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6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below

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.

NYC to phase out Metrocard by 2020 for contactless pay methods

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) , responsible for New York City’s transit system, announced this week that transit riders will soon be able to tap and pay for their fare with their phones.

The is the next step in transforming the transit system, according to Transit Authority chairman Joseph J Lhota.  The familiar way of travel for New Yorkers has long been the Metrocard,  a reloadable plastic card that can be swiped to pay your fare. The system was implemented in the 1990’s and was often criticized for not being reliable. It has been almost 30 years since the Metrocard replaced tokens and now, by 2020, the transit agency expects to install the ‘new pay by phone’ technology in over 500 subway turnstiles and over 600 buses.

“It’s the next step in bringing us into the 21st century, which we need to do. It’s going to be transformative,” Lhota said at the official announcement on Oct 23.

The new payment system will be run using field communication technology and short range wireless connectivity. This is the technology used by Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Similarly, you will be able to pay using these methods through Android Pay, Samsung Pay, or contactless debit and credit cards.

The implementation of this new technology is all about ensuring a smooth flow of people in and out of the transit stations. There will be no need for queues when people need to reload their Metrocard. There will, however, still be turnstiles for those who do not have a debit or credit card for payment.

The MTA is following in the footsteps of the London Transit Commission, which already uses contactless tap and ride Smart Cards and Oyster Cards. Apple Pay and other platforms are also available as acceptable payment for the bus, the tube, London Overground, river bus and other transit services under the Transport for London Authority. The same applies in Australia where the system was introduced in late 2015.

By 2023, the MTA hopes to phase out Metrocards as they did with tokens in 2003. The MTA is also hiring the same company that did the installations in London, Cubic Transportation Systems.

The contract will cost an estimated $573 million for the new fare payment system and is expected to be completed in late 2020.  As for now, temporary testing e-readers have already been spotted in the Lower Manhattan stations.

What do you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on this high-tech transit fare system.

Top places to visit in New York City and Toronto

An announcement of a joint tourism deal between the City of Toronto and New York City means cheaper flights for the new year. The announcement was made at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto by Tourism Toronto’s CEO Joanne Belanger.

“Toronto and New York city are the financial, entertainment, and cultural centres of our two nations and this partnership goes a long way to share our big-city experiences with each other’s residents and visitors,” Belanger said.

This new partnership will include a deal with Air Canada that will feature discounted trips to New York, with one way tickets starting at CAD $154 for trips before Feb 15.

This means there will be a boost in advertising for trips to New York and ads for travel to Toronto will be featured in the big apple later this month. The ads will focus on different activities to do in each respective city for the winter months . So, if you’re thinking about your next NYC trip, now is the times to take advantage of this special deal. Women’s Post suggests these top places to check in each city.

New York City:

Bryant Park Winter Village

Enjoy everything from ice-skating to to christmas shopping in this Christmas village. Bryant park will feature the most talked about christmas market, which includes over 125 shopping and food vendors and a 17,000 sq. ft ice-skating rink. Just remember to bring your own skates.

Broadway

New York City is home to the most famous theatre district in the world. This is the same spot where many famous faces got their breakout role. It is best to research which plays you are interested in seeing and buy your tickets early. Some popular broadway shows this season include: Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Phantom of the Opera,  Hello Dolly! (Bette Midler returns to broadway),  Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and much more. If you are willing to shell out the big bucks, don’t forget about Hamilton!

 

Museum of Modern Art

While there are many museums to check out in the city, try visiting the Museum of Modern Art for a different experience. This museum offers a great display of  pop culture and 20th century history. Some famous pieces you can see there include, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Van Gough’s Starry Night.

 

The Sugar Factory

The popular Sugar Factory brand has opened a 9000 sq. ft American Brasserie in the poplar and ever-busy Meatpacking District. If you are unfamiliar with this American brand, they are known for their candy-land theme and their famous sugary cocktails. For the Christmas season they will include sweet selections from the Mariah Carey Christmas Factory.

