Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sandals Resorts now offers free Wi-Fi

For those of you who like to enjoy the Carribean, the beach and the mojitos but still want to stay connected, Sandals & Beaches Resorts now offers free Wi-Fi to customers staying in Butler's category or Concierge (Jamaica only).

The luxurious all-inclusive experience from Sandals
Already prouding themselves on being the TRUE all-inclusive option, they have taken that step a little further for those who are just not only after "à la carte restaurants" and snorkelling activities.

If you want more information on the all-inclusive options offered by Sandals & Beaches Resorts or the new Wi-Fi service, do not hesitate to get in touch @vanessa_pilon.

If you want to stay up-to-date with Sandals promotions and news, you can find them here: @SandalsResorts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A foodie's week-end in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. certainly has a lot to offer when it comes to culinary experiences (thanks to all the politicians and lobbyists) and cultural sightseeing. Therefore, on a recent trip to DC, I decided to focus on culture, food and drinks. Here are the highlights.

Union Market
1309 5th Street NE, Washington DC, DC 20002 

We had lunch at Union Market andis truly a hidden gem of Washington. Everything around is anything but hip. The food stalls are great and mostly offering local products. Lots of sun coming in so although it's indoor, there is a lot of light and it's definitely nice in the Winter to enjoy Cafe by one of the garage door. 
Union Market, ideal stop for lunch and oysters
Union Market, Washington, D.C.

Cork Wine Bar
Cork Wine Bar on Urbanspoon 1720 14th St NW, Washington DC, DC 20009 (Logan Circle/ Shaw)
Reservations recommended here as well! 1-202-265-2675

Located in the hip and happening Logan Circle, this wine bar offers a tapas style menu that offers vegetables options as well as hearty meat choices and fish. The wines flight offers are reasonably price and the waiters are very knowledgeable when it comes to pairing wine and food. You'll enjoy the intimacy of the place and the A-class service.


The Blue Duck Tavern
Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon 24 & M Streets, Northwest, Washington DC, DC 20037 
Reservations recommended: 1-202-419-6755

We had Sunday Brunch at the Blue Duck and we were not disappointed. This is a very classy «tavern» and the menu is great. We had the crab omelet and the benedicts and both were delicious. Our waiter was kind enough to give us a complimentary cake and it was delicious as well. All in all, we would run back there anytime we are in Washington. It is also conviniently located between Dupont Circle and Georgetown. 

Other bar and restaurants at a glance: We stopped at Fiola for a cocktail and appetizer on a Friday night and we were a bit disappointed. After reading outstanding reviews about this place, it felt like everyone who wanted to be seen was there and the ambiance was therefore not so great. The food was good but not exceptional. We moved on to Central Michel Richard for dinner and the Crabcake was just the best I have ever tried. Later on the lava cake was just as good and the recommendation for drinks were good as well. We sat at the bar and Tracy and Pat chat with us all night and made sure we had a great time. As most places in this area, it closes fairly early for a Friday prime dinner spot.

On Saturday night, we visited a bar called El Centro in Logan Circle. The secret to this place is the second floor with the open rooftop. Everyone seems to know each other and is very friendly. Great music, great atmosphere, all in all, perfect place for a night out if you are around 30 years old.

View of the Capitol from Newseum
Newseum
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington DC, DC 20001

This Museum is very complete if you are interested by the media field, propaganda and everything related to communications and news coverage mainly in America. It features the biggest part of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany and even offers studio recording of some politics shows. It is vast and a bit pricey ($25 per adult) and you will most likely have to settle for visiting part of this vast multi-storey museum, so visit your favourite parts first. Tickets are good for 2 days but as there is plenty to see in Washington, chances are, you won't be back!

The Lincoln Memorial at night
Lincoln Memorial
National Mall, Directly west of the Mall in Potomac Park, Washington DC, DC 20242 (National Mall) 

If you can only see one memorial while in Washington, this would have to be the one. It is truly GRAND and so moving. The Lincoln statue sitting in the middle of the room alone is a masterpiece in itself.  We visited at night as part of a monument and sightseeing tour that was over 3 hours and included the Capitol, World War II, Arlington Cemetery, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr and the White House. This was our favourite of the tour. Night tours are a great way to cover a lot of the history and learn about all those landmarks of the city (and surroundings).

