Monday, August 6, 2012

I have always wanted to go kayaking down the rapids without a kayak... haven't you?

I think the title of this post says it all. Kayaking down rapids without a kayak is not as much fun as you think. I had a chance to experience that today, and as much as it wasn't so much fun, it makes for a great story ;)

8 friends, 5 hours, 2 cars, and 1 fantastic day! It all started a few months ago when my friend Kaila and I were discussing how we need to make this summer fun in Toronto. So we started a facebook group called 'Summer of Fun' and invited many of our friends. Quickly the news spread and now the group boasts 125 members. The point of the group was to bring people in Toronto together by planning adventures and posting them for all members of the group to join. The group has helped me reconnect with old friends and make new ones!

One of the suggested activities was kayaking down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario. My friend Mira planned this trip. It kind of reminded me of the organized trips I have done in Israel. We had an early wake up call since our aim was to be on the road by 7:30am. Naturally we were all running behind schedule, but we managed to make it on time. The scenery was stunning and we were only an hr and a 20 min outside the city. It is amazing how beautiful this country is just at our doorstep! I had a very proud Canadian moment today and felt like it would have been a great ad for Tourism Ontario/ Canada. 
We leisurely paddled our way through the river as we learned/ practiced our paddling skills. We went through a few "frapids" (which was my nickname for fake rapids) lol. They were rapids, but I guess because of the lack of rainfall this summer, they just weren't flowing as much. After a while we found a cute spot to stop and park our kayaks for lunch. We pulled out our coolers and brought out our spread. We ate, lounged, and even went for a swim before we headed back out onto the water. 

The beautiful Grand River

Lunch break!

Now here is where the story gets interesting, at least where I am concerned. At this point we have all gotten paddling down pat and nobody has managed to fall out of their kayaks... until I hit rock and get stuck in the middle of one of the more flowing rapids. I use my paddle to maneuver myself out and since the rapids were quite rocky, my kayak loses balance and I tip over! Thankful that I did not hit my head while falling out of the kayak, I quickly began thinking how I could remedy the situation. The rapids were flowing quickly so I went along for the ride, and aside from looking like my legs went through a cheese grater I was totally fine. Needless to say, I went through two rapids until there was a spot where I could get a footing and with the help of my friends got my kayak back in order. Thank god for teamwork! I could not have finished the course without them :)

After arriving home we ordered pizza and just sat around and relaxed. I think we earned that ;) It was an amazing day celebrating the long weekend we have essentially because all other months of the summer have one! 

Wherever you are and whatever your budget is, there is always a way to create a little adventure in your life. Remember all mishaps on your adventures just make for better stories at the end of it so keep on adventuring!

Monday, February 27, 2012


If you are ever looking for paradise, I think I found it. It lies somewhere in the Caribbean between the turquoise  water and the lush islands that seem to appear out of nowhere. The scenery was absolutely spectacular, but the company was even better. I had the privilege of spending the week with members of my extended family for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah at the Synagogue in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Wow. It is difficult to put into words how I am feeling right now. Lets go back a week in time so I can recap the whole journey. Last Sunday morning I took an early morning flight from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale with my brother and sister in law. There we met my father and other brother and headed for the cruise ship. This was my first time on a cruise and my first time going to the Caribbean. Firsts in travel are always so exciting for me because there is so much beauty in discovering something for the first time. There is a different appreciation that returning to a place you have already been. After boarding the ship and finding my room, the first thing I did was wander around the ship trying to get oriented. It was such a big boat and there was so much to discover. Once on deck, up by the pools, I started bumping into different family members who boarded earlier than I did. That was the moment it all started to feel so real. I was going on this boat for 7 days and my family was all there to share it with me. Such an incredible opportunity (especially since they are usually sitting down and listening or reading about my adventures). I was also treated to a hot stone massage which was a nice way to start off my vacation. It really got me relaxed and as the boat drifted farther and farther away from Florida my mind relaxed until I thought of nothing else besides the ship. It helped a lot that I had no access to phone or internet. If I had wanted there was an internet cafe on one of the decks, but it was nice to unplug for a while.

