My Vancouver staycation with JW Marriott

I was torn on what to do for my 30th birthday. From travel to Ontario for Christmas to heading to Whistler for New Years, I was exhausted. So there was nothing better I could think of doing than having a little staycation. 

The one thing I love about moving to Vancouver is the fact that I now live in a place where people vacation. From the ocean to the mountain it is absolutely stunning and so I just wanted to spend some time appreciating the city that I love. 

I also love gabling ( well I love the $5 limit tables). So I decided to put two and two together and decided to throw an Oceans 30 soiree. 

About Parq Vancouver 

All of my closest friends got dressed to the nines and headed down to Parq Vancouver.

Parq Vancouver is a new international entertainment destination located right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. It features two luxury hotels and a casino that will give Vegas a run for its money. 

I love that the tables are lively, the 24 diner serves delicious food, and the band plays some of the best live music I have ever heard. They will have you dancing and singing all night long. 

My experience 

What I was most impressed though was how amazing the JW Marriott treated us and also how amazing their hotel is. 

I was able to stay in one of their ocean view suites for my birthday (the perfect staycation if you ask me). 

When I came up to the room it was absolutely stunning. From the giant bed overlooking the ocean, a bathtub I could literally sleep in, a soft cozy couch to relax on, and the world’s biggest television. 

The icing on the cake though had to be well, the cake. The hotel staff surprised me with the most delicious birthday cake and offered me a complimentary breakfast in their executive lounge as a surprise present. I couldn’t believe how kind their staff was. 

I may have lost all of my money on craps, but I had so much fun dancing the night away and going to bed in the most comfortable bed. I also loved waking up the next morning to the most beautiful sunrise over the ocean. 

I will be back 

I have to say, having a relaxing and fun staycation in the beautiful city of Vancouver with the amazing team at the JW Marriott was the best way to celebrate turning 30. 

If you would like to find out more about Parq Vancouver click the link to head to their website. 

xo 

Mia 

My G Adventures experience

The view from Victoria Falls

As many of you might have read by now, I went on my recent (and incredible) Africa adventure with a Canadian tour company called G Adventures. While I have shared a lot about the trip overall, I haven’t really talked about the experience with G Adventures and why I decided to travel with them in the first place.

I have actually done group tours in the past. I travelled to Europe with Contiki, Greece with the Yacht Week, and even some more local Canadian Tours. However, for a place that is so special and close to my heart I wanted to make sure I went with a group that would make sure I a special experience.

How I discovered G Adventures 

Like many of you, I have heard the stats, South Africa isn’t necessarily the safest place in the world to travel. Between the crime rates and the fact that I didn’t want to have to drive through the Kruger and run in to lions on my own, were the main factors I wanted to do a group tour in the first place.

After hours and hours of researching “South African Safari Group Tours” (trust me there are endless options) I landed on G Adventures. I had heard of them before, particularly because they were Canadian. But I didn’t actually know too much about their trips.

Endless options 

The first thing that struck me was the variety that they offered. We knew we wanted to travel to South Africa, we didn’t know we would have so many options. We could chose either just a tour of the Kruger, Kruger and Cape Town, Kruger and Zimbabwe, or all three options. We had discussed going to see Victoria Falls so being able to book our dream trip with one tour company was a huge plus for us.

Discovering local communities

The second thing that stood out for me was the opportunity to explore the local culture. So many of the trips I have done with tour groups in the past have either revolved round amazing parties or visiting tourist attractions. Both are amazing don’t get me wrong, but the thing I love most about travel is getting to learn about the different cultures and having a more local experience.

On the tour we chose, there was an opportunity to have dinner with a homestead in Zimbabwe. Flatter welcomed us in to her home, fed us local homemade cuisine from her garden, and told us stories about life in their small town. It was amazing to hear authentic stories from a local and be able to share a traditional meal. 

The belief in responsible tourism

The third part that I loved about traveling with G Adventures is their commitment to responsible tourism. G Adventures believes that we can save the planet through travel. 

Recently they launched the new Ripple Score. The Ripple Score calculates how much money is spent in each designation of the tour and then calculates what percentage goes back to local businesses or services. The more the money stays local, the better the ripple effect. G Adventures actually averages a 92% meaning that the majority of the money spent stays in local communities and helps them strive. 

They also focus on other areas of responsible tourism by donating to wildlife and child care programs as well as their Planettera Foundation. 

When we were on our tour we had someone from the Wild Cat Foundation coming in and give us a talk about the diminishing number of cheetahs in the wild. We had a chance to learn all about these beautiful animals and find out how they are working with G Adventures to make sure we can continue to see cheetahs in their natural habitat. It was truly inspiring. 

Traveling with a local guide makes a difference

The fourth and final reason I loved traveling with G Adventures was the local aspect. On tours I have done in the past, the guides are extremely knowledgable, but none have actually been from the country I was visiting. When we were in South Africa, our guide was local from the area. When we took the flight to Zimbabwe, we met another guide who was from the town of Victoria Falls. 

I loved traveling with local guides because they really knew the area, made me feel safe, and could answer most of the questions I had. They were also able to share stories of growing up in the country and teach us what life is like in that town. It really made the experience unforgettable. 

