Elaisha Goes...Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel Review

Elaisha Jade in  Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel

One night wasn't enough. Guys, I had the opportunity to review the Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel while on my way to the east coast this summer. This location reopened after an overhaul of the look and feel of the space. And let me just say from the top, it was luxe.

Keep reading to find out whether I would recommend that you stay here for your next trip to my favourite city. 


Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel lobby
Elaisha jade in the Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel lobby

When we walked into the hotel I was exhausted. We wheeled our luggage up to the concierge after a drive in from Toronto. It was 10 pm but the hotel staff were chipper and friendly. We brought our own luggage up to the room which I was ok with. The next morning I actually had the chance to check out the lobby and I loved the space. The multi-colour scheme and tiles really gave the space a luxe feel. I felt all bougie sitting there the next morning waiting for Caleigh to get back from her TV appearance. 

Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel room

The first thing that caught my eye when we walked into the room was the artwork and decor. I loved the bedside table lamp (I want one for my new apartment) and the little face on the wall. It was kinda creepy and kinda cool at the same time. This might sound odd, but my least favourite part was the curtains. I felt that they fell short compared to the rest of the decor. In the grander scheme however it really didn’t matter that much especially because we were just there for one night. 

Elaisha Jade in Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel

Caleigh and I shared a bed and it honestly felt like we were on separate mattresses. It was plush and I felt like I was in a fortress of sheets. I slept straight through the night and felt rested enough to wake up and work in the morning before we got on the road. I felt a boost of productivity when I woke up in such a clear space. There was even a tea bar available for use with a cute Tassimo machine too. 

I think the best part of this room was the bathroom. The white and urban decor was a treat. I really enjoyed my warm shower in the morning in the spacious bathroom. I wrapped in a warm hotel robe and felt kinda sexy walking around that room. There was enough counter space for Caleigh and me to spread all of our girlie stuff out.  

Elaisha Jade Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel bathroom

We were able to park our RV on the street. However we had to move it early in the morning to ensure that there was no disruption to traffic (and that we wouldn’t get a ticket). Underground parking is available however we had to park outside since our RV was oversized.  Checkout was a breeze we just waved goodbye, packed into our RV and rode into the sun. 

If you want a more romantic Montreal experience you might want to stay a little further out in Old Montreal. However , If you plan on touring downtown Montreal, this Hotel will give you the chance to do so with so much convenience. Access to Montreal’s Eaton’s Centre is a quick walk away. As well, there are several options for the underground Metro. 

I really loved my stay at the Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below. 

New Brunswick Route Guide: an 8-day travel itinerary

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New Brunswick was the best part of my East Coast road trip. Maybe it was because I spent most of my time in the Maritime province. However, I remember my friend and travel enthusiast Andrew Gunadie recommending New Brunswick to me. I admittedly brushed him off. However, I wish I visited earlier.

From eating moose to riding the longest zip line in Atlantic Canada keep reading for how you can take in the best parts of New Brunswick with my 8-day road trip itinerary.

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Day 1 Hopewell rocks Visit the rocks at low tide (be sure to check the schedule before you plan your trip out!). Get there a little early to beat the crowd then stroll about where the water will rise in a few hours. Nothing made me feel smaller than that!

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If you head up there when it’s high tide, be sure to get there and grab your pictures but also explore the other trails. Wear comfortable shoes and make the trek to the beach. I put my feet in the Atlantic ocean for the first time and walked along the shore. It was very pretty.

 

Day 2 Explore Downtown Fredericton Take a bike Ride down the St John river! The Delta hotel had two cruiser bikes reserved for us to take a tour of Fredericton. That was a great advantage of staying at that central and waterfront hotel. There were over 85kms of bike paths. I noticed a lot of bikers uptown and downtown. We chatted up two cops and asked about the laws of bike riding in Fredericton. We had to wear helmets and ensure that we were biking on the street. If we wanted to dismount and walk on the sidewalk, we were allowed to bring our bike on. To take advantage of the biking ensure you map out your path beforehand.

We parked our cruises and enjoyed a quick brunch at the Lunar. The cute bar was located right off of the main street in Downtown Fredericton. When we arrived it was 11:30 am and quiet on the patio. By the time we left at about 12:30 the patio was packed. I enjoyed a delicious salmon salad. The salmon tasted fresh and was cooked very well. The salad itself was lacklustre but the delicious fish made up for it.

Another great spot to explore was the Beaverbrook Art Museum.

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Day 3 Kayak the St. John River with Second Nature Outdoors + Eat Away Confession: I didn’t know how to Kayak before I got in one. I definitely recommend getting a guide on board if it’s your first time kayaking. Or if you’re on the water with someone who’s inexperienced. Thankfully Caleigh gave me the run down by the end of it I was able to fake it well enough for my GoPro footage and survived the journey.

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We hopped on a shuttle that brought us a few kilometres away from the Second Adventures head location. We then kayaked up to where we started. It was beautiful! The map we were given showed us the common or ‘easy trail’ just a straight shot up the St. John river back to where we started. But the guides at Second Adventures recommended that we also dock at various islands and explore. Since we had dinner reservations and I had to get the hang of kayaking for the first time we decided to only dock once. We explored the shore of an island a few kilometres from where we started. There happened to be a summer camp trip there. The little kids were enjoying their lunch and running around in the sand.

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Eat dinner at The Catch at the Delta Hotel Our three-course dinner was absolutely incredible. The standout dish was definitely the oysters. They were bathed in a white wine and covered in a fresh vegetable vinaigrette I was in absolute heaven. I also remembered the sweetness of the delicious jam served with the creamy baked brie. You can check out my full review here.

