The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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Shark Beach

 

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The brave diver!

Every once in awhile, someone that I know does something so incredible, inspiring and interesting (all of the i’s) that I am compelled to write about it.  Such is my friend, Laura.  Laura is an avid diver, having been on 350 dives since her certification in 1999.  The underwater adventure that you are about to read about is for very experienced  divers only – please note the number of dives that Laura has been on and the years of that she has been doing this.  Most reputable operations require you to have a certain amount of experience anyway.  In other words, don’t be a dummy – if you have never even put a pair of flippers on before, this isn’t for you.  This post has been double checked by Laura for accuracy.

I’ve known Laura for a number of years, starting off as colleagues, then graduating into friends.   Laura is one of the smartest, most positive people that you will come across.  If you are lucky enough to know her, you already understand the extent of her kindness, good will and zest for life.  She is also a very talented seamstress. Everyday, during the time that I worked with her, I’d have to ask if she made the outfit that she was wearing, that’s how good her frocks are! Seriously, she missed her calling – she could have been the Dolce to Gabbana, the Y to YSL, the Coco to Chanel, the Alice to Alice + Olivia –  I think you get the picture.  She gives her all to everything, including her passion for diving.  Being an avid snorkeler, who one day would like to take the plunge (pun intended) and get my SCUBA diving certificate, I always sit in silent rapture whenever Laura tells stories about one of her around this world diving trips.  I’m also fascinated by, and feel protective towards sharks.  Many species, including the giant hammerhead, are slowly going extinct thanks to people over-hunting them for their fins, for sport or to show what a manly man you are.  When people are attacked by a shark, while it’s very sad, it’s a risk that you accept if you want to swim in the ocean.  We are unwelcome visitors in their home.  If you had someone in your home who was unwelcome and that you perceived as a threat, if you attacked them, you can claim self-defense.  A shark doesn’t have that luxury and are often hunted when someone is attacked.  These aren’t malevolent creatures actively hunting humans, they are important predators in the food chain.

Heading into the water

Heading in!

Back to Laura’s fascinating journey.  This particular trip was in the Bahamas, but was a little more of a once (or twice) in a lifetime experience.  I asked Laura all about it, but was so enraptured that I didn’t take notes.  My first question was the rather juvenile – so could you see the sharks when you were diving into the water????  Her response was an of course.  And she still went in!  She also mentioned that during one ascent, a diver had a curious tiger shark nibbling on his flipper.  The likely, calm, but slightly fearful diver pointed this out to the dive master who shrugged his shoulders, not because he didn’t care, but because there is little that he could do, the shark wasn’t hunting humans and he had likely been through it himself a number of times.  Laura was patient and answered all of my questions starting with:

How did you get into diving?  I met my husband in March 1999.  He told me the most amazing stories about his diving experiences, all over the world.  He offered to take me to Palau in February 2000, on the condition that I get certified here, first.  So, I was certified in September 1999.  I still remember my “check-out dive” – where you basically show the instructor that you understand how to put your gear together, can stay underwater without panicking, and remove your mask underwater, and put it back on while underwater (I had the hardest time with this, but in the end, it all went well).  This was in Parry Sound in late September – it was FREEZING.  I thought if this was diving – I’m not so sure…. Not to mention, the wet suit technology was not like today.  I was wearing a 7mm farmer john (2 pieces – thick neoprene painter pants and a second equally thick top with hood – honestly, out of the water, you could barely move – I was convinced this is what an Italian sausage felt like). Wet suits today are SO much more comfortable – thank goodness.

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Under the sea

What can you tell me about this particular dive?  Can you share the location and tell us a bit about the trip and what you saw?                                                                     Here is a map  http://www.aggressor.com/bahamasTB-divesites.php – you can see the dive sites (diver flag – red with a diagonal white stripe).  The trip is called Tiger Beach – but honestly, we were told there aren’t always a lot of tigers around tiger beach… We were very lucky to have landed in an area where there were MANY tiger sharks, and lemon sharks, so we stayed there for a bit.  Although the dive site info refers to tiger sharks that were 7 feet long – the ones we encountered were well over 10 ft…we think they were around 15 ft long.  Of particular note, there was a pregnant female – which was so interesting, because there was a distinct thickness around her middle.   We (the divers) simply stayed on the sandy bottom of the dive site, not moving around much, and sharks came closer and closer and started to swim all around us.  Even the most seasoned divers were is awe.  They really are beautiful animals.