At a glance: we also visited the National Portrait Gallery and the Science Museum. The first one being a Smithsonian Institution is massive, impressive and claims to be the only one in the world to have official portraits of all American Presidents. The Science Museum is on the contrary a very small yet interactive experience perfect for everyone who wants to learn about various topics ranging at the time of visit from nutrition (in line with Michelle Obama's campaign) to changes happening to the earth ecosystem.

Throughout the week-end, every Washingtonian we met was very friendly and helpful. We truly appreicated that aspect about the city. Everyone gave us suggestions on their local spot or printed us a list of places for brunch. We don't know if it's the smile or if it's just that everyone in that city is nice an relax but my last travel tip about this city would be to wear your best smile while visiting. You'll see, it might go a long way!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lake Wabby: Well worth the detour on Fraser Island, QLD, Australia

Lake Wabby from the lookout
While Fraser Island is mostly known for the stunning Lake Mackenzie, its shipwreck, Indian Head and its sand roads, Lake Wabby is worth the hike if you have got the extra time. In the middle of the Island, the drive is far from easy, especially if you are not use to driving those 4 wheel drive you need to hire to access Fraser. From the parking lot, you have got a 3.1 km round-trip walk to the Lake. About 500 meters from the parking lot, you are rewarded with a wonderful lookout, which is perfect for anyone not fit enough to complete the walk. Cater for more time coming back as the walk back is mainly uphill and bring water. As everywhere else on Fraser, be mindful of Dingos but as it is way less popular than most places on the Island, it seemed dingos free, when we were there in March. I would still say better be safe than sorry.

If you are in good shape and the tides are on your side, there is an access from the beach (the "highway" on Fraser) but the walk is about 5 km round-trip. If you choose that option cater for enough time but also remember there are plenty of dingos allong the beach and its surrounding because of everyone camping. Be prepare to encounter one on your walk and remember, you are walking in sand, so it takes longer than a plain walk to cover distances.

Enjoy the golden sand of the beach at Lake Wabby and the giant fish of the Lake! Oh And remember, no sharks in Lakes so enjoy your swim!



Dingoes, beautiful, yet wild and potentially harmful.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cruise the Carribean for less...Including flights from Montreal

This week's special features 3 Carribean Cruises from Royal Carribean. If you are after value, these deals are not to be missed!

Carribean - 7 nights on the Adventure of the Seas


San Juan Old Town
If you think the more stop the better, this cruise is for you! Looping from the historical city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, it includes stops in Saint Croix (U.S. Virigin Islands), Saint Martin, Antigua, Saint Lucia and Barbados.

Leaving March 10 and starting at $1 389, this dreaming loop is an opportunity not to be missed. The price include round-trip flight from the Montreal-Trudeau airport (YUL) and is based on a double occupancy.



See ship Adventure of The Seas on Royal Carribean website

Eastern Carribean - 7 nights on the Freedom of The Seas

Coco Cay from the air
Departs and return from Port Canaveral, Florida. Three other stops for you to enjoy the Bahamas Island of Coco Cay, the US Virgin Island of St. Thomas and finally the half French / half Netherland territory of Saint Martin.

Weeks available are: December 2 and 16 & January 13 and 27.
Starting as low as $1 129 per person including flight!!

Western Carribean - 7 nights on the Navigator of the Seas 

Loop from New Orleans, Louisiana with stops in Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel (Mexico).
Departure dates all in January: 5, 12, 19, 26
Indoor cabin as low as $1 029 per person including flights from Montreal (YUL).


Email me at vanessa.pilon@gmail.com if you would like additional information on any of the above mentioned cruise deals or if you are planning any other trip. It would be my pleasure to answer your questions and advise you according to your needs.

All the above mentioned prices are subject to change until booked and paid. They are also subject to Quebec and Canada's sales tax. Prices are based on double occupancy. Final itinerary may vary. Prices excluded the mandatory consumer protection insurance which is $ 3 per $ 1000 or $ 10 per person.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

When in Rome...

