Tag Archives: travel
As summer 2015 came to an end, the people at Ford decided to create an epic event to showcase their latest development, Ford’s Sync 3.
The new touch screen technology in their Escape allows you to easily navigate the city, call anyone in your contacts, change radio stations (or play your music from Spotify), hear text messages, and so much more – hands free.
The event began with a group of influencers coming together at Rock Lobster for a private, delicious lobster roll lunch, where we were paired up with another blog team to take on #TheHunt – a challenge a la The Amazing Race – where we jumped into the new Ford Escapes and, with a list of tasks in hand to complete in just 2 hours, we raced to complete as many challenges as possible.
Being the introvert that I am, at first I didn’t love the idea of being paired with strangers for the race, but it turned out it was a match made in heaven as they were just as competitive as we were, and they’re also super smart, sweet girls attending Ryerson, with a killer sense of style, so it was a fun day.
Our competitive spirit led to earning 3rd place out of maybe 10 teams (?) which we thought was pretty great, considering we never once cheated by splitting up to complete tasks.
After the challenge was over we drove to the Big Crow for a fabulous BBQ dinner, and then it was time to drink. There’s nothing like an open bar after a day of adrenaline pumping competition.
While the point of the challenges was to get us familiar with Sync and how many great features it has to help out in just about any situation, it was the creativity of this event that really stuck with me. Too often, bloggers get invited to events with the intent to promote a new product and yes there might be food or an open bar, but that’s about it. I applaud the incredible PR team at National for coming up with something this unique, while also giving us a chance to experience the product features in action.
As for the car itself, I chose to let Tiffany do the driving during the race as we figured it would save time if only one person drove (competitive, right?) but I took it home this past Thanksgiving weekend, and I can’t rave about it enough.
I’ll admit I am known for my bad habit of radio channel flipping (ask anyone who’s ever been in a car with me while I’m driving, or sitting passenger). It’s one of the only stupid things I do when driving, because I can’t bear to listen to a bad song when I know there are all those other stations out there that might be playing a better one.
Being able to just say the name of the channel I want to listen to and have it change to that station is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, car wise. My eyes stayed on the road at all times, and I got to switch songs as much as I pleased.
Other amazing features include a camera for backing up, a beeping notification if you’re getting too close to an object (talk about avoiding bumps and scratches), heated seats, hands free (!!) parallel parking, and for an SUV – it only cost me $39 to fill up – which means it is incredibly fuel efficient.
If you’re in search of an inspired connected car, this is one worth taking out for a test drive.
This past weekend, I headed out to Mohawk Racetrack for the final time this season. If you missed my behind the scenes post last month, it’s worth checking out.
I had such a blast learning about everything that goes into horse-racing this summer at the track, and look forward to using my new-found betting skills to win big next year (or you know, bet a few dollars and have some more fun with friends).
If you have any questions about placing a bet, or how it all works, I’m now a pro and can fill you in on everything (okay not really, but I have a pretty decent grasp on it).
Before this summer, I had no idea how much fun a day at the races could be. I had no idea how to properly bet. I had no idea about the work that goes into maintaining these horses, and all the people required to make these races happen. I thought it was a sport for old men with gambling problems.
Turns out it is actually quite the affordable family event – especially at Mohawk – where I noticed many families at the larger events. Kids may not understand the dynamics of betting, but they can certainly appreciate eating BBQ on a warm summer night while watching some gorgeous horses run the track at full speed. And the free entry doesn’t hurt, either.
Horse racing is an exciting sport, and it makes for a fun group activity – one that us city kids wouldn’t normally think to do. Next time you’re looking for night out that’s a little different, suggest to your pals a quick trip out to Milton to have some fun betting at Mohawk. While you’re there, you can hit up the slots too. It’s kind of the perfect bachelor/bachelorette party idea.
And don’t forget – the season doesn’t close until the end of September so you still have a chance to win that $1000 gift card! #OffToTheRaces
As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Mohawk Racetrack last Thursday. Here’s a little rundown of how it all went down.
We started the evening at the Terrace Dining Room, which, after passing by last time, I was excited to check out.
After ordering a round of drinks and some apps, we watched the races begin and decided to try our hand at placing a bet on the horse with the name we liked best (great strategy, I know). Unfortunately, Deep Impact didn’t win, but our luck (and strategy) improved as the night went on.
For dinner we ordered the salmon tortellini and a pepperoni pizza, and despite being stuffed we had to follow it up with dessert because the brownie martini looked amazing (and the apple crumble was even better). The food was delicious – we were so full we could barely move once it was time to take the tour.
