Enchanted Vilnius

20170530_135249 (2)Sometimes taking a leap of faith, or a road trip, to a place unknown can lead to the most beautiful surprises. When my cousin proposed a visit to Vilnius, Lithuania during my three week stay in Europe, I wasn’t immediately swept off my feet. I dreamt of Vienna, Prague or Stockholm. The small country  of Lithuania was never on my radar as a tourist destination. Images of many former eastern block nations danced in my head like a depressing film noir. What could I possibly see or enjoy in Lithuania for one day, let alone three! I was primed to be enchanted.

The six hour comfort bus ride from Bialystok (for which I paid $38 round trip!) to Vilnius was filled with naps and stork spotting, wifi and snacks. I barely realized how much time had passed when we pulled into Lithuania’s capital city. A city where almost 700 years of history mingles to highlight its past with the emerging bright future. Where any visitor with euros in their pocket and speaking nothing more than English can feel at ease. Where I was reminded of how much this city and country were a part of my own Polish heritage.

20170530_172032 (2)20170530_172538 (2)20170530_172715 (2)20170530_173036 (2)      20170530_172829 (2)20170530_172648 (2)20170530_173153 (2)20170530_173733 (2)20170530_175717 (2)     20170530_174822 (2)20170530_180004 (2)20170530_175651 (2)20170530_173529 (2)20170530_172507 (2)20170530_172205_HDR (2)20170530_182358 (2)20170530_182412 (2)20170530_183520 (2)20170531_184953 (2)     20170531_190636 (2)20170531_190625 (2)20170530_183447 (2)20170530_182533_HDR (2)20170530_182549_HDR (2)20170530_184359_HDR (2)20170530_184529 (2)20170530_185021 (2)20170530_184858 (2)20170530_185311 (2)     20170530_184840 (2)20170530_184915 (2)20170530_183912 (2)20170530_185535 (2)20170530_190200_HDR (2)    20170530_190119 (2)20170530_191730 (2)20170530_191615 (2)     20170530_191618 (2)20170530_204718 (2)20170530_194214 (2)20170530_195652 (2)      20170530_195346 (2)20170530_191802 (2)20170530_191953_HDR (2)    20170530_191914 (2)20170530_192417_HDR (2)     20170531_132520 (2)20170531_132323 (2)       20170530_182504 (2)20170531_182256 (2)20170531_135653_HDR (2)20170531_140949_HDR (2)20170531_140800 (2)       20170531_140810 (2)20170531_141457 (2)20170531_123012 (2)20170531_123152_HDR (2)As always it is near impossible to present in a few words and photos what a country or a city has to offer. There are so many beautiful places around the world that need to be seen with your own eyes. I’m still slowly checking off my extensive travel list, as each year I make a choice between seeing something new or returning to a place I have come to love.

Vilnius is definitely going on the “must return” list. I hope you will travel there yourself and become enchanted!

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Welcome Home – Bialystok

20170525_164849I am almost embarrassed to say that it has taken me 14 years (eek!) to return to my homeland and the city where I was born, Bialystok. It also feels like it has taken me ages to write this blog post. In my defense, I wanted to do justice to a beautiful city that shaped my childhood and my initial outlook on the world.

I poured through almost 300 photos knowing I could only share a glimpse of my three week visit. Many of the photos were very personal as I met with family (thank you Agata for being an amazing host and cousin!!) and old school friends who made me feel like I never left (I can’t wait to continue these friendships for years to come!). I ate the most incredible food, practiced my language skills (not as bad as I thought) and even caught up on this summer’s best movie, Wonder Woman! The weather was incredible as I explored the city mostly on foot, stopping more often than not for a daily dose of ice cream. I cannot believe I didn’t gain weight ;). I hope you enjoy my adventure!

