Daniel Writes (sometimes)

An autumn getaway in Toronto, Canada

Last week, I returned from a week in Toronto, Canada, where I was visiting an old school friend – who moved to Canada six years ago – and taking a proper holiday. It was my first time in Canada, and a pleasant one at that. I relaxed most of the time, but also ensured I did at least a handful of the main tourist activities. I was very lucky with the weather while I was there, as the sun was shining more than half of the time – which is very rare for November – and the temperature stayed around 10 degrees (but continuously fluctuated).


Once again, this trip was on a budget, but less so than my European adventures. My return flight was around £360 from London Gatwick (booked through Skyscanner), which is surprisingly good in comparison to summer flight prices. I flew with Air Transat (which is similar to Ryanair and often gets complained about). I found the flight completely comfortable and the service fantastic. Aside from a little turbulence, it was a smooth ride. For accommodation, I looked to my favourite source – Airbnb – and rented a fantastic room on the fifth floor of an apartment building near The Distillery District (around a 20-minute walk from the city centre and Union Station). For seven nights, I paid £266 (£38 per night, including all fees) and my view was absolutely superb. In addition, my host was incredibly friendly and helpful – but then I expect nothing less of Airbnb, as I always have a brilliant experience.


I left London at 7:45pm and landed in Toronto around 4pm (there’s a five-hour time difference). After collecting my suitcase and getting the Union Pearson Express to Union Station (it takes around 25 minutes and costs $27.50 one-way for an adult, or $53 return), I made it to my apartment by 6pm. I then met my friend for coffee and we had a brief catch-up at Balzac’s coffee shop in The Distillery District. It’s a rustic, charming little setting for coffee. If you’re in the area, I’d definitely recommend it. Shortly after, I went back to the apartment and turned in, as jet lag was getting the better of me.



Day two (my first full day) welcomed average weather and a fairly early start. After coffee, I visited the CN Tower ($35 per adult), which I found somewhat overrated. The view is nice, however there’s mesh around the outside and (mostly) smudged glass on the inside, so getting a nice photograph is near impossible. The glass floor was underwhelming – it’s very small and doesn’t overlook anything too exciting. It’s one of those attractions you’re somewhat obliged to visit while in Toronto, however try not to get carried away with your expectations – you will, most likely, be disappointed. With that, it should be noted that I didn’t visit the SkyPod, which is 100m taller than the section I visited, so that may have offered a slightly better experience. It costs an extra $12 for all ages.

After the CN Tower, I got some lunch at a pub-style restaurant and then headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario. There was a J. M. W. Turner exhibition on, so I was more than happy – I’ve always wanted to see his artwork in person. The gallery, as a whole, is fantastic and has a range of very good exhibitions and artworks. I’d highly recommend it. The only downside is the $25 admission (this is slightly higher than the normal admission, as I visited the J. M. W. Turner exhibition), however that’s just because I’m used to London galleries having free entry.


In the evening, I went to Fran’s (a diner-style chain restaurant) on Yonge Street – near to Yonge-Dundas Square – with my friend. It wasn’t anything to write home about, however the food is inexpensive and very filling, and the atmosphere somewhat quirky (if you like that American/Canadian diner vibe).


Day three (Friday) was, without doubt, my favourite day during my trip. I went on a Niagara Falls day tour, which was operated by King Tours and booked through NiagaraTours.ca. The tour was very inexpensive (just under $90) and included pick-up and drop-off to/from my apartment, a brief wine tasting at Pillitteri Estates Winery, a 30-minute stop-off/visit to the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and, finally, a visit to Niagara Falls, where we stayed for two hours. Unless you decide to participate in the boat ride, this time is entirely free time for you to do whatever you want. The Falls was spectacular and I got plenty of memorable photos. While there, I grabbed lunch at Wendy’s (basically McDonald’s, but much better). I was really surprised to see that Niagara Falls itself is similar to the UK’s Blackpool or Great Yarmouth, with plenty of arcades and attractions. It’s sad that such a picturesque destination has been ruined by tourism, however I think that happens with most desirable tourist destinations. But it didn’t ruin my Niagara Falls experience at all. Niagara Falls (the waterfall itself) was spectacular. My coach driver and tour guide was very friendly and made the trip interesting and enjoyable. If you’re planning to visit Niagara Falls, I would highly recommend King Tours.


