Walking for the Weekend: Mount Pleasant Hood Vancouver, BC

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Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta I became a habitual driver, the transit system in Edmonton leaves something to be desired and as a teen your life basically doesn’t start until you turn 16 and can obtain your license and a sense of freedom. I’ve been behind the wheel ever since. When I moved to Vancouver I had intended to adopt the transit system and embrace that sky train life. As things would happen I ended up working in the automotive industry for many years, which meant I was able to continue my love affair of driving.

When I bought my condo in the neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant, I was excited because it was so accessible to everything; there were major streets in every direction and so many new shops and restaurants to try. Again, my good intent came up short when I still continued to drive places instead of step outside my door to explore what my hood had to offer. This is where I challenged myself to walk for the weekends! This meant that I consciously would not drive places on my weekends if it could be helped, this included for errands, to meet friends, shopping etc. I would log some kilometers and get to know my neighbours, and I found some great ones!

Naturally Vancouver is a city that loves to eat and drink so there is no shortage of those, but it’s finding the out of the box one-off places that really make you feel like you uncovered a gem. Outside of the food and beverage, walking allows you to take in more scenery and appreciate your surroundings even more. I’ve compiled a round up of some of my favourite things I love about living in Mount Pleasant:

Cordoury Pie: A fairly new spot to the neighbourhood but has quickly become a local favourite. Found amongst the neighbourhood, this pie company creates a welcoming ambiance from the second you open the door. It’s not uncommon to see the staff greet their patrons by name and with a hug. It has a homey feel that keeps you coming back, you’ll often find a mix of families breaking bread in the corner, girls night enjoying the $5 glasses of wine and a group of runner’s picking up take out after a sweat session… this place is all about the customer experience they even made a heart shaped pizza to celebrate Valentines day! My favourite pie’s you must try are: Sausage and Peppers, Margarita and Lamb Sausage.

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Milano Coffee: As soon as you walk in to this coffee shop you’re flooded with the smell of freshly roasted espresso and coffee beans. This place prides themselves on the art of good coffee and the quality of Italian beans. Their space is airy and welcoming and can offer the comforts of a home office, a gathering of friends, business meetings or an afternoon break. Their storefront is lined with windows that open up to their balcony that offers a city view with the peaceful feel of the neighbourhood. My go-to coffee is a their nut milk (they make their own!) Americano Misto, it’s my ideal start to the day.

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Dutch Wooden Shoe Café: This one admittedly took me 3 years to notice, I literally drive by it at least 2 times a day. It’s open 8am -2:30pm everyday and is home to the original Dutch Pannekoeks. The décor is everything you’d expect, vintage Dutch glasses, and pictures of patrons of the years celebrating birthdays and family occasions and a bowl of delicious Dutch salty licorice at the counter. The menu is overwhelmingly filled with a variety of savory and sweet options; I’ll need to be coming back for years to try everything! I opted for an apple cinnamon pannekoek and it was delicious. I was having breakfast alone but the plate size pannekoek was the perfect breakfast companion.

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Nat Bailey Stadium (also known as “The Nat”): I’m guilty of loving a good sporting event, and I’m lucky that this stadium is in my backyard. Home to the Vancouver Canadians this field offers a retro feel and a perfect summer time afternoon or evening outing all for a $12 ticket. Whether it’s girls night and no one is a baseball fan or you’re with your Grandpa who’s played the game for 30 years – the people watching, $10 beers and ambiance allows it to be a great time for all. The stadium also becomes home to a farmers market in the winter outside the stadium where you can find delicious local and organic produce and businesses.

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The Cambie Bridge: This bridge has quickly become my favourite in Vancouver during the many times I’ve walked across it. I can be downtown in 20 minutes from my door walking this bridge and the views never tire. You get to see the ever growing city skyline, the ocean blues, the neighboring bridges and the peaks of the mountains – what more could you ask. Growing up in the prairies, the ocean will never be something I take for granted.

