Hong Kong Victoria Harbour

Highlights of our first visit to colourful Hong Kong

Our first trip to Hong Kong was only for a few days, but it is already one of my favourite cities in the world. It is a terrific blend of historic Chinese culture and modern soaring skyscrapers, colourful lights and green parks, bustling markets and beautiful Victoria Harbour. The city is compact so even in a short visit you can see and do a lot. At least enough to realize you will want to come back soon.

Browsing on Kowloon's Nathan Road

Nathan Road, Kowloon

Getting around is easy

Getting around Hong Kong is easy with the efficient Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system. The MTR covers all major districts in the territory, including the Airport Express, Disneyland Resort, and the boundary with Mainland China.

Purchase an Airport Express Travel Pass when you arrive for HK$300 (CDN$51 / US$39). Both include a refundable deposit of HK$50, and include one or two single journeys on the Airport Express, as well as three consecutive days of unlimited travel on the MTR.

English is everywhere on signs and is fairly widely spoken, at least in tourist areas. So finding your way around is easy.

Enjoy the ride on the Star Ferry

Hong Kong is an archipelago of 260 islands, and one of the best ways to view the city is from the water on the Star Ferry – one of the world’s biggest travel bargains. Splurge on an upper deck single ride ticket for about CDN$0.43 / US$0.32. A must-do when you visit Hong Kong.

Star Ferry

On the first clear day of your visit, go to The Peak!

Victoria Peak is a mountain on Hong Kong Island, a dominant feature of the city skyline, and the highest point in the area. You can reach the peak via the Peak Tram, a 125-year-old funicular railway (the Tram departs near the MTR: Central Station, Exit J2).

A view of Victoria Peak, from the Star Ferry.

Once at the top, there are spectacular views of the city and harbour, as well as nature walks through the mountainous landscape.

typhoon signal in Hong Kong

I would love to show you a beautiful photo of Hong Kong from the Peak. But we made the mistake of “saving this experience for last”, and instead experienced our first typhoon. On our return trip home from Asia we arrived for our last couple nights in Hong Kong, and saw this warning in our hotel lobby.

The next morning the typhoon reached level 8, which pretty much shuts down the city. So, we spent most of that day in our hotel, until the typhoon passed through in the early evening and it was safe to venture out again.

 

Waiting out the typhoon

This view is from our second hotel in Hong Kong, the Harbour Grand Kowloon.

The typhoon was an experience in itself, and thankfully it didn’t bring any significant harm to the city or its residents. Next time we visit Hong Kong, taking the Peak Tram will be the first thing we do!

Swimming with a view

This is the view from the rooftop pool deck of the Harbour Grand Kowloon hotel. The view was so spectacular, we went for a swim even though it was pouring rain at the tail end of the typhoon. The pool attendant didn’t say if he thought we were crazy!

View from the pool deck of the Grand Kowloon Hotel

Bring your appetite

You can check here for more about what to eat in Hong Kong, but if you love food you will find a lot to love. Definitely don’t miss Dim Sum with steamed pork buns and delicious dumplings!

Ride up the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator

A fun and free thing to do is a ride up the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the world’s longest covered people mover. It is a series of escalators 800 metres (2,600 ft) long with a vertical climb of 135 metres (443 ft). You can hop off at one the exits such as the Soho district, for a drink or meal at one of the many restaurants lining the route, which we did.

The escalator system was built in 1993 to carry workers back up the hill to apartments at the end of workday. Daily traffic exceeds 55,000 people, including many tourists. The escalators daily run downhill from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and uphill from 10:30am to midnight (so you will be walking one way). There isn’t really a viewing area at the top, as it leads to a residential area, but there are great views along the way.

Take a break in a green park

Hong Kong has a population of over 7 million, and is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Most live in small spaces in high-rise apartments, but there are also many lovely parks to escape to such as Kowloon Park, or Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island.

Kowloon Park

Kowloon Park is a cool oasis after shopping on nearby Nathan Road.

Shop til you drop

From bustling markets to upscale boutiques – everything is available in Hong Kong: traditional Chinese tea and herbs, tailor-made suits, fresh produce, cheap electronics, and Gucci and Dior children’s boutiques for parents with an abundance of disposable income. We went to the Temple Street Night Market, but there are many more, including the Ladies Market and Stanley Market.

Temple Street Night Market

The Temple Street Night Market – One of the great markets in Hong Kong, with produce, electronics, and even Chinese opera singers. See here for more of our experiences in Hong Kong by Night.

