Arena in Erina

Terrigal NSW Australia is a oceanside resort town about 1 hour north of Sydney. This is where we stayed while curling at the Pacific Asian Championships. The Crowne Plaza is a lovely hotel which overlooks the beach/ocean. There is basically 2 blocks of retail/restaurants. We tried the fish and chips place, the Thai place, the breakfast/lunch cafe, the italian place, the steak chain restaurant and the chinese/malaysian takeout place.

How good were the restaurants? I don’t believe I had anything that was outstanding. As a summer resort town, I found the prices a bit high and the food reasonable.

Erina is where we were curling which was 15 – 20 min from Terrigal. The arena is attached to the Erina Fair Shopping Mall. We had lunches in the food court there. Again, nothing too noteworthy except that for food court food, the food was pretty good for around 10-12AUD. Interesting that there are many asian food stands compared to typical canadian mall food courts…malaysian, thai, ramen, asian dumplings, sushi. At around 4:30PM, you can get some good deals on the food that was left over at the asian stands. The best thing I found was Pie in the Sky pie shop that was about a 10 minute walk from the mall. There you could find the best Australian pies. The fillings were full of chunks of meat. There were huge number of choices for pies. The pastry was flakey and the prices were 5AUD to 6AUD. A very good lunch.

A couple of observations about food in Australia. Tea costs the same as coffee around 4-4.50AUD. You are better off buying tea in the grocery store and making it in your hotel room. The ChaiTime bubble tea prices are the same as here so might as well indulge if you are buying tea anyway. :) A regular coffee costs the same as a flat white. Baked goods are expensive so think again that a coffee and a muffin is a cheap breakfast; not when a muffin costs 3 AUD at the grocery store.

Cheap eats in Australia are schnitzel, bacon and egg roll, fish and chips, australian meat pies. Avocado is very popular as a breakfast item; avocado on toast. I had a lovely breakfast of  salad of avocado, tomato, feta cheese on toast topped with a poached egg.

Coles and Woolworths are the main supermarkets. Milk and cheese seem fattier here; must be the different cows. :)



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Good surry eats in Sydney

So here I am staying at a Airbnb in Sydney Australia in Surrey Hills. This region of Sydney is near the CBD near downtown. Apparently (unbeknownst to me when we booked the place) this is a region for foodies. :). After a 14 hour flight from Vancouver and what seemed to be a long taxi ride from the airport, we needed food.

We decided to walk and found Ramen Zundo in World Square off George Street for lunch. The soup broth was amazing. The price was very good at around 12 AUD.

Being in Australia, the price for tea is like the price for tea in Hong Kong…expensive…A cup of tea is around 4 AUD. Don’t order a cappuccino as they put in other stuff in it in addition to espresso and milk…so instead always order a flat white which is like a Canadian cappuccino. Food and drink here is very expensive.

For dinner, we went to Porteno on Holt Street which was only a couple of blocks away from our Airbnb. Small plates. We only had 2 meat, 1 veggie and 1 entree and dessert. They do an animal of the day which is slow roasted for 8 hours. The animal of our evening was lamb; very tender with. We also had the wagyu beef with chimichurri which melted in your mouth. The vegetable dish was brussel sprouts deep fried with lentils with a balsamic dressing. The entree was a mild cheese melted in a skillet seasoned with some spices which went very well with the bread. The service was top notch. The dessert was a semifreddo done in a ball with studded with nuts.

The Surry Hills area reminds me of Yorkdale in Toronto with many little restaurants and shops…lots of vintage clothes shops.

Porteno animal

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HK Disney knocks out OceanPark

We decided to visit Hong Kong this summer. Be aware it is hot in Hong Kong in June…32 degrees but feeling like 42 everyday. It is very humid and the sun is extremely hot. I now understand why people there have umbrellas; it is not for the rain but to protect you from the sun. Also many people have these personal fans that are charged via USB. Get an octopus card / person at the airport (This is used for bus, metro, ferry and at some stores) It can be reloaded at the 7-11. Also you can get a visitor sim card for your phone very cheap at the airport too.

There are many indie coffee shops which make amazing coffee but are hard to find and are very expensive. The local chain Pacific Coffee competes with Starbucks.

The two major destinations in HK that we decided to do was HK Disney and OceanPark. We went to HK Disney on the Friday and Ocean Park the following Monday. Definitely do not go on the weekend as it does get crowded. Also we were in HK before June 30th so the kids were not out of school.

