Travel

Travel: Terre Bleu, Milton, Ontario

If you’ve ever driven from Waterloo to Toronto – and if you’re anything like me – then you’ve probably uttered a few some many curse words as you’ve driven through Milton on the 401. Let me correct myself – as you’ve been stopped in traffic on the 401 in Milton. Ugh. Milton. Up until a few weeks ago, all I had really known about Milton was the traffic I experienced on the 401.

But, I’m happy to share that I’ve found something glorious about Milton (and Halton Region) – the Terre Bleu lavender farm. Hooray! It’s absolutely lovely, and I encourage you to visit! Get off that darn highway and enjoy the serene beauty of the lavender farm! (Warning – this post is infused with hints of purple and yellow.)

Tim and I drove out to Terre Bleu on the Canada Day long weekend for a tour with Terre Bleu’s owner, Ian Baird. Our tour was fun, educational, and full of beauty.

Terre Bleu’s fields grow several varieties of both English and French lavender. English lavender, in brief, is excellent for its scent, while the French lavender is used in culinary endeavors. The English lavender was just coming out when we visited the farm, and the French hadn’t yet shown its colours.

Some people like white…and others like purple. Ian and I bonded over our passion for (a single) colour.

Much of the property is – of course – filled with rows upon rows of beautiful lavender. But Ian has also done an impressive job of embracing, promoting, and fostering art on the farm. The yellow door (that you may have seen floating around social media) provides the perfect photo op, but it is even more cool in person. A random door in the middle of lavender rows. Loved it!

Inspired by the quote (written by Ian’s then-10-year-old daughter) noted above the door, Tim and I left our worries behind us as we walked through the yellow door. We found joy on the other side!

In addition to the lavender fields, Terre Bleu raises honeybees, has an herb garden (which transforms into a great spot for lavender-infused cocktails), and has a beautiful forest and trail. In the forest, along the “Yellow Bench Trail,” you’ll find a wood installation perfect for a conversation circle and – as the name suggests – a yellow bench. But, of course!

Terre Bleu’s honeybees are hard at work! In the photo below, Ian is showing us the old bee keeping house in the distillery – the room where they turn lavender into oils. Those copper vessels, which are used in the essential oil-making process, were brought in from Portugal because of their high quality and production capability.

Before you think that Terre Bleu is all-purple-all-the-time, check this out:

Great, right? This massive, white bench overlooks the equestrian area of the farm, and its design mimics that of the main store/barn structure. No detail was left to chance on this farm! Each design choice was made with much consideration.

And more white came through in the “white” Melissa lavender. In fact, although it looks white here, its true colour will be pink once it’s fully in bloom. (But let’s just pretend it’s white, okay?)

The Terre Bleu team harvests the lavender during the year and transforms it into all sorts of beautiful products – sachets, dried lavender, lavender salt, lavender essential oils, soaps, and more. The white-washed shop is definitely worth a visit. Pick up a treat before you leave, including, perhaps, a scoop of lavender ice cream! I picked up a jar of honey – it’s made with the farm’s lavender and hard-working honeybees! I couldn’t resist!

So, next time you give Milton a passing glance, I encourage you to stop and find your way to Terre Bleu for some inspiration!

See more snapshots of our day at Terre Bleu over on Tim’s blog, Design Maze.

Thanks again, Ian, for the super tour! I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the development of your lovely lavender farm! Milton is lucky to have you!
Photos by Tim and me.

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Travel: White Cabana Goes to Toronto

I just came back from an extended stay in Toronto. I was there for an academic conference. My presentations went smoothly, and it was great to catch up with my academic community in person (#PhDlife). While I was there, I couldn’t help but snap photos.

Hydrangea pompoms in my parents’ garden. I love them!

The Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is one of my favourite buildings in the city.

Toronto in one photo: CN Tower in the background, TTC and postal-code-clad mail box in the foreground.

Skateboard action in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

Canadian chefs’ panel presentation at Terroir Symposium: Chef Lynn Crawford, Dufflet Rosenberg, Susur Lee, and Matty Matheson (full review coming soon)

If you’d like to see a few more photos (mostly of my outfits), check out #WhiteCabanaGoestoToronto.

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Travel: Fairmont Le Château Montebello, Quebec

When I booked my May trip to Kingston, Ottawa, and Montebello a few months ago, I was not expecting to encounter floods and snowy weather. This, though, is exactly what happened.

I could have postponed the trip, but quite a bit of planning went into this trip, and trying to reschedule would have ended in an almost 6-month postponement. I was also mostly oblivious to the rainy weather. It was rain. I packed my rainboots. And my rain coat. And my umbrella.  Done. After a stay in Kingston, and a quick lunch with Giulia in Ottawa, I drove to Montebello, Quebec for an overnight vacation at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello – the world’s largest log cabin! How amazing! I was so intrigued!

Here’s a quick overview of my itinerary:

Day 1

Despite the rain, I was in full relaxation mode. I arrived to the Fairmont around 3pm, and after I had checked in to my log cabin room, I threw on my rain gear and headed out for a walk. The grounds were beautiful, and the forest trail was so peaceful. There were only a few people around (on account of the rain, most likely), so it was a really peaceful walk. I then had a swim in the pool, a long hot shower, and dinner at the Seigneurie Bar. I watched a bit of French news, and fell asleep under a cozy white duvet.

Day 2

The next day, I had an early morning swim, then enjoyed a generous buffet breakfast at the Aux Chantignoles. I departed earlier than I had originally anticipated because I was nervous about the flooding in Gatineau/Ottawa, and I also wanted to catch up with another friend in Ottawa on my way back to Waterloo.

Now, about the hotel. Several Fairmont properties are full of history and charm. The Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello is no exception. It’s the largest log cabin I’ve ever seen, let alone slept in (well, it’s the world’s largest afterall). It definitely has a classic chalet vibe with its winter scene art, wood beams, enormous fireplace, and logs. Lots and lots of logs! So beautiful! It’s definitely a sight to see for anyone who is interested in architecture. (Note: some non-white photos below.)

A few sort-of-blurry iPhone photos of the fireplace, but you get the idea! It’s a grand chalet!

My room was cozy. My bed was ridiculously comfortable. The bathroom was smaller and more dated (but in keeping with the chalet theme) than I had anticipated, but the products smelled lovely, and I had everything I needed for a very comfortable stay. Yes, even with the miserable weather. I was warm and happy! I was even spoiled with maple syrup-infused treats. Merci beaucoup!

This was such a comfortable bed! I had a wonderful sleep!

For dinner on the night arrived, I opted for a classic meal of mint julep and poutine. Interesting combination, right? I was attracted to both items on the menu, so that’s what I went for even if it seems a little strange. Both were delicious, and I’d happily order the same duo on a return visit. Oh – and the cheese is from Montebello, so how could I resist? Delicieux!

I filled up at the breakfast buffet on my second day. The croissants and maple-syrup crepes called my name. I did have some scrambled eggs, too, to balance out all the sweetness. Service was attentive, pleasant, and bilingual.

One of the absolute best things about my stay was swimming lengths in the pool. Montebello’s pool is the largest indoor hotel pool in Canada, and I definitely enjoyed it. I swam later in the evening and early in the morning, so I avoided the crowds of families. If I did go at a busier time, I could have easily swam in the reserved lane. Great planning, Montebello!

While I don’t have a family, I would recommend the Montebello for a family vacation. There are a lot of activities to do year-round including horseback riding, trail walking, curling, indoor and outdoor swimming, and more. The property is beautiful, and the staff are friendly.

Another thing that I took advantage of during my stay was communicating en français! Living in Ontario, I rarely get an opportunity to speak French. I appreciated that the staff communicated in French with me rather than automatically switching to English.

Overall, I had a very relaxing weekend getaway, and I’d easily do it again. Since I’m not much of a snow-bunny, I’d likely make a return trip in the summer to enjoy the outdoor pool and sunny views of the Ottawa River.  If snow is your thing, then definitely plan a winter escape as the log cabin must be beautiful after a dusting of snow.

I don’t want to end this post without touching on the lesser-luxurious side of my vacation.

On each day of my visit, I threw on my rain gear and walked out of the resort area to explore the little town of Montebello. Here is where I was really hit with the reality of the recent floods.

The two photos above are from the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello’s property. Look how buried that bench is. Awful.

I know Montebello may not have been hit as hard as other parts of the region, but I saw sandbags surrounding homes and high water levels around the Fairmont Montebello and the town. In fact, the Gatineau/Ottawa highway that I needed to take was closed due to flooding, and even on the re-routed journey, I saw high water levels on either side of roads. Not good.

I am grateful that my journey went smoothly and that I stayed safe and warm while I was in Quebec. I know others in the region experienced plenty of stress. As such, when I came home, I made a donation to the Red Cross – specifically to the Spring Floods Relief – Quebec Designation. This is a great way to support a community in need. Clean-up is ongoing, and I encourage you to contribute, too.

All in all, I had quite the adventure from Waterloo, ON to Montebello, QC. The drive from/to Waterloo was pleasant and relatively traffic-free. The Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello was a perfect chalet immersion complete with delicacies from the region. I’m fortunate that I was able to explore a new part of Canada last weekend, and I would certainly recommend all travel-enthusiasts readers to do the same!

Many thanks to the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello and J.W. for sponsoring my stay. All opinions and photos are my own.

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Hotel to Home: Chateau de la Treyne, France

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I attended another memorable evening at Langdon Hall as part of the Congress of the North American Relais & Chateaux partners (#WhiteCabanaGoestoLangdonHall). One of the people that I met was Stephanie Gombert, owner of the gorgeous Chateau de la Treyne in France.

I lived in Bordeaux for a year as many of you may remember, so I definitely have a soft spot for everything French! The Chateau de la Treyne is a stunning property in the Dordogne region, and each room in the hotel has a unique style. The La Favorite suite’s gold freestanding tub drew me into the room, and so I thought it would make a great room for today’s Hotel to Home feature.

La Favorite – Chateau de la Treyne

Here’s my version:

tub, portrait, bed, chandelier, desk, lamp, flowers, night stand

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Travel: Things to Do in Collingwood, Ontario

As I mentioned on Monday, I recently enjoyed a relaxing time at the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountains in Collingwood, Ontario. The day was a full one, and I’d like to fill you in on a few other things I experienced during this mini-vacation.

As I mentioned, the drive from Waterloo to the Collingwood area is very easy and enjoyable. Driving the country roads is relaxing and beautiful. The route took us through the charming town of Erin, Ontario, and just as we entered the main part of town, we spotted a house painted black with cafĂ© on the sign – the Tin Roof CafĂ©. We grabbed homemade cookies and coffee (healthy way to start a spa day, right?) for our journey. I appreciated the design, and the coffee was well-made, too. I recommend it.

As we made it to Collingwood, we stopped to walk the main street. When we spotted a white bike in a shop window, I knew I had to explore. Turns out that the store – Leuk – was made for people like me. White, white, and more white! In fact, Leuk has three stores – a flower store, a cafĂ© and clothing store, and a furniture store – all on the main street (Hurontario St.) in Collingwood. I wanted to buy everything.

photo via Leuk

On the recommendation of a Leuk saleswoman, we stopped in at The Tremont for a delicious lunch in a design-y, French atmosphere. Marble tables get me. Every. Single. Time. I had a freshly made quiche and side salad, which I thought was an improvement from my morning cookie. The closer you get to a spa, the healthier you get? 🙂 I would definitely go back to The Tremont on a future visit.

photo via The Tremont Cafe

Not wanting to return home after five hours at the spa, we took the quick drive over to the Blue Mountain Village. This is the ski zone. There are shops, restaurants, and accommodations for all those people who love to ski. In the spring, though, the Village is a great place for a little walk. We were also hungry for dinner at this point in the day (worked up an appetite after all that relaxing!), and we walked around the sweet boardwalk to the Oliver & Bonacini CafĂ© Grill restaurant at the Westin Trillium House hotel. I had already known that the Westin was in the Village, but I didn’t know that Oliver & Bonacini was the in-hotel restaurant. The restaurant has a beautiful, modern, and welcoming interior, and the sun was shining brightly in the restaurant even though it must have been close to 7pm at this point in the day. Such a wonderful atmosphere! Here, I opted for a classic pizza margherita. Yum. I’d order it again. And one of these days, I’m going to stay at the Westin because it looks like my kind of place – regardless of season!

photo via Oliver & Bonacini

So, not only did I have an amazing time at the Scandinave Spa, but I also really enjoyed exploring a bit of Collingwood. I know the area has so much to offer, and while we generally hear about the winter activity options, I think now is also an ideal time to take explore the area.

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Travel: Scandinave Spa Blue Mountains, Ontario

This year is all about #Canada150. Our country’s notable birthday is encouraging me to explore what lives outside of my neighbourhood. I’m a traveler as you may have noticed, but traveling for extended periods of time is challenging given my schedule. That’s why I’m trying to travel closer to home for shorter periods of time.

I recently took a day trip to the Collingwood area of Ontario. The region is about a 2-hour drive from Waterloo, which makes it a great day trip destination. The main purpose of my trip was to relax at the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.

don’t be fooled – this is just a photo backdrop since cameras are not allowed in the baths area

the trees are absolutely beautiful – even if they don’t yet have their leaves

I brought along my Sea Bags tote, and it was perfect!

walk down memory lane – here I am two years ago in the same location

It has been a few years since I first went to Scandinave, so my trip was long overdue. Since my last trip, Scandinave has added an infrared sauna, relaxation solaria, and multiple indoor and outdoor loungers.

one of the best parts of Scandinave – the quiet

The idea at Scandinave is to alternate between hot, cold, and rest periods in a calm, quiet environment. We started with the infrared sauna since it was new, and we wanted to try it out. Thumbs up! We moved to a warm bath, then plunged into one of the cold baths (I could only go up to my thighs!). A rest outside turned into a short snooze, then the routine continued. And continued some more. For four more hours. Heavenly! Magical! Perfection!

Scandinave Blue has an infrared sauna, a traditional sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, three warm(er)(est) bath pools, and three cold(er)(est) bath pools. In addition to these, there are multiple indoor solaria with loungers and magazines for rest periods as well as plenty of outdoor spaces with Adirondack chairs, fire pits, moon loungers, and hammocks. The views in every direction are beautiful – even when there are no leaves on the trees. You can imagine the views as Scandinave is surrounded by 25 acres of forested land!

In between this challenging routine of hot-cold-rest, I had to have a massage. Ha! Right? Tough life! (Have I mentioned how grateful I am!?) I booked myself in for a massage because (a) I seem to be on in a self-care phase at the moment and (b) I’ve never had a massage.

I met with Cathy, a Registered Massage Therapist, who explained her approach and told me to relax. Done. I was already in full-relaxation mode because of the baths, but I relaxed to the extreme with the massage! Cathy was great and definitely made my first massage experience a positive one. I thought she was going to massage me karate-chop-style, but she didn’t. Apparently, I believe things I see in movies? Anyway, the massage was definitely a worthwhile experience, and you can be sure I’ll be having another one at some point in my life! If you book a massage, access to the baths is included. It’s best to book your massage months in advance as the website suggests.

The weather on the day I went was absolute perfection. It was sunny and cool, but warm enough to lounge outdoors on the moon loungers.

A day at Scandinave Blue is supposed to rejuvenate, revitalize, and relax you. I’d say it definitely did for me! Mission accomplished.

If you only plan to go to Scandinave for the baths experience, go. If you’re looking for more, try a massage. Bath access is $55 and a Swedish massage is $145. If you’d like to extend your visit, check out the packages as well as the getaway packages.

The Collingwood area is beautiful year-round, so anytime is a great time to go! And if you’re not able to get to Collingwood, there’s a Scandinave Spa in Whistler, Old Montreal, and Mont Tremblant.

Thanks to Mallory and Mylisa for arranging my visit. All opinions are my own.

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The Friday Five: Waterloo Region’s ION

Every since I moved to Waterloo, people have been talking about The ION. They were probably talking about it before I arrived, too. At first, I had no idea what people were going on about because nothing was visibly happening in my neighbourhood. Then last summer, King St. was ripped up completely while the ION crew was working away, This is when I really noticed that things were a-changin’ in the region.

The ION, for those of you outside the Waterloo region, is our new light rail system. It will connect one end of the region to the other. The first ION train came to the area just a couple of weeks ago from Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant, and they hype has been growing.

Last weekend, the city hosted an open house so that the public could take a tour of the first ION train. I opted to take mosey on over, and I was surprised by the crowd of people! There was an incredible turnout on a sunny Saturday afternoon! This was history in the making, and it was interesting to see the public’s enthusiasm as well as all the different people and organizations who have been part of the ION journey.

Today, I’d like to spread the news and share with you some photos along with five things that I learned about the ION during the open house.

1. The ION’s light rail transit (LRT) is made up of 19 kilometers of rail which goes from the Conestoga Mall transit terminal in Waterloo to the Fairway Mall transit terminal in Kitchener.

2. There are about 60 seats in each LRT vehicle. Each vehicle can carry about 200 people.

3. The LRT vehicles are build by Bombardier. The Waterloo Region has purchased 14 vehicles. The first has arrived at ION’s Dutton Dr. headquarters (aka The site of the open house.).

4. ION riders and Grand River Transit riders (bus system) will pay one fair to use both services.

5. Stage 2 of the ION development will include a link to Cambridge. In all, there will be a 37km route connecting Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo.

I think developing in public transit is a smart option for our region. Yes, it is costing a ton of money (and I’m sure my taxes are paying for it), but in the long run, I think it makes sense for a region as developed – and developing – as this one!

Learn more at RideION.

Photos by Jordana.

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Beauty: Indulge in a Vichy Scrub at the Langdon Hall Spa

Please tell me you’re not sick of me talking about Langdon Hall! If you are, then skip this post. If not, keep reading.

As I had last Friday off from work, I opted to book a last-minute treatment at the Langdon Hall Spa. I am not much of a beauty fanatic, and while I do like a good manicure and pedicure, I have only ever had one facial in my life, and I have never had a massage.

Considering my lack of spa experience, I basically asked Julie for any treatment any time during the day. And I didn’t even want to think about it or make a decision (can you tell I’m tired!?). So Julie took the reins and suggested the Vichy scrub. Say what? After she told me it was her favourite treatment, I said “book me in” without knowing anything about it besides that it’s done in the crazy looking shower treatment room that I saw on my spa tour. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Yeah. What the what? But Julie is the Spa Director and she knows a heck of a lot about spa treatments, so I put my trust in her.

Now let me tell you what this treatment is all about.

After I got over the fact that I was in this crazy shower room, I listened to my esthetician (Hi Reem!) who told me to lie on the table/bed. She adjusted the water temperature, then swung the shower head contraption over my body which led to a full body water massage. Definitely interesting. She scrubbed, gave me a hair treatment, and cleansed and tone my skin. The post-water massage part included a full cream application (which was massage-like), which almost had me sleeping. Amazing!

In short, if you like any of the following, you should book yourself in for a Vichy scrub:

  • long, hot showers
  • soft skin
  • scalp massage
  • perfectly scented products
  • massage
  • toned skin
  • not having to do anything while your body is scrubbed and cleansed

I thought the relaxed feeling would wear off as soon as I drove home, but it didn’t. Neither did the delicious smells of the Valmont products, and neither did my soft skin. My skin continues to feel fresh and soft days after my Vichy scrub.