Walk around and see what you find

Walking and exploring is one of our favourite things to do, and Hong Kong is a perfect place to do it!

 

Rosary Church - the oldest catholic church in Kowloon, completed in 1905.

Rosary Church – This colourful church is the oldest catholic church in Kowloon, completed in 1905.

bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong

Bamboo scaffolding at construction sites. I’m fascinated by everyday things, done differently from how we do it at home.

Colourful Hong Kong

Finding shade on a hot day, with colourful lanterns from the mid-Autumn Lantern Festival.

Take a side trip to Lantau Island

One of the more popular side-trip options is the short hop to Lantau Island, where you can see the (very) Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, as well as Tai O fishing village. We enjoyed both, although the cable car up to the Monastery area wasn’t operating due to wind, and I think we would have enjoyed it more than the bus ride.

 

Po Lin Monastery at Lantau Island

Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

 

 

We just scratched the surface on our first Hong Kong visit. But I’m already looking forward to our next trip.

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Tim Ho Wan

A Delicious Taste of Hong Kong

At about 8:30 am we took our place in line at Tim Ho Wan, famous as the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. There’s a lot of food to try in Hong Kong, as we discovered, and this was a great place to start.

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, the World’s Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant

Dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine served in small or bite-sized portions, often steamed in baskets. It is most common at brunch and is served with tea. There are no reservations at Tim Ho Wan, so we arrived at its Wharf Road location about 30 minutes before opening, and were able to get in the first seating. The service inside is quick, so if you do have to wait the line should move fairly quickly.

Many dim sum restaurant have carts of food come by your table, and you can point to what looks good, but at Tim Ho Wan you submit your order on a menu form. We aren’t dim sum experts, so we asked a young man we met in line to help us choose what to order. He ordered a variety of their most popular items, including a variety of steamed dumplings and their famous BBQ park buns. It was more than we could eat, and came to about $15 US. The food is so affordable that you could almost try anything you want on the menu.

Between its reputation and price, Tim Ho Wan is a Hong Kong must, and a good benchmark for future dim sum sampling. We really enjoyed the fresh and tasty food, and that’s what it’s all about at Tim Ho Wan.  The decor is basic, servers are efficient, and once finished we moved on so others could have their turn. I can see us returning for more dim sum next time we are in Hong Kong.

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan, Wharf Road location, North Point, Hong Kong

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan

(above) Must-try famous BBQ pork buns – the bun itself is sweet, delicate and crispy on the outside, with a sweet BBQ pork filling; and chicken and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf.

(below) The opened chicken and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf; shrimp dumplings; delicious steamed pork dumplings with shrimp.

tim Ho Wan dim sum

Charlie Brown Café, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

This kitschy cafe is completely Peanuts everywhere you look, from the Charlie Brown statues and lights, to the Peanuts art on your latte. We were only stopping for coffee and a smoothie, but they also serve a variety of breakfast and lunch items. It has a nice cafe atmosphere for grown up kids, but younger kids would love it too.

Charlie Brown Café

Pie & Tart Specialists

After lots of walking around exploring Hong Kong, you might be looking for dessert or a cheap and tasty snack. Pie & Tart Specialists is a Hong Kong style bakery chain selling sweet and savory pies, and of course they caught my eye. I chose the cheese milk tart, with a delicious still warm custard for HK$8, which is about $1.30 CDN ($1 US). They have counters facing the street, so it’s easy to pick up something to take away.

tarts

More Delicious Food

Like most destinations if you just wander around a block or so off the main streets, you can find great food.  If the place is busy, that is usually a good sign. We had one miss on our trip, as happens, but overall we loved the food in Hong Kong. It is such an international city that you can really find any kind of food here, but it’s more fun to eat as the locals do.

Noodle soups are a delicious and inexpensive option. We ducked into this little soup place when it was pouring rain and it was perfect.

It was fun to try Hong Kong versions of menu items we commonly order when we get Chinese take-out at home. (left) Singapore noodles are my favourite, with stir-fried rice vermicelli, curry, bean sprouts, peppers, bbq pork, and shrimp. Despite the name, it’s not a dish common in Singapore. (right) The spicy ribs with peppers were also delicious.

Street Food

There are numerous options available from street food venders all over Hong Kong. Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, there are all kinds of grilled and fried meats on a stick. You can also find desserts such as freshly-made waffles. Look for crowds to ensure the food is tasty and fresh.

I’m looking forward to our next visit for another delicious taste of Hong Kong. Do you have a favourite Hong Kong food?


