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Travel Plan: 5 Days in Amsterdam
Travel
Travel Plan: 5 Days in Amsterdam
November 10, 2012 at 11:52 am 0
 

Recently my little family went on a short vacation in Amsterdam. My husband had to go for a work conference, and so my daughter and I went along and turned it into a mini-trip.

What an awesome city. This was one of the best trips we've ever taken, and the whole experience was incredible.

Here's the low-down. 

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Travel
Traveling to Italy: The Essential Guide
May 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm 0

It's Spring, and the travel bug is spreading like crazy! This year Italy is a very hot vacation destination. With loads of airlines having big sales, hotels offering deals, and a huge desire to get away the time is now to plan your summer vacation. Check out these posts with great tips on what to see, where to go, and what it's like. Florence Tuscany Rome Amalfi Coast Siena 7 Things You Need To Know Before Going To Italy Shopping In Italy
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Travel
Mar del Plata: An Argentinean Beach Town Getaway
April 23, 2010 at 9:27 am 0


beach town!
While in Argentina the size and activity in Buenos Aires can be a bit much. So why not take a weekend off and go to the renowned beach town Mar del Plata? A short four hour drive outside of Buenos Aires, you can rent a car, take the bus, or hop on the train to get here. Once you arrive the first thing you want to do is head to the beach! The rocky shore, grassy slopes and soft sand all combine to make a beautiful beach landscape. In Mar del Plata the beaches are all well maintained, and extremely popular, so if you go in peak season prepare to be packed in the sand with 2 million of your closest friends! It will be busy, but it's worth it - the views are gorgeous, the vibe is cool, and the setup of the area will remind you of beach towns of yesteryear with a gorgeous boardwalk that spans from one side of town to the other.

the walrus on the boardwalk
If you want a more exclusive beach experience you can always go to the private beaches a bit further south. Nikki beach is just by the lighthouse and offers a great beach, parking, and a fancier beach experience. Whichever beach you chose keep in mind this is the Atlantic Ocean, and you're pretty far south, so it's pretty chilly all year round - even in the hot period of January/February. Look what happened when we went in the water!

it's freezing!
After strolling on the beach for a few hours it's time to grab a bit. If you are going to a waterfront restaurant bring your patience along because the queue to get in will be long, and service will take forever! Some of the Mar del Plata institutions include Manolo's (an Argentinean take on the American diner) and Torreon (a coffee shop designed to look like a monastery). Keep in mind that Argentinean's eat lightly during the day, and have a large dinner at night, so the lunch options will be on the lighter side.

torrean
After lunch it's time to head downtown and see the city sights and have an afternoon cafe. When downtown Boston Confectionary is a great coffee shop, and the medialunes (half moon pastries that are like croissants but sweeter) are out of this world! After your coffee stop stroll around the pedestrian streets, enjoy the parks, and take your time just strolling around and taking in the local culture. Keep in mind that any touristy areas, like the pedestrian streets, are hotspots for pick pocketing and purse snatching, so keep your possessions close to you. After some light shopping downtown it's time to head over to the hotel for an afternoon nap. Our top pick is the Sheraton hotel; it's clean, new, the service is excellent and it's a bit removed from the party central downtown. You also have excellent views from pretty much every room and breakfast in the charming La Pampa restaurant is included in the nights stay. The hotel is close to the golf course, and also close to the cool night spots on Alen Street.

the sheraton
After a long afternoon nap it's tea time. Some light sandwiches a warm drink and lots of water will have you refreshed and ready for evening. When it's time to head out on the town for dinner - typically around 930pm there are great barbecue offerings, or pasta from La Trattoria. When dining make sure you take in the great night sights of the city. There are many beautiful places to watch the city go by, so make sure you enjoy! Looking for a little night-time activity? Alen Street is a great pick for bars, cafes, ice cream shops, and watching live music. If you are tempted to go to the casino think again. It's a dark, dirty and depressing place to spend some time, and with smoking inside and no ventilation it's hard to see the poker tables through the smoky plumes of the players. Mar del Plata is a great place to visit, and one of the most charming towns/cities in Argentina. Known as the Vegas of Argentina it's a bit of a party town, but the natural beauty of the area make it a great place for families and pretty much everyone enjoy!
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Travel
An Argentinean Ranch Weekend: Beef, Cowboys & Country
April 12, 2010 at 11:42 am 2
As a huge advocate of getting WHATEVER you want out of life I wanted to share some of the recent go-ings on happening in my life. I love to travel. Every time I open a magazine and see a beautiful picture of somewhere I’ve never visited I try and figure out how I can get there asap. Last year was a big year for travel, with a big trip to Italy and many smaller trips to Washington, Charleston, Savannah, and all around Ontario. This year is shaping up to be another big year for travel. So far I’ve been to Mexico (ok, it was to get married…but it still counts!). And this week I’m in Argentina! We arrived earlier last week and have been mostly visiting family and taking care of business…until this weekend, when we had the ultimate Argentinian experience.