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If you can’t tell from these favourite spots of mine, I love Mount Pleasant! I love that it has a community feel and pockets of unique spots. It’s still close and accessible to the rest of the city, which I appreciate as well, but I’m always happy to come back to my hood I’m proud to call home.

I hope I’ve inspired you to walk your hood!

Lauren

 

 

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3 Top Unconventional Places to do Yoga in Vancouver

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This list of the 3 Top Unconventional Places to do Yoga in Vancouver is courtesy of guest blogger Anita Cheung.

Photo Credit: Amy Teixeira (amyteixeira.com)
Photo Credit: Amy Teixeira (amyteixeira.com)

Anita Cheung is the owner of The Social Yoga, a nomadic studio that provides an alternative to a typical yoga class experience. Classes are weekly, small group and progressive- so you can actually get to know the people you’re with and up your yoga game at the same time. Each month features classes in a different space around town. The intention is to bring yoga back down to earth in a lighthearted way. You can follow along via social media (@thesocialyoga) or visit her site at:www.thesocialyoga.com

As the owner of a nomadic yoga studio, I have had the opportunity to teach and practice in some pretty fun places around town. Below are three of my favourites:

 

Railtown Café of Railtown (sub-neighbourhood of Gastown)

Railtown is home to some seriously talented local companies that have gone global (think: Herschel, Aritzia) and Railtown Café is the lunchtime watering hole for the employees of these A-list companies. However, before the café opens and before the 9-5’ers trickle into the neighbourhood, the space is a beautiful place to practice. As the sun rises, light streams in from their garage door and there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve done good for your body while everyone else was asleep. And if that doesn’t sell you on it, well, coming out of savasana to the smell of coffee brewing and fresh breakfast being made should do it.

Photo Credit: Alexa Mazzarello (alexamazzarello.com)
Photo Credit: Alexa Mazzarello (alexamazzarello.com)

 

 

33 Acres Brewing of Mount Pleasant

Actually, there may be something better than the smell of coffee and that’s the smell of waffles and beer on a Sunday. For three months last fall, we called 33 Acres Brewing home on Sunday mornings and became so accustomed to the smell of hops that we started to associate the smell of beer with yoga (oh, olfactory nerve, you would). The early morning light hits just right in the beautifully minimalistic (and spacious!) white space and there is no shortage of good vibes around.

Photo Credit: 33 Acres Brewery (33acresbrewing.com)
Photo Credit: Alex Teixeira (amyteixeira.com)

 

 

The Soap Dispensary of Mount Pleasant

While this space is a bit tight for yoga, it’s a perfect place for meditation. We line up cushions on the ground and there is plenty of wall space for back support. The Soap Dispensary is absolutely pristine, and totally adorable,. The walls are lined with local, eco-friendly products free from packaging (to help reduce waste in this world). Every time we’ve had a series here, we always leave feeling more educated (Thanks to Linh, the owner) about the little tools and tips we can utilize to reduce our footprint. Of course, we also leave feeling more clear and level-headed- but that’s due to the meditation.

 

Learn more about the neighbourhoods mentioned above and find out which is the perfect match for you and your lifestyle by visiting Lett.io!

 

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3 Best Supermarkets in Renfrew-Collingwood, Vancouver

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I had mentioned in a previous blog that growing up, I spent most of my life moving from house to house in a number of East Vancouver neighbourhoods. My parents finally settled in to a home in Renfrew-Collingwood, where I lived with them for almost five years. I moved to Richmond a few years back and although the food in Richmond, where I currently live, is amazing, nothing beats a home cooked meal… especially from my mom.

I’ve been insanely busy as a result of our pending beta-launch and with our Lett office now located on Victoria Drive, I’m close enough to my parents house to enjoy dinner with them most nights out of the week. I’ve always asked my mom to teach me how to cook, but she’s adamant that I’m hopeless. I think she mostly keeps this a secret because she wants me to have more reasons to come visit her. She does, however, regularly profess that her cooking is better than restaurant food because ‘it’s faster, it’s more fresh, and it’s made with love.” I’m already a safety hazard as it is, so I definitely don’t think cooking faster is in anyone’s best interest. I’m not sure if I can cook with love if I’m mostly anxious, so that’s hopeless too. The one thing that I can control are the quality of my ingredients.