HK Disney tips…we bought our Disney tickets online ahead of time from Klook as it looked like it was the cheapest. Food is not cheap at Disney. A quote from my husband, “That was the smallest; most expensive Latte that I’ve ever bought and it wasn’t even very good”. When you get there, if you go to the member’s counter, you can buy a meal package, which included 2 meals (lunch and dinner; which also includes a drink) and 2 snacks (water, pop, or frozen treat). If you are planning to stay all day, I would recommend buying the meal voucher.

We took the metro there. There is an exclusive train line that goes to Disney and the train has plush seating, Mickey mouse hand holds and disney characters decorate the train. Very nice. We got there for the opening time. Note that the only thing available for the first half hour is main street stores are open and you can meet some characters. The rest of it is roped off. Once it opened, as my son is 11, we headed directly to Tomorrowland where we spent quite a bit of time at Space mountain and Buzz lightyear. Here’s a hint, get a fast pass for Space mountain and line up for it, the lines were short, then keep getting a fast pass for Space mountain and while you wait for your time go and do Buzz lightyear.

One thing about Disney is that the lines don’t get long until early afternoon and they never really got that long about 40 minutes. Mystic Manor was a fun ride as was the Grizzly Mountain runaway mine cars. When we were there, it was hot…very hot so we made sure we picked some rides that were air conditioned like Mystic Manor and It’s a small world.

Bring a water bottle as there are fountains to refill your bottle. If your kids are not little, then you can do Disney in one day. My son was tired at the end. We stayed for the night parade but couldn’t stay for the fireworks display at the end.

Disney was friendly and well organized.

This is in contrast to Ocean Park. Ocean Park is an aquarium/amusement park. By 2017, there should be a dedicated metro line to get to Ocean Park. Again we pre-bought tickets for OceanPark on line from Klook. We got there before it opened and well waited. The maps for Ocean Park are well hidden by the sides of the entrance. You can’t see the kiosk for it as it is hidden by all the people standing and waiting for it to open.

Ocean Park has two levels, ground level and the top of the mountain level. There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain (train or cable car). First thing to note is that nothing is open up top for 30-45 minutes … so go see the Pandas and some other things on the ground level first. Then take the train up (not a long line up) The line up for the cable car is long. The top of the mountain has many rides. It was very hot so we went for the wet rapids ride 3 times. Unfortunately, the flume ride was closed. It seemed like quite a few of the rides were closed for maintenance. The map does not show elevation. For example to get to the line for the cable car, we had to go down the stairs of the restaurant to get there.

There is a lot of up and down walking in this place especially at the top of the mountain. Also, the food is expensive. There was a meal deal you could get if you were from certain countries such as Singapore, Indonesia etc. If you are only of those lucky people, I would advise you to get the voucher.

The aquariums were very interesting and the Panda display was awesome as you could see the Pandas up close. Red and the Traditional Pandas. My take on this place is that the rides are secondary (added bonus) but the aquariums and wildlife shows were more interesting. We watched the dolphin and seal show which was very good.

We did take the cable car but did it going down as the line was short (the view is very nice) however, the ride is long as it stops many times due to loading and unloading people issues.

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The National Tour

So we had a chance to go see the National in Oshawa at the GM center. Lots of great curling. But what about the eats…We were able to try a couple of places near the GM center. Surprisingly, they were pretty good. We stuck to something quick and not too expensive. Our go to coffee shop was Tutto Market Cafe on SImcoe..not only is it a coffee shop with desserts, it also has sandwiches and hot food selection. Very Italian but tasty and very good value.

Our next stop was a diner, Mr A’s Quick Flame… Greek place, diner quick. For a quick lunch we went to Jimmy Guacos, a mexican burrito shop. Like Burrito Gringo in Ottawa where they make up the burrito with whatever ingredients you want.  For dinner we went Patty Shack which is a burger place where the burgers are made fresh and you get to choose the toppings and there is a huge choice of sauces.

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Gone with the wind; RIP Passat

It was supposed to be a culinary day trip to Montreal on the Saturday of the Labour day weekend. We had planned to visit the Biodome in the morning, grab some bagels at Fairmount and visit the foodie fair at the port of Montreal.

