Belize gets ready for its first big-name luxury resort!

Belize’s first luxury resort from a Collection by Hilton, built from the ground up on Ambergris Caye, is set to open this winter.

Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, Curio will open its doors in December 2017. The island resort is set on 60 acres and geared to guests looking for “relaxed adventure”. Mahogany Bay will feature 205 cottages and villa-style accommodations with colonial-style detailing, heirloom-quality furnishings and sustainably-harvested local Belizean hardwoods.

The resort’s General Manager, Niklaus Leuenberger, says Mahogany Bay “will be a one-of-a-kind, authentic, Belizean resort.” He adds: “Building a new property on an island as striking as Ambergris Caye has been a real labour of love. Every detail of the resort has been meticulously thought out – from the interior design to the selection of amenities, from the guestrooms to the public spaces. Local flavour has been infused throughout the entire resort, and we have worked hard to provide guests with what will be an exceptional product. I know I speak for the entire team, when I say we are eager for guests to experience Mahogany Bay when we officially open our doors at the end of this year.”

Mahogany Bay amenities include the Bay Club with pool and bar and the private, white sand Beach Club, a short boat ride from the on-site marina. The property’s focal point is a 22,000-square foot Great House featuring a signature restaurant and bar, 8,000-square-feet of event space, the largest in Belize, plus a wrap-around covered veranda.

Just next door to the resort and homes sits Mahogany Bay Townlet — a thriving, public social center filled with specialty retail and services, and artisanal dining options. Visitors will find everything from a general store to a quiet speakeasy and Hemingway-style cafe to restaurants run by award-winning chefs. The center even acts as a basecamp for jumping into Belizean adventure activities, including scuba diving, fly-fishing and snorkeling.

Nightly rates start at US$369 for garden cottage accommodations. See mahoganybayvillage.com.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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10 Things to Do and See in Honolulu

Hawaii is always a great destination to travel to! Whether it’s your first or fifth time visiting the islands, there’s always something new and exciting to see. Over recent years many people were bypassing Honolulu, but no more.  With their recent revitilization program, Honolulu is now worthy a stop on your visit to Hawaii. Plan to spend a few days exploring Honolulu before visiting more of the islands.

  1. Hike up Leahi (Diamond Head)

Image result for diamond head hawaiiHiking to the top of the iconic Diamond Head State Monument for panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu is an absolute must do while in Honolulu, and Diamond Head is one of the best hiking destinations close to the city itself!  My recommendation is to hike early in the morning to beat the midday heat.  After the hike,  stop off at Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar and Grill @ 595 Kapahulu Avenue for some tasty Polynesian cuisine. Vegetarain freindly!

2. Learn to Surf at Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is located in the famous, you guessed it, Waikiki beachfront neighbourhood. It’s one of the most famous beaches on the island and the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for a surfing lession. In fact, legendary Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki. This Olympic gold medalist in swimming actually taught visitors how to surf at the turn of the century and was later known as “The father of modern surfing.” Today, the Waikiki Beach Boys perpetuate Duke’s legacy by teaching visitors how to surf and canoe and the Duke Kahanamoku Statue has become an iconic symbol of Waikiki.

FYI!  Nearly eight acres along well traversed Lewers Street has been completely rebuilt – transformed into a colorful and spirited showcase known as Waikiki Beach Walk. Eclectic and exciting, it is a new leisure destination to play and to stay.

3. Follow the Manoa Falls Trails

Located in the lush Manoa Valley, Manoa Falls is a 150-foot waterfall on the Manoa Falls trail. If you aren’t a huge hiker but would like to see the outdoors, this trail is ideal for you. It takes roughly one hour to complete, it’s a steady hike that’s great for all ages. As with any hike, pack that sunscreen, plenty of water and a few energy bars.

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4. Visit Pearl Harbor, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor is the famous site of the surprise bomb attack by the Japanese during World War II. It is a lagoon harbour and home to a U.S. Naval Base, as well as a monument to the lives lost in the attack. It remains a sobering reminder of war and is full of valuable history that is really important to remember. Guided and audio tours are available.

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5.  Visit Chinatown – the oldest in the U.S.

Image result for the pig  and the ladyPay a visit to the oldest Chinatowns in the U.S., a bustling  14-block enclave located near Honolulu’s financial district.  Chinatown is a great place to shop, eat and explore the Chinese American community. And even more fun to explore during First Friday, an evening festival on the first Friday of every month with live music and street entertainment. Don’t forget to visit the Ong King Art Center, too – it’s an amazing place that sustains an incredible artist community.

For a tasty bite to eat, head over to The Pig and the Lady–serving Vietnamese street food at the Farmers Market or visit their restaurant at 83 N. King Street, Honolulu.

