There's no travel treat I love quite like a fancy coffee. But would fate keep me away from the decadent delights in Victoria-By-The-Sea?
Have you ever had one of those travel moments when you really, really want to visit a place but it seems that fate is determined to keep you away?
That's how I've felt about Island Chocolates in the small Prince Edward Island village of Victoria-By-The-Sea for YEARS now! I had the shop (and, specifically, their chocolate-infused "factory coffee") since 2021. That autumn, Ryan and I rolled into town in the middle of a brutal rainstorm and we couldn't find the shop. This is clearly a reflection on how road-weary we were, as the shop is on MAIN STREET. We must have been a bit loopy in order to miss it. As such, our only moment of triumph from that visit was finding public washrooms. No chocolate for us.
I had a second chance in 2022 when I was visiting PEI with friends. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner in Victoria-By-The-Sea before taking a leisurely walk up to Island Chocolates... except that it was closed! Once again, it was our fault. We didn't look up the hours and it's not surprising that they'd be closed after supper time.
Would my luck change in 2023? Well....
What happens when you combine a hotel cat and cheap wine? Bed bugs, that's what. Here's what happened to me.
Venice in August is not the best time or place to get a great meal.
During this traditional month of Italian family vacations, many a restaurant shuts down for a week – or more. Despite my advanced planning, I still ended up at a tourist trap during our 2016 trip. The dour staff refused to serve free tap water. Only pricey bottled water was available, chafing against my frugal principles. Given the dire circumstances, I opted for a more economical choice: a bottle of cheap rosé. And thus my bed bug saga began.
Skipping merrily home to my clean but threadbare hotel, I encountered the property’s resident cat, Pierre, on the steps. I should pause and say I assumed it was the property’s cat, based on his cat-like claim of the courtyard space, but, as Ryan points out, it really could have belonged to anyone – or no one at all. But with the demon liquor in my veins, I considered it prudent to scoop Pierre up and bring him to my room in a brazen hope of enjoying a genuine cat nap with him.
Intoxicated with the love of a temporary pet (and bargain-basement wine) I didn’t perform my customary bed bug sheet check...
Some people explore via food tours or shoe shopping. It seems my destiny is to discover the world one optometrist at a time.
What do Paris (France), Portland (Maine), and Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) have in common? Not much, to be honest. But I’ve come to see them through a new lens – if you’ll pardon the pun – thanks to local optometrists.
Some people see the world through – here’s that pun again – a specific lens. They explore destinations via a particular filter or set of experiences, discovering cities via food tours or shoe stores. I hadn’t thought that approach applied to me until I realized I was getting to know the globe via eye health facilities, one city at a time.
Sometimes the best travel guides aren't guidebooks at all. These ten books will help you see travel, food, wine, life, and culture in a new way.
Do you remember the first book that inspired you to travel?
I have several. I vividly remember the details of Anne's voyage from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia to attend college in Anne Of The Island, the third instalment in Lucy Maud Montgomery's Green Gables series. I was enthralled by the packing scenes in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. What does one bring when you embark on a long carriage ride to see Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins? Early biographies of The Beatles made Liverpool's gritty streets and warm culture feel not that far away.
I bet you have some memorable novels and memoirs that helped inform your travels, too. And now I have some more to add to your list. I'm confident there's something among my list of ten non-travel travel books that will appeal to every reader. These texts will change the way you look at food, drink, towns, cities, forests, fears, and friendships forever. Tuck one into your suitcase for your next trip.
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.
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?
From boats to balloons, Hawaii to hotels, these are ten of our most memorable travel experiences in ten years of blogging.
"But really... what's your favourite place?" "So where should I go next year?" "Well there must be some place you didn't like."
After ten years of blogging, I hear questions like this all the time. Alas, dear reader, I am horrible with these queries. If you need someone to weigh in on finding pizza in Bruges or the quality of food tours in Quebec City, I am your girl. But sweeping generalizations are not my strong point. I can tell you about some destinations I didn't like - but I'd also have to get into how I slept funny the night before and skipped breakfast and honestly, that's probably what made me dislike Istanbul on my first visit (for the record, I love it now). The reverse also holds true. I'm convinced that an unexpectedly stellar hotel and accompanying breakfast factor into my long standing enthusiasm for Athens as the spot everyone should visit next.
That leaves the biggest question of all, my favourite place. People seem to think it's a bit of a cop out if I try to explain about how sometimes the most memorable trips aren't the most fun in the moment, or that the things that made me love a trip had less to do with the particular destination and more with other factors in my life. So sometimes I just name Hawaii as my favourite destination but this is what feels like the real cop out to me. Like, a decade spent travelling and writing about the world and my best answer is the one place that has long been established as the most desirable destination? Surely I can do better than that?
And that is exactly what I'm going to attempt here. These are ten of my most memorable travel experiences and destinations after ten years of blogging. I'm not going to go so far as to rank them or even say that they're my definitive top ten travel moments. These are simply the stories that flood my heart with happy remembrances and what they all have in common is that I invariably thought at some point that I truly have the best job in the world. And I do!
After ten years of being a travel blogger, I've learned some important travel lessons - and I bet you can relate to all of them. From toilets to temperature control, these are the ten things I know for sure about travel.
I like to pretend that this photo represents me at my best as a travel blogger. I'm crumpled, dusty, and sunburned, clearly exhausted as I slump in the back of a Land Rover, a water purification bottle within easy reach. It's the kind of photo that suggests I could be fatigued from any number of glamorous, travel blogger-y tasks. Maybe I was up at dawn to interview a farmer or worked through the night to "research" local liqueurs. It definitely doesn't suggest that my stomach is churning from the bumpy, twisting road or that I'd sell my soul for a working toilet. And most travel images are like that. There can be a lot of irksome truths behind soothing composition.
After ten years of travel blogging, I've learned a thing or two about what a photo really says and a whole lot about what travel is truly like. I've picked up a lot of hard earned wisdom in this job and I'm here to share my biggest lessons. After a decade of jaunting and jetting, this is what I know for sure about travel.
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?
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