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Were you, or any of the other divers at all scared or was there a freak out moment?  No – these were all seasoned divers who had been around sharks before.  Everyone was very calm and just in awe and respectful of the sharks.  Jill note: Interestingly, although tiger sharks are more feared, and are thought to be more aggressive, it was actually the lemon sharks that Laura was more wary of.  She and her husband did a short swim away from the group and returned when they were pursued by two lemon sharks.  Nothing happened, but remember, sharks are wild animals and their behavior cannot be predicted.

Shark!

Unreal

How many days did you dive and did you get used to being in the water with these particular sharks? 5 – after awhile, you were so used to seeing them, it almost became routine.  Oh, another tiger shark!

Sharks

Did they give you anything to protect yourself with?  No – the bubbles coming from your tank are actually a small deterrent – the sharks don’t seem to like them.  A pole, used incorrectly, could just anger the shark.  Really, it comes down to staying calm, and that comes with experience as a diver and other encounters with sharks.  If the shark is angry, and wants to attack, there isn’t a lot you can do, but again, it’s very rare and staying calm comes with experience.

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So close!

If someone ever wants to consider diving with tiger sharks, what should they know?  They are amazing, graceful creatures and just enjoy every minute of the dive.
If you have any questions for Laura about this experience, or any of her other dives, just let me know and I can do a follow up piece.
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The Serenity of Unemployment

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Image courtesy of me and a trip to Norway

Last May, I had a conversation with a now former colleague that I’ve known for many years.  She put a bug in my ear about how much I would love a contract job, or just some needed time off.  We talked about it for quite awhile, and she made me think of the excitement of possibility.  I know that not having a job isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it wasn’t something that I was sure about either, but as time went on, I became more emboldened and couldn’t get the idea out of my little head.  I’m not alone, but I worked very hard for so many years, the thought of taking some time away really sounded like a dream.  Some health issues with someone that I’m very close to also helped me see things  very differently.

You are not going to get any employer bashing here.  If you are reading this in your twenties or even early thirties, please take some very valuable advice from me,  every job has it’s ups and downs, but you should never be open about the downs or reveal anything confidential about the ups in social media or the blogosphere.  It’s not professional and it’s really not ethical unless you are a female Fox employee or work for United Airlines. For a very long time, I got to work with an amazing bunch of people, and for that, I will always be grateful.   There just comes a time in your life when you need a massive change and this is my time.  I need to find my next decade job, meaning that it will be long term in a company that I can grow with.  I’ve reached a place where I need to be a student rather than a teacher.  Learning is growing, and that can only come when you shake yourself out of your comfort zone.

In the last 6 weeks, I haven’t had a single moment of boredom.  Granted, I’ve been busy helping with a sick family member, which has taken up quite a bit of time, but I also made a conscious decision to say yes to everything, even if I wasn’t sure about it and to do things to better myself.  I’ve signed up for a digital marketing course to brush up on my skill set, agreed to volunteer for a marketing association and signed up for unlimited belly dance lessons and dance workshops so that I could get back to where I was eight years ago when I was part of a professional dance company.  I agreed to give a talk on social media and blogging at a local college’s marketing class.  I’ve met up with former colleagues and friends that I haven’t had the chance to spend anytime with over the past year.  I’ve said yes to every invitation that has come my way – there really is no excuse now for me to say no.  I’ve done some jobs around the house that I’ve been putting off – who really wants to clean venetian blinds slat by slat?  I’ve done stupid things that people have suggested so if you need someone to do that Flight Simulator or Edgewalk with, I’m your girl.  I’ve come up with theme days that I want to do once a week while I’m off that include but aren’t limited to:

  • Gift Card Day –  what better way to go on a shopping spree than to use up all of the gift cards that I haven’t touched!  My Master Card has points for a department store gift card in Canada, so I’ll cash those points in too.
  • Free Day – look up fun things to do that cost absolutely nothing.
  • TV Day –  a day to binge watch one show.
  • Magazine Day – you guessed it – read a bunch of magazines, all in one day.
  • Book Day – I signed up for a fifty book pledge this year, so I need to finish one book in a day.
  • Decluttering Day(s)- do I really need to explain this?
  • Kijiji Day – a day to photograph and post some of the things that I want to see if I can sell on Kijiji and other similar sites.
  • Neighbourhood Day(s) – every week, pick a neighbourhood in my city, either on my own or with friends and fall in love with Toronto all over again.
  • Culture Days – I’ll fall asleep if I go to multiple museums in one day, so I’ll spread this one out.  I went to see Strictly Ballroom this weekend with my sister and some friends – I’m counting that.  I’m going to see if I can convince someone to go to an art exhibit that’s in Toronto too.
  • Movie Day – I’ve never been to a movie by myself before, and I think it will be a good experience.  Once I’ve gone, I’ll come back and binge watch movies on Netflix or TMN.
  • Bad Job Day – doing all the ugly jobs and tedious errands that I need to do.
  • Spa Day – to recover from all of these brainiac ideas.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt more like myself than I have in a very long time.  I’ve started paying attention to my surroundings because I no longer have to have my face buried in my cell phone while I’m walking so that I can get one more email off of my plate.  I actually listen to the people that I’m with when I’m out instead of doing a mental to do list.  I’ve talked to strangers, got to pat some cute dogs on the subway and don’t fret while waiting in line, because I know that my turn will come.

I know that soon, I’ll have a new job  because that’s the way that life goes, but retirement practice has been fulfilling.  People may not be in the same headspace about this as me, and I totally respect that, but if you find yourself unemployed, whether it’s your choice or not, try to make the most out of the time.

 


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No Judgments – The Bucket List

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I’ve used this pic before, but it fit the theme!

Everyone talks about it, but no one actually ever provides a complete list of what’s on theirs.  They’ll give you a few choice morsels, but they back off when it comes to giving you the full meal deal.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about a bucket list.  If you don’t know what a bucket list is (insert eye roll here) – it’s all of the incredible things that people want to do before they depart the earth and move on to their next life or go to heaven, or hang out in the warm place that we shall call Satan’s tea parlour.  I’m breaking free and revealing what’s on my list, what’s off and what never will be on it.

Now for your reading pleasure….