Dine at Isaacs Way This place was recommended to us a few times. While we didn't get the chance to go, I was able to check out some of their yummy dishes on Instagram.

A post shared by Sam (@sammmoore) on

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Have breakfast in bed at the Crown Plaza Hotel While brunch was a delicious option available at the Crown, Caleigh and I felt like sleeping in a bit. I ordered brunch in bed and was pleasantly surprised. After a relaxing shower, I got back into bed and awaited our breakfast. My eggs Benedict sat on a delicious and thick biscuit with a piece of peameal bacon sandwiched between. It was dripping with hollandaise sauce and I was in heaven. I also ordered a fruit platter which was also delivered with a delicious creme fresh. While I could have taken a nap after, we set out on the road after brunch.

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Day 4 Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market This farmer’s market is one of the biggest ones in Canada. The selection was actually a bit dizzying. From the indoor to the outdoor market, Caleigh and I took our time peering at all of the options. We were there pretty early (7:30am) and it was already pretty busy. I downed a delicious cinnamon stick (my favourite treat that day) and some homemade maple fudge. The fudge was so good I wished I had actually gotten more.

Day 5 Explore Miramichi

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Zipline over the cove in Miramichi Dare to ride the longest Zipline in the Maritimes! The line is strung across a river and hiking trail. Riders have the chance to stroll the hiking grounds before they sprint and dive on the line over the lake. It was absolutely amazing and I was shaking. I had such a fun time

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Visit the Metepenagiag Heritage Park I was invited to an incredible repatriation ceremony. The Canadian Government returned artefacts to Mi’kmaq people. The ceremony gave me the chance to visit the Heritage Park and explore the centre attached to it. I learned more about the Mi’kmaq tribe and enjoyed some delicious dishes (I ATE MOOSE GUYS!).

 

Dinner at 1809 I left 1809 stuffed but ready for more. While all of the dishes were sinfully delicious, I recommend the lobster. The one I ate was fresh, and it actually made a difference. Guests poured into the restaurant from a boat taxi at a dock right on the restaurant’s patio. Our server greeted us in her New Brunswick lilt and gave us a slew of recommendations. I enjoyed my first oyster there and the chef was super friendly and greeted us at our table.

 

The lobster was so fresh. I grabbed a claw and went to work it was so buttery and I wish I could go back in time and eat it over and over and over again. The beet hummus was incredible. I enjoyed our meal with a few drinks and definitely recommend trying a cocktail created with their local spirits.

 

Day 6 Visit St Johns for Blueberries and the Whirlpool I didn’t have the chance to visit the quaint St. John’s New Brunswick. However, I received a lot of advice on what to do there. One of the coolest attractions mentioned to me was the whirlpool. The other point was to find some delicious wild blueberries.

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Day 7 Drive to St Andrews and Visit the Kingsbrae Garden St Andrews was stunning. The first stop was the Kingsbrae Garden! With over Over 50,000 perennials in their themed gardens, I was in heaven (and Lord was I was happy I took an allergy pill before we went). It was a cute place to spend the day and I wish we were there longer. There was a little cafe where onlookers were listening to a beautiful show with an opera singer and live orchestra. I was in bliss.

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Day 8 Stroll Downtown St Andrews and Whale Watch I took a walk downtown in St Andrews. Families strolled about as they ate their ice cream cone. They walked in and out of stores and restaurants. I walked up the harbour and took a peek into some of the stores myself. I was excited to see whale watching activities available there too.

Want to visit New Brunswick? Let me know what your favourite activity was in the comments below.

Vacation Ready Nails: Top Nail Polishes for Fall Winter Beach Trips

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Get your talons ready for the sun. Manicures and pedicures are the most basic form of pampering! While I am a fan of DIY nails, this time around I got my nails did at a salon with my aunt and cousin. Keep reading for my iconic nail colour picks.

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Before I left for Jamaica, I scoured Pinterest for the perfect nail colour. To be honest, I had already decided on white nails. There's nothing like white nail polish against a golden tan. However, when I got to the salon, I still took a look at the shelf—just in case. Fingernail FOMO is a huge deal. Here are some adorable shades you can rock on your next vacation.

Butter London Patent Shine 10x Nail Lacquer

Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer

L'Oreal Paris Le Verni Fuchsia Palace 330

ZOYA Nail Polish, 0.5 fl. Oz. in Snow White

essie Gel Couture Nail Colour Polish: Make The Cut

Do you have a favourite shade that you wear on every vacation? Let me know in the comments below.

Putting Myself First: Why I Travel

This August I was fed up. In a previous post, I shared that I got back into the driver's seat of my life. That I decided to take charge of the chaos around me by changing the course of my life's direction. Part of that transformation involved choosing myself. Keep reading for how I did and to see some cute pics from my adventures in St Andrews and Fredericton New Brunswick! (More to come on those soon!)

When did being selfish become a bad thing? When did picking my needs over someone else's make me a monster?  I looked back at certain parts of my life I can see where I put my needs and desires for my future on hold. My desire to finish school, the urge to live abroad and my need to live alone. These were all things I battled with on a deep level.

For months I felt that I was running on a treadmill. Tired from the excruciating journey but not actually getting anywhere. Just spinning my wheel hoping that soon I would be where I wanted to go. But hope wasn't enough. I listened to the audiobook version of, 'Adventures for Your Soul' by Shannon Kaiser. This book was amazing. It really opened my eyes to why I was travelling so much. I was running away from my grief, from making a decision about my life and from what it would mean if I faced both of them.

Then I made a plan. This plan involved everything I wanted to do. At the top of the list is my desire to move to a city I've wanted to call home for close to 8 years. Instead of staring forlornly at Instagram shots of this city I started researching neighborhoods. Cost of living. Taxes. Anything I could get my hands on. If you fail to plan you plan to fail right?

