Travel stories, tips and suggestions from Canada

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6 Things To Do At Casino Rama Resort Beyond Gaming!

Though Casino Rama Resort offers an extensive gambling floor with over 2500 slot machines, including some of the latest technology, 100 table games and a room dedicated to poker, there’s a whole lot more to do beyond the casino once you are there. In fact, there’s an entire property offering many things to do whether you’re there for the day, a weekend or longer. “Casino” may be the first word in the name but the “resort” component shouldn’t be overlooked and after staying at Casino Rama Resort on two separate occasions and visiting the property for day trips several additional times, we’ve seen what a fantastic entertainment destination it is for visitors.

What To Do At Casino Rama Resort If You Aren’t Gambling

Please gamble responsibly. If you think you, or someone you know, may need help with a gambling problem, please visit the Responsible Gaming Council Site for more information & to find help if you are in Canada. In the USA? Visit the site for the National Council on Problem Gambling

With a location not far from the Toronto area, it’s definitely a fantastic option for a getaway or day trip, whether you’re headed to the casino area or not. To give you a better idea of all there is to do at Casino Rama off of the gambling floor, we’ve put together 6 things to do there that make it a destination in itself and a resort you’ll be excited to visit!

1. Watch A Show

Casino Rama Stage Entertainment Centre

There’s nothing that showcases Casino Rama Resort as an entertainment destination more than the 5000-seat entertainment centre where world-famous comedians, musicians and performers grace the stage. Whether you’re staying at the resort or just dropping in for a performance, watching a show is a great way to enjoy your time at Rama.

In fact, it’s an experience all on it’s own and we’ve had the chance to see several shows there between the two of us. From comedy acts by Russell Peters and Whoopi Goldberg to concerts by various artists from around the world, we’ve seen some incredible shows on their stage. What is especially great is that no matter where your seats are, you’ll find you have a fantastic view.

It’s definitely one of the parts of the resort that makes it stand out and is a huge draw when visiting the hotel, the casino and the area.

2. Enjoy Delicious Food

St Germain's Casino Rama Meal

With eight dining options, you definitely won’t be going hungry and each restaurant offers a different atmosphere and fare. It’s here that you can explore the culinary side of the resort and enjoy some truly great cuisine.

There’s St. Germain’s a steakhouse with absolutely phenomenal service and delicious, beautifully plated meal. They have superb cuts of meat, a variety of seafood and a dessert menu by an award winning pastry chef. It’s one of our favourites and we know we will always find a dining experience to remember.

There are also a variety of options for more casual dining like Simcoe Yard House, a sports bar and restaurant where we love to eat whenever we’re at Casino Rama. Their Ultimate Hot Dog – a half yard in size – is a fun and tasty meal to try. The Weir’s restaurant and Cedar are alternately open and also offer casual dining and a many menu options. For us, we tend to head to The Weir’s for breakfast and Cedar for a late night snack.

From the Noodle Bar to The Willow, serving Chinese cuisine, the Firestarter Lounge by the lobby to the Couchiching Court buffet, you’ll definitely not go hungry nor will you run out of options or variety.

The best part of it all? The food is exceptional at all of the restaurants so you really can’t go wrong with your choices!

3. Have A Spa Day

Casino Rama Spa

Casino Rama Resort has an entire oasis for anyone looking to get away and get pampered for a day… or longer! Their Balance in Life Spa offers massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and other treatments and it’s a great place for a little relaxation.

We both recently enjoyed a massage and can honestly say it was one of the best we’ve had. Though we went individually, there are packages for couples as well and we may just be looking into those the next time we go!

The other great thing is that even if you aren’t a hotel guest, spa guests have access to the pool and amenities and as you’ll see below, they’re pretty fantastic on their own!

4. Enjoy The Pool & Amenities

Casino Rama Pool

For guests of the hotel, there are additional amenities that are available. The pool area has long been a highlight for those we’ve talked to who have stayed at Casino Rama Resort. Their indoor salt water pool and hot tub are a draw for those looking to unwind during the day or get a few gentle laps in while feeling the incredible effects of the salt water on their skin. We especially love the patio connecting the pool to the outdoors. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to go to dry off and enjoy some sun.

The eucalyptus steam room is also an amazing amenity and a great place to start before a spa session or after a workout in their adult-only fitness room.

It’s really a great space to spend some time while at the resort and a definite attraction for those who want to book a room and stay at the hotel.

5. Relax In Your Spacious Room

Casino Rama Hotel Room

The rooms at Casino Rama Resort are a destination on their own. They offer an inviting and spacious sanctuary with comfortable beds and a great sitting area with a large screen TV. It really is a fantastic place to relax and unwind, get cozy and spend some time.

The gas fireplace is a great touch in the cooler months and can add to the romance of the room if you’re there with a special someone.

No matter what you’re at Casino Rama for, you’ll want to spend some time in the room – ordering in room service, enjoying a bath in the Jacuzzi tub, watching some TV in the living space, and you may not want to leave at all!

6. Explore Rama First Nation Culture

Rama First Nations Casino Rama

Throughout the resort, you’ll notice architectural and artistic designs that illustrate Rama First Nation culture and history. There’s a lot to see and we’ve learned a lot by delving deeper into what the art and symbols mean and represent. Even the names of some of the resort’s features – like St. Germain’s – hold significance to the Rama First Nation peoples.

You can also stop into one of the shops and browse arts and crafts, gifts and clothing linked to Rama First Nation and beyond.

 

Casino Rama Resort really is an entertainment destination on its own and it only takes a short time there to realize there’s a whole lot to do and that there’s a reason why it’s called “The Great Indoors” – while they have a state-of-the-art casino floor that’s sure to impress, there’s a whole resort to explore and enjoy!

 

A huge thanks to SJ Consulting for the invitation & to Casino Rama Resort for hosting us. As always, all opinions are, and always will be, our own!

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An Epic Quebec Trip In A Room With Many Views

One room. Transported by helicopters, trains and trucks. One couple. Opening the curtain to the room each day in a new destination, with a new view. Unbelievable? Watch it and believe it:

Exploring Quebec, One View At A Time

This was just part of the journey this couple, Glennis LaRoe and Kip Geddes of New York, took in Quebec as they were transported from location to location in a mobile room. Each time they opened the doors to their room they faced a new and amazing view in the province. From the Chateau Frontenac to the Foresta Lumina to whales in the St. Lawrence River, the sights were epic and just a glimpse of the stunning scenes Quebec has to offer.

While the two of them had no clue where they would stop, or what they would see next, taking the same route while fully aware of what is to come is as much of a breathtaking experience. If you’re planning your own trip to Quebec, you can follow along with their itinerary, or use it to springboard an adventure of your own in the vast, spectacular province that is Quebec.

The Diversity of Experiences in Quebec

What this video highlights the most is the sheer diversity of experiences, attractions, sights and adventures to be found in the province. In just ten days, Glennis and Kip travel through only a portion of Quebec but manage to delve into the culture, witness some of the incredible landscapes and enjoy so much.

Though you can find a fantastic look at the various spectacular views and facets that the couple delved into, along with in depth information, on the QuebecOriginal’s site, here’s a quick look at what Quebec has to offer including a video for each that highlights what the two of them were able to experience as they travelled along in their room with many views.

Outdoor Activities

Quebec is truly a playground of outdoor activity no matter the time of year. Each season offers incredible opportunity to partake in, or witness, a whole host of stunning landscapes and exhilarating recreational activity. In the summer there is cycling, camping, watersports and views aplenty that are equally matched by the wintertime sports and sights that can be found throughout.

Gastronomy

You definitely won’t have a hard time finding good food in Quebec. From traditional Quebecois cuisine to dishes from around the world, the province offers a truly enjoyable gastronomic experience. There’s the classic poutine (as well as the variations that have been created around it), the wines and cheeses, the breads, the meats and game and the international fare all come together to create a culinary landscape to drool over.

Culture

With centuries of history, changing political and religious landscapes and influences from various countries throughout time, it’s no wonder Quebec is teeming with French culture. Through architecture, art, music and literature, you can witness culture around every corner, breathe it in with every step.

Adventure

With so much to do and see it’s no wonder Quebec offers an abundance of adventure and whether you’re into extreme sports or softer experiences, there’s something for pretty much everyone. If jumping out of a plane isn’t for you, ziplining may be the thrill you’re looking for. Hiking, with all the views of the province, can also leave you just as breathless.

