Less is more. We know that saying in relation to art. Specifically modern art. What if that saying applied outside of the world of art? I think we could all learn something, especially when it comes to travel, from this saying. How many times you visited Niagara Falls?
Its not uncommon for us to get sucked into the “check list” style of travel. While in my opinion there is nothing wrong with this style of travelling, I do believe that it doesn’t do the destination justice. I believe that we would enjoy our trips more if we took the time to enjoy them. Sounds simple, right? Yet, how often do we see tour buses, off loading a group of tourists who simply snap a picture of the view and head straight back for the bus? Sure, we all have a bucket list. Things that we want to see at a certain destination, but I believe that the approach can be changed, or at least improve. Instead of packing several things into the days itinerary, wouldn’t we be able to enjoy the trip so much more if we use the approach “less is more” and simply put three things in the itinerary? In the same sense of “less is more”, enjoying three activities to the fullest at a destination instead of piling on several can help us enjoy the trip so much more.
Here is where the Niagara Falls Region comes in.
The Niagara Region is a perfect blend of country living and the city, making it the perfect get away. Wineries, Amazing Hotels, Great People and lets not forget the Niagara Falls… What does this region not have?
So how do we make the most of a trip to the Niagara Region? Below are just some of the events that may get your attention. Plan accordingly!
April – Easter – follow this link to get an idea where to lunch and dine on Easter weekend. And don’t forget to have a reservation!
June – Comic Con is a popular event that takes place on June 3 -5 at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, Niagara Falls Canada, just steps away from the majestic Falls. This popular event features more than 200,000 square feet of exhibitors, comic books, movie cars, cosplay contests, celebrity autographs and photo-ops, a video gaming arena, Falls Horror Fest and so much more!
As soon as you wish – If you love your bike and a passionate cyclist – you’ll appreciate this useful info – here.
August – The 28thedition of theCanada’s largest multi-sport event, will take place in Niagara from Saturday August 6thto Sunday, August 21st, 2022. The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games will celebrate the wonder of sport alongside arts and culture. The Games will honour Niagara’s Indigenous communities and showcase a remarkable heritage of hard work and innovation in one of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations. With world-renowned hospitality, the people of Niagara will welcome visitors from across the country.
October 23, 2022 – One of the oldest and most scenic racecourses in North America following the Niagara River and ending at the majestic Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The Niagara International Marathon is truly international with the start in Buffalo, NY and end in Niagara Falls, ON. The Half, 10k, and 5k distances all start and end in Canada.
With new Hotels and Spas opening this year, the Niagara region is a must for anyone visiting the area!
And one last tip – here is a great place to stop for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea – Old Stone Inn.
Ding! A notification goes off. As you check what it was, you get sucked into your phone. All of a sudden you remembered! You wanted to send a picture of the beach to your friends! One thing leads to another and next thing you know, you are completely immersed in your phone. Completely oblivious to your destination and the fact that you were supposed to be “on vacation”.
While phones can be a fantastic time saving device (GPS, Calls, Text etc.), they do take away from the raw experience of the trip or destination. Its not uncommon nowadays to see people glued to their phones, unable to relax and simply enjoy the present moment. We seem to have become very attached to the idea of proof – pictures and videos of our travels. While by no means is this a bad thing, I do however believe that we are on thin ice. We seem to have become more interested in the videos and pictures we take of the destination, rather than the destination itself. We seem to have begun viewing things not through our own eyes, but rather our phones screens.
It has become not uncommon to be at a destination or activity and to be distracted by your phone.
You can see this almost everywhere, people take a picture or video of the view from a viewing platform and walk away. Without really soaking in the view. Without really enjoying it.
Wouldn’t the trip be so much more enjoyable if we took the time to savour it – without your phone?
When we return home from our trips, its becoming more and more common that we share our experiences through our phones. We show pictures and videos to friends back home. While that is a fantastic way to share the experience (and make others who couldn’t come along jealous), I believe that it becomes a problem when the picture or video is more important than enjoying the trip itself. At the end of the day, I think that there is an important question to be asked here. One which has no right or wrong answer.
That question is “Why?”. Is the purpose of the trip to take as many photos as possible before rushing off to see the next checklist item? If so, then by all means, go ahead. However, people seem to get inadvertently sucked into this rat race without much thought. Interestingly, didn’t we take the trip or vacation with the goal of getting away? Of getting away from that same rat race which we have been dragged into?
