How Solo Travel Changed My Life

In the begining of my traveling days, I never thought I would turn into a full fledge solo traveler and take the term ‘the world is your oyster’ to such great lengths that it became my lifestyle.

As I write this I am on a solo trip in Spain. Last year I did participate in my first group trip in about 10 years, and then of course in true Petrena fashion, after the group trip, I was off on my solo adventures once again. Previously to all of this, I backpacked all around Central and South America, and completed a solo trip across Africa, from South Africa to Egypt, carrying a portable massage table. As much as I love traveling with people, I also love traveling alone for so many reasons. Solo travel enriched my life in countless ways.

My passion for travel and adventure also has me incredibly excited for this travel event coming up in Calgary on March 19th, 2020, hosted by Nomad Junkies called #Nomadtalks, showcasing and inspiring others like you to travel further, longer.

It got me thinking of the ways solo travel have impacted my life.

1. Pushed Me Into Growth

There is nothing like showing up to a country that you know nothing about, do not speak the language and are not familiar with the culture. It is exciting, nerve wracking, at times mentally exhausting, and the best way to uplevel your mindset in a very short period of time. You are in charge of navigating, communicating, keeping yourself safe and also finding the most epic adventures that the destination has to offer. Your intuition will become sharper and shaper as you continue to use its guidance to get you places. You will be challenged in so many ways, and suddenly the comforts of home are not an option. Through it all you, you will gain massive leadership skills, and I mean leadership of self. Which is priceless, as you can not be a great leader of others if you are not first a great leader of self.

2. Got To Know Myself Very Deeply

The best way to get to know yourself is to actually spend time with just yourself. Put yourself in new and foreign situations and you really start to see what makes you react and also what makes you tic. You have plenty of time to just be in your head and in your thoughts. You begin to discover things about yourself that you never knew, or perhaps forgot about since your early days. Passions new and old will arise. It is almost as if epiphany after epiphany happens. You return far more grounded in yourself, your values and who you are then you could have ever imagined. For this relationship with myself, I am forever grateful to my solo travel experiences.

3. More Connected With People As A Whole

This for me was so amazing. There was countless times where I have been in very remote places, and also very metropolitan places that I do not speak the language, and they also do not speak my language. Yet, through alot of charades, broken languages and at times frusteration as we had so much we wanted to say, we were still able to communicate. I formed deep bonds with people all over the globe not speaking the same language at all. Nowadays things are even easier as we have google translate. Last year when I was solo in Zanzibar, I met another solo female traveler from Russia who didn’t speak a word of English, and my Russian is also non-existent. Thanks to google translate we had the best time and lots of endless laughs. Picture the two of us having a cocktail at the bar and passing a phone back and forth cracking up. My biggest lesson in this respect is that no matter where we are in the world, people are people. We can be very different in values and beliefs, but at the end of the day we are all the same. When you realize that, you can connect with virtually anyone, and that is a beautiful feeling.

4. Greater Appreciation For The World

Unless we get out from our little bubble, we will never see all the endless beautiful and amazing things this world has to discover. Alot of times we can get stuck under the impression that the world is a very scary place, so we play it extra safe and don’t venture off too far. For myself, the further I have gone the further I want to go and the more beauty I find, the more beauty I want to discover. Of course there are dangers, and we must use our wits about things, but we should never let fear take over and stop us from discovering all of lifes splendors.

I have had the pleasure of staying with locals in the townships of South Africa, to rural villages across the continent and likewise in Central and South America. Places where most other travelers won’t go because they are told never to visit there unless you are on a tour. I prefer getting the real experience, so in my solo traveling history I have always made friends with locals and families who invited me to come and stay. When you are there with locals from the community, you are always well taken care of. Many times people endlessly thanked me for coming as that never happens. I have gained such an apprecation for everything this world has to offer. There is so much heart opening beauty.

5. Proved To Me That The Only Cure For The Travel Bug Is To Travel More

Those of you who have gotten biten by it know – the travel bug is relentless. There is no real cure. You can simply put it into hibernation for a bit by giving it a taste of what it loves so much. I feel like I was born with the travel bug, it was engrained in my being. At times it calms down and I settle for awhile, but that never lasts forever as when he doesn’t get his travel fix he begins to awaken from his slumber demanding some adventure. The travel bugs appetite is insatiable. Of course I have also grown to love my travel bug, so I like to be a good host. I mean what else can I do, he seems to be with me for life. Plus, the cure also happens to be what sets my soul on fire. Why work against some things, when it is so much easier to work with them.

