Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Best Cherry Blossom Festivals Around the World

Having just returned from Japan, I was pretty excited to show you some amazing cherry blossom festivals around the world. But who says there has to be a festival?! Check out Smithsonian's list of where to see the best cherry blossoms around the world.

Have you ever been to a cherry blossom festival? I'd love to hear about it!

Vancouver B.C. Cherry Blossom Festival
The celebration runs through the month of April and it's hard to go anywhere in the city without seeing some of their 40,000 ornamental cherry blossom trees. The festival events include a series of concerts, full participation dances, nighttime illumination of cherry trees and a BC Blossom Photo Contest. Though it has ended already, they also have a huge outdoor celebration called Sakura Days Japan (mark your calendar for next year!). The favorited event of the festival is the Haiku Invitational featuring poems from both budding and seasoned poets honoring the celebrated cherry trees.

Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, San Francisco
Celebrated over two weekends in April, this festival is in its 47th year. They feature hundreds of performers from both Japan and California showcasing the music and dance of the American-Japanese culture. As well, they have Japanese art classes for flower arranging, bonsai, calligraphy, origami and doll-making!

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C.
One of the largest cherry blossom festivals in the world, they celebrate over one hundred years since the Mayor of Tokyo gave the American people 3,000 cherry trees as a gift of friendship. Blooms peak in early April, but the festivities are plenty, extending from 20 March to 15 April.

Cherry Blossom Festival, Macon, Georgia
The celebration lasts 10 days in March, when some 300,000 beautiful Yoshino cherry trees are in bloom. That's no typo -- 300,00 trees! The theme of the celebration is "Love, Beauty, and International Friendship".

Matsumae Koen Cherry Blossom Fesitval, Japan
Late April to early May, this festival in eastern Japan celebrates 250 varieties and 10,000 trees which surround the famous 17th-century Matsumae Castle. One variety they have which people love to see is known as the 'weeping sakura', much resembling a willow tree.... 

Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Celebration
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates with a five week display of their gorgeous cherry blossom trees. Their Sakura Matsuri Festival is held over the last weekend in April filled with classical Japanese dance, traditional tea ceremony, sword fighting, kimono fashion shows, and more.  

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, South Korea
Jinhae is home to 220,000 cherry blossom trees, all white, and blooming late March through early April. Their cherry blossoms create several spectacular settings, including the 'Romance Bridge' and Anmin Road, a 3.5 mile tunnel of 10,000 cherry blossom trees.

Copenhagen Sakura Festival
For just one weekend in late April, this celebration commemorates the gift of 200 cherry blossom trees which were planted in Langelinie Park, where traditional Japanese performances take place among the beautiful blossoms. 

Greater Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival
For the entire month of April, this city has a full schedule of events from traditional Japanese performances, to art and sushi making classes, most being held outside among their beautiful cherry blossoms.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Best Mexican Tacos in Vancouver

To say I love tacos is a huge understatement. I have been on the hunt for the best mexican taco shop I can find in Vancouver, and I think I found it at La Taqueria Pinche Taco ShopThe word is already out, locals and visitors continue to line up for their taco fix. I'll most definitely be back.... soon.

Here is what you need to know:

1. Their produce and meats are all fresh and organic.

2. Their taco menu is a mix of traditional and new choices: meat tacos, veggie tacos and quesadillas. Some tacos that just might blow your mind are the 'Al Pastor' with pork marinated in achiote chili and pineapple, the 'Pescado' fish taco made of zarandeado fish with chipotle mayo, radish and pepitas, the 'Tinga de Pollo' chicken or chorizo in a chipotle tomamto sauce topped with mexican cheese and sour cream. 

3. They have a variety of vegetarian tacos that kick the booty of any vegetarian mexican food I've had. I should tell you about the "Rajas con Crema" with roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn, sour cream and mexican cheese, and the 'Tinga de Hongo' with sauteed fresh mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce. Are you a tofu fan? They have that too in a special recipe sauce you'll love.

4. Their Best Kept Secret: On Wednesdays, the standard order of four tacos will get you two free tacos. I.e. six tacos for the price of four.

5. They have two locations in Vancouver. One is downtown on Hastings Street and the other not too far away on Cambie Street at the Broadway-City Hall Skytrain Station.

6. They have live music at their Cambie location every Saturday 5:30pm - 8:30pm. The band is La Santisma and it's a great night out.

7. Follow them on their Facebook Page and you'll be alerted when their freebies and deals pop up, which is pretty often. It's also your source for monthly and daily specials (sometimes not otherwise promoted) as well as a word of the day which will get you a free fifth taco. 

8. They have recently announced their Cambie location will now be open Sundays, so you can get your taco fix with your friends, family, whomever, while the weekend leisure lasts!

Do you have other favorite taco shops or mexican food restaurants in Vancouver? Please let me know!

Helpful Links:

La Taqueria Pinche website
Yelp Reviews La Taqueria on Cambie
Yelp Reviews La Taqueria on Hastings
Google Map results for La Taqueria Vancouver
Things to do in Vancouver

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Springtime in Vancouver, Canada

Last week saw the arrival of Spring and today was my first chance to explore some nature in and around Stanley Park. I thought you might enjoy the view too!

Cherry Blossoms in full bloom at the marina in Downtown Vancouver.
Canadian Geese in Stanley Park.
On path at Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park.
Majestic Swan in Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park.
Though monochrome, this guy is still beautiful.
What are these? So soft and delicate...

If you are interested in a trip to Triangle Island off the tip of Vancouver Island, a BC-based nature photographer named Liron is organizing a trip for late April 2014. The island is a protected reserve, actually the largest and most diverse seabird breeding colony in British Columbia. Sounds like a great trip for nature lovers, bird-watchers and photographers.