 

For Kip & Glennis, this trip in the room with many views was a once-in-a-lifetime experience but for the rest of us, it offers a glimpse into a province that has everything any traveller or tourist could want and gives us all a small taste… not enough to quench our thirst but enough to leave us hungering for more and anxious to get out and plan our own adventure to la belle province: the beautiful province of Quebec.

 

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Things To Do In Toronto In The Winter

There’s something electric about the city of Toronto that makes it a perfect place to spark a little romance. With an unending list of activities, events and experiences, it’s a city that is always bursting with activity and excitement, no matter the time of year. It’s probably this infectious enthusiasm of the city that makes it an environment perfect for all couples, whether they’ve just met or have been together for years.

Sure, warmer seasons may seem like the best time to get out and explore a city as a couple but in Toronto the winter is actually chock full of opportunities to have fun, get active or even cozy up together. You may not be aware of it, but you don’t have to look far to find those opportunities. All it takes is for you to put on your coat, throw on your hat and gloves, grab your special someone and get those winter boots out into the city!

5 Date Ideas For Some Winter Fun in Toronto

In case you need some help planning, here are some great things to do in Toronto in the winter that also make for great date ideas in the city for any couple, whether you’re looking for a day of art, nature or recreation!

Enjoy Winter Festivals in the Distillery DistrictDistillery District Light Festival Toronto

One great thing about Toronto is the steady stream of festivals that take place and the winter weather only brings more unique events to the city, especially The Distillery District. It’s one area in Toronto that never fails to offer enjoyment during colder weather.

If you’re looking to plan your date before the New Year, a visit here will see you walking through Toronto’s Christmas Market. As you stroll the cobblestone streets, you’ll see the classic wooden huts reminiscent of the European Christmas markets it is based on. Decorations and activities, food and drinks and shops along the way to duck into and escape the cold will also line your way.

After the New Year, you’ll want to plan your date night around the Toronto Light Festival an exhibit of light art throughout the Distillery District that will illuminate the city at night and blends art, colour, light, movement and architecture. It’s a unique place for a date night and will offer something special on an evening out in Toronto.

Adventure To The Islands

The Toronto islands are probably one of the last places most people think of when planning a date in the winter but that only means they’re missing out! True, it’s not the tourist hub of the warmer months but what it doesn’t offer by way of tourist comforts, it delivers in privacy and charm along with some unique winter activities.

You can easily spend an entire day on Ward’s island, skating on the water if the weather is right, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing… or even all three! After some time in the snow you can find your way indoors to warm up and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants that are open year-round like The Rectory Café. If you really want to kick up the romance, booking a night at a B&B and heading out to enjoy the view of the Toronto skyline together at night would make the evening complete.

With regular ferries to Ward’s Island, you’ll be able to come and go as you please and plan your date around whatever schedule you want.

Take A Winter Walk Hand-In-Handgraffiti alley toronto

Embrace the romance of the outdoors by taking a secluded walk through one of the city’s parks or trails as you hold hands and have some quiet conversation. Some of the more public areas, like Riverdale Park, still offer some quiet trails but will also give you the option of enjoying winter activities like tobogganing. It’s also one of the best spots for a view of the city line so an improvised picnic outdoors, with hot chocolate or coffee, while sitting on a bench could really up the romance factor.

A winter walk in an urban landscape, like Graffiti Alley, is also a great date idea. Stroll down the alley surrounded by stunning and colourful street art before heading to one of the area’s many cafes and restaurants where you can continue the conversation and exchange hand holding for some playful under-the-table footsies!

Find Outdoor Adventure Together At The Winter Village

If recreation and adventure is more your style, heading to the Evergreen Brick Works Winter Village may be your idea of a perfect winter date in Toronto.  A free skating rink, nature trails that you can take by foot or experience while fat biking (yes, it’s a real thing!) and campfires await any couple looking to spend the day enjoying winter activities. There are over 40 acres of outdoor space to enjoy and embrace nature while having fun and looking out for some winter wildlife.

The great thing about the Winter Village is that you can combine the day of outdoor fun with some culinary treasures at the Street Food Market. Local food trucks and restaurants can be found dishing out some amazing eats and demonstrating why the city is considered a gastronomic powerhouse. After a day of activity together, winding down with some delicious food is a perfect ending to a date at The Winter Village.

Explore The Art Scene Outside & In!toronto cityscape and street art

It’s no secret that Toronto is home to some spectacular art galleries and museums but before you go inside to escape the cold and warm up on indoor displays of art and culture at places like the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum, take a look at the winter art installations that are making the city vibrant even in the winter season.

Though the Waterfront and Lakeshore areas are prime spots for couples to flock to in the warmer weather, these areas turn into creative masterpieces in the winter worthy of a visit during any romantic outing. Make a plan to walk together to each of the five incredible outdoor art displays part of Ice Breakers. Spread out along the waterfront, you’ll pass by interactive designs meant to inspire and add to the beauty of the already spectacular area.

Winter Stations will also grace the city’s waterfront areas as lifeguard stands will be used to create temporary installations as part of an international design competition. Take some time to explore the brilliant work of artists, designers and architects as you walk along the waterfront with its own stunning views.

For some indoor winter date ideas in Toronto, check out our article on SeeTorontoNow.com: How Locals Do Date Night in Toronto: Winter Edition.

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A Selfie Tour Of Quebec City In The Winter

Quebec City has become one of our favourite cities in the world and it seems that no matter what season you visit, there is so much to do and see. Even in the winter, the city is alive with activity and with so much to do and see, and we found ourselves spending much of our days and nights simply walking the streets, visiting the various attractions and taking in as much culture and history as we could.

It was during our attempts to document our time in the city that we realized something was missing from all the videos and photos we were taking – us! So, flipping our LCD screen of our Fuji X-A3 180 degrees, we began a self-guided tour of Quebec City taking photos of the two of us in some of our favourite places around the city.

Whether you’re looking to explore the city or are just looking to see it from the comfort of your own computer screen, we’ve put together a selfie tour of Quebec City in the winter to give you a glimpse of just some of the amazing things around the city… and an even bigger glimpse of our smiling faces!

You may want to take note of the places you’ll want to see. To help, we’ve provided direction for how to find your way to each of these spots!

Exploring The City

There may have been snow on the ground but we grabbed our hats and gloves, zipped up our coats and set off to explore the city – what we found were views and streets beautiful enough to warm us up all on their own!

We loved the parliament building in Quebec City and you can catch a glimpse of it in the background!

These steps behind us are called L’Escalier Casse-Cou or Breakneck Steps and can be found in the Petit Champlain neighbourhood. This happens to be the oldest staircase in Quebec City and, as you can tell by their steepness, have probably earned their name!

Dufferin Terrace is an area of Old Quebec that we love to stop at every chance we get. The view is spectacular and there is so much history surrounding the area. This statue of Samuel de Champlain is just an example of what you’ll find there. It’s a pretty spectacular place to place a monument to the father, or founder, of the city itself!

It’s impossible to tour the city and not want to stop at one of the most iconic of buildings. You don’t have to be familiar with the city to recognize the Chateau Frontenac, arguably one of the most photographed hotels in the world. Opened in 1893, it’s also a National Historic Site in Canada and a fully operational hotel… we couldn’t miss the chance to snap a photo of us with this landmark.

Or two photos… there are great views of the Chateau Frontenac from all over!

Look past those baby blues of ours to the beautiful building behind us – Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral. It holds huge historic and religious significance for the city, the province and the country and since it’s over 350 years old, it only makes sense that it has a prominent place in the landmarks of Quebec City and is a National Historic Site of Canada as well as a World Heritage Site.

Even city hall is beautiful! The City Hall of Quebec City, or the Hotel de ville de Quebec, is a National Historic Site of Canada. Inaugurated in 1896, it is built in the heart of the Old City and it a pretty landmark to see.

Of the gates you can go through to enter the Old City of Quebec, the Porte Saint-Jean is perhaps our favourite! As part of the Ramparts of Quebec City, which are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America (not including Mexico), it is a gateway to history in the city and this one also leads to Place D’Youville, a public square that also has an outdoor skating rink in the winter!

