Category Archives: Travel

When the Cat Hates Car Rides

I am not certain which is worse: driving in freezing rain, driving in poor visibility conditions, or driving with a cat that does not like car rides.

Regular readers will know that I adore my cat, Ivy, and despite a few feline eccentricities, she is an absolute angel. But nothing turns her into the devil’s child faster than taking her out for a car ride.

From what I understand, cats aren’t fans of change to begin with. Then, to place them in a crate, going to places unknown, can be a scary prospect for certain cats.

The first time I took her to the vet, she didn’t just cry, she meowed in repeated shrieks at the top of her lungs. It was horrible. Thankfully, the vet is just 5 minutes away, but that was the longest 5 minutes of my life.

I often wonder what must be running through her mind through her persistent meows.

But what is it that elicits this strong reaction? Is it the sound of the engine? Is it the tires against the pavement? Is it the motion? Is it the displacement from her cozy routine? Is it a little bit of everything? Continue reading

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My Favourite Things to Do in New York City (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, I offered a list of my favourite attractions in New York City, but I quickly ran out of space! For that reason, here is part 2 of “My Favourite Things to Do in New York City”:

Feinstein’s/54 Below
Before every trip, I make a point of checking out the event calendar for Feinstein’s/54 Below. Located in the lower level of what was the legendary Studio 54 night club, Feinstein’s/54 Below “offers an unforgettable New York nightlife experience, combining performances by Broadway’s best with world class dining in an elegant setting”. Our first experience at the club was seeing a later performance of the group The Skivvies whose members perform their diverse musical set of pop and Broadway tunes in their undies. It was a brilliantly entertaining show, enjoyed over desserts and drinks, which seemed like a perfect way to end a busy day of sightseeing and entertainment.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Once your itinerary has been filled with Broadway shows, if you are still craving more performing arts, Lincoln Center would be your next destination. As their web site explains: “The 16.3-acre Lincoln Center complex, the world’s leading performing arts center, is home to the 11 resident arts organizations that represent the highest standards of excellence in symphony, opera, chamber music, theater, dance, film, and arts education.” The Center’s calendar of events offers a steady rotation of shows and events that are certain to appeal to everyone’s appetite for the arts.

If you have a chance, I would also suggest taking a guided tour of the beautiful campus for a behind-the-scenes look at the magic of this iconic venue.

Bus Tours
When I visited New York for the first time almost twenty years ago, I think we were very smart in incorporating two bus tours into our itinerary, one tour of lower Manhattan and one of upper Manhattan. As a first time visitor with only a limited amount of time, we were able to cover a lot more ground by bus than if we had done it on foot. While the sights were all viewed from the bus window, it still offered us a great appetizer and the opportunity to figure out which sights peaked our curiosity to see up close in the next visits. Ask your hotel’s concierge or front desk team which bus tours they would recommend and to help you pick one that will go by the points of interest that would interest you most. Continue reading

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My Favourite Things to Do in New York City

Whether you love theatre, music, sports, fashion, museums, food or shopping, as a travel destination New York City has it all… and more!

On our most recent Broadway pilgrimage, I noticed that we have some sights that we return to, time and time again, just because we like them and it takes some of the guesswork out of trip planning. When friends ask us for advice on NYC sightseeing, these are the ideas we wholeheartedly recommend. Our suggestions have often become favourites for them as well.

For this travel blog, rather than walk you through our latest trip, step by step, I offer a short list of our personal favourites that I would recommend to any close friend looking for advice on points of interest.

Broadway Theatre
In Ottawa, we are very fortunate that we have many local theatre companies and stages offering a variety of productions to feed our appetite for theatre. But when in New York, a Broadway show is a must-see. Live Broadway shows are the Rolls Royce of theatrical experiences.

With the multitude of shows being offered, there is something for everyone, featuring brilliant actors, singers and dancers who are all at the top of their game.

Broadway tickets can sometimes get expensive, but there are ways to make the theatrical experience more affordable, whether through same-day tickets at the TKTS booth or to get on promotional email distribution lists such as TelechargeOffers.com and Playbill.com when you are planning your trip. Continue reading

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A Bucket List Trip to Las Vegas

A busy evening on Las Vegas Blvd.

When it comes to Las Vegas, I am definitely no stranger. Despite the distance from Ottawa, I have been there enough times over the years that I seem to have lost count.

It’s not that I consider myself a big gambler. It’s quite the contrary. There are so many things to see and do, whether you like entertainment, food, shopping, sightseeing or just the dry warm weather, Las Vegas can appeal on so many levels.

