Why A Taurumi Massage is TOTALLY Worth A 10,000 Kilometre Flight

If you travel to The Islands of Tahiti and don’t get a Taurumi massage, then you’re not only missing out on one of life’s most relaxing pursuits, but you’re also failing to fully immerse yourself in the Polynesian experience. It’s like visiting Paris and not having a croissant; it’s cultural blasphemy.

Taurumi massage
Don’t take my word for it though, take the word of Tupuna Kultur, a cultural workshop offered on the island of Tahiti. During the workshop, guests are guided through the rich customs that define the Polynesian culture—music, food, language, tattoo, flowers and of course, massage.

Massage throughout the Islands of Tahiti is much more than a way to knead away your stress, it’s a spiritual connection between two people. Polynesians believe that the life force that flows through all things is called mana. When someone gives you a Taurumi massage, they are effectively transferring their mana to you.

Taurumi Massage, techniques and method, workshop

This act of connection is practiced by mothers with their children throughout the islands, as well as between friends and lovers. Worldwide, the power of touch is well-documented, but many of us have lost the presence required for it. Taurumi massage means that not only must the receiver be open to it, but the person massaging must be fully present throughout.

On a recent visit to the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa, I had the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Taurumi massage at the Manea Spa. Taurumi goes far beyond the use of hands, and also employs the use of elbows and forearms. Starting at the base of the skull (called the nini, and meant to be the entry point to your soul) a masseuse (called a Tahu’a) uses traditional Monoï Oil (a blend of Tiare flowers and coconut oil) to essentially remove any stress, pain or toxins your body may be holding onto. I fancy myself a bit of a massage connoisseur, and I have to tell you. Taurumi should be considered an art form.

Taurumi Massage at Manea Spa

As I was floating down the open air passageway after my first Taurumi massage, my eye caught a glimpse of this room and my curiosity was piqued. I suspected that this contraption was for a barefoot massage, and I was right. Taurumi also uses feet to cure what ails you. Clearly, as a professional, I had to check this out.

Taurumi Massage, Avae Taurumi, Barefoot Massage

Called Avae Taurumi, the Tahu’a uses the balls of her feet and heels to deliver the deepest massage you’ll ever have. I don’t know how else to describe this other than to say that it’s the perfect mixture of pleasure and pain, and trust me, that combination is not usually my bag. But there I was, covered in oil with a woman walking on my back and loving every minute of it.

Avae Taurumi or Barefoot Massage

I’m not going to lie; I didn’t leave the room floating like I did after my first Taurumi massage. My muscles were actually quite tender after the Avae Taurumi, and the next day I felt like I’d had a pretty intense workout. It wasn’t until I woke up on the second day that the effects of that massage hit me. There wasn’t an ounce of tension left in my body. A victim of modern stress, I noticed that my shoulders weren’t gravitating towards my ears and that my shoulder blades didn’t reflexively pull together. My body felt released, if that makes sense, and the afterglow effect of that particular massage lasted for more than a week.

Taurumi massage, traditional and Avae, is not readily found in North America and that’s even more reason to ensure you book yourself in for one should you visit any of the Tahitian islands. If your partner should happen to give you a hard time for booking more time at the spa, let them know that it’s your cultural obligation as a visitor to The Islands of Tahiti. You’re welcome.

Watch this video if you’d like a virtual tour of the Manea Spa at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa before you go.




Budget, Gourmet and Unique Dining Options In Mont Tremblant

One of the best things about dining in Tremblant is the wide array of options available to suit every budget and taste.  For me though, one of Tremblant’s biggest draws is that everything you could possibly crave sits in the pedestrian village at the base of the mountain. You never have to worry about starting your car to find a great meal for apres-ski, and you can forget about those plastic wrapped sandwiches and canned soup that most ski hills offer during the day; even when it’s budget it’s delicious.

dining in Tremblant

We’re lucky to live close to this premier ski destination and have visited most of the restaurants over the years. I understand that many people may only get to swoop in for one-visit though, so in the interest of making the most of your time here is what you need to know about dining in Tremblant, so you can make great choices, fast. 

Best Options for Dining In Tremblant

Budget- Friendly

Le Grand Manitou

dining in mont tremblant, le grand manitou, cafeteria option, ski hill

As a food snob, I readily admit that I am spoiled skiing in Mont-Tremblant each season. I’ve visited other ski-hills and have been underwhelmed by the options in the ski-cafeteria. I see you hard-core skiers rolling your eyes; it’s about the skiing not the food Candace. I counter with an eye-roll of my own and raise you my hard-earned money. I want the whole package when I’m skiing, thank-you-very-much and Le Grand Manitou Lodge at the summit of Mont-Tremblant delivers. Yes, there are plastic-wrapped sandwiches for sale, but I can confirm they are fresh and delicious. There is also a huge assortment of hot food and snack options. Top that all off with a bar offering great beer and wine, and the struggle between mountain and socializing becomes very real.  

Smoke’s Poutinerie

dining in tremblant, budget friendly, smoke's, poutine, lunch

Poutine is one of those foods, you either love or hate. I stand firmly on the love side. I mean, honestly, it french fries topped with gravy and cheese, what’s not to love? Smoke’s Poutinerie, raises the bar and offers variations on the original, like Philly Cheese Steak and Bacon Cheeseburger Poutine. Located at the start of the Pedestrian Village, just beside the The Cabriolet, this is one restaurant you definitely have to try if you’ve never experienced poutine. 

Pub Fare

Le Shack

Located at the top of the pedestrian village and at the base of St.Bernard, Le Shack is a Tremblant fixture offering traditional pub fare. It’s perfect for lunch or apres-ski, or lunch that turns into apres-ski. No judgement here, it’s your holiday. 