The Santa Maria Ranch Main House

The Santa Maria Ranch Main House

We went up to the Entre Rios province, about 2.5 hours outside of Buenos Aires, to a ranch! The ranch, called Estancia Santa Maria, offers the Real Gaucho (Cowboy) Experience…and I wanted to see how these Argentinian cowboys do it! We arrived late Saturday afternoon, and after we settled in our room we were offered tea in the dining room. We had tea, toast with dulce de leche and some little baked goodies. Of course that was far too exhausting for us, so we retired to our room and napped for 2 hours! The rooms at the ranch are comfortable and clean, and very country cute!

Cute & cosy rooms at the Santa Maria ranch

Cute & cosy rooms at the Santa Maria ranch

We had a nice dinner of meat empanadas, and a chicken risotto main course. The ranch offers a set menu for all meals, so if you are a picky eater this is not for you. For us it was amazing, to pay for the hotel and four meals and have everything included (except liquor) and not have to make any decisions. We were there to relax! After dinner we watched a movie and then spent some time looking up at the stars – the stars are always amazing in the country! In the morning it was time to go horseback riding with the gaucho. It was a strange (and a bit nerve wracking) experience in the beginning. It’s been years since I’ve been on a horse. But after a few minutes it was more comfortable and it was gorgeous to ride the horses through the pastures, next the sheep, by the cows, and past some very noisy birds. It was nice to just let our thoughts wander as we were riding to the rhythm of the horse. There was no stress, no big decisions, just a nice slow rhythm of the horse.

april-11-107
When we returned to the farm house we were treated with the original asado – Argentinean barbecue. There were blood sausages (not for me, but others seemed to like them), chorizo sausages, potato salad, green salad, and a gorgeous barbecued beef. It was definitely tasty!

The Argentinean wood burning barbecue

The Argentinean wood burning barbecue

After lunch it was time for another nap…which we managed to do for two hours! The great thing about the ranch is that your stay is for 24 hours… so if you arrive at 5pm you can stay until 5pm the next day. It was much better than having to check out of a hotel at noon, like most North American places. It was a wonderful relaxing weekend out of the city, seeing the countryside, and tasting the local foods from field to table. If you are going to Argentina, a farm experience is not to be missed.
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Life, Travel
A Great Weekend Escape: Toronto’s Harbourfront
March 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm 3


With the Spring temperatures rising this weekend is the perfect time to head to Toronto's Harbourfront and enjoy all it has to offer! Start off by taking a stroll along the waterfront path. You will pass by all the boats, parks, restaurant patios, and see these great deck bridges that were opened last year.

After you've built up an appetite from your walk go to one of the great restaurants for lunch. Il Fornello is a favourite, and they have a large patio right on the water with a great menu and decent wine list too. The Watermark pub is also a good choice for a pub lunch and draught beer. If you're more in the mood for sushi head to Ichiban Sushi or Oyshi Sushi, both have great menus at reasonable prices.

The Habroufront Second Cup patio is the best in the city!

The Habroufront Second Cup patio is the best in the city!

If dining out is not your thing perhaps a coffee is in order. The Second Cup at Harbourfront has the best patio in the whole city! It's right on the water, and you can see all the boats coming and going and just sit staring down at the water. This patio gets full sun from approx 10am-3pm, so keep that in mind. If you are more loyal to Starbucks there is one across the street. Although it doesn't have the patio of the Second Cup it does have great people watching. If there are no spots on the patio you can also sit next door at the waterfall and watch everyone from there! If you are a dog lover there is a great dog centre right by Ichiban Sushi and just off the crazy wave bridges. You can bring your pooch and play away for hours at a time! For art lovers and culture mavens the Harbourfront Centre has cool art shows on a regular basis, and also live theatre which is really popular.

