Easy Weekend Getaways in Ontario

Grand Hotel & Suites Toronto
Rooftop Views at Grand Hotel & Suites Toronto

I’m a bit of a sunchaser, so during our short-lived Canadian summers, I like to stay local and absorb every ounce of sunshine that I can. I prefer to visit the beach destinations during our world renowned frigid, and in my opinion unbearable, winters. Nevertheless, I still like to squeeze in a little getaway here and there throughout the summer, and what better way to do that than to explore my home province of Ontario. Since I’m typically a last-minute traveller, I find that I’m always behind the ball when it comes to booking cottages or planning trips to popular Ontario destinations like Muskoka or Niagara Falls. Almost always, I find myself scouring accommodation sites on the Thursday before a long weekend, hoping for a miracle (aka: a vacancy).

This summer, I decided to save myself some time and avoid the spots that I knew were already booked up months in advance. I managed to sneak in a spontaneous getaway for each of the long weekends in the summer. Read more

Discovering Hamilton’s Hidden Gems

hamilton supercrawl
Streetside Art around James Street North

I would have never guessed that Hamilton, of all places, would be a food and art lover’s haven. Just under an hour west of Toronto, Hamilton is known to most as home of the beloved Tiger-Cats, and also for it’s rich history and preservation of National heritage sites. Contrary to popular belief, Hamilton is an undiscovered wonderland for foodies and art lovers alike. I’ve been to the Hammer several times back in my University days, but have never actually seen anything outside of Hess Village (which I’m kind of embarrassed to admit). Lucky for me, my friends at Travel Massive and Tourism Hamilton gave me a true dose of what Hamilton is really like – here are some hidden gems that I had the pleasure of discovering: Read more

GUEST POST: Hotel Stays Filled with Delightful Surprises

Intercontinental Hotel

I asked Michelle Dias what she had to say about travelling for work, and here’s what she had to say:

Before working in the hotel business, I thought that the “big-box” branded hotels were all the same: cookie-cutter versions of the same formula, like your neighborhood Best Buy or Target. Boy, was I wrong! I am now one year into my role as Marketing Manager, PR and Communications, with the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and I have seen my fair share of hotels. From hotels in Vancouver to Atlanta to Nisku (5 minutes outside of Edmonton’s airport), the 13 brands we represent all have similar standards, but each hotel comes with a unique surprise waiting to be discovered. Typically when I go on a business trip, I have the pleasure of getting a hotel tour. It’s a great way for me to get to know the staff and the property. Although friendly smiles and great hospitality come standard, there have been surprise “WOWS” that I won’t soon forget. After a year of jet setting, here my favourite delightful surprises that I have stumbled upon during my hotel stays:

1. A bowling alley, arcade, and huge fitness facility at the Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo

Crowne Plazas are known and enjoyed for their upscale facilities (restaurants, meeting spaces etc.) and cool décor. When touring the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo, I was shocked to see their underground bowling alley and arcade – which was formerly a parking garage. This space looked like a gamers-dream, and a perfect space for business and leisure guests to unwind. LPGA Golf Professional and Canadian-favourite Brookie Henderson recently took a swing and got a hole-in-one (surprise, surprise!) while playing on the mini-putt course in this cool underground space.

 

2. Piece of the Berlin Wall at the InterContinental Hotel Montreal InterContinental Hotel

I kid you not! This section of the Berlin Wall was given by Germany to Montreal for the city’s 350th birthday. I’ve been to Berlin, Germany and have to say that the piece of the wall inside the InterContinental is so lively – it really brings that part of history to life. The graffiti looks freshly painted and the markers at the base give you an informative lesson into this grime piece of Germany’s history.