 

Le Bain Rooftop Bar

Le Bain is located at the Standard Hotel in NYC. This popular rooftop bar is known for its spectacular views of the skyline, a seasonal pool, and of course, dancing the night away to music by world famous DJs.

 

Toronto:

 

Friday Night Live at the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum gets pretty wild ever other Friday night of the month. Friday Night Live at the ROM transforms the museum into one big party. Now that summer is over, the ROM is just getting started and there are different themed parties each weeky. You can expect live performances, popular DJ’s, interactive attractions for some museum displays, and lots of food and fun.

Image courtesy of Maker Festival Toronto

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Ever since it’s open in 2013, it has been a popular attraction for Torontonians and tourists. The site was originally set to be open in Niagara Falls, but it was relocated to the heart of downtown Toronto. Go explore the popular sea-life and marvel at the sharks as you walk through an underwater pathway.

 

Harbour Cruise

Toronto’s waterfront is always busy with many activities that you can enjoy, and it is also where you can find all the harbour cruises you can take as you marvel at the skyline from a distance on the waters of Lake Ontario. There are many different cruises to choose from, including daytime, or nighttime trips, and some that include dinner and dancing.

 

Casa Loma

Casa Loma is an actual castle located on the heart of downtown Toronto. It was constructed in 1914 and was built as a private residence for Sir Henry Mill Pallett. It is now a public museum and landmark, and popular spot for photography or hosting wedding events. During the christmas season, it will transform into a winter wonderland, complete with many light displays in the castle garden and various Christmas treats.

 

Niagara Falls

While not technically in Toronto, Niagara Falls is just a short 90 minute drive away and closest to the border with Buffalo, New York. In a sense, it’s the perfect starting point, or ending point of your Toronto adventure. There are countless things to do in Niagara Falls and one of the most exciting opinions may be to take a helicopter tour to see the falls and the city from above.

 

 Will you be heading to New York this winter? Let us know in the comment below!

Why transformative travel will change your life’s journey

In a society ruled by expected instantaneous results and smart devices, it’s often healthy to tap into your inner peace. This can be done through self-reflection or connecting with the elements around us.

While indulging on you inner journey, try escaping on an outer journey too. “Transformative travel” is a term coined by travel industry experts to describe a vacation that helps the traveller connect with their deeper self and inspire consciousness in the world. The Transformational Travel Collaborative is an organization founded on the basis of encouraging travellers to indulge in personal and inner journeys while on vacation.

The purpose of travelling is usually to immerse yourself in the local culture. This is often done by interacting with locals, going on excursions, and enjoying unique delicacies But have you ever felt worn out after a vacation like that one? It’s almost like you need another vacation after your vacation!

 

Instead of traditional travel, try travel with purpose. Travelling by itself helps you to discover, grow, and evolve, but it can also play a big component to healthy living and elevated growth.

Veronica Persaud, a travel consultant and franchise owner of Veronica Persaud- Dream Vacations, views travel as a connecting component of our life’s journey. “When someone travels they not only discover new things about the world around them, but most importantly, how they fit into this world! It’s like being a part of one grand puzzle, each piece as important as the other,” she told Women’s Post.

This new approach to viewing travel is heavily linked to wellness. Transformative travel promotes luxury retreats that have a more natural and artisanal design rather than modern or urban. Every part of your getaway should be peaceful in some aspect — this can include yoga, fitness, or wellness-related activities. Many travel agencies have jumped on this wellness trend, promoting fitness and health rather than local nightlife. In St Lucia, for example, the official tourism board has declared November as the inaugural Adventure and Wellness Month.

Even celebrities have started to promote the idea of going off the grid and focusing on your mental well being. In 2016, Chrissy Teigen, model and co-host of Lip Sync Battle, went on a wellness retreat to Bali, Indonesia. Her collection of majestic and soothing images on her Instagram helped spur this kind of movement forward. The family stayed at the COMO Shambhala Estate, which is a wellness resort offering activities such as hiking, swing yoga and rafting. It also housed a resident nutritionist for designed health plans. On her Instagram, Teigen captioned,

“My body and mind have never felt so clear. Thank You for getting me to move again… and giving me some much needed body and nutrition schooling.”