On the ferry to the Toronto Islands

On the ferry to the Toronto Islands

Ready to see more? Consider taking the ferry over to the Islands - here's a post on what you can do there. However you chose to spend your Easter long weekend make sure you take some time out, relax and enjoy one of the great things your city has to offer. Get out there and start living!
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Travel
A Different Kind Of Touring
March 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm 0
While we are in Mexico for our destination wedding we are lucky enough to have many Spanish speaking friends with us, and very lucky that they are willing to put together some tours for us. These are not your get on the big tourbus with the guy making bad jokes selling you expensive and crappy beer kind of tours. These are the kind of tours where you hire all your own things, like bus, driver, food, drinks etc...and get them to take you where you want to go and completely on your schedule. I'm thrilled we were still able to tour, and see all the great things the Mayan Riviera has to offer, but we don't have to get herded here and there, have people trying to sell us time shares, and spend a set amount of time at every place with zero flexibility. Hello freedom, this is a great and different kind of touring.
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Life, Travel
Winter Survival Tip: Dream Under the Tuscan Sun
February 2, 2010 at 11:12 am 2
Dreaming of la dolce vita in Tuscany

Dreaming of la dolce vita in Tuscany

It's Winter, it's cold, and every year around this time everyone starts to get a bit blue. Looking for a winter escape? Why not pull out a copy of the novel Under the Tuscan Sun and dream of living la dolce vita in Tuscany? The book is amazing, and helps take you away to dream land...where love, natural beauty, good food and great wine are a part of everyday life. So if it's a cold night and you're looking for something to do that will warm your heart and soul, open Under the Tuscan Sun, or dream about living your own dolce vita dream life in Tuscany. Don't you feel warmer already?
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Travel
Travel Diaries – Road Trip: Savannah
January 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm 0
For years I have wanted to go to Savannah. It all started when I was an ESL teacher in Korea. On one of our many nights of drinking wine together my friend Lise and I shared stories on our favourite cities to visit. Lise mentioned that her favourite city by far was Savannah - with all the gardens on every block, beautiful historical architecture and Southern charm.



Gorgeous buildings on every corner in Savannah

Gorgeous buildings on every corner in Savannah

When my fiance and I showed up in Savannah we weren't sure where to go or what to expect. We parked by the river and walked around the tourist area. It was pretty busy and lots of tourists were walking around, going in the boutiques, and tasting the local seafood. The cobble stone streets and old buildings created a wonderful ambience, but one of the coolest things were the sidewalks, which was concrete with oyster shells and other shells mixed in. It was super original - I've never seen anything like it before!

Savannah river sidewalks have a seashells mixed in!

Savannah river sidewalks have a seashells mixed in!

Once we had a coffee in the outdoor market we headed up to higher ground and walked around the old town. It was gorgeous! There were big, beautiful, historical homes with wonderful landscaping, and at almost every block there was a small city park. With the slow, Southern pace, beautiful homes and lovely little parks Savannah was the most walking friendly city I've been in.

Parks on every block make Savannah a great city to walk in

Parks on every block make Savannah a great city to walk in

We didn't have a plan in particular for the day, we just wanted to explore and visit the city - given the small city and walkable environment it was easy to do! So we strolled, visited the parks, read all the plaques and learned about the monuments in each park, and strolled some more. When it was time for a break we happened upon a gorgeous building - the Forsyth Mansion. We sat back, had a glass of wine and admired the phenomenal restoration of the historical building. It was stunning and fuelled so many ideas about how I would decorate my fantasy house.