 

 

3. This amazing view!

One of my most memorable trips this year was to Vancouver. I was lucky enough to be there for Canada Day and was awestruck by the nature, the number of fit people (seriously, everyone hikes and jogs), and also the vast amount of green space. Coming from Toronto – I feel as though Vancouver has a certain Euro-style: everything is modern, the buildings are glass, and it’s so clean. After hosting an SEO workshop at the Holiday Inn Vancouver-Centre, I was given a tour of the property and stopped for 5 minutes to play tourist while on the building’s highest level overlooking the Pacific ocean.

holiday-inn-vancouver, Intercontinental

 

I know most hotels are just a stopping ground for travellers – folks are more concerned with seeing the outdoor sites and neighborhoods, but I would encourage you to learn about your hotel on your next trip. Some hotels are historical buildings or conversions from old factories, while some house priceless art or have entertaining game rooms.

 

InterContinental HotelAUTHOR BIO:

Michelle Dias is an energetic, A-type traveler who doesn’t travel without a detailed itinerary. She is a known over-packer who enjoys taking photos and over-sharing on social media. In her role with IHG, Michelle is responsible for Marketing and Public Relations for all Canadian hotels.

Follow me as I travel @MichelleHotelLife

Photo Credit: [Hotel], [InterContinental Photos]


My Working Holiday in Australia: If I Knew then What I Know Now

My Working Holiday in Australia: If I Knew then What I Know Now

 

Three years ago, I returned from my working holiday in Australia, and although I’ve told many tales of my other adventures abroad since then, I’ve never actually opened up about my time in Australia until now.

Read more

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!

 

 

Local Home Swap: An Innovative Approach to Local Travel

home swapDitch the airline tickets this summer and explore your surroundings using Local Home Swap – an online exchange community focusing on home swapping with members who are only a road-trip away. This home exchange community puts a unique spin on local travel by offering affordable accommodations while maintaining the comforts from home that travellers often sacrifice when staying in hotels.

Based out of Montreal and Toronto, Local Home Swap connects countryside members to city dwellers and vice versa, in order to provide a change in scenery, and more importantly the opportunity to experience what other parts of the province have to offer. Local Home Swap takes pride in its ability to provide its members with the opportunity to visit destinations other than the traditional tourist areas, which in turn also offers a long list of benefits.

Here are five reasons to travel locally and home swap:

  1. Good for a quick getaway: Sometimes you need a mini-vacation for a few days. Swapping locally doesn’t require a lot of travel time, which allows you to maximize your limited time.
  2. Ease of coordination: Since flight bookings are not required, scheduling becomes easier, as there is much more flexibility with travel plans.airport delay board
  3. Be in Control of your Holiday: After spending thousands of dollars on flights and hotels, travellers are still subjected to the inevitable travel mishap – whether it be a flight cancellation or delay, lost baggage, or even the amount of waiting time associated with airport travel. Swapping allows you to be in total control of your holiday. There’s no need to battle security or check-in lines, and you can travel at your own pace.
  4. Experience your province: So often we isolate ourselves within our immediate surroundings and fail to explore beyond the boundaries of the city or countryside. It’s easy to forget how vast our provinces are, and how much there is to see!
  5. Economical: Possibly the most attractive aspect of swapping is undoubtedly the cost savings. Hotel accommodations are expensive, and provide you with a fraction of the amenities that a home would – not to mention the associated cost of eating out for every meal versus purchasing groceries and cooking your own meals.

 Local Home Swap provides a secure and dependable medium for local swapping. “At Local Home Swap, we are more than a catalogue of homes, we are a community of people”, says co-founder Catherine Massé.

 For a limited time, Local Home Swap is offering free annual memberships – visit www.localhomeswap.com for more details.

Image Credit: [Home Swap], [Airport Delay]

 

 

A Visionary Rebuilding Education in Cambodia

A Visionary Rebuilding Education in Cambodia

CSC teaching

Sambath was my tuk tuk driver. I met him as I was struggling to get off the rickety boat upon my arrival in Battambang, Cambodia. He started as my tour guide and eventually became my friend, as I became more and more intrigued about his life and home country.

I later learned that he is a young man who is passionately striving to improve education in Cambodia, which is a story that I just couldn’t wait to share: Read more