Hyatt Ziva Cancun: Best Of The Yucatan Peninsula

March 31, 2016 10:03 am
Hyatt Ziva Cancun - Hyatt Ziva Swim Up King - 1085613 (1)

Photos courtesy of Hyatt Ziva Cancun. 

Cancun and the Mayan Riviera are popular vacation destinations for Canadians. At the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, the newly refurbished Hyatt Ziva Cancun provides another great reason to keep going back. Surrounded by the Caribbean Sea on three sides, this family friendly all inclusive resort encompasses three towers (Pyramid, Club and Premium), two beaches and numerous room options for couples or larger groups. Offerings include two story family suites and swim-up suites with infinity pools. The rooms feature spectacular views of Caribbean Sea and Hyatt’s brand of high end, classy, signature service. The design incorporates a contemporary feel with a bow to Mayan traditions and colour.

The lobby design features a glass and coral stone theme that leads to a grand staircase cleverly designed for dual use as seating for the live entertainment at the resort’s outdoor amphitheatre. Amenities include free resort-wide Wi-Fi, room service and TV’s with a great selection of channels. Rooms have espresso makers, beach butlers and access to the Bar del Mar Lounge for tapas and cocktails. You can easily spend most of the day on the beautiful beach or at one of the three lagoon-style infinity swimming pools which have lots of beach chairs and a really comfy, cool vibe. The resort staff is terrific and you’ll never wait for a cold drink. Young families can take advantage of the Kidz Club while adults can visit the resort’s seafront Zen Spa for a mud rap or caviar facial before going into the hydrotherapy pool or resting under the shaded huts on the beach. All non-motorized sports are free including bicycling, yoga classes, the weight and workout gym, snorkelling, aerobics classes in the pool, paddle boarding and water basketball and volleyball. You have the option of renting two-story wooden cabanas (USD$150-$240 per day with swim-up bars and a big hot tub) and there are fees for motorized water sports which is the norm throughout the Caribbean. Patrons take full advantage of the Ziva’s six bars located poolside and throughout the hotel. They offer everything from fine wines to tequila, beer, mojitos and margaritas. I was drawn to Tres Cervezas with its onsite micro-brewed beer and delicious nachos, wings and guacamole.

The Hyatt Ziva Cancun has nine restaurants serving a variety of choices including Italian (Lorenzo’s), French (Bastilles) and American fare (Chevy’s Diner) with a flare. If you are in the mood for Asian food, try Moongate. The resort also has an excellent Spanish steakhouse called Tradewinds. Early risers will enjoy the coffee house Casa Café.  I’m a big fan of Chiapas coffee in Mexico and the café didn’t disappoint. If you are off schedule you can go to 24 Horas and have a snack 24 hours a day. A nice touch is the pleasant staff who roam the resort with fruity crepes and spicy pineapple on a skewer. Families will find that their kids will be dragging them to Pasteles for yummy deserts of chocolate, gooey gummy bears, gelato and cotton candy.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun - Habaneros - 1085542A lunch spot favourite at Zivia is Mercado, which offers buffet style services of seafood (smoked fish), chicken, beef and vegetables along with an assortment of dessert pastries. Unlike a lot of buffets, where everything is precooked, a lot can be cooked fresh for you like: Omelets, Eggs, pancakes, crepes, sea bass, salmon and shrimp.

The hotel is close to many shopping facilities such as Plaza La Fiesta (a decent place for souvenirs). Chedraui Selecto is a supermarket that offers local fare and souvenirs, sunblock and beachwear if you left anything at home. The area has lots to offer within walking distance. Public transit or local taxis and both are offered in Cancun. Taxis are available at the hotel or you can walk down the street towards the shopping centre where you can get a taxi at a much cheaper rate.

The Hyatt Ziva Cancun is a perfect getaway for your next trip to Cancun. It has friendly, professional staff, great room offerings, superb restaurants and bars and wonderful onsite land and water activities in a spectacular and relaxing environment.

Céad Mile Fáilte: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

March 17, 2016 9:40 am
A view of the port city of Cobh with The Cathedral of Saint Colman in the background.

I’m of Irish descent and like millions of other Irish Canadians, the pull towards visiting my ancestral homeland has always been strong. My great great grandparents came to Canada from Waterford in County Cork in the mid-18th century at the height of the potato famine and my Irish heritage has held a strong presence in my life. The opportunity to visit last December with my son did not disappoint. Ireland is glorious in December. Cool days and colder nights, but still green and charming. I noticed a sign upon arrival in Dublin that said Céad Mile Fáilte or A hundred thousand welcomes. Hard to explain it but upon arrival, it felt like home. I rented a car and adjusted to the reality that the Irish, like their British counterparts, all drive on the wrong side of the road. It concentrates the mind and makes you forget your jet lag pretty quickly.

dubbr_phototour54We checked into the historic Shelbourne Dublin, a luxury hotel in Dublin city center, overlooking St. Stephen’s Green, Europe’s grandest garden square. This would serve as our point of departure for the next two days as we began to explore Dublin’s cultural and historic buildings. After a sumptuous breakfast in the hotel’s famous tea room, we began a 6-hour walking tour of the city through its heart, St. Stephen’s Green. Our first stop was The Little Museum of Dublin. This museum tells the story of 20th century Dublin and features over 5,000 artifacts in a collection that was entirely donated by Dubliners. It was a perfect start and served to put Ireland in context for us historically, culturally, socially and economically. A highlight of this museum was the exhibit celebrating the career, music and roots of U2. Irish humour flourishes in the place. Take a quote from Bono for example, in explaining the difference between the Irish and Americans. “In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I’m going to get that bastard.”  The Irish are cheeky and their humour and joie de vie are evident everywhere. Next up was a short walk to Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth 1, the 40-acre site retains some of its ancient seclusion of cobbled squares, gardens and parks. The College is famed for its great treasures including the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript, the Books of Durrow and Armagh, and an early Irish harp. These are displayed in the College Treasury and The Long Hall (library) which house over 300,000 books, some dating back to its foundation.  Most of Ireland’s state-funded museums are free and very close to each other. Ireland’s Parliament building, Leinster House, can be toured weekdays. Next door is the National Library,  which features exhibits on W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and other famous Irish writers and poets. The National Gallery,  holds the national collection of European and Irish fine art.The Archaeology Museum displays Celtic gold artefacts, including beautiful artistic necklaces called lunulas and torcs. The National Museum of Ireland, is Ireland’s premier cultural institution and home to the greatest collections of Irish material heritage, culture and natural history in the world. After 6 hours of touring we decided it was time for a “Guinness Stop” something that would become a regular occurrence on the trip. In Dublin there are hundreds of bars, pubs and restaurants that serve great beer, whiskey and food. The most renowned is the Temple Bar district. The Temple Bar pub and O’Donoghue’s are among the many great pubs of Dublin that cater to visitors and locals and serve as a musician’s paradise for live performance venues.

