If you can't go around the world, it's time to bring to world over to you. These virtual travel gifts are perfect for everyone on your Christmas wish list.
Have you ever had one of those crazy travel days where you wake up in one country, have lunch in a second, and go to bed in a third? I've been there, and more than once. What these days offer in exhilaration, they take away in exhaustion! However, ever since the advent of COVID-19, these multi-jurisdictional travel adventures are more accessible - and rejuvenating - than ever, thanks to virtual tourism activities.
There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual activities and the travel world is the better for it. Alas, it would be impossible to list every possible remote adventure here but, with Christmas around the corner, I've rounded up some of my favourite selections to help you find the perfect cozy travel-inspired gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Gifting virtual travel experiences isn't just a great way to get your shopping done without stepping foot into a mall. Virtual gifts have a very low carbon footprint, they don't require standing in line at the post office, and they're a creative way to support small businesses. Plus, when you do get to travel again, you'll have a fun story to share if you meet up with these companies in person.
Connect with llamas over Zoom
Fatigued by endless online meetings and Zoom social hours? Maybe you'd feel differently if you were joined by a cheery llama, or perhaps an alpaca or another barnyard companion.
Many petting zoos, farms, and animal sanctuaries now offer you the option of adding one of their furry friends to your next online meeting for a small fee. They receive valuable funds and you get invaluable FUN, the kind that only comes when you're hanging out with a llama. Online. During work.
Perfect for: The office Christmas gift exchange.
One place to try: Sweet Farm animal sanctuary in California.
A new book highlights Canadian craft spirits - and the cozy distilleries that make them, just in time for the pandemic.
What’s your lockdown libation of choice?
In my pre-pandemic life, I often kept things simple -- and alcohol free. My tipple of choice was a mix of cranberry juice and ginger ale. A pretty, refreshing blend, it never failed to remind me of travel. After all, ginger ale is this queasy girl’s best friend! But these days, there’s just something about, well, EVERYTHING that has me reaching for a stronger beverage to imbibe. Drowning sorrows and remembering simpler times? I can get behind that.
I’m craving something tangy, herbaceous, and travel-y. The mix of gin, lemon, and elderflower I had at Sydney’s New South Wales Art Gallery the night I heard Rolling Stone writer Toby Creswell speak about the origins of American rock and roll comes to mind. Or perhaps I’m really hankering after a generic frothy blender concoction like the one I sipped in a Bangkok infinity pool, where the overpriced slush diluted my fears of ice and waterborne diseases. Heck, maybe a classic Sex And The City-style cosmopolitan would do the trick, so long as I call it a quaran-tini. Ginger ale just doesn’t cut it anymore. And I’m not the only one who feels this way!
Memorable meals and cozy adventures top our list of the best Ottawa staycation activities for couples.
If you were going to celebrate a special wedding anniversary, where would you go?
If you answered that you'd stay at home, you're exactly on our wavelength! We knew that an Ottawa staycation was the perfect way to celebrate our August wedding anniversary - and not just because international travel opportunities are limited at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning a cozy couple's staycation meant that we could spend more time exploring, less time driving, and we could easily work all activities around our existing schedule. It would also allow us to tackle our neglected summer adventure bucket list, soak in the last of the August sunshine before autumn rolls in, and brush up on our local knowledge (which always seems to be lacking when we host out-of-town visitors).
Despite a nearly endless list of things we could possibly see and do in Ottawa, it didn't take long to decide on a plan that was very "us". We'd be exploring all things cozy, mixing and matching some old favourites with some very new experiences. This is what made our romantic Ottawa staycation itinerary perfect for us.
In Western Montana's "Gates of the Mountains" wilderness area, a rare rose keeps company with bats, birds, and legends.
At first glance, Kelseya Uniflora doesn’t look like much to get excited about, but botanists know better. These petite, low-lying pink and white blossoms don’t look anything like the classic roses you’d find at a flower shop. They’re quite the opposite, as their limited territory makes them one of the world’s rarest members of the Rosaceae (rose) family.
Finding them in nature is no easy task. The Kelseya Uniflora is fond of the volcanic and limestone cliffs of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Using the fine hairs on the underside of their branches, these tenacious little blooms can gain a foothold in small cracks on high cliffs. These rocks, which are so inhospitable to other plants, are Kelseya Uniflora’s ideal habitat. The tiny hairs gripping the rocks can also draw up moisture from small crevices. Once established, their semi-evergreen foliage forms mats of silvery green leaves that look like moss to novice horticulturists, such as myself. But up close, intricate leaf patterns are visible and the delicate tiny bright pink and white blossoms are lovely – that is, if you can find them.
Does every good travel story start with a quest?
"Are you open?" It was nearly three in the afternoon, far too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. But I was starving. Starving! And the small, unassuming Italian restaurant which I had passed earlier in the day suddenly felt like just the ticket.
The older waitress shook her head emphatically from side to side. I pushed aside a micro-flash of confusion then nimbly skipped over the threshold. This was Bulgaria, where shaking your head "no" is actually a gesture for "yes", and catching on was easier said than done. Once inside, I was greeted by the mouthwatering smell of cinnamon, so bright and vibrant that I could only conclude that the restaurant was using its pizza ovens to make baked goods during their downtime.