Has solo travel been something that you want to discover for yourself as well?

Something I didn’t have when I began my global travel was tools. Tools and knowledge that would have made the whole process even more smooth. I just jumped right in and went for it, which is also great. I love learning as I go, but it is even better to have some mental preperation and also know your options.

If you dream of traveling for 6 months or longer, then knowing your options and how to make it happen, will help immensely. If you are interested in learning more about the nomadic lifestyle then I definetely suggest checking the #Nomadtalks event that will be happening in Calgary. Nomad Junkies will be hosting their first ever event in Western Canada presented by International Experience Canada, and in partnership with Tourisme Alberta on March 19th. I am super excited to also announce that I will be a guest speaker at the event.

Tickets are available here.

I will also be hosting a giveaway on my facebook page, so go give that a follow if you want to be kept upto date on how to win your seats!

The event will consist of three talks, all of them travel related, and all full of amazing tools to get you on your way to treking the globe.

The first talk will be by David Xiao of Trailing Adventures. His talk is ‘Hiking from Mexico to Canada: Everything You Need to Know to Trek the Pacific Crest Trail‘. David is an adventure blogger and has great inspiration to share. This is an amazing trek that I would even love to do one day. I am very excited to learn about this.

The second talk will be by Safia & Emilie from Nomad Junkies. Their talk is ‘Work Your Way Around the World: How to Make the Most of Your Working Holiday Visa‘. Being the founders of Nomad Junkies, these two ladies have done loads of traveling and have a wealth of knowledge about how to work and travel. Working holiday visa’s are amazing. I have had one myself before. It is such a great way to travel further, longer. So if that is what you want, this talk will be for you.

The third talk will be by none other then myself! My talk is ‘ The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel: Wild Stories from a Woman Who Travelled the World‘. Solo travel is my jam. I have had some insane and also completely magical experiences. I have learnt the right and wrong way to do things, and I am excited to share all the knowledge I have gained on my global adventures.

The MC for the event is Rudy Desjardins of Radio-Canada’s Le Cafe Show.

There is an incredible giveaway too!

You could win a 1 week surf & yoga retreat in El Transito, Nicaragua.

The winner will be randomly picked on stage at the event on March 19th. So get your ticket!!

See you there!

Massive thank you to Nomadjunkies for collaborating on this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own and I share from personal experience.

Time to pack our bags!

The Must-See Sights When Fall Makes A Brief Appearance In Calgary

Fall is such a spectacular time of year. With the leaves changing to hues of yellow, orange and red. The cooler crisp temperatures meaning more layers of style – which is always exciting. Plus Calgary’s skyline looks pretty picturesque from all of its colourful angles.

The only problem with fall is that it is far too short. It always feels that no sooner does it arrive, does it then finish. I make it a point to always be very mindful to get out and take it all in while I can. Especially being in Calgary, and knowing potentially fall will literally only make a peek-a-boo appearance.

The great thing about the city of Calgary is there are plenty of stunning spots to enjoy. It is so easy to take a leisurely stroll in the various areas of the city only to find yourself to get lost in it all and have suddenly spent the better portion of the day basking in its ambiance.

It is also very easy to take a couple short drives in a day to enjoy plenty of Calgary’s breathtaking beauty all in one go.

A great place to start is up at Cresent Heights. The view is spectacular.

You can park your car there for up to two hours, and then, take the stairs down, cross the bridge over the Bow River, where I highly suggest you stop for a moment to appreciate its beauty.

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Then you can head straight into Prince’s Island Park.

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I absolutely love Prince’s Island Park.

It has such various charming factors to it, and when you are strolling through you suddenly no longer feel you are in the middle of a city. Rather you are transferred to a magical little naturistic getaway.

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The architectural masterpiece the Peace Bridge is a short walk through Prince’s Island Park.

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It was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Perhaps the fact that he is Spanish makes me a bit bias as to my grand appreciation for it. Spain is my other home.

That aside, it is a nice bridge to meander across.

While you are admiring bridges here in the city. It is also an easy and short trip to East Village, where there is another unique bridge surrounded by bike paths for you to cross.

