Tag Archives: winter

Places: Akumal, Mexico

This year we were pretty split on what to do for a winter vacation. Although it is tempting to wait until March break to go, most years I find that it is too late – and so this year, we decided to keep it simple and return to Mexico for essentially the same winter break we did last year. After the coldest, wettest spring seemingly ever, we probably could have gone ahead and waited until March though…

After another fantastic vacation I would really say that if you find the right place to stay and are willing to explore it is hard to beat Mexico as a winter vacation destination from Ottawa. There are direct flights right to Cancun, driving is easy, and the Canadian dollar is actually still worth something since the peso has been declining even faster than our own currency. Oh, and there are beautiful beaches, cenotes and jungle and it’s hot. That part is nice too!

This year we only went for a week and stayed in Akumal in a beautiful condo at the Tao Wellness Resort. This place was well-situated for exploring a bit more around Akumal and also for a couple of trips into Tulum. At the resort, we were able to take advantage of the beautiful, and empty!, pool as well as the great breakfasts at the Wellness centre.IMG_1894

While in Tulum, we headed to our favourite beach club, La Zebra. Although it has become a bit busier since we were last there, it is still a beautiful beach and the restaurant is fantastic. The kids made some friends with kids from Toronto who were staying and they were off exploring and playing on the beach for hours.

La Zebra

We also made it back to our favourite grocery store, Chedraui, and hit a couple of our favourite spots in town including Manglar Pizza on the west side of town and Flor de Michoacan. Ella also managed to return to her favourite tamale stand…I’m unsure of the name but it is located just beside the police station on a small little side street. IMG_1888

IMG_1886IMG_1688Just south of Akumal we found a perfect beach, apparently where they shoot Corona commercials, but there was nobody there when we visited. Just off the beach there was also a cenote hidden in the jungle that was great fun. 

IMG_1788IMG_1791Our only big driving of the trip took place when we visited Coba, a huge Mayan archeological site that we really enjoyed. The bicycle taxis to get you up to the site are pretty fun and the actual climb is crazy-steep but well worth it from the top. IMG_1817

Mexico seems to have just so much to explore, and the food is so good, that I’m sure we will be back again soon.


Places: Mont Sutton, QC

Although we were ‘staying around home’ for the holidays, way back in July or something I had spotted these interesting stand-alone cabins on AirBnb and felt I had to book them for some occasion. Since the prices didn’t seem to really change over Christmas, I thought they’d be a nice spot to ring in the new year and get out on the slopes at the same time. Although the downtime over the holidays was nice, after a while it seems like you’ve had the same conversation with family enough times, watched enough TV and definitely eaten enough.

We had a perfect day to drive up to Sutton after a half-day at work and arrived at about 4pm just as the ski hill was shutting down. We picked up the key to our Kabin and headed to the base of the ski hill where it was located. Some people were even just skiing home from the hill which made for a funny scene.

The Kabin was excellent – the ‘modular-type’ home was one of about eight that make up the community. It had everything we needed and obviously had made great use of space to create a cozy but spacious place for us to hang out. Before anything, the kids were anxious to hit the hot tub on the deck which was simply awesome. Each of the Kabins backs out on to a birch forest which is a nice touch of nature.img_1485

Hanging out at our ‘Kabin’

On our first day at Sutton, we put Noah in a lesson since he had never been on a snowboard before. Although his teachers (one teacher and one translator) focused a lot on slowing down and stopping, he really wasn’t too interested in doing much of that but seeing how fast he could get to the bottom of the hill.img_1512

We didn’t explore much of the mountain this year since we were skiing with the kids but it is a fantastic place for families who are just getting into skiing to go. For only $22, you can get a lift ticket for the ‘family zone’ which consists of a single chairlift that leads to about five or six runs that are all green-dots or blues. This was perfect for Ella who got on the chair for the first time and made her way down in fine fashion after I taught her the most elegant way to fall off the chair at the top.img_1479

Although it was relatively busy on New Year’s Eve, the resort was perfectly empty on New Year’s Day with the parking lot only about half-full. That, combined with about 10cm of snow that fell overnight made for a great day of snowboarding/skiing. On the second day on the hill, the kids continued to grow in confidence and Noah must have set some sort of record for the number of times he went up and down the magic carpet. Up the carpet, binding strapped, zip down the hill, binding off, back up the carpet….on repeat.

We tried to explore the town a bit, most things were shut down for the holiday so we will definitely need to go back since there seem to be some interesting microbreweries and restaurants. We had brought a large amount of food from home to cook in our chalet so that worked out really well. There was also a large IGA in town to stock up on any provisions.

Happy New Year!

Overall, this was a great spot to relax for three nights and break up our holiday for a bit. The wood stove and the hot tub were highlights as well as the fantastic weather on the hill.