The historic and colourful city of Bialystok, situated in northeastern Poland, received town rights in 1692 but there is documentation that in 1437 the area was identified for settlement and gifted by the Duke of Lithuania to local nobility. In the intervening 5 centuries, it has undergone many changes that reflected the evolution of world history and politics. And even the last 14 years have created a city that is making its mark as a wonderful place to live and a new travel destination, especially for eco adventurers. I am very proud of what the city has become and look forward to many more visits.20170525_164739 (2)20170525_164729 (2)20170529_134123 (3)20170603_185746 (2)20170603_180912 (2)20170525_165120 (2)        20170525_164744 (2)  20170525_164843 (2)20170529_134132 (2)20170529_134356 (2)20170529_133115 (2)20170605_175408 (2)20170605_175014 (2)20170609_145025 (2)20170609_144734 (2)        20170609_144918 (2)  20170606_120146 (2)20170606_120313 (2)        20170606_120532 (2)20170606_120205 (2)20170526_130438 (2)20170603_181653 (2)       20170606_115453 (2)20170606_120752 (2)20170606_120757 (2)        20170606_120809 (2)  20170606_122237 (2)20170609_141202 (2)20170606_122451 (2)20170606_121714_HDR (2)        20170607_163042 (2)20170607_163422 (2)20170525_164804 (2)20170529_135514 (2)   20170529_141626 (2)        IMG_20170529_135745 (2)20170607_151231 (2)20170607_151303 (2)20170607_150951 (2)        20170607_144525 (2)20170606_151239 (2)20170606_151456 (2)20170606_151310 (2)        20170606_154431 (2)20170606_151509 (2)20170609_212320 (2)20170609_212326 (2)20170609_212659 (2)20170609_212536 (2)20170610_212651 (2)I hope that you enjoyed this brief introduction to my home city. There is so much to do and see in this beautiful part of Poland. I invite you to take on the adventure and visit a place that is not often on the tourist radar.

While in Poland, I took a brief trip to the old town of Vilnius in Lithuania. In an upcoming post, I will introduce you to a city that had played a major role in the history of my country. It was my first visit and one of the most pleasant surprises of my vacation.

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Birthday Surprises in Chatham

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham, OntarioAnyone who knows me knows how much I love birthdays (especially my own)! Every year, I take a fiendish delight in planning a birthday scavenger hunt for the boy, a trip into the unknown filled with food and fun. All he has to do is follow Brigitta’s (our appropriately christened dictatorial gps) directions to the surprise destinations. The boy’s birthday is usually accompanied by a beautiful autumn sun and vibrantly hued foliage as we wind our way through Ontario’s back roads.

Unfortunately, my birthday doesn’t have the same fate. Falling smack dab in the middle of January, I’m lucky if the world is covered by a white blanket of snow and the crisp air pinches my face with frost. More often, grey slush coats the streets under heavy ashen clouds. Apparently, this year, in the first 26 days of January, we were lucky to see 12 hours of sunlight. Yikes!

Although the boy makes every attempt to make my birthday special, the weather foils most of his elaborate surprises. Curse you snow belt! That is why this year, I was shocked when he instructed me to pack an overnight bag for a birthday escape! Beside myself with all the suspense, I peppered him with questions and begged for clues. I did get 3. None of which came close to discovering our final destination, Chatham, Ontario.

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioFacade of Retro Suites Chatham, ON         Fire Escape at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON              Front Door of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONIn the heart of downtown Chatham sits a remarkable getaway destination. The Retro Suites Hotel. It is exactly what a surprise escape should be. A turn of the century building conversion that preserves historic architecture and combines it with a wonderland of modern art, vintage artefacts, and 45 individually styled rooms. Within an hour drive of London, it is the perfect place to work, play or stay.

Decor at Retro Suites in Chatham, ONFull View of the Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON        Eccentric Decor of Retro Suites in Chatham Ontario           Fornasetti lamp at Retro Suites in Chatham OntarioFun Decor Details in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Feather Pink Lampshade in the Lobby of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON         Front Lobby - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONLooking Down at Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON3D Art Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ONRetro Suites in Chatham Ontario     Cobblestones and Cappuccinos at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Vintage Elvis Microphone in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON With a great deal of squeeling and a million ohs and ahs on my part (boy, did he get this right!), we checked into room 217 “The Study”.

The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON  Design Details of the Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON    Close up of Books Inside The Study - Retro Suites - Chatham, ONBookcases Inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON       Door Leading into The Study of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Cobblestones and Cappuccinos inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in a Hidden Hallway - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in the Halls of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONTennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON    3D Toy Car Art inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Rolling Stones Inspired Artwork - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONUnique Artwork - Retro Suites - Chatham, ON    Red Sculpture - Artwork Inside the Retro Suites in Chatham, ON      Art in the Retro Suites - Chatham, ONColourful Sculpture Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON   Colourful Artwork at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON                Vintage Milk Dispenser - Retro Suites Decor in Chatham, ONI woke up on Sunday morning (my official birthday) to golden streamers of sunshine creeping in through the blinds. It was the perfect start to the day.