6. Watch the Sunset at Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park is a 100-acre park located between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu and is a favorite beach among local residents and is often less crowded than the popular Waikiki Beach. Ala Moana is a great place to swim, picnic, stroll the beach and just to relax. The beach is over half a mile long and the water is calm because it’s protected by a shallow outer coral reef.  This is the place to be to watch the sunset over the horizon.

Image result for Sunset at Moana Beach Park

You may want to head over to Henry’s Place at 234 Beach Walk to grab some ice cream. With a small home style ice cream maker, Henry whips up about 100 servings of ice cream made right in the shop each day. Local flavors like Kona coffee, coconut, mango and guava are made without artificial flavors and with pure, whole food ingredients.

7. Visit the Waikiki Brewing Company

The Waikiki Brewing Company is Waikiki’s first ever brewery.  Located in the heart of Waikiki, this brewery and restaurant is a great spot to grab a local microbrew and bar food.  They brew premium quality, fresh, handmade craft beer in the 7 barrel brewhouse. In additioin to a corre linely of 8 beers, ranging from a light crisp blonde to a robust porter, the brews change seasonally, so ask for one of their new casks and see what’s been recently conjured up.

8. Head to Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Image result for nuuanu paliRent a car for the day (or if you already have one) and drive 4 miles northeast on the Pali Highway to discover the historic site of the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.  The Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers panoramic views of the sheer Koolau cliffs.  Perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline amid mountain peals, the stone terrace overlooks the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii (a pointy island locals call Chinaman’s Hat) and the University of Hawaii’s marine biology research center, Coconut Island.

FYI! The 1,000-foot cliff was the demise of warriors during the battle of Nu’uanu… thankfully, that isn’t the case in modern day Hawaii!  It provides an incredible scenic lookout without a need for a hefty hike!

After you’ve soaked in the view, continue through the Pali Tunnels to Windward Oahu. As you near the bottom you’ll face a “tough” decision: go straight to the buzzing beach town of Kailua or turn left through Kaneohe and follow the lush coastline to Haleiwa and Waimea Bay on Oahu’s famed North Shore.

9.  Kuhio Beach Hula Performance

Image result for Kuhio Beach Hula PerformanceThese free, early evening performances are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on the Kuhio Beach Hula Stage (near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue)  in central Waikiki. Opening with torchlighting and a traditional blowing of the conch shell, they feature performances by some of the finest hula troupes in Hawaii.  My recommendation is to arrive early. Crowds start to ‘reserve’ their seats in the grass starting about 30 minutes before the show, sometimes earlier.

FYI! In addtion to the torchlighing, the blowing of the conch shell and hula dancing there is a lighthearted narrative about Hawaii history and culture. It’s a little corny sometimes, but it’s fun and that’s what you want on a Hawaiian vacation.

10.  Free Fireworks

Each Friday evening the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free firework show on Waikiki Beach. If you want to see the fireworks, I recommend you watch somewhere between the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Outrigger Reef on the Beach. Please note that there are two Outrigger properties in Waikiki Beach, so make sure you are at the Reef on the Beach location which is the westernmost of the two properties.

Another great vantage point for the fireworks is from the concrete pier in front of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach. It’s a perfect location to see the fireworks reflecting off the water.  Please know that the fireworks are not visible from every spot of Waikiki Beach.

FYI!   Prior to the fireworks display,  theHilton Hawaiian Village hosts a Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue with music, torch lighting, hula dancing and a Mai Tai for $20. See this link for more details and the ticketing process for hotel guests and the general public.

FYI!   The International Market Place has been revitalized and reopened in August 2016. It features approx. 75 retailers. The Grand Lāna‘i at International Market Place offers outdoor seating at 7 signature restaurants, the largest concentration of dining options in Waikiki. The history and culture of Waikīkī are woven throughout the architecture of International Market Place with its flowing water features, lush landscaping and iconic banyan tree that is more than a century old. Worth the vist!

 

 

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15 HABITS FROM WELL-TRAVELED PEOPLE

From lost luggage to getting lost in translation, travelers know that things can go wrong during a trip. This list of tips and tricks from Virtuoso travel advisors – your personal lifeline if things go wrong while traveling – and other travel experts to make your trip as smooth as possible from start to finish.

