Valentine’s Day Vacations

Valentine’s Day is about spending quality time with a loved one – whether it’s with a romantic partner or your best friend.  Being a hopeless romantic, I enjoy trying new things and creating memories with people I cherish.  That’s why I compiled a list of my favourite romantic rendezvous around the world.

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Beat the heat with your partner and kayak around Hill Inlet.  Make a weekend of it and sail around the islands, snorkeling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Banff National Park, Canada

Take a road trip through the Rocky Mountains for a luxurious stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs.  Sip on hot cocoa as you ride a horse drawn sleigh through the snow, then warm up in the infamous hot springs.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

After a long day of tanning on the beach and dining on jerk chicken, cuddle up in front of a fire.  Sandals Ochi has ocean view fire pits so you can listen to the waves while watching the flames flicker.

Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Spend your days frolicking in the crystal clear ocean, and your evenings gazing at the ever changing sky as the sun fades.

Toronto, Canada

Book a dinner reservation at Toronto’s castle, Casa Loma.  Tour around the majestic property hand in hand with your loved one.

Top 30 Travel Experiences

Thirty.  A number that seemed ancient when I was a teenager and felt distant when I was twenty-something.  The thirty year mark has arrived and, seemingly, out of nowhere.  Thoughts about life goals race through my mind.  I can’t help but feel left behind.  Most of my peers are engaged, married or have started families of their own.  Me?  I’m single and fumbling my way through life.

These thoughts lead me to ponder what’s important to me and what I’ve accomplished.  Travel holds a place in my heart and, in honour of my 30th birthday, this is a collection of my 30 favourite travel experiences.

1) Booking my first international flight

This is when it all started!  My best friend extended an invitation to travel to Australia with her.  After declining more than once, I took the plunge and am thankful that I did.  This trip is what sparked my passion for travel.

2) Getting over my fear of spiders

I don’t like spiders.  If fact, they give me night terrors.  A fellow working at the Saskatoon Exhibition sensed my fear and encouraged me to get over it.  Notice the fear in my eyes?  I’m not over it.

3) Sydney Bridge Climb

This brings us to another fear of mine – heights.  Need your light bulb changed?  Don’t ask me to do it.  Standing on a chair or ladder makes me woozy.  This was another attempt to get over a fear.  Not wind or rain could stop us.  In fact, the wind and rain distracted me from the thought of falling into Sydney Harbour.

4) Hiking Grouse Grind

This seemed like a great idea at the time.  I enjoy mixing exercise into travel itineraries.  My mind changed quickly, approximately 30 minutes into the hike.  The workout and the view were breathtaking (no pun intended), and there’s a reward at the end.  Food!  A couple of restaurants sit on top of the grind. This is the closest I’ve come to climbing a mountain – a feat I still want to accomplish.

5) Wandering down Melbourne’s alleyways

Back alleys are thought to be dangerous, and rightly so.  In Melbourne, there is a district of alleys that are covered in art.  Many bars and lounges reside here and it’s become a safe, popular place to play.

6) Discovering Toronto’s districts

Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in Canada.  Feel like Asian cuisine for dinner?  Wander to Chinatown or Korea town.  Want to go shopping?  Hit up the markets in Kensington and the Distillery District.  I enjoy a mixture of bargains and luxury, and Toronto offers the best of both worlds.

7) Driving along the Great Ocean Road

This is the ultimate road trip.  Turquoise water glistened in the sunlight as we cruised along the coast line.  Beaches run for miles that we dipped our feet into, and coastal towns welcomed us for tea and lunch.

8) Meeting old friends in new places

Two weeks into my 12 month trip in Australia, I ran into a friend from high school.  We happened to be booked into the same hostel in Melbourne.  Small world, right?  Now that I have friends all over the globe, I make it a point to visit them if I’m in their neck of the woods.

9) Helicopter ride over the Twelve Apostles

The photo above sums up why this experience made the list.  It was my first time riding in a helicopter and I even got to sit beside the captain.

10) Rainbow over Niagara Falls

This photo was taken from my hotel room in Niagara Falls.  Expensive?  Yes.  Worth it?  Definitely!

11) Eating kangaroo steak

My friend and I enjoyed an elegant lunch on board a tram in Melbourne.  Kangaroo steak was on the menu and we hesitantly ordered it.  The verdict?  It’s delicious.

12) Wandering down the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake

I delight in walking around new neighborhoods.  This picturesque town is located where Niagara River meets Lake Ontario.  The sidewalks are vibrant with flowers and horse-drawn carriages are a means of transportation if you so choose.

13) Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

This is an experience that almost didn’t happen.  My mask filled up with water, the oxygen bubbles felt claustrophobic around my face, and my fear of heights kicked in when I couldn’t see the ocean floor.  Commence panic attack.  It took three tries before I chose to dive right in.

14) Getting drenched under Niagara Falls

Standing in line, wearing a poncho in 30 degrees Celsius (plus humidity) is not my idea of a good time. Getting rained on underneath waterfalls is, though.  We made a special trip across the border to ride on the Maid of the Mist.

15) Ocean kayaking in Byron Bay

Have you watched those YouTube videos where whales jump out of the water and almost land (or sometimes land) on a nearby boat?  I had a similar experience while kayaking in Byron Bay.

A Humpback whale and her calf were in the vicinity of our kayak group.  We huddled together and stopped paddling as it’s illegal to approach them.  A few minutes passed and we thought they swam out to sea.  Wrong!  The mother approached our small group of kayaks and breached within a few meters from us.

16) Eating smoked meat in Montreal

Tantalizing food is what drew me to Montreal.  I researched the best places to order a smoked meat sandwich and Schwartz’s made the cut.  The lineup was long but well worth the wait.

17) Celebrating my 25th birthday in Australia

I traded in -30 degrees and snow for +30 degrees and sunshine.  It was refreshing playing in a pool instead of a snowbank.

18) Dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

I am one of few people on this planet who hasn’t watched Forest Gump.  I am, however, one of many people who love seafood.  This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had and, yes, the bib was required.

19) Whale watching in Byron Bay

I spent every morning walking along the coastline and watching the sun rise.  The fishermen were out, casting lines on the most easterly point of Australia.  I sat nearby watching as whales breached in the distance.  I have paid for a whale watching experience before, but this surpassed it.  Seeing nature in all its glory is a fulfilling experience.

20) Catamaran ride in Turks & Caicos

It is hot and humid on the islands in October.  Gliding on top of the pristine water and catching the breeze felt wonderful.

21) Cuddling koalas in Brisbane

I held this little lady between naps at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  She is much heavier than she looks and her claws are sharp – but look at that face!

22) It’s Britney on my birthday, bitch!

It didn’t take long for me to book a trip to Las Vegas when I learned about Britney Spears’ residency at Planet Hollywood. What made it even better is that she scheduled a show on my birthday.  Hands down, best birthday yet!

23) Feeding kangaroos

I was nervous to approach these little guys.  Have you noticed how long their claws are?  They were just as friendly as they are cute.

24) Harley rides down back country roads

There’s something about being on the back of a motorcycle that relaxes me.  It’s my dream to cruise along California’s coastline, perhaps even on my own Harley Davidson motorcycle.

25) Spotting wild dolphins along Australia’s east coast

I was on my morning hike along the coastline in Byron Bay.  Little Wategos Beach was just below the path and kayakers were coming in to shore.  A pod of dolphins swam along side them, riding the waves. It was a remarkable sight.

26) Romania’s wild dogs

A common warning to travelers in Romania is to beware of wild dogs.  Our tour guide took us on a night walk around Bucharest, cutting through poorly lit alleyways.  Turning a corner we came face to face with a pack of dogs.  Were they viscous?  Not at all.  They were little beggar dogs in search for a meal.

27) Seeing the Irwin family

I was in for a surprise when I went to the Australia Zoo.  Steve Irwin’s family made an appearance and Bindi lured a giant crocodile out of the water.

28) Halloween in Transylvania

There’s no better place to be on Halloween than in Dracula’s castle.  An exclusive party was held at Corvin Castle and I won second place for best costume.

29) Sky diving over the Whitsunday Islands

In a second failed attempt to get over my fear of heights, I went skydiving.  Where better than over the Whitsunday Islands?  It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world to view from above.

30) My first time seeing the ocean

I was 23 years old when I first saw the ocean.  It’s a place I always felt that I would love.  I could hear the waves crashing as we neared the beach.  My hear raced with excitement and it’s the first time I really felt at peace.

Where I’ve Wandered

 

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Fiji
  • Jamaica
  • Netherlands
  • Romania
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • United States

Top 5 Places To Visit In Romania

Halloween is my favourite unofficial holiday – the candy, the costumes, the history – I love it all.  Where better in the world than to celebrate this occasion than in Transylvania?  I toured around the country with G Adventures for a week, walking in the footsteps of royalty and casualties.  Romania is a fascinating country and you must check out these places when you visit.