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Climbing mountains and crossing bridges, that is what we do in life. Metaphorically speaking.

So go on then, what are you waiting for? Cross a few bridges in Calgary. You will not be disappointed.

From there it truly is only proper that you end the adventures by putting a cherry on top of your sightseeing day.

Or perhaps I should say a saddle. I mean this is Cowtown we are talking about.

Just another short jaunt from East village you will find yourself in the historic area of Inglewood. Where you will also easily find Scotsman’s Hill.

Here you get an unbelievable view of the Saddledome and Stampede Park, not to mention another angle to the shimmery city line.

The feeling up there is lush and serene. A whole mix of incredible things.

This is an extraordinary day of fall sights to take in, in Calgary. Believe me, it was a feast for the eyes the whole time.

Now let’s get back to the point about taking it in while you can. While it lasts. Within 24 hours of this day, winter arrived. With bountiful and colourful leaves still on the trees and fall begging to stay around longer. The snow just couldn’t resist flying.

It is amazing, in two days we experienced two seasons. Mother nature just loves pulling fast ones on everyone here in Calgary.

What can I say? Rain or shine, fall or winter – this city is a stunner.

9 Round – My Newest Workout Addiction

Happy endorphins, a good detoxing sweat, working your muscles, torching fat and getting your blood pumping. That is what a good workout is all about.

No matter where I am in the world, I love working out and keeping my body happy and healthy. We only have one body, and I intend to keep on adventuring the heck out of life, so my main source of transportation needs to be in tip-top shape.

I recently joined 9 Round at the Varsity location here in Calgary, Alberta. It is all about kickboxing, and up until this point in my life I had never done kickboxing, and I do love trying new things.

The best part is, is that it is only a 30-minute workout. Don’t let that fool you though, it is tough. You will get your butt kicked.

Every day the workout changes so you never plateau, the staff are phenomenal at this location(which is why I chose this location), and as per the name, you do 9 rounds, and each round is 3 minutes.

You can also wear a heart rate monitor to track that you stay in the fat burning zone, so you will then also know you will get the afterburn where your body will continue to burn extra calories after your workout.

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It is amazing how long 3 minutes can feel when you are pushing through some of the exercises.

Another realization I had was that I never knew that kicking and punching a bag could be so much fun! Seriously if you are feeling any sort of stress, then this is the best way to get rid of it. It is so satisfying.

Before you get going you have to get geared up.

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I feel so cool and badass when I have all my gear on.

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It’s the simple things in life really. Like wearing a pair of boxing gloves.

There have been days since starting that I have not been able to walk the day after. Which is awesome! And because you are having so much fun doing it you don’t really notice how hard you are working.

So many people get these incredible results from doing this workout, I am excited to see what my progress will look like.

Yes! To awesome gyms and always striving to be a better YOU today than yesterday.

A Day At The Derby – Packwood Grand

Derby’s and the idea of a derby just totally exudes class. At least to me, that is. I always see photos of my friends in England attending various derby’s and it has always seemed so appealing to me. The hats(fascinators), the dresses, the bubbly. After all, my blog wouldn’t be ‘Barefoot & High Heeled’ if I never donned some heels every now and then. I do love a reason to dress up!

Here in Calgary, Alberta, there is a yearly derby that began approximately 5 years ago. It is called Packwood Grand and is held at the Century Downs Racetrack & Casino. A classy event such as this in Calgary?! My attention was peaked a few years ago when I first caught wind of it. So, on the radar, it went!

This year as I am in Calgary, the time had come to attend.

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Of course, VIP was the only way to go, and so was taking the coach straight from downtown to the event.

Yes, I can honestly say, that is the first time in my life I have been on a bus that was totally full of people in their classy derby attire.

Upon arrival, it was all about the red carpet. There were a few different backdrops to choose from, and it felt fabulous to get our poses on.

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After the red carpet, we strolled across the track over to the VIP section where it was all about Veuve champagne, horse betting, and appreciating the endless amazing fashion.

The sun was beaming down, yet it did not feel unbearably hot, which was amazing! There would not have been anything worse than having all my hard work melt off of me in the scorching sun. The sweaty, shiny look – super attractive.