La Diable

dining in Tremblant, pub-fare

La Diable is beer lover’s dream come true, but don’t stress if suds aren’t your thing, the food is on point too. Best bet here is one of the crazy burgers; lamb, buffalo, salmon or veal. Purists will love the traditional beef burger.  A popular haunt, La Diable is always busy, so you may have to wait a few minutes for a table at any time of day.

La Forge

dining in tremblant, duck wings, margaritas

La Forge sits directly beside La Shack at the bottom of St. Bernard. The menu here is pub-food but with a slight twist. Case in point; there are no chicken wings, but the duck wings will blow your mind. Worth noting, the margaritas at La Forge are the best I’ve ever had. They don’t advertise this fact, but it’s good to know if you’re looking for something to warm you from your toes. 

International

Ô WOK

dining in tremblant, asian, international cuisine

If you find yourself at the base of the mountain for lunch and have worked up a big appetite, then check out Ô WOK. Their hearty Asian bowls will give you the fuel you need to make it to apres-ski. 

SoCal Kitchen

We tried SoCal Kitchen this year when we were drawn in by a two margaritas and nachos offer for $22, and then proceeded to fall in love with the Tuna Tatake, Spicy Shrimp and Fish Tacos. This restaurant is definitely worth your time if any of the aforementioned made you hungry. 

dining in Tremblant, tuna tatake, fresh seafood, spicy shrimp

Gourmet 

Coco Pazzo

I have two words for you when it comes to Coco Pazzo; make reservations. This Italian restaurant ain’t your typical mama mia establishment, there’s nothing traditional about turducken meatballs my friends. Coco Pazzo works hard to use local and organic options whenever possible and as such the menu evolves. The only certain thing about Coco Pazzo is that it’s always busy and the food is always exceptional.

Coco Pazzo Tremblant

La Forge 

The Superman of restaurants, La Forge is a mild-mannered pub by day and a gourmet steakhouse by night. Go in the evening for the exceptional cuts of beef, but stick around for the extensive, and award-winning wine list. 

Unique

La Savoie

dining in tremblant, cheese, raclette, fondue

Cheese-lovers will rejoice to hear about La Savoie, because as we all know, melted cheese is life. The Raclette and Cheese Fondue at La Savoie is amazing, and you’ll no doubt feel the need to fill yourself to capacity with it, but trust me when I say, you need to leave room at the end for the Chocolate Fondue. 

Le Refuge Du Trappeur

dining in tremblant, refuge, ski shack

There are two ways to get to Le Refuge Du Trappeur. The first is by skiing black diamonds to it during the day, the other is snowshoeing at night. This charming little cabin in the woods, halfway down Versant Soliel, is a great place to warm yourself up mid-day with soup, hot chocolate and sandwiches. In the evening, sign up for the the Snowshoe Tour and hike your way down to enjoy a cheese fondue. 

Sweet Tooth

Maple Taffy

 

Nectar of the gods. Maple taffy #tremblant

A post shared by Candace Derickx (@lifeinpleasantville) on

Canada, and more specifically Quebec, is the place where the nectar of the gods, aka maple syrup runs in abundance. At the bottom of the pedestrian village you’ll find the Cabane à Sucre De La Montagne and at the base of St. Bernard (seasonal) you’ll find a cart offering maple taffy on a stick. We Canadians can find a multitude of uses for maple syrup, but ordering it rolled up on snow on a stick is about as patriotic as you can get here. Do NOT walk past without having one, you’ll never regret it. 

Beaver Tails

dining in Tremblant, beaver tails

As a testament to the popularity of Beavertails you’ll find two in Tremblant; one near the bottom of the pedestrian village and one at the top beside Roots, the number one receiver of my money but that’s another story. Don’t worry, no beavers are hurt in the making of this delicious pastry treat. Beavertails are hand-stretched pastry (in the shape of a beavertail), that are deep-fried and then finished with a variety of sweet toppings. My personal favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise (butter, cinnamon sugar and lemon) but my kids lose their minds for the Chocolate Hazelnut Beavertail. Best bet, have everyone in your party order a different one and share. 




Your Family-Friendly Spring Break Guide to Myrtle Beach

Sun-seeking Canadians have long known about Myrtle Beach, yet its reputation as a raucous spring break hotspot means that it’s sometimes overlooked as a family-friendly destination. I recently traveled to Myrtle Beach with my teens and can confirm that it is a wonderful place to visit with your family anytime of year. If you’re thinking of escaping winter soon though, here’s your family friendly spring break guide to Myrtle Beach.  

spring break in myrtle beach, grand strand, beach views, family fun

Getting There

Myrtle Beach is much closer to eastern Canada than resorts in Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean, which means you’ll spend less time traveling and more time enjoying the sun, surf, and outstanding family attractions & dining in the area. 

The Family Getaway

If you’re planning a family getaway to Myrtle Beach, the first thing you’ll want to arrange is your accommodations. We recommend the Hampton Inn and Suites; located surfside, it’s perfectly situated for strolling Myrtle Beach’s extensive boardwalks and massive beachfront, and boasts several pools if swimming in the ocean isn’t quite your thing. Breakfast is included daily, but it’s worthwhile to book a suite so you have a kitchen for preparing other meals (nobody wants to eat out every day, even on vacation). A suite also gives you more space to spread out in, which is important when traveling with your kids.

