Wellness Travel

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.



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.


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!


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.



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.



Cycling in the City: Medellin by Bike

 Medellin sits in a valley, surrounded by the Andes mountains. A beautiful sight, but also a recipe for smog.

In recent years, the city has taken steps to develop its cycling infrastructure and promote cycling as a mode of transportation in order to curb air pollution and encourage healthy living among Paisas. These initiatives have had great success, and Medellin has become an excellent cycling destination.

There are now bicycle routes in many areas of the city, and plans are in place to expand biking them by 400 km in the next two decades. Medellin also hosted the World Bicycle Forum in 2015.

The ambitious Encicla program has also certainly contributed to the rising popularity of cycling: this bike share program has more than 35 stations in the city with over 600 bikes available for loan-for free.  Anyone in the city , including tourists may sign up online to access this service and take a spin on one of the recognizable blue bicycles. 

Bike clubs and serious athletes have proliferated, and the last Wednesday of each month has become a trendy event, offering the opportunity for bike lovers gather to ride in the Fiesta de la Bici.

Though at first glance the streets seem to be quite hectic, they are generally safe as motorists have become accustomed to keeping an eye out for cyclists on the road. On any given weekend, hundreds of cyclists take to the streets and the recreational paths to take a weekend ride. Yesterday, Earth Day, was also Dia sin Carro- Day without Cars here in Medellin. Only bikes, and public transportation vehicles were out on public streets.

Popular routes for serious cyclists, including the challenging Las Palmas and Alto de Minas routes, which take you out  of the city into the countryside, all include lots of hills. Be prepared for some steep incline training. There are also mountain biking options in the hills outside the city, with numerous operators offering tours.

In my week here, I’ve seen more cyclists than any other city I’ve been to. The lovely weather year-round and the forward-thinking initiatives of the local government really encourage people to get out and cycle the city.



I’m in Colombia!

Yup. My latest wanderings have brought me to Medellin. The flight from Toronto was relatively painless, despite an unscheduled landing at the Bogota airport due to a ‘pothole in the runway.’ When we finally arrived, I was the air was cooler than I expected and the winding drive down from the high-altitude airport gave me my first glimpse of the city’s night lights in the valley. 

I’m here for the next month to teach yoga at Flying Tree Yoga and take some workshops as a part of Yoga Internship Colombia‘s program. The studio/my home while I’m here is in the Laurales neighbourhood, an up-and-coming area with beautiful tree-lines streets and lots of shops, restaurants and cafes near the university. 
My first day has already been productive and relaxing- I went to a writer’s workshop, watched my new roomies doing acro-yoga, ate some delicious mangos and explored Parque Llaras in one of the wealthier (and more touristy) areas called El Poblado. 



Back to the Pura Vida

This is my fourth time visiting Costa Rica. I can’t seem to stay away from this place that holds such a clear space in and for my spirit. I’ve always believed we can learn so much from place: the different physical, geographical, cultural, social tones and our perception of how we fit in to them. Each time I am here, I experience something new.

 This space that is created continues to grow as I see paths that never existed in my life or mind before. I am continuously pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways as it feels like this place is supporting self-reflection over and over and over again.



It’s Spring (Water) Time

Spring_dayI’ve been wanting to get out of the city for a while now (a while being the last month and half since I got back from Costa Rica) and have also been itching to get some clean water ever since I discovered last sumer that there are numerous freshwater springs around Ottawa. With warmer weather and spring finally on our doorstep, I thought the timing was right. I used Find A Spring, a great resource that maps out the location of springs around the world, to get directions to the Wakefield Spring, and recruited another health-conscious friend and her daughter for the fun afternoon. And for the car, to transport the many litres of water. It ended up being a beautiful day for the little road trip.


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