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?
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.
When planes and plans are grounded, it's time for travel lovers to help others - and themselves.
On March 12, 2020, I told friends that it felt like a tiny part of me had died.
After weeks of distressing reports about the spread of COVID-19 - and an equal amount of time whereby I stoutly resolved to keep calm and carry on - the writing was on the wall. There was clearly no way that I would be able to take a long-hoped for trip to Paris in April.
This wasn't just any trip. This was THE trip. I was turning 40 and I was moving to Paris - solo! - for a month, to write and eat and dream. Bookended by a layover in London and a trip to the United States, it was due to be my longest solo adventure since I was 24 years old. Until, of course, it wasn't. I say I made the decision not to go, but in reality the decision was made for me. Within 24 hours of my choice to withdraw, borders were closing, the news cycle went into overdrive, and I hunkered down into my home, happily choosing social distancing for everyone's benefit.
I felt like a tiny part of me had died. And I was filled with shame.
What right did I have to be crying (and let me tell you, there was crying) over missed macarons and museums when people were dying, when people's entire livelihoods were evaporating in front of them? I thought of the people of Italy, an entire nation quarantined, finding solace in community song, joining their voices together from the safe distance of apartment balconies to comfort one another in their grief. What right did I have to feel sad?
But my online community disagreed. Several people reached out to say that it's both normal and expected to feel sorrow for those in need and to also be sad that someone you really wanted did not work out. That it's okay to feel blue when your dream dies, even if it was a dream built on pretty, dainty, cozy things, and you can still have tremendous empathy for those who are also suffering in their own way. Pandemic self-care for travel lovers can acknowledge and incorporate both.
These are the best family campgrounds Ontario has to offer - and we've
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