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Which to Visit: The Blue Lagoon, or a Local Iceland Pool?

One of the incredible things about Iceland is it’s geothermal environment, which makes geysers, heated streets, and incredible hot springs and swimming pools possible. On my trip to Iceland, I had the opportunity to visit both a local City Thermal Pool, and the Blue Lagoon!

With that in mind, I’m here to weigh in on question you might be asking if you’re on your way to Iceland!

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Go to a City Pool, or to the Blue Lagoon?

Here’s my experience and recommendation after visiting both!

City Thermal Pools

The local experience: The water in Iceland is naturally hot, so Reykjavik has many neighbourhood thermal swimming pools. There’s likely one walking distance from wherever you’re staying.

City Thermal Pools are great if you want the true local experience. Go in the evening, and you’ll be enjoying the hot water along with locals who are unwinding and chatting with friends after a day at work. 

I went to Vesturbaejarlaug, a local favourite. There were multiple swimming pools, varying in temperature and size.

Things to know before you go to a local Iceland pool:
  • it is standard to shower without your bathing suit on before entering the pool.
  • flip flops are a good idea for walking from the change room to the showers.
  • you must not track any water from the showers to the changing rooms after you leave. The floor in the change rooms are completely dry. 
  • access to local swimming pools are included in the Reykjavik City Pass.
  • regular price of a City Pool: 500-600 ISK.

It didn’t seem appropriate to take photos, as the pools were full and it’s not a tourist spot. There are many if you Google, though.

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The Blue Lagoon

The bucket list experience: The moment that I saw a photo of the Blue Lagoon, it became a bucket list item for me. Yes, it’s packed to the brim with other tourists, and yes, it’s still totally worth going!

Get the Comfort Package and dive in. The Blue Lagoon is much larger than it appears in most photos, but just as blue. There are a lot of people, and there’s also a lot of space so you won’t feel squished in.

Enjoy silica and algae face masks, and grab a cold smoothie at the swim up bar. Drift around on a pool noodle, or open your pores in one of the saunas.

The Blue Lagoon is built for tourists, and you’ve probably seen and heard tons about it, and for good reason. I loved the Blue Lagoon and can’t wait to go back!

Things to know before you go to the Blue Lagoon:
  • whether or not you receive a towel or sandals depends on which package you get, so pay attention to what is included and what’s not.
  • it’s a great idea to bring a small, carry-on sized bottle of clarifying shampoo, to remove the silica from your hair. (I like Live Clean Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo.)
  • you can arrange transport to and from the airport and Reykjavik directly on the Blue Lagoon’s website.
  • If you have an afternoon or evening flight, make the Blue Lagoon your last stop in Iceland! Remember to bring a bag for your wet bathing suit. 
  • the ground surrounding the Blue Lagoon are beautiful, so leave a little time to explore afterwards!

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Local Iceland Pool vs. The Blue Lagoon 

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If you have time, do both! The city pools are the local experience, and the Blue Lagoon is an incredible, bucket list experience.

I loved both!

Have you been to a local thermal pool in Iceland, or to the Blue Lagoon? Did you prefer one over the other? Leave a comment below!

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Next Up: 

Your Reykjavik City Pass Itinerary 

Iceland’s Golden Circle

 

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Heading to Iceland: Your Reykjavik City Pass Itinerary

On my stopover in Iceland, I decided to spend a couple of days in Reykjavik. On the third day, I combined recommendations from a tour guide and my Airbnb host to plan the perfect Reykjavik itinerary using the City Pass.

The first vikings arrived in Iceland in the 860’s, but records show that Celtic monks were settled on the island country even before that. This full day itinerary using the Reykjavik City Pass will take you all the way back to the days of monks and viking settlers. If you’re interested in learning about Iceland’s culture and history, and if you want to see some amazing archeological sites, then this is for you!

Here’s my itinerary for a day with the Reykjavik City Pass!

