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New York Transit Agency needs Andy Byford

I actually missed the TTC last weekend.

I travelled to New York for a few days of broadway shows and incredible food. Unfortunately, it was a tad brisk outside. The tall buildings, while impressive, created wind tunnels that nearly caused some severe frostbite. Despite New York being an extremely walkable city, my travelling companion and I decided to take advantage of the relatively cheap seven-day pass and take the subway to as many destinations as we could.

And man, the time we wasted trying to figure that sucker out.

The New York transit system is rather large, which is great. You can get almost anywhere using public transportation, whether that’s uptown Bronx or downtown Brooklyn. You don’t have to live centrally in order to explore the entire city. You also don’t have to pay a separate fee for transitioning into each neighbourhood or region (great for your wallet). However, because it is so big, it can be difficult to navigate. As the person responsible for the transit map, I couldn’t tell which lines went where. Sure, simply having the green or yellow lines go North-South makes sense, but certain trains only went so far down the line, and where that line ended wasn’t indicated clearly on the map. A few times my group got confused and ended up on the wrong train, including getting stuck in a slow-moving loop with no one else on the car! 

To make things even more confusing, not all trains stopped at all local stations. The map showed not only coloured lines (which were easy), but also lettered and numbered trains that were unique. I still don’t understand what each of those letters mean.

The biggest problem, however, wasn’t the confusing maps. You can get a sense of how it works after a few days and the metro staff were able to give us some decent directions. The problem was the communication once you were on the train. Unlike the TTC, most of the trains didn’t have any sort of map displayed inside the vehicle to indicate where on the line you were and what stops were next. This,  in addition to an extremely muffled and inaudible announcer who said the stop names out loud, meant you had to rely on visual cues — difficult for a tourist unfamiliar with the area. I was constantly looking out the window to find the stop names to confirm my location, something that was incredibly difficult to do when the train was packed.

Finally, there was the emergency system — or rather the lack of emergency system! I won’t go into the story leading up to why it was necessary for someone to pull the emergency breaks on one of the subway cars, but the gist of the matter is that it DIDN’T WORK! A loud, annoying alarm went off, but the train didn’t stop. No one walked down the cars to see what was the matter, and no one showed up once the train arrived at the platform. It was completely useless technology! Luckily, this emergency wasn’t life-threatening.

Oh, and there was no emergency button or intercom either.

There were plenty of other things that bugged me, like basic public transportation etiquette. No one moved to the centre of the train, so it took forever to get on. Passengers sat in the middle of two seats and refused to move. People listened to music so loud everyone on the train could hear the lyrics. In Toronto, we complain about the slightest inconvenience, but in New York, commuters seemed to thrive on disrupting the people around them.

Like I said — I really missed the TTC.

Andy Byford appeared in Toronto exactly when the city needed him. It looks like he is going to New York at the right time as well. Best of luck to you sir; you’ll need it!

Tortillas and sugarcane juice in Costa Rica

Travelling through Central America was on my bucket list. After months of painstaking research, I realized that doing it all was impossible. I settled on visiting Costa Rica, in the northwest of the long finger-like country. The Pacific coast beckoned with its black beaches, diverse communities, and abundance of flora and fauna. My adventures were inundated with wild animals, sugarcane fields, and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Here are some of the highlights:

Sweet as sugar

A small town named Filadelphia in the interiors of Northwestern Guanacaste province acts as a gateway to huge acres of sugarcane. Sugarcane is a big player in the country’s largely rural economy. All parts of the crop are used up so there is little waste. Workers use machetes to hack through the tall tough stacks of cane before it goes to the ‘Trapiches’, or sugar mills, to be ground into sugar.

My guide, Ulysses (how epic is that?), points out the sodas lining the main street. Soda is a term for the ubiquitous eatery found at every corner. The sun is riding high in the sky, and from the cool interiors of the sodas, local Costa Ricans raise their hands in greeting. They know where I’m headed. Soon, I see orderly rows of sugarcane and lines of melons on the other side of the dusty road.

