10 Reasons Millennial Travelers are LOVING Chennai

Travel

Written By: Arkapriya Dhara

Chennai is truly a bustling destination in South India that has almost everything- starting from colonial architecture, century-old temples to golden beaches. Although known for its old historic sites,Chennai actually has a perfect balance where its ethnic culture and metropolis lifestyle are thriving hand-in-hand. It’s absolutely amazing how you will still find young girls adorning fresh flowers in their hair on their way to the temple while technology and international brands keep life as comfortable as anywhere else in India. As a Millennial Traveler out to explore all of Asia, I’m glad I made this one of my first travel destinations. It was truly a dreamy escape from regular life.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

1. The Temples

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

The medieval temples will blow your mind and try to visit in the evening to see the actual magic happening with all the rituals. Parthasarathy, Vadapalani Murugan, Kapaleeshwarar temples are some of best temples that you should check out.

2.  The Churches

As I said temples are for nights, days should be used to visit numerous churches both in Chennai and Pondicherry. In Chennai St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica should be top of your list.

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Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

3. Chennai lighthouse

The landmark lighthouse is just beside the Marina beach and takes the elevator up to get a panoramic view of the sea and the city.

4. Affordable Shopping spree

Go straight to Tnagar for budget shopping and you can pop by malls for international brands. Chennai is truly a Saree heaven and leaving Chennai without buying at least one Nalli Silk Saree will be a grave mistake.

5. Beaches

 Among the beaches, the Marina Beach is the most significant one and it is the second-longest beach in the whole world. Try to take a morning stroll by the beach and observe historical building which will remind you of old Madras.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara
Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

6. Local Food

Chennai is known for a mix of cuisines along with the authentic Idly, dosa and vada. You should pay a visit to Saravana Bhawan and Ratna Cafe for typical South Indian vegetarian dishes.

7. Flowers, Dancing, Music and Culture

The flowers are the true essence of Chennai and truly it is an integral part of their culture. Try to buy flowers to put in your hair while visiting temples. Chennai is maybe the only city where you can always attend a high-quality classical dance performance and these are mostly free for all. Bharatiya Vidya Bhubaneswar is really the place to experience the culture here .

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

8. Mahabalipuram

While visiting Chennai, it’s absolutely necessary to visit mahabalipuram on the way to Pondicherry. The rock sculptures beside the sea are astonishing. The Shore Temple, Arjuna Penance, Cave Temples, etc are some of the must-visit places.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

9. Pondicherry

You just cannot I mean cannot miss Pondicherry while visiting Chennai. It’s only two and a half hours away from Chennai. The French colony called ‘White Town’ will make you feel as if you are not in India at all. Other than that Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Rock beach, French war memorial, and different churches are worth the visit.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

10. Instagram-Worthy Spots Everywhere!

There is a certain charm to the authentic culture that still exists in Chennai, while the busier cities like Delhi and Mumbai are lost in the fast-paced globalized lifestyle. As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…so if you have an eye for it, you will find endless spots in this city for striking instagram photos! The colours of the buildings, the smiles of the street vendors, the drippy deliciousness of curries and street food…all make for an amazing travel destination.

You can check out Arkapriya on her travel adventures in South Asia and beyond by following her instagram account here!

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

11 Locally Owned Ottawa Stores to LOVE this Christmas! #BuyLocal

Lifestyle, Travel

By Faria Ahmed

Canadians are now more aware than ever before about the kind of footprint their consumer choices leave behind on the planet. Not just the environment, but health, labour rights, humane treatment of animals and ethical production of goods are now being taken into consideration before jumping into a prickly bed of roses with blind capitalism. The good news is that we can still enjoy our long list of Christmas shopping and have all our unique requirements met – by buying local! Not only will you be supporting your fellow Ottawa folks and giving them a chance to have a happy holiday, but you can also shop guilt-free by not giving more to corporations to are underpaying their workers and harming the environment on a large scale. Check out these 10 local businesses we thought had some of the coolest goodies to offer this Christmas!

