Tag Archives: travel

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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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Travel

The Burger Race

hamburger-and-french-friesAs a sequel to my post “Ten Years Gluten Free“, as much as it took solid organization skills and a spirit of adventure to continuously try new recipes, I think I adapted pretty well with my gluten intolerance. Through batch cooking and chasing after sales on roast chickens, I have been able to keep my freezer well-stocked with home-made meals that I can enjoy at home and at the office.

Also, over that decade, restaurants have come a long way too, several of which are getting better and better at tasty gluten-free offerings and in ensuring safety in the careful preparation of meals.

I am surprised that with the prevalence of the gluten-free diet, even among people who are not intolerant, fast food outlets have not been in a race to see who can offer gluten-free bread or buns to welcome a new segment of the audience.

For me, fast food restaurants have been regarded as an occasional treat for a fast meal on the run. In the cases where I had an insatiable burger fix but was short on time, I have been known to buy burger and fries at a fast food outlet, come home, throw out the bun, toast a couple of slices of gluten free bread, and meticulously reassemble the ingredients with the same attention to detail as an IKEA furniture assembly project. Continue reading

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Filed under Misc blogs, Travel

A Relaxing Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Oban Inn GardenWith the Canadian dollar in its weakened state against the American greenback, Canadians might be looking for travel options closer to home. In that same fluctuation, Canadian destinations become more affordable and more attractive to our American friends. A unique travel option for both to consider is Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Located in Southern Ontario, along the shores of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake was the original Capital of Upper Canada from 1792 to 1797 and the location of several battles in the War of 1812.

As Niagara-on-the-Lake had been on our bucket list for some time, John and I decided to check it out in August of last year, in time for the famous Shaw Festival. Regular readers of my blog know that we have a voracious appetite for theatre and we were absolutely delighted with Shaw, a theatre company that draws its inspiration from the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.

Upon arrival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, we checked in at our new home-away-from-home, the Oban Inn. The staff at the front desk ran the operation like a finely oiled machine, always greeting guests as they were arriving or leaving, generously offering tourist information on the fly, while still maintaining the calm and serenity of the Oban Spa vibe. Our room was spotlessly clean, very comfortable and very quiet.

After our long drive from Ottawa, we were starved. Our first stop was the Oban Inn’s beautiful dining room for dinner. I had already called ahead to ensure that they were well equipped to handle a gluten sensitivity, and the serving staff was indeed well-prepared.

Our first Shaw festival theatre experience was a winner, right out of the gate, with the legendary musical, Sweet Charity at the Festival Theatre. We were charmed by Julie Martell’s sweet portrayal of Charity, and were mesmerized by the gorgeous costumes, sets, lights, songs and dance. The entire company was impressive in that performance and kept us wanting more.

Oban Breakfast

Our breakfast tray at the Oban Inn dining room

Our Tuesday evening concluded with a special treat at Il Gelato Di Carlotta. Their wide array of tasty gelato won us over immediately. Even though we could get a few different scoops in one cup, there were just too many flavours to try in one visit. We concluded we must return… and we did! (Note: gluten-free cones are available)

Wednesday morning we returned to the Oban Inn’s dining room to start our day with a simple yet elegant breakfast. The big picture window overlooking the garden offers a beautiful view and a lovely opportunity to slowly open one eye at a time as the caffeine kicks in and the brain cells engage, gently easing into the day rather than the hustle and bustle of the daily grind back home. We were starting to feel the vacation vibe setting in.

We decided to take a stroll down Queen Street and check out the shops. We were very impressed by Continue reading

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I’ve Been Waiting In Line So Long…

Just before our trip to New Orleans, I was waiting in a long line at the currency exchange office for a good 35-40 minutes. Of course, that was not a problem in itself, that is part of the fun of getting ready for a trip. But had the office not been so warm while I was wearing my winter coat, I might not have been drifting off into my own little writing world thinking of punchlines for “I’ve been waiting so long in line… (blank)

(For my fellow game show fans, it’s a little like Match Game)

I’ve been waiting in line so long…

– My skip-a-day deodorant needs to be reapplied
– I need to take my next one-a-day vitamin
– A mortgage payment just went through
– I’ve completed all levels in Candy Crush
– I’ve watched YouTube… All of it.
– My “daily defence” moisturizer surrendered.
– My iPhone says I am missing 91 app updates
– I am ready for my next haircut
– My outfit is now considered retro
– My passport has expired
– My library books are overdue
– My Blockbuster movies are overdue… waaaay overdue
– Scientists have found two more planets, and Pluto is really pissed! Continue reading

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Where Did the Little Voice Go?