She was the perfect person to go to when formulating this list. “So Mom, where do you get your groceries close to home?” It’s no wonder her food is as delicious as it is, to this, she suddenly perked up. She typically takes a couple of hours to browse the fresh markets in Chinatown in between transit from work to home – this is where she finds the best ingredients for our meals. When she’s pressed for time, these are her ‘3 Best Supermarkets in Renfrew-Collingwood’:

1. Chong Lee Supermarket on Rupert Street

The best place in the neighbourhood for fresh protein. She comes to this family-owned Asian supermarket for fresh cut deli meats and daily catches of fish from every part of the ocean… from salmon head to yellow fin tuna. The best part is that they not only clean, but also cut the fish. Chong Lee by far is the most affordable of all Chinese supermarket chains. On special occasions, you can buy traditional ready to serve foods like the sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. The parking is terrible on the weekends, so my mom recommends that you come here on weekdays or later in the evening.

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2. Joyce 99 on Kingsway

This market isn’t the easiest spot to get to or find parking by, but it’s close to home so my mom typically walks. She loves to browse through their produce discounts – they have a $1 bin at the front – and explore what new items they’ve brought in. For the best prices on fresh fruit and vegetables, this is the spot. She advises against buying most anything else here.

3. Safeway on Kingsway

My mom’s English isn’t the most sophisticated, so when she tells me that she “goes to Safeway for the things Westerners use” I know she’s coming from a good place. She loves that the Safeway has a little Starbucks at the front. This was once the to go Sunday spot on rainy days for my parents… until Tim Horton’s opened up across the street. There’s not much of a surprise with what’s offered at a Safeway, but she likes the best that there is a ton of parking, the staff at this Canadian supermarket chain are always helpful, and there’s a pharmacy. “I always use the phone number ‘6044349881’ to get membership discounts.” We’re not sure who the phone number belongs to, but it works and you’re more than welcome to use it the next time you’re at the register.

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3 Things You Need to Know about Living in Toronto

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Almost four years ago, I moved across country to start my post-grad education in Toronto. In less than 10 months, I was forced to move and situate myself into 3 different neighbourhoods. As a starving student, I couldn’t afford the luxury of enjoying my ever-changing living situation.

I wouldn’t say that I was the most technically savvy person, but if my university education had taught me anything, it was how to do my research. I had a specific budget set in mind and knew that I needed to be nearby my new school. I spent hours online googling ‘the best neighbourhood for x, y and z’ but to no avail.

My final takeaways: Yonge was a popular street and that the TTC needs to be my neighbour.

I even made it a point to come to Toronto a couple of weeks early, rent a car, and explore the neighbourhoods for myself. I only had one friend who knew the city, but she had only moved there herself a few months earlier. I was completely out of luck. I ended up on Craigslist, where neighbourhood insights were nonexistent.

I eventually found myself in a basement suite along Yonge street that was well within my budget. It only cost me $600 a month for my own private washroom and a shared kitchen with 3 other students. Within weeks, I was faced with the realization that my home was not in the safest neighbourhood. I was warned on multiple occasions by classmates and even my roommates not to dress in white as that seems to be an attractor for sexual assault. Days later, I restarted my search for a new place. I had no clue what it meant then, but I was living in a particularly high crime area: Yonge & Finch. Oh, and Yonge street is almost 2,000km long.

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Looking South down a part of Yonge street that was relevant to my home search

My next home was in a much safer neighbourhood: North York, otherwise known as ‘The Original Korea Town’. I have to admit, the food was great (I discovered that I’m a huge fan of kim bap), but it never really felt like home. I spent most of my time on public transit or cooped up in my room – we were about 45 minutes from Downtown Toronto, where I went to school and worked.

