Category Archives: Solo traveler

Favourite places to eat in Ottawa Ontario

I finally had a chance to travel to Canada’s capital – Ottawa, Ontario. I had the pleasure of trying different restaurants while there and enjoyed everything I tried! Here are my favourite places that I went to.

You can’t go to Ottawa without having a beavertail – it’s a Canadian tradition. A beavertail is basically a sweet dough that is pulled and fried and topped with different things, including nutella, peanuts, and the basic cinnamon and sugar. This one is my favourite! Sweet, warm and chewy – and oh so delicious!

This is a beavertail -yum!

Nate’s Deli is a tradition in Ottawa, located on Sparks Street right in the heart of the legislative buildings and business. It opens early and serves a wide variety of breakfasts, as well as lunches and dinners. I tried the spinach and goat cheese omelette with the crispiest hash browns and it was absolutely delicious. If you love goat cheese, this is the omelette to try!

Nate’s Deli – spinach and goat cheese omelette

Another tradition in Ottawa is the King Eddy. It’s a cool restaurant with lots of 50’s memorabilia and traditional diner foods. I tried the King Eddy burger with their secret sauce – just enough of a spice to give it a bit of a kick! Definitely give it a try!

Delicious burger and the best fries I’ve ever had!

Of course, it wouldn’t be right if I travelled and didn’t try a dessert or two. I indulged on my last night and headed to the Byward Cafe and had a delicious triple chocolate cake. Just look at it – it tasted just as good as it looks!

Triple chocolate decadence…

But my favourite place in Ottawa was Zak’s Cantina – they are famous for their margaritas apparently but as someone who doesn’t drink very much, I stuck with the food. The chicken burrito was so filling I couldn’t even finish it all!

Delicious!!!

There was so much to see and do in Ottawa, and definitely the food scene is one of the best I’ve seen in Canada. I will be going back just to indulge in more food!

Merry Christmas and on to 2019 we go!

I have been very absent lately – carpal tunnel is preventing  me from being on my computer for too long.  Awaiting results in the early new year to find out next steps to be taken.  We may have free health care – but it’s not a quick process for us.

 

Despite the issues of that, and health issues with both parents, 2018 has been a good year for me.  I saw many accomplishments of mine, and of my children, followed through and succeeded.  I have had an article published in a Canadian magazine (Our Canada), did some public speaking, dabbled in art, and in general have had a very positive year.  I am heading to Europe in January for a vacation, and then later in the year Africa is calling my name.  I am excited for what looms in the future for me.

 

I hope to be back blogging soon on a more regular basis.  I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season and a very Happy New Year!   Here’s to the future and to 2019!

 

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Travel sickness

It’s been one year today from when I landed in Santiago and began my 7 week adventure in Chile.  Where has the time gone??  I miss the sights of Chile, the food of Chile, the friendliness of the people and the time I spent I there.  So much has happened over this past year, but I look forward to 2019 with more travelling coming up.  In the meantime, some of my favourite pictures of Chile to share…

 

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Valle de la Luna

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Sunset in the desert

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Vina del Mar

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Santiago

Santiago

Santiago

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Arica and its beautiful beach

Hostel living

When I decided to head to Chile, I started thinking of the most economical way to do it.  I knew I wanted to travel city to city but I knew hotels would be too expensive for me to stay at.

 

Not having any idea about what it was like to stay in a hostel, except with a misconception that they are dorm rooms with a lot of partying young people, I decided to at least take a look and see what the pictures show.  To my surprise, hostels are not only dorms!!  In fact, this is the best way to travel in my opinion!  I was able to get single rooms in all the hostels I have stayed at – and in fact, two of them I had full apartment style rooms.  With my own kitchen, my own bathroom, a table to sit at and a terrace to sit out on at night.  And luckily for me, they were both at my two favourite places of Chile – La Serena and San Pedro.  And I am happy to say that NONE of the hostels have had any loud parties that didn’t allow me to sleep.  For that, I am very grateful!

 

In Santiago, I was lucky enough to find an apartment for the week I was there – which was good.   It helped me just rest, be on my own, get over major jet lag and get used to a new country.  After that – it has been all hostels.  Single rooms, with a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen.  This time of year here in Chile, it is the end of winter so there are not as many people travelling and I was fortunate to be able to have the place in Valparaiso to myself for 4 of the nights I was there.

 

Most of them have been great, with great owners who are super friendly, meeting other travellers from all over the world.  And hostels are very reasonably priced.  Far cheaper than a hotel, with amenities like a kitchen to use.  I have only been disappointed with one (the first one I was at in Antofagasta – dirty kitchen and unfriendly hosts – I was happy to be there for only three nights!).

 

I know my travelling has not finished – there are so many other places I want to see – and I now know that staying in hostels is the way to go for me.  They aren’t for everybody, I know, but for anyone who is looking to save money and travel longer, definitely research hostels – single rooms are a bit more than the dorm rooms, but definitely worth it to check out!!