To Amy: the most patient human in the world

A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

 

Transformative experiences that take place while travelling have a long lasting effect on psychology and emotion. For a more transformative travel experience follow these tips by Women’s Post:

  • Consider your intention for travel
  • Write down the goals for your trip — for instance: make a marriage stronger, connect with family, mental health or learning a creative trade.
  • Be vulnerable and humble — don’t just view a country for its glamorous tourist bits, but speak to a local about their lives and the conditions of that country.
  • Do less — take time to relax and experience the feelings around you
  • Have gratitude for your new perspective
  • Recall your insights gained by the trip and give yourself a short break upon returning home and restarting work

Your personal purpose and connection also transcends to a consciousness of the world, resulting in your desire to make meaningful changes once you return home. If you are thinking of where to start a journey like this, consider Dream Vacations. 

What are your thoughts on transformative travel? Leave a comment below!

 

Eat, explore, and relax in South America

Popular vacations typically include European back-packing trips or Caribbean cruises, but let us not forget about South America and all the beauty this continent has to offer. Truly different than the North — South America is home to some of the world’s most natural wonders as well as culture, activity, food, and dance. Here is a breakdown of the top places you should visit in South America, if you are looking for a different type of vacation. Let us explore, eat, and take ease:

Explore:

In the past few years, many travellers have decided to indulge in vacation spots that have more to offer in terms of eco-tourism. With pristine rainforests and exotic wildlife, every day in South America is an adventure.

Colombia
The Amazon adventure: Colombia is home to about 55 natural reserves and 23 of them have park rangers to help tourists engage in safe and fun adventures. The Amazonia also occupies 42 per cent of Colombia. The Amazon River that passes through Colombia is home to famous Anaconda snakes and pink dolphins. The Amacayacu Park is the most easily accessible spot and is located on the southern side of the Amazon River near the city of Leticia. The visitor’s centre of the park has been closed since 2012 due to severe flooding, but accommodations have been made with several Indigenous communities in the area that offer camping, cultural display, and craft activities.

Pink Amazonian Dolphin

Guyana
If you are ready to immerse yourself in a truly natural rainforest experience, Guyana is the place for you. Located along the northern coast of South America, this English-speaking territory is home to vast areas of untouched land, from savannahs to a portion of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest stretches into nine different countries in South America, with the majority in Brazil. The Iwokrama Reserve located in central Guyana is home to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway in the Mauisparu region. This is the only tourist canopy walkway in the Guyana shield. The canopy, which is located 100 feet above the forest floor,  cost US $180,000 to construct and is made using adjustable steel cables and aluminum. The canopy has a unique design that allows trees to grow normally between the four spacious platforms. Tourists can spot wildlife, including the famous spotted jaguar, as well as engage in bird watching and night walks to explore biodiversity in the area. At the base of the canopy walkway is the Atta Rainforest Lodge where guests can stay overnight.

‘On the Canopy’ Iwokrama Guyana

 

Eat:

South America is home to many different cultures and meals, including arepas in Venezuela and peanut soup in Suriname. There is something unique to find in every country.

Argentina
This beautiful and vast South American country is home to one of the most spectacular landmarks, the Andes mountains. Argentina is also known for its food, in particular their steaks. The cut of steak is very important in Argentina and many farmers raise their cattle as free roaming. In Argentina, they also cook the steaks through a process called asado. Asado is similar to what we would refer to as barbecuing, however, it is slower and smokier. The primary base for asado are compressed charcoal pieces instead of propane. There is a popular steakhouse in Buenos Aires called La Brigada where the steaks are so tender they can be cut with a spoon. Some popular choices include ‘Asado De Tira’ which are essentially short ribs and ‘Bife De Chorizo’ which is a juicy sirloin steak.

Chile
The love affair with Chile and red wine dates back to the 16th century. The most popular types of wine available is Cabernet Sauvignon, Pais, Carmenere and Merlot. There are many varieties of vineyards in Chile and many are located in the southern region near the flat lands at the base of the Andes Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for wine tasting and exploring. Chile is voted as one of the top ten wine producers in the world and some one of the most popular spots includes Casablanca Valley, which is located along the coast near Santiago and Valparaiso. One of the most popular times to travel to Chile for wine tasting is during the Grape Harvest Festival, which takes place from March through April.

