Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

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Say Yes To Cheese

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

I was bored and ended up on Buzzfeed, as you do, where I came across this article https://www.buzzfeed.com/scaachikoul/i-went-to-a-summer-camp-for-adults-and-it-got-weird?utm_term=.dcWp5O0QQ#.klZVwWKoo

For those who don’t want to read it, and honestly, it’s super tedious so I don’t suggest you do, the author is doing what started out as a review but turned into a weak expose on an adult summer camp. She ends up hearing of a supposed sexual assault on a drunk girl, then spends the rest of the time gossiping about it with other people while judging those who came there to party hardcore in the woods.

This article made me think a lot about hostels and bus tours. When I was eighteen I did my first trip alone and chose to go on a Topdeck tour.  It seemed like a good idea to have someone kind of holding my hand, but still offered me great independence. I loved the crap out of that trip. I met people I still talk to, I had a great time. It was a trip that fit well with my personality- lots of time around people, however the option to spend time alone in the day. I did my due diligence. I talked to multiple travel agents; I read every online review. I went into it with the expectation that I would party a lot; that cliques might form. This is what I feel the author of the buzzfeed piece didn’t do. Why would they send this author who is so clearly against the target market of the camp into it for an honest review? Why didn’t she read the multitude of yelp reviews (all of which are 5 stars, by the way) and see that every. single. one. mentions hardcore parties? What did she expect at a camp that advertises a late night open bar? Now, I’m not speaking to the sexual assault. I don’t know the girl, I don’t know what happened to her. She’s not speaking out and the author made no attempt to get her side of the story.

On my last long European trip there was a big group of Australians who did their very best to prove the Australian abroad stereotype right. There was also an Australian girl who said things like, “I’m not like other Australians. I like to be quiet and read a book. I’m not like those country people and it’s such a shame that’s what people think of us.” Honestly, as loud and annoying as the partiers were sometimes, quiet judgey girl was so, SO much worse. People like that are exhausting. Nothing is good enough for them, and I find I tend to get into the habit of trying to impress them which kills me because literally no one will ever impress that girl. Nothing will ever be good enough. I have a theory that people like her tend to read hostel reviews, see it’s a party hostel and stay there intentionally so that they get to feel superior about themselves.

So, in the interest of learning something I’m going to take you through my hostel review research comment reading process. I’m thinking about taking a trip to Dublin as I haven’t been there before. I don’t know the greatest place ever to stay there, so I’m going to plug things in on hostelbookers and take one at random.

First off, the most important thing to do before reading reviews is to decide four things to focus on. I present my list, in no particular order:

  1. A common room. This is important. I like to have at least one big night in every city so being able to meet people to go on said night with is key for life and predrinks.
  2. Great location or super close to transit. Obviously.
  3. A clean kitchen if they have one.
  4. Good beds and showers.

Okay, Kinlay House Dublin, let’s see what you’ve got. All reviews are taken straight from their review page exactly as written.

Liked: Gret location. Clean rooms, bathrooms cleaned often and to a high standard. Late check out for £5. Free breakfast was a god send, lots of cereals toast and toppings to choose from and unlimited tea and coffee. Comfy beds and lots of room and storage in the rooms. Overall great hostal and would definately stay here again.

Disliked: I stayed here with 12 others for my birthday and we had a room all to ourselves. We were planning on having a little drink before going out however no alcohol is allowed in the room and this wasnt stated when booking. It didnt really bother us to not drink before hand however i do think this should be stated. ALso check in isnt 12noon it is infact 2pm. This is also stated incorrectly online.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Well, the positives are great. Honestly, I can’t remember the last hostel I stayed out where alcohol was allowed in rooms. I also can’t remember the last time I followed that. All in all, that’s not a big deal. Kudos to these guys for not rule breaking.

Liked: Good facilities, breakfast provided and good common room. Beds very spacious.

Disliked: Overcrowded at times but manageable. Check out time too early. Bed frames low quality, top bunk and bottom bunk can feel every movement.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Breakfast seems to be pretty amaze to be mentioned in two reviews. As for the quality of bunks, I go into hostels expecting the worst of Ikea, so the spaciousness is nice to know.

Liked: Breakfast, fast internet, lots of charging outlets

Disliked: Lots of things hostels normally provide are charged here, e.g. Luggage storage, printing. Also this is not a youth only hostel

Customer would recommend this property

INTERNET! I completely forgot about that on my list. I’ve stayed in enough hostels with crap internet. I’m not sure why he mentions it’s not a youth only hostel. Most aren’t. I’m just confused as to why that’s a negative? Am I too old for hostels? This kid clearly has no idea whats up. Also, what hostel doesn’t charge you to print? Where are these magic unicorn hostels where everything is for free and there’s no one under the age of 25?

