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Jesstours.com is a travel website that details my adventures from around the world. It’s a mixed bag of travel experiences, stories and insights. It’s also a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously but will provide my family and friends with an outlet to keep track of my travels as well as hopefully serve as an interesting and entertaining read, with some helpful travel maps and tips for those who simply stumble across this page. Happy reading and happy travelling!

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49th Parallel & Lucky’s Doughnuts – Vancouver

Dec 2014

In our continuing search for the best coffee house in Vancouver, Nick and I headed over the Cambie Bridge to Mount Pleasant to try the caffeinated delights and sweet offerings at 49th Parallel.

Recommended to us by numerous Vancouver-based friends and raved about by a number of online sources, the amount of anticipation and expectation riding on our first visit was tremendous.

Fortunately for us, 49th Parallel did not disappoint. Not only did their coffee taste great but their baked-in-house doughnuts were exceptionally good, so much so that I would go as far as saying they’re the BEST doughnuts in the city! Sorry Cartems.

While there are a couple of 49th Parallel cafes around the city, this particular branch located on Main Street operates in conjunction with Lucky’s Doughnuts.

Run by 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Lucky’s Doughnuts is a donuterie of sorts which bakes fresh throughout the day a variety of handcrafted doughnuts, from traditional French crullers to classic Old Fashioned doughnuts.

Dusted with sugar, oozing with jam, stuffed with coconut cream or covered in chocolate, Lucky’s Doughnuts has something for everyone. My pick is the glazed doughnut. A classic yeast-raised doughnut ring with a vanilla glaze ($3.75). It’s simple, surprisingly light, and the glaze perfectly sweet.

Paired with a mug of coffee (whether it be drip, espresso, or brew), or for non-coffee drinkers a delightfully smooth chai latte, Lucky’s Doughnuts are a satisfyingly delicious treat.

For the coffee connoisseur, 49th Parallel’s drink menu offers a variety of South and Central American blends, which boast a range of tastes and textures. Hand picked beans, custom roasting, and dedicated baristas ensure a fantastic cup of coffee each and every pour.

While the coffee and the doughnuts are enough to bring patrons back time and time again, it is also worth noting what a warm and welcoming space the team at 49th Parallel have created. Under high ceilings and beautiful timer beams, a cluster of individual tables, lounge chairs and a long wooden communal bench with swing out stools provide ample and comfortable seating.

Experiencing first hand the wonderful selection of coffee blends, spectacularly round and fluffy doughnuts and the relaxed atmosphere 49th Parallel offers, I wholeheartedly agree with all the hype that surrounds this place. So do yourself a favour and visit soon!

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Posted by Jess Fleming

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Cafe Medina – Vancouver

Aug 2014

Nick and I have been in Vancouver a little over three months now, and still our search for a local go-to cafe continues. While we’ve enjoyed quite a few meals thus far nothing has really stood out (thanks NYC and your wondrous array of cafes you have completely ruined it for every other city). That was until we visited Cafe Medina.

Known to locals as one of Vancouver’s top breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch spots, Cafe Medina blends enticing bistro fare, exceptional coffee, and a seemingly endless supply of fresh, hot Belgian waffles.

True to its reputation, Cafe Medina serves up some of the most delicious food in the town. A tantalising menu offers a range of incredibly tasty meals: granola topped with fresh seasonal fruit, house-made waffles, fried eggs with smoked salmon, poached eggs with spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs, chorizo summer vegetable paella, and a whole lot more.

Naturally, a menu featuring so many appetising dishes makes deciding what to order extremely difficult. On my first visit, after a lot of umming and arring I eventually opted for the Fricasseè — a delicious dish comprising of two perfectly cooked fried eggs (sunny side up), braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelised onions, applewood smoked cheddar, and a slice of grilled focaccia. Served in a hot skillet and simply bursting with flavour, the Fricasseè had me savouring every single bite.

If you’re after something sweet or want to round off your meal with dessert, be sure to order one (or a stack) of the cafe’s perfectly crisp Belgian waffles with your choice of topping. My pick is the gooey salted caramel sauce, which is not only utterly divine but also just one of Cafe Medina’s many scrumptious options. The list includes: dark chocolate, milk chocolate lavender, white chocolate pistachio rosewater, raspberry caramel, peach and bourbon butterscotch, yoghurt, and maple syrup.

I really feel like you can’t go wrong with the brunch choices at Cafe Medina. Everything is made in-house and the ingredients used are super fresh. The food is contemporary, creative, and sophisticated with mainly French dishes influenced by Middle Eastern, Spanish, Italian, Moroccan, and of course West Coast flavours.

As to be expected, with so many wonderful dishes Cafe Medina is constantly packed. Therefore if you’re planning to turn up after 9:30am, you should prepare for the inevitable wait. At the weekend the line up for a table is occasionally so long that people can hardly move along the footpath. Having said that though, the line does move steadily and the host sees to it that everybody is accommodated. Tip: make sure you put your name on the list and that you’re not just standing in the line.