The first night of the cruise was uneventful. Since my family had ordered kosher meals we had to wait a while until we received or dinner. If any of you reading have ever ordered kosher meals on a cruise, you will know that you get a menu of frozen dinners they have stored and they microwave for you. On the first night there seemed to be so many options, but by day 3 I think we were all growing sick of the frozen meals. Nevertheless we were seated by a window that first night and enjoyed a nice view of the ocean as we waiting for them to prepare our food. I have to say though we had a fantastic experience with the gentleman who took care of our specialty meals. He made sure we were taken care of the entire trip and organized a platter of freshly cut vegetables to start off the meal and a fresh fruit platter for dessert!

Monday morning our ship anchored just off of Princess Cays, Bahamas and we needed to take a tender to the Island. What was great about this island is that it is owned by the cruise line so we didn't need to bring any cash. Everything could be purchased on our cruise cards. very convenient. There wasn't much to do on the island so mostly we relaxed on the beach, went swimming in the turquoise water, and enjoyed some island drinks. It was a great first stop, and I was thoroughly exhausted by bed time. I was lucky Tuesday was an at sea day! Tuesday started off with a bang. I was so excited to see in the daily newsletter that they had a Zumba dance class. I started Zumba a month and a half ago and I am addicted. Starting my day off with a fun exercise class was awesome. Totally energized me for a day of lounging by the pool. Tuesday night my grandparents hosted a lovely party in one of the nicer restaurants. It also happened to be formal night, so we all got dressed up and had a blast.

Wednesday morning we arrived St. Maarten. We ported on the dutch side in the capital of Philipsburg, and I never made it to the French side. The morning I wandered around the city in and out of the duty free shops lined along front street. It was a nice way to explore the island a little. After I had an excursion booked with my brother, brother and sister in law. We were all going helmet diving which I had never done before. I have scuba dived before but helmet diving was very different. Instead of having the mouth piece and oxygen tank, they place a space looking helmet over your head that is attached to oxygen above water. You breathe normally in the helmet and you can focus more on what you see underwater this way. It is great for beginners who are apprehensive about scuba diving. Once under water there was a ramp with a railing to hold onto as you walk around looking at the beautiful coral and colourful fish. It helped that I went down with an underwater camera and we bought pictures from the underwater photographer. Always a good buy, since they see things and capture moments in a different way than the average tourist going down. In the end we have many fantastic pictures to remember this amazing experience.

Thursday was the day we had been all waiting for, the bat Mitzvah, which was the reason we all came on this cruise in the first place. After disembarking from the ship we all took cabs to the Synagogue. Walking into the synagogue for the first time took my breath away. Some back story on the Synagogue. "Saint Thomas Synagogue, built in 1833, is the second-oldest synagogue (building) and longest in continuous use now under the American flag. The synagogue, fourth on its site, was built to house a congregation founded in 1796 by Sephardic Jews who had come to the Caribbean Basin to finance trade between Europe and the New World. The congregation reached its zenith in the mid-19th century, declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the fortunes of the Danish Virgin Islands, and grew again in the late 20th century." (taken from wikipedia) The Synagogue has white sand floors and has a sense of history hanging in the air. One of the Torah scrolls held by the Synagogue is one Hitler was planning on using in a proposed museum of the "extinguished race". To know that scroll is housed in such a historic place which is still used today for services is so momentous. Truly incredible to witness. The service itself was beautiful and probably my favorite Bat Mitzvah I have ever attended. Definitely the most interesting. After services and a  beautiful brunch, we had a little bit of time left to explore the island. We found a taxi driver, named Mr. Two Pedal, who drove some of us around the island up to a mountain top with one of the most exquisite views I have ever seen. I think it was there that I realized I truly have found paradise on this trip.

Friday was our last port day and I was so excited to enjoy the few hours we had in Grand Turk. Turks and Caicos are known for their clear turquoise waters and spectacular snorkeling. Because of shabbat, we had to be back on the boat early, so we were limited in the excursions that could plan. We ended up finding a snorkel and hike excursion that would get us back to the boat an hr before shabbat which was perfect. The snorkeling really was the best compared to the other islands. The water was so clear and we had a great view of the coral and fish. After snorkeling for a while we swam to a little island for our hike. I was surprised to find a 16th century Spanish fort! It seems that wherever I go I seem to find archaeology. Even though our time was limited, it was an amazing way to spend our last stop on the cruise.

