Archive | 2014

Fashion Stalking in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Fashion Stalking in Amsterdam's Airport, all images captured by Paula Erskine

Now, before you say, “she’s gone too far,” you must admit, it all makes for entertaining fashion stalking in Amsterdam’s Airport. all images captured by Paula Erskine

Me watching them watching buskers on the street.

Me, watching them, watching buskers on the street.

Berget Lewis, free concert in the park. A great oppournity to fashion stalk. Love that Rihanna hair, Berget.

Berget Lewis, free concert in the park. Work that jumpsuit! Love that Rihanna hair, Berget.

Spectators at Berget's concert in Vondelpark.

Spectators at Berget’s concert in Vondelpark. You go girl!

Gwen Stefani might approve all this stripe fashion.

Gwen Stefani might approve all this stripe fashion.

Fasjoon meets function.

Fashion meets function. So inspiring.

Waiting for a decadent eggs benedict at a popular cafe on the canal, and noting the naturally fashionable Dutch style.

Waiting for a decadent eggs benedict at a popular cafe on the canal, and noting the naturally fashionable Dutch style.

Casual and boating the canals, Amsterdam.

Casual style and boating the canals, Amsterdam.

Downtown Amsterdam, orange pants and messenger bag.

Downtown Amsterdam, orange pants and messenger bag.

On the train to the airport, Amsterdam

On the train to the airport, Amsterdam. Anything goes.

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Day Trips From Dublin, Ireland…Hiking in Howth

Hiking in Howthe, Ireland

Hiking in Howth, Ireland

Priceless views

Priceless views

A Howthe point of View

Howthe

Howthe

Not to be missed as you Hike Ireland's coast, Howthe

Not to be missed as you Hike Ireland’s coast, Howth

Irish Blooms

Irish Blooms

Yup, still Howthe

The Port of Howthe is 25 minutes by train from Dublin, Ireland. The hiking trails offer spectacular coastal views. All photos and article by Paula Erskine

The Port of Howth is 25 minutes by train from Dublin, Ireland. The hiking trails offer spectacular coastal views.
All photos and article by Paula Erskine

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Still Meandering the seaside trail and all it's preciousness

Still Meandering the seaside trail and all it’s preciousness

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Before or after your hike, grab a giant cup in the Port.

Before or after your hike, grab a giant cup in the Port.

Modelling Again, Never Say Never

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the left)

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the right)

The stars seemed to be aligned as door after door opened to bring me surprisingly back into the modelling arena again. Alexis Lagos, of http://www.lacedupimagery.com had bought me a ticket to a fashion show being held last fall in downtown Burlington. Earlier that day, I had visited the Burlington Arts Centre to assess the same room for a completely unrelated event. There, I spotted co-owner of Vogue models Sandie. I re-introduce myself, but because there were very few plus size models that they had employed, I was delighted that she remembered me. After telling her about my career as a flight attendant, she asked me, “Why don’t you come back?” Reluctantly, I said, I don’t have time. Don’t you have anyone? She said, “she has tattoos!” We both scoffed at this. When I was with agencies Sherrida (possibly the best agency I have ever worked for, and at the perfect time in my career) in Toronto and Ford, I also moonlighted with some runway shows for then solo owner and model/actor Mike from Vogue. We had seen each other in waiting rooms at other gigs and I gave him my comp card (a composite card with head shot, fashion shots, and measurements).

I didn’t know how I could fit it into my flying schedule again. My seniority has become quite good by now, and I can choose longer layovers overseas and gather some per diem (money assigned for meals, but with a little budgeting, can be saved for shopping or paying bills). Flying had become a far better way to make a living than waiting three months for a modelling paycheck, working a few times each season, and watching a check reduced to series of agency deductions and fees. And I say this of some of the agencies I worked for, which never stopped deducting for mysterious, automatic re-orders of my composite card for $99 a pop, mysterious, unproveable long distance calls for “potential clients” in other cities that I never worked for, courier charges of same composite card to unknown U.S. clients, and obligatory self-produced video shoots that such agencies claimed was for U.S. clients and deducted $150 from each model’s paycheck times over 100 models. Let’s all do the math on that one since it happened about 3 times a year up until the year Ford, there I said it, closed it’s doors in Toronto, forever.

I worked for the same 10 clients for two decades. It is justifiable if one’s composite card was actually updated and completely different from year to year, if not sooner. But over and over, said agency re-ordered the same $99 for 50 cards every 3 months, sent to the same 10 clients, who knew me well. I say that not because I was “the best” in any way. It is just that out of 8 plus size models in Toronto, about 3 or 4 of us managed to find time for modelling bookings around our other jobs for many years. We had a reputation for being professional, punctual, hair and makeup ready, available, friendly, likable, and most importantly, we fit the sample sizes.

There were about 4 main studios producing most of the flyers and catalogues. And hiring us, were the fashion stylists. They knew our measurements matched the sample sizes and as long as the clients were happy, we got hired. We built relationships with these stylists and photographers. I was always friendly with the assistant photographers, who, never forgot when you took the time to chat and crack jokes as the test polaroid developed, and later, the digital test shot, before the shoot got rolling. Assistant photographers became lead photographers with which the base of a friendly relationship had been formed. But I have gone off on a tangent here, only to explain a bit about the inevitability of leaving the modelling world simply because it did not pay the bills.

Cut to this time, last year…after a 5 year absence from the modelling world…

Upon attending the downtown fashion show as a spectator, I was warmly greeted by Mike, owner of Vogue. Actually, Sandie must have mentioned that she had seen me, because there were hundreds in attendance as Mike collected the tickets for prizes. We watched the runway show, with music pumping, and marvelling at the models in their towering heels navigating steps, levels, and runway. Alexis asked me, “do you miss it?” And I had to say, that yes, I missed that live feedback you get from a runway stage with music setting that upbeat, “come on, why don’t you shop?” mood.

One month later, I got an email from Vogue. They had a job for me in January. They had gotten my email from the prize ballots. So I booked my days off from flying, and committed to two weekends of runway shows. Fridays were rehearsals and fittings for several retailers. I studied the choreography and lineup from a well organized sheet and made notes with a pen. It was a bit nerve wrecking. I was worried about walking in high heels and falling. I hadn’t walked in heels in 5 years because of foot issues, which have since subsided thanks to compression stockings and orthopedic shoes. I bought a metallic pair for a wedding that were suitable and perfect for the wedding themed shows. I had also picked up a patent nude pair of heels from Guess in The Bay on sale. After many years of modelling, one tends to buy shoes that one can invest in a model bag. This is always subtracted by how much the job is actually worth. I bought the shoes just months before knowing I would do the show. Yet how I buy shoes, always has that practical factor. Then, I invested in clear, industrial packing tape. And I packed those size 9 and 1/2s and taped my shoes in on the soles and back of the heel. I was apprehensive about tripping and/or stepping out of my shoes. The tape gave me confidence.