However, a piece of metal decided that was not the plan. As we were driving on the 40 Ouest we encountered a piece of metal (like those metal plates…must have fallen off construction truck) that two cars in front of us had hit with their tires…unfortunately, the last car (car in front of us) hit it such that it propelled the metal up and thereby hitting our car around the bottom of the grill…well you can imagine that this metal plate sliced the bottom of the car…oil pan, radiator, air conditioner, belt and hoses…Luckily it was low enough that it didn’t hit the air bag sensor so we were able to slowly glide to a stop off the side of the highway.

Another lucky thing is that the policeman pulled up behind us less than 5 minutes after we stopped and said he saw the whole thing and would write it up as an accident.

We were in Pointe Claire and so our car was towed to the nearest open garage which was a former Speedy. We were only a few blocks away from FairView Mall. After calling the insurance, and my brother who was nice enough to come to pick us up at the Mall, we headed to the mall.

Now for the fun…it took 3 calls to have our claim properly entered in the system. We looked up the value of our car…3-5 thousand maybe. So when my brother showed up we decided to go back to the car and take everything with us as we were sure it would be a write off.

The first estimate, the garage did was 7000. The insurance company didn’t like that estimate and wanted a more thorough estimate and with used parts. Well let’s just say that the insurance company decided to have an adjuster come out and look at the car. Problem 1…our company has no adjusters in Quebec so it hires a 3rd party adjuster to do the work. Problem2…guy that was hired “doesn’t work with certain garages” and so after 4 days (since that guy didn’t actually say anything until we called to get the insurance company to inquire) (our car is still on the hoist in the garage)…the insurance company gets a different guy. Now it takes the 3rd party company another 4 days to assign it to someone who finally visited the garage. Now the adjuster after 4 days has not filed his report.

Apparently, Quebec adjusters are special and work on their own time. I’m hoping that this gets resolved by the end of next week. Needless to say I’m not a happy camper. Of course, we phoned the claims office nearly every other day and finally they gave us a handler…however the handler is not a very responsive guy. He never seems to call back unless we sic our agent on him.

Meanwhile during this time, we decide to find a new car…which we did…a 2014 golf wagon TDI with only 15000 km…it was in Toronto but saved us 10000 over buying a new 2015…We took possession 1 day before the VW emission scandal broke out.

I don’t regret it so far, the car drives amazing and is quiet and corners well. We upgraded from the plain Passat to the leather seats and panoramic sunroof Golf. The comfort level is nice. I didn’t buy it for the emissions..I bought it for the drive and fuel economy. Maybe we’ll get some money out of this from VW :) Who knows.

Looking back, we’ve owned 2 Passats and each one died a horrible death..first one was a collision with a deer and this last one was a collision with metal. Hopefully this new golf gets to age gracefully.

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Four Peas (Last Day)

So the heat did not let up. The inn at the new microbrasserie in Val David had a lovely continental breakfast as good as the ones you get in Europe…fresh bread from a local bakery, homemade jam, cold cuts and cheese and fruit and yogurt.

It was sunny and incredibly hot…the ride was fun as it was mostly downhill. But as we got nearer to St Jerome, the gates at the crossings got tighter and the bike path between cross streets seemed shorter and shorter especially when we got into St. Jerome…it was like biking in the city with the cross streets having lights.

Our final stop was the train station at St. Jerome…what was really nice is that the tourist office at the train station had showers available for use. Also, there was a chip and burger stand there but there was no poutine there.

It was hot and muggy and I could tell my husband had no energy to tour around St. Jerome so we packed up and drove home in our nice air conditioned car.

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Four Peas (Day 3)

The next day we had an uphill ride to Val David. It was still hot as hell but at least it was cloudy that morning. The ride from Tremblant to St. Jovite was flat but there was one intersection that the path crosses that was extremely busy with fast (80km/hr) traffic that was a only a cross walk. I had enough traffic to warrant a light. Scary as you had to make sure that the cars were going to stop for you. We rode to Saint Faustin where we stopped at this little cafe that was just off the trail just before the train station at Saint Faustin. We had very nice thin pizza for lunch as it was raining outside. By the time we were done, so was the rain.

The second half of the ride was very hot as the sun peaked out from behind the clouds. We stopped at the Formagerie Mount Tremblant for ice cream/gelato and picked up bags of fresh cheese curds…there was a sign on the path where you had to ride up a dirt path hill to the parking lot of the cheese store.

