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Youngest Countries In The World

Spending time at home with my kids during this time of self-isolation, I’ve had to answer some weird questions from my kids. Things like “what colour is the coronavirus” and “can you fart, sneeze and cough at the same time”. There have been annoying questions like “can I have another snack”. However, there have also been some cool questions like “how old is the sun”. In discussing the age of our country, Canada and our neighbours to the south, the kids wanted to know what are the youngest countries in the world. I had to do some research to answer this for them, but I’ve now come up with a list of what’s considered to be the newest countries in the history of the world.

The Youngest Countries In The World

 

Palau – Independent since 1994

“In Palau, women play a very important role in issues of policy. Women traditionally own and devise land. We control the clan money. We traditionally select our chiefs; women place and remove them. Having observed their upbringing closely, we are able to decide which men have the talent to represent our interests. From birth, Palauan women are responsible for the men. When men marry, the women arrange for the settlement, and when they die, women bury them. Women are caretakers of the environment” -Mirair Gabriela Ngirmang in the book, 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.

I could not help but lead with this quote about Palau as it’s the first thing that jumped out at me – a nation that honours women first and foremost. Independent since 1994 from the United States, this peaceful South Pacific country observes a matrilineal tradition. Heavily influenced by Phillipine’s cuisine, a delicacy in Palau is actually fruit bat soup. However, fish, pork, yam and potatoes are the local foods.

This tiny county of only 459 km2 and a population of approximately 18,000 people are mainly Roman Catholic in religious observance. Tourism and fishing are the main industries in Palau with tourism focusing on scuba diving around the barrier reef and over wrecks well below the surface of the water left over from the second world war.

 

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There’s no time like now to #visitpalau Photo Courtesy- @buntumdiewelt.de

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East Timor – Independent since 2002

For a small South Pacific nation, the country of East Timor is mighty in art and sport. Used by many Australian productions as a setting for films, televisions shows and documentaries, the island landmass of 15,007 km2 is said to be shaped like a crocodile and carries heavy lore surrounding that. The legend is that inhabitants of East Timor are descendants of the crocodile. Presently, there are estimated to be 1,200,000 citizens there.

Before European colonialism, East Timor was an exporter and trader of sandalwood, honey and wax to the Indian, Chinese and Malaysian nations. It is one of the oldest sites of human activity in all of southeast Asia. The current culture of East Timor reflects numerous influences, including Portuguese, Indonesian and the religious observances of Catholicism. Gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, it was subsequently invaded by Indonesia only 9 days later. In 2002, it was finally granted sovereign state status after decades of bloodshed.

While half of the population lives in abject poverty, East Timor is one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world. East Timor earns revenue from offshore oil and gas and exports of coffee, cinnamon, marble, petroleum and sandalwood. Starbucks is a major purchaser of coffee from the nation. Tourism is big, upwards of 75,000 visitors per year are welcomed here.

 

Montenegro – Independent since 2006

The next three countries have all come out of the fall of Yugoslavia. Like many border formations in Europe, wars and battles were fought and pieces of land changed hands through Kingdoms and in political deals many times. Without sounding ignorant to the history of the country and the conflict throughout the past hundreds of years, I’m only going to mention the split from the Yugoslavia, the Belgrade Agreement, which saw Montenegro’s transformation into a more decentralized state union named Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, and then gaining full independence in June 2006.

Montenegro is a country in Southeast Europe on the coast of the Balkans. the population here is just over 600,000 and the landmass is just 13,812 km2. The road structure of Montenegro is not yet up to Western European standards and the railway is the method to keep things moving. The economy depends on the service industry, meaning “intangible goods” that include attention, advice, access, experience, and affective labour.  Tourism was a bug industry for coastal Montenegro in the 1980s, but the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s crippled it, only just seeing a rebound now. The Adriatic coast is 295 km (183 mi) long in Montenegro, with 72 km of beaches and many well-preserved ancient old towns to explore. Montenegro is home to significant cultural and heritage sites from the pre-Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods.

A multi-lingual and ethnic state, the cuisine the country feasts on is a mix of oriental and Mediterranean. Sports play a huge role in the lives of citizens with football, water polo, basketball and handball being known as the ones they dominate in.

Serbia – Independent since 2006

Like Montenegro, Serbia’s official date of independence is June 2006. And to date, disputes around defined borders still go on, with Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia in February of 2008.

Located at the crossroads between Central and Southern Europe, Serbia is located in the Balkan peninsula and the Pannonian Plain. The landmass is a total of  77,474 km2, and almost 30% of it is covered by forest.

Serbia’s economy is fairly stable and is considered to be upper-middle for income although unemployment figures put them at around 12%. There is a lot of foreign investment from companies such as  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Siemens, Bosch, Philip Morris, Panasonic, Michelin, Coca-Cola and Carlsberg. Agriculture yields plums, raspberries, maize, wheat, sunflower, sugar beet, soybean, potato, apple, pork meat, beef, poultry and dairy.

Serbia produces about 230 million litres of wine annually. I’m in!

Kosovo – Independent since 2013

Kosovo is a beautiful, majestic country. Full of gorgeous national parks, forests cover 39% of the area. Hiking trails infused with waterfalls, charming towns to appease the eye and chaotic recent history that makes your scratch your head and say what?

Landlocked between Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, this Balkan Country in Europe has less than 2 million inhabitants and a landmass of 10,887 km2. Independence was fully gained in 2013 from Serbia after a torrid history of ethnic cleansing and war crimes. The history of this area is disputed by all sides and is still claimed by Serbia as part of their country. Only some UN countries officially recognize Kosovo as its own country. As a potential candidate for the European Union, the climate boasts a Mediterranean feel and is prime for international tourists to arrive and explore the mountains, canyons and rivers. 

Today, while 95% of the population identifies as Muslim and has the highest percentage of Muslims in Europe behind Turkey. Kosovo identifies as a secular state. Kosovo boasts ranking ninth in the world for having free and equal tolerance towards not just religion, but also atheism.

 

South Sudan – Independent since 2011

South Sudan became an independent state from Sudan in July of 2011 as a result of a peace deal that was brokered in 2005. With a population of approximately 11 million inhabitants and a land size of more than 600,000 km2, this young country suffers from a severe humanitarian crisis in terms of water and food. South Sudan has an extremely violent past. The most recent civil war ended only in February of 2020. Many inhabitants identify as Christian and female literacy is amongst the lowest in the world.

According to Wikipedia, as of 2019, South Sudan ranks lowest in the latest UN World Happiness Report, second lowest on the Global Peace Index, and has the third-highest score on the American Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index

This is not a hot spot for tourism and generally is not considered safe for female travellers. South Sudan’s underdeveloped economy boasts natural resources such as oil and agriculture to drive it’s future forward.

 

Bougainville – Voted for Independence in 2019

The final country on the list is the largest of the atolls in the Solomon Sea. Here lies an island that voted to leave Papua New Guinea at the end of 2019. The referendum that its citizens voted on with a majority of 97% is not yet binding. It has to be passed by the government of Papa New Guinea.

An island named after a French navigator, this is a country that has changed hands numerous times between Germany, Australia, Japan, America and Papa New Guinea. This doesn’t even begin to explain the civil wars the people here have endured. With a population of under 300,000, the island measures at 9,384 km2. The economy of this newest country has been centred on mining and agriculture. In the post COVID-19 world, Bougainville is looking to tourism to help bolster the economy.

