Category Archives: Travel and tourism

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MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. VI) – Dances with Butterflies

On my last full day in Arizona, my friend AJ took me to meet the tiny winged creatures living in Butterfly Wonderland located in Scottsdale. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours walking through the gardens while thousands of tiny (and not so tiny) butterflies flitted around us.

It took a while for me to focus my phone camera – so many flutterbies to follow. There were a number of cute kids who were fascinated with them, too, so I just focused on one family….

I managed to capture some great shots of them as they sat in the sunlight, resting their wings…20190410_132718 20190410_134253 20190410_132647 20190410_134248I even picked up a hitchhiker…..the great butterfly escape of 2019!20190410_134055The park keeps chickens to eat up all the nasty bugs who are dangerous to the butterflies…this cute one kept clucking at me as I tried to snap a pic.20190410_132906Lunchtime….everyone in the fruit bowl!20190410_132358AJ had several butterflies use him as a resting spot…

And unbeknownst to me, I had been walking around for some time with this gorgeous wee beastie riding on my back.20190410_134342

 

AJ took lots of great shots I’d like to share with you…just look at these beauties:IMG_7648IMG_7697IMG_7729IMG_7731IMG_7750We were starting to get pretty hot and clammy thanks to the temperature and humidity of the “wonderland” so AJ and I went thru to the adjacent reptile rooms and found some pretty cool critters (in a much cooler environment…LOL). Check these out…20190410_135737 20190410_140109 20190410_140118What a blast!  Time for something to eat so we departed Butterfly Wonderland and headed out into the “mall” where we located a rather interesting restaurant….20190410_154125 20190410_145930 20190410_145959Yes, a dino-bistro complete with crazy ass dinosaur models! Food was pretty good – mostly Mediterranean style, and afterwards we walked around both levels of the compound…the sun shone thru the wrought iron railings creating some lovely shadow designs.20190410_154123If you plan on visiting Scottsdale/Phoenix, I highly recommend spending an afternoon here – lots to see and do, not just butterflies. And the souvenir shops are fabulous – lots of nifty things and very inexpensive.  For directions and details, visit their website: www.butterflywonderland.com

Back home to Camp Joy Ranch, enjoying the beautiful countryside for the last time….20190410_161841 20190407_172512 20190410_120828The following day, I had to fly back to Toronto, via Calgary, so this night, AJ and I had our “last supper” at one of the local steak houses…yummmm.IMG_7812I’ll be back for sure…even if it’s just for the amazing steaks!!

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My Arizona Adventure (Pt. V) – visiting Cave Creek & fab gemstone store

A little closer to Camp Joy Ranch, AJ took me to Cave Creek, another beautiful town with a distinct wild west atmosphere and lots of touristy stores and restaurants. The drive into the town was thru vast “forests” of saguaro cactus..I was half-expecting to see cattle rustlers or stage coaches along the way.20190409_122213Knowing that I wanted to purchase some genuine, quality turquoise and native American silver, AJ knew exactly where to take me: Rare Earth Gallery, a very special (and very large) store with just about every gemstone and earthly treasure from around the world.Mar400920190409_130847 20190409_132058 20190409_132226Out front of the store were several carved marble pieces, like this magnificent rearing horse….20190409_130252 20190409_130313…and AJ took an instant liking to this HUGE chunk of crystal (above).  They also had a wide selection of Tibetan salt lamps (below)20190409_132330And behind the cash registers were two beautiful back-lit artworks  (below) made with marble and precious and semi-precious gems mined in the surrounding Phoenix hills. You should see the outstanding amethysts and tourmalines that come from this region. 20190409_132353 20190409_132400I made a bee-line for the jewellery counters and found two stunning rings behind locked display case doors – please sir, may I try them on? Done…they fit perfectly…the rings are mine. One is a green-hued chunk of turquoise for my right hand and the larger one is made of blue turquoise and spiny oyster inlays, both silver. 20190420_162506 Mar4008Obviously a favourite shop of his, AJ purchased a couple more stones to add to his and Tom’s basket of stones in their front lobby (below) – very tactile home decor and each stone carries mystical powers to heal or energize.20190409_091157Once we stored our purchases into the car, we wandered across to where the “frontier town” was – today there were only a few tourists and it seemed a bit sad. We dropped in to the candlemaker (fragrances were a bit too strong for me to remain there), then a couple of the souvenir stores but I just couldn’t “get it up” to enjoy the silly crap on sale there. They had a great loo, tho. I wish I’d taken a few pics – lots of old photos of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood movie cowgirls as well as old rodeo ladies lined the walls so I was able to enjoy a tinkle under the gaze of those vintage wild west gals. 20190409_134936Next blog will cover my final full day in Arizona: we visit the incredible butterfly conservatory and reptile museum, and AJ and I enjoy our deelish “last supper” – more steak for me…LOL!IMG_7739

