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Best Places to Visit in Bruges - Visit Bruges, Belgium - YouTube

The small town of Bruges, Belgium located in West Flanders is one of the most well kept medieval towns in all of Europe. In 2000 the city centre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city is full of beautiful buildings, delicious Belgian chocolates, Venice like canals and so much more. There are so many great things to do in Bruges. With so much to do in such a small town where to start when visiting? Here are the best places to visit in Bruges.

Best Places to Visit in Bruges

Bruges famous Burg square

1. Visit Burg Square

Bruges is the type of town that surprises you at ever corner. One moment you are walking down a quaint cobblestoned street inside the old town city center and the next you are standing in a town square surrounded by stunning architecture. Burg square is one of those places that will leave you in awe. It is a great place for a picture / selfie and is filled with tons of history.

People have been living in Bruges since around the 2nd century and because of that here in Burg square you will find some pretty old buildings. The most prominent building in Burg Square is the town’s city hall, which dates back to the 15th century. The largest building in the square, Bruges City Hall is opulent and designed in a gothic style. It is also covered in beautiful large statues of religious figures and rulers of Flanders.

One of the prettiest buildings in the square however is the Old Civil Registry. Once the old court house, under the left side of the building is an archway called Blind Donkey Alley that will take you to the old fish market. Here you will also find a great starting point for a canal boat tour.

2. Visit the Relic of Christ

Tucked in the corner of Burg square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood which dates back to the 12th century. Inside this Roman Catholic church visitors can see a relic of the Holy Blood of Christ. Now that’s old.

One of the most photographed locations in all of Bruges

3. Visit The Canals of Bruges

Bruges is often referred to as Venice of the North because of the many canals throughout the old town. The canals connect the city to the North Sea and played a large roll in the city’s history. Today they are a large tourist attraction and make for some beautiful photo ops. One of the most popular spots for a canal photo in the city is by the corner of Rozenhoedkaai and Pandreitje looking towards the Dijver Mansions. Take a relaxing stroll along the canals, go in search of the love bridge and don’t be afraid to get a little lost.

A boat tour along the canals of Bruges

One of the most popular things to do in Bruges is to take a boat cruise along the canals. There are multiple boarding points along the canals that are easy to find and tours leave quite frequently. The tours are fully narrated, last roughly 30minutes and only cost 8 euros. The canal boat tours of Bruges are a great way to see the city from a different perspective and to quickly learn a lot about it too.

4. Visit the Frietmuseum

Bruges is home to a bunch of museums including a chocolate museum and the worlds only fry museum. (FYI Belgians don’t necessarily like it when you call them French Fries as they originate in Belgium not France. Visit the museum and you can find out why they mistakenly were called French fries!) The Frietmuseum is as unique as it sounds, it is extremely informative and is definitely one of the best places to visit in Bruges. You will be blown away by just how much information they have have about the history of fries, potatoes and even ketchup. Honestly it was almost too much information. Less learning, more frieten eating!

Learn more about the Frietmuseum HERE. And yes if all of the fry information overloads you, you can also then stop to enjoy some for yourself in the basement cafeteria.

The colorful buildings of Bruges Markt Square

5. Explore the Markt Square

The Markt square in Bruges has been a market square and gathering place of the city since the 9th century. These days the market takes place in the center every Wednesday from 8am to 1pm. The Markt is also a great place to begin a free walking tour of the city with Legends of Bruges, grab some frieten (fries and mayo), take awesome pictures of the stunning Belfry, people watch and more.

The iconic Belfry of Bruges

6. Climb the Belfry of Bruges

Speaking of the Belfry you should visit it too when exploring Bruges. As mentioned the Belfry is located in the Markt Square and stands 272 feet high. Originally used to spot fires and danger in the city, visitors can now pay to climb its 366 steps to the top for a beautiful 360 view overlooking the city. If you are a fan of the film “In Bruges” you will probably recognize this iconic landmark for its role in the film.

A delicious box of chocolate from the Chocolate Brothers

7. Visit All of the Chocolate Shops

There are a LOT of chocolate shops in Bruges. On two city blocks in particular I counted at least 10 so who knows how many are throughout the whole town. Belgium is known as the capital of chocolate so you definitely need to try some when you visit. Many shops have chocolates in various forms from truffles to bars, pralines and more. There are also many moulded to be different amusing shapes and objects. Basically anything you can imagine made in chocolate, they have it.

A lot of the chocolate is great, however the very best chocolate shop (IMO) in all of Bruges is called Chocolate Brothers. Opened in the fall of 2017 this chocolate shop is owned by three brothers with over 100 years of chocolate making experience. Most chocolate shops in Bruges sell mass produced and packaged chocolates and aren’t making their chocolates fresh right there. When walking into Chocolate Brothers however the smell of chocolate smacks you in the face and it is the best smell ever.

A burlap sack of fermented cacao beans, ready to be made into chocolate

One of the chocolate brothers combs through the fermented cacoa beans

The Chocolate Brother’s chocolate is hand made in shop right before your eyes. The fermented cacao beans are shipped in large burlap sacks to the shop where the chocolatiers sort and choose the very best for making their chocolates. They then crush and press the beans to make their chocolates from scratch, so the chocolate is as fresh and pure as possible. You can definitely end up spending a lot of money here, but it is all worth it.

Sea salt caramel hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows and waffle at the Old Chocolate House in Bruges

Another great chocolate shop to visit is the Old Chocolate House. It is a chocolate shop on the main floor with a cute cafe upstairs serving 27 different types of delicious hot chocolate. No matter the weather or time of year you definitely need to visit and give one of these a taste. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Bruges. You can even make it an “adult beverage” if you please. In the shop they also sell delicious chocolates and your own hot chocolate mix to make at home. To learn more visit HERE.

The famous swans of Bruges

8. Visit the Swans of Bruges

When walking along the canals or taking a boat tour of the canals there is no way that you can miss the many swans that you will see floating around. There is a lot of folklore behind the reason for so many swans being in the city. One story being that the swans kept a young women locked up in prison company in the 13th century. Once released she left the city a fortune to take care of them. Another story is an Emperor avenged his servant whose name translates to “long necks” and declared Bruges must forever keep swans in its canals.

Whatever the reasons for the swans, they are a beautiful sight to the see in the canals and are a symbol of the city. For a guaranteed view of the swans head to the Parque de la Viña and Minnewater Park area where they are always sure to be hanging out.

A delicious leige waffle in Burg square, Bruges

9. Visit the Best Waffle Truck

Waffles are very popular in Bruges and Belgium so you must try at least one or more when you visit. There is your typical Brussels waffle that is perfectly formed with deep holes and the batter is like a yeast-leavened pancake batter consistency. The other type of popular waffle is the Leige waffle which is named after a Belgian city. Leige waffles are made from more of a thicker type of dough that is pressed, giving the waffles uneven edges. A key ingredient in the Leige waffle dough is pearl sugar which caramelizes and gives the waffles a nice crunch.

There is always a line at the Arlecchino Gelateria waffle truck!

Where are the best places to visit in Bruges for a waffle you ask? The best Leige Waffles in all of Bruges come from the tiny Arlecchino Gelateria truck that hangs out in Burg square. They are reasonably priced, always served fresh and you know they are good because they always have a huge line. They are so popular they are actually prone to selling out, so make sure you go there earlier in the day.

A tasty leige waffle with chocolate sauce from Chez Albert in Bruges

If you can’t find the delicious waffle truck then your second option for waffles in Bruges would be Chez Albert. Located on the small road between Burg square and Markt square not that far from the waffle truck. Chez Albert is a bit more of a massed produced waffle place and when I ate there they simply heated up an already cooked waffle, so it wasn’t as fresh as the truck. It was of course still delicious though.

To get a proper taste of the waffles it is recommended to eat them plain. They are just that great no extra toppings are required. So hold off on the mountains of whip cream, chocolate and strawberries for your first taste.

To learn more about the different waffles visit my friend Sherry’s post about them HERE.

