My Hong Kong Travel Adventure

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Before 2017, I can't say that Hong Kong was ever on my must-see travel list. I didn't know a lot about Hong Kong or what to expect from travelling there. After spending two weeks in Hong Kong in October, I can say with certainty that I love it and I'm so thankful that I had the chance to experience it! (And can't wait to go back!)

Looking back, we did so much over the span of 2 weeks in Hong Kong, but these were certainly some of the highlights.

The Flight

When I told people that I was going to Hong Kong, the first thing that they often asked about was the flight. How long would it be? Had I ever taken a flight that long? What would we do?

Before Hong Kong, the longest flight I had been on was 6-7 hours when I went to Europe in 2006. Since then, my travel experiences have been full of shorter flights throughout Canada, the US and Caribbean, so I honestly didn't know what it was going to be like to be on a plane for 14 hours nonstop.

Our flight left Toronto at 2am on a Saturday morning and arrived in Hong Kong around 5am on Sunday morning thanks to the time difference. We flew Cathay Pacific and they were awesome! I found out that I was able to request a gluten free meal, which meant that I was able to enjoy safe food on our lengthy journey, and that I got served first on a huge aircraft - not bad! On the way over I was able to sleep for 6-7 hours, watched TV and movies, chatted and had snacks.

To be honest, neither flight was that bad. 14 hours is a long time to be seated, but I felt well taken care of, took breaks as needed and the reward to arrive in Hong Kong especially was worth it!

The City

I instantly felt very comfortable in Hong Kong.

Even though it is densely populated, I loved how efficient everything was. The subway system is fast, clean, cheap and easy to navigate. They have Octopus cards that you use for transit (and even small purchases) which made it very easy to get on and off the subway. You can grab one at the airport so you can easily take transit into the city. Taxis were also really inexpensive, but traffic in Hong Kong is unlike anything I've ever seen before! I slowly got used to making the conversion from the Hong Kong dollar to Canadian (dividing by 6 based on the conversion). Most signs were in English as well as Cantonese, and as a city gal, I loved the lights along with the hustle and bustle.

Best Eats

I think everything I ate in Hong Kong was delicious, from the yum cha lunches (Cantonese tradition involving tea and dim sum) to random snacks on the street. Some of the highlights included the Dim Sum Library for an awesome yum cha lunch, Green Waffle Diner for gluten free waffles, The Cakery for gluten free vegan cupcakes in unique flavours like black sesame (they also do a gluten free high tea that I really want to try the next time I'm in Hong Kong!), nood for fresh organic juices and raw chocolate, and Zuma for champagne brunch and phenomenal food.

I also got to visit the Hello Kitty Dim Sum restaurant, where everything was Hello Kitty themed from the food to the decor. It was pretty epic!

It has closed since our visit in October, so I'm especially glad that we had the chance to visit while we were there.

We ate delicious meals with Paul's family when we were at home, and I loved picking up some treats at the grocery store when we were there. Marks & Spencer had gluten free crumpets (!!!) and I found an awesome, local, vegan ice cream called Happy Cow with amazing flavours like green tea, salted caramel swirl and chai. I found it very manageable to avoid dairy and gluten in Hong Kong, while still enjoying all sorts of delectable food.

Favourite Sights

As a big city kid, Hong Kong felt like a big playground to me. I felt like I do in Toronto or New York - at ease. The skyline is phenomenal and it's very cool to see it all lit up at night. My favourite view was from OZONE, which is atop the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel. We enjoyed some cocktails and the spectacular view!

Our days included fun excursions to the tea museum, the botanical garden in Hong Kong Park, great shops, markets and a local artisan market.

Best Adventures

We spent quite a bit of time on Hong Kong island and in the central district, but we did take a couple of day trips as well. The cool thing about Hong Kong is that there are a number of places that are within a short ferry ride.

We went to Lamma Island for a day to have lunch and explore. It's a 30 minute ferry ride from Hong Kong and a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. It's very laid back, much less crowded and very cute to explore. There are tonnes of little restaurants with great waterfront views, adorable shops with wares from local artisans, shrines and places to hike and explore. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and I picked up some cute, inexpensive souvenirs. It was quite hot outside the day that we went, so it was nice to be on the breezy waterfront.

I had been told that Macau was like the Las Vegas of Asia and it did not disappoint! It was an hour ride to get there, and has a totally different vibe and feel than Hong Kong, as it was a Portuguese territory until 1999. I loved seeing the Portuguese influenced architecture and signage everywhere. When indoors, it really felt like we were in Vegas - the casinos, the vibrant art pieces and vast amount of shopping are very similar.

