Category Archive for Alternative Canada

Kawaii BC: Vancouver Hello Kitty Cafe & Miffy clothing! Victoria Fairmont Empress Sunset Sips, Malahat Skywalk.

miffy clothing fashion miffycore nijntje shirt

Welcome to my Miffycore era! I’ve recently been enjoying the warm weather (nod to #TheCollapse) and a variety of cute activities in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Read on to see my coverage of the opening of the Vancouver Hello Kitty Cafe, sunset cocktails at Fairmont Empress Victoria, the Furiosa press premiere, and a slide down Malahat Skywalk!

It’s fun to see younger generations getting into Miffy, as I’ve been stanning her for years. These days, I see more people sporting character goods featuring the Dutch bunny — like this adorable t-shirt from Miffy UK shop (which I cropped)!

miffytown kentucky tote bag, keychain miffy merch

I can’t get enough of Dick Bruna’s round, minimalist, kawaii designs (although Miffy is from the Netherlands, not Japan — she predates Hello Kitty!)

I styled my Miffycore outfit with accessories sent by Miffytown in Williamstown, Kentucky. I hope to visit Miffytown one day: it’s an interactive experience where you can play, shop, and explore her whimsical world.

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I paired my black-and-white outfit with this glamorous Eugenia Kim Mirabel hat. Perfect for a luxe beach getaway, the Mirabel is a wide-brim sunhat with a dramatic retro-glam downturned brim and ivory satin ribbon with tail. Eugenia Kim is known for her hand-crafted, high-end millinery: this is made from lacquered straw and has UPF 50+ protection.

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The Eugenia Kim Mirabel sun hat comes in various colors (see below), but I love the black one because it channels the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in iconic photos!




miffy uk shop tshirt water bottle

As temperatures rise, I’ll need to drink lots of water — and this metal water bottle from Miffy UK shop helps me stay hydrated in style. (Plus, it doesn’t contain any microplastics, my current nemesis.) Their “Hey” grey Miffy tshirt is also a delight, and the cotton fabric is light and cozy (and plastic-free).

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I’ll be carrying around these Miffy accessories in my large Miffytown tote bag — isn’t she a beauty? It is by DutchTapestries; they preserve the ancient art of weaving through modern jacquard designs, like this beautiful carryall bag. (Miffy photos by Joey Wong.)

hello kitty cafe opening vancouver bc robson st

Speaking of cuteness… the Hello Kitty Cafe in Vancouver opened at last! BC’s new Hello Kitty Cafe invited me to a private preview before the official opening on May 17. Look who greeted me at the door — the Japanese mouthless cat herself.

vancouver hello kitty cafe interior theme restaurant

We Goth girls represented Kuromi (the Sanrio devil character) at the press preview. The Vancouver Hello Kitty Cafe has two floors of kawaiicore decor, special merch, and the cutest sweet treats.

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Even the bathroom is done up Kitty-style. If you’re a lifelong Sanrio fan like Mujitsu and me, get over here! (Adress 1274 Robson Street at Jervis in downtown Vancouver.)

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Please watch our Instagram video of the Hello Kitty private preview. You can see what the space is like, and what’s inside our gift bags.

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So many pink spaces for photo ops. The Vancouver Hello Kitty Cafe sells special edition Canadian merch as well, such as clear folders, magnets, and crop tops.

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You can nom on Hello Kitty themed sweets like taiyaki ice cream, cakes, and lattes. Would you visit the first Canadian Hello Kitty theme cafe, in Vancouver?

sunset sips fairmont empress hotel victoria bc

Then, I hopped over to Victoria, BC with my friends Sancho and Drew for a long weekend. We went to the Fairmont Empress Hotel to try Sunset Sips: playful cocktails served in teapots at golden hour!

lobby lounge fairmont empress victoria tea sunset cocktails

The Fairmont Empress Victoria hotel is known for its elegant afternoon tea, and Sunset Sips feels like the Mad Hatter took over the Lobby Lounge for the night.

As you watch the sun dip into the harbor, nibble on tuna tiradito, blue Qualicum cheese, BC smoked salmon and other fine snacks on tiered plates.

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We adored the original cocktails made by the award-winning bar, like Tiffany’s Breakfast (Empress 1908 gin with chamomile and marmalade infusions). The staff even concocted an older recipe, The Concord, special for me (above — it contains mezcal, Giffard creme de violette, Luxardo maraschino, and lemon juice).

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What a treat to enjoy tea-inspired craft cocktails and desserts at this classic hotel overlooking the water.

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Would you try this intoxicating twist on afternoon tea? Sunset Sips at The Fairmont Empress in Victoria “ate!”

malahat skywalk bc spiral tower near victoria

My friends and I also drove 40 minutes north for an amazing outdoor adventure at Malahat Skywalk. Take an accessible TreeWalk through the forest to a 250m tall spiral tower… and then dare to slip down the long spiral slide!