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  1. “Take a photo of your passport and store it on your phone, then email it to yourself. Even if you lose your phone, you’ll still be able to access the photo on a public computer.” – Marika Cain, managing editor, Virtuoso Life
  2. “Research tipping standards before you arrive and bring local currency. Never assume that someone expects a tip. Also, upload your iPad with favorite movies and TV shows for long flights.” – Albert Herrera, SVP, Global Product Partnerships, Virtuoso
  3. “Call your credit card companies prior to departure and let them know where and when you’ll be traveling. Having a hold placed on your card in, say, Nairobi: not fun.” – Joel Centano, senior editor, Virtuoso Traveler
  4. “Travel insurance: Yes, I’ve become my dad, but for international trips, just buy it. Better to be safe than sorry.” – Joel Centano, senior editor, Virtuoso Traveler
  5. “I always carry a survival kit – a Tumi airline amenity bag with toothbrush and paste, facial cleansing wipes, mascara, earplugs, eye shade, band aids, aspirin, and a comb. If I check my bag, I always carry on at least two changes of clothes. I will never again get stuck wearing the same clothes for five days in India while the airline tries to locate my luggage.” – Laura Sport, managing director, Virtuoso
  6. “Pack an empty tote in your suitcase – one that can fit easily under the airplane seat in front of you. I always leave a new destination with more items than when I arrived. Having an extra bag to pack them in and carry on the plane as my personal item has been a game changer.” – Amy Cassell, assistant editor, Virtuoso Life
  7. “Program airline phone numbers in your cell phone so you can jump on the phone to rebook if your flight gets cancelled.” – Laura Sport, managing director, Virtuoso (Note: Your travel advisor can also readily assist in this situation.)
  8. “Never pack shoes that you haven’t worn for at least one entire day.  It doesn’t matter how cute those new sandals are.” – Laura Sport, managing director, Virtuoso
  9. “Mark your bags with something easily recognizable.” – Maria Fernanda Garcia, Virtuoso travel advisor
  10. “Check an airline seating chart website so you can have an idea of what your airplane looks like.” – Maria Fernanda Garcia, Virtuoso travel advisor
  11. “Engage your guide and they will engage you back.” – Josh Friedman, Virtuoso travel advisor
  12. “Try speaking a little of the local language.” – Josh Friedman, Virtuoso travel advisor (Note: Try Duolingo, a free app that offers courses in languages from Spanish to Vietnamese right on your phone or computer.)
  13. “Practice patience. Travel is amazing, but can often test travelers when there are things such as weather delays or mechanical issues outside of their control. Stay informed, bring a good book, and go with the flow.” – Cindy Turner, Virtuoso travel advisor
  14. “Ask around town: If you wander into a cool store, ask the employees there where you should eat and what you should see in town. Chances are if they’re selling shoes you like, they’re also going to recommend sights and restaurants that are up your alley.” – Marika Cain, managing editor, Virtuoso Life
  15. “I always think ahead to when I return from the trip. At the Green Table in Chelsea Market in New York, they sell these gourmet, individually frozen chicken pies that you have to ask for. I make sure to have a couple of them in the freezer, plus some things I don’t normally eat, like frozen pizza. If you arrive late from your trip and your kitchen is empty, it’s so nice to be able to quickly throw something in the oven.” – Annie Fitzsimmons, digital editor, Virtuoso

Source: Virtuoso, Rebecca Ratterman, Tips and Tricks

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Keep it local in YLW and YYJ!

VISITING VICTORIA OR KELOWNA…REMEMBER HOTEL ZED

If you are traveling to Victoria and Kelowna…keep it local!

Blog Hotel ZedHotel Zed are the people behind Accent Inns, a family owned and British Columbia company. Hotel Zed can be found in Victoria and Kelowna and are not just hotels; they stand out as being unique starting with the color! There is bright colors everywhere starting with their VW and Chevy shuttle buses, rotary dial phones and ping pong lounge.

Each location offers something unique. The Kelowna location offers free rental retro style rental bikes including a tandem bike, free roller skate rentals and a mini disco with a perpetual fog machine and they also feature three outdoor patios. The Victoria location offers the ‘Zedinator’ waterslide, free long board rentals and free roller skate rentals.

The Victoria location is north of the inner harbor with two shopping malls within two blocks. The Kelowna location is right downtown across the street from the lake, the park, the beaches and boardwalk, the water sports and water park. What a great location!  Check out their website: www.hotelzed.com

Blog Current TAxi

Did someoneo call a cab? 

Next time you need a cab, choose CURRENT TAXI, the new way to ride in the Okanagan! And as well it’s the greener choice! Take a ride in the safest and most environmentally friendly vehicles on the road today—a TESLA, and for the exact same price as the other guys.

Download their mobile app – Current Taxi or book online at http://www.currenttaxi.ca. Services are available for Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country areas.

 

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Travel Tips for Returning Canadians

No one likes returning from a holiday and being held back at Canada Customs, so to make your return into Canada go smooth and quick, here are a few tips to keep in mind. The last thing you want to do is wait or hold up the line!