Once you’re settled in and you’ve had a chance to hit the beach and the pool, chances are your kids will start getting restless so it’s wise to have some fun activities planned to keep everyone busy and happy. Staying close to the beach you have an excellent selection of watersports available, including paddle boarding, kayaking, banana boat rides and much more. On a recent trip, our family tried out parasailing at Express Watersports. Soaring up to 500 ft above the Atlantic for a full 10 minutes, we spotted dolphins and other marine life, while enjoying a serene bird’s eye view of the Grand Strand.

spring break in myrtle beach, parasailing, family activities myrtle beach

Adventures

Looking a bit further afield, we spent a day in North Myrtle Beach exploring the forest canopy at Go Ape. This was one of the highlights of our trip to Myrtle Beach and one that the whole family loved. Go Ape features 5 action packed treetop obstacle course sections, leading you higher into the forest canopy. We tried out every challenge their high ropes courses had to offer, including the tarzan swings and zip lines (some of them take you right over the water). If you have an adventure-loving family, you don’t want to miss Go Ape.

spring break in myrtle beach, family activities in Myrtle Beach, activities for kids, ziptrekking

Evenings Out

If you’re looking for evening activities, one excellent choice is to take in a Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball game. This Advanced-A level team are the current Carolina League Champions and have sent over 125 players on to successful careers in the big leagues as a Class A advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Myrtle Beach used to be home to the Toronto Blue Jays’ affiliate team (the Carolina Hurricanes), so this is also a town with a connection to Canadian baseball. The Pelicans play in the evenings, which means it’s never too hot in the stands, and the level of play is outstanding. With reasonably-priced tickets, the Pelicans are definitely worth a visit, whether you’re die-hard baseball fans already (or not yet).

spring break in myrtle beach, rent a convertible, touring the town, family fun

Another location for rollicking good evening entertainment is the Carolina Opry. Offering a wide range of shows from bluegrass to opera, dramatic readings to musicals, and even a laser show, there is literally something for everyone at the Opry. If you can’t decide what to see, a good bet is to get tickets to TCO, an award-winning show that blends two hours of high-energy music, comedy and dance. It’s a crowd-pleaser but it has also earned high praise from major media outlets including NBC and The New York Times.

Before you take in a show, you’ll want to sample some of the excellent dining Myrtle Beach has to offer. For a stellar fine dining experience, be sure to make reservations at Thoroughbreds. Our entire family raved about our meal, with superb traditional steakhouse fare and especially delicious desserts.

For traditional Myrtle Beach nosh, you won’t want to miss eating at The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood Buffet. Benjamin’s is very family-friendly with an all you can eat buffet, offering lots of choice in a fun environment. One of our favourite memories from Benjamin’s were the many model ships throughout the restaurant, featuring the work of their own onsite Master Shipwright Jimmy Frost, who has either built or restored every one of the many model ships on display here.

For a more casual yet still refined dining option, we can’t recommend Croissants Bistro & Bakery enough. Their motto, “bon appétit, y’all” says it all! Located in a beautiful spot and boasting fabulous service, Croissants Bistro serves up spectacular food, which is great for brunch as well. But y’all, at Croissants it’s the desserts that are truly to die for!

With so much to offer families, from sun, sand, surf and adventure to pro-level sports, award-winning theatre and out of this world dining, it’s easy to see why Myrtle Beach is the perfect sunshine destination.




Everything You Thought About The Islands of Tahiti Is Wrong; That’s a Good Thing

For most people, visiting The Islands of Tahiti is a “bucket-list” destination. I was lucky to check this one off my list relatively early, when I was invited on a recent Tahiti Tourisme press trip. For years, I carried constructed notions of what Tahiti would be like, only to find out upon my arrival that I was quite wrong; but as is turns out, having those myths busted turned out to be a good thing – a very good thing. 

before you go to Tahiti, bora bora, lagoon tour

Before You Go to Tahiti Here’s What You Need to Know

It’s Not Just Bora Bora

Prior to my visit, I thought Tahiti and Bora Bora were one and the same, when yet there are in fact 118 islands making up the Islands of Tahiti, each with their own unique quality. I understand the desire to see Bora Bora; it’s everything you’ve ever seen in pictures and more. But when you go, take the time to investigate other islands. Before you book, consider splitting your stay between at least three of them.

I spent time on the big island of Tahiti, as well as Bora Bora, and Moorea. I fully expected Bora Bora to be my favourite, but it was Moorea that stole my heart. Called “The Magical Island,” Moorea is the perfect mix of blue lagoons, lush green vegetation, Polynesian hospitality, and French culture; essentially, it’s paradise. Of course, it probably helped that the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora was an absolutely flawless resort to take it all in.  The trip left me insatiable, and I’ve been positively obsessed about getting to know even more of Tahiti, and I’m feeling the call of Rangiroa and the Marquesas for my next visit.

before you go to Tahiti, Moorea, Sofitel

Transportation between islands is easy with Air Tahiti. Pro tip: get in line early so you can get a window seat to capture that perfect Instagram shot. Boat transportation is also available, and while it may take you a bit longer to get to your destination, you won’t regret the time you spend taking in the natural beauty around you. 

before you go to Tahiti, book a window seat

An Overwater Bungalow May Not Be for You

You’ve probably built a magazine-worthy idea in your head about arriving in Tahiti where you will stay in an overwater bungalow. But let me pull out a reality check: an overwater bungalow in Tahiti starts at roughly $1000 CAD a night, with the higher end resorts running between $2000 to $3000 per night. If you have the bank for that, then book away. And if you’re looking for a roomie for the week, I’m all in.   

before you go to Tahiti, overwater bungalows, how expensive are overwater bungalows

The reality is that many people scrimp and save to book an overwater bungalow and then have no money left to actually do anything. I’ve stayed in an overwater bungalow and while beautiful, yes, I can also assure you that after a day, it’s just a room. 

