Albuquerque
Walt’s house in Breaking Bad. 3828 Piermont Dr. NE, Albuquerque NM
Riding the public transportation is Sydney is super easy. We found it to be the most economical way to get around. You can buy an Opal card at train station at the airport and load it with as much as you want. Use your Google maps to figure out how to get to your destination and top up your Opal card at any of the train stations and many grocery stores. The Opal card is good for the ferry as well (not the Fast Ferry).
All the details you need for the Opal Card can be found here:
Studies have shown that giving your brain new experiences can help produce natural brain nutrients and help prevent Alzheimers. As youngins we were active and curious and awakening our senses. As adults sometimes we have to try a little harder to be curious.
High on the list of cool activities in Santa Fe, we discovered Meow Wolf. This place is an artist collective with art that is guaranteed to stimulate all of your senses. Consider this museum a playground for all ages that allows you to touch everything. Open the doors around you and see where they lead. Question and test EVERYTHING. If you want to take your time to understand this place, you will need to open the mailbox and read the letter before you enter the house. There is a mystery for you to solve while you visit, but you will be just fine if you just decide to go through the place feeling, seeing, taking pictures and even walking into a refrigerator that leads to a secluded room.
I highly recommend this place!
Additional Cost: $1 for 3D eyewear (very few exhibits actually require the eyewear)
Each day you have a new chance to feel and be refreshed. You control your awakening. First, agree to have an aware moment. Getting up before the sun rises is one way to awaken your soul. One of my best renewal experiences was in Cairns, Australia. I went down to the beach before the sunrise. There I gave thanks to God, meditated and prayed as the sun rays renewed every inch of my body.
In response to this week’s photo challenge this is an awakening.
New Mexico has a ton of scenic hikes and at first I didn’t know where to start. I had seen pictures of canyons, but driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, it wasn’t as obvious as I expected. Our hotel in Santa Fe gave us a list of several hiking trails for beginners to advanced outdoors enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the staff wasn’t helpful and seemed really care-LESS to give us options. Fortunately, I spoke to the shuttle car driver outside of the hotel and he told me his favorite place in the area is Tent Rocks. He praised the geology and the appearance of the canyon when it rains. Well…it wasn’t raining, but I was motivated to be captivated by the features he described.
The next day we drove from Santa Fe toward Albuquerque to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We arrived at about 1:30 pm and the staff (which are all volunteer) has the entrance blocked because the parking lot was full. Bear this in mind as you will need to wait for people to leave before you can enter. We waited about 15 minutes, but we have already decided that the next time we visit, we will go first thing in the morning.
We chose to do the Slot Canyon Trail as it goes a little higher up and was supposed to be a bit more challenging and less busy. Whichever path you choose, know that both trails are clearly marked and well maintained. You will not get lost. We saw families with toddlers taking in this adventure as well. The trail got quite narrow at times and sometimes slippery, so exercise caution along the entire route. This place was another example of God’s beauty and I was mesmerized the entire time. Rocks tell the tale of the earth’s history. Hiking through this national conservation you will see the volcanic drama that took place once upon a time.
Parking: $5 cash only
Time to complete the Slot Canyon: 1.2 Miles; 45 minutes up and 50 down (including the time we took to stop in shaded areas and take pictures)
Tips: 1. Arrive early in the day.
2. Bring and drink plenty of water.
3. Wear closed toed footwear. I saw at least 4 people wearing sandals.
Leave a comment and let me know what some of your favorite trails are.
Another short and sweet trip in South America and this time in Peru! We covered as much as we could in 4 days. Our ultimate goal was to get up to Machu Picchu, which we did on a Saturday. I’ll share more about that adventure in another post.
We arrived in Lima on a Sunday and had two days to explore this major city. I found Lima to be a beautiful city because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the landscape and its history. Each neighborhood has its own little story to tell. I found the streets to be vibrant with mostly locals and very clean. Before venturing out, always consider what is important to you most and then design how you want to take on the city. We always tour the area that we are staying in first, to get to know the lay of the land.
Where to Stay
Miraflores – this is a trendier upscale area, which is known as one of the more affluent neighborhoods for living and also offers a ton of shopping. We stayed at the Radisson Hotel Decapolis Miraflores. The hotel is ranked as a 4.5 star and that is a fair rating. The location is prime as you can walk to the beach in just 11 minutes and if you love to surf the waves here are perfect for the thrills of an avid surfer. From here you’re only a 15 minute walk to Larcormar, a high-end fashion mall that overlooks the ocean. Even if you don’t plan to shop this is a sight to be seen. There are tons of cafes and parks within less than 10 minutes. You can spend your first day walking this area, people watching, talking to people, and visiting artisans selling their crafts in the Kennedy Park.