“These belong to the company Del Monte. You have heard, yes?” I nod, my mind flying back to my local grocery store. I’ll always have this picture in my head when I see those tins next time, I think.

El Viejo Hacienda

The group made a stop at a hacienda, which lay past the fields and the streams where egrets continue to fish, unfazed by my picture taking. Built in the 1800s, it retains much of its original wood work. I wander into the courtyard, entranced by the view of the surroundings.

“Careful!” warns Ulysses, and I step back in alarm. Snoozing in the sunny courtyard is an iguana, all orange crest and striped tail. I was too busy looking about to have seen what lay at my feet. My heart is in my mouth.

“They’re harmless,” he grins. “They only fight among themselves.”

I’m not convinced and vow to pay attention. But the lovingly restored hacienda works its soothing magic on me. Upstairs are rooms whose wooden floors are scuffed with the imprints of a thousand visitors. The walls hang with pictures of another era. From the upstairs verandah, I see the clumps of weirdly shaped cacti, and beyond, the fields and mountains, misty in the noon haze.

Sabaneros

The group then had the opportunity to learn about the Sabanero (cowboy) culture, native to the region. Time lies still in these parts, I think. I meet El Capitano, the ox who will help in moving the mill press, which will grind the sugarcane to make juice. He’s a robust bull, but docile, on account of his castration, Nina, the young lady showing me around, explains. Then she makes a peculiar howling sound and, in an instant, is answered with the same sound from beyond the canopy of trees. That, she explains, is how the cowboys communicated with each other. Tourists gather around to watch the churning of the old machine with El Capitano’s help.

I cannot help it – I’m captivated, held fast by the sunshine, the scent of woodsmoke, the nectar-like sugarcane juice, and the living groves of tamarind and mango trees. Ulysses leads me up the steps to the modest Casa del Sabanero, with an open hearth with roaring fire, pats of corn dough, and an invitation to bake fresh tortillas. The taste is reminiscent of a simpler time, of sun, of community, of the earth, I think poetically.

Wetlands

The wetlands are only a short drive away. Through densely treed land, the van stops at the banks of the fast-flowing Tempisque river.

“You must see the monkeys. And crocodiles. Big!”

Ulysses’ appetite to let me make closer acquaintance with the stuff of my nightmares is unending, it seems. But I forgive him when I’m on the boat. A cooling breeze, jungle-thick banks, and the brackish waters of the Tempisque river.

“Crocodile!”

Everyone turns to the right. And on the bank, amid the mud, lies an enormous monster. It looked at us balefully with one eye.

“That’s Boss”, claims the boatman.

“How do you know? Can you recognise him?” someone asks nervously.

“He had an accident some years ago – fighting with another male. He’s blind in one eye.”

Our boat dawdles near the bank. Suddenly he lifts up his huge girth and in a second, slides into the water. The speed was frightening. Our boat zips away.

A flock of black necked stilts peck through the water near the bank. And at last, in the trees, a clutch of capuchin monkeys swing. Except for two of them.

“What are they doing?” a curious 10 year old asks.

Silence, and then laughter breaks out on the boat.

“Eh, fighting, I guess”, says the embarrassed mother.

If you are looking for a trip which combines the pleasures of a laid-back lifestyle, interesting experiences, rich diversity in plant and animal life, and smiling people, you need look no further.

What is the deal with eco-tourism?

It’s a term being thrown around a lot within the tourism industry — eco-tourism. But, what exactly does that mean?

In the simplest terms, eco-tourism is the idea that your travel will not impact the environment. Instead, it will actually contributes to the local community.

When people travel, they tend to bring a lot of their baggage with them. And no, I’m not talking about emotional baggage or your carry-on.

Tourists tend to focus on only one thing. Sightseeing. They want to hit the most popular destinations, take perfectly filtered images for their Instagram account at the nicest restaurants, or visit franchise stores to do some shopping. These tourists take taxis, trains, and planes, and sometimes even use products with dangerous chemicals that could contaminate oceans. Don’t even get me started on the number of plastic straws used in beverages.