Look into booking other rooms at the resort which cost less but still offer the same amazing amenities. The Pearl Beach Resort and Spa in Bora Bora has bungalows on the beach and those with garden views that are identical on the inside to those on the water. Added bonus: you’ll have some coin left for other things. 

It’s Only For Lovers

Sure, sun, sand and surf are conducive to a little romance, but they are also three things your kids love too. Why would you deny them this? Tahiti and the islands ARE for kids!

The lack of furry or costumed characters walking around signing autograph books is refreshing and brings family travel to new levels of sophistication. You won’t find water parks on resorts, and resort kids’ clubs will be sparse, but what you will find is the opportunity to try unique activities with your kids and create lasting memories.

before you go to Tahiti

Highly recommended for families: book a va’a lesson. A va’a is an outrigger canoe and a national sport and obsession in Tahiti. Every person in a va’a must work together to get anywhere, so it’s a great exercise in family team building.

And be sure to bring your snorkeling gear. The waters surrounding Tahiti are teeming with life. From just about anywhere, visitors can wade into the water and see spectacular sea life. There is no better place to introduce your kids to the wonders of the ocean.

before you go to Tahiti, snorkel

It’s Expensive 

Accommodations

There is no doubt Tahiti can be expensive, but there are many great options for accommodations that won’t cost you your retirement savings. But don’t panic; even budget-conscious options are far from “hostel with a backpack’ levels of accommodation.

before you go to Tahiti

The Le Meridien Tahiti, conveniently located near the Papeete airport, offers a room with two queen beds for roughly $350 a night; a third of the cost of an overwater bungalow. Still making you break out in a cold sweat? No worries. Tahiti is well known for the large number of family pensions it offers throughout the islands. At around $150 a night, with some places including breakfast in the price, your dream trip just turned into a reality. 

Food

The Food Truck craze is not just a North American phenomenon, and Tahiti boasts a huge assortment of Roulettes (French for food truck), most notably at Vaiete Square near the ferry to Moorea. Go for the gourmet food and budget-friendly pricing, but stick around for the cool vibe and dining under the stars.

before you go to Tahiti, budget dining

I recommend you also check out Little Bangkok, a food truck in Puna’auia, not far from the Merdien Tahiti. I’m still thinking about the delicious Pad Thai I had there. 

It’s Boring

For some people the thought of lying on a lounge chair with an umbrella drink is a form of torture. Do an image search of Tahiti and it’s not hard to see why some people may think that’s all there is to do.

But adrenaline junkies can take heart: You can take surfing lessons, hike through the jungle to secluded falls on Tahiti, snorkel with sharks and rays in Bora Bora, and ATV up practically vertical terrain in Moorea.  There’s plenty to keep an adventurer busy.

before you go to Tahiti, adventure activities, waterfalls

The Polynesian people, aside from being incredibly warm and inviting to guests, also have a fascinating culture. Be sure to take the time to immerse yourself in it.

In Tahiti, book a full day excursion with Ia Ora Na Tahiti Expeditions.  The owner, Teuai Oliver, is nothing short of a superman, who can lift large rocks, climb impossibly tall coconut trees and whip up a killer Poisson Cru in a single bound.

before you go to Tahiti, tours to book, island of Tahiti

Also on the island of  Tahiti, you’ll find no warmer welcome than with Tupuna Kultur. A completely immersive experience, guests here will learn about Tahitian dance, music, massage, food, basket weaving, and lei making. I’m still trying to figure out how to make wearing a hei (aka floral crown) acceptable in my daily life at home.  

before you go to Tahiti, culture, Polynesia, south Pacific

It’s Hard to Get To

There is no doubt that getting to Tahiti takes some time, but it’s not hard or complicated. Simply get yourself to Los Angeles from anywhere in North America, and then hop on an Air Tahiti Nui flight. 

before you go to Tahiti, how to get there, Air Tahiti Nui, flight time

The flight from Los Angeles is long at eight hours, but most definitely a pleasure on Air Tahiti Nui. The staff on board welcome you with French Polynesian hospitality, making the journey there delightful. If you can, I recommend booking a night flight. I had night flights to and from Tahiti and I blissfully slept for most of it.

I think most surprising to me now, as I reflect on what I’ve learned about The Islands of Tahiti, is that it doesn’t have to be a once in a lifetime trip. The Islands of Tahiti are not hard to get to, they can be done on a budget, and there’s enough to do in order to easily justify a return trip (or two!)  

before you go to Tahiti, Le Meridien Tahiti

 




Universal Studios Packs in All the Adventure You Can Handle

Nicole_at_universal

We all have that friend, don’t we? That one friend who is a daredevil, a thrill-seeker. She’s the one who eagerly signs up to skydive, who ice-climbs in the winter, and goes bouldering in the summer. She cajoles you into taking belly dance lessons and pressures you to come hang-gliding with her. She’s the only person you know who actually ate fish tacos from a street vendor in the middle of nowhere, whose “grill” was an old oil barrel cut in half, and somehow didn’t die of ptomaine poisoning. Deep down inside, don’t you wish you were a little more like your adventurous friend?

Well, no. Not really. I am fond of my staid life, but sometimes I do long for a little more adventure – and I got it, in a safe and family-friendly way, on a recent trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

As far as theme parks go, Universal Studios packs in all the adventure and thrills you can handle. The rides are faster, the thrills are bigger, and the water rides are…well, you’ll see.

