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Welcome to a new series on The Full-Time Tourist! I thought that as I’ve explored many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods since moving here three years ago, I should make a guide to some of my favourite neighbourhoods! I mean, if The New York Times article named Toronto as the seventh-best city in the world to visit early this year and Vogue named Toronto’s Queen Street West as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world in 2014, it’s probably because of how unique Toronto’s neighbourhoods are. So let’s start with the most unique of them all- Kensington Market.

 A Neighbourhood Guide to Kensington Market

Location: Chinatown, in between College and Dundas West Streets, and Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue

Subway Stop: Walking distance from St. Patrick’s Station or Queen’s Park Station

Kensington Market is the heart and centre of Toronto’s multiculturalism. In fact, the continuous waves of new immigrants calling Kensington home since the the early 1900s is why it’s a National Historic Site of Canada.  The market saw its first influx of immigrants during the two World Wars, with close to 80 per cent of Toronto’s 40,000 Jewish immigrants living  in Kensington. As Toronto businesses excluded them from the business community, Kensington Market transformed into the vibrant, outdoor market it is today. And when immigrants from Hungary, Portugal and Ukraine came to Toronto after the Second World War, they replaced a majority of the Jewish population who had earned enough money to move to wealthier neighbourhoods. Today, Kensington Market is a cultural hub for mostly young people and new immigrants.

Where to Brunch

FIKA Cafe

28 Kensington Ave.

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sunday Brunch 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.

If I could describe FIKA in one word, it would be Instagrammable. From the food to the interior decorations to the cute balcony leading up to the teal-coloured house, it’s Insta goals. And its food and coffee do not disappoint. Though there are very few gluten-free items on the menu, I had the beet avocado and kale salad (I passed along the croutons to my friend after taking the photo- note to self for next time) and there is a flourless espresso lavender brownie, which sounds tempting. I also had their iced coffee, which was surprisingly refreshing with cardamom bitters, simple syrup, almond mylk and mint.

Hibiscus Cafe

238 Augusta Ave.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday; 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Hibiscus is easily my favourite brunch spot in the market. The interior is cute and cozy. Its walls are decorated with a rotating selection of paintings by local artists, and shelves of plants, local literature and old cameras peak out from behind the counter. Although the cafe has limited seating, I can assure you that it’s well worth the wait. As the restaurant is entirely gluten-free and vegan-friendly, gluten intolerants and vegans can enjoy brunch classics like crepes, soups and salads without facing a surcharge. I’d also recommend the matcha latte- somehow it tastes like warm ice cream (ice cream soup, anyone?).

Our Spot

180 Baldwin St.

Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.; Closed on Wednesdays

Another go-to brunch place of mine is Our Spot. Located on the central strip in Kensington, it’s hard to miss. Our Spot is usually busy, but try to steal a spot on the patio if you can. The mural behind the picnic tables and the sunlight streaming in from the sunroof are staples of the Kensington Market vibe. They do ofter gluten-free toast for a surcharge, and you can substitute eggs for more beans, if you’re vegan.

Where to grab a pick-me-up

Moonbeam Cafe

30 St. Andrew St.

Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 9 p.m. (10:00 p.m. during the summer)

With a large selection of brewed coffees, espresso-based drinks and over 30 types of loose leaf teas, Moonbeam will most likely have your drink of choice. Like most of the cafes in Kensington Market, Moonbeam is on the smaller side and will be fairly busy, but in the summer there is an outdoor patio at the front and back of the shop. I recommend sitting in the back room, if there’s space! If you’re in need of a little snack, Moonbeam also does gluten-free and vegan snacks!

The Organic Press

257 Augusta Ave.

Sometimes organic freshly pressed juices are the best way to wake up mid-day! Compared to other juiceries in the city, the prices aren’t as steep (keep in mind though that fresh pressed juices are usually fairly expensive).

The Witches Brew

160 Baldwin Street

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 12:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Apparently the witches’ brew of choice is kombucha! Although I’m new to the kombucha scene (I’m not entirely sold on the sediment that floats around on the bottom), it’s a surprisingly refreshing, slightly fizzy drink that is loaded with probiotics. I’d definitely recommend stopping in on a hot day for a little pick-me-up!

Casa Coffee

235 Augusta Ave.

Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Sometimes you just need some candy or ice cream to go with your coffee. Casa Coffee is your one-stop shop. With fresh bulk foods ranging from tea to coffee to candy to dried beans, it’s a treat for you and your pantry! In the summer, they have two windows where you can order coffee and ice cream from staff. Yum!

Where to shop

Bubble Gum Fashion

47 Kensington Ave.

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Every time I pass Bubble Gum Fashion, I instantly fall in love with all their displays and clothes. Their clothes are mostly imported from South Korea and Japan, so they are very feminine, with a boxy shape. And for the most part, it’s one size fits most.

Bungalow

273 Augusta Avenue

Hours: Monday-Friday 11:00 a.m.- 6:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Bungalow is my miracle store. It seems like whenever I need something that would cost me an extravagant amount of money, Bungalow has it. Although I haven’t needed furniture quite yet, the store also sells secondhand designer clothing. This came in handy earlier this week, when I found out I needed a ballgown for an upcoming trip (… you’ll have to follow me on Instagram mid-May to read all about my event there). Thirty dollars later, I had a floor-length, black Ralph Lauren dress.

Vintage stores

Kensington Market has a plethora of vintage and second-hand stores. Most of them are along Kensington Ave. and Augusta Ave. Usually, it’s fairly evident from the front of the store that they’re secondhand, but you never know what you might find! I came across a Chanel purse for a little over $300 before, so you never know what your luck might be like!

Grocery Stores

One of the perks of living so close to Kensington Market is the fresh produce during the summer. The particular store featured above is my go-to store at the intersection of Kensington Avenue and St. Andrew Street. The fruits and vegetables are always delicious and the price is ridiculously cheaper than prices at chain grocery stores. For about 2 weeks worth of fresh produce, I’ll spend less than $20. And for someone who basically subsists on fresh produce, this keeps my tummy and my wallet happy! No more of this…

Where to grab a drink

Cold Tea

60 Kensington Ave

Hours: 5:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m.; Closed on Mondays

If the exterior of the building confused you a little, that’s part of the charm of Cold Tea. Tucked inside Kensington Mall at the end of a sketchy hall way is the blinking red light at the entrance of this secret bar. Most likely, the door will be closed. But on the other side of it is a woman making dumplings. Grab a couple and head to the back patio for a fun night!

Side note: This is a great place for a girl’s night if you’re trying to avoid douche-y guys. Just saying. For more bars like this, check out my favourite bars in the city here.

Trinity Common

303 Augusta Avenue

Hours: Monday-Friday 3:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.; Saturday & Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.

Voted one of the top 10 patios in Toronto, Trinity Common does not disappoint. With a large variety of craft beer (which I unfortunately can’t have due to allergies), food (including brunch!) and live music, it’s a great place to kick back and relax. If you’re there during the summer, they serve a killer watermelon cocktail and a mean avocado salad!

Events

Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays

Last Sunday of May-October, weather permitting

Quite possibly one of my favourite events in Kensington Market is Pedestrian Sundays. The streets in the market are blocked to vehicles, except for people who live in the market. With no traffic, the streets are filled with people, buskers, musicians and fun games! Here is a glimpse into one of the Pedestrian Sundays I went to last year.

