Anyone who knows me, knows that I spent half of my adult life to date moving from country to country, part to leave a life I felt was mundane, part to make myself uncomfortable and push my boundaries and most because I simply love to travel.
At 23, I had a high power Director of Marketing job at a successful food & beverage chain. I had a great boyfriend and incredible friends and family. Like a young mid-life crisis, I woke up one morning and thought, “this cannot be it.” I’m 23, I can’t have everything already. I still wanted to fill my life with so much unknown and here it all felt like it would all be known forevermore. I started looking into a Caribbean job placement company I’d been told about at a serving job I had while in school. I contacted the company and within 10 days I was on a plane moving to… MEXICO!
I’ve always loved Mexico! Growing up with a mom who’s a travel agent, I was lucky enough to get to go there many times and continued to travel there on my own throughout my life. I’d always looked at the entertainment staff and thought “how did you get that job?!” Several years later, with 2 school degrees under my belt, I went to live my dream life on the beach! It was everything I thought it would be, even though I worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week and made $2.10 an hour. I probably would’ve stayed forever, or at least for a lot longer than I did if I didn’t get so sick… I still blame the staff food we were served, and possibly brushing my teeth in the water for so long! I have some crazy stories from my time living there that I’ll have to tell in another blog post!
Once Canadian doctors gave me the go-ahead I picked up and moved to Las Vegas, another city I have visited and loved throughout my life. Nowhere makes me feel so alive with its bright lights, amazing DJs and vibrant atmosphere! I stayed for as long as they let Canadians stay, then came home and then went back for a few more months. Not sure if you’ll get any stories from this adventure as we all know, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” I will make a post about my favorite hotels, places to eat and excursions.
After Vegas, I found myself jumping between jobs, mostly in promotional modeling and avoiding getting another “grown-up” job. I was dating someone who lived in LA, flying back and forth and experiencing things like the Grammys and the Oscars. Side note – if you’re ever given the option, go to the Grammys 100%! Overall, while I found LA incredible, I also I found it superficial, difficult to make meaningful relationships, and I’m the kind of person who gets along with anyone and somewhat isolating. I have to attribute this largely to not being able to work there.
Today, I have a family that lives bi-coastal, parents that bred adventure within my soul and an amazing partner who loves to take off whenever we can! I’ve traveled all over the world and live my life by the motto, “you can always make money, but you can’t always make memories” and as such travel as much as my job and finances will let me!
I wanted to start this blog to share some off-the-beaten path experiences I’ve had, some crazy stories from around the world and to give everyone some bucket list ideas and hopefully get some back in return. Thanks for taking flight with me, I hope you enjoy the ride!
Established in the 1800’s Ste. Anne’s holds an immense amount of history from being used as farmland, a school, a summer home and a castle.
Today, it is a beautiful inn and spa perfect for a solo retreat, family getaway or romantic couples day or weekend. Located on Grafton, the drive to Ste. Anne’s is beautiful if you go at the right time of year.
In the summer you can enjoy the vast outdoor pool, beautiful walking trails and plunge pools. No matter how many people at the spa, its grounds are so large, you always feel like you’re one of the only people there. On my most recent trip in July I had the pool to myself for the several hours that I was out there and enjoyed a breathtaking view while swimming and tanning poolside enjoying a mimosa. Ste. Anne’s does not provide alcohol but you can bring your own alcohol to enjoy.
A typical day at Ste. Anne’s goes something like this. Arrive early to enjoy the whole day where you are warmly greeted by reception and given a tour of the facilities. No matter how many times I visit I always take the tour as it’s so large it’s good to get reoriented. We started the day on one of the walking trails and wandered around the grounds taking in the warm sun and fresh air. We made our way back and found a swinging bench that overlooks the landscape, made a mimosa and relaxed.
We had time for a quick dip in the pool before lunch. We ate lunch inside the dining room as we thought it may be a bit too warm to sit out on the patio. We started with the chili which was hearty and delicious. For the main we both had the chicken club sandwich but after the filling chili we could barely eat any. They boxed up our leftovers and saved them for us to pick up at the end of the day. After lunch we went back out to the pool and swam and tanned for a while. Then we made our way up to the plunge pools. We cycled between the plunge pools and the eucalyptus steam room. It was heavenly and relaxing! Before we knew it was time for afternoon tea which consisted of different kinds of sliders, baguettes and pinwheels, crackers and various cheese, fruits and veggies, scones and a variety of sweets. Our favorite was the blue cheese pear tart which is a phyllo tart with caramelized pear, cream, walnut and a sprinkling of blue cheese.
