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Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan

Canada named T&L destination of the year

Canada has been named Travel & Leisure Magazine’s destination of the year!

The recognition centres around Canada’s tolerance, openness, natural reserves, and the country’s 150th anniversary, which brought forward thousands of community events.

“The country welcomed refugees and immigrants with open arms, and encouraged travellers to experience its one-of- a-kind cultural institutions, emerging neighbourhoods, and top culinary talents,” the publication says. “On the international stage, it’s become a source of stability and hope in a time when the news is mostly dominated by crisis and political rhetoric.”

Past winners of this title were Portugal and Cuba.

So, Americans, if you are looking to come visit Canada over the next year, here are the top six places you should check out:

Toronto

Toronto is full of tourist attractions like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York, the Science Centre, and of course, Canada’s Exhibition Centre. But, it also has a number of quaint neighbourhoods with their own history and culture that are worth exploring. Check out Kensington Market for some unique shopping finds or hit the Waterfront for a lovely walk along a number of beautiful beaches. Sports fans can watch a game at the Air Canada Centre or the Rogers Centre or hit the Hockey Hall of Fame on Front St. At the end of the day, find one of our local breweries and enjoy a pint!

Ottawa

As the country’s capital, Ottawa is very tourist friendly. Hit the Byward market on a Saturday morning for some croissants and fresh fruit, wander the parks behind Parliament Hill, or even rent a bike to cycle along the canal. The city is an art-lovers dream, with multiple small galleries, museums, and theatres. Ottawa may seem like a big city, but it’s also got a small town feel, which makes it an ideal place to get away to if you need a break from the hectic downtown lifestyle.

Montreal

If you want to get a sense of the French Canadian culture, visit Montreal. The city is bursting with art and culture, but it also makes room for modern tourist attractions. Visit Notre Dame Basilica, the Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal Biodome, or the Tower Observatory, but make sure to spend some time wandering the historic university campuses or taking a walking tour of Old Montreal. Eat some real poutine, maple taffy, and enjoy the multiple bars available to you. The best time of year to go to Montreal is during a weekend with a street festival — no one parties quite like Montreal.

Halifax

I don’t think any place is as Canadian as the Maritimes. The beer, the food, the music — it’s something that can’t be found elsewhere. Check out one of the city’s gorgeous public gardens, the pier, the seaport farmer’s market, as well as the many other historic sites that can be found stretched across Halifax. Enjoy the fresh sea air and take photos be the Angus Macdonald Bridge, which is any architect’s dream. The pubs and breweries in Halifax are renowned — don’t forget to try the lobster!

Vancouver

This city has a little bit of everything — access to the water, a bustling downtown core, and a number of day trip excursions. If you enjoy hiking, Vancouver has a number of unique trails that take you along cliffs, waterfalls, and harbourfronts. Whale watching is one of the most popular tourist attractions, but make sure to check out Stanley Park and the botanical gardens. If you want to get out of Vancouver, try stopping in on Victoria. It’s got beautiful bookshops, pubs that look like libraries, and plenty of high tea available for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

The North

While Toronto may have claimed “We The North” for our basketball team, no trip to Canada is complete without a trip to our REAL north – The Northwest Territories or Nunavut. While the weather may be a bit nippy, the view is incomparable to anything else you will see in your lifetime. Watch the northern lights, visit one of the beautifully serene national parks, and check out one of the many art galleries featuring Indigenous masterpieces. You can also travel along the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway, which officially opened last week!

What’s your favourite place to visit in Canada?

New Canadian alliance created to achieve gender parity on boards

A new alliance has been created to help accelerate gender parity on boards. The Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance (CGGGA) is made of seven influential Canadian organizations dedicated to pushing forward gender equality in the workplace, especially on boards and in executive positions. 

Despite decades of advocacy, women are still outnumbered in senior roles, especially within financial services. Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women.

The CGGGA is made up of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), the 30% Club Canada, Catalyst Canada, the Business Council of Canada, the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), and the Clarkson Centre (CCBE).

