A Lovely Day In Porto

Untitled design.jpgCurrently, I’m lucky enough to be in sunny Portugal on vacation with my family! We have a lot of other family here to visit and escaping the humidity of Toronto in August is greatly appreciated. Portugal is also the perfect opportunity to rest and re-charge from the busy lives we lead in Canada. While Toronto is hectic and always go go go, life in Portugal is way more relaxed.

We’ve been coming here in the summer for just about as long as I can remember, and every year I seem to find some new reason to fall in love with the country. It might be the gorgeous weather, the heavenly bread, or a mixture of the two, but either way, Portugal sure is a spectacular place! Because I love showing off my country and heritage so much, this is going to be one of a few posts highlighting beautiful places in Portugal, and some of the adventures we’ve had here!


Last week we stayed overnight in one of Portugal’s premier cities (and a UNESCO world heritage site)! Porto is a bustling city perched on the rolling hills of the Douro Valley over looking the Douro river. Like Lisbon, Porto is a mixture of beautiful tree lined boulevards and tiny medieval streets winding up the hills.

Porto is a port city in two ways. First, in the traditional sense, it’s location on the Douro allows it to be easily reached by ships, making Porto a bustling hub for trade. Secondly however, if you’re a fan of port wine, welcome to it’s birth place! Big names in the port industry have enough tours and tastings to keep you busy and satisfied and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about it’s history from the people who started it themselves!

If walking and taking in the sights are more your style, the bright tile covered buildings and ornate cobblestone sidewalks will provide plenty of Instagram opportunities. You can even cruise around most of the city in streetcars that have been running since the 1900s (don’t worry they’ve been fixed up since)! Boat cruises on the river are also a great way to relax and see the city from a new perspective.

Porto might also be one of the best places for avant-garde cuisine in the country, so if you love food (especially seafood), searching the tiny streets for local favourites might take up most of your time!

We stayed overnight at the beautiful Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel, which is gorgeous inside and out, and is in the perfect location for exploring! Our room had river views, we were within walking distance from many of the main tourist destinations in the city and were literally steps away from the river! While there are tons of restaurants around this hub of activity, I recommend hunting in other parts of the city for local favourites and hidden gems. Most of the restaurants along the river cater to tourists and backpackers and while the food is generally edible, it gives a really poor representation of Portuguese cuisine, which is pretty amazing! If you look hard enough, you’re sure to stumble on to a cute ma and pa restaurant that has great prices and equally great food!

Words can only do so much to describe something, so here are some of my favourite photographs from our day trip which we spent walking through Porto’s tiny medieval streets, peeking in to beautiful old courtyards, and riding the old streetcars!

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A beautiful (half) view of the bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yup that Eiffel) in 1877. The bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro river! If port wine is your thing, head over to Gaia for days filled with tastings and winery tours from some of the biggest names in the industry!

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A view of our hotel (the orangey yellow building farthest on the left) and the other surrounding buildings which were equally stunning! I love the bright colours and beautiful tiles we use to cover our buildings. Many of the tiles found throughout the country are hand-painted (even today) and many are also 3D (my personal favourites) due to many years of Moorish influence!

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I just love the tiny little streets winding their way throughout the city! If you take these back roads, chances are you’ll stumble on to local secrets and more authentic sectors of the city! Walking the many hills of Porto is also the perfect way to earn your next big meal!

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A collection of adorable little cafes cornered by beautiful tiled buildings! No better setting to take a break and have a drink! When I took this picture there was also a man playing the guitar in the background, so it was extra dreamy.

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A view of old buildings and some laundry out to dry taken from the window of one of Porto’s old street cars! I wasn’t able to take a picture of the streetcar itself because we had to run to catch it, but they’re super cute and if you’re in the city (Lisbon has them too) they’re the perfect way to see everything, with minimal hill climbing!

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Two of the many beautiful doors found in Porto! I love, love, LOVE taking pictures of doors and am happy to add these two beauties to my collection.

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These beautiful buildings of the gorgeous Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) are reminiscent of Paris, with their clean white stone walls and domed roofs! The sun was just starting to set and I was so blown away by how different this part of the city looked from the others. This beautiful square boasts some spectacular stone work, and some amazing photo ops (I even caught some seagulls flying around)!


So, there’s a little look at Porto (though I’ve just barely scratched the surface)! It really is a stunning city, filled with so much history and personality! If you ever have the opportunity, I really suggest visiting!

I hope you’re all enjoying the lovely August weather!! Not sure how this last month of summer has crept up on us so quickly, but I can’t believe it’s almost back to school season!!!

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Toronto’s Best Cupcake


A few months ago, amidst finals stress and sleep deprived study sessions, my friend Alex and I decided we wanted to find Toronto’s best cupcake. We’d just been sorrily disappointed after eating some cupcakes from the Eaton Centre (they may look good, but the Urban Eatery cupcakes are a trap), and felt morally obligated to find a tasty treat worth eating.

Thus, the cupcake challenge was born!

We googled “best cupcakes in Toronto”, compiled a list of four bakeries (Bunners, Prairie Girl, Dlish, and Bobette & Belle), which seemed to appear on every blog post we pulled up, and made up a rating scale to judge each treat!

Our scale consisted of: Prettiness, moisture, frosting to cake ratio (if there is the right amount of frosting for the cake), balanced sweetness (between the frosting and cake), texture (for both frosting and cake), size, flavour overall, and value. Each item on the list was rated out of five, and then we tallied up all the points!