The dining room patio provides a perfect view of the track along with quick access to the betting machine, and the servers were all friendly and very attentive. If you head to Mohawk, I highly recommend staking your spot up there. But be warned – if you choose to sit on the patio, the mosquitoes get bad once the sun starts to set – my feet were covered in bites, so dress appropriately or bring bug spray.
After the meal and a little success betting on a couple horses with good odds, Mark, the communications coordinator at Mohawk, took us over to the Paddock to get a behind the scenes look at how it all goes down at the racetrack.
The horses arrive from all over Ontario in their trailers, then they’re moved inside and grouped together based on the race they’re running in.
At the back of the paddock there’s a special area where they test the urine of the horse that wins each race, along with a random horse from each race, to ensure they haven’t been given any performance enhancing drugs.
Each horse has their own caretaker who carefully bathes them and takes care of them before and after the race. These guys are the true unsung heroes of the sport, who unlike the drivers and coaches, get no glory and have to deal with literal horse shit – but have deep love for the animals.
At Mohawk, the horses are all Standardbred – which I learned means they are more durable horses than Thoroughbreds (who can only run once a month because of their daintier bone structure). Standardbreds are able to run once a week without causing too much stress to their bones.
By far the most exciting part of the evening was that, after the tour, we were able to get on the track in the car that drives in front of the horses to get them together in line as the race starts. Hearing their hooves clop along the pavement and being right beside them as they ran was an incredible once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. The power of the horses on the track is especially impactful when you get to be there right in the action of the race.
FYI Just a reminder that you still have time to make the quick trip to Mohawk this summer to take a selfie in front of the track and win $1000 gift certificate! Just post it to twitter and use the #OffToTheRaces hashtag and you’re all set. Remember, admission to the races is always free, and they’re open from 6pm to 11pm five days a week.
The world of horse racing isn’t completely new to me – I did write an article for Trot Magazine about my experience at the races as a “first timer” back in 2013 after attending one night at the Woodbine track – but it is still certainly new enough that I don’t feel as though I have any true understanding of how to bet like the pros.
This summer, I plan to change that.
Last weekend I was able to attend the Pepsi North American Cup at Mohawk Racetrack, and it was an eye opening experience about just how passionate the horse racing community really is.
Throughout the summer, I will be attending a couple more events, where I plan to fully immerse myself in the language of betting – and maybe win some coin to take home.
Since the NA Cup (as the locals call it) was my first time visiting Mohawk, the first thing I did was explore the building to get my bearings. It’s a large venue, and lucky for us it was a beautiful day outside.
With seating available inside and out, along with reserved seating in the dining area – there’s not a bad view in the place. While this was easily one of the busiest days of the year at the track, there was enough room to accommodate the large demand of the crowd. Since these events are not ticketed, anyone can show up and place a bet – so I was wondering if it would end up being ‘oversold’ so to speak – but that wasn’t a problem. It was very busy, but not so packed you couldn’t move or get a seat so long as you took some time to check various areas and find some open chairs.
The thing I enjoyed most about visiting Milton for the first time, was just how friendly everyone was – and how cheap the food and drinks were. I think, after 11 years in Toronto, I have come to expect to pay $8 a drink and deal with rude, unhappy people at events this large. It was refreshing to stand in line with people willing to chat with you, or to accidentally bump into people, who, instead of giving you an angry look – chipperly ask you where you got your delicious looking ($3.50!!) chili cheese fries.
Once I got past my pure joy at the affordable and deliciously fatty food and drink options, I had to get down to the track and watch those horses do their thing.
It is unlike anything you’ll ever experience to watch a crowd this large cheer and sigh and cry out for their horse, all within the span of a minute. Some end up incredibly happy and full of cheers, while others are devastated that the horse they just bet a big chunk of their savings on lost. It’s an adrenaline rush much like riding a roller coaster.
My visit this time was cut short due to prior NXNE obligations, so I’m looking forward to next time – when I will properly be able to bet and get invested in a horse.
There’s also something cool in this for you this summer, should you be interested in winning some extra cash. We are a selfie obsessed culture – but have you ever taken a selfie at the races? Well, your challenge this summer is to take one right in front of the track, tweet it out using the hashtag #OffToTheRaces (and mention @MohawkRacing) and you could win $1000 – the most money you’ll ever get for taking a selfie, probably.
This post was created in partnership with Mohawk Racetrack.
Don’t you just love long weekends?
