A few weeks ago as I was leaving the office I was stopped by a random guy who appeared to be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to our building. He asked me for directions to Thursday’s, a popular bar in downtown Montreal barely a minute’s walk away from where we were. The conversation that followed went like this:

“Yeah of course, I know Thursday’s. Just keep walking here along Crescent Street and it’s the second or third building on the other side of Maisonneuve, you can’t miss it”

“Merci beaucoup,” he exclaimed. “Hey I hear an accent there, are you from Britain?”

“No mate, I’m Australian.”

“Aaah Australian! Of course, I should have known. G’DAY MATE! How’s the kangaroos? Hey I love that sport you guys play in Australia, AFL?”

“Yep, Australian football, it’s pretty unique huh?”

“Yeah and I love how you guys do the Haka before each game!”

Before I had the chance to correct him on either the nationality or code of football, he bent over at the knees, punched his chest, grunted “Ka mate, ka mate!” and gave me his own personal interpretation of the famous Maori war cry right there on the Crescent Street sidewalk. I couldn’t believe how quickly our conversation had escalated!

He finished his Haka demonstration and went on to ask if I’d like to see a poem he wrote. He handed me a sheet of paper with a piece he’d penned called “The Ocean of Wolves”. And with that, he wished me a good night before heading off up the street – the total opposite direction to Thursday’s.

The Ocean Of Wolves

So, Alexandre B. A. Lebel of Montreal: if you ever happen to Google your own name and stumble upon this post, please know that I have your poem pinned up at my desk at work. It always makes me smile to glance over it and recall the brief but hilarious encounter we had on the street that evening. I hope you made it to Thursday’s eventually. Thanks for the laugh!

 

As an Australian who grew up only ever experiencing two seasons (namely: hot & wet followed by not-quite-as-hot & dry), the north American continent hasn’t yet ceased to amaze me after experiencing its seasonal variances for the past two years. From the brutal -38ºC Toronto/Montreal winter to the sweaty, humid summer a good 70º warmer than its icy counterpart, it must be a meteorologist’s dream (or nightmare, depending on how you see it) to know the job varies so extremely throughout the year.

Only last Monday the high was 24ºC with most of the city’s population out & about in their shorts & t-shirts; this weekend we had our first snowfall of the season and it didn’t get above 6º. I think people would riot if a drastic change in weather like this ever took place in my north Queensland home town!

I took the opportunity over the past two days to explore the gorgeous autumnal foliage of the city during its transitional period between summer & winter. I began Saturday morning on the north-western face of Mont-Royal, a small mountain in downtown Montreal bursting with greenery & hiking tracks, before detouring through Mont-Royal cemetery where the skies opened up with a short but intense flurry of snow. After the sun returned I ventured along a number of mountain trails, stopping by two lookouts as well as the famous cross that can be seen lit up from miles away at night. Sunday saw a visit to Parc Jean-Drapeau, situated on a small island east of downtown, well-known for its 1967 world expo attraction, the ‘Biosphere’.

Here are a bunch of photos I snapped over this Montreal fall weekend:

 

Montreal Fall-1

Montreal Fall-2

Montreal Fall-3

Montreal Fall-4

Montreal Fall-5

Montreal Fall-6

Montreal Fall-7

Montreal Fall-8

Montreal Fall-9

Montreal Fall-10

Montreal Fall-11

Montreal Fall-12

Montreal Fall-13

Montreal Fall-14

Montreal Fall-15

Montreal Fall-16

 

Isn’t it beautiful?

Maybe my next post will be of Montreal in the winter…

 

Burgers are awesome! I’m living on the perfect continent to satisfy any burger craving. There are diners, bars and restaurants on almost every corner serving a myriad of recipes ranging from the traditional favourites to the highly experimental. I’ve had a few burgers I would class as ‘phenomenal’ throughout my time in North America so far: notably at the Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, Vermont, and at Burger Royal right here in Montreal.

A few months ago my Toronto friends Juilie & Cory told me about a burger restaurant they dined at in the small Ontario city of Cornwall called Truffles Burger Bar. They spoke extremely highly of it and suggested I check it out with them next time they were in town. Such a recommendation naturally piqued my curiosity, and it just so happened that they made the drive back to Cornwall this weekend. I took the hour-long train ride west of Montreal and joined them both in town for lunch today.

To get an idea of what to expect at Truffles, I had a browse through their online menu a couple of days beforehand. The burgers sure sounded impressive – they were definitely on the gourmet side of the scale, ranging from the Surf & Turf (beef, lobster & garlic butter) to the Apple Burger (pulled pork, baked apples & goat cheese). They even had a selection of exotic meats to choose from, such as llama, venison, kangaroo & bison.