When we finally made it to Val David, we got lost trying to find our B&B as it was supposed to be the Microbrasserie le Baril Roulant…well what happened is that the pub and restaurant is on the main street but the owners had just bought and were renovating a place that was just off the path a block before the train station. Unfortunately, the new place still had the old name and we did not know the old name…So we did a tour of Val David trying to find the place. Interesting place as they are on a hill across from a beautiful park looking out the river and rapids.

After cleaning up, we walked to the Microbrasserie to get a brew and decide where to go for dinner. The list of beer was very extensive. As we were discussing where to go, the rain clouds burst which made our  decision quite simple..we stayed at the pub for dinner. Interesting menu. The vegetarian curry was very tasty as was the duck confit and bison burger…what was interesting was the poutine with sausage and the beer gravy.



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Four Peas (Day 2)

It was an even shorter ride on day 2 from Labelle to the old village of Tremblant. After getting settled in our hotel, we decided to bike to the Intrawest village of Tremblant. So hotel clerk mentioned the path by the Mercer Lake was very scenic and not as challenging as the other path…well it was pretty hilly…hilly enough that at spots, my son had to walk the bike up…the weather was hot and humid even for Tremblant…but we all made it there. Interesting note about the number of people running and cycling on the paths…I believe many were training for the triatholon happening later that month. I had forgotten how touristy the village was…packed with lots of tourists, high end shops. We finally made our way to the local brewery restaurant…La Diable and all had a quaff and some munchies. It was interesting that many of the restaurants did not have air conditioning…I guess they just don’t get 38 degree heat in the summer.

We decided that the easiest way back from the new village to the old village was via the roads. Much quicker…less hilly. Our hotel consisted of  2 buildings and one of the buildings had a beach which was beside the public beach on the Mercer Lake. We went for a nice swim after the hot ride to Tremblant and back.

Later that evening we strolled through the old village looking at the different restaurants. There was one interesting place, a library/cafe/wine bar. Interesting concept but they were closing for the evening. We did have a chance to quickly tour about …an open concept  contemporary decorated with the bar/kitchen on the main floor and the reading room in the lower level that walked out to a garden.

We settled for this french restaurant (Milly’s) that my son chose just for the game ravioli…but alas they had run out of ravioli for the weekend. The food was good but the service was very slow and spotty…It seemed that they forgot us. My son had to settle for the mixed grill…tonnes of meat with the best being the beef rib with lots of meat and flavour.

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Four Peas (Day1)

Petit Train du Nord, pedal, paddle and poutine.

It was a four day cycling adventure along the Petit Train du Nord. We drove to St Jerome on Friday evening. We took a short detour to Masson Angers to get some poutine at the corner of George and 148. The fries were very good; thick and crispy…there was choice of three gravies, white, brown and red. We had white gravy (chicken gravy) was tasty without the huge saltiness. Burgers are small but homemade. The next morning we took the bus from St. Jerome to Riviere Rouge. That was where we started our biking.

Our first day was very short on the bike about 21 km to Labelle where we stayed at the Gare in Labelle right beside the bike path. The restaurant there was very good. The poutine consisted of fries done in duck fat and the gravy was a pan sauce made with sherry. My son had the duck confit poutine…very good…good value. Note, if you are ordering the mayo…the garlic one is the best and one is good enough for 2 sides( there’s an extra charge for the mayo).

Since it was such a short day, we decided to rent canoes and do some paddling on the Riviere rouge. So when the proprieter of Gare in Labelle made us reservations…we did not realize it was a down stream paddle for 12 km. The last departure of 2:30 now made sense. A 3 hour paddle where they pick you up and bus you back to the starting point.

The water level on the river was really low and so we were constantly searching for deep water…there were many sandbars along the river. At times we had to get out and push the canoe to a deeper spot. It was beautiful going down the river looking at the many luxurious cottages (mansions) dotted along the shore. At that time of year, this river was the ultimate lazy river. We encountered many home made party platforms made from pool inflatables where one inflatable would be filled with ice and beverages…unfortunate for us we were paddling against the wind but we made it to the pick up point just in time for the 5:30 pickup…the guys picking us up were impressed as they thought it would take us 4 hours.

We got coupons for 2 for 1 drinks at the restaurant where we rented the canoes…it had a very nice deck on the top of the hill overlooking the river and falls. The restaurant had local beer so we sat the on the couches watching the river with our beer.