The plan is to move there next year in January or February! This is all a part of a grander scheme that I can't wait to unfold. The plan is to continue to travel, but not so I can escape. I want to travel to explore and really enjoy where I am, not rue the countdown to coming home.

Thanks for being a part of this journey guys. I can't wait for what's to come.

Shoes: Mark’s & Spencer, Dress Tobi, Purse Urban Outfitters

Dress: Tobi, Purse: Urban Outfitters Shoes: Steve Madden 

Dress Tobi

 

Shoes: Mark's & Spencer, Dress Tobi, Purse Urban Outfitters

 

Anxious Travel: How to Sleep When you Feel Anxious

 

Pictures by Bratty B

I’m jealous of people who can fall sleep easily. I’ve faced some issues with getting rest due to some anxiety and having a hyperactive personality. Sometimes I feel like falling asleep is a daily recipe I need to follow. A dark and quiet room mixed with gentle lavender and warm PJs are the best combo for me, but the world sadly doesn’t revolve around me, especially when I travel. There are frequent nights when my thoughts swirl to no end and I just give up on sleeping and watch movie trailers all night.

While I’m pretty easy going, when it comes to sleep I’m very sensitive. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. I was only able to get a few hours of sleep in the before visiting my favourite amusement park. I’d spend days at school falling asleep at my desk because I just couldn’t get to sleep the night before. People have made me feel like I’m being too sensitive, or like I need to ‘get over’ how I feel. It took me some time to finally accept that I’m not like most people when it comes to sleep and that that’s ok.

So far this year, I’ve slept: on 4 international flights, in 2 cars, 3 taxis, 2 bullet trains, 1 RV, 5 hotels and 1 chalet. From road trips to crossing the pond I’ve caught some zzz’s when travelling from point A to B. I can usually sleep through anything…the problem is the initial journey to falling asleep.

Keep reading for my tips on how you restless travellers can actually get some sleep every night (and a reveal of where I’m headed this week)!

Create a Routine

I’ve found that creating and sticking to a routine has been the best way to wind down for the night. When Caleigh and I were on the road this summer on the East Coast of Canada she was surprised that I did my routine almost every night. Whether we were in the RV or in the fanciest hotel in town, I whipped on my nighttime head scarf and got to work. Try to create your own routine and don’t be afraid to change it up as you go along.

Use a black out mask

This is not your average sleeping mask. This thing is made to block out all light with its adjustable elastic closure. On long haul flights, this is always tucked into my personal bag close to my feet. When I feel ready to finally fall asleep, I slip this on and try to drift to dream land.

Keep Warm

If my feet are cold you best believe I am not falling asleep or staying asleep. I hate feeling cold at night. It hurts my soul. So wherever I go I always pack a pair of fuzzy socks on my carry on or personal bag if I’m on the road. I got (and lost) these Heat Socks a while back and I'm going to get an other pair this winter.

Wear the right pjs

I am a HUGE fan of adorable pyjamas. I don’t know what it is, I feel way more put together at the end of my bedtime routine when I throw on some comfy PJs. If I’m able to have a long bath then put on some coconut oil I get super excited to wear my PJs.  These ones from Amazon Basic’s line, Mae, are my current faves. They’re a mix of shorts and a long shirt (weird but actually what I prefer wearing since PJ pant legs are usually too long for me) I can’t wait to rock the set when I visit Jamaica this week!

Block out the noise

Aside from blocking out light, I also like wherever I’m going to fall asleep to be very quiet. I love wearing sound barrier earbuds (a little easier to transport than headphones). These ones from Bose have worked to block out the white noise that I hate from my flights. Sometimes I find myself wearing them as earplugs when just walking about. I also love wearing these earbuds from Sony. While they don't stop all of the white noise I hate, the sound they give out is like butter.

Try Meditation

Before I go to sleep I usually meditate. Quieting my mind is the hardest part of trying to get to sleep. Slowly I’m learning how to control my thoughts. Lately I’ve really liked listening to various meditations in the audio book, “Easy Everyday Meditations” by Sue Fuller. Rema recommended Calm to me (I just haven’t gotten around to subscribing yet). The free sessions I’ve listened to on YouTube are incredible so far.

Breathing

My last ditch effort to get to sleep (short of actually counting sheep) is to try a breathing exercise. One that works for me is a 4 second inhale, hold for 7 counts then exhale for 8 counts and repeat. If I’m tired enough, trying to focus on maintaining this cycle bores me enough to sleep.

Thanks for reading my tips guys! I felt a little nervous about sharing part of my journey of living with anxiety. But even if this helps only one other person, it's worth it.

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Elaisha Goes...To Nendaz Switzerland: Photo story & City Guide

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I loved Nendaz (pronounced nen-dah), Switzerland so much I cried on my way to the Gare (train station). I felt an incredible rush of emotions as I said goodbye to the people I had met and the ski town that truly changed my life.

Keep reading for my complete guide to Nendaz, Switzerland.

How to Get there

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The easiest way there was to fly to Geneva then take the train from Geneve (Geneva in French) to Sion and hop on a local bus (that runs until 9 pm). The bus station was a quick walk from the Gare Sion (Sion train station). However, my plane to Geneva was full. So, I flew into Marseilles, France where I took the train to Geneve. It as a long day. The bright side was, I finally got to take a bit of a Euro-train tour. So I was pretty chill about it. I checked flight prices from Toronto to France and they were way cheaper than a direct flight to Switzerland. However, the daytime travel across France meant that I arrived too late. The bus had stopped service by the time I got there. So I had to pay $80CFH (Francs) for a cab up the mountain. It was then that I realized that Switzerland was going to be hella expensive.