The staff of Sofia's Restaurant Balito (ul. "Pozitano" 50, 1303 Pette Kyosheta) laughed when I inquired about what they were baking. I was smelling an air freshener! Perhaps I was more hungry than I realized or Bulgaria must make the best commercial scents in the world. Either way, I couldn't shake my craving, even after several courses of savory Italian delicacies. I knew I had to find the best apple pie in Sofia.
Legendary art, freshly baked pizza pockets, luscious gelato, and... Starbucks? How to experience Milan in one day when you're on a layover. Plus: The Milan airport hotel we loved!
On my first visit to Milan, I changed trains and spent my last precious lira (yep, it was a long time ago) on a soggy train station sandwich that was decidedly not good. I was unimpressed - and hungry.
One my second visit to Milan, I once again changed trains and spent way too many Euros on Burger King. Yes, BURGER KING. My least favourite fast food - and the last thing you want to eat in Italy.
But on my third visit to Milan, oh let me tell you about the third visit. It was filled with gelato so luscious it was downright profane. And dough. Soft, fluffy dough, fresh from the oven, with the cheese and tomato sauce so hot they were bubbling together in a happy stew. Then there was art, the kind of art that puts all the other art to shame. And - of course! - there was coffee.
After two false starts, I finally had my day in Milan. I arrived via an overnight flight from New York and I left the same day, on an overnight flight to Addis Ababa. It was all part of our epic round-the-world trip that required us to cash in all our frequent flyer points and embrace a world of short but sassy layovers. Though my time was short, I was ready to do Milan in one day - or, at the very least, do my version of it in one day.
Here's where we ate, what we did, and even where we stayed in Milan, plus practical advice on getting from Malpensa airport to Milan's central station.
These snug bookstores are well worth travelling to! Discover more than 30 of the world's cutest, coziest bookstores.
Is there anything that rivals a bookstore when it comes to that perfect combination of smooth paper, fragrant coffee, and superb people watching? I think not! Bookstores are such a snug, warm, homey way to settle into a new destination and learn what the locals are reading, drinking, and talking about. They're the perfect spot for when you want a quiet moment, yet also ideal when you want noise, hustle, and bustle. There's no other word for it: Bookstores are cozy.
Some of my best cozy travel memories are set in bookstores, like the rainy day I visited the now-closed Mainly Murder in Cork, Ireland, to get some recommendations for an on-the-road mystery. Or my frequent visits to the Maneno Bookshop in Lilongwe, Malawi, where I gorged on every available Jeffery Deaver thriller to help pass the time during quiet nights on the road. I'm not alone in my love of these cushy, intimate, cheerful spots either. Several of my travel blogging friends feel the exact same way about bookstores and they have kindly shared some of their personal recommendations for the best bookstores around the world.
So go turn on the kettle and get ready to settle in with a hot drink. Here are more than 30 cozy bookstores from around the world to inspire your next travel adventure.
Eating, touring, exploring, and ... going to the Post Office? Here's what you can do in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, is one of the world's great adventure travel destinations. Vic Falls arguably offers the most scenic and heart pounding zip-lining, bungee jumping, aerial adventures, and white water rafting in the world. For some travelers, this all takes place against a backdrop of incredible luxury - gorgeous, plush resorts, genteel and swanky cocktail bars overlooking the gorge, and elegant restaurants whose service recalls a bygone era of glamour and refinement.
I, however, experienced none of this in Victoria Falls.
I was far too terrified to take part in anything remotely adventurous and far too frugal to indulge in any luxury offerings. The truth is that Victoria Falls activities are a bit tricky for value-minded travelers like myself who are eager for cozy microadventures. There is a fair bit on offer for transcontinental backpackers eager for cheap hostels, beers, and thrills. There's also plenty for indulgent spenders to drop their money on. But when it comes to the modest-spending scaredy-cat (that would be yours truly....) figuring out what you can do in Victoria Falls can be a challenge. These 15 activities are a good place to start. The list includes both things I did personally as well as some that I haven't yet experienced but seem to fit the bill.
This Greenwich Village food tour made me feel at home in New York City - and it's filled with celebrity homes, haunts, and musical legends too!
I've been playing catch up on my relationship with New York City for a while now. Unbelievably, my first visit was only a few years ago in the form of a short layover at the beginning of our round the world trip (short, mind you, but impressive - we combined a library visit, a meal at a singing diner, and a movie-themed sightseeing bus tour all in a few hours!) My second visit - which coincided with our second round-the-world trip - brought another short layover, another lovely but brief bus tour, and (of course!) another meal at my favourite singing diner. With two layovers and two bus tours under my belt, I felt like I had seen a lot of classic New York but I hadn't actually experienced the city. I hadn't walked through a single neighbourhood. I didn't have a good sense of where things were in relationship to each other.
Bottom line, I hadn't really hit the streets for the proverbial pounding of the pavement to get my bearings. But was a Greenwich Village food tour what I needed in order to feel more settled in the city?
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