Finding Amazing Views

One of our favourite views can be found by the Plains of Abraham and La Citadelle de Quebec, two other amazing places to spend time in Quebec City. It’s here at the Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de Mons, where you’ll find one of the best lookouts in the city. We stayed for quite some time taking it all in and even got a chance to see ice kayakers practice for the big race that happens each winter!

Like we said, it’s not hard to find amazing views of the Chateau Frontenac and though photos can never do a beautiful view justice, this is a great spot to look up at the Old City. Find your way down to the lower part of the city and to Rue Dalhousie, near Quai Chouinard.

We mentioned that we keep finding our way to Terrace Dufferin, multiple times whenever we are in the city and here is just one part of the view. It’s a stunning look over the water and surrounded by the beautiful buildings and lively activity of this area in the Old City.

Then there are those times that we just wander and stumble upon some amazing views as we do. The city is chalk full of scenic spots – from nature to architecture, history to urban settings – it’s a pretty fantastic place to witness no matter what the season happens to be!

Enjoying Winter Activities

About 20 minutes north of Quebec City sits a winter wonderland called the Village Vacances Valcartier, or the Valcartier Vacation Village. With a whole resort available, you can find a whole assortment of winter activities – like tubing and ice skating, as well as the famous Ice Hotel itself. To warm up from the cold, you can enter the hotel complex, head to your own room, one of the restaurants or the tropical indoor waterpark!

Though the entire region around Quebec City offers unlimited options for winter activities, you don’t really have to go far to find some fun in the ice and snow. From outdoor skating rinks, to snowshoeing across the city, Carnaval festivities and so much more, you’ll be surrounded by things to do and ways to warm up outside. We especially love the Nordik Village, or Village Nordik du Port de Quebec, located in the Louise Basin that offers skating, sliding AND ice fishing! The indoor Old Port Market that is right on site also offers fresh food and hot drinks as well as artisanal goods. Best of all, if you catch trout while ice fishing, you can bring it in to be cooked and served at a small extra cost!

Experiencing Carnaval

One of the most anticipated festivals of the year in Quebec is Carnaval and it doesn’t take long while in the city to see why. The energy and excitement are contagious, the festivities and celebrations are thrilling and the city is alive with people having fun almost everywhere you look.

From ice castles to human foosball, maple taffy to caribou (a traditional Quebecois beverage), you’ll find something for everyone and enjoy all the winter has to offer – as you can see below, we definitely enjoyed ourselves!

The king of Carnaval is Bonhomme, and you’ll see him represented throughout the city – if you don’t get a chance to see him in person! We found him everywhere!


Chasing Down Ice Sculptures

Though a part of the Carnaval festivities, the ice sculptures are a force of their own. Spread throughout the city, taking on a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, we went on a walk to see all the ones that were completed, as well as watch as some were being made!

Chowing Down On Food

Quebec City has an amazing culinary scene and our stomachs took full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy it. From churros at the Old Port Market after ice fishing, to an amazing traditional Quebecois meal at La Buche in the old city (now one of our favourite restaurants), we enjoyed drool-worthy fare wherever we went!

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Must Visit Toronto Neighbourhoods

Toronto. A constantly changing metropolis checkered with recent history and populated with people from all walks of life. If you’re taking your cue from the rapper Drake, you probably know it as “the 6”, though for years it was affectionately dubbed the ‘T-Dot’. Whatever you choose to call it, Toronto is for any traveller and, as Canada’s largest city, a destination that offers some of the most multicultural and dynamic experiences in the world.

If you’re headed to Toronto, the sprawling cityscape, vast network of roads and unending number of neighbourhoods, blending from one into the other, may leave you wondering exactly where you should be going to optimize your time in the city. Even to those of us from Toronto and the surrounding area, the districts tend to blur, though each one is unique in its own way.

Exploring Some of the Best Neighbourhoods in Toronto

Toronto Neighbourhoods Union Station

To help you narrow down the areas and explore the city even better than a local, we’ve teamed up with Expedia.ca to put together some of the best neighbourhoods in Toronto to visit! In case you want to know more about the city or need even more Toronto inspiration, check out their Toronto Travel Guide!

Bloor-Yorkville

Looking for gourmet restaurants and designer shopping? Elegance and fine dining combine in one of Toronto’s most fashionable neighbourhoods. This area is a huge shopping district boasting haute couture while also offering visitors a taste of Toronto’s theatre and fine art scene.

Each year, the restaurants, shopping and art of this chic neighbourhood draw stars and film buffs alike who have come to the city for the Toronto International Film Festival. Take a stroll in this area at the right time of year and you may find yourself bumping into Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Plummer or Drew Barrymore.

You’ll also find city parks like the Village of Yorkville Park, which continues the neighbourhood theme of art and design, or Ramsden Park, which offers a taste of nature and outdoor sport in the middle of a commercial hub.

Not enough culture and art for you in Yorkville? Just a short walk away gets you to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Planetarium.

**Bloor-Yorkville is approximately within the boundaries of Bloor St West, Avenue Road, Davenport Rd and Yonge Street. Closest subway stations for this area include Museum, Bay and the Yonge/Bloor Interchange.**

Harbourfront

Toronto Harbourfront area

If you head to the Harbourfront in the summertime, you’ll find yourself in a lakefront playground with a whole host of daily activities. It’s one of the most popular areas for tourists and with good reason.

A wave of events and festivals are ushered in with the warm weather offering music, dancing, food, film and theatre often incorporating the international flare so integral to the whole of the city. The Harboufront Centre is the main hub of activity where you’ll find most of the events of the area and is also a place we love to frequent to see what new festival or event happens to be going on.




Prefer to get on the water rather than enjoy the view from the shore or boardwalk? Boat rentals are available if you’re looking to cruise the lake and see the city line from the waters. If you’d rather be a spectator, you can hit up a baseball game at the SkyDome (true Torontonians will rarely call it The Roger’s Centre!), an event at the Air Canada Centre or observe an underwater world at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Of course, no visit to Toronto, or the Harbourfront, would be complete without a closer look at the CN Tower, probably the most well-known and visited attraction in the neighbourhood.

**Harbourfront is approximately within the boundaries of Bathurst Street and Yonge Street on the North shore of Lake Ontario below Queens Quay. Closest subway station for this area is Union Station.**

Entertainment District

Just a short distance away from the Harbourfront is Toronto’s Entertainment District. It’s here that you’ll find the most activity during the Toronto International Film Festival. Fans and celebrities flock to the area to walk the red carpet and watch those films that have yet to make it to the big screen. It is such a huge event, it’s often been considered second only to the Cannes Film festival.

If you’re more partial to live theatre, the famous Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre can also be found here. Walking just outside these buildings will have celebrities like Jim Carrey and Rachel McAdams literally underfoot… on the stars of Canada’s Walk of Fame that is!

As day turns to night, no matter the season, the entertainment district becomes party central with nightclubs and lounges drawing in crowds looking to dance, enjoy a variety of music and experience the nightlife in Toronto.

**The Entertainment District is approximately within the boundaries of University Ave and Spadina Ave around King Street West. Closest subway stations for this area are Union, St. Andrew and Osgoode.**

Chinatown

Chinatown Toronto Neighbourhoods

Though the greater Toronto area has seven Chinatowns, the most well-known is located on Spadina and is often referred to as Old Chinatown. As one of the largest in North America, we are often in awe at the atmosphere and look of the area. It is completely reminiscent of the streets we walked in Beijing with colourful authentic signage and decorations gracing the many storefronts and restaurants. For us, dim sum is our first stop but you’ll also find many Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.

With fresh markets and many places to find a cheap but delicious meal, Chinatown is a great place to visit to experience some of the cultural diversity of the city. If you’re visiting Toronto in the beginning of the year, this is the place you’ll want to be to celebrate Chinese New Year.

No matter the time of year though, a walk through Chinatown will have you enjoying the cuisine, style and traditions of a culture half the world away.

**Chinatown is approximately within the boundaries of Phoebe St and Oxford St along Spadina Ave. Closest subway stations for Chinatown are Queen’s Park, St. Patrick or Osgoode.**

Queen West

While you’ll want to visit Yorkville to find all the designer shops you need, if you’re looking for some of the most trendy shopping in the city, Queen West is where you should head. Also known as the Art and Design District, Queen West is a 2km (1.2 mile) strip lined with over 300 businesses including vintage clothing stores, shoe stores, arts and craft shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. It’s in this area that creativity abounds.