1. Aux Delices Bakery

Photo Credit: Aux Delices Bakery

Visit Aux Delices Bakery at the heart of Ottawa’s Byward Market for a whole range of sugary goodness in adorable Christmas themes! They are located at : 32 ByWard Market Square, Ottawa, ON.

2. Wiser Meats

I love Wiser Meats because it gives me an easy option to have meat with little to no guilt. Wiser Meats is an online service that delivers raw, fresh cut meats in the Ottawa area. They produce fresh meat every Monday at noon and deliver from Tuesday to Friday. They have highest quality locally raised meat packaged in Federally inspected facilities. And the best part is that all of their products are free of antibiotics and steroids, and the cows are all grass-fed and ethically raised. You can find a wide range of options from aged beef, free-range & air-chilled chicken as well as certified halal meat. You can order online at wisermeats.com.

3. Good Grazes

Photo Credit: Good Grazes

If you are planning to host friends and family this holiday season, then Good Grazes will blow your mind! This amazing catering service makes custom spreads for your budget and party size! “The Holiday Graze & Go box” is great for 1-4 people, the “Gather & Graze table” for about 10 people, and the “Party grazing table” is awesome for a large group of 30-40 people. If you live in Ottawa, just order at GoodGrazes.ca! They do deliver to your doorstep for a small fee but pickup is always free. The week before christmas is already almost full, so big groups should try to book quick! Small boxes can be ordered as late as 24 hours before the event. Good Grazes can accommodate your dietary needs and do nut free, gluten free options and even a vegan board with items like roasted mushrooms, chick peas, olive tepanade, and vegan cheese caprese skewers, Cashew dip, etc. They work with mostly biodegradable utensils and with local suppliers as much as possible. For Pick-up, the location is in Orleans.

4. Aromesso Cafe

Photo Credit: Aromesso

This little cafe and bakery all the way in Tangers, Aromesso will surprise you with its dainty cheesecakes (From The Cheesecake Factory) and deliciously colourful donuts! With options for sweet, savory, halal items, they are bringing the A-game to that part of town! They are located at: 8555 Campeau Dr., Unit #852Ottawa, Ontario

5. Sweetlegs Orleans

Photo: SweetLegs

SweetLegs is the first Canadian leggings company to have their own in-house designed signature line. These comfy and adorably printed leggings are available in dozens of unique and beautiful prints and sizes! SweetLegs have a four way stretch and a kitten soft finish which makes them adored by all ages and genders! You can now buy from their local vendor in Orleans, by visiting SweetLegs Orleans with Sania!

6. Anna Stubbe Chocolates & Confectioneries

Tired of eating the same old flavours in mainstream, mass-produced chocolates from factories? It is time to go local and taste these dainty and delicate chocolates made with choco-expertise, love and care! If you love all things chocolate and would like the ultimate chocolate experience, then you need to visit Anna Stubbe Chocolates and Confectioneries! High quality ingredients and a super classy presentation are matched with really creative designs. You won’t be disappointed! Everything they sell is handcrafted right onsite. Located at: 500 Hazeldean Road, Unit 108Kanata, Ontario.

Photo: Anna Stubbe Chocolates & Confectioneries

7. Beetle Bug Baby

Beetle Bug Baby is your one-stop shop to get custom Stay on Baby / Toddler booties, play mitts, and more! This locally made store takes care of both mommies AND babies with nursing arm pillows, scrunchies, santa sacs and so much more!

Photo Credit: Beetle Bug Baby

8. Canoes & Creativity

Photo Credit: Canoes and Creativity

At Canoes and Creativity you need to load up on beautiful handmade stocking stuffers and gifts! They offer a wide range of rustic woodburned home decor items all designed by hand. There is a 12 Days of Christmas sale happening from November 26 – December 8, featuring 24-hour daily specials. All custom orders are guaranteed by December 20.