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MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. IV) – Sedona, the “New Age” centre of America

Monday dawned bright and filled with birdsong, as usual at Camp Joy Ranch – today AJ was taking me to Sedona  where I was going to experience “new age” mysticism in the hippy-dippy heart of Arizona. Hurry, hurry, let’s get going – I was like a little kid off to see Santa!

First, we needed to fuel up at the local Starbucks – here their stores are all adobe-clad, and so clean and spacious.20190408_094154 20190408_092931AJ then pointed the car north and off we went on the 90 minute journey….after about 40 minutes, the terrain changed and we were climbing in altitude, passing some pretty bad-ass towns and roads (see below)20190408_111459I turned round to catch this amazing view of a far-off snow-capped peak – wow!20190408_113741Then suddenly…we had arrived!

First stop…AJ insisted I attempt to climb up Bell rock which is one of the 8 vortices (thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy) – are you kidding me? Oh well, let’s see how this vortex thing works, see what the universe is gonna fling at me. Perhaps a palpable body buzz, maybe a spiritual shift in my soul – who knows. So I stayed open to whatever would happen and we trekked on up the massive rock. I got a little way up then turned around…OMG! The view was spectacular…IMG_7610…we passed some of the legendary twisted juniper trees…20190408_125312…then I reached the point where I thought my lungs would explode – whew! Can’t…go…on…any…further. So here are a few pics taken during my vortex encounter:20190408_124636 IMG_7614AJ pointed out the vortex “power lines” flowing into me in this picture he took (above) but perhaps they may just be rays streaming down from the sun. Personally, I’m stickin’ with his theory.  More incredible views….20190408_125354 20190408_130239 20190408_131246(0) 20190408_130249Time for a cool drink and some lunch so AJ took me to his favourite vegetarian restaurant, Chocola Tree, where we enjoyed healthy organic treats. Lovely peaceful environment and a nice way to “come down” from the vortex thingy.IMG_7615

Now for some serious retail therapy: I promised myself I would buy a really good piece of turquoise so the ever-patient AJ escorted me into and out of numerous touristy souvenir stores until we came upon one particular fine jewellers and there I found several pieces that made their way back to Toronto with me. Who needs rent money when you can buy genuine native American silver and turquoise, right? Haa haa. IMG_7620We then drove a little further into the real town of Sedona (away from the tourist traps) to a mission-style arts & shopping village called Tlaquepaque. What a beautiful place with all sorts of luxury boutiques surrounded by hanging gardens, balconies, flowers and stunning architecture…20190408_162758 20190408_162147 20190408_162151 20190408_162606 20190408_162156By now, the sun was getting low so time to head home to Camp Joy Ranch and as we drove out of town I looked up and saw some amazing cloud formations that resembled UFOs following us…yikes!20190408_171502The theme from Close Encounters started playing my head…LOL.  Tomorrow, we’re off to Cave Creek, a modern “wild west” town (pretty close to our ranch) that had played host to thousands of bikers from across the country the weekend before. Wonder what we’ll find there….stay tuned.20190409_134936

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MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. III) – a western ghost town & a cowboy shoot ’em up!