Voting began on November 23 and officially ended on December 7, 2019. The results of which were announced on December 11, making Bougainville the newest country of the world.

Hope you have enjoyed this little tour of some of the youngest countries in the history of our world. As time goes on, people and nations evolve and politics fracture agreements. Perhaps there will be new countries on the horizons of 2021 or 2022. Hopefully, any future transitions are peaceful. When it is safe to travel again, we can look forward to collecting new passport stamps along the way.

Ever wondered what are the newest nations in the world? And how did they form? Check out this list of the youngest countries in the world that includes Palau, Bougainville, Kosovo, Serbia, South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor. Interestingly these countries are in the South Pacific, Europe and Africa.

A Grounded Extrovert Travel Writer’s COVID-19 Self-Isolation Diaries From Toronto

The Self-Isolation Diaries From Toronto by A Grounded Extrovert Travel Writer is not a sponsored post in any way. It’s been a while since I’ve done something from the heart for zero pay or compensation, so enjoy.

Hey, how you doing? Well, I’m doing just fine on this day 28 of self-isolation for the sake of our health.

Truth? I just lied. It’s day 28 since the city of Toronto started to shut everything down and I feel like I am dying inside. In my normal life, I am an extrovert, I thrive on the company of others. While I do know how to be and function as a regular person alone, it’s not my preferred way of life. Mainly, I earn an income working in television and documentaries, but my passion is creating content as a travel writer. Ironically, due to how ordinary people travel and the spread of a virus, my wings are clipped.

After returning from Latvia (read all about those adventures here) and Poland in November, and countless other travels in the fall of 2019, my kids asked me to stay home for a while to be with them. Fair request and I had some personal matters to attend too. I gladly did all that and had an upcoming calendar with new destinations and exciting plans filling up for April, May and June. I’m not even going to list what they were and where because those are all cancelled now.

Hello, depression my old friend.

The Extrovert Travel Writer Is Forced To Become A Homebody Recluse

What happens when a travel writer is not travelling? I can’t say it’s fair for me to speak for anyone else, but I feel sluggish. Directionless. Confused. I am searching for a purpose. Unmotivated. Grieving. Some have pivoted and have been able to make some other types of content. I see you pounding out posts like there’s a pandemic on our hands and… oh wait… There is. I’m still all baffled about being inside and home for this amount of time. I can barely edit together scenes. Everything used to take me four times less time to do.

We have to stay home and hide from the coronanananana virus. For the sake of livening up the situation, my children and I will refer to anything COVID-19 related now as the coronanananana.

My accountability tweet. The first time I am writing in a month.

Anyone else dreaming of the days of yore when we could freely walk down the street with friends? It’s spring, patio season at all the bars and restaurants would be ramping up right now. I’d be excited to put on a spring dress, a fun pair of shoes and head out. Instead, every single bar and restaurant is closed except for take out service. Parks have been condemned to be empty. Barely a soul walking the streets or sidewalks unless it’s sunny outside. If the sun’s rays are sneaking out, all the runners appear. Hefty financial fines to be issued though to those not belonging in the same household standing or socializing too close to each other. House parties are forbidden. Some stores around Yonge and Dundas Square have used plywood to board up their windows and doors.

It’s almost feeling apocalyptic. Everyone who was on assignment or on vacation was forced to struggle to return home. Toilet paper, ground beef and wifi have become the new currency (it’s a joke, but almost real). Add in some zombies wandering around searching for brains and we’re suddenly cast members in The Walking Dead. I wish I knew who to credit for this meme of Rick Grimes with his shopping list.

meme of Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead with his grocery list

 

Listen, I still do not understand why normal citizens of this country flooded all the grocery stores and bought out six-month supplies of toilet paper for a virus that affects your lungs and symptoms do not include constant shitting and frequent butt wiping, but I digress…

The Month Of March Became A Year Of Hell

 

Do you remember life before the lockdown? The last swimming lesson the kids had was on Wednesday, March 11. Little Man passed his salamander level, ready for sunfish. Miss M is swim team training, she hopefully will move into competition or lifeguarding. On Thursday, March 12, the premier of Ontario, Dough Ford and Education Minister Steven Lecce announced that the schools would not be reopening after March break and the children needed to stay home until April 5th. They predicted that on Monday, the 6th of April the kids would be back to school and the closure was a precaution. Friday, March 13th, I enjoyed an evening at the gym where no one bothered me and the equipment I wanted to use was all mine. My last evening out to dinner at Banu on Queen Street West was on Saturday, March 14. The city of Toronto announced that at as of midnight on Monday, March 16th, it was closing down all the restaurants and bars in the city to flatten the curve.

It was during this week that we learned what social distancing was. That the virus was now in Ontario and spreading. Coronanananana is coming to get us, but it really didn’t seem like the hype was worth it just yet. We had seen what was going on in China for the past couple of months, that it had spread heavily to Iran and Italy, but Canada is untouchable.

It’s all we are entrenched in now and all we know for the foreseeable future. Climbing numbers of new cases every day. Now I know people who have and have had the virus. There are reports that people are actually dying.

Sunday, April 12, Covid-19 Ontario Update
Sunday, April 12, Covid-19 Ontario Update

 

Climbing The Walls

Our former lives seem so far away. Walking outside and greeting a neighbour with a hug or a high five is not something we can do. Prior to March of this year, I had never heard of the phrases social distancing and self-isolation. Today is April 12th. Our children did not return to school this past Monday. The province of Ontario has extended our emergency orders and subsequent home lives until April 24th or something like that.

Provincial parks and conservation areas are all closed. There is no possible way I could have utilized my Ontario Parks annual pass to go and take a hike or toss a canoe into the water. I haven’t seen my mother aside from on Facetime since the middle of February. There are news reports of people being fined for not following the rules. Despite closures and being told to stay home, some have taken it upon themselves to head out to the trails and waterfalls anyway because they think they are entitled to do so. Allow me to be crystal clear here, the longer entitled assholes continue to pull this shit, the longer we’re potentially exposed to the virus, the longer we are all under quarantine in our homes #STAYTHEFUCKHOME

I’ve even chosen a theme song for this period of history.

Social visits in my world now consist of either yelling hello from the sidewalk or on Facetime and video conference calling on Zoom. Saturday nights are for virtual happy hours. Society today is all seemingly observing the Finnish tradition of getting tipsy at home in our underwear called “pants drunk”. Kippis!

To all the single parents trying to work from home because we need to get paid to keep the roof over our heads as it’s better money than the CERB from our government and assist their children through their TCDSB virtual learning lessons for the foreseeable future, we will get through this, somehow. There is hope that the kids will go back to school before the end of the school year, but there is no guarantee.

@kathrynanywhereSend HELP! ##marchbreak2020 ##3weekmarchbreak ##marchbreak2020 ##coronalockdown ##corona_lockdown ##fyoupage ##momsbelike

♬ original sound – haileybeiberofficial


I have decided to entertain my son and help him get his energy out by propping up his old bike in the living room and turned it into a stationary bike so he can “ride” and watch YouTube at the same time. There’s a tent in my living room and my daughter is taking zoom calls with her Girl Guide pack. She’s mastered Tiktok and Facetiming with friends along with enjoying worthwhile games as Roblox, Adopt Me and Flee The Facility. 