I was lucky enough to eventually find a roommate three months into my move. The both of us had had a terrible time locating a place that felt right so this time, we found our own neighbourhood expert. Our rental agent was incredibly helpful, but unfortunately came at a hefty fee. We were required to pay her 1/2 of our month’s rent to help us in finding our space. We lived a 15 minute walk from my school, 10 minute walk from the mall, and 5 minute walk from my work. There were bars, night clubs, and restaurants all around us. There was even a grocery store downstairs from where we lived. We were in the heart of the Entertainment District.

It shouldn't be too surprising that the Entertainment District is where two twenty-two year olds found to be the best place to call home
The Entertainment District by night

It took us hundreds of dollars in moving expenses and a ton of headaches, but we had finally found home. The best part of it all was probably our concierge. He greeted me every morning with a warm hello and welcomed me home every night as I returned. The people in our neighbourhood were young, fun, and active. It really was a shame that it took us months to find this spot so that we could enjoy our time living. I met some really cool people, ate at amazing restaurants, and spent every weekend getting to know the places around me. I was truly living inspired.

Though 10 months doesn’t quite make me a local, here are some of my notes to Toronto newcomers:

1. Always wear comfortable shoes when trekking through the morning street crowds between the Entertainment and Financial Districts… or start your travel 15 minutes in advance. The herds of people that walk to work in the early hours (7am-9am) is reminiscent of animals being released from the zoo. Everyone’s got somewhere to be, so don’t mind if they’re not overly polite about bumping into you.

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This is a shot of the crowd on Bay street during Occupy Toronto, but surprisingly the day to day crowds are three times as full as shown here

2. The best Asian food isn’t in China Town, but actually in North  York. I hard a tough time finding any Vietnamese pho restaurants or Hong Kong style cafes that were as tasty as back home in Vancouver, but the food superseded my expectations when I was in North York. They also have great Asian-supermarkets, where I discovered K-Mart.

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3. For an affordable and fun night, try to sneak into a pre-game event at Maple Leaf Square. The Air Canada Centre is home to the Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. Before every game, ticket holders celebrate with street food and beer. Toronto is known to have the best, most enthusiastic sports fans so if you can find a way to pass security, be ready for a great time.

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To avoid your own Toron-uh-oh experience, find out what neighbourhood matches you best. Visit Lett.io!

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3 Things to Do in Mount Pleasant

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Mount Pleasant: Up-and-coming hood, cooler than your average

Vancouver.ca describes Mount Pleasant as: ‘a vibrant and eclectic area known for its unusual stores, heritage buildings, artistic residents, and arts-focused festivals. The area is popular with first-time homebuyers, urban professionals, and families.’

In exploring the neighbourhood for research-intensive purposes, we found these gems:

1. Dude Chilling Park

We’re not kidding you, this is actually what it’s called… and Dude, it’s a chilling park. The sign installation was originally a part of a prank, but now has an official art status in Vancouver. Officially, the park is known as Guelph Park (boring). The “dude” in question is in reference to a large wooden sculpture in the park that unsurprisingly looks as if he’s “chillin”. If you’re a dude or dudette looking for a place to hang out, this is your spot.

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2. Cartem’s Donuterie

Don’t call it a donut shop – it’s a donuterie, mon amie. So when asked “why the name Cartem?”, the founder of this hipster joint said it came from a dream. Unimpressed with Mr. Horton’s performance, he set out to do donuts different. We absolutely loved their concept and were fully prepared to check our will power at the door – these things are addictive. Besides the joys of deep fried and sprinkled goodness, we loved Cartem’s for their casual, laid back environment. A few standouts: salted caramel, earl grey, apple fritter

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3. The Fox Cabaret

Apparently this was once an old Indian porn theatre. ‘The VCR decimated adult movie theatres, but The Fox was a stubborn and sleazy holdout.” Now, The Fox Cabaret is now the neighbourhood go-to for high quality independent music, art, performance, and entertainment. What’s special? Leopard print walls, a sparkle inlaid bar, and moody pendant lights.

For daytime fun, a mid-day snack, and late night entertainment – here are my picks for the top 3 things to do and see in the ‘cooler than  your average’ hood of Mount Pleasant.

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Want to learn more about Mount Pleasant and find out which is your perfect neighbourhood match? Visit Lett.io!