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Saturday and Sunday of each weekend consisted of two shows in the afternoon. Hair and makeup was provided in the mid-morning and I couldn’t have been more delighted. One thing that I miss about modelling is getting my hair and makeup done. Lashes, pin curled up dos, air brushing foundation finishes were a highlight. The part I don’t miss is that the whole production took two entire weekends from morning to dinner time plus friday night to prepare. But in hindsight, I have no regrets. My outfits ranged from bride to bridesmaid to mother of the bride. I particularly fell in love with a teal gown from Mirella’s Boutique (Burlington) with encrusted jewels that flowed to the ground. I felt like I was in an haute couture gown built for me.

Feeling grateful for being given the opportunity to model the catwalk, I strutted, and gladly posed at the end of the runway to an appreciative audience. Here is what I didn’t expect. That after meditating for about 5 years now, I have in particular instances, felt absolutely blissful vibes in my meditation class, watching movies that appeal to my soul or spirit, and certain types of music written or played from the artist’s heart. It is like a rush or flow that feels like it is pouring out of me. And that is what happened on the stage those 4 days. Once my nerves subsided after the first show, I felt that rush inside that made me smile from the heart and soul. The music was helping me float down the stage. An electric violinist played Vivaldi on stage for the finale and I felt like this music was coursing through my veins. I was glowing from every nerve ending. It was so surprising for me to feel such joy while modelling. But I had got into the good habit of clearing my mind lately. I knew that meditation would help me to strut my stuff. I was so delighted that I was enjoying the whole process to such a heightened degree. I was beaming. Which for bridal wear, is probably a good thing.

I realized that I have always enjoyed the social aspect of building relationships in the modelling world. Modelling would not have been possible for me had I been anything less than a fairly proportioned, 5’9″, photogenic, comfortable in my skin, full figured model. A professional reputation, friendly personality and availability blessed me with longevity in the fashion industry. Upon revisiting the modelling catwalk, I was relieved that my taped feet did not fail me in my heels. The bonus of having gained some momentum spiritually, turned this privileged opportunity into an absolute pleasure to the core of my being.

Burlington’s Cherry Hill Gate trails are Free and Offer Priceless Views

I will let you in on a best kept secret about Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens and a beautiful system of free trails to enjoy. To find Cherry Hill Gate, you simply head for Hendrie Park. You only pay a nominal fee for parking. It is located on plains road (Fairview street turns into Plains Road somewhere after driving west past Mapleview Mall.) Hendrie Park parking lot has a paid entrance where the manicured gardens are but if you head to the opposite, Northwest corner of the parking lot, you will discover an archway with Cherry Hill Gate on it. Bring your tiny black sunflower seeds to feed the birds. You can buy them in the bulk barn stores, or major grocery store. Plain peanuts (unroasted) work too. Be prepared to be amazed as the birds including chickadees, red-winged black birds and even woodpeckers come and eat right out of your hand. There is even one or two squirrels and chipmunks and some other bird types that like to socialize and take advantage of the take out meals in your hand. In the meantime, time stands still as you watch the wildlife, walk the trails, observe the blooms, and breathe honeysuckle in the air. This is one of our favourite places and we have even spotted elusive blue cranes here. Last week, we spent 5 hours here documenting beauty and lilies. It is a great way to refresh your day.

Baby Turtle, RBG, photo by Vlad Vorobyev.

Baby Turtle, RBG, photo by Vlad Vorobyev.

Lilys in June, RBG, Burlington, Ontario. All photos Vlad Vorobyev.

Lilys in June, RBG, Burlington, Ontario. All photos Vlad Vorobyev.

Blooms you don't want to miss at Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

Blooms you don’t want to miss at Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

Birds hopping across glorious lily pads, quite the show, for those who realize it's all created for our enjoyment.

Birds hopping across glorious lily pads, quite the show, for those who realize it’s all created for our enjoyment.

These Lilys in Ontario remind me of the Lotuses in Asia, decorating the ponds.

These Lilys in Ontario remind me of the Lotuses in Asia, decorating the ponds.

In case you wanted an instant replay, here again are the delicate and mighty lilies blooming this middle of June 2014 on the free trails at RBG.

In case you wanted an instant replay, here again are the delicate and mighty lilies blooming this middle of June 2014 on the free trails at RBG.

Burlington Sound of Music Free Outdoor Concerts and Reviews 2014

What is so attractive about Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival?

Free music performances, all day, all night, for 4 nights from June 12th to June 15th. A little known fact is that on June 7th, 2014, there is an additional round of concerts to kick off the festival that starts the father’s day weekend after that. Some notable acts for the kick off are Teenage Head, Kim Mitchell, Stone River, Carol Pope of Rough Trade, Lou Gramm: The voice of Foreigner and Coney Hatch. For a full festival lineup to plan this concert mecca, visit http://www.soundofmusic.ca/bands. The website is excellent since you can read about all the bands, listen to samples of their music, and get really pumped!

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

Based on last years festivities, I have a few tips.

The festival is located primarily at Spencer Smith Park where Brant Street meets Lakeshore road. Lake Ontario is a magical backdrop to the festivities, usually hosting nightly fireworks.

Bring a fold-up portable chair. If you bicycle down, you will have to walk your bike in Spencer Smith Park. There is a bike corral behind the Waterfront Hotel where you can lock up your bike under supervision for a few bucks. I have never done either of these things, but always say I will next time. Bring a blanket to sit on, or wander freely from stage to stage enjoy the musical notes infiltrating the air. There is also a “sea” wall to sit on and people watch.

Brant Street gets closed to traffic and becomes pedestrian. Brant Street usually has several stages, looks like 4 this year, with many bands scheduled in close proximity to the viewer. The Brant street acts are great for those who want to sit on the surrounding patios, but are situated on the streets so any passer by can have an intimate concert experience and meet some musicians up close.

Parking-there are shuttle services that you can inquire about from the festival organizers and Burlington Transit. There are some paid parking spots at the No Frills Plaza north of Caroline street on Brant, and some public lots near the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. The Burlington and Mapleview Malls have huge free parking lots and buses going to the festival. Fairview Go/Bus Station (west of Guelph line, east of Brant street) has shuttles going to the festival as well.

