22 Favourite Moments

22

Looking back on the year is one of my favourite things to do. I’m turning 23 today, and as always I feel totally blessed and happy to be so fortunate in my life. I have so much love, such good friends, a kind and caring family, and I have been lucky enough to experience so many wonderful opportunities. It’s so easy to get bogged down in everyday problems or stress about the future, but even as I write this, I realize how lovely my life truly is in the grand scheme of things. I also realize that this list makes it sound like all I had this year were amazing moments, but I don’t want to glamorize my life – that’s definitely not true. I’ve had my fair share of hard, painful, challenging, lost and lonely moments this year too. But when I look back in twenty years, these extraordinary and extraordinarily ordinary moments are the ones I want to remember. So here’s to my 22 favourite memories from the past year, in no particular order. 

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Swimming in the sea looking back on the cliffs of Positano with friends from Montreal who were serendipitiously in town on the same day I was. I remember marvelling in the beauty of my surroundings and at the incredibly beautiful synchronicity of the world. 

The road trip I took when I moved home from Montreal to Toronto with one of my best friends. I’d been up almost the whole night before, staring out at the blurry neon lights of the city from her apartment, and I was nervy. I drove us home and I was a bundle of emotions and kind of jumpy but we listened to a lot of top 40 and had singalongs and stopped to eat onion rings outside of a highway rest stop in the late afternoon light, and it was perfect.

22-5

Being on a boat with another best friend in a little cove in the Adriatic sea. We sunbathed and went for long swims and ate crackers and chips and drank cool beer and listened to Drake and the songs of a guy I’d dated and the White Panda, all off of my iPod without speakers and we giggled a lot. We felt like Beyoncé, except on a very small boat and with less good snacks. Also on that gorgeous trip: the time we followed the sound of a ringing bell and found a donkey

Finally nailing the balance of a headstand after so many failed attempts (and crashes and bangs). 

22-9

The first time I found the beach here in Busan. It was this mix of relief and joy and it made me feel calm and alive and refreshed. All I could think about was how blessed I felt to be spending a year only a fifteen minute walk from this kind of paradise.  

The afternoon I spent with Laura in Toronto, eating delicious vegan food from Hogtown and recording the podcast in the sunshine at Christie Pits Park, playing with the leaves, and people-watching. 

22-2

Seeing my family, including my little Grandma, in the crowd at my convocation ceremony. 

22-1

The drive with one of my best friends all along the coastal highway that we took to Whistler. We ate strawberries and sweet potato chips, listened to Lana Del Ray and Beyoncé (of course), and I must have exclaimed about a hundred times about how beautiful our surroundings were. Really, my whole trip to Vancouver makes the list. 

A long, long, impromptu, funny, refreshing girl talk session with my lovely friends from high school on the bed in my childhood room.

22-3

The outdoor barbecue my Dad threw for my going-away-to-Europe party in his backyard. My grandparents drove down for it and we grilled and ate mangoes and laughed and it was so wonderful to have all my loved ones around.

Ringing in the New Year by making a mountain of homemade sushi with my family and then going to a hot yoga intention-setting workshop. I was in downward dog when it became 2014! 

22-6

Eating a little picnic complete with baguette, cheese, tomatoes and a bottled peach cocktail on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice. Actually, my whole time in Venice was beautiful, simple, and lovely. Other great memories: eating spaghetti while listening to one of the classical quartets play to a very small crowd one drizzly, rainy night was another wonderful moment. Finding the gorgeous bookstore that sits right on the water and is stacked to the ceiling. Drinking an aperol spritz on a stoop and watching the rain. 

Getting to learn how to make gelato at the Gelato University in Bologna was so much fun (and super tasty). I loved Bologna so much, all the time I spent there was a dream. 

22-4

The whole time I spent in Cinque Terre was also a dream. I watched sunsets, ate great food, hiked gorgeous trails and soaked up so much beauty. 

Watching the most incredible sunset from the balcony of a monastery in Florence, eating “crema” flavored gelato.  I bought the homemade gelato from a monk, after I’d listened to them singing and praying in the crypt of a beautiful church. 

22-10

Meeting my Grandma in Wales for a week. That time we spent together and with family was so very special. 

Pintxos-bar-hopping with new friends in San Sebastian. One of the more delicious nights of my trip. 

