Saturday, March 27, 2010

The East Cost Round Up

I'm finally back in Sydney but have been too busy to finish posting about the holidays... Although I've been back for less than a week, the holiday already feels like such a distant memory!

New York was such a big change after the quiet small town of Whitehorse... surprisingly it was not as chaotic as I thought it would be. Sure it was busy and cars on the road all seemed to honk their horns for no apparent reason at all.

The bright lights of Times Square

I loved how organised the whole city was, the map looked like a nice even grid. I also loved how alive the whole city was, lights were everywhere, shops were open til mid night and the restaurant next to our hotel served meals until 4am. It feels like you'd never run out of things to do!

We visited central park, saw the Statue of Libery up close, experienced Time Square at night and went to Top of the Rock where we stood frozen outside but got to take in the glittering lights of the busy city.

One of the highlights of this stop was lunch at Jean Georges where the food was absolutely amazing and the dessert even better! I'm a big fan of pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and his book... so I was so excited to be able to get to get the chance to have one of his dessert four plays. All the flavours just seem to have a party in your mouth :) I didn't take any photos since it was quite an upscale place and I was too shy to whip out my big SLR... :(

And one of my favourite places was The City Bakery where they served their hot chocolate in bowls with a home made marshmallow. It was rich, thick and creamy - YUM.

I want that marshmallow curtain!

Unfortunately on the last day it rained non stop and we found ourselves drenched everywhere we went. It was then I realised that although the city was organised, there isn't much they did about overhead coverings.

We made our way to Grimaldi's that night but was extremely cold and wet from the heavy rain and strong winds. Despite all that, the place was buzzing with people. A friend had told us we HAD to have the pizza there. I'm not a pizza fan but it was good. The crust especially was nice and crunchy and the cannoli was big and rich... yum!

The next day, we dragged our bags through the rain (it was actually heavier today) and headed for the bus to Washington DC. It was gloomy and drizzled all 3 days we were there. It was kind of depressing really. But we did get to see the white house and a couple of museums.

Then we were off to Orlando where we soon realised that it is impossible to get anywhere without a car!

We visited the Kennedy Space Centre where learned that NASA was much more than just space travel. It was amazing to find out the number of things we use today that NASA is responsible for - the microwave, flat screen TVs, pace makers...etc

 Mr Gator looking at lunch...

The next day we were off to Epcot to explore the world. I must admit it wasn't as much fun as Magic Kingdom as there were less rides, but we did did get to eat heaps of good food at each of the different worlds :D

But alas, it's back to reality now.... more cake posts to come soon!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Magic of The Yukon - Whitehorse: Days 7 to 10

I've been entranced by the northern lights ever since I first saw pictures of the magical colourful swirls in the night sky. Experiencing the northern lights immediately made it on my list of things to do before I die. I just could not imagine what it would be like to look up into a pitch black sky and then suddenly see it light up with red, green and blue streaks. Turns out, it's not like that at all. That's not to say I was disappointed, I was still amazed and it is one of the best experiences I've ever had. I'm still unsure of the science behind the whole thing but I'm sure wikipedia will explain it well.

So this whole trip to the US was basically based around the northern lights. After extensive research we finally picked the Northern Tales tour at Whitehorse and as we headed there from Vancouver I really did not know what to expect. I knew it would be freezing and it would be a small town but other than that I had no idea what it would be like.

Whitehorse was not as small as I expected, it did have one or two main streets and it was freezing. On our first night, we traveled about 30 mins out of town to an open field because the lights can only be seen away from the city lights and when we stepped out of the van, the whole night sky was sparkling with stars which was a magical sight. Something that we have never experienced in Sydney.

The whole group of us were all excited (all of us were newbies) and after a brief introduction to the cabin (where we can warm up) and the direction to focus our gaze on we all started walking out in the field and settling in, setting up our cameras and staring out into the north. It was dark, cold and windy and we stood there, stared ahead and waited... and waited. But the lights never came that night.

We did get lucky on the second night and as soon as we were picked up by our guides that night we were told the lights were already out so we needed to hurry! As we drove out of town and along the dark Alaska Highway, the glow from the north started to appear and the lights started getting brighter. It looked like a glowing purple blanket covering the top of the trees, slowing creeping downwards. We all scrambled out of the van and the photographers (or budding, in my case) got their cameras ready, the other people just stood, frozen in the cold but enjoying the glowing sky and waves of white swirls.

On the third day we were lucky to be able to experience the winter activity package - a mixture of dog mushing, horse sleigh ride, snow mobile and tubing. It was so much fun and our hosts were so welcoming and full of tales about The Yukon. 