We had drinks at the Wing Lei Bar in the Wynn Palace which was absolutely stunning and enjoyed an incredible meal at El Gaucho. There's also a really cool cable car ride into the Wynn that made our visit that much more spectacular.

Best Shopping

Hong Kong is full of luxury shopping, from watches to handbags and high fashion clothing but you can also find some very inexpensive shopping in the night markets that pop up - it's a really interesting contrast! We had fun exploring the night market and the ladies' market, as well as some of the fancy shops and department stores.

My favourite shop ended up being a stationary store called kikki.k where I spent a lot of time and got a VIP card on my first go. (They don't have a presence in Canada but I just learned that some of their merchandise is available online through Indigo - dangerous!!)

I got a beautiful 2018 day planner, a journal and an amazing purse that has a phone charger built inside. Everything is beautifully designed and many of the items have the option to have your initials embossed on them.

I also enjoyed the stationary options at LOG-ON, fell in love with Brown the bear at Line Friends, and was treated to some fantastic kitten earmuffs from Kate Spade.

I don't even feel like this post begins to cover everything else in Hong Kong - the amazing time we spent with Paul's family, great conversations, fun times swimming and playing tennis, our various ukulele duets, a trip to the Hong Kong cinema complete with sweet popcorn and time spent relaxing and watching Netflix. I felt very spoiled, happy and loved.

I'm grateful that I had the chance to visit Hong Kong, meet Paul's family, and enjoy a tremendous vacation. I had so much fun travelling with Paul and experiencing his hometown. I can't wait to go back and explore even more!

Mary Jane - for my mom on her birthday

Friday, November 10, 2017

When I was in the sixth grade, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album was everything to me. It was one of the first cd's I owned, I knew all the words to all the songs and sang along with them (much to the dismay of my mom at times - she politely explained that it wasn't a great idea for me to belt out all of the words to You Oughta Know...) It was an iconic album for all of the girls in my class, and we bonded over creating new lyrics to Ironic to share some of our elementary school problems.

I grew up listening to a lot of music in our household. My parents introduced me to Motown, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Madonna, Bob Marley, Sheryl Crow and more. Alanis made her way into the rotation, and I was proud to share the same musical tastes as my mom.

There was one song on the album that we disagreed about: track nine - Mary Jane. At that time it was probably my least favourite and I would skip over it whenever we were listening to the cd. If my mom was around, she would ask me to go back and play the song. I didn't understand why she liked it so much, and hadn't yet come to the realization that perhaps it was the song on the album that she most related to. I would oblige and let the song play out.

The year that album became a favourite in our house was a tough one for our family. We were living two hours away from Toronto, almost all of our friends and family were back home, my dad was commuting back and forth for work, and my mom was especially unhappy. It was really hard on all of us, and I know an especially bad year for my mom's depression. We lost her less than two years later.

After my mom's death, Mary Jane had new meaning.

It's a long way down
On this roller coaster
The last chance streetcar
Went off the track
And you're on it...

What's the matter Mary Jane?
Tell me...

Spending time reading her journal and examining the time leading up to her death gave me new insight into how she may have been feeling, and why this song resonated with her so deeply.

This will be the 20th time I've watched her birthday pass on the calendar since her death.
In February it will be 20 years since she's been gone.
I still wish we were celebrating her birthday together. 

I've sang Mary Jane many times since my mom died - on my own, in the shower, in rehearsal and in shows. It holds a special place in my heart, because I know it was a song my mom really enjoyed. I wish she too could have watched me sing it onstage. While the rest of Jagged Little Pill holds a lot of nostalgia for me, Mary Jane is on another level. 

I never skip track 9 anymore.

Happy birthday mom xo


Ashley Gibson Piano: Tara Litvack Guitar: Brandon Wall

Recorded at the 120 Diner by Chris James. Special thanks to Jeni Walls

Weekly Adventures 10.20.17

Friday, October 20, 2017

I'm back! And managing jet lag and the post-vacation blues.

leaving Hong Kong

My flight home was pretty normal, except for the fact that I experienced my first typhoon. It was a level 8 typhoon and Hong Kong was hit with some pretty intense wind and rain, but the city seemed mostly unfazed by it. Our flight boarded on time and left the tarmac about 40 minutes later than we were scheduled. I made it home in under 15 hours while managing to sleep a bit and plough through season one of The Good Wife. 

