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Welcome!

Hello to anyone who might have stumbled upon this website; Welcome to my blog.

My name is Corine. I was born and raised in Montreal (Canada).

During my free time, I enjoy traveling, food and photography among other things. I decided to give blogging a try and to share my different life experiences with you. You will mostly find posts about travelling, but also different lifestyle themes.

Enjoy !

Central Park, NYC, USA - 2015, July 16
Central Park, NYC, USA – 2015, July 16

A short and icy hike in Banff: Johnston Canyon

When I first learned one of my best friends was getting married in Banff, I was beyond excited. I had always wanted to visit Banff National Park, but had never gotten around to it because of how the flight to Calgary from Montreal is so costly and long. It was the perfect push!

But when I realized the wedding would be in mid- October, I was bummed. “Why couldn’t it be in July or August, when the weather is nice, the sun is out and it’s warm?”

Little did I know, the snow peaked mountains, snow covered rocks and frozen lakes made the landscapes a thousand times more beautiful.

Johnston Canyon is the perfect example of how the snow and icy rivers embellished the views in Banff. However, be careful as it gets very icy during the cold months. We did not have snow spiked hiking boots, so had to take our time going slow and steady but it was easily done while holding onto the railings.

The hike to the lower falls is a 1.2 km walk with slight incline. In order to view the falls, you’ll need to crouch down and pass through a hole in the rocks to access the small closed off area. On the way there, the beautiful scenery, the rocky cliffs and the turquoise river water and snowy pine trees make great opportunities for photography.

We unfortunately didn’t have the time to get to the upper falls. All in all, the 30-40-minute hike was short and sweet but offered an amazing opportunity to experience a unique part of Banff’s treasures, as it was the only canyon we visited during our stay.

24 hour layover in Amsterdam

24 hour layover in Amsterdam

Going to Nairobi from Montreal, Canada, I had no choice but to have a layover in Europe. So I decided, why not spend a day in a city I’ve never been to?

Here is a short wrap up of everything I managed to do during my 24 hour layover!

I landed at AMS airport in the outskirts of Amsterdam around 7:30 AM. I hopped onto the hotel shuttle bus directly at the airport exit, to Hotel Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, where I left my luggage for the day. Since it was too early to check in, I freshened up in the lobby’s washroom and took an Uber to the city center for a day of solo-adventure.

I definitely enjoyed starting my visit this early because I could witness the stores and markets opening, the locals commuting to work or grabbing their morning coffee, and the quiet winding streets and canals.

I got my Uber to drop me off in Jordaan, where I discovered indie boutiques bordering narrow canals and streets. It was basically the postcard image of what Amsterdam is known for.

I spent the morning wandering the streets of Jordaan, passed by Anne Frank’s museum house, peaked into the windows of the canal houseboats, did some window shopping at the vintage and designer boutiques of De Negen Straatjes district and slowly made my way to Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s largest depot, known for its Gothic-Renaissance architecture.
At 11 AM, I hopped onto a 1-hour Amsterdam Canal Cruise (20 Euros). For about an hour, I relaxed as I was driven by boat through the maze that form the city’s canals, and as I listened to an audioguide. It was the perfect way to see most of the city in a short time. 

After the cruise, I wandered around the city, stopping by Begijnhof, a quiet neighborhood of historic private dwellings that used to serve as a beguinage (where only religious women lived). I also walked through the Red Light district although it was still during the day. During daytime, the area is calm and just like any other district other then the older prostitutes waiting in the windows… I then continued my visit to Bloemennmarkt, a floating tulip flower market that ended up being a little underwhelming in my opinion.

Around 2pm, I grabbed lunch before heading to the Museum Square. I treated myself to a seafood platter and a nice glass of white wine at the Seafood Bar Spui Restaurant while I decompressed. This is what I call treating yourself!

When my belly was full and my body was rested, I continued walking to the Museum Square area, where I did some people watching.

Around 4:30PM, for 18 euros, I visited the Van Gogh Museum where I got to admire the Almond Blossoms, the Bedroom in Arles, the Sunflowers, many self-portraits and much more. Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists ever since I took oil painting classes, which is why I chose to visit the Van Gogh Museum rather than going to see the work of Banksy or Rembrandt.

As the museum closed its doors, I headed out and realized I was done for the day. For dinner, I simply decided to get another meal at another location of the Seafood Bar Spui Restaurant before going to rest in my hotel room next to the airport to be in shape for the day after.

All in all, I am happy I was able to do everything I wanted to do in Amsterdam in just a day. It is a beautiful city with lots of history, culture, good food and beauty. I would gladly spend some more time there if I have the chance.

 

 

The heart of Osaka, Dotonbori

The heart of Osaka, Dotonbori

Osaka’s most popular tourist area, Dotonbori refers to the canal as well as to the shopping streets. Restaurants and bars are marked with an infinite number of colourful neon signs and lights.

Osaka’s food scene is known for its fried specialties. It is where we indulged in some takoyaki (fried little octopus balls) from a street food stall and an okonomiyaki (a fried japanese savory pancake) at a teppanyaki-style restaurant where the cook made everything in front of us.

In my opinion, the best time to visit this landmark is in the evening at dinner time. It’s when it’s busier, when you get to sample the street food stalls and when the extravagant signage and neon lights are at their best.