The Roller Coasters

I may be a sedate, middle aged woman, but I confess that I am a bit of a roller coaster junkie. I love a good roller coaster, and the ones at Universal Studios did not disappoint. In fact, the roller coasters were bigger, faster, and crazier than anything I had ever experienced.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Many roller coasters start off by going up a steep hill. This ride goes up a 90-degree hill, giving new meaning to “steep” and “hill.” It is famous for featuring the world’s first non-inverting loop, and if you want thrills and speed, then this is your jam. Speaking of jams, each seat comes with an option for music that you choose to be played while you are riding. I chose “I Will Survive” as it seemed apt.

Tip: if you have long hair, tie it back in a ponytail or bun. You’ll thank me later.

The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster

I’m going to be honest with you: I think I blacked out for a minute on this coaster. The speed tops 67 miles per hour, the coaster corkscrews and turns upside down over and over, and the track goes below the bridge where people stand to watch. HULK SMASH. I wobbled off the roller coaster and promptly walked into a wall.

Tip: If you are wearing your park pass on a lanyard, tuck the lanyard INSIDE your shirt.

stanlee

The Mummy

This roller coaster isn’t as crazy as the other two in terms of speed and twists, but it is very high on the spooky factor. The Mummy is going to steal my soul–the special effects are terrifying, especially the fireballs, and swarms of scarab beetles that “drop” onto you.

Tip: This is an indoor ride, which is perfect when the weather isn’t.

Harry Potter

And now for a second confession: I have neither read the books nor watched the movies. However, I live with three Harry Potter fans and they were thrilled with the detail and incredible effects of Harry Potter World. Hey, I was thrilled with it and I know literally nothing about it! The rides within the two Harry Potter areas – accessible by the Hogwarts Express – are thrilling too.

Happr_Potter

signs

Escape from Gringotts

Beneath the fire-breathing dragon in Diagon Alley is Gringotts Bank; walking through the bank alone is interesting enough. The ride itself is a multi-dimensional 3D thrill ride is exciting enough, even for those of us in the 1% who have no idea who any of the characters are.

Tip: Take a long-sleeved shirt, because the walk through the bank to the ride is really, really cold.

The Forbidden Journey

If you’ve ever wanted to play Quiddich, this is your chance! This is another multi-dimensional 3D thrill ride; don’t fear the lineups, because there is so much to look at when you enter the castle.

Tip: Be careful on the moving carpet when you exit the ride. Trust me.

Dragon Challenge

“Which one did you do, Mom?” my kids asked me after I left them to take the Dragon Challenge. I didn’t realize – even AFTER riding it – that there are two separate roller coasters going at the same time, intertwined. Each one is a very different experience, but both are high-speed coaster with lots of twists and loops; your legs hang in the air, which adds to the craziness of the experience.

Tip: Try both!

Water Rides

The three big water rides are the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, and Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls. I innocently asked the employee at Ripsaw Falls where I could sit to minimize getting wet, and he laughed at me. Drenched is the term I would use. In fact, on the only day I wore a white tank top, I inadvertently was holding my own, sad, wet t-shirt contest. I am going to warn you right now that if you don’t like getting your hair wet, steer clear. Or buy one of those waterproof ponchos.

Tip: If you like water rides, put your hair up and wear waterproof mascara.

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Bonus: Clowns

If you have a fear of clowns, here is a good way to face that fear: meet Krusty! Hey hey!

krusty




The Mont Tremblant Snowshoe and Fondue Tour Is Winter Fun for Active Families

You probably landed here by googling something like “Is the Mont Tremblant snowshoe and fondue hard?” or “Will I plummet to my death off the side of a mountain in the dark on my quest for cheese?”.  I’m happy to say the answer to both of these questions is no. 

mont tremblant snowshoe and fondue

When I first committed my family of four to the Mont Tremblant Snowshoe and Fondue Tour, I’ll admit that I couldn’t readily find the answers to the questions I had (see question 2 above). Which is why I’m going to give you the lowdown so you’re ready to conquer Mont Tremblant. 

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mont Tremblant Snowshoe and Fondue Tour But Were Afraid to Ask

Be On Time

I mean this just makes sense for everything in life but when a group of people are standing in sub-zero temperatures waiting for your tardy ass, they can get kind of ragey. Also, the guides will only give you a few minutes to arrive before they leave you behind. 

The meeting place for the tour is at the Valet Ski, which is right beside the gondola at the base of the mountain. Do not confuse the gondola with the Cabriolet which moves people up from the parking lot area to the base of the mountain. 

Dress For the Conditions

To most Canadians the art of layering is as second nature as saying “eh”.  Mont Tremblant however attracts visitors from around the globe. It’s important to know that as cold as the temperature might be you will alternate between wanting to roll in the snow in your underwear and wrapping yourself in heating pads—sometimes within minutes of each other.

This hike is a workout so when you’re moving you’ll be sweating and you’ll want to be able to remove layers easily. The moment you stop though, those layers will go back on.

DO NOT wear cotton anything next to your skin. Cotton will get damp from sweat and then get cold against your skin. Make sure your base layer is synthetic, wear wool socks, invest in warm boots, and bring toe and hand warmers with you. 

dressed for the conditions, mont tremblant snowshoe and fondue

Brace Yourself

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the trek for the snowshoe and fondue hike is all downhill. While you certainly don’t have to be a world-class athlete to complete it, you do need to have a certain level of physical aptitude. In other words, if you get winded easily you may want to reconsider.

The terrain can be steep and sometimes a little icy. Also, because you can put a lot of pressure on your joints moving downwards, if you need a brace for your knees for sporting activities, you’ll definitely want to put it on for this. 