However there was one burger in particular that really caught my attention:

Solid Gold Burger
Beef + foie gras + black truffle shavings + 23 kt gold dust + glass of champagne
Price: $100

Are you serious?! I thought to myself. A hundred dollar burger? That’s ludicrous! Who in their right mind would want to buy a gold-dusted burger with black truffles for $100?

It didn’t take long to come to the realisation that, in fact, I was precisely one of those people who would buy a gold-dusted burger with black truffles for $100.

We were greeted and served by a jovial young chap who had travelled all the way from Laval (in Quebec) to work at this venue in Cornwall. I wasn’t quite 100% sure at this stage if I would go ahead with the S.G.B. so I asked a bit more about it first. Our waiter gladly assisted in selling the idea to me by showing me a photo of what to expect. I can’t lie: it looked amazing.

Ok, what the hell. I’ll do it.

Juilie opted for the Snapping Alligator (with curry fruit tapenade) and Cory settled on the Beaver Creek (locally-farmed elk with blue cheese, mushroom & sautéed onion). With that, our orders were placed and we waited patiently for our meals while sipping on some delicious white wine, expertly selected again by Juilie.

A short while later, our orders arrived.

Now, it’s not every day that one forks out such a large sum of hard-earned cash for what is commonly known as an inexpensive fast food staple, so I made sure to document as much of the occasion as I could.

Here, I present to you, the Truffles Burger Bar Solid Gold Burger:

 

Truffles Burger Bar-1
It was a true work of art

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-2
Look at those truffles

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-3
The whole outside of the burger was dusted in 23 karat gold

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-4
I wish I didn’t have to eat it, I just wanted to look at it

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-5
The sweet potato fries & basil mayonnaise that came on the side

 

 

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One final pic before digging in

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-7
The first bite!

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-8
Man, this was a good burger

 

 

Truffles Burger Bar-9
These are expensive fingers

 

So there you have it: that’s what a $100 burger looks like.

Was it worth it? For the taste alone, probably not… I mean, yes, it was a great tasting burger – the beef was cooked to precision, the black truffles added a slight nutty dimension to the mix and with the foie gras came a definitive hint of complexity – I just can’t say it tasted like $100.

But was it worth it for the experience?

Hell yeah it was! It’s a freakin’ gold-dusted burger served on a gold plate with a glass of champagne! For 20 minutes of my life as I chewed my way through this masterpiece, I felt like royalty. And that, in my humble opinion, is well worth the money I spent.

 


 

It’s a tradition at Truffles Burger Bar that if you order the Solid Gold Burger, you get your photo taken to be included on their official Facebook page:

 

 

After we finished our meal I logged on to check the pic and saw a comment from a guy called Steven, who pretty much summed it all up:

If this guy actually flew from Australia to try this burger…no matter how good it is… and I am sure it is wonderful…it validates what my father used to say that “Some people have more money than brains.”

🙂

But seriously, if you ever find yourself in Cornwall, you should stop by Truffles Burger Bar for a meal. Yeah, Solid Gold is a little extreme, but there are plenty of other delicious and less expensive options to choose from. I for one have my eye on the Camel Burger for next time.

 


 

Thanks so much to Juilie & Cory for recommending this place and showing me around Cornwall, it’s a lovely town!!

This afternoon I took my camera and went for a walk along the streets of Harbord Village, Kensington Market & Alexandra Park – all home to a whole bunch of freakin’ spectacular urban artwork.

Here is a gallery featuring 60 reasons I fell even more in love with Toronto today.

I love Google Maps. Sometimes I bring up Toronto and explore the city from above, searching for interesting streets, suburbs, towns and green areas around the GTA to potentially explore in real life.

A few months ago I became curious about this peninsula extending into Lake Ontario, south of Leslie Street in Toronto’s east end:

 

 

I soon found myself researching Tommy Thompson Park to see if it was worth visiting. I was surprised to learn the peninsula, known as the Leslie Street Spit, is entirely man-made out of millions of tonnes of concrete, rubble, earth and dredged sand. Construction began in the 1950’s with the intention of providing port facilities for Toronto’s outer harbour, but the demand declined in the end due to a decrease in shipping across the lake. Nevertheless, there was still a need to dispose of disused building materials from the ever-expanding city so construction of the headland continued primarily as a dumping ground.

The headland was opened to the public in the early 1970’s with a huge transformation taking place in the decades that followed, from that of a refuse ground into an area of environmental and recreational significance. It’s with thanks to organisations such as Friends of the Spit that the people of Toronto can today enjoy a beautiful green space boasted as North America’s most remarkable public urban wilderness, complete with over 400 species of plant life, 300 species of birds, cycling tracks, walking trails and some of the most gorgeous scenery you’re likely to see so close to a major city.