After tea we had our couple’s massage, which was fantastic. Being gluttons and deeply immersed in relaxation, we ended the day in the quiet room which is full of massage chairs where we sat and enjoyed being massaged for an hour, because we hadn’t already been massaged enough! The change rooms are massive and have everything you need from shampoo, soaps, hair dryers and fresh towels. I ended the day with a piping hot shower, blow dried my hair and drove top-down all the way home. Depending what way you drive home, you may pass one of several farms full of sheep. It’s worth pulling over and seeing them, they’re very cute!
A single day at Ste. Anne’s makes you feel like you were away for a weekend. The staff cater to your every whim, the food is amazing, the scenery is breathtaking and the amenities are unparalleled as far as Ontario spas go. I’ve been in both fall and summer and due to the pool would recommend the summer however, the fall with the changing leaves is also remarkable.
If you’ve never been to the West coast of Canada, if you have and are looking for new things to do or even if you live there, here are my personal favorites, from one of the best meals of my life to the most surreal views my eyes have ever seen.
If you don’t want to read this entire blog post here’s the highlights. Eat at Cuchillo, you must! Rent a pontoon boat in Deep Cove and go to Rainbow Park in Whistler.
We stayed in English Bay, it’s a vibrant area full of restaurants and minutes from the beach. If hotels are looking pricey, check out Air B and B’s in the area, my family found a great one just off Davie Street. One of my favorite places to visit daily is A-maze-ing Laughter, a circle of giant laughing statues just off the beach by Cactus Club. It’s impossible to be near the statues without a smile on your face! Just past the statues is the sprawling sea wall perfect for long walks, runs or bike rides. Each curve of the wall opens your eyes to an unparalleled landscape, where even the shipping boats add to the beauty of the view.
Another wonderful place to explore is Stanley Park. You can get lost in the 27km forest and enormous trees, see wild raspberries everywhere, spot all sorts of animals and stumble upon surprises such as the Totem Poles or Monument Trees, the oldest in the park. If you want to explore lots of the park, rent a bike and keep an eye out for the maps posted all over the park showing you where you are. It’s easy to get lost in there but every wrong turn is another intoxicating view.
If I could only recommend one single restaurant while in Vancouver, go to Cuchillo (www.cuchillo.ca). The layers of flavour in each bite of each dish were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We started with the Peruvian Diver Caught Scallop Ceviche. It was served atop Mexican corn on the cob that was covered in buttered, had just enough spice and was topped with a small but perfect personal portion of fresh scallops, dried apricot yam jam and so many other wonderful flavours. I was too busy savouring every bite to focus on each flavour I was tasting. Two out of 5 of our group does not like traditional ceviche and they would have happily had seconds! Be adventurous and give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed!
We also shared the guacamole and chips which was simple and fresh. We finished appetizers with the corn bread. This corn bread was like no other, my mouth waters as I remember it. It’s served with Guajillo chili butter on top and you’re instructed to let it melt down into the bread and get all gooey before you eat it. This is unlike any corn bread you’ve ever eaten or ever will eat again. It was sweet, salty, smoky, gooey and a sensation for my taste buds. I got a new taste with every bite. We moved on to Baja Style Battered Rockfish tacos with jicama slaw, chipotle aioli, and kale on a hemp corn tortilla, that was the best fish taco I’ve ever eaten. The Morita Chili BBQ Pulled Pork taco was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury but was a bit heavy after all the food we’d already eaten. We finished the meal, albeit I could not have more than one bite at this point, with the Pan Roasted BC Sablefish with a coconut cream corn, black garlic remoulade and browned pana fritas.
You can’t go wrong ordering any of these items but if you’re not too hungry, order the ceviche, corn bread and a fish taco and let me know if it’s not one of the best meals of your life. The vibe in this place is cool, laid back yet upscale and funky. It’s perfect for date night, a birthday or even to start a bachelor/ette party. Good music, unique venue, great cocktails (I had the margarita) and incredible food!
One other hidden away place that you may not find without being told about it by a local is Adesso. It’s a quaint little Italian restaurant with a perfect outdoor courtyard. Definitely request a seat outside. They start the meal with sea salt focaccia and oil and vinegar. We ordered the Fritto Misto which was lightly dusted calamari and the Springtime Green Hazelnut and Pear salad that came with a light mustardy dressing. Both were delicious! For my main I had the Cauliflower Risotto which was as good as any I ordered while in Italy. Everyone enjoyed their meals, the wine was delicious and as it was my mom’s birthday, they even comped her meal! http://adessobistro.ca/
There’s a pretty spectacular suspension bridge in Vancouver called Capilano but if you want a similar experience for free head to Lynn Canyon Park in North Van. Opening in 1912, it encompasses 617 acres and is full of hiking trails that lead through beautiful woods to waterfalls. The suspension bridge is the highlight and despite being no cost, the bridge was not too busy and I was able to run back and forth freely.
