Past year’s travels and the look ahead

The cat is out of the bag!

There comes a time for everyone, or at least I would hope for many people, when it dawns on them what their number one passion (at least for the moment being) is. Mine has been sitting and fermenting under my nose for so long that I did not notice it until its aroma turned particularly pungent. No matter. Last week I realized that it was high time to take said passion by the horns and do something more productive with it besides an exemplary Instagram, tweets and status updates. Channel that shit, baby! So here we go. I’m doing this for myself and my own memory more than anything else, but also to maybe help inspire others to make the plunge and to explore with no fear. 

Let’s first look over the shoulder. Where did I go in 2012?

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Around Villa de Leyva, Colombia. #nofilter

  • Toronto, Canada – starting point. This is where I lived at the beginning of last year. 
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • Bogota, Colombia
  • Villa de Leyva, Colombia
  • Quito, Ecuador
  • New York, NY, USA
  • …moved to London, UK and then went to:
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Brighton, UK
  • Whitstable, UK
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Manchester, UK
  • Paris, France
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Lisbon, Portugal

I have more than enough content to write a little travel book about these places. Which is what I will do. I’ve had a really great year for travel last year, and I am thankful for every moment.

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Brussels, Belgium. Happy to be here, of course. First Eurostar experience.

What is currently planned for 2013? I hope to take the following trips. What will actually happen? I suppose I’ll find out by the end of this year.

  • Budapest, Hungary (done)
  • Hamburg, Germany (surprise,for work)
  • Bath, England
  • Brussels, Belgium (tentative)
  • Brighton, England (tentative)
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Bristol, England
  • Copenhagen, Denmark (tentative, still debating)
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Vancouver, Canada (home!)
  • Vancouver Islands, particularly Cortez Island, to visit a friend’s farm
  • Seattle, USA (not far from home)
  • Portland, USA (if some friends join me)
  • Bologna and Parma, Italy
  • Bratislava, Slovakia (for a “goose party”)
  • Vienna, Austria (apparently it’s only a 30 minute drive from Bratislava)
  • Istanbul, Turkey

I also really want to go to Krakow, Poland, and Ljubljana, Slovenie, but that’s a bit up in the air. Dubai, UAE would be great to visit a couple of friends who relocated there recently. I want to go to Madrid, Spain as I have never been. 

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That’s the plan anyway. 

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My Amelie-like Experience With Toy Cars in This ‘Hood

I mustered up some enthusiasm and set out to walk to my most fruit and flower stand (in my hood). Actually, it’s been disappointing me lately but I only wanted to buy asparagus, tomatoes and cucumbers. That I could find there!

I walked up my usual street, and then noticed approximately a 15-cm long toy car. And what car! Teal color, 70’s feel, and unsupervised! Whose car was it?! Who left it right on the street, and without any child in sight? I took a dreamy photo:

I continued my walk to the fruit stand, spent 10-15 minutes shopping, and started walking back. Being naturally very observant I kept looking around until my gaze fell on the bush by pavement. AND WHAT DO I SEE? Another elegant car. It was burgundy red, sleek and delicately “hidden” just enough to fall into observant person’s line of vision. Or a short child’s.

I dropped my bags and took another photo. I was on a quest. This couldn’t be a coincidence, especially considering that the two cars were a block apart! I kept walking. I saw the first car on the pathwalk to someone’s house: did a kid move it?! Where is everybody?

Walking by the children’s playground near my house I stretched my neck in hopes of catching  a sight of more cars or any indication of who this Amelie-like gamester was. No idea.

As I was getting close to my house, I squeaked when I saw a third car! What! I took a photo.

I should’ve gone out to hunt more cars in our neighborhood, because there must have been more. Cars like these probably don’t come in sets of only three, and if someone planted them around the hood, that someone must have had more than three. Yesterday my roommate saw a carcass of a similar yellow car. The children got to them and already destroyed these beauties that shoulda been on someone’s toy mantelpiece instead.

My Weekend Meals: Recap

And the reasons why I should stick to salad and leafy,  non-meaty, non-carby things this coming week. Except for Wednesday night when I will be venturing out to Buca for a dinner.

I. Friday

It started with a dinner at Enoteca Sociale, which you should try visiting for yourself. It’s Pizza Libretto’s sister restaurant on 1288 Dundas Street and Dovercourt. Really worth it. They also have a cheese cave with more cheeses than regular food items (listed on the menu, teehee). Follow Enoteca on Twitter.

For wine we ordered Faraghina 2009, which was a crisp, dry white wine. Despite eating a medium-heavy meal we all agreed on trying this wine and were not disappointed. Please keep in mind that I forgot to photograph some items on the menu. That’s my fault. For next week’s recap I’ll be more careful.

We started with crispy veal sweetbreads and arugula, as well as artichoke fries. For the first round of firsts we ordered house made pappardelle braised rabbit, house made duck liver ravioli sage brown butter and raviolo (ricotta, wild spinach & peas) with porcini mushrooms.

The latter (and the above photo) was part of the tasting menu which also included chef’s antipasto, ontario lamb chop parmigiana & green beans, treviso & green salad. Here’s the lamb:

For dessert we got allegretto (thermalised sheep’s milk, quebec, sharp) and a sweetened ricotta, almond biscuit & ontario peaches:

Then we ordered three kinds of cheese from Nonna’s cheese cave. Our server let us go downstairs and see the beauties for ourselves. Annie picked a blue cheese, Hesam got sheep’s milk and I went for the goat, which apparently turned out to be Nonna’s favorite,  Chaput St. Maure. Forgot to mention the dessert wine! Moscato was a pleasant surprise, with rose petals and just enough sweetness for a dessert wine.