Where to Stay

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Click Here to Find Cheap Flights to Switzerland

Nendaz, Switzerland was an adorable Ski down located up a mountain about a 20-minute drive up from Sion. The mountainous view at night allowed me to see across to other mountains where houses and chalets were lit up. It was beautiful. I stayed in the Woovim Chalet by Travelopo with 4 amazing women who were there to blog about their experiences too. The £5036Per/week chalet was absolutely amazing and I would stay there a million times over. There were 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and plenty of room for over 5 guests. I had an ensuite shower while Allison (one of the ladies I roomed with) had a bathtub. My room was filled with 4 wood bunk beds that matched the fragrant wood through out the house. I was in love. I watched the sunrise each morning as the clouds grew and moved over the mountain that faced us. It was truly awe-inspiring.

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Where to eat

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We visited the Co-Op a local grocery store that had everything I needed. I grabbed the cob salad and munched away between activities or while I worked. I also raided the store for chocolate that I brought back to my family (I bribed them with it, of course). Plus a daily chocolate croissant made my life.

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We visited a few restaurants while there. The most notable was Cafe du Sapin Blanc just outside of Nendaz. We sipped on glasses of wine while we looked over a mountainous view. The subtly sweet bottle with a name I can't recall was a delicious choice for the evening. It got a bit chilly that evening so we moved inside of the restaurant for our meal. The group ordered a cute charcuterie board. Allison and I ordered beef carpaccio. It was delivered to us in a way I had never tried it before with a delicious pesto that made my eyes roll back. I was in bliss. I tried (and loved) fondue for the first time! I had a mouthwatering dish for my entree. The fish was prepared perfectly. I scarfed down  for dessert and left full and content. Be sure to visit them if you make it out to Nendaz.

What to do (in the summer)

I'll have a detailed video review up of each activity I loved in Nendaz. However, I  drafted a quick summary of my favourites below.

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Go Mountain Biking

Mountain biking was terrifying and exhilarating. When I told Taylor that I was going Mountain Biking and she paused for a moment. More than anyone else she knew how clumsy I had been. But I survived! Our amazing guides Travis and Florian took amazing care of us. We rented e-bikes that boosted our efforts up the steep inclines of the mountain. There were times I held up the group because I was so enraptured by the views. I understood why people biked through the Alps and across mountainous Europe. No picture or verbal description could really capture what I saw in front of me. You've just gotta go.

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Go for a Hike and a Run 

Hayley and I motivated each other. In one day we went on a sunrise trip, went on a 2-hour hike/run then powered through a Yoga and meditation session. All before dinner that evening. The mountain air really affected me in the best way. My breathing wasn't laboured when I ran and I felt so at peace. Nendaz was filled with incredible trails where we watched people hike and bike. I wished I had hiked more and did some trail runs.

Go for a Swim

The local pool was a 5-minute walk from the chalet. We were able to quickly pop over and enjoy the pool on a rare hot day. We dipped in and swam with some of the kids in the pool. The best part though was when we spread out across the grass and dried out in the sun. Allison Hayley and I all pulled out our books (I brought my trusty Kindle) and just chilled.

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Visit the Spa

The Hôtel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa was like nothing I had experienced before. There were so many choices! From the steam rooms to the ice cold room we strolled about and tried it all. My favourite spot was the heated outdoor pool where Hannah and I had the chance to get a little photo shoot on.

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Go Cheese Making

As a night owl, I can honestly say that cheese making early in the morning was totally worth it. Jessica and I peered over the cows as we listened to their bells echo through the mountain. It was an oddly spiritual experience as I watched the sun beam through the mountain to the cows as they grazed.

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What was your favourite activity that I did? Or do you plan on visiting Nendaz?

Let me know in the comments below.

I Faced my fears: Elaisha Goes Mountain Biking in Switzerland

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I didn’t die! Mountain biking in Switzerland was possibly one of the most fun activities I did while out there. I admit, there were moments when I bounded down hills and felt my stomach flop like I was on a roller coaster. I white knuckled my way through many of the trails but in the end, I was so proud of myself. Keep reading for why I crashed my bike and what I would have done differently.

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Our guides Travis and Florian from Neige Aventure shepherded us through the tough terrain. Sticks, rocks and even the mountains edge were all hazards of the high octane activity. We rode a Teli-Cabine up Tracouet TDN station. We then biked our way through the trails and I felt like I was in one of those extreme GoPro videos.

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The e-bike assist only took me a few tries to get used to. We used it to climb hills that ranged from mid to extremely steep. I would not have made it up those hills without the boost the assist gave me. The trick was to just roll with it and not think about it too much.

Click Here to Find Cheap Flights to Switzerland

I loved the experience of taking the ski lift all the way up the mountain with our bikes. It was cool to think that in a few months people would be on the same lift ready to ski down powdery snow. That the lush greenery we were surrounded by would be covered in just a few months.

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We had a delicious lunch at a cute restaurant. It sat at the top of the second ski lift we took. By the time we got there we were rained on, shivering a little and ready for a feast. However we got some sound advice from Travis our guide who recommended we not stuff our faces too much. We had a pretty long stretch ahead of us either back to Nendaz or on to another town through the mountain. We had steaming fondue and a classic Swiss cheese board.

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I crashed my bike when I was overthinking and not doing. At the start of the trip I was pretty nervous as we rounded tight corners over mountain edges. We quickly biked over tree roots and huge dents in the mud. Towards the end of our trip, I didn’t trust myself because it was slippery in the rain as we bounded down mountainous roads. I rounded a corner I should have leaned into a bit more. But I was scared and ended up plastered on a dirt mountain.  It was definitely a lesson for the final leg of the bike trip to trust myself more! I left with a small scrape on my knee, nothing some hot chocolate and a warm shower at our Chalet couldn't fix.