San Pedro – more than just a desert town

My week started off with a late arrival on Sunday.  Monday had me wandering around the town, seeing what there was to offer and just getting a general feel of the area. It was dry and dusty – of course!  But there was a certain feel to the town.  A feeling, to me, that something was going to happen here but I just wasn’t sure what.  Monday ended with me sitting on my terrace of my two floor, apartment-style hostel (I really do love hostels!), watching the milky way and a million stars.  I had no idea just how spectacular it was to see the milky way!!

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The square of San Pedro

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The volcanoes of the Andes

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Tuesday I had booked the morning tour with Tours 4 Tips – again cannot say enough about this company!   If anyone is in Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Santiago or San Pedro – book the walking tours with these guys!  Absolutely phenomenal!!  Anyway – it turns out I was the only one scheduled for the tour so I had the pleasure of a private tour with a lovely guide by the name of Pauline, a French girl who fell in love with an Atacamen boy and stayed in San Pedro.  She was full of knowledge and so much energy – I had such a lovely time – and what was supposed to be a two hour tour was almost a three hour tour because we talked about so many other things.  She deserved even more of a tip than I gave her!

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My awesome private tour guide Pauline

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A very salty tree that grows in the desert

Tuesday night a big windstorm happened, and it continued all day on Wednesday.  I am not a fan of blowing sand in my eyes, so the day was spent doing very little.  I managed to go out and get some fruit and vegetables at the monthly market that Pauline told me about – it was awesome!  Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – was sold there.  Even a kitchen sink!!!  I spent about two hours browsing the market, sitting in the town square, getting some lunch, then headed back.  I had booked the Valle de la Luna tour for that night but it was cancelled because of the wind.  I re-booked for Friday afternoon.

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Licancabur Volcano in the distance

Thursday- I headed out to Pukara de Quitor, an area just outside of San Pedro.  I walked, and it took about an hour to walk there.  A local man said – oh just cross the river and walk for about 20 minutes – turns out you actually have to cross a river!  Good thing I was wearing my boots – my feet didn’t get wet at all traipsing through the river!  On to Pukara de Quitor – I had been told it was a hill you could climb and have a lovely view of San Pedro.  No one told me it was an actual visitor’s site that cost money – good thing I almost had enough – the lovely lady at the desk let me pay the student’s fee.  Gracias!  So, I headed to the “hill” – it was more than a hill but not quite a mountain.  I met a lovely mother and daughter and we ended up going up together.  I conquered a big fear that day – I normally do not climb anything that has no railing to grab on to in case I feel I need to – well there was no railing and I managed to get up to the second rest stop (almost to the top).  A HUGE feat for me.  I was very proud of  myself, and was also amazed at the view at this point.  Walked back down and headed back to town.  I was so proud of myself, that I took myself out to the best burger place in town – and it truly was the best burger.  Thursday, at that point, was the most amazing day of my entire trip.  Until….

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This view

Friday happened.  I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no wind, the temperature was just right.  A perfect setting for my Valle de la Luna tour at 4pm.  I arrived, backpack ready with water, sunscreen and my coat for the cooler temperatures near the end of the tour.  With the group, we loaded on to the van to head out to the Valley.  I had asked if I needed to be in really good shape, was this difficult, etc., and I was assured that it was not that difficult.  Well, turns out, it was more difficult, both physically and mentally, for me than I had imagined it would be.  The beginning was easy, a nice easy sandy slope towards this hill.  As we got up a bit higher, I noticed that the people ahead of me were turning left, and some were stopping, gasping and looking up.  This did not bode well for my fear of heights!   As I got to that point – I stood there in complete shock.  This was not just a hill.  This was rock and sand, climbing up the side of the hill, about 200 metres (this is what Klaus, the guide, told us after).  I was petrified and frozen in the spot.  I looked up and just said No.  Klaus was encouraging me, saying I could do it, he would help me.  I just kept shaking my head and saying no.  I was so completely afraid, I didn’t know what to do.  But then I saw a couple about my age, maybe a bit older, going ahead and doing it and I thought I can do this too.  I just don’t look down.  Well, I got about half-way up – and couldn’t go any further.  I was frozen.  And on the verge of tears.  I was absolutely petrified.  And Klaus – my hero – told me to just wait and he would help me.  So there I was, on the side of a “hill”, waiting for someone to drag me up there.  He came back, talked to me, told me it was okay to cry, told me to take deep breaths, and that I could do it.  After several minutes (felt like hours), he finally got me on the right track, I put my foot and leg where he wanted me to, grabbed his arm and had complete faith in him that he was going to get me up – and I did it.  I made it up to the top.  The other members of the group were cheering me on, and congratulating me.  I just felt like crying and would not stand up LOL.  After that, there were two other hills but nothing like that.  I was shaking the whole time, but I DID IT!!!   I was so proud of myself, and proved to myself that no matter the obstacle, I can do it, with lots of encouragement and Klaus holding me up haha.  I made such a huge breakthrough that day – I have many fears and now I know that I just need to take deep breaths, tell myself I can do it – and just do it.  At the end of the tour, we went to the lookout to watch the sunset over the valley, and I said a little thank you to the universe/God/my spirits/my guardians.  Truly the best day of my time in Chile.