Temple_Bar_02We left the Temple Bar district for a stroll on Grafton Street, Dublin’s famous shopping area. Taking in the atmosphere of Christmas lights and the sounds of buskers was truly magical.We had dinner that evening at the Shelbourne Hotel’s Saddle Room Restaurant. This cozy and intimate spot  specializes in steak, oysters and seafood and has an exceptional wine list. As we dined, a light crisp, white, shining snowfall covered the streets. The snow was gone by the time we left the next morning. It was a cool brisk sunny day and we  made our towards Kilmainham Gaol, one of the largest unoccupied prisons in Europe

It has been described as the ‘Irish Bastille’. Between the year it opened in 1796 and its closure in 1924, Kilmainham Gaol witnessed some of the key moments and personalities in Ireland’s emergence as an independent nation. It is Ireland’s leading historic monument exploring the theme of nationalism. Robert Emmet and the leaders of the 1916 civil war uprising were executed here. Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, was imprisoned here in 1881-82. The Gaol museum holds one of the finest collections of nationalist memorabilia in the country, and the exhibition displays some of Irelands most impressive objects, including an original and rare 1916 Proclamation and some items relating to Michael Collins and the circumstances of his death in 1922.For me, Kilmainham Gaol was one of the highlights of our trip to Ireland. Next up was a stop at The Porterhouse, Ireland’s first brew pub located in the Temple Bar, to drink some genuine Irish Stout. Porterhouse beers have won gold medals at the world’s most prestigious international brewing industry award (the brewing Oscars) in 1998/1999 and 2011/2012. They make their  own stouts and ales for their pubs in Dublin, Cork and other locales in Ireland and they ship to the US beer market. They also import  various beers from around the world with a keen eye on Belgium.

Gallagher’s Boxty House was next, in the heart of the Temple Bar. This is a restaurant with a strong connection with the land, culture and history of Ireland. It’s a place where people are invited to embrace the origins of the Boxty Pancake and the history of the potato in Irish cuisine and culture. Owner Padraic Gallagher is one of Ireland’s most renowned and respected experts on the potato and other Irish foods. We sampled the dumplings, corned beef, Irish stew, roasted black pudding and some Irish whiskey.

The next day we left Dublin and headed south through the rolling Irish countryside towards Cork. We stopped for lunch in the small village of Delgany, Co Wicklow to meet with Patrick Ryan at The Firehouse Bakery. Ryan is a former lawyer turned master baker. His 2011 BBC programme The Big Bread Experiment, a three-part series following a unique social experiment with one ambition — to reunite a community through bread — made him a celebrity with foodies in Britain and around the world. The wood fired oven is at the heart of everything Ryan does. Hand-crafted loaves, freshly-baked pizzas, slow-cooked meats define this award-winning artisan bakery. Ryan and his partner Laura Moore also operate a bread school in Heir Island in West Cork.

We enjoyed the next three hours driving through  the  mist and rain of the Irish heartland  arriving in Cork  (the name Corcaigh means a marsh) in the early evening. A historic seaport city, Cork began on an island in the swampy estuary of the River Lee and over several centuries expanded up the steep banks on either side. Today, the river flows through Cork City in two main channels, which explains the many crossing bridges throughout the city. We checked  into the famous 5-star Hayfield Manor Hotel. The Hayfield Manor is very welcoming and friendly property located on a hill-top estate overlooking the city. It features large luxurious and comfortable rooms with all the amenities including free wifi, beautiful grounds, a work-out room, spa and indoor heated pool. The decor is elegant and tasteful and the newly-built additions complement the older parts of the building. The Manor serves sumptuous Irish breakfasts with a variety of fresh fruit and juices. Fine dining is offered at Orchids Restaurant or you can drop into Perrotts Garden Bistro, a casual meal alternative. Head Chef Stephen Sullivan prepares contemporary Irish cuisine using the freshest ingredients from the land and sea in the Cork region.

The best way to see the city of Cork is to walk. St. Patrick’s Street and the heart of the shopping district and attractions of Cork is a twenty minute walk from Hayfield Manor. Cork offers a wealth of shops, bars, restaurants, and attractions. We spent two days exploring this historic port town whose coat of arms bears the motto ‘A Safe Harbour for Ships’. Corkonians are known as the most chatty of all the Irish. In the heart of the city, is the English Market, which is a large, gallery-type building covering an entire city block with a vaulted glass roof. First opened in 1788, the Market has undergone various changes. The market provides vegetables, fresh seafood, dairy, meats, cheeses — everything for the table. After a morning of walking around Cork it was nice to step out of the overcast mist that had engulfed the city and step into The Farmgate Café in the English Market. Committed to food grown in the Munster region, its small menu is dictated by the food stalls in the market so menu options change daily. Their lamb stew with Guinness and apple strudel hit the mark.

448px-Jameson_distillery_in_DublinCork is a foodie’s paradise and there are pubs and restaurants everywhere serving Irish comfort foods, curry, chowders, spiced beef, fish and chips and glorious desserts. Most restaurants stop serving food at 8 p.m. After that beer, wine and spirits reign until closing time. Like Dublin, you can find traditional live Irish music in venues throughout the city. Next up was a quick side trip to The Jameson Distillery in Midleton and then a visit to  Blarney Castle to take part in the ole Irish tradition of Kissing the Blarney Stone (although I still think it is a tourist thing-but it’s fun-sort of like kissing the cod in Newfoundland). Cork is a destination city for  beer and cider and you can get some of Ireland’s best cider at The Roundy’s home-made hot cider house.

After two and half days in Cork, we once again saw sunshine as we made our way south to Cobh for a guided walking tour along The Titanic Trail and  a visit to the Cobh Heritage Centre. Cobh is the port city where the Titanic left on its maiden (and last) voyage. More importantly, this small town was the port from which millions of Irish people left Ireland during the great potato famine to immigrate to North America. The rich history and tragedy of this period is well documented in The Cobh Heritage Centre. Any Canadian of Irish descent visiting Ireland should visit Cobh. I was struck by presence of The Cathedral of Saint Colman in Cobh — built by money sent back from Irish immigrants to honour the town from which they left. A  large and elaborately detailed neo-Gothic building, it prominently overlooks the harbour. The historian Emmet Larkin has called it “The most ambitious building project undertaken by the Church in nineteenth-century Ireland.” It is still imposing today. The next day we drove to the small port town of Kinsale and checked into The Old Bank Townhouse. Located in the heart of Kinsale, it is within walking distance of everything and directly across the street from the town harbour. It is an amazing heritage building (over 200-years old) that has been renovated but retains its charm. It serves hearty breakfasts, with home-made breads (from the bakery downstairs) and jams. We spent an afternoon exploring Kinsale. A popular venue is Fishy Fishy Kinsale, a ‘must do’ stop. This restaurant  has won acclaim with foodies in Ireland for its  wonderful seafood dishes made from  the freshest local catch from lobster to crab, crayfish to cod, monkfish, squid, john dory and haddock. They serve the best traditional fish & chips you will ever taste in their newly-established Fishy Fishy Chippie.  Like many restaurants in Ireland, Fishy Fishy is committed to prioritizing the core indigenous ingredients of Irish cuisine and promoting local and artisan producers.

After a day in Kinsale we headed back to Dublin and checked-in to the modern and stylishly contemporary Fitzwilliam Hotel in St Stephen’s Green, which caters to business and family travelers. After settling in we headed out to learn more about the Gaelic games. In Ireland, Gaelic games, music, dance and language are at the heart of what it is to be Irish. The two main ones are Gaelic Football & Hurling, both of which are organized by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Other games organized by the GAA include Rounders and Gaelic Handball. During the late 19th century, Gaelic games in Ireland were dying out. This decline was stopped and reversed by the Gaelic Revival group. Today, Gaelic Football and Hurling are the most popular games in Ireland.

Players are boys and girls across all age groups from under 8 to under 18, and men and women of all ages. Every weekend, Club matches are played in every town and village of Ireland. The very biggest matches regularly attract attendances of over 40,000 per game. The All-Ireland Finals attract 82,500 every September to an extraordinary stadium in Dublin: Croke Park based close to city centre Dublin. The Gaelic Games have are as popular to the Irish as hockey is to Canadians. We headed back to the Fitzwilliam Hotel for dinner at the famous Michelin starred Thornton’s Restaurant. Head Chef and Proprietor Kevin Thornton is widely regarded as Ireland’s best chef. Thornton’s offers a wonderful, fine dining experience in a beautiful setting. It was a majestic way to spend our last night in Ireland.

