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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

How to return to work after a holiday

Is anyone else struggling this week? It’s hard to return back to work after a holiday or vacation, which is weird since you’d think everyone would be refreshed and ready to put their heads back in their books. You’ve had time to rest, sleep in, watch movies, and binge eat cookies. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. Most people find it really difficult to return to their work responsibilities following a holiday or vacation. Our minds just aren’t ready to process the large influx of emails on our computer or the stress of completing the project left on our desks before the holidays. It’s not time yet! Don’t worry, you can get through it. The first week will be terrible, but here are some tips to help you survive it:

Take it easy: No, this does not mean shirk your responsibilities. It simply means not to set your expectations really high. Try not to plan any big meetings or deadlines for the first few days, or at least until you get to today’s emails. Set mini-goals for yourself and take two to three short breaks throughout the day so that your mind has time to adjust to this new routine.

Don’t feel bad about admitting it’s too much: Your co-workers or boss may be all gung-ho about getting back into their routines, but when they ask you to start a new project or move up a deadline, don’t be afraid to say “I’m still catching up from last week, can I get back to you on Monday?” The first week back will be hell, so be honest with yourself and others. If you take on too much, you will get overwhelmed and start to feel anxious about going to work every day.

Remember you aren’t alone: At the same time, don’t complain to your co-workers how much you hate being back at work and how wonderful your vacation was. Chances are, they don’t want to be in the office either. Don’t pile work up on their desks.

Make sure your workspace is clean: If you are organized and your desk looks fresh and clean, you will feel a bit less anxious about all the work you have to do. It also gives you something else to do in the office wen you need a bit of a brain-break.

Create a new routine: Once you are comfortable and ready, take on a new project or start a new work routine. This will make you a little more excited to be in the office, and light a fire for creativity and productivity. Start your day off slightly differently, whether that’s changing your morning coffee, adding in a few workouts, or simply reading the newspaper — the morning will set the tone for the rest of the day. You can even start having lunch with various co-workers. Think of it like starting a new job. When everything is fresh and inventive, that’s when you work the best. You just need to figure out a way to re-create that feeling.

Plan for the next week: This week was lax, but now it’s time to get back to work. Make sure you are super organized for the following week. Be on time to every meeting, present at every deadline, and on top of all your projects, new or old! Spend some time over the weekend planning your lunches, snacks, and coming up with personal deadlines for your work.

How are you feeling about being back to work? Let us know in the comments below!

Summer’s almost over? Start planning the next one!

With summer coming to an end, you may feel the need to put on some sad background music and imagine yourself walking down the street shivering in the coming winter. But before you do — stop! It isn’t necessary to succumb to the winter blues quite yet. Sure, you may have missed your chance at going south and drinking pina coladas, but there is no need to mope. Instead, begin planning for the vacation of your dreams, to come NEXT summer!

Budgeting for a summer vacation involves planning and consistency. The sooner you begin, the better! Think of what your dream vacation will look like next summer, and start that planning. To help, here are some tips:

  1. Begin a vacation savings account

A vacation savings account is a great way to begin storing extra cash away immediately. If you set up automatic monthly payments, then money will add up in the account in no time. By keeping a separate account for your dream vacation next summer, it keeps you from spending it now. Remember not to dip into it, not even in times of emergencies! If you receive any extra cash at any point in the year (promotion, tips, bonus), it can also go into the vacation savings account. When you eventually embark on your journey, the money is also in one place so you don’t overspend. Worried about extra fees? Another option is to load all of the vacation savings onto a prepaid debit card before you embark on your journey. That way, you don’t have to deal with those pesky (and sometimes expensive) banking fees.

  1. Look for good deals

Looking ahead for great deals can help save on costs for the vacation. By researching on Groupon and other discount savings websites, you may be surprised at the great deals you can find for your dream summer destination.  This is useful for accommodation costs or events that can be otherwise pricey. If you are going with a group of friends, groupons also help everyone save money.

  1. Buy tickets ahead of time

If your vacation is overseas, buying plane tickets ahead of time is essential to cutting costs. By watching the cost of plane tickets and looking for deals, it allows you to catch the best price in plenty of time before your vacation. There are websites that supply the cost of several airlines in one consolidated spot, which makes the search for the best price much easier.