Thursday June 12th is usually less busy, even in the evening, and this helps if you want to get closer to the outdoor stages in Spencer Smith Park and have some elbow room. My advice, no offence, is to avoid the “tribute bands” based on the U2 tribute from last year (Bono is a tough act to follow). But you be the judge. I would much rather listen to original music acts which will be featured from 7:00 pm Gentlemen Husbands, Young Rival and am particularly interested in The Sheepdogs at 9:45 pm based on the videos I spotted on the festival website. 

The Sheepdogs exceeded my expectations at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2014. Influences from The doors and other great rockers, but still having their own authentic sound. Unapologetic about their guitar ballads. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs exceeded my expectations at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2014. Influences from The doors and other great rockers, but still having their own authentic sound. Unapologetic about their guitar ballads. Photo by Paula Erskine

The afternoons are filled with family friendly bands starting on Friday June 13th at 1pm.

You may attend during the day, but you don’t want to miss the cooler summer evenings and the fabulous and infamous Burlington Pier which made its debut at The Sound of Music Festival in 2013.
Once it gets dark, the pier’s rocket ship structure becomes a rainbow of changing colours which make us Burlingtonians proud to invite music lovers from all over the world to enjoy its glory too.

Think we have a bunch of no name acts? Think again…Just because they are not on the Top 40, doesn’t mean they are not excellent bands. Many are singer-songwriters and have won Junos, accolades, and have enjoyed great success or about to get really big. But you can see them in Burlington, first. Yes there are some amazing acts that we grew up with that we perhaps never had a chance to attend their concerts.

But there are many bands that are coming up with new material, and on the verge of creating something new and exciting. Read my account of last year’s festivities to see old acts re-invent themselves. You might not recognize their names, but they have always been in the music industry, going from band to solo to new combinations of fabulous music.

Sundays closing concerts on June 15th are also very enjoyable, but start earlier. A lot of dance/Justin Timberlake type acts and singers from 1:00pm to 3:45pm like PRTY H3RO, JRDN and Karl Wolf which I definately recognized once I listened to their videos embedded on the The Sound of Music Festival website. I will probably attend Trooper at 5:30pm on the Festival Stage since they were famous when I was a wee lass. Plus I really enjoyed the closing concert last year of 54 40 where everyone was so chilled after days of free music and you could feel that universal love in the air. I narrowly missed April Wine preceding them which were literally heros for 54 40. So great to hear bands praising other bands that inspired them to become who they are today.

Notable acts this year June 2014 and famous for kicking up his kilt, award winning, modern and legendary fiddler Ashley MacIsaac on Sunday June 15th at 3:45pm.
Sloan plays Saturday June 14th on the OLG stage (there are 3 stages in Spencer Smith Park with Jumbo Tron screens).
Jarvis Church plays the Cogeco Stage on Friday June 13th at 9:45pm.
Colin James, Gord Downie and The Sadies, Trooper, Chilliwack, Hip hop artist Classified, Sons of Revelry, and Maestro Fresh Wes want you to come on down and let your backbone slide.
Many wonderful musical acts to relate to and appreciate and this year’s fantastic, bombastic, get your groove on music festival that is not to be missed. I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Get off the couch, go to Spencer Smith Park in Burlington, and feel the music!

POST SOUND OF MUSIC 2014 REPORT AND PHOTO JOURNAL

The Burlington Pier continues to emanate a light play since it's inaugural debut at the Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Burlington Pier continues to emanate a light play since it’s inaugural debut at the Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

It was impossible to see all 100 free concerts in 4 days in Burlington, Ontario this past June 2014, but I certainly put a dent into my concert repertoire. I just wanted to report on the best acts. I took about 15 minutes to plan my concert outings by going to the sound of music website, view the music videos attached to each artist, printed out a chart, and circled the bands that intrigued me. Some quick notes on following my musical tastes are as follows:

The Sheepdogs played opening night and absolutely rocked it at the Sound of Music Festival 2014. One of the best of 100 free concerts held in Burlington, Ontario. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs played opening night and absolutely rocked it at the Sound of Music Festival 2014. One of the best of 100 free concerts held in Burlington, Ontario. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs, I believe orginally from Saskatchewan, were all about playing great music, and we enjoyed them on opening night in our Canadian Tire fold up chairs. The Sheepdogs humbly stated that the last time they had played in Burlington in a bar, they played to “zero” people. So they played with talent and might and thanked the crowd of thousands for coming out to Spencer Smith Park for the festival. Their music was original, lots of guitar, rhythm, at some points I felt there was some Doors influences, sometimes Zeppelin, but it was all their own sound and very enjoyable. Thursdays are opening night, and the BEST night to go, because the bands are usually some of the better ones, and it is not too crowded…people are very respectful and leave each other alot of space to enjoy the concert on the lawn, even among thousands. The Sheepdogs were understated with their beards and plaid shirts, they would probably blend in with a crowd. But up on stage with guitars in hand, they were unbelieveably talented, totally rocking the show. My friend Tanya and I really enjoyed their energy which seemed to exceed the expectations of the crowd.

Don't let the Dixie hat fool ya. The Walkervilles were entertaining and handsome. Sound of Music 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Don’t let the Dixie hat fool ya. The Walkervilles were entertaining and handsome. Sound of Music 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

The Walkervilles did not dissapoint in their slim suits and cool vibe. They suitably preceded Smokey Robinson look and sound alike singer Jarvis Church who has had his share of hits. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Walkervilles did not dissapoint in their slim suits and cool vibe. They suitably preceded Smokey Robinson look and sound alike singer Jarvis Church who has had his share of hits. Photo by Paula Erskine

Jarvis Church soul singing  at Burlington's Sound of Music Festival 2014. Photographed by Alexis Lagos of www.lacedupimagery.com

Jarvis Church soul singing at Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival 2014. Photographed by Alexis Lagos of http://www.lacedupimagery.com

I also had a chance to witness Jarvis Church in an intimate concert at the Burlington City Hall on Brant Street. He is still looking smooth with his backup singers in slim, shiny suits. He looks alot like a young Smoky Robinson and it such a chillaxed performer. He sounds as good as ever, and we found seats easily not too far from the small stage. Yes Jarvis Church had his day, but he is still truly talented, and I would rather listen to his motown, upbeat, groovy sound than alot of talentless, electronic noise radio stations are paid to play repeatedly polluting our air waves and preventing a variety of great sound and real voices to be enjoyed. I enjoy many different genres of music, I like them shuffled about, old and new, but quality should always be the goal. Anyone who enjoys the “happy style” of music made famous by Sinatra and more recently, Michael Buble, should definately check out Jarvis Church, who appeared somewhere inbetween. Jarvis is looking fine, and still singing his soulful tunes, old and new, and has a feel good intention he generates through song.