 

Ease:

An important part of a vacation is the relaxation — a time to be lazy and to enjoy the simple things in life, even if that includes reading a book on a sandy beach or relaxing by a midnight bonfire.

Bolivia
This relatively small South American country is landlocked between Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, but still has its own unique cultural experiences to offer. Bolivia is known for the world’s largest salt flats, located in the southern region of Uyuni. The stunning salt flats attract wondering tourists due to its unique ecosystem and stretching views of the glistening salt late. There are, however, many areas in Bolivia that offers different experiences. For something more low key visit the region of Copacabana, located near the border with Peru, which offers a warm and comforting feel of a small town. Copacabana is nestled between two hills near the Titicaca Lake, one of South America’s largest lake. Copacabana is also known for its many churches and religious festivals. The stunning Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana takes up a whole block in this small town. The Basilica is home to the Camarin de la Virgen de Candelaria— a famous 15th century statue. Legend says that if she is removed Lake Titicaca will rise up in rebellion.

Basilica de Copacabana

Brazil
This list would not be complete without one of the largest and well known countries of South America —Brazil. Various parts of Brazil provide different experiences, from carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the famous rodeo. If you are looking to relax along a beach you are in the right spot.  Copacabana beach is the most famous beach in the country, but if you are looking for something more tranquil and quiet, Prainha beach may be the best choice. Located just a short drive away from the busy Rio de Janeiro, this beach sits at the forefront of rainforest covered mountains. This is the ideal getaway from all the excitement and hectic nature of travelling. For more information and the best rated places to stay in Brazil, consider using a site such as AllTheRooms.com that offers comprehensive event guides for different areas and the best suggested places to stay.

Prainha Beach – Rio de Janeiro


Hope you enjoyed our short trip around South America and let us know in the comments below where you plan to visit next.

8 movies that will make you book your next flight

What if I told you you could go on vacation right now? Art mediums like books and movies can transport you to far-off lands, but it can also encourage people to take real trips to other countries. The sensory experience of film can transport you to another world entirely, exposing you to culture, food, music, and art in the span of 90 minutes. So take this journey with Women’s Post as we list eight movies that will inspire you to travel.

Thailand-The Beach (2000)

Like the name, this movie was filmed on location from the streets of Bangkok to Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand. Based on a novel by Alex Garland, this adventure packed film follows a young American tourist. Leonardo Dicaprio plays the young American who finds himself travelling to a secluded island in the Gulf of Thailand and joins a secret community with magical blue waters and pristine lagoons. Despite the wonderful visuals of this movie, this films isn’t all paradise.

 

Spain- Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

As the title suggests, this Woody Allen film transports you to the streets and ways of Barcelona, Spain. This romantic comedy follows two American friends on vacation in Barcelona where they put their inhibitions to the side and indulge in a weekend of seduction by a Spanish painter played by Javier Bardem. Woody Allen captured many stunning visuals in this film while promoting the Catalonia region of Spain. Scenes are also filmed in Oviedo, the northwest Spanish countryside. One scene of the movie also captures the Church of La Sagrada Familia, a famous unfinished Roman Catholic Church from 1882. The architecture and seen in this movie will be greatly appreciated.

Scotland/ United Kingdom- One Day (2011)

While I may never forgive the ending of this movie, this film captures scenes from Scotland, France and England. Most of the production took place in Edinburgh,Scotland, where the lead characters of the movie attend University. Scenic views also includes the Brittany region of France and several shots of London. The movie follows two university friends, who always find themselves connecting over the years, eventually invoking feelings of love, disappointment, bad timing and hurt.

India/France-The Hundred- Foot Journey (2014)

I discovered this film by mere chance on a long flight — the irony is not lost on me. After watching, I was ready to fly to India and to the French countryside instead. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a witty comedic film with the backing of two powerful people. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, this film tells the tale of a family’s journey from Mumbai, India, to opening up a restaurant adjacent to a Michelin star restaurant in the French countryside. Filming took place in the south of France in Saint Antonin Noble Val. The movie captures the beauty of Southern France and included scenes from Northern Paris.

