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Petra

A few years ago I was addicted to the history channel. They used to show this breath-taking shoes of places all over the world–old, historic places that were so beautiful and interesting.  One of those places was Petra, in Jordan.  This lovely place is carved out of rocks, surrounded by mountains and filled with gorges and secret passage ways!  Maybe its the writer in me but how has no one thought of writing a secret agent book that’s set in Petra?

But I digress.

Petra is a Nabataean city to the south of Jordan founded around the 6th Century BC. It was an important center for trade and commerce until a major earthquake destroyed most of the city and crippled the water system around AD 663. It was abandoned after Saladin’s conquest in 1189.

Today, Petra is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the NEW seven wonders of the world!

According to wikitravel:

Entry Ticket to Petra costs 90 JD (=127 USD) for those who are Day-Visitors to Jordan (i.e. those tourists staying in Israel or Egypt who will spend the day in Petra and return without spending the night in Jordan). Tourists (overnight and cruise visitors) pay 50 JD (=70 USD) for 1 day’s access to Petra, 55 JD for 2 days or 60 JD for 3 days. Students have to pay the full price, unless they have a valid Jordanian University ID; then the entry fee is 1 JD.

Photo from Arabian Business

Photo from PR Log

Photo from Famous Wonders

Photo: Candles in front of Al Khazneh in Petra, Jordan

Photo from National Geographic

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Thailand – Who knew?

Long boat in Thailand

From asiaroom.com

So, I am trying to write a short story for Harlequin’s Digital First Erotic Vacation Line and I am researching different countries to see where I could have my heroine visit. I googled Exotic Vacation Location and this website showed up that listed the top ten exotic vacations we can all afford. Thailand was on that list I thought about it.

Thailand isn’t the first place I would think of being beautiful. Maybe its because of the stuff you read in the news or see on television but I never saw it as a vacation location. Then I started looking at the pictures and all I can see are pristine beaches, beautiful green waters, ancient temples with statutes – it was the most spectacular views and floating markets. This is such a beautiful place – such wonderful intricacies that is breath-taking. Well sure, there are drawbacks but are they so much that I would never visit this lovely place? I think not!

Photo from The Second Globe

Photo from Travel The World

Photo from Travel to World

Photo from 4photo

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[Foodie] Springrolls – Yonge and Dundas

A little over a month ago, after hearing of my intent on becoming a foodie, my friend Jo, Jo-napped me and took me to this wonderful restaurant called SPRING ROLLS here in Toronto. It’s located in the AMC building right on the intersection of Yonge and Dundas and can be accessed from the Dundas station.  At first I thought it was another one of those small, Chinese restaurants in the middle of nowhere. I mean if you go through China Town here or the Korean neighbourhood here in Toronto, you can crash into some very spectacular eats. Some of these places doesn’t look like anything much from the outside but once you sit down to the food, you wonder how in the world you missed this place before. But then I think and these small mom and pop places survive because their food is so good so the regulars keep going back! Anyway, I digress.

Beef in Mushroom Sauce – Omnom!

SPRING ROLLS is cutting edge – how? Well when you go in, you are seated and someone come and hands you an iPad. No, you can’t take it home – I asked lol. What this tablet is for, is ordering. After they show you how to use it (it’s not hard really) they leave you to it and you pick all the food you want for that moment (did I mention it is all you can eat?) then hit a button that says “call server” it then says “Your server will be right with you.”

The server comes, tap tap tap at the tablet and ZOOM! Your order is off to the kitchen!

Shrimps.

The servers are polite. They walk around with smiles and are ready to help even if they weren’t assigned to your table. They never once said “I’m not at your table let me get your server.” No matter who it was, if you called them and asked them for something, they get it for you. What a concept!

When the food shows up, they are so beautiful! Everything is put together and the smell from our table made my mouth water.  I even sampled Octopus Balls (which I will be writing about in another blog post coming soon).

I tried so many different things I’ve never had before-including Octopus Balls which requires a whole different post all together. I even ate Mushrooms – which if you know me personally, I don’t do mushroom in ANY form. But a foodie has to be brave and try food as long as it’s not alive and wiggling I will definitely try it.

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Fantasy Trip – India

I think I have a love/hate relationship with India.