This weekend I'll be working on a full post (or two) with the full details of my Hong Kong trip. As I mentioned before, I loved being there and just soaked up everything there was to offer. My last few days were a lot of fun and it's been quite a shock to my system to head back to work and wear layers because autumn has certainly arrived here in Toronto.

Hello 123 lettuce wrap paleo party

I've been fighting the post-vacation blues with lots of sleep, downtime, getting back into daily workouts and catching up with friends. Last night I went to Hello 123 on Queen West for the first time and really enjoyed it. Really tasty vegan menu that's almost entirely gluten free. I enjoyed the Lettuce Wrap Paleo Party and it was an awesome mix of things that was super delicious! It looks like it's already becoming a bit of a hot spot, so try to get there early or maybe stop in for lunch so you don't have to wait for a table.

rupi kaur the sun and her flowers

Oh, it's beautiful and heartbreaking just like her first book.

I love hearing Esther Perel talk about relationships, so this podcast that gives you an insider perspective to some of her sessions with couples is next level. 

I hope you're all staying cozy as we head into autumn! Any tips for beating the post-vacation blues? Seems to be the most popular one is to start planning the next vacation...

Weekly Adventures 10.13.17

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hello from Hong Kong (complete with these LINE friends)

We've been having another fantastic week exploring, eating all sorts of delicious food, visiting with family, shopping, swimming and enjoying the hot weather. We also busted out the ukulele for a wee show for the family and to participate in the #ukesnotnukes virtual flashmob for peace.

I've only got a few days left, but I know that I'll be looking forward to coming back very soon. As a city girl at heart, I feel quite at home here. Once I'm back, I'll be sharing all the details of our adventures and eats! 

Weekly Adventures 10.6.17

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hong Kong

I had an awesome plan to write a weekly adventure update last week, but packing and planning got the best of me and the next thing I knew I was on a 14.5 hour flight to Hong Kong!

I've been waiting for this day for a couple of months now, and having been in Hong Kong for nearly a week I can say that I love it here - what an incredible city. I can't wait to share more of my faves and photos in a proper, upcoming post. For now, I suggest you follow along via Instagram where I've been sharing daily snippets as part of my story - you can find me @ashleydtl

In the meantime, thanks for your awesome response to my break-up advice post and I hope that all my Canadian friends have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Break Up Advice: 9 Things I've Learned

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Break-ups suck. There, I said it.

While dating in my 20s after my first big relationship ended, I had my fair share of "break-ups" but when you've only been seeing someone for a few weeks, or a couple of months it doesn't usually have the same intense ramifications of the break up of a long term relationship. Sure, you're sad and it hurts and it sucks, but in my experience I was able to dust myself back off and keep moving forward. Sometimes the ghosts of those relationships would pop back up, but it mostly felt manageable.

With everyone I dated and subsequently broke up with, I learned things about myself and what I was looking for in a relationship. And then I took those things with me into the next encounter or person I dated. 

With my most recent ex, our break up hit me hard -- because for a long time I believed he was "the one". I thought he was the person that I had been looking for, and that everything that I had learned had led me to him. It was a difficult thing to come to terms with and hit me hard.

By the end I knew that it was time for me to move forward and I've spent the last 9 months working on healing and re-establishing who I am, and what I want in a relationship. And while I know our break up was the right thing, I still have moments of intense sadness. In those moments, these are some things I've learned along the way.

1. Random things will make you sad

"Oh hi new season of the show we used to watch together"
"Weird -- I know the people in those photos and those were taken in my old house"

After a break up there, are times when you'll expect to be sad (When you find a photo of the two of you, their birthday, a song you both loved comes on, when an acquaintance asks about them, when you decide to write a post giving break up advice...) And then sometimes the sad break up feelings surprise the heck out of you at the most random, mundane moments - like when Netflix releases the newest season of your favourite show, or you catch a glimpse of a photo of them on a friend's social media stream, or when you pass someone wearing their favourite fragrance in the street. 

It's ok.
You're totally normal.
And it's really ok to feel the sad feelings.

2. You're going to have awkward conversations

...With people who don't know you've broken up, or when friends run into your ex or catch something they post on social media. It's going to be uncomfortable and may cause some sadness, but these moments will decrease over time.

3. People will take their side

This usually comes in the form of their friends and family members, but sometimes you'll be surprised by the people you thought fell into "mutual" territory. You could be ignored, deleted and/or blocked. Do your best not to take it personally.