The gorgeous Forsyth Mansion is worth a visit

The gorgeous Forsyth Mansion is worth a visit



One of the dining rooms at the Foryth Mansion

One of the dining rooms at the Foryth Mansion

When the sun set we strolled back to the car, admired the final scenes and headed back on the road to our next stop. Savannah was a beautiful city to visit, and if I'd had more time I would have loved to stay in the Forsythe Mansion, eat at the great restaurants and live like a Southerner for a few days. Up Next: Key West, Florida
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Travel
Travel Diaries – Road Trip: Charleston
December 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm 1
Christmas is over, it went well, and our trip to Washington DC has wharfed into a whole new adventure! We're going to the Florida Keys! In the beginning of planning our trip we decided we wanted to see many of the cities and sights along the way to Florida. Since flying to all these different places would be way too expensive we decided a road trip would be a fun and less expensive way to see all these great places along the way. We came up with a general plan, and then asked our frequent traveller friends for their recommendations. Charleston was a city that everyone kept on recommending. And I can see why. It's a lovely city. So beautiful and charming and historical. There are so many small streets, with well maintained buildings, and whole lot of that Southern Charm. We planned on only spending a few hours in Charleston. But we got pulled in. We walked randomly around the city, admired the architecture and unique character of the city, strolled some more, stopped for a glass of wine, and continued on. Several hours later we found ourselves surprised at how much time had passed! So instead of charging on we stayed at a local hotel and kept on enjoying! If I could do this leg of the trip differently I would have spent more time in Charleston, and taken a guided tour to learn about all the history. But, since we need to be in Key West in a few days it's time to motor on! Up Next: Savannah
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Travel
Christmas Travels
December 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm 0
Like most people my family is spread all over. Some are in England, some are in Montreal,Toronto, Vancouver and all the places in between. Inevitably spending time with family for Christmas involves a lot of travel. This year we're heading to Washington, DC to spend some time with my fiance's family (Hi Matias!). So this morning we hit the road, and we'll drive, drive, drive for 10 hours or so for our family visit. How far do you travel for Christmas?
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Life, Travel
New Years Plans
December 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm 0


New Years dream come true

New Years dream come true

Since 1999 I've had a dream that I would spend New Years Eve on the beach drinking wine out of the bottle with close friends. I've done the wild club scene, the house parties, and the fancy restaurants for New Years, and I've been looking for something more personal and intimate. Every year I've tried to make it happen. But inevitably it doesn't work out. I can't afford the trip, nobody can come with me, or other plans take priority. This year my dream of welcoming the New Year with a bottle of Chianti on the beach is finally becoming a reality. My fiance and I are taking a road trip for Christmas, and we're going to the Florida keys for New Years. I'm so excited! Photo Credit: Bnae on Fotothing
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Travel
Weekend Warrior: The Perfect Romantic Getaway
September 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm 1
A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I took a last minute weekend getaway to Langdon Hall, a country house outside of Toronto. I wasn’t sure what to expect…it was a pretty pricey place and I was worried that it would be a bit stuffy. But when we pulled up to this country house, which really is a country mansion, I realized I was dead wrong. Instead, Langdon Hall is a beautifully manicured property with lovely gardens and an outstanding restaurant. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and were upgraded to a split level suite – quite nice indeed! After settling in we had a relaxing glass of wine in our room, got ready, and then we went for dinner at the restaurant. It was lovely. I had truffle and asaparagus salad and a wonderful steak, and of course, a few glasses of wine that the in house sommelier picked out for me. It was so nice to get to dress up for dinner and go to the formal dining room. And best of all, the crowd in the restaurant was mixed – some young families, couples celebrating their anniversaries, a few older ladies who lunch types. The next day we completely missed breakfast, but instead went down for an early lunch. And since we were at a fancy country house, why not start the day with champagne! After having a lovely lunch on the outside patio we just lounged around, took little walks, read outside in the garden, watched the fish in the pond, and relaxed. It was wonderful. It turns out my worries that it was going to be a stuffy place were totally unfounded. Everyone was lovely, the service was great, the restaurant was outstanding and the country mansion was beautiful. My only caution - my boyfriends dinner, a kobe beef steak, was very pricey at $60, and not amazing. We didn't want to be restaurant complainers, so we didn't say anything, but it was nothing short of highway robbery for a mediocre main.
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Travel
Weekend Warrior: Washingon D.C.
August 24, 2009 at 5:22 pm 2
Recently I went on a weekend trip to Washington, DC. It was my first trip to this part of the country and I went with my boyfriend and his parents to celebrate his nephews 3rd birthday party. Luckily for me we stayed at a lovely hotel downtown. I was excited to get a chance to do touristy stuff but also, since it was the first time I was meeting his brother and his family it seemed a little strange to sleep in their house. We arrived in Washington on Saturday morning and after we checked into our hotel we did some touring around. We went to the White House, the Reflecting Pools and War Memorials, and the city streets around our hotel. On Saturday evening we had a big family dinner and on Sunday we had my boyfriend’s nephews 3rd birthday party. It was very cute, but very different for me too. I realized that living a very “downtown” life in the city, with mostly single friends, or at least most of my friends don’t have babies, I’d never been to a birthday party with all families. I think I was the only woman at the party without a child! It was interesting to see how all the kids different personalities worked and all the families interacted very differently. It was so cute to spot the very curious little personalities looking at everything, putting their fingers in places they don’t belong, chasing the bubbles from the bubble maker and smearing cake icing all over their little faces! On Monday morning we woke up late and did a bit more touring around, this time to Capital Hill and the train station. The train station was fascinating for me. It was so beautiful and had such great design inspiration inside. It’s one of the few train stations I’ve seen in North America that is spotlessly clean and has facilities for tourists and travellers, but also restaurants and cafes for locals. I really enjoyed Washington, DC. It is a beautiful city and I’m excited to go back already. I’m hoping to go back in the Spring, and see the famous fruit tree blossoms – so fresh and beautiful…and everywhere!
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Travel
Weekend Warrior: Day Trip to Toronto Islands
August 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm 0
This summer in Toronto has been less than ideal, with rain on almost every weekend, and temperatures well below the seasonal average. However, it seems that summer has finally arrived and last weekend was a shining example of the beautiful summers we get in the city. I’m always more than happy to travel out of the city during the winter months, but in the summer there’s no place I’d rather be than in Toronto.

