Downtown Vancouver, breakfast (part 3)

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Wednesday 30th September)

So far, I have travelled on the Sky Train, the SeaBus, I have been delighted by some local talent, but now, and I know this sounds like I have the Canadian bug of coffee, but I really need some coffee!  I wanted something different, no disrespect but I was a little fed up of Tim Horton’s.

I walked past a few places and then came across ‘Trees Organic Coffee and Roasting House’.  Very nice set up, incredibly happy and polite staff, the coffee was near perfect but the treats I had, well, I had by far the best almond croissant I have ever had, big, crispy, fresh, plenty of filling and just the right balance of sweetness.

Sorry, it did not stop there my friends, as I had just walked into a place that claimed to have the best Cheesecake in Vancouver it would be foolish, maybe even disrespectful not to try some, right?  So I got some cheesecake too…

I had experienced heaven while eating this  because it was truly bliss, I know this sounds far fetched, but if you believe (as I do) that you can actually experience aspects of heaven and hell here on this temporal earth, then you will know exactly what I mean.   I think I did ‘transcend all time and space’…please do make a special visit and come here if you visit Vancouver, if you would like excellent quality coffee, if almond croissants are one of your favourites or if you simply want to enter another existence for a short time while eating the most delectable cheesecake, then this is the place to come…my mouth is watering as I write this so I will stop now!


Downtown Vancouver (part 2)

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Wednesday 30th September)

Unfortunately, I have had a technical issue and as a result this blog will not have any photos or videos attached to it.

For the sake of brevity and for the convenience of people who may visit this amazing city one day, some interesting bits of information for your own knowledge:

  • Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life, and the Economist Intelligence Unit acknowledged it as the first city to rank among the top-ten of the world’s most liveable cities for five consecutive years.
  • Vancouver has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, UN Habitat I, Expo 86, the World Police and Fire Games in 1989 and 2009; and the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics which were held in Vancouver and Whistler
  • In 2014, following thirty years in California, the annual TED conference made Vancouver its indefinite home.
  • Several matches of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup were played in Vancouver, including the final at BC Place Stadium.

Downtown Vancouver (part 1)

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Wednesday 30th September)

After my whale watching adventure, my next two days were planned to spend and see as much as possible of Vancouver.  I was so excited to be in Vancouver, I heard so much about this place and was keen to experience a little of why some people believe this to be one of the best places to live, and if that is not possible, to at least visit.  Vancouver officially the City of Vancouver, is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada.

It was interesting to find out that Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English, in addition to this, Vancouver is the most densely populated Canadian municipality.  Another interesting fact was that major film production studios in Vancouver and Burnaby have turned Greater Vancouver and nearby areas into one of the largest film production centres in North America, earning it the film industry nickname, Hollywood North.

There were so many brilliant things about Vancouver, and that is why I will be posting 8 parts to my 2 day visit to Vancouver and the surrounding areas.  When I think about it now, I don’t know how I did it, but I covered a lot of ground in the time I had and saw some truly wonderful sights, sounds and tastes.

Below are some photos of the very cool Sky Train which I found very effective and convenient to get around, I strongly recommend this if you want to be cost effective and get from A to B pretty quickly.  I took the SeaBus to North Vancouver, to be honest, I did this simply to come back towards Downtown Vancouver and capture the splendid city form afar and be able to approach it from the water, I thought the skyline was really something to take in early in the morning.   The last bit of this post was this wonderfully talented man who I thought was incredibly innovative with his bagpipes and beat boxing fusion (and later with his steel drum)…I had never seen anything like it before…I suppose its a bit like Marmite, you will either love it or hate it (I am not sure what the North American equivalent would be, maybe peanut butter and jelly?).




Vancouver Island, Downtown Victoria, Rogers’ Chocolates

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Tuesday 29th September)

I suppose any trip you take in life should involve some sort of sweets, particularly I would say chocolate, after all, chocolate comes from cocoa, cocoa comes from a tree, and that technically makes it a salad (well, that’s how I like to rationalise it anyway).

I was so west of Canada, I had travelled so far during this road trip, I wanted to get some chocolates for Nour (I know this is a sweet thing to do, but I don’t think I would hear the end of it if I did not bring home some chocolates).  I was after some good, and if possible, locally made chocolate with a bit of history.  I came across Rogers’ Chocolates, very good, rich and prestigious chocolates from what I believe is the oldest chocolatier in British Colombia, I am pretty sure that I came to the original store too. The way the store was furnished and decorated takes you back in time, it was a very nice experience.