Gord Downie's descent into madness after being Tragically hip for so long. The Sadies accompanying him are not to blame, only the terrible sound mixer and unlistenable singing. Sound of Music Festival 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Gord Downie’s descent into madness after being Tragically hip for so long. The Sadies accompanying him are not to blame, only the terrible sound mixer and unlistenable singing. Sound of Music Festival 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Saturday was just insanely busy, impossible to get from one end of the park to the other with any sort of speed. Bathroom lineups were long, the park was fenced off so you couldn’t just escape, you had to go through a giant crowd along the lake for anyone to exit. Having said that, I thought that Gord Downie and the Sadies (Gord of the Tragically Hip) would have been a good choice. I don’t know if it was partially the sound mixer’s fault for that west end stage, but the more intimate stage was impossible to get close to, because the sound was horribly distorted and loud even at the furthest point. Further to our collective disappointment, Gordie warbled, burbled, like a crow, for about 2 or 3 songs, pretended to polish his shoes with his handkerchief, wore a too small jacket, and impressed us not. It was so bad, we left. I am sure the Sadies are quite good, but I could not hear them too well over the crow caws. Maybe he thought he was the singer from Midnight Oil, a want to be. But it was unlistenable. My friend Alexis who had a chance to see Sloan, said, the should have fired the sound mixer for the west end stage. Even Sloan was not sounding so great…she really felt the sound was “off.”

Sound of Music? 2014

Tupper Ware Remix Party revel in their annonymity here. Makes for an interesting photo I suppose. Perhaps they have joined us from another planet. Mork from Ork would approve. When did music get so complicated? Oh ya, maybe it was Kiss.

Sunday the finale, I finally dragged my husband back to the festival (after Saturday’s devastating impact) to watch Ashley MacIsaac, famed fiddle player, to rock the Burlington City Hall on Brant Street. What a following he has, because it was absolutely packed in the square, and his music was oozing wonderful tunes and drawing people in all over Brant street. Ashley MacIsaac healed all of us, and renewed our faith in good music. He had a standing ovation to which he humbly obliged. Terrific show, no antics, just love of music being shared into the atmosphere.

I said goodbye to everyone, and headed down to see Trooper in the main park. I was surrounded by chilled adults of a certain age, and we thoroughly enjoyed listening to the hits we grew up with. I always enjoy the final few concerts of Sound of Music. Sunday rocks of course, but usually they are comebackers from the 70’s, 80’s and in this case, the 90’s. The singer compensated any unachievable notes by holding the microphone a little further away to blend in to the background music. We all knew the words anyway. Originally from British Columbia, it was nice to hear they still rock. The long and grey haired keyboardist had a a very hip black button down shirt from the back, which lay open to reveal a tie dyed t-shirt and rosy cheeks as he played a magnificent medley solo. And they invited fans to come meet them again after the show, just like old times. You can tell that they totally enjoyed themselves on stage. That is what makes a great show.

Why High Tea in Manchester is a Must Do, As is Chetham’s School of Music Free Concerts

All Photos and article by Paula Erskine

High Tea at the Midland Hotel in Manchester starts at 19.95 pounds per person. We dropped in without a reservation, and they gave us the best couches overlooking the lobby and treated us like queens. Every morsel was delicious and fresh. Posh experience without the posh price.

Midland Hotel, High Tea, Manchester</a

Finger Sandwiches at the Midland Hotel, Manchester were delectable. Find the Midland at the corner of Peter and Mount Street. High Tea served from 12 to 5pm.

Finger Sandwiches at the Midland Hotel, Manchester were delectable. Find the Midland at the corner of Peter and Mount Street. High Tea served from 12 to 5pm.

Earl Grey with Bergamot notes in my tea, lots of clotted cream and jam on my scone.

I chose Earl Grey because I love Bergamot. My friends chose Assam.

Although the Midland Hotel can seem intimidating, especially without a reservation. We later learned that it is officially held in the Octagon Lounge. We were glad to have this elevated view of the lobby, which was much less noisy than the restaurant. The server made us feel like vips, putting cloth napkins on our laps, and keeping the tiers of food and specialty teas coming. My colleague informed us that when it comes to hotels and restaurants, there are always 3 rooms or tables on stand-by in case someone needs to be squeezed in due to mistakes. We almost gave up when the hostess told us to come back in 1 hour. But then, she wouldn’t let us leave, checked with the manager, and suddenly, front row centre, steps above the lobby which hosted a giant sky window.

Mid afternoon tea can help combine two meal times in one, in case you missed breakfast trying to catch up on sleep. The price is considered to be very inexpensive for the quality and posh surroundings. Two hours flew by as we contemplated our wonderful view, the glamorous aspect of our jobs overseas, home decor and hiking in the forests of Ontario to relax and recharge.

Midland Hotel cakes, part of the Afternoon Tea which is delightful.

Midland Hotel cakes, part of the Afternoon Tea which is delightful.

Chetham’s Free Mozart Concert followed by Afternoon Tea or Lunch at Tea 4/2-A match made in Itinerary Heaven

Looking for amazing experiences in Manchester? Chethams School of Music hosts free music concerts mid-day, almost daily. The classically trained students perform around noon or one in the afternoon. We were able to catch a Mozart Concert and were absolutely floored by the talent! The performances were classical pieces performed by 4 musicians that were professional and a sheer joy to absorb with the ears, the eyes, and the notes resonated long after it was over. The Chethams School itself is a combination of medieval buildings and modern. You will need a special visitor’s pass you can get at the gate if you are not on an offical tour. The only place you are really allowed to go is the library which they may insist to escort you to for the security of the students. The deep, dark, medieval library has many gates, but if one peers through all the barriers, one can find a treasure trove of history. Chetham’s library hosts Shakespeare’s works, a “Holie Bible,” old printing machinery and many incredible books upon which this land, and the world in fact, tried to record and define itself.

Chetham's talented

Chetham’s talented

DSC08976DSC08988 We openly gush to Sophie about her enthusiastic performance and she sweetly indulges our fanship with a photo.

Chetham's music students rocked Mozart

Chetham’s music students rocked Mozart

A privileged look at the Medieval Setting of Chetham's Free Concerts

A privileged look at the Medieval Setting of Chetham’s Free Concerts

A door to historical findings at Chetham's gated library.

A door to historical findings at Chetham’s gated library.

My travelling cohorts Anne Sophie and Vania marvelling at the Chetham library's collection.

My travelling cohorts Vania and Ann-Sophie marvelling at the Chetham library’s collection.

Ancient and protected books

Ancient and protected books

Printing press

Printing press

Needs no introduction

Needs no introduction

"All that glitters, is not gold" and much more of Shakespeare's poetic messages that still apply to today's society, and alot of help from Cole's notes. Appreciated long after the obligatory school projects.

