Spain: Falling in Love with Tapas

For the love of food: Aside from the history, architectural beauty, and culture – the tapas are really what keeps me coming back to Spain. Now tallying three visits, I don’t intend to stop anytime soon, for the pursuit of delicious tapas and good wine are too tempting to turn down!

Preparing for Machu Picchu: 6 Helpful Tips

Preparing for Machu Picchu: 6 Helpful Tips

machu picchuMacchu Picchu was at the top of my travel bucket list for years, yet I was always making excuses as to why it was never the right time to go, often blaming factors such as weather, vacation time, or money. It was only nine months ago that I was able to tick Machu Picchu off my travel bucket list with a big, emphatic check mark. I decided to ditch the excuses and go for it – something that usually comes second nature to me, however I was a bit apprehensive this time around because I had placed the destination up on a pedestal for so many years. Read more

How to Travel on a Low Canadian Dollar

travel on canadian dollar

Canadian Dollar Getting You Down?

Yes, the Canadian Dollar is down in the dumps, but don’t let it put a damper on your 2016 travel plans! Here are some options that won’t break the bank this year:

Stay Domestic

  • Kiss the exchange rate worry goodbye and explore Canada by taking advantage of local deals created to entice American travellers to visit Canada. If you can’t find a good deal on flights, don’t fret – gas prices are ideal for road trips, which are often the best way to see this beautiful country!

travel to canada _ map

South of the Border: There’s Still Hope!

  • Local businesses and hotels in Myrtle Beach teamed up to offer Canadians up to 60% off on accommodation, dining, and entertainment as an incentive to come down south and overcome the hardship of the exchange rate. See Visit Myrtle Beach for more information.
  • If Myrtle Beach isn’t your cup of tea, several airlines have launched major seat sales to the U.S., and many major attractions have also publicized great deals and reduced rates.

travel deals

 

International Travel:

  • Do your research. Airlines are currently offering awesome sales, such as WOW Airline’s deals to Iceland. Other major seat sales include round trip airfares to China from Toronto/Vancouver. Aside from flights, it goes without saying that key destinations to consider are those whose currency values can make the Canadian Dollar stretch, such as South American nations like Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. Any of the few European countries who do not use the Euro are other great options, with the exception of the UK, of course! For example, Poland has been topping the lists of top international destinations for Canadians.
  • Here are some resources to help with your research:

 

 

Photo Credit: [loonie][map][travel deals]

 

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Why You Should Travel Solo

worried monkey - you're doing whatConfusion, shock, pity, disbelief and worry are just a few of the reactions that I’ve witnessed in response to an announcement of one of my many solo travel adventures. Most commonly, I get “but won’t you be bored?” or “aren’t you scared?”. Though very valid concerns, I can never find an adequate explanation because I can’t imagine feeling that way – only after having done it a few times, of course. In all honesty, I think I’ve spoiled myself: travelling solo has been such a life-changing experience that I’m afraid that travelling with a companion or a group will pale by comparison.

 

Why do I love solo travel? Here’s 5 reasons:

1. Full control of your schedule

Undoubtedly a no-brainer. Not having to consult or compromise your itinerary with anyone, and most importantly, not having to apologize when a seemingly good idea turns sour. The ability to travel freely – quickly or slowly, with a rigid or loose schedule, to any destination of your choice without fuss, is truly liberating.

2. The invaluable ability it affords you to befriend perfect strangers

Thanks to my first solo trip way back when, I’ve had several years to perfect the art of making friends with locals, fellow travellers, or anyone willing to give me the time of day. So, my answer to those who ask me if I’ll get bored or be lonely will always be a resounding no. The ability to communicate with strangers, especially with those who don’t speak your native language, is an important skill that stays with you forever and helps you in ways unimaginable. Meeting people on the road expands your horizons to different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs, and it also provides great company, to boot! The best part about befriending perfect strangers is that there is absolutely no obligation to spend time with them if you don’t want to – because after all, they are just strangers! It can be whatever you want it to be – some of my encounters have led to long-lasting friendships, and others have amounted to nothing more than a 5 minute conversation.