If I was to give Ireland an Michelin rating it would certainly be three stars.

How to get there: Air Lingus

How to get around: Hertz Car rental 

About Ireland: ,

About Dublin:

Flee to the Keys and Hawks Cay Resort

March 9, 2016 11:55 am
Lagoon sunset

Photo courtesy of Hawks Cay Resort, by Jason Stemple.

March Break is one week away and if you are looking for a last-minute destination, escape to the place that inspired Ernest Hemingway’s classic novels, that has the best ceviche and key lime pie you may ever taste and has breathtaking beauty. With a chill, Caribbean-esque attitude and island time, the Florida Keys will give you that perfect feeling of getting away from it all.

The Keys are a combination of some 1,700 islands that start where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Highway 1.  You will find the locals refer to locations based on mile markers on the one highway/road in and out of the Keys. The Keys start at Mile 120 and run south to Mile 0 in Key West.

As you drive down Highway 1, you may notice it looks like a protected area.  That’s because it is. The Everglades National Park, protecting more than 1.5 million acres, is the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind Yellowstone National Park (2nd) and Death Valley National Park (1st). It provides habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and the Florida panther. It is a World Heritage Site, and even just driving by en route south provides incredible scenery.  If you do want to stop and check it out, it is open for visits and has programming and trails.


Photo courtesy of Hawks Cay Resort, by Jason Stemple.

Continue driving and you will hit Key Largo (miles 108-90).  Be sure to stop at mile 102.4 at The Fish House restaurant. The décor is completely kitsch, but don’t let that scare you off. The fresh fish dishes are spectacular. It would be a lost opportunity not to stop. Locals rave about it for good reason. The Matecumbe dish (fresh fish done light with tomatoes, shallots, basil, capers, olive oil) has been featured on the Food Network and is an unparalleled fish experience.  The ceviche is incredible as well. The yellowtail snapper, mahi-mahi, grouper, Florida lobster and stone crab (it is in season until May) are impeccably prepared in a variety of ways to please every palate. Their key lime pie is the perfect way to top off the meal.

Not that you will be spending too much time indoors, but you do need somewhere to grab some sleep. There are countless motels, trailer parks, small inns, motels with calming-sounding names and big chain hotels along the 120 miles. However, the best place by far from which to explore the Keys is from a home base at the Hawks Cay Resort. This paradise, large resort is located right in the middle of Mile 61 in Duck Key. It is the perfect oasis. Not only is it the ideal place to stay, it is a destination unto itself.  It has everything you want or need with helpful staff to make sure you get it. The luxurious, spacious rooms and cozy beds will keep you rested and have you feeling like Sleeping Beauty. There are various accommodation options (villas, suites, rooms that open up onto the 21-over pool area) that are there to make you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible with spacious areas and cozy beds, leaving you fresh and ready to take on the adventures of the day.

As a resort, it has an enormous list of outdoor activities.  A Smart Board in the lobby lists the daily events. For starters, you can book an offshore or backcountry fishing charter leaving from the Hawks Cay Marina, paddle your way around the island on a stand-up paddleboard (lessons and rentals are available) or swim with dolphins. Dolphin Connection, onsite at the hotel will delight kids of all ages (big ones included).

Children can attend Camp Hawk Environmental Education Academy while you relax by the pool, by the salt-water lagoon, get a massage at the spa or just wander and stroll around the enormous property. If walking is not part of the plan, there is a trolley to take you around the site.

Pirate Ship Pool (2)

Photo courtesy of Hawks Cay Resort, by Jason Stemple.

There are six phenomenal and massive pools, and if you are so inclined, each is perfect for swimming or for exercise. Of course you could also just hang out in the hot tub with a drink of the day (which you can sample for free early in the day by the 21-over pool.).

There are tennis courts, a fully-equipped gym and in the waters of the Keys, there are more than 1,200 colourful creatures waiting to be discovered during a dive. The Florida Keys are home to the only living coral reef system in the continental United States.

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Photo by Jennifer Hartley.

The lush surroundings and the beautiful vantage point to watch sunsets on one side (and sunrises on the other) are another bonus of the Hawks Cay. Take a sunset boat cruise (it is short, only 1.5 hours tops) and sip wine, beer and bubbly as you watch the sun set in the beautiful blue sky.  There is a party atmosphere on the boat so enjoy it.  You are strongly encouraged to enjoy the beverages in the quantity of your choice.

There are superb restaurants on site, Alma has fine dining, then there’s Ocean (comfort food), Beach Grill (fantastic ceviche, calamari and burgers), to name just a few and the Tiki poolside bar offers up incredible mojitos, margaritas and local beers to quench your thirst.

If you decide to venture away from Hawks Cay, Key West is 60 miles away. Visit the Hemingway House to see where Ernest Hemingway lived and soak up his creativity in his writing studio. Hit Sloppy Joe’s Bar and Captain Tony’s Saloon to see where else he got his inspiration. Both sites were Hemingway haunts. Captain Tony’s was the original site of Sloppy Joe’s until the bar owner (a friend of Hemingway’s) got into a fight with the landlord and moved to its current location. Both are worthy of a pint.

But you won’t want to stay away from Hawks Cay long, because there is so much to do and experience there.  Most of all, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Get Your Travel Tips from the Best

February 18, 2016 10:16 am

We all know the hassle of planning a trip from scratch. You start out hoping to save some money, and by the end of it, all you have to show for it is wasted time and accumulated stress. As more and more people run into this problem, travel companies are coming back in a big way.

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Gregory Luciani, president and CEO of TravelOnly.

One company that never went away is TravelOnly. Led by Gregory Luciani, this family business has been operating for more than 40 years. Although TravelOnly keeps their main office in Brantford, Ontario, their locations stretch from coast to coast and they employ more than 625 professional travel agents across Canada.

Their secret? TravelOnly combines excellent customer service with cutting-edge software to find the right vacation for clients and get them an unreal deal. Luciani always has an eye out for upcoming trends and the next top-destination. While TravelOnly has a great selection of relaxing cruises, they also offer more pulse-pounding adventure tours and eco-travelling for the younger generation.

There’s a huge diversity of programs. People can sign up for destination weddings, golf and ski vacations, honeymoons, corporate meetings and ship charters.

All these years of great service haven’t gone unnoticed. Most recently, the company was awarded the Top Canadian Travel Agency award by Ensemble Travel Group, and Sandals Resorts has named them Top Destination Weddings Agency for Canada and Canada’s Best of the Best Agency.

So when you start hitting the planning stage for the vacation you’ve been dreaming about, looking into TravelOnly will be definitely worth your time. You can find out more about them and their vacation packages at

A US Waiver: A Canadian’s Ticket to the Land of the Free

February 17, 2016 9:50 am
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Having a criminal record in Canada can be a serious roadblock in many areas of life, especially when it comes to travelling to the United States. If you have a criminal record in Canada, you will be denied entry into the United States.  Even if you are only stopping on the way elsewhere, a criminal record will put a damper on your travel plans. A US waiver application is the only solution.

glasses-983947_640The United States authorities will know that you have a criminal record as soon as they run your passport through their system. They have access to the Canadian database that chronicles all criminal activity in the country. All they have to do is type your name into their computer and your record will appear. Not only will you be denied entry, you could face possible serious consequences for trying to enter the United States illegally.  That could result in your vehicle being seized and you could potentially be imprisoned as well. The border guard has discretion in this regard.

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the rules regarding entry to the United States got much stricter for those with a criminal record in Canada. It’s not enough to have a pardon. In order to travel to the United States in this case, you will need what is referred to as a US travel waiver.

A US waiver is a document designed to allow those with a criminal record in Canada to still travel to the United States. The document is issued by the United States Immigration Office, not the Canadian government. Whether you will be granted a waiver depends upon several different factors, including:

The level of potential risk you pose to security.

