Hungry in Vancouver

img_6403We try not to repeat restaurants on holiday, but sometimes you find a place so good you simply have to go back — Miku and Kirin are two such places.

Miku offers amazing aburi sushi, or sear-flamed sushi. Hubs and I both got the premium sushi lunch and also shared an extra order of salmon oshi sushi. It was every bit as good as the last time. Little mum had the “Miku Zen” as she’s not that keen on raw fish and it proved to be a perfect balance of cooked dishes and sushi.

If you decide to try Kirin Restaurant be sure to have reservations, as the restaurant is incredibly popular amongst visitors and locals alike. It is arguably the best Chinese seafood restaurant in the Vancouver area. We haven’t had one dish there that hasn’t been amazing, and although the restaurant is insanely busy the staff are all incredibly on point. The deep fried crab is our absolute favourite.

If you aren’t able to get a reservation at Kirin, another very good alternative is Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant (the spotted prawns above are from SSW). The style of cooking is similar to Kirin but at an ever-so-slightly lower price-point.

I was a little skeptical about eating on Granville Island, but I’m glad we ended our quick jaunt through Vancouver at The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant (hmm…can you tell we’re massive fans of seafood?). We were all happy with the great view and beautifully prepared fish. Not to mention, their clam chowder was surprisingly nomworthy — the best we’ve had outside of San Francisco (Sam’s Chowder House is still the best).


Monkey Does Vancouver (Part Deux)

Nearly 2 years since our salmon fishing adventure, we finally returned to Vancouver for a taste of summer in beautiful British Columbia. We were blessed with some gorgeous weather (apparently it had been a bit gloomy before we arrived) and enjoyed a stroll around Stanley Park and Canada Place, where we experienced FlyOver Canada, this time with lil’ mum in tow. FlyOver was as exhilarating and magnificent as the first time and got me and hub hub all choked up.img_6299img_6305We also added Vancouver Lookout to our itinerary, which concluded all of the touristy stuff we could handle in one visit. One ticket gives you multiple entries to the tower so we were able to get both great day and night views (sadly we don’t have a proper camera at the moment so you’ll have to make do with my iPhone6 pics).

We visited various parks around North and West Vancouver–a little beach action at Ambleside Park and a tree-covered hike and scenic views at Lighthouse Park.

On another day we visited Whistler, BC, so Monkey can finally say he visited Olympic Village. On the drive up we saw rainbows and waterfalls and tried to imagine the area covered in snow (it was so hot and humid we nearly melted). We simply couldn’t get enough of all the natural beauty. Thank you Canada for being so lovely and welcoming as always!



Lavender Dilly Dilly

Little mum has been banging on about Sequim’s Lavender Festival for a year and because we knew it would be completely out of the way of anywhere we’d fancy going, I secretly hoped she’d forget about it this summer. But she didn’t. And sometimes you have to put others first. So we booked the only room we could find and drove 4.5 hours to the middle of nowhere to a very sad and dodgy motel in the centre of town (it seems people take their lavender seriously around this part of the woods, so all the hotels were booked).

To be fair, the drive up was actually quite lovely — Pacific Northwest summers really are gorgeous — we loved being near the water, as well as all the lush emerald trees. The best part of the journey was when we stumbled upon a lovely little oyster shack, Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, and devoured a scrumptious meal of raw and bbq’ed oysters, crab cakes, and salmon soup (it was tasty, but the Finns do it better) — we essentially tried everything on the menu. It was heaven. I always thought Hama Hama oysters were small and sweet but apparently they’re of the larger variety and most suitable for throwing on the grill. img_6203img_6201Before we set off I knew this was going to be one of those trips where the journey would be more meaningful than the destination. We also incorrectly assumed that the lavender festival was a special time of year where the larger lavender farms would be free to the public, but the opposite was true. It’s the only time of year that there is a fee to visit the farms. We had also hoped the lavender farms would resemble the wild lavender fields we found in New Zealand, but even the largest farm seemed small in comparison.Having said all that, the farmed lavender was lovely in its own right. We appreciated the lavender tourist tat (hope G likes his lavender earl grey tea) and the entire town smelled of sweet lavender. I’m not sure I could recommend the festival itself but if you like small towns and lavender scented and flavoured things, then perhaps you should give it a go!

A Taste of France 

I wish I could say that we just returned from a cheeky holiday in Paris, but when you cannot visit the places you love the second best thing is to bring the colours and flavours of those places to your doorstep. I’m actually not a fan of macarons — the few times I’ve had them from Ladurée they’ve been ‘nice’ but still just too sweet for my liking. That said, I have a penchant for things in pretty packages so I was excited to discover that Ladurée had made its way to Vancouver, BC.

Although I was a bit surprised at the scant selection of sweet treats (other than macarons) available in store I was happy to come away with a beautiful box of chocolate-covered macarons, which have since proven to be worth every moment on the lips. I highly recommend these as gifts since we all know macarons don’t keep for more than a day and the chocolate-covered macarons travel quite well. They’re much less sweet than fresh macarons and the balance between the chocolate shell and filling is just marvelous! Can you tell I’ll be ordering more come Christmas?

Do you have a favourite chocolatier or patisserie? Another go-to for me is La Maison du Chocolat, but I would love to expand my horizons.


Moomin Moments (belated Midsummer Edition)

Thanks to FB, I was reminded that a year ago on Midsummer’s Day we enjoyed a late morning stroll around Katajanokka island before lunch.

