Travelling with French.

Languages are important. They creates barriers for communication which in turn create restrictions for travel. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Learning a small amount of vocabulary specific to the country you are travelling to can make the biggest difference in your experience.

So instead of pulling out the dictionary for every time you have a question, read ahead and prepare before your trip because five minutes isn’t long when it comes to understanding a completely different language.

The following is a small outline of the most basic terminology when it comes to traveling and transportation. Whether your travelling by train or by plane, it’s great to have a reference handy when a different country.

If you have any suggestions on types of vocabulary or French dialogue please comment below!


Kensington Market.

Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s true gems. It’s a place that’s hard to describe with words and easier to tell through sentiments as the neighbourhood thrives through feelings.


Graffiti covers most walls in this neighbourhood, ranging in colour and style.

If Kensington Market had to be a song it would be a mix of Call on Me by Janis Joplin and Kiss Off by The Violent Femmes. If it was a flower it would be that dandelion that has pushed its way up through the sidewalk. If if was an artist it would be Keith Haring and Basquiat.

This community is the living embodiment of an artistic movement.

The area is filled with different statues and murals, flags and cultures. It’s a place that you feel at home with just by walking around. Where you could be dressed anywhere from your pajamas to a suit and you wouldn’t get a crude glance.


From telephone polls to fire hydrants, everything is a canvas in this community.

This Torontonian community is located beside Chinatown, between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street. It’s a place that has some of the most heart, artistic flare and urban charm in Toronto and it’s an excellent excursion when visiting the city.


The CN Tower visible seen through the telephone cables and spray paint.

When going to Kensington Market there are three places you have to eat at.

First is the Big Fat Burrito. Ask anyone where to eat in Kensington and they will answer with this place. Packed with flavour, these burritos are great for any mood you’re in and will leave you wanting more.


The Big Fat Burrito, one of the best burrito joints in Toronto.

If you like sweets, stop by Pancho’s Bakery for churros. These Spanish pastries are addicting and hit the spot when you have a sweet tooth. The dulce de leche ones are a personal favourite of mine, the confection mouth watering with the sweetness of the churros.

Finally, the best place to eat in Kensington Market is the KOS Restaurant. Great food for a great price topped off with an all day breakfast menu. However, the highlight of this restaurant is the Greek Vegetarian Burger. As a vegetarian, there’s always a few things you miss, a good burger on a patio is one of them. Luckily for us this burger is by far the best one I’ve had. I make my way to Kensington on a regular basis just to get one. Even if you eat meat you can’t miss this dish, it makes you forget that it’s not a real hamburger and fall in love with the veggie burger.


Trucks expressing creative outlooks.

If you are visiting Toronto during the winter make sure to join in the festivities for the Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice celebration. It’s an event like none other in Toronto, where performers, singers and circus groups put on a night to celebrate the solstice. People walk in a parade after dark with lanterns as faces are covered by brightly painted masks. Afterwards, people make their way down to a bonfire where drums are played and groups perform dances in the crackling light.

The website for the Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice.


Colourful murals line buildings in Kensington Market.

Kensington Market is full of creative expression whether it’s through food or art. It’s one of the well know communities in Toronto and it’s definitely a hot spot when visiting the city. Grab your camera, your appetite and your friends, and head down to one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods that make Toronto so special.


Segovia is a city stuck in time.


Puente de Diablo, the Roman Aqueduct in Segovia.

From the embellished peaks to stone walls, the architecture of this city is a constant reminder of its’ great past.


A view of the city and mountains over the hills.

The beginning of the city is what resonates with the travellers. Once you travel down the hill to the Old Town of Segovia you will see the Roman Aqueduct and the great shadow it casts over the area. These stone arches tower over buildings as people walk under this piece of history.

Segovia’s Aqueducts, also known as the Puente de Diablo meaning the Devil’s Bridge, are one of the best-preserved elevated Roman aqueducts. Years ago, they transported water from the Rio Frio river in the mountains to Segovia, travelling over 16km. This Aqueduct was created without cement or mortar, making this historic feat one of the Roman Empire’s most impressive engineering creations.


Segovia’s Cathedral with high towers  and stone peaks.

