We found real value in one of the toniest spots in the United States.
Cape Cod is a tiny spit off Massachusetts, just an hour from Boston, where everything seems endless and open and large. There are massive beaches, gorgeous mansions, endless expanses of blue sky. And the friendliness is larger than life too!
I met my new friend Kelly, a former Cape Cod resident, at a cooking class in Prague. We bonded over a mutual appreciation of all things dumplings and goulash and she gave me invaluable advice for exploring Cape Cod. Thanks to her sage insider's perspective we had an unforgettable trip - plus a long list of activities to consider for next time.
In the spirit of travel friendships, I feel it's only appropriate to pass along our favourite (affordable) Cape Cod recommendations - and I can't wait to hear if you have any to add to the list!
"Rome is like a lasagna" and other sound lessons from our night walking tour of Rome.
Have you ever happened to randomly take notice of a stranger on the bus, waiting at a cross walk, or in line at the coffee shop? Maybe it was their unusual shirt or colorful shoes that caught your eye, or perhaps they were just in your line of sight. And then, inexplicably, you notice the same person in a completely different location, hours or days after the fact. There has to be a word that describes this quirky travel phenomenon!
I've experienced it a few times, but never was it so curious as in Rome, where I noticed a very distinctive elderly man on the subway. This petite gentleman was carrying a curiously shaped case - was it a ukulele or a squash racket? He was stooped over and moved slowly, but there was something still undeniably nimble about him. He was captivating to watch and I wondered what his story was.
To my astonishment, I saw him again, hours and miles later, halfway across the city, sitting at a restaurant outside the Pantheon. His case contained a lute! I saw him strumming it at a number of cafes- yet he didn't seem to be busking, nor having a drink, nor enjoying a meal. Sometimes he even sat down at tables occupied by other people. What was he up to? I was enthralled by this diminutive gentleman but had no idea how to approach him without sounding like a stalker who had been keeping an eye on him since the subway.
My octogenarian paramour was the undisputed highlight of an altogether fascinating night in Rome, discovering the city's main sights at night with City Wonders's walking tour (complete with wine!) Here's what else I loved about this tour experience.
At Prague's Chef Parade cooking classes, they're serving up great meals - and some invaluable lessons too.
My arrival in Prague was a triumph but it didn't feel so auspicious at first. At the train station, I was holding my breath. This was it. A new country. A new language, a new currency, even a new political history. I was in Eastern Europe for the first time and I was in over my head.
As living in the train station wasn't an option, I found the metro entrance, then the ticket box, and finally the convenience store that provided change through the purchase of a Snickers bar. I found the right metro train and then even the right tram, which stopped precisely in front of our hotel. Whew! As I stepped onto Prague's cobblestones for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the most incredible smell; the onion-y, savory aroma from someone cooking a mouthwatering meal. There was music playing in the square and I finally exhaled. And I started to laugh. That's when I knew that Prague and I were going to get along just fine.
In less than an hour, Prague had already taught me some important lessons, like how it's okay to feel trepidation. And that it's okay to take your time to figure things out. And that acquiring Snickers bars should always be step one of any plan! And maybe the scrumptious smell that greeted me was the fore bearer for what came next - an amazing cooking class with some surprising life lessons of its own.
What does a Berliner eat? We were about to find out on an incredible Berlin food tour.
What is a typical Canadian ingredient? This simple question, posed to me by a tour guide in Bern, Switzerland, caught me completely off guard. I absolutely choked and couldn’t think of a single response. We were walking around the city and the conversation had drifted to food (as it inevitably does with me). My guide enthused about her favorite Swiss ingredients but I couldn’t think of anything to say about my own.
About an hour later, I bluntly interrupted the conversation to triumphantly blurt out “maple syrup!” Yep, it took me all that time to think of the most obvious answer in the world. Clearly I needed to up my local food game and it took a tour in another German speaking city – this time, Berlin – to give me a blueprint into what recipes and ingredients can mean to a region.
Food journalist Dirk Engelhardt runs a Berlin food tour unlike any other that I’ve experienced. For one thing, it’s a "full belly" tour – there’s no sharing of samples or small plates here. We’re talking full bottles of beer, massive plates direct from the menu, and mighty servings of cake. It’s more of a neighborhood supper crawl, where each stop gives you another full course. But generous portion sizes aside, the real stars of the tour are the venues.
Some trips start at a snail's pace - but Edmundston let me take my time.
Aviator Anne Lindburgh once said that the final moments before you leave for a trip are horrible. Once you get going, you’re fine but until you do it’s absolutely dreadful, like a snail being pulled off its rock.
I know exactly how she felt. The morning we departed for Edmundston, a mantra of “I’m a snail, I’m a snail, I’m a snail” kept playing in my head. I did NOT want to leave my rock.
