Beautiful India

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Globetrotter Heather Greenwood Davis compels us to visit beautiful India.

Read the entire article ‘Road Raves – Guide to India’ in Issue 9 of Dabble.

Eating Argentina

Heather Greenwood Davis takes a year to travel with her husband and two sons. Her adventure continues here in Argentina.

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I came for the culture. I figured I would learn to tango, marvel at the theatre and spend hours examining the art. My husband Ish wanted to wander the streets and attend the futbol (soccer) games.

And the kids? Well, they wanted to be in the hotel pool.

Ours is a family trip, which means that my vote is only one of four. And when you’re travelling with two kids under the age of 10, any adult split decision is deadly. The only place we could find true consensus: Meals.

And so we ate. Continuously. We’d wake with it on our mind at breakfast, wander aimlessly in search of lunch and be back in time for dinner. We knew limited Spanish— baños, gracias, amigo—but when it came to food the words we learned rolled off our tongues begging to be understood.

Dos chocolates caliente, gracias! Alfajores señora? Asado por favor? Café con leche? Every time we said it right we were rewarded with flavours. Who were we to ask them to stop?

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For me the culinary love affair started with the meat. Argentinean beef is among the best in the world. The beef is raised naturally. It is not grass-fed, it is grass raised. There’s a difference. Cattle wander at their leisure and avoid the force-fed grain and hormones of some North American products. The result: A happier steer and in turn a tastier steak.

I am a carnivore by nature. And if you enjoy meat like I do, this is your country. ‘Asado’ translates to barbecue but you should vanquish any images you have of hot dogs and burgers. This is a celebration of the animal with a feast to salute it. There are about seven courses to a meal and almost all of them involve meat. The animal is eaten almost tip to tail in a very specific progression. It is a serious affair. The cooking of it is precision-like and there are stalls in the market that sell personal sets comprised of a wooden plate, fork, steak knife and tin cup so that should you happen upon a barbecue you’ll be ready.

In restaurants, the menu can be three-quarters meat; it can also be four quarters Spanish but one whiff of a sizzling platter going past in the restaurant and you can speak the language.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” I say continuously in my best Spanish, which includes jabbing my finger discreetly in the direction of the table next door.

And the chefs and waitresses we encounter seem equally pleased by my enthusiasm even if my waistline is increasingly less impressive. It’s the one oxymoron of this place.

The food is delicious; the people are healthy and gorgeous.

Clad in high heels that click-clack down the cobblestone streets and trendy jackets and purses in gorgeous shades, they are almost always beautiful and they aren’t always 20.

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The couple performing the Tango in the square in San Telmo are a prime example. Dancing in the middle of the square surrounded by tourists and locals alike, they seem — once the music is on — completely unaware of our presence.

It’s part of what makes Buenos Aires such a sexy city. Unlike New York City, for example, the sexiness isn’t aimed at the young or even the young at heart. Age seems to be accepted and ignored. Women in their 60s exude as much radiance as those in their 20s—sometimes more.

I have a theory that this age acceptance is attributed to the good food they’re eating, but it could also be the clo thing. Almost everyone is wearing leather.

When I comment to my friend Maria that there are a lot of leather products on the women in the market of El Tigre, she doesn’t bat a lash, “We eat a lot of steak.” Touché.

The Adventure:
Globetrotting Mama, Heather Greenwood Davis, and her globetrotting family (husband Ish and sons Ethan, 9, and Cameron,6) are on a one-year adventure that will take them to more than 20 countries around the world.

Their stops in South America will also include Ecuador (Quito and the Galapagos Islands) and Colombia before they head on to hit spots in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Along the way Heather will be sharing insights from the world tour with Dabble Readers.

Follow Heather on her journey at: www.globetrottingmama.com

Finding Tofino

For Heather Greenwood Davis, it’s a lingering good-bye to Canada before she departs on a one-year journey around the world. This month, she takes on foodie mecca, Tofino.

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After a five-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver, an overnight at the gorgeous Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, and then a one-hour jumper flight to Tofino on Vancouver Island, I’m finally seated at a small table in The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn. If all I did was eat the poutine made with short ribs and blue cheese, sip on the ginger beer made on premise, turn around and fly home again, it would be worth the trip. It’s that good.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise though. Tofino is fast gathering a reputation as a wilderness foodie town. They’ve created a culinary nirvana. People regularly climb into swaying eight-seater planes for the chance to nosh on food prepared by chefs as committed to the environment that surrounds their place of business as to the food that comes out of their kitchens. The result is a uniquely Canadian luxury experience.