 

First Impressions of Glittering Hong Kong by Night

Of course I have seen photos and movies of Hong Kong, but I still had that “pinch me, I’m really here” feeling. It’s always a thrill visiting somewhere new, and this is one of those places I had wanted to visit for a long time. Arriving at night, Hong Kong made a glittering first impression with its soaring skyscrapers, colourful signs and dazzling harbour.

The Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival

The night we arrived, the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival was taking place in Victoria Park, just a couple blocks from our hotel on Hong Kong Island. This festival is held throughout the region, and Victoria Park’s celebration is the biggest. Along with dragon lanterns, there was a multitude of others representing everything from flowers and toys to fairytale characters.

Hong Kong lantern festival

It was a fun atmosphere with families and friends taking photos with the beautiful lanterns.

lantern festival Hong Kong

Hong Kong lantern festival panda

Lantern Festival Hong Kong
dragon at Hong Kong Lantern Festival

Hong Kong is a big festival city, so there is a good chance there will be one taking place during your visit. I would suggest checking online for Discover Hong Kong’s list of festivals throughout the year.

And then there’s that Hong Kong skyline

Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour is especially beautiful at night. This particular night was just after the city was shut down for a typhoon, but as soon as it had passed the shops opened up and people were out again. There is also a nightly sound and light show called A Symphony of Lights, which involves more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbour.

Hong Kong Skyline

Avenue of Stars

A popular spot for viewing the harbour on the Kowloon side is the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and the Avenue of Stars, similar to Hollywood’s Walk of FameThe statue below of action hero Bruce Lee is a highlight.

Bruce Lee

A couple local characters we came across.

Shopping at night

If you still aren’t tired, don’t worry, Hong Kong is open late! It’s is a great time to wander around and take in the activity and lights.

shopping for traditional Chinese items

Hong Kong is a shoppers paradise, with everything from traditional shops selling Chinese tea and herbs, to fun markets and luxury brands. We picked up some cheap electronics at the Temple Street Night Market, where you can buy all kinds of items, snacks and even hear opera singers.

Getting hungry? As you are touring Hong Kong by night, try some yummy street food. Anything on a stick! Of course this is the tip of the foodie iceberg in Hong Kong, and if you want more food in Hong Kong, click here.

Our visit to Hong Kong reminded me of New York City, in that it’s a great place for a short break, as it is quite compact. But like New York, it’s a place I can imagine visiting again and again, and never see it all. Next post I’ll tell you what we saw in Hong Kong by day!

Butterfly on Victoria Hotel

All nights come to an end, and if you are looking for affordable accommodations, we really enjoyed our stay at the Butterfly on Victoria Hotel. It’s a small, clean, modern hotel, with helpful staff and free wifi.  The room is small, but nicely decorated, and the bed was comfortable. It’s located a couple blocks from Victoria Park, and only a couple blocks from the Tin Hau MTR subway station.

Butterfly Hotel

Have you visited Hong Kong yet?

The Tsuu T’ina Indian Rodeo and Pow Wow

If you enjoyed the Calgary Stampede, here’s your chance to see top level rodeo up close at the Tsuu T’ina Nation Indian Rodeo and Pow Wow, on July 22 – 26, 2015. This is one of North America’s top Indian rodeos, combined with First Nations culture and the excitement of a traditional pow wow.

This event is held in the scenic Tsuu T’ina Nation, at the Redwood Fairgrounds near Bragg Creek, Alberta (about 30 minutes from Calgary). Last year we had the opportunity to attend both the rodeo and pow wow, and highly recommend it for the whole family.

Rodeo…up close and personal

This is the Tsuu T’ina’s 41st annual rodeo and pow wow. Top native cowboys and cowgirls from across Canada and the U.S. are competing for cash and prizes in excess of $100,000 in added prize money.

At this rodeo you are so close to the action you can see the determination on the cowboy’s face as he tries to stay on top of a bucking bronco. The announcers are entertaining and a big screen lets you see the action complete with replays. Their are more than 300 competitors in events including: bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, saddle bronc, and bareback riding.

The Pow Wow – a feast for the senses

The pow wow is both a competition and a celebration of native culture, with hundreds of the best traditional dancers, singers and drummers from across North America participating.

As the pow wow begins, it’s a thrill to hear the steady beat of the drums, the voices singing, bells ringing. And then it’s time for the grand entry of native dancers from across North America in beautiful and elaborate traditional garments.

pow wow ladies

More keep filing in, joining the rest in the centre of the building, until the room is a swirl of colour and dancing.