Liked: The hostel is very central, right by the Temple Bar area. Perfect for going out to explore Dublin and for nights out. The 24-bed dorm room was clean and spacious and overall it was great value for money.

Disliked: There weren’t many plugs in the rooms, and the plugs weren’t located conveniently by the beds. The washrooms and showers were not clearly indicated to everyone whether it was for males or females so a lot of people would accidentally use the wrong ones. The common area/lounge/kitchen is not open 24 hours. One specific staff member was rude to my friend and I, which makes me think customer service and communication could still be improved.

Customer would recommend this property

Great location! Again, what hostel has enough plugs? Complaints about gendering of bathrooms…? Who gives a crap?

Liked: Pretty good location -airport bus stop out front. rooms & bathrooms clean. Ok price

Disliked: Shower not warm enough but seemed ok after I told them. All toilet seats loose so slid side to side. No lift. No alcohol policy in common room & rooms (why not have a bar?)

Customer would recommend this property

Good on the hostel for addressing the shower issue but holy crap, the common room was dry?! hmmm….. That kind of goes against one of my four.

Liked: The old interior was lovely.lovley looking place.

Disliked: needs more seats in the common area.to many couches where one person would take up three seats.

Customer would recommend this property

Okay, so I was really waiting for one comment of this caliber. This person was mad someone would take up three seats and blamed the hostel for it. That is a person. A person did that. Be mad at people.

So, all in all, would I stay here? No. Not because it’s not a crazy party hostel, if I was staying here for 3 nights I wouldn’t drink on 2 of them. I just want the option. I know who I am, I know what I like. However, if everything was booked I ended up at this hostel I’d probably have a great time because I try to make the most of things… also it’s in Temple Bar so I’d definitely go to a pub… but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Just as a comparative exercise I’m also going to take a look at two hostels in the same city- two I’ve stayed at.

We’ll start with the Hostel Leidseplein. I stayed here on my last big Europe trip. I booked last minute, so I didn’t do much research on it.  I’ll give my review after the others, and I’ll try to keep my comments on comments pretty neutral.

Liked: The staff were nice, the hostel entry was secure. The hostel had wifi and a computer that were both free to use. Luggage storage was easy, useful and free to use before checkout.

Disliked: The room as small and cramped. The bathroom was smelly, dirty and there was one between 12 in the dorm. The beds were small with no ladders for the bunks, making things difficult, Plug sockets were sparse in the room making charging a problem. Breakfast was bread (no toaster), tea, coffee, and some spreads. We were also charged almost an extra 10 euros than agreed. Location central but located on a busy street with tourist traps. Unsuitable for anyone with mobility issues (very steep stairs, no list).

Customer would recommend this property

Free wifi and computers are great. When my tablet broke, they were a godsend. I’m just putting this out there, I am not a fan of the ensuite bathroom. I think open floor plan bathrooms are so much better. That way you don’t end up hating the one guy who spends forever in the shower then eons doing his hair. The breakfast sounds pretty crap, but free, so. The money thing is worrying. The thing about tourist traps makes me wonder. Honestly, a lot of downtown any city in the world is tourist traps. Leidsplein is the main downtown area so… yeah. Also, Amsterdam is known for it’s super tall, very old houses. Stairs tend to rule in Europe.

Liked: location is excellent, and the rooms and bathroom are ok for the price.

Disliked: There´s no locker or anywhere to leave your things, and actually someone stole the cellphones of 2 guys in the room next door. Breakfast is extremely basic and they charge you for leaving your luggage in receptions after check out, even if it is for a couple of hours.

Customer would recommend this property

This contradicts the other review about free luggage storage. I’m going to put an aside about the theft thing even though I said I’d be neutral. Every day I left my dayplanner and passport with the front desk for free. It was super secure.

So basically, from the comments would you stay in this hostel?