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National Museum of Iceland

Begin your day at the National Museum of Iceland. This multi-floor museum brings you from the beginning of Iceland’s history to the present day, and you can see hundreds of artefacts. 

Explore the permanent exhibit, Making of a Nation. You’ll be taken on a journey through time, learning all about how settlers came to Iceland and forged their home. The exhibit contain 2,000 objects and artefacts, lots of text, and some audio/ video guides.

Travel Tip: have lunch at the University of Iceland! It’s located next door to the Museum, and it’s the cheapest hot lunch you’ll find in Reykjavik.

The Settlement Exhibition

One of the most unique things you’ll see in Reykjavik, the Settlement Exhibition is a museum built around an archeological site. Construction was under way on a lot in downtown Reykjavik when the remnants of a long house from 871 were discovered. 

Learn how settlers built their homes, how they lived, and see this incredible archaeological site for yourself!

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Videy Island

Take the ferry to Videy Island and have a look around. The church on Videy island is the oldest in Iceland, and Videy house was the first building in the country. 

On Videy Island you’ll find archeological remains dating back to the 10th century. The island was once home to an Augustine Monastery, and the church on the island is the oldest in the Iceland. 

Today, there is horse riding on the island in the summer and you can follow hiking trails west to the Imagine Peace Tower, built by Yoko Ono. Videy island is a great place to take pictures, so bring your camera!

Travel tip: your City Pass includes free use of the city buses! When your legs get tired, hop on the next bus home.

Go to a local City Thermal Pool

Make your way to the nearest pool in your neighbourhood. There will be one within walking distance, because thermal pools are the main after work hang out for Icelanders. Our Airbnb host said that on any given night, Icelanders and their friends make their way to the neighbourhood swimming hole.

The blue lagoon is awesome (and you should totally go, it’s incredible), but if you want the true Iceland experience, then an evening at the swimming pool is the way to go.

We went to Vestubaejarlaug, a pool considered to be one of the local favourites!

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Is The Reykjavik City Pass worth it?

Let’s do the math! Cost of the itinerary without the city pass; 6,050 ISK, which is about 60$ USD, and that’s not including transportation!

The Reykjavik City Pass is just 3.700 ISK (about 36$ USD) for 24 hours. We have a winner! The City Pass is totally worthwhile.

More Information about the Reykjavik City Pass

  • Price for 24 hours (what you’ll need for this itinerary!) 3.700ISK or ~ 36$ USD. The pass is also available for 48 for 4.900 ISK and 72 hours for 5.900 ISK.
  • Where to get your pass: you can buy the pass at your first stop, the National Museum of Iceland, or one of many other locations listed here.
  • The Reykjavik City Pass includes over a dozen other museums and activities that are not included in this itinerary!

Have you been to Iceland yet, and did you spend time in Reykjavik? If not, are you planning to go sometime soon? Let me know below!

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Travel Changed My Perception of Time, and How I Hope It Changes Yours

The more you learn about other cultures, the more you become aware that there are different ways to understand time, that your culture’s way is just one of many possibilities. This realization changed my day-to-day life for the better.

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I experienced ‘Tico time’ in Costa Rica.

I woke up before the breakfast bar opened to enjoy a sunrise yoga session. My traveling companions and I made our way towards the jungle studio. Monkeys howled and birds chattered, and the trees soon gave way to a gazebo that stood overlooking the tree tops and the ocean.

The first floor was fit for an elegant reception. It was a wide open space with no windows, allowing for an unobstructed view of the jungle and a natural wilderness sound track. A small staircase in the middle led to an upper deck, our yoga studio for the morning.

It was the perfect setting, except for one thing. There was no yoga instructor.

We sat down. People whispered, or sat quietly. Our skin warmed in the naturally heated studio, and the sounds of the wild soothed our minds. Time drifted past, and there was still no yoga instructor.

“Tico time,” one of the guys said, when the yoga instructor appeared at the top of the stairs, about 20 minutes after class was scheduled to begin. The instructor smiled wide, and greeted us cheerfully before unrolling her mat and beginning the practice.

