Tag: wanderlust

Travel Swellness: 5 ways to catch the winter wave in SoCal


Surfing and skiing are the two most equally exhilarating and zen sports I’ve ever done. So when I was invited on a trip to California to “catch the winter wave” and do both, I was more excited than when I’m front row for the Backstreet Boys. OK, wait, I get pretty excited for my ’90s boy bands…but I was pretty darn stoked about this trip! Maybe one degree less excited than when they’re belting out “I want it that way…” and I make meaningful eye contact with Nick (because that actually happened!). Happy sigh…

But wait, we’re talking about Cali, here, not boy bands! Here’s the cool thing about Cali and going there in the winter: if you travel to California anywhere from about November up until June or so, you can score yourself both surf and snow. I had no idea! I’d only learned in the last year or so about Lake  Tahoe, which is where you can ski, and was quickly infatuated with going there because everything I’d seen and heard about it sounded incredible. Being out in nature, and especially mountains really is the most calming thing for me (even more so than being by the ocean).

Let me start with the first half of our trip, though: the sun and sand part. We flew to LAX  stayed in Century City, and while we didn’t spend much time at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City other than our first dinner and sleeping at the hotel, I did have time to walk down the street to the under-renovation Westfield Century City, where I checked out Free People and grabbed a bite. (I’ll post soon about the top spots we ate at on this trip.)

So what to do if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal?


Hike in Temescal Canyon Park

While I have done a few hikes with Bikes and Hikes LA in the past year or so, I had never hiked the Pacific Palisades with them, and I would say I prefer it over the one that takes you to the Griffith Observatory; it is possible I feel that way because I’ve been to the Observatory many times, but on this hike you feel more as tho then you’ve escaped the city. The hike we did in Temescal Canyon Park was extremely easy and we had perfect weather: sunny but just warm enough so that once you started walking, you could strip down to a light t-shirt.

Walk in Venice Beach and Abbot Kinney

If you’re not so into nature, you might be more interested in the walking tour of Venice with Bikes and Hikes LA, but you can of course also just stroll on your own if you’re not into a formal tour.


We had some time constraints but we checked out Muscle Beach, the Frank Gehry-designed Norton House on the boardwalk, skate park, saw lots of street art and got a peek at the Venice Canals. I’d been to the area before but it’s always find to check out this iconic neighbourhood. We didn’t have time this day to explore Abbot Kinney, but it’s got the most adorable shops, and it’s just nice to stroll, grab a bite and people watch and shop. One of my fave places to go in LA.

Cruise Marina del Rey
Our winter wave tour also got us into the water where we donned sailor captains hats and cruised Marina del Rey with Hornblower Cruises.
Cruising with Hornblower is a nice and serene way to catch the sunset. Well, I suppose less solemn if you’re hitting up the bar, haha, but we were all pretty well behaved when it came to drinking on the boat. I hadn’t dressed properly for the very windy day so I enjoyed the cruise mostly from inside. Definitely pack a few layering pieces if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal! That day was exceptionally windy — all of the locals were talking about how crazy the weather was.
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If you’re lucky you’ll spot some sea lions; we saw a few summing themselves on the boats docked next to ours.
Bike in Santa Monica
Even though it’s a simple thing to do, I think biking in Santa Monica is just a really freeing and happy way to spend a couple of hours. It doesn’t have the adrenaline rush of surfing, but it was a favourite of all of ours. The sun overhead and blue skies peppered with the towering palm trees. We had bikes from Perry’s (they have several locations along the beach), and while I know I tend to think food from places along a boardwalk might be tourist trap-like and have terrible food, having had two lunches there, I can vouch for their food being solid, and not what you might find in a Toronto waterfront place (it’s not a generic hot dog, or heavy pizza). Think tacos and fresh bowls.
Oh, while biking in Santa Monica and Venice, we stumbled onto LA Bubble Ball and we all basically screeched to a halt and had an impromptu bubble ball session! It’s the first time I’ve done it and I was surprised how out of breath I got running around in that thing. It can be a bit claustrophobic, and when I fell down in it, I had the hardest time getting up (partly because I was laughing so hard). I definitely need more bubble ball in my life!
Surf in Santa Monica
I’ll be the first person to admit that I hate cold water. While I’m not someone who is always cold, I am definitely someone who need water to be warm, as in very warm. What many people call “refreshing” I would call freezing. So I was more than a bit nervous about surfing in Santa Monica in March. And as soon as my toes touched the water and I walked into the ocean and I lost feeling in my toes (which never came back the entire surf lesson) all I could think was how I wasn’t sure I could go through with this.
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I’d say the wetsuit kept me warm (and it mostly did) but my hands and feet were cold the entire time. So much so that after each attempt to catch a wave, I contemplated calling it a day and just watching from the beach.
It was a pretty frustrating surf day for me. I never got up on the board (at most, I got halfway once or twice), and the waves were quite strong so I was exhausted because each time I went to head back into the water to my Learn to Surf LA surf instructor, I’d take a step or two and a wave would spit me back practically onto the beach. I was cold and tired, and yet I didn’t quit the surf lesson. Because when you’re in a place as beautiful as Santa Monica and you have one of the few opportunities you get to surf, you do it. And even just getting half-up on the board was promising enough for me to keep trying.
With my sand and surf checked off of this epic catch-the-winter-wave trip to California, it was time to pack up in SoCal and head north. Next stop: a day trip to Big Bear!
Oh, I also wrote about catching the winter wave for Travel & Style. You can check out my article here!
(Photo credit for Hornblower Cruise and latter two surf photos: Max Whittaker/Visit California)