Another fun place to spend an evening in Vancouver is the Lonsdale Night Market. There’s live music, art, all sorts of different vendors, a beer garden and about 100 food trucks. Head to I Love Chickpea’s truck and try the falafel and chickpea fries, it’s as good as the falafel in Israel and that’s a bold statement!
There’s tons of free yoga in parks across Vancouver, look them up and check one out while you are there. The setting is so beautiful everywhere on this coast of Canada that you will surely find some peace during the class. I attended class in Dude Chilling Park, it was a great class and they accept small donations afterwards.
If you’re driving from Vancouver to Whistler make sure to stop at Fergie’s for breakfast. It can be a long wait for food but is it ever worth it! The setting is like a campground with overhanging trees and picnic benches and the food is delicious! I had the Dubliner Benny and it was fantastic! http://www.sunwolf.net/fergies/
Once you reach Whistler, head to Rainbow Park. This is my favorite activity each summer when I visit out West. It’s a grass beach on a serene lake with a backdrop of snow-peaked mountains. Your eyes won’t believe what they’re seeing and the view never becomes “normal”. To be floating in a lake and staring up at snow is truly spectacular! There’s also volleyball nets here if you feel like being active. The area is equipped with change rooms and bathrooms and a food truck but you can certainly bring your own food and drinks.
My final recommendation is renting a boat in Deep Cove. While it may run you a few hundred dollars, it will be a day to remember! We rented a pontoon boat and went out to the Indian Arm where the water was warm enough to jump in off the boat and otters swam past us. It was another opportunity to be in the water and be staring up at snow-peaked mountains. Being from the concrete jungle of Toronto, to say I’m envious that this is my brother’s normal view is an understatement!
There are so many mouth-watering restaurants, breathtaking views and fun outdoors activities in Vancouver and Whistler. I love exploring new things each time I’m there! Enjoy the beauty and let me know what your favorite part was when you go!
Book a spa treatment at the Sheraton Center Toronto, Senses Spa. The massages and facials are amazing and with your spa treatment you get free access to their outdoor pool for the day. Order lunch and have some drinks poolside between spa treatments.
Go to the rooftop pool at the Radisson on Queens Quay. The Radisson pool is $30 for entry and will make you feel like you’ve left the city. Watch the boats go by as the lounge music plays and you sip a cool margarita. The food’s not bad and you can bring your own food/snacks in to enjoy. A perfect way to spend a summer day!
Visit the sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium. Wander through the hallways and pass a giant octopus, watch sharks swim overhead and see ancient species that survived the ice age! You can spend hours getting lost in the wonderment under the sea here!
Go to the Drake hotel for brunch then take a stroll through Queen West. The chicken and waffles at the Drake can’t be beat and the patio has the best people watching! Walk off brunch along Queen St and explore all of the shops along the way.
Rent bikes and bike through Trinity Bellwoods ending with a stop at Bang Bang ice cream. Bike through the park, play with the dogs in the off-leash areas, see people drumming and dancing, sit on a blanket and enjoy the atmosphere around you. If you feel like something sweet bike over to Bang Bang ice cream if you can stand to wait in the line and get the peanut butter and jelly ice cream on a peanut butter cookie, you’ll thank me later.
Go to woodbine beach. Bring a speaker, some snacks and a good book or magazine. Play some volleyball with new friends, go for a swim and enjoy the sand under your toes. If you get hungry head into Carter’s Landing for some lobster guacamole!
Play tourist for a day and explore your own city! Buy tickets to a bus or boat tour and learn something new about the place you live.
Watch the sunset from the tall ship Kajama as they fire off a canon from the side of the ship.
Wander the streets for Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays. See artists, musicians, performers and local vendors.
Listen to music at a castle with Symphony in the Gardens at Casa Loma. A perfect summer evening date night! Keep an eye out for tickets on Groupon!
There have been many times in my life where the stress of life and long working hours had tired me out to the point where I needed a solo recharge. I didn’t want anyone asking me if I wanted to go eat, or go to a show, I just wanted to be alone to rest and rejuvenate.