4. You lose more than just the partner

To be totally honest, losing my partner's family ranked high as one of the really tough things about our break up. They became part of my family and I felt very thankful to have them in my life. We shared a lot of really great memories on holidays, vacations and at random family dinners and they provided me with a lot of love and support. Last Christmas was so hard because it was the first one I wouldn't be spending with them in 4 years. A friend recently wrote an article about maintaining relationships with with your ex's family, which I found interesting, but it hasn't been an experience that I've encountered so far.

5. Having support is key

Whether that be your best friend, your trusted aunt, a therapist or any combination of these people, having support while you're going through this tough time is absolutely key. It's so tough and there are a lot of emotions to process and logistics to sort out, but you don't have to do it alone. Talk to someone and let them be there for you when you need to cry or vent or pack up your belongings to move to your new place. I was very thankful to have incredible support from my friends and therapist while I was going through my break up. It helped me to feel less alone and allowed me to process everything that I was feeling and working through in a very safe way.

6. Months later you'll have more clarity

In the moment, it's so hard to recognize this and not feel anything but sad. But the days will get easier, especially if you practice good self care and surround yourself with an awesome team. Your gut will tell you that you've made the right decision, even if it didn't feel easy at the time.

7. Once you're out of the woods, you'll hopefully be able to reflect on the good things you had

We always remember the beginnings and endings, but when it comes to relationships I feel like it's so easy for us to ruminate on the not-so-great things, especially at the end. There will come a day when you'll hopefully be able to reflect on the great memories, the laughs you shared or at least the positive things you gained from the relationship (even if they don't involve the person directly). I recently came across some photos of my ex and I, along with some cards and while they made me sad on one hand, I was also able to smile and remember some good feelings from those moments in our time together.

8. One day you're not going to think about them

And you'll realize it and feel strange.

This person was a daily fixture interwoven into your life for the duration of your relationship, and suddenly they don't even cross your mind and aren't a part of your life anymore. You'll start to have more and more of these days.

9. You probably won't be able to be friends

Some former couples defy this and manage to have healthy friendships, but after you break up with someone you'll probably realize one of 3 things:
  1. You have nothing to be friends about. Your relationship started in flirtation and dating, went on to be a partnership and after it's over there isn't really a reason for you to stay connected. 
  2. They're not a good person and you don't want them in your life at all.
  3. It's just too difficult for one or both of you.
This could change and evolve over time, but being friends with an ex can be really, really hard.

If you're going through a break up, give yourself some grace, surround yourself with some awesome people to support you and continue to practice self kindness. I don't really want to give you cliched advice like "it's going to make you stronger" -- but it's kinda true. You'll get to the other side and realize new things about yourself, who you want to be in a partnership and the kind of partner you want to be with.

The feelings I've had following this break up have continued to surprise me, but I'm proud of the growth I've felt along the way. I haven't felt paralyzed by my thoughts or feelings, but instead it's been an opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate and do my best to take care of myself.

Weekly Adventures 9.22.17 (Wedding Edition)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Last week was extra special because I was in Ottawa / Wakefield celebrating my best friend Mel's wedding. It was pretty magical.

I flew Porter, which meant that I was able to walk to the airport with my carry-on. I stayed in an adorable airbnb during the week whilst spending time with Mel, the bridal party and her other wonderful friends in the city.

Mel and I have been friends for 14 years, and while she's been in Amsterdam for the last 3 we've done a good job at maintaining our friendship across many, many miles.  Spending time together was bittersweet - very special to celebrate her love, the wedding and hang out together, but also sad because it made me miss her more. I know that I have a trip to Amsterdam coming up in my future, and our time together reinforced how much I need to work on making that happen ASAP.

It was a particularly beautiful week in Ottawa, which was especially wonderful since the wedding was outdoors; they couldn't have asked for a better day!

I rented my dress from Rent Frock Repeat, and since they have a location in Ottawa I didn't have to pack it with me. It was such a fun dress to wear!

And honestly, I can't say enough good things about my time with these gals. From doing Beyography choreography, laughing between courses, getting our hair and make up done together, travelling throughout Ottawa to Wakefield and back, sharing stories, hanging out in robes whilst taking photos, giving speeches - it was all a really lovely bridal party experience.

As a friend, it's such a joy to see the people you love the most find their most special people and celebrate that love. Over the last 4 years, watching all 3 of my best friends get married and being a part of their weddings has been such a gift. Mel's wedding was no different and I made a lot of memories that I will cherish for a very long time! I am over the moon thrilled for Mel and Alexei, and wish them so much continued happiness in the years to come.

I've got some fun events coming up over the weekend and then I'll spend the week prepping to head off on another adventure a week from today - more on that to come!