Make a stop for a photo at the Love Park(cover image).
There is no shortage of food selections, but on a Sunday, which also happened to be Easter Sunday, quite a few spots were closed. Without any recommendation, we decided to go to Cafe Cafe to order some authentic Peruvian food. I ordered the Oporto Drunk Chicken. I’m surprised I ordered that because I hate anything that has to do with being drunk, even the word irritates me. The dish was made of corn and chicken and prepared similar to a risotto with a Peruvian yellow sauce. My husband ordered the Cafe Cafe Style Stir Fried Beef with a side of fries. By the way you will see meat served with fries often. The service here was great and if you don’t speak Spanish, this is a restaurant that’s got you covered with an English menu and English speaking staff. We sat outside as the weather was perfect for hanging out on the patio and people watching.
I saw Inca cola on the menu and had to see what that was about. This can’t be an official Inca drink, it’s made by Coca-Cola.
Cafe Cafe. Calle Mártir José Olaya 250, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Take a Bite of Something Sweet
One of my favorites treats are churros! We found this place, Manolo, with four varieties: chocolate, dulce de leche, vanilla and original.
Manolo. Av. Larco 608, Miraflores – Lima – Perú
Hit the Main Square, which is known as the Plaza de Armas. This name remains consistent in all the major cities in South America that I have been to. Here you will find all of the historical buildings along with the Presidential Palace and St.Francis Cathedral.
Head to Barranco and Surquillo. Barranco is a pretty cool artsy area with bohemian charm. You will see a ton of wall murals near the Bridge of Sighs. I had read that people walk across the bridge, hold their breath and make a wish. We did the same and I am ready for my wish to come alive.
While you can have some of the best ceviche anywhere in Peru, it is noted that chefs in Lima have perfected the dish. On this note, it was a must to indulge. I tried the ceviche served with calamari at La Picanteria. A side of corn nuts was served and I learned that I should add the corn nuts into the dish. I took the photo before I added the corn nuts.
Surquillo, Sta Rosa 388, Cercado de Lima, Peru
La Picanteria. Surquillo, Sta Rosa 388, Cercado de Lima, Peru
Make Lima more than a city to pass through on your way to Cusco and Machu Picchu.
I never really heard much about Auckland as a destination and unfortunately, I understand why. Consider this city a stopover on your way to explore the nature and world renowned beaches its country has to offer. In the heart of the city you will discover boutiques, restaurants, and cafes in the laneways, which are walking distance to the waterfront. I loved that! The waterfront is filled with vibrant restaurants serving award winning vino.
My husband and I arrived in Auckland in the afternoon and we walked around the entire central area. There is another cool neighbourhood called, Ponsonby, which we toured through as well. You will need to drive there as it is about 10 minutes away from the central area. Oh…renting a car is a must and you may as well do that from the airport! Read below for information that you can use to help you navigate better.
Tips Upon Arrival
Buy your SIM card at the airport. We hoped to get a better price in the city, but we checked with all providers and the best price was $20 New Zealand Dollars for 1G Data and 200 minutes of talk from a company called 2 Degrees. The 2 Degrees SIM card was not available at the airport, so Spark may be your best option. Upon arrival at the airport, you may find yourself a little frustrated. It was slightly chaotic and there was no internet service. The closest place for Wifi was a McDonalds nearby, but even that was lousy. That’s another good reason to get your SIM card before leaving the airport. We are technology dependent and it does make all of our trips easier. With little time, we have no time to spare trying to figure things out the old school way. It’s very important that you have your mobile device already unlocked.
Renting a Car
We booked our car online from Apex and had a good experience. We called for a shuttle from a designated airport shuttle phone. The shuttle picked us up outside and the wait was about 10 minutes. The drive to the car rental place was another 10-15 minutes away. Be sure to check with your credit card and know what coverage you have and what you need. If you have never driven on the left side before this will be a cool experience for you. Travelers from Canada and the US, do not need an international drivers license.
We only had a few days to do as much of the Northern region as possible and we chose the following sites and thanked God every step of the way:
Upper Nihotupu Walk, Piha Beach, Hot Water Beach, Rotorua, and the Coromandel area. Site seeing along the entire coast will have you captivated, but be careful the roads are tight and curvy with tons of hills and valleys.