What’s On

  • See the Little Mermaid Statue in Denmark – Hello!  It’s one of the best fairy tales out there (Cinderella is the best) and Copenhagen was the home of one of my favourite kiddy authors – Hans Christian Anderson.
  • See a Puffin – I’m not a bird lover, but hello, Puffins are adorable!
  • See an Orca in the wild – as nature intended them to be.  Sea World and Marine Land – I’m talking to you
  • Go in a Shark Cage and see a Great White (and come out of the cage with all of my fingers and toes and not covered in bloody fish guck)
  • Go to South America  – maybe not the sucky countries
  • Go back to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where I grew up, one last time
  • Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge in British Columbia
  • Go to all ten provinces (I’ve been to 8 – Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, here I come) and 3 Territories (none so far)
  • See all 50 States in the USA (even the questionable ones).  So far, in no particular order, I’ve been to: 1) Hawaii, 2)Alaska, 3)California, 4) Nevada, 5) Arizona, 6) Texas, 7) Arkansas, 8) Tennessee, 9) Georgia, 10) Florida, 11) North Carolina, 12) Minnesota, 12) Ohio, 14) Louisiana, 15) Virginia, 16) Illinois, 17) Pennsylvania, 18) New Jersey, 19) New York and 20) Massachusetts.  Just 30 more to go!
  • See almost every country in Europe – some at least thrice – except some of the sucky ones!  For some fun, I’m only going to tell you the countries that I have yet to see: 1) Sweden (I’ve seen Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I know that there is weirdness there, but I’m going), 2) Finland (best name ever), 3) Denmark (see bullet point 1), 4) Poland, 5) Bulgaria, 6) Romania, 7) Estonia, 8) Belgium, 9) Croatia (dying to go here), 10) Cyprus (but I’ve been to Greece – does that cover it off?), 11) Monaco, 12) Luxembourg, 13) Serbia, 14) Slovenia (home to Melania Trump – maybe I’ll skip it?) 15) Lithuania (home to my lovely grandfather and favourite great uncles), 16) Belarus, 17) Ukraine (maybe I’ll skip this country or just not dress up as a Ukranian if I visit Russia – I wouldn’t want them to invade me), 18) Russia (most of my other relatives are from here, and who doesn’t want to see St. Petersberg?)
  • Go to Bora Bora in Tahiti Tahiti  – it looks amazing, plus, I like a place that’s so nice that they named it twice
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See all of the Disney Theme Parks around the world – Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, I’m coming for you!  And don’t judge me – it’s the happiest place on earth
  • Speaking of Tokyo – I also want to go to Japan
  • …and New Zealand
  • ..and Singapore – who doesn’t love a clean destination
  • …and Thailand
  • See Bill Clinton speak live – I saw Hillary and she was pretty fab, plus I have to have a few non-travel related items on the list
  • Have the best day ever and know that it’s the best day ever

Completed Items:

  • Go to an NFL game in the USA.  I went to a Steelers game.  I discovered that football is just as boring in person as it is on TV AND they took away my purse because it was too big to pass security regulations
  • Own a YSL Muse bag – thanks to Woodbury Common, I have this in my purse wardrobe for less than half the price AND it’s the original Muse with the Y (if you are a guy reading this, it’s like you finding one of your collectible dolls, sorry action figures or a really great Laz-E-Boy chair on sale)
  • Teach an important life lesson to someone that they’ll value
  • Make 10 people cry tears of happiness
  • Have dinner once with my whole immediate family
  • Write a blog for one year (ahem, my blog celebrated it’s third anniversary)

Off the List:

  • See George Michael in concert  – sad to say, I’ve never seen this musical genius

Never on the List and Never Will Be and Don’t Tell Me Never Say Never ‘Cause it’s NEVER:

  • Skydiving
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Hand Gliding or any aerial trick
  • Space Travel

I don’t have a death wish and I get motion sick so they are all out for me.  So, now that you know what’s on my, tell me what’s on yours?  I need some inspiration and some non-travel related bucket list items so I want to plagiarize yours!


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I (Will) Love T.O.

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Somehow, I always seem to end up with the world’s chattiest taxi drivers, Uber drivers, seat mates on the subway, seat mates on an airplane, seat mates on the train…you get the picture.  Often a bit of a weirdo magnet or just a sympathetic ear, I’ve heard a little bit of everyone’s story over the years…usually not by choice.  One lesson that I have learned though, is that everyone has a story, and you may be surprised, so take the time to listen whether you feel like it or not.

Today, as always, I ended up having a deep, meaningful conversation with a cabbie.  I knew the second that I opened the door, that this man was going to talk my ear off.  I got in, shut the door, sighed once in my inside voice, once in my outside voice and settled in to hear all about his likes and dislikes.  Proving that you can be inspired by just about anything, this blog all started with a simple statement/question from my fair driver…”I LOVE Toronto…Miss, do you love Toronto?”  Being nauseatingly politically correct, I automatically answered yes, very much.  I knew that I gave the right answer from the huge smile on his face, after which I got to hear about every one of the other things that he loves.  He did, get me thinking, do I really love Toronto, or am I just waiting for something better to come along?  Everyone takes the city that they live in for granted, but I started to think about all of the things that I’ve experienced in this very city, this very year and all of the little accidental things that I’ve stumbled across.  For instance:

  • Theatre – Toronto has a great theatre scene.  It rivals any major city in the world.  We have fancy, schmancy theatres like the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and some that need a little love, but have a ton of character like the Lower Ossington.  This year, I’ve seen some really great musicals including Mary Poppins (for the first time – I’ve never even seen the movie), Matilda (loved), and best of all, Thank You for Being A Friend – a must see for Golden Girl Fans.  If you don’t love The Golden Girls, please find another blog to read because that’s sacrilege in my book
  • Events – I went to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo.  Pretty fun, but the same thing always happens when I taste wine – I try something that’s not from New Zealand, make a face, says it’s too sweet or too oak-y, toss it into the garbage, pout a little, and try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and proclaim it the best wine ever.  I also sit through a boring cooking demo, try what they make, lie to them and say it’s the best thing ever, and then complain to whoever I’m with that so and so can make it better. Aw tradition!  I also got to enjoy the King Street Festival for TIFF – my friend and I strolled along, and it was nice to see people just enjoying the city.  Oh, and I got to meet Michael Fassbender earlier in the day – bonus!
  • Live (and inspiring events) – Seeing Deepak Chopra, yes, my guru was a highlight, but meeting him?  Priceless.  My friend got us tickets to see him live at Roy Thomson Hall and we were number 2 and 3 in the line up to meet him.  An even bigger, if it’s possible moment, was lining up at Indigo at Bay and Bloor to meet ANDERSON COOPER THE SILVER FOX!!!!!!  Yes, I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning and wait for 4 hours, but it was fun, and worth it.  If you don’t want to buy books (shudders) or pay for ticketed events, you can always go to Indigo and hear your favourite authors speak.  If you don’t read, maybe you should make 2017 the year that you crack open a book?
  • Museums – I always seem to forget that we have museums in TO.  This year, I noticed that the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was doing a Mystical Landscapes exhibit and it looked like it had real art!  Like stuff that I’d recognize.  Seriously!  I always poke fun of the AGO because although it has Monets, Manets, Van Goghs, etc., they are always the sad, sloppy seconds that no other gallery would touch – you know, the ones nobody has ever heard of.  This exhibit was great though.  I dragged my trusty friend and off we went to get ourselves cultured up.  They had a symphony first, so after walking an exhausting block, we plunked ourselves down for a half hour rest and listened.  I’ll be honest, about 50 seconds in, I got bored and tried not to fall asleep.  I love classical music, but spoken word…PLEASE…and opera?  EWWWWW.  I understand torture when I listen to opera, mostly because my ears feel tortured.  The art though was perfect.  They had the best of the best of the best and I discovered Wenzel Hablik – a really different kind of artist who I really loved.  I’m not going to go out and buy one of his paintings, mostly because I can’t afford to, but they were different from anything that I’ve ever seen before
  • World Class Shopping – I could write a book on how much I love the Eaton Centre.  It has a Nordstrom, need I say more?  Plus they went back to having a HUGE (using my Donald Trump voice) Christmas Tree that’s beautiful
  • The CN Tower – Yes, it’s tacky to admit, but I love the CN Tower.  You couldn’t pay me to go there, unless I had visitors in town, but just to see it’s alien looking frame or see it lit up, makes me know that I’m home
  • Unexpected beauty – the Manulife Building on Bloor Street somehow always looks perfect, no matter what time of year.  They also celebrate holidays better than any other place in the city.  Don’t believe me, check out the photo from Remembrance Day in the collage below – it’s small, but it’s in the right hand corner.  The little things that look like confetti were row after row of Canadian flags

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I guess I have my answer, maybe, just maybe I’m falling back in love with Toronto.  My challenge to myself for 2017?  Keep looking for things to admire about my fair city and see what all of those people on our Hop On, Hop Off tours are oohing and ahhhing about.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.


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Shake it ‘Til You Make It

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Our Troupe

A long time ago, in a hair colour far, far away, I began what is likely one of my life’s great passions – belly dance.  I started this hobby, like everything in my life…by accident.  My friend and I wanted to take Latin Dance and I called around, and ended up on the phone with my beloved dance teacher Samia.  She explained that all Latin dances come from Belly Dance and I should come and check out a beginner class.  My friend agreed and off we went.