Extending further, West Queen Street West is considered a separate area though the vibe and creative bent continues from the Art and Design District. If you’re looking to discover some hidden gems, chances are you’ll have good luck in this neighbourhood.

Funky, original styles, boutique shops, many art galleries and small cafes are hallmarks of this area that is quite possibly one of the most artistic neighbourhoods in Toronto.

**Queen West is approximately within the boundaries of the King St, Queensway & Roncesvalles Ave intersection and Yonge Street along Queen Street. West Queen Street West lies on Queen Street between Bathurst St and Gladstone Ave. Closest subway stations for this area are Queen or Osgoode. The Queen St streetcar, Route 501, services the entirety of Queen St.**

Old Town

Toronto Old Town Neighbourhood

An original neighbourhood in Toronto, and the first to have an official nickname, Old Town is where you’ll find loads of history. Exploring this area offers a glimpse of the past when horse-drawn carriages clip-clopped their way down cobble stone streets, warehouses and factory buildings pumped out cast iron products and metalwork and distilleries poured with local brew.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to scope out the Victorian-era architecture that abounds in the area or are more interested in experiencing the revitalization of Old Town with its shops, restaurants and galleries, you’ll find this area provides a unique glimpse into Toronto’s heritage and local culture.

One of the must-see spots within Old Town is the St. Lawrence Market. It has been considered one of the world’s best food markets and is an integral part of Toronto’s history and current culture. You’ll also find some great deals and fresh local products from the 120 vendors that open shop 5 days a week.

For those of us who grew up in the area, regular visits as children to the market to pick up meats from the butchers, fresh produce from local farmers and straight-out-of-the-oven bread was commonplace. It’s an institution in the city that’s rooted in the history of Toronto and the memory of residents and visitors alike.

Every Sunday, when the St. Lawrence food market is closed, an antiques market is opened in the north building. Here you’ll find collectibles, antique books, vintage jewellery and a host of rare and unique items.

**Old Town is approximately within the boundaries of Queen St E and Front St E, and between Parliament St and Church St. Closest Subway Station to the Old Town is King Station.**

The Beaches

Think you can’t find sun and sand in Toronto? Think again! While not the white sand of some southern destinations, The Beaches is as close to a tropical oasis as you’ll find in Toronto with four beaches and, even though many people aren’t aware, waters that are safe to swim in.

The area is reminiscent of any other beachside town with a boardwalk for a leisurely stroll, some jogging or rollerblading, areas for beach volleyball and numerous cafes and clothing shops off the water.

Perhaps one of the biggest annual draws to the neighbourhood is the Beaches International Jazz Festival. One of Canada’s largest free jazz festivals, it spans over 10 days and draws international performers and local talent in addition to the hundreds of thousands of attendees yearly.

It’s probably not what you would expect to find in a large metropolis like Toronto but then, visitors will soon realize there’s a bit of something for everyone if you delve under the surface of the city.

**The Beaches is approximately within the boundaries of Coxwell Ave and Victoria Park Ave below Kingston Road. Take the Queen Street East, Route 501, streetcar to the Beaches.**

Distillery Historic District

Distillery Historic District Toronto

Though technically part of the Old Town, the Distillery Historic District could probably be considered an area to itself. If the Old Town as a whole offers you a glimpse of the past, the Distillery District transports you there. Abandoned Victorian buildings have been restored and turned into restaurants and storefronts to create a small village-like area open year-round to visitors.

During the holiday season, the Distillery District is transformed into a Christmas market that reminds one of those found in Europe and is a definite must see local attraction in Toronto. The cobblestone streets are lined with wood cabins selling a variety of holiday goods, food and handmade items. A festive, and enchanting, atmosphere is created by the lights and holiday decorations while people stroll the area grabbing some hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm up from the cold, before enjoying some of the delicious food offered by the many vendors. It’s a festival we attend every year, if we are in the area!

If you’re looking to tap into the history of Toronto – Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter – the distillery district is one place you shouldn’t miss.

**The Distillery District is approximately within the boundaries of Mill St and the Gardiner Expressway and between Parliament St and Cherry St. The closest subway station to the area is King Station though the King St East Streetcar has closer stops.**

Downtown Yonge

One of the areas where everyone in Toronto wants to be is Downtown Yonge. With The Eaton’s Centre, downtown Toronto’s largest mall, and a seemingly unending number of restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping options, it’s a popular stop for residents of the city and those just passing through.

At the heart of Downtown Yonge is Yonge-Dundas Square, an outdoor space that hosts events, concerts and other live music showcases in the summer. If the outdoors isn’t where you’ll be entertained there’s a movie theatre across the street and Massey Hall is close by!

**Downtown Yonge is approximately within the boundaries of Richmond St and Grosvenor St and between Bay St and Church St. The closest subway station is Dundas Station.**

Bloor West Village/High Park

High Park Best Toronto Neighbourhoods

 

Perhaps one of our favourite neighbourhoods to visit, Bloor West Village is located in the outskirts of the downtown core and has such a relaxed vibe you really do feel like you’re in a village rather than the busy city that is Toronto.

Though largely residential, the shopping district offers trendy restaurants and cafes, small markets with fresh produce and a variety of specialty shops selling clothing, food and household goods. We love walking down the street, taking in the people passing by and window shopping as we go.

What may be the highlight of this area however, is Toronto’s biggest park – High Park – though whether it is actually a part of Bloor West Village is debated. Walking trails, playgrounds, dog parks, cafes, a nature centre, a pool, a winter ice rink, and a zoo are just some of the activities and features of High Park. In the warmer months, it is a popular place for all manner of people looking to get active, relax in the shade of a tree, or just enjoy being in the outdoors.

Our favourite reason to visit High Park? The Sakura, or cherry blossoms, that bloom sometime at the end of April or beginning of May, if the weather is right. With a full bloom, the park is transformed into a magical, light-pink wonderland.

**Bloor West Village is approximately within the boundaries of Jane St and Olympus Ave along Bloor Street West. The closest subway stations are Runnymede Station or Jane Station for Bloor West Village, and High Park Station for High Park.**

Church-Wellesley Village

Church-Wellesley Village is an LGBT community that is inclusive of all people and is located right in the downtown core. Heading here you’ll find an eclectic variety of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Two larger events occur in this area annually. The first event, Halloween on Church, is a massive street party on October 31 where thousands of people dress in costume and head out to the streets to enjoy the festivities including live music, food and mass amounts of celebrating!

The second event is Pride Week which is centred around this neighbourhood and is one of the largest pride festivals in the world. Ten days of parades, concerts, events and parties celebrate the diversity of the city and the pride taken in Toronto’s acceptance of all people.

**Church-Wellesley Village is approximately within the boundaries of Yonge St and Jarvis St and between Charles St E and Gould St. The closest subway stations are College and Wellesley.**

Kensington Market

Kensington Market Toronto

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a round-the-world trip, you’ll not need to go any further than Kensington Market. It is a diverse neighbourhood of narrow streets lined with colourful Victorian houses and all manner of shops and restaurants.

Here you’ll experience the very definition of multiculturalism and take that trip around the world as you find shops and goods from the Middle East, South America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

If you’re around in the summer, head down on the last Sunday of each month when the streets become pedestrian-only and street performers emerge to entertain shoppers as they browse the goods available!

**Kensington Market is approximately within the boundaries of College St and Dundas St W and between Bathurst St and Spadina Ave. The closest subway stations are Queen’s Park or St. Patrick station though the College St or Dundas St West streetcars have closer stops.**

Centre Island

Since it is bordered by water, we consider Centre Island a type of neighbourhood or district in itself. Located a short ferry ride from Toronto’s downtown, it is one of the chain of islands off Toronto Harbour. Though it may not be what you typically think of as an island getaway, it has many components of that ideal image: beaches, canoe and kayak rentals to take out onto the water, outdoor sports areas and restaurants. The only thing missing is accommodation which can easily be found back in the city by Toronto Harbour or on one of the neighbouring islands, Algonquin Island, which has a bed-and-breakfast.

Centre Island is also home to Centreville Amusement Park, popular with families for its rides, bumper boats, water slides, miniature golf and animal farm. For those looking for more adult entertainment, music festivals are held on the island in the summer including Electric Island, a concert held at least once a month from May to September.