Ever wonder what would happen if you shut down the streets leading into the pedestrian hub of Toronto? That’s basically what Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday is all about. Instead of cars, there are street performers, giant boardgames, food vendors, local artists and musicians. Here’s your local’s guide on what to expect for your first time at Toronto, Canada’s Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday! The Full-Time Tourist, 2015 ©

Ever wonder what would happen if you shut down the streets leading into the pedestrian hub of Toronto? That’s basically what Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday is all about. Instead of cars, there are street performers, giant boardgames, food vendors and musicians.

Since 2003, Kensington Market has shut down its streets on the last Sunday of every month between May and October for its pedestrians. As the area is known for its local shops, fusion foods and unique conglomeration of culture, Pedestrian Sundays draw huge crowds, personalities and fun activities for people of all ages.

What to Expect During Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday?

Hours: 12 – 7 p.m.

There are three main draws to Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday. Firstly, KMPS draws local restaurants and food vendors to the streets. I always stop for some empanada colombiana’s from Latin America Emporium, otherwise known as the Colombian place with the blue garage door. I’ll also do a tour of gluten-free and vegan ice creameries, if it’s a hot summer day. My go-to is the coconut ice cream or ice cream pops at Sweet Olenka’s, or the cashew-based ice cream from Cosmic Treats! Otherwise, coffee is a must from one of my favourite coffee shops in the market!

Secondly, the local art and craft booths are some of the best in the city! While Toronto is forever having markets, Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday is a great place to uncover local artists. I was definitely tempted a few times to buy these cute little cacti in tea cups while walking around the market stalls!

Finally, what KMPS is most known for is its street perfomers. Listen to the hillbilly in a cowboy hat, coveralls with no shirt, strumming a guitar and tapping a bell from the hotel lobby as he sings in an old country genre. Watch the belly dancer dancing to the beat of some hippie drummers under some trees in the park. Or join the crowd around the guy with a fire whip.

Oh yes. This is a man standing with a “flaming sex toy.” (His words, not mine.) Armed with witty words and a fiery whip, he is well worth the 10-minute act. Watch as he whips the ground, forming a wall of fire momentarily in the air before he goes deeper into this circus-worthy act!

But if you missed the fire whip dude last Sunday, don’t worry! There will be many more amazing performers on the last Sunday of May through October!

It can be hard to get into the holiday spirit in a snowless Toronto, but the Distillery District Christmas Market fixed that pretty quickly with the promise of twinkly lights and mulled wine. This was my second time attending the Christmas Market. The first time I left feeling a bit disappointed, but this year was quite the turnaround. With warmer temperatures and slightly subdued weekday crowds, I really enjoyed getting into the holiday spirit at the Distillery District!

A Romantic Night at The Distillery District Christmas Market

The Distillery District is a national heritage site located just south of Front Street East and Parliament Street. Formerly known as Gooderham & Worts Distillery- who began their lucrative windmill business to turn grain into flour- the Distillery District is known for its unusually high-quality Victorian industrial buildings. During the Christmas market, the organizers go all-out with the holiday decorations. Twinkly lights strewn over the streets offer the soft-lighting atmosphere of a 5-star restaurant. Log cabins line the streets selling local and handmade food and knick-knacks to starry-eyed pedestrians. A Christmas countdown clock was added this year to the collection of bright signs around the market. The notorious ‘Naughty or Nice’ sign and the four illuminated Advent signs exclaiming ‘Hope,’ ‘Peace,’ ‘Joy,’ and ‘Love’ also make for great photo ops in the market. At the centre of Distillery District is a giant tree covered in white and red lights, and red, silver and gold baubles. During my first visit to the Christmas market, there was even a choir singing a litany of festive songs by the Christmas tree

From my first visit to the market in 2014, I knew that the market would be bustling over the weekend. So this year, my boyfriend and I decided to have our little date night on a Thursday evening instead as a mini two-year anniversary celebration. My boyfriend met me at King station after he finished work to take the streetcar east to Trinity Street, where we hopped off for the market. As he was hungry after a long day, we stopped inside Brick Street Bakery for him to grab a veggie sandwich before we ventured much further into the market. I had a gluten-free chocolate and almond cookie while we waited, which was absolutely delicious! From there, we turned down Tank House Lane where we popped into a couple of local shops.

One of my favourites from my previous visit to the market was Distill (24 Tank House Lane), which features beautiful, unique clothing and handmade pottery and jewellery inside the small mall. I absolutely loved this colourful vase and this cat-skirt-bird-shirt combo I found there. Across the hallway was another cute clothing store that also offered a variety of beauty products. If you were hoping to do some more serious shopping, I would recommend visiting them slightly before the market opens at 11 am. A little further down the lane is Horse Feathers Home, a vintage and antiques store (43 Tank House Lane). Their selection of antiques was absolutely incredible- from dolls to books to pianos to vintage sewing machines- and their descriptions of the items were absolutely hilarious. One of my personal favourites of the night read: “Vintage calculator? Not sure. But it looks great on the shelf. $40.”

Once we made our way through the shop, we walked back down the street toward the outdoor bar beside El Catrin that offers mulled wine. I had never tried mulled wine before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The aromatic, hot wine was $8 a cup, but it was worth every nickel. (As there’s no such thing as a penny in Canada anymore.) You could really taste the cloves and spices in the warmed red wine and it was a great way to warm up under the heat lights at the bar. We grabbed a seat near one of the fire pits before moving closer to a heat lamp off to the side. It was nice to catch up with him after a very busy week for the both of us, and to warm up before making our way onto Gristmill Lane to see the last little bit of the Christmas market.

As we had arrived a bit later in the evening, by the time we made our way to Gristmill Lane, the shops had just started to close. We stumbled across the Ontario Spring Water Sake Bar and made our way inside to try some local sake. According to the bartender, we had just missed the owner, a banker who lived in Japan for 5 years before returning to Toronto to open his sake business. They brew sake on site, and it was some of the best sake my boyfriend has ever had! He ordered 140ml of their warm blend for $10, which was the equivalent of about 5 shots. I had their sake apple cider for $7.50. The bartender was very friendly and talked to us about living in Northern Japan before moving to Toronto and how sake is made. We stayed for about an hour, finishing our drinks while talking about where we would visit in Japan.

The Distillery District Christmas Market is open November 18-December 22, 2016. Click here for hours and information.

Where’s your favourite Christmas Market? What makes it so special to you?

Share your stories in the comments below and let me know if I’ve missed any unique or interesting activities in my day-trip to Peggy’s Cove! For more photos and stories from The Full-Time Tourist, please follow all my travel adventures and recipes on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

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For more posts about Canada, click here.

New York City has always held a place close to my heart since my first visit last August for my birthday. So naturally, when my boyfriend mentioned that his two L.A. friends had never been to the Big Apple, we were quick to book our flights and AirBnB. Not long after we had booked our stay in NYC, I was invited to my friend Sarah’s sister, Amanda’s graduation from Columbia Law. I wasn’t going to say no to celebrating such a huge accomplishment, so exactly two weeks after I returned from Brooklyn, I was in a car heading back over the U.S.-Canada border to Manhattan.

To say that the two trips I took this past May were starkly different would be an understatement. My first trip was mostly centred on Brooklyn, vegan and gluten-free eats, and museums. The second was so extravagant; it was like stepping onto a welcome mat to the Upper East Side. Luckily, we were able to by-pass the expensive flights and accommodations with an early morning road trip and the kindness of Amanda’s boyfriend’s parents, who had bought an apartment in Midtown East and were renovating about to start renovations.