The best freiten in all of Bruges

10. Go to the Best French Fry Cart

The French Fry has Belgian origins and aren’t actually french at all. But whatever you call them French fries, freiten, Vlaamse frites, frites, Flemish fries, frietjes they are also a must try when in Bruges. In the Markt square there are two freiten carts (frituur) located in front of the Belfry. From experience and suggestions from locals, the fry cart on the right appears to be the best out of the two.

The typical way to eat frieten is with a huge dollop of mayo, but the fry carts offer many different options as well. Also don’t worry if you would prefer plain old ketchup the have that too. The frieten are the perfect snack especially after a night out on the town.

Old Bruges toppings fries with a beef burger at the Potato Bar

If you prefer more of a restaurant setting for delicious fries then I also recommend the Potato Bar. thepotatobar.be . They serve delicious fries with various unique toppings like Old Bruges cheese, bacon, truffle mayo and even mussels. You can also get a few other items like delicious burgers and croquettes.

A Belgian beer at Le Trappiste

11. Visit the best place in Bruges to have a beer

One of the most searched questions about Bruges is where to have the best beer? That is a very good question and the answer might be – everywhere. Belgian beer is known as some of the best in the world and not often is it exported so if you want the best you need to visit. Here are a few suggestions of the best places to visit in Bruges for a great beer.

Inside Le Trappiste, one of the coolest bars in Bruges

Le Trappiste

Le Trappiste is a cool underground bar in an 800 year old medieval cellar dimly lit by candle sticks. There are at least 20 beers on tap and more than 100 by bottle are available. You can do sampler sticks to taste test as well. They open at 5pm daily and are closed Wednesdays.

‘t Brugs Beertje

Cafe ‘t Brugs Beertje aka Bruges Little Bear has up to 300 beers available by bottle from around Belgium with 5 on tap. To see a list of their beers available visit HERE. They open at 4pm daily and are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

De Halve Maan

De Halve Maan aka the Half Man Brewery is a brewery inside the old town. They offer great brewery tours, beer and food. One of their most popular beers is the Brugse Zot which stands for “Bruges fool” and it is one of the only beers brewed in the UNESCO city. Book a brewery tour HERE.

Bruges Beer Experience

If you want to get a little more in depth knowledge about Belgian beer aside from just tasting it then you must visit the beer museum, Bruges Beer Experience. The museum is open daily and offers activities and information for people of all ages. Aside from learning everything there is to know about Belgian beer culture you can also sample 16 different Belgian beers. Learn more

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Casey and I when we briefly met at a Vidcon Samsung party

On April 6, 2018 Casey Neistat started a brand new vlogging series chronicling his daily life, the building of a new company called 368 (368.nyc) and working together with his South African friend Dan Mace. Dan is newish to New York so as part of the vlog Casey has started “Casey’s 100 part series: Casey Neistat’s Guide to New York City“[sic].

Casey isn’t quite sure what 368 will be yet. At least he’s not giving all the info to his audience just yet. He plans on 368 being a creative space for smaller creators that he can help be their very best and do some great collaborations. This will be where he has an office, there might be video editing suites and they have already started creating podcasting suites in the basement. It would appear that Alexis Ohanian from Reddit and Jack Conte of Patreon will be involved in some way or another too. Stay tuned to his daily vlogs to find out more. (link)

Every so many episode’s of the new vlog, Casey throws in a new update to his “Casey Neistat’s Guide to New York City” and I figured I would chronicle them here. I am a big fan of New York and am excited to check out these recommendations myself for my next visit. Especially all of the great recommendations on where to eat.

(I don’t have his permission to do this, but hope he doesn’t mind.)

Casey Neistat’s Guide to New York City

A post shared by Bubby’s (@bubbyspieco) on Oct 17, 2017 at 4:28am PDT

The Best Breakfast in NYC

Tip #1 from 368 episode #10 – His Billion Dollar Idea

Casey’s favourite breakfast restaurant which he claims to be the best breakfast in New York City. He didn’t mention the name of this place in the video, but through research across various social media channels and the use of Google maps I believe it is called “Bubby’s”. Located at 120 Hudson St, New York. The pancakes looked great! Food and Wine was also in search of this breakfast spot and pancakes and wrote an article about them here.

The Best Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown NYC

Tip #2 from 368 Episode #16 – Big Wong

“There are no hookers in Chinatown but this is where the great Chinese restaurants are, it’s where you buy your counterfeit handbags, it’s where you get fruit, and bongs. Chinatown! You can get anything in Chinatown.” ~ Casey

Casey says the best restaurant in New York’s Chinatown is called Big Wong at 67 Mott St, just south of Canal St. Funny name, but great restaurant.

photo Kate Storm

Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village

Tip #3 from 368 Episode #23 – Dan Screwed Me Over

Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village part of Manhattan is a great place to visit and just hang out. Listen to buskers performing live music from piano to guitar and even huge xylophone, people watch and check out kids on their scooters and skateboards. Enjoy the water fountains and be warned there are weed dealers in one of the corner of the park.

Unofficial tips

Sometimes Casey recommends a great place to visit without “officially” including it in Casey’s Guide to New York City. I’ll add his unofficial suggestions here.

Think Coffee

Located at 350 Broadway. Casey’s favourite coffee shop. He likes it because it’s a nice and calm spot, great for meetings, and the staff is really chill. They also have great snacks like sandwiches and vegan muffins. Casey says it is the best cup of coffee you will get within a 10 block radius of 368.

A post shared by The Ainsworth (@theainsworth) on May 9, 2018 at 5:26pm PDT

$1,000 Gold Chicken Wings at The Ainsworth

In episode #30 of 368 Casey finds an Insider video featuring a mountain of chicken wings that are covered in 24 carat gold and cost $1,000 US dollars. The sauce is a gold pigmented butter mixed with a buffalo honey sauce for flavour. Topped with gold dust of course. The location is near by so he goes and gives this outrageous food a try along with Sean Evans from the famous Youtube show Hot Ones (link). Covered in gold dust they look almost inedible, but from the reviews they seem to taste great.

Do not fret however if you fear you may never be able to afford these as the $1,000 price tag is for 50 wings. (Casey didn’t spend that much either). If you want to go in just to say you did it and to get that instagram money shot then definitely go for the $45 for 10 wings option.

Described on The Ainsworth’s site as “Foodgod 24K Gold Wings – Gold dusted, 24-hour brined, gold coconut butter-chipotle honey, gourmet bleu cheese. available in a 10 piece, 20 piece and 50 piece (accompanied by a gold bottle of Ace of Spades champagne).”

There are multiple Ainsworth locations, Casey enjoyed these in the East Village at 64 3rd Ave (at East 11th St.)

This is an ongoing list that I will update each time Casey posts a new recommendation, stay tuned.
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Fast & Furious — Supercharged Universal Studios Orlando Florida Grand Opening - YouTube

Universal Orlando’s new Fast and Furious Supercharged ride officially opened this past week (May 2, 2018) with an exciting celebration. As part of the Universal Orlando Blogsquad (info), I was excited to be invited to be a part of this momentous occasion.

The Grand Opening

The Grand Opening celebration of Universal Orlando’s new Fast and Furious Supercharged ride started with a family BBQ just like in the films. Fancy blue drinks called NOS were served along with Corona’s, a drink often featured in the films. There was definitely a nice attention to detail in what we were served but I wasn’t prepared for what would happen next.

First there was an awesome dance crew performance and then stars from the film were brought on stage. Jordana Brewster who plays Mia Toretto, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges who plays Taj Parker and Tyrese Gibson who plays Roman Pearce. We were then informed that Vin Diesel who plays Dominic Toretto was late because he was currently “involved in a high speed chase”. Moments later he came screeching around the corner in his black F8 Plymouth GTX being chased by “bad guy” Owen Shaw in his F7 Fast Attack vehicle. Shaw then flies off a ramp and crashes into a garage with lots of explosions, flames and effects. It was quite the show.

