Tag Archives: SEtravels

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#SEEXPERIENCE: Ziplining in St. Lucia

As an avid adventure seeker, every time I travel one of the first things I do is either search out some really great spots to cliff jump (there’s something about the views and diving into the ocean that gets me every time), or I try out a local adventure I want to do to remember my trip by!

My most recent travels took me to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia and when in the rainforest why not zipline! I’ve ziplined a few times before both locally and in the Rockies but never in sights as tropical as these ones and let me tell you, the experience was absolutely amazing from start to finish.

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After a short coursr on how to effectively zip down all 12 lines the adventure began. You would think that zipping is easier then it looks, but the truth is you have to remember to slow down before you stop and understand the line you’re about to zip to ensure you make it to the end to avoid getting stuck. You really want to avoid getting stack because as the locals say “we will point, laugh and take pictures of you”. Luckily I only had to experience the embarrassment once and in my defense it was a really long line, but I’m sure we all say that!

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I always love remembering my trips by seeing the amazing sights and creating new experiences, especially ones that each location is known for. This is a great way to truly understand and live the culture in addition to food of course!

– Vanessa Cioffi

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#SETRAVELS: Prague is a Fairy Tale City that’s a Feast for Your Eyes

When I realized, I had yet to visit Eastern Europe, it was immediately on my list. On the top of that list was Prague. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Czech Republic but knew that there was something intriguing about their capital. With only 72 hours to play with, I booked my flights and made my way to this fairy tale city.

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The second I landed, I made my way to my hotel, andel´s hotel Prague. Once unpacked, I took a short (less than 10 minute) tram ride into the city centre and realized that the city is very walkable and offers a great public transit system. With less than 72 hours to go, I knew I had to narrow down the to do list: walk along the River Vltava, cross the Charles Bridge, people watch in Old Town Square and climb up to Prague Castle.

I meandered down the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic, before crossing over into the Old Town. Although much of the city is quite touristy, I managed to find a few quiet spots along the river to soak in the view. Along the Vltava, there are many bridges but the Charles Bridge is the one you want to take. It may be full of tourists, but this stone bridge offers both history and architecture and boasts 16 arches and 30 statues of religious figures along the way.

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Once I crossed the Charles Bridge I sauntered over to the Old Town Square, where you could easily people watch for hours – and I’m pretty sure I did. The square takes you back in time. With the Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock, Gothic Church of Our Lady before Tyn and Church of St.Nicholas, you’re surrounded by beautiful history. There are rumours that Walt Disney was inspired by the Our Lady before Tyn Church and created a Disney castle based on the architecture. I’m not sure if there is any truth to this but either way, you really do feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy tale. Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Astronomical ClockStyle Empire, Travel - Prague, Old Town Square 3 Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Old Town SquareStyle Empire, Travel - Prague

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Speaking of fairy tales, Prague also has the largest castle in the world (according to Guinness World Records). Within the castle district we spotted the beautiful St. Georges Basilica and St. Vithus Cathedral, with stunning gothic architecture and incredible stained glass windows. But make sure you bring your walking shoes! It’s a nice (hot and sweaty) walk to the top. But once you get there, the views are definitely worth it.

Did I mention the food? Ohhh the food! Czech food is not exactly what anyone would call dietary – insert eyebrow raise. At dinner one night, I ordered duck with a side of cabbage and baked apple. Here I thought I would get a duck breast, a small side of cabbage and slices of baked apple. WRONG. I apparently ordered a whole duck, dumplings, caramelized cabbage, red cabbage and a whole baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon. I thought I was ordering dinner, but apparently it was a feast for one. Either way, I savoured every moment of it and it was delicious. My taste buds and stomach were happy but my hips, not so much.

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Unlike many other cities of Europe, Prague emerged from World War II relatively intact. With so much history littered in the streets, you can easily lose yourself for hours just walking around the city. As you wander the cobblestoned streets and look up at the castle, it really does feel as if you’ve been transported into a fairy tale. All I’m missing is the glass slipper.