I love the food, the culture, the music, the movies–but recently with stories of people dying after being gang-raped my heart has been broken and the wonder that India held for me

dwindled considerably.  But even with that, I still cannot get ever the completely draw this country has on me. Each time I watch a movie, or documentary or speak with friends and look at their pictures, it amazes me at the yearning I feel for a place I’ve never been. It is as if I am homesick for this country with its spices, mysteries, superstitions, food and people that speaks languages as old as time. I am intrigued by the customs, though some of them are old enough and cruel enough to break your heart. I love the history of the Rajputs and the Gods. And these are just SOME of the things. I wish to be surrounded by.

I am curious by the way things are done there on a daily basis–things from the development of friendships to falling in love. Do the girls there have girl’s nights and do they laugh and talk over dinner while talking about boys. Sure, life is hard for most there but after all, women are women, young girls are young girls and we all giggle and talk about boys no matter our socio-economic background. I’d like to sit down and talk to people, ask questions from elders and attempt at learning the sitar. I want to wear a sari, with beads and jewels and dance in the streets during holi while throwing colored powder at people.

The Taj Mahal

I want to stand close to the Taj Mahal and make a wish – sure that may sound strange but it has always been a dream of mine. If I could touch the building while making the wish then that would be the most perfect wish come through ever! But that may be too much to ask.

After all, this place is such a beautiful, mystical view that it cannot help being magical!

Here are some beautiful pictures that might show you why I am so intrigued.

Holi in India

The Mahabharata

Ganesha

Shiva

Women in colours – India

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Day After Thanksgiving Blues

Recently, Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving. Like always, I worked but I managed to swing some family time through it all. It was lovely for I got to spend it with my favorite uncle! But aside from that, there was plenty of food where it would be strange to whip out the camera and snap pictures. Besides, my aunt got to the turkey with the electric knife before I could sneak pictures. But the sentiments here is the same. Thanksgiving is a time for us to get together with family and friends–those we care about and celebrate each other. For Christians, it is to thank God for life and happiness and for everything we take for granted. For others, it is a time to take off works and celebrate our families and friends-those we don’t get to see as often as we would like. There is good food, laughter (I hope) and a sense that we belong to a bigger part of a puzzle in our lives, a glad whole.  There is tons of food–turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potato, veggies, snacks–but if you’re from the Caribbean there is a slew of native food we cook like Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas, Roasted Corn, Greens and that’s just a part of it. We eat until we are ready to pop needing someone to desperately rub our tummies.

Then the next morning you wake up and you open the fridge and thing what in the world am I going to do with all this food? Well, aside from the obvious that is. But lets face it, if your family is anything like mine, there is no way you can eat all the food, jammed into that fridge before it starts going bad and as a person, there is only so much turkey you can eat before you start gagging at the thought of more turkey. So what do you do?

Here are some tips to help you out.

  1. Before your dinner party, go out and buy some Tupperware. When your guests are leaving, ask them if they’d like to take some food with them and give them what they want, within reason, to take with them in one of the containers you bought. Sure, it may be a little pricey but it’s worth it. You won’t have a fridge about to burst at the seams and food going bad on you and your guests has lunch or snack or dinner for the next day. Its win-win!
  2. That giant turkey that you barely touched – Slice the turkey down the middle, stick the untouched half into a freezer bag and drop it into the freezer. If its frozen it will last a while and it won’t spoil. This can also be done with the ham – you can take it out at a later date, let thaw and use for sandwiches.
  3. The food that you believe will go first, eat those first – spice them up by making different alternatives – use veggies like broccoli, celery, cauliflower and the like for stir fry. Drop them into a wok or a frying pot, toss ’em around with some onions, tomatoes and green and red peppers with a splash of soy sauce, ground pepper and thyme. You can add bite size pieces of turkey or ham but either way it could be fun.
  4. I know, after thanksgiving the last thing you probably want is a bunch of people back in your house-you want a break to just sleep in, let your feet rest but invite people over, do not cook anything new. Sure, maybe bake a cake or get some ice-cream for desert but use what you have. Thanksgiving happens around the Baseball playoff season and the beginning of football season, have a tailgate party or something-that is a sure fire way of getting rid of all that yummy goodies.
  5. Or to avoid the build up of food, accept an invitation to have dinner at someone else’s place for a change – offer to bring the turkey or the ham.