Would I do this again? Most definitely. I learned that people tend to have this scrub twice per year, and people who really love it have it four times per year. Regular visits to the Langdon Hall spa is something I could get used to. I think I need to start a spa fund.

I realize this post is getting rather long, but one more thing before I let you carry on with your day. If you do plan a visit to the Langdon Hall Spa, then I highly recommend that you arrive a little early so you can enjoy the whirlpool, sauna, and steam room.

The Vichy Aroma Rain Scrub is a 50-minute session and costs $135. To book this or any other treatment, check out the Langdon Hall Spa.

Thanks to Julie for making my visit a special one!

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Marketplace: Ready Travel

We should all know by now that I love to travel. I’d rather spend money on a trip than on a new outfit. Even after my last experience at Toronto’s Pearson (1.5 hours to get through security!?), I am eager to board another flight. Or train. Or get in the car and go.

These days, I like to keep things as simple as possible when I travel. I used to be the pack-everything type of person. Now I’m the pack-something, buy-the-rest-when-you-get-there type of traveler. To North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I packed only a carry-on, which made things really easy and quick at the airport (and I didn’t have much to deal with during the 1.5 hour security lineup). I can’t always travel with just a carry-on, of course, but when I can, I feel free.

Ready Travel recently reached out to tell me about their cool luggage collection. I’m talking weight sensor, cup holder, USB port, and zippy wheels. And apparently it’s large enough to fit a whole load of items! I can’t wait until mine arrives in the spring to see it in person. For now, I’ll be like the 440 Indiegogo backers and drool over the photos. Beyond the function of the piece, the design is top notch. I love how the luggage’s design was inspired by retro radios and calculators.

When my white luggage arrives, I’ll be sure to do a full review. Not to worry. I am curious to see how much I can pack into it (and how much it weighs).

For now, if you’d like to order your own Ready Travel luggage, check out the Indiegogo campaign. The company is currently offering free worldwide shipping.

Thanks to Ready Travel for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

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Art & Hotel: 21c Museum Hotel, Durham, North Carolina

While most of my weekend in North Carolina was spent playing with my three nephews and niece (#ZiaJojoComesToTown), my sister, brother-in-law, and I did enjoy one night out in Durham sans cute children. One of our stops was the 21c Museum Hotel and Counting House. The concept is unique. On the main floor, you’ll find the Counting House – a bar and restaurant. Above, you can wander the floors to explore the art exhibits and historic building, which is open 24/7/365 with free admission if you’re curious. Cool, right? In the basement, visitors can explore the old bank vault since the 21c Museum Hotel is housed in an old bank. Food, drinks, art, history, and a place to stay all in one gorgeous building in central Durham? What’s not to love?

Here are some of the photos I took, if you’d like to see.

Mujer de Blanco, 2015, Marlu Palacios

Spoonfall – water trickling down hinged spoons making the most soothing sounds

Sleeping, 2007, Anthony Goicolea (available for purchase at Caviar20 if you have $18,500 to spare)

The bathroom was wild. I felt like I was in an episode of CSI. Art and function. Awesome. The signage is part of the We Don’t Care exhibition.

You’ll notice fuchsia penguins hanging around the hotel. Guests are encouraged to move them around to create new scenes – or surprises – for others. (Each hotel in the 21c collection has a different colour for its penguins.)

While I did not stay at the hotel, the rooms do look very White Cabana worthy! Perhaps on a future visit to Durham…or Nashville…or Cincinnati…I will check into a 21c Museum Hotel!

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Travel: Niagara Icewine Festival, Niagara, Ontario

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? If yes, I’d like to suggest you take a trip to Niagara to tour the wineries, sip on icewine, and eat delicious food – all part of the Niagara Icewine Festival. I know it shouldn’t take much more than that to convince you, but if you need some more info before you plan your weekend, this is the post for you.

When I reached out to the Niagara Icewine Festival organization, the kind folks there kindly sent over a pair of Discovery Passes. I was eager to go to the festival because I had never been, and I thought it would be a nice day away from my weekend routine of chores, errands, and work. It turned out to be much more than that!

The Discovery Pass ($40) allows you to visit 8 wineries of your choosing over the period of the festival (January weekends). Planning can be done before you arrive in Niagara via the Discovery Pass Listings and Wine Route Planner. I didn’t actually plan too much before we set off, so I did some of the route planning during the car ride over. Although the plan did change a bit as the trip progressed because of chats with other guests and winery staff, it was nice to have some sense of wineries that I might enjoy. Because the participating wineries extended from Grimsby to Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was nice to visit wineries along the full route. Thank goodness for reliable GPS systems!

We began our tour at Kacaba (pronounced Ka-sa-ba) where we met David, a friendly and informative Kacaba employee. Here, we learned about Kacaba’s history and soon-to-be-completed expansion, sipped on Jennifer’s Pinot Gris, and enjoyed jumbo prawns with our icewine cocktail. It was a great start to the day!

From Kacaba, we headed to Stoney Ridge winery. Here, we sipped on some chardonnay and  munched on some apple smoked bacon mac n cheese. The winery has a specialty cheese counter, too. I wanted to try everything! And for dessert – icewine-infused marshmellows roasted on the outdoor fire pit.

After Stoney Ridge, we drove to Megalomaniac. We drove up a windy road through the vineyards, and were greeted by an impressive, modern  building that had been hidden by the fog. It was pretty remarkable. Megalomaniac’s branding is awesome with wine names like The Narcissist and Big Kahuna paired with labels designed to match perfectly. The staff were friendly and generous. Here, we tasted four icewine cocktails and marveled at the grandness of the building’s design and decor. And the fog – oh the fog was pretty dreamy!

We made another stop at Tawse with good intentions to enjoy the Discovery Pass, but we needed a break from wine sipping (imagine that). Instead, we took a tour of the facilities and had a very informative conversation with Julie, one of the friendly Tawse staff. I’d like to go back to Tawse in the spring/summer to explore a bit more. The cave-like setting was charming, and it certainly reminded me of French wineries. Tawse is also interesting because it’s an organic and biodynamic winery – apparently it’s a place where chickens roam. I must learn more!

So after these stops in the area of Vineland, we headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a hearty lunch before our next tour.

Our first stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake – and last of the day – was at Strewn Winery. The event was organized so that while guests stood at large tables in the cooking school area, they were served icewine paired with a chocolate ganache tart.

I honestly thought that visiting 8 wineries in one day would be doable. In fact, it isn’t. We spent almost an hour at each winery – sipping, eating, chatting, touring – and if you add in travel time, the day just flies! Plus, who can actually keep track of time when you’re in wine country surrounded by beautiful vineyards? If you’re planning a trip and would like to maximize your Discovery Pass, I highly recommend you stay overnight in the region.

On Day 2, we began in Niagara-on-the-lake at Reif Estate Winery (Reif is pronounced Rye-f). This easily became one of my favourite spots on the tour. The Discovery Pass had us enjoying icewine paired with porchetta. The pig wasn’t happy, but I sure was! The setting was old-world, and I learned that Reif is one of the oldest winery in Niagara. After visiting some of the younger (less than 10 years old) wineries, it was nice to see a place with a longer history.

From Reif, we drove down the road to Konzelmann. This is another winery with a longer history and German heritage. The staff was, once again, informative and welcoming. We learned about the family traditions, the building’s construction, and some of the plans for the future. The retail shop has bottles at various price points.

Stop number 7 (were you counting?) was Sue-Ann Staff Winery in Jordan. This smaller winery is run by a passionate owner and team. Here, our icewine was paired with a sweet potato crème brulée. Yes, I said sweet potato!

To wrap up the Niagara Icewine Festival adventure, we visited Redstone Winery (by mistake, actually) to enjoy a chocolate-infused chili with our icewine. Redstone is owned by the Tawse family, but the feel of the winery is quite different. While Tawse is old-world and cave-like, Redstone is industrial and bright. The building is absolutely stunning, and we learned that it has won awards in the architectural world (I didn’t take any photos of it, unfortunately!). While we couldn’t see the views from the restaurant on account of the fog, I imagine that this would be a spectacular place in the spring/summer.  I’d love to make a return trip here, too. (Are you sensing a pattern?)

As someone who had never been to the icewine festival, or Niagara wineries in general, the Discovery Pass was an ideal option for casual exploration. The winery listings is large, so there’s something for everyone. The pass is also a nice way to spread out your visits during the month of January if you live in – or close to – the region, since the 8 visits are not confined to one weekend of the festival. What I enjoyed about the tour is the variety of wineries that I got to visit as well as the stories and buildings to go with the incredible scenery. The people I met are certainly passionate about what they do!

The Niagara region is approximately a 1.5-hour drive from Waterloo. The drive is easy and pleasant, and it doesn’t include a 401 traffic jam in Milton (great news, right?). There’s one more weekend to go for this year’s Niagara Icewine Festival. Let me know if you have any questions if you’re planning a trip.

Thanks to K.H. at the Niagara Icewine Festival for arranging my Discovery Passes. All opinions, thoughts, and photos are my own.

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Waterloo Region: Doon Heritage Village

Last weekend, Rox-Anne and I took a trip to Doon Heritage Village at the Waterloo Region Museum. Just a few weeks earlier, I had gone to the Museum, but the Village was closed, so we didn’t have a chance to take a tour. On this visit though, the Village was all decked out for its Country Christmas event, so it was a festive and cheery way to spend a couple of hours.

Doon Heritage Village is a “60-acre living history village that shows visitors what life was like in Waterloo Region in the year 1914.” I was impressed by the knowledgeable staff who provided us with information about food, tradition, family living, and marketplace routines as we moved through each of the buildings in the Village.

There was a lot of natural wood in the homes and merchant shops in the village, but I spotted quite a bit of white, too (as per usual…I’m always on the lookout!).

some tools by the fire in one of the home’s kitchens

wood and wood and more wood in a home’s basement storage area

saddles in the leather shop

white and wood in the leather shop

saddle supplies in the leather shop

pretty wreath on the church door

simplicity in the church

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a glimpse of the loom in the rug weavery

a home dressed for Christmas

food storage in a home’s basement

I love this image of Father Christmas waiting to greet guests, and I’m going to be on the lookout for a wall match strike like this one.

Rox-Anne will be sharing more photos on Celebrating This Life this week, so be sure to check in if you’d like to learn more.Save

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Beauty: The Langdon Hall Spa

Months and months ago, I was invited to the unveiling of the new Langdon Hall Spa. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all the photos I took of the gorgeous space (oh, those walnut floors!), so I didn’t share it here. I did, however, create a hotel to home post featuring the spa’s marbled bathroom.

When I was invited back to Langdon Hall a couple of weekends ago for a ridiculously memorable dinner (more on that soon), I opted to begin my stay at the spa. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get pampered (as if the dinner and overnight wasn’t enough, right?) and experience the spa as a guest.

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I’m so predictable. No mistaking which locker is mine!

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Surely, I’m not the only one who loves a good embroidered bathrobe!

I arrived about an hour before my pedicure appointment as I thought it would be a good opportunity to enjoy the whirlpool, steam room, and sauna before my appointment. Good idea, I say! This gave me just enough time to get changed, relax, read a couple of magazines, and then enjoy a tea and treat in the lounge. If you go for a service, I would definitely recommend allotting some time to enjoy the water area. It was definitely relaxing and got me in the slow-spa-mood. You know what I mean? Forced relaxation…that’s what this gal needs!

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Spa guests are welcome to enjoy the whirlpool, sauna, and steam room before or after their services.

The spa is beautifully designed. The colours are calming, the decor is traditional yet current, and the furniture is extremely comfortable. I did not want to leave the chaise in the lounge, and I’m pretty sure another guest had fallen asleep on hers. Total relaxation!

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enjoying my tea and a magazine – covered in a light blanket!

I had a pedicure on this visit, and I was very pleased with the service and result. The Langdon Hall Spa uses only the best products (hello Valmont!), and the scrub, cream, and polish were all from SpaRitual – a vegan organic product line (The company has been around for just over a decade, but I first learned about it at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota this past summer).

Many of the products are also available in the spa shop. I think I need to go back to pick up the SpaRitual protein nail polish (I can’t remember its exact name.) Apparently, it would be good for my nails, especially during the winter months.

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a glimpse at the spa shop

Would I go again? You bet I would! I might try a massage at some point soon – I’ve never had one, but I’m thinking that it would be a great way to relax after my hectic school term ends.

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See you soon, Langdon Hall! You know it’s impossible for me to stay away!

Note: I don’t usually apologize for iPhone photos, but these look unusually blurry, don’t they. Any tips? Perhaps my iPhone went into relaxation mode at the spa, too!

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Travel: Review of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Florida

At the end of July, my friend and I headed on down to Florida for our annual girls’ trip. We’ve been at it for 5 years or so already, and each year, we’ve managed to schedule a vacation-in-a-vacation while we’re away. One year, we went to Chicago; another year, we went to Miami. You get the idea.

This year, we didn’t want to go very far from where we stayed in Madeira Beach, but we were interested in exploring another part of the state. We had heard good things about Sarasota from several people (I’m looking at you Nick and Lana), and since it was only an hour or so away, we thought it might be a good option. And were we ever right!

Here’s the timeline of our vacation-in-a-vacation (scroll down for photos and more info):

Day 1:

8 am: Depart Madeira Beach
10 am: Arrive at the Ellenton Outlet Mall (vacations in Florida always involve shopping)
4 pm: Arrive Ritz-Carlton Sarasota
5 pm: Arrive at the Spa, meet Andrea and Tammy, have a wonderful time sipping champagne while getting manicures
6 pm (or so): Enjoy the spa’s healing waters (jacuzzi, sauna, steam room)
8 pm: Walk over to Selva Grill for a delicious fish meal
11 pm: Snooze on luxurious pillows and beds in our Ritz Sarasota suite

Day 2:

8 am: Order room service and eat breakfast on our balcony
10 am: Hop on the Ritz’s shuttle bus to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota Beach Club at Lido Beach (about a 5-10 minute ride)
10 am – 1 pm: Lounge by the pool, walk on the beach, reapply sunscreen a bajillion times
1 pm: Enjoy a poolside lunch
5 pm: Depart the Beach Club
6 pm: Say goodbye to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota
6:30 pm: Drive to Siesta Key for a short walk on the beach
8 pm: Depart Sarasota
9 pm: Arrive Madeira Beach

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota welcomed us warmly upon arrival, and we had absolutely nothing to worry about during our stay. From valet parking to check-in to restaurant reservations to info about the area – the staff knew how to look after us and answer all of our questions. It was so nice to not have to think about anything! (See some photos on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaGoesToTheRitz)

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a substantial building in the city of SarasotaWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-10

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the pool and marina view

Our suite was beautiful. Our room overlooked the pool, outdoor dining area, and the marina. The evening sunset was stunning (as most Florida beach sunsets are!). Our room had two comfortable queen beds, robes and slippers (loved ’em), a dining table, a balcony with another dining table, Asprey toiletries, and a pretty marble-clad bathroom.

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comfortable beds with soft linensWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-3

a small in-room dining areaWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-7

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a muted colour palette in the large bathroom

From the concierge, I learned that every detail of the decor was well thought-out. The artwork, rug, and accessories were chosen and designed with Sarasota’s history and surroundings in mind. The beach flavour played a large role, naturally, but so did the Ringling Brothers. The hotel, in fact, was bought and developed by a Ringling – of the Ringling Brother Circus.

In our short time in Sarasota, we only managed to have one meal at the hotel – breakfast ordered from room service. Our meal was delicious and very filling!

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french toast with caramelized bananas + a stack of pancakesWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-9

breakfast with a view – and the hotel robe makes an appearance

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“white cabanas” at the hotel pool

The shuttle service to the beach club was easy and convenient. There’s a shuttle stop in St. Armands Circle for those passengers who would like to explore some unique stores. And a few kilometres down the road is the Beach Club at Lido Beach. I could have spent days and days lounging at the club. The white towels were freshly laid out on our chaises by hotel staff, and throughout the day, they restocked our ice bucket and water supply (we drank so much water!), took our lunch order, and raised our umbrella when we needed more shade. I felt so spoiled!

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plush towels at the Beach Club

I mentioned in the itinerary portion of this post that we took advantage of some of the spa services during our time at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Specifically, my friend and I enjoyed manicures with two friendly technicians. After being pampered with scrubs, creams, and bright polish, we grabbed our complimentary champagne and headed into the spa’s healing waters. We soaked in the hot tub, and sweated in the sauna and steam room. Oh, it was heavenly!

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pre-spa treatment (and another robe appearance)White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-16

#iwokeuplikethis those nails! and the endless supply of branded water bottles! (oh, and a third appearance of the Ritz-Carlton robe!)White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-17

manicure, palm trees, and sunshine = bliss

There you have it, dear readers, a peek into our vacation-in-a-vacation at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Would you believe me if I said that I’m eager to return? Yeah, I thought so!

Note: Just before I went to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, I heard from my sister who had just returned from a family trip to the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds in Georgia. She let me know that their stay at the Ritz was top-of-the-top, and that the hotel staff treated them and their four kids (under the age of 7) so extremely well. They had a wonderful family vacation! Around the same time, I learned of the Bucket List Family’s YouTube channel, and they have said so many great things about the Ritz-Carlton hotels in which they’ve stayed (I’m looking at you, Ritz-Carlton Kyoto and Ritz-Carlton Tokyo). The Ritz-Carlton seems to treat every guest – including the youngens – with such kindness and respect. Even though I don’t have kids, I do  appreciate that this high end hotel chain offers kid-friendly food, amenities, and activities.

Many thanks to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota for sponsoring this post. Thanks, Stacey, for making our arrangements. All opinions are my own.

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Travel: Things to Do and See in Florence

Oh, Florence. With help from the Expedia.ca team, I was lucky enough to spend just about 5 days in Florence in June, and it was a very special visit. My dad and I had the most incredible tour guide (Ciao Ivo!), and my cousin (Ciao Roby!) joined us for a couple of days, too. The four of us had a grand ol’ time, and I’ve been eager to share the highlights with you. Here we go!

See and Do

1. San Miniato al Monte

On our first day in Florence, Ivo drove us up to San Miniato al Monte. The church is an architectural masterpiece with carved stone floors, carved walls, intricate ceilings, and marble inlay everything. It’s beautiful.

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San Miniato al Monte

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Dad and il famoso Ivo – and Florence in the background

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the magnificent carved stone floorSan-Miniato-al-Monte-Florence-3

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always look up – the ceiling work was crazy good

Visitors can certainly walk (hike up to) the church, but going in the car was much easier on our feet and legs.

Outside the church, we saw the most beautiful magnolia trees and incredibly fragrant jasmine. Oh, readers, it was amazing!

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2. The Uffizi

The Uffizi Gallery in the centre of Florence houses some incredible art. It holds the largest collection of Italian masterpieces (someone correct me if I’m wrong, please). And some of the art you won’t see anywhere else in the world. The museum is home to pieces by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and da Vinci (basically all the Ninja Turtles…and then some!).