I personally think that this approach of “checklist” travelling is wrong. By this I mean getting out of the bus, snapping a few quick pictures and heading straight back in. I think its important now, more than ever that we not lose our sense of place. For many of us, seeing a certain destination is a once in a lifetime opportunity and yet, we seem to waste the experience aspect of the trip or destination in exchange for the social aspect – the likes, follows and re-tweets. I believe that arriving at a destination – lets say a viewing deck of a large canyon, for example – taking a picture, sending it to your friends and heading back to the bus is the wrong approach. Why not take the time to appreciate the view?
“Phones are a fantastic tool, but are we going to far?”
There is a reason that even bands are starting to take action. Go to any concert and instead of seeing people enjoying the music, having a great time and dancing, you will see people taking out their phones and taking pictures and videos. It seems that they are viewing the concert through the little screen on their phones rather than simply enjoying the night…
Another big aspect is the story telling one. When we return from any trip, we love to tell others about it. In fact, I think that telling others is probably one of the major reasons people like to travel. We like the social attention which comes with telling others about our trip. Yet, what happened to telling stories about the trip? We seem to just show each other the picture and that’s it.
“We [seem to] like the social attention which comes with telling others…”
Sure, the picture gives the person an accurate idea of what things looked like, but I think that it is trumped by the interest and excitement that surrounds someone telling a story about their trip. Stories are important, they are vital to us humans.
Yet, we seem to simply show the pictures and end things there, rather than sharing something interesting we learned, saw, heard or experiences while on the trip. I think most of us would be more interested by hearing the story about how one of our friends got scared of an Iguana and the chaos that ensued when they saw one, rather than simply seeing a picture of an Iguana and moving on.
So next time you are on your trip, take the time to really soak things in. Ask yourself whether you really need to bring your phone – after all, we somehow managed to live without them before…
Memoir of a Montserratian Business Man is a one of a kind book. From growing up on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat in the 40’s and 50’s, to his life in England, Memoir of a Montserratian Business Man by Norman Ryan gives a fascinating look at the life of one of the most well known business men on the island.
Featuring fun stories and valuable life lessons, it gives a whole new look as to what life on the islands is really like. This book covers points in history that many are too young to remember, making it also a priceless artifact. This book covers so many aspects of Norman Ryan’s life, including his childhood on the island, his travels abroad, the impact of natural disasters and the entrepreneurial spirit. For anyone wanting to learn about the islands most prominent business man, Memoir of a Montserratian Business Man is a must read.
Printed in the 2018 Souvenir Booklet for the Alliouagana Festival of the Word (AFW), ISBN 9 789769 662001.
Spring in Japan brings more than just cherry blossoms. Tokyo’s green spaces erupt into a rainbow of colorful spring flowers. Here are the best spots. Japan has a huge variety of flora and fauna. Cherry blossoms are world-famous, but that isn’t the only reason to go flower watching in spring. Colorful azaleas, wisteria vines and roses, to name but a few, burst into bloom across the country. Tokyo’s green spaces, including formal gardens, shrines and parks, are the ideal way to see spring flowers. Festivals and illuminations offer an extra-special way to enjoy the scenery. Hama-rikyu Gardens
These gardens are home to 300,000 stalks of rape blossoms that form a bright yellow carpet, creating a contrast against the skyscrapers surrounding the park. Between early and late March, Hama-rikyu holds a rape blossom festival, during which you can enjoy Tsugaru-jamisen concerts and an illumination display. Spot: Hama-rikyu Gardens Access: 7 minutes on foot from Tsukijishijo Station or Shiodome Station (Toei Subway) Nezu-jinja Shrine
Nezu Shrine has an approximately 6,600 square-meter azalea garden featuring 3,000 azalea plants of 50 varieties. During the shrine’s annual azalea festival, visitors are invited to admire the scenery, to try amazake (a sweet fermented rice drink) at a teahouse and to check out the festival booths. Spot: Nezu-jinja Shrine Access: 5 minutes on foot from Nezu Station, Sendagi Station, or Todaimae Station (Tokyo Metro) Events: Bunkyo Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri) April to May Kameido Tenjin Shrine