Most tourists create a carbon footprint that has the potential to damage a community, especially in remote locations or islands that depend on their natural beauty to attract revenue. While there isn’t much that can be done about completely eliminating this footprint, there is a way to reduce it. The answer is, obviously, eco-tourism.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, for an activity to be a part of “eco-tourism”, it has to have an educational aspect. It should promote conservation and community, while trying to adopt sustainable practices. Guides and participants must recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People There should also be some financial benefit towards these practices. 

The activities must also operate within low-impact facilities.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) describes eco-tourism as “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

The definitions are still open to interpretation. Some agencies choose to describe any nature-related activity or tour as eco-tourism. For example, whale watching in Hawaii is described as an eco-tourist activity. However, the cruise boat itself could be impacting the ecosystem below the surface of the water. A more ecologically-friendly activity would be to kayak or canoe the waters with a guide who talks about the wildlife or the conservation techniques in place to protect the natural beauty of an area.

Tourists can take tours of plantations or farms; but they can also participate for a day, learning hands on how food grows and gets to their plate. Visit an indigenous settlement and listen to stories from the community. If you go on a nature walk, stick to trails — don’t wander into a natural environment without a guide. Remember, the purpose of eco-tourism is to learn and give back to the community.

Here are three eco-tourism activities you can do in Ontario:

  • Redwing Institute Culture and Nature Discovery Walk: Take this 3-hour journey and learn about the Indigenous people of Humber Valley. Participants will explore the river valley, participate in a traditional ceremony, sample food and music, and explore history through oral storytelling. Part of the fees go towards a skill-development program for women from the Indigenous community living in Toronto.
  • Visit a Biosphere Reserve: Wilderness Eco-Adventures offers half and full day guided excursions of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Reserve. Climb cliffs, explore caves, and see rare wildlife. They also offer more intensive workshops where you can learn a new skill like geology or bushcraft. Looking for a challenge? Spend three nights under the stars this winter. Proceeds support the Biosphere Association’s environmental projects.
  • EcoCab through Toronto: Instead of taking a bus or renting a car, see downtown Toronto up close with a pedal-powered bicycle. Don’t worry about the physical activity as each tour guide will also be your navigator and official pedal-er). There are four routes to choose from.

Have you participated in eco-tourism? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments below!

5 yurts that offer idyllic winter escapes

Winter’s harsh elements may drive plenty of North Americans inside the house and under the covers. This is the season where homebodies take refuge and more travel-savvy folks might head south of the equator. But, in the snow-covered territory of the great white north lies quiet, wintery lands to be explored — and there’s perhaps no better way to go about it than by booking a yurt-style retreat. From toasty lodges in northern Ontario, to rustic cottages in the Alaskan woods, to remote cabins in a most idyllic pocket of Vermont, AirBnB’s grand selection of winter yurts is bound to appeal to travellers of all sorts. These Instagram-worthy lodgings beckon both the woman in need of a cozy weekend escape as well as the seasoned outdoor adventurer looking for a new experience in nature.

Here are five winter-yurts that will have travellers saying yes to a winter getaway:

Stowe, Vermont

Skiers and beer connoisseurs alike have reason to escape to this Stowe, Vermont dwelling. The area is famous for its multitude of powder-covered mountains and The Alchemist brewery is one of the most sought after in the United States. (don’t leave the state without sipping its infamous Heady Topper double IPA!). As for the yurt itself, it’s a rustic one with no electricity where visitors can enjoy the views of the Nebraska Valley while sipping hot chocolate by the wood stove. This is certainly the ideal spot for those in need of a tech-break.

The Buffalo Farm: Mattawa, Ontario.

This yurt looks like a scene taken straight out of Pinterest and it happens to have all the makings of a perfect wintery escape: hiking trails nearby, the sparkle of the Amable du Fond River, an animal sanctuary with horses and buffalo and a wood-burning stove for snug winter nights. Going with a large group? This two-storey accommodation in Ontario’s coveted Algonquin region can sleep 12. With the owners having more than one property, there’s no reason not to book a stay in this beautiful part of Ontario.