Once all of the cast had “safely” arrived, they hyped the crowed and then with a count down, more explosions and fireworks they officially opened the ride. It was a great grand opening and really well done by Universal.

image credit Universal Orlando Resort

Fast and Furious Supercharged Ride Review

The Universal Orlando Resort’s new Fast and Furious Supercharged ride is based off of the ride of the same name at Universal Studios Hollywood. In Hollywood the ride is featured as part of the studio backlot tour as you ride on one of their trams. In Orlando they have stepped up the experience by a notch or five. They have added a large queue/pre-show which they have also incorporated Tej and Mia into and a lot more.

The ride experience starts at the entrance as you enter into the secret hideout / garage of Dom and the family. Universal is known for making waiting in line for rides fun and entertaining. Known as the pre-show the line for this ride is pretty great. The first room is a well lit proper mechanic’s shop with four cars from the films.

Brian O’Conner’s 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STi GH from Furious 7

Han Seoul-Oh’s 1997 Mazda RX-7 F3DS from films Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6

Brian O’Conner’s 1970 Ford Escort MK I RS 1600 from Fast & Furious 6

Dominic Toretto’s 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona from Fast & Furious 6

The next room is a bit more dimly lit and appears to be more like a hideout. There is a large visionbeats truck with speakers and TV screens and Tej comes on the screen to talk about what is happening. The gist of the ride is that the crew has just finished and won a big race. They are now headed to an after race party and you are all invited. You walk further through the room and see a whole bunch of gear and cool looking car stuff.

Letty’s Turbo Truck

The second vehicle featured in this room is Letty’s Turbo truck which was designed unique for this ride by Dennis McCarthy, Picture Car Coordinator for the Fast & Furious films. Further on in the ride you will see Letty riding on the truck.

The third room you enter as part of the queue/pre-show is the break room for the crew. Here you meet Pat who tells you more about the party plans and Mia and Tej video call in. Mia talks about family and Tej gives updates on the party. Lastly before you hop on the ride itself you are brought into the war room where Tej has all of his computers and controls. Here you meet Jesse an assistant and again Tej video calls in and Hobbs calls as well, the guests now learn that Owen Shaw is stirring up trouble.

Guests on board the party bus for the ride

The last room is where you board the party bus, two buses at a time that probably hold 60+ people each. The ride is a full on 4D experience with water, smoke and lots of shaking effects.

Tej and Mia video call into the break room

The story line goes that the crew has arrived for the after race party but the FBI shows up and shuts it down. Then there are reports that criminal mastermind Owen Shaw is on the loose and is coming for the party bus. One of your fellow passengers is a witness against him who has been hiding in the witness protection program. He comes after the bus with guns and a flame thrower and the FF crew arrives to save the day. Everyone then races through the streets in a high speed chase with lots of car crashes, explosions, Dom hanging off of a helicopter and more. With the effects and screens on either sides of the bus it feels like you are really there and a part of the action. You definitely have to experience it for yourself.

Inside Tej’s War Room  Ride Tips

Whether you are a regular rider or Express you basically get the same experience in the ride line/pre-show. Often this isn’t the case in some Universal rides. If you chose the single rider line you bypass the ENTIRE pre-show. I recommend you go in the regular line at least once just to experience it.

There are a couple bonuses to the single rider line though. 1) You get to ride faster which means you can ride more often. 2) You get to see Dom’s Trophy Case filled with car keys and pink slips from all of the races and cars he has won. It’s cool to see and all of the different key rings are amusing. 3) Single riders are basically there to fill in empty spots on the rides, and if you ask nicely quite often the Universal staff will help you get your preferred seat.

The best seat on the bus is probably in the back row on the right side. It seems a bit more action happens on the right. Even sitting in the middle of the row would be ok, so then you don’t see the edges of the screen. Being on the first bus is slightly better, but not that much different from the second.

For the best experience be sure to download the Universal Orlando Resort app. The app shows you wait times for the ride and lets you join the virtual line so you can pick when you want to ride. Additional features of the app include a Fast & Furious trivia game that you can play against your fellow riders. You can also find character bios, quizzes, you get text messages from Mia and the crew and more.

To learn more about the app and virtual line click here.

Brian O’Conner’s locker in the break room Fast and Furious Supercharged ride Easter Eggs

Most fans of the films will know that during the filming of Furious 7 a key actor, Paul Walker, who played Brian O’Conner passed away in a car accident in real life. Gone but never forgotten you can find several nods and mentions of him throughout the pre-show line. Various boxes and containers have Brian labeled on them and there is a locker with his name on it too. In the break room behind the red fridge there is a photo of him and in the left corner a work shirt with Brian on it hangs on a locker. On the side of the locker you will see another photo of him and on the floor is a kids car play-mat, a reference to Brian and Mia’s son in the film. There are a few Walker references throughout the queue as well.

There are Easter Eggs hiding in Dom’s Trophy case on the key rings in the single rider line. One says Earthquake on it and as a nod to the previous Disaster ride that had been in that spot at Universal years before. A Disaster shirt can be found elsewhere as well. There are also at least two Beetle Juice references throughout the queue as a nod to a Beetle Juice musical show that had previously taken place there too.

Car keys and pink slips in Dominic Toretto’s Trophy Case

One of the keychains in the trophy case also has a DeLorean on it and apparently the famous “OUTATIME” license plate can be found in the queue, both from the Back to the Future films. If you look close enough you might even find a pink slip with Arthur Weasley’s name on it. Possibly a hint to what the new ride going in in Hogsmeade might be? All of these and more are references to other attractions in the park.

In the child swap room for the ride there is a small model of a few city blocks with buildings and cars from the films. One of the buildings also happens to be a VooDoo Doughnuts as a nod to the VooDoo that had its grand opening the same week as the ride.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

The ride ends with you being dropped into the gift shop. This is the ultimate store for fans of the films. They have everything you can imagine from t-shirts and tank tops to miniatures of all of the popular cars in the films, shot glasses, jewellery, mugs, notebooks and more.

Dominic Toretto selfie!

An important highlight that is easily missed when you exit is to the far left of the gift shop. It is Vin Diesel himself. From the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum there is a life size Vin Diesel / Dominic Toretto. You can get a picture with him or grab an epic selfie in front of his famous car from the films.

To see more highlights from the grand opening and the ride itself watch my video.

 

I was a guest of the Universal Orlando Resort for this experience. As always all opinions and views expressed are my own. 

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Best Lobster Rolls On Nova Scotia's South Shore - YouTube

Nova Scotia lobster is some of the best lobster in the world and in February 2018 it was celebrated with the first ever South Shore Lobster Crawl. From Peggy’s Cove to Barrington, Nova Scotia there were many of lobster related events and activities as well as a lot of lobster to be eaten in many different ways.

The most popular feature of the South Shore Lobster Crawl however were the lobster rolls. With 13 of them being featured up and down the Atlantic coast for the lobster fest, I went in search of the best lobster rolls on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

Before I tell you my favourites, lets learn a little bit about lobster in Nova Scotia.

When is Lobster Season in Nova Scotia?

Many people might be surprised to know that it is always lobster season in Nova Scotia. The biggest lobster season in Nova Scotia is on the South Shore in sections 33 and 34 from the last Monday of November until the 31st of May. These sections also land over 40% of all of Canada’s lobster. Part of this area, known as Barrington, is also the Lobster Capital of Canada. Throughout the rest of the year the fishing season rotates around to other areas in the province and Atlantic Canada.

To see a map of all of the lobster season dates and locations in Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces click HERE.

When is the Best Time to Eat Lobster in Nova Scotia?

If you ask me, I would say any time is the best time to eat lobster. Most commonly though, the summer months and around the Christmas holiday season until the end of February are the most popular times to eat lobster in Nova Scotia.

The lobster prices fluctuate depending on the time of year and weather events as well. As of winter 2018 Nova Scotia lobster prices are about $12-$13 a pound in the grocery stores and around $8 a pound from the fishermen directly.

What Makes a Good Lobster Roll?

The best lobster roll buns and lobster roll bread are ones that are fresh. Roll, bun, bread, you name it, if it’s fresh and combined with fresh meat, a dab of mayo, sprinkled with some green onions, and maybe a little bit of celery then you have a winner in my opinion. If the fresh lobster roll bun is also lightly toasted and slathered with a bit of garlic butter, then even better. Keep it simple and it will be delicious.