Colombia- Love In The Time Of Cholera (2007)

Filmed in the beautiful seaside town of Cartegena,Colombia, this movie visually captures many interesting scenes of Spanish culture. Love in the time of cholera is based off the famous Spanish novel in 1985 by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This classic tale of a love triangle captures the rustic day to day life of a Spanish lifestyle, with vibrant colours. Scenes also include street markets in Bolívar, Colombia and a historic church.

Italy- Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

This classic Romantic comedy tells the tale of a recently single American woman( portrayed by Diana Lane), who impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany and embarks on restarting her life. The beautiful and stunning scenes showcase the beauty of the countryside. The location of her new villa is in the town of Cortona,Tuscany. Shots also include scenes from Florence and Rome.

 

France-Paris Can Wait (2016)

Diane Lane returns again to deliver another witty romantic and comedic role of an American woman travelling abroad with her husband. While deciding to disconnect from her busy husband and taking the scenic route, Lane’s character travels with her husband’s associate. The pair drive from Cannes to Paris. Like the title of the move, very little of Paris is seen. Starting from the French Riviera, the pair drive the countryside of South-Eastern France, there are shots in Aix en Provence, Lauris,and Cadenet, France.

 

Indonesia/ Italy/ India – Eat,Pray,Love (2010)

I don’t think this list would be complete without the ultimate wanderlust movie. Eat, Pray, Love is the wildly popular film based off a bestselling memoir of the same name. The movie recounts an American woman’s journey to finding her true self after her divorce. Her travels include eating, praying, and obviously, loving. The movie highlights, Italy, Indonesia and India. Filming locations included, Bali, Naples, Dehli and New York City , encourages viewers to take a short trip around these amazing countries.

 

Hope this list is able to fulfill some of your wanderlust and you’re off to book your next flight.

Let us know in the comments below some movies that have inspired you to travel and explore. Bon Voyage!

5 ways to enjoy your staycation in Toronto

Do you have some vacation time coming up this summer — but don’t feel like (or can afford to) going on an international trip? Whatever the reason may be, it might be worthwhile to think about a staycation.

A staycation, in case you are not familiar with the term, is essentially a vacation where you are at this moment. You can make it a nationwide staycation or maybe narrow it down to the beautiful and diverse streets of Toronto. The city life isn’t for everyone, but there are enough places in Toronto that will make you fall in love with it for all the right reasons. So grab a few friends, your family, a loved one, or venture out on your own and enjoy these spots. Women’s post has compiled five Toronto hotspots you may enjoy this summer.

St Lawrence Market

Toronto natives may be familiar with the sprawling and rustic look of St Lawrence Market located along Front Street or in the Esplanade. This classic farmer’s market is an indoor structure with over 100 various vendors, offering prime cuts of meat, creamy cheeses, artisan bakers, fresh fruits, aromatic spices, antiques and hopefully almost anything you will find around the world. Touring St Lawrence market is like taking a trip around the world in the span of a few hours. Allow yourself time to soak up the mix of culture and eclectic vibe from many of the vendors. Some places to check include Carousel Bakery, offering the classic peameal bacon sandwich, Churrasco’s,with Portuguese style chicken and Raani Foods, offering a variety of Indian curries and chutneys.

Interested in learning more? The St. Lawrence Market also hosts a number of events and private dinners.

Kensington Market
Kensington Market

Kensington Market

Kensington Market has long been known for its unique vibe in the city and many tourists come to the area thinking that it will be a similar situation to St Lawrence Market. Kensington market is an outdoor collection of diverse shops, with something for everyone on each corner. In 2006, the market became a national historic site. Nestled between Little Italy and Chinatown, expect a wide selection of street foods, vintage clothing and one of the most amazing and one of a kind gift shops in the city, Blue Banana Market. And be sure to take pictures of the artistic graffiti walls.