Plan on doing this excursion? I put together a few tips that I wish I knew before I did this activity.

Dress for the occasion: It rained then it was sunny. It was hot then it was chilly. Since we biked to different cities and altitudes we experienced about 3 seasons at once. I recommend wearing a hat when you mountain bike in Switzerland

Go with the flow: Give your guides the flexibility and time to pick routes that will challenge you so you can really experience this journey.

Know your limits If you aren’t an experienced biker or you just don’t feel comfortable on a bike, then try a different activity. Or ask your guide for an easy route along the way with frequent stops to take in the view.

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I recommend this activity for anyone who is an experienced biker so they can really experience the incredible views. There were basic trails available but I was happy we took some hard routes. Our 4-5 hour adventure ended with an incredibly long shower and hearty meal. Would you try mountain biking in Nendaz? Let me know in the comments below. And be sure to check out Travelopo.

Get in the Driver's Seat | 21 Road Trip Essentials

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Last week on a road trip, I was put to the test of getting in the driver's seat. Those of you who know I don't have my drivers licence, don't panic! I'm talking about the driver's seat of my life. Keep reading to find out how...

On my 7-day East Coast adventure, I received some tough news. I had to decide in that moment if I was going to be a passenger in my own life or if I was going to fight my way into the driver's seat. Should I just give up and fall back into habits I was working out of from last year? Or should I follow the advice I would give a friend, "Take control. It's your life."

I decided to work to drive my own destiny. To turn the steering wheel until I was off the road I was on and onto uncharted territory. I stayed up that night and drafted a business plan I had been thinking of for a while, but felt too comfortable to reach for. It's scary going after what you deserve, but it also feels right. It's bumpy and the path isn't smooth or clear. But I think I'll be alright. As the inspirational Oprah once said, "You want to be in the driver's seat of your own life because if you are not, life will drive you."

My fellow travel writer Caleigh Alleyene and I packed everything we needed for a week into an RV and hit the road. Road trips are gross and tiring. They take a lot of planning and a good sense of humour to get through. While you wait for my guides on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, here are some essentials I wish I had or that that kept me sane during our drive.

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Elaisha Goes...Cheese Making in Switzerland

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"Our 6:30am call time had better be worth it," I thought as we left our comfy chalet.

It was. As I hopped out of our van, the chime of cowbells echoed through the mountain in Balavaux, Switzerland. A slight fog covered the view early in the morning as we stood at 2100 metres high.

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Wrapped in my scarf I walked into the cheese workshop. It was a bit funky in there and I had to stand outside for most of the introduction. The cheesemaker went through the process how he crafted three cheeses. I finally understood why cheese was so expensive. Cheese making in Switzerland was no joke.

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First we learned about the Tomme cheese. Our guide explained, it it gets warmed to 35° after which it sat 1 hour and 30 minutes in salty water. It was then aged for a full 20-25 days in the cellar.

Next was the famous Raclette cheese which gets heated to 39° and rested for 24 hours in salty water. It was then aged 2 months in the cellar before it was ready to be served.

Finally, my favourite, the Serac. That cheese gets heated to 90° and is available the next day. We watched as he prepared a vat of 150 litres of milk for 13 tommes and 9 raclette cheese. A cheese lover would swoon.

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While we waited for the cream to curdle for a batch of Serac cheese, we strolled about the grounds. First we went to the aging room where rounds of marked cheese sat on wooden shelves. The floor to ceiling shelves displayed either Tomme or Raclette cheese. I had no idea cheese making in Switzerland would be so interesting.

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Click Here to Find Cheap Flights to Switzerland

We then reentered the workshop where the cheese had started to lump up in the vat. I got used to the smell at that point. He lifted and strained the cheese in a cheese cloth and placed it into another station. It was then strained again, then portioned. The cheesemaker allowed us to try the fresh cheese. It was creamy and warm. The smooth texture and plain flavour reminded me of cottage cheese. We also tried the aged version of the cheese which was saltier.

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We then took a long dirt road towards the sound of the cowbells where about 130 cows spent the summer. The bells chimed out of time, but made an incredible song as we approached. An electrical wire separated us from the cows in the field in front of us. But I still reached out a hand in case one of them wanted a cuddle. It was one of the most peaceful spots we visited on our 6-day Swiss adventure.

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The group journeyed up a steep hill for the end of the tour where we finally got to eat a Swiss breakfast. Sophie served us that day and paired ham with fresh cheese and jam in the Balavaux mountain Cabin. I enjoyed my plate with a side of tea to warm me up from the crisp mountain air.

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Those looking for an activity that’s out of the ordinary, add cheese making in Switzerland to your list! If you don't mind waking up early...

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7 Back to School tips for Students Abroad

The biggest takeaway I got from studying abroad was: it’s easy to get overwhelmed, push past it. I wish I had asked some students who had studied abroad for their tips. I guess I just wanted to figure it out on my own.

Keep reading my tips that I learned along the way while studying abroad in Shanghai.

1. Take risks

Try that ‘weird’ food, go out on that Tinder date (safety first!), sign up for a course you know nothing about...live a little! Sure you’ve decided to skip town and live in another country. But don’t let that be the only risk you take.

2. Get Organized

I found that when I started language school in Shanghai I was in my prime when I kept organized af! But then of course that all went downhill. I started wearing less and going out more and made friends in the city and was almost never home. An agenda (like this one) would have been a step in the right direction.