Like I said, I booked pretty last minute, and I think my review will be biased towards just being happy to find a hostel. The jetlag hit me while I was staying here, and after spending one day in Leiden with a friend and her family (go to Leiden by the way. It’s 40 minutes from Amsterdam and is the prettiest, most like fairytale Dutch city I’ve ever seen), I spent the next day literally sleeping in the hostel. Breakfast, yeah, it kind of sucked, but I’ve had so, so much worse. I tend not to think of hostel breakfast as a thing- it usually is just bread and spreads. If you go in with low expectations, you get the fun chance to be surprised when it rocks. The addition of a toaster would’ve been nice though. When I was there people were marvelling over the fact that they had both vegemite and marmite. I found it secure enough- the fact that I could put my essential stuff behind the desk was great. The wifi, as I remember on my catch up to life day, was absolutely badass. The bathroom was pretty decent- they cleaned it twice a day. The noise… I mean, you’re in the same square as the Bulldog cafe and all the clubs. Considering that, it was pretty quiet for what I expected. I also loved that my bed was against the window so I got to watch and judge people. This hostel is great for when you want something central, clean and quiet. I’d definitely stay there again.

Now, another hostel I stayed at in Amsterdam. I ended up at The Hans Brinker on the aforementioned Topdeck tour when I was 18. It came with the tour company, and I didn’t choose it. Keep in mind at that time their marketing was “the worst hotel in the world” now they’ve calmed it down but it still focuses very much on the fact that it’s a budget place. Let’s look at the reviews.

Liked: Great bar, toilets in each dorm. HAPPY HOUR!!

Disliked: No ladder for bunk beds.

Customer would recommend this property

We know I like a good happy hour! The ensuite bathroom thing again. With the no ladder thing, this is actually weirdly common. Why hostels? Why?

Liked: Location was excellent, close to the nightlife and not a far walk to other areas.

Disliked: Some areas need improving.

I’d like to know what some areas are, walking distance is great.

Liked: It had a really great atmosphere, and is definitely one to consider if you are after a fun stay!

Disliked: The room was fairly basic, although it was sold to us this way so we expected it.

Customer would recommend this property

Honestly, I picked Amsterdam as the subject for this experiment because I expected some truly heinous reviews I could debunk, but the internet’s letting me down.

Liked: very good situation in the center of Amsterdam breakfast good bedroom clean and spacious

Disliked: very bad smell in the toilet and the shower

Customer would recommend this property

Clean is important. Sometimes you have to wonder if the smell is like a lack of air freshener thing, or like, a super hungover person was in there for 2 hours thing.

Liked: location..breakfast hall…..staff….

Disliked: appalling noise on first night…though staff sorted some of it out at 5 am for me..people fighting in next room..but other noise was appalling all night….the other three nights were quiet

Customer would recommend this property

Again, this is the fault of people. If one out of four nights was loud I’d count that as a hostel win.

Liked: Really most of things about this place is great: it’s superclose to the center (aprox 5 tram stops) near to Melkweg and Sugar Factory, clean, nice party atmosphere, linen and towels are included as well as breakfast (starts from 7:30). Reception was nice at every time of the day, gave directions, borrowed me a charger for my phone, I could use the safe deposit to leave my camera for the time of party. I loved happy hours at the hostel’s bar (prices are really low). I would say – the best choice in the city 😉

Disliked: Well it’s not a big deal as you can leave important stuff at the reception – lockers in rooms are pretty old and locking anything valuable inside is pointless as they work SO SO 😀

Customer would recommend this property

They lend phone chargers?! A lot of lockers at hostels suck. It’s nice you can leave stuff at reception.

Liked: I liked that the bar had cheap drinks and that the people staying in the hostel were lots of fun! I also liked that there was a club in the building and free breakfast.

Disliked: I disliked having to wait to enter and exit the building and the club was very loud in the rooms until very late at night (4 am) even when only a couple people were in there. I also didn’t like how basic the hostel was for the cost. Everything was quite old and not very comfortable. It is also quite far away from most of where things are going on. 15-20 minute walk to the bulldog and the red light district. The lockers in the room were also quite small.

Customer would recommend this property

You can’t complain about the clubs noise after saying you like having a club in the building. It’s one of the world’s trade offs.

So, as for my opinion of the Hans Brinker? I had SO MUCH FUN THERE. If you’re down to party all night, then this definitely will be your jam. Nothing was the best, but everything was clean, and the common areas were amazing. The most important thing? They never oversold anything. You knew exactly what you were getting. I think that if this was any other place reviews would be crap as crap can be. It’s a smart move on their part. I find it interesting that they don’t accept stags or bachelorettes, and also that they don’t let people over the age of 35 in the dorms. I know a ton of people who would stay there and have the best time, but honestly, I wouldn’t stay here again. Part of that is the new branding looks wayyyyyyy to annoying hipster for my taste, and also the fact that there’s some pretty legit ageism in the dorms. I think there’s better places to stay that are closer to the city centre, but…. a piece of my heart is still there.