Shabbat on the boat was interesting only because it proposed a whole new set of questions and limitations. Friday night we ate earlier than the rest of the family so we could eat food that was somewhat hot since it could not be warmed up once shabbat started. Shabbat day (Saturday) we had cold turkey schnitzel because it seemed to be the only item on the menu that would be decent cold. Another one of the issues we faced was getting in and out of our rooms since the doors are all electronic and they had no real key they could give us. Our steward said he would open the door for us if he saw us in the hall but he was off duty for the last few hours of Saturday when we would likely be going in and out of our room. Instead, he advised us to take a business card and place it at the edge of the door where the lock pops out so the door appears to be shut but open enough that we could just push the door and it would open. So this was our solution. It ended up being an enjoyable day at sea. In the afternoon my father and brother and I played a great game of monopoly that we had taken out of the library. Next thing we knew we were witnessing the nicest sunset we had seen on the trip. Saturday night, after shabbat was over, we quickly packed our bags and headed to our last dinner with the whole family (all 48 of us who came for the Bat Mitzvah). We managed to get all our goodbyes in. It was sad because not only were we marking the end of a wonderful vacation, but also the end of a unique opportunity to spend so much time with friends and family when everyone was on vacation. It was truly a moment to appreciate how lucky we all were.

If you though my adventures ended with the conclusion of the cruise, you don't know me very well. After the cruise I got to spend 2 days in Miami having a vacation from the vacation and spending time with the other side of my family. Sunday night dinner consisted of 13 of us: My father, brother and sister in law, brother, grandparents, great uncle, aunt and uncle, and a cousin and her husband. My aunt and uncle live in Los Angeles and we got lucky they were visiting Miami the same time as us so we could catch in a quick visit. Also my cousin and her husband live in NYC and we don't see them as often as we would like. Today I spent my last day of the vacation walking up and down Miami Beach and the boardwalk with a friend I haven't seen in a while. It all ends now as I write this post in Fort Lauderdale Airport waiting to board my flight. This trip ranks as one of my best adventures. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I enjoyed experiencing them. I cannot wait to see where my adventures take me next!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stay tuned!

Where does the time fly? I was discussing my blog today with a friend and realized I have not posted in months. It was only when I looked exactly how long its been that I started to wonder where the time went and how I had nothing to update. Well.... in  my life there is always something to update so here is a quick catch up. The past couple months have been super busy. I had a fantastic summer with the most amazing friends. So much happened over the summer so I will just post a few pictures  from some of my more local adventures.
Yardena's annual summer birthday party- hipster theme
Horseback riding with my niece and nephew

Adventure in the distillery district

Summer was amazing, but it made way for an even better fall and winter. Here are some pictures of those adventures :)
Nuit Blanche

My birthday :)

New Years

The point is even though I haven't traveled to far off destinations in a while, I have had quite a few adventures along the way. I have to thank my friends for that because if it weren't for them my life wouldn't be as fun :)
Stay tuned for more adventures because I am off to the Caribbean in a few days for a week long cruise with my entire extended family. There should be some great stories and adventures on this trip!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spring time

Spring is a time of renewal. I think of the blossoming trees, gushing streams, and just warm enough sun. I think of bright colours, cottage season, and good friends. I am very fortunate that since my return home I have been able to experience all that I associate with spring. Since I came home I have gone up to the cottage a few times since we are in the middle of renovating a bathroom, an outdoor porch, and switching a shower to a bath/shower in another bathroom. Each time I went up, for the day only, I had the chance to see spring emerge from winter. The first time I came up, the lake was still covered in ice and snow and although it was March, it felt like it was January. The next time I came up the snow was mostly gone and although the weather was still cold, you could feel the sun getting stronger. The streams along the road which disappear by summer were gushing at full force. Each time after that the sun got warmer, the trees got greener and you could literally smell spring.

Last weekend was the May long weekend and marked the beginning of the cottage season. Each year Canadians look forward to that time of the year where they spend glorious weekends relaxing in the country. Since everyone in my family seemed to have plans, the cottage would be empty as of Sunday. I figured why let the cottage go unused so I invited a few close friends up. Nothing like the cottage parties of late, but still so enjoyable. In the end there was a total of 6 of us. There was some lounging, some amateur photographing, water falls sightseeing, brewery tasting, and a 90's music dance party, but the best part was being able to spend time with amazing friends. If this is spring I can only imagine what summer will bring ;)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Home sweet home!