Corvin Castle

Corvin CastleYou might recognize this castle from the movie, Hotel Transylvania.  It is said that Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) was imprisoned here.  Although not proven to be true, you can wander into the torture chamber and gaze down into the bear pit.

Corvin Castle is where the Halloween festivities took place.  ‘Dracula’ welcomed the crowd across the bridge into the courtyard where pillories were displayed.  A lavish feast welcomed party goers in the Knight’s Hall and traditional Romanian dancers entertained the crowd.  Yours truly won second place for best costume!

Halloween Party

Peles Castle

Peles Castle

Peles Castle appears to be straight out of a fairy tail.  Located in the Carpathian Mountains, this is one of Europe’s most stunning castles.  Built in 1883, it served as a summer home of the royal family.

We hiked a fair distance through the forest and were welcomed by this picture perfect scene. Unfortunately the castle closed early and we were unable to roam inside.  Surrounded by seven terraces, there is plenty of space to wander outdoors and ample opportunity for impressive photos.

Peles Castle Grounds

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle is far from spooky.  Perched on top of a 200 foot rock, this castle’s link to Bram Stoker’s ‘Count Dracula’ is a weak one.  The author never visited the castle or Romania, but relied on research and his imagination to create the classic tale.

Inside is a large collection of art and furniture collected by Queen Mary.  Narrow stairways and hidden passages connect rooms of the castle.  The property overlooks Bran, a picturesque village.  If you wander behind the castle, across the river, you will find the original burial location of Queen Mary’s heart.  It has since been reunited with the grave of her body but the tomb is still in it’s original location.

View from Bran Castle

Casa Dracula

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Ever wonder where Vlad Tepes, the real Dracula, was born and raised?  Casa Dracula is the house turned restaurant that he resided in until the age of four.

Enjoy Dracula themed meals and beverages then wander upstairs to Vlad’s room.  We were in for a little scare since it was the eve of Halloween.

Dracula

Poienari Citadel

FullSizeRender (37.6) Poienari Citadel

 Poienari Citadel has the strongest connection to Vlad the Impaler on this list.  It was used as one of his main fortresses and displays an example of the tortures he put people through.

Located on Mount Cetatea, it’s a climb of 1480 stairs to reach the citadel.  Views of the surrounding landscape will take your breath away.  Once a castle, Poienari Citadel is now in ruins.  Watch your step while walking among the rubble.

Poienari Citadel walls

Toronto Treats & Eats

Toronto has one of the finest food scenes in the country.  There is a world of flavour to explore as this city is the most multicultural on the planet.  We are as passionate about food as we are about travel – always hungry for more.  These are some of our favourite places to break bread in the city.

Mövenpick Cafe

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Our first morning was spent indulging in a European style breakfast at Mövenpick Cafe.  The windows are lined with flowers and walls adorned with mirrors – a delightful atmosphere to begin the day in. Fresh salads, sandwiches and pastries are difficult to choose from, each one looking more flavourful than the next.  Located on Yonge Street, the picture windows make this a great spot to people watch while sipping on a latte.

Marché Market

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A visit to Toronto is not complete without a picnic in High Park.  We gathered healthy (and indulgent) treats from Marché, jumped on the subway and settled under the sun for lunch.  Marché has a sit down restaurant located on the street level of Brookfield Place.  The market, located on the lower level, is where we acquired our fare.  They offer fresh-squeezed juice, ready-made sandwiches, pastries and much more.  Everything we ate was appealing to the eye and the taste buds.

WVRST

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WVRST is a casual dining experience that offers a simple, yet diverse menu.  Inspired by a German beer hall, it’s the perfect place to meet friends and make new ones.  There are four menu options: sausage, beer, fries and dipping sauce.  The combinations of these items are endless and delicious.  Don’t eat meat?  They have vegetarian and vegan sausage.  Don’t drink beer?  They have a list of bottled ciders – we opted for a blood orange cider that was on special.

Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

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If you’re looking for the whole package – stylish, tasteful and charming – look no further.  Cluny Bistro offers all of that, and then some.  The atmosphere instantly drew us in and the pretty pastries kept us lingering.  One half of the bistro is a small cafe, complete with a pastry display.  The other half is a large dining area, perfect for dinner and cocktails.  Cluny Bistro is located in the Distillery District, a historic and sought out part of Toronto.

Carousel Bakery

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Located in St. Lawrence Market, this bakery is home of the ‘World Famous Peameal Bacon Sandwich’. Mention the word bacon and we will be there!  Celebrity chefs and the film industry flock to the Carousel Bakery for their sandwiches, wraps, bread and pastries.  The line-up was long and well worth the wait.