Living the healthy life in Brantford.

Intro

Brantford is a sleepy town based 105km from Toronto. It’s located in south-east Ontario and is known as the birthplace of ice hockey player Wayne Gretzy (the David Beckham of Canada, apparently). Not much happens here, as we were told by immigration officers, bank clerks, random Canadians and other travellers! Let’s hope it’s better than expected.

We arrived around lunch time, after spending 2 hour on a greyhound bus (Canada’s megabus, although they have that too!). Our destination: The Healthy Rabbit. A vegan and vegetarian cafe, based in the heart of Brantford and a 10 minute walk from the bus station.

We arrived during rush hour, being greeted by Mia, the cafe manager and later Justin, the owner, came to great us. Upon arrival, we were given a taste of coconut hot chocolate which was delicious (and worth googling a recipe!). We planned to stay for 6 weeks here, but ended up staying 4 weeks.

The Healthy Rabbit

Volunteering

From the healthy rabbit workaway page, we were expecting to be involved in cafe work, building a yoga studio and other arts and craft projects throughout our time here. Emma was keen to get stuck into cafe work and hopefully gain some DIY skills with the yoga studio. David was especially keen to develop his cooking skills and knowledge in all things healthy. As we’d done a 9 day cleanse before coming to Canada to reset our appetite and eating habits, we were keen to put in place new healthy routines by sampling the tasty vegan/veggie food!
The day to day voluntary experience consisted of 5 hours shifts, with a 30min break. On a typical day, Emma was in the front of the cafe, brushing up on rusty skills from 9/10 years ago and David mainly spent time in the kitchen helping the chef prepare food and make dressings and desserts to ensure everything was always fully stocked. The shifts varied greatly depending on how busy the cafe was, and it was common to find time to help prepare foods although towards the end of our 4 week stay the cafe was going through a busy spell.
David got more involved in developing a new website for a new venture of Justin’s and Emma did get involved in writing the rules and guidelines and thinking about volunteering events.
We had a daily allowance for food, $25 for our meals (from the cafe) and porridge provided. It was easy to live within these means for us as the food was so filling and kept you going!
The best bit about the experience was meeting and getting to know the volunteers (you know who you are!) and staff (shout out to Mia, Nick and Alex!) there! Everyone got on and brought their own personalities and experiences to the mix and we enjoyed day trips, weekends away, shifts and evening chatting and laughing. It’s true that the people really make the experience. It was great that there were such a fun group of volunteers there while we were!
As with all experiences there are highs and lows.The low point was deciding to leave early, we won’t go into it, but let’s say sometimes it’s best to move on from situations where you simply aren’t comfortable anymore. To be honest, it’s turned out to be the best decision for us. No regrets. We had a great time overall but it’s a shame our stay ended the way it did.
A taste of what we ate throughout our time at the Healthy Rabbit.

 

Chia seed pizza

 

Ceaser wrap
Ready to work!

The accommodation

In the main volunteer accommodation there are two, three layered bunk beds with a shared lounge, kitchen and bathroom. We stayed here for one night before moving to a private accommodation in a shared student house. The room offered, two single beds and some storage and once we got the heating working it was a lot more cosy. The first night saw Dave layering up in thermals as it was freezing! We had a shared lounge and kitchen which were pretty standard.
Although nice accommodation, it was quite separated from the other volunteers; so we spent a bit of time there but mostly came home after a shift and went to bed, ready for another busy day!

Brantford & the surrounding areas

Yes, Brantford is a sleepy town but we kept ourselves busy! Daily yoga practice at Moksha Yoga ($40 for a month!), ice skating on the town square ice rink, celebrating Dave’s birthday at Rocklings Bar and Grill, walking along the grand river trail and general volunteer antics; watching Che 1 and 2 (so boring……..), and other films. Finally, you can rent a car and get around to some pretty spectacular areas. Yoga was a big highlight for us as we went almost every day (there were around 4 classes a day) and as it was hot yoga, it was great to warm up while it was so chilly outside!
Hot yoga

 

Wandering around Brantford

 

Dave on the ice

 

Emma on the ice

Hamilton waterfalls:

On our first weekend off, we went exploring with some other volunteers. We went to Webster falls, Tiffany falls and Tew Falls. There are handy trails to get to the falls, although icy the walks were lovely and a great things to do over the weekend.
Webster Falls

 

Tew Falls

 

Tiffany Falls

Port Dover:

We were looking for somewhere less than an hour away, just to see what was around. The night before we went we had a stunning sunset in Brantford and we hoped to see the same the next day. We weren’t disappointed, we saw a beautiful sunset over Lake Eerie and enjoyed some Eerie lake fish and chips at The Beach House before taking a million photos of the view.

 

 

Kolapore Uplands:

WE WENT SNOWSHOEING! It was a lot of fun, we went with freespirit tours who offered a half day tour for $50 each. We thought this would be a great intro into the activity. The great and most amazing thing about the tour was how much of the forest was untouched. We saw animal tracks of porkipines and coyotes, and listened to the eerie silence of the forest. I have a feeling we may do some more snowshoeing next winter.

 

We also took some time to watch a lovely sunset over Georgian Bay

Bruce Penninsular:

A volunteer, Maria mentioned a cute cave called The Grotto based in Bruce peninsular. Of course the photo was taken in summer and looked glorious so we didn’t expect much when we got to The Grotto. We were mistaken! We hiked for around an hour before reaching The Grotto and the view genuinely took out breath away. The cliff, rocks and brush facing Georgian Bay were covered in icicles. The water was clear turquoise, offering a stark contrast against the white ice and snow. We spent a long time taking photos and just looking at the view…. then took some gimmicky yoga photos ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

 

Williamsford Mill:

It was suggested that we stopped at Williamsford Mill on the way, if we had time. We did some research and decided it would be nice to stop off on the way back from Bruce Peninsula. It was the cutest cafe, FULL of books and the smell of food. We enjoyed a lovely coffee and a large lunch here taking some time to take in the atmosphere.

 

 

Being healthy, vegan and vegetarian

Everyone who knows us, knows we love our food… our waistlines show it and we are suckers for cooking a nice big meal, because it’s a nice thing to do.
Being at the Healthy Rabbit for 4 weeks, we both are reaping the benefits of such a healthy lifestyle. We did have a packet of chicken nuggets in the freezer and treated ourselves to a steak… but overall with the change in our diet we both have lost weight and reduced the ghastly bloat we were carrying around. The BIGGEST surprise was that we weren’t hungry between meals, we didn’t really crave sugary food (in fact, somethings are too sweet now!) and had an insane amount of energy.
The foods which the Healthy Rabbit created were simple; a rice and leafy base topped with a selection of veg and topped with some yummy dressings. You can add tofu for an extra protein boost and one a few occasions we had protein shakes but this was at the beginning of our stay when our bodies were adjusting (especially after yoga!). By the end, Emma just enjoyed the taste of tofu, so continued eating it.
It has made us think about what we eat; we’re going to eat more consciously but whilst we’re travelling and have beef brisket awaiting us on our wedding day…everything in moderation to start with! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Next stop, Kitchener!

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