Just like in the movies, the real wild west has plenty of ghost towns and my hosts, AJ and Tom, took me to the Goldfields ghost town north of Phoenix.  It used to be a real working gold mine town back in the late 1800’s complete with mines, a saloon, general store, a prairie apothecary and bordello (a genuine whorehouse). We arrived in time to enjoy a train ride around the town, play in the shootin’ gallery and witness a noisy shoot-out with the local Sheriff and bad guys. So much fun and the views of the spectacular Superstitions rocks/mountains were breathtaking. 20190407_113004 20190407_124038 20190407_121441 IMG_7518I dropped in to the Siphon Draw Apothecary where lovely pharmacist/medicine woman Colleen (pictured below) created a beautiful refreshing & healing body spray for me using natural aloe and geranium oils.  www.siphondraw.com 20190407_132057AJ took some great pics of the saloon, the bordello and other buildings (below)…IMG_7529 IMG_7534 IMG_7563 IMG_7558…as I saved seats for the big showdown at the OK (for now) corral!

What a hoot! After this, we decided we needed to try our own hands at shootin’ so we headed to the shack out back and took up laser rifles…20190407_122435Didn’t feel much like the real thing but for 2 bucks, I ain’t complaining. Bang…bang bang. Gotcha, ya vermit!  AJ & Tom took a time-out at the big saloon and posed for me in front of the horses and the big mountains in the background.20190407_124152Next, we rode the choo choo train that circled the town, giving us a great view of all the buildings and mining activities.20190407_133136 20190407_135505

If you want to visit Goldfield ghost town for yourself and experience the excitement of the wild west, here’s all the info your need:  www.goldfieldghosttown.comIMG_7593Tomorrow…join me in Sedona (below) the new age capital of Arizona, where I experience a “vortex” and marvel at the rock formations and mesas, and the stunning beauty of the desert during the rare “super bloom”.20190408_121116

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My Arizona Adventure (Pt.II) – I visit Old Town & Western Heritage Museum

Saturday April 6th dawned bright and early for me…the sun streamed in my bedroom window (pictured below) by 6:30am and the birds were in full chorus! 20180406_165843Today was the day AJ was taking me shopping in Old Town, Scottsdale’s touristy section with all the souvenir shops and boutiques complete with wild west themed exteriors. Our first stop was the weekly farmers’ market – not your usual ramshackle clutch of stalls and tents, but a well laid out, clean and welcoming market with free samples, deelish healthy breakfast treats and tons of local produce. Everywhere you looked, there were flowers and happy smiling shoppers. 20180406_090834After indulging in a home-made quiche with honey drizzled over it (wow, so yummy) and downing cups of hot local coffee, we headed off to stroll the Old Town streets.  There’s a fabulous art gallery, home decor/accessories and artifacts called Bischoff’s Gallery that AJ wanted to show me so off we went, passing several stunning western sculptures…20180406_092133 20180406_092348 20180406_092455I found so many wonderful treasures inside Bischoff’s including this painted deerskin plus numerous kachina dolls20180406_094017 20180406_094026…and I picked up a couple of modestly priced carved wooden figurines – a coyote in full howl and a bunny rabbit, plus a string of tiny red glass chili peppers that are now hanging on my front door.  www.bischoffsgallery.com

More wanderings in and out of souvenir stores, picking up fridge magnets for friends as requested.20180406_092510 20180406_103518We came upon a stunning fountain with several galloping horses…20180406_110009It was getting just a wee bit hot so we ducked into the fab Berdena’s cafe where the staff prepared fresh squeezed orange juice for me and a tea for AJ. Friendly & welcoming staff made for a pleasant visit. www.berdenas.com20180406_111007 20180406_110704More schlepping around the streets before heading to the incredible Museum of the West where I was to find treasures from cowboy history, native American culture and some samples of the great western artist, Charles Russell.  I’ll let the photos do the talking…20180406_114636 20180406_115545 20180406_115615This next one is AJ’s favourite, as if you couldn’t tell!20180406_115641And these are two of mine….20180406_115655 20180406_115707They’re also heavy into pot…clay pots, that is…20180406_115738 20180406_115751 20180406_115811Lots of wild west memorabilia was on display…
20180406_120631 20180406_120656 20180406_12074820180406_121639 20180406_121730 20180406_121833 20180406_121928I was particularly drawn to the Charles Russell exhibition of his paintings and stories about the women in his life…20180406_120043 20180406_120027 20180406_115936And there were so many amazing bronzes of native Americans…just look at these regal warriors:20180406_120120 20180406_120152And of course I found my very own buffalo…Dances with Glenda!20180406_121022The museum has an outdoor courtyard filled with sculptures…20180406_121108 20180406_121147 …then back inside I discovered a tribute to John Wayne by his artist friend Harry Jackson near the gift shop:20180406_121409 20180406_121416The museum also had a “secret garden” of sculptures around back – look what I found there…20180406_123304 20180406_123441 20180406_123640Big thank you to Jeffrey in the gift store who pointed out some great western books to bring home as well as some cool cowboy fridge magnets (these ones are for me!). Learn more about Scottsdale’s Museum of the West by visiting their website: www.scottsdalemuseumwest.org