This is the first coalition of its kind in North America. The CGGGA Directors’ Playbook is their first initiative and presents practical tools companies can use to achieve gender balance on boards.

Women’s Post spoke with Marlene Puffer, partner at Alignvest Investment Management, who represents Women in Capital Markets within the alliance, to find out a bit more:

Why join forces with other organizations to create the CGGGA? 

There is power in having a coordinated message from the many high-quality organizations that all share a common goal – to enhance the numbers and impact of women on boards and in executive positions. The biggest impact will come from having a clear set of tools to offer to businesses, governments, regulators, institutional investors and other interested stakeholders to improve practices that lead to better governance and gender balance.

What will Women in Capital Markets specifically bring to the organization?

Our industry is at the heart of corporate Canada, where providers and users of capital come together.  Senior professionals in our industry and in related areas are extremely well suited to board roles, and we will be launching a lengthy list of high-quality board-ready women in the coming weeks. Women in Capital Markets has an active network of hundreds of senior-level women, and is working diligently to ensure that they have the support and exposure that they need to reach the highest levels within their organizations and on boards. We are a deep resource of information, experience, and research on what works.  We have partnered with members of the Alliance in the past, and we bring all of this experience to the table with the other Alliance members to continue to find innovative ways to move the dial.

What is the ultimate goal of CGGGA? 

The Alliance aims to amplify and coordinate efforts to increase gender parity on boards and in executive positions, and to contribute to public policy as an advisor for the governments and regulators. Enhancing gender diversity on boards leads to greater variety of thought and leadership styles, better understanding of the end consumer, a wider talent pool and ultimately higher-quality boards.

Obviously, after years of advocacy, mentorship, and change, not enough has been done in terms of gender equity on boards. What kind of difference can CGGGA make and why is the process so slow?

CGGGA can have a potent impact if we can get the Directors’ Playbook into the hands of every board chair and every CEO of Canadian public companies, as well as into the hands of the private equity investors who have influence over the selection of board members for private companies.  The tools that we present are logical, and straightforward to implement:  formal board evaluations, term and age limits, using a board competency matrix to ensure a diversified set of skills and approaches at the board table, having a gender diversity policy to set clear goals and to monitor progress, and a focused effort to broaden the networks that are used to recruit board members.

How did you get into finance? 

I got into finance because I loved math as a high school student, which led me to study economics as an undergraduate.  Finance was a field that was growing at that time (the early 1980’s!), and interesting models that we now take for granted had only recently been developed.  I pursued a PhD at a top US school.  I came back to Toronto as a finance professor at the University of Toronto Rotman School, and after about five years, I decided to join the financial industry as Head of Fixed Income Analytics at RBC on the trading floor.  From there, I have had an unusual variety of roles on the investment management side of the business, with a focus on long-term investors like pensions. I have been on the board at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan for nine years.

What is your role in Women in Capital Markets? How long have you been involved and why did you get involved?

 I am currently the WCM representative to the CGGGA, and advisor to the WCM Women in Leadership network, where I have been focusing on the creation of the Board-ready list. I was President of WCM in 2001-2002 and previously I was co-Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee.  I got involved at the start of the organization to help encourage high school students to pursue math and to provide insight into the career opportunities in the capital markets.  I have since been involved in almost every committee along the way.

 

John Tory and TTC Chair support time-based fares

When I was a student at the University of Ottawa, I didn’t have the means to print train tickets when I wanted to go home. This was particularly difficult around the holidays. I learned that if I waited to pick up my tickets at the train station before I left, the lines would take me at least 45 minutes. By then, there would be little room for my bags and I would be stuck with a seat close to the bathrooms.  Not an ideal situation.

So, instead, a week before I was set to leave for Toronto, I would jump on the bus to pick up my tickets in person. It was about a 20 min. bus ride to the station. I would get there, grab my ticket, and jump back on the bus to return to campus.

The best part was I only had to pay one fare.

On Thursday, Toronto Mayor John Tory, as well as Toronto Transit Commission Chair (TTC) Joshe Colle and Commissioner Mary Fragedakis, threw their support behind time-based fares for customers using PRESTO.