At 3:30 a.m. we were up and packed the trunk of my friend Sarah’s boyfriend, Rob’s car with ball gowns, evening wear, heels, clothes and blow-up mattresses, and by 4:15 a.m., we- Sarah, Rob, her cousin Victoria, and I- were on our way to New York City.

A Weekend in the Life of New York City’s Elite

The importance of Ivy League law schools in the States is an idea I can somewhat grasp through movies like Legally Blonde, Accepted or the totally real Any College Movie Ever. So hearing Sarah’s mom, Diana, talk about Amanda’s commencement ceremony the day before was eye opening. The Secretary General of the United Nations spoke at the ceremony, which apparently was the reason behind the two military helicopters we saw on our drive into Manhattan earlier that day. Diana also mentioned that there were snipers around the ceremony- and that you could tell that they weren’t just there for decoration.

The convocation, which is what the four of us drove down for, was less eventful. The only mishap was that Diana, her husband Jason and Amanda’s carsick 2-year-old brother were taken uptown instead of across town by their cab driver, resulting in them being over an hour and half late. (As opposed to the 20-minute cab ride Sarah’s two younger sisters and 5-year-old brother took. I should mention that Sarah has a large family to make this less confusing- her older sister Amanda (26) is the graduate, two younger sisters (13, 11) and two little brothers (5, 2).) Luckily, Diana had everyone arrive early to take photos with Amanda in her cap and gown, so they weren’t late for the ceremony itself.

As the convocation was the main event of the day, the evening was low-key in anticipation of the grandeur of the next day’s photo shoot in Central Park.

After a morning of exploring the Stephen A. Schwartzman library (a.k.a. The New York Public Library in every NY movie) and Grand Central Terminal, we slipped into our ball gowns and added 10 pounds of jewelry, make-up and hairspray before running out the door to the Plaza Hotel, where the four of us were meeting Sarah’s family.

Unbeknownst to us, according to Manhattan rules, ball gowns make for interesting transportation experiences. Apparently a group of three women in ball gowns and a man in a tuxedo urgently waving down every cab passing by means that you almost have to jump in front of a moving taxi to nab a cab. (Trademark pending on that rhyme.)

It also means that when we finally joined Sarah’s family at the Plaza, a rick-shaw became the transportation option of choice when the photographer called to let us know he had arrived at the location and not at the hotel. According to Mohammed, who appeared to run the rick-shaw stand we rented from, arranging four rick shaws for a group of 11 people in formal wear are running late to a photo shoot in Central Park- including two unwilling toddlers in tuxedos- was one he’ll never forget. And it probably was memorable to anyone dodging the crazy formal people in rick shaws flying through Central Park.

For the next two and a half hours, the photographer had us take posed and candid photos, and those not in the photos were being captured in more candid photos by anyone with Diana’s camera. Once we finished photos in the park, we went back to the Plaza Hotel for dinner, where we took more photos with the remainder of our group of 30 people on the front steps of the hotel.

Surprisingly, I was able to eat at the Plaza in between never-ending rounds of champagne and strong drinks. And it was delicious! The first course was asparagus soup, followed by an equally delicious arugula and beet salad and a yummy pasta dish for the entree. After dinner, Amanda’s family gave their speeches to her and we wrapped up the champagne-and-chandelier-filled night with a toast to the graduate.

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Have you ever had a formal weekend in NYC? What were you celebrating?

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Special thanks to Jason & Diana for the amazing celebration in NYC, and to Steve & Lynn for their incredible hospitality that weekend. Thank you to Sarah & Rob for driving at obscenely early hours, and to Victoria for being the best bunk mate/air mattress queen. 

And of course, a massive congratulations to Amanda for graduating from Columbia Law! I’ll be cheering you on in your long study-days preparing for the bar exam!

Vancouver is known for its integration of city and nature. While Vancouver’s downtown core is filled with incredible cultural gems, you have to get into nature to fully understand the appeal of the city. One of the best ways to explore the nature-side of the city is to go on a hike in Vancouver! With the mountains and seaside within city limits, you have the pick of the lot when it comes to beautiful hikes.

This was my third time visiting Vancouver in October 2017. Unfortunately, it rained almost the entire time I was there. Sadly that meant I was unable to go for a mud bath hike. But I still have the memories of my last time hiking in Vancouver– which I’ve included in this round-up list by top travel bloggers! Best of all, many of the trails mentioned were also recommended to me by locals!

Just a quick heads up before we jump into what trails you need to hike in Vancouver: Capilano Bridge is not included in this round-up. It’s definitely a great photo-op, but it’s also quite expensive. Although it is one of the major draws to the city, I thought I’d highlight some lesser-known trails instead. Plus, you’ll have a more local experience on these trails!

Now without further adieu, here are 7 stunning trails you need to hike in Vancouver!

For more posts about Vancouver, check out this gluten-free & vegan guide.

7 Stunning Trails You Need To Hike In Vancouver

Lighthouse Park

Recommended by Jasmine Chen of My Suitcase Journeys.

Located along the shores of West Vancouver, Lighthouse Park offers a variety of beginner trails. Whether you’re heading on a family outing or if you simply don’t have much time to spend in the country, you can still get a taste of beautiful British Columbia!

The park is easily accessible by car. And the drive takes approximately 45 minutes from Downtown Vancouver via Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 W. Transit access is available as well with the #250 bus that travels along Georgia Street. The stop is one before Horseshoe Bay, but let the bus driver know your destination just in case.

For the shortest route, follow the main trail for 10 minutes. Once you see picnic tables, take the rocky path on the right. This will lead you directly to the lighthouse.

From the lighthouse, take another 15-minute walk east and follow signs for a steep path to Starboat Cove. This viewpoint here will have you in awe with spectacular sights of the Lions Gate Bridge as well as Vancouver Island. This hike in Vancouver is the perfect way to see the city! Definitely not to be missed!

Follow Jasmine’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Quarry Rock

Recommended by Greta Omoboni of Greta’s Travels.

Quarry Rock in North Vancouver is a short 30 minute drive away from downtown. Quarry Rock owes its name to a large rocky outcrop just off the shores of Deep Cove. It has spectacular views over the Indian Arm and the mountains around Belcarra.

The hike from Deep Cove, where you park your car, to the view point takes around 45 minutes depending on your fitness level. It’s a rather easy trail with only a slight elevation of 100 metres, which makes it a popular hike in Vancouver. If you struggle to locate the signs, you can easily navigate thanks to the flow of other hikers. It’s not a circular trail. Once you reach the view point you will have to hike back from the way you came.

The Quarry Rock hike was one of my favourite trails I did on my last trip to Vancouver. It’s relatively easy; the view once you reach the end point is stunning; and it’s still relatively close to city services. After finishing our hike and returning to the parking lot, we easily walked to the centre of Deep Cove in 5 minutes. There we found some lovely restaurants and coffee shops where we could warm up with hot chocolate and tasty food to refuel up after the hike.

Lynn Canyon Park

If you’re looking to get that iconic Capilano suspension bridge shot without spending the big bucks, Lynn Canyon Park is the way to go! With beautiful old forests and an incredible look-out as you cross over the canyon, it’s a trail not to be missed! I went with my mom, uncle and three cousins– the youngest under 2 years old. (He was carried in a back-pack baby-holding device. I’m not a child care professional, as you can gather.) We took the Twin Falls Loop Trail, which is a relatively easy hike in North Vancouver.