“All that glitters, is not gold” and much more of Shakespeare’s poetic messages that still apply to today’s society, and alot of help from Cole’s notes. Appreciated long after the obligatory school projects. Only in the last few years, have I discovered the wisdom and brilliance of his inspired “lessons” to humanity, laced in universal truths. Let’s go off campus now, to discover Shakespeare at yet another wonderful library, located in St. Peter’s square.

Shakespeare's image in stained glass, at Central 's Library.

Shakespeare’s image in stained glass, at Central
Library.Manchester's Central Library in St. Peter's Square, England. Shakespeare's works immortalized in Stained glass. Manchester’s Central Library in St. Peter’s Square, England. Shakespeare’s works immortalized in Stained glass.

One can appreciate the impact of Shakespeare's works in this ambitious stained glass window. Captured here are possibly all his contributions to theatrical ponderings. Central Library, Manchester.

One can appreciate the impact of Shakespeare’s works in this ambitious stained glass window. Captured here are possibly all his contributions to theatrical ponderings. Central Library, Manchester.

Now Let's get back to Chetham's School of music, located across from the Football Museum. A great place to chill with it's mix of turf, garden, pond and wit. Entrance to school in the background to orient yourself to the free concerts.

Now Let’s get back to Chetham’s School of music, located across from the Football Museum. A great place to chill with it’s mix of turf, garden, pond and wit. Entrance to school in the background to orient yourself to the free concerts.

A return to innocence.

A return to innocence.

Around the corner from Chetham's School of Music is Afternoon Tea 4/2. In our case, Tea for 3. Our cups runneth over with joy after Mozart.

Around the corner from Chetham’s School of Music is Afternoon Tea 4/2. In our case, Tea for 3. Our cups runneth over with joy after Mozart.

Tea 4/2 is a modern, hip, fuschia and white wing chaired Tea house with tons of tasty lunch items and several gluten free sandwiches and cakes to choose from.

Tea 4/2 is a modern, hip, fuschia and white wing chaired Tea house with tons of tasty lunch items and several gluten free sandwiches and cakes to choose from.

Tea 4/2 has gluten free sandwiches too, I would suggest asking them to toast the bread.

Tea 4/2 has gluten free sandwiches too, I would suggest asking them to toast the bread, and added a mayo dip.

Fenitman's sparkling Rose Lemonade infused with organic Bulgarian Roses is my new favourite drink. Apparently, Bulgaria is famous for it's roses.

Fenitman’s sparkling Rose Lemonade infused with organic Bulgarian Roses is my new favourite drink. Apparently, Bulgaria is famous for its roses.

Brilliant..all photos and article by Paula Erskine

Brilliant..all photos and article by Paula Erskine

Tea 4/2 Manchester, England

Tea 4/2 Manchester, England

Tea 4/2, Manchester

Tea 4/2, Manchester

DSC09040

Mementos

Mementos

Costa Rica’s Wild Beaches, Pura Vida, Liberia

Costa Rica indeed has it's version of a whitish sand beach, Playa Coco

Costa Rica’s Remote Beaches, Playa Coco
Photos and article by Paula Erskine
In the case of Costa Rica, pictures speak volumes of the remote or lightly populated nooky beaches. Although renting a car for just one day can be more expensive than longer periods of time, the roads are well signed and beaches easy to get to. Word to the wise and the wordpressians…do not speed and take note of the changing speed limits in Costa Rica. The police will gladly ticket you and are on the lookout for unlawful drivers. We split our truck rental 6 ways and if you have a credit card that covers car insurance on rentals, that will save you from taking insurance from the rental company. Even though we only had a day to spend at Play Flamingo and Playa Coco each, those few hours away from a hotel atmosphere felt like a week in relaxing chill land. Play coco is a place I would definatly return to. It had one main restaurant on the beach where we watched the sunset and listened to their local two piece band. There was also a small resort midway across the street with a pool, but 99% of them were at hotel pool. Which left the beach for just a few of us. As day turn to dusk, people filtered into the reggae bar to enjoy and marvel at this wild, and fairly undisturbed beach and it’s glorious sunset.

Costa Rica's sunset melts into the ocean at Playa Coco.

Costa Rica’s sunset melts into the ocean at Playa Coco.

All photos by Paula Erskine Loco Coco at Play Coco served up delicious food right down to it's coconut ice scream! on the beach dream.

All photos by Paula Erskine
Loco Coco at Play Coco served up delicious food right down to it’s coconut ice scream! on the beach dream.

The food was very innovative, adventurous and delicious at Loco Coco Restaurant in Playa Coco. Some of the best appetizers and meals I have ever had in Costa Rica. They had a two piece band that filled the background to the spectacular Costa Rican sunset. Great tables on the beach, which for some reason, has a whiter cast than other more volcanic brown beaches. Then again, I have never met a beach in Costa Rica I did not like.

The food was very innovative, adventurous and delicious at Loco Coco Restaurant in Playa Coco. Some of the best appetizers and meals I have ever had in Costa Rica. They had a two piece band that filled the background to the spectacular Costa Rican sunset. Great tables on the beach, which for some reason, has a whiter cast than other more volcanic brown beaches. Then again, I have never met a beach in Costa Rica I did not like.

Backlit by the Costa Rican Sunset, Playa Coco

Backlit by the Costa Rican Sunset, Playa Coco. Striped Navy and cream cotton maxi dress from BH department stores, England

Don't let the small waves fool you, they are tall enough to knock you over and spin you around. Be careful on all beaches, the currents are strong. Most of us chose to stay at knee or waist level and battle the waves, and refresh ourselves from the heat of the sun. Lots of fun, laughter and unexpected wave slaps. Just to keep us all in check. Playa Flamingo

Don’t let the small waves fool you, they are tall enough to knock you over and spin you around. Be careful on all beaches, the currents are strong. Most of us chose to stay at knee or waist level and battle the waves, and refresh ourselves from the heat of the sun. Lots of fun, laughter and unexpected wave slaps. Just to keep us all in check. Playa Flamingo

Why Costa Rica is One of My Favourite Places Costa Rica is the destination to rent a car and visit the many simple, unspoiled, nooky beaches all along the coast. It takes just a few hours away from a hotel to feel refreshed, energized, peaceful and gain the feeling that you alone have discovered these beaches with a handful of locals and very few outsiders. Playa Flamingo is very simple, feels very local and was not without it's own quirks. The beach sand had a thin film of water that was an incredible mirror to our own images and the sky. It is so great to be unplugged in paradise. Forget what you know about white sand beaches. Despite the volcanic brown sands, Costa Rica's beaches can really make you feel you have entered another world. The monkeys slept lazily in the trees above, the restaurant owner showcases his parrot pair, and the ocean's breaking waves can really throw you around, so be cautious with the current and stay close to the shore. I would say a picture says a thousand words in the case of Costa Rica, several pictures, a rented car, two wonderful beaches in two days, and keeping the great company of people who are not satisfied with cookie cutter vacations. Costa Rica is still wild, still unspoiled, and unpredictable. Go Wild and carefree, in Costa Rica.