Back in the early 2000’s I wrote a “Vegas Top 10” email that I kept in my drafts folder for whenever friends and colleagues asked what they should see on their visit. I guess you could consider that my first travel blog entry, before blogs became popular.

The challenge now is that after a decade’s absence, I suspected that my list was getting out of date and not worthy of posting, given the pace at which Las Vegas seems to reinvent itself and to update its attractions.

The opportunity to visit Las Vegas, and to potentially validate my Top 10 list, presented itself last fall as my partner and I decided to treat ourselves and to celebrate our birthdays with tickets to see Cher and Céline Dion in their residency shows.

We were fortunate that our late November travel dates are not considered high tourist season. We believe that this played in our favour as we got pretty good deals on the points required to fly, as well as for our “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket list stay at the Bellagio Hotel. Continue reading

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You Know It Was a Good Vacation When…

Isn’t it wonderful when you have enjoyed your vacation time to its fullest and completely immersed yourself in activities that were so far removed from your day-to-day routine… to the point of forgetting the details of your day-to-day routine?

That being the case, you know it was a good vacation when…

Ice Bar, Stockholm, 2005

You have a hard time falling asleep on cue, to wake up in time for the return to your regular morning routine.

You wake up with muscle or joint stiffness but no recollection of what could have caused it.

The prospect of wearing long pants again makes you cringe.

The prospect of preparing a lunch-to-go makes you cringe even more.

You overshoot your morning routine prep time by half an hour.

Even your pets are seemingly sad to see you go back to the regular routine.

You’re not freaked out by the guy who cuts you off in traffic on your first morning commute. Continue reading

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How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest

The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was in the late 1970’s when I read an article about my favourite musical group, ABBA. The article credited ABBA’s meteoric rise to international stardom to the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1974 win with the song “Waterloo”.

For this young Canadian, even though I had no idea what Eurovision was, it sounded like a big event! I knew just enough about world geography to know that if a music competition involved a whole continent, it must have been something special.

In the years that followed, and the many hours spent listening to MuchMusic, Eurovision came up a few times, whether in the “Rock News” reports or when the VJ’s (“Video Jockeys”) were presenting a video and providing some background into the song and the artist. I remained intrigued.

In 2002, I was finding myself a little bored with mainstream radio here in North America and found myself searching for other musical options. At the same time, I had changed cable packages and was introduced to “BPM TV”, a new music video channel focused on dance tunes from around the globe.

Over the course of BPM’s programming, I was introduced to the Swedish pop band Alcazar. With their very catchy pop-dance tunes, bright upbeat tempo, and amazing sense of style, glamour and showmanship, they quickly became my favourite band! They still are today!

In the process of getting to know Alcazar better through online research, the theme of Eurovision popped up again. Alcazar competed in 2003 with a song called “Not a Sinner nor a Saint”, in a competition called Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national competition to pick a song to represent the country at Eurovision. This was where the journey began! Continue reading

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How I Became a New Fan of Wine

wine-bottlesWhen it comes to wine, you could say I was a late bloomer… a very late bloomer. But better late than never, I guess.

My first few tries of wine involved painfully dry white wines that seemingly stung my taste buds. I don’t know whether it was my taste buds that weren’t used to wine yet and I couldn’t appreciate it, but because I did not have any other points of reference, I thought all wines were like that. As a result, I generally stayed away and explored other libations.

It was around age 35 that I had my first sip of a wine that made my eyes light up and brought a smile to my face. It was an epiphany in a stemmed glass!

I wish I could remember the name of the wine to thank the winery, but it turned out to be something a little more middle-of-the-road in terms of sweet-dry balance. It was a nice, light, fruity wine with floral and citrus notes that delicately danced across the taste buds, like a gentle cooling breeze on a warm summer day. It was a pivotal moment that put me back on the path of exploring the wonderful world of wines.

In those first months, I had no idea what I was looking for. Initially, I picked up wines from brands I had heard of through word of mouth. It did not take long for me to alter that strategy upon realizing that I must have been the oddball among a collective of dry wine aficionados.

Then I started reading recommendations from reviewers and picking a few that appealed by their descriptions, suggesting notes of “black cherry” and “chocolate”. If I liked these flavours on their own, why not in my wine? They were quite good, but along the way I discovered that robust red wines made me very sleepy. As Archie Bunker once said in “All in the Family”, they were like “a blanket in a bottle”. It’s hard to become a wine connoisseur when you’re yawning at 30 second intervals and stealing the toothpicks from the cheese cubes to prop your eyelids up. Continue reading

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