My daughter taking zoom calls in a tent in the living roomMy daughter taking zoom calls in a tent in the living room during the covid-19 pandemic

 

Fucking and bonding over Jason Bateman in a world pandemic

This is a hard time to be dating. The province of Quebec has gone so far as to promote monogamy, so there it is, multiple partners is off the table for the time being. We have to hang out at home. All the time. We’re forced to have conversations and get to know each other. Or not converse and watch Ozarks. Season 3 is pretty stellar so far by the way.

Guess you get to know who you would want by your side in the midst of an annihilation of society. The solid standard of a job, sense of humour and kind of cute is completely out the window now. You start to look for basic skills such as the ability to siphon gas, know how to break into a pharmacy, a natural penchant for shit disturbing and some bushcraft. If they have the aforementioned survival skills, a nice smile and a six-pack, that’s the jackpot. 

Dating during covid-19

 

Everything Is Out Of Focus

How are we all doing for real? I admit that I don’t do well without other people around. No lying here, I’ve had mood swings. My kids are still spending a couple of nights a week at their Dads and it’s good because parenting during quarantine is like normal parenting except you’re now homeschooling your children weeks after they were supposed to return to school but they aren’t and you’re drowning in virtual schooling on top of working from home, keeping the house clean, laundry done, keeping up personal appearances like eyebrows, and my bikini line. Which by the way, since all the spas and hair salons are closed so we can social distance and self-isolate, is difficult. No doubt some women are celebrating the freedom of not caring because the option fails to exist.

Straight up, I have problems focusing to begin with. With everything that’s been going on, with the kids off school, in my workspace all day long and the news in our faces and the rules constantly changing, it’s been a tough go for me. I am accepting that everything is taking me four times as long to do and I’m making lunches and dinners during my workday. I’m refereeing disputes between the kids, monitoring screentime and what they are consuming on their devices and homeschooling with assignments that the teachers are sending and navigating Google classroom. It’s becoming more increasingly difficult to settle into thought processes and feel creative, at least in this house.
Again, I wish I knew who to credit for this graphic, but it sums it up right now. It’s okay to not be your most productive during a fucking global pandemic.
It's okay to not be your most productive during a fucking global pandemic

Can This Really Go On For The Next 12-18 Months?

Realistically, this way of life could last for the next 12-18 months. There are scientists working on a vaccine, but guarantees of having it sooner rather than later aren’t likely. There are a lot of folks who are not on board with the social distancing and still think this is mass hysteria being spread by the media. To them I say, I’m so glad this has yet to touch your lives, but when it does be ready.

I can’t go on like this forever, but for right now, I’m okay not being my most productive. I’m still going to try though. What I need though is exercise, badly. First for my mental health and because I have so much energy to burn through. Second, I have a thyroid condition and if I don’t exercise, I become 300 lbs. My home doesn’t have the space for a home gym. Sadly, I am lacking a backyard that I can walk out my patio door to head out to enjoy. The common area courtyard in the complex I live in is closed for our safety. I’m getting so mad at people not following the rules, it’s going to make it that much longer for the rest of us. I can’t say I will ever take going to the gym or to the pool for granted after this.

At this point, I cannot handle another person telling me to stay home. I am doing my part. My kids are doing their part. I need to know everyone else has done their part so we can all move on quicker. This sedentary home life with no in-person interaction is not something I’m cut out for in the long run. I’m glad some people are made for it. Good for them. Stinking introverts. I’m not and as much as it seems appealing to sit on my couch, I can’t much longer. What I want to do is to run sprints in the park. Head out to a patio with friends, order chicken wings and cheers our pints together. To take my kids over for playdates at a friend’s house.

Foodie Adventures

What good is coming out of this? Personally, I’m reading books again for the first time in ages. Due to my lack of motivation to work, I’ve actually spent time sitting on the couch with my kids while they’re home with me. I’m more in touch with friends now, albeit online than ever. I am cooking for my kids more and they’re enjoying it. Today was bacon grease pancakes. BOOM!

In all honesty, knowing that I cannot cook the exact same thing every single day, I have had to get creative. I learned about cooking up pancakes in bacon grease from my friend, Andrea who runs the blog, Mommy Gearest. She’s been cooking and baking every day during the pandemic and has come up with some interesting recipes that I’ve seen on Facebook and Tiktok.

I got an accidental meat delivery from TruLocal. I contacted them to let them know their delivery service has dropped a box of meat at the wrong house and they came back to me a couple of hours later saying I could keep the box and enjoy. WOW! So now they’ve gained a new future customer with me and I’m trying out things I might not have ordered myself to cook like Miami Ribs are in the oven tonight. Ground turkey? It was great in spaghetti sauce! The nitrate-free pork bacon was what I cooked up and used the grease for the pancakes. The bacon was delicious, my kids enjoyed it way more than regular store-bought bacon.

pancakes cooked in bacon grease from TruLocal

As a society, this has been a huge wake-up call on how we conduct ourselves. Let’s be more kind, compassionate, help neighbours, be fearless, love unconditionally and spend more time living in the moment.

I can’t wait to hug my mom when it’s safe to do so. I hope you get to hug a loved one soon as well.

Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter

My time discovering the things that makes Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter was courtesy of Sudbury TourismThey foot the bill for all of my exciting experiences and delicious food. My opinions, however, are always mine and my children’s.

Ever since I made it my mission to explore as much of Ontario as possible with my kids, I’ve covered a lot of ground. A vast majority of that geography has been southern Ontario however. When the opportunity came up to head a little bit north, I agreed without hesitation! I mean, Sudbury, on the surface does not seem to be a destination for families. My previous experience with visiting Sudbury was a drive past with my parents when I was 15 or 16 when we were driving back to Belleville from Alberta. Then, a couple of years ago with my own children as we were returning to Toronto from a road trip around Lake Superior. We pretty much stopped to eat at The Keg, have a good sleep at the hotel across the street and carry on home. Not exactly getting any flavour of the city. Big mistake.

I’ve come to realize that many towns and cities in Ontario really are a destination and Sudbury is no different. What makes Sudbury stand out is the topography which is rocky, to say the least. While Sudbury is famous for being a mining town and having a lot of vegetation washed away due to acid rain, that’s not all it is. What makes Sudbury great is the science museums, outdoor activities, abundance of lakes, safe atmosphere and never-ending things to do with your kids there. And in all honestly, Sudbury rocks for families in winter. Yep, this coming from a Toronto family. Here’s what you need to know about Sudbury and why you should consider it as a destination with your family in the winter.

Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter

Sudbury rocks! Hahahaha, get it? If you don’t, you will soon.

Population wise, Sudbury is the largest city in Northern Ontario. The city was built on the traditional Ojibwe grounds of the Algonquin indigenous group. Once nickel was discovered, the city was built up by European settlers. The “Nickel City”, as it has lovingly been nicknamed, is spread over 330 lakes. The entire region of Greater Sudbury contains more lakes than any other city in Canada. If that doesn’t scream that there is a big outdoor scene here, I don’t know what will.

As Sudbury is roughly four hours north of Toronto, it does drop in temperature in winter. For Torontonians who can’t stand the cold, that could be bad news. The good news is that the cold feels different. The cold we feel in Toronto is wet, gets in your bones and aches cold. Sudbury’s cold air is a little dryer and to the kids and me, it was more tolerable. I’m good in pretty much all weather except for that sweat your face off humidity, making Sudbury a fairly temperate location for us to visit.

However, even if you are there in the winter and you find it chilly, you don’t particularly need to spend much time outside. We had a great mix of inside and outside activities on our weekend trip there and there is an abundance of things to do.