I didn’t love it right away.  I had an instructor that was a little bit of a snooze for me, but we got to watch the advanced classes.  These ladies were amazing and turned me into a little wannabe.  One day, we were told that we were going to be in a recital, and I thought FAT CHANCE, NO WAY JOSE, NOT HAPPENING, so yup, you guessed, it, I got suckered into buying my first skirt and belt and practiced my little heart out.  As we practiced, Samia came into the room, with her French/Lebanese accent, and her watchful eye, she made me soooo nervous.  She always had a couple of corrections, then did a quick sweep around the room, and then left as quickly as she came in.  I was hooked, and hoped that one day, I’d learn from this master and literally, right after the recital, I joined her Wednesday class.

Samia was an amazing teacher.  When she taught us new choreography, she would dance a section for us, and when you watched her, it was magic.  Something swept over her  – it was like she was performing on a stage in some distant land, not in our little dance studio.    She was tough, don’t get me wrong, but once you got to know her, she became your dance mother.  She wanted to know about your life, and she learned so much about you.  There were no secrets with her, she just knew us so well, that it was impossible to not spill your guts.

Once you started performing, she would select a dance name for you.  I wondered what exotic name awaited me, as my fellow students walked away with  monikers like Najwa (meaning secret conversation), Aisha (alive) or some other names that implied strength.  I walked in and Samia smiled at me, and told me that my name would be Shams.  Ugh, I thought in my inside voice, it’s doesn’t end in a cute sounding vowel.  When I asked her what it meant, she told me, it means “The Sun”.  She then humiliated me, unintentionally, by telling me that it was because my cheeks are so cute when I smile, it charmed her so much that it reminded her of the sun.  Yup, tough girl, that’s me.  Eventually, it grew on me.

One day, Samia asked me to join her troupe as a performer.  The goal was to create shows, not recitals and that we would all pitch in with the hope of earning money just for doing what we all loved to do.  It was fun, but a lot of hard work practicing 3 days a week.  There was nothing better though, than performing with the troupe and seeing what choreography Samia would dream up.  Everything was amazing, until one day, our beloved teacher told us all some devastating news – she had to retire because of issues with her feet.  It’s hard to explain what it was like to hear that news.  She was a safety net for all of us, and we all fell apart that day.  I tried to stick with the school that she had built, but after less than a year, I gave up.  It just wasn’t the same.  I tried other places, but some people are irreplaceable, so after ten years, I put my costumes away and moved on.  Then, life happened and I got completely distracted by other things.

Late in August, over dinner, someone who knew that I used to dance asked very briefly why I didn’t do it anymore and my answer was lame.  I don’t even remember what it was, but I started thinking and thinking and thinking some more about it.  Within a few days, I was Googling belly dance schools all over Toronto trying to figure out which could be “the one”.  I had my first class tonight, deciding on a beginner course since it’s been so long.  It was GREAT.  The second song the instructor played was one of my old solos, so I knew that this was the right place.  It wasn’t easy at first, but once I started moving again, it just felt right.  It may not be the same as it was, but that’s OK, it doesn’t need to be.

 

 

 


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Atlanta – The Food Tour

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When I was trying to figure out what to do in Atlanta, my first thought for day one was a walking tour.  I love them – they help you get oriented to a city AND you don’t have to ride around in a bus or a land to sea boat where they make you quack like a duck.  While checking Trip Advisor, which I have to admit, I do have a little obsession with, I came across Peachtree Food Tours.  If you were an avid reader of my little site, you’d know that I just wrote about the owner/operator John Hannula.  For $100 (US), you got to get a little history of mid-town Atlanta and go to some fine eating establishments. SOLD!

Here was the great part, and why if you are going to be in Atlanta, I highly recommend Peachtree Food Tours – I received a comprehensive email from John with an overview of what to expect plus some recommendations of where to stay, play and eat while in his little peach of a city.  A few days before the trip, he called and followed up with me!  Talk about surprise and delight.  He was very accommodating about the fact that I don’t eat beef, pork or lamb and he pre-warned me that one of the stops included a hamburger.  Great customer service.

