I thought I was ready to fly with Santa Claus - but was I? The plane was small - and the naughty list loomed large!
Every writer dreams of an exclusive celebrity scoop and I got one to top them all: Santa Claus! Not only did the head elf himself give me the inside scoop on what he loves about Ottawa but I also got to spend some time with him in his very own plane. That's right - Santa doesn't just fly a sleigh but he also offers 15 minute aerial tours of downtown Ottawa in a vintage Cessna 172 in conjunction with Ottawa Aviation Adventures as part of a program in support of the Ottawa Food Bank.
There was just one tiny complication. The plane is tiny. Santa is all-knowing. And I'm a big ol' scarde-y cat. An Anti-Adventurist, if you will. Would my notorious stomach hold up in a vintage aircraft? Would my nerve hold up if Santa started grilling me about whether I was naughty or nice?
See how I've been exploring Ottawa this autumn - and maybe you'll win your own amazing adventure!
Whoever first described autumn travel as the "off season" surely never lived in Ottawa, for this is when our city is on, on, on! The weather is lovely, the changing leaves are spectacular, and there's no shortage of fantastic things to do. Case in point: Check out what I've been up to over the last few weeks. From pies to ziplines, I think just about everyone will find something to love on this list.
In fact, I KNOW everyone will love it because one lucky reader is going to win an amazing Ottawa excursion based on a very exciting activity I just enjoyed myself. Read on!
Ottawa bakeries showcase a delicious side of the city! These are some of my favorites.
I know bakeries. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's tracking down baked goods. And eating them. I am VERY GOOD at eating baked goods.
It's not just the obvious deliciousness I enjoy. Bakeries are a fun, accessible, affordable way to explore a destination. I have vivid memories of my very first backpacking trip in Europe, way back when before the common Euro currency was in play. I was determined to use up all my coins before I crossed borders (rendering them all but useless). As such, I soon became very adapt at buying the exact thing at a bakery that corresponded with the precise amount of coins left in my pocket. I still remember a train station apple pastry procured in France moments before I hoped on a train to Italy! The sweet filling was almost as satisfing as the knowledge that I had used every spare cent.
It's this kind of deep seated bakery love that had me jumping at the chance to investigate Ottawa bakeries. I know first hand that my local favourites make treats every bit as delicious as those fancy French spots that had me carefully counting my pennies all those years ago and I am eager to spread the word about just how much creative baking talent is right here in our hometown. Some of these destinations are long-loved special spots that I can't believe more people haven't heard about yet, while others are new to me, discovered this year as part of the #Invite2 campaign. And some, I must confess, aren't strictly bakeries per se but more like cafes that specialize in their own baked goods. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants. And so does my stomach! I'm sure you will love these sweet destinations as much as I do.
PS: Of course, this is but a tiny sampling of the bakeries the city has to offer, focusing on the places I know well. I hope this is a list that will only grow over time!
Updated in 2022! Who says a day in Paris isn't enough time to see the sights? Whether your Paris layover is 3 hours or more, you can still have an incredible trip to the City of Lights.
Paris, more than any other city, is a destination meant to be savored. This is a haven for the lazy and the lackadasicle, a place where sitting and doing nothing isn't just encouraged but revered as an art form. As such, when I had the opportunity to plan a day in Paris - and just one day - for travelling friends, I was initially stumped. But then I remembered how much readers love my piece on seeing London in just three hours (yes, THREE) and how my last trip to Paris was indeed so short that I actually made notes for a future three hour Paris layover guide - and naturally promptly forgot about them, until someone else was in need.
If you dream of a sleepy Paris sojurn but your reality is a lickity-split layover, I've got you covered. Who says a day in Paris (or even much less) can't be wonderful?
Ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs are more accessible than you might think at the Big Island's Volcanoes National Park. This is what it was like hiking to see the Pu'u Loa site.
You may have come to Volcanoes National Park to satisfy the child within, to hunt down fiery lava and stalk ancient eruptions. But it’s your inner artist who will be squealing with glee if you’re fortunate enough to explore the legendary ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs at the Pu’u Loa site.
Roughly translated as “the hill of long life”, the archaeological site of Pu’u Loa contains over 23,000 petroglyph images, carved into lava bedrock and dating back centuries. With a keen eye, you’ll see a feathery cape, the billowing sail of a canoe, and the squiggly flash of a lizard. But even if your imagination is a bit rusty, you’ll have no problem deciphering many human forms. And there’s no way you can miss the thousands of ‘dimples’, little cups carved into the rock, which served as repositories for umbilical cords. With the promise of blessings and a long life for a new baby, it’s easy to see why ancient Hawaii families considered the Pu’u Loa such a precious spot.