Bolton, Quebec

A weekend in Quebec will feel like being plopped down somewhere in the middle of Europe and yet this yurt is just an hour outside of Montreal. After a good snowfall, this lodging looks like a scene straight out of a fairytale. One thing that makes this adorable abode stand out: it’s near to Quebec’s wine route. So make sure to stock up on local wines, jams, and cheese during the stay.

Talkeetna, Alaska

This yurt is so picturesque it barely seems real. Situated in the midst of a forest in rural Alaska, this cottagey yurt is intended for the traveller with a strong set of outdoor skills who doesn’t shy away from vacationing in rustic settings. Those who stay here can expect to be wowed by views of the northern lights through the skydome. In the morning, the local coffee shop is within walking distance. Talkeetna attracts other outdoor adventurer types and visitors are most likely to bump into like-minded folks at the Talkeetna Roadhouse – a one-stop shop for a shower, satisfying breakfast, and warm, homemade pies. When staying here, strap on a pair of cross-country skis and check out the local trails to get the full experience.

Maple City, Michigan  

Experience farm life while staying on this Maple City property that’s home to pigs, ducks and goats. If contemplating a winter escape, consider that this quaint lodging is so idyllic it even has its own sugar shack for homemade maple syrup. The owners also make their own cheese (yum!). The yurt itself has everything a visitor needs – if roughing it in a yurt without running water or electricity is a no-go, this one with its modern bathroom and private bedroom will make visitors feel a little more pampered.  

Where are you heading this winter? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto to Hawaii: Top 5 places to visit

It’s cold in Canada. Really cold. And when it is this frigid, I like to dream of a warm oasis, with beaches, palm trees, and drinks with little umbrellas. I want to wear a bathing suit, go on long hikes through forests or fields, and enjoy views that don’t look like feathers attacked the skyline.

There are loads of resorts you can go to in order to escape the cold. But, Sure, if you want to go somewhere with real culture and adventure, take a look at Hawaii.

Here are the top five things to do:

Explore a volcano (or two): There are five active volcanoes in the state of Hawaii, and most of them can be found on the Big Island. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located 45 miles southwest of the town of Hilo and encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. It’s worth a full day trip as there are 50 miles of hiking trails that will take you through volcanic craters, deserts, rainforests, a walk-in lava tube, and two active volcanoes. If you want a bit of more of a challenge, try hiking 10,023 feet up to the summit of Haleakala on Maui Nu. If you time it just right, you will be able to witness a breathtaking sunrise. Make sure to register, as this 4:30 a.m. time slot has become quite popular with tourists.

Live in the water: Water activities are incredibly popular in Hawaii for obvious reasons. If you are new to water sports, that’s okay. Take a surfing lesson in Kona with fantastic instructors who will take you through techniques on land and sea! You can take part in a private lesson or a group lesson. If you already know how to surf, the facility also does board rentals. Hit historical Honokohau Beach for some beginner waves or the deep waters of Lymans, Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona, for those looking for a challenge.If you want a break from the more physical activities, put on a snorkling mask and check out the colourful fish and reefs that live below the surface.

Visit the other islands: While most people know of the Island of Hawaii, many do not realize there are other islands part of state. Make sure to spend time exploring those other parts of the Hawaiian Islands. For example, Molokini is a small, crescent moon-shaped island that is actually a partially submerged volcanic crater. It is also a bird sanctuary and home to a lot of marine life. The water is so clear, you hardly need your snorkling gear. You can also take a tour of Oahu, which hosts the city of Honolulu, the state’s capital. Visit Pearl Harbour, the Byodo-in Temple, or a Kualoa Ranch.

Tour the farms: Hawaii is known for it’s eco-tourism. There are a number of farms and plantations on the islands, and each one is worth checking out. In Hanolulu Botanical Gardens, you can learn about the farm-to-table process that is a pivotal part of Hawaiian culture. On the island of Kauai, there is a working coffee plantation and a green taro field. Taro (Kalo) is a root starch cultivated and exported from the Island all over the world. Visit the Kanepuu Preserve on Lanai for a self-guided tour featuring 48 species of indigenous plants or check out the pineapple fields that grow through the centre of the Island. Just make sure to do your research or ask for guidance so you don’t upset any of the natural eco-system during your tours or hikes.

