Couples Sans Souci is Jamaica’s Garden of Eden

I’ve been a fan of Jamaica now for over 20 years, booking Sunwing flights out of Ottawa every winter to escape our bitter and unrelenting winters. In that time, I have visited a lot of resorts around the island. When asked for advice, I routinely recommend Couples Resorts to friends looking for adults-only vacations because of their exceptional service, stunning locales, and seemingly endless activities. There are four Couples properties in Jamaica and I’ve been lucky enough to vacation at three. Asking me to pick my favourite though is like asking me to pick my favourite child—impossible! 

What I can tell you is that each Couples resort is unique and one of them is the perfect fit for you. Take Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, for example, which in my humble opinion, has to be the original Garden of Eden. Oh, I know, some will say the Garden of Eden was in the Middle East, but I ask you, does this not look like paradise to you? 

You might even find yourself feeling a little like Adam & Eve here. With only 150 suites on this property, it’s easy to find quiet places for two. When we visited, the resort was almost at capacity, yet there were times I felt we had the place all to ourselves. It’s important to note here that all 150 suites at Couples San Souci come with a spectacular ocean view. We enjoyed fresh Blue Mountain coffee every morning on our balcony while taking in the fifty shades of blue in the Caribbean Sea. 

What struck me immediately about Couples San Souci was the feeling of serenity upon arrival. Surrounded by dense, lush jungle and far from the madding crowds, Sans Souci is the perfect place for couples looking to push a reset button. If you’re currently debating which Couples Resort you’d like to visit you can read my articles about Couples Swept Away and Couples Tower Isle. But first, here’s what makes Couples Sans Souci so unique.

Blissful Isolation

Only the truly stressed out will understand the beauty of this. When you’re at Couples Sans Souci, you feel like there is no world beyond the lush palms and mountains that surround you; you can’t even see another resort. With a ton of nooks and crannies around the resort, you may not even have to interact with other guests if you don’t want to. If you are feeling social, the piano bar here is the perfect place to make new friends. Worth noting for those that literally do want to be Adam & Eve—Sans Souci has it’s own private au naturel beach.

A Spa As Unique As the Resort

You know when Travel & Leisure names the spa at Sans Souci the “Best Caribbean Hotel Spa”, there’s something special about it. Unlike most spas that have treatment rooms all together under one roof, the spa at Sans Souci has treatment rooms spread throughout the resort. The hydrotherapy treatment room for example, lies between a cascading waterfall on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. You’d be hard pressed to find a more serene setting. Massage treatment rooms are on cliffs overlooking the sea, and are the perfect place to have a massage for one, but even better for two. 

Those Delightful Nooks & Crannies

This was me the entire time we were at Couples Sans Souci; this is my favourite spot! No, no, now this is my favourite spot. Nevermind, I take it back, I now declare this spot right here the best. Truth be told; I never could decide. That’s what made Couples San Souci so delightful. No wonder they call it the Jewel of Jamaica. Whether is was swinging in a hammock high above the sea, or swinging in a chair looking out at it, there are hundreds of little spots to just take it all in.

One of those little gems is the mineral grotto. In use since the 1700s, the mineral grotto found at Couples Sans Souci is thought to have healing and restorative powers. Fed with cool spring water, it’s a great place to steal away with your partner for a quick dip. 

Romance Rewards

No matter which Couples Resort you choose to visit, you are eligible for Couples Romance Rewards on your second visit. Romance Rewards are accumulated based on nights stayed at Couples and as you would suspect, get better and better the more you visit. From resort credits to free massages, and other amazing perks, it’s worth your time to sign up for on your first visit, because trust me, you will be back. 

DISCLOSURE: LIFE IN PLEASANTVILLE WAS INVITED TO EXPERIENCE COUPLES SANS SOUCI WITH SUNWING VACATIONS. ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR. 



Iconic Couples Tower Isle Doesn’t Rest on It’s Laurels – Why You Should Go

The entrance to Couples Tower Isle is a portal back in time. Lined with Royal Palms on either side, one can almost imagine they’ve landed back in the golden age of Hollywood as they approach the entrance. It’s only when you’ve checked in and learned a little more about the history of this luxury all-inclusive that you realize you truly are walking in the footsteps of Hollywood legends.