When you go:

  • There are rodeo events daily, with the top finishers in each category competing in the finals on Sunday
  • Pow wow gets underway at 7pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Fireworks each evening
  • Plenty of food concessions are on the grounds, with everything from hot dogs and mini donuts, to very tasty Indian tacos
  • There are also booths selling traditional crafts, jewelry and clothing, and more
  • Admission in 2014 was $10/adult for the rodeo. (discounts for children/seniors)
  • Location: Redwood Meadows Arena, 12 km northeast of Bragg Creek, Alberta on Highway 22

For more information check the event website at www.tsuutinarodeo.com

This post is part of the Travel Photo Monday linkup.

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Travel More With These Money Saving Travel Tips

If I won the lottery…the first thing I would do is travel.

We’ve all said this or heard this. It’s true that travel can be expensive, but it isn’t necessarily as costly as you might think. Not only that, but spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a better time. Thankfully there are a lot of money-saving steps you can take to help lower your travel costs. Here are some of my best money saving travel tips to help you realize your travel dreams, without the lottery.

Walking in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Walking in Kowloon, Hong Kong. One of our favorite free things to do is just wander around and just take in the unique surroundings.

Saving on accommodations

vacation rental in Spain with pool

Our inexpensive vacation rental in Spain included this pool to cool off in. Plus it was pet-friendly.

Generally, if you stay in major luxury hotel chains, you will be surrounded by other tourists.The service will be efficient but impersonal. There will be lots of amenities in the hotel you may or may not need, and you won’t need to leave the premises to eat or shop. Sometimes we enjoy these hotels for a couple days, and some are destination-worthy in themselves. But the places most memorable to us are the smaller family-run hotels or independent vacation rentals. I remember the tea and greeting we received upon arrival at the small inn where we stayed in Istanbul,“Come in, sit down, you are at home now.”

  • Before booking a hotel, check for additional fees such as resort fee” or wifi fee. You are much more likely to be charged these fees at a luxury hotel than at budget or independent accommodations. We had a dispute at our hotel in Hong Kong at check-out, because we didn’t see the fine print that we would be charged wifi fees per device. With two phones and two laptops that would have come to $40/day! Luckily it was waived after a discussion with the manager.
  • If breakfast is included in your accommodations, it will save both time and money.
  • Traveling off-season, or even adjusting your dates by a few days can make a big difference in the price of flights and hotels.
  • Spend a week or more at each location to get a weekly/monthly rate. By spending more time at fewer locations you will have more time to relax and get to know the area, plus lower your transportation costs.
  • Consider booking a vacation home or apartment, especially if you are staying a week or more. It is often more spacious, and you can save more if it includes a kitchen. Try Airbnb, VRBO, or booking.com. Also try specialty sites focused on the region you are visiting (always read the reviews).
  • Stay part of the time in smaller towns or villages instead of only the major cities. You will have a great experience plus save money on accommodations. The culture of a place is often much more apparent in the smaller towns than the big cities.
  • For longer stays try house-sitting. We haven’t tried this yet, but many love it. In exchange for taking care of a home (and often a pet) while the owners are away, you get free accommodations. TrustedHousesitters.com and Housecarers.com are two popular sites if you are interested.

Saving on things to do

You’ve come all this way, so make sure to allow money for activities. But there are often deals if you look for them.

  • Visit museums that are free or offer free days, such as MoMA’s free Friday nights in New York City. In London, some of the best museums such as the National Gallery and British Museum are always free.
  • Event tickets: Sometimes tickets are available from more that one source. I was looking for tickets to Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, and first checked Ticketmaster where the price was $223 each plus service charge, but I got better seats for only $132 each by calling Cirque du Soleil directly.
  • Check online for coupons or promo codes for attractions you want to visit.
  • Look for local free things to do, such as markets and festivals.
  • Check out city passes for your destination to see if what they offer is a good value for you. A bonus with these can be skipping the long ticket lines.
  • Spend time in the great outdoors! Visiting city parks or hiking in natural areas is usually free.
Near Windermere, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

Near Windermere, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

Transportation savings

Small cars are better for navigating narrow streets in Europe.

Small cars are better for navigating narrow streets in Europe.

