So you want to go to Paris.... May I suggest some travel advice, recommendations, hints, tips, and unbreakable rules from someone with a life-long love affair with the City of Lights?
I've spent one month and half a lifetime in the City of Lights.
The part about one month is very true. From mid-October to mid-November, 2022, I lived in Paris. I found a wee apartment with sloped walls and wooden beams and made the city my home.
The reference to half a lifetime is a bit of hyperbole but, in its own way, equally true. I first visited the French capital in 2001 and I've made at least half a dozen visits in the years since. I'm never not wanting to be there.
I believe you could live in Paris your entire life and not discover all of its secrets. As such, I am far from an expert. On the other hand, I know Paris better than just about any travel destination and I've learned quite a lot in 20+ years of adventures. And that brings me here, in an effort to wrap up my very best Paris travel advice, suggestions, recommendations, tips, and tricks. For everyone who has said that they absolutely have to get my advice before planning their own big trip - here it is. This post is for you. I'll accept macarons in lieu of thanks.
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?
In Giverny, France, Claude Monet's home and gardens are an absolute delight in autumn. Gorgeous colours and smaller crowds create a special seasonal magic.
Claude Monet's home, studio, and gardens in Giverny, just outside Paris, are one of the city's most popular attractions in summer and for good reason. The famous water lily pond, the Japanese-style bridge covered with lavender wisteria, and the flower beds studded with vibrant pastel blooms are the stuff of travel legend, the subjects of a million photos. But those who are truly lucky will bypass Giverny's famous summer scenes (and crowds) and discover a different kind of magic altogether if they visit in late October.
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?
Coffee, cake, and community spirit make me very happy to visit the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague, Prince Edward Island.
Every now and then when I travel, I come across a little cafe that I love so much, one that makes my travels so much better, that I can't help but write them a bit of a love letter here on the blog. Remember when I found the latte of my dreams in Maun, Botswana? Prepare to meet its Prince Edward Island match, so to speak: the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague
This charming, delectable little spot has become my go-to cafe whenever I'm leaving or entering PEI via the nearby Wood Islands ferry terminal. It's too good not to share! If you're taking a family trip in the area, or perhaps hiking the Island Walk and need a little fuel, or you simply just want a darn good latte on Prince Edward Island, this is your spot.
I should note that the Lucky Bean has a second cafe in Stratford, PEI, which I haven't visited yet - another spot to add to my travel list! All the photos used in this post are from Lucky Bean's Facebook page (and used with permission). As I never seem to have my camera with me when I go, I appreciate having access to their images.
Whether you're in Montague for several days or just blazing through on route to the ferry, here are nine things you'll appreciate about this cozy cafe.
The best things to do in Zürich West: All the fun, funky, and frugal things to do in Zürich's trendiest neighbourhood.
The Yonex Badminton Halle in Zürich West is home to cheap beer, fierce gameplay, and a FABULOUS Dolly Parton cardboard cutout mascot. In many ways, it’s a most unusual site to stumble across in the heart of Europe’s financial capital. But it’s also emblematic of Zürich West’s remarkable transformation from what was once primarily an industrial site to the fun, funky neighbourhood it is today. I’ve had the chance to explore the neighbourhood with a private guide who lives there and I can attest to what an amazing travel destination it is.
My favourite cozy things to do in Yarmouth include watching artists work by the seashore, visiting a lovely cafe, and shivering over ghost stories.
The small town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, seems purpose-built for coziness. Between the delightful views of the harbour, the fresh seafood served in local restaurants, and the area's strong cultural connections, you have a recipe for a snug visit and amazing travel memories. I had visited the area before as many people do, during a short stop after taking the ferry over from Maine. I had never spent significant time in the region until this summer when I attended a conference in Yarmouth. It was the perfect way to check out the community's homiest spots and I'm happy to share my favourite cozy things to do in Yarmouth so your visit can be equally as nice.
If you want to explore Georges Island National Historic Site, here's how you can do it on your own, with a tour, and even with a picnic! Plus: What to expect on the ferry.
Once upon a time, Halifax, Nova Scotia, wasn't just known as a lively city for music, travel, and seaside fun. It was first and foremost a military port. Halifax was on the frontlines of defending Canada from foreign attack. It's a role that thankfully never had to be enforced but for centuries the city has been soaked in military preparations. Now one of Halifax's oldest fortifications, Georges Island National Historic Site is open to the public and I was fortunate to explore it myself.
Georges Island sits in the middle of Halifax Harbour. You can see it from almost any point in the city - I had superb views from my room at the Westin Nova Scotian- but visitors were prohibited until 2020. My friends and family jumped at the chance to visit when the Parks Canada site opened during the pandemic and their reviews were GLOWING. Locals absolutely love this destination and they're extremely proud of their city's history. As they should be!
The main attraction on Georges Island is Fort Charlotte. Fortifications here date to 1750 and include an underground tunnel system. While Georges Island has never been attacked, Fort Charlotte and the surrounding area has been used for important military operations over the centuries. Two thousand French soldiers were imprisoned here during the Seven Years War and an estimated 1,660 Acadian civilians were detained during the Expulsion. During the American Revolution, privateers were held prisoner in Fort Charlotte and, during World War II, an anti-aircraft was stationed there.
Visiting today is decidedly peaceful experience and a wonderful way to get to know Halifax better. Here's what to expect and how you can explore Georges Island National Historic Site.
Planning a budget trip to Hawaii? These are our favourite frugal and free things to do in Waikiki for $5 or less.
When Ryan and I took our first international trip together as a married couple, we went to Hawaii. While we had long dreamed of warm weather getaway, we hadn't exactly spent much time planning and saving for the trip. A combination of fortuitous factors meant that we snagged a last minute departure and a great hotel deal at the final hour - but we didn't have a lot of money to splurge on Hawaii's biggest temptations, like submarine rides, helicopter tours, and famous luaus. Instead, we put together a list of extremely frugal and free things to do in Waikiki, our main base. The result was an incredible week in a tropical paradise and a very affordable one as well.
My goal for this list was to limit costs at $5.00 per person or less and to concentrate primarily on the Honolulu neighbourhood of Waikiki but you will find great value at many price points across the state. Whether budget travel is a necessity for you or simply a preference, I think you'll love this affordable take on Hawaiian travel.
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