Through these experiences of solo travel I’ve found my top and bottom picks for female solo travel. Yes, perhaps some will view this as sexist but I do think, based on my experience that females do have to be a bit smarter about protecting themselves when traveling alone.
1. Chica Brava – an all-girls surf retreat in Nicaragua. Great if you want to challenge yourself to something new, if you want a tranquil environment and if you want to be surrounded by like-minded women in a peaceful atmosphere. The retreat offers yoga, massages and lots of quiet space to read a book, write in a journal or meditate. http://www.chicabrava.com
2. RIU Palace, Puerto Vallarta. This was the safest I have felt as a solo female traveller. Yes, I was in the confines of a resort but you have to be very careful when selecting what resort to stay at as you’ll read later in my worst solo travel experiences. Why I like this resort is because it’s one connected tower, so you aren’t walking off to a smaller building by yourself late at night. The security guards line the beach and front entrance to the resort at all hours so you will not get any locals wandering off the beach into your hotel. The staff don’t bother you to join in. If they see you relaxing they will offer you a drink and let you be. The spa and gym are fantastic and you can fully rejuvenate while feeling safe here. The food is amazing, every floor of the hotel has an automatic coffee/cappuccino/latte machine on it and every room has a premium bar with wall mounted dispensers. The staff here are wonderful and cater to your every need. The beach feels safe to wander and the guests and staff are great if you ever get lonely.
3. Sayulita, Mexico. Sayulita has this amazing quality in the air that relaxes me instantly when I am there. It offers surf camps, yoga retreats and retreats with no activities, only time to relax. I lived in Puerto Vallarta for several months and Sayulita was always the magical getaway a short bus-ride away that makes you feel like you could live a simple life there forever. If you want a different Mexican experience check out the many retreats available here and select the one best suited to you.
1. Hotel Playa Coco, Cuba. Avoid this place even if there is more than one female. The buildings are spread across the property and there is no lights on the paths to get back to your room. Once it gets dark watch out for guests, locals and staff following you back to your room. There’s no security keeping locals out of the resort. The harassment from staff was atrocious. The bartender in the main lobby stopped serving us drinks for the entire week because we wouldn’t accept his advances. There was no hand soap or toilet paper ever in public areas, so think about what the chefs use? Likely, nothing. The food was deplorable there was nothing to eat and you had hawk eyes on you constantly as a female at this resort. The chefs would leave their stations to come harass us as we picked at fries for dinner, the only thing we could bring ourselves to eat.
2. Club Amigo Guardalavaca, Cuba. Cuba has appeal for solo travel due to the fact that many of its resorts do not have single supplements for solo travelers. This was the scariest solo travel experience of my life. We landed at 10pm and I arrived at my hotel closer to midnight after dropping everyone else off at their hotels. I had to find my room which was once again in a small building far from the lobby on my own in the dark. As I walked back to my room I heard people behind me, I turned and saw a group of locals walking a distance from me, I was certain they were following me. I ran to get to my room and locked the door. Once locked, the knocking started. Knocking and cat calling went on for what felt like hours. I actually fell asleep with the bible in the drawer of the bedroom in my hand praying that I would be ok. Not too long before this trip, 2 female travelers were shot at in their room after a similar experience so I was thinking the worst. I have no idea how I fell asleep that night. When I woke up, I went to the gym to relieve some of the stress of the night before. The “trainer” sat on a bench and watched me workout. After 15 minutes of his uncomfortable stare, I went and found my rep as I knew I needed to change hotels immediately. I didn’t care what I had to pay, just get me out of there! She said she likely couldn’t change my hotel until the following day so I got a security guard to stand outside of my room that night. He must have left at some point as again the knocking and cat calling started. They were turning my doorknob trying to get in while yelling in Spanish. It may not translate into this small blurb, but being alone in Cuba where you came to relax and literally fearing for your life was horrible beyond words.
3. I was moved down the street after 2 days to Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca. Where do I begin with this resort? I decided to get a massage on my first day to finally relax. I only found a lifeguard so I asked him when the masseuse would be back. He told me in one hour. An hour later he came and found me and said he could give me my massage now. I was confused but assumed he had misunderstood my Spanish and that he was the lifeguard and the masseuse (hotel employees can often have more than one job at the smaller resorts) and that he just wasn’t available earlier. What I experienced made me jump off the table and run to the front desk to report him. He was definitely not the masseuse. The hotel did nothing and I spent the rest of the week being stalked by this man. One day I wandered for an hour up the beach to read a book and have a nap and get as far away from him as I could. I woke up to his face leaning over me as his “hola” startled me awake. He said he had found me and brought me a flower. I told him to go away and he did but it didn’t make it any less disturbing. At this point I gave up on my solo relaxing trip, made friends with everyone at the resort and stayed with other people at all times.