Edumundston was the first stop in our epic 5 week, pan Canadian/European adventure. It’s the longest trip we’ve ever undertaken and, against a backdrop of some personal upheaval, I was the world’s most reluctant snail, being plucked off the rock and tossed in the car with most serious reservations. What on earth was I doing and why on earth was I going on the road when I had a perfectly acceptable rock right at home?
Fortunately, Edmundston understood. This northern New Brunswick city has been a traditional stopping point for us on all our eastern Canada roadtrips but until recently it had never represented much more to us than a convenient junction for fuel and food. But it somehow felt wrong to be continually visiting a city and never being able to recommend anything beyond the nearest Tim Horton’s location. It was time for this snail to blaze a trail (metaphorically, of course. I’m not slimy in real life!) Here are our favourite picks for the best saves, splurges, and steals in the city.
Updated in 2021! The best Kauai activities for families, including great splurges, amazing savings, and tons of outdoor fun.
Do you remember the time we stayed in the cheapest hotel room in London? Our short term pain was definitely worth the long term gain - we saved enough to enjoy some amazing theater tickets! And, of course, our misadventures provided tremendous amusement for all our wonderful readers! That marriage-testing situation was a memorable travel experience - and it perfectly summed up our value travel philosophy. We are all about knowing where to save, when to splurge, and how to get a steal of a deal. And that translates into a TON of fun when it comes to planning out the best Kauai activities for families - whether you're a couple, a family with kids, a family with seniors, or multi-generational.
London may have been our most amusing save, splurge, steal scenario but it's a system we put into action in just about every destination we visit. It's such a part of who we are and how we travel that we wanted to start an entirely new series on the blog dedicated to how we save, splurge, and "steal" all around the world. And there's no better place to kick things off than Hawaii.
While Hawaii has plenty of tempting splurges (check out our list of favourite indulgences on the Big Island!) it is also one of the most affordable, value oriented destinations we've ever been to. We love sharing our passion for the more affordable side of Hawaiian life and the island of Kauai in particular is the embodiment of the best of the save, splurge, steal ideals. Here's what earned our money and our affections on the garden isle, staying with kayaking in Kauai.
Our vote for the best Indian food in Ottawa? It's the East India Company - in part because Chef Mehra took us behind the scenes and into the tandoori room at his prized restaurant. (Updated in 2022!)
What's our vote for the best Indian food in Ottawa? It's the East India Company - and it's thanks in part to a few secrets we learned behind the scenes! Most chefs are notoriously tight lipped when it comes to sharing their culinary secrets but Chef Nitin Mehra couldn't spill the beans even if he wanted to. The exact recipe for his restaurant's famous garam masala is a secret guarded so tightly that there's only one person on earth who knows the exact formula - his mother. Technically, it's not even her recipe. She inherited it from Chef Mehra's great grandmother on the day she passed away.
If you get goosebumps just thinking of how close that recipe came to being forever lost, you're not alone. Talking with Chef Mehra gave me amazing insight into the careful crafts of the culinary world, the passion and discipline that are poured into every sauce, and the role that family, tradition, community, and care play into making good food taste great.
Updated 2021! The Big Island creates some BIG memories. If you're planning to travel to Hawaii, you have to check out Big Island helicopter tours - plus these other amazing adventures.
Hawaii's Big Island is one of those places where you just can't find a bad view. It's incredible by the shore. It's so warm and welcoming in the towns. There's as many amazing things to do in-land as there is by the water. And, of course, it's pretty darn fantastic from above! Big Island helicopter tours show you a side to Hawaii that most visitors never see - say, like lava flowing from the Big Island's volcanos or show-stopping cliff-side waterfalls. This post talks about what we loved about our helicopter tour, plus gives you tons of information about other splurges that made our trip - like a gorgeous hotel room, an amazing mountain top, and an unbelievable foodie experience.
And when I say "splurge" - well, let's just say that most things are actually super reasonable. I just mean they're not my usual freebies! When people ask me what I write about, I always say "where to save and when to splurge". I know I cover the savings side of things - A LOT. (Case in point: Check out this piece on how I make Hawaii a truly affordable destination). But I really believe a well timed splurge is just as important. After all, what's the fun in being frugal all the time if you can't let loose every now and then? And Hawaii's Big Island is the perfect place to splurge! Here's what you should not miss.
Updated in 2021!
Check out the crazy downpour of rain! We filmed this from our tent at Sandbanks Provincial Park, one of several wet and windy camping experiences we had this summer. And yet we keep coming back for more! So why, exactly, would anyone chose to go camping in the rain? Have you ever read Garth Stein's book "The Art of Racing In The Rain"? It's a terrific read for anyone who loves travel and dogs and it always reminds me that there's a bit of an art to doing just about anything in the rain - even camping! Here are some important lessons I learned about doing it with good grace while camping at Pittock Conservation Area near Woodstock, Ontario.
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