To hike the Twin Falls Loop Trail, keep left after the suspension bridge. This loop will take you through the forest, arriving at Twin Falls. Depending on the time of year, you can see salmon in the pool below the falls. This is the highest the salmon can swim up the Lynn Creek. From the waterfall, you can complete the loop to the parking lot. All in all, the hike should take you about 45 minutes.

Once you’ve completed your hike, you can easily make your way into North Vancouver for some delicious food and drinks! Or, hop in your car for a quick 25-minute drive into the heart of Vancouver!

Bowen Lookout

Recommended by Sarah Hughes of Live Dream Discover. 

Vancouver’s enviable location, sitting between the ocean and the mountains, makes it a haven for nature lovers and hikers. Having spent many years living in this beautiful city, I have done many a hike in Vancouver, from easy walks to challenging climbs. Each one has its own special reward. Sometimes though that reward is such a surprise that it instantly becomes a favourite. This is what happened for me when I hiked to Bowen Lookout on Cypress Mountain.

Cypress Mountain is a popular ski hill in the winter months and is just 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The rest of the year the trails are open to hikers and there are several options including a couple of wheelchair accessible paths. This particular hike is the start point for the challenging 28km Howe Sound Crest Trail which ends at Porteau Cove.

But, if you’re not looking for that much of a commitment, you can get a taste of it by hiking the first 1.3 km to Bowen Lookout. The trail is of moderate difficulty, suitable for most ages and levels, with a wide and well-kept path that weaves through a pine-scented forest that provides some welcome shade in the summer months. The reward at the end is a sweeping view of the Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast dotted with the dozens of Gulf Islands and of course the trail’s namesake, Bowen Island.

Follow Sarah’s adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Brother’s Creek Trail

Recommended by Jennifer Riley of The Rainbow Route.

Brothers Creek Loop is a sentimental hike in Vancouver for me as it was my first completely solo hike. This 7-kilometre hike in North Vancouver is not overly strenuous and takes you through some pretty forest. Along the trail you can spot old logging equipment left behind from years ago. There was a beautiful bridge that crosses a stream, waterfalls, giant trees and – my favourite – small, peaceful lakes along the way. This trail is accessible most of the year depending on how much snowfall occurred over the winter.

Since there are several trails connecting with Brothers Creek Loo, it’s important to pay attention to signposts along the way. Unfortunately, the bridge has recently been washed out but there are plans to replace it at some point. In the meantime, this hike can still be done as a loop using alternate trails.

Follow Jennifer’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Admiralty Trail

Recommended by Scott Hornberg of International Hot Dish. 

The Admiralty Trail in Vancouver is an easy hike with a minimal elevation gain over its course. This makes it an attractive trail for beginners or folks who just want a casual day out in the luscious Pacific Northwest.

The trail head is about an hour out of Vancouver on a peninsula near Belcarra Regional Park. From the parking lot, walk toward the beach. As you approach the beach, you’ll see a sign on the left indicating the direction of Admiralty Trail. Camping is not allowed but dogs are, as long as they are leashed.

Overall, the trail is about 5km long, taking the average hiker about an hour and a half to complete a round trip. It’s easy enough to follow and has a generous helping of tree roots, rocks, and other natural elements to keep in mind. In the summer, spring, and fall the trail remains easy to traverse. When snowfall takes over, though, the trail becomes a little more difficult to navigate.

View on this trail are spectacular, so bring your camera. They aren’t to be missed and your friends and family will love seeing pictures of them. Along the trail you’ll meander along the coast and be able to feast your eyes on Mount Seymour, Burnaby Mountain, and Deep Cove. So pack a snack, grab your camera, and get ready to experience what hiking the Pacific Northwest is all about!

Grouse Grind

Recommended by Rachel Brown of Rachel On Route.

I discovered the Grouse Grind while looking for hikes to get my boyfriend and I out of the city and into some fresh air. From Downtown, the trail is accessible by taking the Seabus and then the 236 bus, which takes about 25 minutes to get to the bottom of the mountain. (Note the Grind is closed for Winter due to adverse weather.)

The Grouse Grind is a 2.9 kilometre hike up the side of Grouse Mountain, but don’t let the short distance fool you! The Grouse Grind Hiking Trail has an average gradient of 30 degrees, which means if you’re someone like me and not particularly fit, it’s a challenge! It’s been dubbed ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ due to it’s steepness, and is mostly stepped.

For a novice, it’ll take around 1.5-2 hours to complete it. Some locals run it regularly and the record is around 25 minutes! It’s a wonderful hike, steep as it is, as you trek through the wonderful greenery of the woodland around you.

And ultimately the effort is so worth it! Once you reach the top, not only are you greeted with a huge sense of achievement, but you are rewarded with spectacular views of Downtown and Greater Vancouver, and the surrounding mountains. And there are a few restaurants and cafes to refuel if you need it!

Follow Rachel’s adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Montreal is possibly the easiest day trip from Toronto. So easy that I literally booked my trip two days before I left for my whirlwind two-day getaway. The main aim of this trip was visiting my brother, who was living in Montreal for about 5 weeks, before he flew back to Edmonton. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to see more of one of my favourite Canadian cities before leaving!

Whether you’re in Montreal for a day trip, a layover or just looking for some inspiration for your upcoming trip to the French capitol, here is your perfect 24-hour itinerary to Montreal.

How To Plan The Most Perfect Day in Montreal

Breakfast at Copper Branch

Address: 600 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest

After coming off a six-and-a-half hour overnight bus, I was ready to eat! Naturally, my first stop was at Copper Branch, a vegan restaurant chain in Quebec and Ontario. I was drawn in mostly by their waffles, which were gluten-free and incredible! There were also several other gluten-free and vegan breakfast options that I would have definitely been up to trying if I were in town for more than one day. (I’m looking at you Matcha Lime Smoothie Bowl & South West Wrap Scramble!)

The waffles with blueberry compote was the perfect way to start my morning. I’m generally one for savoury breakfasts, but the compote wasn’t too sweet and didn’t send me on a downward sugar spiral. Topped with my two favourite nutritional powerhouses, chia seeds and hemp hearts, I was in a gluten-free, vegan foodie paradise!

I was also really impressed by Copper Branch’s almond-milk cappuccino. The espresso was rich and creamy, and the milk didn’t taste boxed as steamed almond milk sometimes does.

Musee des Beaux-Arts

Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily

Admission: Varies per age group/exhibit (check here)

Address: 1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

The Musee des Beaux-Arts – otherwise known as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – is one of the most culturally significant museums in Canada. Although there are a number of international artists shown at the museum, MMFA also celebrates Quebecois and Canadian artists. Two sections I found absolutely fascinating were the Inuit art section and the ‘New France’ era. The latter explored how French European colonizers first experienced Canada. It also shows the Indigenous perspective of colonization through authentic First Nations artwork.

Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde

Address: 1085 Rue Cathédrale

In 2000, Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du Monde became a designated National Historic Site of Canada. And it’s no wonder why! The iconic neo-gothic church is known for its 13 statues lining its roof. Instead of showcasing the 12 apostles, the church is topped by statues of the patron saints of 13 parishes of Montreal who donated them. And instead of depicting biblical scenes inside the church, there are nine paintings depicting historical events in the early days of Montreal.