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Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Franceschi

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The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

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always look up – a gilded ceiling

If you decide to go, you may want to reserve your ticket in advance (easy to do in person) so that you can skip the long lines. Doing so will only cost you a few more Euros than the admission price.

3. Ponte Vecchio

It’s worth going to the Ponte Vecchio because (a) how could you miss it, (b) it’s one cool bridge, (c) the views of and from the bridge are pretty amazing. I, however, could avoid going here on future visits. It’s absolutely crowded with tourists, the shops of gold have very few customers in them, and it’s really just a place of chaos. It’s not for me.

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4. The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella

The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is a short walk away from the main crowded tourist areas, and it’s housed in an absolutely gorgeous building. You wouldn’t really know this from the outside, but once you’re in, you’ll notice beautiful tile work, grand ceilings, and artfully displayed pharmacy products in glass cases. It’s also a shop, so if you’re looking for beautiful soaps and toiletries, this is your place.

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always look up – a painted ceiling and a gorgeous chandelier

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classic apothecary

5. Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Florence is the home of great fashion houses like Gucci and Ferragamo. And these two fashion houses each have a museum. I went to the Museo Ferragamo one day because I needed a break from the crowds and heat, and it was a small, approachable museum. Inside, I found gorgeous shoes, dresses, and artwork. Yes. It was worth a visit.

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6. Pitti Uomo

Okay. Even though Pitti Uomo invaded Florence while I was there, driving hotel prices up, up, and then even farther up (see my rant below), it was absolutely wonderful and inspiring to be in Florence during the expo. Buyers, designers, and the fashionable folk were in full force, and for us onlookers, it was a feast for our fashion senses! I have never seen so many beautifully dressed men. The suits, the colours, the shoes, the attitude…wow, wow, wow! Totally dandy!

Oh – and just about every store on Via De’Tornabuoni was having a party. Some were open to the public, so my cousin and I obviously stopped in and had a toast with the fashion set of Florence!

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7. Richard Ginori Shop

I was excited to see the Richard Ginori flagship. Richard Ginori is a well-known Italian porcelain brand that has recently been acquired by Gucci. The designs of these hand-painted fine china pieces are just incredible. Even if you don’t appreciate fine china, it’s worth a visit to the store. Both the building and the product displays are aesthetically stunning. Go.

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I happened to go on a day where one of the Ginori artists, Elisa Verniani, was painting away by the entry. I was mesmerized by the delicate movement of her paintbrush. She was also very pleasant and friendly and answered about a bajillion questions. (p.s. shout out also the kind couple who joined our chat and complimented me on my Italian. Grazie!)

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Ginori artist Elisa Verniani at work white-Cabana-Florence-5

the finished product (it takes about two weeks to complete)

8. Il Duomo

Il Duomo is yet another Florence landmark. It’s a stunning building, and no amount of photos can actually evoke the feeling you get when you’re near it, walking around it, touring inside of it. It’s magnificent.

We learned that there is an entrance fee to the Basillico. We managed to avoid the fee by working our Italian connection (long story for another day).

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I got my cousin jumping (blurry but fun!)

Stay

Florence is constantly busy with tourists, conferences, and events, but I think I booked my trip during the absolute busiest time of the year. You see, Pitti Uomo (the men’s fashion expo) was in town while I was there and the city was invaded by 30,000+ extra people. OMG. I had my first taste of the busyness when I was booking my hotel. Prices had sky-rocketed, and it was impossible (truly!) to get a hotel for less than $300.

Originally, I had booked an apartment via Expedia.ca, and I was so happy with this option because of my longer stay in the city. About a month or so before I left Canada, however, the apartment person contacted me and told me it was double booked for part of my stay, so although the lady offered an alternative stay for 2 nights, this was going to be rather inconvenient, so I opted to use Expedia.ca’s cancellation policy and start a new booking.

So, back to the drawing board. There were slim pickings in terms of hotel rooms and apartment options a month before Pitti Uomo (and my vacation), so I opted for the Hotel Curtatone near Santa Maria Novella, which is about a 15 minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio. The nightly rate was $300+ during the week I was there (it’s around $150-$200 during non-Pitti Uomo days). It’s clean, but I wouldn’t stay there again.

It’s noted as a 3-star hotel, but it was miles behind the  3-star hotels I stayed at in Rimini and Bologna. The air conditioning didn’t work on the first night and we received some bu**s*** story about it. (This is when it really helps to know the local language so as to not be taken advantage of.) The room was clean, but not spectacular. The balcony in the second room I had (yes, I switched rooms during my stay) was definitely a nice addition. The breakfast was mediocre (as in, there was no Nutella and the croissants and toast bread wasn’t great; the yogurt was fine though). I did like the location as it was away from the main touristy areas, and after days of touring in noisy crowds, it was nice to sleep in a quiet area. Final point – I would not stay at this hotel again.

So where would I stay? If I stayed in the centre of Florence again, I’d stay at the Hotel Lungarno. It’s white and beautiful. It’s right in the middle of the action and has gorgeous views of the river and Ponte Vecchio.

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Likely, though, I’d completely avoid the centre of the Florence at this time of year. I’d get completely out of the city and stay in a neighbouring small town like Fiesole. I would take the bus to Florence (or have a rental car), and experience the quieter side of the region.

Eat

Food in Florence, like elsewhere in Italy, is reasonably priced, and, really, you just can’t beat Italian food. I didn’t have one bad meal in my two weeks in the country. Not even a bad snack. Everything was just so yummy! Here are two of my foodie recommendations for you.

1. Venchi gelato

If you’re in Florence (or anywhere in Italy) during the warmer months, I challenge you to go even one day without eating gelato. It’s the best snack/treat/meal to eat while touring towns/cities/villages. The. Best. I miss it a lot. It’s also acceptable to eat gelato twice a day. Just as an FYI.

One of the popular gelaterias that began in Florence is Venchi. It’s a chocolate lovers’ heaven. The gelato is excellent, and I should know as I made several visits during my stay.

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And don’t worry if you can’t make it to Venchi, just eat gelato from whatever place inspires you. And try as many flavours as you possibly can because once you leave Italy, you won’t find the same gelato elsewhere.

2. All’Antico Venaio

This hole-in-the-wall panini place – All’Antico Venaio – is bustling. There’s always a line-up, the food is ridiculously fresh and delicious, and the street is lined with people sitting on the edge of the road eating paninis. Talk about un casino. There’s an All’Antico Venaio on either side of the street. One of them is a sit-down place, but I liked the hustle and bustle of the take-out only counter.

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my panini with a view of the osteria (sit-down) side of All’Antico Vinaio

So, there you have it, dear readers, a glimpse into my trip to Florence. Have you been? Would you go back?

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA.

Other posts in this series: Booking with Expedia.ca, 5 Tips for Traveling with a Parent, Things to do in Rimini, Italy, Stay and Play in Bologna, Italy, Things that Amuse Me about Italy

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Travel: Things that Amuse Me About Italy

By now, you may have caught up on my stories from my trip to Italy in June (already almost two months ago!). If not, go ahead and click on the following links to catch up on my father-daughter trip (made possible by the folks over at Expedia.ca):

Italy – as you perhaps can tell from my stories – is all about la dolce vita. The people are my people. The food is my food. The way people enjoy each other’s company (with food, of course) works for me. I love so many things about the Italian culture (of which I was born into – lucky me!) and I hope you have – or will be able to – travel to Italy so you can experience it for yourself.

I have plenty to share today. In this post (part I for today), I want to highlight some of the things I love about Italy/my observations/things that amuse me. Later today, I’ll publish a post focused on my time in Florence.

Ready? Let’s go!

The Italian language…

My Italian is decent. I can get whatever I need, ask questions, and I can now even throw in a bit of sarcasm or jokes into conversation. I may not speak rapidly or using perfectly formed sentences, but I can certainly communicate. This isn’t to say that it isn’t hard. It is. I rarely practice Italian when I’m in Canada, unfortunately, so when I’m in Italy, I struggle with words and verb tenses. Luckily, the Italians were very kind and they told me that I’m brava. Grazie!

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a quick stop at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of Pisa

Given my language learning and teaching background, I can easily get fixated on words, pronunciation, and expressions when others might overlook these things or find them uninteresting. So, there are plenty of words that I absolutely love to say and hear; some of these are…

chiacchierare

This means “to chit chat.” I love how this word sounds. It sort of sounds like kia-kia-ra-reh (with rolled “r”s). It’s been one of my favourite words for many years now, I have to say. When I saw these five ladies huddled on a bench in Rimini, this is the word that came to my mind. There they were, enjoying the day, gossiping, chatting, and watching the world go by. Awesome.

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asciugamano

When I was at the beach, I could not remember the word for towel at all. I used the English and French versions before the kind beach cabana man responded to me with “si, si, un’asciugamano”. I was like, of course! I love how this word sounds. For one simple item (a towel), this word has five syllables. It sort of sounds like ah-shoo-ga-man-oh.

casino

This is perhaps my most favourite word of the whole Italian language. “Era un casino” sort of means “it was chaotic,” but casino is a much more enjoyable word, in my opinion, than chaos. While the word seems simple when you say it/spell it/hear it/write it (it is pronounced like ka-scene-oh), the word is a powerful one! It can be used for so many things…traffic, congestion on the sidewalk, disorganized supermarket shelves, bikes and pedestrians sharing a path, confusion over a restaurant reservation…there are countless uses, and when no other word comes to mind to describe a frenetic situation, you can just use casino.

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parking areas for bikes, scooters, and cars can definitely become a casino!

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the Piazza della Signoria in Florence is definitely a casino for the majority of the day

meraviglioso

I think I like this word mostly because of how it looks when it’s written out. I love that dip of the lowercase “g”. Honestly, this is how geeky I am when it comes to language. Not only do I think about the meaning, and the sound of the word, but I also judge a word by its look. Seriously. True story. #crazyforlanguages

So this word means wonderful, but it is so much more beautiful than the word wonderful. It is pronounced like mare-a-vi(g)-li-o-so. Try it. Like it?

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the carved floor at San Miniato al Monte in Florence was meraviglioso!

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the Leaning Tower of Pisa is also meraviglioso!

So not to hog this post with everything language-related, I’m offering up some other observations…

driving

Thank goodness I’ve been in cars with attentive Italian drivers. While there are rules of the road in Italy, sometimes I feel like they’re optional. Stay in your lane or don’t. Signal or don’t. Stop at a red light or don’t. Like I said, optional. Speed bumps don’t seem to be of much use. Unless maybe you’re on a scooter and you don’t feel like jumping out of your seat…then, maybe, you’ll slow down at the speed bump. Watching people manaover la rotonda (the roundabout) is fascinating. I don’t know why people in Waterloo have such a tough time with them. The Italians have them under control. No stopping, just go, go, go!

children

I’m not judging parenting styles here, I’m just sharing with you what I’ve observed (generally). In Rimini (a beach town), kids were out and about with their parents until past 10pm and 11pm. No. Big. Deal. They weren’t screaming or cranky, they were just there. Hanging out with their parents and friends. Playing. Chatting. Riding bikes. I know many of them were on vacation, and we were at the beach, but I was still surprised to see how engaged they were with beach life. And they weren’t being bribed with gelato or toys as far as I could tell. (I seem to be more sensitive to children’s behaviour/parenting styles since I began working at a university. I’m always surprised by the number of parents who come in with – and do the talking on behalf of – their adult children. I’ve even heard of some who want to go to orientation days with their children.)

Children in Italy are more than welcome at restaurants. Young Italian children that I’ve known (or observed) know how to use forks and knives properly, and they just do as the adults do. They may be eating pizza while their parents work on a three-course meal, but they’re doing so politely, calmly, and without (an apparent) fuss (I know it’s not all roses, but I was always surprised to see how children – and their parents – comported themselves at the dining table).

Italian children seem to ride bicycles from an early age (as in two-wheelers, without head-to-toe padded protection as I’ve observed where I live). They’re in the street. They’re in the bike lanes. They’re riding alongside their parents and friends. Many don’t wear helmets. These kids would just go-go-go without hesitation. They navigated the bike lane and road crossings impressively. It’s just the way things are done (okay, maybe moreso in Rimini than in the centre of Florence, but you get the idea, right?). Cars and pedestrians are aware of cyclists, but it was still surprising to see everything in motion on the shared roads.

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a beautiful white bike (notice the kid seat at the handle bars) in Lucca, Italy

Check back later today for my recap of things to see and do in Florence.

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA.

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Travel: Laughing Around Pisa, Italy

While in Italy with Expedia.ca last month, Ivo (my dad’s friend from Florence) took us to Pisa one the day. I hadn’t ever been to Pisa, so I was looking forward to seeing the tower (of course) and the town. Of course, it was wonderful to have Ivo as our tour guide while we were in Italy. It was convenient that he was the driver (driving in/out is much more chaotic than it is in North America!), but Expedia.ca also offers car rental options (in fact, I used Expedia.ca to book my current car rental in Florida – it has competitive pricing!).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was smaller than I had thought. It’s absolutely white and beautiful and incredible. The columns that surround the tower are perfectly aligned, and the tower has been cleaned in recent years. I stared at it for so long trying to imagine how a building that leans so much remains standing. I know it’s been reinforced and all that, but it seriously leans! A lot! It’s crazy!

There were an incredible number of tourists in Pisa – surrounding the tower, the basilica and filing through the outdoor market.

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You may have seen a bunch of photos of people posing with the Leaning Tower of Pisa to create the illusion of holding it, learning on it, or picking it up, right (if not, see this). I thought I’d give it a try, too, but things didn’t quite work out the way that they were supposed to. First, I had to try to explain to dad the whole photo illusion concept because he hadn’t seen them created before, and then when that wasn’t working out, I passed the camera over to Ivo and reexplained everything in Italian. While I may not have ended up with one of those classic amusing photos, I did end up with a really full blooper reel. Want to laugh? Keep scrolling.

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Yup. Not. Even. Close. Sometimes, White Cabana (and Dad and Ivo) just does things differently…

Hope I made you laugh today!

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA. Stay tuned for a couple more Italian posts in the weeks ahead.

Other posts in this series: Booking with Expedia.ca, 5 Tips for Traveling with a Parent, Things to do in Rimini, Italy, Stay and Play in Bologna, Italy

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Travel: What To Pack for a Beach Vacation

I’m currently vacationing in sunny Florida! It’s super hot in Florida at the moment, and my friend Shannon and I have agreed that we should stick to a grueling schedule of beach-pool-beach-pool with some meals in between. Tough, yes. That’s how we roll when we’re in Florida! Of course, though, there’ll be days and nights of shopping trips, and we’re looking forward to a trip-within-a-trip to Sarasota. Oh – and we’ll be seeing two concerts while we’re here – Gwen Stefani and the Dave Matthews Band. Very cool. Good times ahead!

I’m a decent packer, and I generally have a good sense of what outfits I may need while I’m on vacation. That said, I sometimes pack more than I need and I don’t like lugging around useless weight. For this vacation, I wanted to pack light – absurdly light – because (a) I don’t wear much more than bathing suits while I’m here, (b) it’s too hot to wear more than a bathing suit, and (c) I’m hoping for a few sales which means I’ll be returning with a heavier luggage on my way home. I’m so good at supporting the American economy when I’m in Florida that I should really get a prize.

I’m (almost) ready to challenge myself to stick to a very strict colour scheme this trip. I’m starting with two navy/white bikinis that I picked up in Copenhagen last month from H&M. Most of my packing for this trip revolved around navy/white (quite a departure from the usual black and white, I know). Here’s what I considered (and just about ended up following through on) packing for this vacation (very similar items, not necessarily the exact items).

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sunglasses, sun hat, watch, dress, bikini, kaftan coverup, flip flops, white tee, white denim shorts, purse, navy shorts, dress, tank top, striped bikini, sneakers, sweatshirt, pajamas, sandals, sports bra, sports tank, running shoes, running skirt

What do you think? Could you spend two weeks in Florida with these 22 pieces?

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Travel: Stay and Play in Bologna, Italy

After Rimini, I traveled solo to Bologna. Dad and I split ways here for a few days as I wanted to explore Bologna, and he was off enjoying la dolce vita in Florence with friends. Thanks to Expedia.ca for making this leg of my trip possible!

One of the first items on my agenda when I got to Bologna was to eat a delicious pasta bolognese. As I mentioned in my last post, each region in Italy is known for certain specialties, and Bologna is known for pasta bolognese. It’s also known for tortellini, prosciutto, and mortadella. In fact, Bologna has so many delicious foods that it’s known as La Grassa (The Fat One). Great, right?

So, as I was saying, my first main meal in Bologna was a pasta bolognese dish at the well-known Pappagallo (it means parrot) near il torre (the tower). I was very pleased with my meal. I ate calmly, people watched, and enjoyed a glass of wine on the outdoor patio. Dad wasn’t the only one who was enjoying la dolce vita!

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Besides the pasta bolognese, I enjoyed numerous gelati (plural of gelato). The gelato at the famous Cremeria Funivia was definitely one for the record books. Oh, jeez, was it every good!

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a gelato selfie

I also stopped into Caffè Zanarini one afternoon for a pizzetta and spremuta (juice). The outdoor dining set-up in the square was beautiful. Service was average. This was one of the few (or maybe even the only) places I visited where even though I spoke Italian, the servers responded in English only. They must be used to tourists.

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afternoon snack at Zanarini

A definite must-see (and must-eat) is Majani chocolates. The shop on Via de Carbonesi is charming with beautiful carrara marble countertops and dark wood shelves. The chocolate is superb. It should be considering the Majani chocolatiers have been in business for 200 years. I brought some chocolate back to Canada with me, and I’m just enjoying the last few pieces this week. The sales lady behind the counter was extremely kind and generous with her time. We had a great chat about Bologna, about my travel itinerary, about blogging, about the success of Majani, and, yes, about chocolate, too. She was also very kind to offer suggestions as to what I should see during my stay. One of her suggestions was the walk up to San Luca (see below). I did it, then went back to Majani to speak with her about it (and buy more chocolate). Like I said, she was so very kind.

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Do I still have your attention? Can I share a bit more food with you before moving on to other Bologna faves? Okay, great.

So, just off the Piazza Maggiore (main square) are a bunch of narrow streets that are open in the mornings for market time. Here’s when people can stock up on fresh fish, produce, fruit, and meats. The buzz around these streets (the area is known as the Quadrilatero) was awesome.

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Now that I have filled your stomachs with (virtual) Italian food, I’d like to show you some of the other highlights of my Bologna trip.

One of the reasons why I absolutely loved Bologna was because of its architecture. Bologna is a city of i portici (porticoes, vaulted walkways, arches, archways). It was a brilliant place to be because the sidewalks under the portici were wide, and some of the ceilings of the portici were beautifully painted. When it rains, there’s no need for an umbrella because you get anywhere in the city centre via these covered sidewalks. Just gorgeous.

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As you can see in this photo, Bologna is a pink city. Many of the walls of the buildings are in shades of rose, and even the rooftops are pretty shades of pink.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the University of Bologna. If you’re a long-time reader, then you already know that I’m passionate about education and I teach at a university. The University of Bologna is an extra special place because it was the first university and it’s the oldest in the world. It was founded in 1088. 1088! Pretty remarkable, eh? I was so happy to walk the grounds, visit the buildings, and see what the students were up to. I was amused by all the photocopy shops around the university, and of course there were several cafĂ©s to stop in for an espresso (I stopped in here.).