I paid my first visit to Tommy Thompson Park in July of this year, where I was quick to note its impressive greenery. Unfortunately it was a gloomy day and I barely made it a few hundred metres into the park before the skies opened up and I had to turn around. I did manage to snap a few pictures that day, which I took as a brief introduction to what was yet to come:

 

Tommy Thompson Park-1

 

Tommy Thompson Park-2

 

Tommy Thompson Park-3

 

It wasn’t until yesterday that my friend Loanne and I finally got around to embarking upon an adventure to the lighthouse at the far end of the park. It was a chilly fall morning – 1°C as I left home, as a matter of fact – but the sun was shining brightly and the air was still. Perfect weather for a 10km hike, as far as I was concerned!

Here is some of what we saw:

 

Tommy Thompson Park-4
Looking out upon the gorgeous Lake Ontario from a trail alongside Spine Road

 

Tommy Thompson Park-5
One of the many wetlands along the way, as seen from a lookout above the trail

 

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We took a trail off the beaten path in the marshlands only to come to this dead end – but it didn’t matter because it was so impressive!

 

Tommy Thompson Park-7
Toronto <3

 

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The lighthouse at the end of the trail

 

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The lighthouse & satellite dish, fenced away from the public

 

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The friendly grin of the satellite dish

 

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There was a hole in the fence so we snuck into the grounds of the lighthouse to find this super sketchy storage container

 

Tommy Thompson Park-11
Adjacent to the lighthouse was another storage shed. I loved the words of wisdom people had graffitied inside

 

Tommy Thompson Park-12
Stay classy!

 

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The view across the lake from the window in the storage shed. You can just make out Etobicoke in the background

 

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The many mounds of dumped bricks littering the outer headland. It kinda detracted from the serenity, but I must admit the debris did add a highly unique atmosphere to the scene

 

Tommy Thompson Park-15
Toronto as seen over the mounds of rubble

 

Tommy Thompson Park-16
Bricks in lieu of sand

 

Tommy Thompson Park-17
Tile art

 

Tommy Thompson Park-19
Toronto again <3

 

Tommy Thompson Park-20
Ugh… so tranquil

 

It’s difficult to believe that when construction of the spit began, there was no intention whatsoever for it to become an urban wilderness. I can’t imagine what anyone involved in its initial development would think if they saw how breathtaking it’s turned out today.

As with most attractions I see in & around Toronto, I would highly recommend any local to visit Tommy Thompson Park to see it for themselves. I’m already making plans to go back at some stage during the winter and I can’t wait to see how different the wetlands look under a couple of glorious feet of snow.

Way back in 2009 while living & working in London, my delightful colleagues and I embarked on a team night out to Garlic & Shots, a restaurant in Soho that serves no meal without said ingredient. I recall ordering a pasta dish (the sauce of which was absolutely piled with the spicy white clove) and washing it down with a garlic beer before rounding off the feast with a huge bowl of garlic ice cream. That’s not to mention the shot of garlic honey vodka we sampled in the Swedish gothic metal bar below the dining room. I never thought I’d ever experience so much garlic in one sitting again.

Well, I’m pleased to announce today was the day I broke my garlic consumption personal best by a long shot, thanks to the Toronto Garlic Festival. Held annually at the picturesque Don Valley Brickworks, the festival celebrates the harvest of garlic throughout the province of Ontario. With around 80 exhibitors taking part in this year’s festival, punters were spoilt for choice when it came to the sheer variety of the bulb available for purchase, garlic-themed cooking demonstrations and garlic-inspired culinary delights – both savoury and sweet.

My afternoon at the event began at the garlic sampling booth, where friendly festival staff spent their time peeling & crushing ‘shots’ of raw Ontarian garlic into the hands of whoever dared to try. There was also lemon & parsley on hand to add some zest to the fiery mouthful.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-1

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-2

 

I took a shot and explored the busy marketplace a little, eventually settling upon a cup of this delicious 4,000 Clove Organic Garlic Soup – the first of what was to be many samples of garlicy cuisine throughout the day. It wasn’t overpowering at all; the ingredients were perfectly balanced. I wish I asked them for the recipe.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-3

 

I felt extra macho and went back for a second shot of raw garlic.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-4

 

Such garlicy mess!

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-5

 

One of the many farmers stalls set up to celebrate Ontarian garlic. These guys were from the Brant Country Garlic Company:

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-6

 

Who ever thought garlic braiding was a thing?