Class began late, and class ended late. 

When the class finished, we started to discuss how nice it was that there was no panic or chaos when the instructor was late. I’ve reflected on this and other experiences with time while traveling, and have come to a few realizations.

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1. Perception of time is a result of cultural norms, not an understanding of a great, universal law.

It felt so much better to sit peacefully while waiting for the yoga class to begin than it did to swivel around and check the clock every 20 seconds, as I would have done in the same situation back home. That panicked feeling is not a rule, it’s learned in cultures that run on “linear time.” Cultures that have a slower tempo, and a more “multi-active” understanding of time are more accepting of shifting schedules.

Now, you may be thinking “that’s fine when I’m on vacation, but back home I have places to be and meetings to get too immediately after the class!” Good point, I do too, and so did a woman in the class that morning. When 8:00 a.m. arrived, she silently rolled up her mat and left, having enjoyed 40 minutes of yoga.

Yes, you’ve got places to be, but you’ve also got a choice in how you handle that. We can learn from the tempo other cultures.

2. Linear time generates anxiety because we associated it with other values.

I can’t speak for every culture that runs on linear time, but I can speak for Canada and the United States. We love words like ‘efficient’ and ‘punctual,” and so time becomes a source of anxiety.

Why? Our effective (or ineffective) use of time impacts multiple elements of our life that are important to us, and that we use to assess ourselves.

  • Employment.
  • Good grades.
  • Social approval.

We’re constantly plotting out how to accomplish things on time, and so time becomes an immense source of stress. This is so engrained that many of us panic about things moving slowly even if we’re still going to accomplish a task early!

3. It’s better to accept that you cannot control the rate at which things happen.

Check the bus schedule in Canada. It’ll say something like “4 minutes,” or “12 minutes” until the next bus. Now, check the bus schedule in Puerto Rico, when is the next bus coming? 

Trick question! There is no schedule.

Google will give you an arbitrary estimate like “10 – 50 minutes,” and you’ll wander out towards the bus stop and wait, with no expectation on when the bus will arrive. Puerto Ricans sit happily at the bus stop, knowing full well that the bus will show up whenever, and that they have no control over it. It’s accepted that the bus schedule is beyond their control, because no expectations are set. 

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Embrace the spirit of ‘Tico time.’

Embracing something and living it are two different things, in this case. Do not show up to work 3 hours late and tell your colleague that you read an awesome blog post about Tico time and expect them to understand. When you live in a linear world, you have to operate on linear time. 

What you don’t have to do is live with the anxiety, dread and urgency that has become synonymous with the word “time” for so many people. 

Tico time is a term that reflects the slow-tempo life of Costa Ricans, and ever since that morning in Costa Rica it’s become a mantra that I use to remind myself that I have a choice in how I respond when “time” puts the pressure on. There is value in punctuality, and there is value in taking a deep breathe and letting some things go. 

Have you had a similar experience? Did this post resonate with you? Join the conversation below!

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What to do in Copenhagen in 24 Hours

Copenhagen is a lovely city that belongs on any Europe trip itinerary. In just 24 hours, I was able to see some of the highlights and get a feel for what makes Denmark one of the happiest countries in the world.

I arrived in Copenhagen to a chorus of bike bells and spinning tires, the sounds of the morning commute. Men wore khaki pants and women wore skirts that billowed in the wind as they rode, dress shoes tucked in to bike baskets and sneakers on their feet. 

I tugged my suitcase over cobblestones towards the hostel that I had just booked from a bench in the train station. Once inside, I connected to Wifi and started searching for ways to make the most of my 24 hour stopover. Here are the activities that I found and loved!

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Copenhagen Free Walking Tour (afternoon)

Go Enjoy the number one Copenhagen activity on Trip Advisor. I went on the Grand Tour of Copenhagen, which included

  • Christiansborg Palace
  • Nyhavn Harbour
  • The Royal Palace of Amalienborg

Visit these, and many other beautiful sites. Over 3 hours you will learn tons about Denmark’s history, their current parliament, and the royal family. I love starting with walking tours because the guides often have amazing tips on other things to see and do while you’re in the city.