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On the way, Sancho and I spotted driftwood critters like the contestants did on The Amazing Race Canada, which filmed here. (Watch my video on IG @lacarmina about our Malahat Skywalk adventure, including footage of me whizzing down the metal slide!)

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From the top of the open-air tower, you get stupendous views of Vancouver Island, the surrounding water, isles and mountains… reminding you why the West Coast is the best coast.

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Malahat Skywalk also has a SkyWalk Shuttle with direct transport from downtown Victoria, making it a perfect half-day excursion. I hope you get the opportunity to come and take in these sweeping nature views from up high.

furiosa warner brothers canada press advance screening

Finally, I was honored to be invited by Warner Brothers Canada to the press preview screening of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. As a #WBPartner, I got to see the film several days before the release date in downtown Vancouver’s Scotiabank Theatre — a real treat, as Mad Max: Fury Road is my all-time favorite flick!

Not surprisingly, I was literally the only one at the Furiosa advance screening who dressed up… “Into the gates of Valhalla, you shall ride eternal. Witness meeee!”

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The WB Canada team provided us with gifts. There’s a Wasteland cowl or snood inside the box.

Furiosa was an exhilarating successor to Fury Road. The 2.5 hours sped by as director George Miller took us on a deranged ride through the Wasteland – the war boys and their hot wheels are back, shiny and chrome! – and young Furiosa’s quest for revenge against a savage yet charismatic warlord. Chapter 3 particularly blew me away when the War Rig revs through the desert as motorcycles lay siege… Let’s just say there’s nothing “Mediocre” about the road warrior action!

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The new Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga lived up to my high expectations, and paints a fiery picture of our Collapse future (or present, IYKYK). Will you watch the blockbuster action film? Thank you Warner Brothers Canada for inviting me. #wbpartner

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What’s next for LC? I’ll be heading to a few new destinations in June — including my seventh world wonder. The photos are going to be next-level so buckle up, buckaroos. (Above is a throwback to Havana, Cuba.)

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Do you have any adventures planned for the summer? Will you be checking out any films, cute cafes, or local attractions like I did?

Keep up with my friends and me on our global adventures on @LaCarmina Instagram — there are new posts and stories almost daily!


Winter holiday travels in Ottawa, Ontario & Outaouais, Quebec! Parc Omega wolf & bear suite, Nordik Spa Chelsea.

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Happy 2024! Let’s make this year the most amazing one yet.

I have a lot more Japan content coming your way, but let’s start things off with a Canadian winter / holiday season recap…

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In December, I explored Outaouais (Quebecois  region north of Ottawa) and Canada’s capital with Sancho Angulo! Read on for our “ice queen” adventures in Ontario and Quebec.

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How cozy is the enormous fireplace at Fairmont Le Château Montebello, Quebec? Built in 1930, the luxury hotel looks like a giant log cabin.

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In December, snowy Ottawa and Outaouais feel like a winter wonderland. The regions have charming European-style Christmas markets and events, which made Sancho and I feel as if we were in a Hallmark holiday movie!

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Even this Goth was feeling merry and bright at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Located halfway between Montreal and Ottawa, the hotel holds the record for the world’s largest log cabin.

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I enjoyed an eggs benedict breakfast with this snow-covered view, and a deep massage at the spa that got me in “serenity now” mode.

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It’s a good hair day… time to explore the village of Montebello with Sancho!

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We had lunch at Le Bistro Montebello. The Quebecois family-style menu included bison steak and poutine made with local ingredients — oui, oui.

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Then, we walked over to the charming Marche de Noel / Montebello Christmas Market, which was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. There’s no entry fee, and the neighborly staff greets you at the entrance with free cups of spiced hot mulled wine… We loved walking around and seeing the artisanal vendors, such as chocolatiers Chocomotive.

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I don’t get to do many winter outfits these days (due to The Collapse’s global rise in temperatures) — but I had fun styling my new Snowman New York coat and Adidas Originals cat eye sunglasses (which have a Y2K vibe).

snowman new york puffer coat long jacket black luxury

Snowman New York produces luxury outerwear with high performance materials and 90/10, 700 fill power down. I love how they create puffer coats that have a chic and non-bulky look, yet keep you warm in bone-chilling weather.

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Their coats are handmade to last, and insulated with highest premium down — you can tell that this is luxury outerwear.

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Love the sleek, lightweight, cyber-like design of Snowman NY’s long black puffer… I felt like a character in The Matrix. (My shoes are Comme des Garcons x Salomon collaboration sneakers, from Tokyo.)

adidas originals marcolin cat eye sunglasses OR0089 shades

My Adidas Originals shades (OR0089 ) are oversized cat eye sunglasses made from durable acetate: functional meets fashion-forward eyewear.