They sent a letter to TTC CEO Andy Byford requesting a report for next month detailing the costs and implications of time-based fares for 2018.

“I am dedicated to getting Toronto moving and making sure it is easier for people to get around our city,” said Tory. “Now with time-based transfers and the PRESTO technology, we once again have the opportunity to make life more affordable for our residents and further encourage transit ridership.”

This request comes at the height of discussion about fare integration with GO Transit and the UP Express. Another option is fare by distance, with discounts for those transferring on to the TTC from a GO Station. At the last TTC Board meeting, numerous councillors expressed concerns about asking residents who lived further away to pay more to take public transportation.

“Time-based transfers would allow people on transit the flexibility to hop on and off to run errands or make stops along their way to work, school, or home.” said Colle in a statement. “This would continue the modernization of our services, and further demonstrate the TTC’s ongoing commitment to improving the customer experience.”

There was a report written by city staff in 2014 outlining some of the basic financial repercussions and the options that are available to the TTC. This issue will be discussed during the TTC budget process, which needs to be submitted by early 2018.

What do you think of time-based fares? 

Baking Minute: dessert week with the Canadian Baking Show

This week was dessert week on the Great Canadian Baking Show – and that meant pies, tarts, and meringue. By the end of the 45 minutes I had this intense craving for something super sweet.

The first challenge was to make an elegant pie or tart. The word “elegant” was key in this challenge as the judges expected dainty presentation. Most bakers used the “blind bake” method for their crusts, where they cook it prior to putting the filling inside to ensure the bottom doesn’t get soggy. I had never heard of this method, and will definitely try it the next time I make a pie.

The bakers really put their all into these desserts. Linda Longson from High River, Alberta, made a beautifully decadent raspberry chocolate pie that captured the audience and made the judges’ mouth water. “I want to dive into that pie,” Bruno Feldeisen said, and rightly so. The pie was decorated with white chocolate curls.

Every pie showcased a little bit of the baker’s personality. There was a pie representing the northern lights, a rustic apple pie, a mile-high lemon meringue, and a pi pie (that turned out to be more of an ode to chaos theory – poor messy James).

The best part of this challenge was watching the bakers. Linda, who I can only assume is a speedy baker as she is always hanging around helping others, points out that Terri Thompson’s pie crust is starting to rise. “You may want to poke some holes in your crust Terri, it’s starting to rise,” she says. In no other baking show, at least that I have witnessed, has a competitor been so kind to another. Her piece of advice probably saved Terri’s pie from disaster.

The technical challenge was a fondant fancy. This involved a dozen equally-sized sponge cakes with jam in the middle. The icing was a cream fondant that had to be evenly spread on the top and four corners of the cake. Bakers had to top it off with a small flower. This challenge was particularly difficult, and many bakers had a hard time with the icing. The icing can’t be spread, so it must be drizzled on top so that it overflows down the sides. But, if you don’t have enough or you have too much, it can cause a mess. The bakers did well enough, at least when compared to last week’s disastrous Montreal Bagel.

The showstopper challenge was a pavlova, a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. This meringue is then topped with a whipped cream and fruit. It’s a tricky dessert because the meringue can crack, especially if there isn’t enough time to cool the base before applying the cream. There were quite a few excellent pavlovas. My personal favourite was that of James D’Entremont from Halifax. He may have struggled with the first few challenges, but his pavlova had beautiful swirls in it and was beautifully decorated with blueberries and a sugared berry leaf. I was also impressed with Verdana’s yogurt whipped cream.

At the end of the show, the bakers sat side by side, holding hands as the hosts revealed the names of the star baker, and the person leaving the competition. The star baker of the episode was Linda, while Corey Shefman from Toronto, Ont. was sent home following a few mishaps with his pastry and meringue.

What was your favourite baking minute? Let us know in the comments below!

5 benefits of doing yoga in the morning

I’m a big yoga fan. The movement and breathing wakes my body up and forces my mind to start working, without the added stress of work or life’s challenges. Even a short five or 10-minute practice is enough to to wake me up and send positive vibes throughout my day. While many people say doing yoga at night is advantageous, I think doing it in the morning has just as many benefits.