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Other things that I saw in Bologna were the Basilica in Piazza Maggiore:

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and le due torre (the two towers) in the city centre. I climbed the nearly 500 steps to the top for this view.White-Cabana-due torre-bologna

The last thing I’d like to share with you about Bologna is San Luca – or the Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. The trek to San Luca (walking under 600 portici!) was recommended by the lady I met at Majani chocolates. Of course, many websites and guides also recommend it, but it was the conversation that I had with the lady that pushed me to go for it. While you can walk from the historic centre all the way to the beginning of the path to San Luca, I’d recommend taking the city bus #20 to Villa Spada and then walk the 2km to the Basilica (note: you can buy bus tickets on the bus or at the tabacchi). Just look at the view from the top! (and all that marble!).

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Oh, I almost forgot to tell you where I stayed! I stayed at the Zanhotel Regina on via della Indipendenza in the historic centre (about $100CAD/night during my stay in June). The hotel is a 3 star hotel, but remember what I said about the hotel star rating system in Italy? The location was good, the bed was comfortable, the breakfast was decent, the people were very nice, but the bathroom was small and the decor was dated. The hotel, luckily, had WiFi and air conditioning, and I put both to good use! The hotel is close enough, but far enough, from the train station, and it’s only a short, enjoyable walk to Piazza Maggiore along via Indipendenza, a main shopping street. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d likely stay at the Grand Hotel GiĂ  Majestic (about $400/night in June).

Booking the Zanhotel Regina with Expedia.ca was straightforward and easy. After a few clicks, I had a place to stay! And while I’m talking about booking, I have to say that when I planned this trip, I purposefully booked hotels that offered free cancellation (without penalty). This was really important as I wanted my itinerary to be somewhat flexible in case other things came up during my trip. The free cancellation policy is top notch! Hotel prices in Italy vary greatly depending on the time of year, location, and local events, so I also recommend using the Scratchpad feature on Expedia.ca. With this feature, you can keep track of potential bookings and price changes.

So there you have it – a few items of interest in Bologna, Italy. Overall, the city impressed and surprised me. I would easily go back to Bologna…and not just for the pasta bolognese!

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA. Stay tuned for a couple more Italian posts in the weeks ahead.

Many many many thanks to Expedia.ca for sponsoring my trip. Grazie mille! All opinions are my own.

Other posts in this series: Booking with Expedia.ca, 5 Tips for Traveling with a Parent, Things to do in Rimini, Italy

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Travel: Things to Do in Rimini, Italy

While Dad and I flew into Bologna, we weren’t there for long.  After waiting for ages for our luggage, we met Dad’s friend (and now mine), Ivo, at the exit. I was exhausted, so I was happy that neither Dad nor I had to think about the next leg of our journey. Instead, Ivo shuffled us into his car and drove us all to Rimini, a beach town on the Adriatic coast about a 1 hour drive from Bologna (in Italy, when people talk about distance, they refer to the kilometers rather than the time. Rimini is approximately 120km from Bologna.)

Rimini was our first stop on our #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA vacation as my Dad’s highschool reunion lunch (a mulit-hour feast!) happened on the Sunday. A weekend at an Italian beach? Nobody had to twist my arm to go.

For the movie buffs out there, you may have already heard of Rimini as it’s the hometown of film director Federico Fellini. There are nods to Fellini throughout the city, including renamed streets after Fellini films. Fellini, I learned, based characters, places, and images of Rimini throughout his hometown (even though many were shot entirely in Roman film studios). His movie 8 1/2, of which my hotel’s street was named, won an Oscar, too, and featured the gorgeous Grand Hotel (see below). I haven’t yet watched it, but it’s now on my must-watch list.

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Let me take you on a little tour of the Rimini that I experienced over a period of three days last month.

Places to Stay

After I booked my flight with Expedia.ca and I got a sense of my Dad’s itinerary, I started researching and booking hotels. As anyone who has used Expedia.ca knows, hotel searching and booking is simple and straightforward. Dad had narrowed down Rimini hotel options for me as Ivo gave him some recommendations. As such, I used the search tool to look up Rimini hotel options.

Because of location and insider recommendations, I booked the Villa Bianca – an affordable, clean, bright hotel, located right on the beach (and in English, the hotel is called White House….perfect for me, right?). On beach vacations, I would always recommend booking a hotel right on the beach. You’ll appreciate the proximity and views. Villa Bianca‘s location was perfect, and the outdoor seating areas were white-white-white!

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lots of white outside at Villa Bianca

Villa Bianca is a partner hotel with Villa Litoraneo. Apparently, the rooms in the Litoraneo are slightly larger than those in Villa Bianca, but the two hotels share the same breakfast, views, pool, and location. Both are  very reasonably priced, so you really couldn’t go wrong with either.

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Dad and I by the pool (which I never did dip into)

My room was very clean, and it had everything I needed, including a balcony (sorry – no photos – it was much too colourful!). I loved opening the balcony doors every morning to see what was going on in the beachy world around me. There was nothing particularly special about the room; the bed was comfortable, shower pressure was good, the TV worked, and wifi was easily accessible. The breakfast, though, was substantial and inviting.

Since I was working on a budget (still trying to get my money tree to produce actual money!), I tried to keep all of my hotels at or under $200 in every city I traveled to. If budget was not a consideration, however, I would definitely splurge for the Grand Hotel. Not only was it featured in Fellini’s 8 1/2 film, it was absolutely stunning – historic, white, grand, and all-around gorgeous.

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curves on the patio

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ceiling details at the Grand Hotel

Now, before moving on to food (drool, drool), let me take a moment to talk about the star rating system for hotels in Italy. In short, ignore them. The system is not as regulated/formal/consistent as it is in North America and there aren’t as many chain hotel companies as there are here. Sometimes a 2-star hotel is much better than a 3-star hotel. When searching for hotels, I would keep the stars in mind, but I wouldn’t recommend that you use them as a completely reliable source. The 3-star Villa Bianca in Rimini, for example, was miles ahead of the 3-star hotel I stayed in in Florence. What would I do? I’d look up reviews online from other travelers (North American and non-North American), bloggers, and travel sites, and look at the hotel’s website, too.

Places to Eat

I’m just about convinced that you can eat anywhere in Italy and be pleased with your meal. The food is just so delicious (not that I’m biased). While in Rimini, we had a few meals along the main beach-front street (via Lungomare), and everything was delicious. What I would recommend, though, if you’re in Rimini, is to eat fish. Lots and lots of fish.

As you may know, each region in Italy has its own specialties, and I’d recommend you try to eat the food of the region. Italians are very passionate about food (and everything, really), and they can spend days talking about the quality of the food at the market/restaurant/region. If you can, ask locals (or watch locals) what they’d recommend.

One of the most delicious pastas I had while I was in Italy was pasta alla vongole (pasta with clams) in Rimini. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was one of the average restaurants on the main street. It was so yummy!

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bibs for adults? yes, please

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Dad and Ivo give the thumbs up for their lunch choices (Ciao, Ivo!)

The highschool reunion lunch happened at the most scenic restaurant – Rock Island. This place is the only place in Rimini that is on the water. Literally, on the water. You have to walk on a pedestrian-only pier to get to it, and once there, the views are beautiful. I’m not sure if the meals they serve are always so extravagant, but ours was! Fish after fish after fish – all served family style. Loved it.

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antipasti freddi (cold appetizers – salmon, seafood salad, squid)White-Cabana-Rimini-3 (1)

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semifreddo mandole (almond ice cream)

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the view at Rock Island

In the town of Rimini (a short drive away from the beach), I’m sure there are a lot of great restaurants to try. Our in-town eating consisted of gelato, so I don’t have any restaurant recommendations for you. Can’t go wrong with that.

Another thing about eating out in Italy…When you’re in Italy, I would recommend adopting the Italian meal schedule. You’ll look like the odd-man-out if you eat a light lunch at noon and a big dinner at 5pm. I mean, this is okay, but if you want to experience the Italian way, you should make some adjustments. Eat lunch at 1pm or 2pm and make it a good one. Have a couple of courses, drink a glass of wine, and enjoy the slow-paced afternoon. Maybe have a gelato between lunch and dinner. Dinner at 9pm is perfectly acceptable. You’d likely have something light like a caprese salad (tomato and mozzarella). Leaving the dinner table at 11pm is absolutely normal – especially when you’re on vacation!

Things to Do

The beach. You’re in Rimini. Go to the beach. There, that’s easy enough advice, isn’t it?

Honestly, the beach is the place to be. It is wide and long and clean. In June, there were a decent amount of people, but I’m sure that Rimini is jam-packed come July or August when Italians (and other European tourists) are on vacation.

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Generally, beach hotels have reserved sections of seating on the beach, so check with your hotel before venturing to the sand. You can, of course, just bring a towel and park yourself near the water, but the way that (most) Italians do it is that they rent a chaise and umbrella for the day (lettino e ombrellone). The Villa Bianca also offered a bit of a discount, and I’m sure other hotels do the same. My chaise was 4 or 5 euros. I’d recommend getting the umbrella, too, if you’re planning to spend a full day at the beach. It gets very hot, and the umbrella offers the perfect shade. The rental fee should also include a towel and locker room/shower access. Italians may be disorganized in some regards (e.g., driving), but they’ve got the beach thing completely under control. It’s a pretty seamless system. La dolce vita!

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When you need a break from the beach, take a walk along the via Lungomare (the waterfront street) and grab a gelato (recurring theme, can you tell?).

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Besides the beach zone, the town of Rimini is definitely worth a visit. The pedestrian, cobblestone streets are perfect for a passeggiata (a stroll), and there are plenty of shops and cafés to pop into.

There’s a ton of history in Rimini, and I learned all about it on a guided tour. Unfortunately, my memory is terrible, and I took zero notes, so you’re going to have to go take a tour yourself to learn all about the battles and buildings. Essentially, Rimini has served as a central communication point between other regions in Italy. If I understood correctly, Rimini was an important place in Italy’s history because it serves as a direct route to places like Rome and Bologna. That’s the summed up version of its history (terrible, I know!).

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Arco d’Augusto

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So this basically sums up my weekend in Rimini. Would I go back? Definitely!

Learn more about Rimini.

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA. Stay tuned for more Italian posts in the weeks ahead.

Grazie mille, Expedia.ca.

Note: all opinions are my own. Other posts in this series: Booking with Expedia.ca, 5 Tips for Traveling with a Parent

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The Friday Five: 5 Tips for Traveling with a Parent

There are a lot of travel tips out there – traveling with babies, kids, pets; traveling on a budget; traveling light; etc., but there are few articles addressing the topic of traveling with a parent.

Thanks to Expedia.ca, I was able to join my Dad on a trip to Italy last month. As you may remember, Dad was heading to Italy for a reunion with his highschool friends. He had done this for the first time last year after a 50-year separation. Fifty! Five-Zero! Can you believe it? His friend (who I’ll be introducing in a future post!) connected with him via Facebook a couple of years ago, and they’ve been in touch ever since.

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our first selfie of our Italian vacation (this selfie wouldn’t have happened if not for Expedia.ca!)

I thought I would share five tips for traveling with – ahem – an older parent just in case young(er) daughters and sons are giving this type of vacation some consideration.

Now, before I get into my five tips, I should admit a few things.

1. Dad is a seasoned traveler.

This most certainly helps the whole father-daughter (retiree-youngen) travel situation. The fact that Dad has been traveling around the world since he was a teen (he did come to Canada on his own when he was 19 after all) means that he’s very familiar with airports, taxis, train systems, and “other”ness.

2. Dad and I have traveled together.

I can’t even count how many trips we’ve taken just the two of us. Because we’ve traveled together, I have a good sense of Dad’s travel abilities. Knowing what he’s like when he travels or when he’s outside of his normal routines (retirees, I tell ya!) helps me stay calm and know when to push/not push limits. He also knows when to help me, when to organize things, and when to leave me alone.

3. Dad speaks Italian.

Going to Italy may be intimidating for some because of the language barrier, but this was not an issue for us as both Dad and I speak Italian. Because Dad and I both know Italian, communication in Italy wasn’t the responsibility of only one of us. Since each of us could communicate with locals, it meant that neither of us was acting as “translator”. I’ve held this gig before and it can get tiring for everyone.

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We’re just about to head to the airport. Dad with his luggage and me with wet hair. Perfect.

So, now that you know more about where Dada and I started, let me share five tips for traveling with (an older, but still active) parent. (Dad, I hope I’m not offending you with all of this age talk. Age is just a number after all, right? I know you’re reading this.)

1. Have a positive attitude.

There is a ton of info out there about how a positive attitude is key to just about everything. When it comes to traveling with a parent – or anyone, really – your attitude can make or break your vacation. Remember that you’re on vacation (hello, vacation!), and so really, nothing should get in the way of enjoying yourself.

Okay – another admission – Although I, like Dad, am a seasoned traveler, I’ve traveled quite a bit on my own. I love traveling on my own. I’ve gotten used to traveling on my own. While others are scared to travel on their own, I’m scared to travel with other people. True story. Anyone with me on this? Traveling with others  makes me a bit nervous because I don’t want to get in fights about what to see/do/eat, I want to see/do/eat what I want without having to consider others (I’m so selfish), and I want to sleep in/see a museum/eat gelato for dinner/go to bed early/stay up late when I want. Totally selfish. Independent. Strong-willed. Whatever you want to call me. That’s how I am. Friends and family who have (dared to) travel with me are well aware of my issues and know that I need my independence.

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Here we are at Pearson on the tapis roulant (moving sidewalk – what are these things called in English or French?). In between selfies, dad’s saying, “This is why you always drop your phone, Jordana.”

So how do I travel with my Dad when I’m such an independent bugger? Well, I try to stay positive:

  • I know in advance that Dad and I are not going to want to do all the same things at  the same time. And that’s okay. We’re still family. This doesn’t mean that we’re bad travel buddies.
  • I realize that this is a special vacation that I’m so lucky to be on and that some daughters never get to experience traveling with their fathers. This is a cool opportunity, and it’s going to be memorable for both of us.
  • I don’t need to stress about seeing everything. Italy will always be there. What we see is what we see.
  • I talk to Dad in advance of the trip of my itinerary ideas to see where his interests lie.
  • I think again about what an amazing adventure we’re on, and that we’re so lucky to be able to see the world together (thanks a million, Expedia.ca!)

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We made it from Toronto to Frankfurt. We look tired but happy. Dad’s saying, “Make sure you get the planes in the background, Jordana.” My response, “I’m half-asleep, Dad. I’ll do my best.”

2. Have faith.

Okay, this may sound rude, but I’m going to say it anyway. Just because your parent may be 30+ years older than you, it doesn’t mean that s/he is not capable.

I have faith in Dad’s abilities. I know he can pack and carry his own luggage, connect to wi-fi independently on his iPhone, ask for directions, navigate trains, book things online, and check-in to his flight via the airline’s automated check-in kiosk.

Dad’s very capable and if he needs help, he’ll ask. I am confident that if Dad needed me to do something for him, he’d ask. In general though, I keep my expectations high so that he doesn’t fall into the “my daughter organizes everything for me” trap. That’ll just make his brain lazy, right? (I hope noone is calling me out on being an ageist. I’m not an ageist. I’m a realist.)

So, I’d recommend that you have faith in your parent’s abilities to travel. S/he may not do things your way at your speed, but s/he has made it through a lot of life without you. Your parent can do this!

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We’re ready to board our Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Bologna, Italy. Dad’s saying, “Look at all the names printed on the side. Who are they?” My response, “Look here, Dad, for another selfie.”

3. Communicate and know limits.

Dad and I aren’t the most perfect communicators on the planet (wait until I share my Pisa photos with you!), but when it comes to traveling together, I think we’re pretty good at checking in with one another about status/sight seeing interests/fatigue levels/meal preferences/etc.

It’s good to be aware of when your parent may need an extra long coffee break or a mid-day nap, or when your parent can power through (when you might need a mid-day nap).

It’s also helpful to know your parent’s eating habits. Food is a major part of my life (and my family’s), but we all have our preferences. Knowing Dad’s limits when it comes to food type preferences, meal times, and eating out helps me organize my own meals and dining experiences. There’s no point trying to convince Dad to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant at 9pm when I know all he wants is a light meal at 6pm. You know?

While I do admit that my Dad is very capable, I’m aware of limits. When I’m too quick at airport security or walking too fast to catch a train, I know that he won’t keep up, so I slow down or I ask him if he wants help (he never said yes, now that I think about it). If we miss a train, we miss a train. Another one will come along. (Side note: We never missed a train. In Bologna, we hustled and made it with 30 seconds to spare. Go team!)

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Breakfast in Rimini, Italy. We’re both fans of Nutella. #truth

4. Be independent.

So Dad doesn’t want to eat dinner at 9pm at a fancy restaurant. No big deal. I’m happy to go on my own. I think having time away from one another is a healthy part of traveling with others. When each traveler has some independence, they get to explore what they want and take a break from talking (seriously. especially when you’re spending so much time talking in your 3rd language as in my case. it’s totally tiring.). Exploring a city independently means that you’ll have stories to share when you do catch up. And that’s so fun!

Dad and I had time apart during our Italian vacation, and I think this made us both happy. He’d get sick of me just as much as I’d get sick of him if we were to spend 24 hours a day together. When we met up in Florence after I spent three days in Bologna on my own, for example, I was able to share all of my stories and photos with him. And he was able to fill me in on what he’d been up to in Florence. I thought it was great.

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selfie at San Miniato al Monte in Florence, Italy

5. Know when to take the lead.

Even though you, like me, may be traveling with an independent, capable, and experienced parent, I think it’s useful to know when you should just forget about all of that stuff and take the lead. This could mean following the signs at the train station for both of your sake, asking for directions, or making final decisions about what restaurant to go to.

Taking the lead means you get to show your parent how capable you are, to reassure them that you’ve got things under control, and to give them a chance to rest or regroup. Taking the lead might force them to try something out of the ordinary. And if your parent wants to take the lead for a chunk of time, let them. Dad, for example, was in charge of booking all of our trains. Awesome. Worked for me.

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selfie with the leaning tower in Pisa, Italy

Bonus:

Make matching t-shirts to tell the world that you’re a team! It was absolutely hilarious to travel around Italy with our matching White Cabana t-shirts. I’m eager to make more professional ones for our next adventure…even if it is just to the grocery store.

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spending father’s day together in Codogno, Italy

Follow our father-daughter adventures in Italy on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA and Twitter at #WhiteCabanaxExpediaCA. Stay tuned for more Italian posts in the weeks ahead.

Many many many thanks to Expedia.ca for sponsoring my trip. Grazie mille! All opinions are my own.

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Hotel to Home: Bedroom at the Wythe Hotel

We haven’t been to Brooklyn yet in this series, have we? Let’s head on over to this hip city today, okay? The Wythe Hotel is a perfect spot for us to relax. Just check out this bedroom!

