The Travel Diary

Month: October 2014

Touring Toronto…

Where do I start! I love this city!!! It’s diverse, action packed and full of culture. Toronto offers award winning, fine dining and budget friendly options too. There are a plethora of outdoor farmer’s markets, tea and spice shops, and restaurants galore. The streets of the business district are filled to capacity with boutiques and tourist shops. The city is an absolute melting pot of nationalities and languages. I loved everything about my visit except the length of time spent…it wasn’t long enough to accomplish all I desired to do. Below, I’ve provided a few recommendations for you.
1. A great place to eat- Richmond Station. I’d read the reviews before going, and I must say, the food was every bit as good as stated. I nearly inhaled a delicious roasted brussel sprout salad. It was insane how yummy it was. One of my Toronto, travel colleagues also ordered the dish, and was equally as pleased. I could go on for hours, but all in all- one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten, and that says something… because I’ve eaten my share of “greens.” There are so many other phenomenal restaurants to choose from that I would literally need an entire article dedicated to food alone.
2. Tired of walking- just hop on the streetcar. Can I just say this was a life saver after parking, what felt like a million miles away from the restaurant… where my meeting was taking place? For $3 you can ride, get transfers and avoid sitting behind the wheel of a car in Toronto’s grueling traffic. Also, if you’ve never had the opportunity to ride on one, you might just consider it a pretty cool experience. Totally reminds me of San Francisco! Tour the business and fashion district without wearing out the soles of your shoes.
3. Downtown Business and Fashion Districts- These districts connect and are full of all kind of fabulous items. There are numerous boutiques, fabric shops, hotels, financial centers and tucked away alleys with amazing street art. I saw everything from a trendy sneaker shop to a high end furrier salon. You could literally spend hours roaming the streets, getting into all sorts of shopping trouble. Tourists, as well as local professionals co-exist freely on the streets of Toronto!!
4. Visit one of the area markets- the Kensington market area goes on for blocks! Also connected to the business and fashion districts, you can shop at the open air markets for fresh fruits and veggies, as well as pick up your favorite spice or tea, and even grab a souvenir for the road. The area is a major Asian hub, with the likes of all sorts of Eastern delicacies and products. It literally feels like it covers a half of a stadium in size. If you’re interested in upscale pieces, then visit St. Lawrence Market for some unique finds.
5. Calling all coffee lovers. While in Toronto, you must try their signature Tim Horton’s coffee. It’s the brand of choice in this part of the world. I took the liberty of trying the iced coffee, at the suggestion of native travel colleagues, The Wax Museum, and enjoyed it. There are a number of other menu items ranging from breakfast goodies, to sandwiches for your dining pleasure. It sorta reminded me of a Dunkin Donuts. Indulge in the local experience while up north!
There is so much more to see, do and write about, but I’m out of time.  Toronto is the perfect Canadian experience. They have museums, islands off the mainland, is surrounded by wineries and again…is a food mecca. You won’t regret a visit to this pretty amazing city- Toronto is the place to be~

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My Panama City Beach Encounter…

It was just a few short weeks ago, on an early Saturday morning when I set out to Panama City Beach, FL. Though it appeared to start out like every other trip (despite a few hiccups that is,) nothing could be farther from the truth, considering what occurred. I had no idea what I was in for when I backed out of that driveway! Aside from the excitement of seeing my nephew, who lives in the area, I had no idea that this trip would prove to be one of the most amazing encounters of my life to date. My advice, buckle up because you are in for quite a ride!

This escapade was filled with so many wonderful things. From the beautiful turquoise and blue ocean scenery, and white sand beaches, to the delicious food from a few different places. I thoroughly enjoyed the signature pineapple coleslaw and Mahi Mahi nuggets from Pineapple Willie’s, and the fish tacos from Sharky’s too. One word to describe both- yummo! My time was also filled will a yumtastic smoothie from off of Front Row Beach ( a super cool tourist area with restaurants, pubs and even a mall,) and a well-seasoned Salmon burger from the Red Elephant in the city. I even danced in the mouth of a shark!…Of course not a real one! Are you kidding me???…LOL, and had a great time in the midst of the fisherman on the pier, and with the beach goers below. I people watched, walked, drove and even sailed the ocean waters. Side note- I won’t bore you with the hugs and kisses I gave my nephew, or discuss our trips to Walmart, Target, etc HAHA…Thus, I’ll jump right into the good, “exciting to my readers” stuff. 🙂
It was what happened on Sunday evening that put this adventure in Candacetravels’ history books!  I’ll review what transpired over the next 2.5hrs, because it proved to be nothing short of miraculous. I was invited to come along on a boat trip…but this wasn’t any normal ocean outing by a long shot.
As Captain Andy pushed off from the Treasure Island Marina, I was excited as usual, and ready to take in all the sites as we moved across the ocean. It was a scorching hot day, so I was thankful the water provided a magnificent breeze. Just shortly after departing, the fun began~
• First, a school of dolphins surrounded us! They put on a performance as if at SeaWorld, or some island dolphin show. It was amazing in every way!!!! Anywhere from 8-10 of them leaped, jumped, flipped, and swam alongside our vessel for what felt like a million miles. It was incredible, and my action shots are even more amazing to see. I’ve been in many ocean waters, and have seen my share of dolphins at play, but never before have I witnessed a display like this.

• Next up, was the jelly fish that the first mate swooped up out of the ocean for us to see. Though I’m not into slimy, slippery creatures, it was still pretty cool to see the critter just inches away from me. He gave some quick background info, then tossed him back in, as if the little fella hadn’t missed a beat. Away he went.

• Third on the list was my time at the driver’s seat. Anytime I get the opportunity to handle a boat, I’m taking it! It’s a goal of mine to have my license one day. It was a euphoric and peaceful experience wrapped into one. I felt both free and in control at the same time! As I steered, Captain Andy gave me some useful tips, and relaxed as I took pleasure in my remaining time at the wheel. A true highlight!!!

• Fourth up, was the sign of a rainbow peeking through the clouds. It’d rained earlier that day, terrifying me that my evening plans would be a wash (pun,) but to my surprise, it cleared up, barely leaving a trace of precipitation in the air. However, the one remnant the storm did leave behind, was the beauty of a perfectly painted bow for all of us to see.

• Fifth up was the most brilliant sunset ever. As we continued to sail, the Heavens dropped down and kissed the seas. It was picture perfect. The sky to my right was an orangey-purple- blue, as I captured a yacht snuggled below. It was Hand painted by the Creator Himself. As the Captain joyfully pointed out, opposite the beautiful sunset, was a full moon against the backdrop of hints of blues and lavenders. This was the first time in my life that I’d ever witnessed the sun setting to my right, and the moon hanging to my left. It left me speechless for a number of minutes. I snapped picture after picture, going back and forth, and from side to side, between my camera and phone. Everyone on board was so in awe over what we were seeing, that there wasn’t a disappointed soul in sight.

• After parking for a bit and gasping at the miraculous in the sky, the first mate decided to scoop up a few crabs for a second “show and tell” session. After plopping them in a bin of water, and allowing them to float back and forth a bit, he finished up his lesson and carefully lowered them back into the ocean, as if never touched.

• And yet…there is more. The island that we sailed past was filled with deer running to and fro, as if children at play in a field. It was the perfect close to an evening filled with splendor of all sorts. I saw so much of creation up close and personal, that I left  from the boat ride, feeling FULL. Never in a million years when I woke up that day, did I imagine I’d see everything from a group of dolphins at play, to a full moon, opposite a sunset. I don’t know what I liked most, but this will go down in history as the day that God met me on the Gulf of Mexico.


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