And since I’m a breakfast girl, we took in a lazy brunch at the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge, the hotel’s equally eclectic restaurant. The place slowly filled with hotel guests and locals, a morning symphony of chatter, clanking utensils, and sighs of culinary delight followed. The menu, like the space, did not disappoint in either innovation or taste. The boy and I tucked into a cheese and ham omelet, hash potatoes, and strawberry and chocolate french toast. It was worth the linger.

Tables Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON     Vintage Poster in the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON         Closeup of Tennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONBack Room of the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON      Sunday brunch, Chilled Cork Restaurant, Chatham, Ontario           Chilled Cork Restaurant, Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioRetro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioWe took off for London shortly after brunch. The streets of downtown Chatham were quiet and still as we wove our way toward the highway. It was a beautiful and sun-filled drive back home. Birthday 2017 totally rocked!

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Kitchener’s Christkindl Market

20161204_122133Ever since I got a taste of a traditional German Christmas Market at the Distillery District in Toronto last year, I realized it was the perfect way to get into the winter season. Holiday music blaring through speakers, hot drinks, fried food, and cold noses somehow scream Christmas is coming! So when I heard that Kitchener, just a little over an hour outside of London, put on a 4 day Christmas Market extravaganza, there was no stopping us.

The Christkindl Market takes place in and around Kitchener’s City Hall. It’s a free to attend event and, on Sunday, parking at all city lots is free! Wooden huts line the street outside the building and there are plenty of traditional goodies, from food to crafts, for purchase. German music, dancing and blacksmithy demonstrations entertain the bundled masses. And if you want to warm up or work off the fried up feast, strap on some skates and take a spin around the rink! 20161204_11134420161204_111505      20161204_11121320161204_11100620161204_11102120161204_11152820161204_11122620161204_11121720161204_111305     20161204_11130120161204_11123720161204_11094720161204_11160620161204_11232220161204_11244920161204_11163620161204_11170820161204_11172020161204_11111920161204_11241220161204_12211920161204_11273020161204_122322But the boy and I found a better way to warm up. We grabbed some goulash, fried potatoes with applesauce, and fritters and headed for the 10th floor of City Hall. Surrounded by views of the city, we devoured our lunch and defrosted our toes.

Bellies full and back on the main floor, we wound our way through an indoor market displaying traditional wooden folk art from the Ore Mountains, felt crafts, jewelry, snacks, and gifts. And listened to an organ grinder named Klaus entertain the shoppers with his music and monkey puppet. He’s been part of the event since 2000!20161204_11534320161204_115425       20161204_11534820161204_12053520161204_12051720161204_120741    20161204_11591720161204_11585720161204_122054The Kitchener Christkindl Market is the perfect blend of tradition and entertainment, sating our bellies and our hearts. Although this event only takes place for 4 days once a year, I hope you all put this on your to-do list for 2017! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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A Morning Date with Edgar & Joe

Edgar and Joe's Cafe Interior | London, ONI am a diehard advocate of, in my humble opinion, the most important meal of the day – BREAKFAST! Whether hot or cold, at home or out, I always start my day on a full stomach.

The boy is, by now, familiar with the sound of my alarm clock gently tinkling in the darkness. It urges me up at 6am (two and a half hours before I leave for work) so that I can indulge in my ritual of a steaming cup and a warm breakfast. Always warm! My tastes run from a smooth egg scramble with bacon to warm apple and cheese filled crepes. Sunday is always a Dutch Baby extravaganza! All a bit time consuming in my bleary eyed state. But well worth it.

However, I cherish the days when I can hand over breakfast making duties to the experts. Enter my other favourite boys, Edgar & Joe‘s. Edgar and Joe's Cafe Sign | London, ONIt’s a little spot that has found a firm hold in London’s blossoming downtown.

Part of the Goodwill Industries, it touts itself as a cafe with a purpose, serving fresh, local, and affordable food that keep the patrons coming back.

Chalkboard Menu at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONInterior of Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor Lighting at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCoffee Preparation at Edgar's and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON   Table and Decor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBarista Preparing Coffee at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON      Cappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBreakfast at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONSo if your tummy starts to rumble at the sight of the last pic, grab a spot at Edgar & Joe’s and start your day off right!

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