Blog CBSA

HAVE PROPER IDENTIFICATION

The Government of Canada recommends that Canadian citizens travel with a valid Canadian passport because it is the only reliable and universally-accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. To help with the process, have the page with your picture open ready to hand over to customs officer. They like it when you are ready!

Note: If you’re only travelling in Canada you can use provincial ID but overall, a passport is recommended.

TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN

CBSA officers watch for missing children and may ask detailed questions about the children who are traveling with you. If you have legal custody of the child(ren) or if you share custody, be sure to have copies of relevant legal documents, such as custody rights. If you are not the custodial parent or not the parent or legal guardian of the child(ren), carry a letter of permission or authorization for you to have custody when entering Canada.  A letter would facilitate entry for any one parent traveling with their child(ren). This permission should contact contact phone humbers for the parent or legal guardian.

Here is a copy of Recommended Consent Letter for Children Traveling Abroad.

DECLARE ALL GOODS

You must declare all your purchases and any other goods acquired while you were out of the country when you arrive at the border. CBSA officers may ask you to show receipts for the goods you’ve purchased while out of the country. They may also ask to see your hotel receipts to verify the length of your stay outside. Keeping these items altogether and readily accesible will help to avoid unnecessary delays.

Hint: Have your receipts ready in separate envelopes and in hand. It’s easy to slip a few envelopes in your suitcase for this purpose or use the ones provided in the hotel room.

PERSONAL EXEMPTION AMOUNTS–The length of your absence from Canada determines the amount of goods you can bring back, without paying any duties.

Less than 24 hours Personal exemptions do not apply to same-day cross-border shoppers.
24 hours or more Up to CAN$200 – Alcohol and tobacco cannot be claimed. Goods must be in your possession at time of entry to Canada. If the value of the goods you have purchased abroad exceeds $200 after a 24 hour absence, duty and taxes are applicable on the entire amount of the imported goods.
48 hours or more Up to CAN$800 – May include alcohol and tobacco products, within the prescribed limits set by provincial or territorial authorities. Goods must be in your possession at time of entry to Canada. Travellers absent for periods of 48 hours or more will have the applicable exemption level credited against the total value of goods.
7 days or more Up to CAN$800 – May include alcohol and tobacco products, within the prescribed limits set by provincial or territorial authorities. For the seven-day exemption, goods may be in your possession at time of entry to Canada but are also permitted to follow entry to Canada (such as via courier, mail or delivery agency), except alcohol and tobacco products, which must be in your possession. All the goods will qualify for duty- and tax-free entry if they are declared at the initial return to Canada.

RESTRICTED/PROHIBITED GOODS SUCH AS FOOD, PLANT AND ANIMAL PRODUCTS

The importation of certain goods is restricted or prohibited in Canada.  As all undeclared food, plants, animals and related products brought into Canada by travellers are potential threats to the health of Canadians and Canada’s environment, all these products must be declared. Based on emerging threats, the import requirements are subject to change on a daily basis. Many different kinds of items can introduce threats into Canada such as apples, fashion accessories such as feather boas, wooden carvings, seeds, live birds and sea shells. Yep! Leave them on the beach!

Of course to determine the most up-to-date import requirements, refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency webite at www.inspection.gc.ca or visit www.cbsa.gc.ca.

TRAVELLING WITH CAN$10,000 OR MORE

If you have currency or monetary instruments equal to or greater than CAN$10,000 (or the equivalent in a foreign currency) in your possession when arriving in or departing from Canada, you must report this to the CBSA. Monetary instruments include items such as stocks, bonds, bank drafts, cheques, and travellers’ cheques.

We remind all travellers that this regulation applies to currency and monetary instruments you have on your person, in your baggage and in your vehicle. For more information, including instructions on how to report your intent to import or export currency in person, by mail, or by courier, consult Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?

For more information to help you delcare, consult the Canada Border Services Agency        I Declare information site. This is also where you will find information if you are traveling with alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

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Happy Birthday Canada!

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So Canada is celebrating 150 years of age! Congratulations! I’ve travelled to many beautiful places around the world and have been very fortunate to have travelled all across and over Canada–9 provinces and recently the Yukon. Maybe this is my year to visit Newfoundland. I  for one would like to say that Canada is tops in the natural beauty department. The sunsets of Manitoba, the rolling fields of Saskatchewan, the Rockies of British Columbia and Alberta, the history and music of the Maritimes…the list goes on.

This year Canada is planning on celebrating their 150th birthday in a ‘BIG way’ with celebrations around the country and all year long.  Following is a sampling on what will be happening in celebration of Canada’s 150th.