Why Costa Rica is One of My Favourite Places
Costa Rica is the destination to rent a car and visit the many simple, unspoiled, nooky beaches all along the coast. It takes just a few hours away from a hotel to feel refreshed, energized, peaceful and gain the feeling that you alone have discovered these beaches with a handful of locals and very few outsiders. Playa Flamingo is very simple, feels very local and was not without it’s own quirks. The beach sand had a thin film of water that was an incredible mirror to our own images and the sky. It is so great to be unplugged in paradise. Forget what you know about white sand beaches. Despite the volcanic brown sands, Costa Rica’s beaches can really make you feel you have entered another world. The monkeys slept lazily in the trees above, the restaurant owner showcases his parrot pair, and the ocean’s breaking waves can really throw you around, so be cautious with the current and stay close to the shore. I would say a picture says a thousand words in the case of Costa Rica, several pictures, a rented car, two wonderful beaches in two days, and keeping the great company of people who are not satisfied with cookie cutter vacations. Costa Rica is still wild, still unspoiled, and unpredictable. Go Wild and carefree, in Costa Rica.

A simple beach restaurant on Playa Flamingo with it's owners perched to entertain us from above. (A couple of small hotels there, but not necessarily open to public.) Very local and spanish speaking atmosphere throughout, very unpopulated, they way we like it.)

A simple beach restaurant on Playa Flamingo with it’s owners perched to entertain us from above. (A couple of small hotels there, but not necessarily open to public.) Very local and spanish speaking atmosphere throughout, very unpopulated, they way we like it.)

Fascinating to watch these monkeys, some of which woke up long enough to trek along with their young from tree to tree. Playa Flamingo

Fascinating to watch these monkeys, some of which woke up long enough to trek along with their young from tree to tree. Playa Flamingo

Half way through my plate, I can say Playa Flamingo's simplest beach restaurant was tasty, but likely store bought fillets prepared with local, buttery goodness and again, store fries. Then again, some people prefer their fish filleted. We donated some clothes to one of the servers, used clean washrooms, and enjoyed their beachfront location, their pet parrots and onlooking monkey natives in the trees above all of which were keeping us entertained. My sunglasses hiding behind the water bottle would soon be swallowed in a fight with the waves at Playa Coco weeks later. The moment I survived several tumbles in the surf is the moment I said goodbye to my, ahem, "designer," prescription glasses. Several gulps of salt water cured my pining their loss for more than the hour that I searched for them to wash back up onto the beach.

Half way through my plate, I can say Playa Flamingo’s simplest beach restaurant was good, but likely store bought fillets prepared with local, buttery goodness and again, store fries. But we donated some clothes to one of the servers, used clean washrooms, and enjoyed their beachfront location, their pet parrots and onlooking monkey natives in the trees above all of which were keeping us entertained. My sunglasses hiding behind the water bottle would soon be swallowed in a fight with the waves at Playa Coco weeks later. The moment I survived several tumbles in the surf is the moment I said goodbye to my, ahem, “designer,” prescription glasses. Several gulps of salt water cured my pining their loss for more than the hour that I searched for them to wash back up onto the beach.

Other than the 2 hotels, which was lightly populated, we gladly visited this lone restaurant and it's humourous, rest station.

Other than the 2 hotels, which was lightly populated, we gladly visited this lone restaurant and it’s humourous, rest station.

Nature's Art Museum, the road to Playa Flamingo.

Nature’s Art Museum, the road to Playa Flamingo.

Of course, buses take local currency the equivalent of an American dollar. However, many buses later (and about 2 hours in the blazing sun across the road from Liberia's airport, and a spanish speaking qualified person interpreting our urgency to reach the beach the same day we set out, had us pondering the taxi alternative. Two hours in the blazing heat, we started to negotiate with several taxi drivers. Negotiating from in front of the airport is not in the least advantageous to getting a good price. But eventually, we came up with a $40 ride for 4. Time was ticking, and later we found out that the bus was in a major accident and had blocked traffic for miles. On the way back from Playa Flamingo, we saw these spectacular flower bushes. After visiting the local grocery store, we negotiated for a ride home with a Tina Turner type taxi driver. We pretended we only wanted to go to a certain stop half way and take the bus back to the airport from there. But in the darkness, and winding roads, our spanish qualified brother figure managed to negotiate a $25 direct to hotel rate. Which made us realize what a bad deal we got on the way to Playa Flamingo. Buses may be cheap in Costa Rica, but out of many buses that passed us, each one said it's "right behind this one" in vain. So if it the bus never comes, and you don't get to visit this quirky beach, then you can't afford not to take a taxi. Well worth visiting. Be prepared with american dollars and local currency and know the exchange before you set out. The hotel at Playa Flamingo had already sent their deposits to the bank and could not exchange  any money for us so we could eat in the simple beach restaurant. Upon leaving the beach area, we found a grocery store and one of us got it on good authority that there was a bank machine quite a bit down the road. The cabbie gave him a ride, quite a walk, to be nice. Nothing worse than facing a bank machine dispenses millions in local currency and not knowing the exchange. Enough said.

Of course, buses take local currency the equivalent of an American dollar. However, many buses later (and about 2 hours in the blazing sun across the road from Liberia’s airport, and a spanish speaking qualified person interpreting our urgency to reach the beach the same day we set out, had us pondering the taxi alternative. Two hours in the blazing heat, we started to negotiate with several taxi drivers. Negotiating from in front of the airport is not in the least advantageous to getting a good price. But eventually, we came up with a $40 ride for 4. Time was ticking, and later we found out that the bus was in a major accident and had blocked traffic for miles. On the way back from Playa Flamingo, we saw these spectacular flower bushes. After visiting the local grocery store, we negotiated for a ride home with a Tina Turner type taxi driver. We pretended we only wanted to go to a certain stop half way and take the bus back to the airport from there. But in the darkness, and winding roads, our spanish qualified brother figure managed to negotiate a $25 direct to hotel rate. Which made us realize what a bad deal we got on the way to Playa Flamingo. Buses may be cheap in Costa Rica, but out of many buses that passed us, each one said it’s “right behind this one” in vain. So if it the bus never comes, and you don’t get to visit this quirky beach, then you can’t afford not to take a taxi. Well worth visiting. Be prepared with american dollars and local currency and know the exchange before you set out. The hotel at Playa Flamingo had already sent their deposits to the bank and could not exchange any money for us so we could eat in the simple beach restaurant. Upon leaving the beach area, we found a grocery store and one of us got it on good authority that there was a bank machine quite a bit down the road. The cabbie gave him a ride, quite a walk, to be nice. Nothing worse than facing a bank machine dispenses millions in local currency and not knowing the exchange. Enough said.

