January 2014


LOVE & TECH: It’s time to give up Facebook stalking our exes

Are you a Facebook stalker? I am.

Sometimes I get bored and I check up on the former loves of my life. I tell myself it’s because I’m curious, but it’s not. I wish it was, but it’s really because I want to know that my life is better. It’s sick and a little twisted, but I know I’m not alone here — or at least I hope I’m not.

I actually looked up the Big Ex just to see what his kid looked like. We broke up 3 years ago this spring and now he’s married to the woman he cheated on me with and they have a baby, so of course I was curious to see what was going on. I actually had the nerve to say that the kid was ugly. I mean, it looks like a wrinkly old man, but don’t all babies? Wrinkled and pink, babies resemble naked mole rats without the vicious teeth. Did I need to check in on my ex? No. Should I have? No.

Facebook has made checking up on your ex feel normal when in reality it’s creepy and strange. My life is going so well these days, I’ve got an adorable dog, an amazing boyfriend and a great new job; whether or not my ex is doing well is inconsequential to my happiness, but, like a car crash, I can’t look away. Except it’s not like a car crash at all, I’m not driving by his social networks, I’m Googling to find him. It’s only like a car crash if you regularly search for car crash videos on YouTube.


“Facebook has made checking up on your ex feel normal when in reality it’s creepy and strange.”

A picture illustration shows a man looking at the Facebook website on a tablet in Sofia


Facebook makes it easy to see who ‘won’ the break-up but in reality you’ve both won; neither of you are with the wrong person anymore, neither of you are wasting your time with someone who doesn’t love you, and neither of you are stuck with someone who is unhappy in their relationship. You both won. It doesn’t matter who initiated the break-up because even if he ended it, I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me.

Being loved and loving someone in return is infinitely better than being stuck in a relationship with someone who’s just there because they can’t be bothered to end it.

So one of my resolutions for 2014 will be to stop caring about what’s going on with my exes, to stop comparing my life to theirs, and to just enjoy the fantabulous life that I have right now.

The only good thing about seeing how the Big Ex’s life turned out is that he has all of the things I don’t want. I don’t want kids and he’s got one. I don’t want to get married and he’s married. I don’t want to live and work in the suburbs and he does. Our relationship never would have worked out. It was destined to fail and that is comforting.  In fact, looking back on it I wonder how we stayed together for as long as we did, it should have ended a lot sooner than it did.

Thank you Facebook for reminding me of how much better my life is now than it was before, but next time I try and look up someone that I shouldn’t how about you send me an electric shock right through my keyboard.


Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

TRAVEL: Planning a winter vacation? Think Costa Rica

By Sarah Thomson

After a long day of travel, leaving Toronto at 6 a.m. with American Airlines and a plane switch in Miami, we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica by 2 p.m., picked up our rental vehicle and made our way to the coast. Taking the new highway from San Jose to Quepos took us approximately 3 hours and we arrived at Arenas Del Mar just as the sun was setting.

We were greeted by two friendly attendants who loaded our bags onto a large golf cart and shuttled us up a paved path, through the jungle, to our room; tree frogs and night bugs filling the canopy above us with their calls. Stopping at the reception area, with pool and bar, we picked up our key and were informed of the Calypso dinner being served on the beach.

Our room was a spectacular corner suite facing the ocean and beach. The polished wood accenting the windows and stone tiling was elegant. Heavy doors slid easily open to a huge wrap around balcony that could be accessed from both the master bedroom and living room (where the kids slept on a pull out couch that was made up and ready for them). The balcony off the master bedroom had lounge chairs and a huge Jacuzzi tub that overlooked the cliffs and sea below, around the corner the balcony off the living room had a couch and big comfy chairs. Trees surrounded us— the jungle sounds of bugs, birds and howler monkeys, combined with the luscious earthy smell of vegetation, made everything seem surreal.

Most of the living area is outside with large covered terraces providing shade and great views. We could see the lanterns on the beach burning, and hear the surf pounding against the rocks far below.

After pulling our swim suits from the luggage we changed and caught a chauffeured golf cart down the path to the pool (the golf carts ferry people up and down the path to the beach and reception area). We had a quick swim then changed for dinner and made our way to the candle lit beach. An area under the palm trees was filled with white linen covered tables and chairs.  A Calypso trio played soft music—without an amplifier. The music, with the rhythm of the waves in the background and the warm breeze combined to make it a beautiful evening. Dinner was fantastic and my 7-year-old was invited to play the maracas with the band and without any hesitation he was up there loving the attention (what he’s lacks in shyness he makes up for in smiles).