 

 

 

Discovering the Fushimi Inari trail

Discovering the Fushimi Inari trail

When people ask me about my favorite part of my trip to Japan, I always answer, without hesitation, that I preferred Kyoto to Osaka and Tokyo by far. Then, they always ask, “why?” Kyoto was the highlight of the trip, simply because it was more rich, cultural and colourful. Tokyo was too urban and busy for my taste, and Osaka was too grey.

Fushimi Inari-taisha was my favorite shrine out of the numerous ones we passed by during our trip. It is dedicated to the god Inari and is located at the base of the mountain Inari. The first emblematic orange torii gate is just in front of the train station. Right past it, a few orange temples welcome visitors. Then, from the base of the mountain, there is a 4 kilometer hike up the mountain. Taking 2 hours to climb up the mountain, we walked past many smaller shrines. Fox statues dotted the shrines and the trail with the fox being seen as a messenger spirit in inari shrines. It is said the Fushimi Inari shrine has as many as 32 000 sub-shrines. The vegetation is diverse and even includes a small bamboo forest.

We watched the locals pray at a the shrines in order to pray the right way! First, you put a coin donation in the little metal box at the foot of the shrine if there is one. Then, you ring the bell before putting your hands together to pray, clap your hands three times, and bow. I also made sure to have a scarf to cover my shoulders in the places of worship in respect to the culture and the locals, but I saw many tourists who didn’t care much about it…

The entrance to the site is free and you don’t need to be in great shape to complete the whole hike. People of all ages, tourists and Japanese alike, and of different activity levels hike this trail up to the main shrine on the top of the mountain.

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A few hours in Harajuku, Tokyo

A few hours in Harajuku, Tokyo

Harajuku is a colourful neighborhood in Tokyo. Takeshita street is the main known street of this area. It is a pedestrian street where local teenagers and tourists go out for cafes, restaurants, treats (huge cotton candy sticks, animal shaped ice cream, crepes, …) and fashion boutiques.  Fashion trends here are typically extravagant and colourful.

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Did you know Tokyo, and more particularly Harajuku, is also known for its numerous unique cafes? These cafes are mostly for tourists, but their extravagance and uniqueness are worth the visit. You’ve probably heard of the Shiba cafes, robot cafes, bunny cafes, owl cafes, cat cafes and… hedgehog cafes! We spent half an hour at Harry Hedgehog Cafe and Petshop. We paid 3500 yen for the 2 of us for half an hour to spend with the hedgehogs and got some worms to feed our little hedgehog. We were seated with our own hedgehog in its glassed cage with gloves to delicately handle the little animals, a small cup of dried worms and tweezers to serve them. The price included one drink each, which we got from a self-serve machine.

This definitely is a facultative stop on a trip to Japan, and it is not as cultural or educational as other activities… but it was a fun and unique experience!

Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

Located in Shibuya, Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. From its location in Shibuya, I never would have imagined such a serene pathway in the forest leading to the beautiful shrine.

Torii gates are located at each of the entrances to the area and locals bow when passing through and entering or exiting. Prayers are left by visitors on small wooden pieces. Sake barrels are displayed as offerings. Traditional water wash basins are located around the central sanctuary, where locals wash their hands and mouth to purify themselves before entering and going to prey at the shrine.

 

 

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Old vs. New Tsukiji Fish Market

Old vs. New Tsukiji Fish Market

Being the foodies we are, the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo was a must for us. Tsukiji Fish Market was the largest wholesale fish market in the World.

Dating from 1935, the city decided it was time for the Market to change locations in order to have better facilities, hygiene, space and organization. The transition was made in the beginning of the month of October, 2018.

Since our stay in Tokyo was planned for September 30 to October 3rd, and October 10th to 14th, we ended up getting the chance to visit the old market, or what was left of it, on our second morning, and then the new one on our last day.

When visiting the market, in order to experiment it at its busiest and fullest, the earlier you go, the better it is.

On October 2nd, we paid a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market. It was old, busy, crammed and dirty, but it had its charm and history. When we were there, unfortunately, the market itself was already closed for the move, but we were able to access the little stores and restaurants in the inner market. The restaurant we chose to try was Shou. Typically, all the restaurants were full and had a lineup, some worse than others, and were small, with clients sitting at a bar facing the sushi chefs and cooks while they prepared their meals. Never have we ever tasted sushi, fish or any kind of seafood as fresh as what we were served at Shou. It was also the first time we ever tasted certain kinds of seafood with the elements being much more diversified as what we knew back in Canada.

On the morning of October 12th, we returned to Tsukiji Fish Market, not knowing what would still be accessible. Turns out, the entire inner market were in the process of moving and were inaccessible. Disappointed, we strolled around the area and ended up visiting the outer market. We didn’t think there would be much to see there, but it turned out to be just as charming and just as much of a foodie’s dream. We stumbled upon a sushi restaurant where locals were waiting in front of the door for it to open and decided to eat breakfast there. Walking down the small alleys of the outer market, we discovered different seafood merchants.

October 13th was the first day that the new Fish Market was open to the public. It was now the Toyosu Market. Its modernity and high-tech ambiance was surprising, but I guess it is exactly what Japanese people are known for, and what I can imagine to be most efficient for the purpose of wholesaling products. All in all, I understand why the change was necessary, however, I find it is such a loss for the city of Tokyo to not have the historical landmark of Tsukiji Market anymore.