Santorini
Santorini

3. Being able to fully engulf yourself in a foreign culture

I hold this one at a particularly high value, yet I find it a bit difficult to explain. To me, being able to absorb and authentically immerse myself into local culture is the essence of travel. The seeing of sights is important, but if I can’t experience the crux of local life and truly understand what it’s like to live there, then I haven’t gained much. Don’t get me wrong – this can certainly be achieved in group or companion travel, but I find it so much easier to ditch my inhibitions and immerse myself in local customs when I’m on my own.

4. The life-changing confidence and empowerment that remains with you forever

Yet another item on my list that I hold at a particularly high value, mainly because it is an enriching quality that will change one’s everyday life. When you arrive in a foreign country alone, you are forced to step out of your comfort zone into the unknown and somehow find your way. No matter how much research you’ve done, or how many guide books you’ve consulted, it’s never like the book – and that’s a good thing! The ability to learn about customs and local etiquette through trial and error can develop into a unique confidence – a confidence that will endure anything, even the things that you once found impossible.

5. Being able to get lost, in both the figurative and literal sense.

I think it’s nearly impossible to travel to any destination for the first time and not get lost. When you’re alone and you are forced to find your way using only a map and a few locals who don’t speak a lick of English, it can be so satisfying to find your way! For those who are somewhat lost in life, remember that “taking a year off to find yourself” isn’t just a silly cliche – it actually has some merit to it. As described above, solo travel can help you discover things about yourself that you never thought existed!

 

 

Photo Credit: [monkey]

Heading South this Winter? Tobago is Calling!

Heading South this Winter? Tobago is Calling!

Tobago Island

As the temperatures outside drop, our minds naturally wander to warmer climates. Before the jackets and boots have come out of storage, many of us will have already hopped online to book a vacation down south. This year, why not try something different, like Tobago!

Read more

Tight on Time? How to See Machu Picchu in Two Days

Tight on Time? How to See Machu Picchu in Two Days

machu picchuMachu Picchu has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years, but ironically, a long list of trips have preceded my recent visit to Peru. The idea behind my procrastination was actually a very poor attempt at convincing myself that I was saving Peru for a “better time” when I could be aptly prepared. Truthfully, there never was a better time because I’m a last minute traveller in nature. And for that very reason, the task of booking the infamous trek to Machu Picchu seemed so daunting. The problem was that treks from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town) get booked up months in advance because admittance to both the ancient trails and Machu Picchu itself is limited in order to preserve precious Incan infrastructure. I wanted to do the trek to Machu Picchu so badly, but the thought of booking any sort of travel more than two weeks in advance gave me serious anxiety – it was just not my style. To boot, tour companies recommend that trekkers arrive in Cusco approximately two days prior to the trek in order to acclimatize to the altitude. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of time, and simply couldn’t afford to spend seven days in one place, so I had no choice but to find another way to get to Machu Picchu. After going on a whim and booking everything myself, I realized that it is possible to experience quite a bit of adventure in Machu Picchu doing the trek. Read more

How to Stay Healthy on Long Flights

How to Stay Healthy on Long Flights

air-passengers2Long flights, coupled with layovers and delays can often be the most taxing part of travelling. There’s nothing worse than having to take a day of recovery upon arrival just because of an exhausting flight itinerary.

To figure out how to stay healthy on long flights, I asked Dr. Melanie Lopes to share some of her wisdom. Here are four of her expert tips:

Choose your Seat Ahead of Time

To ensure you are well-rested by the time you arrive at your destination, consider choosing a window seat so you can lean against the window to sleep.  By choosing a window seat, you can also control how much sunlight enters your area, which can be helpful when trying to fall asleep. If you are a taller individual, it might be wise to choose an aisle seat, or even better: an  emergency exit seat to provide more leg room.  The additional space in this  seating area can help prevent any cramping or soreness in your legs.