Cheers to love xo

Weekly Adventures 9.8.17

Friday, September 8, 2017

Now that this is my third post in the weekly adventure series, this means it's a trend, right?? It's fun to be banging out these little updates and I'm stoked for other content that is in the works and on its way!

Honestly this week wasn't super exciting, because it's one of the only weeks in September where I'm actually here in Toronto! I have some great travel plans coming up so I think I was hibernating in anticipation of everywhere that I'm off to. The long weekend was pretty relaxed and I allowed myself to lay low, nap, watch Drag Race, get my September group started and be very low key.

I did head down to Harbourfront for an awesome show with Sharron Matthews and Shawn Hitchins. They are two of my very favourite performers (and people!) in Toronto and it was a joy to see them onstage together. Shawn has a new book out called A Brief History of Oversharing and based on the story he shared from the book onstage, I think it's going to be a lot of fun to read. Really glad that I got to see the show and was an awesome night out.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned Impact Kitchen on the blog, but if you follow me on social media you've certainly seen me share my experiences there. It's so good! They use real food ingredients and their meals have a paleo focus. I love that I can go there and it always fits right into my style of eating. I treated myself to the paleo waffles and they were crispy, smothered in cashew cream and fruit and absolutely lovely. I can't wait until they open their location on the west side - even though it's going to be totally dangerous having it so much closer to me!

In other mundane news, I'm working on growing out my hair - so this teeny tiny ponytail made an appearance in my week. After having very short hair for the last two years, I'm ready for a bit of a change so my stylist is helping me to make the transition. This means that the back left side of my hair is longer than the right side and I sort of feel like an awkward teenager. We'll see if I last through actually growing it out into something longer!

I randomly ended up with a bag of puffed quinoa and I'm trying to sort out how to use it. So far it's just gone on top of yogurt, but I may try to recreate some puffed quinoa squares...

What I'm listening to: Everything Todrick Hall

Oh ehm gee -- what rock have I been living under??! Todrick Hall is giving me LIFE. What a phenomenal talent. His 90s mashups are just a small sample of what he does and I absolutely want to see him on broadway ASAP.

Quote of the week: Do something today your future self will thank you for

Next week I'll be coming at you from Wakefield, Quebec where my best friend will be getting married a week from today!! I am over the moon thrilled to see her and be a part of her very special day. Looking forward to a great adventure!

Happy Friday kittens xo

Weekly Adventures 9.1.17

Friday, September 1, 2017

Well, hello there September! You've certainly come in with a bang -- of cold air! I was out at a show last night and when I was leaving I was freezing in my summer dress, cardigan and bare legs. I hope that we still get to enjoy a blast of summer temperatures before it stays in that cooler range.

Happy September

Last weekend I enjoyed an end of summer tradition and went to the CNE!

Canadian National Exhibition

I've missed going over the last few years (probably 5 or 6!) and so it was a real treat to visit. I've been going to the CNE for as long as I can remember and have lots of fond memories of the end of the summer wave that hits me once I walk through those gates. We enjoyed some tasty food (I opted for cabbage rolls, which were delicious!), the Superdogs show, the cat show plus a whole lot of wandering in the sunshine. It was an awesome day and I'm glad that I went this year!

sriracha roasted cauliflower

This week I was mildly obsessed with roasted cauliflower. I picked up a giant head of Ontario cauliflower when I was doing my groceries and enjoyed it roasted with sriracha, gluten free tamari, garlic powder and sea salt. I don't think I'll be getting tired of it anytime soon!

eggwhite protein oats

I also rekindled my love of protein oats made with egg whites, cinnamon and vanilla with a dollop of cashew butter on the side. Such a great mid-morning meal!

ashley gibson toronto

I recently started watching RuPaul's Drag Race and am doing my very best to catch up on all the seasons and all of the Untucked episodes -- it's so awesome and I can't believe I haven't watched it up until now! A friend who was championing the show for me told me about this podcast and now I have a gazillion episodes to catch up on. I love Ru and Michelle's rapport, the topics they chat about and their perspective on the world.

Quote of the week: Replace excuses with effort

ashley gibson toronto

I've started a new workout program this week that's 30 minutes a day, every day and I've been challenging myself to get it done every morning no matter how I feel. Some days are better than others, but I know that I always feel better once I've done! Ditch the excuses, find a solid why and get it done.

I'm looking forward to enjoying a long weekend (it keeps catching me by surprise!) without any big plans. There's lots of fun and travel in store for September, so I'm going to take advantage of this very quiet weekend while everyone else is out of the city. As always, I'll be over on Instagram story-ing it up.

Happy September, friends xo
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