One of my favourite summertime activities is to visit the islands just outside of the downtown harbour. The islands have always been the playground for city dwellers and they are easy to get to on a fun 10 minute ferry ride. You can take bikes and rollerblades on the ferry, or you can canoe/kayak/sail over. There are no cars on the island, so it’s really peaceful and ideal for families to go for day trips with large picnics. There are button cute cottages on the east side of the islands, and a “little kid” friendly amusement park in the middle of the islands. It’s a great place to take bike trips, and with open barbecue pits and tables it’s a great place to throw a party. Every time I go there I’m taken away into dream land with the sounds of children playing nearby, while I’m having a lovely picnic under weeping willow trees with sailboats floating by.
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Travel
Seven Italian Lessons
August 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm 0
1. With the right travel partner touring in unkown lands is a delight. I went with my boyfriend, and we spent every minute together for 11 days. Even in stressful situations we laughed about it later. With the wrong travel partner you could spend a painful two weeks stressed out of your mind. 2. Tuscan wines are to be enjoyed in excess. Wine with lunch, afternoon wines, wine with dinner, after dinner drinks, nightcaps…….. it was all so amazing that I couldn’t resist. 3. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It happened on day six, when my pants didn’t fit…..I realized that a steady diet of cheese, wine and salami are not slimming. 4. Shopping in Italy is a serious activity. Everybody dresses up and looks their very best to go to the shops and be waited on. And, there is a definite etiquette to be followed….I don’t know what it is, but I know that I don’t know it. 5. There are no Italians…..in tourist areas anyways. I was amazed that after travelling through Florence, Rome, Amalfi and Siena that there were almost no Italians……I found them on the last day in the outskirts of Florence. I can’t blame them, I’d go crazy too if I had millions of tourists in my town every year. 6. Italians are not that friendly. French people have a bad reputation from tourists because they let you know they don’t like you, whereas Italians just ignore you. I was expecting them to be warmer and more inviting. 7. Sometimes you just need to sit back. Let the driver wiz you around - even if you are two inches from all the other cars, flying around sharp corners and going through dark tunnels at 140km/hour, just go with it! Otherwise you’ll be stressed your ENTIRE vacation, and that’s just not fun.
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Travel
Siena: Italian Dream Part Five
August 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm 0
Siena After driving for five hours it was a relief to arrive in Siena. It’s a charming small city that has a rich history and amazing views of the Tuscan countryside from all sides. The city itself is perched atop a hill, and considering it’s known around the world and has many tourists, it still manages to maintain its small town feel. Walking around the city is a must, and given its size there is no need for a car, especially since most streets seem to be pedestrian only. There are lovely buildings to see, a great core to the city where they have famous bareback horse races each year, and a very relaxed feeling to the city. We went out for lunch with another couple and I had another outstanding meal. I wanted to try something very adventurous, and not the standard pasta or salad and antipasto, so I had pheasant roasted with pinenuts and raisins, and it was delicious. It was juicy and sweet and had a powerful combination of flavours that blended extremely well. As we drove out of Siena after our two days in the city it was time to face the sunset of our trip and prepare to come back to Canada. With so much moving around I didn’t realize all the places we’d visited and how alternating cities and countryside every two days had been the perfect combination. We got to enjoy a lot of exciting historical and cultural offerings in the city, but we also got to relax and recoup in the countryside. Not only did we see a ton, but we felt relaxed about our trip instead of frazzled from all the moving around. It’s the first time I’ve tried this format for a trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone, including my boyfriend for our next trip…….hmmmm….where to go?
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Travel
Amalfi Coast: Italian Dream Part Four
July 24, 2009 at 9:20 am 0
Amalfi Coast I had huge expectations for the Amalfi Coast. I thought it was the playground of the rich and famous, a place where the elite go to relax and enjoy beautiful views and a warm culture. As it turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t so fancy (neither am I since I don’t even know where the fancy people go!), there were no Italians, and it seemed like a beautiful landscape that earned a great reputation many years ago and has held onto the reputation that is now no longer warranted. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is outstanding, but if you want to go out and about and discover the towns be prepared to pay a fortune for anything and be englulfed in the crowds of middle aged Brits and Americans – not the charming old Italian grandmothers and friendly locals that I was expecting. To find something less touristy we drove into the hills one night for dinner. There were still many tourists in Ravello, but I was distracted by my delicious meal. I had the best fish I’ve ever eaten – it was grilled and came with a fresh mint, olive oil and lemon sauce on top that was heavenly. I still daydream about it. After spending two days in Priano, Positano and Amalfi I was happy to get back on the beautiful and twisty rounds and move to our next destination. Stay Tuned: My favourite city is next! For more on Italian travel journals see the post on Florence, Tuscany and Rome.