While traveling around the South Shore of Nova Scotia in search of the best lobster rolls, I kept coming across the same brioche lobster roll. This roll/bun was oblong in shape, soft, fresh, and buttery. I quickly learned that they were from the bakery, Boulangerie le Vendéenne in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. I was in love with pretty much every restaurant that I visited that used one of these for their lobster roll.

Make sure you enjoy one of their lobster roll buns when you visit Nova Scotia. You can even order a fresh package of them for yourself as long as you call a day ahead. They are located just off of Highway 103 at exit 11 in Blockhouse / Mahone Bay. Their address is #7651 on Highway 3, phone number 1-902-531-3090. You can find them on Facebook HERE.

Ultimate Guide to the best Lobster Rolls on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

Enough about lobster itself, lets get down to where you can find the very best lobster rolls on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. As mentioned above for the South Shore Lobster Crawl there were 13 lobster rolls to taste and I tried them all. All of them were pretty decent, but I have now selected my top five favourite lobster rolls. These are the MUST eats if you are visiting.

#5 The Fo’c’sle Tavern in Chester, Nova Scotia

The Fo’c’sle Tavern is the oldest rural pub in Nova Scotia dating back to 1764. Their lobster roll is unique in that it is actually served on a croissant. I have had this lobster roll a few times and it is always delicious. Sometimes there can be a tad too much mayonaise for me, but that has never stopped me from finishing one. The croissant adds a nice buttery taste to the lobster and is always jam packed with meat.

#4 Captain Kat’s Lobster Shack in Barrington, Nova Scotia

Before you even step in the door of Captain Kat’s you know you are in for a treat because of the huge lobster hanging over the door. Inside the decor is full on lobster with lobster lights strung about, boat decorations here and there and even a Captain’s table for eating. They also feature a fresh lobster tank with some unique lobsters for you to see. There are lobsters with funny patterns, insanely blue lobsters and even HUGE lobsters.

Their lobster roll was packed with lobster meat almost making it tricky to eat, it was quite appealing to the eye and quite tasty. The bun was toasted nicely and it was a good mix of lobster meat, mayo and other toppings. The one thing that I wasn’t too fond of though was the spinach used instead of lettuce. It just wasn’t the right texture for me for a lobster roll. Delicious none the less but I would just ask for no spinach next time.

#3 Mateus Bistro in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

This was the first lobster roll that I tasted on my lobster quest and it was AMAZING. This is partly a winner because the lobster is served on a brioche roll from the above mentioned Boulangerie le Vendéenne. It is mixed with a house made aioli that had a nice taste of pepper, lemon and garlic to it. The lobster is then combined with red onion, red pepper and topped off with some micro greens. Slightly messy to eat, but worth it.

As this was my first stop I later realized that I needed to go back a second time to get some extra footage. On my second visit however the lobster roll wasn’t as fantastic as the first time unfortunately. Somehow a chunk of lobster roe got into my roll and the micro greens had a few bits of dirt on them that threw me off. At least I know it was fresh! Every place has its off day though right?

#2 Kiwi Cafe in Chester, Nova Scotia

I had never been to the Kiwi Cafe before and honestly wasn’t expecting too much from this lobster roll. I was surprised however to see that it is featured on their menu year round. The lobster was served to me on a toasted and still warm brioche lobster roll from the Boulangerie on a fish shaped plate with just a simple side salad.

The menu described it as being mixed with dill mayo but I hardly tasted the dill at all. It was lobster, lightly mixed with mayo on a buttered and toasted brioche roll. The lobster was incredibly fresh, probably the freshest tasting of any of the lobster rolls that I ate. I would definitely go back here again and again.

Their ANZAC cookies are great too!

#1 Port Grocer in Port Medway, Nova Scotia

Without a doubt the Port Grocer lobster roll is the best lobster roll on the East Coast. It was so simple, yet so delicious. The lobster was extremely fresh, having been just picked up from the nearby wharf that morning. It was tossed in a small amount of mayo, on a lightly toasted brioche roll from the Boulangerie, and slathered with garlic butter. It was garlic heaven.

The Port Grocer lobster roll was almost like eating lobster on top of garlic bread. It was out of this world. It was probably the simplest of all of the lobster rolls too. Served with just a tiny fruit cup on the side.

Honourable mention goes to the lobster rolls at the U-Cook Lobster at Peggy’s Cove and the Quarterdeck Beach Grill. Also it sounds weird but you have to give the lobster beer a try as well. Hell Bay Brewing Co. will be making their South Shorer Lobster Ale again for next years Lobster Crawl and Saltbox Brewery will be bringing back their Crustacean Elation beer for the summer. Yes lobster infused beer, to learn a bit more about it click HERE.

To see more about my lobster adventures during Nova Scotia’s South Shore Lobster Crawl watch my video:

 

To learn more about the Lobster Crawl and to plan a visit for the next one check out LobsterCrawl.ca

If you LOVE LOBSTER please give this post a pin!

Thank you to Visit Nova Scotia for having me take on this monumental task. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

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A few months ago I was invited to Killarney Ireland to speak about creating engaging Instagram Stories and Snapchat video content at the TBEX European conference. By chance they put me in the 5 star Killarney Park Hotel for my stay and I was more than thrilled.

Since my visit the hotel has been listed as the number one hotel in all of Ireland by TripAdvisor. As well as also being in the top 5 of the best hotels in Europe and in the top 20 of best hotels in the world.

Ireland’s Best Hotel: Killarney Park Hotel Review Early check-in

I arrived at the hotel around 9am after a long overnight flight from Toronto and three hour drive from Dublin. I was in need of  sleep. At that time my room wasn’t available yet, but the front desk offered for me to enjoy breakfast in the dining room. It was nice to grab a bite and soon after they had a room ready for me. Early check-ins are not always available of course but I was thrilled that they were able to accommodate me as soon as possible.

Afternoon Tea at the Killarney Park Hotel

One of my favourite things to do in life is enjoy a fancy afternoon tea. Partly because 1) I like being fancy 2) I like eating tiny egg salad sandwiches and mini desserts. After a much needed nap on my first afternoon I scheduled a delightful afternoon tea. Served in the hotel lounge in the lobby nestled nicely by the fireplace, it was perfect.

The afternoon tea costs 35 euro per person (a reasonable price) and 50 euro for it to include champagne. There are 10 teas available to choose from and a few coffee selections as well. The food to go along with the tea all arrived together on a unique 3 tiered stand with scones, sandwiches, desserts and even a shrimp cocktail.

Getting to leisurely enjoy the lounge, fireplace and afternoon tea was quite the treat. It was also a bit more casual than other teas I have done. I wasn’t being rushed away and was able to stay and enjoy my tea for as long as I wanted.

The Room

I stayed in the O’Connell Suite and it was massive. Probably one of the biggest hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in. The property offers five different room sizes with varying prices and amenities such as the Classic, Premium, and Signature Rooms, Suites and the Master Suite. The O’Connell Suite features two comfy king sized beds and a great seating area surrounding the fireplace. There is also a large bathroom with double sinks and a separate shower and tub. The room also included a mini fridge, lots of storage space, a desk to work at as well as a table to sit and eat at and a second couch. Again, massive room.

My favourite thing was definitely the gas fireplace, such a nice luxury to have in a hotel. Especially nice to curl up next to after a typical rainy Irish day.

Service

The service at the property was great. From always being greeted with a smile to having any questions answered and quick room service, especially for when I couldn’t figure out the fireplace on my own. It was what you could expect from a 5 star property and more.

They are also quite active on their twitter account. When I had questions or when I was away from the property they were always there to respond and help in any way.

image by the Killarney Park Hotel

The Park Restaurant and Dining Room

Breakfast

Breakfast at the hotel was included with my stay and featured a large buffet and breakfast menu that you could order hot food from. Held in the elegant Park Restaurant and dining room which also serves a delicious dinner menu of fresh local ingredients.

