History and tranquility on the small island of Nevis

Nevis from the air 2

There is something very special about visiting a small island, and from the moment you cross the water in a tiny plane from Antigua, Nevis has woven its magic. The tiny island of Nevis, little sister to St. Kitts, is suited to travellers who enjoy raw nature, as well as to those who seek quiet, peace, and tranquillity, the primary reasons people return.

Nevis has a heritage trail and iconic plantation ruins, and other activities on the island are the best of a traditional British seaside experience. Offering far more than beautiful sugar-sand beaches and a large array of water activities, there are also unexpected on-trend gourmet restaurants, and a fascinating history with a strong Jewish component.

After being expelled from Brazil in the 17th century, Jews began to settle on St. Kitts and Nevis. At its height, the Jewish community constituted around 25 per cent of the total population.

The mostly Sephardi Jews brought to the island the secrets of crystallizing sugar, making Nevis the “Queen of the Caribbées”, because of the wealth brought in by the sugar trade.

History reveals itself gently in the many sugar plantations dotted throughout the 93 sq.-km. island (which has a population of 12,000), and in the 17th-century Jewish synagogue and cemetery.

The community erected a synagogue in the city of Charlestown in Nevis around 1684 and established a cemetery located on Government Road containing graves dating from 1679 to 1768. There are 19 surviving markers in the cemetery, which bear inscriptions in Hebrew, English and Portuguese. At the end of the 18th century, most of the Jewish population left the island, leaving the cemetery abandoned. Today, it is the focus of a major archeological effort.

Nevis plantation ruins with roots

If you have archeological instincts, there is a lot to explore, including numerous ruins of plantations, ancient Amerindian sites, and a recently discovered slave village. On a guided tour of the slave village with replicas of houses the slaves would have lived in, I asked our guide, Patricia, about the horrible conditions her predecessors lived in.

She waved it off with a grin. “We had a chance to come to the Caribbean and we did. People do horrible things to each other all over the world, but we have to be positive and move on.”

I sensed she had said this many times over, but it appeased my churning emotions enough to be able to finish the tour.

We spent an afternoon in a 4×4 on a tour on coastal paths and off-the-beaten- track roads, with stop-offs at abandoned sugar plantations and churches. Some of the roads were steep enough that they made me gasp. As the island is divided into five parishes, all named after saints, the tour helped with a general overview of the different parishes. A great way to get a unique fun and educational view around the island: http://www.funkymonkey- tours.com.

Situated in the Montpelier Estates over- looking Mount Nevis and the ocean with a spectacular view of the Nevis mountain peak, the privately owned Nevis Botanical Gardens are a must see. It takes an hour or more to fully explore the orchid terraces, lily ponds, bamboo grove, cactus garden and over 100 species of palms, all built to complement the natural fea- tures and beauty of the land. Bronze fountains and sculptures were installed, and, along with a striking, triple copper sugar cauldron fountain, they highlight the natural beauty.

Nevis Botanical Gardens entrance copy


A large conservatory in a style similar to the Palm House in Kew Gardens, London, was erected to house the tropical rain-forest plants and parrots. The Galleria gift shop is filled with desirable items that exuberant owner Christi Doug- las sources globally. Above the shop, the Thai Oasis restaurant is a stylish stopping point for signature drinks and incredible food. http://www.botanicalgardennevis.com

Nevis Botanical gardens 2

Nevis, the Queen of the Caribbean, is small, beautiful, and blissfully serene, which is why travellers find themselves under its spell.

Where to stay: There are several choices for places to stay on the island, and repeat guests to the historical Nisbet Plantation beach resort return for many reasons – the appealing small size with 36 bright yellow cottages that are beautifully appointed in subtle tropical hues lend- ing a feeling of simple luxury. A stunning beach and location and the calm tranquillity combined with a simple ele- gance make for a winning combination. Fabulous food and afternoon teas with an ocean view are delightful additions. General manager Alistair Forrest hosts cocktail gatherings every Monday evening for returning guests of which there are plenty. Guests who stay five nights or more get a free water taxi from St. Kitts. The six-minute ride makes it a seamless transition to the property.