This shrine has 15 trellises supporting as many as 100 wisteria vines that bloom in synchronized harmony. The violet flowers look magnificent by day and especially romantic at twilight. Access: 15 minutes on foot from Kameido Station or Kinshicho Station (JR lines) Events: Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival April to May Kyu-Furukawa Gardens
Kyu-Furukawa Gardens offer a splendid view of some 180 roses of 90 varieties. Another beauty that’s not to be missed is a strikingly elegant Western-style brick building designed by a British architect. Here, you’ll see a fascinating harmony between the Western-style and Japanese-style gardens. Spot: Kyu-Furukawa Gardens Access: 7 minutes on foot from Nishigahara Station (Tokyo Metro) Events: Spring Rose Festival May Imperial Palace East Gardens (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen)
These gardens span an area of around 210,000 square meters. In May, the gardens’ Ninomaru Grove is tinged a rich shade of red as rhododendrons bloom. Access: 5 minutes on foot from Otemachi Station or Takebashi Station (Tokyo Metro)
Japanese ingredients blessed with distinct seasons and an abundant harvest from the sea and mountains are very rich in variety. The key appeal of Tokyo’s culinary scenes is the availability of fresh and flavorful ingredients from all over Japan. In Tokyo, a city with a long history and rich culture, you can experience everything from traditional Japanese cuisine to modern culinary trends in one place.
Traditional Japanese cuisine has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and its basis is healthy dashi broth. Traditional seasonings used to bring out the umami (or savouriness) flavor are increasingly becoming compatible with dietary restrictions in recent years, allowing more people to enjoy dining in Japan.
For Vegetarians or Vegans
Traditional Japanese cuisine and other Japanese dishes use “dashi”, which is a broth that contains a bouillon-like umami flavor. Please note that some seemingly meat- and fish-free dishes may contain dashi broth or gelatin made from animal ingredients, such as bonito and other fish broth or meat extracts. Also, animal ingredients may be used in the seasoning or emulsifier.
For sweets, soymilk and coconut oil and the like are used instead of eggs and butter. In the gluten-free menu items, rice flour, a typical Japanese ingredient, is mainly used. The soymilk ice cream has a soothing taste and will help you have a relaxing teatime after a long journey.
Vegan-Muslim restaurants are on the rise, even among café restaurants where you can enjoy the current culinary trend of Tokyo in a casual setting. Vegan-Muslim versions of the dishes inspired by Japanese popular culture such as gyoza and karaage using soybean meat are offered in the menu.
Even though Japanese versions of foreign-origin dishes such as curry rice and ramen noodles, which have become an integral part of the unique culinary culture, usually contain meat and/or fish, vegan restaurants do not use animal ingredients and instead use vegetables and seaweed to add depth to the flavor.
Traditional Japanese seasonings such as mirin (cooking sake), soy sauce, and miso (soy paste) may contain alcohol. Furthermore, Japanese sake is also utilized a lot in cooking. Even if it is not specified in the ingredients, please note that emulsifiers with gelatin or pork-derived ingredients, or alcohol-based seasonings may be used. Please be aware that some vinegars used in sushi rice are manufactured from alcohol.
Japanese Kaiseki Restaurants
Kaiseki-ryori is a Japanese cuisine created for the enjoyment of the tea ceremony, a Japanese tradition. “Wabi-sabi”, the basis of the tea ceremony, is expressed in the course menu. While expressing the seasonality through the seasonal ingredients as well as the cherry blossoms and maple leaves that decorate the dishes, the delicate and profound Japanese culinary culture is evident in the attention to details in the presentation of the dishes. You can feel the spirit of the Japanese people, who cherish the richness of nature and a sense of the seasons, in every single dish.
The restaurant has created a multilingual booklet on the basics and etiquettes of Kaiseki cuisine to make sure our guests can safely enjoy the dining experiences with the clarifications of the ingredients.
For Muslim guests, gelatin-free and alcohol-free soy sauce is used. Halal Wagyu beef served in Teppanyaki and Shabushabu is exceptional.
For vegetarians and vegans, we have a colorful dish of vegetables in mushroom and kelp broth. You can enjoy vegetables delivered directly from contract farmers and seasonal delicacies such as edible wild plants in the spring and wild mushrooms in the fall.
