In Search of the Belgian Waffle Maker

Brussels-train-travel

It was August, 2015…

It was time for us to leave. My daughter and I had been browsing the Art Nouveau area of Brussels for the past hour and we had to get back to the Grand Place for our pre-booked Belgian waffle workshop. We made our way back to the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus stop and took the bus back to the stop closest to Grand Place, the central square in Brussels.

We were to meet a chef dressed in a black apron, standing outside the Tourist office. From there he would lead us to our workshop. Pre-booked and pre-paid ahead of time from home, I had mentioned the workshop to a friend who had lived in Brussels for a time. He had told me me to try the waffles with the exploding sugar. Exploding sugar?

The bus pulled up to our stop and I asked the driver how to get to Grand Place. He pointed the way and we made our way, walking down the narrow street towards the square. We took a right once reaching the centre and looked for the Tourist office among the vendors and crowds of people walking this way and that way.  After walking for some time, and not seeing our meeting place, we turned around and went back to the centre of the main square. I asked a woman vendor if she knew where the Tourist office was and she pointed us back towards the direction we had just come from. “Not more than 50 metres and it’s on your left.” So we headed back in the same direction, our eyes peeled. Still no luck. I asked another vendor and he said he didn’t know of any Tourist office. Now it was twenty minutes past our meeting time and it became clear the workshop was not going to happen. We gave up looking.

Disappointed, we sat down on a park bench and wondered what to do next. Eyeing and smelling some freshly made waffles on the other side of the square we decided that even though we couldn’t make them, the best part of waffles was in the eating of them, anyway. We walked over and ordered two hot waffles – one with chocolate sauce and the other with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I didn’t see the option of exploding sugar and I was slightly relieved. They were quite delicious.

After spending some more time at the square, we walked back to our hotel and I contacted the waffle place, explaining our predicament. They refunded the cost right away. Then later, as I looked through photos from that day, what did I see in one of the photos? The Tourist office.

grand-place-tourist

The Tourist Office.

On Going Vegan: How it All Began

It was November, 2015…

It was a Saturday night as I sat on my comfy sofa, channel changer in hand, looking through Netflix at my choice of entertainment. I passed Cowspiracy as I had a number of times before and wondered if I was in the mood this time. I had heard some buzz about the film, and as a sucker for a good documentary, I decided to press “play.”

Holy freaking cow.

Here are a few things I learned about our world:

  • The cattle industry produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector combined. It seems to me that while we are being told to change our driving habits, the agriculture business has free reign to keep doing whatever they want.
  • 2,500 gallons of water is used to produce one pound of beef. Wait – isn’t there a huge shortage of water at the moment? That’s a lot of water.
  • Raising animals for food uses 45% of the earth’s land, is responsible for 30% of the world’s water consumption, 90% of the Brazilian Amazon rain forest destruction, and is a leading cause of ocean dead zones, habitat destruction and species extinction. Whoa!
  • 82% of the world’s starving children are living in countries where food is grown and fed to livestock that are then killed and eaten by people in more developed countries. In fact, we could feed every human today an adequate diet if we took the feed we are feeding to animals and turned it into food for humans. Okay, so this is really getting ridiculous now. We know the answer to solving world hunger and yet we continue to put big business interest first.
  • This issue is being ignored by the very people who should be championing it. “Environmental organizations are not telling you the truth… (they) are failing us and they’re failing the ecosystems.” -former Greenpeace U.S. board member. Most government and environment groups are not addressing this due to fear of offending the agriculture industry, and possible cuts to funding.

I thought back to that one night in my 20’s, leaving a club very late and heading over to Mr. Pong’s for some chicken noodle soup. Later that morning I remember waking up and throwing up repeatedly for the next three days. I knew it had been the chicken because whenever I thought about that chicken noodle soup I vomited again. And so I had decided then and there that I would be a vegetarian… or rather a “pescatarian” as I decided I would still eat fish. The semi-vegetarian lifestyle lasted about a year, until one day I had a craving for Swiss Chalet chicken and there I was, back eating meat.