**Centre Island can only be accessed by ferry. See: currentCentre Island. The closest subway station is Union and the Spadina streetcar has a closer stop.**

 

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Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre – Where to go in Toronto to Find Happiness

Happiness. At times elusive, at times all-encompassing. It’s what we all chase and yet it’s what many of us can’t seem to find. In Toronto however, there is one place where happiness isn’t just found… it’s the norm.

Famous People Players Front Entrance

Finding a Treasure – One of the Most Unique Things To Do in Toronto

We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled into the commercial lot in an area outside downtown Toronto. The nondescript multi-unit building is not what typically comes to mind when the term “dinner-theatre” is used but we threw aside our first impressions and parked the car. What we didn’t know in those moments from the time we turned into the lot until we opened the front doors, was that hidden within the unprepossessing exterior, was a pearl of a treasure.

As we stepped through the doors and took our place in line to enter the dining area, we were greeted with a friendly ‘hello’ and directions to the washrooms, should we need. Already we were smiling in reaction to the warmth of the greeting. Those smiles seemed to reappear frequently throughout the entire evening. As the line continued to move, we took a look around the entrance. What we saw spoke of an amazing history and a profound impact on the community.

From the ceiling hung large stars adorned with the photos and names of former and current employees, and a description of all that Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre meant to them, in their own words. Along the wall, photos of performers and performances throughout the years were displayed along with pictures of famous personalities who have attended one of their shows around the world at one time or another.

It was, in fact, Liberace who discovered this spectacular show, bringing it to Vegas as his opening act for years where it captured the hearts of stars and audiences alike. Touring the world, collecting experiences and fans, the show settled back in Toronto and delivers the same kind of sensational performances for which it was first recognized.

What we hadn’t fully realized was the profound impact it has, and has had, on the performers and staff as well as the community as a whole. That is, until we were seated for dinner and had the privilege of talking to the staff themselves.

Famous People Players Dining Room

It’s More Than Dinner & A Show… It’s Where Special Happens

The slogan of Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre, “Where Special Happens”, hints at something deeper than just a spectacular show of dazzling talent and entertaining puppetry. It breaks down, into three words, what is at the very core of the company, its history and its purpose.

Diane Dupuy, the founder of Famous PEOPLE Players, began working with individuals with learning disabilities over 40 years ago when she started the theatre. She herself had struggled in school failing to find an outlet for her creativity and suffering from difficulties with attention that, at that time, were not regularly identified or aided in the school system. Identifying a need to remove limits and offer hope she developed a much sought after production that impressed audiences and saw them heading to Broadway, Las Vegas, and many countries around the world. At the same time, she provided a creative outlet and a unique form of expression for herself and those involved.

The staff and performers are still largely comprised of people with learning disabilities who have found a home with Famous PEOPLE Players and whose stories are a testament to the amazing impact and work of Diane as well as an inspiration to all who hear them.

Diane Dupuy Famous People Players Theatre Toronto

While we ate our dinner, we were fortunate to have been able to start up conversations with many of the waiters and staff who were busily working around us. Each one had a unique story. Each one changed because of Famous PEOPLE Players. Each one brightening as they spoke, eyes shining with happiness.

There was Nastasha, the girl who refreshed our water. In fact, we don’t remember when our water was ever empty over the entire course of our meal and each time our glasses were refilled, a smile was on her face. We were told when she first came to the theatre she was so shy she didn’t want to let go of her mother, her chin tightly hugging her chest in an attempt to avoid eye contact. It didn’t take long before she found her place and became the talkative, smiling girl we met.

Then there was Michael, one of the kitchen staff, who we spoke to as he passed. He’d worked at other places, he said, but none of them understood him or what he needed, When we asked him what it was that he needed he said simply, “patience”. That is what he has found at Famous PEOPLE Players and he said that he is now happy every day he comes to work.

Perhaps one of the most memorable of the staff was Benny. With Famous PEOPLE Players almost from the start, he leaves an impression on all who have the chance to meet him. It was his story that really stuck with us. Joining the theatre at age 16, Benny still had yet to speak. Not one single word. Though he was uncommunicative verbally he was still able to participate as a performer. Unfortunately, he struggled on stage, missing cues during practice and twice during performances. Diane reminded him that three mistakes on stage meant he would be reassigned to a job off-stage. After making that third mistake, knowing that he would be removed from the show and his mother would be present for a performance that day, Benny looked at Diane and spoke his first words…ever: “I have to perform because my mother will be watching!”

Stories like these abound and showed us that the experience was more than just a dinner and a show… it really is where special happens.

famous people players toronto black light show

A Truly Entertaining Black Light Show

It is true that the history and purpose of Famous PEOPLE Players is extraordinary. It made us especially happy to be present for the evening. But beyond its inspirational story is an internationally-renowned, simply entertaining performance using puppets and black lighting, music and humour. The magic produced on stage is often spell-binding. Performers are not seen but instead, illuminated objects are brought to life by the cast dressed from head-to-toe in black. Then there are the puppets. Some of the show includes songs performed by, often life-sized, puppet-versions of the original artists. The movements so life-like that you often forget you’re watching an imitation of the real thing.

As the puppets and bright shapes and objects floated and danced across the stage, our smile that had carried on from the beginning of the evening grew wider, our laughter a common occurrence. At the end of the show, when they turned up the lights and provided the audience with a behind the scenes glimpse as to how the puppets are brought to life by the cast, our appreciation for the talent and hard work only grew. It is a show unlike anything we’ve seen before.

famous people players dinner

Where To Go In Toronto For An Unexpected Fine Dining Experience

The evening started with a meal in the dining room before we were lead to the theatre to watch the performance. It was during this meal that we were able to speak to so many of the staff whose stories touched us deeply. It was also here that we enjoyed one of the best fine dining meals we’ve had in Toronto.

Our culinary experience started with a fresh salad and some entertainment by a phenomenal jazz quartet. While they are not present every evening, we were lucky to have them there to enhance our dining experience. When the main came out we were pleasantly surprised. Though we knew celebrity Chef Christopher Woods created the menu, we weren’t expecting the exceedingly high level of fine dining fare. Between us we had a perfectly cooked steak and a deliciously seasoned salmon, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of veggies.

dessert at famous people players theatre

With happily sated appetites, and equally full hearts after speaking to so many happy staff, we moved onto the theatre before returning for dessert. The dessert was a special treat by Chef Dufflet and for those who are familiar with Toronto’s food scene, the name Dufflet Pastries will ring a salivating bell. We were treated to a mini cake each for dessert – one black and white mousse mini and one lemon raspberry mascarpone mini – and without leaving a single crumb, we finished both while being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator.

Though the mealtime entertainments change, we can’t imagine the quality of the culinary experience doing so as well!

A Night In Toronto That Leaves You… Happy

From the minute we walked into Famous PEOPLE Players theatre in Toronto, when we were greeted by that first smile and the rotating stars hanging overhead, to the exquisite meal we enjoyed over conversation about the incredible impact the theatre has had on its members. From the one-of-a-kind performance of lights and music, to the 5 star dessert we gobbled up. The night started with a smile that held throughout and it ended with us realizing that, for several hours, in a theatre just outside of Toronto, we felt simply and purely, happy.

 

Heading to, or in, the Toronto area? Find out more information about Famous PEOPLE Players, their showtimes and their not-for-profit work by visiting FamousPeoplePlayers.com or calling 416-532-1137 / 1-888-453-3385.

 

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Romance & Wine: Riverbend Inn in Niagara-On-The-Lake

From our first visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, in Ontario, Canada, we understood why people claim this region as one of the best for a romantic getaway. The area offers incredible scenery of seemingly endless stretches of vineyards and natural beauty with wineries offering tours, views and festivals and hotels with luxury, character and history. Add to that a close proximity to the many attractions of Niagara Falls and you’ve got a pretty fantastic destination overall.

The Niagara Region wine festivals are a huge draw for us and we often find ourselves heading that way when we can. We love what the festivals mean: a series of wineries providing wine tastings, and often food and wine pairings, on given dates with passes that allow you to hop from winery to winery (with a designated driver of course) tasting the very best the area has to offer. It’s an amazing time, with some incredible flavours, and becomes a romantic outing for us each and every time as we explore the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara on the whole.

