The Doge's Palace provides the inspiration behind an enthralling evening in Venice.
Venice is a supremely romantic city. It's only fitting that an evening here is spent on a date night, and during our visit we certainly needed one! As we rolled into town on the afternoon train, ending a long voyage from Ljubljana that included a mountain trolley and walking over the border to Italy, we were ready for a change of pace.
In Venice, both romance and logistics are all over the map and, unsurprisingly, we had a few ups and downs. We did some things right (like splurging on Wi-Fi so we'd never get lost) and we did some things wrong (I'm looking at you, bed bug infested guest house), and then there were some mixed moments (like choosing a vaporetto over a gondola) but our best decision of all was to spend our date night not with each other, but instead with the Doge.
Exactly who is the Doge? Why, only the most important person in all of Venice -or, at least he was several hundred years ago. Dozens of Doges have left an indelible mark on the city since 728 A.D. and it seemed only fitting that their collective, compelling spirit accompany us for an intimate evening in the city.
It's not a hoax or a hack. It's a helpful hint that will change all my future travel plans.
I've said it a hundred times: The great thing about travel is how you're always learning. But today I'm not talking about learning history or geography or languages. Nope, I've been schooled in a whole new way and it changes EVERYTHING!
It all started with my friend Andrea, who blogs at WanderingiPhone. She's an all round lovely gal who appreciates a savvy bargain as much as the next person. Andrea was telling me about an amazing trip she took to South Africa, "hacking" her points to get free layovers and stopovers in Ethiopia, Israel, and Poland along the way (much like we did in 2013 - seriously, we flew around the world for $350.)
And then Andrea told me that Ethiopian Airlines gave her a free night's accommodation at a Hilton in Addis Ababa, plus meal vouchers and ground transportation. Uh, WHAT?!?!
We experienced some of Mexico's finest flavors and friendships without having to leave our own backyard.
Think Mexico is nothing but beaches? It’s time to take a second look - and I got to do just that without leaving my hometown of Ottawa by attending the Experience Mexico pavilion. The three day exhibition, hosted by the Mexico Tourism Board, was part of the Canada 150 celebrations honoring the anniversary of Canadian confederation and paying tribute to Canada and Mexico’s long friendship.
While no doubt some of that friendship is rooted in important trade deals and international agreements, I can’t help but think it’s because Mexicans and Canadians are so much alike. The pavilion reinforced this time and time again. Both countries love nature and wildlife. Both are growing their gastronomy scenes by leaps and bounds. Both love arts and artistic expression - both the old and the new. And both countries take pride in hospitality. While the pavilion immersed me in a different country for a few days, I couldn’t help but feel very much at home. Here are some of my favourite memories:
Mexican culture holds a special place in my heart, from my earliest days exploring Ottawa for the first time.
When I first moved to Ottawa, everyone assured me that I had chosen the perfect city to get in touch with French culture and language. Eager to get acquainted with my new home and polish my language skills, I enthusiastically signed up to volunteer with Doors Open Ottawa (a free architectural event that celebrates the city’s heritage buildings) and the National Gallery of Canada. I was expecting plenty of opportunities to exercise my rudimentary French - but instead I found myself hearing a lot of Spanish instead!
No, I wasn’t lost - just lucky. Doors Open Ottawa assigned me to volunteer at one of the event’s star attractions, the Mexican ambassador’s residence. I spent the weekend guiding visitors through the tour (and, if I’m being honest, sneaking off to watch the dancing demonstrations and sample some of the delicious refreshments. It was hard to resist!) No wonder it was such a popular spot. Meanwhile, my new circle of volunteer friends at the National Gallery was meeting for regular happy hour festivities at the now-closed Byward Market restaurant Azteca and they invited me to come along. It was my first real introduction to the flavors of Mexico (aside from the trays that came out from the ambassador’s kitchen!) and I was enthralled. Who knew that salsa wasn’t always bright red and found in a jar?
And now, with a little help from the Mexico Tourism Board, I’m about to have the opportunity to discover so much more at the upcoming Experience Mexico celebration.