3. Self Care

Pick a day and make that the one day you don’t do a thing other than spoil yourself. If you don’t have the privilege of time to do so, then spoil yourself in other ways. Soak with a bath bomb, say no to that favour you don’t want to do or paint your nails a fresh nude colour.

4. Be Nice

It seems simple, but be nice. Sure it’s easy to get in a slump. To think that you feel so alone and that no one gets your life. Guess what: everyone else feels the same way (especially at school abroad). Suck it up* and go meet someone new and really listen to them.

5. Talk to Someone*

Ok the little asterisk above is for the anxious student. The one that feels like leaving their campus or meeting new people is an impossibility. Whether it's medical or other factors, sometimes people feel that block. The best tip I can give to you is the one you fear the most, talk to someone! It might be a professional counsellor at your school (or online) or it might be someone down the hall. Use your voice

6. Getaway for the weekend

While in Shanghai I had the chance to visit Beijing with my roommate and her friend. I had already planned on visiting Beijing, but to do so with people I knew was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I hopped on the bullet train with them and had one of the best times of my life! Pack up a cute weekender bag and #Justgo!

7. Record your experiences

Experiencing a trip through a screen might be my job, but it’s not always the best way to do it. I don’t believe in holding my phone up the entire time I’m away. Keeping a travel journal or a secret Tumblr could be a great way to record your experiences. It could be so you can share them with friends later or look back on them on your own.

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Elaisha Goes...to the Yu Garden

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The Yu or Yu Yuan or Yuyuan garden in Shanghai was pretty dreamy. I crossed different thresholds and it felt like I went back in time. I was excited to edit this video to show you how lush and green it was! Check it out below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAvaUYlDRmI

Want to visit Shanghai? Ask me any questions you may have in the comments below!

Amazon Prime Day Travel Picks

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Hurry! Until July 11th at 11:59 p.m ET you can get your hands on my favourite deals from Amazon Prime Day. I've rounded up my favourite picks from the ultimate sale for all of you little travellers.

The Best Bag Deals

Best Tech Deals

Below are some other fire deals you don't want to miss!

How to Shop Online for Your Next Vacation + Prime Day secrets

I have a shopping problem. But it's totally ok because it means I can give you my ultimate tips for How to Shop for Your Next Vacation. Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of a trip that we forget to purchase key items and end up buying things we don't need. Keep reading for how I get the best deals and avoid useless buying.

Make a List (and Check it Twice!)

Sure you might need those green ostrich leather biking gloves someday, but not today. Ensure that every purchase you make is intentional. I've been guilty of

Set a Budget

The worst B word. I hate sticking to a budget but my wallet is always grateful. After deciding what things I need and want for my trip, I set a budget and cry a little. Then I feel a little less guilty when shopping. Instead of thinking 'I can't afford this!' I think, 'Is this on my list? Did I budget for this purchase?'

Price Match

I am a firm believer of getting the best price for whatever I'm purchasing. Makes sense right? Not to everyone. Some people just want the first thing they see and check out quickly. I'm like a lioness waiting in the grass for its prey. I'm very patient when shopping. I use things like the camera option on Amazon Canada's app to upload pictures of whatever I want to purchase from other websites then I compare the pricing and check out if it's a winner.

Catch the Sales

When I know an event like Prime Day is coming, I don't waste my time shopping before it. I know regular prices will stay the same. If the item I really want isn't on sale then I can always purchase it at the list price later.

Can you believe that it's almost Prime Day? Tomorrow check my blog for the ultimate Prime Day Deals post. I've had a sneak peek of the deals and I'm beyond ready for the amazing prices to come. From $40 off of the Kindle Paper White to up to 70% off of Samsonite Luggage (omg!) I am beyond ready to update my travel gear.

Tomorrow, read my post to save some time (and to feel less overwhelmed) when it's live.

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Great Wall of China Photo Diary + Guide

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When I visited the Great Wall I felt so privileged to be a part of something so big! Keep reading for my guide on the Great Wall of China.

When to Go

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As early as you can especially on the weekend. Beijing traffic was no joke. We luckily left at a great time (8am from Qianmen) and even then we ran into traffic. I took a little nap while on the drive up and listened to an audiobook.

We got there at about 9am and people were already on their way down as we headed up! They avoided the humidity and crowds.

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Where to Go

Did you know that the great wall wasn't just one huge wall?  I learned a few years ago in my Chinese studies course that the Great Wall was several sections built over many centuries.

According to our guide, we visited the prettiest and most quiet part of the Great Wall. The Mutianyu (or Mu Tian Yu) section was further out than the most popular part of the wall. So, we beat the crowds when we got in early and got some amazing pictures. As well that part of the wall was restored beautifully!

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What to Do

Take the Cable Car

A nice warm up to the grandeur of the Great Wall was when we took the cable cars up. We viewed lush greenery below us as we ascended to the top.

Hike the watch towers

If you won't have a guide, before you go, ensure that you check out which area of the wall you'd like to explore most then prioritize it. The humidity was intense as we trekked up the steep steps between each watch tower. It made each step hard as brick path wove into each check point. I loved it!

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Take the Slide Down

The most fun part about the Great Wall for me wasn't actually the wall. It was when we left and took the slide down the Great Wall to the bottom. It was an absolute blast and I would do it again. The loops, hills and turns in the middle of the green landscape felt like a dream. On some parts we moved so fast it felt like a roller coaster. It went by pretty fast but I was happy we did it. *Tip: get on the slide before 11:30. The line up got pretty full as everyone was ready to trek down the wall for lunch.

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What to Eat

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After our descent down the slide, we were super hungry. Our lovely guide called ahead and ordered us an amazing lunch. We drove for 10 minutes to Xiao Long Pu a

She ordered us a spread of sweet and sour pork tomatoes, greens, cod and fried rice.