Let Your Backbone Slide

Don’t be too nervous about the steep icy side of things. There is no shame in parking your bum on the snow and sliding down. It’s actually a lot of fun and a great way to get in touch with your inner child. The end of the tour allows guests to slide 300 feet down a ski slope.  

Ready to depart from the summit, mont tremblant snowshoe and fondue

Get Cheesy (and A Little Chocolatey)

Don’t forget why you’re doing this. Cheese. Hot. Melted. Cheese.

The hike to The Refuge on Versant Soleil is worth the effort. Inside this cozy and charming cabin awaits a leisurely two hour fondue meal. Don’t be shy, you earned it getting there.  Guests can fill their plates with sausage, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and bread to dip in a traditional fondue cheese dip. When you think you can’t eat another bite, they bring out the chocolate fondue. Don’t worry, you’ll find the room.

Here is my only warning; watch the wine. The wine pours freely here, so remember this; you are your own liquor control board, you are only half way down the mountain, and if you have to relieve yourself it will be in the woods. Brrrrr. Save the celebrating for the bottom. 

Take It All In

The fantastic thing about your guides for the Mont Tremblant Snowshoe and Fondue Tour is that they are incredibly patient (in addition to being very safe). They want you to take your time and enjoy the view. After all, you’re tromping through an area that is 540 million years old; it deserves your admiration.  From start to finish, you’ll snowshoe about 5 kilometres through some of the best scenery Canada has to offer. 

mont tremblant snowshoe and fondue

When your tour is done, the pedestrian village of Mont Tremblant waits for you like a warm hug. Before you head back to your room, be sure to stop in and have a celebratory drink. You’ve earned it. 




The New Sunwing Café Delivers with Big Taste and A Little Bit of Star Power

I’ve had the privilege of being part of Sunwing Vacation’s Kidcation Expert Panel for the past year. In that time, my family and I travelled four times to amazing destinations. That’s eight flights experiencing Sunwing’s exceptional customer service. It was also eight times eating the same old predictable airline food. What can I say? I’m a food snob. 

So when Sunwing announced their new Sunwing Café in collaboration with Food Network Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford,  I was elated to say the least. Bye bye pizza rolls and hello gourmet buy-on-board options. 

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In November, I attended the Sunwing Café kickoff at the Ruby Watch Co Restaurant to test the new menu and meet with Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford herself. As guests we tested the entire new menu being offered on board all Sunwing flights and here’s what you can expect. 

Honey Mustard Peameal Bacon Slider with Sweet Onion Marmalade

Honestly, just typing that out had me salivating again. I simply could not help myself and “tested” this menu item a few times. It is simply amazing and part of the new breakfast menu. This particular offering was created by Chef Lynn Crawford, but guests also have the option of warm oatmeal, a Ham & Cheese Croissant or a breakfast sandwich. No matter what you choose, combined with Sunwing’s exclusive Champagne service, it’s the perfect way to kick off your vacation. 

Peameal Bacon Sliders Sunwing Cafe

Baked Mafalda Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Jalapeno Jack Cheddar, Lemon Ricotta and Tomato Basil Sauce

Wow, that’s a mouthful. A delicious mouthful I might add. I’m a sucker for pasta and Chef Lynn Crawford really knocked it out of the park with this creation. On our last trip to Jamaica, I simply had to have the Baked Mafalda Pasta, but my husband opted for the Macaroni & Three Cheese entree. They were both incredible. Pasta lovers rejoice.

Mafalda Corta Pasta Sunwing Cafe

Beef Short Ribs

You know you’ve left the ordinary when slow cooked boneless Beef Short Ribs served with herb roasted fingerling potatoes, heirloom carrots, double smoked bacon, pearl onions and Bourguignon sauce is offered to you 30,000 feet in the air. I fell in love with this Chef Lynn Crawford at Ruby Watch Co. and had my love confirmed on our flight home from Jamaica. It’s delicious, and my personal favourite.

Beef Short Ribs Sunwing Cafe

Of course these aren’t the only changes to the new menu. Look for the new Kidcation Box for your youngest travelling companions (packed with surefire kid hits like GoGo Squeez and Goldfish). Guests, who don’t quite feel like a full meal might opt for a snack box with crackers and gourmet snacking options like smoked gouda spread or bruschetta. 

With the addition of the new Sunwing Café menu items, it’s no wonder that Sunwing Vacations is #1toTheSun in Canada. Experience the difference yourself on your next Sunwing vacation. 

 

This post was not sponsored by Sunwing, although I am in a long-term relationship with them for the Kidcations Expert Panel. All opinions are mine.




Why Cuba Should Be on Your Family Travel Bucket List

Seventeen years ago, I travelled to Cienfuegos, Cuba with my scuba diving group and picked up the most memorable souvenir of all – a husband. My future husband-to-be was also travelling with his dive group, and our paths collided, almost literally. Eighteen months after we dove through coral reef off the coast of Cuba, we said I do. The rest, as they say is history. Needless to say, Cuba holds a very special place in my heart.

Havana Cuba Architecture Family travel cuba holiday

For many years now, we’ve told our daughters stories of our first meeting and of the island where it all began. Cuba is an important piece in the narrative of their family and so in January of 2016 we decided the time was right to take them. We headed to Grand Memories Varadero with three objectives; show our girls the history, introduce them to the people and to enjoy the outdoor playground that is Cuba.

Cuba Then and Now

What I love about family travel is the opportunity to slip in some stealth teaching. Kids are so wrapped up in having fun that they don’t even notice they’ve just learned some valuable life lessons. Cuba is one of the richest examples I can think of for this.

