Nom in Mon!

Vacation flies by fast. Four days fly by even faster, but Montreal was a nice quick getaway that wasn’t too costly and quite memorable.  I did not know much about the place beforehand so it was all a pleasant surprise.  They say Montreal is a foodie city as well as a bike-friendly city and the city of festivals. All of that is most definitely true. As you walk through the streets, you’ll notice bike lanes all around and bikes chained to poles made specifically for the vehicle. You’ll notice advertisements of the festivals coming up, and that week we caught the “Just for Laughs” festival, one that was perfect for us as we played games, ate, and laughed through different performances. But most of all, their food is diverse and full of flavor. Though I didn’t find anything particularly amazing, the food was pretty good overall. Here’s a peek at some of the places we tried!

Boris Bistro –
A little gem we accidentally walked into outside of Old Montreal. While the rest of the streets were quiet, you suddenly past this bustling patio filled with diners, trees, and candle-lit tables. It looks quite popular so you walk inside.  Well, the food was actually fantastic though service was a little slow. This salmon tartare was quite delicious with the crisp baguette and a side salad!

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Bonjour!

Just last week, I made a last minute decision to fly to Montreal with a good high school friend and get away from the city for 4 days. I came back and got incredibly busy with some write-ups and upcoming work work this week, so I’ll be back by Wednesday with a new post (and a giveaway next week).  Thanks for popping by, and check in then!

In the meantime, here’s a picture I took at the Chalet du Mont Royal. It was actually an accident finding this place … we wanted to explore the Mont Royal Park, a park designed by the same person who created Central Park – Frederick Law Olmsted.  Without Internet or any specific points to hit at the park, we walked around endlessly and wound up following this path that seemed never-ending… UPHILL! Coming across tons of tourists all of a sudden, we climbed these stairs (also never ending) until we got to the top and saw this spectacular view.  If I had my fitbit on, I would say I walked at least 50,000 steps, but hey, it was so worth it!  Here it is .. take a breath!

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Paradise Island

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When I decided to book a trip to the highly anticipated Atlantis in the Bahamas, I didn’t know it was on an actual island called Paradise Island.  All I knew was that we wanted SOME beach time but also marine life and exploration. When you wake up in your hotel and look outside your window, you don’t have to wonder how this place got its name. It really feels like Paradise, except unlike other tropical places, almost the whole place is quite man-made. 

This isn’t a travel blog, but it’s always fun making lists for people to read because we’re a list-reading generation nowadays. “Must Visit Places In Your 20s,” “Top Ten Apps to Use” or “Eight Ways to Lose Your Belly Fat.”  WHAT!  So silly, yet so true. So here is my version: a list of the top 5 things we enjoyed on Paradise Island. Perhaps it’ll persuade you to visit, and if you do, please email me so I can tell you a cool way that you can save tons of money!

#1. Marine Life – Some of my friends look at me funny when we say how excited we are to see the marine life (or any nature for that matter). My husband and I can stare at an animal for hours… and we always win that staring contest. haha!  There’s just something beautiful about marine life, and in particular, dolphins and turtles always capture my heart. Unfortunately I didn’t take great photos of the dolphin but the hawksbill turtle was quite adorable.  The Atlantis aquariums have an incredible amount of marine life – they’re actually the first ones in the world to successfully breed saw sharks.  So if you want to nerd out like we did, go for it. I promise you’ll enjoy the waves.

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#2. Atlantis Aquaventure – If you’ve bought a day pass into Atlantis, it includes admission into the waterpark called Aquaventure. It includes over 8 slides, one ending in a tunnel in the middle of a shark tank. It’s quite a lot of fun and not a lot of wait time when you’re coming from New York, where a wait for a water ride at Splish Splash can be up to an hour! 

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#3. Lots to explore. Okay, so there aren’t crazy amounts of sculptures or architecture to look at, but inside Atlantis you can take great pictures, and outside of Atlantis, you find this hidden gem called the Cloisters. It’s a nice little area, giving you a feel of Europe while making you panic for a few seconds as there are several signs that says “Private Property: Do not trespass.”  But who listens to that anyway?  : )  If reviewers on TripAdvisor say it’s okay, then it’s okay!  Just do it! ::insert Nike check logo::

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#4. The Beach! How can you not get into the famous clear blue waters of the Caribbean? Granted, I don’t quite remember the water being so blue half an hour away in Miami, but I guess this is part of the Caribbean for a good reason! While you’re on the beach tanning or swimming, get a nice coconut drink filled with pina colada from the locals. I got nervous at first but whew, it was tasty.

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#5. Bahamian Food.  If you’re inside Atlantis, you’ll hear tons of complaints about how expensive it is (because if I were paying $96 for a breakfast buffet for two, I’d be crying too). When you step outside, you have all the options of local food that gives you a great taste of the island. I didn’t take too many photos but here were a few of my favorites: 

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Fried Conch Fritters from Bihini Road. Not too much conch inside but just enough, and it was quite filling – extra tasty with lemon and spicy mayo.

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Lobster roll from Lukka Kairi, downtown Nassau. I found this really unique because of the pickled goat peppers, the island’s most spiciest peppers. There were also crispy shallots on top of the chilled lobster salad. 

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Also from Lukka Kairi is the tropical conch salad.  It’s like a ceviche – a bowl filled with tropical fruits, conch, citrus, and crispy plantains. It was extremely refreshing, and that chewiness from the conch – ahhh! 

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I saw this Bahamian chicken souse in a magazine and wanted to try it at a local spot – Viola’s Bar and Grill. It’s basically a chicken broth soup with potatoes and chicken, but the interesting taste comes from those black things called spice balls.  Not many places offered this though.