Whale watching: Between January and March, over 10,000 humpback whales travel to the shores of Maui from Alaska to mate. You may catch a glimpse of these majestic animals while you are lying on the beach, surfing, or even scuba diving, but the island also offers cruises along the route, fully decked with underwater cameras that will help guide the boat to “guaranteed” whale sightings. All whale watching is partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, who helps educate visitors on conservation and the relationship between Hawaiians and the sea.

Make sure to pack your best running or hiking shoes, along with a number of layers for all these different activities.

Have you visited Hawaii? Let us know what your favourite thing to do was! 

 

From Toronto, New Year’s traditions from around the world

As we approach 2018, it’s time to think about all the positive things we have managed to accomplish in 2017 and how our lives will be different in the new year. Luck and prosperity are just a few of the things many people from around the world hope for. In keeping with this, many people have a few customs and traditions to help make the transition easier, and hopefully bring luck along the way. Here are some New Years customs and traditions from some countries around the world.

Brazil: jump seven waves 

NYE in Brazil is well celebrated and can feature spectacular firework displays all along the famous beaches in Rio. Many people find themselves hanging out by the beach and not just to watch the fireworks. Wave jumping is another tradition. If you jump over each wave while making your wish, this will increase your luck and bring you joy for the new year. If you want to increase your chances in love, make sure the first person you greet in the new year is someone special.

Turkey: wear red underwear

Wearing red underwear is common in many countries on NYE, especially those in Latin America. Many people head to the malls to buy themselves some red undergarments for their NYE celebrations. Wearing red panties guarantee passion and love for the new year ahead for many women. It is also common to wear yellow underwear to bring happiness and money. Perhaps aim for a red panty with yellow polka dots?

Spain- lucky grapes

There is a tradition, as well as a superstition, in Spain where people eat 12 grapes at midnight. These grapes are known as the lucky grapes and can be traced back to a custom in 1895 by grape growers. If you eat 12 grapes at midnight, each grape will represent the 12 months of the new year and the 12 wishes you are permitted. These 12 grapes must be consumed in the first 12 minutes of the new year. If you get a sour grape amongst the bunch this could mean a sour month in the year ahead. It is also common to find this tradition in the Philippines and other Spanish countries and communities.

Denmark- break plates

If you live in Denmark and you have a broken dish, don’t throw it out. Instead, smash the remains on NYE. This tradition is odd, yet serves as a sign for friendship in that country. After midnight, it’s not uncommon to find a pile of broken dishes on your doorstep, as this is a sign that someone values your friendship. Smash plates and other wares against your friend’s door as a sign of lasting friendship and love — just make sure it’s not glass.

Jamaica- clean your house

Similar to many other Caribbean islands, Jamaicans have a tradition of cleaning out their homes for Christmas and for the New Year. You clean out all the negativity and leave room for positive space in your life. People find the time to buy new decorative items for their homes and even repaint their houses. Many people around the world also take a broom on NYE and (literally) sweep all the negativity held throughout the year.

Japan- ring 108 bells

This may not be a personal requirement for the New Year in Japan, but many temples ring the bell 108 times at the stroke of midnight. Ringing the bell 108 times represents 108 worldly temptations a person must overcome in the Buddhist belief.

Italy- Pucker up

particularly in Venice, there is a custom of mass kissing that takes place at the stoke of midnight. As fireworks  light up the sky over St Marks Square, couples are encouraged to start smooching!  Many couples make this a romantic event. It’s not odd to kiss at midnight, as this is common in many cultures around the world, including here in Canada and in the united States. kissing someone at the stroke of midnight is meant to set the tone you wish to establish for the future with that person. It is about maintaining the bond. If you’re single and don’t have anyone to kiss, I say to kiss all your problems from 2017 goodbye.

Happy 2018!

Toronto to Iceland – top 5 places to visit

Visiting Iceland is at the top of my bucket list. The hot springs, volcanoes, and of course, the Northern lights. It’s one of those countries that looks serene and quaint, despite tourism being one of their largest sources of revenue. Airfare costs are usually pretty cheap, as are hotels and tours.

