Sunday Seven – Tipping: Not Just for Cows

I have to admit, prior to globe-trotting I did no research whatsoever on tipping and just continued my normal routine of tipping 15-20% EVERYWHERE. Which in retrospect explains why some people reacted the way they did – confused expressions, helping me put my bag back on (this may have just been out of pity), hugs goodbye, etc. But tipping around the world is not a clear-cut practice, and it can get downright confusing the more places you visit. So, in no particular order, seven countries where tipping is not just about cows.

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Sunday Seven – Buffalo, More Than Wings

I went to Buffalo for work last week (the glitz and glamour of business travel), and during a wee bit of downtime I decided to wander around and see if there was more to the city than wings and many, many Targets.

It’s not the most walkable city I’ve been to, nor the most vehicle-friendly thanks to the giant potholes that outnumber actual pavement at some points. And there were definitely moments where I retreated quickly and found an alternate route due to…sketchiness. However, there is more than  discounted shopping and meat (although there is a LOT of meat). Here’s seven things to check out in Buffalo:

7. Architecture
Wandering around Buffalo, it almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Some of the greatest American architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be spotted, with works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Hobson Richardson, among others. So, uh, thanks recession for preserving these little pieces of history. Check out this helpful map from Buffalo Niagara Tourism for some architectural treasures, and be sure to visit the City Hall for a great example of art deco.

6. Shopping
Obviously this would be on here, but there’s more to check out than outlet malls and the massive Walden Galleria (although do check these out. And Target. Glorious, glorious Target). Elmwood Village was recently named one of the “10 Great Neighbourhoods in America” by the American Planning Association, and is bordered by museums on one end and Allentown on the other. You’ll find a variety of boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and coffee shops. Including Spot Coffee, which made me real happy for reasons listed in number 4. If you’re into antiques, you’ll find a variety of shops to tickle your fancy along Hertel Avenue, which is also the city’s “Little Italy”. And Allentown has small bookstores, antique stores and knick knacks.

5. Food

If you like meat, you’ll be a happy camper here (it is the home of Buffalo Wings, after all). If you’re vegetarian…good luck. After spotting plate after plate of wings and sliders pass by at a work social, I asked if there were any vegetarian options. “There’s turkey burgers coming soon, and some salmon.” I hear salmon/fish quite a bit (technically they are not vegetarian), but turkey is a new one. Luckily I had trail mix in my purse. Bless you, purse snacks.

It wasn’t all bad – a wander up Delaware led me to stumble across Chris’ NY Sandwich Co, a delightful family-run place with warm service and delicious sammies (and side pickles without even asking for them – amazing). They have a massive menu (both veggie and really non-veggie) and are only open for lunch. I had really hoped to make it to Chocolate Bar, which boasts a menu filled with chocolate-laced items. Chocolate in salad and pasta? See you next time I’m in town.

4. Drink
Bars abound in Buffalo, and there is a whole lotta nightlife going on, particularly with a 4 a.m. last call. 4 a.m. seems like an impossible milestone for me to reach. You people are nuts. At any rate, you have a lot of time to bar hop, so a good place to start is the Chip Strip downtown. There’s an eclectic variety of entertainment options to choose from – bars, clubs, restaurants, and coffee shops if you need a late-night (or perhaps early morning) perk-up. I checked out SoHo, a burger bar by day and club by night. Efficient. If you’re up for a challenge, check out Buckin’ Buffalo Saloon, home of the only mechanical buffalo in the US.  And the craft brewery scene is huge in Buffalo and definitely worth checking out for some local brews.

If coffee is more your thing, you won’t be disappointed. If giant serving sizes are your thing, you also won’t be disappointed. Bless you, America, for making everything extra large including my morning almond milk and fruit protein smoothie from Spot Coffee. Imagine my joy at discovering almond milk in a city that declares turkey a vegetarian option. I was pretty happy, but never able to finish the smoothie. 26 ounces is just too much for one gal!

3. Take in a Show
If steep ticket prices in Toronto have you feeling blue, cross the border to Buffalo and check out what’s playing at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Tickets for upcoming performances of South Pacific range from $35-65, and Billy Elliot and The Book of Mormon will be coming soon. Buffalo is also a great spot to see some NHL or NFL action for prices you can actually comprehend.