We woke up the next morning to the sound of the parakeets and toucans in the trees that surround our terrace.  The sun was just rising, and with it the jungle came to life.  Our boys’ excitement and desire to explore was infectious and we went for an early morning walk before going for our free breakfast. The resort has two beaches. One is secluded and protected by large rock outcroppings at either end and the other larger beach is part of Manuel Antonio National Park and stretches for miles.

It wasn’t long before the boys were soaked and playing in the waves. (*Note to parents: put them in bathing suits the moment they wake up because the ocean is warm and irresistible). As the sun began to rise and heat up the beach, we made our way back to the resort, changed and went for breakfast of fruit pancakes and delicious coffee.

Arenas Del Mar Nature Resort is an elegant introduction to the beauty of Costa Rica. It is by far one of my favourite hotels in the world, with a combination of elegance and design that works perfectly with the natural beauty of the jungle that surrounds it.

It is: quiet, calm, elegant, peaceful, natural, warm and amazing.

It is not: loud, party place, crowded, busy, cold and average.

I hope to come be back to this beautiful resort very soon.


Take a look at the beautiful beaches below.



Follow Sarah on Twitter at @ThomsonTO.

Roaming in Arizona

Unforgiving, relentless, scorching light. In Arizona the sun pentrates, burns and shrivels all but the toughest plants. Its brightness is piercing and its intensity withering. In a dry desert setting, surrounded by mountains, sits Phoenix, the capital city of Arizona. Here the sun brings simmering heat and the darkened rooms offer more than just shade and air conditioning.

As I sit in the plane, 26,000 feet above the earth, my partner sleeps with his mouth open in the seat beside me. I roll my new ring around on my finger and think of placing the ring in his open mouth, or perhaps a few drops from the tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce that came with this morning’s breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore. But he looks so peaceful. I recline the seat back and think about the past few days.

Four days ago we landed in Phoenix, dressed in pants and sweaters far too hot for the warm day. We changed into shorts and packed up our sweaters. Renting a jeep, we headed north to Flagstaff. The highway from Phoenix rises out of the desert and climbs steadily up to the Mogollan Plateau. Small towns along the highway are filled with flat, square, pueblo-type homes. Built of sun-dried brick and mortar, they are made to protect the inhabitants from the simmering heat. Southwest walls are bare and empty of windows; anything to keep out the penetrating sun. Blinds and thick heavy curtains are drawn over every window to stop even the smallest amount of light from entering a room.

Our first stop is Walnut Canyon, three hours north of Phoenix. The canyon is the site of 87 cave-like cliff dwellings built into the walls of a 400-foot deep limestone gorge. As we climbed in elevation, we began to notice small patches of snow in the gullies. By the time we reached Walnut Canyon, snow was falling heavily. We unpacked our sweaters and scurried into the visitors centre to take a look at the trail maps. The centre sits on the edge of the canyon. A large glass window takes up most of one wall, but the snow flurries created a sheet of whiteness that cut off the view completely.

As we watched the snow swirling below us, my partner reached for my hand. I looked up from the window to meet his eyes. He stroked my cheek and a serious expression came over his face. His eyes were warm. “Sarah.” He paused and looked down at my hands. “Will you…” The park ranger leaned over a railing just above us and announced, “The visitors centre is closing now. We hope you’ll come back tomorrow.”

We hurried through the snow back to our jeep and drove into Flagstaff on Route 66. Our reservations that night were at The Inn at 410 in Flagstaff. Owned and operated by Howard and Sally Krueger, the Inn sits on a hill just off the main street of the town. Built in 1894, the old house was converted to a bed and breakfast in 1991. We were greeted by an open door and a smiling young man who rushed to take our bags. He showed us to the “Southwest room,” located in the original section of the old house. Fully renovated, the room has a private bath, gas fireplace and over-sized Jacuzzi tub. The snow was still falling and the day had been long.

Curious about my partner’s question at Walnut Canyon, I was determined to salvage the romantic mood disrupted earlier in the day. I filled the Jacuzzi and poured two glasses of wine. We got into the large tub and my partner reached over me to turn on the jets. But nothing happened. He pushed the button, I pushed the button. Nothing. Frustrated, he got out of the tub and wrapped himself in a large terrycloth bathrobe provided by the Inn. He went searching for another switch, a button, anything to get the jets working, but found nothing. He called the front desk for help and before I could finish my wine, jump from the tub and climb into the other robe, our innkeeper was knocking at our door. We didn’t have time to turn the lights on. Firelight flickered and danced on the walls. Soft music played in the background. I tightened my robe and went to meet Howard, the innkeeper. He was kind and a little more embarrassed than we were. He couldn’t get the tub to work and apologised profusely.

