Through the eyes of Shay...
The only places that I have ever traveled to besides my home country, Iran, include Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, and Buffalo in New York which I visited twice. I have never spontaneously booked a trip with my friends and made it happen. There are so many factors that play a part before booking a flight. First, you have to determine who is on board for a vacation. Second, you have to find out how big or small your budget is to determine where you want to visit and what you can actually afford with that budget. If time continuously passes with no realistic decisions, you know the plans will not follow through. Be sure to book flights while you can, so you can avoid last minute cancellations and cold feet.
Throughout the last few years, I had plenty of time to think about where I truly want to visit and what I wanted to do during that time. In chronological order below, I have listed the top three places I wish to travel outside of Canada.
New York City: I have often ran this option by a good friend of mine. NYC is the closest place to home and the most inexpensive commute. The only thing that was stopping us from going was the attempt to book the same days off from work. If it went as planned, I would have visited Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. Once I got that out of the way, I would shop until I dropped and indulge in all the American food, whatever that may be. Then at night, I would dress up and explore the night life. Because I am a little daring, before I leave, I would make an appointment for a quick tattoo to top off the whole experience!
Cuba: As much as I love the city life, I also love the thought of laying in the white sand overlooking the breathtaking clear blue beach in the town of Veradero. I have been working non-stop for over a year, so Cuba would be the perfect location for a little getaway. I want to experience the Cuban culture in terms of the food and music. On top of that, who can forget about the all-inclusive activities that the resort has to offer.
Paris: The city looks extremely romantic. To be honest, the Eiffel Tower is where I have always dreamed for my engagement proposal to take place. I love French food, so this would be a perfect place to experience the authenticity. I want to visit the beaches and explore all the rich historical landmarks. But let's not forget how awesome wine tasting would be. I wouldn't know what to expect when I arrive, but I would plan my days based on my mood and see where life takes me.
Through the eyes of Amy...
Thinking of planning a getaway this winter season?
Whether you are planning a relaxing family trip, or an active outdoor vacation to a skip trip at a winter cottage country, there is something for everybody.
Here are five resorts, attractions, and cottages in Ontario where you can take your friends, family, or your romantic partner and expect quality and value to your winter experience!
1) JW Marriott The Rosseau Mokoka Resort & Spa, Minett, ON
If privacy and relaxation is what you need this holiday season, the JW Marriott is the perfect place for you. This family-oriented resort offers a beautiful scenery outlooking Lake Rosseau. Guests can spend their day in-doors in the pool, at the spa, or go snowmobiling on designated trails if they are looking for some fun adventure.
2) Horseshoe –A Skyline Resort, Barrie, ON
Take the weekend away with your entire family at the Horseshoe Resort. Outdoor activities include a 29 Alpine ski and snowboard run, tubing, fat biking, snowshoeing, and much more. Guests have the option to stay indoors and get pampered at the full-service Shizen Spa, enjoy the indoor pool, then dine in one of their many restaurants. Guest hotel rooms feature free WIFI and are pet-friendly.
3) Mountain Springs Resort & Conference Centre, Blue Mountains, ON
Mountain Springs Resort has a long history of luxurious condominium suits and facilities. The resort is surrounded by breathtaking mountains, and iced snow rivers. Guests can enjoy ski-in and ski-out condos, tennis courts, and year round outdoor hot tub or swimming pool.
4) Embassy Suites by Hilton, Niagara Falls, ON
There are over 200 Embassy Suites across Canada, U.S., and Latin America, but a specific hotel you need to check out is located in Niagara Falls, ON, as it uniquely overlooks the breathtaking waterfall. Once guests have booked their two room suite, they receive complementary made-to-order breakfast each morning, and complimentary drinks and snacks for two hours every night. The fitness center is also available if guests chose to maintain their fitness lifestyles.
5) Irwin Inn, Stoney Creek, ON
Thinking about taking your significant other to a special romantic getaway? Take advantage of the self-catering packages or book your package for a special occasion such as Christmas, Boxing Week or New Years from January 2 –April 4.