Even if you aren’t staying at this restored plantation, pop in for lunch, din- ner, afternoon tea or drinks on the terrace. http://www.nisbetplantation.com

At Wheel World Cycle Shop, owned by Englishman Winston Crooke, you can arrange bike tours around the island or a history and heritage tour. Crooke can deliver bikes to boats or hotels. The full range of bikes features off-road, street, racing, tandems, with tag-alongs or child seats. He will meet you at the ferry or de- liver you to your hotel. It’s on Main Island Road, Oualie Beach Bay. http://www.bikenevis. com. 869-469-9682

Pinney’s Beach off the main road is a must for a visit to Sunshine’s for the Killer Bee Cocktail. Everyone knows owner Llewelyn Caines as Sunshine, and famous celebrities seek him out. Barbra Streisand has enjoyed the meals and casual vibe of Sunshines. There’s an ex- tensive menu, but visitors go for the laid- back energy and a chance to chat to Sun- shine, a charming personable character. Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas and Katherine Zeta-Jones also have visited in recent years.

If Nevis is for the discerning, then Bananas Bistro is for the gourmet aficion- ado. The evening we visited, we were led by flashlight to a walkway lined with torches leading us to a tall, stunning building high up on the Hamilton Estate, about a quarter of the way up Mount Nevis, at an elevation of approximately 900 feet. Upper Hamilton Estate, 1-869- 469-1891, http://www.bananasrestaurantnevis. com 􏰀

How to get to Nevis: we flew Westjet from Toronto directly into Antigua, a four- hour flight, then caught a connecting flight on Air Montserrat into Nevis. Not for the faint of heart, this tiny plane is so small, we were weighed along with our hand luggage to insure our suitability for the journey. What would happen if I weighed 300 pounds, I asked the ground stewardess? “We wouldn’t take your luggage”she quipped.

Other options: Air Canada flies directly to St. Kitts from Toronto. Nisbet Planta- tion resort would arrange a water taxi to pick you up and deliver you to the resort in six minutes.

Nevis from the air 2

as published in Canadian Jewish News, December 25, 2014

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Cut waste and fat this Christmas – clever solution from Yorkshire, England

When we stay at our cottage I am careful about water use because 
we have a water cistern with a limited supply . I am also 
extremely wary about what I put down the drain because of a septic system. Country ways don't relate to my city life quite as much 
and I am guilty of running water unnecessarily. 

The other day I was cooking ground lamb for a shepherd's pie and always drain the fat into a container - saving my drain system, absolutely, but saving it for roasting potatoes is my goal. Stir 
fried vegetables get drained in a bowl cradled by paper towels , 
again, environmentally friendly, but draining the extra oil off so it doesn't get added to MY personal system. 

Yorkshire , England, an area close to my heart, has just come up 
with a unique way at Christmas to stop people throwing oil and fat down the drain slowing down systems and causing problems. 

Yorkshire Water is teaming up with major supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to encourage customers not to cause pains in the 
drains this Christmas.

Customers buying a pre-order turkey from the two major retailers 
for their Christmas roast will receive free Yorkshire Water gadgets to help collect the fat, oil and grease (FOG) the annual festive feast generates.
yorkshire-water-sewer-saver-ekofunnel yorkshire-water-EkoFunnel

Pouring FOGs down the sink can result in the liquids hardening as they cool and create blockages. Last year 2,635 sewer blockages 
around the Yorkshire region alone were caused by these liquids, often leading to flooding inside homes and businesses.

Not only are these blockages horrible for customers, they are also expensive to clear from the Yorkshire Water network; money that 
could be saved on customers’ bills.

Yorkshire Water is giving away 7,700 EkoFunnels at 30 Sainsbury’s stores across the region and 1,400 Fat Traps at seven Waitrose 
stores to people pre-ordering their turkeys from the stores as 
part of the nationwide campaign. The traps and funnels can be used to collect waste FOGs for recycling or disposal via the bin.

Richard Flint, Yorkshire Water CEO, said: “We’re asking people to put our sewers on a low fat diet and think before they dispose of fat, oil and grease down the sink or through the dishwasher.

“Whilst it only takes a couple of extra seconds to get rid of 
products like fat by putting it in the bin, it will mean that the millions of pounds we currently spend removing these products from the sewers of Yorkshire can be invested elsewhere - improving our network and the service we offer.”

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability for Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re 
proud to be distributing over 7,700 EkoFunnels at our stores in 
Yorkshire this year. As well as keeping Britain’s waste water 
network flowing, the cooking oil and fat captured from your roast this Christmas could be turned into bio-fuel to power vehicles.”
Quentin Clark, Waitrose’s Head of Sustainability and Ethical 
Sourcing, added: “Fat in the sewers is a big problem, particularly at this time of year. Here at Waitrose, we are committed to 
supporting local communities and helping to reduce this problem 
across the country.

“By encouraging our customers to use our free fat-traps, we can 
dramatically cut the percentage of damage caused to drains by fat, oil and grease.”
Business In The Community trialled the initiative with customers 
in London last year before helping to spread it other parts of the country, including Yorkshire, this Christmas. 