The next morning we woke to the smell of hot rolls cooking in the oven. Thirsty and hungry, we dressed and hurried to the dining room, where they served fresh fruit with coffee and orange juice, followed by baked oatmeal with cranberries, cream and the fresh home-made rolls we could smell from our room. When Howard learned we were heading to the Grand Canyon, he fetched his maps and showed us the route he and his wife, Sally, travelled. The dining room was elegant and combined with Howard’s friendly personality our morning was relaxed and enjoyable.

Following Howard’s instructions we drove northeast. The change of vegetation is stunning. From barren desert with dust bowls, rolling tumbleweed and cacti, to pine forest and dry mountain settings with vegetation clinging to life amid rock and rubble. We followed the highway north as it wound its way through the San Francisco Mountains. Once past the mountains, we crossed the Coconino Plateau. At the rim of the plateau, the land drops off and slopes down to meet the Painted Desert below. The desert is surrounded by eroded sedimentary hills. Colours of every shade paint the hills and sweep down into the desert, where rain and snow have washed different colours of sediment out over the flat plain.

Turning west, the highway meanders along a ledge between the rim of the Plateau to the desert below. We discovered an abandoned dirt road leading from the highway towards the desert. Weeds, cacti and brush camouflaged the road. Parking the jeep, we hiked down towards the desert. Dirt and prickly pear filled our shoes. Huge gullies dropped away from the trail. It came to a sudden end as if the land had been swept away. A deep, dry, gulch separated us from the road as it continued its way down the hillside. The sun was hot and the air still. Shade was hard to find. We listened for sounds of life, a bird, a rustle, the murmur of a bug. Nothing. I threw a rock and its sound disappeared into the vast empty desert below us. My partner stood beside me. His camera shutter clicked. Again the sound disappeared into the silence. Beautiful in a stark and eerie way.

The highway rose up onto the Plateau and wound its way along the edge of the Grand Canyon. We stopped at many of the lookouts to peer down on the Colorado river far below. Reaching the Grand Canyon village by late afternoon, we were too late to hike down the canyon or dine at the hotel for lunch. We snapped some photos, enjoyed a cold beer and left; both of us try to avoid tourist-filled areas.

Heading south to Sedona, we found the perfect setting for a car chase. The highway (89A) zigzags down the side of a huge canyon. There are switchbacks every few hundred yards. A tiny creek winds through a valley filled with cottonwood, willow and oak trees. Sedona sits at the end of the canyon where it opens out to the desert beyond. Our reservations for the night were at Canyon Villa Inn, located just south of Sedona.

We arrived just as the sun was setting and our innkeeper, Les Belch, gave us a brief tour, taking us poolside for a glimpse of a Sedona sunset. Les pointed to the east and told us that in Sedona the greatest views aren’t found looking towards the sun but away from it. He pointed to Bell Rock, a huge spire rising out of the dusty desert setting. The red rocks glowed as the setting sun touched their peaks. Night approached quickly and Les showed us to the “Spanish Bayonet” room — the most romantic room at the Inn. Our balcony faced Bell Rock with the Courthouse Butte (pronounced beaut as in beauty) across from it. With king-sized bed, gas burning fireplace, and a Jacuzzi tub I hoped for the best. We were invited for hors-d’ouevres and cocktails in the dining room and he left us to unpack and get comfortable. That evening we drove into Sedona for a romantic dinner. The night was chilly and we went back to Canyon Villa to enjoy the fire and the warm jets of the Jacuzzi — they worked beautifully.

Next morning we dined with other guests in the dining room. We were pleased to meet another couple from Toronto and four people from New York. All suggested we take a path from the Inn that connects with trails leading to the Buttes and Red Rocks beyond. The day was gorgeous; not a cloud in the sky. We hiked and climbed, the red sand covering our shoes and filling our pockets. Enjoying the view from the flat surface of one rock outcrop, we listened to the stillness of the desert. A slight breeze brought the sound of someone chanting a few buttes away. Sedona is known for its holistic community. Aging hippies and palm readers fill the shops. The majestic buttes and spires give it a magical quality.

Leaving Sedona late in the afternoon, and dusty from our hike, we headed to the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Arriving early in the evening, in hiking boots, shorts and t-shirts, we felt a little out of place. But the manager took no notice and gave us a brief tour of the grounds, treating us like royalty. Inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Biltmore first opened in 1929. It boasts a 92-foot-long water slide, an 18-hole championship putting course and a 22,000-square-foot spa, fitness centre and beauty salon. With 736 guest rooms, it’s the largest resort in Arizona. We were shown to our suite with living room, dining area, and full kitchen. The marble bath with double sinks was larger than my dining room.