We can also prepare gluten-free versions of Tempura, in which flour is usually used for batter, or soy sauce, the basic seasoning of Japanese cuisine. Guests can safely enjoy the dishes without compromising the taste.
Kaiseki cuisine contains much of the essence of good old traditional Japan. It would surely be a highlight of your trip in Japan.
Japanese Soul Food at Soba Restaurants
One of the dishes that foreign visitors to Japan always mention as the “Must try Japanese food” would be Soba or Tempura. At a Soba restaurant, you can casually enjoy everyday local food of Japanese people such as Tempura and various rice bowls as well as Soba.
Dashi broth used for noodle sauce is often made with bonito, but it is made with kombu (kelp) to make it more palatable for vegetarian and vegan guests. The noodle sauce is an important factor in determining the taste of Soba. A number of trials were made over a long time to make sure it tasted right.
It can also be made available for oriental vegetarian guests by taking out the leek seasoning. The texture of the crispy batter is the hallmark of Tempura. The texture of the batter is maintained even without eggs. Why not take this opportunity to experience a kind of soul food that is familiar to the Japanese people? * Soba (buckwheat) is an allergy item.
Japanese Dining Etiquette You Should Know
Otoshi – is a small dish like an appetizer. It is served automatically before the order, usually for the cover charge, at a place like Izakaya (casual dining bar).
Water or tea – is served as you are seated at the table. It is usually free and for consumption in house.
No food or beverage to be brought in. Please consume only what is ordered and served in house.
Oshibori – It is a small wet towel for wiping your hands provided as a courtesy. It is for use in house only and not to be taken out.
Taking off shoes – Take off your shoes before entering the tatami-matted sitting room. Place the shoes taken off in an orderly manner.
A number of orders – At an eatery, it is commonly expected to order at least one dish per person.
Tipping – There is no custom of tipping in Japanese restaurants. Please ask if the check is to be settled at the table or paid at the register.
Istanbul is a big and vibrant city, the largest city in Turkey. You could easily spend a week here and it would feel insufficient. Turkey, especially Istanbul, is a very beautiful and diverse place. As a stop-over on the flight we got only three days, so have to stick to the best!
Start your day with a Turkish breakfast. Fresh baked bread, olives, cheese and a cup of tea or Turkish coffee at the small café… We really love the local drink called Ayran. The first ever sip will stop you in your tracks… After the second your taste buds start getting the taste. And after another you are completely hooked! It’s natural, low calorie and very refreshing at any time!
Start by visiting the Grand Bazaar. It is not very busy in the morning and you wont be caught in the crowds.
The Grand Bazaar itself is very beautiful and impressive. The ceiling are in mosaics, the smells of the stores, the sounds of the market… Did you know that it is the biggest shopping mall in the world? It is really something you can’t express in pictures or videos.
The Grand Bazaar is an experience that you will never forget. Expect to spend at least one hour here for sightseeing or better 2-3 hours if you plan to bargain and buy… – say a carpet!
Seriously speaking shipping can be arranged to anywhere and the selection is overwhelming! Bargaining will tire you out. Make sure you stop at a few shops to taste famous “Turkish Delight”. Its really worth it and with hundreds of different flavours you are guaranteed to find something you like and want to bring home. Tasting is free and fun!
If you like it, buy some! It is a great snack to keep with you while exploring the rest of the city. And a great surprise for friends! And at the shop you can ask for nice gift package. Just a personal note here – better buy the sweets that you try at the stands, not those in the boxes offered in many places.
Beware, it is extremely easy to get lost in the Bazaar, so try and keep a reference of where the main road is – it will make it easier to find your way back home. The roads do look very similar making its pretty easy to get lost. Don’t worry if you do, locals are very friendly and will gladly help you, or use your phone for navigation!
After exploring the Bazaar, you will be hungry! Don’t be taken aback by the number of people who might ask you to take a look at their menu. It’s a good idea to take a look at one or two restaurant menus so that you can get an idea of the food and prices. Any of them offer a good choice.
After lunch its time to dip into history. Not just any, but the Hagia Sofia! This is by far one of the most beautiful ancient buildings in Istanbul with history so rich and controversial. As of July 2020 Hagia Sophia is an active mosque after being a museum since 1935!