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Travel Boom to Cuba expected with change in U.S. and Cuba relations


Canadian-owned Cuba Cruise foresees increased bookings from travellers eager to experience the iconic island before it changes

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Calgary, AB. December 18th, 2014: The USA and Cuba have agreed to establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, announced Wednesday afternoon by both President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. While unlicensed U.S. tourist travel remains banned, Cuba Cruise, a Canadian company, anticipates increased bookings from international travellers eager to explore a country that is virtually free of American commercialization and chockfull with charm before it might change.

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In 2013, Cuba Cruise revolutionized travel to Cuba by offering the first regularly scheduled circumnavigation cruise around the Castro-ruled island. Cuba Cruise is a completely new way to discover the island’s rich culture, history, and world famous beaches. It’s nothing like the fly & fry vacations travellers have been accustomed to when visiting the Caribbean, nor will travellers find themselves in front of American hotels or retail chain stores.




Cuba Cruise is a Canadian born and bred initiative that not only showcases the beautiful nook and crannies of the island, but also advocates for the Cuban people and celebrates their rich culture as well. The company offers travellers the most comprehensive cruise program on the market, visiting six ports of call and exploring the island’s most iconic destinations like Havana and Santiago de Cuba, and its hidden treasures like Punta Frances on the idyllic Isla de la Juventud.

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For more information about Cuba Cruise, or to book, visit yourcubacruise.com.

About Cuba Cruise

Cuba Cruise, launched in January 2013, is a revolutionary niche product affiliated with Celestyal Cruises and offers a unique opportunity to experience Cuba’s history, landscapes, and culture in a comfortable and seamless travel environment. Guests aboard Cuba Cruise spend their days experiencing the wealth of the region, beautiful beaches and a view beyond compare. From the impeccable service and delicious meals made with Canadian beef and fresh produce, to exceptional daily shore excursions using the best local guides and operators, this is a chance to experience a Cuba rarely seen. Cuba Cruise looks forward to another year of roaring success. Cuba Cruise’s second season begins December 19, 2014 and sails every Monday from Havana and Friday from Montego Bay through to March 30, 2015.

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Vogue Magazine declares Queen Street West, Toronto as second coolest in the world

Originally posted on Melody Wren:

Toronto’s West Queen West has been declared as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods by Vogue Magazine.

In the magazine’s September 2014 issue, Queen Street West has been ranked second in a list of 15 neighbourhoods from across the world.

So, what exactly makes a neighbourhood “cool” by Vogue’s standards?

He mentions popular spots in the neighbourhood, like the Drake (one of my personal faves),  the Gladstone, SoHo House, and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), as well as Graffiti Alley, which runs south of Queen Street from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street.

When I joined ChowBella founder and fellow Guelphite, Trina Hendry for a culinary tour of Queen Street West, it was evident how hip the area was.  The walk takes…

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Why I Love Kenya


Samburu tribal girls in the homestead where they live with their family.  Wearing traditional beads, Kenyan girls are raised learning how to bead, each bead meaning something special to them.


Samburu tribes raise cattle and goats for their own use, eating the meat, drinking the milk, and drinking the goat’s blood, first heating it over an open fire to sterilize it.  


The girls all wear traditional clothing, brightly colored, always topped by beaded necklaces, bracelets and earrings. 



The children seem to be constantly smiling which always got me laughing and smiling with me.  


This grandmother has two grand-daughters, one on her back.  We shared a special moment, when I told her through my guide (as I don’t speak much Swahili) that I also have two grand-daughters.  She asked me my name, and when I told her, she told me my  name in Swahili…..Sungulia.  It was wonderful to make such a connection and see that understanding in her eyes .


Soysambu Conservancy an elephant and her baby amble daintily oblivioius to our Safari jeep following along

for more information:  Magical Kenya, http://www.MagicalKenya.com

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Tea growing in Kenya


Kiambethu Tea Farm


Situated at 2,200 metres, thirty km from nairobi, Kiambethu has been the family home of one of the earliest tea growers in Kenya.  The farm dates back to 1910 and the present house, set amidst beautiful, english style gardens has been home to four generations.

Arrange to arrive at 11:00 and over a cup of tea, the process of making tea is informally explained by the genteel Fiona Vernon.  Following the chat, you can take a walk in the nearby indigenous forest with the resident Kenyan guide who will identify the plans and explain how they are traditionally used.  

Return to the house to enjoy a pre-lunch drink on the veranda with sweeping views across the tea fields to the Ngong Hills.  A delicious lunch is prepared with vegetables from teh garden and desserts topped with cream from the herd of Channel Island cows. 