Couples Tower Isle is the OG all-inclusive—this is the resort that started it all back in 1949. Started by Abe Issa, the man they call Mr. Jamaica, this iconic resort has entertained the likes of Walt Disney, Eva Gabor, Debbie Reynolds, Errol Flynn, and many more. Time spent in the legendary piano bar, where pictures of famous visitors line the walls, one can’t help but absorb a little bit of the afterglow. I will admit, I felt rather legendary myself one night singing around the piano—but that may have been the martinis.  

Sixty-eight years later, this resort is not resting on its laurels. Still owned by the Issa family, and available through Sunwing Vacations, it is one of four Couples Resorts on the island of Jamaica, and has a devoted group of returning guests. Chatting with others at the resort revealed a couple that has been returning for 20 years after honeymooning there, friends who return year after year to connect, and a Jamaican born group that comes annually from their home in the United Kingdom. We even saw a couple who had matching tattoos of the Couples logo of intertwined palm trees on their arms.

It’s not just the guests who have sworn their eternal love either. Staff members are hopelessly devoted too. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet John, the British expat who’s been playing piano at Couples Tower Isle since 1985. Get him a drink after he’s done for the evening and be prepared to listen to one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. The heartbeat of Couples Tower Isle though is the Operations Manager, Ms. Bailey, who has been part of the Couples family for 16 years. For me, I think it speaks volumes when resorts have staff that have stuck around for the long haul; happy staff means happy guests.

Why You’ll Want to Check Couples Tower Isle Out For Yourself 

That Island

Nothing says tropical getaway like a secluded island, which in is this case is just a short boat ride away. The catch though is this island is reserved for those that like to make sure all their body parts get tanned, so if you prefer to keep your swimsuit on you can admire it from the dreamy beach at Couples Tower Isle. Same amazing view, less risk of burning. The island is also used for weddings after 4:30 and I can’t think of a more idyllic setting to start your life together. 

All-Inclusive Spa Suites

Couples Tower Isle recently added all-inclusive spa suites to the resort and yes, I can confirm that it’s heaven. If you’re a spa devotee like me then consider booking one of these rooms and taking advantage of all the spa services you can handle at the Oasis Spa. The Buddha Pool at the Oasis spa is the perfect place to let all your cares slip away. 

The Food

Word to the wise; pack your stretchy pants. The food anywhere in Jamaica is consistently good, so to stand out you need to raise the bar. Couples Tower Isle achieves that with it’s six unique restaurants. Be sure to make reservations at Eight Rivers (lamb and tenderloin that melt in your mouth) and Bayside (delicious Asian fusion with an unbeatable view) upon arrival. Trust me, you do not want to miss out on these two restaurants. While resting on the beach during the day, don’t miss the Veggie Bar for custom smoothies (slip up to the bar above to add a little Jamaican rum – no judgement mon) and nosh on healthy snacks while watching the waves roll in.

The Time Together

It’s not called Couples for nothing. My husband and I have been fans of Couples Resorts since 2006 when we first visited Couples Swept Away in Negril. Couples Resorts knows you’re there to spend time with your partner and focus on each other. We spent the week in a kayak for two, having a romantic dinner on the beach, singing along at a Piano bar, being spoiled at a spa, and listening to a musician under the stars. At the end of the week, we walked away rested and reconnected; exactly what you’re supposed to do at Couples Tower Isle. 

Canadians can book Couples Tower Isle through Sunwing Vacations from over ten gateways across the country starting in November. 

Disclosure: Life in Pleasantville was invited to experience Couples Tower Isle with Sunwing Vacations. All opinions expressed are those of the author. 



Maple, Montebello, Music, Memories: A Girls’ Getaway With Ford

Was ‘Despacito’ REALLY the song of the summer for 2017?

Every road trip beings with a moment of reflection and introspection, doesn’t it? The status of ‘Despacito’  weighed on my mind and I knew just who to debate it with. Our girls getaway to Chateau Montebello, was all about what really matters. Like the pros and cons of Justin Bieber singing in Spanish, or what songs are truly indispensable on a cross country journey.  When it came to debating the big questions in life, finding great road trip tunes, and settling the question of what ‘Despacito’ really meant, I couldn’t have chosen a better team of road warriors than my friends and fellow travel writers Sandy and Becky

These intrepid explorers had recently made the round trip to Prince Edward Island and triumphantly figured out how to “tag” their respective Ford vehicles to receive an alert every time a certain song was playing on the radio. Amazing! Who wouldn’t want to travel with them?