It was an afternoon event, from 1 – 6pm and the whole afternoon flew by! It was way too much fun. Mingling, laughing, sipping on classy cocktails and doing a bit of dabbling in some bets while gentlemen in their charming suits smoked cigars. It was as though I was transported to a totally different time and place.

I absolutely have a new found love for attending Derby’s. I was very impressed with Packwood Grand and if I happen to be in Calgary next year, you can bet I will attend this event again.

Spring Rejuvenation With Some TLC At Inner Balance Spa

Nurturing my body, going the extra mile to promote healing and restoration, particularly after winter, it’s something I don’t falter on. After all, if you love your body, it will love you back. 

Exfoliation and detox play a large part in my daily self-care regime. It is so important to renew our skin, lymphatic system, and promote overall renewal in our bodies as a whole. Plus, it keeps your skin and body youthful and supple for so much longer in life.

I am a massive advocate of dry skin brushing for that exact reason, and I do it on the daily, which I talk about, it, and all it’s benefits here.

Although sometimes, a person needs a little extra pampering and an even deeper exfoliation. Done by someone other than yourself. Especially when spring has sprung! Well according to the calendar. If you look outside mother nature may tell you a different story, as she is a trickster around here.

Lately, my self-care routine has brought on a bit of an infrared sauna addiction.

I wanted to take my spring detox to another level. After doing some research to find a little oasis that had the amenities I was looking for, I came across Inner Balance Spa, which is located in the Kensington area of Calgary.

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It immediately stuck out to me as it is eco-friendly and all the products they use are derived from natural and organic ingredients.

Anyone who knows me knows that I live a life of natural living and healing as much as possible, so this made Inner Balance Spa an A+ in my books already.

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Photo Credit – Sarah Ali BFA

For those reasons, it was my spa of choice for some rejuvenation.

I found the decor and atmosphere very welcoming.

It is bright, ambient, and immediately brings a wave of relaxation over you when you walk in.

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I was loving the wide variety of organic skin care products, including a fine line of natural make-up, as well as a beautiful line of essential oils, which infuse the room with an incredible healing scent.

 

I pretty much want one of everything on those perfectly laid out displays.

You seriously can not take me anywhere near the top of the line natural skin and beauty products. I am a minimalist in most things, except when it comes to my self-care and the products I use on and in my body.

The infrared sauna room is very warming to the soul and has an extremely therapeutic feeling all in itself.

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Photo Credit – Sarah Ali BFA

 

The sauna also has light therapy built in, and you can change the colours to your specific needs.

There is a print out which tells you what each colour corresponds with healing-wise in your body. It is very enjoyable to switch it up to your individual needs. I was in my happy place.

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With a shower located right in the sauna room, and some of their organic body wash and lotion there for you to test out, the infrared sauna session soon feels like a mini spa day.

It was apparent to me, that all of the staff are highly trained. Their services range from massage, facials, body scrubs, infrared sauna, onward to acupuncture, and even nutritional consulting.

With so many great treatments to choose from, it is hard to narrow down a selection. I did contemplate a package, as they have fabulous packages on offer, as well as a ‘refreshment of the month’ package. Decisions, decisions.

Although, I was just looking to get a nice deep exfoliation to rid my skin of all the winter build up, and renew my body for spring. So, I booked in for their basic body scrub called ‘The Renewal’. The name said it all, and even though I say it is the basic choice, it by no means feels basic.

It is a 45-minute process that includes a body scrub + body polish + a 10-minute steam + an organic apricot oil moisturizing treatment.

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The quaint and cozy steam room is built into the shower that is also located directly in your treatment room, so it provides perfect convenience.

After a detailed scrub down and polish, which feels absolutely incredible, you then step into the steam to help open your pores and take the nourishment in even deeper.

I loved the steam! It not only feels good on the skin, but it feels great on the lungs too. I easily could have stayed in there longer than 10 minutes.

After my steam room session, I was back on the table for the application of the apricot oil moisturizing treatment.

Oh my word, the smell of that oil was absolutely intoxicating, and the feel of my skin was total silk!

I left this treatment feeling divine. My whole energy and being felt lighter and refreshed. Not only is spring in the air, but I felt like I had a spring in my step.

I am a firm believer in body scrubs as part of my self-care now.

I would highly suggest everyone get one. Male or female.

