The Véloroute des Bleuets is my favourite of all cycling Quebec adventures - even in the off season!
With sunny blue skies and a bracing wind, I bravely mounted my bike to go searching for blueberries in the Quebec countryside. But if you're looking at my jacket and scarf in the photo above and thinking it looks far too cold for blueberry season, you'd be partially right. You see, I wasn't in search of blueberries to eat! I was searching for Quebec's famous blueberry bike route, known as the "véloroute des bleuets".
Made up of over 20 different short to medium length rides through the blueberry-producing countryside, the véloroute des bleuets circles around Lac St Jean, not far from the northern Quebec city of Saguenay. The route includes towns such as Alma (my personal favourite), Saint-Felicien, Roberval, and Sainte-Monique, as well as Pointe-Taillon National Park, and includes terrain suitable for all riders.
Readers always ask us "Which country has the best food?" and "Where's the best place you've ever eaten?" Here are the most delicious and undeniably amazing meals we've had around the world.
Our meal at Black Tartan was sponsored by Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization and we thank them for their support.
Some links within this blog post are affiliate links, which means we are paid a small commission should you make a purchase .
Do you remember the time we feasted on desserts across Budapest, including some showstopping plates at a Michelin star'd restaurant? Or that time when we had an incredible meal at a near empty Parisian restaurant after a late night river cruise? We sure do! We love eating our away around the world and our list of good meals, restaurants, and experiences is endlessly long.
But what about GREAT meals and restaurants? No, not just great. How about the absolute best? People ask us all the time about the best meal we've ever had or the best restaurant we've ever visited and we always struggle to answer. I've realized it's not just that food enjoyment is subjective. For us, it's also about having our expectations surpassed, about being overjoyed to discover that a meal we anticipated would be merely satisfactory is actually sensational. Sometimes it's been an order from room service that blew us away so much that we are STILL talking about how perfectly creamy the sauce was. Other times, it's an unassuming country bistro, the last place we expected to find a cheese lover's heaven. In every case, the food isn't just good - it's surprisingly, unexpectedly fantastic.
After much debate, we've finally narrowed down our list of the best meals we've had around the world, using the criteria above. None of those incredible restaurants in Budapest or Paris made the list. They were wonderful - but we expected them to be wonderful. An element of joyous astonishment just wasn't there. We also eliminated any experiences that we enjoyed solo - this list is all about the places that Ryan and I have enjoyed together and have the same reaction to. Looking back on all our delicious destinations has been a fun trip down memory lane, but also a sad one. Should we go back? Would things be just as great a second time round or are our expectations now skewed? It's a good reminder to always savor the moment as much as the food!
All roads really DO lead to - and from- Rome.
Julius Ceasar, Saint Peter, Spartacus, and now the team from Turnipseed Travel.... there's been more than a few legends who've walked, rode, and peddled their way down the Appian Way. This ancient highway, nearly 400 miles of engineering marvel, connected Rome with southern Italy and the sea, forming a critical trade and communications link with Greece and Egypt.
Considered the world's first super highway, everyone who was anyone traveled along the Appian Way, along with over two thousand years of worth of anonymous citizens too. We were happy to start our first day in Rome by following in their footsteps!
Ljubljana's Beekeeping Trail gives you a bee's eye view of one of Europe's loveliest cities.
Ljubljana is a sweet travel destination, and not just because it's so lovely to look at and so pleasant to chat with the warm local residents. No, in this case Ljubljana is literally sweet, for it is a city obsessed with honey!
Slovenian honey, coming from the beloved Carniolan honey bee, is a product of protected geographic indication and Slovenians take their honey so seriously that they are the only European country which has special legal protection for their bees. Beekeeping and bee protection has a long, passionate history in Ljubljana, one that we were able to trace step by step on a guided walk of the Beekeeping Trail.
Move aside, buffets. Under Nonna Antonella's guidance, bruschetta is anything but basic.
One of the first big trips Ryan and I did together was a two week adventure through the American Southwest, with plenty of time in Las Vegas. We were so excited to check out the city's legendary casino buffet scene that we even invested in the "Buffet of Buffets" all you can eat package. I hadn't made it halfway through our 24 hour pass before I tapped out. Can someone please pass the vegetables!?
While Vegas is a more extreme example, I experience the same conflict on every trip; my desire to indulge is constantly fighting with my will to survive and avoid scurvy. As such, I constantly have an eye out for a mythical perfect dish that manages to be both decadent and nutritious, enthralling my senses without destroying my stomach.