The girls shared my opinions about food (the more, the better), and knew our destination-to-be like the back of their hands. Thus, with a certain sultry summer love song humming in the background, we embraced the open road. We were ready for maple, Montebello, music, and a whole lot more!

maple Montebello and more fun on a girls' getaway

Photo credit: Sandy Allen, Canadian Blog House

Suddenly, we’re the cool kids, cruising in style

Burgundy 2017 Ford Flex

Photo credit: Vanessa Chiasson

Our Ottawa departure to the Fairmont Chateau Montebello was delayed by a few minutes. But it was a moment that all roadtrippers dream of. Someone stopped to admire our ride! But we shouldn’t have been surprised. We were cruising in the 2017 Ford Flex Limited, a seven passenger utility vehicle finished in a gorgeous glossy shade.

Burgundy Velve was a showstopper of a colour. When an employee of Ford couldn’t help but stare at the gorgeous colour and asked us what we thought about the gleaming finish, I was bursting with pride. That’s right! We’re the cool kids in the cool car!

Once we hit the road, we soon learned that the snazzy exterior of the Flex translated to great features inside the vehicle as well. As the backseat passenger –though not a backseat driver, I swear!– I was happy to have my own sunroof, as the Flex has a Multi-paneled Vista Roof.

I was also thrilled not be surrounded by tons of gear. My usual road trip experience is be squashed by all the bags and backpacks that won’t fit in the trunk. However, not this girlfriends’ getaway. The Flex’s Powerfold third row seats took care of all our bags and left me with plenty of room to stretch out – and enjoy ‘Despacito’ one more time through 12 speakers of surround sound.

It’s time for some maple madness

Hiking around Chateau Montebello

Photo credit: Vanessa Chiasson

Our ride to Chateau Montebello was filled with conversation but it didn’t wear us out. We still had plenty of energy to make new memories to chat about on the ride home. Our rest and relaxation started at the hotel spa, where we were pampered with a mix of champagne, facials, massages, and maple body scrubs. It carried on to dinner at Chateau Montebello’s signature restaurant, Aux Chantignoles.

There I feasted on a giant maple cheese donut with parsnip veloute as my appetizer and lemon cream pasta with shrimp and baby bok choy for my main. After one last round of wine, I was out like a light and it was a good thing I caught up on my sleep. The next day brought more maple in the form of incredible maple breakfast crepes. They were spectacularly good. When it comes to maple, Montebello isn’t messing around. Finally, it was time to put all those delicious carbs to good use.

Trail head marker and wild flowers

Photo credit: Vanessa Chiasson

First up was a short but challenging hike through Kenauk private game reserve. There’s nothing like an uphill incline to let you know exactly how many portions of dessert you had the next before! Next, we did yoga on the beach. Our savvy instructor made the connection between the need to take care of ourselves, be it in the car, in the woods, or while we’re at work. A quick dip in the lake was all that was needed to refresh before one more maple fueled stop. We had a quick stop at Montebello’s Cocomotive chocolate shop for a maple and pecan studded chocolate bar.

A cooling ride for our hot travel plans

Blue Ford Fusion V6 Sport

Photo credit: Sandy Allen Canadian Blog House

The trip home meant a change of vehicle.  Now we were in the zippy 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport. And there was a change of driver as well. I was at the wheel! The girls graciously acquiesced to my demands to be fed trail mix, chocolate, and fruit (though they drew the line of placing the apricots directly into my mouth, in the manner befitting a Roman goddess). The Sport’s pothole detection system made our drive through the dirt roads of the nature reserve a smooth one and I was a most magnanimous driver, managing the climate control with ease and even cooling our seats for a refreshing drive post-yoga.

As we plotted the next steps of world domination – or, at the very least, another wellness weekend getaway – we reflected on how our trip couldn’t have been more comfortable, relaxing, and rejuvenating. Not to mention delicious. Now that’s a tune worth singing along to!

Guest author bio:

Vanessa Chiasson is an award winning blogger, freelance writer, and digital strategist. She has presented at TBEX, CBC Radio, and CTV Ottawa and has been published by The Globe and Mail, Flight Network, Ontario Tourism, Plum Deluxe, The Establishment, and more. In 2014, her blog TurnipseedTravel.com, was named one of the 100 most influential travel blogs in the world by the White House.