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Back to my Ottawa Tourism adventures… “Sancho Claus” and I popped into Elf’s Pub, a Christmas pop-up bar at Ottawa’s Fairmont Château Laurier. Sip on eggnog cocktails, and feel as if you’re in the North Pole.

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I stayed at The Metcalfe Hotel in downtown Ottawa, and the lobby was festively decorated — giving me a chance to pretend that this was my tree.

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‘Tis the season to eat and be merry. My Ottawa restaurant favorites included Metropolitan Brasserie (French tuna nicoise salad, steak tartar, and Sancerre and Chablis wine), and The Grand pizzeria. Sancho and I also feasted on Asian fusion like kimchi beef wraps at Sidedoor restaurant (above).

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At Ottawa’s Aviation Museum, you can board a “Flight with Santa” this season that lets you sit in his “sleigh” as you fly over the Canadian capital.

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Ottawa also has a popular Christmas market, and attractions like skating on Rideau Canal.

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I also descended into the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War museum. In the early 1960s, Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s government built this top secret, four-storey underground bunker to shelter VIP officials in the event of a nuclear attack. (It was decommissioned in 1994, and became a museum.)

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A tour of the Diefenbunker is a must. I was fascinated by the Cold War era technology and cultural quirks (there are early computers, and no plastic — but ashtrays everywhere!). I was particularly tickled by the food freezer that served as both a meat locker… and a makeshift morgue. (Or perhaps the two are the same, if  we run out of food in The Collapse?)

diefenbaker cold war nuclear bomb bunker shelter canada

The Diefenbuker also has an epic escape room themed around spies and nuclear missions. I can’t wait to come back with Sancho to slay the puzzles.

parc omega bison nature park ottawa

There’s so much to see around Ottawa… Sancho and I went north of the city to Parc Omega in Montebello, a nature park that lets you get up close to adorable Canadian wildlife!

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Parc Omega has a car safari, or self-driving route that lets you see a variety of animal species along the way. Pick up a bag of carrots before you go…

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… so that you can feed the cute deer and elk that poke their noses into your car windows!

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Just don’t feed the bears like I did… (Kidding, they were in hibernation at this time of year.)

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How sweet are the animals, with their thick winter coats? Parc Omega lets you see them in their natural habitats as you explore.

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Our tour guide taught us about the animals such as the short and stocky Mongolian horse, which was once nearly extinct.

parc omega wolf and bears suite cabin chalet

Then, Sancho and I checked into the Wolf and Bear suite for an overnight stay. The luxurious two-floor chalet adjoins an enclosure of young wolves and bears…

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We got to wake up next to a panoramic window overlooking an enclosure of wolves!

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Sancho built a fire, and we watched our wolf neighbors run and play. As you can see from my Instagram reel, it felt as if we were one with the wolfpack.

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Feeling “hungry like the wolf,” we headed to the onsite Omega Bon restaurant for refined dishes made from local and seasonal ingredients.

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We devoured the pot of fondue made with Montebello’s famous Adoray cheese, rum cocktails with maple syrup, and other Quebecois favorites.

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Finally, we had a wellness day at Nordik Spa-Nature Chelsea — located at the entrance of Gatineau Park, and only about a 15 min drive from downtown Ottawa. Nordik Spa-Nature is the largest thermal spa in North America with 10 outdoor baths, 9 saunas, and a variety of relaxing treatments like a float in a saltwater pool, and a bewitching choreographed Aufguss ritual in a sauna.

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We indulged in winter cocktails as we soaked in a variety of steaming outdoor pools overlooking snow-topped landscapes (the onsen one was my favorite). Watch my video of our Nordik Spa day to see what we experienced!

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Still thinking about the food at Nordik Spa’s main restaurant, Restö — warm brie, mushroom toast, gnocchi with duck, I could go on…

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I spoke more about these experiences in a travel article for Huffington Post.

As I told Huff Post: “I predict more travelers will plan getaways to Outaouais, the region of Quebec located about an hour’s drive north from Ottawa. It’s home to one-of-a-kind nature experiences like Parc Omega, a wildlife park with self-driving adventures that let you get close to (and feed!) Canadian deer.” She recalled waking up to see a wolfpack on the other side of her window. “I also loved soaking in the steamy outdoor baths at Outaouais’ Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest thermal spa in North America that reminds me of the vibe at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon,” she added.

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My recent adventures with Sancho make me keen to do more cold-weather travels! It’s also an opportunity to do more winter styling: I’ll be living in my Snowman New York hooded coat and Adidas Originals cat eye sunglasses this season.

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Did you have a happy holiday? How are you feeling about the start of 2024? I’m manifesting more road trips, travel adventures with friends, and time in Japan this year… let’s make it the most amazing one yet!