Rogers’ Chocolates are renowned for their excellent chocolate quality and their specialty being chocolate creams which are very nice if you like that sort of thing…not cheap I have to say, but very yummy and very delicious!  Time for another hike I think to work off the calories?


Ontario Science Centre

Since being in Canada, this is one of the best things we have invested in for the kids.  We bought a family membership at the Ontario Science Centre. We have been weekly since we bought the membership, there is so much to do and although we have been several times now, we have still not had the time to see every part of it.  This wonderful educational experience (for both young and old alike I must stress) is a place I strongly recommend to anyone wanting to be inspired to think about this mind blowing universe we live in.  It is certainly well worth the visit, learning and acquiring knowledge is something that continues with our journey of life, this place is amazing at enthusing and encouraging this in every part…if you are receptive to it.

At the moment, there is the Red Bull Stratos exhibition focussing on Felix Baumgartner’s stupendous feats and accomplishments, namely his supersonic free fall.  It is brilliant, it reminds you how a human, when they totally focus and set their heart on something, can achieve something that most people on the planet will never, ever experience.  A truly formidable and awe inspiring achievement this man achieved, I totally admire and respect what he has done.

Other than this, the photos below show just ‘some’ of the fantastic areas on offer, as I stated, I certainly recommend to anyone interested in igniting that spark we all have within us to make time for a visit…or more.

Fatimah describes this place as “Fascinating, interesting, lots of fun and really awesome!”, and it really was on this crisp, clear and fresh day.











Late November and an early tease!

I have been told by family and friends, that this last time last year, was terribly cold in Toronto and the snow had already established itself and remained for quite a while, quite a while being several months.  We received some snow yesterday, a tease I would like to describe it as. I have been in Canada before during the winter, I have experienced -35degrees in Kitchener and not too far from that temperature in Toronto too, this was several years ago.  However this is a different experience, the anticipation has excitement and nervousness weaved into it, along with a few other emotions, strange I know.

The first few photos are from outside my brother in laws house and the others are from my parents in laws apartment. The last time I posted photos from their apartment was to show the lovely view which  was fantastic and the views were far reaching. These photos show the gentle sprinkle of snow over Toronto, almost like when icing sugar decorates a cake for the finishing touches, except these are not finishing touches over Toronto, this is a tease, what is to come, from what I have been told (and have briefly experienced before) will be more like icing on top of a cake, frosting as some would say (a more relevant term I think)…looks inviting and tastes sweet but it will be bitter…bitterly cold…we already have the Brrrrr effect!


Vancouver Island, Downtown Victoria  

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Tuesday 29th September)

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast. A truly beautiful place that was in mind boggling bloom, although it was the end of September, the colours were absolutely magnificent and a pleasure to the eyes.

Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and, at the time, British North America, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest.  Two of the most famous landmarks are the Legislative buildings (finished in 1857) and the Empress hotel (opened in 1908). The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s, which I unfortunately did not have time to visit.

According to some reviews, Victoria is in the top twenty of world cities for quality-of-life, I can believe this and can see why.  The beautiful and rugged shorelines and beaches make Victoria very popular for boaters.  Victoria is also popular with retirees, who come to enjoy the temperate and usually snow-free climate of the area as well as the usually relaxed pace of the city.  Keep this in mind Nour, I have my eye on this place (wishful thinking you may say, but hope and wishes can definitely be actualised!).







Vancouver Island, Victoria – Prince of Whales expedition 

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Tuesday 29th September)

Whale watching wonders is one way of putting this truly incredible experience.  A fantastic trip that I can only be grateful for, grateful that I saw what I saw.  With tours like this, there are no guarantees, after all, it is nature we are talking about here, nature in their own environment, their own back yard if you will.  As a result, several tour companies do offer a certain amount of discount if you do not see any whales during the tour, others offer another tour on the same or another day.

In the photos below, you can see three images where there is a huge group of birds, this was very exciting, as it was usually a good sign that there are whales nearby, we did wait a while but then moved on as the whales had clearly moved on.

