After a long day of travel from Ottawa by plane and then car, I arrived over the mountains to the far west coast of Vancouver Island at dusk. This remote area, with access to Ucluelet to the south, and Tofino to the north, has shifted from an economy based on fishing and logging to a service-based economy catering to the tourists who flock to this area for the outstanding hiking in coastal rainforests, watersports- namely the world-famous surfing on stunning sandy beaches,- delicious freshly-caught seafood, and the laid-back vibe of the town. It’s a wellness traveller’s dream.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ith 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.
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.