There are more locations I could add to each list but these are the top and bottom 3.
My final advice for solo female travellers is this:
Only stay in hotels that have a single tower, are 5 star and have great reviews. You want the best and safest environment if staying alone.
Look for retreats. They are built for people, often solo travelers, who are looking to relax and rejuvenate so when you do feel like some interaction you are surrounded by like-minded people and when you don’t a quiet and safe paradise is what you will experience.
Never choose cost savings over safety. I went for the resorts that didn’t have a single supplement, don’t make my mistake. Pay more and stay safe.
The first sentence I ever learned in Spanish was “me duele la cabeza porque he bebido demasiado.” This sentence has served lots of purpose over my life when entertainers at hotels bother me to play games or when I simply want to lay out. It’s always an accepted excuse. The meaning? “My head hurts because I drank too much!” Thanks to my cousin for teaching me that one!
Other than this helpful sentence here are some phrases that are helpful to know while traveling:
Hola, Buenos Dias! ¿Cómo está? – Hi, good morning! How are you?
Bien – Good; Mal – Bad; Más o menos – Okay
¿Habla inglés? –Do you speak English?
No hablo Español – I don’t speak Spanish
Finding someone who speaks English (and there are many English speakers in these countries) will save you lots of time in trying to find what you are looking for.
Yo quiero/ yo necesito un…. Taxi, hotel, internet/wifi etc. – I want/ I need a ….
Many of our verbs are similar or the same from English to Spanish so you can often get away with the Spanish “I want” or “I need” followed by the English verb and they will understand or “Entiende” en Espanol.
¿Dónde está? – Where is?
¿Dónde está el baño?” – Where is the bathroom?
Equally as important is – “No Papel de Bano” – there is no toilet paper
Much like the previous phrase, “where is?” in Spanish can often be followed by the English word. For example “where is the restaurant Senor Frogs?” – “Donde Esta el resaturante Senor Frogs?” or “where is the bank” – “Done esta un bank” works even though the translation for bank is “banco.” In most cases, they will understand what you are looking for when you use the English word.
¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much?
Muy caro – Too expensive
It’s important to know how to ask “how much?” before you get into a taxi, when you’re booking a hotel or when you are purchasing an item. Many Spanish speaking countries allow bartering while shopping so knowing how to say “that’s too expensive” is a key phrase to know as well. Taxis are also known for jacking up the price for tourists and may be more inclined to reduce the price if you know that it’s usually cheaper (if you’ve gone that route before), if you say that’s too expensive and if you speak in Spanish (at least in my experience).
Santorini – Ride a donkey up to the top or jump into a cable car. Once at the top, take a bus to Oia, one of two towns that sits on a cliff above an underwater crater. Wander around by foot and head to Red Beach to see the red sand that touches the rugged landscape, shaped by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century. Leave yourself a good amount of time to eat at the Athenian House, let them suggest a wine. Sit outside overlooking the coast eating the most delicious feta and olives you’ve ever tasted and sipping remarkable wine. Take this time to simply enjoy the moment and the beauty that surrounds you. You can head back down by donkey, cable car or walking but if you walk, beware as the walking trail is steep and winding and is the same trail that the donkeys take so you may step in some surprises as you make your way down.
Rhodes – This Island is extremely easy to explore by foot. There’s a ton of shops and vendors and great cafes on every corner. Get lost in castle walls as you explore the area.
Mykonos – Rent ATV’s and drive across the hilly terrain of the island. It’s the best and most fun way to explore! There aren’t too many street signs and it’s easy to get lost so pay attention to what you’re passing! Head to Super Paradise Beach Club and dance the night away! Rent jetskis while at the beach to check out more of the island. If you want to spoil yourself stay at the Cavo Tagoo Mykonos, they have a Santorini location too. It’s every amazing Instagram photo you’ve ever seen of Greece in real life!