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queen room, Wythe Hotel

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bed frame, sheet set, sconce, wallpaper, vintage radio, chest of drawers,

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Travel: 10 More Things To Do in Copenhagen

As Copenhagen is a city rich with history, art, design, and culture, it was hard to write a list of just 10 things to do in Copenhagen, so I’ve created another list. Here are 10 more things to do in Copenhagen.

1. Eat a Smorrebrod

Smorrebrod is an open-faced sandwich, and it’s one of the famous foods of Denmark. I only had one during my stay (at Paper Island), and it was delicious (but not ridiculously filling). I like the concept of the open-faced sandwich because its focus is on the toppings, in my opinion, and the bread is just a bonus.

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2. Rent a bicycle (if you dare)

Copenhagen is jam-packed full of bikes. I loved it. I wish we had more of a cycling culture here in Kitchener-Waterloo. I am not a die-hard cyclist, but I do like the convenience and affordability of commuter cycling. Copenhagen is well-designed for cycling because of it’s car-sized bike lanes.

Renting a bicycle is easy enough to do (learn more about bike rentals), and hotels may even have options for you (WakeUp Borgergade does). I didn’t end up renting a bicycle during my vacation, but if I return to Copenhagen, I will. .

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3. Illums Bolighus

If you’re looking for a crash course in Danish design, visit the Illums Bolighus department store on the pedestrian shopping street in the city centre. If you time your trip right, you can land in Copenhagen during summer sales (this is what happened to me…my credit card worked hard!).

While I wanted just about everything at Illums Bolighus, I only walked away with the Stelton vacuum jug (in white, naturally) and a few gifts (all made in Denmark!). (My Stelton made it back to Waterloo in one piece, but when I washed it, I dropped the glass jug and it shattered. It was a very sad moment! Stelton – and Amazon – sell replacements, so not all is lost.)

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take too many photos at Illums Bolighus, so this is all you get!

While you’re in the shopping mood, pop into Hay, too. The architecture is lovely and the products are beautiful (although much of what I saw was made in China).

Side note: If you spend over 300DKK in a store (approx. $70CAD), then you’ll be able to receive the tax back (the Value Added Tax/VAT) at the airport. Ask shop clerks for assistance. It’s a straightforward process and worth doing if you’re keen on getting some money back post-vacation.

4. Visit Nimb, and see the peacocks, too.

When I arrived at Tivoli Gardens, I first stopped in at Nimb because I was debating having a meal. I was more interested in food than the amusement park, if I’m being honest. I arrived at an off time though, and since I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t end up eating at Nimb (but I’ve read that it’s delicious). Once I saw the place, I was amazed by the dramatic architecture. The white building certainly makes an impression!

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Beyond the building, Nimb is a playground for peacocks. I couldn’t believe it. I loved them!

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5. Relax on a dock by the canal.

The weather was beautiful when I was in Copenhagen, and although I spent the majority of every day outside, I was walking around a lot, and I was eager to see all sorts of sights. When I spent time by the canal, lying on the dock, on the afternoon of my last day, I had wished that I had done it more often. It was so relaxing, and I liked watching the boats. I’d recommend grabbing a picnic lunch and a drink, and bringing it here. People were swimming, too, so give that a try, too!

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6. Climb the ramp in The Round Tower.

I had such a pleasant visit to The Round Tower first thing one morning. The round tower is a 7-storey tall tower with a hollow centre. The tower has a circular ramp from bottom to top (with only a few stairs at the very top to get to the lookout point). I loved the brick floor and the white walls.

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7. Sit at a café (and stay warm with a blanket)

I strongly encourage Waterloo cafĂ©s and restaurants to adopt Copenhagen’s have-a-blanket-on-every-chair approach. It makes for such a cozy outdoor dining experience during the cooler nights (or days). It’s a brilliant idea, and it works!

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8. Watch the highschool graduates celebrate.

Copenhagen, compared to Italy, is a very quiet and calm city. With the small(er) number of cars, there’s definitely less noise pollution than in other major cities I have been to. The people aren’t waving their arms around widly discussing politics and food (as far as I could tell) like they were in Italy. People barely even jay-walked (from my observations). That said, on June 24th, the city’s highschool graduates caused a fuss! It was highly amusing. I loved it.

The highschool graduates dawn personalized caps and walk around town wearing them during the last weekend of school. On that same weekend, they pile into open-topped trucks, blast music, honk horns, and have a moving dance party. It was awesome to watch, and the students were having a great time.

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(This is proof that not every Dane is tall and blonde.)

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Can anyone help with this translation? All I know is tak = thanks. (Google translate was of little help.)

9. Look at all the statues of women.

After a couple of weeks in Italy surrounded by statues of David, Dante, and others, I was surprised to see so many female statues in Copenhagen. I haven’t had a moment to read about the history of the city/country, or to Google all the statues that I came across, so if anyone has any insight on this, do tell.

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10. And here are even more places to see in Copenhagen (that I didn’t actually get to!)

Looking for more ideas? See my first list 10 things to do in Copenhagen.

All photos by Jordana.

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Travel: 10 Things to Do in Copenhagen

Well, dear readers, I’m now into my second week back from a wonderful European vacation, and I’m getting a handle on my photo organization.

Thanks to Expedia.ca, I was able to spend almost two glorious weeks in the chaotic, passionate, delicious, sunny, and inspiring Italy! (A full recap on Italy in the weeks ahead, I promise.) After Italy, though, I decided to extend my stay in Europe by a few days. As I always like a good travel adventure, I booked an EasyJet flight from Milano Malpensa to Copenhagen, Denmark! It was a brilliant decision if I do say so myself.

I have much to share from Italy, naturally, but this week, I’m sharing my take on  Copenhagen. I have loads to report – hello, Copenhagen, design, design, design – but for today, I thought I’d start things off with 10 things that I did in Copenhagen that I would recommend (or do again).

10 Things To Do in Copenhagen

1. Stay near Kongens Have park in WakeUp Copenhagen (Borgergade location).

Booking a Copenhagen hotel in June (for around $200/night) was nearly impossible. I needed 4 nights in a hotel, and it seemed like everything in my price range was absolutely full. Hotels in Copenhagen were more expensive than I was expecting, and when I was planning my holiday, I was getting a bit discouraged when it came to the hotels (and my budget).

I ended up booking a stay with WakeUp Borgergade, and I’m quite happy with how things worked out. The “budget” hotel (just under $200 night including breakfast) was bright, modern, and the staff were friendly at check-in. While my room was small, it was very well designed, efficient, bright, and clean. I cannot get over the design of the bathroom and the use of frosted glass. The bed was very comfortable, and the duvets were fluffy. The room’s large windows expanded the space, and, although the large window opened, I appreciated the air conditioning.

On the downside, since the room was small, there was barely any room to store luggage, unpack clothes, or spread out toiletries. I made do, of course, but a closet would have been useful…especially for an extended stay (and luggage full of 2 weeks worth of clothing).

What I hadn’t realized when I booked the hotel was the convenient location. It was just perfect! The WakeUp Borgergade is in a clean, high-end part of town and close to shopping streets, Kongens Have park and Rosenborg Castle (so so lovely!), restaurants, Nyhavn (harbour), and more. When I walked down to Tivoli on my third day and saw some of the hotels I was originally considering, I realized that I wouldn’t have been as happy with the locations of these places. I really enjoyed being within minutes of the park.

Another major plus of the WakeUp Bordergade was the breakfast. It was full of plenty of healthy options like eggs, cheese, meats, yogurt, muesli…as well as less healthy options (i.e., my top pick) like Nutella! I noticed at least four or five fresh bread options each morning which really impressed me. In general, I enjoy the convenience of hotel breakfast packages. I dislike searching for food before my morning coffee when I’m traveling to a new city.

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2. Design Museum Danmark

At the top of my “to see” list in Copenhagen was the Design Museum. Thankfully, I really enjoyed visiting the Design Museum Danmark. It’s a medium-sized museum which meant that I wasn’t there all day long. It was a great place to be first thing in the morning before the crowds arrived.

After my visit to the museum, I walked to the Nyhavn area on Bredgade. There are furniture and antique shops all along Bredgade which made for great window shopping.

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3. The Little Mermaid

This sweet mermaid is always ready for a photoshoot. I walked by The Little Mermaid early one morning, and the area was already full of tourists. She is over 100 years old! She sits pretty on the water, and she doesn’t complain about being stared at by tourists.

She’s a 4′ tall bronze sculpture by Edvard Eriksen based on The Little Mermaid fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.

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4. The Amalienborg Palace

I loved the architecture of the four royal residence buildings. I watched the guards walk back and forth for a while…I was sort of mesmerized. That would not be a job for me, but I do wonder how many steps they get in per day. Do you think they reach the recommended 10K?

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5. Canal Tour

On the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Emmy!), I opted to take the Netto Badene canal tour. It cost 40DKK (about $9CAD) for about an hour tour. We saw a ton of things from the boat and learned a lot, too. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the history of what our tour guide told us. (Shame on me.) I do remember, however, going by the Royal Yacht. I didn’t see any royalty, but the crew was aboard working away!

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6. Paper Island

Paper island can be accessed by foot, but I opted to take public transportation in the form of a canal boat. Next time, I would probably want to rent a bike and take the long route around. Although, there is a pedestrian bridge that is due to be complete this summer, so you’d be on Paper Island from Nyhavn in just a few minutes.

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Go to Paper Island when you’re hungry because here’s where you can feast on diverse food. While many were going for burgers and Korean food, I opted for the traditional open-faced sandwich.

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After lunch, spend some time watching the world go by from a chair on the edge of Paper Island. When the sun is shining, this is a great place to be!

7. Street meat – hot dog with the works

Eating out in Copenhagen is expensive. Everything, really, is more expensive in Copenhagen than in Waterloo, if I’m honest. But the street meat stalls (hot dog stands) are reasonably priced and actually good. I’d definitely recommend picking up a dog-with-the-works. The stands are everywhere in the city (similar to the pretzel stands in Manhattan).

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8. Kongens Have

As I mentioned above, I really liked that my hotel was so close to Kongens Have park during my stay. It is beautifully maintained and manicured. Go for a morning walk or run around the park, so grab lunch to go and bring it here. It’s such a nice place to be.

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9. Tivoli

Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the city. This wasn’t on the top of my “to see” list, but I was so glad I made time for it on day 4. It was pretty magical and charming. I only walked around the park, but you could definitely buy tickets for rides, grab an ice cream, eat a meal, or a see a show.

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10. Norrebro

I read about Norrebro on the Design*Sponge Copenhagen City Guide, and I’m so glad I crossed the river to see it for myself. Norrebro has attitude, character, interest, and diversity. I liked it. The antique and design stores on Ravnsborggade and Elmegade were definitely highlights for me. Although I wasn’t hungry when I went to Norrebro, it looked like a great place to find more affordable meals.

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Stay tuned because later this week I’ll be sharing more from Copenhagen. As I discovered, there are definitely more than 10 things to do in this happy city!

All photos by Jordana.

p.s. Happy July 4th to all of my American readers!

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The Friday Five: 5 Things to Do in Kitchener-Waterloo This Long Weekend

Happy Canada Day! What goodness are you planning this weekend?

I’ve said it so many times here and in real life – I really enjoy living in Waterloo. This city – and region – has so much to offer, and I live such a happy, rich, and pleasant life here. Summer, of course, makes everything that much better, and this area has a lot of offer its residents and guests.

As we have just begun a long weekend here, I’m offering up five suggestions of things to do this weekend.

1. Go for a bike ride.

The Spur Line has recently opened up, and it’s a great way to take a ride to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. The trail is smooth, wide, flat, and lit, so it’s ideal for daytime or nighttime rides.

Alternatively, take a cruise down the classic Iron Horse trail to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. This was the first path I went on when I moved to Waterloo, and it’s still one of my faves. It’s great that it takes riders from uptown Waterloo (e.g., take a gelato break at Vincenzo’s) to downtown Kitchener’s Victoria Park in no time at all. The trail is smooth, flat, and surrounded by greenery.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventures, and are looking for more nature, then head over to Cambridge and ride to/from Cambridge to Paris along the Grand River. The ride is easy, but long (maybe 40+km). I suggest wearing padded shorts. 🙂

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Here I am riding my oldie-but-goodie bike down the Iron Horse trail in Waterloo. It’s such easy living!

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Here I am last summer on the Cambridge to Paris trail with the same oldie-but-goodie bike. I earned my lunch calories in Paris that day!

2. Stay cool at a public pool.

I grew up at public pools…first, as a youngster taking lessons, then, as a teen hanging out with friends, finally as a teenager/adult teaching swimming. I love having access to a pool, and luckily, there are few great ones in the region.

Moses Springer outdoor pool is large, clean, and definitely worth a visit.

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The lifeguard tower at Moses Springer.

3. Celebrate Canada Day with fireworks at Columbia Lake.

Although this will be my third summer in Waterloo, I have yet to enjoy Canada Day fireworks. Tonight, however, I’m hoping to head over to Columbia Lake to check out the action and colourful sky show.

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Canada Day Celebration – UofWaterloo Field Map

4. Try a new café.

My two current favourite cafĂ©s are the Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© in Belmont Village the Smile Tiger Coffee beside the Via Train Station. Both are accessible via bicycle, and both offer good coffee and atmosphere. The food at Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© is fresh and delicious, and I always find something good to eat. The egg salad is delicious, and the croissant sandwiches are good, too. Both cafĂ©s have outdoor patio space, so they’re great options for sunny days.

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The Berlin Bicycle Café

5. Take a drive into the countryside.

There are so many options for short road trips in the region.

  • Stay close and head to St. Jacob’s for a visit to the market.
  • Take a ride to Elora, pop into the sweet shops, and walk along the water.
  • Drive to Cambridge and pop into Monigram Roasters for a treat.
  • Drive over to Stratford and check out the first Balzac’s or grab a chocolate treat at RhĂ©o Thompson, then stroll around the lake.
  • Eat ice cream in any of the above towns!

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If you’re looking to learn more about what to do in the Waterloo region, please check out my Waterloo City Guide over on Design*Sponge.

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone!

Happy Canada Day!

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The Friday Five: Five Essentials to Pack in Your Carry-On

For as long as I can remember, summer has been my season to travel. It’s probably because I’ve been in school all of my life, I’ve been a elementary school teacher, and now I teach at a university. In my life, it’s always been a tad tricky to take time off during the September-June months. July/August has been much more convenient. And I’ve always tried to take advantage of the downtime to escape the city and regular life and have an adventurous or relaxing holiday.

This summer is full of travel for me, and I couldn’t be more happy. I feel so very fortunate to have such travel experiences, and a job that affords me to escape for a couple of weeks.

I’m ecstatic to be in Europe, touring Italy with my dad, then heading off to Copenhagen for a few days. I thought it was fitting, therefore, to share with you five of my essential items for my carry-on luggage.

1. Sleeping eye mask

I absolutely do not care how ridiculous I look when I wear my sleeping eye mask. It offers complete darkness and definitely helps me get to sleep in the ol’ economy class. I usually bring this mask with me, but I quite like the look and feel of a fancy silk one, too.

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Manito silk sleeping eye mask

2. Notebook

I don’t think I really go anywhere without a notebook. I’m always jotting down ideas (all kinds) and to do lists, and when I don’t have my notebook, I feel slightly out of sorts. A notebook is a must of the plane so that I can write down things I want to see/do, review my itinerary, etc.

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Moleskine notebook

3. Water

I never find that the flight attendants provide enough water for my flights, and I know it means more bathroom breaks, but I like to stay fully hydrated during my flight, so I always bring my own bottle and fill it up before I board.

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Kate Spade water bottle

4. Face and hand cream

I know some people mist their faces on a flight, but I tend to apply moisturizer to avoid the feeling of dryness. I don’t pay much attention to brands, I just need creams that come in carry-on friendly containers.

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L’Occitane hand cream

5. Socks

I rarely sleep with socks on, but on flights, I find they’re necessary. I take my shoes off as I get to my seat (on short or long flights), and I don’t like putting my bare feet on the airplane carpet, so socks are a must. I find them especially cozy on long flights when I’m trying to get in a decent sleep.

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Happy Socks

What are some of your must-haves for short and long flights?

Travel: What I Did in Calgary, Alberta

On Monday, I took you on a guided tour of Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, Alberta. Today, I’m sharing with you a few other things that I saw and did in the city.a

I was in Calgary for work, so my week was quite jam-packed. In between work obligations, however, I walked as much as I could to see what the city had to offer.

I absolutely loved the design of this parking structure.

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I was surprised by the arches at the Hudson’s Bay downtown.

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I was amazed by this handmade silk Fortuny chandelier.

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I was impressed by the art around the city.

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I found this plant store quite charming.

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I missed seeing the inside of Lauren Bagliore‘s shop because it was closed when I passed by.

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I was surrounded by beautiful objects at Kit and enjoyed a good conversation about Calgary (and design) with one of the sales associates.

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I was happy to stop in to Bite for a treat.

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It was an incredible treat to spend some in-person time with Erica Cook (Moth Design) after being online friends for 6 years. This fireplace scene in her home is pretty recognizable in the blogosphere.

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…and it was an extra special treat to come home with some Erica Cook original artwork.

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I enjoyed an extremely delicious meal at Sugo.

White-Cabana-Calgary-Sugo-2 Overall, I really enjoyed Calgary. It’s a friendly city and very easy to navigate. Walking around was simple, and the C-Train was certainly convenient. I would definitely be interested in going there again and spending some time in nearby Canmore and Banff. I heard the scenery is just stunning. I would love to see that part of Canada!

To see more of what I did, what I saw, and what I ate, check out #WhiteCabanaGoesToCalgary.

Travel: Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Palliser, Calgary

After reading about Erica Cook’s (of Moth Design) stay at the Fairmont Palliser over the holidays, I knew that I wanted to make a visit while I was in Calgary.

One of the highlights of my trip to Calgary was enjoying afternoon tea at the luxurious Fairmont Palliser. The hotel had a special tea service to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. White-Cabana-Afternoon-Tea-Fairmont-Palliser-Calgary_4White-Cabana-Afternoon-Tea-Fairmont-Palliser-Calgary_7

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I opted for a tea with bergamot because I love its flavour and fragrance.

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Tea time began with a martini glass filled with berries and devonshire cream.

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The tiered cake stand that our friendly server brought out included a selection of scones and jams (including Saskatoon berry jam). The middle layer of bites included an open-faced cucumber sandwich, a deviled egg, a salmon roll, and a curried chicken sandwich. My favourite of this bunch was definitely the salmon roll, followed by the curried chicken.

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The top tier was the one that I wanted to dig into first (but I didn’t) since I have such a sweet tooth! I began with the trifle in the sweet glass container. While I did want to eat more while I was there, I got the rest packed up and enjoyed them the next day. The strawberry cake was my favourite dessert of the bunch.

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Besides the deliciousness and the experience of enjoying the Fairmont Palliser’s afternoon tea, I couldn’t help but explore a bit more of the hotel. As one would expect of any Fairmont hotel, the details were superb and the architecture was classic. Just look at this stunning chandelier.

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The Fairmont Palliser’s Afternoon Tea was definitely a special break from my work week in Calgary, and when I make it back to the city, I’ll definitely take another trip to this pretty hotel.