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I was beyond excited to have crossed the great wall off of my bucket list. Are you planning on visiting the Great Wall? Let me know in the comments below.

Announcement: Prime Day is Coming

Until last week I didn't even know what Prime Day was. Trust me I'm about to give you the goods.

Full disclosure for those of you who are new, I am an Amazon Affiliate! I'm excited to announce that Prime Day is scheduled for July 11th and that I was chosen to share my picks for the day.

Ok, I jumped ahead a bit. Wondering what Prime Day is? Keep reading.

Prime Day is like Christmas for Amazon shoppers. As a prime member, I've got same day shipping priority for select items. BUT best part: it's 30 hours this year. Yas! 30 hours of discounted shopping? I'll be there with my credit card ready.

So my little travellers, keep an eye open for what my picks are for Prime Day.

Travelling while on your period: a How to Guide + Essentials

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Getting your period while travelling doesn’t have to suck. I’ve learned that the best way to deal with my period is to prepare. While I’m known to sweat in writhing pain, my friend Taylor usually doesn’t get any cramps and can go about her day. Everyone's period varies. reading for what’s worked for me when I got my period while abroad.

Do Your Research

Pads are more popular in China. Many videos and blog posts about warned me that if I wanted to use tampons while there I would pay a premium. So I was sure to pack as many tampons as I needed for my trip (like this

travel pack from Kotex

). Find out if you’re visiting a place where the product you prefer to use isn’t popular or if you’ll have access to a drug store. then load up your luggage with the supplies you need. Your next trip is could be enough incentive to try a

Diva Cu

p. Should I try it out and give you a review? Let me know in the comments.

There’s an App for That

Gone are the days when you have to use paper and a chart to track your period! Download a period tracker app way before your travels. You can use this app to track when your period and ovulation are on the way. It averages out how many days it takes for your period to come based on your body, not only the average 28-day cycle. That way you can check in advance to know whether you’ll even get your period while abroad and you can prepare if so.

Take Inventory

Keep track of how many tampons you use, pain killers you pop or how often you change your

diva cup

in a day. It’s easy to forget that you’re shedding a part of your body if your luggage goes missing or your flight gets delayed. Try to set a timer on your phone and bring enough product in your carry on or in a bag or pocket you can access at any time.

Know your Body

I get bodied by my period on the first day. I’ve felt like a vicious round of mortal combat was taking place in my abdomen. Know your symptoms and your limits. If you feel the red death approaching, try switching up your plans. Why fight through a 20k hike? Try visiting a museum or a decadent restaurant (where there are washrooms close at hand) that day.

Talk About It

Travelling with friends? Especially friends who don’t get a period? If you need a break or if you feel that you can’t do certain activities that day, then talk about it if you feel comfortable. I spoke up when I got my period when travelling with some friends. I told them why I wasn't down with certain excursions. We worked around it that day then got back to it for the rest of the week.

Get Comfy

One of the ways I get through my period while abroad is to bring familiar foods and media to make it through. I take the day off and binge watch something on Netflix with chocolate (mmm

Brookside is the best

). Pack and rock your period clothes (I avoid jeans and stick to leggings and loose tops to deal with mild bloating). Make sure they're appropriate for the weather at your destination.

Period pantie

s are also a must for me since I’m usually active when travelling and I can’t run the risk of leaking.

Have you gotten your period while abroad? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with it and if I missed any advice. 

Great Wall of China Essentials

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I felt like I was on top of the world. I visited what was considered to be the prettiest and most 'foreigner friendly' part of the Great Wall of China, called Mutianyu. The Great Wall was an amazing and once and a lifetime experience that easily could have been ruined without one of these essential items!  Keep reading for what made my Great Wall of China adventure a chill experience.

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Muskol Aerosol I had been warned about the bugs at the Great Wall several times and took several precautions that ensured I wouldn't get bitten. I didn't see any bugs or was I bitten while at the Mutianyu part of the great wall. It could have been the bug spray or maybe that part wasn't as infested as other parts.

Tumi Weekend Foldable Backpack I'd had my eye on this backpack for a while and I wished that I had bought it for this day trip. I carried water bottles, my cameras, and a few other items. I would have loved the ease of getting it unfolded quickly and rocked it while on the Great Wall.

A.J. Morgan Collegiate 53537 Wayfarer Sunglasses While it wasn't bright up there, there were moments when the sun peeked through the clouds. I recommended these sunglasses since they were stylish but still pretty cheap in case they got damaged along the way.

Anita Sports Bra Anita was so kind and gave me a sports bra to try and review for you guys! This baby was great in the humidity. It breathed well in the humidity and kept bounce to a minimum as I climbed and bounded down ancient stairs.

Sun Bum Continuous Spray Sunscreen While Beijing was covered in smog when I arrived, it didn't mean the sun's harsh rays were hidden. I packed my sunscreen and reapplied throughout the day to avoid any sun damage. Whenever I've used a spray sunscreen I found that I reapplied more often and with less mess!

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Adidas Women's High Performer Tight I was instructed to wear long leggings to avoid bug bites on my legs. While I didn't see or get bitten by any of those bloodsuckers, it was good that I took the precaution seriously.

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheet The heat and humidity was no joke. I was sure to pack a small beauty bag of products I needed. One of them included blotting sheets. I used at least 5 of them when I was up there. When I added videos to my Snapchat and Insta stories I blotted my t-zone then snapped away.

Adidas Men's Adizero Scrimmage Cap I should have brought a hat with me but I didn't.  The shade from the visor would have given my skin some extra protection from the sun, I wouldn't have been as sweaty and I would have looked cooler. I recommended a male hat since my hair was in braids and thus a bit too big for women's hat sizes.