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Travel
Rome: Italian Dream Part Three
July 23, 2009 at 9:43 am 3
Rome We left Tuscany very early in the morning and drove to Rome hoping to arrive prior to rush hour traffic. You’ve probably heard that the drivers in Italy are crazy, and that’s 100% correct. Luckily for me my boyfriend drives like an Italian very comfortably – he’s an expert at driving inches away from other cars at one hundred miles an hour, changing lanes like a madman, and passing people on roads that only fit one car. For most tourists driving in Italy is stressful, but for my boyfriend it was the ultimate driving test, and he passed with a gold sticker! As we were driving into Rome I thought my boyfriend was going to explode with enthusiasm over the architecture and historical buildings. After stepping out of the car many times to see the buildings we were passing we finally arrived at our hotel, only to leave within seconds and see the sights – and they are sights to behold. We went to the standard tourist spots like the Coliseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and Trevi fountains, and then we just walked around the city getting lost, taking little alleyways, and stopping for coffee and wine often. I really wanted to go shopping in Rome and shop we did! We were all messy and sweaty from walking around all day but that didn’t stop us (even though I’m sure many shopkeepers wish it did). Shopping in Italy is a serious activity, it’s very expensive, and not something to be taken casually. Everybody dresses up and looks their very best to go to the shops and be waited on. And, there is a definite etiquette to be followed….I don’t know what it is, but I know that I don’t know it. The funny thing is, the salespeople in the luxury stores were much friendlier than at the mid price stores. We went into Prada and although we seemed like misfits (messy, dirty, looking like tourists and touching everything) they were very nice to us. But at Furla the girls were so obnoxious and rude. It made me crazy that this girl was two steps behind me re-organizing everything that I touched and huffing and puffing the whole time, like I was causing her major undue stress. Ummmmm – you work in sales right? Customer service? Oh well, I was on vacation so I wasn’t going to let that bring me down! After two full days, and plenty of sight seeing and shopping, it was time to move on. I really enjoyed Rome – it felt like an actual Italian city and not just a tourist spot. There are locals around, going to and fro work and they tend to co-exist much better with the flocks of tourists than in Florence. I could have spent a few more days in the city, but it was time to move south. Up Next: the beautiful Amalfi Coast For more Italian travel journals see my posts on Florence and Tuscany
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Travel
Florence: Italian Dream Part One
July 16, 2009 at 9:15 am 5
Recently I went on an eleven day whirlwind trip through central Italy with my boyfriend. We had tossed the idea of going to Italy around, but like so many things you chat about them, and then you get lost in daily life….until I found an amazing seat sale. I was able to book the flights from Toronto to Florence return for $577 per person ($500 US)….amazing! So with tickets in hand we constructed a brief travel plan and then adapted it as we went along. To make my trip diary a bit more digestible I'm going to post from each city for the next few days. First, let's start with... Florence We landed in Florence in the morning, and spent the entire first day walking around the inner city. I was jet lagged and running on fumes so I kept on drinking double espressos thinking it would perk me up….it didn’t work that well, but luckily I didn’t get too jittery. Florence as a city didn’t wow me, it was totally over-run with tourists (7 tourists for ever resident!!) and I didn’t really feel like I was in Italy since I couldn’t find any Italians outside of people that worked the tourist industry. We spent two days in the city, and I felt exhausted from walking all day and dodging the throbs of people. The best place to visit was the Uffizi museum. It is a very cool building and the art is outstanding. It’s a place that you could go into every day for a week straight and still be wowed. We were able to reserve our tickets through the receptionist at the hotel, so we avoided the mile long line-up outside. Thank heavens! There’s nothing like going on vacation only to wait outside in the burning sun to see fun stuff – no thanks! The most memorable thing about Florence was the restaurant we went to on the last night, Castello di Sabbia(they don't have a website, but here's a map with reviews ) . The restaurant specializes in fish and truffles and you won’t be disappointed. It’s owned by two guys, one of them a former police officer who speaks English and is very friendly. To get to the restaurant you need to take a taxi, which the owner will reimburse you for – a very nice perk indeed! The drive up is great, because you get to see where the actual Italians are, and it really sets the tone for the evening. After you’ve traveled for twenty minutes via taxi you find yourself in this beautiful cabana style building perched atop a hill with a view of the nearby area, and once you eat the food you will FALL IN LOVE. We had an antipasto appetizer, a pasta course and then a steak with truffles that was absolutely perfect. I still dream about it. We actually went back on the final night of our trip, and the host greeted us like we were returning friends. It was the perfect send off. Stay tuned: I'll blog about Tuscany next...and that truly was a dream... For more Italian travel journals read posts on Tuscany and Rome
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Travel
Weekend Warrior: Road Trips in Southern Ontario
June 19, 2009 at 8:18 am 0
A little while ago I went on a spontaneous day trip to Niagara on the Lake in Ontario. It was a lovely day and I smile every time I think of it.