When in Segovia you have to visit their magnificent cathedral. It’s a traditional Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral with high towers and peaks with a rounded exterior. When you walk into the church you immediately feel that cold damp breeze, a sign of an old well built cathedral.


Biblical paintings of angels and figures line the walls of the cathedral.

The ceilings are unbelievably high, the tops shadowed with mystery.  Paintings and statues line the different sections, a court yard featuring a fountain and a room with a ceiling of gold. It’s a church that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Spain.

Segovia is an excellent day trip. If you are staying in Madrid take a train to Segovia. It costs anywhere between €8.00-12.00 round trip depending on the day. The city can be seen in a day and it’s a great excursion that’s true to Spanish culture and roots. It isn’t huge but it’s a long walk with different highlights spread out through the town.


Blue peaks of the Alcázar of Segovia.

Alcázar of Segovia is the pinnacle point in the city. This castle is one of the most distinctive palaces in Spain because of its’ shape and colouring. If you grew up watching Disney then this castle will be extra special for you. It is said that Walt Disney drew inspiration from for the Cinderalla castle from this one. Look at the blue peaks rising above the building and the similarities become clear.


Crosses line stone walls in the palace. 

If you are visiting the Alcázar of Segovia then you have to walk the Tower of John II. With a sign that reads  “Not for the unhealthy,” it’s obvious that the 152 steps can become a bit hard. I myself was out of breath and happy to flop on the ground once I reached the top but the view makes it worth it. You see over the city, the church and hills, it’s unbelievable and it gives you a snap shot of what a real, historic Spanish town looks like.


The sandy colour is a typical pigment for Segovian buildings.

Segovia is beautiful. It hasn’t changed much since being built in 1076 B.C. Madrid and Barcelona have the urban hustle but Segovia slows down as this traditional Spanish settlement. It hasn’t been taken over by tour buses, flashy advertising and typical Western stores but it has preserved a part of Spanish heritage and you will be lucky to see it.


Chinatown is one of the more unique neighbourhoods in Toronto. Sure cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco have similar communities but the feel and the rush of this one is unique to Toronto. Travel to any other area in Toronto and you will not find the same hustle and urgency that Chinatown has.


Chinatown’s busy core of Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue.

The beauty of this community lies in its’ immense size. Stretching from around Queen Street East to College Street, Spadina Avenue is consumed by the surge of traffic, fresh markets and vendors that extend from their shops onto the sidewalks.


Local markets in Chinatown with excellent produce.

The best thing to do in Chinatown is to take advantage of their fresh produce. I’ve lived in Toronto all my life and I always make the trek down to Chinatown for certain fruits. A personal excursion of mine is buying some red bean buns, branches of longan fruit and fresh sugar cane juice before walking to the park behind the Art Galley of Ontario to eat and do some writing.

Rich culture with a bright environment.

Toronto’s Chinatown is colourful. It’s bright with reds, greens, and yellows, contrasting against the old brownstone buildings made years ago.

If you are travelling in the summer, make sure to stop by the Toronto Chinatown Festival. Attracting over 100’000 people in two days, the festival features dragon dances, street delicacies from China and a parade. The festival is a celebration of the lunar harvest, originating from the old legend of the immortal archer  Hou Yi.

The Legend of Change E and Hou Yi.


The bright colours of Chinatown contrasting with brick and graffiti.

Experience the neighbourhood.

Chinatown is a quick walk so by spending an hour or two in this neighbourhood you will be able to see all of the sights and markets in this area.

For great modern Chinese food stop by the R&D. It’s a restaurant owned by the first MasterChef Canada winner Eric Chong and Michelin star chef Alvin Leung. The restaurant is an urban beauty with great food and great cocktails. Recently I had an interview with Eric Chong, the young chef as modest and humble as the day he won the popular cooking show.

Article on the excellent culinary star R&D.


People bring their goods to sell on the sidewalks of Spadina Avenue.

A unique Toronto energy.

Chinatown is a part of Toronto’s mosaic identity, you can’t visit the city without dropping by this urban beauty. With beautiful iron signs that stand tall over the street car lines, graffiti that brightens up the old buildings and stores that you will find nowhere else in Toronto, it’s a special neighbourhood to say the least.