Athens – Give yourself some time in Athens, there’s a lot to see. Unlike the islands which you can see in a day each (if that’s your desired pace), Athens culture can take longer to fully see. The line to buy tickets at the Acropolis and Parthenon is long no matter when you go. If you’re in a rush or don’t like to wait, though not technically allowed, most often you can find someone near the front who will buy your tickets with theirs for 20 extra euro. There’s often another line to get inside after the ticket line so get ready to wait. Once inside, it truly is remarkable and a wonder that you must see with your own eyes! How they built this monument in 447 BC is mind blowing! From the Theater of Dionysus to the Panathenaic Stadium there is so much history to see in this ancient city, explore as many as you can depending on time! Ermou street is most famous for shopping and though it has some of the same stores that we have in North America, the fashion within the stores was different and in my opinion, was much better! It’s worth having a McGreek at Mcdonald’s just for the experience, and avoid restaurants on main shopping streets like Ermou. They’re typically gimmicky with bad food and high prices. They’ll try and lure you in with free wine, avoid them and trust me when I say, McDonald’s tastes way better then these places! If you’re on a cruise, give yourself hours to get back to the ship. Traffic in Athens is bad and it will take time to get back to your port. There is also more than one port and lots of docks so make sure you know where your ship is before you leave it!
Every island was full of romance, culture and delicious food and wine. I’d recommend Greece with a partner or friends but would not recommend it for solo travel, there are much better destinations for that. The islands can be difficult to get between and the lack of taxis on islands makes things somewhat difficult to get around. In Athens we could not find a taxi driver who spoke any English (this could have just been our experience) but it made it extremely hard to get where we were going.
I got back from living in Mexico and was over Toronto pretty fast. I called my best friend and asked her to move to Vegas with me. Nothing seemed as appealing as the bright lights and good times that can only be found in Vegas. I was EDM’s biggest fan and Vegas was my mecca.
Walking down the strip you can transport into Venice on a gondola ride, into Paris and the Eiffel Tower, into New York City and The Statue of Liberty or a Pirate’s Den at Treasure Island.
We moved in with someone I’d met on a previous trip to Vegas. He said we could live rent free so we thought it’d be a great starting point. That was probably not the wisest decision in hindsight but it did give us time to find somewhere else to live.
We met a lot of people who lived behind the strip on Paradise, but it wasn’t the nicest of areas and didn’t feel too safe. We temporarily moved into the only thing we could afford that had some living space and a kitchen. Crestwood Suites was a run-down hotel just off the strip on Las Vegas Blvd, it was $400 a week. We bought a scooter to get around, it was actually so much fun! We only lasted at this “hotel” for a month or so before we decided we needed to find somewhere else to live and fast or book our flight home. It was full of hookers and addicts, get us out of there!!!
I searched endlessly to find us a new home and our prayers were answered when I found a condo in a gated community on a golf course right behind the Wynn hotel. It had flat screens in every room, was furnished, had huge walk-in closets and did I mention the community had 8 pools!? Heaven!
We met people who worked for tour companies that hooked us up with tours to the Grand Canyon both by bus and helicopter. Go by bus if you want to sit on the ledge of the canyon and go by helicopter at sunrise if you want the views. The bus tour is better if you have to choose. We made tons of friends and partied, hard!
I learned the hard way not to Jaywalk in Vegas, seriously, don’t do it even though it takes forever to cross the street using the escalators.
So having lived there for 6 months, moved home and gone back for several more months, here are my tips both on and off the strip.
Pay a bit more and stay at the Wynn or Encore. A close second is the Cosmopolitan or Aria but you can’t beat the Wynn/Encore. It’s luxury all around and the rooms are the perfect retreat after long days walking the strip or at pool parties and after long nights.
If you want cheap eats on the strip, go to the food court beside MGM. La Salsa Cantina has a cheap and good breakfast or go to one of the buffets and then have a small snack later, it’s all you’ll need. My favorite buffets are the Aria which has the best crab legs and the Wicked Spoon at Cosmo. Wicked Spoon has individually packaged food like personal sized pad thai in a small box and macaroni and cheese in its own small ramekin. The dessert is unbelievable at this buffet so save some room! Maggiano’s in fashion show mall is also cheap, delicious and gives you huge portions! STK and Tao are always good for dinner as well. SW Steakhouse and Lakeside at the Wynn give you views of the Lake of Dreams show while you eat, which is definitely worth seeing once.
If you want to go off the strip you’ve got to go to Kabuki in Town Square for sushi. Get the crab salad and Alaskan roll, the Alaskan roll is like no other you will ever have! My other favorite is Café Rio, the carne asada salad is amazing! While you’re off the strip pick up alcohol if you need it from any grocery or convenience store as it will be way cheaper than on the strip. If you need to buy it on the strip, the ABC store may be your cheapest bet.