Mill Street Brewery Tour- Distillery District

Niagara may be great for wine tours, but Toronto is home to a collection of craft beers and brews that you might want to indulge in. Mill Street Brewery was founded in 2002 and is named after Mill Street in the historic Distillery District. The district is home to Victorian industrial buildings, dating back to 1832, when it was a collection of buildings operated by Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Restructured and reopened in 2003, the district offers a selection of dining experiences, shops and cultural events.

Miraj Hammam Spa- Shangri-la Hotel Toronto

One day is all you need, and while there might be be spas on almost every street corner in the city, the experience at Miraj Hamman Spa by beauty brand Claudalie Paris offers a truly relaxing, wholesome, and cultural experience . Without giving away too much details, the spa is described as “ a voyage inspired from the ancient rituals of the Middle East to the Vineyards of Bordeaux.” Choose treatments of your choice but also be advised to check prices beforehand.

Spa
Caudalie Spa Treatment Room

 Drake and Gladstone Boutique Hotels

If you are looking for a different experience and you want to spend a night or two away from home, there are many boutique hotels in the city that you can easily enjoy. The Drake Hotel and The Gladstone Hotel are just two examples along the vibrant street of Queen West that promotes art, culture and entertainment. The Drake hotel is home to delicious foods, 19 guest room, and even and underground bar featuring different DJ’s. The Gladstone hotel, features guest rooms that are tiny but each with a unique theme and designed by different artists. There is a Canadiana room, a Teen Queen room, and a Biker room among other 34 choices. Staying at the Gladstone is like being a part of art.

 

Let us know in the comments below some of your staycation choices.

Explore BC’s Rich History by Visiting Hope, Boston Bar and Yale

“The Rail Line is an Amazing Piece of Canadian and British Columbia History” – Yale Historic Site Management

We thought we knew about B.C.’s rich, historic life line until our road trip to Hope, Boston Bar, and Yale. The drive from Vancouver was rapturous; urban life slowed to a tranquil pace as we moved closer to our final destination. The road we travelled had long stretches of windy roads, surrounded by mountains. There was no need for music playing in the car as the trip played to its own scenic symphony. One of the highlights was discovering the drinking water in Yale was, without exception, the best that we have ever tasted.

The word ‘Yale’ can be found in two different locations — Yaletown, which is one of Vancouver’s trendiest neighbourhoods, and plain old Yale with its less than burgeoning population of 150 that was once a boomtown of 30,000 gold miners during the gold rush of 1858. It was one of the most popular places in Canada, with 17 saloons, a tent city that offered a general store, a dentist, medical doctor and barber, along with a gold panning site, a bath house, court house and of course, a jail. Once reality set in that most folks were not going to strike it rich, many followed the train out west for jobs in what became known as Vancouver’s Yaletown. Yale is known for playing a vital role in the growth of B.C. and Canada and was once the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. Yale was established in 1848 as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post.

Photo by Tourism Vancouver

Boston Bar:

Our first stop was to ride the Hell’s Gate Tram which opened in July 20, 1971 by Habegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland. It carries about 530 passengers per hour and is known as the steepest fully suspended air tram in North America. It is called Hell’s Gate for a reason – as they say on the Hell’s Gate website: “Simon Fraser’s voyage in 1808, stating in his journal that “no man should ever pass through here it was truly like passing through the gates of Hell!”

Despite being afraid of heights, it was worth it! While most gondolas ascent upon boarding, the entrance to Hells Gate tram is at highway level, far above the raging Fraser River, taking enthralled visitors on a breathtaking, if not steady plunge to the viewing platforms, which also has a restaurant and what might be the biggest fudge store in Canada. What motivated me was hearing my partner, John, rave about the world class fudge. During the descent, I enjoyed every minute, taking in the views of the mighty Fraser and Cascade Mountain range.

Photo by John Moe

Ward’s Tea House – Part of the Historic Yale Site

 “We heard that train-a-comin’- it was rolling around the bend!” Actually, it thundered around the bend within 20 feet or so of our first stop at Yale, Ward’s Tea House.