And so, we conclude our trip to the Bahamas.  Did I miss something that I should return to? Besides the Pig Island and Exuma itself, because I will be back for those islands!  For now, thanks for reading! The stingray and I say “See yuh later, mon!”

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Greetings from Paradise Island, Bahamas!  I’ve been spending a couple of days here in Atlantis just exploring the island and enjoying my long-awaited spring break. Check back this weekend for some photos of my trip! 🙂

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A New Park Over in Sydney

After over 10 years of not seeing my cousin Anita since I visited Hong Kong long ago, I finally reunited with her this past summer when I visited Sydney, Australia. I had such a blast introducing one of my best friends to her, playing with her two sons, and getting to know her after all these lost years.  I was really inspired when I found out that she had started her own company long ago making these gorgeous handmade purses, bags, hair clips, and all that you might find on sites such as Etsy.  She’s quite the talent!  But even more inspiring was learning about her behind the scenes as a landscape architect. 

Recently, she finished designing a new park in Lane Cove, Sydney, AU. It’s not just a simple playground for kids. It’s one intended to be interactive, entertaining, and educational. It includes a braille trail for wheelchair or vision impaired visitors to interact, giving everyone an experience similar to that of a “treasure hunt.”  You can read more about it in this news article from The North Shore Times.  Really wish I can be there to experience the park, especially as my second graders and I have been studying New York City parks since September!  

Thanks to Anita, I’m able to share some of these fun photos with you that she took on her visit with her kids! If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and have some fun!

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A huge congratulations to you, Anita!  I’m celebrating overseas for you 🙂 

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Cheers to the 30s!

Imagine celebrating something special in a place like this, surrounded by vineyards and a beautiful scenery…

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It wasn’t here per se, but special would be the word to describe a heartfelt 3 day weekend to San Francisco. A huge thanks to my husband for going with me and to my brother for flying me over for a very memorable birthday this year. San Francisco has a huge place in my heart (especially with him there) and I would love to live there one day. On our visit this time, we spent a day up at Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley for some wine tasting, scenic drive, and time with one another. I read the reviews of many places before I visited, and I can confirm the ones that say “EVERY winery and vineyard is very different” so hop around to see what you like! That’s exactly what we did, and these were my favorite two.

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Wild for Animals

If you think of a place that you want to travel to, there usually is a good reason. Great food, beautiful scenery, good hiking trails, visiting friends or family, etc. Most destinations have particular attractions. Though Australia has many, one of the reasons why I wanted to go was for the animals.

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The animals there are not as scary as people claim them to be. I can’t say the same for those notorious spiders everyone here talks about, but for the most part, I was able to get close to the animals.  We’re not allowed to actually hold a koala in our arms, but it’s also not because they’ll attack. Worst off, I had been avoiding dingoes for a couple of days because I was told that they are wildly dangerous, but my tour guide explained that many are actually very gentle and sweet. We put our hands out into the gate and let the dingoes come to us – they came over to sniff our hands, and that was that!

There are tons of animals that I’ve never heard or seen before. Besides the fact that I get to experience meeting them, I’m really excited to share my sights and stories with my students. The more they know, the better!

Anyhow, I can write pages and pages about the animals, but let’s get some visuals going. Some of these aren’t particularly Australian animals, but I just loved them anyway! I’ll share some fun facts I’ve learned in between.

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G’day, mate!

The cheerfulness from these words still echo in my ears as I’m greeted with smiles here and there in Australia. Quite possibly (with a high probability) that this could in fact be my favorite place in the world, it has its reasons. I had never had such a great ambition of saving money to go to a place that I never dreamed I would be able to go, but this past summer, with the need to fly to Hong Kong came the opportunity to spend 9 more hours on a flight over to the great down under.

Australia is BIG.  Going there and trying to see as many places as you can is like trying to see the entire United States in two weeks – impossible.  So my friend and I chose the two main cities to live in, and then a couple of day trips outside to explore in.  Sydney and Melbourne. Just like I inquired as I researched the trip, I tried to find out which one was “better,” and there really was never really a good answer.  Now I know why.

Sydney and Melbourne have completely different vibes. If you ask me, I would compare Sydney to NYC (very busy, train system, crowds, condensed city center, beautiful urban parks, all kinds of cuisines), and Melbourne to San Francisco (trams, quieter, more space, less crowds, laid back, gorgeous fields and wineries outside of the city, cooler temperatures).  I loved them both and would move there any day… any day now. 🙂

Going backwards from my last stop to the first, here’s Sydney! Some of my favorite highlights included the following:

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1)  Drinking hot chocolates and espresso (’cause Starbucks just won’t do over there! Flat white and lattes are solid. I can drink them in my dreams… okay, maybe not but I would love to.)

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Iceland by Night

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Iceland by day is pretty darn cool already, but at night, it’s a completely different feel.  I had a different experience as I was there during the holidays and not regular nights. At first I dreaded the long night hours thinking that there would be nothing to do since nature, I thought, was best seen in light. but it turns out that the longer winter nights (about 20 hours) actually made it the ideal time to observe the night sky and the splendid Northern Lights.

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Iceland by Day

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Imagine driving a SUV (thank goodness for that car rental choice) … you’re driving and driving and all you see is WHITE!  White sky, white flakes, white grounds. You park your car on the side of the road (wait, where’s the road?) and all you see around you is white and an orange jacket that your friend is styling in. You hop out of the car, jump in 5 feet of snow, and go trigger happy because it’s the most beautiful white you’ve ever seen.

Well, welcome to Iceland in the winter! 

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