9. Sofi’s Silly Slime

Martine, the owner of Sofi’s Silly Slime started making handmade slime after her niece Vanysa introduced her to his fun little thing. However, once she had discovered the fun and therapeutic effects of making and playing with slime, she got super creative with it and now is ready to spread the joy with you all! “What I create is enjoyed by both children and adults and nothing makes me happier than to put a smile on someone’s face because of something I have made”, shared Martine. At Sofie’s Silly Slime, you will find a super creative and fun range of slime – the ideal gifts for children this year! You also get amazing courteous service in both French and English!

Photo: Sofi’s Silly Slime

10. Clutch by Pat Durant

Everyone needs a nice leather clutch, even vegans! That’s why Clutch by Pat Durant is offering incredibly stylish clutch purses in her Seasonal Clutches collection. Some are made with brushed wool plaid and quality vegan leather, another with lace and vegan leather to move easily from daytime to nighttime events. The third in the collection is a is a classic envelope clutch made with a gorgeous brushed wool plaid reminiscent of the Burberry check. All are on special for $75.

Clutch by Pat Durant

11. Crazy Cat Witchy

Photo: Crazy Cat Witchy

At Crazy Cat Witchy, you can find something spiritual, artistic and beautiful for that whimsical friend in the group! They make custom energy alignment tools using high quality gemstones and each dome comes with a full write up of healing properties, how to use and an identity. They range in price from $60-$150 with delivery options anywhere in North America for just an additional $15. You can make requests and get custom ones made within a week.

If you are done with the main Christmas gifts and just need a few more stocking stuffers within a few dollars, don’t forget to check out our list of 10 items you can get for under $10 as a Christmas gift!

4 Amazing Specialty Stores You Can Only Find In Perth, Ontario

Travel

With the growth of chain stores and brands in the big cities, it might be easier to find things when we need them, but it has become increasingly difficult to get things that are unique and beautiful in their own ways. This is why my visits to the small town of Perth, Ontario are so special to me. There are specialty stores here featuring locally and nationally made items that I almost never see in Ottawa. Today I’m reviewing four such places and their traditional beauty which instagram-loving millennials like myself would go crazy over!

1. Kelly’s Flowers & Gift Boutique

Christmas ornament owl at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Within moments of walking into Kelly’s, I felt as though I had been transported to Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. In every sense, the store’s decor, contents, and friendly staff with their warm and welcoming smiles will make you feel like it’s Christmas.

Christmas tree and ornaments at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Kelly’s is a flower shop and boutique, but what stood out to me the most about this store was their incredibly beautiful collection of Christmas ornaments. Starting from wood, tin, fabric to crystals, they have every kind of ornament you can think of and all of extremely high quality. They have the type of things you will want to add to your family’s Christmas collection for generations to come.

Wooden Christmas ornament at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Each item is so delicately crafted and do not even compare to the mainstream, mass produced items that I am used to buying.

Soap bars, bath milk and other skincare products. All natural products at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Almost everything at Kelly’s is made in Canada and a lot of their items comes in from the town of Peterborough. Their collection of skin care products are made from all natural ingredients and some Canadian brands they carry are 100% vegan. If you’re looking for anything specific – just ask and they will be sure to share more details of the specialty items they offer.

White Snowman Christmas ornaments at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

2. Perth Chocolate Works

I thought I was past my sugar cravings after having all that Halloween candy, but visiting this store made me realize what I had been missing out on all this time! Perth Chocolate Works hand makes delicate barks and chocolates in small batches using high quality Belgian Callebaut Chocolate.

Faria Ahmed at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
That’s me happily posing in front of Perth Chocolate Works. Photo Credit: Jordan Johnstone

Although it originally opened in Manatoulin Island, it experienced increased requests to expand to the Ottawa Valley and soon found a home in Perth.

Handmade Chocolates at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019

Items that stood out for me were the handmade truffle bars, bear claws and the incredibly wide selection of jams and jellies. I have quite honestly never seen so many different types of jams and jellies before and can easily imagine myself trying out some with cheese and crackers in the holidays coming up.

Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins  at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
Handmade Double Truffle Bars at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
James, Jellies and Preserves at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019. Lime Curd, Raspberry Curd, Pin Grapefruit Marmalade and Fig Preserves.
Rhubarb and Ginger Preserve, Lime and Lemon Marmalade, Mackay's Preserves at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario

The store was quite spacious and I spent almost an hour looking around and checking out the various corners decorated with shelves full of handmade goodies! Even the window ledges were decorated with items you could purchase, and that included these gorgeous wooden cheese boards.

Wild Wood Wooden Slabs for Cheese Platters and Presentation in Perth Chocolate Works
100% Pure Maple Butter in small jars at Perth  Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario
Funny coffee sign at Perth Chocolate Works at Perth, Ontario

3. Shadowfax

The holiday and sugar buzz almost reminded me of Diagon Alley (in the Harry Potter Universe) with Perth’s boutique little stores and stone buildings running throughout the town. This fluttering feeling of craving some holiday magic led me to the mystical store called Shadowfax.

As soon as you enter through those green doors, you will find yourself in a world of magic, mysticism and spirituality.

From natural crystals to tarrot cards, you will find everything you could possibly seek in this category of items. I loved how there were little notes explaining the name, type and healing effects of the stones. Some were for love while others were to help fight anxiety. I picked up an item for my aunt who has been dealing with lots of stress recently.

Every minute in that store seemed like a moment that I was learning. There were so many types of religious, spiritual and historical symbolism all over the place. The collection of books, too, were rare, fun and insightful!

Shadowbox isn’t just a place to buy things though. They also host events such as tarot card readings, soul glimpse readings, crystal and oracle card readings, palmistry and more!

4. The Crossroads Tearoom

Nothing beats the quaint and ladylike feeling of pouring myself some hot tea in the prettiest of settings. Decorated from floor to ceiling with vintage decor, furniture and accessories, The Crossroads Tearoom is every millennial instagramer’s dream spot to be!

Whether it’s for lunch or an afternoon of high tea with your girlfriends, this tearoom will make you feel like English noblewomen with its vibe.

Starting from the mannequin dressed up in Victorian era clothing and jewelry to the elegant piano casually placed so it truly belongs in the tearoom, you can find yourself transported back in time.

Elegant ladies’ hats, vintage china and paintings all in the theme pastel colours adorn the walls of the tearoom while the furniture is aged and rustic to add to the realism of the setting.

You can see me in the mirror, trying to capture the gorgeous chandelier in this photo.

For me, the tearoom brought back nostalgic memories of my Grandmother’s teapots and tea cozy with cups and saucers all ready on a silver tray for afternoon tea time with the family. It also reminded me of Jane Austin books I had read growing up, and ignited an internal fire to want to play adult tea party with my friends (or dollies!).

Vintage tea rooms have surely made a comeback in recent years and are among the trendy places to spend a Saturday morning with your lady friends. Even though they are now sprouting up in the big cities in Canada, there’s no doubt that a certain level of authenticity can be experienced only when you visit ones in beautiful and cozy little towns like Perth.

Story of the Travelling Saree: How a young Bangladeshi-Canadian Woman is leaving her ethnic mark everywhere she travels!

People, Travel

Interviewed by Faria Ahmed

Banff, Alberta

Every now and then we come across stories of inspirational women who dare to be different and leave their mark in the way they do things. Such is the story of Nibedita Saha-Chakravorty, a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman living in Toronto, Canada. Nibedita and her husband absolutely love travelling and they make it a point to travel at least a few times a year.

During a trip to Banff, Alberta Nibedita first came up with the idea of wearing a saree (a traditional ethnic Bengali clothing for women) and photograph herself against the gorgeous snowy mountains in Banff. In extreme freezing temperatures, she managed to get photographed against this striking landscape and look incredibly glamorous doing it. A saree is a typically light garment meant to be worn in the tropics and over the centuries it has become the symbol for Bengali women everywhere. Since that day almost 5 years ago, Nibedita took it up as a personal adventure to take photographs of herself against the various terrains and landscapes as she travels the world.