The nature and severity of your offense.

Your age at the time the charges were laid.

Your reasons for wanting to visit the United States.

Acquiring a waiver to enter the United States is time consuming.  It can take several months to even prepare the request for the waiver, and several more to await the verdict. For those reasons, it’s best to submit a waiver application as much in advance of your desired travel date as possible. For best results, it’s best to work with an agency who specializes in helping clients prepare waiver applications.

Once you receive your US waiver, you will be allowed to travel to the United States for a specified period of time without fear of being deported, arrested or otherwise impeded because of your criminal record. It’s never advised that you attempt to circumvent this rule and enter the United States undetected. Remember: It’s not enough to claim that you did not know you had to have a waiver. It is your responsibility to know what travel documents you need.

Vivian R. Smith.

Stand out in the Acadian Peninsula

February 12, 2016 3:32 pm
Lobster experience

The sea and the sights in the Acadian Peninsula await you.

The Acadian Peninsula is surrounded by stunning views of the water, with the Chaleur Bay (known as one of the most beautiful bays in the world) on one side, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on the other. You are Village Historique Acadienbound to enjoy fresh seafood and beautiful scenery year-round, and the cities of Tracadie-Sheila, Caraquet, Shippagan and Lameque are always offering hospitality and things to do during your stay.

Wintertime adventurers can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowmobiling trails, snowshoeing trails and tobogganing. You can also catch the thrills and chills of Tracadie-Sheila’s Polar Bear swim, along with Tracadie-Shield’s other frosty events such as a pond hockey tournament and a fantastical ice carnival.

During the warm months, The Acadian Peninsula does not disappoint. Make sure to visit the Acadian Costal Drive, known for its warm beaches and rock-strewn coast. You might just catch a glimpse of the sea star, a creature that serves as a symbol of Acadian culture.

Aquarium-Pic-SalonVisit the Village Historique Acadien to learn more about Acadian history from 1770-1949. Watch as the past is brought to life through historic buildings, captivating storytellers and a bustling Village. Swing by the Miscou Lighthouse, which has been described as one of the most beautiful places on earth by the American Travel Writers association. The lighthouse is the only National historical site in the Acadian Peninsula, and standing in the area you can enjoy a beautiful view of Chaleur Bay. Explore Miscou Island and enjoy a walk on one of the many surrounding boardwalks, or bask in the warmth of its beautiful sandy beaches.

Beaches are plentiful in the Acadian Peninsula, along with bike trails, museums, delicious restaurants, watersports and art galleries. There is just so much to see and do, you are bound to find something that will please every member of your family.

To plan your visit to the Acadian Peninsula, visit

The Outdoors Really Are Great in Miramichi

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Beaubears Island (Miramichi)

Settled against New Brunswick’s East Coast, Miramichi is a place where the air is fresher and the trails seem to go on forever. If you feel like you can count the number of adventures you’ve had so far this year on one hand, this is a town you have to visit.

Miramichi winters are fantastic, and there’s no better place to go if you’ve been feeling like Ottawa’s snowfall FolkFestival_0194has been a bit lackluster this year. Well, in the ‘snowbelt,’ they average just under 300 centimetres of snowfall every year, and this opens up a huge network of snowmobile trails. The area has plenty of places you can find snowmobile parts, great accommodations and most importantly, access to over 600 kilometers of groomed trails.

When the snow melts, the hills open up for mountain bikers. At French Fort Cove Nature Park they have fast and winding trails. If you’re extra brave, you can visit three nights a week to hear the story of the Headless Nun.

Out on the water they have boat tours with costumed guides and world-class fly fishing. If you want to take your fishing to the next level, Miramichi has a ‘catch and release’ striped bass fishing tournament that brought in more than 1,000 anglers last year. The team that catches the four heaviest fish wins a top prize of $5,000, and there’s also a prize for the longest catch.Miramichi (Tubbing)

When Pete Bowman from the show Fish’n Canada visited the tournament for filming last May, he said “we have never experienced anything like this in our lives,” and there’s a solid chance that after you’ve spent a few days in Miramichi, you’re going to be saying the same thing.

You can find out more about Miramichi’s history, culture and all the things you can do there at

Find Natural Beauty in Bathurst

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Youghall (kids)low

The city of Bathurst, NB is celebrating its 50th anniversary, making 2016 a landmark year for the bustling town. You can find Bathurst in the northern part of New Brunswick, sitting on the shore of the Chaleur Bay.

Bathurst is a place for adventure, so why not plan a trip to Atlas Park, open year-round, and located just 20 minutes from town? During the winter months, Atlas Park offers under-ice scuba diving, scenic cross-country ski and snowmobile trails and an ice skating rink. Atlas Park also offers an exciting selection of summertime activities, including scuba diving, fishing, paddle boat tours, walking paths, barbecues, picnic Daily Point Nature Reserve 2 (Bathurst)grounds, and even an amusement park for children young and old to enjoy.

Bathurst is a great summer travel destination, particularly if you are a lover of the great outdoors. Enjoy a walk on The Daly Point Reserve, found just northeast of Bathurst harbor. The reserve boasts 100 acres of immaculate salt marsh, wooded plots and gorgeous wildlife trails. Bring your binoculars for bird watching, and a lunch basket for your picnic.

Speaking of lunch, it’s a little known secret that the Nepisiguit River is one of the best salmon fishing spots in all of the Atlantic. Cast a line along the shores of the river, or enjoy a relaxing canoe ride and bask in the beauty of Nepisiguit’s striking tree-lined shores.Waterfront (Bathurst)

End your day with a visit to La Promenade Waterfront. Positioned on the Acadian Coastal Drive, the waterfront development hosts an assortment of charming shops, art, boutiques, restaurants, and an outdoor pavilion that hosts a variety of year-round activities. Take a stroll down the boardwalk, and don’t forget to take photos!

Spectacular views can be seen of one of the most stunning bays in the world: the Chaleur Bay.

To plan your trip to Bathurst, visit

Sno-Fest and Salmon Suppers in Campbellton

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Sam le samon & pont JC VanHorne 1

The historical Campbellton, NB, is situated on the picturesque Restigouche River, just opposite of Point-a-la-Croix, Quebec. Established in 1889, there is just so much to see and do in Campbellton!

The Campbellton waterfront boasts many year-round attractions. During your stay, visit Salmon Plaza and enjoy lunch in one of the Plaza’s many cafes and eateries. Don’t forget to take your photo with local-legend Restigouche Sam, a stunning 8.5 meter-tall stainless steel salmon!

RiverainCampbellton Sno-Fest is the region’s weekend winter celebration, offering up an abundance of snow sculptures by local artists, as well as sleigh rides, dogsled rides, tube sliding, ice-skating, family activities, fireworks, snowman building and so much more! Dance the night away with Sno-Fest Night Life while enjoying the hospitality of local venues and musical talent.

As warmer weather prevails, you do not want to miss the weeklong Campbellton Salmon Festival. The Festival is an annual celebration of the world-famous Restigouche salmon, and it is one of New Brunswick’s longest running community festivals. Bask in the Festival’s Canada Day celebration with a giant fireworks display, witness an action-packed road race and enjoy the entertainment of live bands and a carnival. Make sure to take advantage of the Festival’s salmon suppers, too.Sugarloaf Bike Park - Online 1

If you love music, The Campbellton Bluegrass Festival is the place to be. A summer weekend full of incredible Bluegrass music, you can expect to enjoy the sounds of local talent, as well as some top-notch visiting bands. Set up camp along the shores of the Restigouche River and take a hike on the stunning Appalachian Mountain Range.

