A blizzard and a busted battery left us in a bad situation that was rapidly getting worse.
Winter driving is a fact of life for those living in cold weather locations, like us here in Ottawa. We mark the start of the season by installing new snow tires and celebrate its end by driving around in flip flops as soon as the temperature climbs above the freezing mark. Every winter is a delicate dance between a deep seated desire to leave the house and a prosaic prudence that warns caution and urges us to stay home.
Fortunately, we've had mostly good luck on our winter road trips - and so far this year we're having a wonderfully mild season - but one bad past experience proved to be a timely reminder on the importance of relying on preparation, and not just good fortune.
Here's what's making December a happy month for me.
We are having such a nice December - the weather is absolutely amazing. We have had virtually no snow and warm, warm temperatures. It was the perfect night when we went to Parliament Hill after Travel Massive for the opening night of Lights Across Canada. This is a wonderful light show featuring winter motifs and animals that is projected on the front of the Parliament building and it's the most charming thing in the world.
I loved "Snow Days" as a kid. And being an adult is no different!
School age children in Canada and the northern United States know that the two most beautiful words in the world are "Snow Day"! For those unfamiliar, a Snow Day occurs when the winter weather is so inclement it necessitates school closures. This actually happens far less often than you'd imagine, as those of us living in harsh winter climates are pretty hearty folk and we've got the road clearing equipment needed to stare down just about any winter storm.
The winter mornings of my childhood in rural Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, were spent with one ear cocked towards the radio, listening (often in vain) for the coveted Snow Day announcement. But when it finally came, oh, there was much rejoicing throughout the land! I'd immediately head outside to play in the snow. No matter how bad the storm, Snow Days were always the perfect day to play outside. The day would pass in a blur of sodden snow pants, red cheeks, and frozen mittens.
Now there's a chance for me and everyone else to recreate that amazing Snow Day feeling in one of my favourite destinations for outdoor adventure: Lake Placid, New York.
A trip in the sun and budget fun go hand in hand for us...
Hawaii, France, Australia - and more - in less than two years? Why not!? We're ordinary folks and we made it happen. There's no pot of gold buried under our house, nor have we had any luck sourcing wealthy, eccentric relatives. (Note: If you are indeed a fabulously rich, long lost uncle, we are keen to hear from you!) And while we're decent savers, we have our limits. We aren't willing to strip our lives of every tiny indulgence all for the sake of a future trip.
So how do merely adequate savers with a serious coffee addiction and a depressing lack of trust fund manage to travel around the world and still pay the light bill? We have a few tricks up our sleeve that make our travel adventures richer as a result. And with some incredible trips on the horizon for 2016 - including Scotland, Sweden, Slovenia, and perhaps some other countries that begin with the letter "S" – being travel smart is more important than ever before. This is how we do it.
We broke some basic travel rules and learned our lesson the expensive way.
Say hello to the Four Points by Sheraton hotel by the Calgary airport. This was our home for less than seven hours when we were cobbling together a series of inexpensive flights to make our way across Canada and eventually to Hawaii. Without enough time to visit friends or see the city, we nevertheless embraced our short stopover as an opportunity to get some much needed sleep on what was a very long voyage.
A quick look at a map told us that local hotels were so close to the airport, they were practically touching it and, even better, there were dozens of properties to chose from. That gave us an advantage when it came to online booking. We knew we were spoiled for choice and the Four Points won thanks to a combination of its price (under $100!) and its star rating (it was less expensive than some adjacent three star properties.) This was a chance for us to treat ourselves to some sweet stop-over sleep and we were very smug for being such savvy spenders.
Little did we realize we were about to make a big, BIG mistake!
Sir Christopher Wren has left a lasting legacy throughout London.
How is it possible that most visitors to London never actually see London? No, it's not a trick question! The metropolitan area we refer to as London is actually two distinct municipalities. The City of Westminster is what most people know as London. If you've seen Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and the British Museum, then you've done a pretty good job of exploring Westminster!
But the municipality of the City of London, the 'real' London as some might say, is a traveler's dream. The roughly one square mile of territory reflects London's boundaries during the Roman settlement in the first century. And while only 7,000 people live here, about 300,000 workers commute here everyday, as it is now the heart of London's financial district.
The City's sleek and modern financial towers have a tendency to camouflage some incredible historic architectural gems. Tucked among the skyscrapers are some of the finest pieces of work by renowned English architect Sir Christopher Wren, all open and eager for visitors. Even if architecture isn't your strong point, take heart. Entire volumes have been written about the breadth of Wren's work throughout London, but even a quick visit will allow a traveler the opportunity to become acquainted with Wren's best work.
If you have just half a day to explore The City, here's the perfect Wren-themed itinerary.
Do you have the world's shortest layover in London- but cling to big travel dreams?
Have you ever dreamed of being transported to another country for even just a few hours? How amazing would it be to wake up to breakfast in Paris or close the day with a nightcap in Rio? I love long trips, but there's also an intoxicating allure to the whirlwind visit, getting just a tantalizing taste of what a city has to offer. And lately, I've been thinking about the flavors of London. Specifically an ultra-short London layover.
I have a good friend who we'll refer to as Graeme (because that is in fact his name!) who recently did just that. He had the briefest of layovers in London while on route to another European city. A layover so short that we even pondered if it was worth his time to leave the airport at all! In general, I rarely recommend layovers where you have less than 4 hours of leisure time but such sensible practicalities are lost on a wild soul like Graeme, who was determined to see London for the very first time.
And now Graeme isn't the only traveler I know who's embracing a lickety-split layover in London - my friend Valerie is considering it too! So if Graeme and Val sounds just like you and you have a devil-may-care approach to layovers - or if you simply have extremely limited free time to see the city on a business trip - here's what you can do in London when you have just three hours, plus a few options to extend your day if you have five to six hours.
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