  1. Cut back on draining expenses

A part of budgeting is finding out which costs are wasteful and draining to your bank account. Cutting back on expendable purchases can help make your vacation more affordable. By printing out your bank statement and highlighting every non-essential purchase, you can see which of your expenses are wasting a lot of money and can be cut out. By monitoring these draining expenses, it helps to save money and budget for more important expenses like beautiful vacations. Another way to monitor expenses is to download a an app that allows you to see what you are spending your money on and how it contributes to your overall budget.

  1. Research cheap local favourites at your destination

Since you are planning way ahead of time, there is time to plan and research fun activities and restaurants at your destination. Explore local blogs of affordable restaurants instead of eating at expensive tourist destinations. This is a good way to cut costs when you are on the vacation. By finding free or cheap activities that are commonly done in your destination, it will help to save money. It is also a more authentic way to enjoy a place rather than by taking part in the the touristy, and often very pricey, outings.

Budgeting far ahead of your vacation is the best way to ensure you can afford it. The more time you have to save, the better off you will be. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t forgot the most important thing; have fun!

5 delicious summer patio drinks

It’s finally patio season! To the disbelief of most Canadians, the sun actually peeked out from behind the clouds this long weekend— the same clouds that gave us rain and hail the weekend before. Personally, I took advantage of this beautiful summer weather and spent most of it outside.

While some of these outdoor activities included cycling, hiking, and gardening, it also involved a number of cold frothy beverages. Let’s face it — there is nothing more appealing than a cold beer on a patio on a hot summer day.

Sadly, inhaling beer on a regular basis can be a bit harsh on the digestive system. If you, like me, are getting tired of ordering whatever is on tap this summer, take a look at some of these delicious and light summer patio options:

 

white wine

White wine spritzers: This is one of my favourite things to order on a hot summer day. I’m a big fan of wine, but I find it a bit heavy with a light meal. A spritzer is a combination of white wine and carbonated tonic water. This gives the beverage a slightly sweeter taste and adds some bubbly texture. It’s very light and is half the calories of a regular glass of wine!

Ciders: If you aren’t a big beer person, a cider may be the perfect option. They are typically sweeter than the typical hoppy beer and contain hints of fruit (apple or grapefruit is my favourite). There are a number of local breweries across Canada that specializes in these beverages and each one offers their own twist. They range from being lightly sweetened to tasting a bit like juice.

15072446911_1db00c8ac9_o
Photo by Personal Creations.

Mojito: Made of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint, mojitos are dangerous drinks. The lime cuts through the sweetness and it may seem like you are just drinking a refreshing minty lemonade. Be warned: consuming too many mojitos may impair your thinking.

Ceasar: This drink is not as light as the others, but it is refreshing on a hot day. Make it with tomato juice, vodka, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. I’m partial to making it with gin instead of vodka. Serve with celery — does anyone know why we serve it with celery? Either way, it’s a great drink to have with appetizers like chicken wings. You can also count it as a serving of vegetables, which is a plus!

margarita-415360_960_720

Margarita/daiquiri: I love blended drinks! There is absolutely nothing more relaxing than a cold, frosty, iced beverage. The delicious blend of tequila and lime, or mango and rum is life-changing. The unfortunate part is that it is jam-packed with sugars. If you choose to go this route, make sure you are at a restaurant or bar that makes them well. This is not a drink you want to order from a pub with cheap alcohol.

Bonus drink!

H20: Don’t forget to hydrate!!! It’s easy to get carried away with all of these delicious alcoholic options. If the weather is particularly hot, make sure to alternate between water and alcoholic beverages to ensure you don’t become dehydrated.

What’s your favourite patio beverage? Let us know in the comments below! 

Villa Arches in Sint. Maarten

St. Martin or Sint. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to have two different countries each governing one half. The north side of the island is French, while the south side is Dutch. Our villa, Villa Arches, is on the Dutch side,  just south of the French border in Dawn Beach.

The villa is perched on the east side of a mountain and has a wonderful view of dawn beach and the morning sunrise. With warm red italian tiles and wide doors open to let in the cool breezes from the ocean, it is a terrific spot to watch the large boats come in to anchor in the protected cove far below, and also take in some sun and a swim in a good-sized pool.