This was after an evening of cycling around Helsinki in the rain on some super hip bicycles from the hotel. Helsinki is an incredibly bike friendly city–gorgeous paths with lush green parks and lovely views along the water. The rain (and odd time for a bike ride) kept the would-be pedestrian ridden paths clear and we essentially got a private tour of the entire city.

And before we got into our Citroen to begin part deux of our Finnish Adventure. All incredibly beautiful memories that make me long to be in Finland again.

Here are some literal Moomin Moments that have made my summer brighter. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer and make the most of what remains! xoxo


Seattle’s Central Library

One of Monkey’s favourite sights in Seattle was actually the city’s central library, a magnificent 11-story glass and steel building located in downtown Seattle. It was wonderful to see such a beautiful, clean, public space for all to enjoy. When I think of libraries, I usually think of old, dusty archives. But it was refreshing to see all the colour and light, void of the typical musty smell of old books, with plenty of places to sit and read, as well as to have a cuppa tea (or in Seattle’s case, coffee).

What do you think of when you hear the word library? Do you have a favourite?

Pike Place

If you know me, you know that I love markets–especially ones filled with heaps of tasty treats. London’s Borough Market and Rusty’s in Cairns are my all-time favourites. And now I’m happy to add Pike Place to the list. Monkey could not get enough of Pike Place so we actually visited the market twice in one weekend.I’m always in the mood for tea and crumpets so I was chuffed to find “The Crumpet Shop” near the main market. I wish I could rave about the crumpets, but they weren’t anything to write home about. The menu offered more of an American interpretation of crumpets and there were a lot of sandwich type toppings (ham, tomato, ricotta cheese, etc.). In the end I opted for one of the simpler crumpets on the menu: a toasted crumpet with butter and lemon curd.
Although it can get a bit touristy Pike Place is well worth a visit. We loved all the fresh produce and seafood and other small cafes and food stalls around Pike Place. We happily sampled fresh local and imported fruits, smoked meats, and had fresh scallop sashimi. There were also shops that sold tourist tat and some vintage shops on the lower level floors (which smelled a bit pongy), so it certainly is a market that has “something for everyone”.I’m drooling just looking at all the delicious fruit the market had to offer. The muscat grapes were delish and we also got some Washington grown cherries.I still miss my old fishmongers in Islington and was thus excited to see so many varieties of fresh fish and seafood on display. Have you visited Pike Place? Do you have a favourite market? 

Seattle’s Best Parks

We finally made it up to “The Emerald City” for a glorious extended weekend. The city is surrounded by lush green trees and massive lakes and reminded me a bit of summer in Helsinki. It’s one of the more beautiful cities in the United States, if not the most beautiful, that we’ve seen. I would describe it as San Francisco and Vancouver, BC morphed into one.

Seattle is home to over 6,000 acres of parks. Although we barely scratched the surface of said parks, here are some snaps of our favourites.

Gas Works Park

Featuring an old gas works plant that manufactured gas from coal and later converted to crude oil, Gas Works Park is a great spot for a picnic and stunning views of the city.

Kerry Park

Sitting opposite some million dollar homes, Kerry Park offers the best view of downtown Seattle on a clear day–allowing photographers to capture the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier in one frame. Apparently Mt. Rainier only shows itself 10% of the year so we were lucky to see it from all angles the entire weekend. One definitely gets great views at Kerry Park, but I kind of feel bad for the residents, as the neighbourhood is swarming with tourists any time the sun is out.

It’s not every day that the mystical and stunning Mt. Rainier makes an appearance. A great part of our trip consisted of us standing in awe of the mountain, which looked like it was suspended in air, almost like a backdrop on a television set. Similar to Mt. Fuji, knowing that we were in Seattle during one of the rare times Mt. Rainier was visible made it all the more special.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Another great park with stunning views. We appreciated that there were separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, which made for a much more relaxing walking experience. The attention to such detail really made Seattle stand out for us. Even the bike lanes throughout town seemed better designed than any other “bike-friendly” city.


Tulips Aren’t Just for the Dutch

One day Monkey will tiptoe through the tulip fields in Holland. But this spring, he shall take in the vast array of natural and farmed beauty that the PNW has to offer.

img_5098Tucked away in Woodburn, Oregon, you’ll find the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, home to a vibrant field of colourful tulips and daffodils. While the farm isn’t massive by Dutch standards, Mt. Hood serves as a stunning backdrop to the bright bulbs on a clear sunny day (sadly my ickle iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice — it’s much better and bigger in the flesh). Apparently there are several other tulip farms up toward Washington State and Canada. If you know of any prime flower viewing spots, please let us know!



Sakura Surprise

Ever since I was a wee girl I have been captivated by the fragile beauty of sakura (cherry blossoms), and I wished I could somehow preserve the soft pink petals forever. Living in Japan for many years, I learned to appreciate the small celebrations that took place with every change in the seasons. I always looked forward to spring as I could spend hours, day or night, under the cherry blossom trees.


Outside of Japan, London has Kew Gardens, Washington DC has Tidal Basin, and New York has the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was nice to discover that you can also get your cherry blossom fix in Portland (Oregon) along Waterfront Park. The blossoms had pretty much reached their peak when I stumbled upon them and were gone after a few days, so I’m grateful that I got a chance to enjoy them on one special spring day.

Do you have a favourite cherry blossom viewing spot outside of Japan?  How about in Japan?