In the evening, after getting back from the Niagara Falls tour, I visited The Distillery District again to hunt out a nice spot for dinner. I ended up in Cluny – a relatively new, French restaurant – and it was fantastic. The staff were very friendly and authentic, and the interior was beautiful – decorated with cabinets filled with antiques and traditional art. I ate an 8oz medium rare steak (which was cooked perfectly and presented beautifully) with skinny fries, and I had a small glass of Chablis white wine with my meal, and coffee after. Complimentary bread and water was included, and all-in-all I paid around $50 (including tax and my tip), which was very reasonable considering the delicious food and fantastic service. If in Toronto, I’d highly recommend a visit to Cluny!


The second half of my trip was very relaxed as I was quite lazy. Day four welcomed fantastic weather and a lie-in, and then a little work until late morning. I had coffee at Tandem Coffee – a little coffee shop where Trinity Street meets King Street, with a slightly hipster vibe similar to that of Shoreditch. It’s relatively quiet, so perfect if you just want to sit for an hour, but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi (as far as I know). I walked a little after, but then went back to the apartment to relax. The next day, I tried Marché for dinner for the first time. It’s a large, market-style chain restaurant set-up, where you can walk around to different vendors, choose what you want, and they swipe a card you receive at the entrance and then you pay at the end. I had a savoury crepe, which was $12 and very tasty. Initially, I was unsure about the concept, however, on reflection, I think it’s quite a good idea – you just need to watch what you’re spending, as it could get out of hand quite quickly.

On day six, I visited a somewhat unauthentic Italian restaurant called Archeo, which is located in The Distillery District. The food and price was very average, however the food seemed like a very lazy take on Italian cuisine. The base of my pizza felt and tasted as if it was out of a packet. To be a little harsh and very blunt: I’ve had frozen pizzas that have tasted better. If you’re looking for somewhere to grab lunch in The Distillery District, I’d probably avoid Archeo.


On my last full day, I aimed to walk the city again, but the weather was horribly cold and wet. Instead of walking, I went back to Tandem Coffee. Afterwards, I visited The Distillery District again to grab some lunch. This time, I went to Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill, which was highly recommended by anyone I spoke to. However, when I arrived, I was very disappointed. The service was very awkward and rigid (I had around four waitresses dotting between my table, and they seemed to lack communication as I was constantly being asked the same questions, over and over again). The food put me in a better mood, as I had a very tasty portion of fish and chips. However, it was presented a little awkwardly in a deep fry basket (presumably in an attempt to be “cool”) and I was underwhelmed when I noticed that the little dishes with my sauces in were dumped on top of my coleslaw. If this place had better staff and used real plates, I think it could be really good. I paid around $40 for my fish and chips (two pieces), a small glass of Chablis white wine, and an after-meal coffee.

On my last day, I slept in and went for lunch at Cluny (and had another fantastic meal with great service). Shortly after lunch, I headed to the airport. I got a taxi this time, which cost $48 (booked with Aeroport Taxi & Limousine Service). They were on time and the cost was a little cheaper than competitors, so I’d definitely recommend it. The wait at the airport was a little tedious, but getting checked-in and through security was a piece of cake. There was horrible turbulence on my flight again, however the service was still fantastic. I really can’t fault Air Transat!

If you love rustic charm, go to where the city meets nature. Visit Toronto!

Toronto Travel Tips

  • Book your Niagara Falls tour when you arrive, or just before, based on when the weather is best. It was raining at the start of my tour, which wasn’t ideal. However, it did brighten up fairly quickly.
  • In Canada, remember that tax is not included (around 13% will be added to most bills).
  • Autumn (usually October) is a great time to visit as it’s really picturesque – as is June (summer, but not the height of summer, meaning there’s still reasonable flight prices).

A short weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark

After visiting Oslo, Norway, I caught the Scandinavian travel bug, which is why I then went on to visit Copenhagen, Denmark, in late September (before spending a week in Paris for work – which, believe it or not, was manic!). Another travel bargain, my return flight to Copenhagen cost me just £20 through Skyscanner. My flight was with Ryanair – which I know many people complain about and, consequently, refuse to fly with – however flight time was just short of two hours, and I was completely comfortable the entire time, so I really can’t complain!

I arrived in Copenhagen on Saturday evening and flew home on Monday evening, so my visit to the city consisted of only two nights, three days. It definitely wasn’t long enough to see and do everything Copenhagen has to offer, however what I did see and do was fantastic, and the whole weekend was very relaxing – just what I needed!


I stayed in central Copenhagen (around a 20-minute train journey from the airport). For this trip, I booked my accommodation using my favourite travel website: Airbnb! I rented a room in a small, traditional apartment – it had everything I needed. I paid £37 per night which, again, was a bargain! If you’re after budget-friendly accommodation while travelling, I’d highly recommend Airbnb. I’ve used it multiple times and have never had any problems – including when I stayed in the same apartment for a month while in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2013. In my experience, the hosts (if living in the apartment at the same time) are always friendly, easy to communicate with and often show you around (or point you in the right direction, with recommendations for great restaurants, sights, and night life).