Where some museums try for years to create the perfect living history environment, Cuba is living history. There are times when walking through the streets of Havana it feels as if you’ve literally stepped back in time, and depending on the view it might be hundreds of years or a mere fifty or so.

Old Cars in Varadero family travel cuba

Months after our visit, Cuba is still a topic of conversation at our dinner table on everything from conquistadors and plantations, Kennedy to Castro, and revolutions to communism. I don’t recall a text book at school ever igniting as much discussion in our home.

The Best of  Cuba: The People

There is a warmth to residents of Cuba that is infectious. Maybe it’s the rumba or mambo that is like a heartbeat for them. Perhaps it’s a culture that melds together seamlessly between Spanish, Portuguese, African, and Haitian to name just a few, that makes them so unique and proud of their heritage. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it exactly, but what I do know is that Cubans are kind and love showing you their country. My kids left feeling the very same way. Mission accomplished.

Performance Street Art Havana Cuba travel

Cuba is a Playground for Families

There is no denying that Canadians flock to Cuba every year for the weather, and we were no exception. Yes, the history and people are important but ultimately, we wanted to enjoy the great outdoors for a week without being smothered to death in a parka.

Snorkelling Varadero

Grand Memories turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy Cuba. Set on one of Cuba’s best beaches in Varadero, Grand Memories offered us an array of water sports for the whole family to enjoy! If you can take your eyes off the turquoise waters and white powdery beach at Grand Memories, turn your gaze towards the interior. Cuba’s inland is lush and worth your time! Talk to your NexusTours representative for an excursion that meets your family’s needs. Our entire family loved the Jeep tour that led us to a snorkelling hotspot, swimming in a cave, and lunch on a Cuban ranch.

Finally, if you need a bonus reason to visit Cuba with your kids, it’s value remains untouchable by many resort destinations in the Caribbean, something every family on a budget can appreciate.

Previously published at Sunwing.ca 




Three Things You Need to Know About Couples Swept Away Negril

Falling in Love with Couples Swept Away Negril

Couples Swept Away Negril

I first fell in love with Jamaica when I was 22. In the years since, I’ve been twelve more times; three trips happening in the last year alone. Needless to say, if you’ve got questions about Jamaica, I’m happy to talk. I can make recommendations for great family resorts, fantastic luxury and budget accommodations, not to miss excursions, and my favourite topic, adult escapes. 

We first visited Couples Swept Away Negril in 2006. For years after, my husband and I simply gushed about it to anyone who would listen. As time and our memory of it started to fade, we felt for sure it was time to check in again. I’m happy we did. 

What You Need to Know About Couples Swept Away Negril

It Has a World Class Fitness Facility

A lot of resorts throw in a token gym in order to appease their hard-core fitness buffs. At Couples Swept Away, you might be surprised to find out that you have an athlete inside dying to get out. Across the street from the main resort you’ll find a world-class fitness facility. There are ten tennis courts, a weight gym, Squash court, Racquetball court, lap pool, a paracourse, and aerobics studio. Throw in daily yoga classes, clinics and private lessons all included in the price you pay and you’ll definitely be heading home with a new sport. 

Couples Swept Away Negril, lap pool, fitness centre

Tennis was by far my favourite activity during our visit and I loved how I could have a daily private lesson the entire time I was there. If you plan to do the same, make sure you book lessons in the mornings two days in advance during your stay and then take part in some of the beginner’s clinics in the afternoon. If you’re already a seasoned pro, don’t worry. There are intermediate and advanced clinics as well, not to mention one on one lessons to improve your game. 

Not all activity happens at the fitness club of course. There is also an abundance of water sports included in your stay, including diving. To top it all off golf is also included. Put simply, you’re gonna need a longer holiday to get it all done. 

couples swept away negril, watersports, hobie cat

Pro tip: If your muscles are sore do not miss having a Warm Bamboo Massage at the Oasis Spa. It can only be described as blissful. 

The Beach is Unbeatable

There are pools at Couples Swept Away Negril but I don’t know know why anyone would want to use any of them. Couples Swept Away is one of only two larger resorts that sit on the pristine 7 mile stretch of Negril Beach. 

Couples Swept Away Negril, walk along Negril's 7 Mile Beach

Negril Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and Couples Swept Away is perfectly situated for you to enjoy it. Seagrape and Palm trees line the beach in front of the resort offering a perfect shady respite. For those seeking the sun in all it’s glory there’s tons of room to pull your chairs out to enjoy. 

The water in Negril is shallow and warm and the sand, which is groomed daily, feels like flour between your toes. You can also leave your water shoes at home. There are no rocks, sea urchins or other such nuisances to contend with here. Nothing but soft sand entering the water. 

The Rooms Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

The first time we stayed at Couples Swept Away we had a Gardenview Verandah suite and thought it was the bees knees. This time we upgraded to a Beachfront Verandah Suite and we’re never going back. Our room is quite literally ON the beach. I have often said I didn’t care what my room looked like because I never spent any time there anyway. Not this time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNRj0Adh5xt/?taken-by=lifeinpleasantville

With our room so conveniently located to the beach, we actually spent more time than usual on our verandah just taking in the beach. Did I mention the sunset on Negril Beach is quite conducive to romance?

Couples Swept Away Negril

No matter what room you choose, you’ll find that inside they are all wonderfully comfortable with simple decor and a classic Caribbean vibe. It not hard to see why it’s called “Swept Away”.

Pro tip: Do not miss the weekly bonfire on the beach complete with musician. 