After taking in the grounds and wishing to spend more time at the resort, we tried to get our flight changed. But alas, luck and the airline were not on our side. We dined at Wrights, the Biltmore’s fine dining restaurant, where executive chef John Zaner has created a fresh, flavourful menu of New American cuisine. My rack of lamb was exceptional and the strawberry banana soufflé was ecstasy in a bowl. Waddling out of the restaurant and into the cool evening, we noticed steam rising from the hot tub beside the pool. In no time, we had our heads propped on the edge of the tub, our legs floating in front of us and our gaze resting on the stars glittering above. My partner put his arm around my shoulder and kissed my cheek. He leaned close to whisper into my ear and I knew this was the moment. He spoke softly. “Sarah. Wake up. The plane has landed.”

TRAVEL: Empire State of mind

Melanie & Doreen – Style md – are Toronto-based wardrobe consultants and personal stylists.

by Melanie Jennings

Recently, I went to New York to have a visit with my girlfriend Betsy. After finally being able to co-ordinate our schedules we met in New York for the better part of a week to do some shopping, eat in great restaurants, visit galleries, and do lots of walking. While on the plane ride there, I started to think about summer fashions and to wonder what lovely things I might find during my shopping expedition in New York.  I was also curious to see how New York women dressed compared to Toronto women and whether there would be any difference in their styles. As I landed at JFK, I was excited to find out…

After a couple of days of serious shopping uptown and downtown, and being out on the street and in lots department stores and small boutiques in the Village, in Soho, as well as the trendy meat packing district, I felt I could summarize the main trends of summer in New York. I could also see the differences between how New York and Toronto women dressed. And there was actually very little difference between the women of both cities. New York women dress very similarly to Toronto women for the most part – well-groomed and very put together.

Some trends I noticed to be the most prominent were the gladiator sandal. I saw it everywhere I went, adorned with all kinds of embellishments such as studs, sequins, grommets and beads. The other trend I saw lots of was the skinny leg silhouette. Whether it was the jegging or the good old stretch legging or the skinny jean, the fitted leg was big. I saw every version in dark, light and white. One other trend I saw many women wearing were shorts but not the “going to the cottage” shorts. These were urban city shorts, made out of gabardine, linen or lightweight suited fabric in neutral colours such as beige, black, grey and navy. They looked fabulous paired with little blazers and t-shirts.

I love New York. It never ceases to inspire, excite, invigorate and exhaust me all at the same time.

TRAVEL: Experience Crystal

By Murtaza Adamjee

Travel connects us with the world. It satisfies our curiosity, authenticates understanding, and allows us to appreciate acceptance. And over time, the growth and evolution of the cruise ship has served to provide a truly unique and authentic travel experience. It’s no surprise then why the past few issues of the Women’s Post Travel section have taken a look at some of the world’s most contemporary and innovative cruise ships. From Windstar Cruises to the Norwegian Epic, today’s cruise ship industry literally offers a world of luxury – at sea. And in the name of cruise ships, it would simply be a crime to ignore the two highest-rated ships in the world: Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity.

Voted World’s Best more times than any other cruise line, hotel, or resort in the industry, Crystal Cruises’ experience has been unmatched for an incredible 15 years. With a dedicated commitment to excellence, extraordinary service, and exceptional quality, Crystal Cruises’ “Welcome to the World’s Best” adage has a number of awards to validate this bold statement in a constantly competitive tourism market.

In order to fully appreciate the Crystal Cruise experience, it is essential to explore some key features onboard:


Aboard the Crystal experience, stateroom features include a variety of elements. Most suites come with private verandas, and an exquisite view of the vast horizon. Each suite is finished with the finest luxuries: 100% Egyptian cotton linens and bath towels, a menu of pillow options, and Frette bathrobes. And in combination with an ocean view and the necessities of home, the Crystal experience provides ultimate comfort.

Penthouse features also include a 24-hour butler service, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, private veranda, complimentary wine and beer, and an order-in option from specialty restaurants on board.

Daytime Diversions:

A wide range of activities and interests are available on-board. Guests can plan to pass the time via a large outdoor lap pool, a fully -equipped state-of-the-art fitness centre, golf driving ranges, PGA golf instructors and clinics, full-sized tennis courts, supervised junior activities, professional dance instructors, a luxury shopping arcade, a well-stocked library for those seeking moments of silence, piano lessons, Berlitz language lessons, and a Cleveland Clinic wellness seminar. Endless complimentary enrichment programs await.


The Crystal experience provides a plethora of savoury, exquisite daytime and evening dining options. With up to five dining venues for breakfast and lunch, and up to seven dining venues for dinner, needless to say, there is something for everyone. Speciality restaurants on board include The Bistro, a French-style café, legendary restaurateur Nobu Matuhisa’s cuisine at Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, Piere Selvaggio’s menu of inspired dishes of Italy, and an elegant crystal dining room. Crystal Cruises also offer an extensive wine cellar and special reserve wine list with rare vintages.