More Arizona Adventure stories coming from this lone ranger so stay tuned!20180406_133437

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MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt.I) – welcome to Camp Joy Ranch

It’s been 22 years since I took a vacation – working for one’s self means if you don’t work, you don’t make money so after all that nose-to-the-grindstone living, I finally accepted an invitation from old pal Anthony (AJ) Cavanagh with whom I worked at a local Toronto TV station back in 1999/2000, to visit him and his husband Tom on their ranch in Phoenix, AZ. If there is a heaven here on earth, Camp Joy Ranch must be it…or at least heaven-adjacent!

After coming in for the landing and seeing such a bleak landscape (below)…20190405_205210…I was surprised to learn that Arizona had recently experienced an unusual amount of rain and the desert was in “super bloom”  i.e. all the wildflowers and cacti were blossoming, bursting with colour and fragrance. After AJ picked me up it was pretty dark and as we drove thru the night about an hour or so out of the city, he explained that they have a law requiring street lights and commercial/retail lighting be turned off or down low in order to see the night sky. OMG…I have never seen such bright stars, the moon, all the constellations! But even more beautiful was the surroundings of Camp Joy Ranch when I woke up the next morning with the sun streaming through my bedroom window…20190407_07061220190406_10320520190406_10294420190406_102710The first thing I noticed, apart from the stunning vistas, was the sound of birds singing. Mourning doves coo’d, desert quails with their funny feathered top-knots warbled and the crows cawed high above as they rode the wind high above. I saw all sorts of birds including red cardinals, honeysuckers and humming birds (try taking a pic of them – impossible…LOL) as well as eagles and hawks, plus the bunnies came out to play every morning (below)20190409_091022After a great Aussie breakfast of toast & Vegemite, AJ saddled up the Prius and we headed out to Scottsdale for some serious shopping and touristy sight-seeing. I was so excited just like a little kid, knowing I was gonna be amazed and enthralled. My next blog post will show you what we saw so stay tuned.20190406_102808

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Celebrating the festive season in Port Hope (Part 2)

Day 2 in Port Hope and I was awakened to the deelish smells of fresh coffee and bacon frying up in the kitchen. After a quick “bird bath” I went downstairs to be greeted by my hosts Corinne & Ron who own the Summerhill Manor B&B, pictured below taken from their website.

www.SummerhillManor.com

www.SummerhillManor.com

Even though Saturday morning was rather overcast and grey, their charming tearoom was bright and cheery and I enjoyed the nutritious breakie set before me – perfect for fueling my day of watching the Santa Claus Parade.20181124_084028 20181124_083633 20181124_083727 20181124_083711After downing several cups of piping hot coffee, I set off to wander the town, looking for further adventures and making new friends. During the previous night’s wagon ride, I sat with a lovely lady, Claudia, and her family – she told me she worked at a hair salon & spa and I should come in for a quick manicure…so I did. A really great way to spend half an hour, tidying up my fingernails and learning more about the town – you know bartenders and salon ladies are THE best people when it comes to local gossip and news. I found Studio 100 a couple of blocks down from the B&B and the lovely Brianna welcomed me and took me thru to the chi-chi poo-poo spa rooms and worked some serious magic on my cuticles…thank you, Bwww.studio100.ca20181124_105304 20181124_105052After I emerged from the spa side with fab sparkly fingers, look who I found hard at work doing a client’s hair….Claudia!20181124_105059Studio 100 is definitely worth the drive from Toronto (gorgeous decor, great prices & talented, friendly staff) – sorry, I didn’t take more pics but there were clients in all stages of hair foil and spa treatments so I respected their privacy.