Make sure you time your visit properly, tourists are not allowed inside during prayer. When visiting, in respect to religion men should wear long pants and women headcover and long skirt (pants are ok) – ladies, have a scarf handy (you can buy a nice one during the visit to Bazaar). The building itself is quite grand. Its main hall has really high ceilings – make you wonder how an ancient civilization could have possibly built it (the construction started in 532 BC and was completed in a period of five years and opened for worship in 537BC with great ceremony)…
Just a short distance from Hagia Sophia is Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is very beautiful, the mosaics are truly amazing. The garden also makes for a great experience. Just like the Hagia Sofia, this is also a operating mosque. Consider donating on your way out, it helps with the upkeep of the mosque and the grounds.
After breakfast, head to what used to be the hippodrome. Here you will find some interesting elements… Past the hippodrome, you will pass a beautiful park. Take your time here to take some pictures, the view is not something to be missed.
After seeing the hippodrome, we are heading to the Basilica Cistern. When we visited there was no water due to some restoration work.
The Cistern is a very unique place. It is at once very very impressive. Yet, at the same time a bit spooky. It has very tall ceilings held up by roman era columns.
Next stop, The Mosaic Museum. Its a short walk from the cistern and it is certainly worth visiting. It is a relatively small museum, it lies on the grounds of what used to be a Roman Era mansion. The mosaics are very impressive. The detail, beauty and realism are beyond any expectation. When you exit the museum, you will walk out onto a small street bazaar. If you want to get back to the museum entrance, there is a sign pointing to the museum about 20 meters from the exit.
You will find more about Mosaic Museum in the next post… After all of that walking, make sure to end the day at the Cemberlitas Ancient Hammam. Check the website for hours and prices – well worth it – we spent about three hours there! Hammam means “spreader of warmth” and it is so true!… It is probably the most memorable experience you can have. Best of all, you will be very clean and warm on the way out. They speak English there, so don’t be worried. Men and Women bathe separate. You will be given a key and shown to a room. That is where you change and wrap yourself with a towel (soap, shampoo, slippers and towels are provided). From there, you walk to the baths… There is no time limit, so take as long as you like… may be go for a full package with massage.
As they say, save the best for last. Today, we will visit the Topkapi palace. The residence of the Sultans. You will love the palace. It is very beautiful, the lawns manicured and everything taken care of. The extra ticket to the Harem is not obligatory, but is very much worth it – there are much more to see. Try to arrive for the opening of the museum, it may get busy later.
Be sure to visit the Lawns, there is an amazing view of the Bosphorus and Istanbul. And you can have a lunch with a view if you wish and the time allows, the place is very nice…
Be prepared to spend half of the day here to see everything… or even stay for dinner – there is a restaurant in the palace (we’ll leave it out for surprise).
After palace we decided to find fish restaurants (area called Kumkapi) to try some Turkish fish soup (chorba) and have another great experience… It was too early for dinner and late for lunch, so the place looks quiet, but come here later and you may have to wait for the seat!
After delicious fish meal we walked a few blocks back to our hotel and on the way come across this bright looking fruit stand – some grapes, peaches, melon for later snack before heading to the airport… we arranged for the taxi to come pick us up when we came here on the first day – just ask the driver for the card.
We had a great experience visiting this ancient city, and we’ll sure come come back to see other places and may be travel to other parts of the country. Below you will some some useful information and links…
Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays; Blue Mosque is closed until 2pm on Fridays; Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays. Annual Closing Dates of all museums and bazaars in Istanbul in 2021 as follows; January 1-New Year. May 13/14/15-Ramadan Celebrations. July 20/21/22/23-Eid Celebrations. October 29-Republic Day. Hagia Sophia is always closed for visit during praying time. The Basilica Cistern’s central location in Sultanahmet makes it easy to explore before or after visiting nearby sights like the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace Museum. An admissions fee of 20 Turkish lira (about $5.50) applies, and visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between November and mid-April, with extended hours in the summer.
We stayed in Safran suites (apartments) and liked it – here is the link https://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/safran-suites.html. Great location, close to all main attractions and for a reasonable price. Lots of cafes and a shop across the street where you can buy some snacks.
We really fall on love with Istanbul and we hope to come back sometime…