Reflecting on the beautious Playa Flamingo beach... Seeing the sky mirrored across the glassy sand was magic.

Reflecting on the beautious Playa Flamingo beach… Seeing the sky mirrored across the glassy sand was magic.

all photos Paula Erskine Nothing better than a live sunset.

all photos Paula Erskine
Nothing better than a live sunset.

Single Travellers Can Avoid Single Supplement Fees in These All Inclusive Hotels

Your doing fine, Fidel...revolutionary guerilla fighter Camilo Cienfuegos overlooking Revolution Square, Cuba.

Your doing fine, Fidel…revolutionary guerilla fighter Camilo Cienfuegos overlooking Revolution Square, Cuba.

My father is retired and I am an active flight attendant and can share that trying to book a resort for a single person at an all-inclusive resort is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Most single people end up paying double or a hefty premium on their vacations just because they want to vacay solo. As far as avoiding the single supplement fee, Cuba is your best chance in the Caribbean to get non single supplement all inclusive hotels. Also Cuba has places that are not all inclusive called “Casas” (houses) where you sleep and perhaps walk or bus to the beach. They used to be about $25 a night, not including food.

The three resorts in all of Cuba that came up for my single dad that were minimal fee to none single supplement fee were the following major all inclusive resorts as if this spring 2014:

Husa Cayo Santa Maria
Iberstar Daiquiri Cayo Coco
Blau Costa Verde Holguin

Your welcome, single supplement people, to Cuba’s pristine white sand beaches. They actually value your patronage and realize that just because you are travelling alone, doesn’t mean you should pay double. 

Another tip is to stay at private condos, bed and breakfasts that don’t penalize you. Hotels and Casas can be found off the beaten path, but are sometimes much more rewarding vacations. You get a chance to walk through the town, interact with the locals,and sample local foods and local prices.

Who does he think He is?

Which reminds me of a story of a van full of crew members and a tour we took in a taxi van with a 300lb. driver for $70 U.S. each. Our Spanish speaking crew member translated what became hilarious interactions and observations by our driver. Some Cubans in general rely on “sages” to help them, for example one seemed to cure his son of a bronchial illness. It seems that, because of communism, alot had taken to imported African customs and rituals to put it nicely. As the group of us joked more and more, it seems that I was laughing the loudest to which the driver looked back through his rear view mirror, sweating, and remarked, (translated), “We have a saying in Cuba…that someone who laughs alone, is possessed by the devil.” To which the whole van roared with laughter, mine the loudest. I tried to get my colleague to explain, that everyone was in fact laughing in the van, it’s just that…mine was the hysterical sounding laugh. But I was not laughing alone! To no avail. I made him nervous. Then we proceeded to park and visit a viewpoint in which we could watch Che Guevera’s house from atop a cliff. We self guided ourselves to the hill and the back of an imposing, giant statue with long hair. I was thinking from the back, a bearded character, maybe it is a statue of Che overlooking the house he used to live in. Yet, our driver did not mention the statue, the 20 metre statue on a cliff overlooking a good portion of the city. As we rounded the base of the statue, we were all wondering why our driver had not mentioned it. We all thought it peculiar in proportion to the tiny house of Che which was clearly overshadowed. As we stared up, a few of us realized by our own deductions that this indeed was a statue of Jesus in a communist country. Immediately I tried to understand the driver’s perspective and I said, “Well then, who does he think He is?” Even when we got back to the van, there was clearly an absence of detail about the site. We don’t know what the driver was thinking, but this was an unoffical tour which also did not mention the military shooting ranges we passed on the way there.
The tour continued on to Havana, again self-guided, wandering the streets. Upon our return towards our hotel in Varadero, after a long day, our superstitious driver invited us back to his home. None of us wanted to go, but didn’t want him to pick up on that. So in case he in fact did understand any english whatsoever, we decided to communicate to each other in a language we deemed “non-latin derivatives.” Sure, we used the word “dwelling” instead to refer to his house, and other vocabularly challenging references to discuss excuses to get out of it. Our eastern block colleague, looked at all of us giggling, and said, “I don’t get it,” with a straight face. Maybe that’s because we weren’t playing the game right. In the end, we could not gracefully bow out, and we actually enjoyed the tour of his house the most. The van had a huge garage, with ceramic black and white tile, and a few cloves of garlic hanging randomly. The kitchen was very tiny, with his wife handing him his bag of prescriptions as we came in. The bathroom had no toilet seat, which seems to be a luxury anywhere. And The 1 bedroom had two beds, in which they slept with their kids. The driver mentioned he was so grateful for having a van that could provide an income for his family and took up most of his house. Considering that the average Cuban makes $30 per month, it was pretty humbling. But this taxi driver, just made a a year’s income in one day with a van full of flight attendants. We still talk about how much we laughed to this day.

Who does he think He is?


Money Matters

For your airplane ride, nearly all airlines now only deal with credit cards and absolutely do not accept cash, debit cards, credit/debit cards or gift/visa cards. So please do get a credit card for your airplane journey in case you want something that is not provided onboard. Do not assume your airline is obliged to feed you and accomodate any special food needs you may have. Do not assume you will get your first meal choice onboard if there is a meal at all, as an airplane is NOT a restaurant. DO travel with snacks for your plane ride and DO buy your water after passing through security. You will be cold or hot on the plane and there is nothing you can do about it except buy a blanket or don’t. So may I humbly suggest, layer your clothes, bring that pashmina, wear socks, long pants, closed toe shoes (or socks and sandals), or those nifty convertible pants that turn into shorts. On your return flight you will be dressed for the sun but it gets cold in the plane fast, so DO bring your coat over your arm through security, you will be glad you brought it onboard and can sling it over legs when you realize you are only wearing shorts. Fleece zip up tops work great.