I then wandered across one of the bridges over the Ganaraska River, saying hello to these festive Christmas “ambassadors”…20181124_105459…and then I found PharmaSave, the big drugstore Val told me about the previous night. Wow, she was so right – so many fab gift ideas and home decor as well as all manner of nifty health care accessories and daily grocery supplies. And I loved their prices, too! It’s more like a department store, filled with clothing, Christmas decorations, Hannukah menorahs & candles, jewellery, scented candles….Santa’s one-stop shop for the entire family!20181124_111513I then made my way back to Walton Street and visited Roger at Dreamers Cafe, who showed me around his “Tardis” of a restaurant/coffee shop (if you’re a Dr. Who fan, you’ll know what I mean). His Christmas tree was so pretty, as was his mantle which was decorated with a tiny holiday village. www.dreamerscafe.ca20181124_112521 20181123_212746 20181123_212737As it was close to 1pm parade kick-off, I quickly made my way to where the Northumberland TV cameras were set up and Ken Bell was getting ready for his colour-commentary duties…but oh no, down came the rain. It was a deluge and the street was suddenly lined with umbrellas and the kids huddled beneath mum and dad’s coats, waiting eagerly for the big man in red to go by regardless of the cold and wet.

After toughing it out and getting thoroughly drenched, I very smartly decided to enter the BMO Instant Teller foyer on the corner. Inside I found a lovely heater, a bench plus a HUGE picture window from which I could safely bring out my phone camera and snap what views I could of the parade. 20181124_134347And you can tell I was really into the whole parade thing…SANTA!!! Yes, I was able to video the big man from the safety and dryness of the bank lobby, along with a few others who had sought refuge with me….

 

The parade wound its way through the streets and headed out to the Firefighters’ Museum about half a mile away. I had planned to follow and have a photo taken sitting on Santa’s lap but the rain and cold forced a change of plans….I needed some retail therapy and warm comfort! My Sister’s Closet is a cool vintage, gently worn and new clothing boutique offering all manner of fab fashion finds. Owner Tammy welcomed me, along with her colleague Faye, and I was thrilled to find some really gorgeous boots – what do you think?20181124_141156 20181124_141338 20181124_141408 20181124_141533I had previously met Tammy a few years ago when she had worked in a now-closed fashion store on Walton Street, and she remembered me when I shopped there with my BFF Erena who purchased a few items from her. Now Tammy is queen of her own domain in this amazing store with all its nooks and crannies, including a vintage wedding dress corner.20181124_142256Definitely check the store out when you visit Port Hope…you can easily spend an hour or so combing thru the racks! www.mysistersclosetporthope.com 

Another of my fave stores to visit is G. Facey, which has been in business for 20+ years, bringing Canadian and int’l designer lines to the town’s fashionistas of all ages. Owner Teri-Jo welcomed me Friday night when the store was packed with shoppers trying on clothes and oo’ing and aah’ing over the great prices (so I didn’t take any pics out of respect for their privacy). It may not look big from the street but the store goes way back with different departments and spacious change rooms. Lots of men’s designer lines are on the racks, too, and when I visited there were two gentlemen trying on gorgeous shirts.  Wish I could have photographed them as they looked so handsome.  www.gfaceys.com20181125_132208That night, I attended the “naughty” King Arthur Christmas pantomime presented at the Capitol Theatre, another historical building, but again, I had to schlep my way through the pouring rain so no pics of the theatre marquee, damn! Enjoyed another late night snack at Nookie’s (see Pt. 1 blog) then off to bed at the B&B.