There are plenty of things that can be done to not make you go all crazy. There is always something to be done with left overs or that feeling of being too full. If by the next day you still feel full, do what I do, first thing in the morning, go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a marathon or a year long–just a little walk to stretch your muscles and to work off some of that stuff you ate the day before. Then, when you return to your place, for your breakfast, have a cup of tea and a few crackers. This will help give you a few more hours in the day to allow that day after thanksgiving feeling to go away.

Here’s hoping these tips help you out at least a little bit. Have a happy Thanksgiving where ever you are in the world and whatever day you celebrate it on. And remember, thanksgiving isn’t just for Christians. use the day to celebrate your loved ones and your friends. Trust me, you won’t regret it…well, I hope.

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The Most Peaceful Place in Toronto

There comes a time in everyone’s lives when all they need is a place to breathe. It has to be a quiet place without chaos, traffic, music, ringing cell phones, dinging facebook notifications and speaking. That place, has to be perfect, untarnished by hands and free of everything that makes real life so hard sometimes.

Just a little walk from the intersection of Guildwood Parkway and Livingston, I found my such paradise at the age of sixteen during an unfortunate session of summer school. I wanted to use my summer do to things normal children were doing–maybe going swimming, eating out, going to see movies–that kind of thing. My parents, on the other hand, had other plans than my own. Instead of me taking a break and having fun like I wanted to do in the summer break, I was shipped off to summer school at a different school than my own.

Oh the horror!

The Path – Photo by Kadian Tracey

so I wound up taking drama for a few weeks in my summer.  Pouting and with ear phones plugged firmly in my ears, I wandered away from the school during a bright, summer day, turned right and kept walking along a wire fence with tress on the other side. I dragged my finger along the fencing, paying no attention to anything else around me but my music and my fingers, popping across the mouth of the holes on the wiring. Then suddenly the fence stopped, giving way to a path leading between rows of trees, in a lush area with nothing but a giant rock in the center then a lone path leading to an unknown area.  I figured it was safe because the path was foot trodden as if it was used regularly. Looking around to see if anyone was looking, I checked the sign that stood there and it only warned against dogs in the park. Shrugging, I turned down this path. This whole curiosity in me was put there by my mother who often times turned down streets just to see where they went.  I walked until I was probably in the center of the path, half way between where it was leading and where I was coming from, and stopped. I remember looking up to see if I could see the sky. There were glimpses of it when the soft wind curled around the leaves, pulling them to and pushing them fro. The sun peaked in on me during those times but other than that, it was cool. I closed my eyes and held my breath. The road, though not far from where I was standing was non-existent. I couldn’t hear the cars or buses driving by or the other students who by now were probably out of the building and roaming for food like lost bear cubs.

The Gate Ruin – Photo by Kadian Tracey

I could hear the leaves dancing in the wind and that was new to me. As I write this, I cannot remember how long I stood there, eyes closed, arms at my side, mind empty–just enjoying what was happening–or not happening–around me. There were no voices, sounds of vehicles, screaming babies, ringing phones, teacher shouting–all I felt was peace.

But eventually I had to move again. I told myself I had to go back to school which meant if I was going to see what else this place had to offer, I should get a move on. I glanced back toward the road to see I was still alone yet I continued until the dirt became a paged walkway that led from the edge of the tress to an opening. This place was no less spectacular than my heaven between the trees. To the left was what looked to be a gate of old ruins; remains of something bigger. They sat across from each other, backed by tress and another path leading to a great big opening.  To my right was a small area with lush grass and a small cabin sitting right next to a an old tree. Though to this day I have no idea what is housed in that cabin if anything, I remember standing there, staring at hit thinking how beautiful and quaint it was. There was something quite grand about it, the way it sat there with grey walls and a slightly red, brick chimney on top. Maybe it was the writer in me then but whatever it was, the small building was more beautiful than any mansion I could ever see.

The wind changed and I continued along my way to a low fence, a foot trodden path. I climbed over the fence and made my way through until I saw why there was a fence there in the first place. It gave way to the edge of a cliff, but what a view!