It was very interesting visiting Denmark immediately after visiting Iceland. I realized that I was hearing some of the same stories from history (Iceland used to be part of the Kingdom of Denmark), but from totally different perspectives.

  • the tours are free, so plan on giving your guide a nice tip at the end!

Find out more about the tours here.

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Tivoli Gardens (evening)

Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens many times, because it has a magical feel that inspired them. Ride one of the oldest roller coasters in the world, and bash around in vintage bumpers cars. Though some rides are built in the early 1900’s, you’ll find they have more kick to them than you expect.

Visit Tivoli Gardens at night, when the buildings and trees are lit by tiny, multi-coloured lights. Ride the Odin Express (a train/ laid back roller coaster) for an awesome view of the city lights at night. I rode the train 3 times, because the view was so beautiful.

  • Entry: 110 DKK 
  • Ride pass: 230 DKK
  • That’s about $50 USD, and totally worth it. 

Plan on spending a few hours here to make the most of your ride pass, and stay til the end of the night for a beautiful light show.

Check out Tivoli’s website to learn more.

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Go for a long walk to see the Little Mermaid, Nyhavn, and Stroget (morning)

Walk along the water to the Little Mermaid statue. It’s rated the second most disappointing tourist attraction in the world, but I loved it. Remember that it’s just intended to be a beautiful statue, and enjoy the waterfront walk. 

Return to Nyhavn on your own (outside of a walking tour) to take photographs, and walk along Stroget, one of the oldest and longest outdoor walking streets in Europe. A couple tips for Nyhavn:

  • it’s very quiet early in the morning.
  • eat like the locals by getting a (cheap) slice of pizza on the West side of the water and sitting down on the canal to eat. 

Copenhagen is a very walkable city, and it’s completely flat. It’s also very easy to navigate, especially by following routes along the water and the shopping streets.

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People often ask me “What country would you most like to live in?” and my answer is Denmark! I was only there for a short time, but in that visit I got a feel for the slightly laid culture, and the high expectations for quality of life.

Copenhagen Trip Details
  • Duration: approx. 24 hours
  • Where to stay: Urban House
  • Costs: $$$
  • Getting around: walk everywhere or rent a bike.
  • All of the activities suggested here are 5 Star experiences!
  • Got more than 24 hours? Check out Visit Copenhagen for more suggestions on things to see and do! 
Have you been to Copenhagen? Planning to go? Leave a comment below! It’s one of my favourite places.

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Nina and the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour

It was close to midnight on July 31, and I was carrying a wooden wand and swishing a black cape behind me. My hair was in it’s curliest, messiest state, and the Hermione in me was blurting out all of the answers to Harry Potter trivia questions at a bookstore launch party, for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. 

I did a dazzling Hermione impression back then, too. “It’s LeviOsa, not LeviosA,” and “I’m going to bed, before either one of you comes up with another clever idea to get us killed- or worse, expelled,” were my favourite lines. 

Over a decade later, I still swivel in excitement at the mention of Harry Potter. While in England, this meant that visiting the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter studio was at the top of my list. 

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The Tour

The studio is about an hour outside of London. Instead of navigating there, you can book a tour that includes the studio and an afternoon in Oxford. In Oxford, visit locations where the movies were filmed.

The first part of the tour mainly served as a method of transportation to the studio, and included the cost of the entry ticket. On their own, tickets cost 39 British pounds.

When you arrive, you wait a line to enter the studios. While in line, you can see Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs! The line moves in bursts, as muggles are allowed in to a theatre for an introductory video.