To plan your visit to Campbellton, visit

Unforgettable Edmundston

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Mountain bike in Edmundston

If you’re planning a Maritime adventure, historic Edmundston is the perfect place to start. Settled right between Quebec and Maine on New Brunswick’s left side, Edmundston is exactly the sort of greeting you want to find when entering a new province.

Edmundston has far too much great history for a city of only 16,000 people. Museums across the county explain both the history of the Acadians and pioneers. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the story of how one exasperated settler declared the area an independent republic, and for decades the “Republic of Madawaska” name stuck. For a short time, they even had a flag and their own order of knights.


The city has more art galleries than you can count on one hand and some great public art as well. Explorers, or those who sign up for a guided tour of the city, can find great statues, topiary art and some elaborately painted benches. If you’re looking for something a little more elaborate, you can catch shows in English or French at the Edmundston Arts Centre.

If you’re more into natural art, Edmundston is home to the New Brunswick Botanical Garden, home to calm pools and plants from all over the world. You will have to wait a little while for this one though, as the garden is only open from mid-May to October.

Now if memory-making is your goal, you should know that Edmundston is nestled in a valley with great bike trails, waterfalls and three covered bridges, which we all know make the absolute best photo backgrounds. 2016 may be the perfect time to make Edmundston’s rich heritage and nature part of your own personal history.

You can find out more at

New Multilingual Infoline Available to Tourists in India

February 11, 2016 2:45 pm

As promised, the Indian Government has taken steps to improve the safety and security of local and foreign tourists by creating a “24/7 Toll-Free Tourist Infoline,” available in 12 international languages – English, Hindi, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Launched this week by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (IC) for Tourism & Culture and Minister of State for Civil Aviation collaborating with Tata Business Support Services, the Infoline is designed for travelers with minimal knowledge of India. By calling 1800111363 or texting 1362, tourists will be connected with information about travel, tourism and what to do in an emergency – all in their respective language.

The 24/7 Infoline will soon be followed by the launch of the “Incredible India Mobile App,” to further meet the needs of tourists, along with a refreshed Incredible India website. These new resources will provide India’s travelers with tips, tricks, and security on their next trip to India – whether they’re doing yoga in the Himalayas or on safari with tigers, information and help is only a phone call or text away.

Bring on Barbados

December 24, 2015 10:40 am

Are you going to need some time to unwind after that Christmas shopping panic? Go big and book a trip to the birthplace of rum and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Barbados. The year 2016 marks Barbados’ 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, so while any time is a good time to go, 2016 will be a stellar year to experience all the island has to offer, which is a lot. There is always something going on here culturally, and since it is not a large island (it runs about 35 km in length and about 22 km in width), you are always just a drive away from being part of the fun.

IMG_20151120_172301_editHistory and Geography

Barbados has the third oldest Parliament in the world, boasting uninterrupted parliamentary governance since 1639. So it’s a stable country, both politically and economically speaking. In fact, it has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean (in large part thanks to tourism and offshore banking). There are roughly 2.5 million people who live here, and the country has a literacy rate of almost 99 per cent, which is one of the highest rates in the world. There is a fantastic hospitable feel to the place that comes with all that stability. There are different vibes to the island’s various corners.   The country is divided into 11 areas known as parishes.

The West Coast of Barbados is known as the money side of the island. Expensive resorts are everywhere with a designer shop complex (Lime Grove). The area is known as the Platinum Coast not just because of its incredible beaches and crystal clear water, but because of the wealth. Pop star Rihanna (who hails from Barbados) owns a home there, Tiger Woods was married nearby.

Holetown, located in Saint James Parish West Coast, was the first settlement in Barbados. If you are there in mid-February, check out the Holetown Festival where you can sample local foods and experience a Gospel Explosion. Given Barbados is a fairly religious country (there are over 100 religious groups operating in Barbados), this will no doubt be an incredible experience.

There are many other great festivals throughout the year. The Barbados Wine, Food and Rum Festival is a growing and fairly new yearly event. It takes place in November every year and attracts top chefs to events held in various locations across the island. This year celebrity chefs Craig Harding of Toronto and the U.S.’s Chris Cosentino are making an appearance. The 2016 event precedes the actual 50th independace-anniversary date of November 30, so November is another great time to visit Barbados. Actually, any time is a good time.

IMG_20151119_100738Try and fit in a ride on one of the yellow buses. With reggae music blaring in the bus, it is truly an unparalleled public transportation experience.

No trip to Barbados is complete without a visit to the Mount Gay rum distillery located in Saint Michael Parish. Not only does it give you a history of rum making, you get a hit of history at the same time. The various samplings will make a rum lover out of anyone.

Bridgetown (also in Saint Michael Parish) is the country capital and is on the southwest part of the island. Parliament is there, of course, but the Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is a UNESCO World Heritage site and worthy of a visit. Described by UNESCO:

“It is an example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire. The property also includes a nearby military garrison which consists of numerous historic buildings. With its serpentine urban lay-out the property testifies to a different approach to colonial town-planning compared to the Spanish and Dutch colonial cities of the region which were built along a grid plan.”

Interestingly, it is also the one place US revolutionary George Washington ever visited outside of the United States.

The East Coast and South Coast of the Island have a completely different feel to them. The East is more rugged, with stunning cliffs but not much prime swimming area (in fact stay out of the water here because of dangerous rip tides). The water views are breathtaking though, and the power of the water crashing against the shore is awe-inspiring. There is a growing surfer culture in the area, given that one of the best-kept secret locations for surfing is there: Soup Bowl, by the town of Bathsheba (Saint Joseph Parish). It is becoming legendary for its waves that rival ones you’ll find even in Hawaii.

The South of the Island has a more lively feel than the West Coast in terms of beach culture and night life. There are fantastic water sports, including diving, boating and swimming.

While it may be a total touristy thing to do, if you’ve got time, visit Harrison’s Cave, a crystallized limestone cavern. While not a particularly cheap excursion, it’s pretty amazing and worth the trip. It is located inland in Saint Thomas Parish so you get to see a different part of the island, which is a bonus.

IMG_20151119_100009Fuel Up

Barbados has incredible cuisine. Gourmet restaurants have been popping up around the island, marrying various cuisines with local twists. If you are craving a Beckta-type meal, there is no shortage of restaurant options. The West Coast, as you might imagine, caters to that palate. Try Champers, and The Cliff or Cin Cin for upper-end eating. All three are phenomenal restaurants. Cin Cin has the most incredible surfside tables to boot.

While fine dining is definitely in order, some of the hits for absolutely incredible food are in rum shops. They are local small restaurants that offer fresh fish, lamb, chicken, rice and bean dishes, and fried plantain that is nothing short of divine. You can wash it all down with Banks beer (or homemade rum punch).

Make sure you hit Oistins in the South (Christ Church) on a Friday Night for its Fish Fry. It is an open-air fish barbeque that will redefine any preconceived notions of fish. This is an absolute must. Sure there are lots of tourists lurking about, but ignore that fact and enjoy the incredible, most delectable fish you may ever have.

Do not leave Barbados without visiting Cuz’s Fish Shack right by Carlisle Bay (by the Hilton Barbados Resort) in Bridgetown.

On the East Coast, hit Atlantis Restaurant (Saint Joseph Parish). The view and food are incredible.


Barbados has everything from high-end experiences (Saint Peter’s Bay and Port Ferdinand are condo-type accommodations that are perfect for sharing with others). Port Ferdinand is high-end luxury (royalty stays there). Still, when shared with others, it is more affordable and the luxury will make you feel like royalty, with personalized service. There are of course all the major chains as well, the Hilton has an incredible beach, as does the Fairmont. They are all there.

On the East Coast, Atlantis is more of an intimate location with spectacular views, but bear in mind you can’t swim in the ocean there.

