I looked around me, a twinge of guilt in my gut, before lifting my camera, snapping a shot and stuffing the offending lens back into my bag as quickly as I could, fumbling with the zipper and painfully aware of my surroundings.
I was in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand—a city ravaged by two devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and still in recovery mode now three years later. And I couldn’t decide whether to document the sites before me, or to take it in only in my mind. I’ve never been comfortable with disaster porn. Rubbernecking nauseates me. And why did I even want physical memories of the scene, anyway?
It took me all of a day to decide I didn’t like Hanoi. I arrived at night under a sky that was starless and rainy, air that felt cool and clammy—and in a taxi that cost me $15 more than I had anticipated. Come morning, a grey haze hung over the city, drizzly rain seeping into every crack of the mangled sidewalks and into my pores—admittedly a welcome relief after leaving behind a cold Canadian winter that had my skin as parched as a desert. The streets screamed with chaos—cars, motorbikes and bicycles all surged from seemingly every which way, a moving mob on wheels.
It’s the palm trees that get you.
There are some things you expect to see in Ireland: rolling green hills, fields of sheep, rainbows with leprechauns at the end pouring pints of Guinness. But not palm trees.
Pop quiz: You’re headed to Calgary for a culinary weekend. What are you going to eat?
Beef, you say. Of course.
Well, not exactly. Sure, the west is known as the beef headquarters of Canada, and the first time I visited Calgary, I ate so much of Alberta’s acclaimed AAA beef that I’m pretty sure I cleaned out at least one cattle ranch entirely on my own.
But as it turns out, Alberta, and the city of Calgary in particular, is about a heck of a lot more than steak and burgers. Not only that, but it’s also home to some pretty damn good chefs, both established and up-and-coming.
I don’t know why I can’t get her out of my head. I didn’t know Anita Mac personally; she was just the voice behind a URL, someone who shared some connections with me, who loved travel and writing like I do. I don’t know why, when I opened my Facebook newsfeed and saw a note that she had taken her own life, when I read her final blog post about feeling alone, it hit me so hard that I sat at my desk sobbing on a Sunday afternoon for a woman whom I had never met.
It’s the little things in life that are the most wonderful. A small exchange with a kind stranger, a moment of laughter with a good friend, a taste of something homemade and pure. And when you can experience all that together under the warm sun on an August afternoon—like I did this past weekend at at the annual Flavours in the Field culinary festival, in New Tecumseth, Ontario—well, it really is pretty wonderful.
Just over a week ago, I was fortunate to spend five days in Istanbul, Turkey, courtesy of Turkish Airlines Canada, Conrad Hilton Istanbul and InS Luxury Tours. And at the risk of sounding obnoxiously gushy, it was pretty damn incredible. As I’ve previously written, I didn’t know what to expect from Istanbul, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the gorgeous scenery and culture that make up this East-meets-West city.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I headed to Istanbul last week. Sure, there were some things I already knew about the destination, like how it’s where Europe and Asia meet, both figuratively and literally (the Bosphorus Strait, which runs through the centre of the city, is the geographical dividing point between the two continents), and how the only thing North Americans have seen of Turkey over the past few months has been the riots in Taksim Square.
Okay, let me explain. I am not guzzling wine in some sort of pity party, lamenting my singleness and crying while watching Nicholas Sparks movies. No, far from mourning the romance of Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating it. Or, more specifically, I’m celebrating the month of February. Because February means it’s time for the Niagara region’s annual Days of Wine and Chocolate festival. Wine. Chocolate. I can think of no combination that could make me happier on a cold February afternoon.