  • If you’re traveling outside of North America, renting a smaller car will not only save you money on the rental and fuel; but will make parking and driving on narrow old streets much easier.
  • Car rental reservations usually have free cancellation, and prices fluctuate, so use this to your advantage. We recently reserved a car in Toronto for $325. When I checked a couple weeks later, it was going for $183 at the same rental location. So I cancelled and rebooked my reservation.
  • Walk or bike when you can, instead of always taking a taxi. You will see so much more, save money, and work off that extra croissant.
  • Saving money on flights is a big topic in itself. Here are some tips to save money on flights.
  • Avoid checked baggage fees by traveling light with a carry-on instead–but be aware of airline size and weight restrictions.
  • Don’t automatically rule out a farther destination because of the higher airfare. If the cost-of-living is lower, savings on accommodations and food might still make it a bargain.

Eat, drink, and be merry by saving on dining

menu del dias (set menu of the day) in Spain

The first courses of our menu del dias (set menu of the day) in Spain. This is a full meal, usually including beverage, that is meant to be affordable for the average worker.

  • Go to that fancy restaurant you wanted to try, but save by eating at lunch time instead of dinner.
  • Walk a couple blocks off the main tourist strip and you will find restaurants that are cheaper, and with better food and service.
  • Eat like a local – because eating the same foods you do at home can cost a premium. And this is part of the adventure!
  • Shop at the local market or grocery store for a great picnic.
  • Ask for tap water in restaurants, unless the water quality is questionable. Also save by bringing a refillable water bottle.
  • Look for happy hours, pre-theatre or prix fix menus for great dining deals.

Saving money on money

  • Use a credit card with no foreign exchange fees. (We use a Chase Marriott Visa for this)
  • Check into your banking options before you go. See if they have international partners, or a plan that will allow you to reduce ATM fees.
  • Pay in local currency. Some larger stores will ask if you would like to pay in Canadian dollars or US dollars, and then charge higher than average exchange fees.

More ways to save

  • Bring proper ID for senior, student and member discounts (such as AAA).
  • Sign up for a travel rewards credit card, or two or three…
  • Choose a less pricey destination with a favorable exchange rate.
  • Cell phone – check before you go. You can adjust your plan to include long distance or data, rent a local cell phone, or stick to wifi and Skype or FaceTime.

Do you have any money saving travel tips to share?

Simmons Building Calgary East Village

The Simmons Building – Calgary’s Cool New Dining Destination

The historic Simmons Building just opened as a unique dining destination in Calgary’s East Village. It brings together three of Calgary’s food favourites: Charbar (an offspring of Charcut), Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The Simmons Building is right next to the Bow River Pathway, and we just happened to be riding our bikes past and noticed it had opened. Time for some research!

A great East Village location next to the Bow River Pathway

With the development along the Bow River Pathway and the opening of the Simmons Building, the vision for Calgary’s East Village is beginning to take shape.

Before entering we noticed Charbar’s outdoor seating area, and others sitting on the nearby benches with food and drinks from Sidewalk Citizen and Phil & Sebastion.

Simmons building in Calgary East Village

Inside, it is a beautiful building with an industrial modern feel, and the restaurants flow easily within the open space. It is an upscale casual place, but as it was a warm Saturday afternoon we saw several others in their biking clothes like us.

Charbar

Although it was opening day, service was good, with only a few minor hiccups. Charbar is a Canadian/Argentinian inspired restaurant with a large dining space on the main floor as well as a raw bar for seafood. There is more dining space on the second floor including space for private dining. Since we were there they received their liquor license, and so their rooftop terrace should be open too. It will no doubt be a popular nice weather destination, with its great views of downtown and the river.

It was Saturday noon and Charbar was serving their weekend brunch. We already had our eggs earlier in the morning, so we decided to try their famous burger. We were sharing as we planned to have dessert and still had to bike home.  The server offered us a choice of still or sparkling water, and it is FREE!! 🙂   Yay!!  The trend of upscale restaurants charging for water is a pet peeve of ours, as Calgary has excellent tap water.

Charbar burger and fries

This is their Gaucho Burger, with provoleta (an Argentinean cheese), crushed avocado, and chorizo bacon. It was delicious, with two beef patties and a generous amount of avocado. We would normally ask for ketchup with our fries, but once we tried them we didn’t even ask because they were so tasty! We asked our server the secret of the fries, and he told us when they cook their beef, they reserve the drippings, and use a little to flavor them after they’ve been fried.

The burger was $18, which is not cheap, but Charbar uses top quality ingredients and the portion is generous. (and they don’t charge for water!)

