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Ucluelet in a day

I didn’t want to miss exploring the area while I was here, so earlier this week I drove the half-hour from Tofino to Ucleulet for the day to check out the small town, known locally as ‘Ukee’. I hadn’t explored the beaches at that point, so I took my time with the drive and made a stop on Long Beach.  It’s definitely worthwhile to plan to take some extra time there on your drive or at one of the other beaches on the west side of the highway for a little stroll or a picnic breakfast. If you leave early enough you could also watch the sun rise and the early morning surfers. As you continue along the highway, a sign at the corner of Highway 4, heading back over the mountains, gives due notice that you’re headed towards a stress-free zone. The town certainly fits that bill, with the same laid-back vibe as Tofino.

I headed for the Ucluelet Aquarium as I’d heard it was quite unique, as a non-profit organization dedicated to ecologically sound practices. The really neat part? They catch and release all of the marine life in the displays, making it very environmentally friendly. The aquarium is small, but plan to spend a bit of time here gazing into the tanks, giving starfish belly rubs in the ‘touch tanks’ and relaxing in the library area reading about the Clayoquot Sound flora, fauna, and history.

After my visit and a short wander along the harbour, I drove south towards the end of the peninsula to hike the first leg of the the Wild Pacific Trail. This world-renowned hike has three sections, of which I hiked two over the course of about 3.5 hours. The Lighthouse Loop begins at the south end of town, and takes about 45 minutes at a brisk pace, with a couple of stops. As you might guess by the name, it ambles past the Amphitrite Lighthouse, a rather unspectacular lighthouse. The real treat are the views before and after, as you peek out of the temperate coastal rainforest onto the wild coast. The trail is well-maintained and marked. The second part of the trail starts near the Black Rock Resort in town and winds along the coast, again offering stunning views, which are easily seen along the ‘artist’s loop’ which has a handful of lookout decks where you can rest and take it all in.

Though I personally wouldn’t make this a destination in itself, it was definitely worth the trip from Tofino and offers a couple of different opportunities for getting out into the remote wilderness in your wellness travels. If you’re smitten with Ucluelet, however, and want to spend a bit more time here, there are ample accommodations available in Ukee, as well as a number of restaurant and tour options.

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Over the mountain: road tripping from Victoria to Tofino

The drive from Victoria north along the East side of Vancouver Island and then west over the Beaufort Mountain Range is an attraction in and of itself, especially if, like me, you love to drive winding coastal roads through the wilderness. I stopped several times on this drive, making it significantly longer than the Google  Maps estimate of 4.5 hours from the Victoria airport. It’s worth taking your time to stop off at the roadside lookouts between Victoria and Nanaimo, including the impressive Malahat, and to pull to the side of the road to explore short trails and stream and lakeside vistas as you cut across the island.  It took me almost 6.5 hours, including a brief stop at Rusticana Coffee Shop in Mill Bay for a delicious smoked salmon sandwich, complete with delicious locally-made artichoke pesto and tons of veggies.

 

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Quebec City restaurants: healthy options and worthwhile splurges

There are an overwhelming number of restaurants in the ‘touristique’ areas of Quebec City, making it hard to choose where to go. Some of these places are definite tourist traps, and don’t offer anything really out of the ordinary in terms of quality. Many, though, serve some really nice, fresh meals. Luckily, and without exception, we were also surprised by the reasonable food prices.  If you’re vegan or vegetarian, eating authentic Quebecois cuisine may not be up your alley: most of the dishes contain lots of meat- game meat and ham, to be specific. The first settlers of the Canadian wilderness were trappers and hunters, and they made hearty meals with Irish, French and Aboriginal influences. Think tourtières (meat pies), creton (a meat spread) and maple-baked beans with ham. And of course, the more contemporary Quebec delicacy, poutine, a mixture of French fries, thick savoury gravy and squeaky cheese curds.  There are also of course countless bakeries, delis with fresh, local cheeses and wine, lots and lots of wine. Decadence!

There are some healthier options  for the wellness traveller, both at the touristy restaurants that don’t want to get left behind as people are becoming more health-conscious, and at a couple of raw/vegan/vegetarian spots.   If your diet allows, this is one of the places I’ve been that I’d recommend a couple of small food splurges- it’s all about balance after all!