On a recent visit to Tofino, the area’s uncanny knack for providing incredible meals – that left a friend and me gobsmacked and fatter than we came – was cause for constant conversation. Everyone we met had an opinion: “Have you been to Shelter? You have to have the Tuna appetizer. You have to.” “You’re going to SOBO right? The fish tacos there are amazing!” And there were whispers too. About something big that was coming, Something that foodies would rejoice over.

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The secret is out now. During the entire month of May, Tofino and neighbouring Uculet will host ‘Feast’, a culinary celebration of the local bounty. Area chefs, restaurants, fishermen, foragers and farmers are working together and have invited some of Canada’s most famed culinarians along for the ride. Michael Noble (Notable, Calgary), Hayato Okamitsu (winner of the Gold Medal Plate in 2009) and Rob Feenie (Canada’s only Iron Chef) are among them. The event is bound to be a huge success.

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Food is celebrated here in a way that can only happen in a place where creativity often has to win out over a scheduled delivery from the mainland held up by inclement weather, A place where there are no chain restaurants cramping the ‘mom and pop’ offerings and, the town of 1,600 locals swells with up to 1.5 million visitors a year, all looking for something good to eat. But even if it’s the food that brings you here, it’s the scenery that haunts you long after you leave. Up here among the black rocks and windblown sitkas, where storm waters can rise in turbulent waves up to 20 feet high and then crash against the sides of weathered buildings, tourists come in droves to be dwarfed by the trees. Nature walks help explain the symbiotic relationship between Native communities and the rainforests scattered over the area but, even without someone to define it, the beauty is undeniable.

One moment you’re stepping over driftwood logs the size of small children, the next you’re contemplating joining the locals jogging up and down the hard-packed sandy beach.

And then, maybe because you’re mesmerised by the power of the water before you, or breathless from the way the scene resembles an Ansel Adams photo, you completely lose your mind and find yourself looking at swells bobbing and crashing, throwing grown men to and fro, and your mind says, “I think I would like to try surfing.”

If you’re lucky, you’ll be close to the Long Beach Lodge Resort and meet someone like Josh who only fans the flame. Josh is a prime example of what a ‘local’ looks like. He was a valet at the Wickaninnish Inn, then a sea kayak guide, and then a guide at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. He moved here in 1999 after coming for visits since he was a teen. Now he teaches photography and, in the off season, doubles as the surf pro.

Josh will take up to five newbie surfers out at a time. Today it’s just the three of us.

“We’re not swimming out there,” he explains as we look out at the precarious waves. “It’s actually quite shallow. We’ll be touching bottom the whole time.”

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It sounds so non-threatening, but this is not Hawaii. These waters might be eight degrees Celsius at most and the water is shallow.. But when it’s whipped into a frenzy it can lift you higher than you may want to go. It’s one reason the area is the surfing capital of Canada, and why professionals from around the world flock to these shores.

It’s too late now. My friend and I have already begun to wiggle and squirm like slapstick seals to get into black drysuits with built-in hoods. Once suited, I’m so exhausted that I need to sit and catch my breath. We add gloves and booties, grab the boards, and begin our slow waddle out to the shore. After a long discussion about the undercurrents, and a few body surfing experiences, I feel more confident and ready to go it alone.

I am warmer than I expected, but that could be the adrenaline. Waves grow larger and faster until I see one that looks doable. I jump on the board. I manage to get up on my knees before it all goes fuzzy. The board is in the air; then it’s bouncing off my head. I swallow a mouthful of salty water, feel my eyes stinging, and instinctively put a sandy hand into my eyes. It’s not going well.

I finally make it to my feet, breathless and dizzy, I turn to head in and then I hear myself gasp. From the water, the beach and rainforest are even more beautiful. Our audience of couples in yellow slickers, dog walkers, kids making signs with sticks in the sand, and a loose Dalmatian complete the picture.

Josh asks if I want to continue and I shake my head. I’m done for the day. He suggests we meet in the lodge’s Great Room where floor-to-ceiling windows and a fireplace await. There he asks the question that is always answered in the affirmative in this town. “Hungry?”

Follow Heather on her journey at: www.globetrottingmama.com

Life in the Slow Lane

Heather Greenwood Davis is on a journey—a year of discovering the world with her young family. First stop is Petit St. Vincent in the Grenadine Islands where lesson number one is to slow down.