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The entrance to Valle de la Luna

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The three sisters

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The view from the “hill” – I made it!

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My hero, Klaus, and I standing at the top of the hill!

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The amazing sunset in the Valley

Saturday, it was my last day.  I did a final walking tour in the afternoon, enjoyed some lunch in the square and headed to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Arica.

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After the Saturday tour, the group – three Canadians and two Australians!

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The square – one last time

San Pedro was amazing – I will never forget what this town, and this entire trip, has shown me about myself.  My strength, my attitude and my life – so many ways I have changed and all for the good.  I LOVE CHILE!!

​Discovering Chile ~ and myself

When I decided to travel through Chile, I did the basic research of the country, read information about each city I would see and looked at pictures.  I made myself a list of must~sees, but really I just wanted to discover what Chile was about. The people, the food, the way of life. What I didn’t expect was to discover so much about me.

Chile is a very long and narrow country.  The country has such a diverse nature to it.  From the glaciers in the south to the desert in the north, and the Andes creating a border with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru ~ there are so many unique qualities to this country it is staggering.  The natural beauty of this country is overwhelming. It has taken my breath away on more than one occasion.
There is also a great variety of food to be found. From Peruvian to sushi, from pizza to Chinese, you can find almost any kind of food here.  And the pastries!!  Its a good thing I walk at least three hours a day here!  I have yet to try Chilean wine or Pisco Sour but I will.
The people here struggle with English but are still anxious to help. They want to teach me Spanish and I have been trying ~ it is getting better.  I have met incredibly lovely people on my travels, and all ask where I am from, why am I in their city, have I tried Empanadas or the pescado, have I enjoyed a Pisco sour and, my favourite question ~ where is my husband? The older ladies seem genuinely concerned that I have no husband and am traveling solo! Their reaction amuses me.
The lifestyle here is similar to Europe ~ relaxed, easy going and very family oriented.  Siesta time is fascinating ~ stores close, families gather at a park, and they play, eat and rest. Such a difference from China where the children are so busy all the time that they are tired and not relaxed at all.
The thing that has struck me most is what I have discovered about myself.  I no longer care about materialistic things, I have all that I need.  I have discovered how strong I am, both physically and mentally. I have also discovered my limitations (Macchu Picchu is off my list).  But most of all, I have discovered that, regardless of what others think about me, I am very proud of what I have accomplished and how far I have come.
They say travel changes you. I don’t think it’s changed me. I think it has awakened me in how I view the world.  I have a different attitude now. I am more accepting. And I have said this many times but it bears repeating ~ I am so grateful for this amazing journey I am on.  I am grateful for the opportunities that have been give. And I know its not over ~ I have many years left.
So I am just going to keep on trekking and exploring!

Antofagasta

I have been in Antofagasta now for a few days, and while I spent the first few days in a hostel in the north end of town, it was just a temporary place.  I am now in the place I wanted to be in, close to the city centre and walking to the pier.  This hostel is pretty awesome – huge common room with a TV.  They serve breakfast in the morning.  And they clean your rooms on a daily basis!!  Not a normal thing for hostels – so a nice pleasant surprise.  Oh – and they have a laundry service here too (thank goodness – I desperately needed to wash my clothes!)

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My initial opinion of Antofagasta was a wary one.  I was quite far from the city centre at first, almost an hour’s walk away.  It was a nice walk but to get there, look around, and then have to walk back (I could have figured out the bus I am sure but never bothered), it made for sore legs and long days.  I am not one for being out at night alone in strange countries, so I made sure I was back in plenty of daylight.  The new place is in a busy area and I don’t mind being out later than I normally would be (like 8pm haha).

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loved this hat!!

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part of a family park beside the ocean

I have chosen to stay for 10 days in Antofagasta – the longest time I’ll be in any city in South America.  If I had known that I would have loved La Serena as much as I did, I would have stayed longer there.  However, I can’t change it now.  I like the vibe of Antofagasta, and I love being down by the pier.  So much to see – the boats, sometimes you can see the head of a sea-lion playing in the ocean, the food stands, the families all going down there to buy fresh fish (but a reminder – they do not fish on Mondays so no fresh fish – don’t buy fish on Mondays!).  It’s a lovely feel to this town and I really like it.

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a rocky day at sea!

The street art and graffiti seen in South America is fascinating and Antofagasta is no different.  They have paintings on the walls that are life-like.  The graffiti is interesting.  And I feel quite safe here, despite the reputation that some port towns here have.

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life-like paintings (and real statues)

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more life-like paintings

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tiled mosaics

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tiled mosaics

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tiled mosaics

I am taking it easy this week, leisurely wandering around, and I will make it out to see the Portada (but must take a cab there, there is no bus and too far to walk!).  There are restaurants I want to try.  I am enjoying the relaxing week I have here.  After this, my time will be shorter in each place I go – so I am taking advantage of the rest.