Leave a Comment May 31, 2017

Beauty Swellness: My top 3 Aveeno travel essentials

Aveeno travel essentials

Sometimes my schedule can feel overwhelming. I’ve been traveling more than ever, and while it’s exciting and fun, it can also bring about stress. The lack of routine, while it suits me, at the same time also drives me bonkers. But ultimately my love for discovering new places, new flavours and having new experiences is what keeps me going.

What else keeps me going and helps bring some balance is a healthy routine, no matter where I may find myself in the world. My adventures may have me rappelling down a waterfall (like I did this month in Puerto Rico) or surfing with a friend in Barbados or in California, but my beauty regimen is a comforting constant in my life. And there are a few items I never leave home without, including my Aveeno® faves (I am an Aveeno® ambassador, after all, and use their products regularly because I know I can rely on them).

My absolute essential, if I had to name my one Aveeno® must-have, is the Aveeno® Positively Radiant® Make-Up Removing Wipes. When I have the energy to, I’ll use them as a way to preliminarily remove makeup, oil and dirt from my days exploring a new town, and also wash my face with a cleanser, but to be honest, most nights when I’m traveling for work, I get back to my room quite late and I am ready to fall into bed immediately, so these wipes are a quick way to remove all of the makeup and grime before I crash. There are many times I’m tempted to skip this step, but then I hear in my head every derm and makeup artist I’ve ever interviewed telling me that cleansing before bed is crucial, and I remember that I don’t want clogged pores and breakouts and so I break out one of these Aveeno® wipes and I’m done and under the covers of the plush hotel bed in no time flat. (I also count on these wipes after running a race; so great for cleaning off all of the sweat after a marathon!). The wipes have a pleasant but not overpowering fresh scent, and the packaging helps keep them from drying out (I’ve tried other brands that dry out pretty quickly, but these stay juicy with its natural soy extract formula).

Now, I know I just said the Positively Radiant Make-Up Removing Wipes are my #1, but how about we call it a tie? Because no matter where my travels take me, I need to have my Aveeno® Protect + Hydrate™ Suncreen Lotion SPF 45. I wear sunscreen every day, no matter what season it is (in the winter, I will switch to a regular moisturizer for my body since it’s all covered up by layers, but SPF on my face is part of my everyday routine). This SPF 45 lotion is my travel sunscreen go-to for many reasons: it comes in a 81-mL tube, so I can toss it into my carry-on luggage as it meets the TSA liquid requirements; it smooths on easily and absorbs quickly, which is important because I often don’t have a ton of time to get ready in the mornings when I’m traveling so I have to be really efficient with my time; and lastly, I can use it both on my face and my body (so I don’t have to pack two different products).

Last but not least is a product that’s a new addition to my product lineup: Aveeno® Positively Radiant®  Targeted Tone Corrector. Despite my diligent use of sunscreen, I can still get some dark spots, and evening my skin tone with a product that’s not irritating to my skin is a priority. This Targeted Tone Corrector has vitamin A, to help fade those freckles, while also helping with blotchiness and dullness. So, it helps me look radiant, even if I may not be feeling so radiant due to jet lag. And I am pretty much in a constant state of jet lag (and also oftentimes if not jet lag then poor sleep habits, which can make my skin less than glowing too).

What are my other never-leave-home withouts, which I recommend you travel with besides these beauty products? A swimsuit (even if there’s no pool where you’re staying, there may be a hot tub at a spa you go to, or on your balcony, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on using that, would you?), flip flops (they’re easy to slip on if you need to step out quickly to grab breakfast in the hotel, for example), leather moto jacket (which can easily be worn no matter if your outfit is more dressy or casual and it’ll keep you just warm enough in locales such as in the Caribbean where it can get a bit breezy at night) and a travel adapter (one with at least a few USB ports, too, so you can charge multiple devices easily, which is helpful when your hotel room just has one hard-to-reach outlet).

Travel adventures and living life on the go simply becomes much easier when you have things like these essentials to count on keeping you on a healthy track. Because there are enough other variables to juggle with–a foreign language, flight delays, limited wifi, you name it–when out exploring and away from the comforts of home!



Leave a Comment May 30, 2017

Travel Swellness: Road-tripping to Niagara with Chevy Equinox


Last week, I was invited on a road trip to the Niagara region with Chevy Equinox. It’s an area that I haven’t spent time in for more than 10 years (although I have been to Niagara on the Lake via GO train about two years ago), I think, so I took them up on the chance to explore it for a couple of days.

