Top 5 Travel moments of 2014 – Bring on 2015!

Top 5 travel moments of 2014

2014 is nearly over and 2015 is looming eerily in the future, pulsating with new possibilities. The introvert in me (yes shockingly I do have an introverted side) needs to stop and take a quick breather before I jump head first in the new year, I need time to look back on all of the awesomeness that took place in the last 12 months; to ensure that the memories are firmly lodged in the vast sometimes empty space that is my brain – I don’t want to lose a single second of my favourite moments.

Here are my top 5 travel experiences for 2014! What an amazing year!

1. Climbing Yosemite Upper Falls Hike – 2,600ft in 6 hours in about 28degree heat with only one water bottle. I learnt a lot during my few days in Yosemite. About how to push through the pain, how small negative comments can completely demotivate you, the buzz of exhilaration when you reach the top and most importantly I learnt that coming down hurts WAY more than going up. By the end I discovered a new hobby – hiking really big beautiful things!

Things I learnt while hiking Yosemite Upper Falls Trail2. Exploring Sydney… again – I live in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, but sometimes it is easy to forget.  If you walk from Coogee to Bondi often enough you stop seeing the beautiful cliff tops and only focus on how many calories the stairs are burning, you head out for drinks at Opera bar and complete ignore the sun setting behind the harbour bridge in favour of another mimosa.  This year I have made a conscious effort to see and get to know Sydney again – discovering new underground bars, a sneaky lunch at the fish markets or a walk through the botanical gardens reminds me that I am pretty lucky!

Sydney harbour bridge

Getting a little lost in San Francisco – It’s a city that has spawned some of America’s greatest authors, artists and poets and as you wander through the hilly streets it’s not hard to see why. Breath taking views of fog rolling across the bay swallowing the bridge, ships and Alcatraz juxtaposed against the graffiti alleyways of Mission and culinary gems of all cuisines that are dotted mysteriously through the city. Letting your feet and stomach guide you as you stumble around – it’s much more fun.

San Francisco, Mission, Lonely Planet Walking tour

3. Bushwalking – Tourists flock from all of the world to enjoy Australia’s natural beauty.  Growing up in a place so naturally blessed its easy to forget that its there.  This year I have made a huge effort to get out and do some of the bushwalks around Sydney, including parts of the Great North Walk and the Kiama Costal track.  Not only is it a mini city break but its also a chance to get fit!

bushwalking the Kiama costal path

4. Eating a Japadog hotdog in Vancouver – some meals you forget about before you have even finished the last bite. Other meals you dream about for years to come, you try and re-create them, you tell all of your friends about them and when you meet someone who has had the same experience you feel like you have found your soul mate. Japadog was one of these life changing meals for me. The concept of the Japanese style fused with the New York hotdog was not something that appealed… especially as I didn’t particularly like hotdogs. Two bites in, I knew I would never be the same again!

Japadog - Kobe Beef. Things to do and eat in VancouverLooking back I think that 2015 has a lot to live up to.  How exciting to think of the possibilities of what could happen next year! What were your best travel moments of 2014 – would love to hear them all!???

Things to do in Vancouver

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Japadog – A Deliciously Reluctant Review

Japadog - Things to do and eat in Vancouver

Fusion food, sometimes it’s the best thing in the world… other times not so great.  Deep frying a mars bar was pure genius, while the desert “pizza” has always been a complete disaster (yet you still find it on the menu – why!?!?!)

If Vancouver has a food identity it definitely centres around fusion food, after all their national dish is poutine, a combination of the English chips and gravy and nachos, best enjoyed at 3am when your stomach is full of beer and wine. But a new craze has swept the city in the past ten years becoming a new institution and landmark must try when you are in the city.

I have tried in vain not to write another post about food – however the memories of this Vancouver staple have been seeping into my dreams and have forced my hand (no pun intended)

I am, of course, talking about Japadog! 

Japadog - Things to do and eat in Vancouver

Tell me about it: This unique fast food started out as a simple food cart on the streets of Vancouver.  It later became so popular that it opened up another stand in New York and in LA (however due to spreading resources rather thin, it closed down its stand in New York last year).  The food itself is completely unique being a fusion between Japanese styles such as okonomiyaki and teriyaki crossed with the infamous north American fast food – the hot dog. Most if the stores are food carts that are strategically placed around Vancouver. However there is one restaurant which serves a wider variety of choice including fries.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Your stomach is clenching and you are trying not to imagine what that might taste like.  I was exactly the same, I just couldn’t get my head around how that would taste.  To begin with I am not the biggest fan of hot dogs (processed meat kinda creeps me out) and Japanese is one of my favorite cuisines.  I was scared that in crossing the two I would not only be sick, but turned off wasabi for life (a horrifying thought).