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The Magic

You enter through the doors to the Great Hall, and the tour begins. In the studio you’ll see costumes, sets, incredible artifacts that are used in the movies, sketches, animatronics, and so much more. Here are some of the highlights:

  • beautiful costumes from scenes like the Yuletide Ball.
  • sets for Dumbledore’s office, Hagrid’s hut, and the Gryffindor Common Rooms.
  • learn how to make Unicorn blood and troll snot.
  • artifacts like the Golden Snitch and the Triward Tournament egg.
  • see the functioning doors from the Chamber of Secrets and Gringots vaults.
  • go inside the Hogwart’s express.
  • walk through Diagon Alley and Olivander’s wand shop.

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Playing Wizard’s Chess

The studio tour includes a backlot, where I boarded the Knight Bus, walked  through the Dursley House, and played a game of Wizard’s Chess.

“Ron, you don’t suppose this is going to be like… real wizard’s chest?”

*Gulp* “Yes Hermione, I think this is going to be exactly like wizard’s chess”

Watching other people play, I believed that each piece was limited to movement between a couple of squares. When I ran up on to the board for a photo, I stood in a square that the chess pieces range of motion did not include.

I was wrong, and nearly jumped out of my skin when a pawn suddenly launched towards me. Lucky for me, it wasn’t exactly like wizard’s chess.

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Walking in Childhood

I grew up alongside Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and read the books 5+ times each. The first chapter book I ever read was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

There were moments in the studio that made my eyes well up, as I suddenly found myself standing in places that felt incredibly familiar. Diagon Alley, the Howgart’s Express, and Hogwart’s itself were more than sets to me, they were places from my childhood. It felt like I was remembering the time we had gone shopping for books and wands, or the time we snuck out of the common room under the invisibility cloak.

Visiting the studios was a very powerful experience for me. Imagine walking through a full scale version of your imagination, and you’ll know what I mean. 

J.K. Rowling created an incredible world when she wrote Harry Potter. The studio tour immerses you in it.

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More Details & Things to Know Before You Go
  • The lighting in the studio is ideal for filming, so turn off your flash and all of your photos will have perfect lighting.
  • Recommended time to explore the studio: 3 1/2 hours, including time to visit the gift shop and get a butter beer.
  • The gift shop is fantastic! 
  • Individual ticket cost: 39 British pounds.
  • The tour that I went on included the studios and an afternoon in Oxford, and can be booked here. This tour allows for 3 hours in the studio.
  • Check out the studio’s website for more information.

Have you been to the Harry Potter studios in England, or another amazing Harry Potter venue around the world? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

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Visiting Canada’s Parliament Buildings

Canadians happily enjoy the freedom to explore their Parliament Buildings whenever they choose. The grounds are affectionately referred to as “the Hill,” and are used for everything from Canada Day concerts to summer yoga classes, from light shows to winter festivals. Canadians and travellers can walk through the gates at any time and take in the three English-inspired buildings that make up Parliament. 

I was eager to visit Parliament this year, particularly after learning that the Centre Block library is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. 

Tours of Parliament are free and available year-round, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tickets are available at the visitors centre across the street, at 90 Wellington. It’s unlikely that you’ll get your ticket and start your tour immediately, so here are some things to check out while you wait. 

The Parliament Sculptures 

The Parliament Buildings are surrounded by sculptures, from founding fathers to the women who fought bravely for the vote. There are QR codes near some of the sculptures, so you can learn more about what you’re looking at. 
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Moulin de Provence 

Walk one block past the visitors centre along Metcalfe, and you’ll find one of my favourite cafés. Moulin de Provence is famous for theme cookies, like lady bugs, tulips, maple leafs, and even the prime minister. I like to stick to generic maple leaf and flower cookies, personally, but to each their own. If your wait is long enough for a coffee break, this is the best place for it.

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If you’ve got a really long wait, do both! 

Entering Parliament

There is security at the Parliament Buildings, if you’re entering for a tour. Parliament security is similar to airport security. Remove your jacket, empty your pockets, step through a metal detector, and go join your tour group. 