Barbados is brimming with opportunities for everyone to have a good time. Bajans know how to have fun and you should join in. With perfect weather, perfect sunsets, sunrises, impeccable beaches, cuisine for every palate and lots of culture and history to feed the mind as well, you can’t go wrong in Barbados.

Explore Lake Placid, a Winter Wonderland!

December 16, 2015 1:23 pm
Olympic Park

Photos Courtesy of Golden Arrow Resort.

Written by: Alessandra Gerebizza & Mike McEwan.

Long before hosting its first winter Olympics in 1932, Lake Placid had developed a reputation as a winter destination for the active outdoor enthusiast, a character that still remains to this day. Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey decimal system, first laid these roots with the creation of the Placid Park Club in 1895, “a place where educators might find health, strength and inspiration at modest cost.” The club quickly gained national recognition for its commitment to winter sports excellence and the property grew to encompass 9,600 acres by 1923.  Nearly 100 years later, Lake Placid has hosted two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980). Not bad for a quiet upstate New York town with a population of less than 3000.

Dogsled rides for the familyTurning onto Lake Placid Main Street on a mild, late-winter evening you can’t help but feel the excitement and energy that once filled this small town centred around two lakes in the shadows of the Adirondack Mountains. The streets are no longer filled with aspiring athletes, but the energy remains as young families, outdoor enthusiasts and curious tourists dot the colorful shops and restaurants that light up the streetscape. Hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts to suit your every need are dotted among the other local shops.

Amidst the myriad of accommodation options is the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. The Holderieds family, originally from Germany, bought the Golden Arrow in 1974 and continue to own and operate the hotel with serious attention to sustainability and environmental stewardship in all areas of operation.  The first and only hotel in the United States to receive a Platinum rating from the prestigious Audobon International Organization for their green lodging program, Golden Arrows’ many rooms come with large soaker tubs, fireplaces and dramatic views of Mirror Lake with the Adirondack peaks in the background. The rooms maintain their focus on environmental sustainability through initiatives like recycled decor, building innovation and an extensive recycling program.

The hotel offers a variety of family friendly activities you can access from the grand lobby, which opens onto Mirror Lake’s centre. Cross country skiers can enjoy ski in/ski out lodging from anywhere on the first floor. A really fun experience on the lake is the ever-popular dog sled rides, a big hit with both children and adults.

Once settled in, definitely purchase an Olympic Passport for $35 USD that provides entry to many former and current Olympic training facilities. With your Olympic Passport, you can begin your visit with a trip to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, or as it was known, the Field House, just a short walk from the Golden Arrow and site of the famous “Miracle on Ice” where the US Men’s Hockey Team managed the unlikely defeat of the U.S.S.R. in 1980. Here you can learn the Olympic history that helped shape Lake Placid and its surrounding communities. If you prefer to see the sites where some of these great athletes competed firsthand, you can take the short drive to the Olympic Sports Complex and, if you are fortunate, witness future Olympians in training at the bobsled/luge track.  If you aren’t afraid of heights you can visit the Skydeck at the Olympic Jumping Complex and marvel at the view from the 120 metre ski jump.

Not far from the Olympic Complexes is Whiteface Mountain, a former winter getaway for President John F. Kennedy and his family.  Included with your Olympic passport is a gondola ride to the top of Littleface Mountain. This is a must do for anyone who wants to get some great panoramic pictures of the mountains on a clear day.  If you are going to be at Whiteface Mountain you may as well take advantage of the highest vertical elevation (1045m) in eastern North America and hit the slopes. Whiteface Mountain has trails to suit every level of skier or snowboarder and offers plenty of rentals and lessons. When it’s time for a rest, grab a table or a cozy Adirondack chair on the large outdoor patio at the base of the mountain or stay later and catch a live act inside the bar. If downhill sports aren’t for you, Whiteface Mountain and the surrounding national parks provide untold kilometres of hiking and cross country skiing trails to explore in every season.

Whiteface Mountain powder

After a busy day of outdoor adventure, Lake Placid has plenty of places to eat on Main Street, within walking distance of Golden Arrow. During the day, Big Mountain Deli and Creperie is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering 46 different sandwiches, each named after the 46 peaks once thought to be within the Adirondack Mountain range.  At night, Smoke Signals and the Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood offer savory and unique local dishes that are sure to nourish and satisfy even the most famished returning adventurer. Generations at The Golden Arrow has the best selection of Burgers in town. Whatever it is you’re after, you can find it on the lovely Main Street.

After riding down Whiteface, visiting the Olympic sites, sledding around Mirror Lake and feeding your inner foodie on Main Street, be sure to visit The Whiteface Lodge spa and treat yourself to any one of the restorative winter facials. The Vitamin C Wrinkle Repair and Brightening Repair Facial is most popular in the winter, and it’s especially refreshing after you’ve been out on the slopes all day!

Whether you’re looking for a family getaway, a romantic couple’s escape or a great place to shred some powder, Lake Placid will deliver on all fronts. Pack up the car and get ready to enjoy this winter playground!

For more information on Golden Arrow visit

Sweet Slumber at the Auberge Saint-Antoine

December 15, 2015 3:17 pm
2. Hiver Auberge Saint-Antoine winter

All photos courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

There is something particularly magical about visiting Quebec City during the winter.  The city has a certain coziness, with the smell of wood-burning fireplaces filling the air, trees and shops everywhere adorned and lit up.  There’s also a romantic connection with the past that is so cogent in a 400-year-old city. Yet, paradoxically, there is a modern sophistication to Quebec that ensures all the luxuries you expect. You can’t help but eat well, drink well, and in the case of the Auberge Saint-Antoine, sleep well too.

While Quebec City offers everything from big hotel chains to small B&Bs (and, of course the Chateau Frontenac, one of the most photographed hotels in the world), you should spoil yourself with a stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine. It has been ranked amongst the world’s top hotels many times and there is something very special and memorable about staying in a hotel that has been part of the city’s fabric for almost 330 years. Built on one of the city’s richest archeological sites, there are 3 buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as portions of another structure that date back to the end of the 17th century. 40.Chambre-Room  

Well over 5000 objects were found on the hotel site during archeological digs that shed light on the occupation of the harbour, the military and every aspect of life in Quebec over the centuries.  Seven hundred of the objects are on display throughout the hotel which itself, in many ways, is a museum.  Each room has a piece embedded in glass, with an explanation of its meaning. As the hotel grew over the years, so did the archeological discoveries. In response, the Auberge Saint-Antoine worked with the Quebec Ministry of Culture, the federal government and the City of Quebec to ensure the heritage was respected, studied, explored and celebrated. In fact, between 1987 and 2002, 14 archeological explorations, in conjunction with Laval University, took place around the site. For good reason, the hotel has won awards for its contribution to archeological and historical knowledge of the city and for its marriage of architecture and archeology.

As for the hotel, there is an extremely intimate feel to it. There are 84 rooms and 11 suites with every luxury you could want.  The linens, the goose-down duvets, the bed and drapes that are so thick they block out light entirely – all ensure a night sleep worthy of royalty.artefacts at the hotel

Many of the rooms have a terrace and/or gas fireplace, heated bathroom floors and a bathtub that perfectly fits two people.  The Nespresso machine is a nice touch and the attention to detail is remarkable, right down to a container of dental floss attached to the wall. There is of course free Wi-Fi, in case you really can’t pull away from life (but you should).

There is a fully-equipped gym and spa, as you might expect at a hotel of this calibre.

The hotel bar, the Café-Bar Artefact, has jazz and tapas every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and the hotel hosts a “fashion tea” on various Saturdays throughout the year. The next one is Saturday, January 17th and features Longchamps bags, MYEL and Inukt.