WOW I cannot believe I have been home for over a month now. I never ended up getting to write a blog post about the end of my travels. I spent a weekend in Brussels and a day in Amsterdam on my way back to Paris from London. All amazing!!! I also managed to surprise my father by arriving home a day earlier than he expected and the look on his face when I walked through the door was priceless.
As for being home I have mixed feelings. I love being home for the obvious reasons- amazing family and friends, but at the same time there is a certain let down when the whole journey is complete. How do you go from this amazing 7 month adventure around the world and be content to jump back into your old routine? The transition is something I am learning to work through and make being home feel more like an adventure.

Tonight was a classic example. It started off with catching up with a good friend in town that I have not seen in about a year. After I met a few other friends at Dave and Busters. We had an amazing night goofing off and really enjoying ourselves. I love my friends dearly for being able to put up with some of my crazy ideas. Since I have come home a few of us have been discussing going to Niagara Falls and as Dave and Busters was closing at 2 am, we came up with the idea to go. For most people that thought would be crazy! who would start diriving at that hour knowing that until we would all finally leave the city we would not get there until 4 am. Well, everyone went along with it and we ended up having two cars that went. Hours later, after what felt like another night entirely it was time to leave the casino and head for home. It was probably one of the funniest rides I have had in a long time. There was actually a first. Never before has anyone had to go to the washroom sooo badly that they actually went in a bottle! LOL. I thought I was going to die of laughter and puke.

After arriving home with the thought "I cannot believe this night actually happened" I realized that I didn't need to be off exploring a foreign country to find the adventures I was seeking, all I needed was some good friends who are always along for the ride. I love my friends and I am so lucky to be around people who want to live life to the fullest and experience as much as they can. They help make life interesting ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eurotrip: Day 19- 26 London, Bath, and Stonehenge

After an amazing trip in Italy, it was time to set out for London. I was realy excited to reunite with friends. In order to get there though I had to take a 15 and a half hour train ride from Rome to Paris and then switch train stations to catch the eurostar to London. Well all I can say was that was one interesting ride. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was having a heart attack. I get on the train and a man offers to help me with my bag. Perfect, that was so nice of him. When he looks at my ticket to see which room I am in, he says "oh your with me". Secretly I am starting to freak out. This is an overnight train where I get a bed and go to sleep. When I made my reservation, the agent failed to mention he had booked me in a mixed male/female room and I was feeling very uncomfortable. Now I thought the situation could not get worse, but of course it did. Next walks in a 450 pound woman who is crying because she does not really fit down the halls and it was a clearly a very upsetting and humiliating walk to our room. She proceeds to take out the worst smelling fish I have ever smelt and it stunk up the room. Just after the walked in came another woman who felt compelled to say only one thing to me when she walked in "Me, Arab". I was not quite sure why that was relevant, but she felt that was the only thing I should know about her, since we had no language in common and therefore it was really difficult to communicate. To make a long story short, in the end the man ended up moving (thank god) and that made the situation a lot better. The large woman stopped crying and screaming into her phone at somebody and that made it easier to sleep. And as for the Arab woman, even without verbal communication we managed to be friends. We made eye contact about the smelly fish and then she sprayed perfume in the room. We also figured out that we both had to change from Paris Bercy train station to Gare du Nord and ended up splitting a cab ride. Now that it is all over I look back at this insane experience, but hard to deal with as it was happening.

Now for the good part London! London was amazing and I cannot thank my friends there enough for the hospitality they showed me. A friend of mine who is originally from London had his parents host me while I was in town. What made it awesome was that he was also visiting for the weekend. His family welcomed me like there own and made it so comfortable for me to be there. Also, I had previously met some of his friends from London who had come over to visit Toronto over the summer so it was great getting a chance to see all of them again. My first day in London I spent at the British Museum. Four hours later I had still not seen everything, but I had seen the things that I had gone to see and it was amazing. I stood and stared at the Rosetta Stone for quite some time marvelling at how instrumental this stone was in deciphering hieroglyphics and all we have learned because of that.