Traveling with G Adventures was a truly memorable and amazing experience. I was able to create once in a life time memories, make new friends, and learn about the culture and lifestyle of the places I was visiting from the locals. I cannot wait to book my next adventure with the team. 

In the meantime happy exploring my friends, 

xo 
Mia 

Mia goes M.I.A. Vlog: South Africa Safari

I have shared some of my South Africa  experience with on the blog. One of the highlights of my two week adventure with G Adventures was several safaris. We had a chance to visit both the Kruger and a private game reserve called Karongwe Portfolio.

I wanted to share the video with you of some of the amazing animals we saw along the way

 

Top 10 things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

I remember being a little girl and traveling with my mom and dad across the world to Cape Town, South Africa. My mom, dad, and brother were all born there and as a child I would go back often. Some of my most amazing memories came from trips there with my family. Fast forward eighteen years and I was going back to Cape Town for the first time as an adult. I knew this trip would create a whole different set of memories and I was excited to be able to explore a different side of this amazing city.

There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that the city can be a little overwhelming, and with all of the press that South Africa has been getting lately, it can also be a little scary. It is important to stick to the safe spots but you also want to get a taste of what this amazing place has to offer and so I was happy to find out I still had plenty of cousins in the city that helped guide me around.

Here are the top 10  things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

1. Head to the top of Table Mountain

While this might be on every tourist website, it was also the first activity recommended by the locals. Once you see the views from the cable car and from the top you will understand why. The views of the ocean from the top are incredible and you can even see Robben Island. While our visit the skies were mostly clear, it was also very neat to see the clouds rolling in. You truly feel like you are on top of the world.

2.  Hike Lions Head

 

The scenery in Cape Town is incredible and one of best ways to see it is on a hike up Lion’s Head (Table Mountains little brother). It is a difficult hike but seeing the views of the ocean and of Table Mountain along the way are definitely worth it.

3. Take a stroll to the V&A Waterfront

The Waterfront is one of the few places we found were you can eat ocean side and also offers some great local shops. It is a great spot for fresh seafood and all of your souvenirs.

4. Visit the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

My cousin is a local tour guide and she said this was her absolute must for guests. The garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offer some beautiful trails and sculptures.

5. Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak

 

This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip. The views along the coast were truly breathtaking. From the deep blue and turquoise green waters to the deep red rock formations it was an incredibly special place. I honestly believe this is the most beautiful place in the world.

6. Take a day trip for some delicious wine

We spent a day driving along the coast up to Stellenbosch. The farms there are spectacular and the wine is so full of taste. Wine in Cape Town dates back to 1659 and Stellenbosch is the second largest producer in the town. We dined on delicious food and went through some delicious flights. This is an absolute must when visiting.

7. Take a photoshoot in Muizenberg

Muizenberg is by far one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Cape Town and one of the things that makes it so unique is the beautiful rainbow houses along the shore. Take some pictures in front of the homes and dip your toes in the water. Just be careful, the sharks hang out on this side.

8. Indulge in a South African Braai

If you don’t know what Braai is, well it is a traditional South African BBQ as we North America’s call it. I was lucky enough to be invited over to my cousin’s house to enjoy this delicious home cooked meal, but if you are visiting Cape Town and don’t have family you should probably still spoil your taste buds. Take a trip to the Backyard Grill and Lounge. Located in the artsy Woodstock is this distinctly South African eatery complete with live entertainment.

9. Take in the art in Woodstock

Speaking of the artsy area of Woodstock, a real treat is walking around and taking in the local graffiti that covers the street. The artists have truly prettified the sides of the buildings and it is amazing how you can find the most beautiful artwork in the most unexpected places.

10. Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach

Ok, this may be a locals favourite, but if you are in Cape Town this is a must. As a child I remember visiting this beach every trip and getting up close and personal to the penguins. It is really special to see the babies and families in their natural habitat.

Tips for making the most of your trip in Cape Town 

Cape town will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to be able to experience the beauty of it again some day but again it is very important to be safe in this city.

  • The best way to get around is via uber or renting a car. Try to avoid cabs because the locals say they can sometimes rig the prices
  • You can either use the Rand currency but most places do accept debit and visa
  • Know the areas that you are visiting and don’t walk around at night alone
  • Some of Cape Towns top restaurants book up months in advance so make your reservations ahead of time
  • Be prepared for the weather. Bring layers, you can experience all four seasons in one day.

I hope that you all get to visit this magical city soon.

Happy travels my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience with Turkish Airlines

I recently had a chance to share with you my amazing adventure in South Africa, but here is the thing, there is no easy way to get to South Africa. So I decided to start my holiday with a mini holiday in Istanbul, Turkey. I had always dreamed of visiting Turkey and I was so excited to find out the Turkish Airlines travels to Cape Town.

If you have been following along for a while, you would know I travel a lot by now, but it has been a while since my travel time equaled 24 hours in flight. So I decided to splurge a little and upgrade to business class on this trip.