I arrived after dark on my first evening in Copenhagen, so I decided to head straight to my apartment. There was an Israeli art teacher staying in the apartment, too. As soon as I arrived, the other traveller welcomed me and told me about his time in Copenhagen – offering plenty of recommendations – over coffee (that’s partly what makes using Airbnb while travelling so interesting!). Afterwards, we took a short walk around the area – so I could see where the main street was – and then grabbed a quick bite to eat from a takeaway close to the apartment. With pizza slice in hand, I ventured back to the apartment, ate up, and got an early(ish) night, as I planned to do some sight-seeing the next day.


Sunday welcomed hours of sight-seeing around the city, including a visit to Rosenborg Castle; a couple of hours spent in the National Gallery of Denmark; a walk past Frederik’s Church; a walk down Nyhavn – Copenhagen’s famous, colourful street. For me, this was a full day. And better still, it was completely free (mainly because I didn’t go inside Rosenborg Castle, or view any of the exhibitions in the National Gallery that required a ticket). The weather was beautiful (with mostly blue skies) and the day easy-going. I really admire the Scandinavian way of life – it seems more relaxed. You can enjoy your surroundings without being barged past in the street, and the locals are very friendly and helpful (should you need to ask for directions, for instance).





Monday (my last day) was spent sleeping until late morning, as I didn’t have to check-out until 11am (and Sunday had left me well and truly exhausted!). When I finally ventured outside, I headed straight to a café by the river, where I enjoyed a cappuccino in the sun while reading To Kill A Mockingbird. After that, I decided to grab some lunch, so I walked over to an Italian restaurant on Nyhavn. As I ate, Henry Mancini’s Moon River was playing in the background. For some reason, Monday felt like something out of a film – everything, including the weather, was all a little too perfect. I felt very smug and incredibly lucky!

After lunch, I only had time for another short walk around the city – followed by a quick coffee – and I then headed to the train station, where I caught my train to the airport. I had to be there by 5:30pm, but I didn’t mind being a little early.


In summary: my two nights in Copenhagen were relaxing, picturesque, and really quite affordable – costing just £220 in total (including my return flight, accommodation, and all of my spending money). Airbnb was yet another success, and I simply can’t recommend Copenhagen enough! It’s beautiful. My only hint of negativity would stem from my annoyance at not being able to stay an extra night!

Visit Copenhagen – you will love it!

Who is Tallulah?

In light of my latest project, TALLULAH Magazine – a print-only publication, predominately exploring emerging contemporary art and design, that will launch this week – I am frequently being asked “Who is Tallulah?”, or “What does Tallulah mean?”. It’s for that reason that I’ve decided to explain myself, to ensure no one gets the wrong impression and assumes I just plucked a random, feminine name from the air.

The story behind the name goes something like this…

Last year, when I first started pondering the aesthetic of the magazine, I was going through a phase where I was interested in archetypes and their meaning, and how we define people based on said archetypes. A part of my new found interest in archetypes stemmed from Marina and the Diamond‘s most recent release (at the time), Electra Heart, through which Diamandis explores different archetypes using both her music and music videos.



  1. a very typical example of a certain person or thing.
    “he was the archetype of the old-style football club chairman”
    (in Jungian theory) a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.

At the same time, I was infatuated with my recent discovery of 70s film classic, Bugsy Malone (yes, that’s one with all those kids pretending to be grown ups!). The title for my magazine was taken from Jodie Foster’s Tallulah, and the story behind that name from my own head. I decided to create an archetype of my own in the form of what I pictured my magazine’s ideal demographic and reader to be. What would they be interested in? How would they dress? What music would they listen to? And so on.

Tallulah is a young girl in her 20s – just out of university. She will soon be starting her first job at an art gallery. She likes literature – particularly Ian McEwan’s novels – and spends little time in front of the mirror, but a lot of time flicking through magazines in search of new, exciting talent in fashion, art and design (occasionally investing in a print from a new artist, or a dress from a new designer). Tallulah is educated but not pretentious, and she loves film, too. She’s a fool for anything with a psychological twist and isn’t crazy about chick flicks. Some of her favourites include Magnolia, Donnie Darko, and True Romance (just to name a few). She likes to visit other art galleries, eat out, watch live music, and travel – especially in Europe. She hasn’t got bags of money, but she spends what she does have wisely and doesn’t worry too much about accumulating savings (after all, she’s young). She’s independent, but tries to simply enjoy life – usually with her friends and family.