Places: A Familiar Destination

One of the great things (and sometimes a complicating factor) about travelling is the ability to experience new and different things; new food, new sights, different cultural norms than those that you are used to. However, sometimes, there is something very comforting about visiting a place you have been to a dozen times before. When you visit, you stay at your regular hotel, you eat at your favorite restaurants and you notice when a shop you used to go to has been replaced by something else. You feel more like a regular than a tourist.

For us, one of these places is Burlington, Vermont. We usually end up there two or three times a year since it is a comfortable distance for a weekend and it is also a good halfway point on the way to the Maine coast. We stay in our same hotel, visit many of the same places and we eat at our favorite restaurants from the last time we were there.

And now.

Last weekend, we made the four-hour drive from our freezing cold climate to a similarly cold environment in Vermont. Upon arriving, we visited Pizza Verita on Friday night and although not quite the same, it provided a nice reminder of our many pizzas eaten in Italy last fall.

One of the new wrinkles this weekend was a trip out to Shelburne Farms, a 1400-acre working farm just south of Burlington that sits on the edge of Lake Champlain. It is a National Historic Landmark and one of the things they seem to offer is educational programs for kids and adults. On our way out, we stopped at our favourite place for bagels, Myers Bagels, a nondescript shop in an industrial sector of South Burlington.

At the farm there happened to be a ‘Bread and Butter making’ interactive class for the kids on the Saturday we were going to be there so we signed the kids up and they had a great time making their own flour, then baking bread, and learning how to make their own butter to spread all over it. I am looking forward to making a trip back out to the farm in the summer since it is set on gorgeous land with many walking trails and a seasonal restaurant that looks out over the lake.

The teaching barn at Shelburne Farm
The payoff.

On Saturday afternoon, we did a little shopping on Church Street Marketplace and the kids continued to make great use of the pool. We also tried out a new place for dinner, El Cortijo Tacqueria which delivered on some really good tacos.

On Sunday morning (after another swim of course) we hit an old favourite for breakfast, Magnolia Bistro. All in all, even though it wasn’t any warmer, the weekend proved to be a nice respite from the winter.

I expect that some other people have these type of ‘comfort destinations’ as well. When we were kids, I always considered Victoria to be ours because we would visit my grandparents there so often. Even when I visit now, it feels like a familiar place. Does anyone else have places like this that they enjoying visiting time after time? Where’s yours?

Things to do in Ottawa (winter edition)

Even though my phone alerted me that it was -29 degrees (Celsius) yesterday, one thing that I always appreciate about this time of year though is that it gives us a chance to settle into routine a bit and get some things done that we seem to get through during the rest of the year. Ottawa has some unique outdoor activities in the winter that we try to take advantage of at least a little bit. After all, it is a four-season country and some of those seasons are longer than others so giving up on winter would be quite a waste.

Together as a family we brainstormed a list of things to do in Ottawa before the end of winter. (Which I consider to be March break, even if it often isn’t!) Many of these are things we have done in winters past but it is nice to have traditions.*

*As per my family custom, if any activity happens more than once it instantly attains ‘tradition’ status

Canadian Museum of History – The children’s museum at the former Museum of Civilization is always a hit and since we usually only go about once a year, it is a good opportunity to check out the special exhibits. A spin through the regular exhibitions is interesting as well; even if Canada’s history hasn’t changed since last year, the kids’ interests have and they tend to gravitate to different things each time.

National Art Gallery – Our attempt to ingest some culture; we usually get to this gallery once a year as well and wonder why we don’t go more often. On the weekends, they run Artissimo which has interactive components for the kids that have been quite a hit in the past.

Skating – Over the Christmas holidays we finally got the Big Guy going on skates so it should be fun to do this as a full family now. Of course, Ottawa is most famous for the Rideau Canal but there are other great spots for a family skate as well. After discovering the great ice at the Rink of Dreams last year, we will definitely be back there and Lil’ E was also intrigued by the rink at the Governor General’s residence, originally built in 1872 by the Earl of Dufferin. The new skating court at Landsdowne also looks interesting to check out so there is no shortage of places to try.

The Rideau Canal – one of our many skating opportunities

Hockey game – I realized that the Big Guy has never been to one. I am not too sure that he has the attention span to sit through one, and Lil’ E is terrified of mascots but I think we will still give this a try, either with some cheap Senators tickets through Stubhub or one of the Family Packs that the 67s (our local junior team) have been advertising.

Museum of Nature – We still have our annual pass but have not yet been to check out the new special exhibit on Arctic Voices, so I expect we will do that soon. The transformation of this museum over the past years has been amazing and has really made it into a favorite for the kids. Ottawa is lucky to have this museum in addition to all the others.

These were the few ideas that we came up with to keep us busy over the next couple of months but there are also lots of good ideas on local blogs such as Kids in the Capital, OttawaStart, and others.