2. Fall for the Falls
Rather than dumping out the contents of your wallet for a hotel in Niagara Falls, stay in Buffalo and make the short drive north to check out the goods.

1. Forget Running of the Bulls – They Have Chickens
I thought this was a joke, and then I thought it used actual chickens, but to my relief it’s just people. As part of the annual National Buffalo Wing Festival, there’s a 0.5 km Chicken Wing Run. Held each September, finishing times are projected to be “several minutes to three-quarters of an hour”, although I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that good times would be had by all who watch. Don a chicken costume and take a break from all the wing-eating (there’s also Bobbing for Wings if you’re interested in something truly messy). Only in Buffalo.

So, have you been to Buffalo? What do you like to do when in town? Leave a comment below!

Sunday Seven – Best Beaches for Naps!

I love me a good nap. Curling up under a blanket, particularly in the kind of weather we’re having right now, is heaven. But napping on a beach is pure joy.

So to combat the chilly temperatures and all the snow I shovelled this morning, here’s seven of my favourite beaches – napping edition!

7. Manitou Beach, Centre Island, Toronto
Surprise! I picked a beach in Toronto! While I would never actually wade into Lake Ontario, I like this beach for sitting and snoozing because it faces south and is away from the throngs of families and frisbee throwers. Just go on a day when it’s not too humid – otherwise the lake gets a tad stinky.

6. Carmel-by-the-Sea Beach, Carmel, California

White sand, rolling dunes and the smell of money. Carmel is a classy place, and the beach reflects that. Apart from pesky squirrels attempting to steal your lunch, this is a great spot for a long afternoon nap. Pack some oversized shades to blend in with the wealthy types.

5. Kaikoura Beach, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Pay a visit to this beach and you’ll quickly discover why there are so many campervans taking up residence in the parking lot. With mountains providing a backdrop and crystal clear waters, Kaikoura Beach is a great spot to pack a picnic (perhaps with some local wine) and catch some rays along with your zzz’s.

4. La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, California
San Diego is a goldmine for good beaches. Some are pretty family-oriented, but they all offer great views and toasty sand to stretch out on. A nice spot to sip a little wine, read some tabloids and enjoy life. Just don’t wander too far – a popular nude beach awaits!

3. Waipi’o Valley Beach, Hawaii
Perhaps it was due to exhaustion from the intense hike down into the Valley (or the anticipation of the even crueller hike back out), but sprawling out on a secluded black sand beach was pretty fantastic. Getting back up, not so much. Bring a blanket, lots of snacks, and a good book. This one’s worth camping out at for a few solid hours.

2. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
A close runner-up, Chesterman Beach is absolutely gorgeous. Great for a variety of activities including surfing and picnics, it’s also fantastic for a good nap! The sand is soft and the beach is enormous, which means lots of space for you to spread out away from families or large groups. Watch out for the tide!

1. Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Australia is full of gorgeous people. It should come as no surprise that its beaches would also be fairly easy on the eyes. While I had some good naps at Manly, Bondi had the SOFTEST sand ever. I essentially dug myself a little sand bed, and camped out for much of the day with a lunch, some beer and a good book (and a big ass hat). With warm breezes, plenty of space to sprawl out, and the sweet sound of waves crashing, Bondi is the perfect napping beach in my opinion.

So, what do you think? Any beaches I need to pack a blanket for? Leave a comment below!

Sunday Seven – Travel Quotes

A year ago today, I set off on my ’round-the-world journey! How fast a year flies. I can vividly remember the emotions I was feeling that day – both excited and nervous. Also, completely oblivious to the Super Bowl bonanza that was happening. Flash forward a year, and that hasn’t changed.

At any rate, today I’m launching a new weekly series – the Sunday Seven. First out of the gate – seven of my favourite travel quotes. Some are serious, some funny, but all hold lots of meaning for me.

  1. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux
  2. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
  4. “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” – Douglas Adams
  6. “Anything we fully do is an alone journey.” – Natalie Goldberg
  7. “Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” – Al Gore (probably my personal favourite!)

So, what are some of your favourites? Leave a comment below!