The Tayto Sandwich

The tayto sandwich isn’t specific to this hotel, but they went above and beyond for me to enjoy one so I can’t not mention it. Irish friends of mine told me about this tasty late night Irish “delicacy”. My friends and I were keen to enjoy one and I jokingly tweeted at the hotel, a 5 star hotel, asking if they served them. Expecting a few chuckles, an apology and a no, they surprised me instead. When I arrived back to my room that evening all of the supplies for the best Tayto sandwich imaginable were there waiting for me.

A tayto sandwich is cheese and onion flavoured Tayto brand potato chips on top of two buttered pieces of white bread. That is literally it. For a bit more flavour you can also add some tobasco sauce and or a tomato/ketchup kind of jam or preserve.

Sounds weird and odd, but it is delicious, especially late at night after a few pints.

What to do in Killarney

If visiting Killarney I also recommend checking out a few of the below recommendations that I enjoyed and much more.

Visit The Shire, Ireland’s only Lord of the Rings themed pub. Located just a few minutes walk away, the Shire is one the most quirky pubs that I have ever been too. Whether you are a Lord of the Rings fan or not I definitely recommend checking it out. Aside from Gandalf, Smeagol and all of the LOTR themed things they also have great gourmet burgers, beers and live entertainment.

Enjoy lunch and one of the best Guinness’s in Kerry Co at Murphy’s Bar. They also have great fish and chips, delicious desserts and you can’t beat their Irish coffee.

In nearby Kenmare Co, I also recommend a visit to Lorge Chocolatier to try the chocolates and take chocolate making classes. In the area you can also go seal watching with Seafari or enjoy another delicious afternoon tea at the Sheen Falls Lodge.

If you are visiting Killarney I can highly recommend staying at the Killarney Park hotel. Have you been? How was your experience?

Enjoy this post and hotel? Please give it a pin!

Thank you to TBEX for having me. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

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Four Seasons Resort Lanai - Lanai, Hawaii - YouTube

A view of the property and Hulopoe beach from restaurant One Forty

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai in Hawaii is one of the most exclusive hotels in the world. Owned by billionaire Larry Ellison who also happens to own 98% of the entire island of Lanai. Once one of the worlds largest pineapple plantations this beautiful Hawaiian island has now been turned into a place of adventure, luxury and relaxation.

Luckily I was able to stay here and I quickly learned that this hotel is different from many others. Even though there are lots of other guests you still get the feeling of almost having the place all to yourself. Most importantly I never once had to get up early to fight for a chair near one of the pools. That to me is amazing.

A comfy King sized bed

Room Key

One of the most convenient things about the property is that the room keys are a bracelet with a fob built into it. It makes it easy for getting into your room and you never have to worry about losing your room key. They are waterproof as well so perfect for wearing during any activities that you might be doing. Bonus points for them as they clean, recycle and reuse them with each guest.

Mood lighting in the bathroom, with a TV built into the mirror

Garden View Room

I stayed in a garden view room with a view of sunrise each morning and the sea cliffs in the distance. To the right there was also a partial ocean view. It came with a comfortable king sized bed, lots of closet and drawer space, a large flat screen TV, and a fantastic fish lamp. The part that excited me most however was in the bathroom with the built in TV in the mirror and the robotic toilet.

Available lounge chairs at the Retreat pool

Poolside eats, tortilla chips with salsa, gucamole and brocco-mole

Take a dip

There are two pools, the Retreat pool (adults only) and the central pool for all, both with complimentary towel and water service. They actually bring you your own mini keg of water, this is so smart of them. Aside from having full drink and food service at the pool, staff also came by often with other things on offer. They offer a sunglasses cleaning service, bring by mini popsicles, shots of fruit smoothies, fruit skewers and more.

The property is also located on a beach with a designated swimming area and complimentary water and towel service on the beach. Hulopoe Bay is a protected nature reserve and named one of the top snorkelling destinations in the world. If you are lucky you might also see some spinner dolphins or even breaching humpback walls offshore in the winter months.

Relaxation

Aside from hanging out on a lounge chair by the pool or beach you can also reserve and hang out in a pool sanctuary. Essentially a private cabana of your own, close to the pool but hidden amongst the lush gardens giving you some privacy. You can also arrange to have a spa service by the pool like a scalp, neck and shoulder massage or foot massage.

There is also a Spa that offers many services including the Lanai Tai signature scrub, various wraps and deep cleanses. Or you can take part in a mediation class and even take Tai Chi lessons.

Lanai Venison – Roasted Tomato Polenta Cake, Arugula, Shaved Parmesan, Sherry Veal Reduction at restaurant One Forty

Dining

The hotel has a few options for dining on property. For casual dining you can dine pool side, visit the Sports Bar & Grill or grab lunch at the Malibu Farm restaurant at pool level. Much of the featured produce at Malibu Farm are grown on property and guests can take a guided tour of the harvest gardens.

If you want to go a bit fancier there is restaurant One Forty featuring American steak and Hawaiian seafood. One Forty is also open for breakfast with menu service and an excellent buffet. For breakfast I had the traditional dish of loco moco. Typically made of white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg and brown gravy. It is typically messy, but at the Four Seasons it is fancy and so delicious. By far the best loco moco I have ever had.

If you want to go high class then of course you should dine at Nobu. Owned by celebrity chef Nobu Matsushia, this popular restaurant is known for its fusion cuisine of traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. Featuring delicious sushi and wagyu beef you can also be entertained by choosing the Teppan-yaki option.

Picnic basket with salads, sandwiches, chips, cookies and a drink

Guests are also able to get private in room dining service that is more than just food delivery but more of a full service experience in your room. With a six hour notice the property will also prepare delicious picnic baskets for your excursions.

On property activities

Located on property is a golf course called Manele. Fun fact Bill Gates was married there on the 12th tee. The golf course is open to all guests, and clubs are available for rent. There are also tennis courts on property and a gym. Yoga and workout classes are complimentary and available for all guests 12 and older. Private training and private yoga classes are available for a fee.

You can also take part in the hotels cultural program and learn how to make a lei, learn how to play the ukulele, take hula lessons and also learn about the history of the island.

Adventure off property

The hotel has Jeep’s available for rent, perfect for exploring the island. Some of the popular activities off resort are visiting Shipwreck beach to see an actual shipwreck. Also visiting the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, home to hundreds of stray cats that have been rescued. Lanai city is also near by perfect for grabbing a bite to eat, grocery shopping, buying some great souvenirs and checking out some great art galleries.

A view of the cliffs of Lanai at one of the best spots for snorkelling

Through the hotel you can also book whale watching tours, scuba and snorkelling tours as well as horseback riding, off roading trips and more. You can also arrange a helicopter tour to take you over Lanai and even over to Maui and Molokai. They also offer flight lessons too.

How to get there?

You can either fly into Lanai or take a ferry from Maui.

To see more about the property watch my video:

If you are planning on visiting Lanai I can definitely recommend staying at the Four Seasons, it might be a bit pricey but definitely worth it to spoil yourself.

Thank you to #SeeLanai and the Four Seasons for having me. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

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MOLOKAI Island, Hawaii: What to see, do and EAT - YouTube

Molokai, Hawaii is the fifth largest of the Hawaiian islands and is known as “the most Hawaiian” of them all. Perhaps because no buildings can be built taller than a coconut tree? Or maybe because of the laid back lifestyle, the lack of tourists, or maybe because of the friendliness of the people? No matter the reason you definitely get that feeling the minute you step off the plane.

Home to less than 7,000 people, there is only one hotel and just a few places to eat. So what exactly does one do when visiting Molokai? Here are my best tips for visiting Molokai, Hawaii.

Anakala Pilipo and his son Greg Solatorio Hawaiian descendents of the Halawa Valley in Molokai

Learn About the Hawaiian Culture

The most popular activity on the island is to spend part of the day learning about the Hawaiian culture. The very best people to teach you are Anakala Pilipo and his son Greg Solatorio. They live on the eastern side of the island in the Halawa Valley. Anakala (Uncle) is the last remaining descendent to be born and raised in the Halawa Valley and he still lives there today. They give hiking tours to the Halawa Valley waterfall and teach visitors about the Hawaiian way of life and living off of the land. They truly believe the Hawaiian way of life to be sacred but not secret and want to share it with everyone so that it will never be forgotten.