I didn’t spend too much time at the cathedral, but there was a park next door and across the street from it. This would easily make for a beautiful way to admire the architecture before making your way over to Old Montreal.

Old Montreal

Ask anyone what their favourite part of Montreal is, and chances are they’re tell you that Old Montreal was their fave. And it’s easy to see why! Samuel de Champlain first set up a trading post at Place Royale in 1604. The post didn’t last long, as French colonizers were chased out by the Iroquois, who were defending their land. Old Montreal was then permanently founded by French colonizers as ‘Ville-Marie’ in 1642. Since then it was one of Canada’s first fortified towns, the city centre in the early 1800s, and is now a historic district!

With stunning old buildings and narrow streets, Old Montreal feels like a step back in time to a small French village. I really enjoyed walking through the streets of the former city centre of Montreal and Old Port, which runs along the riverfront. Some favourite buildings of mine were the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, the Montreal History Centre, Marché Bonsecours, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, and Place Jacques-Cartier. Wander through the streets as you make your way over to Place des Armes to see…

Notre Dame Basilica

Address: 110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest

Located at the heart of Old Montreal is the iconic Notre Dame Basilica. Built from 1824-1829, the basilica was the largest of its kind in North America upon completion. The church is highly decorated in a Gothic Revival style with deep blue vaults and gold stars, hundreds of wood carvings and beautiful stone statues. And unlike most churches, the stain glass windows aren’t scenes from the bible, but rather scenes of Montreal’s religious history. It’s also a National Historic Site of Canada!

Tucked behind Notre Dame is a small chapel, Chapelle du Sacré-Cœur. The chapel was completed in 1988, but it was rebuilt in the late 1970s after it burned down. The first two levels were reproduced from old drawings and photographs. Although I didn’t see the chapel for myself, I’ve heard it’s quite beautiful inside so I’d recommend taking a peek for yourself!

La Banquise

Address: 994 Rue Rachel Est

Did you even go to French Canada if you didn’t try poutine? Most Canadians would say no. The iconic french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds is at the heart of Canadian cuisine. Although poutine was created in Warwick, Quebec, you are truly spoiled for choice in Montreal. Now I’ve had poutine many times in my life, both before and after removing dairy (and gluten) from my diet. So instead of trying just any poutine, I decided to go to one of Montreal’s best known poutineries, La Banquise. They had at least 20 or 30 different poutines to choose from- some of which could be made vegan and gluten-free. I ordered La Rachel, which was made with vegan and gluten-free gravy, Daiya cheese, green pepper, onion and mushrooms. I am a sucker for all the above, so the poutine really hit the spot.

Jean-Talon Market

Address: 7070 Avenue Henri Julien

After a filling lunch, make your way toward the Jean-Talon Market for one of North America’s largest open-air markets. Located in the heart of Little Italy, this bustling gem is the best place to get produce and local delicacies. During the winter months, the market puts up walls to keep out the cold. But, in the summer months, those winter walls are tucked away until fall and roads in the immediate area become pedestrian only. Take your time exploring the market stalls and keep your eyes peeled for any maple goodies! After all, Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup!

Baked 2 Go bakery

Address: 4255 Boulevard Saint-Laurent

Another iconic Montreal food you must try while you’re in Montreal is bagels! They’re a bit different to the New York bagel, as the Montreal bagel is smaller, sweeter, denser and thinner. Unfortunately in the three times I’ve been to NYC, I haven’t been able to track down a gluten- and dairy-free bagel. But I was in luck in the French Canadian capitol! I stumbled across Baked 2 Go bakery, which serves gluten- and dairy-free poppyseed bagels. I haven’t been able to track down a gluten-free and vegan bagel shop in Montreal quite yet, but I was still pretty excited to be able to pick up a pack of four fresh bagels for the road!

Mont Royal

Don’t worry, I had planned to balance out all that delicious food with a little bit of exercise. And what better way than to hike up Mont Royal! Located at the heart of Montreal, Mont Royal offers one of the best views of the city. From Baked 2 Go, continue on Rue Rachel Est toward the mountain. Around the base of the mountain is Montreal’s largest park. Take your time to enjoy the beautiful statues and people watch before starting your hike to the top of Mont Royal.

From the base, it takes about 30 minute to hike to the top. There is a paved route with a soft incline leading up the mountain. But there are also some dirt paths that you can cut through to reach the top quicker. About half-way up Mont Royal, there is a staircase on the right-hand side that leads up to the viewing platform. This is the most direct way of getting there. I will warn you that it may feel like the stairs never end though!

But once you get to the top, it’s one of the most beautiful views of the city. There was someone playing piano when I was there, which made the viewing experience very relaxing and peaceful. After you take in the scenery, be sure to fill up your water bottle at the water fountain or inside the lodge before heading down the mountain. Take the stairs all the way down and aim to end up where you first climbed up, as dinner is close by!

Eat ALL THE THINGS at Lola Rosa

Address: 4581 Avenue Du Parc

After working up an appetite hiking up Mont Royal, I was ready to eat! Thankfully Lola Rosa was located at the northern tip of Mont Royal. Although Lola Rosa is a vegetarian restaurant, there are many dishes that are or can be made vegan upon request. There were also a couple of gluten-free dishes as well, which meant I had a few options to pick from. I was feeling a bit adventurous, so I tried their Tunisian Stew sans feta, which was all kinds of delicious. Each bite was filled with cabbage, tomato, chickpeas, raisins, cinnamon, turmeric, homemade preserved lemon and roasted almonds.

My friend, who met me after finishing work for the day, had the mac & cheese (a Canadian favourite). Although there were jalapeños in it, she said it wasn’t too spicy. Our server had described it as similar to having a jalapeño popper, which she said was pretty accurate!

Finish off the night with drinks at Saint-Houblon

Address: 1567 Rue Saint-Denis

After dinner, my friend and I decided to continue our little catch-up over drinks in the Latin district. As she did part of her CEGEP (the mandatory high-school-to-university transition college in Quebec) in the area, she knew all the best bars in the area. Saint-Houblon was no exception. The bar’s interior is the perfect combination of cozy and rustic. The walls are entirely exposed red brick with some wood panelling. On the entrance wall, there are chalkboard signs advertising some of their specials. And the authentic wooden tables are clearly built to last even the most lively of discussions.

As it was a lovely evening, we nabbed a seat on the patio and enjoyed the sun set. I ordered a Moscow Mule at first, but switched to their red sangrias by the end of the night. They were dangerously delicious!

For a 3-day budget guide to Montreal, check out this post by Eternal Arrival!

What’s your favourite way to spend a day in Montreal? Do you know some hidden gems in Montreal?

Please share your Montreal stories in the comments below and let me know if I missed any incredible sights in the Quebec capitol!

For more photos and stories, please follow all my travel adventures, tips and recipes on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

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PEGGY’S COVE IS MORE THAN JUST THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED LIGHTHOUSE IN THE WORLD. Somewhere along the way, the lighthouse became the undetachable epithet to the small town of 35 permanent residents: Peggy’s Cove lighthouse. Although it was the main reason why I left Halifax to go visit, it only stole a small part of my heart. Here are the untold stories and sights of Peggy’s Cove. (Photo by Deni Verklan, The Full-Time Tourist, 2016 ©)

Whenever I think of Peggy’s Cove, I think of its lighthouse. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a framed picture of my Grampie “lifting” the iconic Canadian lighthouse with one hand on my basement wall. Maybe it’s because of its status as the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Either way, the red and white lighthouse is the undetachable epithet to the small Nova Scotia town: Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.