We planned to have their peach bourbon sundae for dessert, but sadly it wasn’t yet available. So we each had a cappuccino and decided to pop over to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for a sweet fix.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery features fresh-baked croissants, decadent desserts, and more. They also have a full menu of sandwiches, savory pastries, salads and pizza. The items can be packed up to go, or eaten at their lunch counter or tables. We picked up a couple dessert items to go.

Sidewalk Citizen Savarin Cake

This is savarin, a brioche cake soaked with rum syrup, and topped with creme chantilly.  It was light, fresh and delicious.

 

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake from Sidewalk Citizen

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake

Next we tried the Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake, with whipped cream & almond syrup. I’m actually not sure what Rosetta is (should have asked), but I can assure you it was delicious and quickly devoured.

 

Old School soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen

Old school soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen to go with your picnic sandwiches

With its location next to the Bow River, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is bound to be a popular place to pick up picnic items to enjoy in the nearby parks.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

Phil & Sebastion Coffee

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters was started by two engineers turned coffee nerds. I’ve been a fan since they started up at the Calgary Farmer’s Market in 2007, and they’ve had a lot of success since then. In 2012 they brought together the people of Charcut and Sidewalk Citizen to check out the East Village Simmons building. They all immediately saw the potential of creating a unique culinary experience with collaboration between all three partners. As an example of this, Charbar uses Phil & Sebastian to supply their coffees, and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to provide fresh bread.

Coffee from Phil & Sebastion

The cappuccinos we ordered at Charbar were provided by Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The historic Simmons Building is a great location and concept. When you are in town I recommend checking out Calgary’s cool new dining destination.

Peace Bridge

Calgary by Bike on the Bow River Pathway

I love exploring new places by bike, and lately I’ve been doing the same in my hometown. Calgary has an extensive network of bike paths that can take you from the downtown core to almost anywhere you want to go. Exploring Calgary by bike on the Bow River Pathway is one of the best ways to experience the city.

The Bow River Pathway, near Eau Claire, Downtown Calgary

The Bow River Pathway, near Eau Claire, downtown Calgary.

Why Bike?

  • I can cover a lot more ground by bike than walking.
  • It’s easier to stop and explore interesting places than it is by car.
  • I seem to discover more new places by bike than by walking or by car.
  • It’s a good workout. At least it offsets the bakery I’m bound to discover along the way.
  • It’s fun!

The Bow River Pathway

This route is a favourite of mine, and follows the Bow River Pathway from Edworthy Park at the west end, through downtown Calgary, to Pearce Estate Park at the east end. It passes by some of the inner city’s most interesting neighborhoods, including Kensington, downtown’s Eau Claire and East Village, and historic Inglewood. There are plenty of places near the path to stop for a bite, or have a cold drink on a patio. Several parks along the way provide a green break from the city, and also make a nice spot for a picnic.

Calgary Bike Map

The ride is about 12 km one way, and takes about 40 minutes at a moderate pace. But you could spend all day depending on stops you make along the way. The Bow River pathway runs along both sides of the river, so it’s easy to do a loop of about 24 km, and you can start your loop at any point. There are also several bridges along the way so you can make your ride shorter or longer. There is free parking at Edworthy Park if you’re driving. For more details, here’s a link to the route on Google Maps.

Art along the Bow River Pathway

There is a lot of art on display along the Bow River Pathway, including this sculpture in the revitalized East River district.

 

Historic Inglewood

Inglewood is Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods; and one of Calgary’s most interesting areas to explore, with unique shops, antiques, and restaurants. Ninth Ave, originally Main Street is just a couple blocks from the bike path.  I’m hiding out here from a rain shower that left as quick as it came.

 

Near Inglewood looking towards downtown Calgary

Near Inglewood looking towards downtown Calgary.

 

Pearce Estate Park

Pearce Estate Park – An unexpected scene a fifteen minute ride from downtown Calgary.

 

Mama and her babies at Pearce Estate Park

Mama and her babies at Pearce Estate Park

 

Eating Along the Way

Delicious Albacore Tuna from the River Cafe, Prince's Island Park

Delicious Albacore Tuna from the River Cafe, Prince’s Island Park

Any food you eat while out on a bike ride doesn’t count, right?