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: A Weekend Getaway Exploring Edinburgh

Although Toronto summers are when the city comes alive, it’s also when the humidex goes off the charts. After a lively and vibrant Pride week and a scorching Canada Day, it was time for a quick break. Since the mister lives in the UK, I decided to jet set to beautiful Edinburgh for a weekend getaway. As inconvenient as the distance is, it does give me an excuse to travel to Europe more often than not. I have wanted to visit Edinburgh for quite some time to wander the historical streets and buildings. After some research (and very little persuasion), I made my way across the Atlantic.

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There are a few things one must do when in Edinburgh: go to Edinburgh Castle, walk through the Princes Street Gardens, visit the National Museum of Scotland and drink a nice glass of Scotch.

Before making our way to the castle, we wandered through Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While we roamed the streets, we spotted a few of the historical landmarks including the Scott Monument (pictured above), a Victorian Gothic monument to author Sir Walter Scott, and the St. Giles Cathedral (pictured below), a Scottish church along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. One thing you can’t miss along the streets are the storefronts selling various garments in tartan including scarves, ponchos, kilts and even sweaters for you and your dog. I managed to hold off on the tartan, but within minutes I found myself at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.

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For many of the locals, it’s just another landmark along the skyline, but in my mind, there’s something magical about castles. Edinburgh Castle currently houses crown jewels, a 15th-century cannon known as Mons Meg, the Great Hall, the Royal Palace and the Scottish National War Memorial. I easily lost a few hours roaming around this royal fortress.
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I must have worked up an appetite because after we toured the castle, I was ready for a bite. Across the way from the Edinburgh Castle is Castle Terrace. This Michelin star restaurant boasts British cuisine combined with French cooking techniques and Scottish produce. Our meal was delightful and started with an adorable amuse bouche, which included a deep fried ravioli, the smallest burger ever made and jellified version of a caesar salad.

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Did I mention the baked potato in a cup? Yes, the cup you see above is their version of baked potato. It wasn’t your usual variety but it was delicious nonetheless.

Once we finished our three courses, our appetites were satiated. We figured it was time for some enrichment, so we made our way across the Princes Street Gardens to the Scottish National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland. When we arrived, my jet lag set in. It was about 4pm and I was ready for a nap. But before returning to the hotel, I was dragged to the rooftop terrace in the National Museum. I didn’t realize what I would’ve missed until I stepped foot outside. Once you walk up the staircase, you’re enveloped in Edinburgh’s skyline with spectacular views all around. It was well worth the last bouts of my energy for the day.

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This was my first visit to Edinburgh but I guarantee it won’t be my last. Even though I managed to fit in quite a bit within the weekend (Day 2 isn’t mentioned here because it was spent shopping along Princes Street – yes, another essential while in Edinbrugh), there is still more to do. With gothic architecture, medieval buildings and historical landmarks, its no wonder these hills and castles attracts visitors from all over the world.

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: Busy Streets and Breathtaking Sights in Turkey

I’ve been wanting to go to Turkey for a few years now and last month I finally buckled down and booked a ticket. I flew into Istanbul and spent four days there before catching a flight to Cappadocia, a bus to Pamukkale, another bus to Antalya and then flying out. Two weeks later and I hardly scratched the surface but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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After landing in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we caught a taxi to our hotel in the Old Town, Sultanahmet. We spent two nights there and visited a few historical landmarks such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Basilica Cistern and even went for a Turkish bath. Everything was very walkable but there is a tram for those who prefer transportation and taxis can be found fairly easily. We sauntered along the streets and were lost more often than not but we found ourselves at the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar before making out way to a few of the mosques.

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For our second (and last two) days in Istanbul was spent in Beyoğlu, a district located on the European side of Istanbul. We stayed at the Misafir Suites located right off Istiklal Street, a bustling pedestrian street with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafés. Unlike Sultanahmet, where life calms down once the sun sets, in Beyoğlu, it seems that life lights up once the sun goes down. During the day, there are many sites to see, such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata tower and the Bosphorus sea. Beyoğlu is basically open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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There were two other destinations I wanted to visit while in Turkey: Cappadocia, known for its spectacular landscape, and Pamukkale, known for its hot springs and travertines. From Istanbul, I took a flight to Kayseri, the closest airport to Cappadocia and spent one night in Göreme, a city within Cappadocia, in a cave hotel and explored all the area had to offer.

