The Cup and Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, is a beloved spot for adventure. But how would an anti-adventurist like me fair on this hiking route?
I have a rule when it comes to hiking. I have to be able to complete the route while holding a travel mug, full of a delicious latte. If you're going to trudge through the forest, you might as well do with a tasty hot beverage in hand, right? And having a hot drink to balance means you're avoiding anything too arduous. However, while on a press trip to Manitoulin Island, located just outside Sudbury in northern Ontario, I broke that rule all in the name of, well... I'm not sure exactly. Adventure? That doesn't sound like me. Being a bold, brave travel writer? Welllll.......
Like many anti-adventurist excursions, I had several moments of doubt along the way, but I'm ultimately happy that I did it. Here's what it was like to hike the Cup and Saucer Trail - in the rain!
Rogers Interzip zip line connects Ontario and Quebec and offers unparalleled views of downtown Ottawa and plenty of thrills. But would this anti-adventurist be able to take the ultimate leap of faith?
There are many reasons a person might decide to step outside of their comfort zone. Perhaps they want to test their limits, experience life to the fullest, or make an incredible travel memory. Or maybe, just maybe, they want to show their husband that they don't know you as well as they think they do.
The latter was me. In an effort to make Ryan think "Hmmmm.... Maybe I don't know Vanessa all that well. She is far more enigmatic than I gave her credit for" I found myself on what is billed as the world's first interprovincial zip line.
Yes, fellow anti-adventurists. I went zip lining. On my wedding anniversary. All so I'd appear just a smidgen more inscrutable than normal to a spouse who knows me very, very well.
After nearly nearly two years of research, we're finally ready to crown a winner! These are Ottawa's best chicken wings.
My quest to find Ottawa's best chicken wings began in the early summer of 2020, when restaurant patios were just beginning to reopen - temporarily, as it turned out. I revelled in the simple joy of sitting outside and ordering the kinds of foods that always taste better from a restaurant. I loved every bite of those meals but it was the chicken wings that made the strongest impression. They were so delicious! Had chicken wings always been this crispy, this juicy, this tasty? I was so enamoured that I decided to try as many wings around the city as possible.
I envisioned myself as a kind of Ottawa chicken wing hero, giving the public the kind of much needed independent wing assessments they've long craved, all while delivering sub-standard wings the evisceration they've long deserved. Little did I realize it would be a hobby that would hold me in good steed through many a lockdown.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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