Selfie with Anakala Pilipo!

When visiting  they invited us to their home where we learned about Hawaiian protocol,  how to pound taro root into poi, and a lot more. Anakala also told us about surviving a great tsunami that swept through the valley in 1946 when he was just 6 years old.

Loving the Plumeria farm

Visit a Plumeria Farm

One of the most common flowers used to make Hawaiian leis is the plumeria flower, also known as frangipani. Located a couple miles from the main town of Kaunakakai is the Molokai Plumerias Farm. Here you can explore through rows upon rows of beautiful yellow plumerias. Make sure you stop for a smell or two. You can also take a tour that teaches you about these beautiful flowers and their history in Hawaii as well as take a lei making class.

Ripe macadamia nuts ready to be cracked

Visit a Macadamia Nut Farm

Macadamia nuts are very popular in Hawaii and you can buy them a bunch of different ways from plain to salted, garlic flavoured and even covered in chocolate. When visiting Molokai a fun activity to do is visiting Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. You can learn about the macadamia nut, see how they grow and learn how to properly crack them. You can also meet Purdy himself who is known to be quite the character. Samples of various macadamia nut products made there are available to be taste tested and you can also buy all things macadamia nut.

Purdy himself telling us about the various macadamia nut things to eat

Fun Macadamia Nut Facts:
  • Hawaii is the only place in the world where macadamia nuts are harvested year round so they are also the freshest.
  • The macadamia nut isn’t picked. They aren’t fully ripe and ready to eat until they fall off of the tree by themselves. Once they do then that is when you know they will taste the very best.

A view of the Kalaupapa peninsula from the Kalaupapa lookout

Visit Kalaupapa

In 1866 under King Kamehameha V part of Molokai became a designated leper colony for people with leprosy. What we now know as Hansen’s disease. At the time the disease wasn’t very understood and they were quarantined there to prevent the spread of the disease. Now known as the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historic Park you can visit to learn about the history of the location and how they lived secluded from the rest of the world.

Kalaupapa is on the north side of the island on the Kalaupapa peninsula separated from the rest of the island by 2,000 foot sea cliffs. To get down to the bottom you can either fly in or take a mule ride down. The 3 mile trail by mule takes about an hour and 15 minutes going down. Due to the rains we encountered on our trip we were unable to visit but it is meant to be a great experience learning about an important part of Hawaiian history.

Post-a-nut Coconut that you can mail, as is to anywhere in the world!

Specially made post-a-nut coconuts

Send a Coconut in the Mail

Molokai is home to the Hoolehua post office known for sending very unique packages to anywhere in the world. Aside from your regular envelopes and boxes they are also popular for mailing coconuts. Known as Post-a-Nut you can send one for roughly $10-$12 domestically anywhere in the US. Or you can pay a bit more to send them anywhere else in the world. You can send just a plain coconut, send a pre-decorated one or decorate your own one if you like, just make sure you leave room for the stamps.

Cinnamon and butter Molokai hot bread

Try Molokai Hot Bread

Before visiting Molokai one of the most talked up “must try” items that I heard about was Molokai hot bread. Made at the Kanemitsu Bakery and restaurant it is a popular late night treat on the island. You can’t just walk into the front of the bakery and order it though. For Molokai hot bread you have to go down the dark alleyway to the back and order it through a window.

There are five flavours to choose from: strawberry, blueberry, cream cheese, butter and cinnamon. We opted for two orders of hot bread with butter and cinnamon. A great choice indeed. The hot bread was served warm, cut in two, slathered with lots of butter and topped with cinnamon. Pretty simple, but definitely a nice treat. You can’t visit Molokai without giving it a try for yourself.

Bacon chicken ranch burger and waffle fries from Molokai Burger

Dining out in Molokai

There aren’t a lot of options for eating out in Molokai, but here are some suggestions from the places that I was able to try:

Molokai Burger – A newly renovated burger restaurant that also offers fried chicken, fish and chips, loco moco, milkshakes and more. I ate here twice and loved it both times.

Molokai Pizza Cafe – Serving typical pizzas and very tasty garlic fingers. Available for take-out or dining in.

Paddlers Restaurant and Bar – Described as fine dining cuisine in a casual setting. This is one of the places to “be” in Molokai at night and often features live bands and entertainment. Here you will find local dishes, typical American foods and a unique multicultural Asian fusion. So basically they serve all of the things.

Ube Purple Sweet Potato ice cream from Kamoi Snack-n-Go

Kamoi Snack-n-Go – Come here if you are looking for a scoop or two of ice cream. They serve 32 flavours of Dave’s Hawaiian ice cream. One of the most popular flavours is the Ube ice cream. Made with purple sweet potato it is tasty and extremely colourful. I paired it with mint chocolate chip and was in love.

Hiro’s Ohana Grill – Opened in July 2017 at Hotel Molokai, I missed getting to eat here by just a couple of months. From the photos and reviews that I have seen online though it looks like a great place to eat especially since you can dine right by the ocean.

Sun Down Deli – A tiny little sandwich and salad shop on the main street run by cute Hawaiian ladies. A great place to go for a quick bite on the go.

Stay at Hotel Molokai

If you are visiting Molokai you most likely will be staying at Hotel Molokai since it is the only hotel on the island. You can also camp, rent Airbnbs, or stay on a ranch but if you want that hotel life, Hotel Molokai is it.

A view of the main lodge at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch

Visit a Ranch

Aside from Hotel Molokai I also had the opportunity to visit and spend the night at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch, an organic and biodynamic ranch and farm on the east side of the island. For small groups or solo travellers they offer a couple of cottages for rent where you can cook for yourself. Be sure to purchase your groceries in town before arriving. You can also arrange with the property to bring you ranch-raised beef and/or a box of produce of items grown on the property.

A view of the pool, part of the main lodge and the beautiful flora at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch

If you are a group of 14 to 22  you can rent out the lodge for a minimum of 4 nights. The perfect spot for a retreat with 3 meals included a day. The ranch lodge and property is also a perfect location for weddings.

The large property has miles of hiking trails that can take you down to lava cliffs on the ocean. You can also take guided tours of the property’s organic farm and learn about everything from the vegetables they grow to the bees they keep.

Visit Beautiful Beaches

Many of the beaches that we visited weren’t swimmable because the waves and currents were too big. They were however still amazing to visit. Pāpõhaku Beach was one of our favourites that we visited on the west coast of the island. The waves that were crashing there were the largest I have ever seen. The beach was massive, clean and the sand was so soft that you sunk down right into it like snow. Another bonus was that there weren’t any other people on the beach for what seemed like miles

The sea cliffs on Molokai are the highest in the world

Take a Helicopter Tour

If you are on Maui you can also take a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian and fly along the cliffs of Molokai. Standing up to 3,900 feet above the ocean they are the highest sea cliffs in the world. You might also recognize them from the beginning of Jurassic Park 3.

To learn more about my best tips for visiting Molokai, Hawaii watch my video from this wonderful island:

 

Like this post? Give it a pin!

Thank you for #SeeMolokai for having me. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

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Hotel Molokai, Hawaii Review - YouTube

On the small Hawaiian island of Molokai, home to less than 7,500 people, there is only one hotel for visitors to stay. On the island you can also stay at a lodge, go camping or rent an Airbnb. But if you want to live that hotel life Hotel Molokai is your one and only option. When I visited this past year, it is exactly where I stayed. Here is my review of Hotel Molokai in Molokai, Hawaii.

How to Get Around

When visiting Molokai if you want to get around the island you are going to want to rent a car. Hotel Molokai also offers a shuttle for a fee depending on the destination if you require an airport pickup, want to have a few drinks in town or want to attempt to get around without renting a car. I highly recommend renting a car though so you can explore the whole island.

The Hotel

The hotel offers various types of rooms for you to stay in including wheelchair accessible accommodations. Some rooms are your basic motel type room and others feature kitchenettes if you want to cook for yourself. There are also guest rooms with private lanais overlooking the pacific ocean and the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

Various amenities are available on site like washing machines, free parking, a pool, tour desk, hammocks and a newly opened restaurant called Hiro’s Ohana Grill.