So, that’s Tallulah! She’s a young, promising woman who embodies everything I imagine TALLULAH Magazine to be, or to eventually become.

Wish me luck!

A summertime weekend in Oslo, Norway

In mid-August, I visited Oslo, Norway, for a weekend, allowing me to relax without having to worry about work or endure the depressing English “summer”. Instead, I ate good food, took long walks by the sea, read books, tried out my new camera, visited tourist attractions, and enjoyed the beautiful weather (which hit over 25 degrees every day and welcomed only a serene blue sky).


From the moment I arrived, I was in a trance. It was my first time in Norway, or any Scandinavian country for that matter, and I was absolutely thrilled. Oslo is, without a doubt, one of the most picturesque, clean and friendly places I have ever visited. Seriously… There was next to no litter in the streets (unlike in the UK).





The £40 return flight, which I found while flicking through Skyscanner in June, was the cherry on the cake. It meant that three nights and four days in Oslo was just over £200, plus around the same in spending money. It’s definitely not as expensive as most assume or make out, but then I’m used to London’s prices – and Oslo’s prices, in most cases, seemed to match that. In certain restaurants, alcohol wasn’t far from extortionate, however it wasn’t a problem for me. I don’t make a habit of drinking alone and therefore, for most meals, ordered lemonade or iced water. The only downside to sticking to soft drinks or water is that I didn’t get to see Oslo’s night life (which I’ve been told is a hoot!), but then I was alone and can only assume that these things are best enjoyed with company anyway.


Oslo offers plenty of variety when it comes to food, with numerous cosy pubs and seafront restaurants to choose from. While in the city, I enjoy everything from a big ol’ beef burger, to a Caesar salad, steak and potatoes, and a very large, fresh portion of fish ‘n’ chips. Norway is known for delicious, fresh fish dishes – though I chose to have mine battered. As you can see, I don’t make a habit of eating healthily while away. When it comes to price, I never paid more than the equivalent of £30 for a meal, even if I treated myself to a starter. The food was always delicious and the service friendly, prompt and helpful. There really was nothing to complain about!


I didn’t force myself to see and do too much while in Olso, so I probably didn’t experience everything the city has to offer – but I hope I managed to catch its best bits. I arrived late afternoon on the Friday (particularly late after an hour’s coach journey from Moss Airport, Rygge, which was followed by a 30-minute bus journey to the other side of the city after hopping on the wrong bus). However, my trip was promptly back on track after I was kindly nudged in the right direction by the bus driver, which meant another 20 minutes on the bus before reaching my hotel. With that in mind, a summary of my trip included: on Friday evening, a long walk around the city and by the harbour; on Saturday, a visit to some of Oslo’s famous gardens and a walk up to and around Akershus Fortress, which offered stunning panoramic views of the city and sea. I didn’t sleep very well (or at all for that matter) on Saturday evening, so on Sunday morning I went down to the harbour very early to catch the sunrise. It was fantastic to be able to see the city empty – if you can function on little sleep, I would highly recommend it! Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and managed to drift off for a couple of hours, but I was up again at around 9am. Sunday (daytime) welcomed a visit to the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy (it takes around 20 minutes to get there if you take the bus from the harbour), which was brief but interesting. I then took the water taxi back across to the harbour, grabbed a bite to eat and walked over to the National Gallery, which is well worth a visit (if you like art, that is). Monday came fast and meant my trip was almost over. I spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the city, followed by an hour or two relaxing by the harbour until mid-afternoon, when I had to head to Oslo Central Station to catch my coach back to the airport.







The only regret I have from my trip is not going inside the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, which is situated in a picturesque spot by the harbour, dominating the seafront. Instead, I just walked around the outside and starred through the windows after being told by a waitress in a nearby restaurant that it wasn’t essential to go inside (after all, you could see a lot of the artwork through the glass). It costs between £10-15 for the pleasure, unlike the National Gallery – which was free due to it being Sunday when I visited – but I’m sure it would be well worth the expense.


For the duration of my visit, I stayed at Smarthotel Oslo, which is a budget and compact, yet surprisingly comfortable, hotel with cleverly designed rooms that just about fit a double bed, television, fold-away desk, and an en-suite bathroom that houses a toilet, basin and shower. The hotel was perfectly located and cost £56 per night (it was priced for two), making it the ideal stay for a solo traveller or a couple looking for a relatively inexpensive weekend away.


Let’s try this again…

I have just deleted 417 posts from this blog. After five years, a clean slate was essential. I’m starting from scratch. Now, let’s try this again…