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-7

 

I tried a gourmet corn tortilla – this included beans, cheese, greens and salsa on a freshly-cooked tortilla full of roasted garlic within the dough. The garlic flavour wasn’t all that prominent, but the wrap was altogether well worth the $4 I spent on it.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-8

 

Man, it was busy. There was a much greater turnout than I ever could have expected there to be at a garlic festival.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-9

 

Next on the menu was a light refreshment in the way of a black garlic truffle from Laura Slack Chocolate Artist. Weren’t these just divine! I bought two of them; the sweet relish of the infused syrup proved nowhere near as intimidating as their black skull-like appearance.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-10

 

Morgan’s On The Danforth were putting on a cooking demonstration so I stopped by to watch for a few minutes. They were serving up a pasta dish using five different vegetables (plus garlic, of course). I didn’t get to try any but it looked pretty fancy:

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-11

 

Here’s a Roasted Garlic Elk & Lamb Pie from Globe Bistro:

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-12

 

Of all the recipes on offer, I was most excited about trying the garlic coffee from Incredible Spice, especially seeing as it was described as a warm garlic infused spiced coffee with maple cream and pumpkin vanilla dust. It was in hot demand located right by the market’s entrance, taking nearly 10 minutes to get my hands on a serving. Although it sounded incredible in theory, I instead quickly concluded that garlic is not likely to become a staple ingredient in my coffee any time soon.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-13

 

The friendly folk at Cedar Grove Organic Farm suggested a bulb of Ontario Music Garlic as an ingredient in my spaghetti bolognese sauce (which I have since cooked and thoroughly enjoyed):

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-14

 

I went back to the sample booth for my third and final shot of garlic. My mouth hurt a little after devouring that one.

I wasn’t finished yet though – for dessert, I couldn’t go past a serving of Magic Oven’s Garlic Apple French Toast with Crème Fraîche. I think I was becoming desensitised to the flavour of garlic by now. The French Toast was indeed as appetising as it looked, but I could barely make out the spice in amongst the sweetness.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-15

 

By this stage I was pretty well garliced out. I was ready to call it a day… and then I saw Le Dolci’s garlic macaroons. Wow.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-16

 

Ok, I totally would have gone the ice cream as well but it sold out by the time I made it to the stall 🙁

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-17

 

Tony V was easily winning the Ontario Science Centre garlic breath contest with a reading of 17 parts hydrogen sulphide per billion! I wanted to try it out but it took 10 minutes to recalibrate the machine after every use, and there was already a substantial line up.

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-18

 

The many varieties of garlic on offer throughout the marketplace:

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-19

 

What a great idea for a festival that was. I fully encourage other cities around the globe to take inspiration from Toronto and put on their own garlic festival.

I may be all garliced out right now, but I’ll definitely come back next year for more 😀

 

Toronto Garlic Festival-20

Almost immediately after I scored my job in Toronto in October last year, I went straight onto Craigslist to look for a shared apartment to live in. Prior to that I surfed a handful of hostels and cheap hotels around various parts of the city for two weeks, waiting on that elusive moment where I secured a local income and could afford to pay rent. I was super keen on finding somewhere to live in this exciting new city and couldn’t wait to finally have my own private room, with access to a half decent kitchen.

And indeed I found somewhere. Surprisingly quickly. I responded to one ad, viewed the room that evening, and moved in the following day. Now, it wasn’t the nicest apartment in the world – I could tell from the outset that it was to be the overall dodgiest dwelling I’ve ever resided in. But I couldn’t fault its location on the outskirts of the beautiful Kensington Market, not to mention a bunch of awesome flatmates who quickly became good friends, and my comfortable little room which kept me hell warm during the frosty winter months. Aside from our shifty landlord and the feeble wifi network that was often unusable for weeks at a time, I couldn’t really complain.

 

Evicted 06
A pic of my little unit not long after I moved in, which I shared with two other people. Throughout the top floor & the basement of the building there were 20+ other units – some were shared like this one, others were single rooms.

 

Everything was going more or less ok at my pad on Dundas West & Augusta until Tuesday last week.

I was on my way out for the evening to see a Pete Murray gig, when I was greeted at the front door by around 15 people all looking very serious and official. There were a few from the fire department, a few from the council and a few from the Red Cross. A lady introduced herself and in no uncertain terms told me the city had no choice but to close down the building due to safety concerns. I was instructed to go back upstairs, pack myself a change of clothes and find a friend to stay with. If I didn’t have a friend to stay with, I could talk to the Red Cross and they’d be able to put me up for the night at a community centre somewhere. I was told the building would be open the following day between 10am and 4pm with the fire department in attendance, and everyone who lived here had those hours only to pack their stuff and get out.

Woah.

Everything changed in that moment.

One second, you think you’re piecing your life together, then the next, your whole apartment gets evicted immediately & without notice and you realise you’re homeless.

 

Evicted 01
Much confusion on Dundas St West on the eve of the eviction

 

Evicted 02
The eviction notice posted on the front door

 

I don’t know exactly how many people lived there, but at a guess I would say at least 40 of us lost our home that night.