We met on Sunday morning at 11:45 at the beautiful Fox Theatre.  Here’s a quick snap shot (and some pics) of the five places that we visited:

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Cypress Pint and Plate

  1. Cypress Pint and Plate was the 2nd place winner for best hamburger at the 2013World Food Competition in Las Vegas.  That’s why I chose to have a chicken sandwich instead : 0 )  It’s served on a donut.  Not a Tim Hortons/Dunkin’ Donuts type of donut, more of a light Asian donut with a hint of sweetness.  This was amazing!  No, I didn’t eat the whole thing – I had 5 fries and half the sandwich – you have to pace yourself.

2. Princi Italia was a lovely little Italian Restaurant.  The three of us shared the fig and gorgonzola bruschetta that you see in this pic.  Gorgonzola is not my favourite cheese, but it totally worked with the figs!  We all shared the pasta – it was Fontina cheese and cream sauce – so yummy.  It was all very rich, so a taste was enough.  This was by far my favourite place, but sadly, we didn’t have time for a return visit.

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Einstein’s

3.  Don’t get this confused by Einstein’s Bagels – another Atlanta establishment – this was a proper restaurant with shrimp and cheddar cheese grits with green beans, a fried green tomato and buffalo mozzarella cheese.  Again, so good.  I had grits once before, and I wasn’t a fan.  These changed my mind.  My least favourite place, more because of the ambience than the food.

4.  Cafe Intermezzo was a beautiful taste of Paris in the heart of mid-town Atlanta.  They had two cases of cakes and pies and a dessert expert took you on a “tour” of their 40 different selections.  A cool experience. I had the Heath Bar Milkshake Cheesecake – yum – but incredibly rich.  They give you to go containers so no pressure to finish your dessert.  If you visit, I recommend sharing.  I had less than half of this at the cafe and was going into a food coma.

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Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe

5. Our last stop was Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe for “to go” treats for later.  My selection was a savoury green onion bun and a Nutella donut.  Honestly, I was relieved that these were to go – I couldn’t look at food at this point.  These were pretty good!  The savoury bun was a little meh, but you can never go wrong with Nutella.

The tour ended at 3:45 and we walked, a lot.  We got a great overview of Atlanta, a little history, a little humour, a lot of good food and a thank you note from John!  Totally unexpected and he sent us pictures that he took throughout the day.   Never been on a food tour?  Here are some of my tips after being on a grand total of one:

  • Wear comfortable shoes – you do a lot of walking
  • Dress for the weather – these aren’t indoor tours
  • Pace yourself.  I know, I know, it all tastes so good, but you have lots of places to visit.  I was semi-full after the first restaurant, and ready to burst after the last and that’s with “tasting” the food.  If you try to eat everything, you are going to suffer
  • Be open-minded – try everything.  They’ll try to accommodate your requests, but if it’s just because you think you won’t like it, your wasting your time on the tour
  • Ask questions – either about the city that you are in or for local recommendations.  You have an expert on your destination available to you for 4 hours – use that time wisely
  • Make sure you do this on your first or second day in the city that you are visiting if you can.  As mentioned, it helps you get a lay of the land and if you really love a place, you have time to go back and have a full meal there
  • It sounds costly, but for $100, you really don’t need to eat dinner or breakfast and your lunch is covered!

Enjoy!  Next time, I’ll tell you my favourite non-food related things to do in Atlanta.