The old St Joseph's hospital site on Paris Street in Sudbury, is home of the largest mural in Canadian history.

Make Sure You Get Out And Do The Following With Your Kids in Sudbury

 

Cross-Country Skiing at Kivi Park

We had an absolutely beautiful morning at Kivi Park! The kids learned how to cross county, equipped with gear rentals from Adventure365 at Kivi Park.

I grew up cross country skiing out of our front door and garage from our home in Belleville. We lived on the edge of town and had the ability to head out into the woods at the end of our street. It was something my parents, my sister and I did and our dog, Sarge ran along beside us. Growing up in downtown Toronto, my children aren’t afforded that same opportunity. It’s a totally different life.

Little Man cross country skiing in Kivi Park, Sudbury

Little Man has taken downhill skiing lessons before and loved it. Miss M has only been on downhill skis once before in her life and it didn’t go over well. I mean here’s the thing, when I’m chasing after two kids on a sport that I barely have mastered myself… it almost begs for another adult or an actual instructor to assist or one kid isn’t going to get the attention they need. That happened.

My kids cross country skiing in Kivi Park in Sudbury

Our time XC skiing in Kivi Park was a winter activity redeemer for Miss M. Both kids had an excellent time and by the end of the morning, we were all sweaty and sad it was over. I am so glad we could all cross country ski together. They want to do it again! Actually they want to go back to Kivi Park again so that’s worth a trip back to Sudbury.

My kids heading up a small hill while cross country skiing in Kivi Park in Sudbury

Side note – Kivi Park is an all-season, multi-sport recreation area set on over 450 acres of Cambrian Shield.  Other activities you can do there include hiking, snowshoe, fat bike, skating in the winter or canoe, kayak or paddleboard on Crowley Lake in the summertime.  

Family selfie while cross country skiing in Kivi Park in Sudbury

Science North 

Want a fun-filled afternoon? Spend it at Science North with the kids. So many intriguing and interactive exhibits over four floors for the kids to get their hands and imaginations into. The first floor has an IMAX theatre, planetarium, cavern and a toddler treehouse.

The kids and I in the entrance to Science North in Sudbury

The second floor is the nature exchange, lapidary and the butterfly gallery. There’s a lot to see and do on floor number three, but here’s the condensed version – a section on animals in northern forests, a nocturnal room, northern lakes and rivers section along with its inhabitants, a wetlands section and a theatre. The fourth floor holds the object theatres, the body zone where you learn about the body and DNA, a racetrack to build your own cars at, the space place and a tech lab.

Faille Creighton Fault line in science north, Sudbury. This is why Sudbury rocks for families

The highlight for me? There’s a bed of nails you can lie on. It’s a lesson in physics!

The biggest highlight for Little Man? The fin whale skeleton! It’s 20 metres long and came from Quebec. It’s quite a sight and can easily be mistaken for a dinosaur. As the circular staircase winds up, it’s hard to miss this species in the middle. No joke, as he spotted it, he ran to see it.

Fin Whale skeleton in Science North

For Miss M, her highlight was petting a fox snake on the third floor. That or building her race car and seeing it move on the fourth floor.

Petting a fox snake at science north

The oddity of Science North? Drifter and Kash the beavers and also animal ambassadors refused to pose for photos for me. The nerve!

Racing the cars the kids made on the fourth floor of Science North

Skate the Ramsey Lake Skate Path

Skate the Ramsey Lake Skate Path? OKAY, I’LL DO IT!

Accessible from Science North parking lot lies a popular skate path on Ramsey Lake in the middle of Sudbury. The skate path runs from Science North to the Sudbury Canoe Club and features unique structures built by students of the Laurentian University School of Architecture.

Ramsay Lake skate trail

Now, my kids and I didn’t make it end to end like I wanted to do. It was windy and there were some tears (not mine). But we still got to enjoy some of it.

And best of all, this activity is FREE. Bring your own skates and helmets because they do not have rentals on site.

My daughter skating on Ramsey Lake with Science North in the background

Dynamic Earth

Want to know where to find the Big Nickel? It’s on Big Nickel Mine Dr.!

The Big Nickel is a replica of the 1951 Canadian five-cent coin, built in 1964 by local Sudburian Ted Szilva. Open to the public at no cost, visitors are invited to walk around the Big Nickel and explore the site of the Centennial Numismatic Park. The big nickel weighs approximately 13,000 kilograms so that’s about as much as a school bus. The entire outer core is made of stainless steel which is why it hasn’t rusted after 55 years. Last random and amazing fact about the big nickel? It’s approximately the same size as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dynamic Earth and The Big Nickel in Sudbury, Ontario

The Big Nickel isn’t all to this attraction! Head into Dynamic Earth – an earth sciences museum with a focus on geology that builds on the city’s mining heritage. 

Do not miss the opportunity to pan for gold on the simulated stream table, take an actual mine tour that shows you how things were done in the past, what a mine looked and felt like as well as the equipment they used.

Inside Dynamic Earth mine tour, in the Sudbury Rocks... for families this is a long tour, but worth doing.

And the new exhibit – Digging into Permafrost. Enter the world of the Western Hemisphere’s only permafrost research tunnel and take in sights and sounds that are usually hidden underground.

I would recommend this as a half-day activity for the kids. The mine tour is approx 90 minutes long and towards the end, the kids could get bored. 

Digging into Permafrost at Dynamic Earth. Enter the world of the Western Hemisphere’s only permafrost research tunnel and take in sights and sounds that are usually hidden underground. More of why Sudbury Rocks For Families

Urban Air

I’m just going to say it, it’s hard to get a decent picture of the kids inside of Urban Air Adventure Park.  The reason being is they’re so busy running and jumping and making merry inside of this ultimate indoor adventure park!

Opened in Sudbury in March 2019, this is way more than a trampoline park! There are obstacle courses, rock climbing walls and a place to practice your own freestyle tricks. And if you think I’m just going to let the kids play? Well no, I jumped too and I rode the Skyrider, like a big kid HA!

Definitely, a place we could have spent way more than 3 hours at! I wish there was one in Toronto, but until then, we’ll always have Sudbury.

Little Man on one of the climbing walls at Urban Air

Where to Eat in Sudbury With The Family:

Stack Brewhouse tour and dinner – Shockingly, but perhaps not, I find myself at a craft brewery, Stack Brewing for dinner. It’s Sudbury’s award-winning craft brewery and restaurant.

Brewmaster Brenden is new at the helm here, having recently graduated from Niagara College, but is already is putting his stamp on the process and taste. Now I have nothing former to compare too, but I can tell you that the four brews I tasted (Nickel City Lager, Expansion Sour IPA, Saturday Night Cream Ale and Impact Altbier) were all smooth, district in flavour that was done with the right amount of hops.

Brewmaster Brenden at Stack Brewhouse in Sudbury

You can bet I made a purchase of a few cans to take home to Toronto on our way out! Food was good, there was no kids menu presented to us and that’s not surprising seeing as though it was a brewhouse, but my kids ordered tacos and a burger and were very happily eaten.

Flight of beer at Stack Brewhouse in Sudbury

P&Ms Kouzzina

1463 Lasalle Boulevard

Miss M and Little Man love pizza, they’re kind of becoming experts about taste and quality of it around the world. They loved having it for lunch at P&Ms Kouzzina.

I had the turkey, bacon and brie sandwich. Divine! Bonus for us? It’s right around the other side of the plaza from Urban Air!