  • Parkdale: Lazy Loaf and Kettle (breakfast, lunch and fresh baked goods), Leavitt’s Ice Cream Shop
  • Kensington: Many pubs and restaurants to choose from, including Higher Ground for coffee, Vero Bistro Moderne (on 10 St), and Julio’s Barrio.
  • Prince’s Island Park: The River Cafe is splurge-worthy, both for its food and setting in the park. Their early bird dinner is a good value.
  • Downtown: Several places in the Eau Claire area, and many more throughout downtown, including on 8th Ave (the Stephen Avenue Mall).
  • East Village: Right next to the bike path, check out the Simmons Building, with options for dining in or takeout: Charbar, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.
  • Inglewood: Again, many options, including Spolumbo’s (for deli sandwiches), Minh Chau Vietnamese, and Choklat for an excellent chocolate fix.

 


Here are four bike rental places near the route.

  • Eau Claire Rapid Rent  Eau Claire Market 200 Barclay Parade SW, phone: (403) 444-5845
  • Prime Ski and Bike #6, 7 Parkdale Cresent NW, phone: (403) 452-2142
  • BikeBike 1501a 17 Ave SW, phone: (403) 457-2453
  • Sports Rent 4424 16 Ave NW, phone: (403) 292-0077

For further information on the City of Calgary’s Bike Paths click here.

 

Calgary Lilac Festival

The 4th Street Lilac Festival

This past Sunday we joined (practically) everyone in Calgary for the 4th Street Lilac Festival. It was a perfect sunny day and everyone was happy to get out and enjoy the live music, food, artists and people-watching.

4th Street is part of Calgary’s Mission District, with numerous great restaurants, shops and art galleries. Today the street was pedestrian only, with more than 500 vendors showcasing arts and crafts, organizations and charities, and of course lots of food.

A sunny day at the 4th Street Lilac Festival

Lots of music

People of all ages

Dancing in the street

Lilac Festival dancing

Food and unique shopping

Many of the food vendors were mini versions of 4th street restaurants, so it was a great way to sample their offerings. Our favourite was the bratwurst from Wurst.

If you missed the 4th Street Lilac Festival, don’t despair! Here’s a roundup of Calgary summer festivals.

If you would like more information about the next Lilac Festival check the official Lilac Festival website.

Do you have any festival plans this summer?

Calgary Summer Festivals

Calgary 2015 Summer Festivals

Yay! The warm weather has arrived, and if the recent Lilac Festival is any indication, Calgarians are ready to burst out and celebrate. For the summer of 2015 there are dozens of festivals and events for every age and interest. Whether you live here or are visiting, check out this roundup of some of the best summer festivals in Calgary.

Calgary summer festivals

Calgary Greek Festivalgreek_logo

June 19-21, 2015

  • Come and enjoy the delicious Greek food, Greek wines and craft beer, and of course Greek dancing.  
  • Bring your family out to Calgary’s longest running festival.
  • EAT, DRINK, DANCE – GREEK!
  • website

Sled Island Music Festival

June 24-28, 2015

  • The annual Sled Island festival features over 250 bands plus film, comedy and art across 30+ venues in Calgary!
  • website

Calgary Stampedechampios-buckle-up

July 3 – 12, 2015

  • For ten days each July the whole city joins in the world famous Calgary Stampede.
  • Parade, rodeo, midway, music, and food.
  • Events throughout the city including numerous free pancake breakfasts with entertainment.
  • website

Calgary Folk Music Festivalcow-bg

July 23 – 26, 2015

  • The 36th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park features acts from 16 countries on 8 stages.
  • Over 70 artists from around the globe present roots, blues, world music, funk, country, and bluegrass.
  • website

Calgary International Blues Festival

July 27 – August 2, 2015

  • The 11th annual Calgary Bluesfest has a full week of non-stop music at Shaw Millienium Park followed by nightly Twilight Blues dance parties.
  • This family friendly event is renowned for its great music, relaxed atmosphere and warm hospitality!
  • Starring Crescent City’s iconic guitar great Walter “Wolfman” Washington; Grammy award-winning giant, Bobby Rush, the pairing of two legends, Amos Garrett & Geoff Muldaur, and many more, the weekend promises to set the town on fire with its world-class, non-stop blues!
  • website

Inglewood SunfestfooterLogo

August 1, 2015

  • A summer festival in the heart of historic Inglewood, with activity for all ages.
  • Street performers, music, unique shopping, and food outlets.
  • website

Afrikadey! Festivalstatic1.squarespace

August 5-8, 2015

  • A week-long celebration of the music, food, dance, theatre, film, literature and visual arts of Africa.
  • These events take place at different venues all over the city with a final day of music on Prince’s Island.
  • website

Marda Loop Marda Gras Street festivalcta-mask

Sunday, August 9

  • A variety of performers, dance groups and musicians; outdoor activities; and a wide variety of delicious cuisine.
  • A fun day for kids of all ages.
  • website

