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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.

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

Have a Caribbean inspired Christmas in Toronto

What’s Christmas like in your home country ? I recently started thinking about the way people hold different Christmas traditions close to their heart. Some people dream of snow on Christmas and look forward to icy winters and warm hot chocolate. Christmas for me, however, has been different, growing up in a tropical country. If you can’t physically go to the Caribbean and experience the holiday season for yourself, here are some ways to have an island-inspired Christmas.

Caribbean Foods

Everyone loves good food — it’s one of the driving factors at every holiday celebration, no matter the culture. One of the more popular Christmas dishes you can expect to find in mostly all the islands is Christmas rum cake. This is a sponge cake with various dried fruits that has been soaked in rum, after baking. Splash more rum on the cake to add delicious flavour as well as preserve the cake for almost up to a year. Just don’t go too heavy on the rum or you’ll  become intoxicated from eating to much cake. Also, try Caribbean classics like sorrel punch and ginger beer.

Caribbean Decor

When you think of the islands, you think of warm sunshine and lots of palm trees! Palm trees are an amazing way to add a tropical touch to any room. Certain design ideas include making a Christmas wreath out of palm leaves or the funniest one that’s been circulating  on social media is a Christmas pineapple. For people that don’t want, or have time for a tree, a pineapple can easily be decorated to invoke that Christmas island feel. For the record, I have never done this and I don’t believe this is a Caribbean tradition, but its certainly festive and island-like.

Caribbean Music

Just like for any other season of the year, the creative geniuses and musical talents originating from Trinidad and Tobago know how to make Christmas in the Caribbean lively. There is a special genre of music called Parang that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad. The music revolves around an island christmas. Soca-Parang is a mixture of Soca beats and traditional Christmas songs. Similar to carolling , in some places in Trinidad people go home to home singing parang music in exchange for treats of sorrel drink or rum punch.

Caribbean Christmas Pop-up

If you’re considering what it would be like to experience a Caribbean island Christmas, there is a special Christmas pop up market coming to Toronto on Dec 16. The pop-up market is presented by Jamaican Eats Magazine and inspires  the taste, shop and style of the Caribbean. The event will be held at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Queen Street East. Expect to find more rum cake, a special treasure hunt and Caribbean inspired greeting cards.

What is a boutique hotel?

I’m currently looking for hotels in New York and I saw this term “boutique hotel” listed. To me, a boutique is a small, independent shop often found in a quaint neighbourhood that sell handmade items you can’t find anywhere else.

A boutique hotel is similar in a fashion. It is not operated by a large chain or brand. Instead, it is independently owned that provides individualized and custom service. Most have less than 100 rooms, meaning the experience can be quite intimate. At the same time, boutique hotels usually have a lot of character. The building may have a theme that seeps into every room.

Don’t be fooled though. This doesn’t mean the hotel is tacky. Most boutique hotels are actually quite luxurious. Because they are smaller than the typical hotel, it means more care is taken in the decor. Designer furnishings and unique pieces of art are common in each room. The best part is that, unlike your typical hotel, no two rooms are alike. Some rooms may have a quirky sense of humour while others may have a warm and cozy ambiance.

Because of the size of boutique hotels, owners are usually able to find prime locations to build upon.. This can result in some truly breathtaking views.

Each room will also have some luxury, hand-made and unique items available for use, like organic soaps, bath pillows, or even a linen selection. Prepare to enjoy some locally-grown foods as well as some art by local artisans.

There are also a few different kinds of boutique hotels. Historic or country boutiques, for example, offer accommodations with rustic charm — think stone walls, big fireplaces, detailed wood carvings, and homemade comfort food.  These buildings often have some sort of historic significance and rooms are designed to feel homey, yet still rich in culture and comfort.

Urban boutique hotels are often found in a city’s centre and caters too younger travelers looking for a tech-savvy and comfortable place to stay. They are generally located in neighbourhoods with lots of culture and nightlife. The rooms themselves use Smart technology and there are common areas for people to mingle.

Then there are the luxury boutiques. The rooms in this accommodation use high-quality materials and exclusive designer furnishings. They may have infinity pools, skylights, or even spa services available. Luxury boutiques pride themselves on personalizing your vacation experience, and ensuring you have the most fine wining and dining available.

Check out these boutique hotels in Toronto: Thompson Hotel, Le Germain, or The Drake (Nook room featured in photo above).

Luxury boutique hotel Barcelona Duquesa de Cardon
Boutique Hotel Bali

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.

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.

5 simple must-try summer cocktails

Nothing beats a cool drink on a patio during a hot summer day in August. Whether you are hanging out at a restaurant with friends or inviting family to show off your beautiful backyard, having a refreshing drink on hand is critical!