Driveway to Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Romantic Getaway in Ontario

What we’ve had difficulty doing however, is pinpointing which of the many accommodations would be perfect to turn our outing to a romantic getaway. That is until we discovered Riverbend Inn & Vineyard, one of the best hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake for just that purpose, and combined it with one of the wine festivals of the region.

Riverbend Inn: The Perfect Setting For Romance & Wine

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-On-The-Lake

Though it was winter, there was no decrease in the beauty of the Niagara wine country. We drove through frozen countryside, sunlight sparkling off the snow and ice that clung to the branches reaching up from the vineyards on either side of us. Our final turn had us following one of the most scenic roads, the Niagara River Parkway, with views of the Niagara River and more beautiful landscape. When we reached the sign for the Riverbend Inn & Vineyard we were greeted with a view of a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of lawn, garden and vineyards.

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-on-The-Lake

This was definitely a place to enjoy a weekend together, with privacy for acres surrounding the property, stunning views over the vineyard and a stay in an intimate historic hotel. In fact, the history of Riverbend Inn & Vineyard can be traced back to 1809 and has changed from farmhouse and farmland to schoolhouse to art gallery and, eventually, to the 21 room Georgian-style inn that it is today. With so much history, charm and character, it is no wonder we felt so enchanted with the place.

We found the location perfect for making our way to the wineries that often participate in the festivals and is only a short drive from Niagara Falls, a romance destination of the world. Even in winter, with the falls frozen over and the coloured lights creating a rainbow over the solid white mass of previously free-flowing water, Niagara Falls remains an awe-inspiring sight. We passed by to take a look and headed to a nearby restaurant with window seating that faced the Falls to enjoy a candlelight dinner before returning to the hotel for the night.

Find out more information about Riverbend Inn & Vineyard and their prices!

The Property: A Unique & Scenic Experience

view from Riverbend Inn over the vineyard

Though we realized the property was special when we first arrived, it only became more interesting as we explored. The stunning views were found from all directions and the history of the hotel was reflected from the front lobby to the original front entrance of the mansion. Photos, artwork and pieces of furniture and decor paid homage to its origins, while new additions and friendly service added to its luxury.

Riverbend Inn is also home to a restaurant serving meals in the elegant dining room. There is an antique bar where some of the vineyards own wine is served and offers a patio to enjoy both food and drink during the warmer months. Regardless of when you go though, we’re pretty sure that view never gets old.

gazebo for weddings at the Riverbend Inn Niagara-On-The-Lake

We noticed the gazebo and were told that weddings take place outside and that it is one of the only hotels in the Niagara region that has views of the vineyards for an extra special ceremonial backdrop. Though that’s not quite the romantic escape we had in mind when we went, we could definitely see it as being a perfect venue for a wedding in the Niagara region and having a bridal suite doesn’t hurt either!

The Room: Comfort & Luxury In A Historic Setting

Room at RIverbend Inn NIagara-on-the-Lake

It wouldn’t be one of the historic hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake if the rooms didn’t live up to the promise of the exterior. Twenty-one uniquely decorated rooms provide a cozy and comfortable experience with some added luxuries. We absolutely loved the fireplace, especially in the winter, and snuggled up to enjoy the warmth as it permeated the spacious room.

fireplace in the room at RIverbend Inn Niagara-on-the-lake

When we weren’t out hopping from winery to winery for the festival, we spent a large amount of time in the comfort of the room. The flat screen TV offered entertainment, the in-room refreshments kept us going and we found ourselves lulled into a relaxed state over the course of the weekend.

Added to that was the incredible view from the balcony that overlooked the vineyard. It was a pleasure to wake up every morning, slide open the curtains and have such a stunning view waiting… especially after a solid sleep on a bed that was so comfortable it was difficult to pull ourselves from in the mornings.

Planning a Romantic Getaway in Niagara-On-The-Lake

While a wine festival may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a food and wine festival can be an altogether different matter. Food and wine paired right is a spectacular culinary experience and if you aren’t one for wine or alcohol, buying a designated driver pass enables you to enjoy the amazing food created by some of Niagara regions top restaurants and chefs with water instead of wine. Moving from winery to winery allows you to enjoy the scenery of the area and should you crave something more substantial, many wineries have world class restaurants for a romantic meal together.

If a wine, or food and wine, festival is still not something that interests you, the region boasts so many views, restaurants, and activities and with a short drive to Niagara Falls, you can partake in some popular tourism before heading back to Niagara-on-the-Lake for peaceful nights.

Though where we call home is a short 45 minute drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake, for us staying in the region and making an overnight or weekend vacation out of the visit is something we enjoy. It’s one of our favourite destinations for a weekend trip and now that we know there is accommodation like Riverbend Inn that adds to the romance and experience while being located right in the heart of it all, we’ll be planning many more of them in the near future!

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reverbend inn & vineyard Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

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Loews Hotel Vogue – Where To ‘Strike A Pose’ In Montreal

It’s only about six hours by car, five and a half by train or one hour by plane. Though it’s a relatively short distance away from Toronto, and still within Canada, the culture and experience is quite different. While you’ll see all signs are bilingual in Toronto, when you cross that border between Ontario and Quebec, and then head into Montreal, the signs become more French, less English, and the streets look more like a small European city. The history, culture and language are different and after several conversations with locals, you’ll be left with the feeling that you’ve entered another country altogether. It’s a place we love to visit, perhaps for that very reason, yet we struggled for a long time to find the best place to stay in Montreal that would offer a great location with the comfort and luxury we look for while travelling. That is, until we found Loews Hotel Vogue.





We had driven through a late December snowstorm in order to spend a few days in Montreal. We wanted to see the city dressed in holiday spirit, attend a production of the Nutcracker Ballet by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, in which one of Carolann’s best friends would be dancing, and enjoy finding some more of the foodie treasures that are hidden among the many great restaurants in the city.

Though we had stayed at other, less-than-impressive hotels in the past and looked at many accommodation options in Montreal for this more recent trip, none really stood out as much as Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal. Though we hadn’t stayed at a Loews Hotel before, we knew of their reputation for incredible service and luxury. Their only location in Canada, in Montreal, was beckoning us to see if they could really live up to the hype. And with ‘Vogue’ in the name, we were expecting less of the kind sung in a Madonna song and more in the way of a high level of style and service. We were not disappointed!

Loews Hotel Vogue: Luxury in Downtown Montreal

Loews luxury hotels in Montreal

It wasn’t difficult to find and when we got there, the location of the hotel left us with a great first impression. Loews Hotel Vogue is located in an active area of shops and restaurants close to the city centre and in close proximity to the metro station.

It was a short walk, even in the bitter winter cold, to get to any number of restaurants and we found ourselves ducking into an amazing Vietnamese restaurant. We also enjoyed walking the streets as they came to life at night with people passing by and the lights lit against the dark night sky. With access to much of what the city has to offer, the hotel is a prime place to stay when visiting Montreal and the onsite parking is a huge plus though not necessary with the metro station being so close. Valet parking made it even easier to check-in and for us, it was a great way to escape the cold on our way from the car to the front lobby.

Luxury & Comfort From the Moment You Step Inside

Loews Hotel Vogue Room

Entering the lobby, the modern, art deco interior greeted us as we approached the front desk to check-in and we were struck by how the style lent itself to the boutique feel of the hotel. The restaurant in the hotel, La Societe Bistro, promised a relaxing atmosphere and quality food as we passed to head to the elevators and took a glance, and a sniff, from the restaurant’s lobby entrance.

Opening the door to our room only reaffirmed our initial impression that we may have just come across one of the best boutique hotels in Montreal and one of the comfortable, luxury hotels in the city. The room was incredibly spacious with a front entrance and a hallway, complete with a vanity and a large closet, that lead to the bedroom. A large bed drew our immediate attention with its accent pillows and, following the decor of the rest of the hotel, art deco artwork above.

loews hotel vogue best boutique hotels in Montreal

A couch at the end of the bed separated the space and made a comfortable seating area from which to watch the large screen TV situated atop the large desk. With multiple power outlets and ports, it was definitely created with the guest in mind providing for the electronic needs of frequent travellers, business travellers and tourists alike.