P&Ms Kouzzina kid's pizza P&Ms Kouzzina turkey bacon and brie

Respect is Burning Kitchen & Bar

82 Durham St

Who takes their kids out to an awesome restaurant, downtown Sudbury on a Saturday night? I did! What lovely dates they are. I mean I did open up Tinder while I was there, but I was with my kids, so no sampling of the gentleman inventory.

Little Man ate more pizza, surprise! Miss M indulged me though, we split arancini balls and a steak. Highly recommend a night out here!

Respect Is Burning arancini balls

Tucos Taco Lounge

582 Kathleen St

I never really thought I would enjoy vegan food very much. I mean, I feel like it’s not in my DNA. However, restaurants like Tucos Taco Lounge change my mind. Check out the Bành Mì’ Taco at Tucos Taco Lounge, Sudbury. Delicious!

Bành Mì' Taco at Tucos Taco Lounge, Sudbury

Full disclosure, I did not tell the kids it was a vegan restaurant when we went in, nor when we sat down or before we ordered. I waited until after they ate. Remarkably, they were unbothered by that fact. I guess we will do it more often!

Miss M having tacos at Tucos Taco Lounger, Sudbury

Where to Stay in Sudbury With The Family:

We stayed at the Travelway Inn in Sudbury. This is a locally owned establishment so if you are looking to reinvest in communities with your tourism dollars, try doing it here.

Location wise, everything is pretty much a ten to fifteen-minute drive away in Sudbury, but this accommodation is literally right across the street from Science North and the Ramsay Lake skate trail. There is also a hospital across the street and plenty of parking for hotel guests.

Exterior front doors of the Travelway Inn, Sudbury Ontario

For families, the rooms are a large size, the beds are comfortable, there is a mini-fridge for leftovers, a coffee maker in the room for mornings, free wifi and coin-operated laundry facilities because travelling with kids means always having to wash something. Our room was on the first floor and we could pretty much park in front of our window, so if I wanted to look out at my vehicle early in the morning to ensure it was there, I could.

Travelway Inn room interior - two double beds. Sudbury Rocks For Families when staying at the Travelway Inn across from Science North

A continental breakfast is always included in the room rate. Plenty of toast, muffin, oatmeal options as well as juice, tea and coffee. We were there for 2 mornings. The first morning options included bacon and mini pancakes as well as hard-boiled eggs. The second morning, the options were sausages and egg patties.

Hot tip for parents – if you rise before your kids and can’t wait to eat any longer, head down there and ask the service staff for paper plates to take some food away with. Some days my kids could sleep well beyond the cut off time of breakfast service, so I have to be constantly mindful of that.

Travelway Inn, Sudbury Ontario lobby. Refreshment and comfortable seating area await

Worth The Drive

Our winter experience in Sudbury was pretty amazing for one weekend! The drive was only four hours to Sudbury and it can easily take that long to leave Toronto and arrive in cottage country. I hope this illustrates how Sudbury rocks for families in winter. As a solo parent, this was an easy escape from Toronto and all the activities with the kids I could easily handle. Knowing full well that we only scratched the surface of the city, I cannot wait to head back in June (without kids this time) and explore during the Travel Media Association of Canada conference.

Want to see where else I have explored in Ontario? Take a walk through these past posts and find out.

Interested in heading north to find out why Sudbury rocks for families with your crew? Check out accommodation listings in the area here:



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Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter. What to see and do in Sudbury. Big Nickel at Dynamic Earth in Sudbury, Ontario with my kids

Three Breweries in Durham Region You Need To Know About

As I have grown into my advanced age of (cough, cough) 40, I have found myself attracted more and more to good beer. In case you missed that, I am the big four-oh… Uh oh! Anyway, as my taste has been developing, the craft and microbrewery beer industry in Ontario has been growing. Barely an hour from where I live in Toronto are three breweries in Durham region that you need to know about. I discovered all of them while on a trip with the Toronto Bloggers Collective, of which I am one of the cofounders.

We were delightfully hosted by Durham Tourism in conjunction with York Durham Headwaters on a fantastic couple days that included ice fishing, brewery tours and a spiritual retreat.

What Is The Difference Between Craft Breweries and Microbreweries?

I hear a lot of people interchange the term “craft” and “microbrew”. Sometimes people get it right. A lot of times, they do not. What’s the difference? Craft breweries tend to use top quality, local ingredients, more traditional malts in their beers to add flavour, texture, and dimension and will often use large quantities of corn, rice, or other sugar syrups to make it less expensive to produce. Craft beers are often made without preservatives and chemicals. They are mostly are unfiltered and unpasteurized. So basically, the craft brew is defined by the process and the people.

While most craft breweries are microbreweries, they aren’t always one and the same. A micro-brewery is defined by the quantity of beer it produces a year. Think the phrase micro = small. In the USA, a microbrewery is defined as producing up to 15,000 barrels per year.

Where all the magic happens in All Or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa. This is the fermentation room. All or Nothing Brewhouse is one of three Durham Region Breweries you need to know about now.

Breweries in Durham Region

As mentioned, I was touring microbreweries in Durham Region, Ontario with other members of the Toronto Bloggers Collective. The craft and microbrewery scene isn’t exactly new, but the explosion in popularity is.  Everyone is jumping on the beer bandwagon. For the record, I’ve been into beer since long before I turned legal age in Ontario in 1998…

Without further ado, here are the three breweries in Durhan Region you need to know. Each one of them has something that makes them special.

All or Nothing Brewhouse

Oshawa, Ontario

Stop number one on our three brewery tour! All Or Nothing Brewhouse is a bright and spacious place with an amazingly large seating area to taste the samples in.

Founded by brothers, this brewery opened the doors to this brewhouse in Oshawa in June 2019 after hanging out in Oakville for a bit.

Stop number one on the brewery tour - All or Nothing Brewhouse with TravelingMitch very excited to go in!

Makers of mead as well, there are a quite a few brews happening here. Some have found their way into the LCBO and Beer Store proving bold and delicious beer always has a place in the retail stores of Ontario.

The ones I tried in my flight are:

Mind Over Matter (Mead/Braggot) – Mind Over Matter is brewed using 2-Row barley and Ontario wildflower Honey to create one rich and refreshing ale.

Into The Dark (Schwarzbier) – Dark in colour, light in taste this dark lager Schwarzbier is a delicious twist on a classic crisp lager.

Hustle Over Hype (Wheat Beer – American Pale Wheat) – A lightly-hopped, highly sessionable wheat beer. Golden in colour, with a sparkling foamy head, a delightful hybrid of Hefeweizen and west-coast Pale Ale flavours.

Blood Sweat & Tears (IPA – American) – An IPA that has the perfect fusion of citrus and pine from the use of Citra, Magnum & Cascade hops. Notes of orange & citrus zest are enjoyed with each sip.

My two picks out of the four are Hustle Over Hype and Blood Sweat & Tears.

All or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa beer flight

Falcon Brewing

Ajax, Ontario

Stop number two on our tour of breweries in Durham Region is Falcon Brewing in Ajax, Ontario. This brewery opened their doors in this location in April 2017 and normally have 20 different brews on the go at one time.

In the fermenting room of Falcon Brewery

The town of Ajax was home to the largest shell filling plant in the British Commonwealth during World War II. Supplies for the allies came from here and this history provides the backdrop for the inspiration of the names of the beers at Falcon Brewery.

The beers I tried in my flight are:

Bomb Girls (Blonde Ale) – This is a North American style blond ale, light pale gold colour, crisp and spicy taste, and a honey-like aroma.