Travellers can either sign up for a guided tour or self-guided tours that include car rental, GPS, and lodgings. Self-guided tours are great because you can also prepare your own personal stops in between the recommended attractions.

Here are the top five things to do while hitting up a self-guided tour of Iceland:

Blue Lagoon: This is a popular destination, which means it may be a bit crowded. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with a breathtaking view. Enjoy some time in one of the heated springs or relax under a waterfall. Visitors an also sign up for other spa services like massages, silica mud masks, or saunas. For this attraction, remember to book early. The lines can be a bit lengthy, and if you are able to swing it, choose as many private options as possible.

Horseback riding: Horses roam the hillsides freely, but there are a few that tourists can ride on guided tours of the area. These animals are well kept and not overworked. Guides will follow trails that show off Iceland’s most serene landscapes, including rivers and mountains. This activity only has incredibly reviews from TripAdvisor, with most participants saying the trip was “magical”.

Glaciers and waterfalls: Despite climate change, Iceland still has a number of large glaciers and waterfalls to explore. Glaciers are made when ice and snow accumulate over centuries. They are large, beautiful structures and the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, as the locations are rather remote. Tour groups offer a number of guided hikes and climbs through these glaciers for people of various skill sets.

Explore a volcano: There are a number of volcanoes throughout Iceland, and the country takes advantage of these phenomenons and offers tours of each region. Don’t worry, they are not active. For those who want a bird’s eye view, there are helicopter rides available that fly over a few volcanoes and lava fields. For those who want are more active tour, take a 3k hike through Thrihnukagigur, a volcano located between Reykjavik and the Golden Circle area. The tour will take you through caverns right into the heart of the dormant volcano!

Skaftafell Park: This park is 4800 square kilometres and home to some of the most surreal landscapes in Iceland. Pick one of the many trails and enjoy views of waterfalls, fields, mountains, and glaciers — all within one park. Make sure to check out the Scartifoss (Black fall), a waterfall that flows off black basalt columns. Nature lovers can actually camp overnight within the park!

Have you visited Iceland? What are your suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!

What is happening with Brexit?

Where does Brexit stand and will it affect you in anyway? In June 2016, over 30 million U.K. citizens made their way to the polls to vote on whether or not Britain should withdraw from the European Union. It was a move that was facilitated and led mainly by the current members of the opposition, the Labour Party. The results of the nationwide referendum was 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent, the majority voting to leave. There was an approximate turn out rate of 71.8 per cent.

These results were not what many citizens, or even members of parliament, expected, including that of the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, who resigned after the referendum.  Theresa May, the former home secretary, took his place. In the beginning, she was against the results of the vote, but changed her mind and moved ahead with Brexit talks after determining this is what most of the citizens wanted.

It’s been over a year since the decision was made. Talks commenced on June 19, 2017 and so far the UK is scheduled to leave the EU at 11pm on Friday, March 29, 2019. There are currently discussions taking place on how exactly Brexit will work and what this means for British citizens inside and out of the country, especially those living in EU member states.

Britain joined the EU, or European Communities, in 1973, along with Ireland and Denmark. In a mere 40 plus years of relations, the withdrawal will mean a lot of changes. The European Union is basically an economic and political agreement between 28 member states in Europe. It is a single market that encourages seamless flow of trade, work, and studies for member states. In a move to withdraw from the EU, one of the major changes will be a tightening on immigration. EU members will not be able to come and go as they please. This decision was highly criticized and was thought to be one of the main reasons why the UK, mainly England, wanted to leave.

Under article 50 of the EU agreement amongst member state, it says there must be two years of negotiations after giving notice of their request to withdraw. Both sides have to agree to the terms of the split. Once a deal is met, it will be presented to the members of council in the remaining EU states for approval. The deal needs to be approved by at least 20 out of the 27 remaining countries. If Britain does leave the EU in 2019, it is said they will seek a new customs and trade agreement with the rest of Europe, and EU law would no longer stand in the UK.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have, however, voted to remain in the EU, with Scotland’s Prime Minister calling the move democratically unacceptable. This is causing questionable friction within the member countries of the United Kingdom.