Chinatown has a different energy that anywhere else, it’s a certain chaotic urgency that somehow manages to flow together. Make sure you add this special centrepiece of Toronto’s culture to your list when visiting the great city.


Porto, a historic city that’s a canvas for artistic expression.


An alley decorated with flower pots, flags and streamers from a past celebration.

This Portuguese city is known for their wine, soccer team FC Porto and the Douro river. With buildings that range from bright tiled walls and iron Juliet balconies to discoloured cement embellished with colourful graffiti, it’s no wonder that Lonely Planet has named Porto one of the Best in Travel 2017.


Small stone altars line residential homes.


Porto’s beauty lies in the sheer quantity of artistic and religious expression. Classic stone altars line the sides of buildings, the strength of faith in the community evident to any visitor. However, it’s the graffiti that modernizes this historic town and makes it stand out from the others in Portugal.


An abandoned building overlooking Porto that has been taken over by graffiti.

When you are from Toronto, graffiti is another language you’ve grown up with understanding. We have Graffiti Alley by Spadina Avenue, colourful murals on almost every block and Queen Street West which has been taken over by spray paint. When travelling to Porto, their graffiti is a small memory of home. They use bright colours and abstract shapes make their designs pop off of the crumbling cement walls. The community still has its originality of a Portuguese town but the streets appear to be art galleries for anyone with a can of paint.


Sticker graffiti is becoming more popular in Porto and other Portuguese cities.

Take the time to walk the edge of the Douro river and cross the bridge to look from the other side. It’s one of the most beautiful shifts in perspective from seeing the patios only to walk and see the mélange of colour, umbrellas and terracotta with tin roofs from the other side.


Roofs are lined with terracotta tiles and rusting tin sheets.

The beauty of blue.

If there is one thing that you can never forget after visiting Portugal it’s their churches. They are blue. White tiles with blue religious paintings cover the old stone buildings as moss grows on the roofs. You can travel all over the world but the shock of azulejo tile work on a place of worship will always remain one of the beauties of this world. Porto has some of the most beautiful churches, their bells sounding in conjunction on every hour.

With the classic calcada portuguesa and hills that stretch on for blocks, you will definitely need to wear comfortable shoes. The roads and sidewalks are tiled with small stones and even though they are beautiful; heels are impossible unless you plan to break your ankle after a few blocks. Practicality is a traveler’s is key when it comes to be comfortable and seeing as much as you possibly can in this European town.


Typical azulejo tiling on church buildings in Porto.

When in Porto, make sure to take the city tram that tours the area. After you have walked the city it’s nice to see how the neighbourhoods connect with each other and you can see if you have missed anything on your list. For a single trip it only costs € 3.00 and the old wooden street car will bring you all around Porto.

Porto’s tram schedule and map,


Discoloured roofs are live with vegetation after years of weathering.

If you are travelling to Portugal, then Porto has to be in your itinerary. Lisboa may be the capital and Sintra may have royal gardens but Porto is one of Europe’s pinnacle cities. The river view, brightly tiled buildings and cement art galleries are what give this city such a stunning appeal while preserving its historical foundation from 1123. If you have the chance to go to Porto take it, you wont regret giving this beautiful city a chance.

The Beaches .

Toronto is a quilt of mismatch fabrics. Walk down the street and you’ll find yourself in a completely different neighbourhood than the last. It’s an assortment of clashing identities but somehow it works, it’s a beautiful mess and it makes Toronto the well known city that it is.


The boardwalk lines the lake with picturesque views of downtown Toronto.

The Beaches community has to be one of my favourite parts of Toronto. I’ve travelled around the world but one thing stays the same, there’s no place like the Beaches. If you drive from downtown it’s only 10 minutes away, you walk the boardwalk and see the city but it’s not saturated with the traffic and oversized billboards. It’s Toronto at its’ best, an artistic community that can only be described as alive and refined.


Kites fly over the beach, a mix of fabrics on windy days.

The community is a Toronto-European hybrid. It has the red streetcars of Toronto while having the patio life of drinking coffees and walking to bakeries in the morning. Every block hosts at least one coffee shop and everyone walks everywhere.