30.Déjeuner-BreakfastThe Panache restaurant has a fantastic reputation and offers a modern take on traditional Quebec cuisine. The breakfast is divine so don’t skip it.

Everything about the Auberge Saint-Antoine is luxurious, sophisticated and yet respectful of its rich past. If you do manage to tear yourself away from the hotel and venture outside, explore the Old City. It is festive and magical, especially this time of year. Just try not getting into the holiday spirit. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes or boots, the area is very hilly with lots of stairs. Be sure to wander up to the Plains of Abraham. The view of the mighty Saint Lawrence is beautiful as is the view of the city.

When you get peckish, there is no shortage of fantastic restaurants. However, as is the case with most super-luxury hotels, the concierge has the inside scoop, and so taking the advice of the Auberge’s incredible concierge, Charles, was a very good decision. Patente et Machin, a hip but laid-back, very unpretentious resto with exceptional, gourmet food was worth the cab ride. The owners own another top-notch restaurant, L’Affaire est Ketchup, but it is hard to get a reservation at the last minute. That said, Patente et Machin will not disappoint.

Or just stay in, order room service and enjoy your gas fireplace.  Auberge Saint-Antoine is the perfect place to refill your tank, pamper yourself and relax, whether you head there now or after the holidays to recuperate.

To find out more or start planning the perfect holiday getaway, visit

San Diego Baby

December 11, 2015 11:48 am

For this year’s winter escape, get a hit of culture, history and, of course, warmth, by heading to the birthplace of California: San Diego. Despite the fact that it has roughly 3.2 million people milling about, the city has a chill pace to it. San Diego is both relaxed and relaxing.

I traveled with my 10-year-old daughter and we scored the perfect balance of activities for her and me. Here are a few ideas to get you started on exploring San Diego.

Check out the Hip ‘Hoods

Dec2015_SanDiego_IMG_20150509_101256 (1)

Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

San Diego has some funky neighbourhoods. North Park (craft beer fans will love this area), South Park (eclectic and hip) and Hillcrest (LGBT neighbourhood) all have fantastic vibes, coffee houses, bars and unique shops. They are very SoCal. Visit some of them if you want to soak up the hipness. Nearby Shelter Island has a boating community feel with a marina and shops. It’s a great place to walk around and soak up the sun.

Downtown, there is the Embarcadero, the area along the waterfront that’s been rejuvenated and provides a great running area, cycling space and fantastic walking path.

The Old Town has historical value and La Jolla, a suburb of the city, has stunning views of the ocean. The fact is, San Diego has a lot of amazing neighbourhoods, each will its own unique character.

Cultural Mecca

100-year-old Balboa Park is America’s largest urban cultural park, with fifteen museums within the beautiful area. There are art galleries (San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Photographic Arts), a Natural History Museum, an Air and Space Museum and even a Science Center. If you go before January, be sure to visit the exhibit on Dr. Seuss in the San Diego History Center. He hung his hat in La Jolla.


Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

Take Me to the Zoo

The San Diego Zoo, adjacent to Balboa Park, is world renowned for very good reason. The 100-acre space is a not-for-profit conservation organization. The Zoo has lush, naturalistic habitats and unique animal encounters. It is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing approximately 660 species and subspecies and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 plants. The year 2016 marks its 100th birthday and plans are underway for some spectacular celebrations.

History and Beauty

A visit to Cabrillo National Monument and National Park is a must. Give yourself at least three hours to do it justice. The drive up to Cabrillo is moving as you pass by military cemeteries that overlook the ocean. At the top, there is a monument dedicated to Juan Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the U.S. West Coast (in 1542) and from there you get a beautiful, panoramic view of the city.

However, it is the intertidal ecosystem that really blew us away. Cabrillo is one of the area’s best protected systems and it is breathtaking. You can hike along a path or go right down to the tide pools and see them up close.

Salute to the Marines

Dec2015_San Diego_USS Midway -Courtesy

Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

Navy buffs will love San Diego. It is a key homeport for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and is home to over fifty ships. Hornblower Cruises offers a great excursion to see the military port with its massive, docked ships.

Be sure to visit the aircraft carrier museum USS Midway. Literally a floating city, Midway was in service from 1945 until 1992. The flight deck alone holds at least a dozen aircraft, not to mention the ones below. It is an impressive monstrosity that will blow you away.

For a step back in ship history, visit the Maritime Museum of San Diego down the road from the Midway. It has historic sea vessels, including the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship and a Russian B-39 Submarine.

Whale Watching

Dec2015_San Diego_skyline-Photo credit Bob Grieser

Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

San Diego is also a prime destination for whale watching from December until April. Grey whale, dolphin and sea lion sightings are common. If you are lucky, you may spot a blue whale, earth’s largest animal, but usually blue whales are around in the summer. Flagship Cruises offers a fantastic trip to check out the harbour, it’s worth the trip even if you don’t see any whales.

If an evening dinner cruise interests you, Hornblower Cruises also offers options.

Saving Sea Mammals

Instead of watching whales and dolphins do tricks, the main Sea World attraction should be the fact that it serves as a rescue for over 750 sea creatures per year. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the rescue area and see the incredible work Sea World does. That is worth every second and is the real educational value of the place.


Being so close to Mexico, it’s no surprise that San Diego has authentic Mexican food. If you are into tequila, hit Cafe Coyote y Cantina in Old Town. It is one of two certified “tequila houses” in the States (by the respected Mexican Academia del tequila) and has 100 types of tequila.

For a taste of modern American cuisine, head to the Kona Kai Resort (on Shelter Island). The Vessel Restaurant has a relaxed ambience in a chic environment with exceptional food. Be sure to indulge in the truffle fries. The seafood, as you would expect, is also top notch. As you munch down, make sure not to miss the mesmerizing art installation on the wall.

Puesto Restaurant, located in the Headquarters complex, close to downtown, is the spot for tacos and ceviche and its guacamole is equally fabulous. Have a sweet tooth? After traipsing around San Diego with my daughter on the hunt for the best cupcake, a kid activity that satisfied both of us, Cute Cakes came out on top (located in the Gas Lamp District).

Sleep…Ay perchance to Dream

Dec2015_San Diego_IMG_20150511_165343 (1)

Photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

Speaking of kids, if you are travelling with little ones, all you need is a comfortable bed, clean hotel with amenities and an incredible view and balcony on the waterfront.  You get all of that with a stay at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside. It is perfectly located and close to everywhere you want to go.

San Diego has endless opportunities for fun and this is even before you factor in surfing, beach visits or world-class golf (Torrey Pines in La Jolla). Be sure to rent a car though, as you’ll need it to explore. Carpe Momentum in San Diego.

Cobble Beach: Georgian Bay’s Extraordinary Waterfront Golf Resort Community

November 23, 2015 2:51 pm
9th hole clubhouse view

Written by: Alessandra Gerebizza & Mike McEwan.

Upon turning onto Cobble Beach Drive you will get your first glimpse of the hidden gem that will keep you talking and coming back for years to come. From that first turn, a sense of relaxation and purpose should begin to enter your body as you are greeted to magnificent ponds on either side of the road and the blue glow of Georgian Bay in the distance.

The drive down the windy but spacious road towards the inn and clubhouse gives further indication that you are in for a treat as the championship course begins to peak its head out from between the unique and colorful custom and model homes that dot across the breath taking 574 acre property purchased in 1998 by Willis Mcleese. Your final turn towards the inn gives you a closer look at the Nantucket style lighthouse that sits next to the dock, built for residents and visitors complete with ever inviting Adirondack chairs, and if it is a sunny day, a view of the many shades of blues and greens Georgian Bay has to offer.

At the inn you will be greeted by knowledgeable staff, which is more like warm extended family than resort employees. The rooms are both luxurious and practical with every amenity of home available making it very difficult to ever imagine leaving.