  1. PrintOttawa will lead the way with the biggest party. It is celebrating with a whole year  of events planned including world skating competitions on the Rideau Canal, an enormous picnic on Alexander Bridge but the biggest day with be on July 1st with flyovers by the Snowbirds, a huge street party and free concerts and events. For a full list of events visit www.ottawa2017.ca.4
  2. Charlottetown is the birthplace of Confederation and always celebrates Canada Day in a big way. For 2017 they will be featuring a 10-hour concert which will showcase PEI’s musical talent from rock to fiddlers. The city’s harbor will be guest port in a trans-Atlantic 150th Celebration Regatta showcasing 40 tradtional tall ships for you to visit. And be sure to get a piece of cake from the giant birthday cake.
  3. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada is throwing open the doorsblog-canada-parks-logo to all of its national and heritage sites, offering free entrance for all of 2017. You have 47 parks and 168 historic sites to choose from. Visit Parks Canada website www.pc.gc.ca to apply for your free card.
  4. Music has always been a big part of Canadian tradition so this year stay tuned for new pieces that will honor Canada’s musical traditions.  There will also be plenty of events and performances offered throughout the year and across the country.  Visit the Toronto Symphony website at www.tso.ca/canadamosaic for complete lsit performances and events.
  5. Vancouver will be featuring the biggest Canada Day celebration outside the nation’s capital with event  spread across the city which will include a full-day music concert with impressive headliners, a citizenship ceremony where you can watch new Canadians joining the clan, street performances, an evening parade and a massive fireworks display from two barges in the inlet. As well,  the city is digging deep into its roots and hosting an eleven-day First Nations’ festival where traditional and contemporary events let you experience a side of Canada less frequently witnessed.
  6. SESQUI will be traveling across the nation and is a multimedia dome village that offers a 360-degree view of Canada, giving you the opportunity to get an eyeful of life on the other side of this vast land. Ice fish in the north, visit Victoria’s historic Chinatown and run through the red sand beaches of PEI as you visually escape on a cross-country journey that celebrates Canada’s diversity and beauty. Accompanying the surround theatre, performances by local artists take place in adjoining domes, telling the interactive story of what it means to be Canadian. Follow it and find it at www.sesqui.ca.

How will you celebrate? However you decide to celebrate be sure to make your plans early.

There’s an APP for that!
The Ottawa Experiential 2017 APP is ready to download to enchance your experience.

Stay in touch!
Stay up to date with what’s happening across the country by signing up for newsletter at www.ottawa2017.ca. This site offers purchase of event tickets, an online store as well as volunteer opportunities.

As well you can keep in touch on Social Media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Happy Birthday Canada!

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How to limit your risk to the Zika Virus

News about the Zika Virus is everywhere these days. The virus started in South America and has spread aMosquitocross the Caribbean and most recently in a neighborhood of Miami Beach. The biggest concern is if a woman is infected during pregnancy, the virus can cause frightening birth defects in infants. Still, for most people, Zika has mild or negligible effects—as far as viruses go, it’s not much worse than the average case of pinkeye.

So the question is, how can we as travelers protect ourselves againsth the Zika virus?

  • It is important to be aware about the outbreak of the virus in the countries you will be visiting.
  • Consult with your doctor or local disease control centre for the most up-to-date information on the virus in the area you are planning travelling to.
  • If you are pregnant, hoping to become pregnant or are the sexual partner of someone in the previous two categories, avoid travelling to areas where the virus is actively circulating.
  • Use condoms when engaged in sexual activity.
  • If you decide to travel to affected areas, pack an ample supply of mosquito repellent and use it generously. Those containing DEET (recommendation: 35-50% or higher concentration) are considered the most effective although there are some milder, plant-based repellents that may also be used.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever outdoors especially when they are most active. One suggestion (although it won’t win any fashion prizes) is to pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent mosquitoes from going under them.
  • Wear permethrin-impregnated clothes which can be purchased in mountain goods stores like MEC. These clothes have mosquito repellent built-in.
  • If using both sunscreen and bug repellent, apply the sunscreen first, then apply the insect repellent.
  • Close doors and make sure window screens are fully closed when you sleep. If needed, use mosquito netting as extra insurance.
  • Be vigilant with anti-mosquito precautions around the clock, as the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus are active during the day as well as night time.

So, the best advice?  Do your research about the area you are travelling to and arm yourself with the best information in regards to preventing infection, use your common sense and use your mosquito repellent!!!-generously.

Need more information, check out these sites.
– Government on Canada’s website – https://www.canada.ca/en.html .
– Passport to Health website – https://www.passporthealthglobal.com

Sources: Article References:  World Health Organization (WHO); Public Health Agency of Canada; http://greatcanadiantravel.com/travelling-and-the-zika-virus/; U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Matt Villano,  freelance writer for T+L.

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Is it safe to travel?