Munition (IPA) – Munition India Pale Ale has a complex malt nose and taste, very full-bodied, and a citrus hop aroma and flavour that comes from Citra, Columbus and Cascade hops.

Ginger Haze (American Pale Ale) – This ale starts out as a pale ale but has a full 10 kg of fresh ginger added to it. The ginger is not subtle at all. Nope. Be prepared.

Winter Ale (Amber Ale) – Seasonal tap for the winter!

My two picks out of the four are Munition IPA and Bomb Girls Blonde Ale.

My flight of beer at Falcon Brewing in Ajax, Ontario as part of the breweries in Durham Region you need to know

 

Brock Street Brewing Company

Whitby, Ontario

Full disclosure – our third stop on the Breweries in Durham Region was a party atmosphere. We had already been sampling along the way. I have some pictures and I know there were 3 different kinds of brew on the table, but oh my Lanta, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t take notes and only participated in the beer-drinking.

Beer for tasting at Brock Street Brewery in the fermenting room

Brock Street Brewing is an award-winning brewery in Whitby that opened in 2015. Here we sampled the following. I had to borrow some information from the website because I neglected to take notes:

Blonde Lagered Ale – Incredible fresh malt aroma with a smooth and clean finish; perfectly balanced with specialty hops for dryness and aroma.

Bohemian Pilsner – A soft breadiness and slight sweetness gives way to a floral and spicy aroma from the Magnum & Sazz hops in a crisp clean finish.

The Traditional Irish Red – Our Irish Red uses a variety of roasted malts to achieve a deep red colour, medium malt body, smooth caramel finish, with a subdued bitterness.

The brewery and the restaurant attached are there are two separate establishments, but they do indeed serve the beer there.

 

Proof that I had been drinking plenty of beer that night. In Brock Street Brewery with Christopher Rudder of Rudderless Travel
Thanks, York Durham Headwaters and Barry Best Photography for use of this photo of myself and Rudderless_TRVL

 

Now and get over to Durham Region and sample their craft beer goodness!

Interested in checking out breweries and want to be responsible and not drive away? Check out accommodation listings in the area here:



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Want to know where else I’ve checked out in Ontario? Click here: More Ontario Destinations

3 BREWERIES IN DURHAM REGION, ONTARIO TO VISIT AND SAMPLE. If you love craft beer in Ontario, this is the area to visit #beertourism #craftbeer #ontariobeer #durhamtourism #visitydh #thisisclarington
@kathrynanywhereDurham Region brewery tour! All or Nothing, Falcon and Brock Street Brewery highlights ##durhamtourism ##durhamregion ##beertour ##breweries ##beergirl♬ Beer – Reel Big Fish

Cool Things To Do In Riga, Latvia

One of the best surprises of my travelling life is visiting the city of Riga, which is the capital of Latvia. I’ll be honest, Riga was never on my radar until an opportunity to attend a conference there came up and as part of the conference, I was able to partake in a few media trips. I did not expect that there would be so many cool things to do in Riga and that the history of Latvia would be so impressive. First of all, if visiting locations that are not mainstream or overrun with tourists is a priority, Riga is your destination. By my standards, Riga is a relatively undiscovered place. I’m not saying I know everything about everywhere, but I had not heard about all the things to do in Riga. 

The most photographed building in Riga: The House Of Blackheads. It is really hard to miss that building. Demolished years ago by German and Soviet troops, it’s been rebuilt again and again.

The capital city of Latvia straddles the old and new. The old city of Riga is a UNESCO world heritage site where curious wanderers like me can take in the sights for hours in a small city centre. The new – the majority of the city is cosmopolitan, art-driven and oddly vibrant for something that was under the rule of the USSR. I think I expected something boring and gray.

Riga is seriously alive with rich art, steep history, interesting architecture, delicious cuisine and nightlife. The weekend nightlife scene in Riga, from what I experienced, is just like any other metropolitan big city. Be prepared to head out dancing at 1:00 am! Before I left, I told one of my neighbours that I was going to be visiting Riga. He relayed some crazy stories about partying hard there. I’m willing to bet the stories are true. Not because of the fact that John parties hard (he does), but because I partook in some of that nightlife myself.

I was hosted for the tours of Riga and the surrounding area by the Latvia Tourism Department through my participation in the Women In Travel Summit Conference.

I am in old city of Riga, in fact this is where they filmed some of the Bachlorette

Latvia’s Independence

The history of Latvia in the last hundred years has seen it under the rule of Germany and the USSR. Since regaining independence from the fallen USSR in 1991, Latvia has emerged on its own. The country is holding on to its pre-13th century pagan customs mixed with a modern Europe feel. Considered a Baltic nation, it’s worth noting that English is widely spoken and used. For travellers from English speaking countries, it’s a huge relief to know that translator apps and books are not necessary.

The ‘Freedom Monument’ – is the most important landmark in Riga. It is the symbol of Latvian independence and statehood. The inscription “Tēvzemei un brīvībai” means ‘For Fatherland and Freedom”. The woman at the top symbolizes Latvia’s freedom and sovereignty. She holds aloft three stars indicative of the three historical districts of Latvia. The three cultural regions of Latvia are Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale. Rumour has it, her name is Milda.

Brīvības piemineklis - the ‘Freedom Monument - is is the most important landmark, the symbol of Latvian independence and statehood. She holds aloft three stars indicative of the three historical districts of Latvia.

Cool Things To Do In Riga

In Riga, there are so many things to do! I’m going to detail the free things to do in Riga, the usual and unusual things you can do in Latvia. I’m really going to focus on what I got to do. It’s better to speak from experience.

From Riga, the countryside calls for incredible day trip adventures. There are opportunities to venture into the wild boglands for bog walking experiences. There are also national parks to hike and raft, pirts for the true Latvian sauna, wineries to sip and savour, towns to dine and explore in and castles to reminisce and appreciate. 

The coolest event I got to partake in from my time in Riga was a trip to a traditional Latvian sauna for the experience of a lifetime. We did this at Spa Hotel Ezeri after a day of hiking on the outskirts of Riga. You can read all about my Latvian sauna experience here: How To Experience a Traditional Latvia Sauna: Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond or just read the one paragraph below and see if it tickles your fancy to know more.

The Black Magic Bar in Riga is a cafe setting and confectionary, sells some pretty amazing chocolate and the Black balsam liquer, which is famous in Latvia. And it’s themed with... you guessed it, black magic. Pretty much everything you can buy as a magical and whimsical theme to it.

Free Things To do in Riga

What I personally found is Latvia is highly affordable when compared to many other European countries. Wherever you are travelling from, you will have to convert your currency to the Euro. Coming from Canada, the exchange rate hurts, but I found my Euro stretched farther in Latvia compared to other European destinations. Having travelled through Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia and Poland in 2019, I found that Latvia and Poland were the most inexpensive in terms of the amount of money spent on food and accommodations.

 Gorgeous girl in front of door in Riga, Latvia #doortraits #doorsofeurope #doorsoflatvia #doorsofriga #rigadoors100 #magneticlatvia

A couple of the best and free things to do in Riga are self-guided walking tours of the different districts of the city and hiking in Gauja National Park.

GAUJA NATIONAL PARK

More than half of the land of Latvia is forest and the country does not boast a dense population. That means if you want some peace and quiet, you’ll get it. One of the best places to do that is hiking in Gauja National Park. Here’s something I found to be really cool – one of the hiking trails I was on, Cecīļi Nature Trail actually is on private property, in the national park. There wasn’t a single sign telling you not to trespass, instead, you were welcomed.