Wine, beer, and even sangria are staples — but what if you want to try something a bit different that won’t hurt the bank? These five cocktails are simple and easy to make at home. They don’t require too many fancy ingredients and they are sure to impress your guests on a muggy summer afternoon. Enjoy!

Gin and tonic

Gin and Tonic: This drink is great for those who may not be particularly fond of sweet mixes. It’s also really easy to make. Simply mix one to two ounces of gin (depending on preference) with a tall glass of tonic water on ice. Slice a lime and squeeze out some of the juice into the glass and mix. Add in a slice of lime and a sprig of mint or rosemary for added class. This classic drink is especially refreshing, but doesn’t have the sweetness of a juice-based cocktail.

Mai Tai: Imagine you are on a beach, watching the sun set over a calm ocean. You may not have the beach, or the ocean, but what can have is a drink that reminds you of the tropics. Shake one and a half ounces of white rum, half an ounce of lime juice, orange Curacao, and orgeat syrup (or simple syrup with orange zest). Put in a glass with some ice and then pour three quarters of an ounce of dark rum on top to create a layered look. Top with a slice of pineapple or candied cherries.

Margarita: No need for a fancy Mexican restaurant — you can make this tasty drink yourself! Simply shake two ounces of tequila, one ounce of lime juice, and one ounce of triple sec. Pour over ice if you prefer the beverage on the rocks or blend with ice for a frozen affect. Don’t forget to rim your glass with salt!

margarita

The Parrot’s Grog: This is not as well-known as a Gin and Tonic or a Margarita, but it is equally as thirst-quenching. Combine one ounce of whisky, half an ounce of rum, one ounce of fresh grapefruit juice, half an ounce of lime juice, and half an ounce of honey. Shake all these ingredients together and put it in a glass with ice. Top with some soda water and a fancy umbrella!

Long Island Iced Tea: This is another addictive classic, but be warned — drinking too much can lead to table-top dancing! This cocktail has lots of alcohol hidden behind a little sugar. Mix half an ounce of vodka, white rum, gin, triple sec, and tequila (all the good stuff). Put one ounce of lemon juice, simple syrup, and a bit of coke. Pour it in a tall glass with lots of ice and a fancy straw.

What are your favourite summer cocktails? Let us know in the comments below!

The Toronto Islands reopen to the public.

It seems the opening of the Toronto Islands on July 31 has managed to salvage some of our summer fun. Many people have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Toronto Islands to the public. As of April this year, the islands were severely flooded — even in mid-June 50 per cent of the land was still underwater.

While this presented a stunning and unusual visual for photographers, many Torontonians and tourists were left seeking activities elsewhere as they dealt with the frustration of the closure.

Now that the islands have reopened, many businesses are hoping to recover from the losses endured over the first few months of summer. One example is the amusement park on Centre Island. Centreville has long been a fun family favourite for parents will small kids looking to enjoy a relaxing day with celebrated rides. Earlier in July, the owner of Centreville, Bill Beasley announced the amusement park will be selling their 110-year-old carousel ride for $3 million in an effort to sell off assets to bring in some form of revenue due to the extended closure. It is estimated the company lost over $6 million due to the flooding and this is just one of many business on the island

Now that the Islands have reopened, Women’s Post has some tips and key points to remember while visiting the Toronto Island.

  • Ferry service, recreational programs and summer camps are all reopened on the islands. Ferry tickets can be purchased online to avoid the rush at toronto.ca/ferry
  • Take your time to enjoy the beaches again! Centre Island beach, Wards Island beach and Hanlan’s Point beach will all be open and only certain areas will be closed off and due to raised water levels the beaches may appear much different this year. There are also many wading pools and splash ponds to cool off in the heat.
  • Eat some delicious grub! The Toronto Islands are home to interesting and delicious restaurants such as the Carousel Café on Centre Island, The Rectory and Island Café on Wards Island and various other food stands along the way selling small treats such as popcorn, ice cream and hot dogs. The perfect summer treats.
  • Rent a bike! Earlier this year,  it was announced the long-standing Toronto Island Bike Rental on Centre Island would close its doors, but thankfully this is not the case. Help keep this fun business going and rent some tandem bikes or quadricycles as you get in some summer fitness and leisure.
  • As a reminder, some parts of the Toronto Islands are still off limits due to flooding and this includes areas such as Olympic Island. It is wise to pay attention to signs and blocked areas to ensure your safety.

So get out there and enjoy your summer Toronto! Let us know in the comments below how you feel about the reopening of (some) of the islands.