22-7

The first time I watched Iya Traore’s soccer freestyle show from the grass beside the steps of Sacré Coeur cathedral in Paris. I had been feeling lonely and sad (it was my first day of travelling solo) but seeing his show made me feel so inspired and alive and connected. Also in Paris: watching the finish line of the Tour de FranceLearning how to dance West-Coast swing with new friends on the quais de la Seine. Eating a picnic on the grounds of a very old castle. Meeting up with my high school exchange student after 7 years. 

Toad man. I will always be grateful for the few months I lived at home after Europe (yes, mom, really!). Even though those months were challenging and painful sometimes, they also held so many beautiful, hilarious, everyday moments I shared with my family. 

22-8

The evening I spent at les estivales de Montpellier – their Friday night summer street festival. Fresh flowers, good food, live music, beautiful sunset. 

The day I spent with my mom before I flew to Europe. We went hiking on the beautiful trails of Mount Nemo and then we went walking along the shore and down to the pier. We were both so nervous, but it was such a beautiful day. We had a similarly nervy day the day before I left for Korea – all we did was go to Shoppers Drug Mart for things I didn’t really need and then made fresh spring rolls at our kitchen table. 

22-11

My lovely going awaygook party with the Korean flag cupcakes and the beautiful fruit platters that my beautiful sister cut for me, with lots of loved ones wishing me well. 

Honorable mentions:

  • All the times I went for gelato. There were so many gelatos this year, and all of them incredibly delicious. Examples: 1, 2, 3
  • All the times I watched the sunset. There were so many sunsets this year, and all of them stunningly gorgeous. Examples: 1, 2, 3

Truly, the longer I spent thinking about this year, the more special moments I could think of. It was really hard to keep this list to only 22 things (you can see by the way I grouped several moments together to count as only one!), and for that I am incredibly grateful. Imagine that, I had too many wonderful moments this year to fit onto only one list! I love that. I love life. Here’s to 23! 

 You can see my 21 favourite moments from last year here

Venice, Italy

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Venice is a really special place. I had heard mixed reviews from other travellers before I arrived, but I totally fell in love with the city. I was there towards the tail end of tourist season (mid-September), but I can’t imagine what the place is like in peak season, since it still seemed fairly busy to me. But it’s easy to escape the tourists a little bit and get lost in Venice – in fact, I tried to get lost intentionally because I heard that’s how you get to discover some of the real character of the place. The fact is that Venice is a pretty touristy place, especially in terms of restaurants, but it also has lots of beautiful churches and cute shops and tons of gorgeous canals and crumbly buildings, you just have to get off the beaten path a bit to find them.

I was only in Venice for two days, but I really enjoyed my time there. I spent it wandering the streets, taking the vaporetto (water bus) up and down the Grand Canal, touring the beautiful St. Mark’s Cathedral, listening to the music of the string quartets playing at the cafés in the square, eating a picnic dinner on the banks of the canal, enjoying delicious gelato, and taking pictures of all the beautiful buildings, boats and waterways. It was lovely.

Favourites:

  • Vaporetto no.1: this water bus line is slow, but it takes you all the way down the beautiful Grand Canal and the ride costs about a sixth of the price of a gondola ride so it’s a great alternative on a budget :)
  • Acqua Alta: this is the most beautiful, charming, magical bookstore I’ve ever visited. Books are everywhere – stacked to the ceiling, filling entire boats, forming steps up to look out over the canal. The store is right on the water, and it’s amazing.
  • Drink an Aperol Spritz: it seems to be the drink of choice in Venice! It’s bright orange and super tasty.

The Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast was my last real blast of summer. After my time there, I made my way North (I’m now in beautiful Wales), my tan faded and I started wearing long pants. But even after a summer as long and as beautiful as the one I’ve had, I was still so appreciative of the (mostly) great weather on the coast.

I spent three nights each in Sorrento and Positano, and I made daytrips to Pompeii (totally amazing!), Mount Vesuvius (slightly less exciting) and the town of Amalfi. I also hiked the totally gorgeous Path of the Gods which winds through the mountains looking down on the coast.

For Sorrento I was staying in a big hostel in a small town that was one stop away from Sorrento on the little old train they have running all the way between Naples and Sorrento. Sant Agnello, where I stayed, was the second to last stop on the line, and there wasn’t really much in the town besides a restaurant, a bar, a supermarket, a couple hotels, and the nicest hostel (in terms of facilities) I stayed in on my trip. It was huge, spacious, had fierce air conditioning and ample storage, and very modern facilities…it was like staying in a shared hotel room. After a really bad experience in hostels in Rome, I was very relieved to have a clean room.