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As I write this piece I’m sitting in a covered outdoor space at the back of my stone bungalow on the island of Petit St. Vincent in the Grenadines. It’s raining. Not exactly the setting I would normally describe to readers looking for a warm weather getaway after a cold North American winter. But this rain is different. At home all I would be thinking about is running for cover from the rain; here I’m only half-heartedly fighting the urge to run into it. I’ve spent seven days away from the hectic pace of everyday life. Imagine a place where the tick of a clock doesn’t define when you’re hungry, your job doesn’t determine where you have to be when, and guilt seems to have no place or position. The result? I’ve slowed.

I blame the island.

I’ve been to St. Vincent many times. My husband was born here and his family still resides among its hills and valleys. It is not a wealthy place but it is a beautiful one. Fertile and green, the island’s agriculture provides a bounty of ripe mangoes, just add-a-straw coconuts and bananas by the bushel. Trucks carrying sugar cane to market and men with wheelbarrows filled with freshly caught snapper are as common as the over-decorated minibuses and the brightly suited office workers headed into town. But on this visit, I stepped off the shores of the mainland and found myself in a whole new version of perfection.

The Grenadine Islands hang like a necklace between St. Vincent and Grenada and offer a laid back luxury you won’t necessarily find in more popular Caribbean destinations. Here islands are small enough to charm and just off the beaten path enough to offer you respite.

From the celebrity laden Bequia to the Gilligan’s Island-like Palm Island, each of the pearls in this necklace has its own spirit and, at stop after stop, I fall for each of them.

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But it’s Petit St. Vincent that steals my heart. The roundabout way we arrived had something to do with it. After flying into Barbados, transferring by plane to St. Vincent, hopping a puddle jumper to Union Island and then boarding a catamaran for a day long sail past Mayreau and the Tobago Cays we have arrived. The journey only adding to the feeling that we are as far away as we can be from the world we know. It’s just about the farthest you can go in the Grenadines—and it feels like it.

And when we’re met by a Moke motorcade—the powder blue tiny cars that look more like Flinstonian transportation than island getaway chic—at the shore, our hosts holding out cold, umbrella drinks as a welcome, I’m immediately smitten with Petit St. Vincent Resort.

But there are rules here.

It’s the first and most recited that threatens my bliss. No Internet. None. No WiFi. No dial up. No cell phones or TV either. It is a detox from all of the things that keep life moving at a frenetic pace and it is surprisingly easy to get used to.

The entire island is one resort and in between the green hills and white sand beaches you’ll find 22 elite cottages staffed by 35 people. Built by the late Haze Richardson, a former military pilot, the resort is still managed by his wife, Lynn, who will likely greet you at the dock with her three yellow labs (John Adams, Chibby and Minnie) and then disappear so you can claim the island as your own. You may catch fleeting glances of families from France, Italy, Spain, Japan and North America during your visit, but you’re unlikely to spend your days mingling. Privacy is treasured on the island.

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And soon I find myself accepting the time-honored way of communication in Petit St. Vincent: Flagpole.

Standing just outside my cottage I can signal, depending on which flag is raised, whether I need assistance, am ready to eat or simply want to be left alone. Raise the yellow and someone will come to your service within 10 minutes, raise the red and even a previously requested delivery will be halted to afford you total privacy. Need a drink? Slip a note into the bamboo chute. The server will ring a bell, wait for your okay and then bring it in to you. Or use the pole to request a Moke ride over to the secluded west end of the island where you can lounge on a hammock and gaze out at the turquoise sea, wandering over to the “hav-abanana” basket if you get hungry. Those seeking more action can try the two-mile fitness trail, play on the tennis courts or borrow the water-sports’ equipment and take to the beach.

The island feels like you’re staying with friends, thanks to staff who’ve been here for years—some since the hotel’s development in the late 1960s. And when, during the weekly cocktail reception at Lynn’s home, you have a chance to look out over it all with a glass of wine in hand as the sun sets, it only cements that feeling.

Back in my cobblestone cottage it strikes me, as it only seems to have time to do while I’m in places like this, that life is good. Free from the annoying ringtones and buzzing and constant threat of email, I succumb to the sound of the wind through the trees, the sway of my hammock and the indescribable joy of raindrops falling just outside the porch where I’m sitting.

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