In Rome - in its own way, the original Las Vegas, a swirling, enchanting, hedonistic kind of town - I found exactly what I was looking for with humble bruschetta. And with our very own "nonna" (a real Roman grandmother and expert home cook) by our side for an evening, we couldn't go wrong. Nonna Antonella was dishing out recipes AND great advice!
Green travel is dream travel in Ljubljana, where eco-friendly initiatives bring endless charm.
If terms like "eco-friendly" and "green" bring to mind dowdy images of damp granola and hemp fabric the color of dishwater, Ljubljana - one of the greenest cities in the world - is going to blow you away. Both the Slovenian capital and the 2016 European Green Capital, Ljubljana is filled with charm and whimsy, incorporating its environmental priorities with a deft hand and an eye for design. The result is nothing short of wondrous -a beautiful city with a perfectly preserved historic core, seamlessly integrating sustainable objectives. Even the graffiti is endearing, with a nod towards conservation! Here's what else won over our hearts.
Seeing Vienna's classic city sites at night - by bike - was an unforgettable experience.
When you imagine a memorable evening in Vienna, you probably think of a night at the opera and maybe some fine dining too. And you should, for Vienna is a classy town. From the elegant horse drawn carriages meandering down the cobblestones to open air concerts in public parks, this is a city that shines with bright lights and hums with fine music. But for all of Vienna's refinement and sophistication, there's still plenty of laid back, affordable, accessible fun to be had.
Seeing Vienna's classic sights by bike was a wonderful introduction to the city. While you might not know it as a cycling city (I know I didn't - I thought that crown was claimed by Amsterdam alone), locals have embraced this healthy, economical, and environmentally friendly mode of transport for decades. Vienna is ready to see its visitors on bikes and I'm glad I was one of them!
In Malawi I had my first battle with travel burnout. It wouldn't be my last.
Lying under a bed net in Malawi's sweltering heat with a cold, wet towel on my bare stomach, my face was a mess of tears. The silent air conditioner served only ornamental purposes. In the darkness its knobs became eyes, watching my every move, my futile efforts to cool down, taking pleasure as I winced whenever one of the tiny, pink, pus filled blisters that covered my body - compliments of a whopping case of prickly heat - spontaneously burst.
It was over 10 years ago, but I'll never forget my worst day of travel burnout - a horrible combination of homesickness, culture shock, and sheer exhaustion. And pus. Lots of pus.
People often sneer when they hear the words 'travel burnout' and offer disparaging comments such as "Must be soooooo hard to be traveling all the time" or "Poor you, with your first world problems". But the truth is that anyone can experience burnout from any activity or circumstance.
No person is fully immune from feeling lonely, overwhelmed, frustrated, or isolated. And unlike burnout from work, family stress, or a stalled creative project, travel burnout comes with geographic, cultural, and linguistic isolation which even the most optimistic traveler would find difficult to cope with. You are separated from your support system, you lack control over your environment, and you may even face a serious conflict in your values and ethics.
I suspect that fast paced trips are even more susceptible to burnout than a slower style of travel. City hopping can be exhilarating but also overwhelming. The excitement of a new hotel each night doesn't always mask the loss of community; the sense of place that comes when you stay in the same neighbourhood for a few days. With more extremely fast paced travel planed, I'm trying to learn from the past and prepare for a balanced, healthy, happy trip. Here's are my top three tips for keeping sane on the road.
This is our old stomping grounds.... literally! And we think the best hiking trails in Ontario are sprinkled throughout the Northeast. It's time to start planning an epic Ontario hiking trip.
If you ask anyone around the world what they envision when they think of “Canada”, there’s a good chance they’ll unknowingly describe Northeastern Ontario. The region’s incredible lush landscapes, including expansive fields, craggy rocks, brilliant lakes, and vibrant colors, create the classic image of Canadiana. Happily, it’s all real and it’s all accessible to visitors. And even better, it’s all value travel friendly, making this area one of Canada’s best when it comes to bang for your buck. And we think it's home to Ontario's best hiking trails.
Ryan and I know the area well. Ryan’s family is from the area and we’ve spent a lot of time here. Our favourite time to visit is during the fall, when the mosquitos are scarce and the autumn colors are incredible, but with a little planning you can enjoy these special hiking routes nearly year round (some even have winter accessibility for snow shoeing!) Here are our top choices:
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