Stowe

Last month I had the opportunity to return to one of my favorite little towns in the north eastern United States: Stowe, Vermont.

As a kid, I loved going to Stowe because it was where the Von Trapps (oh yes, from the classic movie The Sound Of Music) had ended up when they immigrated to the United States. Also, it was magical because we used to stay at the Sun & Ski Motor Inn (now renamed the Sun & Ski Suites) and they had a beautiful reading room with a fireplace, a bunch of teddy bears and board games that my sister and I would always spend our nights playing. We’d go probably go to Stowe once a season because it was just two hours away from where I grew up!

What’s amazing about this quaint little area is that it’s beautiful all year round. Being in Stowe is all about being outdoors, enjoying nature, the mountains, the lake and relaxing. I was therefore really excited to be back for another visit.

Stowe is easy to get to! From Toronto, you can take a 1hr direct flight with Porter Airlines to Burlington. Once you get to Burlington, you can either drive 30mins or get a shuttle from one of the resorts to pick you up. If you’re coming from Montreal, it’s also only a 2h30 drive.

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Here are some of my favorite things about Stowe:

Mount Mansfield: The highest mountain in Vermont (4,393 ft or 1,339 m) located at 10 minutes by car from the Stowe Village. It’s not only a beautiful mountain by amazing ski resort. It’s decked out with the latest lift and ticketing technology, has several rad snowparks, great skiing conditions and an amazing view from the top!

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Black Cap Coffee: Located in the Stowe Village, this coffee shop is relatively new in town and it seems to be where everyone now comes to get their coffees. What I loved about this place is not only did it serve great drinks (they have super creative versions of of hot apple cider, Snickers Bar lattes, etc.) but they’re also a place where people can make crafts and by crafts I mean jewellery and pottery. They also serve some in-house snacks and sell a few local products at the front. Everyone there is also super friendly and laid back!

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Depot Street Malt Shop: A Stowe classic. It’s been around ever since I can remember. Though my mom never really let us eat junk food at home, she was definitely  fan of this 50s Elvis-inspired diner. I would always have their sandwiches with pickles and chips or some of their amazing sundaes or milkshakes. They play lot’s of Elvis music and the decor is super cute and authentic.

Recreational Path: It’s an internationally renown 5.5 mile paved greenway where people walk, jog, bike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, etc. all year. It runs along little rivers and has spots where you can even go for a swim. It’s the perfect spot to pinic, relax, bounce rocks, take photos and even take naps. Everyone on the path always says hello and always seems to be in a good mood. I’ve taken the path countless times and always find it so beautiful!

Free shuttle service! That’s right, there’s a few shuttle that goes around the Stowe village, to all the hotels, bed & breakfasts, to the main streets and also all the way to the mountain

Cold Hollow Cider Mill: A classic as you’re driving into Stowe from Waterbury. It’s where you’ll find a ton of local products: jams, mustards, spices, hot sauces, all the maple syrup products and of course apple products. What’s amazing about this shop is that you can taste everything they’re selling and you can also see at the back where they make their fresh apple cider. They also have the best apple cider donuts! They are to die for!

TopNotch Resort: They just spent the past couple of months completely renovating this beautiful hotel and resort. They’ve got amazing tennis courts, beautiful outdoor pools, jacuzzis, new fire pits and brand new state of the art and relaxing spa, two new restaurants, new condo units, etc. I had never stayed at the resort before but was really surprised with not only all the great facilities but also their proximity to the mountain, the good food and overall relaxing atmosphere. If you’re to book a night there, you must use their spa facilities, they’re fantastic!

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Other good lodging options are:

Golden Eagle Resort if you’re looking for something a little less fancy or the Sun & Ski Suites

Stowe Mountain Lodge is the most beautiful mountain resort I’ve seen in a while. The lobby is so beautifully decorated. They’ve got an amazing outdoor pool and spa open all-year-round, are right by the mountain and have great restaurants! I really hope to be able to stay there at some point longer than just a few hours!

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Von Trapp Family Lodge for the super duper traditional Stowe experience. They’ve got great wine tasting activities, sports and the Von Trapps still make all the baked goods apparently!

Other things you can do while in Stowe: visit the Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream factory, rent rollerblades from AJ’s ski & sports (I used to do that every summer as a kid!), go swimming at The Water Hole, check out a show or film at the new Spruce Peak Performing Arts Centre, go canoeing at the reservoir lake, etc.

Also, if you’re driving to and from Stowe, it’s always a good idea to stop in Burlington on your way there or back home. It’s a beautiful typical New England town located right on the Lake Champlain. As a kid we’d take a ferry over to New York from Burlington. It’s got great restaurants and bars, a lovely waterfront bike path and some cool museums.