Over the last few weeks there have been many questions and concerns with regards to the security affecting travel to Europe and other foreign countries. It is a major concern for many of my clients, so I thought that I would address it especially with the recent events in Germany and France.

25192079137604485_DO2EHYft_bIt is natural to question safety when traveling to a strange land and in times such as these I can see that the comfort of staying home would be someone’s first choice. As a travel advisor, I would never say to a client “yes, it is safe to travel” or “no, do not travel”. It is purely a personal choice whether to travel or not. All I can advise is to trust your judgement. You can always change your mind, right?

If you do choose to travel the best way to protect yourself is to prepare yourself. If you take precautions before you travel, you will be able to relax and enjoy your trip. Here are a few useful tips.

–    Always be aware of your surroundings and be observant.
–    Try to blend in like a ‘local’. Now is not the time to wear that Canadian flag t-shirt!
–    Never ever wander alone into alleys and side streets.
–    Don’t wave around large amounts of cash. And leave the expensive jewellery at home.
–    Use common sense! If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation.
–    Know where you are headed when you leave the airport or hotel. I like to pick up a business card from the hotel to have the address at the ready.
–    Book a tour with a reputable tour operator with travel guides.
–    Be aware of your health risks and safety before traveling. Know before you go! Visit Gov’t of Canada’s  website for up-to-date information.
–    Make a copy of your passport and keep it a separate place than your actual passport.      –   Be sure to register on the Government of Canada website by visiting  https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration.
–    Buy travel insurance to protect your travel investment.
–    For up to date information on travel alerts and advisories, please go to Gov’t of Canada website… https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories

I came across this blog from One Mile At A Time which I thought offered an honest opinion.

And lastly, the travel and tourism industry accounts for nearly 10% of the global gross domestic product, which makes it one of the most important in the world. David Scowsill, World Trade and Tourism Industry President, says that tourism can be a “driver for peace”. While the threat of terrorism may tempt some people to stay put, it’s a timely reminder that travel is a force for good.

Happy and safe travels!

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Our Trip to Iceland

IMG_4014Traveling to Iceland has always been on the top of my bucket list. I fulfilled that dream recently after spending a week in South Iceland with my daughter and 15 month old grandson. Many of us are intrigued with Iceland—this little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a very unique experience and I’ve had a lot of questions…how, when, where and most of all, why? I hope this blog will answer some of those questions.

 Iceland is truly a remarkable country. Remarkable on many levels and offers visitors an extraordinary variety of experiences. Right now, it is a perfect time to visit Iceland as it is not overrun with tourists (yet). But don’t wait!

Airport: KEF Keflavik Airport
Capital:  Reykjavik, means “smoky bay”
Population: 330,000 (two thirds live in Reykjavik)
Language: Icelandic, but English is no problem
Landscape: Volcanic land but have many glaciers and natural wonders
Water: There is no need to buy bottled water when you’re here. Water out of the tap is pure, clean and tasty! Locals boast it’s the best in the world!
Electricity: 220 volts
Stay Connected: Internet hot spots can be found everywhere!

We travelled in late April, early May and flew direct (6 hour flight) from Edmonton with
Icelandair. We stayed 2 nights at the Icelandair Hotel Fludir and 4 nights at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura. We opted for a self-drive program.Driving the South Island was very easy; the roads are mostly two lanes—some with finished shoulders, some with not. Our stay was based on visiting the South Island’s Golden Circle Route.

 IMG_3995Just a reminder that we were traveling with a toddler so we made frequent stops and our evening activities were cut short.  I have to say that our little traveler was ‘golden’ . Start them young I say. PS. We purchased him a seat on flight which enabled him to sleep comfortably. (Icelandair offers a 20% discount for children). Which was definitely worth it!

FYI! Icelandair has a stopover program from Canada allowing a stopover of up to 7 nights on your way to Europe. Icelandair flies to 28 European destinations.

HOTEL DESCRIPTIONS

ICELANDAIR HOTEL FLUDIR (3*)
One hour from Reykjavik and located 20 minutes from the Geysir and Gulfoss Waterfall. All rooms overlook a patio with garden access (odd, but door exits from the bathroom). The restaurant serves traditional Icelandic food made from organic produce. The lobby bar is a pleasant setting for a relaxing drink. The staff can help arrange activities like fishing and hiking trips. Free Wi-Fi internet access. Reykjavik city centre is a 1-hour drive away. Parking is free at the hotel.

ICELANDAIR HOTEL REYKJAVIK NATURA HOTEL (4*)
IMG_4043The hotel upgraded us to a family room upon check-in. Rooms appointed, comfy beds and all the expected amenities.

This eco-friendly hotel is next to Icelandair offices and at the Reykjavik Airport. Very closed to Öskjuhlíd Hill’s quiet woods and a short walk to the Perlan, as well as a very short walk to the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach. WiFi and gym access are free. Natura Spa on site. There is a fee to use the pool and spa (30Kr).