II. Saturday

As if pigging out and enjoying ourselves last Friday was not enough, I made an appointment to meet a friend for brunch at Saving Grace. I had an Americano from Ezra’s Pound while I waited for this brunch spot to open. I then ordered poached eggs with some potatoes and chopped chorizo and Ontario peaches. The food was good and still light enough:

After the food I remembered that I was hosting a friend that night and went to Kensington Market to stock up on delicious things to cook later that night. I bought two salmon steaks and later that night battered them in blackened seasoning for that night’s feast. I also chopped up some homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers, add them to the arugula mix, diced some peppers and added chia seeds. the dressing was olive oil and some salt. See for yourself:

III. Sunday

The following day I had another brunch planned with Nadja Sayej of ArtStars whom I haven’t seen in a while. We settled to meet at Mitzi’s. I ordered the much-praised huevos rancheros and was disastrously disappointed. Not going to Mitzi’s for brunch ever again. The food was tasteless, prepared without any apparent care, and it the portion was seriously meant to serve three people. Bleh! Not again.

To make things right, I didn’t despair about Mitzi’s and instead walked back home home to attend to several things and to anticipate Meghann and our collage-making time. On Saturday I bought a fine pork chop from Sanagans Meat Locker in anticipation. I got a cocoa sauvignon spices for said pork chops, and I also added some pomegranate sauce to make things right. The following is the pork chop I made, and Meghann’s collard greens with butter. And homegrown tomatoes!

We decadently finished off the night with bacon butterscotch cupcakes from Yummy Stuff.

So yeah, I am going to buckle down this week. Excited for that!

Any questions? Holler!

Cities and Horcruxes

I was walking down the street (how Dickensian and utterly, typically boring), en route to home sweet home, and I thought about something. I tried to figure out where my home was. Because I love my parents, my dog and the lovely house where they all live, I want to say, “My home is in Vancouver!” and yet when I am there I feel like I am on an anything goes vacation. I also feel different, like an outsider and almost like the blast from the future. So no, not quite there.

Toronto is fantastic, it’s a home. But it’s a home which is solely powered by my passionate heart. I make it what it is. I am the fire that burns in your eyes. And is it really home when one person is behind it? Perhaps not.

“Home is where the heart is,” I hear. Oh, what a relief! But where is my heart?

I love Berlin, my heart got lost there. Ibiza’s wonderful and Spanish only, seafood-infiltrated beaches devoured a big chunk of my pumping muscle, too. So where? I betcha Rioja is dying to eat the rest of what I have hiding behind my left lung. And I haven’t been to Congo yet.

So I realized that every bits of my soul are all over the world. Then I thought about Harry Potter, lord Voldemort and horcruxes. When I heard Tom Riddle about splitting his soul and leaving it to various objects (places in my case), I saw myself leaving bits and pieces of me everywhere. I love the world, I love to travel, I belong in the airport and I am the explorer.

I can leave bits of my soul in many places, thus living on in many places at the same time, and living forever. In very big fat theory.

In theory, I would be living in all of the cities I visited, because they affected me so.

In reality, however, I will probably be only living forever in the minds of people I affected. I will live on as long as the memory of me lives on in the people that were close to me. Perhaps down the road, the memory can carry onto people that I have not known. By creating something, by giving life, finding, building, teaching, showing, making, explaining, illustrating something to someone else, I can hope to give a part of my soul to them, thus extending my life. Man wants to be remembered.

I have to live my life prudently, expressively, beautifully and independently. I have to go where my mind and heart tell me to. I will not trust witches, nor will I subscribe to pure paganism. I will be me, and I will keep on splitting my soul in as many cities, places and people, as possible.

I live forever already.

Big City Small City

We were talking about there perceived friendliness of people in various cities that we have both been to. And I often try to notice patterns in systems or in modes of human interaction; I’m interested in how people form clusters and what makes them tick, what makes some people enter the hubs/communities, what makes them leave and the like. I guess It seems that the smaller a city is, the less likely the people are to connect with outsiders, or welcome a newbie into their clique.

My friend moved to Vancouver ages ago, and spent over a year there. He noted that despite having no problem finding one-time hookups, real friendships didn’t really blossom. Another friend went west recently and had East coast-hating vitriol spit on him by those who never even visited Toronto. I return now and, besides enjoying and nurturing my established circle of old friends, have not a single time even had an opportunity to randomly meet a person. These days here I/we meet a new person almost every night. Or I have no problem talking to people, and they’re friendly. Bigger cities with their bigger ponds possibly mean that there is always more fish out there? Or you will never see that person again, why not try your best now? Or practice makes better, especially when you’re in a megalopolis?

In New York I have strangers come up and talk to me a lot. Montreal are a brave folk, except when they start addressing me in French which I speak 0 of, at which point I think they become turned off. Whatever the case, it got me thinking about the super small community, for example, Tiny, Ontario where I spent few nights at a friend’s cottage. Well, there was nobody to meet and socialize with in the first place 🙂 Small (and I mean 1-2 million residents in a greater area is still small) communities, in my experience, tend to stay more centered on their own groups and are less open to newbies. Maybe it’s just the elitist West coast communities, I don’t know. Need to explore Europe more for a better understanding.

PS. No hate, please, these are just my opinions.