Fast-forward twenty years and there I was again, watching this documentary. Over the past little while my daughter and I had had a few conversations about “living our values” through food, and she even gave up meat for a period of time. We’ve talked about it, agreed that a plant-based food diet would be the most honest and best way of eating overall, but our behaviour has remained the same.

This time was different. Cowspiracy had stuck with me.

I logged on to the Cowspiracy website and started my journey following the free 30-day Vegan Challenge. I used that first month to educate myself about veganism.

August, 2017…

More than a year and a half in, and it’s going great! There is still much to learn, but I can tell you this – I have never enjoyed my food more than I do today. There are challenges and questions and I am in no way perfect, but I really try to be kind to myself and others, and just do the best I can.

Kindness above all.

Amazing & Breathtaking Hikes Around the World

As a lifelong lover of hiking and the great outdoors, I was thrilled to do research on a number of hiking spots around the world for an article I was writing for a client. I decided to include parts of the article here on my blog, even though I have not visited even one of these wonderful places.

For me, the beauty of travel includes dreaming that comes before the actual trip, and these places are definitely locations I dream of one day seeing. Hopefully you too love the dreaming that goes into planning a trip. And if you love hiking, you might just find some inspiration with these little-known hiking spots around the world. If you have any places of your own to add, please do so in the comments below!

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii, United States

One of the most beautiful areas of the United States, Kauai, Hawaii would be an amazing place to stop to hike and camp. Kalalau Trail is part of the Hawaii State National Parks system and runs nearly 18 km each way along a beautiful coast, from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley. Not for the faint of heart, this challenging but breathtakingly beautiful hike runs along the Na Pali Coast and takes between three to five days to complete.

The drier months of May to September see more hikers on the trail, so if you are looking to skip the crowds, plan to do this hike between April and October.

Photo by Mark Goh

Photo: Mark Goh

MacLehose Trail, New Territories, Hong Kong

Hong Kong as a hiking destination probably fascinates me more than any other. I mean, come on, Hong Kong a hiking destination? Really? Apparently, the New Territories surrounding Hong Kong are very rural and quiet, providing a great place to strap on those hiking boots, especially if you are planning to visit Hong Kong anyway!

Named after Sir Murray MacLehose, the longest serving governor of Hong Kong who established the Country Parks and was himself an avid hiker, the trail passes through a variety of natural scenery including beaches and mountains.

Nearly 100km in length, the MacLehose Trail was historically used for fitness competitions by the British Army. As such, this trail is quite challenging, starting at the eastern beaches before ascending into the tropical mountains and winding past Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak at 957 metres high.

Although this hike takes five or six days to complete, much has been done to accommodate hikers, such as the addition of stone steps and pathways, free camping and the odd food vendor here and there offering refreshments. The best time to hike this trail is between November and March, when humidity is at its lowest.

Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Located on the north end of New Zealand’s South Island, this 71 km trail runs from Ship Cove (where Captain Cook was known to frequent during the 1700’s!) to Anakiwa, and will take you between three and five days to complete.

What’s great about this hike is that due to the region’s temperate climate, it can be tackled year-round. This trail also offers accommodation choices after a day of hiking over sunny hills and along the dragon’s back ridge, ranging from camping to luxury lodges.

Long Range Traverse, Newfoundland, Canada

The Long Range Traverse is a seasoned hiker’s dream, especially if what you are seeking is solitude. With the absence of marked trails, this jaunt through Gros Morne National Park will take you 40 km through wild Canadian backcountry, over six days.

Starting at the Western Brook Pond you will use a map and compass (memories of Boy Scouts!) to make your way to the ending point at Gros Morne Mountain, a peak that reaches 806 metres high above the Gulf of St. Lawrence, stopping at designated camps along the way. It’s probably a little too advanced for me, but if you are an experienced hiker, it maybe just what you’ve been looking for.

It’s best to hike the Long Range Traverse between July and September, when weather conditions are at their best.

How about you? Do you have a favourite hiking spot? Have you been to any of these places?