My favourite part of the day was visiting the dog kennels and getting them ready for the ride. They were all so excited, running around, jumping on their kennels, barking and wagging their tales in delight. It was as if they were all calling out 'pick me, pick me!'. 

He's so excited, look how high he's jumping!
If I ever go back again, I will definitely do the full day of dog mushing, where you can actually bring the dogs out by yourself. But as an introduction, the activity package gave us a good taste of everything.

Our third night of northern lights viewing was not as lucky. They were out and we could see them glowing, but it was also pretty cloudy so they were all hidden behind the clouds. We were teased with the moving glow behind the clouds but as we stood there waiting for the clouds to move, we slowly got discouraged and went to sit around the camp fire and eventually headed into the cabin. The rest of the night was basically the same and finally our guide decided that it was time to go and started the van. Just minutes after he did that, the lights started to get bright again and began to dance over the clouds. 

We all rushed to get our cameras, braved the cold, and staked our place. The lights didn't last long, and after a couple of photos, they faded again. A sign that it was time to go home...

We were due to leave to New York the next day, so I was a bit sad to leave Whitehorse. The place was so relaxing and welcoming. Plus nothing keeps you more grounded than standing alone in a dark field of snow and staring up at a million stars. It makes me grateful for everything I've got and also reminds me of what a small, teeny, tiny part of this universe I am.

In case you are wondering, we were usually picked up at 9.30pm and didn't return to our hotel until about 2.30am each night. It only really got to minus 10, so while all of us were freezing, our guides were were wearing not much at all... they were used to minus 40.

Friday, March 5, 2010

From San Francisco to Vancouver

After about 24 hours of traveling due to snow storms and delayed flights we finally arrived at San Francisco, exhausted but excited about the prospect of a new city and the start of our holiday.

Day 1: Headed down to Union Square and had a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We've learned that the serving sizes here are big so we shared a lunch special and a cheesecake but sadly had to admit defeat halfway through our red velvet cheesecake. It was so delicious and I felt like I had committed a horrible crime by leaving some behind :(

Hot caramel apple cider - YUM 

The seagulls were at least 3 times as big as the ones in Sydney! 

Stephanie's Red Velvet Cheesecake. Dense, Rich and Delicious. 


Day 2: Headed to Fishermans Wharf and got to see some of the famous sea lions. They all looked so happy sun baking. We then biked across the Golden Gate Bridge which was exhausting but worthwhile... we were sore for a couple of days after though!

There is a bunch of heart sculptures around San Francisco to support the hospital.

Had lunch at In n Out... unfortunately we forgot to research the secret menu before we got there!

As seen on Full House :)

Day 3: Discovered Alcatraz today, there was more walking and more hills. We eventually gave up and decided to take the tram home and got free financial advice from a homeless man lecturing the poor girl next to us.

This is the cell they use to put the super bad people. They would have to sit in there in the dark.

Day 4: Headed to Vancouver and wandered around the city and got to do some shopping.

Day 5: Discovered Granville Island, all the talented designers and the wonderful food. They had a food market with lots of cool new foods we had not seen before but have only heard of in cook books.

Beautiful chai tea at Agro Cafe

Salad with toasted almonds, feta, sun dried tomatoes and a light sweet dressing.

Lunch at Agro Cafe - a toasted turkey and cranberry sandwich on a deliciously crunchy organic sourdough with a side of yam fries.

The bright yellow Aurora apple we bought from the markets. Sadly it tastes just like a red apple. But it was still pretty!

At night we caught up with a old high school friend -  I had not seen him in over 10 years! So it was great catching up and he gave us a fantastic car tour of the city and Stanley Park.

Day 6: It's hard to believe it's been almost a week since we left. After some googling I found a patisserie near our hotel so we headed there in the morning. Ganache had so many amazing looking desserts (each one prettier than the next!) it was so hard for us to choose... And they tasted as good as they looked. 

Chocolat-Banane - dark chocolate mousse, caramelized bananas, praline crunch, hazelnut dacquoise

Here, you try some!

 To the right is the Chocolat Gingembre - milk chocolate ginger mascarpone cream, blood orange gelĂ©e, dark chocolate praline crunch, chocolate madeleine biscuit

Being such a big Adriano Zumbo fan, I find that I now have such high standards when it comes to patisserie desserts. They not only have to look great but they also have to be unique in terms of flavour combination and I have been hard pressed to find anyone that I rate on the same level in Sydney. But Ganache is definitely on the same level, the creations are not so crazy and out there as Zumbo's but they are different and unique and the ones we tried were delicious! Not to mention they also had lots of chocolates and cakes on display. I could just spend hours in this store :)

Look at the macaron tower!

Tomorrow we are headed to Whitehorse where it is currently minus 10 degrees.... Hopefully we don't freeze to bits!

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