I studied the eviction notice and found the building severely failed an inspection, which happened a couple of days beforehand:

1. The building was not designed or approved to be used as a rooming house
2. Fire safety systems in accordance with Division B Section 9.3 are not in place. Equipment such as a fire alarm system, emergency lighting and exit signs have not been installed in accordance with the Ontario Fire Code.
3. The means of egress for occupants of the basement is an exit that is through the main floor retail store. This is neither a suitable nor an approved exit to allow occupants to quickly evacuate the building
4. There were numerous uses of temporary wiring (i.e. inappropriate use of extension cords) throughout the building
5. Cooking is being performed in areas not designed for food preparation on hot plates in several areas of the building
6. The electrical panel for the building has not been appropriately wired resulting in a potential electrical fire risk situation
7. The furnace rooms in basement and second floor lack appropriate fire separation as per the Ontario Fire Code
8. There are unrated storage rooms (containing textile rolls) and sleeping rooms within the corridors that are lacking the required fire separations as per the Ontario Fire Code
9. Lacking approved fire safety plan and posted emergency procedures

In other words: if there had been a fire, we all would have died.

I heard from one of the tenants who lived in the basement that the conditions downstairs were extremely cramped & unsafe – and he shared the space with 24 other people. I had no idea about that.

As painful as it was for everyone, it was clearly for the best that the place got shut down before tragedy struck.

 

Evicted 05
9 reasons for eviction

 

Thankfully, a very kind friend was able to put me up at her house that night. I probably would have slept in a park if it wasn’t for that.

I returned to the apartment the next morning. The Red Cross (who did an AMAZING job at helping us all, by the way) had found emergency accommodation for up to 2 weeks for anyone who needed it at a hotel near the airport in Mississauga, around 30km east of Toronto. But I can tell you this much: if I had to live in Mississauga, I would have just headed straight to the airport and caught the next plane back to Australia. It wasn’t an option.

By a stroke of good fortune, I found out through a friend about a summer hostel in the city that offered single rooms at a monthly rate. I booked a room straight away and spent the day moving my gear across on the tram into this building where I remain today. It’s far from ideal, but it’ll do for now. I have accommodation sorted for August thanks to another kind friend who is letting me rent her room while she’s away. I have no idea what will eventuate come September.

 

Evicted 04
One of the many reasons the building was closed: these tiny rooms in a loft were rented out at a cheap rate. The ceiling was no more than a metre above the floor and the rooms held little more than a mattress.

 

Evicted 03
This was the last time I saw my room before I left

 

So here I am, nearly 10 months into my Canadian adventure, homeless, broke, single, about to turn 30 and feeling generally dejected and infuriated towards my ex-landlord for putting so many people in this situation. This is not quite what I had in mind.

But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life throws these little pieces of shit at you every now & then but it really does make you appreciate the happy times even more, when they eventually come around again.

To everyone I’ve met and made friends with since I arrived (especially you hilariously beautiful people I work with), you’re the reason I’m still here. I bloody love you guys.

You may have evicted me from my house, Canada, but not yet from your country. Just you watch me turn this the hell around.

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of love locks.

I used to see them fairly regularly on my strolls across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lovers young and old would write or engrave their names onto a padlock and fasten them to the metal criss-cross fence lining the eastern pedestrian walkway. The key would then be thrown into the harbour below, symbolically rendering their love unbroken for all of eternity. On occasion I would count upwards of 100 love locks, and I took much inspiration from stopping to read the names & messages that appeared on their metallic surfaces. I’ll always remember one in particular that simply read “Ugné + Darren” – it was late in the evening as it attracted my attention, catching a reflection from the passing traffic. I smiled and silently wished this unknown travelling couple a lifetime of happiness, knowing they’d experienced their very own moment of romance standing at this exact same spot with the magnificent sails of the Opera House peaking perfectly in the background.

Eight months after leaving Sydney, I found myself in Seoul visiting the N Seoul Tower. Being the tallest structure in South Korea at 236 metres, its overall height is further boosted to nearly 480 metres above sea level due to the fact that it sits on top of Namsan Mountain; the observatory at the top offering spectacular 360° views across the sprawling metropolis. But it wasn’t the view nor the tower itself that I found most fascinating about my visit to said attraction – it was its famous collection of love locks that roused my senses the most.

It was a busy Monday morning in the centre of the city, and I’d spent around half an hour walking through Namdaemun Market before approaching Namsan Park on foot from the northeast corner. The uphill trek toward the tower was stunning – it was almost unbelievable just how peaceful and pristine the forests of the park were, considering its proximity to one of the largest cities in the world.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-1

 

Eventually the forest cleared and the N Seoul Tower stood out majestically above the canopy. I always try to reach the highest point of each city I travel through, and I couldn’t wait to see the urban sprawl of Seoul from the observation deck above.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-2

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-3

 

It wasn’t until I arrived at the base of the tower that I began to understand the true extent of the love locks. I mean, I’d read about them in my guidebook but it simply described the sight as being ‘trees’ covered with padlocks which symbolise eternal love. I knew to expect a few of these trees, but much to my surprise I was greeted with an entire kaleidoscopic fence full of padlocks, key rings, phone cases, tags, hearts and toys – there was such an array of dazzling paraphernalia attached to the railings!