A fridge, tea/coffee facilities and satellite TV are standard in Icelandair Natura’s modern, soundproofed rooms. Some rooms include access to the spa. The in-house Satt Restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and Icelandic daily specials. The stylish Satt Bar is a nice place to relax and chat with others. The hotel is also home to the Icelandic Modern Art Exhibition. Other facilities include a tourist desk and bike rental in the summer time. The Icelandair Natura received the “2014 Environmental Award from the Icelandic Tourist Board” 

Free bus passes are available to all guests. The pick-up and drop-off point is in front of hotel and is an easy walk to the city. Very handy!

FYI!   There is also the Icelandair Hotel Marina in Reykjavik—right now there is lots of construction in the marina area, but I would consider staying at this hotel in the future. Great location—walking distance to everything! We also visited  the Icelandair Hotel in Vik—very nice! Great place to stay when visiting the black beaches and making your way around the Ring Road.

ATTRACTIONS AND PLACES WE VISITED (in no particular order):

Fludir: We visited the Secret Lagoon (Gamia Laugin) at Hveraholmi, the geothermal area near Fludir. We were able to visit this particular lagoon as there were no age limit compared to the Blue Lagoon. It was made in 1891 and is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Plenty of locals were amongst the tourists, which is always a good sign. Towel rentals available. Geysir and Gulfoss a short drive away.

Laugarvatn: Smaller, but as equally as nice is a visit to the Fontana (www.fontana.is) Geothermal Baths and Natural Steam Baths (30Kr, bathing and towel rentals available). There is also a local kitchen that offers a lunch and dinner buffet daily. Three times a day, experience the Geothermal Bakery–staff explain how and show how they bake their famous Iceland bread in a geothermal ‘oven’. You can also sample the warm bread with butter (15Kr).

IMG_3931   IMG_4027   IMG_3961IMG_3775.JPG   IMG_4147

Skogafoss Waterfall, Skogar: Folk Museum and Skogafoss, a dramatic 180 foot waterfall. Hike up to the top as it’s worth the view!

Eyjafallajokull Volcano: The centerpiece of Iceland which also includes the Solheimajokull Glacier, Reynisdrangar Cliffs and Reynifjara for the black sand beach.

Thingvellir National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the geological wonders of the world where you can see the effects of the tectonic plate movements are visible (there are scuba diving experiences available here). Also was the site of Iceland’s Viking Parliament. Lots of hiking trails to enjoy the unique landscape of Thingvellir.

Gulfoss: Huge and powerful two tier waterfall on the River Hvita. It was saved during the 1920s from a dam project by the first environmental activist in Iceland. There a new coffee shop/deli and souvenir shop located here. Just a 5 minute drive is Hotel Gulfoss, recently renovated. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast here after viewing the waterfalls.

Geysir Hot Springs: Set on a hillside, we viewed violently bubbling pools and watched erupting 60 foot water spouts of Strokkur Geyser. Hiking trails here as well as souvenir shop and café.

Fridheimar: (www.fridheimar.is) is a unique food experience just outside of Reykholt. It is a vegetable farm where its main product is tomatoes. They recently opened up their greenhouses to visitors and now offer yummy lunches every day from 12-4:00 pm—and of course, tomatoes are the star. Tomato soup is always on the menu along with a variety of homemade bread and fresh cucumber salsa. As well, you may want to try their famous Bloody Mary. This was a perfect lunch stop if you’re doing the Golden Circle. There is a corral of Icelandic horses on the property.

Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa: On our last day, Amy took a bus from the hotel to the Blue Lagoon. Age limit is 2 years old. Amy purchased the Premium Package which included entrance free, silica mud mask, algae mask, use of towel, bathrobe and slippers, 1st drink of your choice. Yes! There is a swim up bar at the Lagoon. Cost was 70, the price goes up to 80 during the summer months—June to August). Reservations are highly recommended for both visiting the Blue Lagoon and bus transportation. Luggage storage available at 4 per bag.  TIP! Do not get your hair wet! The water sucks all the moisture out of it.