The trip started by Toronto’s Pearson airport, and it took about an hour to drive from there to our hotel, the Inn on the Twenty. I had no idea that this was so close to Toronto. I’ve had dinner at the Inn many years ago as part of a Niagara on the Lake getaway, and in my mind it was more than a two-hour drive. I didn’t get behind the wheel for the drive up, but instead took advantage of enjoying the view, and Instagramming the drive without fretting about my data plan since the Equinox is equipped with wifi for up to seven devices.

After a lovely lunch at the Inn, we set out on our chosen adventures, and I’d selected the Whirlpool Jet Boat outing–I’d done this many years ago and  loved it so was eager to do it again (although, truth be told, I had envisioned a warm, sunny day). Suited up in about five extra pieces including a jumpsuit, thermal fleece, poncho and a lifejacket, our small group boarded the jetboat and swirled around in the powerful jetboat in Class V rapids in the Niagara Gorge. We also ventured towards the whirlpool. While the cold water swooshing onto the jetboat and soaking us to our skivvies was exciting, for me what I loved most was just the views of the rapids–the swirling water is mesmerizing. I found myself jealous of the hikers we spotted sitting by the Gorge.

The drive to get to the jetboat tour was an adventure in itself. I was driving, and we came across a road closed except for local traffic, as it was basically washed out. We had to go through it, though, to get to our destination, and although I was a little nervous, I took the car straight through it, and it was a splashy little drive but the car drove smoothly through. Nice job, Equinox! (Coincidentally, the Equinox is actually produced in Ontario, not far from where we were, in Ingersoll).

I’ll add a video soon here (once my technical difficulties are sorted out!) that I took of us going through it as we left the jetboat HQ. I was in the back seat when I recorded it and very appreciative of the  heated back seats (yes, the back seats are also heated!) since we’d all caught quite a chill after being drenched on the jetboat. And by the way, the  Equinox also has ventilated seats, and if you know me, I hate the summer’s overwhelming heat and humidity, so ventilated seats are possibly even more of a draw for me than heated seats and heated steering wheel. No pics taken on the jetboat as the Go Pro I had been given didn’t have any space on its memory card, so this is afterwards, once I’d taken four of the five non-waterproof layers off (I don’t know why they provide non-waterproof pieces…!). You can see a pic of us in all of our enormous yellow poncho glory on my Instagram.


From there, we made a quick pit stop at Niagara Falls. Even though I’ve seen the Falls many times, it has been quite awhile, and I swoon over its power and beauty each and every time.


For dinner, we were treated to a decadent meal at Redstone Winery, where I ate possibly the most delicious pork loin I’ve ever had. Juicy and so flavourful. You know it’s a good meal when you ask everyone else what they had after the dinner so you can either revel in the deliciousness of the pork (or share a #sorrynotsorry look with those who did not have the pork dish!).



On day 2, we did a scenic drive to Ball’s Falls and stumbled across so many fields of the prettiest trees. I loved how well the car (even with me, the infrequent driver) handled the winding roads of the area. I”m also a fan of the size and feel of the car. Car interiors I find can often easily seem flimsy but the Equinox feels luxe, and as someone who always craves natural light (most of us do, except for one of my besties, she may be a vampire…), the enormous sunroof is incredible. And as for the size, when a car is too big for me, I feel nervous about nicking things (and forget about parking!); when it’s too small, I feel like I’m going to be swallowed whole by the big trucks on the roads. But like Goldilocks, I’m looking for the one that is not too big, not too small, but just right, and size-wise, that’s the Equinox.


At Ball’s Falls, we did the very short “hike” (it’s really more of a short walk) to both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls, and took in the heritage buildings, too. I don’t often get to trails and to hike when I’m home in Toronto, so it was nice to make the quick drive and get in a quick dose of forest bathing.


Our road trip ended with a phenomenal lunch at Good Earth Food & Wine, and I feel  like a failed foodie as I wasn’t familiar with this resto. I had the prettiest and most delicious salad there, full of bright and beautiful ingredients with a hefty helping of Guernsey Girl cheese, too. This was followed by a decadent tartine that was more of a gourmet open-face gyro, and a gorgeous lemon rhubarb tart. If you’ve noticed a theme here it’s that everything was so, so pretty and beyond satisfying. I will most definitely be back to eat at Good Earth.

One quick drive back to Toronto, and our Chevy Equinox road trip came to an end. We easily unpacked our trunk thanks to the hand-free power life gate feature (another fave feature — I’m forever carrying a ton of packages or groceries and now with my dog, Billie Jean’s leash often occupying one hand, freeing up my hands is always a plus). A slight wave of the leg underneath the back of the car and up (or down) goes the trunk door.

I’ve been living in Toronto since 1999 and I love that, thanks to Chevrolet Equinox, we were able to find new roads pretty much right in the city’s “backyard.” That is what makes me wish I had a car–not so much for living downtown, although it would make certain errands easier–but for the opportunities to venture out and discover the fun adventures that the world has to offer.


Leave a Comment May 18, 2017

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