Entrance to Cecīļi Nature Trail in Gauja National Park

Straight out of a fantasy movie, on this trail, were carefully crafted from wood saunas and picnic tables to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Cecīļi Nature Trail - Straight out of a fantasy movie, on this trail, were carefully crafted from wood saunas and picnic tables to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

And an adorable two-story cabin. I don’t know if it’s available for bookings and I didn’t see a single outdoor washroom along the path, but I’d stay there.

wooden bunkie on the Cecīļi Nature Trail, Riga Latvia

Interesting to note that alongside parts of the trail are remnants of Soviet bunkers. What was in the bunkers? I don’t know. I asked and our guide and they didn’t know either. Guess it’s just up to our imaginations to concoct up what the Soviets had going on in there back in the time of the USSR!

soviet bunker on the Cecīļi Nature Trail, Riga Latvia

AMATA TRAIL

While this is still inside Gauja National Park, it’s a completely different area than Cecīļi Nature Trail. The Amata trail runs alongside the Amata River and has been referred to as one of the most beautiful trails in Latvia. 

Full disclaimer, I hiked both of these trails in overcast rainy conditions, so if the pictures look a little blah, it’s because I didn’t replace the sky in photoshop. I could have, but that’s a false representation of my experience.

That said, it was hovering around freezing and we saw a few guys actually rafting along the river. Good on them. Latvian people don’t stay stationary or inside. I really admire that. Too bad I didn’t meet any Latvian men to show me around, but I digress…

Amata Trail Zvartes Rock

The Amata Valley is a dolomite and sandstone rich area. It being November, the season wasn’t flaunting the diversity of flora and fauna that I had read about. However, the colour of the soil was bright and reminded me a lot of what would you would see in Prince Edward Island. The hike we took ended at Zvartes Rock and we were treated to an amazing traditional Latvia lunch by Cesis Inside.

You will have to drive from Riga to get to these locations, so there is a cost in transportation. However, the experience is nature will not cost you a penny. So treat yourself to some healthy outdoor time and great scenery!

The end of the hike of the Amata trail, I found a log to sit on and pose

Wander UNESCO World Heritage site – Old Town Riga

There’s something about charming old European cities. They’re all built on rivers, have cool bridges, an old historic section and of course, a modern new section. And the coolest feature for me is always narrow, cobblestone roads. And I love to wander them and imagine the history that wandered before me.

Riga was established in 1201 and it’s a cool Medieval town. Since 1967, it has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is not a lot that remains from 1201, but there certainly is a lot of history from the centuries in between.

Places worth seeing – The House of Blackheads, Riga Castle (not for royalty, the president once lived there), Powder Tower which is a remain of the old fortress of the city, Swedish Gate, The Academy of Sciences (very contentious building with an interesting history). Look for The Riga Cat House.

Intriguing architecture, old churches of different denominations with amazing vantage points and doors. Lots of old European doors to satisfy my lust.

If you’re missing what that reference means, check out my post on Doors of Lisbon, Barcelona and Paris.

Walking the city and taking it all in? Free.

Free things to do in Riga, Latvia? Wander the old town area

Stroll the Art Nouveau section of Town

Beyond intriguing is the best way I can summarize my wander here. Did you know that the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world is in Riga? There are over 800 buildings considered to be Art Nouveau in the centre. Art Nouveau is not my area of expertise to discuss or dissect so I’ll just leave a picture to intrigue you and you can decide on your own.

Stroll the art nouveau section of Riga and fall in love with the architecture

Catch the Sunset on The River Daugava

As a permanent sunset chaser, I had to figure out where to see it in Riga. I took my chances heading west in the direction of the River Daugava and caught a treat! As I have mentioned, the majority of my time in Latvia was subjected to rain and overcast skies. I caught one magnificent sunrise and through enough cloud break, I saw the sunset. Not on a beach, but on water. so I’ll call it worth taking in!

Things to do in Riga? Catch the sunset on River Daugava

Take A Beer Tour in Riga

Beer is typically not free, but this is an experience that won’t break your bank account. And you’ll get an education in brews while doing it. An education in beer and beer history in Riga. Residents of Riga brag that beer is in their blood and that Riga was once a brewing capital of something… I didn’t catch the end of the sentence of what they were the capitol of, just that they were the brewing capital.

Kasia Writes and I enjoying our beer tour of Riga

Over your 3-4 hour tour with Riga Beer District, you will get to sample from four craft breweries in Riga – Valmiermuiža Beer Embassy, LabietisZiemeļu Enkurs and Alķīmiķis. Alkimikis is legendary in Riga – it was recommended to me even by other foreigners I met at my hotel bar. I was told it was the place to go to satisfy some of my excitement for tasting local craft beer.

Price for the beer tour: per 1 person is EUR 38, tasting of 12 local beers and snacks included. It’s a really good deal.

Cheers in Labietis in Riga Latvia on a beer tour

Take In the Views from Panorama Riga

Think from Russia with love. The Latvian Academy of Sciences building is a tragic eyesore. It’s a symbol of the long over and done with Soviet era. It was built to honour Joseph Stalin, a Communist leader. It’s ugly and it has a near twin in Warsaw.

The Latvian Academy of Sciences building is a tragic eyesore. It's redeeming factor is the observation deck and view of Riga.

However, it has an amazing observation deck that gives you a view of the city from pretty much all angles. It does cost a handful of Euros to head on up to the 17th floor to get this view. The view? The picture below with River Daugava during the day time hours.

view of Riga from the science building top floor

Bog Shoeing

If you are looking to see a most unusual landscape like I do and no matter where you are, need some silence, head to one of Latvia’s bogs. Safe to say we can file “bog shoeing” excursion under things I never expected to find myself doing. I did it anyway. Into the wild Latvian Boglands of the Kemeri bog I went. And it’s similar to snowshoeing so it wasn’t hard to figure out how to walk. It was in the end, quite a workout for my glutes!

Our guide in the Kemeri bog showing us the depth in some places

The bogs are floating moss and you have to know where to step in these snowshoes so you don’t sink like in quicksand.

You can get to Kemeri National Park via bus or train from Riga centre for a few Euros or if you book this experience through Purvubrideji with a group, you can arrange transportation.

Bog shoeing activity outside of Riga, Latvia. I'm in a bog wearing something like snowshoes so we don't fall in

Take Part In A Traditional Latvian Sauna

Some things in Europe are a little bit different than North America. We, in North America, tend to be a bit more reserved about public nudity or nudity with strangers. The idea of four naked women rinsing off in a shower together by North American standards is the start of a tantalizing pornographic story. In Latvia, it’s purely part of the sauna ritual.

The traditional Latvia Sauna hut. Or pirts. The steam sauna is in there.

The sauna masters explain to us that in Latvia, it’s recommended to have a sauna experience on a regular basis. Monthly, if not weekly is the normal procedure for Latvians. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Latvia is for males 70, and females, 79. Considering the past and history with Germany and the USSR, the country being a baby in terms of its own growth, that’s not bad. I’ll buy this.

Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but you can definitely read about my experience there here How To Experience a Traditional Latvia Sauna: Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond. 