For miles out all I could see was the clear water of Lake Ontario. I turned left and there was the outline of the land. To my right, was water. The cool wind coming off the lake flowed over my skin. For a moment, I sat in the dirt not caring if I was dirty or not. I sat there, confused because there were many beautiful things in life and there I was, a teenager, absolutely hypnotized by such a simple thing as the view of a lake off a cliff–and I have always been afraid of heights so why was I sitting there, looking out as if all was right with the world. This is what this place does – it makes me stop, regain perspective of the world and myself and try living as best I can.  I didn’t get to explore the whole park that day because school–yes, I had to go back to school before I was late. There is one thing I dislike more than spending beautiful summer days in a classroom and that’s being late.

As the years went by, I have had a ton of chances to visit the Guild and what lies around and within it. And here are some pictures I have taken. This is the most peaceful place in Toronto – So if you’re in the city and you can spare some time – check it out.

The Path – Photo by Kadian Tracey

The Cabin – Photo by Kadian Tracey

The Russian Gates – Photo by Kadian Tracey

The Amphitheater – Photo by Kadian Tracey

Why the Willow Weeps – Photo by Kadian Tracey

The Ruins by the Old Guild Inn – Photo by Kadian Tracey

The old Guild Inn – Photo by Kadian Tracey

 

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Out Adventures – LGBT Adventure and Sustainable Travel

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

Over the years, travel has evolved in so many wonderful ways it is impossible to list them all. Within this evolution, travelers decide what they wish to do on their voyages and book trips catering to those wonderful endeavors—from adventure and romance, to knowledge and quests for enlightenment.

Whatever the heart wants within these ventures, chances are, is now possible.

With the dawn of a new era of travel and types of travelers, comes the need for group vacations with like minded people. These are the travelers who seek a positive, fun-fill time away from real life and the ennui of the typical all-inclusive and resort traps. This is where Out Adventures comes in. With a demographic of mostly gay men between the ages of 40 and 45 years old from around the world, they offer customized tours, unique excursions and knowledgeable local experts to give each client authentic experiences of the lands they visit.

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Sharp, co-owner of Out Adventures.  After travelling the world extensively, with fellow co-owner Steven Larkin, they believed there was a gap in the travel industry in relation to LGBT travelers seeking adventure and sustainable travel. They partnered with Intrepid Travel, for the first little while, to fill this void and revolutionize the way LGBT adventure seekers view vacations.  Over the years, Out Adventures have grown exponentially running about 30 trips per year covering destinations such as Morocco, Thailand, Cambodia, Peru and Cuba (to name a few). When asked how far in advance a traveler should book, Robert replied, “Six months is the sweet spot.”

But this is not just another company. Out Adventures’ slogan tells its clients to get out and experience the real world. Robert would be the first to tell you, Out Adventures’ jaunts around the globe is not for everyone. On their website, they tell you quite implicitly, to “think twice before you book.” When asked why that advice, Robert explains “Out Adventures’ holidays fully appreciate cultures and lifestyles that are often very different from our own. You are not sheltered from the cultural differences, inefficiencies or frustrations that are part of the places we visit. The emphasis is placed on getting OUT and experiencing the real world.”

Quite simply? They do things like hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. It is not a simple task so you must do your research before booking with them. If you are not the hiking type then do not get that one—find another trip among Out Adventures’ vast array of globe-trotting festivities that would more suit your liking.

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

They are different from the mainstream travel agencies and package sellers out there. Why? The answer to that is simple—Out Adventures caters especially to Gay travelers and they are connected to the pulse of what their clients want and need.  “The mainstream brand can “pink wash” anything,” Robert tells me.  “But Out Adventures is more hands on. We can find ‘gay welcoming’ companies and guides. We’re more experienced in that area.”

Out Adventures is a fresh way of looking at what the LGBT community wants and needs when it comes to adventure travel. It gives them a positive place to freely go around the globe and soak in all the cultures and beauty the world has to offer. While Robert understands that not every experience will be perfect, he insists that Out Adventures plan and research everything to ensure their clients have the best, most amazing experience with their company and on their vacations. From what I gather from Robert Sharp, Out Adventures is not merely a company but a labour of love that they spread to every voyage they put together.

Oh and for you heterosexuals who would love to go—let’s say for some peace in the Galapagos Islands—with your LGBT BFF? Never fear, because I asked Robert about Out Adventures’ policy on that and he says quite simply, “you are welcome here.”

Now, if you’d like to see what Out Adventures has on tap for the upcoming season, please click here for their Calendar.

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**A Special thank you to Robert Sharp of Out Adventures for allowing me to interview him for this article.