Molokai is known as the “most Hawaiian” of all of the Hawaiian islands and the hotel reflects that with lots of Hawaiian charm and style. Down to the Hawaiian flowered shower curtain and all.

While staying there I lucked out and had an Oceanfront room with a King sized bed. The room didn’t have an AC unit but it did have a ceiling fan, a fan on the wall and a sliding screen door to let in the warm ocean breezes but not the bugs.

My room was located on the second floor which gave me a great view over the ocean for sunset. Not many rooms at the hotel have ocean views but the pool area is a perfect location for watching sunset as well.

While my room didn’t have a kitchenette in it it did also come with a microwave, coffee maker and large mini fridge. The room also included typical amenities like a flat screen TV, desk area, etc.

Dining

The restaurant on property, Hiro’s Ohana opened in July 2017 after my stay however you can see the menu and learn more about it on their Facebook page. They are currently open from 11am to 9pm serving lunch and dinner. For breakfast options for hotel guests there are a couple cafes in Kaunakakai town about a 5min drive down the road.

Hotel Molokai isn’t a fancy 5 star Hawaiian resort with all-inclusive options, a spa and fancy luaus. But for being the only hotel on the whole island it is pretty great for what it is and what they have available for being so secluded.

To get a better view of the property watch my video review below:

 

Thank you for Molokai Visitors Bureau for having me. As always all opinions, views are my own.

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NEW Ventus at Marina El Cid Spa and Beach Resort Review - YouTube

When you take a vacation down south to a destination like Mexico and the Caribbean there are a few key elements that you are looking for your hotel to have. Lots of beautiful pools, located on the beach, with delicious food and drinks. After having spent a few nights at the brand new Ventus at Marina El Cid I can tell you that it has everything you need and more.

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula directly in between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean sea it is truly a stunning property. Since it is brand new it is really fresh and modern and parts of it are architecturally stunning. In my previous experience visiting all inclusive resorts down south they are often mass produced and just kind of blah. Nothing to write home about, but that definitely wasn’t the case with Ventus.

Even the planters in the lobby were pretty

Since I was visiting the very first week it opened just by chance we happened to meet the architect and designer of the property. I got to learn from them about some of their inspirations and how they put the property together. From the buildings to the very last detail like the marble tables that were chosen to be in the lobby bar. They used local Mexican made products as often as possible and tied in not only ocean elements into the property but also a bit of history. One of the restaurants was a French restaurant called Ile de France and was inspired by a French ship of the same name that had visited the area long ago.

A list of some of the included platinum services 

Extra Service

While staying at the Ventus I had platinum service which is the highest service the property offers. Not only did I have an all inclusive experience like the rest of the guests but I had a few bonuses on top of that as well. The platinum service includes having your own personal butler, a pillow and aromas menu for your room and gives you one of the best rooms on the property.

Pretty excited about the popcorn!

The butler service was so great that they often appeared out of no where just to check on me and to see if I had any requests. One day I asked for popcorn and instead of just a bag of Smartpop in my room I came back to a microwave and 4 bags of microwave popcorn. A whole entire microwave magically appeared!

The butler service also offered us golf cart rides around the entire property. This was especially great when we had to get to the marina for a boat tour and also when there was a torrential down pour.

The Rooms

My room was located in building number 25. It was a large room that was very clean looking and modern. It featured two double sinks just outside of the bathroom where you would of course find the toilet and stand up shower. Next to the sinks there were many toiletries available, everything from typical soaps and lotions to SPF and even a bug repellent lotion. It also included a loofa, extra toothbrush, toothpaste and more.

My bed was large and comfortable, and I think I might have even been the first one to have ever slept in it. That was a bonus. The TV in the room was without a doubt the largest flat screen TV that I have ever seen in a hotel room. There was also a dining area where my butler had left me fresh fruits and a nice bottle of wine as well as some flowers. Next to the table was a couch and behind it was a Murphy bed in the wall which you could pull down if there were extra guests staying with you. Much better than a pull out couch.

Sunset over my semi-private pool in front of my room

My favourite part of my room however was of course the view and balcony/patio. As soon as you stepped outside of the room there was a hammock to relax in, two lounge chairs, a beautiful view over the entire property AND my very own semi-private pool. That’s right, right outside of my patio door were steps directly into my own pool. I only had to share it with a few other neighbours staying on the same floor as me.

Enjoying a fresh coconut in my semi-private pool

The pool snaked along the front of the building and looked out over the entire property. It was a great place to relax in some privacy but also to do some proper swimming if you wanted. The old guy a few doors down from me enjoyed it a bit too much though I think. He kept getting in my pictures and waving at me. Having your own private pool might be the best, but this was definitely still pretty awesome to have.

Floating like an angel in the hotel’s main pool

The Pools

Aside from my own pool there are also two other pools meant for the whole property and one other semi-private pool like mine. To relax there is also two large hot tubs / jacuzzis on property as well as the ocean just a few steps away.

The main pool in the middle of the property was definitely the largest hotel pool that I have ever seen. 3,675 sq feet! It featured a couple waterfalls, bridges to swim under and a shallow kids area. There was even an area for lounge chairs to sit in the pool so you can relax while being in the water. This pool was also full service for drinks, but no food is allowed by the pool.

The adults only area with an infinity pool and two jacuzzis overlooking the beach

Near the beach is where you can find the other pool which is an infinity pool looking over the beach. The two large hot tubs are located on either side of the infinity pool and this whole area is for adults only.  They are also located next to the main bar with chair/pool service. Near this pool you will also find a platinum lounge for platinum members where they can go to use the internet, get snacks and find premium alcohol.

You can also enjoy a massage on the beach!

Other Amenities

The Ventus is located adjoining an older El Cid property called the “Hotel Marina El Cid“. Hotel guests of each property are welcome to enjoy the amenities at both. At the moment the Ventus does not have a gym or spa but guests are able to use the facilities at the Hotel Marina and they will be updated and made bigger soon. The other hotel also has a couple more pools and a few different places to eat so there are many options available while staying at either property.

While there I got to enjoy a magical Kukulcan Massage which was like nothing I had ever experienced. The spa incorporates ancient Myan rituals and had me being massaged by not one but two masseuses at once. It’s hard to describe the treatment, it involved jaguars and eagles, but it was awesome.

If you are traveling with kids the hotel also offers a baby sitting service if you want to sneak away for a private dinner. There is also a kids club for kids ages 4-12 where they can hang out and play while supervised and also do arts and crafts.

The private dining room at the Ile de France restaurant

A small part of the delicious breakfast buffet

Dining

At the Ventus as mentioned before there is a French restaurant that serves delicious French cuisine at night. They also have a wonderful Sommelier at hand to help you with your wine pairings. If you are looking for something a bit stronger, the Sommelier is also a Mezcalier and can bring you some of the finest Mezcal in Mexico.

In the mornings the restaurant offers a buffet breakfast with endless options of foods. Featuring fresh pastries to meats and cheeses, all of the bacon, churros, eggs made however you like, delicious green smoothies and much more.

Learning how to make the best ceviche from the head Chef

You can also have food at the bar just off of the lobby called the Abnia. This is where I also was able to take a ceviche making class which they will be offering to more guests coming soon.

Inside the Mercado de Dolores

The best crepes ever with unlimited toppings

My favourite place to dine however was at the Mercado de Dolores which is essentially a huge fancy restaurant buffet. But in the best way possible. The Mercado is set up like a food court with many different food options along with a bar and cafe. They have everything from Mexican food to Italian, Asian, seafood, healthy food and even crepes. At each counter you can help yourself to the food that is already prepared or request for items to be made for you.

Once you were seated with your food a server is available to take your drink orders and help you with anything that you require further.