As we ate our delicious lunch served by Jacquie dressed in period costume, we were told that trains pass on a regular basis through the town. For both of us, myself being from a hobby farm in Richmond and John from rural North Burnaby, this just brought back childhood memories and sleeping was not a problem, even with trains whipping by close enough to see the conductor’s face. The Ward’s Tea House is a charming place, serving home style hot meals such as my favourite, Chicken Pot Pie. The tea house went through a facelift recently and now has a new kitchen, sitting area, and patio.

 

Yale:

 We learned that Yale helped to build Canada’s national railway in the 1880’s.

Another fun fact: In the 1860’s, with the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road, Yale became the main terminal for one of the largest paddle wheeler routes in North America. The 1880’s saw the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway with construction headquarters housed in Yale. A National Historic Site monument to Chinese railroad workers is the first monument in Canada to be inscribed in English, French, and Chinese.

1870s Creighton House:

The manager, Deb Zirvini, gave us a tour of the museum, including gift shop, archives, and the Beth Clare garden. Their indoor exhibits include artifacts and photographs that showcase the diverse history of Yale. A collection of First Nations baskets, Gold Rush, Chinese and Pioneer artifacts, piano, railway exhibits and the first-ever revolver produced by Smith and Wesson that was used by Ned Stout in the late 1850s.

Gold Panning:  

If you have always wanted to try gold panning, this is the place to be! It was fun and we gave it a try with a little assistance from Crystal, our tour guide, who showed us how it works. It was an interactive experience and is for all ages. I did find gold, but just a tiny spec. 

1880’s Ward House:

Photo by John Moe.

We were warned that trains pass through day and night and we were supplied with earplugs. We were privileged to experience a night in the Ward house, which was built in 1863, burned to the ground in July of 1880, and rebuilt by Johnny Ward in August, 1880. It was like time-travelling. The house was fully furnished in period décor, beautifully restored to original condition. Looking at pictures on the wall, heavy pans that weighed a ton, added to the authenticity. I wondered what it would have been like cooking in these pots on a wood stove. The bathroom had the toilet tank high on the wall, requiring a tall person, which neither of us is, to flush. John was able to reach from his toes.

We were the first journalists to ever be invited to spend a night at the Ward House, which is quite an honour. The heritage home is just steps from the historic Pacific Railway line that was built in the 1880’s. We enjoyed our overnight stay and were treated to a healthy breakfast. The orange juice was delightfully served in jam jars.

Yale Historic – walking Tour:

We took in a bit of exercise for the day by doing the 45-minute walking tour of Yale. We went down to the Fraser River and walked along Front Street, heading past some truly historic places like the property where the original Hudson’s Bay Company store was located, the Post Office, Chinatown, the Jailhouse, and then made our way back to the Ward House.

Blue Moose Coffee Shop:

We had dinner at the Blue Moose Coffee Shop right in the heart of Hope, which offered gourmet sandwiches. With its trademark stuffed Moose to greet visitors, the coffee shop also sells craft beer.

 

During the summer holidays, you will love the charm of the locals and will appreciate the rich, important contribution to Canadian history from Yale. So why not come by, ride the Hell’s Gate tram, spend a day at the Yale Historic Site, and stop in Hope for lunch. You won’t regret it.

 

By Christine Blanchette and John Moe

Thank you to Destination B.C. for your support.

Harrison Hot Springs: favourite getaway for locals and tourists

“Country roads take me home…” this song by John Denver could have been inspired by the route to Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Just substitute Lillooet Ranges for Blue Ridge Mountains and the mighty Fraser for Shenandoah River. There could be no more appropriate song running through my head while driving to Agassiz, a small community located in the Upper Fraser Valley region. With picturesque mountain views, wide open vistas of farmlands with rolling hills and the smell of country fresh air, it was almost heaven, and the serenity reminded me of growing up on a hobby farm in the Eastern Townships, in Richmond, Quebec.

Outdoor Activities: Agassiz, B.C.