Sunday morning dawned bright with the rain just a memory. Another yummy breakfast of eggs and bacon at Summerhill Manor…20181125_133339…then a little more time strolling the historic streets before I headed back to Toronto. I visited Mercury Chocolates to pick up some treats for my friend Laura who I got hooked on the organic, dark chocolates created in-house by talented foodie Darren Johnswww.mercurychocolates.com20181009_142535…and, of course, one last visit to Queenie’s for a special treat!20181125_113112 20181124_113131So thank you to the people of Port Hope for making me feel so welcome. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the friendly shopkeepers, artisans & craftspeople, the artists of Critical Mass and to my hosts at the Summerhill Manor. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say…“I’ll be back”!20181124_111738

 

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Celebrating the festive season in Port Hope (Part1)

This past weekend, I decided to join my friends in Port Hope to celebrate the Christmas season, so I booked my VIA Rail ticket and set off for my adventure on Friday afternoon. Before arriving in Cobourg (the main rail stop for area), the train whistled hello to Port Hope as we rode across the Ganaraska River over the big bridge. Woohoo!

On this Friday night, Port Hope merchants presented their annual Midnight Madness late night shopping, after the townsfolk strolled the streets during the candlelight walk to the main park for the Christmas lighting ceremony and opening of the nativity scene in the bandshell. I was thrilled when I was “adopted” by a lovely family and got to join them on the candlelight walk (thanks, Val from Pharmasave, for bringing me into the family).

20181123_190539 20181123_192017 20181123_192020Lots of fun rides and activities, including VIA Rail‘s mini train chugging around the streets, full of laughing kids and parents. What fun!20181123_192638And everybody loved the maple syrup pops made fresh, courtesy of the local Home Hardware store. Yummm!

I also took a ride on the wagon drawn by 2 big Shire horses thru the streets, then spent time injecting some cash into the local economy…yes, it was time to shop!!

As always, my first stop was at Queenie’s Bake Shop where owner Adam (that’s him on the TV screen) and his staff were running a toy drive and I was happy to donate a couple of treasures, too.  www.queenies-bake-shop.business.site/20181124_113140 20181123_162352Then off I went next door to the Kenneth Bell jewellery & fashion boutique for some retail therapy and shopping for pressies. Ken was kind enough to pick me up from the station and bring me into Port Hope that afternoon. We always share a laugh when I visit… www.kennethbell.com

20181123_172143 20181123_171608 20181123_171552After my credit card got a good workout at Ken’s, I then went to visit the elegant and friendly Bubbles & Gems where I picked up a couple of pressies for my sister Jenny in Australia…no photos of them ‘coz I think she actually reads my blog! https://bubblesandgems.com/  They have a lovely section of the store towards the back that is set aside for display and sales of local artisans’ work and I highly recommend you visiting and supporting the local craftspeople.20181125_132232 20181123_173731 20181123_173718As I made my way up Walton Street, I saw so many beautiful window displays including Holton Flowers (they ALWAYS have big beautiful floral displays in the windows)  www.holtonflowers.com/20181123_174618 20181123_174603Then across the street, I saw Furby House Books and loved their Dickensian style windows, and the travel agents next door with their festive globes…all decked out for the holidays.20181123_174829 20181123_174834 20181123_174844I was getting very hungry – it’s exhausting spending money!!! so I sought out Nookie’s Soul Kitchen & Bar, one of the town’s best restaurants offering gourmet meals. Friday is “surf’n’turf” special night. Yes, lobster & steak for $20 (see below) and it was DELICIOUS! Thanks to Tony the cute bartender for taking care of my needs….LOL!   www.nookiesph.com20181123_204114Burp! That was soooo good!

Finally it was time to go tuck myself in for the night so I walked past more delightful decorations, up the hill to my home for the weekend. I stayed at the Summerhill Manor B&B (more about that in Part 2 of the blog) 20181123_174857

20181123_185734So with a full tummy and heart full of joy, I slipped beneath the big fluffy comforter and slept well until I awoke to smell of fresh coffee brewing and bacon on the kitchen grill. Chef Ron of the Summerhill was up early getting my breakfast ready.  TO BE CONTINUED…..

For tourist info: www./visitporthope.ca/

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A Thai feast fit for a King….and I!

