Tag: vacay

Travel Swellness: A quick getaway to King City

Kingsbridge outdoor pool

Early this summer (where has summer gone already?!), I went for an overnight getaway to King City, which is just north of Toronto, to experience an equine therapy session with Jennifer Schramm and I got a chance to stay at Kingbridge Hotel and Conference Centre.

Kingsbridge indoor pool

I’m almost reluctant to write about this little gem because I want it to be my little secret, but this property is so quiet and pretty, I really felt like I’d escaped city life even though I hadn’t (I was conveniently near a suburban Walmart when I needed a pair of emergency shorts given the warm weather). I know it’s probably funny to some people that I consider King City a getaway (especially as I know people who live in that area!), but when you live right downtown, and escape to the quiet and greenery of the property, it does feel like you’ve taken a road trip to completely different surroundings.

Kingsbridge swing

On the property, there are hiking trails, where you’ll find this darling swing from a tree, and a quiet little river. There’s also one of the coolest indoor tracks I’ve seen here; it circles through the woods, so I got to fit in some speed work when it rained briefly.

Kingsbridge indoor running track

My entire stay, I had the pools entirely to myself, and the quiet time in the sunshine helped to calm my frazzled brain. I spent most of my time outside by the pool or hiking, but there’s a cozy library you can lounge around in, too.

A short drive away is where I grabbed a couple of meals. Firstly, a good thin crust pizza at Locale. This place was a popular spot and I’ve heard that a lot of the dishes are great (that’s always the downside of traveling solo — not getting to try more dishes when eating out!).

Roost Cafe in King City

For a casual lunch, I popped into The Roost Cafe for a fresh chicken wrap and a smoothie; it’s a charming coffee shop set inside of a century home, and there are pretty views from its’ patio.

Before driving back to the city, I went for a hike in Happy Valley Forest (one of the largest intact hardwood forests on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which was pretty but I had to cut my hike short as I hadn’t packed insect repellent and got more than 30 mosquito bites in the half hour I trekked there. Douse yourself in repellent if you go!

I often crave getting outside of the city, and I think a weekend at Kingbridge is a great option because it’s so close to the city and yet offers some light hiking, greenery, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a running track (helpful if you’re a runner in training for a race), all on a beautiful property. The only thing missing is perhaps a spa treatment, but I’m sure there’s a day spa nearby you could book a treatment at.

Have you been to King City? I’d love to hear your faves in the area.

Leave a Comment August 16, 2017

Travel Swellness: 5 musts for the first-time Toronto visitor (and a discount for your next BOOKING.COM trip!)

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Traveling is a passion of mine but after a whirlwind couple of years in and out of town, I definitely need to balance it with quality time at home in Toronto. And even though I spend a lot of time escaping the city, there is definitely a lot to love about TO. If a friend who had never visited Toronto, what would I take them to go see in Toronto? Here’s my personal guide to some of my favourites in the 6 for those who’ve never been to T.O. (and if you’re planning on booking a trip, be sure to use this booking.com link to get a discount on your travel booking!).

Visit the CN Tower. Yes, it’s touristy (possibly the most touristy thing), but these attractions are popular for a reason. I’ve done the CN Tower Edgewalk, and it’s thrilling and fun if you’re not scared of heights, but even just going to get the view of the city on a clear day, it’s fantastic. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, though; have been up the Empire State Building as a kid, and to Vancouver Lookout. the SkyDeck in Chicago, and Sky100 in Hong Kong. Nothing like the breathtaking views of the city below you to remind you that you are just a small speck in this big beautiful world of ours.

Tour Casa Loma. I think I became enamoured with Casa Loma as a teen reading a YA book and the characters went to Casa Loma on a date. And then I finally got the chance to visit it when I moved to Toronto. I have been back once or twice for events, and I just love that there’s this magical little castle in the middle of the city. I bet you’ll fantasize about being of royal descent and living there, just like I maybe (totally) have.

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Run along the Lake Shore. Or walk or bike. Not all of it the route pretty, but how can you not love the pretty pink beach umbrellas at Sugar Beach or the phenomenal view of the downtown skyline from the new Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail (which is just off of the Lake Shore trail)?

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Eat. Eat. Eat. One of the things I feel so fortunate about living here is the wealth of good food we have here. I don’t go to very many places regularly because there are so many options, but some spots off the top of my head that you should try: go for a burger and fries at the beautiful Café Cancan (it’s the pretty pastel nistro pictured above); go with an empty stomach to Bar Raval and eat as many tapas as you can (even better if you’re a bigger group so you can try as much as the menu as possible); have dim sum at Rol San in Chinatown; carb load at Buca downtown (their pizzas — especially the burrata pizza, oh my gosh, so good — and pastas are simply beyond; that’s their carbonara pictured below); do a little taco tour and hit up Grand Electric, La Carnita and Campechano; stop into Momofuku Noodle (it’s in the Shangri-La Hotel, which is one of my favourite hotels to stay in when I travel, their service is always top notch) for some pork belly bao and to slurp up a bowl of ramen.

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Hike in Rouge Valley National Park. The Rouge Valley Park is a new discovery for me. It’s outside of the core, but there’s now Parkbus that’ll get you there. I know when I travel to cities, it’s busy and noisy and sometimes I just need a half-day to decompress. Getting out into some nature and solitude is what works best for me, and the park is green and pretty.

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Not motivated to drive an hour to Rouge Valley? Stay central and pop over to Trinity Bellwoods Park or to High Park for a summer picnic.