If you want to maintain a silky smooth glow all your year round, I was recommended to receive a body scrub 4 times a year, once with each season.

All the details are covered at Inner Balance Spa. They even have an array of fresh complimentary teas on offer to soothe your soul from the inside.

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Um, yes please!

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Photo Credit – Sarah Ali BFA

I am so happy with my choice to visit Inner Balance Spa, and even more grateful for the great detail they put into their clients and into my own experience there. Total refreshment every time. Having been part of the Calgary community for 15 years, you can see that their articulate detail and above and beyond service is what has made them a mainstay gem.

 

 

 

Coffee and kitty cuddles at the Regal Cat Cafe

I love animals. Not just cats, but like seriously, all animals. I just think they are all so interesting, and we can always learn so much from each individual species.

I remember when I first started doing volunteer projects deep in the jungles of Central and South America – I was totally enamoured with all of the animals and crazy insects. Let’s remember, when I am talking jungles, I am also talking a crazy amount of living creatures. As well as bugs that are 10 times the size of what one is used to seeing. Everything is amplified in the jungle. The jungle is also an incredible place. Life in the jungle is basic but rich beyond measure.

Then there was Africa. Oh, glorious Africa. Seeing the Big 5 is something that never gets’s old, and also something you will never forget. I remember how majestic it was to watch lions, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and all of the other incredible animals in Africa. It sings to your soul. In fact, just writing about it, is awakening my travel bug(which isn’t hard) and making me want to go back(which also isn’t hard).

Okay, snap me back to reality and into the snowy cold here in Calgary, Alberta. Now unless we go to the Zoo, I won’t be seeing no Big 5 around here. Although a quick adventure outside the city to the mountains, and there is also plenty of Canadian wildlife to appreciate – and when the roads are terrible from the winter conditions, then there is always the little gem known as Regal Cat Cafe right in the heart of Kensington.

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I was totally taken by the concept of this cafe. All of the cats here abandoned and are now rescue cats up for adoption. They have their shots and all health matters in order and get to be in this amazing and loving social environment, while they await their new family.

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Since I wanted a coffee right Meow, it seemed like and easy decision for an afternoon destination.

They absolutely have the cat theme down pat. With everything from clothing, trinkets, onward to kitty macaroons. It makes it fun for the whole family.

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Seriously, who wouldn’t love a kitty macaroon?! I don’t even like to eat very much sugar in my life, and I was all over it!

Down the hatch!

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For $10 you can go in and play with the kitties for 45 min. If it’s not busy then they will not shoo you out the door right at the 45-minute mark. If you’re having too much fun in kitty heaven on a quiet day, then you can stay a bit longer. All the proceeds go to helping maintain the cats and their environment.

I swear every cat I met in there was friendly as heck. So much love in one little room.

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When we arrived the sign said 143 cats were adopted to loving homes, and when we left the sign was at 144. It’s hard not to adopt a little feline friend when you’re in there.

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Nothing like getting my caffeine fix to the soothing sound of purring.

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This was bar far one of the coolest cafe’s I have been to. It’s a win-win sorta place, they do good deeds here, so the energy is high vibe and on point.

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What a purrrfect afternoon.

A Divine Dining Experience At One18Empire

Chic atmosphere, fine food, fab service, and beverages the entice the taste buds to wake up. That is exactly what you will find at Calgary’s One18Empire, a whiskey inspired bar and restaurant. With a selection of over 100 whiskeys, you could spend plenty of time sipping your little heart out. I do enjoy sipping on a fine whiskey myself. The focal point of their local inspired fare is shareable plates. The whole concept really intrigued me, so I had to go and experience it for myself.

Located in the Marriot Hotel downtown, One18Empire’s ambiance is very inviting.


The name is derived from where it was located on the original historic Atlantic Avenue in the early 1900’s known then as the Grand Central Hotel. There was a time the hotel nearly blew up way back when an old miner shoveled dynamite in the furnace. They now have a drink named after the event called ‘Near Miss‘.  A perfect place to unwind after work full of rich Calgary history.

Our server for the evening was Meredith, she was awesome from the get go. I was digging the uniforms which were that of workshop apparel too, and also the trays they use.

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Very fashionable workshop apparel I might add.