Visiting Rome, Italy, in December is definitely worth considering. If you want to avoid crowds and get the most for your money, Rome is a great option in Winter. The Italian weather being clement and mostly sunny, Rome is almost tourist free and you get the opportunity to snap shots like these (without anyone in your shot)! St. Peters being one of the main attraction, if you happen to be there during the week, the Pope's address which happens every Wednesday, is a definite must do. Tickets are free and available a day or two before at the Vatican entrance.

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican at night

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lake Moraine: a Canadian Gem

Banff National Park, a must-see on a trip to Western Canada
Lake Moraine, less popular than Lake Louise, yet so spectacular
Moraine Lake offers breathtaking views after just a short hike. It's a 15 minute drive from the famous Lake Louise and definitely worth the extra mile. It's a scenic and peaceful place. You will almost likely walk by painters immortalizing the scenery and may encounter bears if you venture for a longer stroll around the Lake. The mountains behind are called the "Valley of the Ten Peaks" and their mineral glacier ice feeds the Lake and gives it its bright blue color.

The "20 dollar view" was immortalized in 1969 and 1979 on the reverse side of the Canadian twenty dollar bill. Later on, many tech companies used the famous Lake as a built-in background image (Google's operating system Android, Windows 7's desktop background image, Blackberry Pearl and Bing home page on October 13, 2009). 

If you visit Banff National Park, Lake Moraine is a must-see!


Source: Moraine Lake, Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why should I use a travel agent?

With the rising popularity of travel sites (Expedia, Priceline, Flight Network, etc.), a lot of people these days wonder why they should deal with a travel agent when it comes to buying their vacation. Being web-savvy myself, I have purchased trips online without using the service of a travel agent, thinking, I was saving big bucks. Unlike most of us think, dealing with a travel agent has tangible benefits and in most cases is just as cheap as buying on the Internet.

What I have realized from speaking with my sister, who has been in the industry for the past two years, is that most time travel agent are just as cheap as booking online. So again, why use an agent if I can book myself online for the same price? Two reasons: encouraging someone you know or someone from your area who is making a living out of this and getting an additional protection for your future vacation. Let's elaborate a little on these two advantages of using a travel agent vs a website alone.

First, when it comes to protection, you have the liberty to buy or to refuse insurance when you buy a trip with an agent and most times online as well. When it comes to problems such as hotel not as described or plane delays / cancelled or even bad customer service / no service on site, websites can become a hassle to complain to. Unfortunately sometimes customer service doesn't go hand in hand with ''the lowest price'' and unless you take your complaint to social media and are really persistent, no one really cares about your bad experience. As you probably know, conglomerate of travel websites have become the norm and players like Expedia who owns a major part of the online market including TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Venere.com, etc. are aware that if you were unhappy with one of their site, chances are, next time you will end up buying from them anyway through another website they own. On the other hand, when you encounter a bad experience with a travel agent, you can always pick up the phone and complain directly to them. Part of being a travel agent, include being an advocate for customers well-being. Therefore, if you have a bad experience, it is our duty to defend your interest and our personal reputation that is at stake. I can guarantee you, travel agents will do everything in their power to make amend to you and make sure your voice is heard to the supplier.
Pack your bags and enjoy your trip!
The second major benefit of dealing with a travel agent is supporting a friend and indirectly your local economy. As mentioned before, travel agents often have access to the same price you get online but the main difference is that the commission travel website usually keep for themselves goes to someone you know, helping them reach their sales goal and make a decent living. Therefore by purchasing your next trip with a travel agent, you support their effort to make your trip memorable, you have access to personalized recommendations, travel tips, legal information and you save yourself all that research time involved in finding the best online deal. As most professionals, ethics is a core value of travel agents and we will not be afraid to let you know if the best price is somewhere else. It's part of being in such a competitive industry, nurturing customers is key to long-term success. If you are not convinced, ask us for quotes and see for yourself!

Pack your suitcase & happy travels!