The trick to never getting lost again lies in some very old travel wisdom.
It's not everyday that you get to use a piece of travel advice that's been rolling around the back of your head, well, for a few decades at least. However, on my recent trip to Honolulu, a very old travel tip popped in my head at exactly the right time and I'm glad it did.
The old advice goes something like this: When you check into a new hotel or guesthouse, pop its business card or a box of branded matches in your pocket. (This is how you know it is old advice - what inns have personalized matchbooks these days?) When you inevitably get lost on the winding streets of Barcelona or in the medina of Rabat, you don’t have to rely on your sense of direction or ability to describe a featureless property in a language that isn’t your own. You can just show said address to a taxi driver and you’ll be on your way.
This advice is repeated in Marybeth Bond's book, Gutsy Women (which is still a superb resource for female travellers, even if a few passages are now a bit out of date). In her entry, she also emphasizes that having a hotel business card is invaluable in countries like Thailand or China where you are unlikely to read the language and your English-language notes aren't going to help the local residents when you ask for assistance.
Well, I FINALLY used this advice, albeit in a modern, updated way. Here's the story.
If you love a good old-fashioned murder mystery, the Thursday Murder (Book) Club is the free online book club for you! Everyone is welcome.
Welcome to the Thursday Murder (Book) Club!
For years I've been talking about how much I love to read and I'm excited to take my love of books to the next level - and I'm inviting you to all come along. I’m launching a free monthly online book club devoted to British-style murder mysteries.
Now, there’ll be a bit of flexibility here. Not all the mysteries will involve murder (I mean, there’s gotta be a few art heists here and there), nor will they all necessarily be set in Great Britain. But they’ll all be faithful to the genre of the British “cozy” - - a complex mystery, a compelling read, plenty of rich details about everyday life (oh, you better believe I’ll be suggesting complimentary teas and biscuits for each book) and not a whole lot of implicit gore and scariness.
I’m inspired by a couple of things. First is Richard Osman’s book, The Thursday Murder Club. Yep, I stole his title for our bookclub name and I figured if gangs of fictional friends can get together to solve mysteries, my gang of online friends can get together to discus them!
I was also inspired by my visit to Winnipeg’s legendary mystery bookstore, Whodunit. They have an in-person mystery book club, which reminded me just how popular this genre is.
Read on for more details!
When you visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, winter blues melt away.
There's magic in the air in Key West.
In the United State's southernmost city, you'll find a tropical paradise at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Inside this tropical greenhouse beautiful little birds, two sassy flamingos, gorgeous jungle plants, and butterflies - hundreds and hundreds of them, representing about 50 to 60 species from around the world - are just waiting to say hello. Once you step inside, I feel confident that you'll agree with my assessment. It's pure magic.
How hard could it be to find a tree-loving rodent in a city filled with parks?
The gardens of Paris' Rodin Museum are a fine setting for many a good thing. You can enjoy a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city. Great works of art are resplendent in a natural setting. Rodin's masterpiece, The Thinker, awaits your admiring gaze. What you can't do, however, is see a squirrel.
I wish I could tell you that "squirrel" is code for a kind of art or maybe even a pastry, but no. I'm talking about your everyday prosaic squirrel. Red, grey, black, flying, I was open to them all but in Paris, they eluded me.
I don't normally look for vermin when I travel and, if I did, I don't know if squirrels would top my agenda. As a dog owner, squirrels have long been on Oliver's list of enemies (along with the mop, highway rumble strips, and the doorbell). As such, while I have no personal animosity with squirrels, familial loyalty dictates that I hate them. But my hand was forced when I shared the story of seeing sheep grazing on public lands not far from my Paris apartment.
My tale of discovering the Eco-Mouton came in the middle of an online networking event with colleagues. My reference to actual animals somehow had its wagon hitched to a separate reference about animal-like energy (aka "feeling squirrel-y") and a comment was made that I should be on the lookout for squirrels as well as sheep. Challenge accepted! I'd find an adorable squirrel, take a quick snapshot as it delicately nibbled away on a gourmet nut like the true discerning Parisian it was, and gain the accolades of my friends. There was just one problem....
There are no squirrels in Paris.
So you want to go to Paris.... May I suggest some travel advice, recommendations, hints, tips, and unbreakable rules from someone with a life-long love affair with the City of Lights?
I've spent one month and half a lifetime in the City of Lights.
The part about one month is very true. From mid-October to mid-November, 2022, I lived in Paris. I found a wee apartment with sloped walls and wooden beams and made the city my home.