The last entry in our Valentine's Day series will look at how going on vacation with your significant other can be quite the learning experience for both parties. Whether it is your first time traveling in a new country, or just exploring another province or state, there are always new things that you will learn:
Change: Depending on which part of the world you are traveling, you will explore different sights, smell, food, art, language and culture. You can tell how your significant other responds and adapts to the change, whether it is positive or negative way. If your spouse embraces the new lifestyle, the better the experience will become. Some examples include becoming more social, making new friends, trying new food and exploring as if you are already a “local.”
New Interests: You know the saying “you never know until you try?” Maybe he/she does enjoy snorkeling, or wine making, or even salsa dancing in the streets of Paris. You will learn things about each other you never knew before, and perhaps integrate those new interests when the vacation comes to an end.
Generosity: This can be a mini test to see how your spouse chooses to take care of you when you have limited resources. Will your spouse take care of you when you get sick and are laying in bed all day because of food poisoning, or will he/she want to explore the city without you? Little gestures go a long way.
New Personality Traits: How your spouse deals with ingesting bad street food, unavoidable delays or bad customer service can be a turn off, or even a turn on. Sometimes, things don't go as planned and you have to deal with it in a mature manner. If he/she creates alternate plans, you know he/she is a person who does not take certain situations too seriously and knows how to have fun.
Final Evaluation: Now that you have experienced a getaway with your significant other, you have learned what his/her best or not to best qualities are. Did this trip affect your thoughts, or did this experience make your relationship even stronger? That is for you to decide!
If you haven't read the previous entries in our Valentine's Day series, be sure to check them out! This entry will look at where to take your special someone for Valentine's Day, from a female's perspective.
1) Second City - Comedy Show
51 Mercer Street
They say laughter is the best medicine! Spend your Valentine's Day laughing away at a live comedy performance while having a few drinks with your special someone. Don't go home on an empty stomach. Be sure to dine for two in the restaurants near the theater. Dinner, drinks, and a show –what more could you ask for?
Tickets: $25-29 per person
2) AMC & Jack Astor's Bar & Grill
10 Dundas Street East
The classic dinner and movie date! Pick out a genre of movie you both enjoy watching, or perhaps watch the new Fifty Shades of Grey? Then dine in the same location at Jack Astor's, where the restaurant overlooks Yonge-Dundas square and the Eaton Centre. Grab a drink until and discuss old times or even future plans together.
Tickets: $30-40 per person
3) Ice Skating
Nathan Philip Square
If you combine Valentine's Day and the winter season, you will get skating! This ice-rink is the most famous and most visited attraction in Toronto. The set up include a unique urban backdrop of sparkling lights and a large holiday tree. Don't forget to grab hot chocolate at the end of your date!
4) Chocolate Tour
1015 Danforth Avenue
Do you love chocolate? Take your date to explore the sweeter side of life by chocolate tasting in Toronto. The tour features sampling chocolate-based goodies as well as a walk through tour on the history of chocolates.
Tickets: $35 per person
5) Cabaret Show
Revival, 783 College
“Blush”Go out of your comfort zone and enter a world of live entertainment. This Valentine's-themed cabaret features dance, cirque, live music and elements of burlesque. This can be a story you can tell your friends!
Tickets: $20-$35 per person
We started our five-part Valentine's Day series by looking at gifts for your significant other from a male perspective. The second part of our series will look at gift ideas from a female's point-of-view.
1. Edible Arrangements
Even though receiving flowers is a nice gift, it can become overdone with time. Attempt to give something more personal and perhaps, tasty. I'm talking about edible arrangements. How does it work? Visit the website, and choose different types of packages of fruits, candies, or chocolates you think your date would enjoy, and purchase it online. It can be delivered to a location or it could be picked up in store.
Give the gift of warmth this holiday season. Scarves are a great accessory to an outfit. Scarves also never go out of style, and you can never have too many of them. There are several colours, styles, and brands to choose from. Attempt to find one that looks customized for him/her to make it seem that you have put lots of thought about getting that specific one. Your date will wear it throughout the winter season, and you will always be thought of.