So apart from the bad grammar (s.b. “and me”) the headline here really does tell the story of Toronto’s small but mighty ISAAN DER Thai restaurant and its equally small but mighty queen of the kitchen, Chef Ko (pictured below).Chef Ko 2I was recently turned on to this snug and beautifully decorated dining establishment located in the heart of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood by fellow foodies and owners of No. 7 Hot Sauce, Carlos and Sandra, who told me about the incredible food and lovely people who run Isaan Der. Chef Ko, along with her Canadian husband Donald, run the place like clockwork, juggling take-out and home delivery orders with quiet aplomb as they and their servers offer personal but discreet table-side service to their guests, many of whom are neighbours and regular/repeat diners.20171018_183950Attention to detail is key at Isaan Der – just look at these cute elephant hooks for coats or purses located behind every table for diners’ convenience.20170829_184227I recently spoke with Donald and Chef Ko about their journey from Thailand to Toronto and the fabulous food they serve to hungry fans Tuesdays thru Sundays.

Chef Ko, what first inspired you to become a professional chef?  Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand as a journalist for Channel 7 news, I have discovered that it’s not all Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. There are lots of delicious dishes from every part of Thailand. 20170525_121454Did you study under any well-known chef or in a professional kitchen?  I studied at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is also a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, in their Professional Thai Chef program as well as at Kasesart University to learn about the origins of some of our well known dishes.

You specialize in traditional fine Thai cuisine at Isaan Der– how important is it that you use fresh, locally sourced ingredients for your menu?  We only use the freshest of ingredients for our food and every dish is made à la carte, meaning every dish you order is made specifically for you. We do NOT have anything pre-made so dishes might take a few minutes longer getting to your table….but the wait is worth it!sataysDonald, since opening Isaan Der in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in March , how have you seen your customer base grow?  Since opening, we’ve seen tremendous growth; from 3 people in the kitchen to now more than 8 dealing with the volume which we handle with great care and efficiency. It’s our loyal customers with whom we have had table-side conversations, educating them on the many differences in Thai food. We are certainly no better than any other Thai restaurant, but we do know that we are ‘different’.IMG_20170321_030403_608received_159738710362409620170320_20050620170320_200409Donald, any exciting news about menu or service you’d like to share?  Here we grow!  We recently changed our menus adding several new items to replace those we have “retired” for now. We cater to everyone with dietary restrictions such as celiac, vegan, food allergies as well as likes/dislikes. We can do it all as our dishes are made for you…any way you like it!

We’ve seen a tremendous increase in our Doordash delivery as well as personal take-out with our online ordering. Thanks to our brand new ordering app (for both iPhone & android) we’re able to streamline the dining experience for those dining at home. Easy-peasy with a simple click, click and done! We no longer take phone orders so we’re able to focus on personal table-side service in the restaurant.  But if people have questions about our menu we are certainly available via phone queries. See below the special promotion for 1st time app orders:July 2017454

Isaan Der is definitely one of my favourite Toronto restaurants and I’m especially fond of their Shrimp Roll appetizer – I frequently construct a meal by combining 2 orders of those with a salad. I love the little noodle ribbons and bows tying them up (see below). The handcrafted chili dipping sauce is super deelish, too.20170829_180825You MUST try the Golden Bags and Spring Rolls (below)….
17155630_1495954417121699_3390928405222378590_n 20170525_110821And each Wednesday is “Wine Wednesday” with $3 off your glass of featured wine…..20171018_184058…followed by “Beer Thursdays” when your favourite brew is only $5!20171018_184024Located at 2961 Dundas West (a few blocks W of Keele) there’s lots of parking (on street and in the green P lot behind) and prompt bus transit (take the #40 from Dundas W subway stn). Check out their menu, hours of operation and directions here: www.isaander.comlogo

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MY LATEST VISIT TO PORT HOPE ENDS WITH A TRANSFORMER AND T-REX! HUH?