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3 of the Best Neighbourhoods in ‘East Vancouver’

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One of the most memorable experiences I went through in University happened on the first day. At UBC, we were asked to come dressed in our Department colours and as an Arts student, I was dressed in a purple blouse that I was quite fond of – I was feeling very posh.

We were divided into groups of about a dozen and started the conversation with a few ‘get to know you’ questions. We went in a circle, introducing ourselves by our name, the city we came from, and offered an interesting fact about ourselves. When it was my turn, I didn’t make it to the interest fact before sharing that I had come from East Vancouver when – gasp – two of my classmates earnestly asked, “how did you make it out alive?” At the time, I was a little confused but it’s rather funny to think back on… and of course, makes for a great conversation piece.

Sure, East Vancouver isn’t the first consideration when awarding for safety, but it’s home to a number of neighbourhoods that through this local’s perspective, are pretty darn cool. Here is my list of the top 3 neighbourhoods in ‘East Van’.

  1. Hastings-Sunrise: Foodie heaven and trendy thrift shops

My first childhood memories come from Wallie’s on Hastings. I would spend hours afterschool sorting through the different Spice Girls memorabilia and reading the free comic books. When I was hungry, I’d visit Bao Chau, the neighbourhood go-to for Vietnamese spring rolls. On days when it was nice out, I would hang out at the Skate Park next to the PNE or watch the highschool kids play basketball at Hasting’s Community Centre. That was over twenty years ago, but little has changed about this neighbourhood. Today, Hasting’s street is lined with family-run businesses that range from thrift stores to cafes, local markets to pho restaurants. If you’re looking for some delicious eats and trendy finds, this is your hood.

For more on this hood, I loved this article from the Georgia Straight, titled:

Hasting’s-Sunrise basks in the area’s rebirth

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  1. Renfrew-Collingwood: Diverse families with an active community spirit

My parents bought their first home in Renfrew-Collingwood on Moscrop Street, just north of Joyce skytrain station. On move-in day, we were greeted by this adorable Portuguese couple next door. I couldn’t tell you how many times I misplaced my keys and spent the afternoon hanging out with them as I waited for my parents to return home from work. Let’s just say that I’ve since picked up um monte de português. The neighbourhood is full of warm and welcoming families just like them, but from different backgrounds and in different stages of their lives. The one thing that connects everyone though, is this shared active community spirit. You can always count that there’s something fun going on at either Renfrew or Collingwood Community Centre. Oh, and don’t forget about the countless Chinese restaurants, pizzerias, or bubble tea shops along Kingsway.

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The best look into this community-oriented neighbourhood is from the vancouver.ca website, where you can read about their latest initiatives: turning streets into mini-parksand revamping the Renfrew Ravine.

  1. Victoria Fraserview: Little Saigon with an urban twist

As an adult, this is where Matt (my significant other) and I chose to open our first business. Why? Because it’s really an up-and-coming part of the city that’s home to some of the most unique and charming businesses. Victoria Drive is full of vibrant and clever takes on ethnic foods. My favourite is Chau Veggie, a modern-day twist on fusion vegetarian cuisine. Along this Drive, you can find dispensaries, fresh produce markets, the best noodle shops in town, and in paying homage to my ancestry, parts of ‘Little Saigon’. There’s a quaint little park right across our supplement shop that plays host to a number of soccer games and down the street is Trout Lake, home to the annual Lantern Festival.

There you have it: my top 3 East Vancouver neighbourhoods. Yes, I’ve included every neighbourhood that I’ve lived in, in some capacity. It should be no wonder now how “I made it out alive.” The question should really be how I ever left in the first place. In the last few years, I’ve moved to Richmond – stay tuned for blogs on my favourite spots in this city.

They’ve since taken down the wall in between Satori Factory and Chau, but this is one of my favourite shots of the people in the Victoria-Fraserview community at the Vegetarian eatery.

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For more on East Vancouver and to find out what your perfect neighbourhood match is, visit Lett.io – don’t forget to sign up for beta-testing!

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