3. Body Care
As you know, keeping a tab on good hygiene is important when going on a date. There are several body care stores where you can purchase products such as shower gels, body lotions, hand sanitizers, and fragrance mists. There are a variety of fragrances to choose from including fruity, fresh, or sweet. The best part of all, they carry men care products as well.
This is the perfect gift if you plan to spend the day or night with your date in the comfort of the your own home. Find out which genre of movies your date likes to watch, and which movies he/she has not seen yet, and be sure to buy that one! Pop in the movie, make some popcorn, and enjoy each others company.
5. Spa Kit
This is the perfect kit to purchase for either your female or male companion. If you and your date spend majority of your day at school or work, you will appreciate this gift. You can get a "his and her spa kit" and expect a session of relaxation and peacefulness. Call your local spa shops to ask about their valentine deals and specials.
Through the eyes of Shay...
Traveling solo is becoming more common. When exploring new ground on your own, you get to see the world in another light. Being alone miles away from home can be intimidating; however, the experiences and memories that will be created will be rewarding.
Here are five benefits of traveling solo:
When you're traveling with friends, you tend to stay within your group and socializing with the others can become more difficult. When you're alone, you become vulnerable and crave human interaction. What better way to do so than to socialize with locals. Examine how they interact with one another and engage yourself in deep conversations with them. Interacting with several unfamiliar people a day can be a way of gaining more confidence in yourself. Who knows, you might make a new friend and even learn something new.
Broaden Knowledge on Culture
What is exploring a new country without familiarizing yourself with their culture, customs, and activities? Explore every aspect much as possible to gain the full experience as to what the country has to offer. Brace yourself to try and connect with locals even if they cannot speak fluent English.
Learning a new language can be exciting.
Experience New Things
Because you are traveling alone, you are in full control of scheduling your own day. You can plan where to go and the time you wish to do so. For example, take a trip into the wild and hike until you can't hike any more or try a dish that you have never tasted before. Getting out of your comfort zone can be fun. These new memories will last a lifetime.
Appreciate New Things
Life can be overwhelming with routines and hectic work schedules. With such a busy lifestyle, we don't have the luxury where time is endless.It is difficult to try something new and we tend to forget the little things in life. When traveling on your own, you can stop in the middle of your adventure, take deep breathes and appreciate that moment or the beautiful scenery.
Learn About Yourself
As mentioned, traveling to an unknown country can be intimidating. When you're on your own, you tend to listen to your gut feeling and tend to follow your heart. You explore new places and try new and authentic food that you never had the opportunity to try back at home. It can be a test to see how adventurous you can be and eventually you will learn what you like and what you don't.
Since Valentine's Day is coming soon, we have started a five-part series looking at both, the male and female perspectives when it comes to giving gifts and planning dates for your significant other. This first entry will look at what you get your special someone, from a male's perspective.
1. A Stuffed Animal & A Card
A stuffed animal is usually a safe option when giving a gift. It's not too cheesy, but it can be memorable depending on what you get. Don't assume that guys do not like stuffed animals, they will keep it as a memento.
As for the card, don't just get any card! Get one that shows your appreciation and something that stands out. You can get huge cards from Carlton Cards or Hallmark for approximately ten dollars. The most important part to remember is to get creative with what you write on the card! But if you are a crafty person, feel free to make a card. This will show your special someone the extra effort you are willing to put in.
2. Chocolates & Flowers
This generic gift idea is one of your safest bets. Find out what kind of chocolate they like and then surprise them their favourite ones. No one can resist chocolates! Giving flowers is also a nice gesture. Although, anyone can go to the store and purchase flowers, it is knowing what to get and how to give it that will make the experience unique. Try buying roses but in different colours!
Purchase two tumblers (his and hers) and fill them up with a hot beverage like tea, coffee, hot chocolate and carry them on the go or enjoy it right there. Make sure they are unique looking tumblers. This will be a sweet gesture that both can enjoy.
Nothing beats a handmade gift. If you knit a scarf or hat for your significant other, they would appreciate and love it. If I got a scarf or a hat from a woman, I would love it and possibly wear it all the time!