I took my friend, artist Nancy Bennett, to Port Hope (my “spiritual home”) today where I introduced her to my fave cafe & bakery, bling store, boutiques and flower shop, ending with a quick visit to Primitive Designs on the outskirts of town where giant metal dinosaurs roam and a huge Transformer greets visitors. So come along for a virtual visit with us…… 20170713_112639Driving into Port Hope, we made straight for the Ganaraska River (above) that rushed through the genteel little town where fat lazy Canada Geese waddled and wobbled leaving a rather unsightly trail of poo…oops, watch where you’re walking Nancy.20170713_11241320170713_112406Our first port of call, as always, was Queenie’s Bake Shop where today we enjoyed coffee, tea and sticky buns, courtesy of chef/owner Adam and his charming server (below)20170713_115627 20170713_112915…then once we’d polished off all that, we popped next door to visit the super fabulous Kenneth Bell in his jewellery & accessories store. Kenneth supplies hundreds of boutiques across the country with their bling and baubles. He was already busy entertaining two other lovely ladies, Helene (below L) and Nancee (below R).20170713_113746What a warm welcome….and it just so happened that he was starting a 50-80% off sale so talk about perfect timing! Nancy and I dove right in and found some lovely sparklies…  www.kennethbell.com20170713_120538 20170713_120952Nancy found a great pair of sunglasses for her daughter on the rack of shades (below)…20170713_120958 20170713_121014And I loved these stylish silk embroidered clutch purses (below) from the Far East with tiny tassels and charms.20170713_120947Bidding adieu to Ken, we then headed up Walton St to a relatively new boutique called Turquoise where we found multiple pretty pieces that would look good in our closets!  www.Facebook.com/TurquoiseBoutiques20170713_123030 20170713_122943 20170713_122845Then into Flourish, another new shop…. www.flourishfashions.com20170713_124414….and Nancy’s eye was caught by a beautiful green lightweight top, perfect for wearing over a camisole or tank top. What do you think…should she buy it?20170713_123400Well, she did! A perfect top for an upcoming art expo where she knows she’ll get a tad chilly in her booth. Big thanks for her warm hospitality to owner Julie Pandoff (below) and congrats on such a lovely boutique. I then spied the sock rack…wow, these are too cool!20170713_124126 20170713_124215…and I loved these two tunics (below) that could hide a multitude of my caloric sins…LOL!20170713_124357Past the flower shop, we trekked further up Walton St where I discovered yet another fab new store…20170713_124436 20170713_124446….Dwellissimo, a beautifully presented vintage furniture store that was a treasure trove of mid-century modern. Oh my, I was in heaven!   www.dwellissimo.com20170713_124903_001 20170713_124827 20170713_124922 20170713_125139I really really really want this red horse lamp. Hey, Santa, make note of this one, okay? You never brought me that pony I asked for when I was 6 so now’s the time to make up for that glaring omission.

As we wound down our Port Hope walkabout, Nancy and I popped into the Art Gallery of Northumberland shop on Queen St, and found these beautifully crafted works of art….20170713_131201 20170713_131207 20170713_131215 20170713_131336We enjoyed a quick late lunch at Jim’s Pizza but we were both too hungry to even think about a photo so we just gobbled it all up. But we both recommend Jim’s for a great Italian nosh! www.jimsporthope.ca

In between rain showers, we made it down to the lakefront beach…er, where’s the beach? Due to high water levels, the beach, the kid’s playground and picnic area were all complete submerged. Yikes!

One last drive thru town….20170713_131704….then off to visit Primitive Designs, a very strange, wonderful and fantastic series of barns, tents and outbuildings devoted to exotic imports. Located a little N.E. of town, you cannot miss this place – you’re greeted by a Transformer and a herd of huge metallic dinosaurs – yep, talk about eye-catching.20170713_151850 20170713_151655 20170713_151725Thank goodness this happy little Buddha watched over us as we left the car park…I was gettin’ scared!20170713_151810You gotta go visit in person to truly appreciate the weird, wild, wackiness of this place.  www.primitivedesignscanada.com

So there we are, another trip to Port Hope done and dusted! If you would like to learn more about this friendly small town that offers big entertainment, sports, shopping and dining, you can visit their tourism office for more information and directions:  www.visitporthope.ca  and tell them Glenda sent you!