Travel Pillows are an Essential Carry-On Itemneck pillow

I would highly recommend packing a travel pillow in your carry-on luggage for lengthy bus and car rides, and especially for long flights.  The purpose of a travel pillow is to support your neck, in order to prevent it from falling into awkward sleeping postures, which will eventually lead to uncomfortable kinks.

Travel pillow styles will depend on the type of travel that you have planned. Embarking on a backpacking trip might warrant an inflatable travel pillow, which will reduce the amount of occupied space in your backpack.  In contrast, you might want to splurge on a comfortably plush pillow for a slower-paced, all-inclusive trip. It’s best that you test the pillow in the store to assess it’s firmness. You want to ensure that the pillow is firm enough to support the natural curve of your neck, but not too firm that it limits the movement of your neck.

Motion is Lotion

I always remind my patients that it’s important to keep moving, whether you are seated at work, or on a long car, bus or plane ride.  By keeping your joints moving and using your muscles, you can help prevent the onset of stiffness and soreness that tends to occur after hours of sitting. Additionally, immobility can increase the risk of swollen ankles, and a possible development of deep vein thrombosis (aka: blood clot) in the legs.  By moving around, you can help improve your blood circulation.

I would recommend trying to stretch and move at least once every hour.  

If you’re stuck in the middle seat, don’t fret!  You can do some stretches in your seat, working from your head down to your legs:

 

camel stretch

  • Start by rotating your head in circles in both directions
  • Shrug your shoulders up and down 5 times
  • Round your upper back like a camel and bring your arms in front to stretch out the area in between your shoulder blades.
  • Grab onto your seat’s left armrest and twist your upper body to the left to feel a good stretch in your low back, and then do the same to the right.
  • Clench your butt muscles, hold it for 3 seconds and then release.  Repeat 5 times.
  • Bend and straighten your knees
  • Point your toes up to the ceiling and then down to the floor, repeat 10 times for each foot.
  • Trace out the alphabet (in capital letters) with your feet from A-Z to help promote good blood circulation.

If you are able to get out of your seat, walk up and down the length of the plane and try to stretch, as noted above.

Keep Hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated with water before, during and after a flight.  With low humidity and pressurized watercabins, you can feel very dehydrated. Low humidity can also put you at risk for catching a respiratory virus. Bring an empty water container in your carry on, and fill it up once you pass security.  You can then sip on some water throughout the flight. Try to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can prevent you from sleeping and also increase the likelihood of becoming dehydrated.

Try these helpful tips to stay healthy on long flights and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to start your new adventure.

Happy travelling!

MELANIE LOPES

Sports Chiropractor  chiropractor

Dr. Lopes is a Sports Chiropractor in the Davisville area of Toronto.  She works in conjunction with her RMT to treat a wide spectrum of patients from babies to senior citizens and everyone in between. Dr. Lopes’ other passions include salsa dancing, travelling the world, keeping fit at the gym and photography.

You can find out more info on her site:  www.361clinic.com

Or on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/361clinic

 

 

Images: [water bottle] [stretches] [travel pillow] [airplane cabin]

Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites: A Weekend Getaway

Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites

Fall. That time of the year for me, and many others, where summer bliss has faded away, and the winter blues and it’s associated stressors begin to creep in. It’s that time where the weather starts to change before you’re ready, and work inevitably seems to get more stressful. This of course, is a compelling story that screams vacation and the necessity to temporarily escape. The reality is, however, that not everyone can afford to take off for a week before the busy Christmas season, which makes a staycation the perfect solution. For most city dwellers, their first thought would be to venture over to Niagara or somewhere up north to experience the serenity of the countryside. But sometimes, these options can be costly and time consuming to plan.

Enter Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites.