As a British citizen myself, I am concerned about the changes that will take place and what this will mean for residents living outside of the UK when it comes to emergency medical care, work, and study travel access. The UK has said they hope to keep visa-free travel in place for British citizens and EU members after Brexit, but there is no solid guarantee. If this is not the case, this can mean several years of permissions and proposals and increased costs.

In 2019, there should be a clear view of the terms of the exit. The framework for withdrawal will need to be approved by parliament, but another referendum could throw everything into chaos. However; May has strongly declared there will be no second vote.

What are your views on Brexit? Comment below

Woman of the Week: Linda Stephenson

How often do you look at the ingredients of your beauty products?  It’s not a common practice. Most people are unaware of the chemical names of toxins that linger in popular beauty products. If you’re fairly good at looking at ingredients in the foods you eat, it’s time to become more aware of what you put on your body. That’s where Linda Stephenson comes in. Stephenson is the CEO and the brains behind Mereadesso skincare products, a luxury brand of plant-based products that are targeted to cover a range of skin issues in a one-step approach.

It only took a few minutes of chatting with Stephenson to know she’s a ‘chemically aware’ beauty guru who cares about the health of her skin — and my skin as well. While enrolled at the University of Toronto, Stephenson studied Chemistry and Biology with a minor in Botany. After landing successful positions at Mary-Kay cosmetics and MAC in the mid-90’s, Stephenson moved on to a purely technical position at  Estee Lauder. Stephenson left her corporate roles to work privately with clients and to study brand acquisition, focusing on how beauty products are positioned in the industry.

Stephenson was always on the go and working tirelessly to market well-known beauty products with a reinvented look. When Stephenson started her family and have birth to her son, she barely had time to think. She was used to being the person that was good at branding and helping people, but it became time to do it for herself.

Stephenson loves to travel, and got used to compressing all of her beauty products to fit into her tiny travel bag. As a busy mom. she noticed all her friends had similar lifestyles — working moms, travellers or even guys who are minimalists. That’s why around eight years ago, Stephenson made use of her educational background ,as well as her corporate directory of contacts, to launch Mereadesso, her own skincare line.

“For me it was a natural evolution from a technical background with over 20 years of experience.” said Stephenson “My products are pretty much plant based— I don’t believe in the ‘magic’ ingredient theory. Our skin is an organ, we live and we work, we need vitamins and minerals.”

With this idea in mind, Stephenson set out to nourish the skin by using natural and real ingredients to calm, heal, and soften the skin by supplying the skin with vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, botanical extracts and minerals that our bodies can extract.

Unlike many water-based beauty products, Mereadesso is over 30 per cent aloe based with infused minerals and vitamins. One of the things Stephenson wants customers who shop in the beauty industry to be aware of is the ingredient list of products. Look for paraben-free products with real ingredients that are easy to understand. For instance, if you want more Vitamin A, the chemical name is beta-carotene or retinyl palmitate, so look for that listing in your ingredients lineup. The highest percentages will be listed first eg: water and the lowest ingredient of percentage will be listed last eg: fragrance.

“Look for the selling point, not the label claim. Take awareness to your own skin, look for what you need and what you can manage.” said Stephenson.

One of Mereadesso’s best selling products is the original one-step and all in one moisturizer. This moisturizer is aloe based and is a combination of a day cream, night cream, serum, primer and moisturizer. It is also a product designed for all skin types. As Stephenson said, most clients would come to her saying they have sensitive skin, but what does that mean ? Stephenson says to look for the commonality in the products you use that can cause redness and rash and most often this is linked to fragrance. Mereadesso products are fragrance-free in addition to being free of sulfates or artificial colours. Over all, there are about seven different product categories that users can enjoy with Mereadesso, including another best seller — the face and neck cleanser. This cleanser was designed to come with a gentle exfoliating cloth for easy cleansing.

” People need to exfoliate. Cell renewal rate slows down as we age and by removing the dead layer of skin cells, this prompts our skin to renew.” Stephenson said.