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Fun Travel Facts about Parliament

What you learn about Parliament will depend on which guide you get, and what questions you or members of your group ask. Without giving everything away, here are some of my favourite fun travel facts that you may or may not hear on your tour. 

  • Buildings in Ottawa must not be taller than the Peace Tower.
  • The most expensive book in the library is Audubon’s historic Birds of America, worth $14 million.
  • Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament. When she spoke, many of the male members of the House of Commons would leave as a protest to her presence. 
  • (This one you’ll definitely hear on your tour) The library is the only component of Parliament that was part of the original Centre Block, built in 1876. Everything except the library burnt down in 1916.
  • The train of Queen Victoria’s gown is cropped off in a portrait that hangs in Parliament. Normally, this would be inappropriate, but the edges of the portrait were burned in the fire and this was done to preserve it.
  • The National Art Gallery is designed to look like the library.
In we go…

The tour includes the House of Commons, the Senate, a couple of beautiful lobbies and hallways, and the library. The ceiling arches high, and multiple levels of books climb upwards on cherry and oak shelves. The wood and red carpet gives the library an ongoing warm glow. 

“Have you really read every one of these books?” ~Belle

“No… some of them are in Greek.” ~ The Beast

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The Peace Tower

When the tour ends, you can walk out the front doors or make your way up to the Peace Tower. I chose the Peace Tower. The elevator ride up gives an incredible view of the bells that ring across the downtown every 15 minutes, and the view from the top is breathtaking. Some of what you can see from the top:

  • the library from above
  • the National Art Gallery
  • Major Hill
  • the Ottawa locks
  • the Ottawa River
  • East and West block of Parliament
  • the entire downtown
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I got lucky on my visit, and happened to be at the top of the tower while a 21 canon salute was going on below. I watched as hundreds of people gathered, and soldiers set off the salute, flames followed by smoke exploding from the canons one after another.

Where to next?

One of my favourite parts of visiting Parliament was leaving. Everyone exits through the front doors, and it’s incredible to pull open thick wooden doors and walk out in to the sunshine. 

Once you’ve left Parliament, the best thing to do is go for a walk and see all the sights that you just saw from a bird’s eye view at eye-level. Then, stay for sunset.

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Things to know before you go to Canada’s Parliament Buildings:
  • More information about Parliament tours can be found here.
  • Tours last approx. 40 minutes. Take the tour in French or English.
  • Take as many pictures as you want!
  • Plan to spend the day exploring the downtown, so that you can take whichever tour time is available. There’s really no way to plan it!

Finally, a very important note. 2017 is your last chance to visit Centre Block for 10 years. The West Block is currently under renovations, and after Canada’s 150th, it will be Centre Block’s turn. The East block will be open, and West block will reopen soon! Come to Ottawa soon to see this fairytale library! Grab a lemonade, and get in line. 

What do you think? Does Canada’s Parliament look like something you want to do on your next trip to Canada? Leave a comment below!

Next up: The Story of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival

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The Story of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival

I’ve learned that there are lot of places in the world with fields of tulips and spring festivals. Ottawa is one of many destinations around the world that erupts in colour every spring, but it is the story of how the tulips came to be there which makes Canada’s tulip festival particularly unique.

This story is little known around the world, and it’s surprising how many of the locals haven’t heard it. It’s one of my favourite stories from Canadian history. I’ve written it out here so you can enjoy the touching story of how the Tulip Festival came about.

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Why Ottawa Has a Tulip Festival

In 1943, the Dutch Royal Family was in Ottawa. World War II was raging, and the family had come to Canada for safety. During her stay in Canada, Princess Juliana was to give birth to a daughter, who would be named Princess Margriet. 

It was important to the Royal Family that the Princess be born only as Dutch Citizen. Canada offered a solution, and declared the maternity ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital Dutch territory for the birth. On that day, a Dutch flag was raised above Parliament. The Princess was born on Dutch territory in the hear of Ottawa, and inherited only Dutch citizenship.