Evenings amidst the Crystal experience offer world-class entertainment for guests onboard. Guests can entertain themselves by attending lavish, Broadway-style productions, visiting the crystal casino, or by simply having cocktails with friends in one of the many lounges and bars. Those looking for something else can find solace in the variety of entertainers that include comedians, magicians, ventriloquists, and a talented ensemble of singers and dancers.

In 2011 Crystal Cruises will offer 2-for-1 fares, free business or economy air, an “As You Wish” on-board spending credit, and an all new flexible open dining by reservation. Receive even more on-board amenities when you reserve your 2011 cruise with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Rosedale location at

TRAVEL: Journey to the other side

Sari Gabbay is a Women’s Post contributor and founder of U2R1 Media, Inc.

After a grueling 20 hours of travel and two days without sleep, most of which were spent in an oversized sardine can high in the sky, finally I arrived. Coming from -15 degrees Celsius to a +30 degree tropical climate, it was easy to notice my stark white, almost translucent skin as I stepped off the fishing boat, the last element of transportation. It was as if I traveled through the time and space continuum; there I was in the future. Forty eight hours from when I left, I had entered into a completely different dimension of reality. Often, I imagined what heaven would be like and little did I know, its location was just on the other side of the earth, in a place far, far away known to the world as Fiji. As one who was fortunate enough to visit, I will describe this celestial paradise inhabited by a culture that is the epitome of true divinity. A place where heaven meets earth and one can only imagine as the destination God himself would choose as the ideal vacation spot.

“Bula, Sari,” our host greeted me. “Everyone that comes to Tokoriki Resort is considered part of the family.”

Tokoriki Island was my destination and upon arrival I was welcomed with warm smiles, a lovely fruit cocktail, and a fresh wet cloth infused with peppermint oil to decompress from my travels. As I walked past the infinity pool overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean towards my beachfront Bure, equipped with an outdoor shower and state-of-the-art amenities, I was overcome by inspiration and marvel. At first, being welcomed as a family member my immediate thought was “what’s the gimmick?” However, after a few days I became awe struck at the Fijian’s genuine and authentic nature.

I’ve been to many resorts around the world and every one had an underlying ulterior motive: I’m nice to you so I can get a good tip. That entire concept put me off of traditional holidays for a long time. My travel agent, who had spent over a month in Fiji, explained that we were about to encounter some of the world’s most sincere and kind individuals, but it wasn’t until I experienced it for myself that all my preconceptions of traditional oceanside holiday resorts were erased.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the worldwide reputation of the Fijians was not only accurate but far surpassed anything that had been described to me. Never in my life have I encountered a place so full of positivity and true zest for life. It’s hard to even imagine living a life in such a reality. This is what all spiritual gurus are teaching their students, what people pay Tony Robbins thousands of dollars to learn – who by the way has a centre in Fiji – but for the Fijians, this way of life comes naturally. It’s the only way they know and because of this they manage to live in total bliss all day, everyday.

During a conversation with one of the girls in Sensali, the spa at Tokoriki resort, I asked her point blank: “Do Fijians ever get angry?” She laughed at me as if was telling a joke, but once she realized I was actually inquiring she responded in a matter of fact tone, “Rarely, why do you?”

That’s when I started laughing. Soon after that my laughter turned into embarrassment, as I knew that the truth was infact ridiculously illogical: “Unfortunately, North Americans are angry more than they are happy,” was my honest to goodness response. She seemed a bit surprised and asked me why. My answer: “We are never satisfied with what we have and because of that we are never happy.” A sad and discomforting reality to say the least.

The truth is, living in Fiji is like inhabiting another planet and if we all lived like the Fijians then we would no longer need to pray for peace on earth. A perfect example of this is their current political situation. The military is in the process of staging a coup against the government and the irony is there will be no bloodshed or violence; the government is pre-warned that they will need to step down and everything is decided through conversations and communications. This is actually one of the many coups that have been staged over the past decade; they even stopped discussions to participate in a very anticipated Rugby game. Imagine that.

The locals live in villages on various Islands with head chief and respected elders at the helm. The village is run like a mini communist society where everyone shares everything: The villagers all cook for each other, they share the money and everyone is equal as long as you are a true Fijian, that is. Of course, nothing can be 100 per cent perfect and there are issues with race segregation and rights being limited to those of non-Fijian decent. (In this case, mostly Indian.) A Fijian salary is quite low, around 2-4 Fijian dollars/hour, which is equivalent to about US$1-$2. Many goods are hard to come by as they are only obtained on the main Island, Nadi, which is not easy to travel to on a regular basis. However, there is not much need for material items in Fiji. As we sat in the town hall drinking Kava, a traditional Fijian drink derived from a pepper plant, it became eminently clear that we, complete foreigners, had been welcomed with open arms to their sacred home.