So, this post kind of got away from me, but basically my point? Make a list of things that are important to you. Know yourself. Don’t trust an atmosphere rating because that really could mean anything. I mean, I’d give atmosphere of both hostels in Amsterdam 100% but they were vastly different. Also, if you want the quiet nights but might want to try the party once or twice… I’ve seen many a quiet hostel have an occasional rowdy night, however I’ve never seen party hostel go silent.

Choose wisely.

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?

I mean, you can tell from the title I had fun so this post is really just going to be me going on about how much fun I had.

With pictures!

So, the first weekend in August is BC day where we celebrate…. how arrogant we are about not being a frozen tundra like the rest of Canada? Something like that. The important thing is we get the Monday off. This tends to fall close to, or spot on to, my birthday, so I tend to have an easy time of convincing people to do what I want. And I wanted to camp. The problem is some of the pickier of my friends are just not outdoorsy kind of people. So, when I was procrastinating I found something. A hostel. On Shuswap lake. And I spent a year convincing people to go with me. Then Adam moved here, and I was like, “we’re going, care to join?” And surprisingly enough they did. We went up with a group of 7 people.

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The front is a blink and you’ll miss it type place- the sign is on the far left. It’s right on the Trans-Canada Highway. My parents knew it as “that building” and couldn’t believe there was anything there. I knew better though. After my rural hostel experience in Austria I believed in the travel magic to deliver unto me awesomeness.

The concept is that there’s some rooms in the house, you can tent where you find room, and most importantly, the dorms are old cabooses.

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There’s three cabooses, but I’m working with a blackberry camera here so I don’t have the greatest scope. One was booked out by a family, one was female only, and one was coed. I booked the three girls into the girls dorm just in case more guys came for the coed, and Adam was in there. The rooms weren’t the biggest dorms. I mean, they were cabooses! Each had 6 bunks, a bathroom, a chill out area, and a kitchen.

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The mattresses were some of the best I’ve had in hostels, and the pillows were beyond badass. The cabooses got cool in the night, which is a big plus for me, and I slept well for the first time in months. It’s been hot in Vancouver and I was just so, so happy to be in a real sleep environment where I could get blanket cozy.

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Just off the cabooses was a common area and a hut with another kitchen, bathroom, and shower stalls. I’m going to be real here- I didn’t shower the entire time I was there. Two of my friends did though and assured me the water pressure and heat were excellent. The kitchens were great too.

The real beauty was the water. You walked down this path, passing a sweat lodge,

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to get to the lake.

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That water. It was cold, but we still went in. I haven’t seen water that amazingly clean in a long time. The canoe on the dock? You can use it for free. You can row to a beaver dam. There’s just so much cool.

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Alternate dock activity? Drinking and eating chips.

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Or, like my friend and I, bonding like men. This involved manspreading, holding cans, and saying yup to each other. We bonded. Also note: I am wearing all the clothes I packed save for a driving t shirt, plus Adam’s hoodie. The weather report said it would be over 30 degrees every day. We had a lot of rain and thunderstorms on the last day we were there. I need to learn I don’t pack well after a couple of drinks.

But…

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I found something to do. Read all day, party all night!

When you book you get an email explaining things. Like….

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THE CAT! I love this cat. He would absolutely not let me take a picture, so I just took one of his face. Beautiful, cuddly cat.

AND

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DOG AND LLAMAS!

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Look at those majestic animals. You can feed them. Feed Llamas! The animals are great. It’s so naturey.

As for food, we did a huge Costco run and brought up cold cuts for lunches and hot dogs and s’mores for nights around the campfire. But what about breakfast? I’m assuming you asked because you, you are an involved reader. Pat yourself on the back.

Well, for like $5 a day the hostel does ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKES!

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These ones are blueberry peach. Now, we all know I can eat. I never got more than 3 pancakes in. It’s filling.

So, would I stay here again? HELLS YES. I already want to go back. We became good friends with the workawayer, (BECAUSE THEY ARE WORKAWAY HOSTS AND SUPPORT IT AND SO MANY GOOD VIBES!!!) and like, the owners of the hostel… it’s just like… indescribable how hospitable they are. Being there just felt like a magic wonderland of everyone being friends. Travel magic wonderland. If you go in with the expectation that it is a rural hostel, it’s a 10/10. Go here. Stay here.

And to book and for prices and such, and much better photos, click here.

As for photos, I’ll leave you with this one:

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It’s a llama. Judging me for leaving the awesome hostel and going back to real life.

 

 

 

 

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?