Disclosure: Life in Pleasantville was invited to join Ford at the Chateau Montebello to learn more about their vehicles. All opinions are those of the author’s.

 




An Unforgettable Night Of Big Music In A Small Town

When you walk through the doors of a beautiful small town church at night, and you end up seated in the last available pew before it’s standing room only, you know you are about to become a part of something remarkable. The Festival of Small Halls currently traveling through Ontario’s Highlands offers an unforgettable night of big music in a small town. 

festival of small halls, St. Andrew's United Church Pakenham Ontario

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

The Ontario Festival of Small Halls, now in its 4th year, features great Canadian music, small intimate venues, and a wonderful spirit of community that you generally won’t find at any big city music festival. 

There’s something special about small town Ontario. Something that makes all visitors feel “at home”, no matter where they are from.

Perhaps it’s the warmth of the people, the spirit of community, the beauty of the landscape, the history and charm of the small town halls and churches, or the feeling of belonging, that makes small towns so special. 

festival of small halls, St. Andrew's United Church Pakenham Ontario

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

On this night, in charming Pakenham, Ontario, at the awe-inspiring St. Andrew’s United Church, we experienced a spirit of community and hospitality that I remember experiencing only once before – in Prince Edward Island. 

It was in a magnificent historic white wooden church, in Kensington, P.E.I., where I was fortunate enough to be a part of another remarkable small halls concert, featuring musician Matt Andersen.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this concert was part of the original Festival of Small Halls series, which takes place in Prince Edward Island, Australia, and now, in small towns across south-eastern Ontario.

festival of small halls, The Festival of Small Halls

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

We discovered the reason many of The Ontario Festival of Small Halls performances are featured in beautiful, historic churches like Pakenham’s St. Andrew’s United Church – the acoustics. 

The sweet sounds emanating from the pulpit of this church, during the performances featuring Vicki Brittle, and Saskatoon’s Rosie & The Riveters, were nothing short of magical. 

It doesn’t take much to make exquisite voices sound great but, the round room in which this evening’s “congregation” sat, lifted the vocals to another level. 

festival of small halls, Vicki Brittle Small Halls Festival

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

Vicki Brittle

Opening The Ontario Small Halls Festival in Pakenham, was Arnprior, Ontario native, Vicki Brittle.

This International Songwriting Competition (Honorable Mentions), and Canadian Songwriting Competition Finalist, was also a featured “She’s The One” RBC Bluesfest performer in 2017. 

festival of small halls, Vicki Brittle Festival of Small Halls

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

Born and raised in a small town, Vicki, and her music, embody the beauty, warmth, and charm of the area she grew up in. 

With a beautiful voice that was made for a venue like this, Vicki delighted the crowd with a wonderful selection of original music, ending her set with an ethereal cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”. A performance that had the audience mesmerized. 

festival of small halls, Rosie & the Riveters Festival of Small Halls

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

Rosie & The Riveters 

Turning things up a notch, Rosie & The Riveters, had this small town audience tapping their toes the minute they entered the stage wearing their stunning red vintage dresses.

festival of small halls, Rosie & the Riveters Alexis Normand

Photo Credit: Canadian Blog House

Completing their classic vintage look with 1940’s-era hair and make-up, Rosie & The Riveters captured the audience’s attention with their sophisticated harmonies, humour, great stage presence, and wonderfully written tunes.

festival of small halls, Allyson Reigh Rosie & The Riveters

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

Featuring the impressive vocals of Alexis Normand, Allyson Reigh, and Farideh Olsen, theirs was a performance that could not have been better paired with a more glorious venue. 

festival of small halls, Farideh Olsen

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

Be a part of something small, before it becomes something big.

The Ontario Festival of Small Halls is gaining recognition…and quickly.  

You can’t keep something this good, hidden for that long. 

festival of small halls, The Festival of Small Halls

Photo credit: Canadian Blog House

There is one weekend left to experience The Ontario Festival of Small Halls in 2017. 

The Ontario Festival of Small Halls continues September 28-October 1, featuring four evenings of great Canadian musical talent, with performances held in ten Ontario small towns.

This is your chance to experience your own unforgettable night of big music in a little place. 

For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit The Ontario Festival of Small Halls website

The Festival Of Small Halls

Disclosure: Life in Pleasantville was invited to explore Pakenham and check out The Festival of Small Halls. This post is sponsored by Ontario’s Highlands. All opinions are those of the author’s. 