In 1945, the grateful Royal Family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa. Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs the following year, and requested that a festival be held. 10,000 bulbs followed every year after.

Ottawa became famous for it’s beautiful tulips, and in 1953 the first official Canadian Tulip Festival was held. The tulips were originally planted in large bunches of one colour, so as to be visually pleasing from the road as people drove by. Today, the beds are a multitude of colour, and thousands of people come to walk among them every year. 

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Where to see the tulips in Ottawa

The Canadian Tulip Festival has various sites across the city, and many different events, performances, and concerts take place over the course of the festival. The tulips are all over the city, in flower boxes down town, along bike paths, and in beautiful, wide flower beds at the festival venues. Where to see the tulip beds.

  • Major’s Hill Park 
  • Dow’s Lake 

Where to see art, performances, and fireworks (check for dates).

  • Landsdowne Pavillion (entry $15 CAD)

Other beautiful locations with tulips.

  • In front of the Parliament Buildings. 
  • Surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Along the Rideau Canal

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More details

  • The festival runs for 2 weeks, ending on the May long weekend. It’s best to come the weekend before, or on a week day. The May long weekend is incredibly busy, with more people than tulips.
  • Go out on a rainy day to have the tulips to yourself. They’re just as beautiful and vibrant on a grey day.
  • Dow’s Lake and Major Hill Park are free.
  • Landsdowne includes vendors, performances, and more, and entry costs $15 for the day. 

Have you seen the tulips in Ottawa, or elsewhere in the world? What do you think of the story of the Tulip Festival? Leave a comment below!

Next up:

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How To Earn Aeroplan Points by Walking (in Canada)

NoteThe application in this blog post is currently available to residents of Canada in British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland & Labrador. I suggest following Carrot on Twitter to be updated when they expand to new regions.

When a friend posted about Carrot on Facebook one month ago, I jumped on it. 

Exercise and fill out surveys about living a healthy lifestyle to earn points towards travel? Yes, please! I’m in. Carrot is an app that allows you to earn Aeroplan points, Scene points, Petro points, and More rewards. It’s easy to use, it’s free, and you get points. How great is that?

Naturally, I’ve been eager to share this great find with you, but wanted to give it a decent test drive before doing so. I’ve been using Carrot for 1 month, completely of my own accord, and I love it. Here’s the breakdown:

How you earn points:

  • Signing up. If you get started by using the bonus code ninad1078 you will automatically earn 50 bonus points!
  • Step count. When you download Carrot, the app will track your average steps per day for 2 weeks. Once 2 weeks is up, you’ll begin earning points (for Aeroplan it’s 2 points/ day) whenever you reach or surpass that average.
  • Quick surveys. With notifications on, you’ll be notified whenever Carrot has a brand new survey available. These surveys typically take a minute or two, at most, and reward you with points. I’ve completed quizzes that gave 5-25 Aeroplan points.
  • Challenges. Once you’re a regular, Carrot will offer you challenges that allow you to earn extra points, such as reaching your step target for 10/14 days to get an extra 20 Aeroplan points.

In other words, my daily walk with my fur baby is earning me travel points.

Bonus code: ninad1078 for 50 points!

Download on app store.

The referral program is available to all users of the application! I will receive bonus points if you use the code provided, and so will you!

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Why I Love Carrot

It’s possible to earn a couple points a day without even opening the app. Just go for a walk or run, and Carrot will automatically track your steps and reward you. 

Points transfer to your aeroplan account automatically. The points appear in my Aeroplan account a few days after I earn them without any action required.

The best thing is, it’s really free to earn points. How do you typically earn Aeroplan points? Spending. Putting purchases on your credit card! It’s unlikely that you’ll earn enough Aeroplan points for your next vacation just by using Carrot, but you’re getting some bonus points without any extra spending. 