If there’s one thing that Beachers are, it’s proud. They are proud to live where they do and they are grateful for it. They meet up with friends to run their dogs at the beach and have their morning jog along the boardwalk all while working in the downtown of Canada’s largest city.


Parks and trails are scattered around the neighbourhood’s waterfront.

When travelling to Toronto, take the time to visit the Beaches and walk down one of the most well known communities in Canada. Once you explore the restaurants and boutiques around Queen Street East head straight for the water. The Beaches boardwalk winds along the edge of Lake Ontario for 3.5 km, leading you by the different attractions and the different views of the lake. With sights such as the iconic Leuty Lifeguard Station, Woodbine Beach for volleyball and swimming, and the historic Balmy Beach Club, the boardwalk is well worth the time to explore.

 The Beaches is an oasis from the city.

If you are coming in the summer pack your towel and flip flops. The beach is a hotspot for tourists and anyone in Toronto who is looking to escape the heat. Against common misconceptions, the lake is safe to swim in! If you’re weary you can check the City of Toronto’s site that regularly tests the city’s beaches. Toronto is certified by the Blue Flag Program for having internationally recognized water quality standards. Swimming is a great part of the Beaches experience so have lunch on a restaurant patio before heading to the water for a dip.

City of Toronto’s site on water quality testing.


An iconic spot for Beaches photography still used as a lifeguard station.

The best way for getting to the Beaches is taking good ol’ fashioned Toronto transit. Depending on what time of year you come parking can be an unneeded hassle. Take the 501 Queen streetcar and ride from heart of downtown Toronto to the Beaches or take the subway. Toronto transit is one of the easier subways to master once you have a map so don’t be intimated by the different lines.


The Beaches gazebo in the middle of Kew Gardens.

The Beaches is one of the main communities in Toronto, its’ been around since the early stages of the city and it will continue to grow in popularity for years to come. With it’s picturesque views and alluring European charm, the Beaches should be on your list of spots to visit in Toronto.


Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, a Highlight for Any Traveller Visiting the International City.

Toronto is known for its’ fast paced environment of bright lights, towering buildings and that classic Canadian feeling of acceptance. The city has its’ CN tower and sports teams, Eaton Centre and waterfront however what isn’t always highlighted is Toronto’s flourishing art scene. Most importantly, the Canadian Opera Company.

Opera is an old art but there is a reason that it has thrived for centuries.

Toronto’s opera community is a strong part of the city’s art scene and it should be taken advantage of in every traveller’s itinerary. It isn’t just an oeuvre but it’s an event, a night with so much thought put into every detail that you will remember it for years to come.


The Four Seasons packed with every performance by the Canadian Opera Company.

The COC is great for their renditions of pieces and in all my years I have not been disappointed. Every member of the production is passionate about their part and about the work they produce. It is seen from every perfect music cue and strategic lighting of the act.

From the set to the music, costumes and staging, opera is more than just singing.

The layout of the opera house resembles a contemporary Scandinavian amphitheater. The beauty of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is worthy of the operas performed with glass walls looking onto University ave. The architecture of the Four Seasons is enough of an incentive to stop and enjoy an opera on your trip to Toronto.

If you’re a spontaneous traveller like me and prefer to do things spur of the moment, then rush tickets are the thing for you. You arrive at the Box Office at 11:00 a.m. on the day of the opera to buying tickets that haven’t been sold yet. The seats are usually in the higher levels or standing room but if you can bear it standing room is the way to go. They are seats that are typically on the sides with a cushion to lean on, ranging from $12 or less and for an opera there is no better deal that that.


The glass stairs that seem to float over the venue.

When going to a COC production they have a Pre Performance Chat that discusses the composer, content and small details that you would never realise. It’s 45 minutes before the opera and well worth the time as speakers are all highly educated on that specific opera. The speakers explain the opera while playing clips of the performance, their eyes lighting up at the particularly fascinating facts. It’s the passion of the speakers that add another intangible component to the COC productions.

The opera is a chance to slow down and enjoy a true Torontonian experience. It’s the time when you get to break out your long dress that stays in closet, wear those heels you had to buy for some reason and take candid photos in Toronto’s bustling art scene.