Loews hotel coffee station

Between the complimentary 24 hour coffee bar in the lobby and the a tea and coffee station on the desk in our room, we had more than what we required for refreshments. The coffee station also made the space a great area for us to relax in, and we definitely took full advantage of the amenities offered!

Pure Bliss Is A Bubble Bath

loews hotel vogue bathroom

There’s something rather divine about having a large bathtub with bubbles and jets to relax in. But there’s something extra special when that is offered in a gorgeous bathroom with a television for your entertainment. The marble tiles, the large stand-up shower with a rain-shower head and an abundance of toiletries available throughout the washroom was impressive. The bathtub experience was pure luxury. Between the bedroom with the beckoning bed promising comfort and a good night’s sleep, the seating area providing entertainment and relaxation and the bathroom offering pure bliss, we’re not too sure which part of the room was our favourite!

Want to check out Loews Hotel Vogue? See more details about the hotel & their rates.

Best Place to Stay in Montreal? It’s In The Details.

Loews Hotel Bose ipod dock

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what really makes a hotel stand out to us is the attention to detail and it was this attention to detail that made Loews Hotel Vogue the best place to stay in Montreal. In the hotel you’ll find all you need for an amazing stay in Downtown Montreal. In fact, while access to the rest of the city is a piece of cake from its location, the services and amenities available in-house may have you thinking twice about leaving at all.

Why go out when you have a 24 hour fitness centre, the Lobby Bar to grab a cocktail by the hotel’s own mixologist, a coffee bar for a hot beverage at any time of the day or night, hotel wide, incredible fast Wi-Fi, in-room spa services, a fabulous restaurant and lounge in the lobby and room service for those who choose to keep on those plush bathrobes, as well as a whole list of services for those with kids, teens or pets!

toiletries loews hotel vogue montreal

These extensive services and amenities in addition to small touches in the rooms themselves like a radio-alarm-clock-docking-station, a large variety of toiletries available in the washroom, the TV above the bathtub as an added touch, the convenient coffee station in the room itself and the ultra-comfortable pillows and mattresses all add up to a memorable stay beyond the luxury and comfort of the rest of the hotel.

If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Montreal, whether you are driving in or relying on in-city transportation, there really is no better place to look for comfort and luxury, with a boutique feel, than Loews Hotel Vogue.

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Toronto Christmas Market – A Distillery District Winter Wonderland

Toronto Christmas Market – One Of The Top Things to Do in Toronto in the Winter

The holiday season is synonymous with tradition. No matter what you believe in or what holiday you celebrate, for most of us it is a time for family and kindness, reflection and warm wishes. For us, we are immersed in traditions we’ve developed with family, friends and each other. One tradition that we started during the first few months we were dating is a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market.

While there are many things to do in the Distillery District year round, the Toronto Christmas Market is definitely one of the top things to do in Toronto in the winter and always one of our favourites. If you’re visiting Toronto, or are already in the area and looking for something to do as the weather turns colder, here’s what you can expect to find when visiting the Toronto Christmas Market.

Street Vendors & Shops

toronto christmas market vendors

The streets at the market are lined with European-style wood cabins selling a variety of different products for purchase by the people strolling by them.

Christmas market Toronto 2015

You’ll find chocolate, stuffed animals, Christmas decorations, jams and other goods, meats and breads, handicrafts and knit products, and so much more.  Each year the local artisans, entrepreneurs and businesses set up shop and impress us with what they have to offer.

Toronto Christmas Market ornaments

Not only can you purchase goods at one of the many cabins, the shops that are permanent residents of the distillery district are open as well and offer not only an added variety of goods to peruse, but an escape from the cold when needed!

Food & Drink

Eating chimney stax at the Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto CHristmas market foodBeer garden toronto christmas market

 

 

 

 

The highlight of our travels usually comes down to our culinary experience and our visits to the Toronto Christmas Market are no exception. Schnitzel and sausages, poutine and sandwiches, fudge and donuts, hot chocolate and Gluhwein (mulled wine) and various other tasty treats are available for purchase throughout the market at the stalls that are set up. Added to that, the local shops also include cafes and restaurants where you can find some more amazing food and drink as you explore the market.

Chimney stax toronto christmas market

Chimney Stax Toronto chimney stax baking co toronto christmas market

 

 

 

This year, we were excited to see one of the Toronto food trucks represented at one of the cabins. Chimney Stax Baking Co. is a food truck we’ve been trying to hunt down so when we heard it would be at the Christmas Market, we bee-lined it to the stand to purchase one of their amazing looking treats – cylindrical baked dough rolled in a variety of toppings and filled with a variety of options. We went for the one just rolled in sugar and were left speechless over just how good it was. We will definitely be hunting this truck down again to try more of the flavours available.

Activities and Entertainment

Toronto Christmas Market

The decorations and lights create such a festive and enchanting atmosphere and the activities and entertainment throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market only add to the holiday cheer. Carolers and dancers on stage, rides for the children, a 50+ foot Christmas tree, Santa Claus and Rudolph, and regular contests, events and holiday fun can be found throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market.

Toronto Christmas market crowds

There’s always something different going on so it’s good to check the schedule and see what’s happening. We happened to visit this year on ‘Red Nose Weekend’ which meant we got a red nose and got to see Rudolph roaming around the market!

A Festive Atmosphere

Toronto Christmas market sign  TOronto CHristmas Market santa

As we approach the entrance and look up at the lit sign that reads “Toronto Christmas Market” we always feel a small rush of excitement. The warmth of familiarity washes over us. This is our home. This is something that is rooted much deeper than a superficial glance or fleeting moment. It is tied to strong memories of good times and emotional connections with loved ones. Each year that we walk the brick-paved streets of the Distillery District in Toronto, we marvel at the transformation that has taken place to turn this area into a magical Christmas wonderland.

Toronto Christmas Market Snowman

With the sounds of Christmas carols and laughter in the background, we inevitably grab some hot chocolate to warm ourselves from the cold and usually find something ridiculously delicious to eat from one of the vendors. We stroll along the streets, enjoying the activities and holiday spirit and relish the time we have to soak up the warmth of the festive atmosphere. At the Toronto Christmas Market, we forget the hustle and bustle of the city streets beyond and find some time to really enjoy the holiday season

Getting There and More Information

Toronto Christmas market 2015

Hours & Admission:

Toronto Christmas Market 2016 runs Nov 18 – Dec 22.

Open Tuesday to Thursdays, 12pm – 9pm – FREE Admission

Open Fridays, 12pm – 10pm – FREE Admission before 5:00pm

Open Saturdays (10am – 10pm) and Sundays (10am – 9pm) – Cost: $6.00

Mondays: CLOSED

 

Getting There

The Toronto Christmas Market provides detailed directions, parking options and methods of transportation

 

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What to do and see at the Toronto Christmas Market pinToronto Christmas Market 2016 pin

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Oh Canada! The Good, The Bad & The Coffee

OH CANADA! It’s been six months.

Well, 5 months, 18 days and some odd number of hours.

As of today, July 1, 2015, also known as Canada Day, that’s how long it’s been since we last stepped foot on Canadian soil…and yes, we do miss that Canadian soil!

Oh, Canada Day, the anniversary of Canada’s confederation, a time when we’d normally be celebrating at some ribfest (literally a festival of BBQ ribs), cottage, or campground, enjoying some Canadian beer and a fireworks display. Sigh. Canada does know how to throw a great party!

Instead, we’re in South Korea, home of ‘Gangnam Style’, not a Canadian flag in sight (no seriously, there’s a street dubbed “flag street” with every flag you can think of… except Canada!), holed up in a pretty fantastic apartment watching a cuddly cat of questionable origins as part of our first housesit.

Would we change a thing? Absolutely not. So while we’re not catching the next flight home – much to the dismay of our family – we are taking this day to reminisce about the country we call home and reflect on all the things we miss about it as well as those things we just couldn’t wait to see in our rear-view mirror!

What We Miss About Canada

Food, Glorious Food!

salt and vinegar pringles japan

Oh yes, we’re having an amazing culinary experience while travelling. We love trying new food and discovering the dishes and flavours of each place we visit, and most places have some international restaurants in case we need a change, but we sometimes think back to what it’s like back home where you can find a restaurant that serves virtually any type of cuisine you could want. If not, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find the ingredients you need to make those dishes.