We got right in there with some Bourbon to start things off. The Black Walnut Old Fashioned – their signature cocktail. Which also happens to be one of the worlds first written down recipes.  I was instantly enamored by the large tennis size ball of ice in my glass. Not gonna lie, the ice sphere was pretty darn cool.

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Apparently it is not just for show either. It also has a purpose as I was informed. The ice melts slowly because of its shape and size, so that it maintains your drink at the perfect temperature while very minimally changing the taste, so as to keep it good until the last drop. That it was!! Delicious. I could get used to sipping on that.

My tastebuds were awakened, and seeing as how One18Empire’s focus is on shareable plates, we dug right into a charcuterie board.  I do love a good charcuterie board, it is a common staple back in Spain, so it almost brought me back home to Mallorca for a moment. I was very impressed with their personal touches on the board consisting of house made marmalade, house made pickles, and house made mustard. Those details always make a difference.

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Accompanied with that fine feast was the simple beet salad.

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Don’t let the name fool you, that salad was not so simple, it was more like divine.

With a chilled bottle of Reisling on the go, and even though we were feeling quite stuffed from the first course, we still went on to tuck into a couple of mains. Seeing as how we were already in sharing mode, we thought it best to stay on that train and choose a main each for the both of us to try.

We decided on the Seared duck breast and the Alberta grass fed petite tender .

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I would have to say my favorite of the two was the tenderloin, it was superb.

 

This was absolutely a divine experience, and we were provided with ample history of One18Empire by our knowledgeable and top notch server Meredith, her bubbly personality, and attentive service really made the experience a memorable one.

Unfortunately we didn’t do any whiskey sampling, or see the whole restaurant, but that is just more reason to go back sooner rather then later – and I absolutely will be going back for an extended experience. One18Empire, a historical sensory filled culinary journey not to be missed.

A Culinary Journey At The Workshop In YYC

Wining and dining is one of my favorite past times. A great group of friends having endless laughs and good chat while sharing fine food, and sipping on superb wine in a classy atmosphere. What culinary dreams are made of. The culinary scene in Calgary is pretty impressive and I am always on the hunt for unique places that stand out from the rest.

Recently I had the supreme pleasure of enjoying an incredible culinary journey at the WorkshopLocated in the heart of downtown Calgary right inside the Theater Junction Grand, boasting the perfect combination of the Arts Culture as well as Culinary Culture – it is a pure gem.


I love the feeling of walking into a theater, we all know it. It is a feeling of excitement, and cultural history, beckoning you inside with its antique feel. Yes, I was absolutely already diggin the feel of it when I reached the front doors.


The restaurant is very open and airy, split on either side of the entrance to the actual theater.

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With the decor being that of an actual workshop – and a classy one at that. Building things was a hobby of mine growing up, so the workshop feel was quite appealing to me.

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We were warmly welcomed and upon being seated we were then given a great in depth briefing about the history of the place.

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I was amazed to learn that the theater itself was built in 1912, being now just over 100 years old. At the time the theater was considered the biggest and best in the Pacific Northwest. It is now a place where art can be expressed in multiple forms, from all areas of life. The Workshop and the Theater are two separate outfits, yet combine perfectly as one.

We clearly got into the wine from the get go. There is no messing around when it comes to myself and my love of wine.


I decided on a bottle of French Rose. I do love a good Rose!

Red, white, rose, who am I to judge really?! I love them all. Particularly Rose from French vineyards, however I have enjoyed some very fine Rose’s from North America now as well. Three of us arrived prior to everyone else, and being famished, we just ‘had’ to get right in there with some sort of snack to get us going. I suppose the excitement was also getting the better of us.

Because of the high recommendation given to us, we chose the Fried Cauliflower with garlic, green olive and Harissa aoili.  As well as the Seared Scallop with pickled potato, pork cheek, charred radish and serrano broth.

 

Wow, it was truly delicious!! I love vegetables, and particularly cauliflower, and with the aoili(which we eat alot of in Spain), it was the perfect compliment. Seriously ridiculous. The scallop was perfectly flavored and melted in your mouth like butter.

So far this culinary journey was off to a dreamy start.

Literally it was so darn good we had to order seconds of the cauliflower. Along side some Albacore tuna poke and the Bulgogi beef tartare.

Both beautifully presented and flavored, I myself however was more partial to the Tuna. I love fish though.