Teva Original Universal Sandals My shoes of choice while in Beijing for the weekend were my Tevas. The adorable lilac shoes could be dressed up and down. One of the girls on the trip looked at me like I was crazy when she saw that I was wearing the sandals for the day trip to the Great Wall, Ming Tomb and Sacred Way. I muscled through the excursions and my feet felt amazing the entire time. I also rocked these babies on a hike in the Californian desert and highly recommend them!

Tiny note: If you bought a train ticket to Beijing from another city, ensure you pack travel safe versions of aerosols. My huge bug spray was confiscated on the way there. I wasn't pleased.

Did I miss something? Comment below with what else you would have brought with you.

Elaisha Goes to…The Emperor Quianmen Beijing

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The Emperor Hotel Quianmen hotel was quite the surprise. When my roommate proposed that I join her and her friend on a weekend trip to Beijing, I was ecstatic. However one of my first thoughts (after thinking about all the duck I’d eat) was where were we going to stay?

Keep reading for my review of The Emperor Hotel Quianmen (and find out whether I would stay there again!).

The Room

After we hopped out of a cab we trekked it in through the ‘walk only’ zone. Waiters called out their specials to us from their restaurants when we strolled on the grey stone sidewalk. The Emperor Hotel was tucked away in a quiet nook near the popular Quianmen market. We actually walked past it twice before we finally found it and were welcome with a luxe feel. The three-story hotel featured a very modern design and took advantage of the open space but didn’t seem uncomfortable or too edgy.

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As soon as we walked into the room, it screamed Instagram goals. I received message after message about how beautiful the room was when I posted it on my Instagram story. While the bedroom was wistful with its bright pink curtains, the bathroom was my favourite. Floor to ceiling marble coated the shower and the separate toilet made things less awkward with our group. The view wasn’t spectacular (chefs from the nearby restaurant actually took their break within plain sight of our hotel room window, so I was weary of walking around undressed) however the natural light poured in looked incredible so I wasn't too fazed.

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I stayed in room 2021 which was near the gym equipment (which wasn’t a problem). I was on the rollaway bed which was ok for the first two nights. However, by the third night, it had lost its charm and was a bit uncomfortable.

Location

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The location was perfect for most of the activities we wanted to do. Due to the attraction’s layout, it was actually faster for us to walk to the Forbidden City than take a cab. We walked through Quianmen to get to and from our hotel. I had a great time when I tried my first Peking Duck dish and traditional Chinese dinner at a nearby restaurant.

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There weren’t any convenience stores around, so if you needed to pick something up grab it before you arrive at the hotel or get it while out and about. However, there were 2 Mini So’s and tons of souvenir stores so I was pretty content. I was able to take a tuk-tuk to Quianmen Square for only 20RMB from the National Museum then I walked for 10 minutes to the hotel.

Customer Service

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Wearing: Leggings: Forever 21, Sports Bra: Anita, Money Belt: Ali Express, Shirt: Similar

 

The staff accommodated us well and were quite sweet. We only waited 10 minutes for our room after we checked in and were escorted to the space. On our final night, someone in the room above us banged on a door for 7 minutes straight just before midnight. I grabbed the phone and quickly chatted with reception who assured me that they would get the problem resolved. Soon the knocking ceased and we rested up for the day ahead. Many of the staff members spoke alright English and helped when they could. However, when we asked questions that pertained to lesser known attractions, it took us a while to get it all translated to receive an answer.

Amenities

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The pool was beautiful and wasn’t too shallow or deep for me (at 5’6 it was at my mid-chest). It was clear of debris and provided a great view of the hazy city. I stopped by the bar on the way up to the pool and grabbed a pina colada that left me refreshed. In the room, the TV swiveled on its wall mount so someone could soak in the tub in the living room while they watched a movie or TV show (we watched a few in English too!).  Towel service wasn’t around, so we brought our own robes and towels up to the rooftop.

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The air conditioning worked perfectly well and the security was very tight (there were several room key checkpoints). Plus the slippers and robes were extremely comfortable! The wifi wasn’t the best and phone service was shoddy in most spots. If you booked this hotel and needed wifi, consider another hotel or get portable wifi. I spent most of my time outside of the hotel room anyways so the lack of wifi wasn’t tragic, just inconvenient. However, if I planned on working while in Beijing I wouldn’t have been able to depend on the internet connection.

Food

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The breakfast food was delicious and varied. I had fried rice and dumplings with a side of bacon and an omelet (guess who’s a fan of big breakfasts…). Even the picky eater of our group was satisfied with her omelet and coffee. Drinks on the patio were pretty good and served right to us at the pool. They had a long list of imported drinks available and the two Parisians I traveled with popped a small bottle of Moet for the night and smoked away. The market was right outside of the hotel room so when I felt a bit peckish I was able to walk right out and sample duck, lamb on a stick and some sweet drinks!

The price of the room was definitely worth it for two people. However, if a third person might be interested in joining your journey, tell them to get their own room. Just remember, if you want to get dropped right to the door of this hotel, that won’t happen. Just get your driver to bring you to the Xianyukou and Quianmen which was a short walk from the hotel.

What do you think of The Emperor Quianmen? Would you stay here?

What's in my Carry-On (Tech Edition!)

As a frequent traveller, I learned how to really whittle down how much I carried with me on long distance trips. However, with my field of work I had a bit of trouble nailing down the amount of tech stuff I brought with me. pg161132-c19d6c15-dd5a-4424-9d13-2277ce486e52 Watch my video to see what tech items made it into my carry on to China!

Did I miss anything? Let me know what you would want to bring with you on a trip this faraway.