Bucket-o-cookies in the Aromas Cafe free for the taking

I think my favourite part might have been the crepes or that I could just walk into the cafe, grab a cookie, walk out and enjoy. You have got to love an all-inclusive that knows how to do it right. I was also so impressed by the Mercado and how nice it was inside from the decor to the artwork on the walls and the quality of food. I was extremely impressed and had never seen so many great food options at an all-inclusive property before.

Optional Activities

The hotel can also arrange other activities for you if interested with a popular option being bike rentals to bike to the nearby town of Puerto Morelos.  Kayaks and paddle boards are also available as rentals. If you prefer a boat ride the hotel can also arrange a fishing trip or snorkelling trip for you where you can snorkel on the second largest coral reef in the world.

At night time the lobby bar often features live music and there are also shows for families performed near the pool in the evenings.

Pronatours can also offer you day trips to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Chichen Itza and even a trip to a beautiful cenote. However the property is so nice that you might never want to leave.

To see more about the property watch my video review here:

If you happen to be looking for a great new destination to escape to in Mexico in the winter months I highly recommend checking out the Ventus at Marina El Cid.

Thank you for El Cid Resorts for having me. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

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The Universal Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s makes it way down the New York Street 

The Universal Orlando Resort celebrates many events and festivities throughout the year. From Halloween with their Halloween Horror Nights to Mardi Gras hosting the largest Mardi Gras Celebration outside of New Orleans. They also have a special celebration for all things Harry Potter with their Celebration of Harry Potter festivities that take place each January. All of those are of course well done, however after just celebrating the holidays at Universal, I think it might be my favourite celebration of all.

First of all, celebrating the holidays in a warm climate is a bonus for me. But also celebrating the holidays with everything from the Minions to the Grinch, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What more could you ask for? If you are thinking of visiting and celebrating as well, then check out below for my best tips for celebrating the holidays at Universal Orlando.

Watch Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s

At Universal it is always a great day for a parade. Literally. They have parades every day! During the holiday season not only do they have their Superstar parade every day around 2pm, but later on in the day they also have a holiday parade featuring Macy’s. (check HERE for times). The parade has a bunch of great floats, HUGE Macy’s balloons, dancers on stilts and a lot more. The parade features many characters from Universal like the Minions along with Gru and family, Shrek and friends, everyone from Madagascar and you can’t forget the most important person of all, Santa!

My best tip for seeing the parade is to grab a spot along the main streets in Universal Studios at least 30 to 45 min ahead of time to get the best spot. The parade begins (and ends) right across from Mel’s Drive-in by the Pantages Theatre. It then heads down Beverly Hills towards the park entrance, then makes a right on to the main strip going past The Minions and Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York, before turning right again into the New York area and then right again to finish where it started.

My favourite spot to stand is in the Beverly Hills area of Universal Studios right across from the Brown Derby Hat Shop so the parade almost comes straight at you. It is also neat to see it in the New York area because of course it looks like you are in New York. Where ever you stand you are sure to get a great view and have a great time watching the parade and enjoying the festive music, confetti and even snow! Say “Hi” to Santa for me!

Enjoy Breakfast with the Grinch

A fun thing that you can do when visiting Universal (especially if you have kids or are just young at heart like me) is to go to a character breakfast. You can enjoy breakfast while hanging out with Sponge Bob Squarepants, the Minions, Dora the Explorer and all of their friends. Just announced you can also now have dinner with some of your favourite super heroes too like Captain America, Spiderman and Wolverine.

During the holiday times you can also have breakfast with the Grinch and celebrate Grinchmas at the Grinch and Friends Character Breakfast. Located in the Circus McGurkus tent in Suess Landing, get ready for one wacky breakfast. Enjoy Cindy Lou Who cinnamon buns, Thing One and Thing Two coloured donuts, and for the brave Green Eggs and Ham pizza. While dining you will also get the chance to meet many Whos from Whoville as well as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two and even the Grinch himself will stop by for a visit.

Islands of Adventure typically opens at 9am but if you have a character breakfast scheduled you can enter the park early to go to that and this can help maximize the time that you have to spend in the park that day as well. Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time and have your cameras ready for the Grinch!

Side note: Staying at an onsite Universal hotel also gets you early entry in to the park!

Watch the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular!

If you aren’t all Grinch-ed out after your Grinch and friends character breakfast then you should definitely check out the Grinch’s Who-liday Spectacular show afterwards. A live retelling of the Grinch story we all know and love with the Grinch, a bunch of Whos from Whoville and even his lovely dog Max might make an appearance. There are multiple showtimes every day.

Watch the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts

For the 2017-18 season Christmas has come to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time ever! The biggest, most exciting part about it is the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts projection mapping show that wraps all of Hogwarts in a magical 7 minute light show. Featuring fireworks, large snow men, Christmas trees, the Yule Ball, advertisements by the Weasley brothers and more, it really is a sight to see.

The show takes place roughly every 20minutes starting at dusk until close. My favourite spot to stand was about halfway between the castle and the Frog Choir stage for the best views. I also recommend watching it at least twice as there is so much happening you will see different things each time. It is a truly magical experience especially for Harry Potter fans.

Watch the show here:

The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Universal Orlando Resort Projection - YouTube
 

Sip on a Hot Butter Beer

Year round in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you can drink tasty ButterBeer served in the regular way and as a frozen option. You can also find ButterBeer flavoured ice cream, and even ButterBeer flavoured fudge! During the holiday / winter season at Universal you can also try Hot ButterBeer which might now be my favourite way to have it.

Hot ButterBeer isn’t served at the ButterBeer carts, to get it you must order it at the Leaky Cauldron restaurant, the Three Broomsticks or the Hopping Pot. It is so delicious and will warm you up on a cool night during the holiday season.

Discover the Holiday Decorations in the Wizarding World

One of the coolest things about the Christmas celebrations in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley is all of the detail. At first it just looks like pretty garlands, lights and wreaths but when you get up close you realize that it is a whole lot more. The Honey Dukes candy shop has wreaths and garland that are full of candy pieces. The Quidditch shop has decorations full of golden ornaments that have feathers attached to them to make them look like golden snitches. Gladrags Wizardwear has decorations that are decorated with pink ribbon, the same that was used to make Hermione’s Yule Ball dress. Universal did an excellent job decorating and really brought Christmas to life in the Wizarding World.

If you get a chance to take the Hogwarts Express from Digaon Alley to Hogsmeade you will also notice that Kings Cross Station is full of festive muggle decorations as well.

Learn Harry Potter Christmas Songs

Year round the Frog Choir performs in Hogsmeade and Celestine Warbeck and the Banshees perform in Diagon Alley. During the Christmas celebrations they both have a new show filled with performances and holiday songs all about getting a Hippogriff as a Christmas present, The Most Magical Yule Ball of All, and a bunch more including Accio Christmas that is stuck in my head forever… There is no better way to ring in the holidays then singing Harry Potter Christmas songs am I right?

The Frog Choir and Celestina both perform about 6 times a day throughout the late morning and afternoon. Show times can vary by day and weather, find them listed HERE.

A Hogwarts Christmas ornament, buy it online HERE

Do Your Christmas Shopping

All throughout Universal there are plenty of gift shops great for buying holiday presents for your friends and family. Great items include Jurassic Park t-shirts, banana hats only a Minion would love, Jimmy Fallon’s tight pants and so much more. During the holiday season you can also find lots of holiday themed presents as well. Many gift shops carry funky Grinch Christmas hats and Christmas themed presents. You can also find Harry Potter Christmas stockings, scarves, Hogwarts ornaments and more. You can even buy itchy knitted sweaters made by Mrs Weasley herself with a big H or R on the front for Harry and Ron.

If you don’t get to visit Universal Orlando during the holiday season don’t fret. Year round in Islands of Adventure you can also find all things Christmas related at the Port of Entry Christmas Shop.

Would you ever celebrate the holidays in a theme park like Universal? I definitely recommend it! Follow my tips and you will have a wonderful time! Happy Holidays!

Thank you for Universal Orlando Resorts for having me as an official member of the Universal Blog Squad. As always all opinions, views and full bellies are my own.

If you need a holiday break don’t worry, Christmas isn’t celebrated everywhere, head on over to the Simpsons for a Duff beer to relax.

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