Here are five benefits of doing yoga in the morning:

Peace of mind: People often start their day by thinking about all the tasks they have to complete before 5 p.m. And then we think about what we need to take out for dinner and who is going to be home and who is going to take out the dog. It gets crazy. Instead of starting your day off stressed out, a 10-minute yoga routine can help you slow down and be completely in the present. Whatever you need to do can wait. These 10 minutes are yours alone.

Focus: The peace of mind you get from practicing yoga can help you set an intention for your day. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to feel? Whether you want to maintain positive thinking, despite a meeting-packed day, or if you want to be confident during a presentation or networking event, an intention will help you create the frame of mind first thing.

Helps digestion: Practicing yoga in the morning can help your body metabolize food throughout the day. By doing gentle stretches, especially twists that massage the internal organs, the body becomes more capable of releasing toxins from the body. It also allows for the body to better absorb nutrients in food.

Better posture: Many yoga poses focus on muscles in your back, forcing you to push your shoulder blades back and breath deep into the stretch. Once you start actively thinking about how your head connects with the rest of your spine, there will be no going back. These type of exercises are ideal for those with a desk job.

Overall fitness: While yoga may not burn as many calories as running a 5k, it can help you strengthen your muscles and tone your body. Through the movement, you are essentially supporting your entire body mass using your own muscles. Whether it’s a simple downward dog or something more challenging like a balancing practice, every movement activates your core. If you are looking for something to supplement your cardio — yoga is the perfect routine.

Do you practice yoga in the morning? Let us know your favourite poses in the comments below!

5 things you can do to keep your skin healthy

The secret to healthy and youthful skin can seem like a mystery . There are countless beauty products and companies that claim to know the secret. While our skin can benefit from extra hydration, moisture, and certain mineral boosts that beauty products offer, there are a few things you can do as a base that will help you achieve your best natural glow. Follow these five tips for healthy and beautiful skin, no matter your age.

Let your skin breathe.

Starting this off simple, you should know your skin is an organ. In fact, it it the largest organ of the human body. It protects us from microbes, it regulates internal temperature, and permits various sensations. When you get in the habit of wearing heavy makeup daily, you are suffocating your face! Essentially, the key is to let your skin breathe. By all means wear your make-up ( especially if you are a makeup addict like me ), but keep it minimal and save the extra glow highlighter for special occasions.

Sunscreen is your friend

UV rays and sun damage are your enemies! While it feels good to have the warm sunshine caress our faces, it is also essential to have some sort of barrier or protection. Having a good moisturizer, or even a bb cream with included SPF can do wonders. Try looking for a moisturizer with a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher.

Go get that facial !

We all know a little bit of self-care and love goes a long way. With our day to day lives, we can experience lack of sleep, stress, imbalanced hormones, and pollution.  All of these thing (and more) have a negative impact on our skin. It is recommended that you get a deep cleansing/moisturizing facial done by a professional about once a month. While our budgets may not allow this luxury, you can also take matters into your own hands by doing an exfoliating treatment at least once a week, or trying out a ready to use sheet-mask to target your problem areas. Remember to keep your skin type in mind so you don’t harm yourself.

Develop a proper cleansing routine

Repeat after me: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer…

At the end of a long day, the best thing you can do is wash off your makeup and baby your skin. Once you get into this habit, it will become a routine for you, It is essential you find products that are wholesome and alcohol-free to take care of your face.

Hydrate Hydrate

Water is my best-friend ( not actually ). I always have a large bottle of water by my side to ensure that I am hydrated during the day. Water is the ultimate hydrator to your skin and can instantly make your skin looked refreshed, starting from the inside out. Our bodies are already about 55 per cent water, so when we re-hydrate what we lose, we are maintaining the balance. Water flushes the toxins out of your body and can also be used to help symptoms of acne.

Are you thirsty for better skin ? Comment below and let us know what your skincare routine is like!