Seeing the Killer Whales (Orcas) was breathtaking, there was a large group all moving, incredibly swiftly, in one direction away from Victoria.  You may not be able to appreciate, but they were moving very fast, we exercised caution and respect and kept our distance so that we did not disturb them, there was a risk that we would annoy them and in turn, lose the privilege of seeing such beauties in the water.  The captain told us that these particular whales he recognised and had not seen this group for at least two years, it was indeed a privilege.

We then moved on and passed by some land where there were hundreds of Sea Lions, some of them were massive, they were very noisy, there was lots of fighting going on as they wrestled for their own piece of land, and OMG, it absolutely stank, with respect to the Sea Lions, the smell for me was repugnant, not for me I’m afraid.

The icing on the cake, the gem of the tour, the part of the tour that was utterly memorable was seeing the Humpback whale, a totally amazing highlight that we were blessed with.  We saw one early on, very briefly, but it disappeared, we did wait for it to resurface, but there was no sign so we moved on as we were told that there was some exciting activity happening amongst the Killer Whales.  To come across this again was utterly fantastic.   To capture what I did was so beautiful, so amazing, they are truly, truly magnificent!  After my river and jeep safari in Blue River, I did not think my trip could get any better,  this was just a fortunate, timely blessing.

The boat ride back was really nice as I got to see parts of Victoria from the water.  The Norwegian Sun cruiser was a treat, the water taxi was really cool, a great view of the government buildings too and the fancy boats, well, they were not mine let’s put it that way.  At the end of the trip I felt like a prince of whales!  A staggering morning and early afternoon…exploring downtown Victoria coming up.




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Candlelight Vigil for Global Peace…Dundas Square, Downtown Toronto

I would like to begin with expressing my heartfelt gratitude to my niece who organised this event, she did a fantastic job and we are all incredibly proud of her, she gave a press interview on Dundas Square and then later in the evening, gave a live interview for a TV channel.   Her energy, activism, enthusiasm, dedication and hope for a better world is much to be admired, thank you my lovely Fatimah.

Below are photos of a Candlelight Vigil for Global Peace which she organised in Dundas Square, Downtown Toronto.  This was in light of the horrific events in the past week, in Beirut, Paris and Baghdad, but extending to all violence against all people.  I would like to express my condolences to the families of all those innocent lives that were taken away so violently and mercilessly.  Here I would like to express a few words…

Human life is sacred, let’s get this clear from the very outset.  It is so sacred, that it is not and can never be confined and restricted to colour, religion, ethnicity, gender, status, power, locality, or any other label people want to identify it with.  All life is precious.

Most of us share the same goals in life, it doesn’t matter who you are and where you are from.  For instance, I would like to believe that most people on this planet want to be happy, want to love and be loved, be healthy, live without fear, have the freedom to move around, marry who you wish, live where you want, choose to believe or not to believe, etc.  No person has the right to take any of these God given rights away from anyone as we are all beautifully distinctive and individual, we are all the same yet different, no one can compel another to love in a certain way, feel a certain emotion, do things against their intrinsic nature, force them to believe, not allow for someone to judge according to their own formidable intuition, face any form of abuse or be discriminated in any way…no one has the right to do these things to another human being, end of!

Tragedy on this earth takes place on a daily basis, we are constantly reminded that there are some really despicable and twisted people on this earth, so sick and vile, so barbaric in their thoughts and actions, that they have left the folds of humanity, and most people do not, cannot and will not adhere to any of these pathetic and lowly belief systems, no matter what they base their arguments on, these earth shattering atrocities can never be justified, it is simply against our human nature.

Human life is so sacred that the pain and suffering in the world that we see, that we hear, that our senses testify to, we cannot ignore, we cannot let it pass, we cannot rationalise to say that it is not our problem.    The plain truth here is very simple, yet devastatingly heart breaking, heart wrenching, it sends shivers down the back and makes you want to scream!

This is a message to all these animals who kill, maim, take so much innocent life, snatch away our sons and daughters, seperate the loving lives of wife and husband, kill our fathers, rape our mothers and sisters, destroy generations, take away hope, attempt to eliminate peace, destroy our heritage, pollute our gift of a planet with their existence, aim to cause corruption, discord and disunity…you will never ever succeed, we don’t care how much money you have, how sophisticated your weaponary is, it does not matter who you are backed by and who your allies are, it doesn’t matter what you base your belief system on, who you think your God is, what you interpret truth to be, it is an absolute joke that you talk about salvation and that you are doing God’s work…what a massive insult to the Merciful Lord, an absolute disgrace you are…you cannot and will not succeed against the unity of love, compassion, understanding, respect, hope, dignity and the reality of the ultimate truth that is shared amongst all decent, upright and compassionate beings.  Beings of faith and none who clearly understand the verse from the Qur’an:  “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if they have killed the whole of humanity…” (5:32).