I’ve had the app for just over a month and have earned over 300 Aeroplan points. For the sake of math, let’s say ~ 250 points/ month. If the average continues, that’s 3,000 points per year. Outside of credit card bonuses, you would typically have to spend $1,500 (if you only shopped at 1.5x the points locations!) to $3,000 in order to earn 3,000 points. 

On it’s own, it’s not going to cover your next trip, but combined with responsible use of travel credit cards and other point programs, points earned by using Carrot are icing on the cake. Or, a different metaphor more analogous to your healthy lifestyle choice!

My advice: take it! Get outside, get some exercise, earn some points, and help companies that working to improve the health of Canadians get some data for their surveys.

Do you currently use Carrot? Are you going to start? Leave a comment!

Bonus code: ninad1078 for 50 points!

Download on app store.

The referral program is available to all users of the application! I will get a point  bonus if you use the code provided, and so will you!
All opinions remain my own.

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Staying at Urban House in Copenhagen

On my first lap around Urban House, I was mesmerized. It was everything a young traveler could hope for in a hostel- and then some.

When I arrived, it was a little too early to check-in. I stowed my bags in one of the lockers underneath Urban House and started to explore. I’ve stayed in some perfectly nice hostel, but Urban House was more like a mini-community, and a very cool one.

The first floor is all for hanging out, in every capacity. There is a bar immediately through the front doors, where travellers were having lunch and laughing, or working on their computers. Down a hallway, a Star Wars marathon was in progress in the Classic Cinema. Just across the hall, light chatter and laughter drifted from the lounge, and heated debates carried from the library & pool room.

Next was the Quiet Room, a.k.a. the Hangover Lounge, a warmly lit abode lined with mats instead of a floor. People were curled up, reading on their phones or just taking naps. 

I made my way to the kitchen. Urban House has a self-serve kitchen, and a dining area, so there’s lots of seating. My trip to Copenhagen was unplanned (but that’s another story!) so I added a small paper bag containing crackers, a peach, and some cream cheese to one of the many small fridges before resuming my tour.

I went outside, to an area called the Green Escape. People sat at tall wooden tables drinking multi-coloured frozen drinks, the fences and winding vines behind them making for the perfect Instagram photo background. Bicycles lined the area and I learned that you can rent bikes right from the hostel to go explore the city. There are also walking tours everyday, and the occasional food tour. 

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Things to Know Before You Go

Getting There: Urban house is central and very easy to find. From the CPH airport, there is a train that go directly to Central Station. Exit the train station on to Reventlowsgade, take a slight right, then left on Istedgade, and Urban House was is on the next corner. 

Checking in: Urban House is the first place I’ve stayed at that uses an automatic self-check in system. Booking and payment must be done online before arrival, and on the day of  your stay you’re sent an e-mail with your room number and door code so that after check in at 3pm, you can waltz in and go straight to your room.

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The Rooms: The rooms are basic, and that’s all you need when there are so many cool places to hang out downstairs. All of the rooms have hard wood floors and lockers! It is bring your own lock, and they’re large enough for a back pack and valuables. The rooms are clean and spacious, and include wifi, clean bedding, towels, and a bathroom.

Food: Urban House has a self-service kitchen, a dining room, and the Urban Bar. If you’ve got your own food, the kitchen has everything you need to cook before settling down in the dining room next door. If you’re not in to cooking, Urban Bar serves all meals- and happy hour, of course.

Laundry: I didn’t do laundry in the couple days that I was at Urban House, but I did check out their in-house laundry rooms during my roam around the building. Machines are 25DKK per use, and there are comfy benches to sit on.

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Activities: There were a lot of activities available at Urban House! They have an in-house bike rental company so that you can cycle around the city, daily walking tours, weekly food tours, and some night life. The bar got busy after dinner, and there is a stage for live performs. There’s even a tattoo parlour, if you’re feeling inspired.

I loved staying at Urban House because of the vibrant atmosphere. It was perfect for meeting people and making new friends!

Which room are you most intrigued by? Most importantly- do you think you would get a tattoo while staying here? Let me know in the comments!

Trip Details

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