On the first day in old town we ended up at one of the spots that looks, in my opinion, a bit like an overpriced tourist trap. 1640 sits in the shadow of the Chateau Frontenac, so the location is ideal. We hungry, and keen to sit on the patio, and theirs was open. Though we were the only brave souls sitting outside on the mild but sunny day, the service was friendly and fast, something we quickly got used to in all our dining experiences in Quebec. The menu wasn’t particularly unique or extensive, but when my smoked salmon salad arrived, I was surprised to see the large portion and fresh, crunchy salad complete with lots of types of greens and sprouts. The salmon also came just how I like it, with diced red onions and finely chopped dill. The dish my travel companion had, an omelette and salad also got a thumbs-up from him.

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If you are going to splurge a little, I’d recommend Le Billig, a cozy creperie with exposed-brick walls and somewhat out-of-place televisions in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood, just outside the walls of the old town. I absolutely love savoury crepes, so we headed here for brunch on day and were certainly not disappointed. Their crepes can be made from white flour or buckwheat, making this a viable option for the gluten-free crown, and there are tons of options that offered lots of vegetables. I had a savoury crepe with duck, goats cheese and spinach, though I had a hard time making a decision between that one and one of the options with grilled vegetables. The duck confit was perfect, tender and flavourful and matched so well with the spinach. My companion had an option with multiple types of cheese and big, delicious chunks of bacon. Both of them were huge portions and both were amazing. We didn’t try the sweet crepes, but I can only imagine they’d be quite good.

To balance out the crepes, for dinner that night we headed to Crudessence, a raw vegan chain that began as a takeaway counter in Montreal. The Saint-Roch location has a bright, clean and airy atmosphere and lovely little touches like chlorophyll water. The raw lasagna came with a delicious caesar salad, and certainly the best raw caesar dressing I’ve ever had.  The lasagna was layered with zucchini ‘noodles’, and filled with lots of vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes which always add so much flavour.  The raw BLT made with coconut ‘bacon’ my companion had was, according to him, a raw sceptic, ‘really good’. We were both fully satisfied after our meals and the bill came to just over $20 with taxes, a complete steal for raw meals.

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The biggest surprise we had was when we chose a restaurant randomly after a bit of hungry wandering in Saint-Roch. Bati Bassak was packed when we walked in for a late dinner on a Thursday night, but we managed to get a table after about ten minutes. This Cambodian restaurant looks like a hole-in-the-wall, and it has a surprisingly inviting atmosphere, with dim lighting, lots of authentic Asian touches, and a few different small dining areas. As we waited, our appetites grew as we watched (and smelled) the wide range of curries, stir-fries, noodle and rice dishes, and other delicious-looking plates being served. We made our way to our table and were once again pleasantly surprised by the high quality and speed of the service. The food itself came quickly and was amazing. Period. We ordered two stir-fry dishes, the ‘cashew,’ with lots of veggies and shrimp, and the ‘bosan’ with chicken, more vegetables and perfect, light ginger-y sauce.  They each came with a side- I opted for rice vermicelli noodles and my dining partner for rice. Both were cooked just right, and were equally as delicious mixed up with the light sauces of the dishes. They also offer a Table d’hote option which includes a soup, appetizer, main course and dessert with coffee or tea, all for only an additional $8.00 to the cost of the main.

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I was determined to have a croissant before we headed back to Ottawa, so on our last morning, we headed to La Boîte à Pain (the Breadbox) for a was perfectly light, flaky and salty pastry.

If you’d like to make your own food, or pick up some snacks, La Carotte Joyeuse (The Joyous Carrot) is a large organic, specialty grocery in Saint-Jean-Baptiste. There are lots of your favourite standby options as well as prepared meals at the back deli counter.

Bon appetit!

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Quebec City

One of the oldest cities in North America, Quebec is the perfect place to let yourself slip into timelessness and spend a couple of days wandering. True to its French roots, the provincial capital has decadent food, dramatic architecture, excellent service, impressive museums, and the unique Quebecois dialect. Another bonus to visiting Quebec? Completely different social systems from the rest of Canada make Quebec a very affordable option, especially compared to cities in neighbouring Ontario.

The cobbled streets of the walled old city, the cliched but still amiable lower town tourist shops, and some of the gentrified neighbourhoods nearby are exceptionally walkable. This was my second visit to Quebec, and I hadn’t had a true vacation in a long time, so there was zero agenda for this trip besides some serious relaxation and adventuring on foot.

