Fall Getaway at Esterel Resort Hotel and Spa

nature, lake and hotel

Esterel Resort

Looking for a fall getaway around greater Montreal that matches your definition of relaxation? As temperature slowly drops, it’s the perfect time to escape and enjoy the fall foliage! Let us introduce you to Esterel Resort located in the Laurentians less than an hour away from Montreal city center.

Esterel Resort offers two accommodation experiences both with spacious suites, a Nordic Spa and three restaurants in the heart of nature. The resort is a veritable playground surrounded by two beaches, three navigable lakes and miles of forest. This fall, you will find here a wide range of fun outdoor activities to practice alone, among friends or as a couple.

hotel room

Esterel Hotel Evolution

Among the two accommodation experiences offered at Esterel Resort, Hotel Emotion suits best for a romantic getaway with warmth vibes while Hotel Evolution evokes soothing environment that showcases nature.

During our weekend at Esterel Resort, we stayed in a front-lake suite on the 4th floor at Hotel Evolution. The view was breathtaking and allowed us to make a good use of the large balcony overlooking Lake Dupuis! As shown in our Instagram stories, our elegant suite was spacious and equipped with a king-size bed plus a queen-size murphy bed, a fireplace, and a practical kitchenette. If you plan to stay for a long period, you will have enough place to cook in the kitchenette and enjoy your meals in the dining room.

nature, water and spa

Esterel Resort Spa

Esterel Resort Nordic Spa features a four-season panoramic pool, steam baths, hot tubs and Finnish sauna. The best way to relax and rejuvenate is to alternate the hot, cold and rest circuit a few times.

If you have never experienced sauna, here are few tips for you: before the sauna, take a shower and then dry off; in the sauna, select a place on the middle or upper bench and lay down on a towel for 10 to 15 minutes (you should spend the last 2 minutes sitting upright); after the sauna, proceed with cold water application by taking a cold water shower or plunging into a cold bath for 10 to 15 seconds, then breathe deeply to fill up with oxygen and have a rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat the circuit as needed and stay hydrated by drinking the beverage of your choice.

nature, lake and sauna

Esterel Resort Sauna

After the Nordic Spa experience, dive into a world of well-being and relaxation at Amerispa’s health and beauty centre. Your body loves being pampered, take time for yourself and complete your Nordic Spa experience with quality massage therapy, skin care and body care treatments.

table, chairs and large windows

Esterel Resort – Bistro à Champlain

Esterel Resort houses three restaurants for fine dining, all with stunning views: Bistro à Champlain, Rok Restaurant, and 260° Restaurant Bar Terrace. Please note that bookings are mandatory for each restaurant, otherwise Esterel Resort is not able to guarantee availability of the restaurant.

food and rose wine

Bistro à Champlain – Vegetarian Menu

We had a reservation at Bistro à Champlain which recently moved at Esterel Resort and were very excited to taste the new four courses vegetarian and vegan menu. As vegan food enthusiasts, it’s always hard to choose items on the menu when we suddenly have plenty of choices. This is the reason why we make sure to choose different items so we are able to share together and taste more dishes.

food

Bistro à Champlain – Fresh Spring Rolls Creation

We had a great dining experience at Bistro à Champlain, the food was delightful and very well presented. Also, the service was warm and the waitress pleased all our requests. We strongly recommend to taste the fresh spring roll creation, and the chick pea and eggplant brick. Furthermore, the vegetarian menu is available at the three restaurants.

food

Bistro à Champlain – Chick Pea and Eggplant Brick

We thank Esterel Resort for taking care of us last weekend! Still wondering where to escape this fall? Catch a break from Montreal and taste the quiet life at Esterel Resort. Book your fall getaway for less with their last minute offers currently displayed at esterel.com. Hurry up, it’s for a limited time only!

Summer Visit In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean

2 ladies smiling, breathtaking landscape

Visit at the Historical village of Val-Jalbert

Summer is not over! Even if the temperature is progressively decreasing, this is still a good time to visit the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. History, nature, and adventure, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area is diversified and has lot to offer.

one person standing in front of Ouiatchouan Falls

Ouiatchouan Falls – The Historical Village of Val-Jalbert

Opened from May to October, the Historical village of Val-Jalbert was the first stop of our visit. Thanks to the guided tour on board of the old trolleybus, we enjoyed a unique and immersive time travel experience while we learned about the life of an authentic company town in the early Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean’s industrial age.