Now, ready to book your next trip? Here’s how you can save some money:

Inspired to go travel, whether it’s to come here to Toronto, or anywhere in the world? Well, here’s a little gift for you: book through www.booking.com using this exclusive link (it’s my exclusive refer-a-friend link), and you’ll get a $40 discount from your reservation. That money you save could go towards a great meal, or tickets to a show, or whatever you choose to do on your adventures!

www.booking.com

And I’d love to hear about your travels! I’m always looking for wanderlust inspiration!

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3 Comments July 24, 2017

Travel Swellness: How vacations make you happy (+ my review of Finest Playa Mujeres)

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My recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, thanks to booking through the folks at Expedia Canada, couldn’t have come at a better time. Because while I have traveled non-stop this year, this trip I planned to be way different than any other I’d taken this year: this was going to be a vacation.

Most of my trips, you see, are for work, and this means the trips typically involve a very busy  itinerary with very little down time. And while this mean I may take part in absolutely wonderful experiences (such as surfing in Barbados or eating conch on the beach), it can also mean visiting one too many beautiful churches or American history museums or seeing every type of room in a hotel including meeting spaces I will never write about, which is fine (I enjoy pretty churches and museums and cool hotels) but it’s certainly not how I would choose to spend a lot of my vacation time. I’d rather be poking around local haunts or even, well, just starting a day later than 6 a.m. some days. And I’m usually not with friends when I travel for work (although I do get to meet a ton of great writers who have become friends!). But this is all part and parcel with what I do for work, and that’s fine. I’m just trying to explain how most of the travel I do is not vacation, even though I know it may seem like so…

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But this Mexico getaway? “You look really happy,” and “Wow, you’re really on vacay,” said my friends of this Expedia trip. These are friends who know me well and can read when I’m too tired or hiding (poorly) being cranky. And I was happy and relaxed; having six days to decompress in the warm sunshine with my only concern being whether to order a margarita or caipirinha was exactly what this frazzled freelancer needed.

How and when vacations make you happy, though, actually happens long before you make it to your destination, though. And I’ve talked about this in the past on the blog. Researchers in the Netherlands took it upon themselves to find out how vacays affect your happiness, and what they found is the biggest jump in your happiness happens in the eight weeks leading up to your vacay, when you are  planning it. And I was giddy and excited planning where to go and what we would do in our trip (and you can check this post for my tips on finding the right Expedia vacation for you).

After your vacay, your happiness typically drops back to your usual baseline of happiness. It’s only if you experienced feeling “very relaxed” on your trip that your happiness jumps for a period of two weeks post-vacay — and I’m, ahem, happy to report, that that would be me. I was beyond pleased with our choice of vacation spot (here are my tips on how to narrow down your Expedia vacay search to find the right one for you). We stayed at Finest Playa Mujeres and I’d say the only thing that could’ve made it better would have been had it been an adults-only property — but that resort is such that you can usually escape to an adults-only pool or just one of the quieter pools during the day.

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The room (which I failed to take a photo of…see, I truly was in vacay mode!) was spacious and modern, and featured this chic nook on our balcony for a sweet snooze. I finished one book (The Nest — which I very much enjoyed)  and happily dove into another (that I’m still racing through, The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall); reading more books is another way I’m trying to make more time for myself.

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The entire resort is beautifully modern and chic in design, from its airy lobby to its long pools, some equipped with pretty hammocks.

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The beach has plenty of palapas, so you don’t have to rush down before sunrise to “reserve” your spot. There is sometimes one or two people on jetskis in the water, but they’re usually far out enough that it’s not too loud; it’s still a peaceful beach.

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The staff are lovely — the only time I felt they could’ve done better, in my opinion, was when no one on staff asked the parents at dinner at the table beside us to have their child watch his tablet with earphones on rather than at full volume (kudos to the woman at the other table for letting them know as she left the restaurant  this was rude — although it only resulted in the volume being turned down a smidge). PSA: It is not OK to play things on your phone, computer or tablet with the volume on in public with people within earshot. All in all, though, the guests at this resort seem to be there to relax; it’s not a rowdy crowd.

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I’ve stayed at a fair number of all-inclusive resorts and besides its beautiful grounds and design, Finest Playa Mujeres also stands out when it comes to its food. There are a few missteps — avoid the both the pizza and pan-Asian restaurant (except do try the nem as an appetizer — those fresh rolls were delicious!), but the a la carte restaurants (which you don’t have to book a reservation for) are actually tasty. If you’ve been to a typical all-inclusive resort, you know what I mean; the different cuisines tend to poor takes on Italian or Japanese and rubbery overcooked lobster. AT Finest, though, we enjoyed the calamari and sangria at the tapas restaurant, the fish tacos and tender steak at the Mexican restaurant, and so much more. The buffets have a wide variety, too, including some lovely fish in a coconut sauce. My favourite lunch was at the beach shack, because I can graze on nachos with ceviche and guacamole on the daily, and they always had fun snacks including quesadillas and chicken wings.

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The cocktails are refreshing and well made. The best margaritas we enjoyed at the Golden Bar, and at breakfast there’s a self-serve mimosa and bloody mary bar (always a nice touch), and a wide array of juices;  we also enjoyed some lovely wines, sangria, caipirinhas and pina coladas. And the adorable Sweet Corner coffee shop has some good coffee — we were regulars there for cappuccinos, ristrettos and espressos (what can I say, we like to be caffeinated) — and some yummy buttery mini croissants. I somehow failed to try any of the ice cream they had here at the cafe (I just wasn’t in the mood so I wasn’t going to eat ice cream just because it was available — that’s one of my tips for not ruining your healthy regimen ICYMI).

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With the cold weather here now, it’s a good time to start planning a winter getaway with Expedia if you haven’t already and let the happiness of an upcoming trip fill you and get you through the next couple of months.

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1 Comment December 21, 2016

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