My concern was completely unfounded – in fact after two bites I had quickly decided that it was one of the best things I had ever eaten.

Once when I was about to go on a “gorgefest”, a friend gave me a great piece of advice. She simply asked “will you remember this meal in a weeks’ time?” looking up at the McDonald’s menu I knew for certain that I would forget, if not repress, the memory of that particular meal.  To which she followed up with “then why eat something awful, your food should always be delightful and memorable, it doesn’t have to be the ultimate healthy food, you should just love it” so instead, that day we treated ourselves to a delicious Italian pasta (which I still remember).

My point is that two months later, I haven’t been able to suppress the urge to write a glowing review on Japadog because the memory of those first few bites is still so fresh and mouth-watering!

First Taste at the Robson Restaurant

Japadog - Things to do and eat in Vancouver

Tonkatsu: Deep fried pork cutlet marinated in tonkatsu sauce topped with fresh cabbage.

The bun was fluffy and fresh but without that sweet metallic cakey taste that most fast food buns have (cough… Subway… McDonald’s… cough). The pork was lean and without any gristle or fat, indicating that they weren’t just serving any old cut on their buns.  Then it was deep-fried to perfection with a crispy crunch outer and a lush and juicy meaty centre.  The cabbage was crispy and fresh which perfectly soaked up the tonkatsu sauce, pulling it through the whole bun.  I had a side of shaky fries to go with this – basically fries that are shaken in a bag of a collection of spices, garlic and salt – DELICIOUS!

Second Taste at the Burrard and Smithe St Stand

Japadog - Kobe Beef. Things to do and eat in Vancouver

Kobe Beef: Kobe beef in a hotdog. Flavors are enhanced with the best selected ketchup from Japan, and the maple leaf shaped bean curd.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my second hot dog, my first choice was still my favourite.  The hotdog was perfectly cooked and the strange wasbi flavoured mustard/ketchup was so tantalising that I licked my fingers to catch every drip.  Not to mention the beautiful presentation with the bean curd sauce made it feel like I was eating something that had taken a lot longer than 5 minutes to prepare.  But my favourite part was experiencing the novelty of the hotdog food cart, then sitting in the sun while I stuffed my face watching others struggle to choose which one they should eat.

Japadog - Things to do and eat in Vancouver

I keep googling Japadog store locations on the hope that they will now open a store in Sydney – they would definitely find an appreciative market… even if I have to visit them everyday to keep them in business!!

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

When staying in hostels and eating on the cheap it’s not always easy to eat healthy – especially as you spend so much of your time out exploring.  If you are chilling out in Vancouver and can take your eyes off the beautiful scenery for a few moments here is a great way to combine some sightseeing with some healthy and cheap eating.

If you haven’t already read or heard about Granville island then you better get back to your guide-book and do some proper research – because this is one of the must visit places in Vancouver, Canada.

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

A little history for you: As Vancouver started to grow across the bay in what is now known as Gas Town – Granville Island was a small mill town. Over the next century many trades took up residence here as it stayed a predominantly industrial area despite the city popping up around it.  During WWII it was the busiest part of the city with the factories turning out equipment at all hours of the day. But in the late 70s as the district had almost completely declined and become dilapidated a revival or a “gentrification” of the area was called for.  Now the old industrial buildings hold everything from art studios, luxury yacht ship yards and the famous fresh food markets as well as a loads of great shops.

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

You can catch a water bus over from the city which costs about $7 or you can walk across the Granville Bridge which takes about 15 minutes and has spectacular views of the Burrard Bridge complete with jutting mountains and shinning city. Once there it is hard not to get side-tracked by the street performers that are monopolising the square – old fashioned sword swallowers are making a comeback though they compete for the crowd against some ethereal Canadian folk singers and teenage comedians.

Break away from the courageous people who make a spectacle of themselves for your entertainment and head into the giant food market.  Just inside the doors you will probably stop and blink while taking a few deep breaths to steady yourself.GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

Your eyes have been assaulted by the amount of colour and your stomach has just been reminded by the wafting combination of smells that you could eat (even if you are full, being around so much amazing food will make you feel as though you “could” eat).