We decided not to have dinner there as we all wanted to go back to the Gare to cleanup after our long day in the sun. By the time we walked back, the skies opened up and we decided to have dinner at the Gare. Dinner was very nice and we were able to have dinner underneath the overhang and not get wet. The fish was well cooked and tasty as was the pizza. Dessert was a maple bacon creme brulee. Yummy!!

The next morning, we had breakfast there too …yes all three meals. The homemade bread was excellent…I highly recommend the maple walnut bread. It may be too sweet for some but the flavours were just bold enough to be able to enjoy with just butter. My son had to have the breakfast poutine…how could he resist amazing fries for 3 straight meals.



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Triple Play Weekend

This weekend was an unplanned weekend of food where the only planned thing was going to the Asian night market. Originally, I wanted to go to the ball game and then to the night market Friday night but weather squashed that plan as it rained so much that we decided to go see AntMan on opening night.

Ant Man did not disappoint as it had humour, action, special effects and a very slight bit of romance. I highly recommend the movie as does my son.

So Saturday noon we decided to venture to the night market as it opened at noon. Well going early was a good idea. The food stalls were placed along the foot path between the Cattle Castle and the gardens….Bad choice as there was very little room for 2 way traffic and people lined up waiting for food from the food stalls. I was hoping for more variety but most were selling BBQ skewers of some kind. There were 2 drink places, a Taiwainese hot pot soup place, oyster omelete place, a Phillipine stall, Merry Dairy, Souvlaki food truck (for the non adventurous) and Peruvian/asian food truck and of course the stinky tofu place.

Unfortunately for Merry Dairy, they were just down wind of the stinky tofu place and did it ever stink… the stinky tofu was deep fried and my mom says that the taste is very good and no at all like the stink.

The biggest lines were for several of the BBQ skewer places. One which had this amazing octopus skewers with 4 octopi bbq on a skewer however, the line for that stall was slow and long…they had too many options and not enough BBQ space to keep up with demand. Beside them was another BBQ place that was quick and only offered lamb…very good and very efficient…less than 5 min wait. 3 skewers for 5 dollars.

Some of the stalls were just not prepared for the number of people as it took 15 minutes for me to get my Taiwan hotpot and there was only 4 people in front of me….the soup was prepared…all they had to do was cook the veggies and meat …instead of taking multiple orders, each bowl was prepared separately.

Merry Dairy had this black sesame seed ice cream which was really interesting…sweet roasted flavour with a hint of vanilla.

As we were leaving the lines seemed to get longer and longer.

That night we were headed to the Ottawa Champions ball game. I thought the start time was 7:05 but the previous game was rained out so they had a double header starting at 5 …Oh well, we were 1 hour late…but it was a slow game (lots of runs by the Quebec team( so we were there by the 4th inning. This is an inexpensive outing…12 dollars for adults and 5 for kids. I also had a 2 for 1 coupon that made this a 17 dollar venture with 5 dollars for parking…still cheaper than the movie night and because it was a doubleheader we got 16 innings…the second game was a 7 inning game (I guess that is how they do doubleheaders in the Can Am league)

Now about the beer and food at the stadium…craft beer from ClockTower and Kichissippi and Coors Light for the non-initiated. There was also fresh lemonade and can you believe this…Tequila Gold shots. The lemonade was more expensive than the shots…5 for the lemonade and 3.50 for the shots.
The beer was 5.25 for a small and 7.50 for a large. Not bad for a stadium.

There was a poutine booth that you could get smoked meat poutine for 8.50 and the poutine was pretty good. I also tried the onion rings for 5.25 which were a little greasy but crispy.

All in all a very relaxing time where the seats were general admission meaning you could sit anywhere you wanted and it was great to be able to see and hear all the players.

On Sunday my parents had invited us to dim sum at Bejing Legend. It is a place on Bank Street with parking. The dim sum is cart service. The Har Gow and the Shrimp Sui Mai are large and tasty. I also recommend the cuttlefish and the BBQ pork buns. The rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp or beef are very good…the wrappings are done well; very tender. Don’t go for the sticky rice as it is mostly rice. We also ordered a dish of dry fried beef rice noodle which was very good and had lots of bean sprout and beef.

All in all a weekend of too much good food.

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