So when I remembered that Peggy’s Cove was a quick bus trip away from Halifax, I was quick to book my ticket. After all, you can’t say you’ve been to Nova Scotia without visiting one of its most famous landmarks!

Along the hour-long route from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove, the bus driver gave us the dad-joke packed history lesson of Halifax until we reached- what he called- the “halfway to hell” highway, Highway 33.

If we were only halfway to hell, the scenery outside was hardly damning. Large boulders of 415-million-year-old Devonian granite, called glacial erratics, sat sporadically atop of grassy hills. Smooth, cracked stones and scouring marks laid in the bedrock below. The dramatic 2,000 acres of preserved land surrounding Peggy’s Cove was the aftermath of a glacier battlefield that ripped life and topsoil from the bedrock over 400 million years ago.

I was so captivated by the scenic drive; I hardly noticed our turn into Peggy’s Cove until we drove past piles of lobster traps and colourful houses. We soon pulled up to the tourist-filled Lighthouse Point, where I quickly went the opposite way. I wanted to see Peggy’s Cove from the beginning.

Who was Peggy?

The first recorded name of Peggy’s Cove was Eastern Point Harbour or Peggs Harbour in 1766. Many say Peggy’s Cove was likely named after its geographical location- a small cove in St. Margaret’s Bay. (Samuel de Champlain named the bay after his mother, Marguerite, during his explorations in the early 17th century.) As Peggy was a common nickname for Marguerite, the small community of six German families who were allotted the land in 1811 became known as Peggy’s Cove.

But if you ask the locals, legend has it that the village was named after another Peggy. In the mid-1800s, a Schooner ran aground on Halibut Rock, just off of lighthouse point. The high waves from the storm washed the passengers from her decks. The sole survivor, a young woman named Margaret, swam ashore and was rescued by the village people. She stayed in the town, married one of the town’s men, and would be known as Peggy of the Cove. Soon after, the village became known as Peggy’s Cove.

A Tribute to Tragedy

Whether the local legend is true or not, Peggy’s Cove lent itself to many tragedies. The small community of 35 permanent residents was primarily a fishing town before it became a tourist hotspot after the Second World War. Fishing is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Remember the TV series ‘Deadliest Catch’? And with a small window to fish and check lobster traps, many fishermen of Peggy’s Cove died at sea.

The tragic village tales moved William Edward deGarthe, a Finnish artist who immigrated to Canada in 1926 and settled permanently in Peggy’s Cove in 1955. Until his death in 1983, he dedicated his painting and sculpting to the stories of Peggy’s Cove’s residents. His masterpiece, a 30-metre engraving of fishermen, their wives and children under the wings of a guardian angel, remains outside his home at the entrance to Peggy’s Cove. His wife donated their home to the Nova Scotia government after his death, which became the deGarthe Gallery, a museum dedicated to his work.

The Vessels of Peggy’s Heart

Although I was able to admire deGarthe’s sculpture, I had to save the deGarthe Gallery for another time due to time constraints. So I continued along the sole paved road to the heart of the community- the cove itself. Surrounded by colourful houses and gift shops, the small inlet was a safe harbour for its small red, white and blue ships.

Looking at this small bay in Peggy’s Cove, you wouldn’t know that it’s the life source of the community. At first glance, it’s obvious that the roughly 35 permanent residents dock their boats in the cove. But those five small docked boats are what bring the bacon home. Or in this instance: the lobster. The hard working families of Peggy’s Cove go out twice a day to check on about 250 traps during the 6-month window of lobster season. With each trap costing at least $200 CDN apiece and lobster licenses costing over $1 million CDN nowadays, it’s easy to see why lobster businesses are typically family-run.

As tourist peak season barely overlaps the end of the lobster season, visitors can expect to see the colourful vessels in the cove and piles of lobster traps at the village entrance.

The Most Photographed Lighthouse In The World

After people watching in the cove, I wandered back to the lighthouse. Some of the tourists had left to explore the rest of the village or to grab some lunch at that point, so I spent the rest of my trip photographing the iconic lighthouse.

Tip: A local photojournalist told me I met the day before in Halifax that the best times to shoot the lighthouse are in the early morning (before 10 a.m.) or just before sun down (5 p.m. onward), as the tour busses tend to come in the middle of the day.

While taking photos of the lighthouse, I noticed that despite signs warning people to stay off the black rocks, some tourists were venturing almost too close to the water’s edge. Visitors are swept off the rocks each year, with several incidents resulting in drowning. So please stick to the lighter coloured rocks.

Grab Some Grub

I had a few minutes before my bus left before I left the lighthouse and went to grab some food. I was quite hungry after forgetting to grab lunch in Halifax and spending most of the afternoon outdoors. There is an ice creamery, a convenience store and a restaurant in the village, which are only open during peak season (as are the bed and breakfasts, gift shops and the museum). I would recommend bringing cash with you as not everywhere carries debit and credit machines. For fellow travellers who are gluten-free, vegan and/or plant-based, it’s best to pack a lunch. My lunch for the day was a family-sized bag of chips.

For fellow travelers who are gluten-free, vegan and/or plant-based, it’s best to pack a lunch. My lunch for the day was a family-sized bag of chips.

On our way out of town, we drove past the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial. I didn’t have time to pay my respects there, but the crash was a horrific part of the town’s- and the province’s- history. There is a short walking trail to get there from Peggy’s Cove.

Read more here: Swissair Flight 111

All in all, Peggy’s Cove was such a vibrant, quaint community.

Although the lighthouse was certainly beautiful, standing tall atop of the smooth, cracked rocks as the waves crashed below, the village of Peggy’s Cove had more to offer.

Have you ever been to Peggy’s Cove? What was your favourite memory there?

Share your stories in the comments below and let me know if I’ve missed any unique or interesting activities in my day-trip to Peggy’s Cove! For more photos and stories from The Full-Time Tourist, please follow all my travel adventures and recipes on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

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Brunch is the most important meal of the day! So when my friend was recently diagnosed with Coeliac’s disease and was told to cut gluten and dairy from her diet by her doctor, I understood her most pressing concern: Where can I brunch in Toronto? As a gluten and dairy intolerant person myself, I’ve been to most of Toronto’s best gluten-free and vegan brunch spots in the four years I’ve lived in the city.

With brunch options from crepes to pancakes to waffles to scrambled tofu, here are my 7 favourite gluten-free and vegan brunch spots in downtown Toronto!

Hibiscus

Address: 238 Augusta Avenue

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:30 am – 6 pm; CLOSED ON MONDAYS

My hands down favourite gluten-free and vegan brunch spot is Hibiscus. Tucked in the heart of Kensington Market, this cute little restaurant is perfect for an intimate brunch date with friends and family. It also has some of the best gluten-free and vegan crepes I’ve had in Toronto! My go-to is the vegan mozzarella, tomato, basil, spinach and mushroom crepe. It’s made with buckwheat and topped with avocado and zucchini. I seriously cannot get enough of it!

Hibiscus also has many other sweet & savoury crepes, as well as a few other delicious lunch options. Their salad is jam packed with superfoods like quinoa, sweet potato, broccoli, kale and 40-something other ingredients. It also comes with a raw cracker, which makes the perfect scooper for your salad. Their soups, which change daily, have also been a favourite of mine because of their innovative flavour combinations. I recommend going when you’re pretty hungry because it’s always a large amount of delicious food and their desert options are pretty incredible too!