Once you have settled in, a tour of the inn should begin on the first floor where you will find the Sweetwater Restaurant & Bar.

From the restaurant your view of both the course, with its St Andrew’s inspired finishing bridge, and of the Georgian Bay is matched only by the creations of the executive chef and his team. Offering unique and delicious meals, and focusing on locally grown produce and fish, each visit is truly an occasion to be remembered for its culinary excellence. You can’t go wrong with the beef tenderloin or the chef’s special. If you have a sweet tooth, the apple crumble tart is a must. So decadent and moist, it’s sure to please! For special events or larger groups there is the Bridgewater Four Seasons Room and Dunvegan room which are connected to the restaurant and offer intimate and private alternatives to the dining room area.

On the north side of the inn you will find the pool and spa. If you’re a spaaficionado, this is the place for you. Facials, massage, body treatments, and even gentlemen services are all available. However, the standout service is the Mango Enzyme Firming Wrap. The treatment begins with a full body exfoliating scrub followed by a moisturizing body wrap while you’re receiving a scalp, neck, foot and shoulder massage at the same time. The treatment concludes with a rain shower and coconut lotion application. You will leave feeling refreshed and ready for a round of golf.

The 18 hole championship course was completed and opened for play on May 18, 2007 by course designer Doug Carrick (Eagle’s Nest & Muskoka Bay among other courses) and is truly exceptional. Admiral Owen’s House marks halfway point between the 2 nine holes and beside it there is a fully operational driving range and outdoor practice facility. Electric GPS carts are available for rent and are recommended as you will notice there are considerable elevation changes on the aptly named holes ( from the inviting short par 3 8th hole Sanctuary, to the snowman inducing par 4 13th, Rob’s Gulch).

Picturesque views can be found on every hole and a variety of tee boxes for every skill level are offered. The course is immaculately maintained by meticulous and friendly staff that work hard to provide lush fairways, and a manageable rough paired with lightning fast but true greens and a generous helping of hazards.

For the non golfer there is still much to do beyond the links. Cobble beach has an extensive list of activities available to guests and residents including tennis courts, a large docking area for guests and residents arriving by water, a beach club with a variety of light watercrafts available for use, a fire pit, and a children’s playground. In addition to these activities there are kilometres of trails to be explored including an enchanted forest with wood carvings commissioned from a local artist to be admired and amazed at. Nearby, you can visit and explore Fossil Glen a unique and challenging hiking trail with a variety of millennium old fossil deposits to be discovered. If you don’t have time to explore or need to stay intouch with the office, Cobble Beach has fibre optic cable and natural gas services available to all residents allowing for all the modern conveniences of a large city.

Less than 15 minutes away is the quaint town of Owen Sound offering shopping and the Tom Thomson gallery. Cobble Beach truly is a place to be a discovered either as a vacation destination or as a permanent residence offering a master planned community suited for people with the desire to embrace life and all it has to offer. The passion for excellence that the McLeese family has is evident throughout the property and is sure to leave all guests with fond memories and the desire to return again and again.

To find out more about the Cobble Beach resort, check out their website or call them at  888.278.8112.

Great Britain and Ireland – A Contiki Adventure Part 2

November 6, 2015 1:01 pm

Above: The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

The final part of our three week Contiki adventure was Ireland, where the Craig is Mighty! And where you will find a pub on literally every street corner.

We arrived in Dublin, jittery and excited after a three hour ferry ride across the Irish Sea. At our hotel we met 20 newcomers to our tour. By this time, Chris and I had become friends with large group of Canadians and Australians and we were still excited to meet new people. We went on a short walking tour of Dublin but unfortunately One Direction was in town and the streets were filled with swarms of girls wearing Harry Styles t-shirts.


Londonderry, Northern Ireland

We traveled across Ireland counter-clockwise, starting with Northern Ireland. Although geographically part of the Republic of Ireland, it has been a part of Great Britain since 1921, therefore is governed by the Queen and uses pounds instead of euros. We visited Belfast, where the Titanic was built from 1909 to 1911. We then arrived in Londonderry (or simply known as Derry). We were given the best tour Chris and I have ever been on, by an Irish Buddhist who captivated 50 Guinness-drunk tourists and talked candidly about Bloody Sunday, the IRA and Derry being under siege.


Alissa on a cliff, Giants Causeway

By far the best part of Northern Ireland was Giant’s Causeway, a World Heritage Site that is the geographical landscape of a volcanic eruption dating back 50 to 60 million years. The fast cooling lava created pillar-like columns of rock protruding from the cliffs. The name Giant’s Causeway comes from the Irish legend that a giant built the rock columns, thus giving it its name. It was a ME time optional excursion but everyone on the trip attended, climbing up the steep cliffs and rock pillars, trying to get the perfect views of the coast. The giftshop also had a large selection of authentic Irish souvenirs and we stocked up on gifts for family and friends.


Rock Pillars on the North Ireland coast that make up Giants Causeway

We traveled to Galway, on the western coast of Ireland. Here we got to visit the Aran Islands, where the air is fresh and the residents still believe in leprechauns. Chris and I rented bikes and we explored the island called Inishmaan, watching sea lions from the spectacular cliffs and feeding the many horses on the island. The residents of the islands live in quaint, small homes, with cows in their yard and breathtaking views of the North Atlantic.


Beach on the island of Inishmaan, Aran Islands


Chris posing for a picture infront of Blarney Castle

On one of the last days of the trip we visited Blarney Castle, built in 1446 by MacCarthy of Muskerry  and the Kings of Desmond. The massive building is famous for the Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone is said to endow the kisser with “the gift of the gab” or great eloquence or skill at flattery. So of course, Chris and I kissed it. The stone is located at the top of the castle and we had to climb to the top, crawl under the stone, while suspended over the side of the castles wall and kiss the bottom of the stone.

The second event was a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, in the region of County Clare. They rise 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and reach 214 metres just north of O’Brien’s Tower. Any nature photographer’s dream, no words can describe the cliffs’ size, geographical beauty and Irish grandeur.


Cliffs Of Moher. O’Brien’s Tower can be seen in the background.

kettlers Inn

Kytelers Inn

Another notable place we visited in Ireland was Cork, a small town in the south famous for being the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912 and the place where, if you are of Irish decent (like myself), your ancestors most likely boarded a boat to North America. We stayed in Kilkenny  at the Kilford Arms Hotel and took a guided tour to visit Kytelers Inn, a witch’s house built in the 1324 and St. Canice’s Cathedral. We also stayed in Killarney where we dressed in as much green as we could and ate a fantastic Irish dinner.

We arrived back in Dublin for our last day. Our Contiki group explored the Guinness Brewery, which was very interesting even if you hate beer as much as I do. We visited the famous Irish pub The Temple Bar and Trinity College and to celebrate a fantastic trip, we went to an Irish dinner at the The Merry Ploughboy Pub, which had Irish dancers and traditional Celtic music. It was a night to remember.

somewhere in ireland

Old street in County Kerry


Shop in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

The trip was officially over the next morning and we drove 12 hours back to London. We passed through Wales, a country on the United Kingdom’s western shore, and visited the entirely real town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch or Llanfairpwllgwyngyll for short. It is Welsh for ‘St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near to the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the Red Cave’. Try putting that into a GPS!

Arrived back in London and unwillingly said goodbye to all our new friends and thanked our tour manager and driver. Even though I was more tired than I’ve ever felt in my life, I was so sad it was over. Chris and I spent our last night in the UK emptying our suitcases and repacking them 10 times to fit all our souvenirs. We chatted about Contiki, going over our favourite moments and of course, planning our next trip.

The Group

The Great Britain and Ireland Contiki Group outside of the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin.

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