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-4

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-5

 

Some of the messages appearing on the locks were concise & to the point; others had a lifetime of thought & emotion put into them.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-7

 

Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong, sometimes it’s letting go:

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-8

 

I loved the rather blunt message left for Mike on this tag:

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-9

 

There are a lot of signs around the premises asking lovers to hold onto their key rather than throw it over the edge. Due to safety and environmental concerns, the authorities understandably don’t want the ground below littered with thousands of tiny metal instruments.

But where’s the romance in holding onto your key, huh?!

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-10

 

This is one of a number of Heart Chairs that featured around the grounds of the love locks. Designed by the official mascot of the locks (a bear named Nsarang Gom, who claims to be an expert at dating), they’re described as being magical chairs that help two people fall in love. The idea is of course that shy couples sit on either end of the chair, only to find themselves being drawn closer together. What a lovely idea 🙂

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-11

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-12

 

Some Starbucks love:

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-13

 

Honestly, the fence of locks was enormous. Unlike the Sydney Harbour Bridge where I was used to seeing padlocks numbering the hundreds, here there must have been hundreds of thousands, of all different shapes, sizes and colours! It was truly a sight to behold.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-14

 

These were the ‘trees’ I was originally expecting to see, as described by my guidebook:

 

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N Seoul Tower Love Locks-16

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-17

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-18

 

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N Seoul Tower Love Locks-20

 

Not to be mistaken for a post box, those who obeyed the rules and held onto their key after fastening their lock were invited to dispose of it in this bin, to save from it being thrown over the edge.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-21

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-22

 

Eventually I made my way to the observation deck at the top of the tower, where I admired the spectacular but smoggy view of Seoul. The monochrome picture from the heavens didn’t quite match the vividity of the scene below, though.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-23

 

Inside the observation tower, couples who wished to put in a little extra effort could purchase a tile which they were free to decorate and attach to the wall as a further token of their love.

 

N Seoul Tower Love Locks-24

 

The view of the love locks from the window of The Place restaurant, back down at the base of the tower.

 

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And finally, a simple, heartfelt message to leave with:

 

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There were a number of souvenir shops lining the base of the tower where padlocks could be purchased and names could be engraved. I was thinking about leaving a lock myself… but I decided not to in the end. Not this time, anyway.

 

The N Seoul Tower love locks are an attraction well worth visiting – if not for your own romantic endeavours, then simply to observe the astonishing display of collective happiness in the form of symbolic expression. The tower can be reached by a number of transport options, including shuttle bus, cable car, city tour bus, car, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, simply by foot. The nearest subway station to the cable car is Myeongdong Station. For further details on public transport to the top Mt. Namsan, have a peek through the Getting Here section of the official N Seoul Tower website.

 

One day, I’d like to return to N Seoul Tower and fasten a padlock of my own onto the fence.

Only time will tell whose name will be engraved on the lock next to mine.

 

Have you ever left a love lock anywhere? Who was it dedicated to and what did it say?

 

It was back in May 2012 that I first came across the concept of the pet cafe. I was travelling through Tokyo at the time, and I’d heard about a craze sweeping through the city where cat-loving entrepreneurs were opening tearooms full of kittens, allowing their clientele to play with them, watch them, relax around them and ultimately fulfil their desires for feline affection while sipping on a matcha latte.

I visited one such venue with my friend Shino, a delightful cafe in Shibuya called Hapineko (it translates to ‘happy cat’ – how kawaii!). You can read my TripAdvisor review on it here, but altogether it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour, chilling out in a room with 15 or so cats waiting for us to pamper them.

I didn’t think too much more into pet cafes after that, until only a few months ago while I was busy researching unique attractions in Seoul. I had a 3-day stopover in South Korea last month on my way from Australia back to Canada and I felt like venturing a little further away from the typical touristy things that my guidebook recommended me to see. Thanks to the kind folk of Reddit, I quickly came to realise there was an area in Seoul which was abundant in pet cafes – there were not only cat cafes, but dogs and even sheep were covered! So I booked myself a room in the university district of Hongdae and happily explored the many wondrous pet cafes of Seoul during my time there.

 

DOG CAFE: Bau Haus

Address: 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-334-5152
Metro station: Hapjeong, exit 3
Website: http://bau.cyworld.com (in Korean)

The first stop on my journey through the Seoul pet cafes was Bau Haus, a very popular dog cafe that had recently moved to a bigger & brighter location due to overwhelming demand. And it’s not surprising to see why this place has caught on so well! There were around 25 adorable canines at my disposal; a large number of these were Border Collies, Pomeranians & Golden Retrievers, with the occasional Chihuahua, Beagle, Irish Setter plus a handful of other breeds thrown in for good measure.