Many thanks to Jacqueline and the Fairmont Palliser for sponsoring this post. All opinions and photographs are my own.

Travel: Booking with Expedia.ca

Okay, dear readers, I have majorly fun news! Major! Ready? Are you sitting down? Okay. Here it is…

I’m going to Italy! In. One. Month.

For a traveler like me, this is really really really exciting. Italy is my jam. My people. My food. My fashion. I haven’t been in 5 or 6 years, so you can imagine how thrilled I am. In fact, there are even more reasons for my enthusiasm. I’m heading over with my dad who is going to reunite with his highschool friends once again (remember how he reconnected with them via Facebook after 50 years?). Now I get to reunite with them, too. It’s wild. Meeting people who knew my dad when he was 16? That’s nuts! Right?

And on top of all of this, the incredibly generous folks at Expedia.ca are sponsoring my trip! Yes! Yes! Yes! As in the Expedia.ca. The same Expedia.ca that I have been using for years to book my trips. The same Expedia.ca that finds me the best possible prices for flights, hotels, and cars. Yes, it’s that Expedia.ca!

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Me? Excited? Yeah, excited is an understatement. Going on this trip with my dad means so much, and the fact that Expedia.ca and I are collaborating is just the bees knees!

I’ll have many posts to share, so I hope you’re eager to follow along. I’ll share with you news of my trip planning, my packing list, my hotel stays, my city explorations, and, of course, I’ll give you the low down on what it’s like to go on a father-daughter trip (not our first, in fact)!

For now, I bet you’re curious about where I’ll actually be going.

Soon after I had learned about Expedia.ca‘s sponsorship, I got to work planning the vacation. My dad (let’s just call him Dad) had already booked his flight and sort of finalized his travel route with his friends, so I had to touch base with him to learn more about his itinerary.

First off, I researched flights, and I was able to get on the same flight as Dad had already booked. As anyone who has used Expedia.ca knows, the search function is pretty darn awesome, and you can limit your flight searching options in so many ways – by departure/arrival time, number of stops, and airlines, to name a few.

Normally, I search flights by number of stops and price. In this case, however, since I had my dad’s flight information, I searched by departure time and airline. I wanted to see if it was feasible to get on the same flight to Bologna that he was on. It was. Easy. Done. At the same time, I debated a few return options and saved them using the “My Scratchpad” feature while I thought about how long I could stay in Europe.

I find the “My Scratchpad” quite a handy addition to Expedia.ca. It basically houses a record of your searches, and when prices change, you can request to be notified. I think that’s pretty darn magical. I think you have to be logged in so that things are saved, so be sure to do that first.

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You can see that I took this screenshot after I had booked my flight because of the extra ticker line advertising up to 51% off hotels in Bologna!

You can also see up my the Expedia.ca logo that I’m currently sitting at “blue” status in terms of the Expedia loyalty program. As a blue member, I am eligible for things like member-only pricing, extended price-match guarantee, and earning 2 points for ever $1 spent. I have a few sleeps in hotels to go before I reach the next status level (silver). Read more about Expedia.ca rewards if you’re interested.

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Are you waiting to learn more about our travel itinerary? Well, let me tell you, it’s a good one!

Dad and I have arranged our trip so that he can visit with his highschool friends in various parts of the country. We will fly into Bologna, then we train it to the beach town of Rimini for a couple of nights, attend his yearly highschool reunion lunch (I’ll have to brush up on my Italian between now and then), drive to Bologna for a few nights, drive to Florence for a few nights, and then visit my relatives for a few nights in a small town near Milan. After this, Dad will travel back to Toronto, and I’ll be heading for a little weekend getaway in Copenhagen. #IFeelSoDarnLucky

Seems like a pretty good route, doesn’t it? Dad is pretty excited, too, since he’ll get to introduce me to his highschool friends, and he’ll get to treat me to gelato (many, many times!).

If you have any recommendations or post requests, let me know!

Many thanks to Expedia.ca for sponsoring this trip. I am thrilled to be working with such a well-respected company. That said, all opinions are my own, and I am committed to writing honest reviews.

Travel: Review of the Delta Waterloo

When I wrote my Waterloo region city guide for Design*Sponge, the Delta Waterloo hotel had only recently opened. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to stay the night and experience the hotel first hand. It might seem a little odd to some readers that I opted to have a little vacation within my own city, but every once in a while, I feel that it’s quite the luxurious adventure to leave behind weekend chores in search of rest and relaxation in a new environment.

So, I crossed King St. in Uptown Waterloo and checked into the Delta Waterloo for a little #WhiteCabanaStaycation.

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Although I had watched the Delta be built, I had never been in since I moved here three years ago. It’s the only 4-star hotel in Waterloo, so I assumed it would have quite a lot to offer.

I confirmed my reservation over the phone and requested an earlier check-in and later check-out if possible. While neither could be guaranteed, in the end, the Delta staff were able to accommodate both requests. I really appreciated that the Delta staff worked to accommodate these requests.

Parking was straightforward as was check-in. I was welcomed by Matt at the front desk, and he answered my initial questions about the hotel in a professional manner. The lobby of the Delta Waterloo is chic and sleek, and the lighting caught my attention.

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The Delta Waterloo generously offered me a corner suite. From my room, I had views of two of my favourite Waterloo buildings – the Perimeter Institute and CIGI Campus.

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My suite was bright, and with the sun shining in through the soft drapes, the room just felt warm and light. The suite had a king size bed – definitely a comfy hotel bed! – and a pull-out couch. It also had two TVs – yes, two! – and a desk area with a charging station (so convenient), great bedside lighting, and a bathroom outfitted with modern fixtures. The coffee station included a selection of teas and coffees, and the mini fridge was a useful addition.

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The bathroom was right up my design alley. The wood vanity, the white tiling, and the glass shower doors made the space really modern. Toiletries were by Apothia.

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The bed sheets were crisp, the bath towels were plush, and the hotel robe was cozy (I do love a good hotel robe!). Honestly, I can’t say anything negative about the room – or my stay, in fact. I had everything I needed for my #WhiteCabanaStaycation, and my room was a stylish and comfortable place to relax (I finally got through reading a few magazines that have been waiting for me at home!). Oh – and I loved that there were windows that I could actually open! (Am I the only one who gets annoyed when they don’t?) Good design feature, Delta Waterloo!

As far as hotel amenities go, the Delta Waterloo has a fitness centre, pool, hot tub, and sauna on the lower level. Even though the hot tub was off-duty due to a maintenance issue, I put the pool and sauna to use. As you can imagine, a trip to both added pleasure to my stay!

Dining out – and in – was easy at the Delta Waterloo. While there are many restaurant options in Uptown Waterloo, I decided to have dinner at Proof Kitchen & Lounge, which I have heard quite a bit about, but I had never been. Proof isn’t just for hotel guests; many local residents regularly go here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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Proof was definitely more stylish and design friendly than I had originally thought, so my first impression was a good one. When I was inside, it did not feel like I was in “small town” Waterloo. The hexagon graphic theme works well, and there are many clever names on the menu items that made me smile (e.g., the OMG chocolate cake, the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup). I opted for the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup and the Proof smoked Berkshire pork chop with fingerling potatoes for dinner. Yum. Yum. It’s not cheap, but it is delicious! (See all the menu items.)

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For breakfast, I ordered room service – which I rarely do, actually – and my meal arrived right on time. It was a basic breakfast of eggs and bacon, but I think it tasted better than usual because I didn’t have to make it myself (insert huge smile), and I could stay in my pyjamas (insert second huge smile). My #WhiteCabanaStaycation could have easily been called #WeekendofLuxury2.0.

For those of you who are new visitors to the region, you’ll be happy to know that the location of the Delta Waterloo could not be more perfect. Uptown restaurants are within walking distance as is Waterloo park, the Clay and Glass Museum, and the Waterloo Recreation Centre.

Guest rooms start at $169 per night, and deluxe rooms start at $189 per night. Read more about rooms and rates if you’re planning a trip to the Waterloo region.

Honestly, dear readers, there’s something just fabulous about traveling within your own city! I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to do so, and I’d encourage you to consider doing the same thing! (p.s. I’ve added a few more photos on Instagram and Twitter using #WhiteCabanaStaycation.)

Many thanks to Elaine S. and Delta Waterloo for sponsoring my accommodations. All opinions and photos are my own.

Food: Langdon Hall’s Terroir Noir

Yes, yes, I’m back with more news from Langdon Hall. I could easily start a regular Langdon Hall series on White Cabana. The place is amazing, and I’ve recently been calling it My Langdon Hall. Yes, I am totally biased and also completely smitten by the place.

Anyhoo – a few months ago, the team at Langdon Hall invited me to interview Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson. An interview, I asked? About what? Chocolate! Tough gig, I know.

You see, Langdon Hall decided that they should have their own signature chocolate (as if the place wasn’t special enough), and they wanted some help to get their story out.

You may have seen this post on Instagram recently if you follow me or @LangdonHall or @LangdonHallChef:

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via @LangdonHallChef

You see those words right there? Yeah, I wrote them (with some edits from LH)! So cool! Since that paragraph only provides a glimpse into LH’s chocolate, I was given permission to share the full story here on my blog. Read on if you’d like to learn more about how this chocolate came to be.

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Making of Langdon Hall’s Signature Chocolate: The Beginning
Jordana Garbati

Being whisked away to France on a highly unique chocolate mission seems like an incredible experience to add to one’s bucket list. For Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and pasty chef Rachel Nicholson, this experience turned from dream to reality in February.

Jason and Rachel were invited to Cacao Barry’s prestigious Or Noir in Paris to develop a signature chocolate recipe for Langdon Hall. Only a few Canadian chefs, and only about 200 chefs around the world, have developed a signature chocolate recipe! Armed with a few goals in mind and a clear idea of the flavours the chefs wanted to include in Langdon Hall’s future house chocolate, the duo zipped off to Paris for a three-day chocolate adventure.

At Or Noir, Jason and Rachel were confronted with cacao beans from around the world and wasted no time working with Or Noir’s highly-qualified team to begin the process of developing Langdon Hall’s distinct chocolate.

Chef Jason wanted to ensure that Langdon Hall’s philosophy was well represented in its chocolate. He wanted the chocolate to instill ideas of the land, smokiness (we all know about Langdon Hall’s divine fireplaces), warmth, and tradition. Chef Rachel was on the same page and wanted to ensure that the final chocolate recipe would not only work beautifully on its own, but also become that more memorable when transformed into a chocolate ganache or pain au chocolat.

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 Chefs Jason and Rachel and the French team at Or Noir

The chefs went through Or Noir’s chocolate recipe development process whereby they explained their desired taste profile, explored cacao pastes from around the world, blended flavours, and tasted multiple production samples.

After a few gruelling days in the Parisian chocolate laboratory (as much as crafting a chocolate recipe can be gruelling), the chefs settled on the perfect recipes for dark and milk chocolate that are set to impress.

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Langdon Hall chocolate samples – some of the first pieces Langdon Hall’s dark and milk chocolates – ready for a taste test

The dark chocolate has an ideal amount of bitterness. It’s great paired simply with an after-dinner espresso, and it is sure to increase the quality of Langdon’s popular chocolate-filled pastries and desserts. The flavour lingers on the tongue and is of beautiful texture and consistency. The milk chocolate is as creamy and shiny as you would want it to be, and it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Both chocolate recipes are as distinguished as Langdon Hall, they embody luxurious hospitality as much as a chocolate could, and they are yet one more piece that will raise guests’ experiences to another notable level. Jason-Rachel-Langdon-Hall-TerroirNoir

Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson with the first chocolate production at Langdon Hall

For chefs Jason and Rachel, the signature chocolate brings prestige and innovation. The creation of the Langdon Hall chocolate brings outside-the-box thinking and creativity. This addition to the existing repertoire of phenomenal recipes will entice new and returning guests to visit Langdon Hall to experience its inimitable chocolate.

After the recipe was created in February, the chocolate went into production in France. Since the arrival of the first shipment of chocolate, the chefs have been busy in their kitchen creating new decadent recipes.

On April 25th, Executive Chef Jason Bangerter will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario to launch Langdon Hall’s chocolate and its top-secret name at the Terroir Symposium, which is an event that brings together top chefs, sommeliers, and artists with the goal to promote innovation, collaboration, and creativity in the field of hospitality. Industry leaders will no doubt be enthralled by the story of how Langdon Hall’s chocolate came to be and I challenge them to stop at just one bite.

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I should say that Chef Jason did make sure I had my fair share of chocolate during the interview (Thanks, Jason.) I preferred the dark, but the milk was so darn smooth. I know, such a tough gig. Hanging out at Langdon Hall eating chocolate – life. is. good.

p.s. In recent news, did you see that Drake went to Langdon, too? Cool.

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via @ChampagnePapi, photo by @CaitCronenberg

 

Travel: The Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto

Now that you’ve seen how my friend and I spent 28 hours in Toronto, I’d like to share some more detailed news about our reunion trip, and I’ll start with our hotel.

I booked us in for a night at The Omni King Edward Hotel (aka the King Eddy) at the south end of the city. Although I had never been to the King Eddy, I knew of its reputation of one of the top hotels in Toronto, so I was easily convinced that we should try it out. I’m happy to say that the hotel and its services did not disappoint (That’s the short version of the review. If you’d like to know more, read on!).

We checked into the King Eddy a little later than anticipated because we were having so much fun on our casual shopping at Bloor/Yorkville. Both my friend and I were excited to check in and plop on our beds for a bit of a rest before dinner.

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The King Eddy impresses right from the entrance. Valet parking is available as is a park-your-own-car public parking lot about a block away. Once inside, the grand lobby awaits your attention. The architectural details in the lobby – moldings, railings, ceilings – are full of history. The hotel recently completed a $40 million renovation (forty!), and the lobby is a reflection of that. The furniture is modern and elegant, and the design theme of the hotel (chess, crowns, grandeur) is set right at the front door.

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I’m honestly always a tad cautious when I check into fancy hotels. I’m usually curious to know if the place is pretentious or welcoming. Luckily, the check-in staff at the King Eddy was very friendly (Hi D!) and was able to engage in an informal conversation while maintaining his professionalism and sense of hospitality. I am a very particular customer, so I pay attention to just about every detail of an experience (so tough, I am!).

We took the elevator up to our room, and when we opened the door, we were in awe. The room was large. The suite – yes, it was a suite – had a bedroom with two queen beds, dresser, TV, and closet (with robes and slippers, I must add); a living area with a couch, coffee table, arm chair, desk area, and dining/chess table, console and TV (why have one when you can have two?); and a bathroom with gorgeous marble and plush towels. The three large closets in the suite were more than we needed, but we used them (just because we could!). We also put our luggage racks to use, and I set up the chess board just in case we wanted to play.

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Shortly after we arrived, D (from check-in) called to make sure we were happy with our suite. Happy? Of course! When I jokingly asked what the heck we were supposed to do with all the space, D said that the living area is a great place for thinking! Oh, amusing! It was then that I had regretted not booking us in for a 2-night stay! (In the end, we used the living area for magazine reading…and some thinking, too!)

Shortly after we threw on our King Eddy slippers, a server knocked on our door and ushered in plates of treats. What a delightful surprise! Shannon and I had the perfect afternoon snack (scones, tea, and Niagara’s Greaves jam) by the window. Details, people, I love these thoughtful details!

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The beds in our suite were as comfy as you’d expect from a 5-star hotel, and there were plenty of pillows for added comfort. The black-our curtains darkened the room and added to our restful sleep.

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The bathroom, oh, yes, the bathroom. The shower was my favourite part because it was large, had amazing pressure, and a couple of shower heads…you know, because one might not be enough. There wasn’t a tub in our room, but maybe some rooms have one.

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I also wandered around this historic hotel to see what it had to offer outside of our gorgeous suite. I can definitely see why the King Eddy is a hot-spot for parties, weddings, and every sort of event. The venue has beautiful spaces that can be reconfigured to suit various events. The art and architecture serve as beautiful backdrops for photos, and the recurring design themes of chess, elegance, and royalty are consistent throughout the property.

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Check out the rooms and rates at The Omni King Edward Hotel if you’re planning a visit to Toronto and would like to be surrounded by luxury!

Thanks to The Omni King Edward Hotel for sponsoring our stay. All opinions and photographs are mine.

Travel: 28 Hours in Toronto

What do you do when your friend (in Ottawa) texts you (in Waterloo) on a Monday, and asks what you’re doing on the weekend? First, you ask her if we’re going to Nashville (that’s a story for another day). When she laughs at you, you ask her what she has in mind, and she asks you if you’d be interested in a Toronto meet-up, you obviously say yes!

Heck ya!

Considering the couple of crazy weeks my friend Shannon and I have had recently, a girls reunion weekend in the city is just what we knew we needed to make us both feel more energized!

After we confirmed that we were both available for a weekend away, I quickly got to work, contacted a few people, and started planning some girly fun for us. Today, I’m sharing our itinerary, and in the days ahead, I’ll share some specific reviews of what we did/where we stayed/what we ate.

Please join me as I take you through a 28-hour stay in Toronto.

Saturday

9am – I left Waterloo quite early in the morning, as I find Toronto traffic and parking to be unpredictable. It only takes an hour (in theory) to get to the city, but I often give myself two hours to get to the heart of downtown. I put my TomTom to use, of course, as I like knowing about the alternate route options if I run into traffic.

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11am – As my friend Shannon and I were coming from opposite directions, we opted to meet at our first stop of the day – the Windsor Arms Spa. Yes! What a perfect spot to meet. Since I arrived a bit early, I was able to nibble on some cookies and drink a tea before our spa experience – the Salt Cave.

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11:30am – Shannon and I met with our spa hostess. She led us around the spa space and told us about the halotherapy treatment in the Salt Cave. We changed into our bathing suits, threw on our plush robes, and headed in the Salt Cave for 45 minutes of relaxation.

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We left the Cave feeling refreshed and calm.

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1:30pm (ish) – After showering and primping at the Windsor Arms Spa, we headed to La SociĂ©tĂ© for lunch. I’ve read a bit about this restaurant, but I had never been. Since we dubbed this weekend a #weekendofluxury, we figured that La SociĂ©tĂ© fit our itinerary. It is where celebrities go after all (we didn’t see any).

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We opted to share the eggs benedict (with a side of salmon) and the pain perdu (French toast) with Nutella. This way, we got to try a bit of everything. This is what happens when you travel with your BFFs, you get to share the goodness! We had a very friendly server at La Société who was quite attentive and helpful with recommendations.

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time unknown – after lunch, we wandered in and out of stores around Bloor/Yorkville. The area is a gem for people watching, and to see what’s what in fashion, design, and luxury. While I have just about everything I need in Waterloo, when I’m in Toronto, I always like to see what’s going on at Club Monaco and Anthropologie, so we made it a priority to check out these stores…along with the prettiest of pretty, Kate Spade (so pretty!).

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5pm (ish) – After a couple of hours of shopping, walking, taking ridiculous photos, and being so happy because of the amazing spring weather, we hopped back in the car, and headed to our hotel (TomTom was put to work again, naturally).

It was great to spend the morning/afternoon in the Bloor/Yorkville area, but I was looking forward to seeing another part of the city while we were in town. Although I grew up in the ‘burbs of the city, I haven’t spent extended periods of time downtown in a long while, and there’s just so much to see and do and discover!