A Fijian’s life revolves around family and more than one wife is completely acceptable. Children are put to work at a very young age but also enjoy a typical daily school routine where much of their teachings are in English and many of their classes incorporate music and song. Fijians love music, a fact that became evident to us at Tokoriki when we were greeted and bid farewell with traditional songs. Every night we were serenaded by the band who to our surprise knew many western artists, such as U2, Jason Maraz, and Frank Sinatra to name a few.

As each day passed I forged stronger and stronger bonds with the local Fijians working on Tokoriki Island, some of whom lived in the village about 10km across the ocean, while others had family and homes on the mainland. They knew every guest’s name and greeted us with warmth and kindness; it was evident that they cherished their job and the people around them. My last day was both heartfelt and emotional as I drew my last breath of Fiji sand and sea. I realized that unlike my other worldly travels, I was leaving behind more than just a country I visited. I was in fact leaving behind friends that would remember me always and had left a prominent imprint on my heart.

On my journey back to Canada, I took with me the understanding of what true serenity and peace of mind is like. The notion that happiness lies within the ones you love is not just an unobtainable cliché that we in the Western Hemisphere believe to be fairytale fodder. Alas, such a concept is hard to grasp in a society where we are all trying to keep up with the Joneses. Unless you see it first hand, the ideology of inner peace and abundance is just a means to grasp at when the world around you seems dark and grey. In Fiji, however, the sun is always shining even when it rains, and the smiles are big and bright. Perhaps one day the rest of the world will wake up and realize that these simple people in a small group of Islands isolated from the rest of the world are the ones who understood the true meaning of life all along.

TRAVEL: Positano on the Amalfi Coast

A visit to the Amalfi Coast in Italy will leave you enamored with the laid-back lifestyle and cliff-side views the area is known for.

The Amalfi Coast is comprised of several small towns that are all strung together along the perimetre of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the province of Naples. The towns are connected by a single narrow cliff-side highway that runs the length of the coast above the sparkling waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of the most popular towns frequented by international tourists and vacationing Italians alike is the charming town of Positano. As is the case with all the villages along the Amalfi Coast, Positano clambers down a vertiginous slope to the sea below.

The entire Amalfi coast is something right out of yourwildest (and most breath-takingly gorgeous) dreams. Rustic mountain rock, smooth and colourful stucco buildings, palm trees and colourful flowers, a pebble shore beach and the most incredible view of the Sea come together perfectly.

It is one of those places that is equally as impressive and gorgeous at night as it is by day.  Since the town is built up on a mountain side, it appears as though each apartment, boutique, restaurant andgelateria was shoved into any flat plane available along the steep incline. All the towns are easily visited by ferry during the day since each village has it’s own humble port. A day-trip over to the island of Capri is not to be missed, just be sure to check ferry times of departure.

One of the more popular towns for Italian vacationers and international tourists alike is Positano.  The architecture in Positano (and the neighbouring villages of Praiano, Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani and Minori) is quintessentially European-romantic in nature with a clear focus on form follows function.  Architects had no choice but to construct simple, four-sided dwellings where all corners meet at 90 degree angles in order to make the most of the limited  real estate. While a super-modern curvilinear structure would provide a funky contrast to the jagged mountain range, the interior would likely lack in the Coast’s most precious commodity: space.  It’s very tricky to make good use of space in a room with curved walls, and luckily, the people of Amalfi coast know this and have figured out a way to maximize their use of space in a beautiful yet simplistic way. On the flip side, many buildings implement curvilinear forms through the use of Romanesque arches…a lovely visual break when viewed from a distance.

Every single building, regardless of its function, is constructed out of concrete blocks and stucco. Gypsum (or drywall) would never stand against the humidity; all walls are finished in plaster – a material that can withstand the balmy coastal climate. Despite the similarity in architectural appearance, each building is painted a different colour reminiscent of a Mediterranean colour palette punctuated with saturated green hues from the lush greenery that seems to grow right out of the rocky ground.

The abundance of large outdoor patios and terraces that look out to the shimmering glass surface of the Gulf of Salerno are perfectly functional in this charming village. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting out on one of the terraces and enjoying some chilled limoncello (a liquor made from lemons harvested from the nearby town of Salerno).  For protection from the hot sun, these terraces are commonly adorned with pergola-style trellis work that permit the odd bougainvillea or creeping vine to dangle down from the soft leafy barrier overhead.