The villa is well stocked with pots and pans, a coffee maker, and utensils and, unlike a lot of islands, the wifi and electricity was reliable and never went out during our stay.

We had dinner at “Big Fish” a fantastic seafood restaurant in Oyster Pond right beside Dawn Beach. The restaurant is owned by Teresa and Mike Wilson, a terrific couple from Toronto – who started the Fox and Fiddle chain of restaurants. Their sushi chef was terrific, but so too was the snapper, shrimp dinner and passionfruit sorbet. It’s a must visit when in St. Martin.

We drove around the island and stopped at a couple of beaches – Friars Bay, Le Gallion – which were too crowded for our liking. We read about Happy Bay beach, which is a short hike north of Friars bay, and were delighted to find it after a wonderful walk along the coast.

We had lunch in Grand Case and ate at a beach bar with an amazing chef. The beach is narrow with restaurants built right up against it. The only drawback was that it lacked beach chairs, so it is not a great place to take elderly visitors – although the kids enjoyed it.

The butterfly farm is a great place to visit on a sunny day and the market in Marigot (French side) and Phillipsburg (Dutch)- filled with colourful wraps, bags and jewelry were filled with activity.

Photo by Sarah Thomson
Photo by Sarah Thomson

Villa Arches is conveniently located so that excursions around the island didn’t take more than 30 minutes and it was nice leave the bustle of Marigot and come home to a quiet villa with the sound of waves breaking on the shore far below.

The only negative draw back is for those who must get sun –  the villa is tucked onto the east side of the mountain so by 4 p.m. the sun is blocked by the mountain, making late afternoon sun tanning impossible. But, we found that by that time in the day we’d had enough sun that it was rarely missed and the warm breezes with a cocktail sitting out on the deck more than made up for the lack of sun.

Wherever we go, I find it is the people who make or break a vacation. We rented a car from Dollar-Thrifty SXM and unfortunately had a tire blow out on the road. They were terrific people and delivered a new car to our villa. While we waited on the side of the road for our taxi to arrive – numerous locals stopped to make sure we were okay and offer help. The locals are terrific.

The only negative attitudes we experienced during our trip came from the people representing the Westin Resort at Dawn Beach. We were flagged down by two of their sales people – they were friendly but wanted us to scratch some tickets to win a prize once we had taken a 90 minute tour of the Westin Dawn Beach and learned about their fractional ownership units. The sales people warned us that other staff might try to take their commission so we should hold on to our scratch tickets and we could win a stay at the resort, an Ipad, or a$1000. We received two sets of cards – two weren’t winners and two were. But the prize was a stay for four at the Westin Dawn beach that could not be used in the week that they are issued. They were also non-transferrable.

The Westin Resort at Dawn Beach is just down the hill from Villa Arches and I wanted to check out their beach to see if my mother could swim there. I also wanted to check out their service, thinking that if they had to sell fractional ownership it might be abysmal. Customer service is so easy, but can be completely messed up if the staff don’t feel encouraged or supported. We poked around and found the restaurant and beach practically empty. I decided to talk to a supervisor about getting a day pass to review the resort.  When I spoke to him to see if we might purchase a day pass in order to review the resort, he claimed they were completely sold out. I told him the place was practically empty, but all he did was shrug. So we decided to ignore him and use the beach facilities anyway.

The beach chairs were mostly empty and the waves were pretty rough, but we had a nice swim and left without anyone the wiser. What irked me most was that the supervisor refused us access to review the resort while, at the same time, they are paying people to go out and lure possible customers into the resort. Terrible management and customer service. If a resort like the Westin at Dawn Beach has to sell fractional ownership  then they obviously aren’t providing the highest possible service at the best possible price.

Instead of luring people to the resort with “scratch tickets,” simply try welcoming everyone who walks through the door, offering them a free drink at the beach bar, and enticing them to come back everyday and spend money at the restaurants, on beach chairs, and towels — giving them great service the entire time. It’s much more likely their next stay will be with you. Instead the Westin Dawn Beach gave the impression they were trying to be an “elite” club while behind the doors the room was empty.

I highly recommend spending $3500 and renting Villa Arches for a week – where the customer service from the owner far exceeded anything the Westin Dawn Beach can offer!