Not that I was there much. I spent most of my time in the town of Sorrento (which is very picturesque), exploring the small streets packed with stores and restaurants and enjoying the view from the lookout points. I’d met a nice German couple in Rome and we ended up hanging out in Sorrento as well! They were also vegetarians and we had a delicious meal at a vegetarian restaurant and enjoyed one of the several great ice cream places in Sorrento.

Then I was off to Positano, which I liked a bit better. Sorrento is beautiful, but it’s very touristy. Positano is touristy too, but the way it’s built into the cliff face means you have stunning views from wherever you are (Sorrento is built up on top of the cliff so you kind of have to seek the views out a bit) and it’s such a magical place with its twisty windy roads and adorable little in-town shuttle bus and all the hundreds of steps up and down to get from one road to another or to get to the beach. My hostel didn’t have as great facilities, but it had a huge balcony with stunning views and a great big wooden table where all the guests would gather so it was so easy to make friends.

By sheer coincidence, some friends from home were in Positano on my first day! It was lovely to see friendly faces and we spent a nice day at the beach and having food and wine on the balcony at their great bed and breakfast room. One of the other days, I took the bus (which whips around corners beeping its horn – such a fun experience) up to the start of the Path of the Gods and had such a nice morning hiking through the mountains enjoying the gorgeous views. We saw a herd of mountain goats with an adorable sheepdog herding them around, as well as a big beautiful horse whose owner was a hilarious shirtless old man who spoke very little English. After tackling the 1700 (yes, 1700) steps down (walking downstairs is harder than it seems!!!) we were exhausted and sweaty, but it was such a good walk.

All in all, I had a great few days relaxing on the coast. It was a great break in between my time in Rome and Venice.

Favourites: not many to name for the Amalfi coast! It’s mostly just small restaurants and to be honest I didn’t pay much attention to their names. And there was only one hostel in each city: Seven Hostel in Sant Agnello and Hostel Brikette in Positano. And I loved the vegetarian restaurant Mondo Bio in Sorrento.


Rome, Italy

I thought Rome was absolutely incredible. I was constantly in awe of how well-preserved and how ever-present the history is in the city. You can be waiting to cross a busy street with an office building on your left and some not even remotely famous but still super fascinating ruins on your right. When I told my mom I was going to the Colosseum, she asked if I had to make a long journey to get there. Nope, it's two stops on the metro from where I was staying. It's totally incredible.
 
My time in Rome was a bit of a whirlwind. I walked for hours on end every day just trying to soak it all up and was understandably tired every night. It's just such a big, impressive, interesting city. It was one of those places I loved instantly and I didn't feel like it was overrated. At one point I remember thinking “how can anyone not like Rome?!”. I was lucky to be there as tourist season was winding down (though it was still packed with tourists) and when the weather wasn't quite so hot (though it was still very hot some days). I can't imagine what it's like in the middle of summer, and I'm glad I was there when I was.
 
I loved how history and modernity were just smushed up against each other everywhere you looked – it makes for such a surreal, fascinating city. It's touristy, but there's a reason it's touristy: the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, St. Peter's cathedral and the Sistine Chapel are all larger-than-life and beautiful, and it is completely understandable why so many people come so far to see them. It was a really special experience.
 
Favourites:
  • Enoteca Provincia Romana: this place is on the fancy side, but they sell a selection of fresly-made sandwiches to go for $5. I went two afternoons and got a yummy, cheap sandwich which I ate while sitting next to some beautiful ruins.
  • Il gelato di San Crispino: this shop (now a small chain of shops) was apparently mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love, but I had it recommended to me by a fellow traveller. Really delicious and authentic gelato in amazing flavours.
  • Il Vittoriano: this beautiful building totally took my breath away when I first saw it. It's huge! It's free to climb up all the gorgeous steps and go inside, and the views are really great. You could also choose to take an expensive elevator ride to the top of the building (my budget elected not to) where I've heard the views are even better.
  • The Roman Forum!! I was more excited to see the Colosseum when I got to Rome, but I actually found it a bit underwhelming. The Roman Forum on the other hand I hadn't really heard much about before I came to Rome, but is now one of my favourite things I've seen on this trip. It's beautiful, and you can really get a feel for how things might have looked back in the (Roman) day. I wish I'd had more time there. Another tip: visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum on different days, there's too much to see. Also, a great time to go is around 5PM, when the crowds have thinned out and the sun is less glaring.