Opera in the Villageproduction_hero

August 13-22, 2015

  • Calgary’s East Village RiverWalk Plaza will once again be bursting with music and mirth as Canada’s only outdoor summer opera festival returns for the third annual Opera in the Village!
  • The centerpiece of this year’s Opera in the Village is Gilbert & Sullivan’s comedic opera, The Mikado. There will also be family friendly matinee performances of The Scorpions’ Sting. Both will be performed in our 900-seat open-air tent.
  • website

GlobalFest

August 20 – 29, 2015

  • An international fireworks festival and celebration of Calgary’s diverse cultural; with cultural pavilions, ethnic food booths and a night market.
  • website

Expo Latino Festival

August 28 – 30, 2015

  • Celebrate Latin Culture at Calgary’s hottest outdoor festival experience.
  • World-class performers, sizzling dancing, exotic foods, arts and crafts, and more.  In the heart of Calgary’s downtown at Prince’s Island Park.
  • Sneak Peek on Friday, Aug. 28 *free admission*. Daily passes $25. Weekend passes $35. Special rates for youth and seniors.
  • website

 

My Addiction to Korean Drama

I confess I’ve developed an addiction to Korean Drama. For a long time I have enjoyed movies produced or set in foreign countries.  I suppose it gives me a bit of a travel fix while I’m at home.  So when my daughter moved to Seoul, she suggested I watch a Korean drama to see a bit of what her new city was like. I started watching “The Coffee Prince,” and soon I was hooked.

The Korean Wave (also known as Hallyu) refers to the massive popularity of South Korean dramas (and Korean pop music/K-pop) since about 2000. This global wave has spread across Asia, into Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and to at least a couple of baby boomers I know in the Western world.

Korean TV dramas are usually around 20 episodes, which allows time to develop the story and characters, but there is a conclusion in sight, unlike most North American TV dramas. There are a variety of genres, but the ones I’ve watched are romantic comedies. They reflect everyday Korean life in the same way Hollywood movies reflect life in the west, but still, for an outsider they do provide a glimpse into Korean society.

I watch dramas on DramaFever.com, but there are other online options as well, and some are showing now on Netflix. The drama images below link to the official sites, but if you want to watch with English subtitles you will need to watch on a secondary site such as DramaFever.

If you enjoy romantic comedy and are looking for a fun escape with a touch of foreign culture, here are a few of my recommendations.

Coffee Prince

17 episodes | MBC | 2007
Genre: Romantic comedy
Starring: Yoon Eun-hye and Gong Yoo

Coffeeprince

Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun-hye) is a young woman supporting her mother and sister. With her short, no nonsense hair, clothes and manner, she is often mistaken for a boy. Wealthy Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) hires her to pretend to be his “gay lover,” to scare away the blind dates set up by his grandmother. When Han Kyul is ordered by his grandmother to manage a coffee shop, Eun Chan maintains her false male identity to become a “Coffee Prince” employee. Eventually she falls in love with her boss, who is confused by his romantic feelings towards this “young man.”

Secret Garden

20 episodes | SBS | 2010
Genre: Romance, comedy, fantasy, melodrama, action
Starring: Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won

Secret_Garden_(SBS-2010-Korean_Drama)-p3

Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin), the handsome but arrogant CEO of a luxury department store doesn’t care about romance; he’s looking for a marriage that will increase his power and connections. Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji Won) is not a beautiful heiress, but a stuntwoman dedicated to her craft. She’s not impressed by Kim Joo Won’s money or position, and thinks he’s a pest. After a strange sequence of events, they find they have switched bodies leading to a complicated relationship.

Part of this drama takes place on Jeju Island, which we visited when we were in Korea, so it was fun to see those places in the drama.

My Love from Another Star

21 episodes | SBS | 2013
Genre: Romance, comedy, fantasy
Starring: Kim Soo Hyun and Gianna Jun

My_LoveFrom_AnotherStar

“My Love from Another Star” is a fantasy romance about an alien, Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty. His superpowers and 400 years of earthly experience lead him to feel superior over humans, until he falls in love with a top actress in the modern era, Cheon Song Yi (Gianna Jun).

As a recent example of cultural impact, when Cheon Song Yi ordered chicken and beer on an episode of “My Love From Another Star,” Korean beer exports rose by over 200 percent.

If you’re looking for something fun and foreign to watch, I recommend giving one of these dramas a try.

Warning: They are addictive!

Have you watched any Korean dramas?