Travel During Hurricane Season; A Few Things to Consider

Travel during hurricane season is statistically, uneventful for most travellers. That being said, considering what we just witnessed in the Caribbean with Irma, Katia and Jose all wreaking havoc at the same time, there is no better time than the present to get everyone up to speed on what it means when you travel during hurricane season.

travel during hurricane season

We are witnessing climate change at an unprecedented rate; sadly this means hurricanes and super storms will become more and more prevalent. Side bar: If you are a climate change denier, please exit stage left. You don’t need any of this information. If you are horrified by what we just witnessed in the Caribbean, take a minute to listen to Waking Up With Sam Harris – What You Need To Know About Climate Change.  I promise you will immediately start to question how much damage you’re doing to the earth. 

Back to the topic at hand; hurricane season. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30th, which means unless you plan to limit travel from December to May, you need to be informed.

The most active month for hurricanes is September. With Harvey near the end of August, and Irma, Jose, and Katia in September of 2017, I think we can all agree with that one. Statistically speaking if you’re going to travel during hurricane season you’re best to book in June, July, and November. These are the three months with the lowest number of hurricanes. 

Typically, we don’t really hear about hurricanes in the media until they have developed into a major storm. It’s up to you to know if there is a potential for one while you travel. To keep an eye on active systems visit the National Hurricane Center website to see all active tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes before you go. A lot of people are completely blindsided by a hurricane, when really a quick peek will give you a pretty good indication if it’s something you need to worry about on your holiday.

travel during hurricane season

The odds of being in a destination when a hurricane strikes are pretty low but there are things you can do to protect yourself prior to going and if you happen to get caught in the middle of one.

Protecting Yourself Before You Travel During Hurricane Season

The best thing you can do to protect yourself, whenever you travel is to purchase travel insurance. Make sure you have trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance; don’t skim over the fine print either. Best bet is make sure you have trip cancellation insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason prior to your trip, not just if your carrier cancels. Trip interruption insurance can help you if you lose a few days out of your one week holiday due to unforeseen circumstances. 

If you’re trying to get updates from your travel provider before you travel, be patient. Hurricane Irma was totally unprecedented, and while carriers were frantically trying to protect their passengers in destination, lines were being clogged up with people not in harm’s way. Follow your carrier’s social media accounts and website for the latest updates, and check your flight status before you leave the house. 

Before you travel, and this is actually just smart to do before you travel anywhere, is to write the number of the Canadian Consulate for the country you’re travelling to on a piece of paper.  Be sure to include any other pertinent information you may need: insurers, physicians, and family members. Keep this documentation in a waterproof bag, in your room safe, so that you have access to it should your phone battery die. 

When booking your trip, be sure to read the hurricane policy of your travel provider before you fly. Most charter airlines and regular airlines will have a hurricane policy listed on their site. 

Protecting Yourself When In Destination 

Always travel with a basic first-aid kit (not just during hurricane season) and keep it together with all your medications so you can grab it quickly if you need to. I would also recommend you pack a small waterproof backpack should you need to evacuate and can not bring your luggage with you. You’ll need to have something to carry the essentials. A small portable flashlight is always a good idea too.

Keep your devices charged & battery back ups charged. Don’t drain your battery playing Candy Crush; you’ll want as much battery life as you can save should power be cut off.  Make sure you also have  Ziploc or waterproof bags on hand to keep your important documents dry. Always travel with some cash, should ATMs go down as well. 

Listen to what local authorities are telling you and take shelter where they indicate and always stay away from windows.

Somewhere around 76% of all deaths in a hurricane are from the storm surge that follows, not from the wind, so stay away from the water and get above sea level as much as possible. 

Travel during hurricane season

A lot of deaths due to a hurricane happen after the hurricane has blown through and people venture outside to get a look. Remember that power lines will be down, buildings will be shaky, and there will be a lot of debris creating potential hazards. Shelter in place until you are given the all clear by local authorities.

If you just want to avoid hurricanes altogether, remember your ABC’s – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, are all below the hurricane belt, so they rarely experience hurricanes and storms. Aruba, only receives about 18 inches of rain over the whole year.

Finally, if you’ve ever basked in the glow of a perfect Caribbean vacation, remember that a lot of the people in those countries are hurting right now. Take the time to make a donation to the Red Cross and to the David Suzuki Foundation and World Wildlife Fund.