On the Friday night my boyfriend tossed around the idea of going to Niagara for a weekend getaway, but since we have a major trip coming up soon I said I’d rather save my money. The next day I woke up at 730 am – very, very unusual for me on a weekend morning – and I couldn’t stop thinking about going away for a mini break. I opened my computer while still in bed and searched for hotels….but oh my, they seemed so pricey! There were some beautiful hotels, bed and breakfasts and lodges, but they were so expensive I just couldn’t justify it. So instead, I suggested we just go for a day…….and what a lovely day. It was a warm, blue sky day with no clouds in sight. A day trip definitely felt right. We packed up a few things, and a change of nice clothes for dinner, and then we were off. On the way to Niagara on the Lake I found a place we could rent bikes and also called a spa to see if we could get last minute appointments. When we arrived in town we discovered the bike rental place was right by the vineyards, so as soon as we paid for our rentals we were off and cycling through beautiful laneways. We took little random streets with no goals in mind, then we went along the parkway, and over to a vineyard for wine tasting. It was so relaxing and fun.

We took a trail to get back to the bike rental place so we could zip off to the spa. I had a mani – pedi and my boyfriend had a massage. I must confess it’s quite an extravagance for me as I’m really trying to watch my pennies, but this was worth every cent. When we left we both felt so relaxed and indulged..........so clearly it was time to indulge more! We went to a vineyard for dinner and tasted exquisite local foods coupled with great wine. It was fun being able to sample all the different wines......and enjoy the extra giggles that ensued. After dinner there was a lovely rain storm. While I took a little nap my boyfriend drove and listened to Feist, watching the lightening storm brew in the horizon.....
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Travel
Weekend Warrior: Road Trips in Southern Ontario
June 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm 0
This weekend my boyfriend and I departed from our normal schedule. Instead of waking up late, watching movies, going for coffee and strolling around the city we decided to take a little road trip. On Saturday we went to Blue Mountain, Ontario. It was a two hour drive and when we stepped out of the car we discovered that it was still freezing up North! Somehow I’d forgotten that two hours North makes a big difference, and what feels warm in Toronto, feels very different in Blue Mountain. We were so chilly that we ran for cover in a restaurant as soon as we arrived! We only spent about two hours in Blue Mountain - having lunch, taking a quick walk, and then heating up with a coffee. We were both relieved to jump in the car again and head back to the warmer climate in the city. On the way home we drove through Kleinberg. It’s such a lovely and charming little town…..I’ve already planned what my yard would look like if I lived there, how I’d walk my imaginary kids to school, and the lovely dinner parties that I’d host in my country manor…..
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