For Hibiscus Cafe’s full menu, click here.

Starving Artist

Address: Multiple locations, click here for more information.

Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily

Another filling gluten-free and vegan brunch favourite of mine is Starving Artist. This punky restaurant is the perfect place to get your fill of sweet and savoury waffles! My personal favourite is the Starving 4 Waffles topped with strawberries. The gluten-free and vegan waffles have a slight banana taste from the banana in the batter, so sweet toppings make the perfect pairing! It comes with fruit and your choice of salad or maple-baked beans.

I’ve also tried their mixed veggie waffle sammie (sandwich) minus the secret sauce (because dairy), which was also quite tasty! There are also many options for your omnivorous friends, like eggs benedict on a potato waffle or chicken and waffles.

Starving Artist is cash only, so remember to stop at your bank ATM before you go! For a Starving 4 Waffles and a coffee, I’ve only needed a $20 bill and some spare change for my meal plus tip. They have an ATM on site, which charges an extra dollar for a service fee.

For Starving Artist’s full menu, click here.

Bloomer’s

Address: 873 Bloor Street West

Hours: Monday – Friday 8 am – 10 pm; Saturday 10 am – 11 pm; Sunday 10 am – 9 pm

Possibly one of my all-time favourite gluten-free and vegan brunch spots in Toronto is this Annex sandwich shop called Bloomer’s. Although they fall more in the lunch spectrum, I’ve been known to order sandwiches from them at all hours of the morning and afternoon. My two personal favourites are the Tempeh Reuben (pictured above) and the Pulled Jackfruit (pictured below) sandwiches. If you’re like me and you love mustard and all things pickled, the Tempeh Reuben is for you. Its sizeable gluten-free bun is topped with marinated tempeh, avocado, sauerkraut and served with a side of pickled red cabbage and seeded mustard.

The Pulled Jackfruit sandwich is very similar in texture and in flavour to a pulled pork sandwich. Topped with a gluten-free onion ring, lettuce and vegan cole slaw, this sandwich is an amazingly messy treat. They also serve their gluten-free onion rings as a side in case you want more than just the one on your sandwich. I’m also a sucker for their poutine, which they serve with sunflower cheese. The cheese melts very well on top of the fries and gravy and it’s possibly the best gluten-free and vegan poutine I’ve had so far in Canada!

As for desert, they make the most delicious gluten-free and vegan carrot cake topped with cream cheese icing. I’m known for taking it home to eat as a snack if I’m too full to eat it at the restaurant! They also have incredible vegan donuts for your gluten-loving friends.

For Bloomer’s full menu, click here.

Grapefruit Moon

Address: 968 Bathurst Street

Hours: Monday – Wednesday 10:30 am – 10 pm; Thursday & Friday 10:30 am – 11 pm; Weekends 9 am – 11 pm

One of my favourite places to bring out-of-town guests is right in my own backyard. This quirky little restaurant is tucked away just north of the busy Bathurst-Bloor intersection. The first thing that I noticed about Grapefruit Moon was their amazing indie rock soundtrack that included Vampire Weekend- one of my all-time favourite artists! They’re also very accommodating to gluten-free and vegan brunchers!

I generally go for the Vegan Morning or a veganized Moon Breakfast with scrambled tofu, homefries and gluten-free bread. They do use their deep fryer for non-gluten-free items as well, so if you’re particularly sensitive to gluten, there’s also the option to get a side of tomatoes with your breakfast. If you’re not a big fan of scrambled tofu, I recommend asking to substitute the tofu for mushrooms. Combined with the Daiya cheese and the other veggies in their tofu scramble, the mushrooms make for a delicious, filling brekkie!

Side Note: If you’re not looking for breakfast options at brunch, there’s also a delicious vegan burger available! They also make their own hot sauce, which is the perfect amount of sweet & spicy.

For Grapefruit Moon’s full menu, click here.

Kupfert & Kim

Address & Hours: Multiple locations, click here for more information.

Kupfert & Kim had been on my brunch itinerary for as long as I can remember! So when I finally had the chance to check it out, I was so excited to try it out! Their entire menu is plant-based and gluten-free with high-quality, organic ingredients. I had their gluten-free and vegan waffle for breakfast. It was one of the best waffles I’ve had since going gluten-free five years ago!

The waffle also had the option of adding some coconut ice cream on top. Of course, I’m a sucker for waffles and ice cream, so I immediately ordered it. I also ordered myself a delicious affogato as well, without remembering that affogato is a scoop of coconut ice cream with a shot of espresso. Needless to say, I was ice cream-ed out by the end of brunch, but it was 100 per cent worth it!

I also love their eco-friendly mandate. If you bring your own container, you’ll get 35¢ off your meal. But if you forgot your container, their to-go boxes and straws are compostable. Their kitchen also sends very little waste to landfill, as they mainly compost and recycle. As an environmentalist, I really appreciate the extra effort they go through to make their restaurant as green (and healthy and delicious) as possible.

To learn more about Kupfert & Kim, click here.

Lola’s Kitchen

Address: 634 Church Street

Hours: Varies, click here

I had never heard of Lola’s Kitchen until I was invited to brunch by Lauren from Twirl The Globe. She was writing a blog post about the best brunch places in Toronto and wanted to include a gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan-friendly spot. So I was surprised to have such a delicious brunch at a restaurant I had never even heard of before then!

I had the vegan Breakfast Kale Bowl, which was packed full of delicious ingredients like leeks, fennel, squash, purple & black kale, organic quinoa, tofu scramble and smoked paprika oil drizzle. I was also eyeing their gluten-free and vegan crepes and their curried tofu scramble. If those options doesn’t get your mouth watering, I can’t help you.

Lola’s is probably one of the busier brunch places in this post and they unfortunately don’t take reservations. I recommend arriving within the first hour of the restaurant opening to get seats right away, as there was a line when I arrived right when Lola’s Kitchen opened.

For Lola’s Kitchen’s full menu, click here.

Karine’s

Address: 109 McCaul Street

Hours: Monday – Friday 8 am – 4 pm; Weekends 10 am – 3 pm

Hidden in a cafeteria across the street from the prestigious OCAD University is a locally-owned restaurant headed by a gluten-free and vegan chef extraordinaire, Karine. But whenever I think of Karine’s, I don’t think of the owner. I think of her mom. As you approach the till, you’re greeted with an exuberant hand flourish and a charming welcome.

“Hello, my babies, how are you?”

Her warmth and wild personality is one of the many reasons I keep on going back to Karine’s. I don’t think I can even pick one favourite meal from Karine’s, as her mom always picks a new meal for me every time I visit. (It’s hard to say no to her!) But I will say that their pancakes are some of the best gluten-free & vegan pancakes I’ve had to date! There are plenty of gluten-free and vegan brunch options, as well as options for your omnivorous friends. If you’re looking to surprise your friends with an amazing brunch, Karine’s is the place to go! I mean, who knew cafeteria dining could be so tasty?

For Karine’s full menu, click here. 

What are your favourite gluten-free and vegan brunch spots in Toronto?

Share your Toronto favourites in the comments below and let me know where I should be having my next brunch date! Also, if you’d like to read more about gluten-free & vegan travel, please let me know in the comments below!