About 5km outside Harrison Hot Springs we made a couple of stops, firstly at Farm House Natural Cheeses. Featuring a country style store with seemingly every kind of exotic cheeses you could desire, including hand made artisan cheese produced on site. My partner and I enjoyed the company of goats and dairy cows at some of the large and tidy barns. At our next mini tour, we visited the Back Porch Coffee Roastery, where the owners, Dan and Lynda welcomed us into their studio. We noticed an antique coffee roaster dating back to 1919, as well as other collectibles and antiques. Their expansive property was immaculately kept, with manicured lawns surrounding heritage buildings loaded with character, to go with a million dollar view.

Both the Farmhouse Natural Cheeses and the Back Porch Coffee Roastery are ideal tourist stops for the whole family. It was a chance to unwind before heading to Harrison Hot Springs, which was our ultimate destination.

We were excited to visit Harrison Hot Springs, as we always enjoy running the trails or the lakeside pathway and then soaking in the hot springs pool after a workout. Harrison Hot Springs is a small, friendly resort community of about 1,500 people. There are so many outdoors activities, from boating, fishing, golfing, kayaking, etc. It is THE place for a runner’s getaway or just a gorgeous destination to escape from the city, about a 130km drive from Vancouver. Harrison Hot Springs is at the Southern end of Harrison Lake in the Fraser Valley and is world famous for its natural healing hot springs, which attracts tourists and locals alike year round.

Photo by John Moe.

Spirit Mask Trail:

We walked the Spirit Mask Trail, which is a circuitous 1km route through pristine forest lands just a few minutes from the village, though it seemed longer as it was enjoyable not just for the walk through the woods, but because many trees are decorated with carved masks from local artists. Each mask depicts a different mood, creating a thought-provoking setting. The walk is fun for the whole family and is a wonderful photo opportunity.

Spirit Mask Trail. Photo by John Moe.

Health/Wellness – Muddy Waters Café:

After our workout it was time to refuel with some healthy eats at Muddy Waters Café, which is family owned and located in the heart of the village. We could feel a sense of community spirit upon entering the room. Located on the main strip with spectacular mountain and lake views, we were greeted by manager, Richard Fife, who recommended the yogurt plate served with an assortment of fruit along with homemade jam and healthy grain bread, while my partner, John had salmon over scrambled eggs with fresh fruit. Richard says proudly, “we source all of our food locally,” which includes an extensive menu for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. We enjoyed our breakfast in this charming café that also offers specialty coffees, which we couldn’t refuse. Overall, if you are a foodie you will want to try out this place.

 

Black Forest Restaurant:

You can virtually enjoy a slice of Germany – right in the village since 1975 – at the Black Forest Restaurant where naturally, you will find the most delicious black forest cake. This family-run business offers authentic German food, with all spices coming directly from Germany. If you like beer with your bratwurst, the restaurant offers the Krombacher Pilsner, which is an exquisite German brew, served in B.C. exclusively at Black Forest restaurants in Harrison Hot Springs and New Westminster. We enjoyed our meal, which was recommended by owner and chef, Vic Singh. His wife Kamal says, “we also offer vegetarian plates.” The restaurant is in the heart of the village, offering delicious German cuisine, along with breathtaking views from its upstairs patio deck.

Harrison Beach Hotel:

A better view will not be found at Harrison Hot Springs than from our suite at the Harrison Beach Hotel. Stepping onto the huge balcony from the front room, I knew instantly this was what the doctor had ordered. It not only offered stunning vistas of the lakeshore and beyond, closer inspection revealed kitchenette with fridge, separate bedroom, two TVs and coffee. If you thought you’d seen it all when it comes to towel art and design, you’d best make the trip. The design art towels for the bathroom made me feel almost guilty for actually using them. Importantly, the coffee maker, together with Starbucks coffee, was a much-appreciated convenience for runners and writers like us.

Harrison Hot Springs offers something for everyone, from a stroll through the village, to soaking in the hot springs, to running the lakeshore pathway and much more. At just a stone throw from Vancouver, it’s the perfect getaway where you are limited only by your imagination.

Looking for more getaways? Check out Christine Blanchette’s adventure in Abbotsford B.C.

 

By Christine Blanchette and John Moe

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