The service was impeccable, and the wine was flowing like a river. Just the way we like it.

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Not only were we being provided with top notch service, we were also being entertained as heck by our server. He really was amazing.

I was pretty stuffed from all those appetizers we indulged in, so for the main, I shared an order of  the Parmesan Cream Gnocci and the Spicy Maple Brussel Sprouts. Two of my absolute favorite foods on this planet. img_5959

I loved every bite. Just when you thought the food couldn’t get better – it then it got better.

The others shared the BBQ pork loin and Pork Belly, accompanied with some cumin roasted yam.

img_5962 With the amount of ‘this is so good’ that was coming out of their mouths, I was pretty certain that they were enjoying tantalizing their taste buds. You can see the effort and taste the passion that goes into every dish there.

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Long behold just when we thought we were at capacity, dessert arrived, and so did the Chef.

We were treated to their three house made desserts. Fallen chocolate souffle with cherry compote, hazelnut crumble, and malted stout ice cream. Fresh berries with citrus genoise, muscat sabayon, and pink peppercorn shatter. Last but not least, Lemon semi freddo, with torched italian meringue, blueberry compote and sugar cookie.

img_4034 How in the heck can you say no to dessert when it’s put right in front of you and boasting with artistic fresheness?! Well, you can’t. You just can’t.

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I can’t express enough how fabulous this whole experience was. The food, atmosphere, service, and the the people, were amazing. You can check out the YouTube video about the incredible experience if your keen.

I am absolutely going to be visiting again, this time around I will also take in a show. If you find yourself in YYC, the Workshop is not to be missed.

 

 

Dolly Parton Concert – Legends And Dreams Come Alive

Dolly Parton. I think that is all I have to say. She is a legend.

I can’t just stop there though, so I shall go on. From a very young age, probably starting around 7, I fell in love with Dolly Parton. That was back in the days of VHS, yes remember those?! Well my grandparents were big Country fans, and they had loads of various Country concerts taped on VHS, including plenty from Dolly Parton. Back then we only got about 7 channels on TV, and that was using an antenna and tin foil on top of the TV, you know,the ones that look like bunny ears. So you taped whatever you could when you were getting good reception so you could replay it.

Yah, so I taped whatever I could of Dolly concerts and watched them all the darn time. I also bought her book ‘Dolly – My Life And Other Unfinished Business’ when I was 10, which I read about 100 times front to back.

I was enamored by everything about Dolly Parton. I thought she looked like a barbie, she sang like a dream, and had the best outlook on life ever. I set 3 goals back then. To see her live, go to Dollywood, and one day meet her in person. 20 years ago she came to Calgary, Alberta, to play at the stampede. I wanted to go so badly, but I couldn’t make it. I was absolutely gutted. I knew though that someday I would have another chance, I just wasn’t sure when…… Until now.

A few months ago, I seen that she was coming to Canada on her Pure and Simple Tour, and Calgary was one of those stops. Seeing as how it was in Calgary that I had the unfinished Dolly Parton concert business, it was a no brainer – I had to finish it there.

I am in the Northwest Territories at the moment for a couple of months of home time before I head back to Mallorca, Spain, and it is a 14 hour drive to Calgary from here. 14 hours to complete a childhood dream of 20+ years, is worth every darn kilometer. I booked myself into the classy Hotel Arts, and lucked out when I got 4th row seats to the concert. I couldn’t believe when they randomly came available. I scooped them up the minute I seen them.

Dolly started promptly at 7:30. I was busy getting myself a classy beverage thinking there would be an opening act. Nope there sure wasn’t though. Dang it! I didn’t want to miss one precious second of Dolly on stage.

We were ready for action

I was in awe from the moment I set eyes on her. Actually I was in tears.


Famous people don’t even phase me, ever. To me people are just people. However, Dolly Parton was someone whom shaped me growing up. Well her and Marilyn Monroe. I had no idea how touching seeing Dolly was going to be. Not only was her voice totally perfect, sitting there listening to all her stories that I read in her book, coming from her own mouth, was beyond words. For the first time in my life, watching someone live, brought tears straight to the ol’ peepers. Especially being in 4th row. Her energy was emanating. She was so damn amazing. Leave it to Dolly Parton to be as inspiring as always.