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New and taste worthy in Guelph


While Guelph is still a work in progress coming throughout the city you can catch glimpses of why people are moving here from afar.

On any given Saturday, a cross section of Guelph’s most stylish residents converge upon the decidedly chic swath of Carden and Wilson Street, an area that has become one of the city’s creative hubs.

At the weekly market, local artisans ply organic honey, cured meats, artisanal bread, and handmade jewellery to an eclectic mix of patrons.

Today, central Guelph and beyond is lined with artist’s studios, co-ops, restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Trail blazing projects are popping up in other neighbourhoods as well.

Entrepreneurs are keen on opening something quirky. They are not merely cooking food that they know everyone expects and enjoys. The attitude is “let’s challenge them and do something completely different” and it’s working.

I will try to update regularly what is new and noteworthy in Guelph

Decadently Yours Bakery

Decadently Yours Sisters Jenn Bonner (left) and Tara Riddell (right) originally had the bakery business based in Brantford, however as they both lived in Guelph, moving the bakery seemed logical. Making use of a prime location at the corner of Surrey and Neeve Street, the stunning backdrop of purple and black décor is a bold backdrop for the baked goods on offer.

Decadently Yours cupcakes

All their products are baked the old fashioned way, the way the owner’s grandmother did it – from scratch using fresh, local ingredients. Boasting the use of only butter,-no lard, shortening, margarine or preservatives -is important in today’s market. Specializing in cupcakes, cakes and cookies, I was personally pleased to see that their specialties also include a selection of gluten free offerings including cookies and loaves and some pies. Vegans, Celiacs, and those needing dairy free with a sweet tooth have at least one option to choose from. Cupcakes are baked fresh daily with butter cream frosting, cream cheese frostings or chocolate ganach. Gourmet “pupcakes” for dogs are also available. Birthday parties where the children get to decorate their own cupcakes is offered on the premises.

119 Surrey Street. E., Guelph



39 Carden Street

Filling the gap where the popular Carden Street Café left off, this trendy bistro is owned by the same owners as Baker Street Station.

39Carden Street

Traditional French menus feature hearty game meats . Chef Becky Hood (photo below) trained in Calgary then got to know local tastes by working at La Cucina and Artisinale before making the leap to Baker Street Station. Once the owners, Dave Clancy, Justin and Shannon Corstorphine and Caitlyn Heximar decided to open the French counterpart, Becky, who was instrumental in designing the menu, said it was a “dream come true.”

Becky Hood, Chef, 39 Carden Street

The substantial snack list available throughout the day includes duck wings, pork belly steam buns, rabbit and truffle mousse bacon dumplings, pulled pork sliders. Hearty brunch fare on the weekends offers pork belly eggs benny; mushroom spinach quiche, steak and eggs, and a traditional breakfast for the plainer palates.

Appetizers carry on the unusual fare with fried quail with fries, seared pork belly with maple mustard, eggplant and goat cheese flatbread, Seared scallops with iceberg puree, and bone marrow and mushrooms on toast.

Menus are on chalkboards and change frequently. Unusual offerings continue reputation began at Baker Street . Décor is an unusual combination of elegant chandeliers, industrial lighting, barn board that you would think wouldn’t work, but it does giving it an overall chic feel for all the young lovelies that were dining the evening I was there.

38-40 Carden Street, Guelph



Eric The Baker

 Eric The Baker signage

Filling a gap is this newly opened bakeshop and café, which is small but mighty. With a French background, it is no surprise that Eric Chevalier s offering an authentic French experience. Eric’s beliefs have a high respect for “living food” which includes fresh butter, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables with no compromise. The combination of everything fresh is obvious in the offerings.

Eric the Baker 2

He learned to bake alongside his grandmother who owned the legendry La Petite Gourmet in Toronto. Not content to simply eat the cookies, he wanted to bake them himself, eventually creating tiny mice cookies that his grandmother carried in the shop.

Eric the Baker

Along with Chef Paula Moiseev (photo above)  he is baking three types of bread to use in the sandwich makings and to accompany the soup including sourdough, a white loaf, and the ubiquitous baguette. He also does a mixture of spelt, rye and whole wheat. As well as regularly offering the traditional Pain au Raisin (my personal favourite) Eric created his own variations on the same theme; Black cherry with custard, Lemon curd with fresh blueberries, and Apple with maple syrup. Variations Morning breakfast, soup and sandwiches, Shepherd’s Pie, fine pastries, cookies, meringues and several gluten free options. Primarily take out , there are some seats available to eat in.

Eric the Baker pastries

46 Carden Street, Guelph


Keeping it fresh , simple and tasty in Guelph, eat on…….



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