I Heart Reykjavik Tour: We found this tour through Audur’s Iceland blog. We met at Hallgrims Lutheran Church for a 2 hour walking tour of Reykjavik. She explained the history, culture, some of her favorite restaurants and cafes, gave us lots of hints of worthy things to see and do in Reykjavik. Well worth it….check out her blog at http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/

Reykjavik:

  • Saga Museum
  • Perlan – great view of Reykjavik from here
  •  We checked out the Kolaportio flea market near the Harpa and harbour.
  • Harpa Building, an iconic landmark in Reykjavik
  • Leif Erikson Statue and Hallgrims Lutheran Church
  • There are lots of short half day tours in and around Reykjavik
  • Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus with 15 stops

IMG_4211Puffin Tour
See puffins up close! 10,000 pairs of puffins arrive to the island of Akurey, an island known for its puffin population, just off the coast of Reykjavik between early May to August. Akurey is covered with small hills and slopes with rocky shores with is a natural habitat for these small birds. The puffin-watching boat is specially designed to get you as close to the shoreline as possible and get a close-up look at the puffins.  This tour was booked through Viator and offered pick up and drop off at our hotel.

FOOD EXPERIENCES
There are lots of great places to eat! Here is a few of our favorites. 
IMG_3987 Barjarins Beztu Pylsur (open since 1939)-an Icelandic hot dog with all the toppingsketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onion and raw onions. I like mine with mustard and remoulade. You choose!
   Frodheimar grows their own tomatoes in a geothermally-heated greenhouse and produce delicious courses using the tomato has the main ingredient.
   Hotel Gulfoss – great buffet breakfast after viewing the falls. They also have a buffet at lunch and dinner a la carte. Reservations recommended.
   Halldorskaffi – Great soup and sandwich options.
   Svarta Fjaran in Vik – Great soup, both vegetarian and seafood, homemade bread and smoked salmon.
Pizza With No Name – The best pizza around! Hidden Gem! You will have to ask where to find it!

PACKING LIST
We used a packing list found on Emily Winfield’s Pinterest Board. It was designed for a 11-day stay so we cut down some of the clothing category.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT:
Jacket – while you may not need a wool or down coat in the spring, you will want a lighter coat for the cool mornings and a waterproof warmer jacket for cold and wet days.
Puffer vest – this was great for layering and warm enough for an unseasonably cold day.
Shoes – We were comfortable in our hiking boots and sneakers but we saw some people with rain wellies. On warmer days in Reyjkavik we wore our Birkenstocks.
 

 

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One Day In Kelowna- Best Travel Tips from Best Health

kelowna

One Day in Kelowna – Best Travel Tips from Best Health

The following article is from Best Health.   Photo from Tourism Kelowna.

Only have a day to explore a great Canadian city?  Relax:  We’re mapping the highlights for you.  Here’s how to spend one day in Kelowna, BC

Fun Facts

Kelowna gets its name from the indigenous people’s word for “grizzly bear.” Located in the southern interior of British Columbia, Kelowna is nestled in the Okanagan Valley on the shores of Lake Okanagan. It’s the third-largest metropolis in the province.

Accommodations

The Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Center is situated in the heart of downtown Kelowna, making walking to dinner and shopping a breeze. Though it’s loaded with the typical amenities (think pools, fitness room, sauna, shops and restaurants), what you’ll long remember is the show-stopping view. The resort sits on the lake and offers up mountain vistas of blue and grey that will take your breath away. Make sure to book a lakeside room.

Dining Options

For an authentic taste of the Okanagan, head over to the Sunset Organic Bistro at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Here, you’ll find fresh ingredients plucked from the winery’s own biodynamic gardens and nearby organic farms. Start with the Tomato Salad, but save room for the Steak and Frites, a 10-ounce rib-eye with blue cheese butter and bone marrow.

Going for Cocktails

A trip to Kelowna would be incomplete without a stop at RauDZ Regional Table – pronounced “rods” – for a sip (or three) from their cocktail menu. Try the Lavender Bees Knees, made with Okanagan Spirits Gin, lavender honey, lemon, grapefruit and hops bitters, or the popular At The Drive-In, a mix of buttered-popcorn-washed Bacardi Superior, Old Sam rum, lapin cherry and cola reduction, orgeat (like liquid marzipan) and lime.

Best Wine Tours

If you’ve come to Kelowna for the wine, you won’t be disappointed by the tastings available. From crisp young Chardonnays to old-vine Pinot Noirs, there’s a varietal or blend for every bias. Where to start? Tourism Kelowna has created several trails, including Lake Country’s Scenic Sip Trail, Westside Wine Trail, Lakeshore Wine Route and the Kelowna FabFive. Some will take you into the barrel room, some will let you explore the vineyards and others offer lunch opportunities. Start planning your oenophile experience here.

Best Adventure Tour

Burn a few calories – and give your liver a break – with a bike ride along the Kettle Valley Steam Railway line, where you can travel over the old train trestles of Myra Canyon. Sign up for guided tours created for various fitness levels at Monashee Adventure Tours. Bike rentals are included, but don’t forget to bring your camera.

Getting There

Both WestJet and Air Canada offer direct flights to Kelowna International Airport. From there, it’s a short cab ride into the heart of the city.

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