Man did she put on a good show. From 7:30 – 10:30 with a 20 minute intermission, she’s definitely a go getter that one.

She pretty much played every instrument under the sun.


Even after the show it was hard to leave.

And also hard to believe what we just experienced.

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This is something I will absolutely never forget. Hands down best concert of my life.

The closest I came to getting a photo with her.

What did I take from all of this? Don’t ever give up on your dreams. I waited 20+ years for this one, but gosh darn it, it happened – and it was unbelievable.


Next stop, Dollywood.

Trust me, once you start checking the boxes, you just can’t stop.

Kicked The Dirt Up VIP Style At The Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede, 10 days of Cowboy’s, rodeo’s, chuck wagon’s, party tent’s, rides, pancake breakfasts, and let’s not forget the mini donuts…..  I have not been in Calgary during the stampede in about 10 years, so when I got invited by the fabulous fashion designer Jean Michel, to attend a day of behind the scenes day of VIP treatment – I clearly hopped on that band wagon.

We had no idea what was entailed in a VIP stampede day, all we knew was that we were getting picked at 4 pm in a private stampede limo. In reality though, when something says VIP, you know you must be in for a good time. Our chariot arrived and we were off to our stampede adventure. The day started with a beer in the Stampede head quarter office.

Of course I was sporting a Jean Michel scarf, who doesn’t wear one on the farm?!

Obviously when you are at the stampede, you sip on Calgary Stampede Budweiser.

After we had got our party started in the office, we were then met by Roc, whom was our guide for the day. He is awesome(seriously, from the moment we were introduced to himself and his wife, they were just darn awesome)!


Not only has he been working the the stampede for 39 years, he is on the board of directors, and he is a fountain of stampede knowledge. He took us straight to the ‘actual’ Stampede Headquarters. Here we thought we were at the headquarters, but we were very pleasantly surprised to see the real deal.

We were served some bubbly in the private stampede headquarter lounge, where we sat and listened to Roc fill us with endless Stampede history. I love history, and delving deeper into things to gain a better understanding of where it all began. Being in there is a very special treat. Unless you are on the board of directors, or are someone very special, you ain’t gonna be hanging out in there.

From there we were whisked off to enjoy dinner with all the chuck wagon racers.

For one of these private tents, they pay about $10 000 a day, times that by 10 days, and you have got yourself one fine looking penny. Just to get in there you have to have a special card around your neck, a wristband, and not to mention a special invite. It’s one of those places that you only get into if you know the right people.

 

The dinner was delicious, and perfect for the circumstances. Definitely reminded me of good ‘ol home cooking.


Made me feel like I was back on the farm. It was so cool being among it all. I grew up out on the land, and had ample opportunities to be on farms, so this whole experience was a nice reconnect with my childhood.

After we were fueled up, we had a chance to meet and hang out a bit with world renowned chuck wagon racer, Rick Fraser, whom just the day before was in an accident on the track and luckily dusted himself off and walked away from it. No biggie for Rick though, he was just as awesome as ever, and was right ready to hop back on the chuck wagon and hit the races.

Before the races I had to grab a snap with the Cowboy Mountie. It just had to be done.

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Rain or shine, the show always goes on.

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Photo credit to Jean Michel

I never realized how cool chuck wagon races really are, but I now have a new found appreciation for it.

Just when we didn’t think our VIP day could get much better, we were taken behind the scenes of the Grand Spectacular show.

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Where we were treated to a walk through all of the dressing areas, and a look at all the action behind the scenes, before we went up to the box for our VIP seat for the show.

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Where we were served wine and cheese, and had an incredible view of the whole show. Clearly that was ticking all the boxes for me.  Although once I seen the actual show – I was blown away!

It was much much more then I expected!

Spectacular is absolutely the way to explain it.

We were spoiled as heck all day long, we also each grabbed a snap with the lead singer of the show afterwards.CanCalgarySampede2016267VIPGrandStandShowOdegard_modifié-1

You can check out a bit of video action from the day.


The whole day was amazing, and seeing the Stampede from that angle, was absolutely incredible. I am so appreciative to Roc for giving us such a special experience, and to Jean Michel and his fab crew for the invite on the VIP day, as well as some of the fabulous photos for this article.

There is something about seeing how things really go to pull it together that makes you have a much greater sense of awe and appreciation for it. Don’t you agree?