My trip to Quebec began with a train ride. I’ve heard that the drive into Quebec is not very exciting, and my travel companion had never been on a train, so we boarded in Ottawa early morning and spent a relaxing 6 hours journeying along the St. Lawrence River and snacking on some of the food I’d packed for the road, including a delicious quinoa salad and pumpkin chia pudding.


Once we arrived, it was a quick 15 minute walk to the AirBnb in the new ‘it’ neighbourhood of Quebec: Saint-Roch. This was the perfect location to set up a home base for three nights. It was a quick 15-minute walk from the old town and the apartment was the perfect cozy little spot.

Getting outside and being active in Quebec was easy, as walking is definitely the best way to get around, and all the must-visit neighbourhoods are relatively close together. The stairs to Basse-Ville (lower town) and to Saint-Roch were also a great way to get a bit more of a workout in.  The Governor’s Walk is another fantastic route beside the steep cliff face and overlooking the river. The 15 to 20 minute walk along the boardwalk leads from just behind the Chateau Laurier, and a is a nice way to get from the Chateau to the Plains of Abraham. The Plains themselves, where the infamous 1759 battle between the French and the English occurred, has historical plaques, a museum, and is now the site of the Citadel, a large fortification that is still an active military base. It’s well worth taking the hour-long tour of this fortress, which includes tours of some of the buildings, a walk through the grounds, and one of the best vantage points over the river, all led by a knowledgeable and engaging guide. Plan to spend some time afterwards on the Plains, which is now called Battlefields Park and is a gorgeous greenspace with a stunning view of the river,  perfect for summertime picnics, frisbee, or some outdoor yoga .

On a sunny day, the ferry is an inexpensive way to take in Quebec from a different perspective. It makes the 1 km crossing from lower town to Levis on the other side of the St. Lawrence about every 20 minutes to half hour. There’s not much to see in Levis, but it’s fun to take the little cruise and when we did there were couples having picnics on the deck, families enjoying the fresh air, and other sightseers.  The little exhibits on the history of river crossing on the ferry are also worth taking a peek at.  Just $7.10 for the round trip.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and wholesome, fun night out after all that walking and are into board games, La Revanche (‘the payback’) is the best board game café I’ve been to. Their excellent ‘concierges’ are eager to suggest some fun games and teach you how to play. A $5 cover charge gets you in and gives you access to hundreds of board games.


After a night out playing board games, and all that walking, a massage was the perfect way to spend the last morning. I chose a spot for its convenience to the Airbnb, and wasn’t disappointed. The entrance to Shanti Massotherapie may throw you off, but their interior is calming and beautiful, with barn board accents and a lovely waiting room area, complete with tea and quiet music. Shanti offers a number of different types of massage; I opted for the basic Swedish massage  at only $73.50 for 60 minutes. My therapist was communicative, professional and talented. Definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to indulge and relax.

In my explorations I did spot two yoga studios, but ended up doing my own practice in the Airbnb, which had the perfect little spot complete with a rug made out of turf and a comfy yoga blanket. The schedules for the two studios, Soham Yoga Bis in centretown, and Yoga Fitness in Saint-Roch look like they have some good offerings, and I would highly recommend that yogis try a class in a different language as it can really bring you back into your body and cultivate a beginner’s mind.

Quebec boasts lots of festivals and events in summer and winter months, and can get a bit overrun with tourists. Visiting in the off season meant even lower than usual prices, quieter restaurants, and still plenty to explore. There are lots of healthy options for activities, as well as for dining, making Quebec an excellent destination.

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Spring 2017: Canada Coast to Coast

Spring 2017 kicks off a bit of a Canadian tour for me. March brought me to Toronto, a common weekend destination for me, as my sister and a good friend from high school live there. This time I was headed to the Toronto Yoga Conference, and it didn’t disappoint. I also had the change to try another delicious healthy restaurant, Kupfert and Kim

Next on the list in April is Quebec City, one of the  oldest cities in North America. I’ve visited once before, about ten years ago, and was totally charmed by the European feel. I’m on my way there now, and can’t wait to have what will be my first real vacation- no trainings, no teaching, nothing really planned besides some exploration and relaxation- in a very long time. 

May will bring me to Victoria B.C., where I’ll be beginning my 300-hour yoga therapy training at Ajna Yoga studio, one of the first 11 studios in the world to be accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapy for their program. This has been a long time goal of mine, so I’m excited to begin. 