The reference to half a lifetime is a bit of hyperbole but, in its own way, equally true. I first visited the French capital in 2001 and I've made at least half a dozen visits in the years since. I'm never not wanting to be there.
I believe you could live in Paris your entire life and not discover all of its secrets. As such, I am far from an expert. On the other hand, I know Paris better than just about any travel destination and I've learned quite a lot in 20+ years of adventures. And that brings me here, in an effort to wrap up my very best Paris travel advice, suggestions, recommendations, tips, and tricks. For everyone who has said that they absolutely have to get my advice before planning their own big trip - here it is. This post is for you. I'll accept macarons in lieu of thanks.
France's Palace of Versailles is beloved by everyone - except me, it seems. Would a day of cycling Versailles bring redemption?
Every great story needs a villain and, for 21 years, the French Palace of Versailles was mine.
I visited Versailles on my very first trip to Paris in 2001 as an international student. The excursion was an optional class trip but one I had eagerly agreed to. After all, it was one of the most popular attractions in France. What wasn't to love?
Turns out: Plenty. I had a miserable visit, so bad that I've long described Versailles as my least-favourite travel destination. It was a damp, cold, drizzling April day. I was hungry. I had a headache. Versailles' pricing structure was confusing and costlier than expected. Pushy touts made for a jarring welcoming committee. I recognize now that, in retrospect, Versailles didn't even stand a chance. It was never going to be a good travel day and it (mostly) wasn't the Palace's fault. But it took me the better part of two decades to come to that conclusion. It was time to revisit Versailles and give it another shot. Could a day spent cycling Versailles provide the redemption I was looking for?
In Giverny, France, Claude Monet's home and gardens are an absolute delight in autumn. Gorgeous colours and smaller crowds create a special seasonal magic.
Claude Monet's home, studio, and gardens in Giverny, just outside Paris, are one of the city's most popular attractions in summer and for good reason. The famous water lily pond, the Japanese-style bridge covered with lavender wisteria, and the flower beds studded with vibrant pastel blooms are the stuff of travel legend, the subjects of a million photos. But those who are truly lucky will bypass Giverny's famous summer scenes (and crowds) and discover a different kind of magic altogether if they visit in late October.
After more than twenty years of value-focused travel, I'm finally saying a fond farewell to hostels - for the most part. Here's why.
Even before I had my final hostel stay, I knew it would be my last.
The previous couple of hostels I stayed at brought roller coasters of emotion. One, set in a gorgeous historic location, was clean and friendly but offered bare-bones dorms with whisper-thin mattresses, a single stingy pillow, and squeaky wooden bunk beds. My bunk was positioned in the centre of the room, without a single wall at my disposal for leaning or privacy. The muggy, warm room and back-aching bed made sleep impossible and I cringed every time I moved, fearful my squeaky bed was keeping everyone awake. It was a rough night – and a rough morning as I tried to be as quiet as a mouse, packing up my computer to escape to a nearby cafe for a bleary and bright conference call. While I was waiting for my call to connect, I found clarity in my exhaustion. For the first time ever, I sacrificed my two remaining nights of prepaid bunk accommodations in favour of relocating to a private bed and breakfast room.
I spent an extra $300 I wasn’t expecting but when I finally got to my snug room and sunk into the plush, squeak-free mattress, I nearly wept with relief – and guilt. Who was I, giving up an otherwise great-on-paper hostel just because my bedding wasn’t as sumptuous as I would like?
Coffee, cake, and community spirit make me very happy to visit the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague, Prince Edward Island.
Every now and then when I travel, I come across a little cafe that I love so much, one that makes my travels so much better, that I can't help but write them a bit of a love letter here on the blog. Remember when I found the latte of my dreams in Maun, Botswana? Prepare to meet its Prince Edward Island match, so to speak: the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague
This charming, delectable little spot has become my go-to cafe whenever I'm leaving or entering PEI via the nearby Wood Islands ferry terminal. It's too good not to share! If you're taking a family trip in the area, or perhaps hiking the Island Walk and need a little fuel, or you simply just want a darn good latte on Prince Edward Island, this is your spot.
I should note that the Lucky Bean has a second cafe in Stratford, PEI, which I haven't visited yet - another spot to add to my travel list! All the photos used in this post are from Lucky Bean's Facebook page (and used with permission). As I never seem to have my camera with me when I go, I appreciate having access to their images.
Whether you're in Montague for several days or just blazing through on route to the ferry, here are nine things you'll appreciate about this cozy cafe.
Posts by Location
Posts by Date