Blurred photos of the Four Seasons resembling the lights of a plane runway.

Growing up in Toronto the COC has always been an cherished part of my year. My parents would buy us opera subscriptions for our birthdays and that meant every few months we would dress up and watch a classic piece that people have enjoyed for centuries. The Four Seasons isn’t just about the opera, it’s about memories that you will carry with you long after you leave Toronto.

The COC ensures that every aspect of the event is memorable for the viewer. Whether it’s the speakers who become excited when discussing a particular cadenza, the sets that shift and evolve  with the act, or it’s sitting on the wooden stairs between acts with a glass of wine while you look over Toronto’s busy streets, the opera is essential when wanting the true Torontonian experience.


The glass half full of spontaneous travel.

There are so many negative connotations behind flight layovers. People just want to take their sleeping pill, break out the neck pillows and get to their destination. What we don’t do is embrace the unplanned detours, those few hours in a totally different country that you didn’t even expect. I am a big believer in taking advantage of these layovers and you should too. It gives you a taste of the culture and though it may not be enough time, it’s enough to satisfy the travel bug in you.


Apartments along the riverside of the Seine.

A cosmopolitan beauty.

Recently I spent a layover in Paris, a cosmopolitan beauty that you grow up Googling and idolizing for some odd reason. However once you arrive you find that the exaggeration under sells the wonder that is Paris. We had arrived after a seven-hour flight, groggy but ready to hit the ground running. Though it was only five hours in between our flights and most of the time was swallowed up by storing our luggage and Uber rides, we still managed to see the sights and gain the bragging rights of saying “I’ve been to Paris, beautiful city and I would love to go back.”


A typical café in Paris, days spent sipping coffee and eating fresh pastries.

Be quick and strategize.

The most important thing when it comes to layovers is speed and planning. If you are not willing to do the research and tracking of the most efficient roots around then you will feel cheated by your layover. When you spend two hours before your trip to look up the places and roads your layover can become one of the best experiences of your trip.


Details on the Notre Dame church acting as a testament to France’s devotion to religion.

If you are trying to cram as much sightseeing as you can into a few hours, your luggage can’t be the one thing that weighs you down. Check ahead for where the luggage lockers are in the airport that way the second you land you know where you are going and you won’t have to drag your bags while your jumping in and out of taxis. If possible simply take carry-on luggage. This was something I didn’t realize for years but the suitcase that I used qualified as carry-on luggage. With carry-on bags you don’t have to wait for the luggage roundabout and you can get straight to moving though security.


The tower visible in the smallest of streets, from iron balconies and patio tables.

When stopping in Paris there were two main things I wanted to see. The tourist hotspot of the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame because you can tell everything about a society by the way they practice their faith. With the places in mind, it was just matter of drawing the line between Point A to Point B.

Detail in the smallest of crevices, the Notre Dame a testament to France’s strong roots in faith.

Timing can mean the success or failure of a good layover.

The best time for a layover is during the morning so depending on the length of your flight try to leave during the night. This way you can sleep before having to run off of the plane. You wont complain about how tired you are and opt to taking a nap in the airport but you will wake up refreshed and ready to move.


A plea for passion on the sides of the river in Paris.

Layovers aren’t a burden but an opportunity, it’s the glass half full of travelling. You just have to put the time in planning what you want to see, how long it will take, and how to get there. So embrace the spontaneous travel of layovers because you could enjoy a country you’d never see instead of sleeping in uncomfortable plastic chairs for half your day.


The breathtaking tower with intricate curves and arches casting shadows in the sun.


A Spanish beauty from their architecture to their café con leche.

The thing about Madrid is that it’s an addictive city. Not the bad kind of addiction that you need patches to forget but the kind that you go through withdraw from when you leave. It’s a city of passion, from every soccer jersey to historic highlight. Days are spent eating tapas of olives, cheeses and meats while enjoying a pitcher of sangria.


Religious symbols decorate almost every building, showing the strength of faith in this Spanish city.

