Highclere Castle…YES! DOWNTON ABBEY!!!

Our visit to Highclere Castle was not a regularly scheduled tour. And, no, we didn’t break in. Both Greg and I are big fans of the show Downton Abbey and wanted to make this a part of our trip. Tours are limited to only the summer months, but there were none scheduled during our trip. However, Greg found that Highclere Castle was hosting a fundraiser for Marlborough College, a local private school associated to Eton (where Princes Willam & Harry and Kate attended). Although we had no connection to Marlborough College, Greg seized the opportunity to purchase tickets to the event and surprise me!! The castle is amazing and the grounds are stunning. Not only were we treated to endless amounts of champagne, but we were able to tour the castle. The bedrooms used by Lady Grantham, Mary, Cybil and Edith, along with the Library, sitting rooms and the main foyer that were common scenes on Downton Abbey were open for viewing. It was like stepping into the show itself! The furniture and drapes were as they appeared on the show. As much as I wanted to, photos were not allowed to be taken inside the Castle. But, here are few of the outside… Highclere Castle is an actual home that is occupied by the Earl of Carnarvon and Lady  Carnarvon. During the event, Lady Carnarvon spoke to guests. An articulate, intelligent and beautiful woman, she is staunchly proud of Highlclere Castle and its place in English history. She also an author and has a blog! Along with being a residence and the former setting of Downton Abbey, it...

LONDON – Eating & Shopping in London

  Yes, London is expensive, if only because of the poor Canadian exchange rate. So, I’m going to try and give you prices of things where I can,  because that is always a concern when traveling. When we were there in June, our basic rule of thumb with any purchase was to double the price. For example, if something was 10 pounds, it would be $20 Canadian. That isn’t exactly what the exchange was, but it was close and easy math on the go. When doing this, it is always better to round up than down to avoid disappointment when the bills come after you get home. Without going into a lot of specifics, we found the the average glass of wine or a pint of beer was 4-5 pounds, bottle of wine was 15-20 pounds and a bottle of sparkling wine started at around 23 pounds.     Our first night in London, we ate at an Italian restaurant called The Spaghetti House, on Duke Street (near Oxford Street and the department store Selfridges). The food was very good and average priced. Greg and I shared an appetizer, we each got an entree and shared a bottle of wine and dessert. In the end, our bill was around 65 pounds, which was about $120 Canadian.     Around town, there are lots of grab and go places, like Pret A Manger where you can get decent, healthier food options. Also, places like Tesco (local grocer) have grab and go items like prepared sandwiches, drink and snack starting at 3 pounds! On our last night, we met up with...

London – Where We Stayed And What Sightseeing We Did

Our Hotel –  We stayed at a lovely boutique hotel in Kensington, near Hyde Park, called The Caesar. We stayed in a Deluxe room, which was nice because it had a separate sitting area. The room was clean and the bed was comfortable. There were no drawers, but there was some shelving on the bed side tables and desk area to store items. The closet was an OK size with ample hangers. Inside the closet was a safe that was big enough for a iPad, passports and other valuables. However, I am pretty sure that it wasn’t big enough for a laptop computer. The bathroom was on the smaller side, but not so small that you were running into things. It had a shower/tub combination. The shower pressure was very good and the water always hot. There was a decent shelf above the vanity and in the shower to place your products on. The neighbourhood was a mix a residential and other boutique hotels. The streets were tree lined and quiet. It was a nice place to retire for the evening after taking in the hustle and bustle of London. Without a doubt, I would stay in the area again and would also consider The Caesar again.   London Pass – When we were making plans, we read about the advantages of the London Pass and it was recommended to us by others who had visited London (thank you to the amazing social media followers for their tips!). After really scrutinizing our itinerary, we found that we would not have gotten value out of the London Pass. I do...

LONDON IS CALLING – Coming, Going and Getting Around in London

It took us a while, but this summer we finally decided on a vacation. London, UK. What a city! What an experience! The history, the vibe, the shopping and the hustle and bustle that is London. For a week, we took in what this world class city had to offer. Here are some useful tips and insights for those thinking or have made plans to visit London.   Flight and Arrival to England – Our 7 hour, overnight, direct flight from Toronto had us arriving into Gatwick Airport. Prior to leaving, Greg found a gem of time saver. It’s called the Gatwick Premium Pass. Before passing through to the Baggage Claim and Customs, all arriving passengers have to pass through Border Control. This is where you present your passport to a Border Control Officer and are officially allowed to enter the country. To sum it up, the line leading up to this check is insane.   In order to avoid this, Gatwick Airport offers a service where you can bypass the line, ergo the Gatwick Premium Pass. For 25 pounds total, Greg and I were able to purchase this pass, beat the huge line and enjoy our vacation sooner. After purchasing the pass, Greg was sent an email confirmation. When we arrived at the Border Control area, we presented our confirmation to a staff member who immediately ushered us to a Border Control Officer. Within minutes we were collecting our bags and making our way to the city. This was such a huge time saver and I highly recommend spending the money on this service. For more information on...

Travelling with Pets

There’s more to travelling with your pet than first meets the eye. In this segment that I recently did on Cityline, Murphy helps us discover the best pet transportation and travelling carriers for pets. Planning and being organized for your trip with a pet is the most important thing especially around the holidays. ~ Shoana p.s. Click the YouTube video below to watch the segment  ...

Mont Tremblant, Quebec Weekend Getaway

It’s spring break and for all you winter lovers it is one of the last chances to grab a snowy getaway before the warm weather descends. If you are still looking for one of those quick and easy getaways, I would definitely recommend Mont Tremblant, Quebec. We recently went back and loved it! There is so much for do. Boredom is not on the itinerary. Here is a quick run down of our trip. Hopefully, it will help if you are planning a getaway to the Mont Tremblant resort area. ~ Shoana Getting There It couldn’t be easier. From Toronto, a flight is about 50 minutes to the Mont Tremblant International Airport. The airport is the prettiest one that I have ever seen. It totally sets the tone for the whole trip. To get from the airport to your hotel, “complimentary” shuttles are available for transfer to & from participating hotels in and around the village. Meaning, the transfer is “free”, but a $35.00/person departure fee is collected at the airport. The transfers can be easily booked through the Mont Tremblant International Airport website. To meet your specific transfer, a reception desk is set up in the arrival area. Provide your name and the hotel you are staying at to the representative. They in turn will provide you with the pick up time on your day of departure.  If you’ve checked any bags, you may pick them up outside the terminal and bring them to your identified transfer van. The driver will load your luggage into the trailer that is towed behind your van. Hotel This trip we stayed...