For more photos and stories from The Full-Time Tourist, please follow all my travel adventures, tips and recipes on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!

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For more posts about Toronto, click here.

All it took was a single Instagram photo to convince me that I needed to go to the Scarborough Bluffs this summer. The dramatic view of these chalk-y cliffs towering over the teal-blue waters of Lake Ontario is one that I’ve never seen anywhere else in Toronto- or in the world, for that matter. So naturally, I packed my swim suit for the beach and set off to see the Bluffs on one of the hottest days this year.

The Scarborough Bluffs and the beach at the base of the escarpments were more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. If all it took was one photo for me to go to the Bluffs, it probably took a whole second to decide that I needed to come back again. With stunning views of the crown-like clay and sand formations, clean and clear waters below, powdery sand beaches and lush hiking trails, the Scarborough Bluffs is the best way to escape the city hustle and discover Toronto’s beautiful lakefront.

Here is how to make the most of a day-trip from Toronto to the beautiful Scarborough Bluffs.

What are the Scarborough Bluffs?

The Bluffs are unusual clay and sand formations that stretch for about 15 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline in East Toronto. According to a plaque in Bluffer’s Park by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, “The layers of sand and clay exposed in these cliffs display a remarkable geological record of the last stages of the Great Ice Age. Unique in North America, they have attracted worldwide scientific interest. The first 46 metres of sediments are [remnants of the] Wisconsinan glacier some 70,000 years ago. [The remaining sediment comes from] subsequent advances and retreats of ice, [with] the final withdrawal of the glacier occurred some 12,000 years ago.”

This constant erosion is what gives the Bluffs a crown-like appearance, but it’s also what makes it so dangerous. With the edge of the Bluffs creeping inland as much as 30 cm per year, homes that once bordered the Bluffs are now awaiting their doom. The Bluffs have also had many injuries and a couple of deaths in recent years, which have led Toronto police and the City of Toronto to issue warnings about the escarpments. That being said, stay a safe distance away from the edge and be cautious hiking around the edges of the Bluffs.

What’s the best way to see the Bluffs?

I started my exploration of the escarpments at the top of Scarborough Bluffs Park. From the top of the Bluffs, you can oversee the crown-like spires and watch the yachts, boats, kayaks and jet-skis float by in the lake below. Some people are more adventurous at the top of the Bluffs, venturing out onto the escarpments themselves. But with sheer drop-offs, it is quite dangerous to stand on the Bluffs themselves. Plus, their quick erosion rate makes it easy to disturb the natural landscape.

Read more about the geologic history of the Bluffs here, courtesy of The Wild Bluffs.

From the top of the Bluffs, I ventured along multiple trails to find out how to get to the beach below. A local had overheard my boyfriend and I talking on our walk down Chine Drive to Scarborough Bluffs Park and warned us that there isn’t an easy way to get from the top of the Bluffs down to the beach. Instead of walking out of our way back to Kingston Road, she recommended following the path on the left-hand side of the gate (located at the end of Cecil Crescent) and keep as far left as possible on the trail until it leads past a school to Brimley Road. Unfortunately, after following many of these paths and bailing early- they all ultimately lead to the same spot. So if you’re at the top of the Bluffs, find a trail that’s not sectioned off by the City of Toronto and keep left until you pass a building with what appears to be a dome roof. From there, the trail leads to a parking lot adjacent to Brimley Road, which will lead you down to Bluffer’s Park.

Please note that Brimley Road is quite narrow, so it’s best to walk down to the water whilst facing oncoming traffic.

Let’s go to the beach!

Bluffer’s Park is home to what many locals call the best beach in Toronto. Located just east of the marina, below the Cathedral Bluffs, this beach has natural, powdery sand from the erosion of the Bluffs and crystal clear, teal-blue water. The City of Toronto tests this beach daily during the summer, and it has since been deemed a Blue Flag Beach. The Blue Flag is awarded to beaches and marinas that meet strict water quality testing, environmental management and education, safety and services.  Here is the latest beach test by the City of Toronto.

Although I heard rave reviews about the Bluffer’s Park beach, I chose to go to the beach directly below Scarborough Bluffs Park. With sandy beaches and hardly any people, it was a great place to spread a beach towel and work on that summer glow! (By glow, I mean a lovely lobster-coloured sun burn from forgetting to re-apply the SPF 50 mid-day.) The beach itself is very clean and the water had very minimal algae in it- one of the most common complaints of the Great Lakes.

Venture around the Bluffer’s Park Peninsula

One of my favourite parts about the Scarborough Bluffs was Bluffer’s Park peninsula. With ample grass and large boulders to sit on near the water front, it was the perfect place to have a picnic or to toss a frisbee with friends. There was also plenty of grills, which many families were using to cook their dinner, and there are also washroom facilities near the parking lot. It honestly felt like a campground, without the parking stalls for RVs or campers.

As one of the inlets in the peninsula is the marina, there is also opportunity to take out a jet-ski to see the Bluffs from the lake, as Lady Elizabeth Simcoe did when she first discovered the unusual escarpments in 1793. If you don’t have the means of seeing the shoreline from the lake, you can do what I did- I found one of those large boulders and watched the jet-skis chase after one another in the lake.

The only cure to all this madness; is too dream, far and wide. If possibility doesn’t knock, create a damn door. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t make it. If the journey you’re travelling seems too far-fetched and wild beyond your imagination; continue on it, great things come to the risk-takers. And last but not least, live today; here, right now, you’ll thank your future self for it later. ?? { Nikki Rowe } #thefulltimetourist

How to get to the Scarborough Bluffs by TTC?

One of the common misconceptions about getting to the Scarborough Bluffs is that you need a car to do so. Arriving in the Bluffs by TTC is quite easy.

To arrive in Bluffer’s Park, at the base of the Scarborough Bluffs:

Take the subway east to Warden Station. From Warden, take the 12 bus to Kingston Road at Brimley Road South. Walk south on Brimley Road until you reach Bluffer’s Park.

To arrive at Scarborough Bluffs Park, overlooking Lake Ontario:

Take the subway east to Warden Station. From Warden, take the 12 bus to Kingston Road at Chine Drive. Walk south on Chine Drive, and follow the street onto Cecil Crescent. Follow the dirt trail to Scarborough Bluffs Park.

What do I wish I knew before going to the Bluffs?

If I had any advice for first-timers going to the Bluffs, it would be to bring a backpack with:

  • Food – There are a couple of food trucks, but it’s mostly ice cream at the beach. Pack some sandwiches, fruit and nuts to keep you fuelled for the day. Here‘s what I packed.
  • Toilet paper & hand sanitizer – There are facilities beside the parking lot at Bluffer’s Park, however due to the number of people using the facility, toilet paper can run low at the end of the night, and so can the soap. This was something I found out while I was there and it was almost comical having 5-6 people grabbing toilet paper from one stall before waiting for any available stalls.
  • Sunscreen – Always re-apply your sunscreen at least every 3 hours during peak sun times (typically 12-4 p.m. in Toronto), as well as after swimming every 1-2 hours. And in the vein of sun safety, bring your sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Swim suit – If there’s water nearby, I always wear my swim suit to the beach. I usually pack a pair of underwear and a bra for after, so I can change out of my wet clothes in nearby facilities, if I decide to go for a swim.
  • Towel – Towels are great if you go swimming, but I also use them as picnic blankets to protect myself from the grass. (Yay allergies!)