Stephenson pays a lot of attention to packaging. For instance, the travel kit comes with a reusable pouch. This kit was actually one of the selling points for landing Stephenson’s products in luxury retailer, Nordstrom. Most products don’t have a secondary purpose, but Stephenson plans to utilize her packaging.

In fact, Stephenson let me in on another skincare secret — avoid buying anything in a jar. The blanket rule is that the preservative system in a jar is there to kill mould and bacteria from forming on your moisturizer, but after being exposed to air and the constant dipping of your hands, the preservative system has to be more aggressive, which is no use to your skin. Mereadesso uses pressurized products in metered dose pumps to protect the product and keep out bacteria.

As Mereadesso continues to grow, Stephenson keeps her team small, but mighty, as her products are mostly available to order online in the United States; although it is also being featured on The Shopping Channel and is available at Nordstorm.

If you are wondering about the name Mereadesso, it was simple. ‘Mere’ means mother in French and ‘adesso’ means ‘now’ in Italian. When Stephenson became a mother, this was when her life changed and she decided to put all her beauty steps into well-rounded and unisex products for minimalists. Because of this, and more, this name will always be close to her heart.

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Why you should make Bermuda your next travel destination

Bermuda is a tiny island paradise located in the north atlantic ocean closer to the outer regions of North Carolina and near the north-east of Miami, Florida — or more famously north of the Bermuda Triangle. This British overseas territory is home to only roughly 65,000 people, and while it is viewed as a single country, it actually consists of 181 small islands, with two main areas being St George’s and the capital Hamilton. Bermuda was discovered in 1508 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez.

Bermuda is often confused with Barbuda, which is a part of Antigua and Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. During Hurricane Irma, the island of Barbuda was completely ruined and almost all the residents evacuated. Many people who were unaware of the difference and kept confusing the two islands, though they are completely different and miles apart. This makes sense why Bermuda, which depends heavily on tourism, has boosted their tourism efforts by use of an ad campaign and a deal with Air Canada. Travellers can save 20 per cent if they book a flight by Dec 12 2017. If you are willing to take advantage of this deal, here are five things Women’s Post suggest you do in Bermuda

Horseshoe Bay Beach

One of the most popular places to go in Bermuda is Horseshoe Bay beach, known for its pinkish and smooth sand in juxtaposition to bright blue crystal waters. As the name suggests, this beach has a curved stretch similar to a horseshoe. It is located in the parish of Southampton and is one of the hottest tourist spots.

Crystal Caves

if you’re in the mood for exploring caves lined with heart stopping stalactite formations that look like droplets of crystals, Crystal Cave is the place to go. Travel underground to admire the natural beauty of these crystal straws. The formations are delicate and it’s a rare occurrence where water seeps through the cracks in rocks. The water, when combined with minerals overtime, hardens as each droplet expands. The result is the stunning clusters of natural crystal chandeliers hovering above light blue waters. The Crystal Caves are referred to as Bermuda’s true hidden treasure.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Build in 1844, this lighthouse is one of the first in the world to be made with cast iron. It takes 185 steps to get to the top. This lighthouse was originally operated by the British army. The stunning structure stand 245 feet high and offers stunning views of Fairmont Southampton. The foot of the former lighthouse keepers cottage is now a restaurant that draws many tourists wishing to look out onto the sea as they have lunch.

Royal Naval Dockyard

If you are interested in exploring one of the more historic parts of Bermuda, consider visiting the Royal Naval Dockyard located on Ireland island. This base served as the site for the British royal navy during American independence and the cold war. The dockyard is a popular port for cruise ships well as the home of various sporting events, including the America’s cup which is won for yacht sailing races and this event was held in June of this year

Any Water/Outdoor activity

While Bermuda has a subtropical climate, these milder conditions make it comforting to take part in many activities while outside without fear of overheating. Water sports are big in Bermuda. You can try sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, scuba diving or a long list of boat tours offered on the island. The main thing is to get out there and have fun while exploring this unique and picturesque country.

Get out there and explore ! Comment below if you will make Bermuda your next destination