You sick people (who I will not even mention here as you are not worthy of it) do not, actually, do not even have the capacity to comprehend the fact that human love is indestructible, life is a manifestation of God’s divine beauty and the soul is eternal.  Your actions are so horrific that you are totally ignorant of the fact that you are constantly creating your own damnation, your own hell fire is being contually fuelled by your highly mistaken ideologies where your ignorance is being compounded with every passing moment, at every instance, your  accountability will certainly take place and it will be perfectly just as God is Just.  The fact that so many people attended this vigil tonight and at the other thousands of other locations around the world, the fact that there were people from all walks of life, beliefs, colours and  religions…all there for the same goal of a hope for a better world, a peaceful society, a loving and respectful relationship with each other, shows that you have already lost…you lost your souls the moment you subscribed to this horrendous existence and what you claim as a way of life!

I believe that in every evil there is beauty, there is an opportunity to do good, to be taken out of our comfort zone, to change a situation, to make a difference, to be challenged, to bring personal awareness and awaken those around us who may, for a number of reasons, be in slumber and are distracted and need to be awoken to the truth.  This is not about me being Muslim and opposing those who claim to be Muslim, this has absolutely, categorically nothing to do with Islam.  This is about me being human and they not being human in any way.  This is about my sister or brother in faith being the equal of my sister or brother of no faith.  This is about these baseless animals being the enemy of all people of conscience and all free thinking people.  This is about standing up against oppression, injustice and tyranny in all forms, there is no place for hate.  This is about life being sacred, love being precious, humanity being divine!  Peace!






Ferry from Tsawwassen Bay to Vancouver Island, Victoria…

(My solo road trip of western Canada – Tuesday 29th September)

After arriving in Vancouver, there was a short drive to nearby Richmond where I was due to stay for three nights so that I could explore Vancouver.  I was so excited, I could not believe I was here, somewhere I had always wanted to visit was now unfolding for me.

I planned to visit Victoria (the capital of British Colombia, Canada) on Vancouver Island (the largest Pacific island east of New Zealand).  I was told that this was a good place to do whale watching, advice was given by several people so it would have been foolish to go anywhere else, or not do it at all.  I decided to do this on my first day of three so that I could have time to explore other parts of Vancouver (if I could) with the remainder of the time I had.

The day was going to be totally manic, tight schedule that I had to adhere to, otherwise I would not be able to travel to Victoria, do whale watching and explore downtown Vctoria in the day I had.  I went to bed after 2am planning the day.

I got up at 5am and left my accommodation at 5.30am.  From where I was staying, I had a 15 minute walk to the nearest bus loop (bus station), the bus was due to leave at 6.05am.  I realised after about 6 or 7 minutes that I was walking in the wrong direction, I should have turned right instead of left at the main road, if  I missed this bus, it would ruin my day, I simply would not have enough time!  There was no sign of anyone, until after walking for about 10minutes, there was a gas station (petrol station).  I asked 3 workers inside if they new where the bus loop was and none of them did!  I walked out and one guy was filling up, I asked him, and it just so happened that he was going in that direction and he knew where I had to go, he offered to take me… I got on the bus at 6.04am, it left the station 1 minute later!

I arrived at the ferry port at 6.40am and the ferry from Tsawwasen Bay was due to leave at 7am to get to Victoria just after 8.30am.  Then I got a bus from the ferry bay to downtown Victoria, I arrived just before 9.30am, I then ran and booked a whale watching tour which I thought was going to start at 10am, but this was not available so I did the 11am.  It was due to last 3 1/2 hours.  In total, I needed to allow around four hours to get back to Richmond.  Below are the photos of my ferry trip from Tsawwasen to Victoria.  After whale watching and trekking around downtown Victoria, I got to my accommodation, safe and sound just after 11pm, long but hugely fulfilling day.

Absolutely stunning sunrise, spectacular scenery along the way.  My favourite part of the ferry trip was definitely passing the multiple small islands on route to Victoria.  On the way back, I explored the inside of the ferry further and realised it was like a floating  city.  Again, I could not believe my luck with the weather, it was blissful!