 

 


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Peachtree Food Tours – A Must Do in Atlanta

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I just got back from HOT-Lanta and Savannah!  If you’ve read my blog before, you know travel is my thing.  My friend and I decided on very short notice, to use up some of our vacation time from last year to do a little something-something.  We have a habit of setting impossible sight seeing standards for ourselves, doing things that only the very dedicated (or crazy) tourists would do.  We decided on Atlanta and Savannah on a whim.  My job, which I took very “Type A” seriously, was to plan Atlanta for us.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to Trip Advisor I go, or went in this case…
I’m a big fan of walking tours, you get to see a lot that way, and it helps you orient yourself in a big city.  As I was looking, I noticed a walking tour that was all about food!  Even better, it had a perfect 5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor!  That’s the best that you can do on this finicky site!  I was hooked by what people were saying and thought it would be cool because I had never been on a food tour before.  My friend Amber was in, so the tour was booked for our first full day in this peach of a city.  It was even better than I expected.  I’ll write more about the tour itself in my next blog, but I was curious about how you get into this line of work, so John Hannula was kind enough to answer a few questions.
 How/why was Peachtree Food Tours born? In 2014, as a retired home-builder, I decided to spend quality time with my three boys who live around the world, a 2 – 3 week opportunity in each of my boy’s homes to visit…and hike…and just be Dad and Grandpa. That experience led to my idea of getting all three of the boys together in one location so off we went to hike Glacier National Park. Before leaving for Montana, my sweet Jeri reminded me that, although I was creating wonderful father/son/grandson memories, it was all costing money.  2015 would have to see me going back to work. Yikes!
During the 24 hour flight layover in Atlanta after the Glacier NP holiday, the oldest son who lives in the UK asked if lunch could include a big, juicy burger…so off we went to The World’s Best Burger, just 2 blocks away in my Midtown Atlanta neighborhood. After the incredible burger, he asked what were we going to do next.  “There’s this bourbon thing that you might get a kick out of” to which he broke out in a huge grin and replied, “Dad!  You should do a Food Tour!  It’s a no-brainer! You’ve already been on 15 or more Food Tours around the world and Midtown is restaurant heaven!”  And from that September conversation, my first Tours occurred two months later!  That has been followed by over 150 Tours sharing food, booze, and fun with 800+ guests!
 Why sign up for a Food Tour?  The real question is “What is a Food Tour?  Of those 800 guests at least 80% had never been on a food tour (!) with many of those having no idea what they were getting into!  (The short answer – A Food Tour is typically a walking, tasting adventure that has a bit of history woven into the outing but focuses on sampling food in a number of restaurants.)
 But…why do a Food Tour?  The best answer is two-fold.  One, you get a taste of that neighborhood’s (and even region’s) dining options that should include several  local specialties.  This is a fabulous way to “try out” some restaurants that you might not have considered in your travel plans…but now will definitely return to.  Secondly, you will be with a local for 3 – 4 hours and he/she is often a font of information as to other restaurants, shopping, great day trips, etc.   All you have to do is ask and soon you’ll feel much better about where your travel dollars can be spent best.
 Finally, if at all possible, ALWAYS take a Food Tour the first day in your visit!!  You have the opportunity to learn a ton about the city you’re in…and why learn all this with only one day left in your holiday??
 How do you find a Food Tour?  When traveling, I’m a huge fan of TripAdvisor.  Just google “TripAdvisor/Atlanta”  (or wherever!) and then type in “Food Tours”.  Large cities around the world will have several to choose from…so now what to do?  Read at least 5 – 10 reviews as a pattern will start to unfold of the “Why” the reviewer had a terrific time. While reading the reviews the tour guide’s name should show up in almost all of the writings…which is extremely important. Remember…you are about to spend 3 – 4 hours with this person which makes your guide a huge part of your day!!
Trust your Trip Advisor reviewers as they tend to be more objective, better traveled, and certainly thoughtful. If there isn’t a Food Tour that looks attractive, an excellent plan “B” is a Cooking Class, particularly when in Europe or Asia as you’ll start the Tour in a local market.  Imagine being in a Rome food market with a chef, everyone hollering in Italian, you having the time of your life!
Thank You John – I had an amazing time – it was a great introduction to food tours and Atlanta.  If you happen to be anywhere near Atlanta, check out John’s website http://peachtreefoodtours.com/about/ and book one.  Check back this week for more on Atlanta and my experience on the Peachtree Food Tour.