When it comes to Madrid you need to give the city the time it deserves. You cannot just Google the top attractions, take a cab around and then cross it off your list. Madrid needs to be sipped like a fine wine, it isn’t a shot of whisky that you want to get over with. The best thing to do is to walk the city, it’s big but it’s worth every step.



Plaza Mayor, an excellent place for tapas under patio umbrellas.

When you are in Madrid you need adapt to the culture. Have breakfast in a local café eating pan con tomate and drinking café con leche. Sit in a park while you eat your afternoon merienda of churros and hot chocolate. Buy a Real Madrid jersey and watch a game in a bar over paella and beer.

Madrid is like Toronto, it doesn’t stop running once the sun goes down and neither should you.


Plaza Parterre’s strangely shaped trees that look as if they were plucked straight out of a fairy tail.

Walk the city.

There are things that you simply can’t miss in Madrid. For one, you absolutely need walk around Casa de Campo. It is the largest park in Madrid, measuring five times bigger than New York’s Central Park. With a lake with row boats, fountains, and even a zoo, you need to take time to explore the grounds. I particularly like La Rosaleda del Retiro and Plaza Parterre, the places looking as if they are straight out of a Spanish Alice in Wonderland. La Rosaleda’s is covered in different types of rose bushes, having floral arches surrounding fountains and stone benches. Plaza Parterre contains oddly shaped trees and a layout that can only be described as regally.



Jardines De Sabatini, the beautiful Neoclassical gardens behind the Royal Palace.

A highlight of Madrid is the walk from the Plaza Mayor to the Temple of Debod. Take an hour or two to really look at the sights because the historic significance for each point of interest will leave you in awe. The details in every statue, window and cathedral arch is well worth the trip. The best part of the walk is once you make it to the top of the hill at the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and brought to Madrid in 1970. When you finally get to the lookout over the city, simply sit under the trees, take off your shoes and enjoy a beer for 1€ sold by local vendors walking around the park.

It’s a city that cares, whether it’s their culture, language, or heritage. They care down to the last detail and it’s what makes Madrid so beautiful.


Palacio de Cristal in Madrid’s Buen Retiro Park.

If you are up for some travelling, take advantage of Madrid’s subway and train system for day trips. There are so many cities with their own unique history around Madrid that for 20€ you can find yourself in an completely different environment.


Madrid’s City Hall with a banner reading ‘Refugees Welcome’.

Madrid is all about its’ energy. The buzz of people and cars constantly whisking down streets. The best memory I have from Madrid walking back from a late night stroll in the Casa de Campo. A game against Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid had just ended, everyone wearing a jersey and cheering as they flooded out of bars. Traffic had stopped for a red light, Vespas and cars honking the same tune as they all wore the same uniform, ecstatic for their soccer team’s win.


Temple of Debod in Madrid, Spain.

It’s hard to leave Madrid since it’s like a home away from home for Torontonians. Bright lights, fast cars, walking everywhere because we just can’t stop moving. It’s a beautiful city and it will leave you counting down the days till you can visit again.

The Opening Act

Everybody has a different way to relax. Whether it’s an instrument, the gym or reading, it helps make life a little more enjoyable. For me it’s writing. On a laptop, backs of recipes or napkins, even my legs when I’m desperate. It’s like a craving when your thoughts are clear or you don’t want to forget that fleeting thought.

I grew up with parents who were all about experiences. It didn’t matter that we still had a tape cassette player in the car but as long as we could drive across the country and spend our summers on the beach then life was good. It’s a mentality that I’ve grown up with and I hold to this day. I’ve traveled, I’ve experienced and I’ve written. The transition into travel writing just seemed natural that it was ridiculous that I didn’t do it sooner. To finally put those scribbles on the backs of coffee stained napkins to good use.

This website is for those who need a few tricks of the trade or for those who want to travel without leaving their home. It isn’t a place of flashy pictures and pictures that took 20 times to take. It’s for the truth of a culture, of a city and society. To find the day to day rituals of other countries, the local experiences and pictures of reality in its roughest form. After all, travelling isn’t about showing picturesque beaches but how a community has grown and learned to thrive with what they have.

So browse, listen and read because life is all about seeing a bit outside our own bubble before our time comes to an end.