It’s not just the food, however, that keeps diners coming back time and time again, but also the cafes warm ambience and charming character. While the cafe’s interior has a modern fit out (think timber tables, galvanised metal chairs, and industrial lighting), the space itself is casual and inviting, thanks to the cafe’s high ceilings, thoughtful decorative touches, and bar and table seating.

The coffee also might have something to do with the cafe’s popularity. Using coffee beans from Vancouver’s own 49th ParallelCafe Medina’s talented baristas work incredibly hard behind a very retro looking aqua coloured coffee machine, pumping out coffee after coffee. Whether you order a cappuccino or a lavender latte you can expect a beautifully presented and great tasting drink. As the sign above the entrance says “Life’s too short for bad coffee.”

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When a cafe is running at capacity you fear the food may not be as good as it ought to be. But not here. The food, which is reasonably priced is always exceptional and arrives quickly considering how packed the cafe usually is. So if you’re ever in Vancouver, make sure you drop by as brunch at Cafe Medina should not be missed.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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Musette Caffè – Vancouver

Jul 2014

Musette Caffè is an absolute hidden gem in Vancouver’s downtown. So hidden in fact, that it took Nick and I two trips to actually find it.

Although it can be a little tricky to locate, as it’s tucked away on a back alley with no front facing entry, Musette Caffè is a truly unique coffee house, serving a range of carefully crafted coffees and a selection of light snacks.

Despite its somewhat concealed entrance, Musette Caffè is a welcoming and bike friendly spot. Indeed, the café not only welcomes but encourages passing cyclists to drop in for a coffee and a quick bite to eat, making it quite the local hangout for cycling enthusiasts. So much so in fact that throughout the day a stack of bikes can be seen parked in the racks both inside (yes, that’s inside) and out.

While you don’t have to be a part of the cycling community to enjoy the cafè’s exceptional coffee, you perhaps do to truly appreciate the café’s overall theme. It’s not only the café’s name (Musette refers to the small canvas bag cyclists use for carrying food and drink while riding), that pays homage to this popular two-wheeled activity but also the café’s decor.

Hung along the walls are a series of racing jerseys and musettes (of course), while a plethora of bike memorabilia is neatly showcased in glass cabinets. There’s even a small bike shop attached, which sells an array of cycling products.

The café’s passion however, is not “all about the bike” but also the perfect espresso. Using coffee beans from Vancouver’s own 49th Parallel roasting company, skilled baristas consistently pour a fantastic cup of coffee. Actually, Musette Caffè is one of the best coffee houses Nick and I have come across in the city.

Along with their well-made coffees, Musette Caffè also offers patrons an assortment of baked goods, pastries and a selection of gluten-free treats. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, the chocolate chip cookie sandwich with its butter cream filling is must. Or if you’re after something a little heartier and healthier, there is also a variety of traditional Italian panini to choose from.

The Musette team have certainly created a funky and inviting spot for both cyclists and non-riding folk to enjoy. There’s even an adorable seating area for small children and a Foosball table. With such a delightful character, quality drinks and small eats, Musette Caffè is the perfect meeting place and spot to stop if you’re passing by on either bike or foot.

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Posted by Jess Fleming

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Nelson the Seagull – Vancouver

May 2014

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What a truly magnificent find Nelson the Seagull was. A hip café in the heart of Gastown, with an incredibly inviting space and some of the tastiest food around!

Nick and I had not even been in Vancouver 24 hours when I declared that Nelson the Seagull was my new favourite brunch spot.

What makes this café stand above the rest is its individual flair, relaxed charm, friendly atmosphere and smiley staff. Oh and the irresistible selection of baked goods.

Indeed, the pastries that are spread along the counter and the freshly baked loaves of bread on the shelves behind it are undeniably tempting and outrageously good. My pick is the pain au chocolat. It’s dense, flaky, has the perfect amount of chocolate and is one of the best croissants I’ve ever had!

Alternatively, for something more hearty, order off the café’s breakfast or lunch menu. Both are simple yet utterly delicious. The highlight for me has got to be the avocado on toast ($8). Two thick slices of sourdough bread (made in house) topped with the most generous portion of avocado. Every bite is full of flavour and seems to be more enjoyable than the last.

What makes the meals here even more appetising is the knowledge that the gang at Nelson the Seagull try their hardest to source only local and organic produce.

Another great feature is the café’s open kitchen. Patrons enjoying a meal can idly watch the chefs mixing and rolling dough, as well as preparing meals and slicing avocados like I’ve never seen them sliced before. It’s a rather slick operation.

The café’s interior is also worth a mention. It has a slightly vintage theme and is decorated accordingly: vintage ornaments, tiled flooring, mismatched furniture, reclaimed wooden fixtures and strung up bunting fill the room. It almost has a Brooklyn feel to it.

Nelson the Seagull is certainly a welcoming spot, where you can enjoy a coffee, a baked good and sit for hours, as people often do.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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