Pool chairs, Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas 2007 As any diligent writer would do, whether I am away from home for a weekend or a week, part of my packing routine includes gathering drafts of unfinished blogs, up-to-date outlines of stories I am working on, office supplies to keep the drafts and side notes organized and a reliable little notebook and pen, in case a moment of brilliance strikes when the airplane seat belt sign is on. In a nutshell, my carry-on becomes a mobile Staples store.

When traveling, one never knows when one might be spending unplanned time in the airplane terminal, on the tarmac or on a long layover. By the same token, one never knows when a shift in time zones might lead to a sleepless night. It is with the best of intentions that I ensure I am ready to make the best use of any free time that presents itself to capture the stories and ideas floating around in my head.

However, in the last three major trips, something happened: I did not write. I did not review unfinished blog drafts, I did not scribble any notes, I don’t even think I added more than 10 words to the Notes app on my iPad. What happened?

It is like that little narrator voice that speaks to me and is constantly bombarding me with ideas, phrases and puzzle pieces of dialogue (and often at inconvenient times too, I might add) suddenly disappeared.

It was when I was unpacking from our most recent trip to New Orleans that I realized Continue reading

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New Year’s in New Orleans

Even though our Ottawa winter was heralded with warmer than usual temperatures and no snow by the time Christmas rolled around (a fairly unusual occurrence), John and I packed our bags and headed out for a winter escape (planned several months ago) for a bucket list destination: New Orleans, Louisiana.

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

After a fairly easy-going travel day (thank you Mother Nature!) we arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, happy and reassured to find our luggage made it as well. The uneventful travel day was especially sweet since it was New Year’s Eve and because we had made it with plenty of time to spare to take in the festivities. I admit I was mentally prepared for the possibility of spending New Year’s Eve in an airport due to weather, mechanical or logistical issues like missed connections, but in the end everything worked out! YAY!

Our first destination was the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French quarter for a special dinner to ring in the New Year. It did not take longer than for the appetizers to arrive to fully appreciate the great things I had heard about southern hospitality, given the kind, warm and attentive nature of the team that greeted us with open arms. What an amazing way to start a vacation! We then decided to take a gentle stroll to burn off some of the calories, and to take in the merriment and festive spirit that was in abundance throughout the French Quarter. We concluded the evening in Jackson Square, a great vantage point to take in the brilliant fireworks show and traditional dropping of the fleur-de-lis to ring in 2016.

Our chilly New Year’s Day began with Continue reading

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Just for Laughs 2015

Hahaha1This past weekend, John and I took a short road trip to Montréal to join in on some of the festivities of the 2015 edition of the Just for Laughs (JFL) festival.

Founded in 1983, the festival is a major cultural event, showcasing comedy in all of its forms, from leading performers in stand-up comedy to the very best in performance artists, and everything and everyone you could imagine in between. For the festivities, the street in front of Place des Arts turns into a pedestrian mall, a feast for the senses with food and beverage trucks, buskers, mini stages for performance art and any number of things you will only see at a comedy festival. I could have sworn I saw a character that looked like “Polkaroo” from the kids’ TV show… or maybe it was the wine speaking… in any case, there are plenty of sights you won’t see anywhere else.

When we attended Just for Laughs two years ago, we thought that the stars had lined up so perfectly when we had the privilege of seeing a parade of fine stand-up comedians in three gala shows hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Griffin and the legendary Joan Rivers. How could anyone do better than that?

The icing on the cake of our 2013 visit, was a one-woman comedy show starring the fantastic Canadian comedienne Debra DiGiovanni. Debra’s style of humour resonates with me on so many levels with her high energy delivery, her great references to pop culture and her excellent timing when it comes to relaying stories of observational humour.

By the end of that weekend, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. It was a weekend of really great memories while crossing events off our bucket lists… but could JFL top that?
This past spring, when the emails started hitting my inbox, announcing the galas and headliners, it looked like the stars were lining up again for a spectacular season, so we took the plunge and bought tickets.

Our weekend began with an unexpected brush with celebrities as a few National Hockey League players and their buddies were having a grand time, partying at our favourite restaurant, Bâton Rouge.

Then after dinner, with very full stomachs, we hiked up Sainte-Catherine Street 15 minutes to Le Théâtre l’Olympia De Montréal (Olympia Theatre) for another bucket list show, featuring the brilliant Margaret Cho. I guess that buying tickets early paid off as we were only 2 rows away from the stage, and able to get the full effect with every sight, sound, gesture and change in Margaret’s facial expressions. I must admit I laughed until I cried… twice. We both enjoyed her performance and would highly recommend seeing Margaret if the opportunity presented itself.

Our next stop was Continue reading

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