After that was Shabbat and a great get together on sat night with old and ne friends. Sunday my friends took me siteseeing in the city. It was great fun, not just because I got a hance to see the touristy sites with local "tourguides" but I got a chance to hang out with people that make smile. We had a fantastic day starting at Buckingham Palace which we got to just in time for the changing of the guard plus the flag was up so we know the Queen was in residence. After that we walked to Whitehall, then Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London eye. At that point it started to rain so we went into a market where I picked up a few souveniers and then made our way to Maple Leaf (the Canadian bar). After that we went over to one of their friends places and watched the football game Birmingham vs, Arsenal. My first real introduction to the world of football by people who really follow it. I honestly had a great day :)

The next day I was heading out to Bath and was lucky enough to get a ride to Bristol which is a city very close to Bath and an easy train ride. The company was much better than taking the train :). Bath was one of those places that might seem off the beaten path for the usual trip to London, but I had been dying to see the Roman baths and they did not disappoint. They were every bit of amazing I had thought they would be. Water still flows into the baths and  it makes you want to just walk in. You could really get a picture of what the place would have looked like 2000 years ago. To really understand why this place has been so popular for thousands of years, I went and checked out the modern spa and spent time in the therapeutic waters. It was a perfect end to the day. The day after I went to stonehenge. I had wanted to do a whole day tour, but since it was winter and not many tourist go at that time, they were only offering the half day tour. It ended up being just perfect! I got to see stonehenge get guided around the area by someone who has spent his entire life in Bath and make new friends. I made friends with a girl around my age who was travelling around with her father. After the tour was over, we ended up going to one of the pubs in town and trying a pint of locally brewed beer. Even though I was travelling alone at this point, it didn't feel like it.

After Bath I went back to London for a day to see a friend from university who had moved out there and then I went to Brussels..... Stay tuned for more!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eurotrip: Day 10-18 Barcelona, Venice, Florence, and Rome

I have been so busy lately that I have not had a chance to update on my adventures, and there is so much to tell! After France I took a 12 hour train ride to Barcelona. This was the first time I have ever taken an overnight train and it was a wonderful experience. I had an amazing time in Barcelona. It was the first time I have ever been in Spain and I loved it. I was only in town for a day and a half but I managed to see so much. I wandered down Las Ramblas, saw the local marked, took a walking tour of the Gaudi buildings, and saw Roman Barcelona (an underground museum of the archaeologial excavations of the Roman city). It was a lot to pack in but it was so worth it!
Barcelona Market

After Barcelona I hopped on a plane to Venice. Venice is an amazing and beautiful city. Carnivale officially started while I was there so it was amazing to see all the costumes and everyone walking in the streets with their masks on. Of course I had to buy a mask and add it to my collection. Last year when I was in new Orleans I bought a Mardi Gras mask. In Venice I had the chance to spend Shabbat at Gam Gam kosher restaurant which is run by the Chabad of Venice. It was such an amazing experience to put Jews from all around the world at one table and see how many people we have in common. As I sat down I looked at a couple and said "Aren't you the couple who helped me out at the airport"? Turns out it was! How amazing is that. Also, Murano is now one of my favorite places. Watching the glass blowers do their craft is a must see on any trip to Venice and the pieces they make are incredible and beautiful.

Rialto Bridge
After Venice I took the train to Florence for one day and a night. I fell in love with the city almost immediately. My first stop was the leather market. This is one of the best places I got to go during my travels. The scarves and the leather products are just amazing. I picked up a pair of torquoise leather gloves with rabbit fir inside for only 23 euros! This adds to the 2 pairs (pink and purple) of leather gloves I have purchased in Venice for 30 euros each. I picked up a few bright and colourful scarves which tends to be a conversation starter. I wandered through the streets and enjoyed the beauty as I tried (horribly) to find the Kosher market. In the end I hopped in a cab and five minutes later I was there. Florence is such a confusing city, but I loved having the time to just wander around. The next morning I had a few hours before my train to Rome so I hopped over to the Academia and had the chance to see Michelangelo's David. What a spectacular site to see. It is huge and amazing. Although my favorite sculpture is still Bernini.

After Florence I went to Rome for 2 days and one night. It was nice to wander the streets again after a few years since spemding 3 weeks living there on an exchange. I was surprised that even though I didn't know street names, I somehow managed to always know which direction I should be walking and make it to my destination. Since I only had a short amount of time I wanted to get in as much as I could. I showed  a friend around Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori on our way to the Jewish Ghetto for dinner. Honestly I think that dinner was the best food I have eaten on my entire trip. The gnocchi literally melted in my mouth. Amazing :). The next day I went on a tour of the Vatican Museums which is incredible but exhausting. It took longer than anticipated and after that it was time to go pick up food and snacks for the 18 hour train I was embarking on. More on that in the next post.

swiss gaurd