What to eat: You could visit the “food court” style area and try some of the amazing pre-made dishes such as Mexican (always my favourite), Chinese, salads and spectacular pizza. You could visit various delicatessen’s and other stalls to pull together an amazing picnic assortment of yummy. You could do some shopping for a delicious dinner that will treat your friends back at the hostel or the friend whose floor you have been crashing on for the last week. Finally, you can do what I did, and do all three options… I meant it when I said your body seems to make room for more food when you are there… my stomach turned into a Marry Poppins bag.

A cheese and wine picnic

A cheese and wine picnic

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel or buying off the friend who has lent you her floor. Feeds four… or more if you have stuffed yourselves at the markets and only want a small light dinner.

Equipment Required: All of the below are fairly easy to come by or you can improvise with what you do have

  • A stove top
  • Large frying pan or wide saucepan – a wok will also do if you are improvising
  • A knife
  • Chopping board
  • A smaller saucepan (for cooking rice)
  • A colander (if you don’t have one, use a lid or plate to help you drain out the excess water – just remember to wrap your hand in a tea towel or your sleeves first to avoid steam burns)

Ingredients: Total cost: With Wild Salmon $36 or $9 if you split the cost in four. With Chicken $22 or $5.5 if you split the cost in four.

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

  • Salmon: $20 (Because I was in Canada I really wanted to make a dish with Wild Salmon as I have only ever eaten farmed salmon, I definitely have to say that there is a huge difference in taste and colour as well as the obvious environmental impact.  This was a huge expense that I would have avoided if I hadn’t been saving money by crashing at a friend’s place.  So the cheaper version is to do everything the same but with chicken which you can still buy at the market for $6 for two large breasts.)
  • Variety of Vegetables: $9.25 (this is really up to your taste buds and what’s in season. The only required vegetable is a brown onion, for the rest I pick about 6 different vegetables that are colourful and crunchy such as asparagus, capsicum, zucchini, broccoli, celery and cheery tomato’s.  I also wanted to get some bok-choy but it wasn’t the best quality so I gave it a miss in favour of other more ripe vegetables)
  • Red Curry Paste and Coconut Milk: $3.75 (there is a great Asian spice market in the middle, they have everything at great prices)
  • Brown Rice: I’m not sure how much this is as my friend had it in her pantry, but I don’t imagine its more that $3 (you can also tie the bag of rice up with a hair tie… or a rubber band if you are super fancy, and take it with you to the next hostel for another meal.)

Instructions:

Step One: Put the water for your rice onto boil

Step Two: I like everything to be prepared before I cook anything so I spend a chunk of time chopping things up before hand (this also allows for me to enjoy a glass of wine and some gossiping when the actual cooking process is in motion).  Finely chop the onions and keep separate.  Chop up all of your other vegetables, I like to cut them into different sizes and shapes so that there is a little more “fun” when eating, leave them together – if you have bok-choy cut off the leafy bits and move to one side.  Chop up your salmon or chicken into chunks, not too small, you want them to be nice big meaty pieces.

Step Three: Once everything is prepared get your rice into the boiling water. When the rice is almost cooker – or you can wait until its fully cooked – you can start cooking.  The dish doesn’t take very long to make that’s why I don’t start until the rice is ready so you don’t over cook the vegetable and have them turn mushy and floppy.

Step Four: Brown the onions in the large saucepan/frying pan/wok.

Step Five: Throw in the salmon or chicken.  If you are using salmon, turn the pieces GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostelgently until they are all sealed but don’t over cook.  If you are using chicken you will need a little longer as you will want to make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Step Six: Throw in your vegetables and toss everything together

Step Seven: Add in your curry paste – see packet for instructions in relation to amount.  Because I like my curry strong and jam-packed full of flavour I always do more than the suggested amount, but if you aren’t big on the “curry” flavour you could do less. Ensure that all of the vegetables and the salmon are coated in the paste.

Step Eight: Add in the coconut milk slowly – stirring as you go.  I would turn the heat down at this point so the milk gently simmers.  Once again pour as much as you like, I like my Thai Curries really runny as I like to drink the sauce, however if you prefer a thicker constancy don’t add as much milk. Leave to simmer for about 2 minutes.

Step Nine: Serve on top of the brown rice and eat!

GRANVILLE RED SALMON THAI CURRY: A recipe for winning friends at your hostel

If this doesn’t make you the most popular person in the hostel then nothing will – you are beyond help. It is also a wonderful way to catch up with that great friend who put you up – especially if you also have some wine and a sunny balcony to relax on.