Upon entering, I was offered an introduction card briefly pointing out some health & hygiene rules and explaining how to safely interact with the puppies. I was also handed a menu of light refreshments; there was no entry fee, but you were expected to buy a drink for around 7,500 won ($8). As well as a delicious smoothie, I also purchased a bag of treats to feed to the dogs for 3,000 won ($3). Judging by the amount of jumping and tail-wagging going on around my ankles, these pooches knew very well that they were about to receive a free feed from me.

 

Bau Haus-1

 

This little fella was my favourite of the lot, a sweet 8-year old Brittany called Ri-ong. He followed me around for a while before eventually settling with a couple on another table:

 

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Bau Haus-3

 

You might wonder about the hygiene of Bau Haus considering the potential for little accidents, but I’m pleased to report the sanitation was very well-managed and the animals appeared to be greatly cared for. I did notice one dog relieve himself on the floor, but an attentive staff member had cleaned it up almost before he’d even finished his business.

 

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Bau Haus-5

 

Most dogs just chilled with humans either on or under the chairs & tables, but a couple of the younger, more mischievous pups enjoyed a good play fight.

 

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Bau Haus-7

 

Here’s a short video I took of some canine cacophony that occurred half-way through my visit – the dogs weren’t normally this crazy but I guess they need to let off a bit of steam every now & then!

 

 

I loved Bau Haus and would definitely visit again should I ever find myself in Seoul. Anybody who enjoys the company of dogs would have a ball at this place.

 

CAT CAFE: YCat

Address: 358-92 Seogyo-dong, 3rd Floor, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-336-5779
Metro station: Hongik University, exit 9
Website: http://ycat.kr/ (in Korean)

Here’s the first of a few cafes I visited in Seoul for all you kitty lovers out there. On the opposite end of the scale to that of Bau Haus, YCat is somewhere you can go to relax and wind down while attempting to gain the affection of a new feline friend. It becomes entirely evident when comparing a dog cafe to a cat cafe that the former are hell-bent on seeking attention whereas the latter are very independent.

Before you enter YCat you need to exchange your shoes with a pair of slippers, disinfect your hands and pack your bags into a locker. Again, there is no entry fee as such, but you do have to purchase a drink from a ticket vending machine for around 8,000 won ($8.50). Once you’re in, you’re free to chill with the cats to your hearts content.

 

YCat-1

 

I didn’t count them, but there easily would have been 15 (maybe 20?) furry creatures in attendance at the time. During my visit, most of them were either sleeping on a rug, gazing at the world outside the window or tucked inside a hidey hole somewhere, but occasionally a curious pussycat would wander up to investigate the new human who had just entered their territory.

 

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The cats do have a pretty good view of the street below from up on the 3rd floor! There was a private room to the side of the cafe where cats could go for food, drink & privacy, and the staff were very attentive towards their feline needs.

 

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There was much entertainment for the cats around the cafe in the form of toys, scratching posts, boxes and maze-like platforms, but I particularly liked this guy who was having a great time spinning himself around on the wheel.

 

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And just before I left I managed to get a selfie with a new friend!

 

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SHEEP CAFE: Thanks Nature Cafe

Address: 486 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-335-7470
Metro station: Hongik University, exit 9
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe

Now, dog and cat cafes I can understand seeing as they are the two most domesticated animals, but a sheep cafe? This was something I really wanted to see!

Located downstairs along the very busy Hongik-ro that leads towards Hongik University, Thanks Nature Cafe comprises of an indoor area where you can sit & eat in air-conditioned comfort, as well as fenced-off outdoor area with a pen that houses two gorgeous sheep that frequent the cafe. They’re brought down each day by the owner and spend most of their time being admired by fellow cafe-goers. Throughout the day, their owner keeps them fed and entertains them by letting them out of the pen to mingle with the customers.

Thanks Nature Cafe specialises in waffles & coffee – I ordered one of each which set me back around 12,000 won ($13) in total, and I sat outside where I could easily access the animals. It was late afternoon at the time of my visit and thankfully it wasn’t too busy, but being in such a central & convenient location, I can imagine it gets packed during peak hour.

 

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Here I am giving the sheep a pat in between bites of my waffle:

 

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Before too long they were let outside of their pen! They loved the attention.

 

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The sheep are very tame and are comfortable around kids & adults alike. This little boy even got a kiss:

 

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I believe that on hotter days, the sheep aren’t always brought to the cafe – they are sometimes left at the sanctuary where it’s more comfortable for them. You can check at the Thanks Nature Cafe Facebook page to see if the sheep are likely to be there on a particular day.

A few times a day they also go on a walk to the carpark to stretch their legs. It’s quite a sight to see two sheep strolling through a public area in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.