The Historical village of Val-Jalbert is an open sky museum and offers numerous attractions designed to capture the essence of life in 1927: street animations, projections, scales models, immersive sensory experiences, breathtaking panoramic views and much more. The highlight of our visit remains the impressive Ouiatchouan Falls located near the pulp mill.

one person picking blueberries

Blueberry picking – Michel Rivard et Fille Farm

What will be Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean without their blueberries? We went to Michel Rivard et Filles farm to experience blueberry picking. The harvest season usually runs from mid-July to mid-September. The farm’s shop offers fresh products derived from the harvest, such as blueberry pies, blueberry jelly, homemade chips and many others items.

one person visiting Jardin Scullion

Jardin Scullion

Would you like to visit an unusual landscape? Jardin Scullion, three times regional prizewinner of Grands Prix du tourisme québécois, celebrates its 30th anniversary and invites you to discover more than 2,000 species of plants from all around the world. Among the new features, you will be able to visit the site by electric carts and discover the largest conifers garden ever created. Add to this the new 35-meter arched bridge inspired by the great gardens of England.

bikes and beach

Véloroute des Bleuets – Plage le Rigolet

If you are looking for a quiet place to spend the afternoon, Plage le Rigolet located on the shores of Lac Saint-Jean will suit your needs. With direct access to the Véloroute des bleuets, this free public beach offers many services such as outdoor playgrounds, picnic area, observation sites, and a restaurant. In the evening, Plage le Rigolet is a great spot to admire the sunset with the reflections on the water.

one person in hotel universel alma room

Double Room – Hotel Universel Alma

During our visit in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, we stayed at 4-star Hotel Universel Alma ideally located in the heart of downtown Alma with 72 newly renovated rooms. We were warmly welcomed by the hotel staff and received Coffrets du Royaume package: gifts made of local products.

Amenities offered at Hotel Universel Alma include spacious indoor pool and a spa on the 1st floor where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the river while sitting on the outdoor terrace. For those who are very active as we are, the well equipped fitness room will allow you to stay in shape. Foodies are not left behind with the Pacini d’Alma Italian restaurant located directly in the hotel. The menu features breakfast, Italian weekend brunch, as well as allergen free and gluten free options.

pool Hotel Universel Alma

Pool – Hotel Universel Alma

fruits, salad, potatoes

Breakfast – Pacini Alma Restaurant

How to get there? If you are in a hurry, opt for the plane from Montreal to Bagotville. Many different airline companies operate regular and occasional flights out of the Saguenay-Bagotville airport located halfway between La Baie and Chicoutimi. For example, Air Canada operates approximately 3 flights per day and the duration is just 1 hour long. If you have plenty of time, you could choose among VIA Rail train, bus or car.

two persons inside 2017 Ford Escape Titanium car

2017 Ford Escape Titanium

In partnership with Ford, we comfortably drove until Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean on board of the 2017 Ford Escape Titanium. The new Escape takes confident style into fresh new territory with a rugged exterior design showing its strong SUV heritage. The range-topping Titanium model combines the Escape’s utility and fun driving feel with intuitive, clever technologies and premium finishes.

Here are 3 things we particularly like about the 2017 Ford Escape Titanium: the panoramic Vista Roof to let the outside in, the active park assist suitable for parallel and perpendicular  parking spaces, and the high-quality Sony audio system. Have a safe trip to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean!

Travel Destination – Amsterdam

canal in Amsterdam

Amsterdam and its famous canals

Is Amsterdam the Venice of the North or Venice the Amsterdam of the South? With more than 250 canals, more bikes than inhabitants, a museum for everything (among the most unusual: the Museum of Bags and Purses, the Cat Cabinet, and the Torture Museum) and a vibrant architectural heritage from the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance… Where to start the visit?

Architecture building and river in Amsterdam

Architectural heritage from the Golden Age period – Amsterdam

In order to appreciate the charm of Amsterdam, we highly recommend to do a walking tour. Plenty agencies offer free walking tours and tips are not mandatory but merely suggested.

We originally booked a tour with Sandmans New Europe and ended up doing it with 360 Amsterdam Tours because we showed up too early! We followed Michael, the guide, around Amsterdam where we saw many places such as the Royal Palace, the 800-years-old Oude Kerk (“old church”) and the Nieuwe Kerk (“new church”). The tour is approximately two hours long and presents an interesting overview of the city while having a good time with the group.

Beautiful house in Amsterdam close to the canal

The Bartolotti House – Amsterdam

Walking around Amsterdam is a great start but jumping aboard a boat is even cooler! To do so, you can rent a pedal boat and explore the canals. There are also plenty of boat tour agencies to guide you around.

We tried Those Dam Boat Guys based on their great ratings and clients testimonies. Check their FAQ to have a glimpse of their sense of humor! On board, Jeff was our guide and he made sure everyone felt comfortable. Each person can bring whatever he/she wants on the boat (food, beverages, etc.) to enjoy the tour while discovering Amsterdam with its most unforgettable anecdotes. Isn’t it the best way to spend an afternoon?