The choices and options are endless when it comes to food in Canada and we find ourselves missing the ability to walk into a grocery store or market and pick out whatever we are craving. Some things we’ve specifically noticed that are missing are: oatmeal/oats, milk (in many places it just doesn’t taste the same), meats (often many cuts are just too expensive), fruits and vegetables (it is hard, or expensive, to find fruits and vegetables indigenous to other countries), and good ol’ Canadian maple syrup.

What You Want, Baby I Got It!

Think of something you want to buy. it can be anything at all. Got it? Chances are you’ll be able to easily find it at some store Canada. The convenience we took for granted is sorely missing in many countries we’ve visited and it’s not just the food, as we mentioned above. Sure, there’s an almost unnecessary abundance of STUFF, something that has hit home the more we travel and realize how little of that stuff we actually need, but it often makes things that much easier and efficient when you can just run out and grab what you are looking for.

Over-the-counter medication, clothing in our sizes, and so many, many things are harder to locate, if you can locate them at all. One thing we noticed in particular is stick deodorant. It seems that men’s deodorant only comes as aerosol or roll-on and the few women’s stick deodorants we’ve found include bleach, a common ingredient in women’s skin care products in Asian countries.

Time Is Money!

Speaking of the efficiency of having everything you need at your fingertips, we also miss the general appreciation of expediency and efficiency. People just tend to MOVE faster back home and seem to look for ways to get things done, and get them done fast!

From the cashiers at the store to the people on the street, there’s an underlying ‘in-and-out’ mentality that we definitely notice has been missing during our recent travels – especially when we’re waiting in a line that’s moving at the speed of molasses to purchase a tube of, what we hope is toothpaste, and attempting to maintain our position in line as several people endeavour to claim a spot in front of us.

A big one on our radar is clothes dryers. Perhaps it is energy saving, but there seems to be very few people that actually use clothes dryers – even when they own one – instead opting to hang their clothes. Now, we used to hang most of our clothing ourselves when we lived in Canada but in humid climates and during rainy season, it takes DAYS to dry!

The Canadian Addiction

tim hortons canada

 

Always Fresh – Always Tim Hortons! For most Canadians, these words create a sensory-memory onslaught: the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of honey crullers, vanilla dips, and maple dips all lined up, the taste of that Timbit you just had to have…for all our Canadian friends out there, we’ll go the nostalgic route and picture this particular Timbit as a dutchie…

It’s all part of a long relationship we Canadians have with a coffee and donut franchise called Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons AKA Timmy’s AKA great, reasonably priced coffee is something that we’ve bonded over with other Canadians abroad.

Surprisingly, we’ve found that some of the most die-hard Timmy’s fans were actually NOT Canadian. We met an American soldier based in Japan and a Japanese citizen that had briefly lived in Canada who actually have friends ship them coffee from Tim Hortons in Canada. We’ve met a slew of others from around the world who have travelled to Canada and who raved about their coffee and donuts! And don’t let us get started on Roll Up The Rim!

24 Hour… Everything!

This one ties into the concept of convenience and is a wholly unnecessary, but totally appreciated, luxury. While convenience stores are generally 24/7 everywhere you go, we really miss being able to find 24 hour establishments like grocery stores, drugstores, Tim Hortons (oh yes it is!) and restaurants. Whether we’re up late and looking for a caffeine hit, in need of something in the middle of the night, or just feel like doing some twilight shopping, there’s usually a place you can go.

The Great Outdoors

banff canada landscape

Road trips, camping, cottaging and just spending time outdoors and exploring the amazing sights of the country are all things we love to do, and love to do in Canada. We’ve had some amazing road trips, including a long weekend where we drove to New Brunswick, a great day-long wine tasting excursion to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and a (what-a-coincidence) Canada Day long weekend camping trip.

Yes, we see so much of other countries now and we’ve even done road trips overseas, but there is so much to see and do, no matter where you live in the country, and getting out and participating in summer activities involving nature and the outdoors in Canada is something we really do miss. Nature is everywhere and the idea of a concrete jungle is not something that is readily applied to any city in Canada.

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth?

While we’re quoting Jackie Chan (one of Carolann’s favourite actors) with this heading, we often feel this phrase screaming through our heads when we try to convey a message. It’s not so much the English language that we miss, but the ability to communicate, read, understand, and navigate easily without pantomime and hand signals, without google translate or having to draw pictures.

It can get tiring having to strain your ears to hear the odd word or phrase you may understand or to use both words and charades to communicate. Don’t get us wrong, we love learning new languages and have met so many people who try so hard to help us despite the language barrier, but sometimes we do miss being able to relax and just let the conversation flow.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Many of us Canadians complain about our health care and sure, in the past, we’d participate in a healthy dose of health-care reform dialogue ourselves. There are the long wait times for procedures and hospital admission, a lack of beds in hospitals, and a lack of completely comprehensive coverage, to name a few. But now that we are full-time travellers and without the ability to hop into a doctor’s office when we need, we really notice the benefits of Canadian health care coverage.

Now, we have to factor in the cost of a doctor’s visit, any required tests, and any prescriptions we need to fill, as not everything is covered by our travel insurance. We also still need to wait in line. So, while we may have complained in the past, we definitely feel nothing but longing for the coverage we have back home.

We Are Family!

While last on this list, it is DEFINITELY not least. The hardest part about being away from Canada is being away from our loved ones. We have a saying: While we miss everyone terribly, it’s especially hard to leave the old and the young. We’ve got young toddlers and children in our family who are growing so fast, but instead of ‘before our eyes’ it’s ‘before our Skype app’ and we’ve got older family who we worry about, especially as health problems increase with age.

We miss them and we love them, and we are so fortunate they understand our need to travel and to forge a different path in life.

Things we definitely DON’T miss about Canada

canada-55981_1280

There’s A Slow, Slow Train Comin’

We definitely don’t miss the transit options back home. Travelling overseas has enabled us to experience truly accessible and extensive transit systems and the ease at which many countries facilitate travel within, and between, cities. With only expensive, slow train travel across country, limited subway systems and few, albeit growing, inter-connected bus systems, navigating from one place to another in Canada can get tricky and expensive.

Winter Is Coming

winter landscape

Nope, we don’t miss the changing seasons, or playing in the snow, or donning our winter coats and furry hats and mitts. The beauty of the leaves changing colour in fall?  Sure it makes for a pretty picture, but blink once and those leaves have fallen to the ground, and the trees are standing barren, as snowflakes start making their way down to bury those leaves in an ice-cold chilly grave. That’s what we think about winter.

Life In The Fast Lane

Sure, Canada is convenient and efficient but with that also comes the sense of urgency and stress of getting where you need to go… now! Part of the reason we left was to get away from that ongoing rat race and constant struggle to maximize, find and not waste, time. This battle seems to cast one heck of a shadow on happiness and we find ourselves calmer and more content to be away from it all.

Money, Money, Money!

Canada can get expensive and we definitely do not miss the price we pay to live in an urban or suburban area. We’re living abroad cheaper, from place to place, than we did when we were at home.  Everything – from accommodations, dining out, groceries (even though some things are more expensive depending on where you go) and transportation – is often cheaper.

Brrr.. It’s Cold In Here

Did we mention this already? Winter sports are popular in Canada, but give us a pair of water skis over the downhill kind any day. Granted, Carolann was never much into winter sports…at all, and Macrae spent the last few winters in Canada hibernating rather than playing in the outdoors. Even still, we’re more inclined to take to sunny beaches and warmer climates over anything that can be considered cold weather.

Here’s A Tip

piggy bank and change

Many places around the world do not participate in this practice – Canada, however is not one of them. Tipping is considered the norm and is typically anywhere from 10-20%, depending on the type of service and independent of just how well that service is performed. While traditionally, a tip was to reward an individual for a ‘job well done’ or going ‘above and beyond’, it is now just assumed.

We don’t mind tipping, but it’s nice to not feel obligated to do so in many of the countries we visit. In fact, there are even some countries that consider tipping an insult as they believe it is their job to provide exceptional service.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Taxes!

Although in Canada, taxes are added at the cash register, taxes are included in the price shown in most other places, so you’ll seldom be surprised at just how much something costs. We definitely don’t miss having to do the math to figure out exactly what our total will be.

Did we mention Winter?

 

What do you miss most (or least) when you leave your home country? Comment below and let us know!