My favorite day parties are Encore Beach Club and Marquee but you really can’t go wrong at any of them. I also really like the day party at the Palms, but it’s a bit far off the strip. For me, the day parties are better than the night parties every time but if you’ve got enough energy to do both, even better! For nightclubs, I’ve always loved XS. The DJs are always fire, the crowds are hot and the vibe is amazing. Get there early unless you have a table booked so you can hop into a booth (if you’re a girl). Otherwise, prepare to spend your night being body checked as the crowds push through and spill drinks all over the place.
It’s worth going to Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay for a drink and for the view. It’s a view of the strip like no other! If you want to see a few venues in one day or night you can check out one of the many club crawls that Vegas has to offer. Las Vegas Club Crawl is one of my favorites.
For after-hours Artisan is the way to go! It’s a hotel converted into an after-hours. You will see DJs here after their main sets on the strip from time to time and a lot of locals head here after work. It’s always a good time and better then on-the-strip Drais!
Fremont street is always fun for something different. The Golden Nugget hotel is actually really nice if you don’t want to stay on the strip. The nightlife on Fremont is different, but so much fun. I wouldn’t suggest a single place to go but rather I’d tell you to walk the streets around 11-12, listen for music that you like and head that direction. Last time I was there I heard dubstep blasting, I followed it and ended up at a rooftop bar with some of the best dub I’ve ever heard. I still regret not finding out the DJs name. The drinks were way cheaper than the strip at $4 a pop and the party went on until the morning! Fremont is definitely worth one night of partying while in Vegas!
The outlet malls in Vegas are nothing to write home about. If you want to go shopping I’d stick to the Fashion Show Mall across from the Wynn.
I can’t recommend a casino because I lost in all of them, but good luck to you if you go!
I saw every Cirque show and many other shows while in Vegas. My top 2 are David Copperfield, it was magical and Zumanity Cirque Du Soleil.
If you’re ever thinking about moving or going to Vegas feel free to e-mail me for contacts and recommendations!
My old roommate started one of the best VIP companies in town! AJ VIP is a 24/7 VIP concierge company that caters to your every want and need while in Las Vegas. They can get you hooked up with hotels, fights, tours and shows. They offer guest list for day and night parties, bottle service and VIP services. Anything you need in Vegas, AJ VIP can sort out. Call them at (248) 875-8321 or (810)-423-2672 or check them out on facebook AJvipVegas. I’ve sent everyone to them and they’ve received the royal treatment every time. Start your Las Vegas trip planning by calling them!
Every time I went on vacation I looked at the entertainers and wanted to be them! I would always ask how they got their job and what it was like. It looked like a dream to me. Live on the beach, meet new guests every week and play games and sports all day.
I was told about an agency, Get Up & Go Global a few years before I started actually looking into moving South. When my life got stagnant and I felt it was time for a change, I emailed the company and 10 days later I was off! They sent me job postings for different hotels and places in Mexico and I accepted one of the first ones they sent in Puerto Vallarta.
Life as an entertainer is fun! If you don’t speak Spanish very well you’re going to want to move there for North America’s winter so your guests are mostly English speaking. I moved there during our summer which was a challenge, but forced me to learn Spanish, and fast! I spent all day asking my colleagues “Como se dice … en espanol?” or “how do you say …. In Spanish?”.
I lived in a motel up the street from the hotel I worked at with all of the other entertainers. It was a perfect place with a pool. My roommate was from the States and we hit it off. We had to be at the hotel for 7am each morning where we could eat breakfast from the main buffet. Breakfast was followed by a team meeting assigning us to our activities for the day.
A standard day for me was yoga at 8am, beach volleyball at 9, bicycle tour to the dolphins at 10, water polo at 11, water aerobics at 12, dance practice at 1, lunch at some point in and around there (either at the staff lunch room which was breakfast leftovers covered in heavy mayonnaise or with a guest at one of the hotel restaurants), water polo or a crazy game at 3 (drinking contests or pool races guests vs staff and I was one of the only girls, so that always got interesting!), beach volleyball at 4 and rock climbing at 5. We had a break from 5-7 when I would almost always do a workout in my room. We went back to the hotel for 7 where we could have dinner from the main buffet and then we had to promote the evening show. We walked around the buffet in costume telling people where and when the show was and then danced in the first show at 8:30. We would do a second show at 10:00. After the show we had an activity in the lobby like karaoke or casino night and then certain nights of the week we would have to accompany guests to the hotel disco.
On nights when we didn’t have to go to the disco, and even after some nights when we did, we would take guests out downtown. This is where we made a bit of money as the clubs paid commission. This part of the job is male dominated and it’s hard to take the lead as a female so I usually just joined for the party and made a small portion of the commission. We still entered and drank for free all night and I was happy with that! This was my life 6 days a week. On my day off I’d take my laundry to the laundromat by biking for 30 minutes each way with a garbage bag full of dirty clothes on my lap. I’d go to the beach, attempt to surf, go for an authentic Mexican meal or have drinks with friends!