Canal, boats and house in Amsterdam

Canal close to the Red Light District – Amsterdam

After walking and boating around the city, it is time to discover the rest of the town like a local would do: on a bike! Amsterdam is known worldwide to be a bike friendly city. For less than 10 euros (15 $CAD) per day you can rent a bike!

Find a list of popular rental locations by visiting I Amsterdam website. Once you get the bike, you can easily bike through the famous Red Light District, then go to the southern and western canal belts and finish your ride in Jordaan District.

Bikes on a bridge in Amsterdam

Bikes on a bridge – Amsterdam

If you visit Amsterdam for a very short period of time, do not miss the Van Gogh Museum, the Vondelpark, and the Rijksmuseum. Please note that if you want to visit those museums, we strongly suggest to book your ticket in advance to avoid the 1 hour (sometimes more) queue.

vegan junk food in Amsterdam

Vegan Junk Food Bar – Amsterdam

Looking for a place to eat? Amsterdam has a very diverse food scene. It is always preferable to reserve in advance when possible by calling the restaurant or by visiting their website especially for hot spots.

One of our favorite restaurant was the Vegan Junk Food Bar where you can taste a double cheeseburgers to fuel your battery. For dinner, we went to another vegan restaurant named Meatless District. This place is perfect for friends gathering because portions are generous and you can share. After an excellent meal, you can sit at the lounge bar and try their great signature cocktails.

avocado toast

Meatless District – Amsterdam

Wondering where to stay? During summer season, the golden rule is to book as early as possible. We booked at Hotel Casa Amsterdam which is located close to the Amstel river. This place is perfect for a morning walk or run.

Moreover, the hotel has a very cool rooftop called the Nest, where you can do a morning yoga session and then have a well-balanced breakfast. Above all, we loved the minimalist decor, the comfort and the large bathroom.

hotel room in Amsterdam

Hotel Casa Amsterdam

From Montreal, there are direct flights with KLM but to save money you can take Wow Air. From Paris, you can either go by plane or by train. The train station is close from where we live so we chose to go by train with Thalys.

First class and breakfast in the Thalys train

First class – Thalys

For the train, make sure to check prices in advance. Sometimes, the first class is less expensive than the economic class. First class rides are very comfortable, offer more space for the legs and include a complimentary meal. Are you ready for the departure?

Travel Destination – Mykonos and Santorini

2 women, the sea and blue sky

Oia – Santorini

There are a ton of reasons to visit Greece: explore world famous archaeological sites, enjoy a honeymoon, healthy and tasty cuisine, walking on sunshine, admire breathtaking landscape, the high level of hospitality, the safety and much more. Before traveling, identify the main purpose of your trip to make sure to do the most while you’re there.

Greece offers several options for exploration and enjoyment. As true lovers of food, wine and azure blue water, let us introduce two major islands of Cyclades region: Mykonos and Santorini (Thira).

1. MYKONOS
beach, crystal water, blue sky and boats

Ornos Beach – Mykonos

The adjective that would describe the life in Mykonos is hedonism. That being said, there is a bit more to do in Mykonos than chasing pleasure.  While there, you can visit the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, the Lena’s House which is a typical Greek home, and the Folkore Museum. Most of those activities are free!

There are several beaches where you can spend your day in Mykonos. Ornos Beach, located in the southwest of Mykonos, is ideal for groups of friends, family or solo. We did some of our favorite activities, which consisted of enjoying local wine, scuba diving for our daily intake of vitamin “sea”, and taking sun bath for vitamin D!

greek food in Mykonos

Bakalo Restaurant – Mykonos

During our stay, we went to Bakalo which is one of the best restaurant in town. Yanis, the owner, welcomed us with delicious food and made us discover Kanenas wines. It was love at first sight!

Mykonos has a CRAZY nightlife and we enjoyed every bit of it. Whatever the kind of parties you are looking for, you will find it in Mykonos. If you don’t enjoy packed nightclubs, avoid the Skandinavian Bar and head to Argo Bar for a more intimated but still crazy party time.

hotel and pool

Rhenia Hotel and Bungalows – Mykonos

As for Venice in Italy, it was quite challenging to find an hotel in Mykonos. If you want to have a large choice, make sure to book as early as possible. We chose Rhenia Hotel and Bungalows based on their very good ratings and also because it was located close to the New Port which is practical when you have to take a ferry to go to another island.

We highly recommend this place for the comfy Greek bungalows, the pool and the incredible ocean view. Greek hospitality is not a myth, we were welcomed by the couple owner who took good care of us. No wonder why their guests come back to see them every year.