The aftermath of the brush outside the sauna house from the Latvia sauna treatment

Convinced to travel to Riga and check out the cool things to do in Latvia? Check out the accommodation options for your dates through my booking.com affiliate search box:



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Also worth noting, a day trip to Sigulda, Lativa is not a bad idea if you have time. If you’re looking for the small-town charm and adrenaline, try Sigulda. Check out my post on Things To Do in Sigulda, Latvia In A Day. Here you can see The Turaida Museum, take a cable car, tour around on fat bikes and more!

 

KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Booking.com affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees upon guests booking reservations at the accommodations listed.

There are so many free and cool things to do in Riga! National parks to hike and raft, pirts for the true Latvian sauna, wineries to sip and savour and castles to reminisce and appreciate #thingstodoinRiga #rigaiscool #magneticLatvia #enjoylatvia #rigastories #LatviaLikesYou

Going to Latvia? All the free and cool things to do in Riga! Beer tours, walking tours, art nouveau, old city and modern architecture #thingstodoinRiga #rigaiscool #magneticLatvia #enjoylatvia #rigastories #LatviaLikesYou

Flying With Kids From Canada? What You Need To Know!

Unless you live under a rock up there in the Great White North, you’ve noticed that it is winter around these parts. Sub-zero temperatures, snow, slush, ice, lack of sunshine, people suffering from seasonal affected disorder (SAD), it’s all quite awful to many Canadians. Some families can only endure so much and book themselves on a trip south to the warmth and sunshine. YAY! But wait, they arrive at the airport and find out… GULP – that their family is seated all over the airplane. A child, assigned a seat beside a stranger. Here’s what you need to know about flying with kids from a Canadian airport to the sunny south!

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada #sunnyskies #caribbeanbound #islandlife #oceanblues

 

Flying With Kids From Canada?

1.) As of December 2019, there is the Passenger Bill of Rights. In terms of being seated with your children on the plan, the bill of rights states that airlines must comply with the following seating arrangements:

  •  Under the age of 5: In a seat adjacent to the guardian
  •  Aged 5 to 11: In the same row and separated by no more than one seat from the guardian
  •  Aged 12 or 13: Separated by no more than one row from the guardian

At this point in time, airlines are not obligated to seat your children, who are over the age of 5 with you UNLESS you have pre-purchased your seats on the airplane. Yes, as in pay money for your seat on top of the fare you already paid. Many airlines, including Air Canada, Westjet and Sunwing, have published tariffs on their website that state a parent will be seated with a child under 12 at no cost. It’s not an option that comes up when you book your flights online. You will need to call in after booking to select seats. If you opt to select your seats through their online system, you will have to pay.

Please ensure you check the airline’s policy before you book the tickets. It’s best to be prepared rather than surprised when you arrive at the airport.

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada #flightdelay

Snowstorm Delay?

2.) Weather delays happen. These are delays that are not within the control of the airline. One of the most unfortunate realities of departing from a Canadian city is that there could be a major snowstorm. And that could mean that you and your children will be hanging at the airport for a few hours. Or you’re in the plane, but seated on the tarmac for a while. Or the flight is cancelled and you have to rebook. You can check-in for your flight 24 hours in advance on most airlines, but at that time, the flight coming and going on time is not guaranteed. Check your flight status before you leave your house.

Delays for situations within the control of the airline are a different story. Airlines will be required to compensate passengers for delays not related to safety and other situations within their control. Large carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet will be required to pay more than smaller airlines, such as Porter and Swoop.

Compensation to passengers by large airlines

  •  Delay of 3-6 hours: $400
  •  Delay of 6-9 hours: $700
  •  Delay of 9 hours or more: $1,000

Compensation to passengers by small airlines

  •  Delay of 3-6 hours: $125
  •  Delay of 6-9 hours: $250
  •  Delay of 9 hours or more: $500

The new Passenger Bill of Rights state that passengers must be given the option to receive monetary compensation or a voucher for a delay.

Having insurance on your vacation is the best gift you can give yourself. Being out hundreds or even thousands of dollars due to a weather delay is a terrible situation to be in. It’s one of those things where sure, you could spend a couple extra dollars to upgrade your room view at the resort, or you could spend that couple hundred dollars on insurance. Personally, I buy the insurance and could care less about my room view as I’ll be at the swim-up bar or on the beach.

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Kids Do Not Sit Still For Long

3.) A lot of kids do not sit still very well for very long. Shocking bit of information right there! You will have to devote some of your carry on baggage space to small games and activities. As a side bit of information – not all airplanes have TV’s on the seatback. It’s acceptable to walk with your children up and down the airplane aisle as long as you don’t do it during the food and drink service times.

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Baggage

4.) Speaking of carry on baggage, on most Canadian airlines, passengers are allowed one small carry on bag and a personal item such as a purse or laptop. Check each airline’s website for size restrictions on carry on as it varies. This means that you cannot have bag upon bag of kid’s toys in your hand when you come to board. If your little one can bring their own backpack, make sure whatever they are bringing fits into that backpack.

I recommend that you do be sure to pack extra underwear, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts in there. Bathing suit is a bonus and doesn’t take up much room.

I cannot stress to you how fast the overhead compartments fill up when boarding. The space under the seat in front of you to tuck in bags is small too, so don’t overpack.

Don’t Take That Water Through Security

5.) You cannot bring bottles of water and drink boxes from home in your purse. Due to security measures, all fluids have to either be packed in checked baggage or purchased after you go through security. If your child is insisting to bring it on the way to the airport, have them finish it either in the car, when in line to drop baggage off or in line to go through security. Once they hit the checkpoint though, they have to discard it. Security does not care about your child’s wants.

The same goes for sunscreen by the way! Pack that in checked baggage or purchase it at a much higher price once through security or at your destination.

Exception to the rule: If you are travelling with a baby under two years of age (0-24 months), you can bring baby food, formula, medications, milk, water and juice, in reasonable amounts that will be required during your flight(s) and any connections. These are exempted from the liquids, aerosols and gels restrictions only if you are travelling with a baby under two years of age (0-24 months). They must be presented to a screening officer for a separate inspection.

Single or Solo Parent?

6.) Travelling as a single parent or without your spouse? Get a letter signed by the other parent stating you are allowed to travel across international boundaries with the children. I’ve personally never been asked for the letter at customs, but I would rather have it and have it signed by a lawyer or notary public than being stopped at the border and have the trip ruined. You can get a sample one from the Government of Canada here: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/consent-letter

Don’t Forget Your Passport

7.) Passport! Don’t forget your passports. Yes, children require a passport. And many countries stipulate that the passport has to be valid for 6 months after travel, just in case you get stuck, stranded, whatever in their country. A parent’s valid passport is not good enough for children to fly on. Even if you are a dual citizen, always carry your Canadian passport so you can access consular services if needed abroad.

aviator child

8.) Here is a lesser-known fact that seems to surprise parents at the gate. Here is why – Canadian Aviation Regulations require that no passenger can be responsible for more than one infant. Infant is classified as a child under the age of 2. If you have two children under the age of two, another passenger must accompany one of your children, even if you buy seats for the babies. Twin babies? Can’t fly solo with them! The reason being is that the evacuation of an aircraft must be done quickly in case of an emergency. Imagine trying to run down the narrow aisle and then bolt out the window slide with two babies in your arms? While supermom says she can do it, the safety of all is at stake.

I do a flight south to the Caribbean with my children every year. Often once or twice during the year to other destinations. My kids are now 10 and 5, so that means I’ve been flying with kids from Canada for more than ten years. I’ve been there and done that! Maybe even seen it too, so if you ever have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

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