Couples Swept Away Negril, bonfire on the beach, evening activities

Little Things to Note

  • Bring hair conditioner if you need it. The resort offers only the 2 in 1 Shampoo in the room and after a week of salt water you might find your hair needs a little bit more. 
  • There are three tiny gift shops on resort. So if you do run out of an essential, you’ll be covered. 
  • We have travelled to Jamaica many times at the end of November. It seems to be an ideal time to visit. Prices are lower, crowds are quieter and the weather has always been exceptional. 
  • Book your tennis lessons two days in advance, and try to shoot for early morning before the sun gets too high. 
  • There is literally ZERO reason to leave this resort, even some excursions are included in your booking price. So before you balk at the price be sure to ask yourself what it would cost you for the extras that are already included; catamaran cruise to Negril cliffs, tennis lessons, scuba diving, golf, glass bottom boat ride, shopping excursion to Negril and MUCH MORE. 
  • No tipping means NO TIPPING here. What the employees do love here is recognition on Trip Advisor so be sure to note names and give them some loving over there. 

Did I miss something you want to know about this resort? Ask me in the comments and I’ll let you know. 




Do NOT Tread Lightly: Get Winter Tires and Avoid Being “That Guy”

Skidding out in the snow and ice on a closed course with great winter tires and a professional driver is super fun.

What’s not fun?

Skidding out on an open road, with no professional driver beside you and multiple hazards to hit. If you haven’t experienced that feeling, then you are obviously not Canadian. My fellow Canucks are all too familiar with that feeling of a car skidding on ice or snow; it’s a rite of passage and it’s terrifying.

winter tires for Canadian winter driving

GET YOUR WINTER TIRES ON! 

Last year Kal Tire invited me to join them in Edmonton for a winter tire test drive. It was an eye-opener for me to learn that so called “all-season” tires are actually a myth much like unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, and me fitting into size 0 jeans. The reality is that snow tires / winter tires in Canada are a must, so if you haven’t made an appointment to change your tires yet, get on it. Don’t be that Canadian fishtailing all over the road when the first snow hits.

Let’s say you’re a dutiful Canadian, and you already have your winter tires on. Do you know where your tread wear is on them? Are you aware of how your winter tire will perform with a new tread from 25% to 75% worn are completely different and it should concern you. Stopping distances increase exponentially the more tread a tire loses, up to 4 metres (13 feet) when travelling at 30 km an hour. That’s a HUGE difference and all the more frightening when you consider that no one actually travels at 30km an hour, except my mother. As speed increases, so does stopping distance. 

Kaltire winter Tires

I was able to test out four tires this year at #KalsTireTesting; new winter, 75% worn winter, new three-season, and 75% worn three-season. As a Kal Tire keener I was not surprised to feel the difference between a new winter tire and a new three-season on snow tire. The stopping distance is dramatic, and I honestly just can’t say this enough, your safety and frankly the safety of others on the road is at stake. During Kal Tire’s testing they also compared premium winter tires to economy winter tires. Premium winter tires, even with some wear, provide a better chance of staying on the road and stopping in time.

Winter Tires: What Else Did I Learn? 

Kal Tire reaches out to independent tire testing group, Sidorov Professional Driver Training, led by Alan Sidorov, an international race car driver, to conduct their tire testing. His team includes rally champions, advanced driving instructors, and vehicle development testers as well as former RCMP and military officers with extensive driving experience. In other words, there was no way I was letting this opportunity go to waste. I was lucky enough to meet Richard Warrington and Mark Jennings-Bates for my snow tire test drive this year and I walked away with some valuable insight and information. 

Remember CPR for Skid Recovery

The first thing I asked Richard when I got in the car was how do I recover from a skid in icy, snowy conditions. He told me to remember CPR.

C – Correct

P – Pause

R – Recover

While this is all very well in theory, I couldn’t help but wonder who would actually say to themselves “and now pause” when skidding out on a road. There’s also some practical applications to be considered here. Apparently you need to recover at the same speed as your skid. What? The whole thing made my head hurt, which brings me to my next point. 

Winter Driver Training 

While it’s wonderful that our young drivers take driver’s education, I often wonder why we don’t make defensive driving in the winter mandatory. The best way for CPR to be second nature it to practice it in a safe environment. Unfortunately, for many Canadians our first experience with an out of control vehicle in snow is on the road. After participating in two #KalsTireTesting events, I know that when my girls start driving, I’ll be seeking out a winter defensive driving course near us. It just makes sense. 

Kaltire Test Vehicle winter tires

Narrow Tires; Winter Tires 

I drive a BMW X5 and I am seriously in love with it, except in the winter. In the winter, it doesn’t feel as stable on the road as my husband’s Jeep Cherokee and since we’ll be spending the ski season in Mont Tremblant this year (driving snowy, icy roads every weekend), I wanted to know what was up with that. Turns out, that the reason I prefer the Jeep is because narrow tires perform better in the snow. This year, narrower winter tires are going on the BMW which will give me much more peace of mind. 

Rear View Cameras 

This has absolutely nothing to do with tires, but when I mentioned to Mark that my rear view camera and subsequent beeping on my BMW drove me f*$*king crazy, he nodded in agreement. My feeling is that they are actually more of a distraction then a help, and that they give drivers a false sense of security. If our phones are cause for distracted driving, I’m curious how screens in our cars are not. What do you think? Is your car safer or more dangerous with cameras?  

Disclosure: I am in a long-term, monogamous relationship with Kal Tire. We’ve been hot and heavy for about a year now, and they keep coming around for blog posts. I’m playing it cool and trying not to be too obvious that I like them. I was compensated for this post, but I love that Kal Tire doesn’t try to manage the message. All opinions are mine. In other words, get your stupid winter tires on!