I made $2.10/hour and had to ask guests to leave me shampoo and toiletries as I couldn’t afford much out there. Yet I lived without a care in the world. I was so happy every single day. I woke up to the sun shining, played and was active every day with new people every week. I had so much more energy being that active then I ever do sitting at a desk all day. I met people I’m still in touch with today, 7 years later. I learned a new language, I danced in shows and I am not a trained dancer and I enjoyed everything life had to offer that had nothing to do with material possessions. I miss all of that!
At home in Toronto I was more on the superficial side, always wanting the nicest clothes, bags, shoes and car. In Mexico I got to simply be me. I stripped away the layers of insecurity and materialism and the feeling that I needed to impress or keep up with others and I basked in the joy that my soul felt. I found love, laughter and a never-ending wonder in Mexico and I left a piece of my heart there.
I’d never do it again, I don’t think my 30 year old body could handle those hours but I will never regret doing it and I would recommend it to anyone who’s young and looking for an adventure!
A quick 45 minute flight and we had landed in Montreal, the perfect weekend getaway from Toronto. In the airport, the line for a taxi was outrageously long. Pro tip – there’s a booth in the airport for an app you can download which is essentially like Uber for a taxi company. When you download it you get $10 off your first ride and don’t have to wait in the massive taxi line. We opted for public transit as there was no line at all at the ticket machine. We took a bus to the subway and the subway 3 stops to our hotel. Their subway is fast! I never take public transit in Toronto and it was actually a painless experience in Montreal. After 4pm on Fridays you can get a 3 day bus and subway pass for $13.00, worth it even if you only end up using it the single time to get to your hotel.
There’s quite a lot of construction on the roads downtown right now so it was faster and easier to walk everywhere then try and get an Uber and nothing was far from our hotel.
We had the most amazing brunch at Café Napoleon on sunny Saturday morning in the Plateau http://www.cafenapoleon.com/en/. It was about a 30 minute walk through Montreal to get there and every turn got more beautiful than the last. Each building has its own character and charm. I had the special which was egg whites, bacon, crispy breakfast potatoes, toast, a pile of fresh fruit, a crepe filled with Nutella and bananas and bottomless coffee for $11.95! Every bite was delicious and it was more food than I could ever eat. They’ve got a great patio out front where we sat.
After brunch we strolled around the Plateau and went into some churches along the way. We ended up on Ste. Catherine Street where we shopped for a few hours. The deals were great and the busking musicians were better! Buskers in Montreal have to audition for prime locations like on Ste. Catherine and they are phenomenal!
We had dinner later that night at Atma back in the Plateau https://www.restaurantatma.ca/. You must make a reservation here and you also must go! It’s an Indian restaurant with a unique and authentic atmosphere. Seating on the top floor is on the ground on cushions and then the main and 2nd floor are regular seating. We were served by the owner who regaled us with stories about growing up in London, England and how he grew to love cooking his native Indian food. We asked what he would recommend and he told us he would make us a special lamb dish, his favorite that is not on the menu. I love when servers or chefs offer this, it gives the service that extra level of greatness and makes you feel valued as a customer. We started with Chicken 13, a slightly spicy breaded chicken, onion bahji’s, samosas and naan bread. I would skip the samosas, they are almost deconstructed and weren’t the best thing we tasted, leave room for the other dishes! The onion bhaji’s were so good, I probably had one too many! For the main we had rice, butter chicken, shrimp madras and the special off-menu lamb dish. Every dish was unbelievable! Some spicier then others, but the yogurt dip evened out the heat for those who couldn’t handle the spice. We enjoyed an Indian beer with the meal and left stuffed! We walked back to the hotel to let our food go down and were immersed in the vibrant beat of Montreal’s nightlife scene. If we weren’t so full, would have stopped for a drink along the way!
From culture to sightseeing, shopping and fabulous food Montreal offered the perfect weekend getaway!
* To anyone traveling in or out of Toronto Pearson airport right now, expect to wait! Our flight home was delayed 7 times over the course of 2 hours and went from a 6pm to almost 10pm flight. When we landed in Pearson there were loads of people still waiting for delayed flights, sleeping on the floor and seats.
* The airport is currently undergoing runway and taxiway construction that has been ongoing since March 28th and is set to be finished May 16th.