So happy to have gone back to Stowe! Can’t wait for my next visit!

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Welcome to Miami!

Two weekends ago I was able to spend a few days in Miami. My last visit to Miami dates back to last November but I had only spent 48hrs in this tropical wonderland. Growing up in Quebec, Florida was always a very popular destination for my family in the winter. I think my first ever trip as a baby was to Orlando when I was just a few months old. I’ve done the Orlando/Disney trip a handful of times, stayed in West Palm Beach with my grand-ma, went to Fort Lauderdale a few times but hadn’t spent too much time in Miami before.

So I was really happy to have more quality time there to discover some of the city’s hotspots.

Summer isn’t necessarily the best time of year to head to Miami, that’s when it tends to rain a lot just because it gets so humid and hot. We got lucky with the weather, it only rained one morning out of four and a half days. It was 42+ celsius and sunny the whole time.

We spent most of our time at the beach, the water was SO warm! It is also really clear and the ocean floor is soft and sandy, so you can see all sorts of tropical fish swimming around you. It’s beautiful! Though a little pricey – $50 a day for two chairs and a parasol but you can come and go as you please the entire day, we made sure to protect ourselves from the hot sand and intense sun. There’s really nothing quite like swimming in the ocean. It’s oh so relaxing!!

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I was able to do a little bit of shopping while I was there. My two favorite spots are: Collins Ave. (where you’ll find everything from Zara to LF, to Armani, etc.) and also the pedestrian outdoor shopping area on Lincoln Road.

I’m a huge fan of Art Deco so seeing all the different art deco hotels, buildings, clubs, museums, etc. are so amusing to me. We took the time to visit one of their Art Deco themed museum – the Wolfsonian FIU, located on Washington Ave. They had interesting collections on women and sports, Zeppelins, Art Deco, Architecture, etc. It’s only $7 per person and will take 1-2 hours of your time.

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3 favorite places to eat:

The Dutch – is located in the W Hotel in South Beach. They offered a brilliant fall fixed price menu with one appetizer, one main and a dessert. Everything everyone had there was absolutely to die for! The wine selection was also top notch! The vibe of the place was cozy yet stylish, the staff was knowledgeable and super helpful. I loved my dinner there and can’t wait to go back!

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Otentic – I officially found the best cheese platter in Miami. This small restaurant located on Washington Ave. makes typical French dishes. I loved drinking a Monaco (beer & grenadine drink), their charcuterie boards and salads are also killer. They make a mean chocolate mousse! I love their attention to detail, offering customers a free glass of white wine and tapenade as soon as you walk in. The owner Aurélien (yup, same name as Offner!) is super young and friendly. A must!

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The Forge – Loved eating at this over the top Art Deco inspired restaurant. The atmosphere was young, hip and fun! The styling of the place was unreal. They had a special on Veuve Clicquot champagne the night we went so if you ordered a glass of champagne at the bar, they would serve you unlimited appetizers. Unreal! The food was also heavenly. They had very tasty bread baskets and a fabulous selection of wine. I had the soup and grilled cheese, Offner had the burger and his parents, the biggest steak I’ve ever seen! Their little dessert tray was also yummy. It’s a festive place with loud music so if you’re looking for a quieter spot, this may not be the place for you!

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Now for something completely different, the 11th Street Diner located on Washington and 11th Street is also a superb place to grab some quick breakfast or lunch. It’s the original building that was constructed in 1948 in New Jersey that they moved to Miami in the 1990s.

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A bar to check out:

The Broken Shaker – is located in the hip Freehand Miami hostel. Offner always loves checking out up and coming bars in every city we visit. He had heard of this place because of their original handcrafted drinks made from ingredients, herbs & spices directly taken from the place’s garden. We tasted their savory sweet and spicy homemade punch. They also had a tremendous outdoor garden/patio with a pool, lot’s of fun seating areas, little lights, trees, ping pong tables, etc.

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(photo credit: The LA Times)

Finally, if you’re looking for a cool morning or afternoon excursion, I highly recommend taking a trip to the everglades at the Everglades Safari Park. I’m not one to do too many touristy things on vacation but this was really well organized, informative and fun. For $40, they take you from South Beach (the location of your choice) on a 40min bus ride to the everglade national park. You then go on a 45min airboat tour where they teach you about the different species of snakes, alligators, wildlife, etc. in the national park. That is followed by an informative alligator demonstration (no one wrestles with alligators!) and time to walk around their sanctuary where you can see all sorts of alligators, crocodiles, lizards, etc. They then take you back to your hotel in South Beach. Honestly, well worth the money and super amusing!

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Our time in Miami went by SO fast! With it only being a 3hr flight from Toronto, it’s the perfect long weekend destination! Can’t wait to go back soon!

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