Easter just passed, and Victoria Day is coming up quickly. Then summer will give us Canada Day, the Civic Holiday and then Labour Day.
These extended weekends are the perfect time to travel back home (or elsewhere) for a quick visit – and that’s usually what I do.
When it comes to going home for holidays and celebrations, the first thing people think of is stress.
Having travelled back home on so many weekends over the past 11 years, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to keep my stress levels from going through the roof.
Here are 6 of my most relied upon tips for getting through these weekend escapes with ease.
For the longest time, I majorly overpacked every single time I went back home (or anywhere else). That fear of being away from your things is something we all struggle with, but in recent years I’ve learned as much as I can about living with less to combat work-from-home stress (clutter stresses me out like nothing else) – and it’s especially helpful when it comes to travelling.
If you’re going to be travelling via a train, bus, or plane – you really don’t want to be hauling around a heavy bag. It’ll become a drag real fast, and you’ll get to the end of your trip just to realize you never even touched half of what you packed. Take the time to plan out your outfits in advance, and pack only what you know you will actually need and use.
Believe me, you might pack that Henry Miller novel with a serious intent to finish it, but the weekend will come and go so fast you won’t end up touching it.
I only learned how to implement this idea once I started travelling on planes – checking bags is not only a mega time waster, but who actually trusts these guys not to lose your bag? I can always fit everything I need into a carry-on now, even if it’s for a longer trip.
Do your research.
If you’re going somewhere new, winging it sounds really fun and exciting (and it certainly can be) but a weekend is only a short time to see a new city – so the more itinerary you have, the more you’ll be able to actually do and see – and the less time you’ll spend looking for a wi-fi connection and googling the city.
Book everything far in advance.
This tip gets ruled out for fun, spontaneous, last minute travel – obviously, but for holidays – you know when they’re coming, and you know when you will be expected home at the dinner table.
That means you have plenty of time to book ahead.
If you’re flying, give yourself a 45 days ahead rule so you know you’ll get the best deal.
If you’re taking the bus, Megabus has insanely cheap deals if you book far enough in advance (but they’re not refundable, FYI).
If you’re opting to rent a vehicle, get in there before all the nice Honda cars are taken and you’re stuck with a junky gas guzzler.
I opted for the Honda Fit over Easter, and as I’ve come to expect, it was reliable, safe, pretty and gave amazing gas mileage. It’s the perfect road trip car if you’re not travelling with a big group (and it’s the most affordable new car you buy from Honda, which is awesome, too.)
Remember, prices for everything get hiked up for long weekends/holidays, so the earlier you get in there, the less painful it will be on your wallet.
Also, once you have everything booked, you can count half the stress of such trips washed away. Just like that, all you’ll have to worry about is making small talk with awkward relatives you only see on holidays… and if your mom will be in a good mood this time.
There’s an app for that.
Yes, I’m as app obsessed as everyone else. If you really want to streamline travel plans and easily share them with your travelling companion, apps like PlanApple, TripIt and TouristEye will keep your itinerary in your hands (via your smartphone).
Don’t travel too far.
The key thing about weekend travel is you only have a weekend. Yes, it’s a long weekend, but that only affords you an extra 24 hours before you have to be back at your desk making magic happen. Spending most of that free time on the road (or in the air) is just stupid. Save the trips outside the 3-hour drive or 1-hour plane ride for your next full week off.
Be a tourist in your town.
Since most of my long weekends trips have been spent visiting my family 2 hours south of Toronto, the only way to keep it interesting is to try and do or see something I might have ignored growing up.
You know those people who grew up in Toronto and still have never been to the top of the CN Tower? Having grown up just outside Niagara Falls – I mostly avoided it knowing it as the tourist trap it can be. But in recent years I’ve had fun visiting the city and embracing my inner tourist. There’s something absolutely amazing about walking down Clifton Hill and seeing the Falls start to emerge, riding the Skywheel at night, climbing down the Gorge with my family for the first time, or going for an aimless drive in the country backroads (because I certainly don’t get to do these things in Toronto).
We always take home for granted, but sometimes it’s the best place to explore.
Bonus: Leave early.
There is nothing like the hell of being stuck in long weekend bumper to bumper traffic on the Gardiner. Or heading to the bus station trying to make a certain bus only to have to wait in line for an hour to get your ticket because of how packed it is, and missing it. Beat the rush if you can. Ask to leave work a few hours early, pack the night before, and get out before everyone else hits the road.
If most of the stress comes from dealing with family and getting everything booked, the rest comes from road rage. Avoiding it is the best policy.