June will take me all the way to the other side of the country to the ‘birthplace of confederation’ just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday. I’ll be in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for a conference. This will be my first time travelling with work, and I hope to balance the busy conference activities with some time for soaking up the island vibes, eating some good seafood and checking out the yoga studios in the city. 

I’ll also be sharing some of my favourite healthy spots and activities in Ottawa, my hometown. Over the past decade it has grown into an amazing wellness hub, with tons of healthy eating spots, a lively yoga community, and tons of outdoor activities year round. 

Stay tuned for lots of wellness inspiration for Canadian destinations coast to coast!

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Interning as a Yoga Teacher in Colombia

It’s been just over a month since I returned home from Colombia, and in that time I’ve been able to see some major changes taking place in my life. Many of these changes are things I’ve been working towards for months or even years, and others are changes I’ve more recently resolved to make, in large part due to the time I spend in Medellin, with Yoga Internships Colombia.

I’m now teaching yoga at my favourite Ottawa studio, Prana Shanti. I’ve taught two well-received Hatha classes this past week, and am teaching eight classes through the month of July. I’ve also cemented my involvement with Laughing Falcon Yoga and Wellness Center, a studio opening soon in the picturesque Ontario town of Barry’s Bay.  I’ve taken on a role as a support for their marketing efforts and am organizing a three-day Autumn retreat. I’ll also be teaching the Yoga Nidra workshop I developed in Colombia.

The dynamics of my social life have also shifted as well. I’m making new friends and have readjusted relationships with some of my existing friends and family members. I’m leaning less on unhealthy habits and tending more towards peace and ease in all areas of my life. And it feels so good; so authentic.

The role that Yoga Internships Colombia had in all these changes is, in my mind, in large part thanks to the container for growth it provided. I was already on a path to change in my own life, and the space, support, practice and clarity the program provided was an extra push in the right direction.

As I’ve written, finding space to do what I know is right in my life can be a challenge for me. At home it’s easy to get bogged down by my 9-5 job, relationships, and unhealthy tendencies. By travelling and taking myself out of my day-to-day repetitive thoughts and routines, I always feel a sense of opening of possibilities that allows me to reconnect again and again to what’s really important to me: yoga, building relationships with like-minded and loving people, my health, creating peace in my mind, nature, learning, and sharing my experiences through teaching and writing.

In Colombia, the balance of structured and free time at the internship at Flying Tree Yoga gave me the space to write new articles, begin to plan the yoga retreat, apply for other yoga positions, and to connect with new contacts and friends both in Colombia and in Ontario (not to mention teaching yoga in a foreign country, which had long been a dream of mine).

I also became much clearer on how I wanted to move forward, given my current reality. The support offered by Andrew and Sierra, the program facilitators, as well as other yoga teachers involved in the program, the other interns, and even the students who attended my classes and workshops was invaluable.  The workshops kept us thinking about yoga-related topics (the Yamas and Niyamas, use of hands-on support and the use of language in yoga, to name a few) and how we could apply them in our own teachings. They provided us with resources and ideas to advance our teaching and our personal yoga practice and encouraged us to share our own ideas. No topic, idea or style of yoga was pushed on us; instead we were invited to explore and to establish our own style of teaching.

The same was true of our opportunities to teach classes. We had the option to teach as much or as little as we liked, and the group of interns worked collaboratively to fill the schedule of the studio. It was clearly laid out at the beginning of the program that there would be a chance for us to teach workshops, private classes and/or to provide other healing services as we would like, and then we were left to take the initiative to plan them ourselves. As yoga teachers, I think this was so important, as it can be quite hard and take time and creativity to find a space to teach. Initiative is so important in the sometimes saturated yoga scene. Making new contacts, charting our own path, and creating opportunities for ourselves is just as important as actually having the skills to teach. The internship really reflected this, while providing support when we needed it.

In the end I think this experience, as with most in life, was what I made it. I went to Medellin with the intention to teach as much as I could, to write, to refocus on my health, and to gain some clarity on my next steps. I also wanted, of course, to explore the city and if possible, other parts of Colombia. I was glad to be given the chance to plan and create my own promotional materials for my workshop, to communicate with and schedule private clients, and to participate in the yoga community in Medellin. These are all skills that are so useful to me now that I’m back in Ottawa. I even got a chance to visit Guatape, a beautiful little town in the countryside. I knew very well going into this that it would not be like a teacher training- that I was there to make my own opportunities- and it was the perfect way to do so.