We drove south to King/Church to The Omni King Edward Hotel (affectionately called the King Eddy), and after we parked (I must say that parking in the two areas was completely easy on this trip! Bonus!), we checked in. We were greeted by a friendly staff member (Hi D!), and we had a good chat about why/how I blog only about white things (it does amuse a lot of people, I must say).

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At this point in our day, Shannon and I were were so eager to just lie on the beds for a while since we had done so much walking in the afternoon. Our reactions when we saw our room were priceless. We basically danced around the spacious suite, then flopped ourselves down on the beds (more on The Omni King Edward Hotel later this week).

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time unknown – We were pleasantly surprised by a visit from an Omni King Edward staff member who arrived with scones and biscuits in tow (I wish this could happen every day!). It was just the type of snack we needed! We pulled our seats up to the table by the window and had a little bite to eat.

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9pm (ish) – Earlier in the day, we had made a dinner reservation at one of our favourite restaurants – Terroni. It serves up delicious Italian fare, and since I could basically live on pizza and pasta for the rest of my life (hello carbs!), I was happy that Terroni had an open table for two for us. The Terroni Adelaide location was a three minute walk from our hotel, so it could not have been more convenient! It was the perfect spot for a lazy girls’ weekend! We walked over and spent the next couple of hours feasting.

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11pm – After dinner, we strolled back to The Omni King Edward Hotel, threw on our pjs (and hotel robes!), and watched some TV while we talked and laughed about all that we had experienced in the day.

midnight (ish) – We must have fallen asleep to the sounds of HGTV on the television at some point around midnight. Yes, yes, we’re very wild.

Sunday

7am – I really try to sleep in (especially on weekends), but I can’t! It’s ridiculously annoying. After a great sleep in a comfy bed with lots of comfy pillows, I woke up a tad annoyed at the fact that it was only 7am. I grabbed a few magazines and enjoyed reading them in the living space in our suite.

10am (ish) – After a lazy morning of chatter, an amusing photo shoot (to come later this week), magazine reading, and getting ready, we walked south toward St. Lawrence Market for breakfast. Again, I hadn’t realized how close the King Eddy is to so many great spots in the city. The St. Lawrence market area must have been only a six minute walk from the hotel, and Toronto’s flat iron building provides a perfect photo op. Easy! We chose to have breakfast at Hank’s because I had been there once before, and I had liked it (thanks for the intro to Hank’s, Sarah M.!) We enjoyed a classic breakfast, then set off on another adventure.

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noon (ish) – We had decided that our #weekendofluxury #WhiteCabanaTorontoReunion should include manicures, so we walked north to Queen West area (a pleasant 20 minute or so walk) as we were hoping to get into Civello salon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get last-minute appointments, but the staff member recommended a nail salon a couple blocks away, so we went there.

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2pm (ish) – With our bright shiny nails, we walked back to the car (which I had left in the parking lot by the King Eddy) in the sunshine, and laughed some more as we thought about all the adventures we have been on together in the last 10+ years.

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3pm (ish) – At this point, our fun weekend reunion came to an end. After dropping Shannon off at Union Station, I drove back to Waterloo. We returned to our homes (and to reality) after a fun and fulfilling reunion weekend!

That’s how my friend Shannon and I spent our 28 hours in Toronto last weekend. I have a few more updates to share about this trip, so stay tuned for more posts this week!

Many thanks to the Windsor Arms Spa and The Omni King Edward Hotel for helping me plan this trip.

Hotel to Home: Stripes in Rio

How did you like the first edition of my new Hotel to Home series? Last week, we travelled to Portugal’s Farol Hotel. It has stunning views and fresh interiors, doesn’t it? Well, you might need to put your dream vacation to Portugal on hold while I take you to this bold hotel in Rio de Janeiro.

copacabana-by-dussolCopacabana By Dussol, Rio de Janeiro

Are you digging the stripes and the bold black and white? If so, here are some things you can do to transport this look into your own home:

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striped wallpaper, pillows, lamp, side table, bed linens, art, art

What do you think of the stripes in this room design? Could you live with them? In your bedroom?

Hotel to Home: Introducing a New Thursday Series

Dear readers – As you know, I’ve let go of my 20 Below on Tuesdays and replaced it with Two for Tuesday. On Thursdays, I’m considering starting a hotel-to-home series.

As you may know, I love, love, love to travel, and I love staying in the best possible hotels that are friendly on my wallet. I love my real life, but I also like to escape it, and as soon as I enter an airport, get in the car for a drive, or walk through a hotel lobby, I always feel like I’m transported into another world. I will always make room for travel in my schedule and in my budget. (Yes, I know I over-used the word “love” here.)

Anyway, enough with the preamble. In this hotel-to-home series, I’m planning on first featuring a hotel, and then I’ll propose some ways to bring the same design feel into your home.

Let’s get right into it, shall we? Today, I’m taking you all the way to Portugal to the waterfront Farol Hotel.

farol_02_2Farol Hotel, Portugal

This Amor room is white-white-white, and the view looks to be quite spectacular. If you like this design, and would like to recreate it in your own home (with or without the view), here’s what you’ll need:

Inspired-by-Farol-hotel-White-Cabana

pendant light, chaise, Robert Indiana miniature LOVE sculpture, bed linens, console table, art print

What do you think about this series? Honestly, I’m not quite sure how it will work, but I imagine that if I do this for the remainder of 2016, I’ll be able to feature 30-40 hotels. So, if you know of one (high on the white/black/grey colour scheme) that I should feature, please let me know!

Travel: Charleston, SC – Part 2

Yesterday, I shared part 1 of my trip to Charleston, SC. I was only there for 24 hours, but I managed to fit a lot in. I ended yesterday’s post with lunch at Hominy Grill, and today I’m sharing what we saw post-lunch.

Since my sister and I were re-energized after lunch, we drove to the house district beside the harbour (I’m not quite sure that this is the name of it) and spent a couple of hours walking around, staring at the architecture, and wondering about the history of every mansion.

White-Cabana-Charleston-8White-Cabana-Charleston-2 White-Cabana-Charleston-1 White-Cabana-Charleston-3White-Cabana-Charleston-9And a few charming smaller houses were thrown into the mix, too.

White-Cabana-Charleston-4I mean, a golf cart? Awesome!

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of work to upkeep these homes. I watched in awe as this team of painters worked their magic using a crazy ladder-scaffold set-up.

White-Cabana-Charleston-10It’s hard to imagine the scale of these homes in photos, but I hope the image below helps with this. There’s our mini-van parked in front of one mansion. As you can see, the van barely reaches the height of the front steps. I mean, amazing, right?

White-Cabana-Charleston-1And there you have it – my two-part review of Charleston, South Carolina. Have you been? Would you like to go?

Photos by me.

Travel: Charleston, SC – Part 1

Way back in 2015, I took a quick trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and then I delayed uploading my photos. It’s a new year, but I don’t think it’s too late to share my travel experiences with you. Am I right?

In a nutshell, Charleston is glorious. If you haven’t already been, I would recommend that you put it on your must-see list. The weather (October) was perfect (not too hot, not too cold), the architecture was beautiful, the streets had charm, and the service was friendly.

I booked my sister and I into the Marriott Renaissance Charleston right in the historic district, and this was a convenient location for walking around various neighbourhoods. My TomTom (oh, I love that thing) navigated us through all the one-way streets when we drove in, but I was very happy to leave the car and travel by foot for the remainder of my 24-hour stay.

White-CAbana-Charleston-9bikes available for Renaissance guests

The College of Charleston was a must-see considering the fact that I’m an academic and education is my life. The campus is charming, lush, and all-around beautiful. The palm trees caught my attention as did all the exterior porches (traditional architecture in Charleston). I even ran into a professor I met at a conference last spring. Random, right? Such a small world!

White-Cabana-Charleston-5 White-Cabana-Charleston-7 White-Cabana-Charleston-6 White-Cabana-Charleston-4 Version 2White-Cabana-Charleston-8the College of Charleston campus

We passed by so many impressive churches as we explored the city.

White-Cabana-Charleston-1 White-Cabana-Charleston-2White-Cabana-Charleston-9White-Cabana-Charleston-2 White-Cabana-Charleston-1the churches were massive

The Charleston City Market was very touristy, but it was still nice to see.

White-Cabana-Charleston-4I’m a sucker for cobblestone streets. They’re so hard to walk on, but so full of history! This one, in particular, made me think about the past, especially as we walked by the Slave Mart Museum.

White-Cabana-Charleston-6 White-CAbana-Charleston-7White-CAbana-Charleston-8Pretty details were to be found everywhere! Just look at this sweet bunny knocker:White-Cabana-Charleston-3One thing that surprised me about Charleston was the restaurant options. Several of the guides I read recommended several Italian restaurants, but because I eat Italian food all the time, this was definitely not what I felt like eating in the South. I also thought there would be charming cafĂ©s on every corner, but there weren’t. Maybe we were just in the non-cafĂ© area of town.

Since we had a bit of tough time finding a high-quality-casual-non-Italian restaurant downtown, we took a quick drive over to the well-known Hominy Grill. I was a little hesitant to eat here because I didn’t want to end up at a very touristy spot (and every guide I read had Hominy Grill on it), but I was pleasantly surprised. Hominy was AMAZING! I’d highly recommend it, and I’d go back right now if I could beam myself over! The restaurant diners were made up of locals and tourists, and the service was very friendly. The food was Southern. Good ol’ southern cookin’. We feasted on sweet tea, boiled peanuts, biscuits, collard greens, and pecan pie (among a whole selection of things). Oh, the pecan pie was incredible!

White-Cabana-Hominy-Grill-3White-Cabana-Hominy-Grill-Charleston-2 White-Cabana-Hominy-Grill-Charleston-1White-Cabana-Hominy-Grill-2White-Cabana-Hominy-Grill-1After a morning touring on foot, my sister and I were so happy to have had such a good meal. Just look how happy I am in the above photo!

Come back tomorrow, and I’ll share what we saw after lunch!

Photos by me (and my sister).

Travel: Dining at Langdon Hall

Yesterday, I took you on a tour of my Cloister room and the main house at Langdon Hall. Today, I’m highlighting all the delicious food I consumed during my stay. Warning – you’ll likely want to make a dining reservation as soon as you see these photos.

Langdon Hall has received numerous awards and accolades for its cuisine (and accommodations, too). For example, it has held the CAA/AAA Five Diamond Restaurant award for ten consecutive years. Under the direction of head chef, Chef Jason Bangerter, Langdon Hall’s team of chefs create dishes that are made from local ingredients, including treats right from Langdon Hall’s own gardens. From its pastries to its country breakfast to its fine dining options, everything that is served at Langdon Hall is top-of-the-top.

A White Welcome

Waiting for me in my room was a bottle of wine and a beautiful tray of white goodies. White! For me! Just perfect! A white plate was covered with white mushroom meringues and white macarons.

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-41 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-42 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-43Afternoon Tea

Soon after I checked in to my suite, I met my host, Kate, for afternoon tea in the bright white Orchard Room. Oh, this room was made for me! The walls are made of windows,  the tables were dressed all in white, and the beamed ceiling had me staring. The view is amazing, too. You can see some of these things in the photos below.

Afternoon tea began with a generous glass of champagne, and Kate and I toasted to my return visit to Langdon Hall as well as the new year! I then opted for the Cassis tea (yum!), and our individual treats were brought over soon after tea was poured. The three-tiers contained a selection of mini-sandwiches (my favourite was the egg salad in the croissant), two scones, and a selection of bite-sized desserts (I really liked the quince macarons, but the cheese cake was my favourite) prepared under the direction of Head Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson.

Even if you do not stay overnight at Langdon Hall, you can still make the drive for Afternoon Tea. It would be such a special way to celebrate or just be spoiled on any random weekend.

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-47 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-52 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-53 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-56 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-57Country Breakfast

If you book a stay at Langdon Hall, I highly recommend adding the breakfast to your reservation package. The food is high in quality, beautifully presented, and abundant. Service is friendly and attentive, and the dining room is gorgeous. Nothing is rushed, and care is taken to ensure a memorable dining experience.

The coffee is from local brewers Monigram, and the serving platters and flower pots are from Cambridge potters Hillborn. I commend Langdon Hall for its commitment to working with community partners. These details do not go unnoticed!

As I was sipping my latte, and before my meal arrived, a server came to my table with a surprise from the kitchen.  (A surprise? For moi? I love surprises!) Head Chef Jason and one of his sous-chefs, Chef Andrew, had prepared an egg and truffle amuse-bouche for me. (For me!) Chef Jason did not want me to leave Langdon Hall without trying some truffle (his fave), and seeing as I had no room in my belly for anything the previous night (after eating three tiers of goodness at afternoon tea), it was decided that I should indulge during breakfast. Good idea, Chefs! #trustthechef

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-aOh, geez, was this ever good! It smelled delicious, looked delicious, and tasted delicious! A feast for the senses!

While I was very tempted to order the pain perdu for my main meal (dang it – I have such a sweet tooth), I opted for one of Langdon Hall’s popular breakfast items – the lobster omelette.

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-bYes, this was as good as it looks! And, yes, I finished it all (and even had a croissant “for dessert”).

Service

The staff’s attention to detail surpassed any expectations that I had before my arrival. My table, for example, was the only one (or one of very few) that had a white rose plant on it (the other tables had colourful rose plants). A white rose plant for White Cabana? Whether this was a coincidence, I’m not so sure. It would be just like Langdon Hall’s team to pay attention to something like this.

Version 2I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Jason Bangerter, and I think it’s pretty common to see him mingling with guests in the dining room. He has achieved much success in Ontario and abroad and was recently awarded Relais & Chateaux’s Rising Chef Trophy.

Langdon-Hall-Chef-Jason-BangerterWhite-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-62Here I am with Head Chef Jason Bangerter in the main dining room.

As I hope you can see, the cuisine at Langdon Hall is top-notch and the staff make the dining experience is of the highest quality. There’s something for everyone, and even if you don’t stay over night, you can still enjoy a meal at this gorgeous hotel.

I’d like to end this two-part Langdon Hall review by extending a warm thanks to my host, Kate, for ensuring my stay was one to remember!

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-dSee you again soon, Langdon Hall! I won’t be able to stay away for too long!

Note: Part 1: A luxurious stay at Langdon Hall.
Photos by me. I received a discount on my stay. All opinions are my own.

Fashion: OOTD in Charleston, NC

In between taking photos of pretty buildings and gorgeous scenery in Charleston last month (full report to come), my sister and I had fun taking some fashion-y posts. Yes, that’s right, with a Starbucks cup in hand, and backdrops that matched our outfits, we just kept on snapping. Oh, what fun!

White-Cabana-Charleston-fashion-bloggingJordana: grey on grey on grey on white
outfit details: Gap top, J.Crew jeans, Bass shoes, Oliver Peoples sunglasses

White-Cabana-Corie-Charleston-FashionCorie: white on black on on black on pink
outfit details: JCrew pants, JCrew top, Kate Spade purse

Travel: Savannah, Georgia

While I was in North Carolina a few weeks ago, my sister and I took a road trip down to Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. It was a quick trip, but we managed to see quite a bit and really enjoy ourselves too!

I took these Design*Sponge Savannah guides with me, and here’s some of what we did and saw.

After parking the car, we walked up and down Broughton St., which is one of the main shopping streets in Savannah. We first stopped into at The Paris Market – a gorgeous shop that has all things French. I was in heaven! Every vignette is so beautifully styled, and the mix of old and new items definitely works.

White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_1White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_2White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_6   White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_3 White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_9 White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_4 White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_7 White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_8 White-Cabana-The Paris Market-Savannah_5Isn’t the birch log storage system so artistic?

We then stopped into the Savannah Bee Company shop to be spoiled with samples of honey. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet! I picked up some of the delicious Tupelo honey, which is considered to be the gold standard in honey.

White-Cabana-Savannah-Bee-Company-1 White-Cabana-Savannah-Bee-Company-2Next up, Prospector & Co. This store’s styling was on point. The space is white and bright and the collection of wares is very carefully curated.

White-Cabana-Prospector and Co-Savannah-4 White-Cabana-Prospector and Co-Savannah-2 White-Cabana-Prospector and Co-Savannah-1 White-Cabana-Prospector and Co-Savannah-3After popping in and out of the stores, we opted to stroll along Bull St. to Forsyth Park. It as an absolute pleasure to stroll along this street as it is surrounded by spanish-moss trees and beautifully manicured public squares/gardens. In addition, the buildings surrounding each square had me wondering all about the history of the city. I must go back and spend more time investigating! For now, here’s what we saw along our Bull St. stroll…

White-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-1White-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-5impressive architectureWhite-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-2statues in each square

White-Cabana-Savannah-5spanish moss everywhere!

White-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-3Forsyth Park covered with Spanish moss trees  White-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-4White-Cabana-Savannah-Georgia-6fountain beauty

You can imagine that after the 5-hour drive from Chapel Hill, NC, and an afternoon of a lot of walking, my sister and I were quite hungry. We opted to eat at the Gryphon Tea Room, and we feasted on a prosciutto and fig panini (yes, I realize this isn’t the most southern option) as well as a delicious southern take on the cobb salad (including pecans…always a nice touch!). Gryphon is located in the old apothecary, and the building is stunning inside and out.

White-Cabana-Savannah-1Version 2 Version 2  bathroom decorWhite-Cabana-Savannah-4original stained glass ceiling detail

And there you have it…a quick tour of Savannah. I’d easily go back!

Event: High Point Market in North Carolina

My apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days. I didn’t mean to step away from my blog, but life has been hectic, and I couldn’t find even a minute to write. I have loads to share, but I’m not quite sure how quickly my news will come. My week is absolutely hectic (MBA life and work life are completely overwhelming this week!), but I’ll do my best to keep on writing!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending High Point Market in North Carolina. Oh man, was it ever interesting! I was only there for one day, so there was absolutely no way to see everything. That said, I had a fully productive High Point adventure, and I’m happy to share my recap with you.

I found High Point Market to be a very well-run operation. Getting to Market was completely effortless as was the parking and shuttle situation (side note: my TomTom came in handy once again and I discovered even more features that I like). After we parked our car in the free parking lot organized by the market, my sister and I hopped on the shuttle trolley which took us directly to the centre of Market. Effort-less.

I have quite a bit to share, but for this post, I’ll begin with what I discovered as I walked through the showrooms at the International Home Furnishings Center.

The furniture and accessories at Noir were cool, modern, and had a rock-n-roll vibe. Some of the accessories reminded me of Kelly Wearstler designs. I was smitten with the bookshelves and some of the side tables.

White-Cabana-HPMKT-Noir-4 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Noir-5 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Noir-2 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Noir-3 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Noir-1Selamat was chock-full of bamboo pieces, and the quality of the metal bamboo pieces really surprised me.

White-Cabana-HPMKT-1 White-Cabana-HPMKT-2I wanted just about everything at Europe2You. As soon as I stepped in the showroom, I felt like I had traveled to France. The displays and styling were absolutely gorgeous, and the showroom staff was friendly. In this showroom, I was drawn to a lot of the art installations. I think the cameos (see photo below) are especially interesting and unique.