If a great view and fresh fish caught for dinner is not enough to lure you over to Positano, rest assured that there are more than enough opportunities for shopping to quiet your inner shopaholic. Positano is stocked full of beautiful boutique jewelry stores (that specialize in red coral goods), local designer clothing shops (selling quality linen and knits) and beach-side market stalls (with a large selection of stylish sandals and beachwear). All vendors and shop owners are delightful and happy to offer any assistance, especially the flip flop and sandal vendors who will literally pull out the straps of a sandal and custom-fit the leather pieces to the contours of your feet.

For more affordable shopping options, walk up along the main road (away from the beach) and browse through the goods displayed outside the shops – as a general rule of thumb, the farther away you are from the main tourist area, the cheaper the goods.

There is no shortage of local designer boutiques dotted between stretches of road-side restaurants; wasting an entire evening strolling up and down the main road, shopping, reading restaurant menus and grabbing a gelato on-the-go is quite easy in Positano…in fact, it’s about all there is to do.

TRAVEL: Hotel Pande Permai

By Tania LaCaria

I could feel the morning sun on my face, and just like any other morning, I blinked the sleep out of my eyes, turned over with a noisy stretch and pushed the crisp, cotton sheets off my legs. Except, this morning was different. It was special. I had woken up in the hotel room of my dreams with the love of my life. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t still sleeping, but before I could lift my arm the comforting scent of incense wafted into the room and enveloped us. This confirmed it: I was home…or at least I felt like hotel Pande Permai in Ubud, Bali could be my new home.

I dreamed of taking a trip to Bali to visit the artistically charged town of Ubud for a year before I finally managed to book the trip, and boy, am I ever glad I did.

Ubud was everything I hoped it would be and more – the town is bursting at the seams with culture, music, art and great food. Despite the four-hour-long journey we endured on a minibus to get there, I arrived with a giant smile that stayed plastered on my face for the whole week (I hear I was even smiling in my sleep).

I picked up my 13 kilo backpack, slugged it over my shoulder and began to walk with Jeff, my boyfriend and travel partner, in search of a hotel for the night. The afternoon sun was beating down on us and it was painfully hot outside, but the walk up the hill on Monkey Forest road soon became well worth it once we saw the wooden Pande Permai Hotel sign affixed to the grand entrance’s stone wall.  I had never heard of the hotel, but I could tell from peering through the main entrance doors that it was exactly what I was looking for.

The kind woman behind the counter gave us a tour of the pool area and showed us to one of the rooms so we could decide if Pande Permai was “good enough” for us to spend the night in. Well, I have never been so enamoured with a hotel in my life. The swimming pool was divine – a large stone wall with creeping vines and niches filled with stone Bali-Hindu statues provided the perfect amount of privacy from the street. There was an elevated platform with a sitting area overlooking the pool, and a couple of loungers and poolside tables that I immediately envisioned myself enjoying with my morning tea.

The front door of our room was an intricately carved piece of wood painted in bright gold, green, red and blue hues reminiscent of local Balinese art – I was already impressed and we weren’t even inside yet! Our room was attached to one other room via a single wall – it really felt like a semi-detached slice of paradise instead of a hotel. Once I crossed the threshold and set my eyes on the dark wood furniture, the heavy four poster bed with mosquito net drapery and the marble-clad ensuite I knew I was going to have to spend a night (or four) in this hotel…no matter what the cost.

Jeff nudged me in the ribs once he noticed that my jaw was hanging wide open in amazement at the sight of the most stunning balcony view of the terraced rice paddy field in the distance – our chances of negotiating for a better room rate were gone. I was in love with this hotel – I knew it was going to be the most romantic, relaxing, and enjoyable place I’d ever spend the night. And, I was right.

By the way: This is not a hotel that you take the kiddies to (even though I’m sure they are “permitted” to enter). No, this is a hotel where you take your lover to feel guilt-free about lounging around in your intimates until you finally manage to tear yourself from the comfy bed and soak in the Jacuzzi before your afternoon swim. If you are looking for the perfect getaway to celebrate your love for life, culture and art in a town that values the same things, then book a (one way?) ticket to Ubud, check into Pande Permai, and enjoy yourself knowing that you’ve earned the right to be pampered.


TRAVEL: Cruises so epic

Murtaza Adamjee is Women’s Post Web Editor

By Murtaza Adamjee


For over 40 years, Norwegian Cruise Line has been the leader in innovative cruise travel providing guests with some of the most contemporary ships at sea. Particularly, the introduction of freestyle cruising has provided guests with a greater degree of freedom and flexibility when on board one of Norwegian’s 11 cruise ships.