Let me tell you, there is nothing better than arriving at your destination refreshed and relaxed, and that is exactly what I experienced thanks to the easy travel with Turkish Airlines. This was by far one of the most luxurious flights I have ever experienced, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you.

What to expect

Turkish Airlines has worked hard at establishing themselves as the top airline in Europe. They have one award after award for best business class lounge, best business class lounge catering, and best airline in Southern Europe.”

I was excited to experience how their airline compared to others that I have flown in the past.

Time to board

Once we boarded the plane, we were greeted with friendly smiles and a delicious welcome drink. The flight attendants were so warm and made sure we had everything we needed.

I was then able to find the comfort of my seat, nestled beside the window with all the leg room in the world. My seat itself offered an in-chair massage, personal reading lamp, power supply, and a screen to secure my own private area. It also had the ability to lie fully flat for when it was bed time.

 

Amenities

I was nervous about flying for such a long period of time. From the jet lag to the not being able to wash my face for two full days, but Turkish Airlines had us covered.

For the two flights we had two different amenity bags. The first was Christian Lacroix and the second was Molton Brown.

Both of the amenity bags offered toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush, ear plugs, eye mask, socks, lip balm, and the most amazing hand cream. We were also treated to a complimentary pair of slippers, which was really helpful because I didn’t want to have to wear my running shoes for the full flight.

My favourite on board amenity was the bedding. Before bed time one of the incredible flight attendants will come by and fix up your bed. The bedding was so comfortable and the blankets so soft. I slept through the entire night.

I was so impressed with all of the amazing business class amenities. I honestly felt just as comfortable thousands of feet in the air as I do in my own home.

Entertainment

The video-0n-demand entertainment system was incredible and really helped keep me calm during the long haul to South Africa. There was such a wide selection of movies and entertainment. I was able to watch new blockbuster releases and old classics throughout the flight. There is also an option to watch live TV on board. The flight also offered free Wi-Fi so that I could make all my friends jealous back home through my insta stories.

Seating

I shared some details of the insanely comfortable seats but they offered so many different features I wanted to share some more with you. Once again the focus for the Turkish Airline Business Class is ultimate comfort. The seat itself offered a USB port, universal plug, and reading lamp.

Aside from the basics they offer so much more. The seats open up in to a 188cm bed and have complimentary blankets and pillows so that you can sleep in comfort.

This was a huge help for me to arrive revived and didn’t have to miss out on any travel days recovering from jet lag.

Dining

Turkish Airlines is known for their in-flight dining especially those incredible chef hats. In fact, Turkish Airlines was voted the Skytrax World’s Best Business Class Airline Catering

From the moment you walk on the plane, you are handed a menu and you fill out what options you want. The flying chefs prepare some world class meals in the sky. As they bring you the meals, they also bring a little candle along. A true candle lit dinner in the sky.

I loved the fact that they offered some traditional Turkish cuisine. Everything from Turkish tea, to Turkish delights for dessert.

Another fact I loved is that the on-board menu changes every season to ensure that the food is as fresh as can be.

The dishes were delicious and have won numerous awards. I honestly ate like royalty from breakfast omelettes, to smoked salmon snacks, to prawn pasta. I was so full and happy on-board the flight.

Turkish Airlines Lounge

Once we landed in Turkey, we had quite a long layover between the two flights and so we decided to visit the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge. After a long flight I was in the need to freshen up and get a good stretch in. I had the chance to do both in the lounge.

The facilities were amazing. There is over 60,000 square feet of luxury for the more than 4,000 travellers that pass through every day.

There are eight showers available to freshen up in complete with robes and slippers. Once you have finished your shower, you can rest in one of the suite rooms.

The food and drink options in the lounge are endless. You can dine on anything from traditional Turkish treats like tea and beer as well as baklava. There is also delicious meals from around the world to full your belly during your break.

I couldn’t believe the entertainment aspects available in the lounge. There was everything from PGA golf simulator, a slot car racing machine, a prayer room, library, and movie theatre. It really had something for everyone.

My absolute favourite part of the lounge was the free massage. After sitting on an airplane for a long time, no matter how comfortable the seats are, you can get a little stiff. It was so refreshing to be able to get a quality massage to get me ready for round two.

TourIstanbul

I have always wanted to truly discover Istanbul, and while I know eight hours is not nearly enough to discover the beauty of this city, but thankfully Turkish Airlines helped me discover a small but incredible piece.

If you have a connecting flight longer than 6 hours, Turkish Airlines offers free tours. Depending on the day of the week or time of day, the offer different tours.

I had a chance to visit the Old Town and see the beauty of the Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, and the Hippodrome (German Fountain). It was so incredible to see the architecture and also go around with a local guide who had a chance to teach us all about the history.

The end of the tour was capped off with a free meal with our new found friends. It was amazing. On the way I also picked up some Turkish towels to take home with me.

Overall Experience

While writing this, I realized that no matter what I share with you, it is hard to do Turkish Airlines. As mentioned this was the most luxurious flight I have ever taken. Everything from the comfort of the seats, to the delicious food and everything in between made this experience next to none.  I can honestly say I believe Turkish Airlines is the best airline in the world and Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities. I cannot wait to travel with Turkish Airlines in the future again.