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Teaching My First Yoga Workshop

Today I taught my very first yoga workshop at Flying Tree Yoga Studios in Medellin, Colombia. In the first week here, I had the opportunity to share information about a specific topic related to yoga with the other interns in a very informal workshop type setting. I opted to share my knowledge of Yoga Nidra. It was quite well received, and so I decided to offer the class to the public. I found that there were a few important things to keep in mind as I developed the workshop.

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Simple and Delicious Fried Plantains

With all the yoga and activity I’ve been doing here in Colombia, I find myself wanting to snack quite a bit to keep my energy up. Since I have more of a salty tooth than a craving for sweets, I took a peek at the grocery store to see what savoury treat I could whip up quickly and on a budget. Having tried plantain chips in other countries, I decided to try my hand at making fried plantains, and in the last few weeks it’s become a staple in my diet.
This starchy fruit that looks similar to a banana, is native to tropical regions and is quite low in sugar. Plantains can be steamed, fried or boiled and seasoned in any way you wish.

Here’s my easy recipe for cooking up some really tasty and satisfying plaintain chips.

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Finding the Space to Do What You Love

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There are so many articles, books and people out there advising us to ‘do what you love’ that’s it’s become an acronym. Yes, there are also articles that advise against this, and suggest instead learning to love what you do unless you want to be penniless and living on the street painting crappy artwork for pennies.

I can certainly see both sides of the coin, and yes, we all have to make a living, but I’m a firm believer that if you feel you have something you’re meant to share,  you should find a way to share it, even if it means sacrificing other things that society, our parents or friends tell us we ‘should’ want and pursue.

The books telling us to chase our dreams offer ideas for how to figure out what it is what you love, and then go after it.These are of course helpful, but in my experience, the hardest part of the equation can be to extricate ourselves from our day-to-day lives: the routine of going to work, socializing, finding time to relax- not to mention any bad habits and attachments we may have that don’t serve us. Sometimes we lose sight of HOW to do what it is we want to do, even when we know what that is. But it is possible.

In my first week here in Colombia, I had already taught a workshop on Yoga Nidra, a couple of yoga classes, and given a Reiki session. I’d written an article which has been published on Elephant Journal, booked two private clients for therapeutic yoga classes and made strides in so many other areas. People are asking about my services and want to schedule time with me for my healing and yoga sessions.

It makes me so grateful, and also really made me reflect on why I haven’t been teaching, offering Reiki or writing as much as I’d like to in Ottawa. Travel with the intention to be healthy, active and mindful has always stimulated my creative side and allowed me to share more and make more connections with a like-minded community.

Why does it take leaving to gain space to share the things I really want to share and do the things I really want to do?

I was really, really scared to come here. I also knew that the fear I was feeling wasn’t the kind that should prevent me from doing it. I keep travelling because it allows me to keep true to my heart, which tells me to find ways to share what it is I have to give- yoga, reiki, and my unique perspective in any way I can, even if that means I need to go halfway across the world to find the space to do so at this point in my life.

In a full moon fire ceremony last night, my housemates and I wrote down situations, feelings, people, habits or other things we were ready to release and burnt them in our courtyard, allowing the power of the full moon to help us let go of these things that were using up our energy. My list was somewhat long.

By first recognizing the things that keep us stuck in certain situations, we can take steps to detach from them and move towards sharing our gifts.

If you enjoy what you’re doing, are truly happy with your life, and have no urge to do anything differently, then great! But if any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to really look at what you can release from your life however you need to, and mindful travel can certainly provide that change of perspective.

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Gautape: The Perfect Active Weekend Escape 

Gautape, a tiny pueblo less than two hours outside of Medellin is a popular destination for Paisa’s and international travellers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The town itself is small, but lively and colourful.  

It is surrounded by a beautiful system of man-made lakes that shine turquoise, and is just a few minutes drive from the main tourist draw- La Piedra del Penol, a giant rock jutting out from the landscape with a staircase leading to the top.


Many also come to let loose on the lake, as is evident by the multiple party boats cruising the lake at any given time, but there are also so many options for those looking to get outside and soak up the fresh air and be active. There are a couple of delicious restaurants offering fresh, healthy food as well.

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