The subject on money in Cuba and other destinations…

Keep in mind, tourists do not have access to Cuban “convertible pesos”, but you can buy and pay for everything in regular Cuban pesos. Be sure to get some pesos if possible before you go. If it’s not possible, try the airport exchange or bank machines when you land as your best bet. You will need cash to convert for emergency funds, in case the ATM or bank machine is acting up at your hotel. You can also convert money at exchange kiosks for example in hotels. The lineups are sometimes long, but don’t expect that you will get a fair price for your dollars. It’s been my experience that we asked what the rate was, went in with our calculator, and checked the math, and the girl was ripping people off by a few dollars each time. The posted exchange rate, which sometimes puts their pesos at par with Canadian currency, is the rate you will get. It is futile to argue the posted exchange rate. I am referring to their “calculations” of that rate, so go in with your calculator and show her the facts if their is a discrepancy. Be polite but firm. Rudeness will get you nowhere. I have seen many drunk people go in to kiosks looking for more cash, perfect victims.

When using a bank machine down south, or anywhere other than your own bank…

-Do not ask for your balance, even if the machine offers. The machine’s brain cannot give you a balance, and then will inexplicably refuses you funds.
-Try your checking and/or your savings account.
-Try another “brand” of bank machine or another bank
-Research the approximate exchange so you don’t take out too much or too little, it will likely ask you how much you want in local funds, I repeat, local funds.

American dollars in Cuba…

Cuba does NOT accept American dollars due to the embargo imposed against them. Bring your calculator and check them astutely for any money exchange, but you have to accept whatever rate they give you, and the commission charged. Don’t expect locals to take credit cards, sometimes hotels won’t either, or they will not be able to process it as everything is a bit outdated in Cuba. Having said that, keep in mind that the average Cuban makes about $30 a month across the country, and the food will be quite reasonable. Always remember to go with the flow, and not try to westernize the countries you are visiting. We are privileged guests, and Cuba is generally one of the safest places to go in the Caribbean.

Image

Stuff your suitcase with unwanted, gently used items, donate them to staff or if you get a chance to interact with locals who do not have access to such luxuries, do that. I once gave 7 dresses to seven ladies to the wait staff of the dining room. Shoes, clothes and any supplies are always appreciated.These make great tips, as do tips in local currency. I learned in Africa, that leaving a tip in local currency is good, but over tipping when a local is making $30 is not a good idea either. Some airlines will give baggage extra baggage allowances for which you must fill out an official form to donate goods. You may have to declare these goods when you come in to the country. The best way is just fill your regular suitcases and go home a little lighter in every way.

footnotes: Thank you to http://www.talkingcuba.wordpress.com/tag/havana/ for the image of Jesus.

Cruise Deals and Cheaper Flight Tips from Flight Attendants

Flight Attendant Style, by Paula Erskine

Flight Attendants Know The Best Deals, photo and article by Paula Erskine


No one will give more of an honest answer than flight attendants when it comes to getting a great travel deal. After polling several of my colleagues,
here are the top tips:

1. If you are a Canadian looking for a deal, know that Americans do not travel on their Thanksgiving weekend, it is a big family holiday, and they like staying home and getting together. Canadians can take advantage as we celebrate Thanksgiving on a different weekend than our Southern neighbors. All you’ll have to do is make your way down to Florida, and flights at that time may be cheap as well out of major airports such as Toronto or even consider cross border flights from Buffalo or Niagara. Americans can likely save on Canadian Thanksgiving holidays, however, in the U.S. it seems to be a much bigger deal and much bigger population that is not travelling around. Maybe some Americans will reconsider travel on these dates, hopefully not too many…Shhhh…let’s keep it our Canadian secret.

2. Are you ok with basic cruising like a pool, but very unusual ports of call? Why not try booking yourself on a cargo ship? Cargo ships have a skeleton staff,can provide the same food they feed their staff, and usually a pool. This is no frills, and if you are not bothered about a particular time frame and can go away sometimes for up to 3-6 months or less. A colleague of mine knows of a couple who bonded with the crew over several months, the husband brought books to read and the wife, her knitting. She ended up knitting sweaters for the crew, and they were treated like family. Remember, if you want to make friends, you have to be someone you’d like to hang out with. The advantage is, ports of call you would never normally see on your average cruise. Plus from what I remember, it was about $6,000 but for about 6 months, now that is cheap living!

3. If you are a flight attendant friend, you can try booking through Dargal which services airline staff and their friends. Usually the flight attendant must accompany you on your vacation, but in very few instances, a deal can be extended to friends. It always depends on the flexibility of the patron and the season. If you are leaving during March break, your price will reflect a high demand. This year, due to a particularly harsh winter, there are very few airline/cruise deals, as everyone is desperate for a sunny escape. In fact, some airlines are adding destinations and multiple flights to their usual sunny destinations just to satisfy the demand.Keep an eye out in the newspapers and online for deals. A travel agent can keep a close watch for you so you don’t have to stress about it. Never give up, but be flexible.But don’t call if your not a flight attendant, identification is required to be faxed and/or letter of employment. You can likely view some of their deals online without a problem. Two years ago, I tried to get a cruise deal for my dad, and due to the single supplement requirement, found that booking a resort was cheaper than booking a cruise, and that was through Expedia.

4. Get yourself an email just for coupons and registrations. Now register for the major cruise lines. You agree to receive their updates and newsletters, and when that deal gets sent out, you will be ready to pounce on it! Disney is a great one to register for. After awhile, you will notice which times of year they start dropping prices. Also, when cruises are not sold out, they will start emailing out the deals. Start a few months early to get an idea of the prices and inclusions. Some cruises do not include airfare, but have no fear, especially if you live near the border of Canada and U.S. I have it on good authority, that when Torontos airports or Hamilton do not provide a compatible flight, Niagara and Buffalo in the U.S. can fill in the deficit. Spirit Airlines, operating out of Niagara Falls airport (if you blink, you might miss it) is a no frills carrier with red-eye hours to Florida. Very unusual flight times in the middle of the night, but you will be relieved at the price. The catch is that although tickets can be as low as $50, you are only allowed one backpack each and you will be charged handsomely for cargo. It is highly recommended that you register for Spirit. This will cost about $9, but it will bring down your cargo fees to dirt cheap. So my colleague paid $50 pp plus $200 for cargo for a family of four to Florida. And cashed in on a deal she got registering for Disney cruises. She shoved as much as she could of the heavy items (ie. shoes) into the backpacks they each carried on board the flight. Parking usually is much cheaper in the U.S. or you can bus it. Perx is also worth registering yourself for great deals and selloffs.

5. Holland America usually hauls in the 50 plus crowd, which is great for some. Several of my colleagues have highly recommended Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, their premium line which offers top notch service, lots of class, and reflects the quality of the crowd. Unfortunately, Carnival and it’s sister Princess have gone downhill in terms of service and quality, and the crowd is a bit more party, and alot more casual. We call this the spring breaker crowd. If you don’t mind that, there might be a deal in there somewhere. This comes from friends that prefer the other types of cruises.