Dubai

“Growing up I always thought I was weird because my ideas were always a bit different from my peers”, said Nibedita. “Assimilation in Canadian society was always encouraged in my family, especially as my parents desperately wanted us to fit in. In my adult life, I realized that my thoughts and desires weren’t necessarily weird but rather they were just different“, she continued. “One of those different ideas I had was to try and take this beautiful symbol of my culture, the saree, to the next level.”

“I’m always thinking about what has not been done before. In general , South Asian countries are hot so probably there aren’t pictures of women wearing them in the snow, I thought. Next I realized that many of our friends and family living in Canada hate snow. I get it..life is difficult”, she said. Nibedita explained how we should sympathize with those who are still struggling to get around in the snow. For so many women who first move to Canada, adjusting to the weather, the culture, the change in clothing…is all part of a very big life change and it can be challenging. They have to give up a big piece of their cultural identities or preference of wearing a saree on a regular basis and only wear it to parties. “Wearing sarees in the snow is quite impractical but I thought it would be fun to take a picture of me wearing a saree in the snow to make the ladies in my community giggle. That idea started my crazy journey.”

Cuba

Although the initial thought behind it was a humorous one, she soon also realized how powerful and empowering it could be do to this. “In the Bengali community, many women are afraid to dream or vocally say what they want because traditionally women have been groomed to be care takers and support systems”. Nibedita explained how Bengali women are often expected to make bold sacrifices and their own wishes and dreams are often sidelined in the process. However, she wants to show the world that while being her most bengali self, wearing a saree, she can climb a mountain and walk in sand all the same. She wants to do it literally and metaphorically to help break barriers for Bengali women, so we can be comfortable in our own skin and ethnic garments and still be proud and confident enough to take on the world.

Ontario

She wants to tell everyone that if something is a part of our cultural identity, we do not need to tuck it away. It is something that adds strength to our lives and lived experiences and should be celebrated.

Most Challenging Saree-Photo Venture:

“I think the hardest for me was Dubai. The desert seemed limitless to me, and I was but a grain of sand in the vast desert sea. The dunes were hot and I kept sinking wherever I stood. The wind was so exceptionally strong, I felt if I let go of my saree, it will disappear. I felt fear and excitement. Something was all around me and it was trying to take me with it.

Most Fun Saree-Photo Venture:

My most fun experience was during my graduation. I was the only person who wore a saree at my graduation from the University of Toronto that year. I loved explaining the idea to everyone who asked about it and I loved showing up on campus in a saree as compared to other days where my hair would be in a bun and I’d be in sweatpants lugging around chemistry and physics books.

Traveled So Far:

Bangladesh: Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong India: Kolkata, Sikkim, Orissa, Darjeeling, Kashmir
Greece, Dubai, Nepal, Paris, London UK, Belize City
US: Florida, Utah, Las Vegas, California, West
Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Canada: Alberta, Ontaro

Travel Bucket List for the Future:

Australia (Great Barrier Reef), Egypt, Amazon Basin, Rain Forest

Travels in the near future: I would love to travel within Canada (somewhere in the Maritimes and Vancouver).

Pumpkin Picking at Scotch Line Farm

Travel

Today I went pumpkin picking for the first time at a beautiful little farm in Perth, Ontario. My boyfriend Jordan is from there and his family has owned and operated farmland for many generations. Although I grew up in big crowded cities for most of my life, I have always been attracted to the serenity and scenic beauty that farmlands and their festivals bring. Everything is so organic, fresh, and bursting with nature’s colours and flavours.

At Jordan’s uncle and aunt’s (Jim and Brenda Ferrier’s) “Scotch Line Farm”, I was amazed to see the wide variety of pumpkins for carving, baking and cooking. There were decorative corn, hay stacks, sunflower heads and so much more to choose from. I felt like I could bring back a little bit of the fall country life to my apartment in downtown Ottawa. There were also tractor rides, something I had never tried before! Here are some photos I took today to share with you all:

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