 

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You can’t go past Thanks Nature Cafe for a unique pet cafe experience!

 

CAT CAFE: Cats Living

Address: 358-112 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: 010-7319-1320
Metro station: Hongik University
Website: http://catsliving.co.kr (Korean)

All the cafes I’d visited so far had been researched online, but I stumbled upon Cats Living by accident. As I was walking through the backstreets of Hongdae, I chanced to see a shop with the curious name of Fuckfake (which turned out to be a clothing store, upon investigation), and it just so happened that the floor below Fuckfake was a cat cafe. I couldn’t help but make my way inside.

Similarly to YCat, I had to exchange my shoes for some slippers and sanitise my hands before I went in. I paid 8,000 won ($8.50) for a lavender tea which acted as my entry fee, and I was faced with around 15 sleepy cats upon my access to the building.

 

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Admittedly the atmosphere here wasn’t quite as lively as the other pet cafes I’d visited, and I found the cats to be less social, but it was by no means a bad experience. It could just have been that lazy time of the day where they all wanted to sleep and stick to themselves.

 

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BONUS CAT CAFE: Hello Kitty Cafe

Address: 358-112 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-334-6570
Metro station: Hongik University, exit 9
Website: http://hellokittycafe.co.kr

Ok, so this isn’t a cat cafe as such, but it is a cat-themed cafe.

I must say at this stage that I have no idea who or what Hello Kitty is, but hey, it was just down the road from the Cats Living cafe and it seemed like an interesting place to check out. Plus my friend Inga is a massive fan of it and I wanted to get a photo of it for her. But I think in hindsight, you need at least a basic understanding of who or what Hello Kitty is before you step foot into this place… I still can’t comprehend what the heck it was all about :-/

 

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The menu was mostly made up of sweet drinks, snacks & desserts, and I ordered a sweet potato latte which was served to me with some cute cocoa artwork stencilled atop the milk.

The decor was ridiculously pink. I don’t quite know how else to describe it.

 

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A selfie with my sweet potato latte and the Hello Kitty centrepiece!

 

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After my couple of days discovering the various pet cafes of Seoul, I left with the distinct impression that they are a bundle of fun and have potential to bring much joy to an ever-increasing & stressful urban environment. There have been numerous reports in months gone by of the pet cafe concept expanding and opening up in Australia, Canada and America – not to mention a handful of cafes that have already popped up around Europe. Let’s hope they’re as successful in these corners of the world as they are throughout Asia.

I’m just hoping somebody opens a squirrel cafe one day 🙂

 

If you liked this post, you should also check out Coco The Adorable Staffie!

Meet Coco!

She’s an awesomely adorable 4.5 year-old staffie who lives with my mum & dad on their property in Bluewater, North Queensland.

Coco & I hung out quite a lot while I visited home earlier this month.

And this is what we got up to 😀

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Massive smiles!

 

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GIVE ME THE BALL. I WANT THE BALL.

 

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IT’S MY BALL. AND I’M NOT GONNA GIVE IT TO YOU.

 

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A happy scratch on the grass in the back yard

 

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Just chillin’ in the chicken shed

 

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MMMMM CHICKEN

 

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LOOK AT ME, GENTLEMEN! I’M SUCH A POSER

 

Coco-8
HEY HOW DID YOU GET THE BALL AGAIN? I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU IT WAS MINE

 

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IT’S MINE, I TELL YOU!!

 

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Just chillin’ by the barrel

 

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GRRRRR MY STICK

 

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Yum! Tasty stick.

 

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HEY THAT’S MY BALL

 

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JUMP!

 

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DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT TAKING MY BALL

 

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Cuddles with mum in the car

 

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Cuddles with dad in the car

 

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Hang on, why are we even in the car? Are we going to the…? YES… YES WE ARE!! OMG WE’RE GOING TO THE BEACH!

 

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THROW ME THE STICK

 

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MY STICK

 

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STILL MY STICK

 

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Eyes temporarily off the stick to make a new friend

 

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GOD I LOVE THIS STICK!

 

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CAN YOU PLEASE JUST THROW ME THE STICK?

 

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Eyes temporarily off the stick to explore what’s in the bush

 

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I LOVE THE BEACH

 

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I’M SO PRETTY AMONGST THESE PURPLE FLOWERS

 

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HEY THERE’S THE STICK AGAIN!

 

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WELL HI THERE! THANKS FOR TAKING ME TO THE BEACH!

 

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THERE’S SO MUCH SPACE TO RUN AROUND AND BE CRAZY!

 

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AHH THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN! BUT NOW I’M HUNGRY.

 

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AND A LITTLE BIT TIRED…

 

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GOOD NIGHT!

 
 

If you liked this post, you should also check out Dogs, cats & sheep: the many wondrous pet cafes of Seoul!