Lyft brings competition to Uber just in time for the holidays

Lyft is coming to Toronto!

Lyft is the second most popular ride-hailing app and has been around in the United States since 2012, three years after the launch of Uber.  The service will make their first introduction to the international market in Toronto, with a plan to start their business up by the end of the year. This will provide a healthy dose of competition for Uber, a company that is not that popular within the city. In October of 2015, Toronto city council amended a bylaw allowing Uber to operate after the company was hit with a lawsuit filed by the taxi and limo drivers industry in Toronto.

Uber welcomes the competition from Lyft, as Lyft’s president John Zimmer said in a statement. “We see [Toronto] as a world class city. It will likely become one of our top five markets overall,” he said. “As a city, that really shares the values that we have at Lyft- focusing on people taking care of people, treating people well, treating people with mutual respect, and promoting both inclusion and diversity.”

While Uber has faced criticism in the past few months in some major cities, including London and Montreal, Lyft has been increasing its market share in the U.S. and even recorded a growth of  $1.6 billion in financing this past year alone. The company says they are now worth $11bn. In May 2017 , Lyft struck a deal with Google’s Waymo, in order to develop self-driving cars.

The services offered by Lyft are very similar to Uber, complete with reduced prices. But, the launch of  Lyft is  also drawing criticism from the taxi industry operating in Toronto. Beck Taxi, one of the more popular taxi services operating in Toronto, said that Lyft can generate the same amount of negative consequences as Uber, referencing sex assault cases. This all has to do with the qualifications and background information of available drivers.

Lyft has began placing calls for drivers. They plan to launch next month, just in time for the holidays. Lyft will be operating in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton and have released five options that Torontonians can look forward to:

  • Regular vehicles for up to four passengers
  • Vehicles that can carry six passengers ( The plus service)
  • High end cars ( premier)
  • Luxury black cars ( Lux and Lux SUV )

No pricing information has been released, but it is expected to be in the same range as Uber pricing, hopefully with promotional discounts considering this will be their Toronto launch. Lyft has also announced it has its eyes on other major cities, including London, U.K..

It will be interesting to see how different Lyft will be in comparison to Uber and how the Toronto Taxi industry will continue to survive.

What are your thoughts on Lyft launching in Toronto and will you be trying this over Uber ? Comment below.

Give the King St. Pilot time to work before bombarding staff

At Monday’s Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) board meeting, many city councillors were trying to press staff for information about the King St. Pilot Study. They wanted to know when results would be coming in, when police could issue fines, and when the city should consider technological improvements to the design of the street.

At this moment, the pilot had only been running for one and a half days.

As of Sunday, Nov. 12, King St. was mostly shut down to drivers between Jarvis and Bathurst. Drivers can access that corridor, but must turn right at the following intersection. Barriers prevent cars from passing through. This is a big change, and many people who use the King St. corridor to get to work will have to either take transit or adjust their route.

Of course, there will be a time of transition. There will be people still confused about how it works, and those who have been living under a rock and have no clue what is going on. There is something for everyone to learn — drivers, cyclists, and transit users alike. Even the most informed citizen may forget during their autopilot commute to work.

All of this is to say that one and a half days is not enough to be able to make any sort of judgement on the pilot study. Those councillors asking how much faster the streetcar ran or whether or not to insert red-light cameras to catch cars going through intersections should understand the answers aren’t available yet.

Let’s give this pilot its due time — a few months later, lets revisit enforcement and efficiency. Both of these factors are incredibly important, and as TTC CEO Andy Byford said, when conducting a pilot, you want to do everything you can to ensure it is successful.

Unlocking gridlock in Toronto has never been more important. Over 60,000 people ride the King St. streetcar every day. Most of these people are met with overcrowded streetcars and car-to-care traffic. What should be a simple 15 minute ride turns out to be closer to 30 minutes.

Something needed to be done. Drivers may complain for a few weeks, as will pedestrians trying to cross intersections that didn’t have lights beforehand, but at the end of the day, this transformative pilot should have an incredibly positive impact on downtown Toronto.

But, only time will tell.