Our guide to the best Ottawa coffee roasters will have you buzzing... or maybe that's just the caffeine talking!
I've often said that my most redeeming quality as a travel companion is my ability to track down cappuccino, any time, any place. Remember when I fell in love with this sweet cafe in Botswana or found an elusive one Euro espresso in Venice? When it comes to coffee, I don't mess around! That's why I'm so happy to put together a list of the best Ottawa coffee roasters. After spending so many years talking about coffee around the world, it's time to put my hometown in the spotlight. And perhaps unsurpisingly, I found a lot of travel-based inspiration in Ottawa's coffee community. Great minds think - and sip - alike.
I can't imagine a better way to explore the city than to work your way through the products and services of all these amazing Ottawa coffee roasters and, when possible, visiting their roasting rooms and cafes. I can't wait to hear which of these amazing coffee providers are your own personal favourites.
Everything you need to plan a day trip to Rottnest Island, Australia.
If I told you to fly half way around the world to explore a place whose name translates to "Rats' Nest", you might think twice about my intentions. However, Western Australia's Rottnest Island may just be the most begilling destination you never knew you needed to visit - and you'd be glad to have taken my advice.
A Rottnest Island day trip itinerary usually starts with a ferry ride from the city of Perth, involves lots of amazing (and I am talking AMAZING) animals, offers ample history and culture, and ends with plenty of happy memories as you make your back to the mainland.
We had the chance to enjoy a day trip to Rottnest Island as part of our 2018 round-the-world trip that included a week in Perth. However, even if you had but a couple of days in Western Australia, a visit to this small island should be a top priority. To help you get started, we're happy to share our research about how to get there, what you should do when you arrive, where you can eat, and our personal tips about making the most of your time.
Connecting with my Istanbul instructor, I learned about killing onions, feeding neighbours, and always adding extra olive oil.
There's an old-fashioned tradition which dictates that, if you cook something especially fragrant while preparing Turkish cuisine, you must share it with your neighbours. After all, you never know who might be particularly roused by your aromatic fare. Perhaps there is an expectant mother who has a craving or an elderly person who isn't able to easily visit their favourite cafe.
There's a second part to this tradition. If you are so fortunate to receive a sample of your neighbour's cooking, you must return the cleaned plate with some cooking of your own. It's simply poor form to return a dish empty!
I first heard about this cozy custom from Aysin, my cooking teacher in Istanbul. Under her tutelage, I learned more about Turkish culture and cuisine than I thought possible - and we did it all as a virtual experience, cooking side by side even though we're half a world away.
Let's talk about biking in Ottawa!
I'm so excited to bring you this interview with my fellow Ottawa resident and travel lover Maria, founder of Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals.
As many of you know, I'm an anti-adventurist. And sometimes I even get a bit nervous about bike tours, though years of experience have taught me that once I get going, I love them. In case you need a little extra encouragement like me or you just want to see all the incredible opportunities that exist for biking in Ottawa, this special interview is for you!
What makes Ottawa a great city to explore on bike?
Name any of Ottawa’s landmarks or your favorite spot in the city and I will take you there safely on bike!
Ottawa has the perfect mix of nature and urban atmosphere. Ottawa is not only a very flat city, which makes it easy to cycle around, the city has also been investing in cycling infrastructure for the last 10 years. In fact, Ottawa is becoming one of the leading cycling cities in Canada.
Several new bridges have been built to improve connectivity, new bike paths have been developed, the city has adopted special cycling signals in different parts of the city and is implementing several intersections in the Dutch style, i.e. with cyclists away from motorized traffic. Combined with the NCC pathways and the Gatineau Park, the region offers hundreds of kilometers of safe cycling away from traffic. Through biking in Ottawa, it is entirely possible to see many of the important sites such as Parliament Hill, the Museum of History, the War Museum, the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal and Rideau Hall without ever having to share the road with traffic.
These investments pay off: Ottawa sees cycling tourism from as far as Germany, the Netherlands and even someone from Uruguay. Our company has seen the increased demand that this year, we have launched and will offer Ottawa’s first ever multi-day bike tour packages for cycling tourism.
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