 

Just fifteen kilometres north of the downtown core, the Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites has a large property that takes guests away from all of the chaos, coining itself as an Urban Oasis. Though it’s main specialty was once Conference hosting, it has evolved into so much more than that. I had the pleasure of getting some quality R&R at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel, where I indulged in the many amenities and treats that made me feel like I was truly on vacation, and here’s why:

Location, Location, Location

Not too far from Downtown Toronto
Not too far from Downtown Toronto

The TDV is situated on the outskirts of the city to provide the ultimate resort-like atmosphere with an injection of urban lifestyle to its guests. At a good distance from the hustle and bustle of the city, guests can actually feel like they are escaping, but without the hassle of a long drive to rural areas.

Surrounding the TDV are the Shops at Don Mills – a superior outdoor shopping centre bustling with restaurants, cafes, premium shops, and a movie theatre. If you really want to escape urban life however, fear not – the TDV neighbours the Flemington Park Golf Club and the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, ideal for the adventurous type who enjoy the outdoors and prefer to do something active.

Pamper Yourself

The Toronto Don Valley Hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool. In the summer, one can lounge by the pool and bask under the sun while sipping cocktails. On the other hand, the stunning indoor pool should not to be missed. A large circular pool, encased in floor to ceiling glass creates the unique and picturesque environment of swimming below the falling leaves or snow-capped trees. Though you won’t need to warm up after taking a dip in the heated indoor pool, it never hurts to soak in the hot tub as well. If this seems a bit too sedentary, and you feel like exerting some energy, try their fully equipped fitness centre.

Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indulge Your Taste Buds

No experience is complete without a delicious meal, and the hotel’s DV Bar I Bistro is certainly prepared to satisfy your palate. I had the pleasure of indulging in a three-course meal starting with Ahi Tuna Tataki salad, followed by the traditional Steak & Frites, and topped off with a delectable chocolate mousse cake to satisfy my overbearing sweet tooth. Couple that with a glass of Pinot Noir, and I was in Heaven.

Sleep like a King

Toronto Don Valley’s newly renovated rooms are something to admire. Not your typical pint-sized room crammed with two double beds, the TDV provides plenty of space to ensure your overnight stay is cozy and luxurious. I was particularly impressed with the modern furniture and interior design. The king-sized bed was like sleeping on a cloud, which made the wall-mounted plasma screen TV even better for viewing. The room was so big that it almost seemed like it had a separate living room space with a lovely upholstered single loveseat, a lamp, and a small table – perfect for a morning read and coffee.

Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites

 

So, all in all, mission accomplished:

I left the Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites feeling refreshed and revitalized.

 

The cherry on top was that I didn’t have to sit through a long car ride, or wait in pesky airport lines to get home, as I was only a short car ride away. I think I found my new go-to for future weekend getaways or one-night escapes!

 

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Feature Friday Photo: Street Vendors in Hanoi

Hanoi Vietnam VendorStreet Vendors in Hanoi, Vietnam

I love everything about Hanoi. Having lived like a local while volunteering in Hanoi, I fell in love with the culture, the food, the people, and the way of life. Mobile street vendors are a charming part of Vietnamese culture, and are abundant in Hanoi – you can get any anything, anytime, and anywhere. Vendors on foot and bicycles frequent the streets of Hanoi to sell flowers, sugar cane juice, and fresh produce, to name a few. I’ve even seen balloon vendors – that is, a person walking down the street with dozens of inflatable balloons strung from their limbs…truly a sight to see amongst all of the city chaos.

Feature Friday Photo: Athens, Greece

Acropolis - Athens, Greece

The Acropolis: Athens, Greece

I made a quick stop in Athens after hopping around the Greek islands for a couple of weeks. As soon as I arrived in Athens, I was ready to write it off as my least favourite destination in Greece, perhaps even a waste of my time. The economic crisis was fresh and there was quite a bit of protesting going on. The city looked dreary and run-down, and unfortunately didn’t exude the same Greek charm that the islands did. At night, however, the beauty of Athens’ ancient history came alive to showcase the pinnacle of Greek history and the heart of the city. Illuminated, and standing tall atop the city’s peak, the Acropolis could be spotted from any angle in the city.