Cappadocia offers a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. From centuries past, the elements have eroded layers of volcanic ash forming conical rock formations. In the early hours of the day (usually from 5am to 8am) hot air balloons litter the sky and that is a sight in itself. From fairy chimneys and rock churches to underground cities, Cappadocia is bound to take your breath away.

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From Cappadocia, I took a 10 hour overnight bus to Pamukkale. There is no other way to get from point A to point B, so I sucked it up and made way way over. Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, consists of natural hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The ancient city of Hierapolis surrounds the travertines and when visiting Pammukale, one must bathe in the calcium infused waters.

My last few days in in Turkey were spent in Pamukkale and it was incredible. Unlike the bustling streets of Istanbul, Pamukkale is much quieter with many family run hotels and restaurants and although tourists flock to see the Cotton Castle, it still remains untainted.

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After two weeks, was time to say “Good Bye”. I didn’t want to leave but I had a plane ticket and couldn’t miss my flight. Instead of going back up north to Istanbul, I took another bus (this time only 5 hours long) to Antalya, and parted ways with this beautiful country and everything it had to offer.

What We Ate
– Mezes: Turkish tapas which may be hot or cold and may include beef, lamb, or fish. You’ll also find fresh green beans and cacik (yogurt, cucumber and garlic).
– Pide: Turkish pizza. A thin crust is topped with cheese, egg, meat, chicken or fish and then heated in an oven.
– Kofte: Turkish meatballs. They can be found as street food (often wrapped in a pita) or in restaurants served with rice and salad.
– Kebab: Large skewers of chicken or beef are cooked slowly on a rotating grill. The cook slices strips from the skewer to serve in a wrap or on a plate, usually with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. This is often found as street food but can also be found in restaurants.
– Baklava: Layers of phyllo pastry filled with nuts then covered with honey or syrup. This ought to satisfy any sweet tooth.
– Turkish Delight: A sweet solid jelly (which comes in different flavours) dusted with icing sugar. Another one for the sweet tooth!

Good To Know
– The local currency is the Turkish Lira. Most places take the Lira or Euro but it’s best to have Lira on you for the best exchange rate. In larger cities, you can also use credit cards but in smaller towns, cash is best.
– In Mosques baring shoulders, knees and excessive skin can be offensive. Headscarves must also be worn in the mosques. If you don’t have one, they have ones you can borrow but keep in mind, they have been worn many times before.
– Hotels are plentiful, no matter what your budget. Research the area you want to stay in (Asian side vs European side) and then search online for the best prices. We stayed in a 4* hotel in the Sultanahmet district for just over $100 CAD.
– Getting around is fairly easy. We walked most of the time and when we went from city to city, flights are relatively inexpensive if booked in advance. Busses also run regularly, however they will take up more time.
– Get lost and enjoy the scenery!

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: Venice’s Canals, Bridges and Architecture

Forget the maps, they’ll be virtually useless in Venice, a city of over 150 intricate interconnected canals. Located in northeast Italy, Venice (or Venezia in Italian) is one of Italy’s top travel destinations. Venice is comprised of 117 bodies of land connected by more than 400 bridges and 150 canals, with the Grand Canal being the main attraction taking you through the heart of the city. The Grand Canal is lined with historical buildings and churches, and passes through the Rialto Bridge, the only bridge to cross the canal until the 19th century.

Of course there’s St. Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace, but don’t dismiss the neighbouring islands just a Vaporetto (public water bus) ride away. A few of the islands within the Venetian lagoon are: Murano, Burano and Torcello. Murano is known for its Murano glass and there are many factories where you can see the artisans blow glass and hand paint goods. Burano is one of the more picturesque islands with colourfully lined houses. This fishing village is also known for hand made lace goods. For those who enjoy history, swing over to Torcello, where most of the island is only accessible by walking paths and along them you’ll find Byzantine mosaics from the seventh century.

Whether you want to immerse yourself in culture, dine at a Michelin star restaurant, soak up some history, or just go for a gondola ride, by the end of your journey, you’ll understand why Venezia is known as one of the most romantic cities of the world.

For more information on Venezia please check the official tourist website here.

– Chenessa Lam

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