To help make our rating easier, we standardized the type of cupcake we would buy from each location, settling on a classic, chocolate cake with vanilla icing.

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Firstly, excuse my (very) poor photography skills here. I didn’t realize that every single picture we took was blurry until after we ate the whole thing up!

Our first stop was Bunner’s on Dundas (there’s another location in Kensington Market)! This bake shop prides itself on gluten free and vegan products and is highly spoken of. Bunner’s didn’t offer a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, so we just got chocolate on chocolate.

Review — Firstly, we noticed that the store itself was not exactly welcoming. There was nowhere to sit (it was quite small) and though it was early in the morning, somehow it was quite dark inside. Their selection of cupcake flavours was quite small, and we were a little disappointed to see so few combinations. Atmosphere aside, the Bunner’s cupcake ($4.20) was very large and the icing was nicely piped. The cupcake itself was pretty moist, but the texture was off, it was very grainy and clumpy and the cake was very heavy. The icing also had a strange texture and didn’t sit well on the tongue. There was just the right amount of icing (which proved to be hard to find at the other cupcake locations) and while the icing was sweeter than we would’ve liked, it was balanced out well by the cake.

Overall, we were pretty disappointed with the texture and general flavour of the cupcake.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 3/5

Texture — 2/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 1/5

Value — 1.5/5

Total: 23/40

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Dlish, a cute little bakery on Queen, was ranked Toronto’s Best Cupcake in 2014 and runner up this year! We ordered a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, but they boast a big selection of flavours.

Review — What really killed it for this cupcake (in our opinion) was the icing. The cake itself was pretty standard in texture, moisture and flavour, but the icing was way too sweet. Vanilla is usually a sugary flavour when it comes to icing, but this one was a bit over kill, and to make matters worse, it was grainy and didn’t taste all that authentic. The sprinkles on top were a great touch and they added a lot to the texture.

Overall, this was a pretty average cupcake, nothing all that special. We would’ve been happier had the icing been less sweet, but if you’re in the are, definitely check them out.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 3/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 2.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 22/40

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Prairie Girl Bakery

Also excuse this poor photo. Lighting in the PATH is not ideal!

This gem is hidden under the heart of the financial district, in the PATH. It’s a little out of the way, but they have so many options it’s totally worth it! Again, we got a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Review — Let me start by raving about the cake from this place. It was airy, light, moist, everything you could want in a cake. Alex and I were barely able to speak we were so pleased. Sadly, the icing was the downfall of this cupcake as well. Not only was it too sweet and too thick, but it was barely vanilla at all! In fact we got a really strong cream cheese flavour (which is usually fine, but not when you’re expecting vanilla). Honestly, the unexpectedness of it threw us for a bit of a loop.

Prettiness — 3/5

Moisture — 5/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 2/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2.5/5

Texture — 5/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 3/5

Value — 3.5/5

Total: 29/40

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Bobbette & Belle

This Leslieville gem is honestly one of the most adorable little bakeries I’ve ever been to! Alex and I were happily surprised by an inviting and stylish sitting area, and we’ve already made plans to go back just because it was so cute! The music was also on point if that’s your kind of thing! Once again, we got a standard chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Lighting was also incredible at this location (as you can tell in this not terrible photo)!

Review — We had big hopes for this little cupcake. It was pretty (prime piping and sprinkle work), and it was from a really pretty place. Sadly, it was only average, and the frosting again, was it’s downfall. The icing was way too sweet, and I know I said that about the others, but somehow, this was the worst of them all. Had the cake been less sweet, it would’ve balanced out the icing, but alas, this was not the case.

Prettiness — 4/5

Moisture — 4/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 3.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 27.5/40

A Note From Alex:

Someone once said “a cupcake can make even the worst day a little bit brighter”. Ok, that someone was me, but honestly a good cupcake – or any dessert for that matter – can help ease some of life’s problems. That’s why Lauren and I knew we had to go on a mission to find Toronto’s Best Cupcake!

Obviously, this can be kind of tough, especially since judging foods can be a pretty subjective sport. Some people like a cupcake with really sweet frosting, others only want a little bit of frosting; the list of preferences could really go on forever…That’s why we tried to stick with a set of criteria that we could use to rate them in an unbiased way (as you can tell we have this whole cupcake judging thing down to a science, we could get PhD’s at this point tbh).

As Lauren said, we went to four different bakeries and ate four cupcakes. One cupcake looked pretty but didn’t taste all that great, another was just average, the third had super amazing cake, and the fourth was sold from the cutest shop which definitely made up for the lacklustre cupcake. Oddly enough, at each bakery we found that the frosting was their downfall – I would label myself as a lover of all frostings so that was pretty disappointing to me.

All in all though, I got to tour around Toronto with some amazing company eating cupcakes all day so regardless of the outcome I had a super fun time!

Official Verdict: Toronto’s Best Cupcake? Yet to be found.


While we were happy to have spent the day eating cupcakes and exploring our amazing city, Alex and I were a little bit disappointed after these treats failed to live up to our expectations. Of course none of them were terrible, but they all followed a similar downfall. Decent cake, and incredibly over sweet icing. As we walked home from Leslieville, something dawned on us! Why couldn’t we, try to make our own perfect cupcake? So, in the next instalment of The Cupcake Challenge, we’ll be taking you through our recipe for creating the best (or our best) cupcake!

I hope you enjoyed this segment, and if you’d like to see something similar but for other foods (like pizza, hamburgers or ice cream) don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments!

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