White-Cabana-HPMKT-Europe2You-2 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Europe2You-1 White-Cabana-HPMKT-Europe2You-3Speaking of all things French, Eloquence had a bed and a daybed that I adore! (and I realized only recently that I already featured the bed here). It was such a pretty and feminine space.

White-Cabana-HPMKT-Eloquence-2White-Cabana-HPMKT-Eloquence-1The acrylic pieces at B. Pila Design were unexpected, unusual, and definitely hip. They were unlike anything else I saw in my short time at the market.

White-Cabana-B Pila Design-High Point MarketFinally, Currey & Co. was full of so many beautiful items. Their selection of lighting fixtures was sort of overwhelming, but I was drawn to all the pieces that had shells on them. I think I need a beach house. As an added bonus, Currey & Co. generously offered food, so we were able to enjoy delicious bread pudding (among other things) while we were browsing the showroom goodies.White-Cabana-Currey and Co-High Point Market-4 White-Cabana-Currey and Co-High Point Market-5 White-Cabana-Currey and Co-High Point Market-2 White-Cabana-Currey and Co-High Point Market-1 White-Cabana-Currey and Co-High Point Market-3

As you can observe, High Point Market includes items from across the design spectrum. Traditional, French, delicate, modern, rock and roll, refined, quirky…there was something for everyone!

To wrap-up today’s High Point post, I thought I’d share six trends that I spotted at High Point Market (regardless of the design focus). They are:
1. books without covers on them
2. navy
3. gold
4. shells (including oyster shells) on mirrors, furniture, lighting, etc.
5. bamboo
6. acrylic

Later this week (I hope!), I’ll share news about Visual Comfort & Co. and Jaipur, which ended up becoming my two favourite stops on my High Point tour.

Note: High Point Market takes place twice each year. The spring market is scheduled for April 16-20, 2016. Will you attend?

Photos by me.

Event: High Point Market

In just a few days, I’ll be joining crowds of other design enthusiasts at High Point Market in North Carolina. I’m pumped! I’m excited to see what’s up-and-coming in the design industry, and I’m hoping to be amazed by cool pieces of furniture and textiles. For anyone writing about, talking about, or dreaming about design, this is the market to attend.

In preparation for the trip, I’ve read these handy High Point Market tips-and-insights articles (avoid being overwhelmed by the scale of the market; map out secret places to eat), and I’ve browsed the list of exhibitors. I’m also keen to follow #designbloggerstour, which is a hashtag that a group of design bloggers will use as they explore the market. I also found this Rue article to be quite useful as well. Can you tell I like to research?

High-Point-Market-1image via High Point Market

High-Point-Market-2images via High Point Market

09-25-15-Sponsor-High-Point-MainSliderimage via Rue

High Point Market has just about 12 million square feet of space to shop. 12 million! This boggles my mind. (Note to self: wear comfortable shoes.)

I’ll be sharing my High Point Market highlights on Instagram and Twitter as quickly as I possibly can. I’ll also be sure to share my experiences right here in a few weeks.

In the meantime, if you’ve been to the Market, please do share your advice!

Travel: The Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, NC

Pittsboro, North Carolina is a short drive (25 minutes) from Chapel Hill, and it’s a very pretty and quaint town. It is also home to a gorgeous Relais & Chateaux property called The Fearrington House. The property includes an inn, a spa, a restaurant, and beautifully manicured gardens.

Look at the classic decor at the Inn. I love the use of tone-on-tone fabrics.

20130926_42-688x377 20130718_145-688x377 20130718_116-688x377The bathrooms at The Fearrington House Inn are bright and fresh. Can’t go wrong with an all-white bathroom, right?

20131023_02-688x37720130719_58-688x37720130718_124-688x37720130926_33-688x377If I can make it to Pittsboro on my upcoming visit south, I’ll be sure to stop by to check out the property first-hand.

Images via The Fearrington House Inn.

Travel: Edson Hill in Stowe, Vermont

I saw photos of Edson Hill on Erin Conner’s Instagram account, (such a pretty bedroom) and I flipped out. The place looked stunning on my little ol’ iPhone 4S, and I was eager to check out Edson Hill’s full site and offerings. (I obviously have traveling on my brain these days…my mind easily wanders to hotel and travel websites!)

The rooms are very well-appointed with a mix of modern and classic furniture, pretty lighting, and cozy linens. The fireplaces add warmth, and the mixed collection of art adds interest to each space. The bed in the first photo below definitely caught my eye!

fireplace-room-14-2.jpg.1360x678_default guest-house-room.jpg.1360x678_default img_7308a-1.jpg.1360x678_default fireplace-room-12.jpg.1360x678_default fireplace-king-with-aday-bed.jpg.1360x678_default dining-room.jpg.1920x807_0_9_10000 fireplace-room-14-1.jpg.1360x678_default img_7303a-1.jpg.1360x678_default img_7381a-1.jpg.1360x678_defaultPhotos via Edson Hill.

 

Travel: Luxurious Hotels in Charleston, South Carolina

Next month, I am going to be traveling to the southern United States, and I just cannot wait! It’s been a year since I’ve been to North Carolina, and I have several items on my agenda for this visit.

I’ll begin with a visit with my family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and then High Point Market in nearby High Point. In addition to these two stops, I’m planning on visiting Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Eek! So darn excited! Road trip, here I come!

One of the best parts of travel planning for me is researching hotels, and let me tell you, there are some amazingly beautiful ones in the south! Let me share with you where my Charleston research has taken me thus far.

Planters Inn is traditional and full of creams and whites. The tone-on-tone decor definitely works for me, and the poster beds are so very charming.

PlantersInn_RoomsGallery_9 PlantersInn_RoomsGallery_3 croppedGallery_GuestRoom_6 PlantersInn_RoomsGallery_6 PlantersInn_RoomsGallery_2 PlantersInn_RoomsGallery_5 SpoletoSuite_website2 PlantersInn_gallery7 croppedGallery_PlantersInn_5 PlantersInnThe Spectator promotes its rooms as being “spacious, gracious, and utterly unforgettable”. I’d agree.

the-spectator-hotel 2241284-The-Spectator-Hotel-Guest-Room-3-DEF CTH1519_Spectator_Premier_Suite_307_01-631x355The Market Pavillion Hotel is another stunning property in Charleston. The guestrooms look large, and the bathrooms seem to be the ultimate in luxury.

king_lgcornerbath_lg guestbath_lgUp next is the Belmond Charleston Place. Warning – it’s another stunner complete with classic wood furniture, luxe linens, and beautiful bathrooms.

ocha_1366x400_room_premier_luxury04 ocha_1366x400_room_premier_luxury01 ocha_1366x400_room_premier_bathroom01 ocha_1366x400_room_premier_room03 ocha_1366x400_room_premier_king_balcony01Zero George Street‘s website draws me in, and I’m sure the hotel would, too, in person. This property is modern, airy, but most definitely southern.

2013_Zero_George_08021-1100x514Zero-George-Veranda-King Zero-George-Harbor-Room-3 2013_Zero_George_0787-380x220 2013_Zero_George_0600-380x530 ZG-Anson-Suite-Web-1100x514Can you now see why I think hotel planning is so fun? So dreamy!

Art: The Beach in Washington, DC

In the most recent issue of Architectural Digest, I read about a new all-white art installation called The BEACH at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. As I often do, I opted to do a bit more research about The BEACH online.

The-Beach-Washington-art-4The-Beach-Washington-art-3Essentially, a large area was walled off in the middle of the Museum’s Great Hall. The installation, a collaborative effort with Snarkitecture, has covered 10,000 square feet with one million recyclable translucent plastic balls (Remember those from your childhood?).

The-Beach-Washington-art-5  The-Beach-Washington-art-6 The-Beach-Washington-art-1  The-Beach-Washington-art-2The-Beach-Washington-art-7 The lounge area is outfitted with comfortable chairs and white AstroTurf “sand”. The scattering of rolling plastic balls at the “water’s edge” are reminiscent of real waves.

This beach is only open until September 7, 2015, so if you’re in the area, get there before summer ends!

Learn more about The BEACH, including ticket information, here. Photos via The National Building Museum Flickr.

The Friday Five: Orlando Edition

While my friend Shannon and I were in Florida last month, we decided to take a day trip to Orlando. We avoided all amusement parks and opted to try some of the recommendations on Design*Sponge’s 24 hours in Orlando guide written by Jessica Bennett.

Orlando-hwy-signMy TomTom directed every step of the way, and we were very thankful that we had it! We punched in the various addresses, and off we went. Freedom!

Here are five of the stops we made:

One: Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
Our first stop was the Vineland outlet mall on the southern end of Orlando. It was on our way to the centre of the city, so we thought we might as well stop in to see what it had to offer. Well, it offered us quite a bit. The mall has high-end designer outlets like Fendi and Burberry as well as more mainstream outlets like JCrew, Banana Republic, and the Gap. We were surprised to see a Lululemon outlet at this mall, and we picked up some goodies at Barneys NY and Kate Spade.

Vineland-Outlet-Orlando-1Vineland-Outlet-Orlando-2Two: Prato
After a couple several hours at Vineland, we needed some food. When we learned that we had missed the opening hours of The Strand, we drove straight to Prato in the Winter Park district. We sort of missed the opening hours there, too, but luckily the restaurant was still serving a limited menu, so we were in luck. We were hungry! We ordered a couple of cocktails (to celebrate a successful shopping excursion, of course!) and pizzas. I went for the Fiorentina and Shannon ordered the Widowmaker, and we were both very happy with our meals.

Besides the food, Prato is a feast for the designer’s eyes. It is beautifully designed, and its front black-framed windows are gorgeous.

Prato-Orlando-2Prato-Orlando-1 Prato-Orlando-3 Orlando-Prato-1Three: Hannibal Square
I quickly fell in love with the Winter Park district, and I was surprised to see such a quaint and historic neighbourhood in Orlando. Why does everyone talk about Mickey when there’s Winter Park? Beautiful trees, cobble stone roads, and plenty of sweet stores and restaurants to explore, this is an area worth visiting!

From Prato, we lazily walked around, following as much of the guide as we could. The guide led us to Hannibal Square which included a huge Jenga-style game under this (apparently slanted) structure.

Hannibal-Square-WinterPark-Orlando-2Hannibal-Square-WinterPark-Orlando-1 Hannibal-Square-WinterPark-Orlando-4 Hannibal-Square-WinterPark-Orlando-3Four: Rifle Paper Co.
We knew Rifle Paper Co. was in Winter Park, but we almost missed it! Thankfully, we turned a corner, and there it was. It was our lucky day because Rifle was having a sidewalk sale. Ah-mazing! We were thrilled! Each of us stocked up on cards and artwork. I scooped up a few Garance Doré prints as well as this super bright and happy print for my work office.I was so impressed to learn that Rifle Paper Co. items are made in the USA and assembled right in Winter Park. Just so awesome.

Rifle-Paper-Co-1

Rifle-Paper-Co-4As if the sidewalk sale wasn’t enough, Nick from Mama’s Sauce was at Rifle screen-printing his heart out! Meeting Nick was so fun and unexpected. In addition to all of his design and printing work, Nick is an avid traveller, and he gave us great advice about where to go, what to do, and what to see in various parts of Florida. He spoke so highly of Winter Park, Orlando, and Florida in general, and I just love it when people appreciate where they live so much! The fact that Nick time out of his busy day to chat with us completely impressed me (Thanks, Nick!).

Rifle-Paper-Co-2And beyond the sale and screen-printing excitement, on our way out the door with our hands full of gorgeous letterpress art, we met the very friendly Stephen (The Hyppo and Cousteau Waffle & Milkshake Bar) and Ryan (MC Pressure). They served us up some delicious popsicles which was a very welcome treat considering the fact that we (a) didn’t have dessert at Prato, and (b) it was ridiculously hot! I had the blueberry-lavender-lemonade popsicle, and it was so absolutely delicious. A month later, and I’m still thinking about how great it tasted!

Rifle-Paper-Co-3Five: P is for Pie Bake Shop
Our last stop before we left Orlando was P if for Pie Bake Shop. We opted to get mini pies to go (banana pie and chocolate peanut butter pie), and enjoyed them back home in Madeira Beach (yum!).

P-is-for-Pie-Orlando-1P-is-for-Pie-Orlando-2As you may have gathered, we had a great day trip in Orlando. I would definitely like to go back and spend some more time around the city (especially Winter Park since it was so pretty). I’m glad the Design*Sponge 24-hours in Orlando guide worked out, and I’m extra glad that my TomTom directed us for the day.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

I’d like to thank Meaghan B. and TomTom again for providing me with the GO 500. It is proving to be very useful and dependable!

Travel: Marriott’s Tampa Renaissance

I have to share a recent positive experience I had with the Marriott. I was not in any way compensated for this review, but since I received such incredible service, I feel like sharing. There are good people out there who really seem to love their job, and when I meet people like this (who also treat me so well), I do what I can to recognize them and spread the word. So, here we go.

First, a bit of a lead up…

On my way back from Florida a couple of weeks ago, after sitting around the Tampa airport for 6 hours, my flight (via WestJet) was cancelled (due to weather). The passengers were definitely ticked off (I felt bad for those traveling with kids and those who were needing to make connecting flights). I, too, was disappointed. The fact that the flight was cancelled was definitely annoying, but the way WestJet handled the communication and service really irked me.

So when we learned that our flight was cancelled, we were also informed that we needed to go to baggage claim immediately to retrieve our luggage and that all hotel and incidental expenses were the passengers’ responsibility. (Not to get into the whole WestJet debacle…but we were all going to be booked onto another flight the next day.)

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By the time I got around to calling the “hotel accommodations when flights are cancelled” number provided by WestJet, all the “discounted” hotels that were reserved for cancelled flights were full. My annoyance level grew instantly (service like this drives me absolutely nuts).

Trying to make the best out of a crummy situation, I got online and looked up hotels close to the airport. The first call I made was to the Marriott Tampa Renaissance reservation department. The Renaissance is definitely a luxury hotel, but I crossed my fingers that there would be a room available on such short notice (with a decent rate, of course! pushing my luck, right?).

Well, Ms. Emily over in the reservation department was on the other end of the phone, and she was incredibly friendly and understanding of my situation. When I asked for the “my flight is cancelled and I really would love to stay in a fabulous hotel with a great bed for an evening in Tampa,” she laughed and assured me that she would find the best possible rate for me. She called me by name (I always like this), persisted, and was extremely polite. She booked me into a room at the Renaissance within minutes and gave me a competitive rate. I was pumped! She honestly brightened by afternoon!

And now, here’s what I thought about the Marriott’s Tampa Renaissance.

The lobby is grand with welcoming and modern seating arrangements.

Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-6 Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-5 Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-4

There is a bit of Italian signage on the room floors, which makes me happy. Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-3

The artwork around the hotel is lovely, but it is this simple drawing that was hung in my room that I really liked. Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-2

My Tuscan-inspired room was very well-appointed. My king size bed was ridiculously comfortable (how do hotels do it!?), and the terry robe is one that I think I just have to purchase. It was perfect. Aveda products fill the large bathroom. My room faced the pretty courtyard, and the pool and gym are added conveniences (too bad it rained).Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-1Finally, the hotel is attached to one of Tampa’s great malls – the International Plaza – awesome!

My day ended up being much (much!) better than how it started, and I definitely owe Ms. Emily a thank you for helping to turn things around for me!

Travel: One Fine Stay in Paris

No, no, I don’t have a trip planned to Paris (yet), but I do enjoy a good accommodation browse every so often. On my recent tour of the Internet, I landed on One Fine Stay‘s selection of vacation rentals, and my jaw dropped. I want to stay in almost every apartment! Let’s have un coup d’oeil, shall we?

TRI220-TAKE-01-244Rue de l’Arc de Triomphe

CHE435-TAKE-01-179Rue du Cherche Midi V

VCL321-TAKE-01-7077VCL321-TAKE-01-7079Rue du Vieux Colombier (2 photos above)

cafe8e1e69be9e3d963f0b42d32ba4b012ba318f 543ae85df266daf740dd001ea47feb23a566b02957c5e7d6af7613ec63538c8f9c02aecfff423559-1Passage Saint Antoine (3 photos above)

e895d9a7e569077bdf30646411ab20ecf6e05ef4Rue de la Faisanderie

3105e11c71c2bbe18f89ba1da297c9024a389b78Rue Sainte Dominique

BRD294-TAKE-01-224 BRD294-TAKE-01-269 BRD294-TAKE-01-259 BRD294-TAKE-01-254-Edit BRD294-TAKE-01-142-EditAvenue de la Bourdonnais III (5 photos above; check out those views!)

These places are pretty incredible, aren’t they? Don’t you just want to book a flight (and win the lottery)?

Technology: My Life with TomTom

TomTom has entered my life…and has become my new BFF. Before I left for Florida, TomTom generously sent over two items for my trip: the Runner Cardio watch and the GO 500. I have previously written about my experience with the Runner Cardio watch, but I haven’t yet reviewed the GO 500. Well, folks, today is the day.

White-Cabana-TomTom-GO500-1the TomTom Go500 unboxed

I am generally good with directions, and I have been loyal to paper maps ever since I started driving at age 16. Heading into this recent vacation, however, I knew I wanted to explore a bit more of Florida than just the beach, and I had a feeling that the TomTom would allow me to do so easily.

In the 3 weeks that I was in Florida, I felt so free with the TomTom. I felt like I could drive without stress because I knew I would never get lost. My friend and I put the TomTom to very good use to explore Tampa and Orlando, and it was amazing. It chose the fastest routes, quickly recalibrated if we hit construction, and spoke to use clearly and at ideal times (e.g., before upcoming turns).

Features that I am really enjoying in the GO500 include:
– list of voice selection (mine is currently set to American Richard)
– large clear screen with good contrast levels between image and background (worked great for both daytime and nighttime driving)
– alternate route options with time estimations (I used this quite a bit if I hit traffic or I wanted a break from highway driving)
– speed of search
– easy to use touch screen and keyboard
– zoom options for maps (I generally liked the close up version of the streets, but I also used the overview quite a bit to help me get a sense of the area)
– volume control (driving during rainstorms was loud, so increasing the volume was useful and easy to do)
– safety camera alert
– lane guidance images (to visually show what lane you’re supposed to be in)

White-Cabana-TomTom-GO500-4TomTom’s screen and menu screen

The TomTom took my friend and I to Tampa, Orlando, and around St. Petersburg, and it never let us down. It was ridiculously convenient to throw it (gently) into the car and head out to discover new places in unknown (to us) parts of Florida.

White-Cabana-TomTom-GO500-3heading into Orlando with the TomTom guiding every turn

White-Cabana-TomTom-GO500-2the TomTom can be recharged even when it is in its windshield holder (I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t discover this for quite some time…oops)

I don’t know how many times I said “I love my TomTom” and “Why did I wait so long to get one?” over the course of the past couple of months. Honestly. For a traveler like me, it’s sort of unbelieveable that I only got one now. The TomTom makes me feel safe, and it’s going to come in very handy in the months ahead as well as I continue to take road trips near and far.

Many thanks to Meaghan B. and TomTom for providing me with these items. All opinions are my own.

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