Norwegian’s latest, the Norwegian Epic, launched mid-July with record breaking sales amidst its inaugural festivities in Europe, New York, and Miami. Upon closer examination of the cruise ship, it is apparent the Epic offers a truly innovative and unique experience.

Built for 4100 passengers and weighing in at 155, 873 gross tons, the Epic has been deemed the world’s largest floating entertainment venue. Here is a closer look at some of its key features:


Accommodations include a variety of suites – from the largest villa suite complex at sea, to studios designed for the solo traveler, to spa suites that offer a complete spa vacation. The ship also includes two private decks at the top of the ship that offer private restaurants, bars, and pools, and family-friendly accommodations.


The Epic offers a number of family-friendly activities: An aqua park with three multi-story waterslides, six bowling alleys, Nickelodeon at Sea which offers Nickelodeon-themed entertainment and programming, a sports complex, a rock-climbing wall, and supervised activities when adults need a little getaway.


The Epic includes 20 different dining options inspired by the world’s leading culinary destinations. The cruise ship offers an upscale steakhouse, authentic Teppanyaki, Italian and Chinese fare, sushi, a salad bar, and its signature French restaurant.


The Epic offers world-class entertainment for its guests on board. Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of Blue Man Group, best known for their theatrical shows that combine music, comedy, and theatrics. For the first time, Blue Man Group performs their act at sea aboard the Epic. The ship also features Cirque Dreams & Dinner, an interactive theatrical dining experience with music and mayhem, and is the official cruise line of Legends in Concert, The Second City Comedy Troupe, and Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos.

The ships nightlife includes SVEDKA, one of only 14 ice bars in the world and the first ice bar at sea, along with Spice H20, an Ibiza-inspired beach club. Throw in a full-action casino with a high-roller ambience, and the Epic is sure to offer something for everyone.

The Norwegian Epic is currently sailing her first Eastern Caribbean cruise which departed from Miami on July 10, 2010 with visits in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau, Bahamas. To book a cruise, or to find out more information on Norwegian Epic, visit

TRAVEL: Windstar Cruises

Marie “Mings” Nicola is Women’s Post’s Community Manager, Social Media Gal & Food Journalist.

What if, for one week, you could cast away your cares and run off to sea? Imagine gentle waves breaking against the side of the yacht. The pristine water changes from turquoise to amber as it sparkles in the sunset. A warm Mediterranean breeze rushes past you before it gets caught in the massive white sails that tower overhead. This isn’t a dream, the experience is real, and it very well could be your next vacation. No longer are luxury cruises reserved for the elite. Lately, small-ship cruises are a rising trend and provide globally savvy travelers a cost-comparable alternative to mega-cruiselines.

Windstar Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that explore hidden harbours and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations, is such a ship. Far above any other cruise, Windstar’s fleet of four and five-mast sailing yachts offers unparalleled services, passenger space, and activities.

Seventy-four cabins carry only 148 guests (the five-mast boasts 156 cabins holding 312 guests) on weeklong voyages offering an escape from the grind of day-to-day life. Guests indulge in a slower pace of life: Read in the sun, chat with new friends, enjoy a treatment in the spa, take cooking classes, workout in the gym, kayak, sail, windsurf, snorkel and SCUBA directly off the ship’s Marina Deck, or indulge in Windstar’s Signature Collection host series – every service is offered for no other reason than your enjoyment.

When the over 20,000 square feet of sails are raised, the boat skims silently through the water headed towards rare and infrequently traveled ports inaccessible by larger ships. Sail the Baltic, theHoly Land, Europe, Costa Rica, Caribbean, or Transatlantic with itineraries that highlight dramatic landscapes, picturesque villages and ancient ruins. The sleek yacht gives guests a unique perspective of quiet coves and tucked-away harbours free of boisterous crowds. Here, you’re free to explore verdant rainforests, shop indigenous markets, or claim your own part of a pristine beach.

Dining is particularly spectacular: Chefs cater lush meals, including dining al fresco at your own schedule. Formal wear is not required because Windstar prides itself on being a casual cruise, built for your relaxation.

L’Occitane toiletries, flat screen televisions, DVD and iPod docks make each stateroom a comfortable and homey space. There’s rarely anything nicer than slipping between crisp cotton sheets while the silent rocking of the ocean cradles you to sleep.

With so much on offer, it’s impossible to consider ever taking a cruise any other way. On a small-scale yacht everyone knows your name and the experience is built to feel like you’re on your own private escape. With high-end amenities and services offered in between ports of call, Windstarmakes seeing the world an experience out of the ordinary.

For more on Windstar Cruises, visit our favourite cruise resource,