5. Board Game
Purchase a board game that you two can play together. If not a board game, something that requires at least two players. You can have tons of fun with it! This will allow you to get to know the person a little better. You can also play games with other couples, a little competition will make things interesting.
This is the third entry in our five-part series. If you haven't read the first two, be sure to take a look at it before reading this.
Now that you have found the perfect gift for your significant other, you need to think of where you can take that special someone. From a male's point of view, the following is a couple of ideas that might interest you.
1. Dinner & Movie
This is the number one choice for Valentine's Day. You will need to go to a more romantic restaurant than usual, where both parties can enjoy conversation over a delicious meal. This is where you will be able to get to know your significant other more and build a deeper relationship with him or her. The movie part of the date will provide the chance to get cozy and hold hands especially during the cold winter that you get in Canada.
Use the season to your advantage; kick off a new romance with an adventure by going snowboarding. Whether you're a professional or a beginner, this type of activity will show off your adventurous side, playfulness, and athleticism or willingness to try something new.
3. Watch A Concert They Like
This is a great way to find out about their musical taste. Get tickets to go see a concert they would like to see, even if you are not a fan of that particular artist or band. This is a great bonding experience as listening to music tends to bring people closer together.
4. Farmer's Market
Cherries might not be in season, but that doesn't mean your local farmers' market doesn't have other options for you to cook with. Pick up some quality organic ingredients and test out your teamwork by cooking a warm and tasty meal. Your significant other will also enjoy the effort you put into cooking a full meal for them.
5. Attend A Sporting Event
If your significant other is a sports fan, find out when their favourite teams are playing in your city and get tickets. Even if you're not a sports fan, spending the time with your date is all that truly matters. Usually, at sport events, there's a “Kiss Cam,” which means that there may be a possibility that you will get to kiss your date!
Through the eyes of Amy...
Recently, I visited a newly-opened coffee shop in my neighbourhood and was surprised at the employees' dedication to the shop.
When I went into the cafe I was one of the few customers there and was pleasantly greeted with light music. On the walls were posters of the specials that the cafe had that day. When I ordered the special and two of their baked goods I was surprised at how the baked goods were fresh and warm as opposed to the usual factory-made products provided by most coffee shops.
Apparently the baked goods were handmade by the employees and it was a surprise because of the low cost. Their Americano coffee was lovely, as the crema style was intact and it was overall a smooth cup. It was evident that the employees were dedicated to making the best products for their customers.
In other cafes I've been to employees begin to chat and gossip when there are few customers around, creating an unpleasant atmosphere. However, the atmosphere of this particular coffee shop was quiet and free of disturbances.
Overall, the baked goods, warm coffee, and tranquil atmosphere made for a memorable experience. If I ever needed to relax with a good book or meet with someone for a polite conversation, then I will surely arrange a visit to the coffee shop again.
Through the eyes of Amy...
Recently I went to a music store located in Downtown Toronto. The store not only sold albums, but also music and pop culture related shirts and trinkets. The employees were both knowledgeable about their products and helpful to their customers.
This isn't the first store I've been to with great merchandise and employees, so what set it apart? What made this particular store unique was that instead of blatantly up-selling or suggestive selling their products by being overbearing with their music knowledge, the employees seemed to genuinely want to help their customers find exactly what they were looking for.
I'd entered the store with the goal of purchasing a band t-shirt for my cousin. Upon entering, I saw neat displays of shirt deigns on the shelves and began my search. Unfortunately, the band that was my cousin's favourite was not represented on any of the store's shirt designs. So I began to look for novelty items that my cousin might like instead. While I was browsing, an employee asked if I needed any help. I told them that I was initially looking for a particular band t-shirt, but that it didn't look like they had it. Instead of merely suggesting other t-shirts that the store had to offer, the employee nodded in understanding and empathized with me about having to shop for a fastidious teenager. The employee then went to their computer and informed me about another nearby store that should have that particular band t-shirt in stock. They told me how to get there and, after thanking them, I left the store.
Later I found out that the other store the employee had informed me about was a sister store.The employee had not only helped me locate the band t-shirt, but subtly promoted their own company. Both accommodating and clever, the company's employees were well-trained and admirable from a business standpoint.