2. Santorini
Greek Church in Oia Santorini

Ekklisia Agios Onoufrios – Oia (Santorini)

Oia, the symbol of Santorini, is the most photographed place on the island due to the breathtaking views over the Caldera. Even if the path is not marked, you can reach Oia by hiking from Fira, the capital of Santorini, just by following the edge of the Caldera (allow 2 to 3 hours).

We went to Oia in early morning to appreciate its oasis of peace, explore its pathways and visit its charming little churches. We came back at night just in time for watching the sunset while enjoying homemade ice creams from Lolita Gelato.

glass of wine and food in a Vineyard at Oia Santorini

Domaine Sigalas – Oia (Santorini)

Wine tasting is a popular activity in Santorini, if you don’t know where to go you can follow the wine roads, visit the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum or book a private tour with an operator. 

As suggested by Lonely Planet guidebook, we decided to try Domaine Sigalas for its refined atmosphere. We had an amazing guided private tasting with experienced sommeliers and were introduced to 15 different styles of wines. If you are looking for a memorable experience, this is the place to try!

greek food in a plate at Skala restaurant in Santorini

Spanakopita – Skala Restaurant (Oia, Santorini)

We had notable culinary moments at Pelican Kipos and Skala restaurants. According to our taste buds, Pelican Kipos is the best restaurant in Fira offering a fine Greek cuisine. The terrace is a beautiful Mediterranean garden and there is also a vineyard for wine tasting workshops.

In Oia, we were delighted by Skala restaurant which has a terrace and an amazing view over the Aegean Sea. They serve generous portions of food, the service is attentive and the house white wine is lovely. We ordered most of the vegetarian and vegan dishes, everything was delicious.

glass of white wine at Kamari beach Santorini

Hook Bar Beach – Kamari (Santorini)

If you plan to go the beach in Santorini, make sure to bring a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from the black sand, your snorkeling kit to admire fishes, and around 7 euros (10 $CAD)  to rent a beach umbrella and a seat.

We went to the famous Red Beach situated in the historical village of Akrotiri but didn’t get the chance to go the White Beach. We also enjoyed Kamari Beach located in southeast of the island and the quieted Exo Gialos Beach at 3 km from Fira.

hotel and pool view in Thira Santorini

Evgenia Villas and Suites – Thira (Santorini)

Depending on the experience you are seeking, there are several sort of accommodations in Santorini: luxury boutique hotels, resorts, villas, hostels, etc. We had a wonderful stay at Evgenia Villas & Suites, loved the warm welcome from the hotel staff and amenities (pool, bar and panoramic view). Moreover, the hotel is well located in Fira, less than 10 minutes walk from the city center.

Smart Car Cabrio in the valley in Santorini Island

Smart Fortwo Cabrio – Akrotiri (Santorini)

To be able to visit at your own rhythm, we highly suggest to rent a quad (35 euros/50 $CAD per day) or a car (65 euros/95 $CAD per day) even if bus is the cheapest option (2 euros/3 $CAD per ticket). Taxis could be very expensive if you don’t know how to negotiate. This is why we opted for a Smart ForTwo and were extremely happy to appreciate AC when it feels 35C outside. Think smart and enjoy your stay 🙂

Travel Destination: Venice, Italy

Grand Canal Venice, boat, water and blue sky

Grand Canal – Venice

Venice (Italian: Venezia) is very famous for its numerous canals, bridges, gondolas, and urban legends of many of its inhabitants, one of the most famous of them, Giacomo Casanova. One thing we really loved about Venice is that it is car-free. Walking is an option to consider to get from one point to another otherwise taxi boats and gondolas are also very useful.

For an authentic immersion in this mysterious and magical city, climb aboard a gondola! A private tour is around 80 euros (115 CAD $) for 2 people but we found out that some companies like Ceetiz offer group discounts. Each participant pays 30 euros to share a gondola with a maximum of 5 other passengers for a duration of 30 minutes which sounds pretty fair.

bridge, canal and water in Venice

Bridge and Canal – Venice

We saw thousands of impressive spots simply from wandering around the streets. Venice is truly an open-air museum. For example, after crossing over the Rialto Bridge and passing along the Rialto Market, we saw the recent modern piece of art Support by Lorenzo Quinn.

We were touched by the meaning of this artwork representing two hands emerging from water and holding the Ca’ Sagredo luxury hotel. The artist highlights the rising sea level caused by climate change. This is particularly relevant for Venice which is concerned by the ocean level rise.

two hands holding a bulding in Venice

Support by Lorenzo Quinn – Venice

Among our favorites sightseeing, let’s talk about Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica. For those who like to take pictures with nobody around, be aware that there are a lot of people so the best way to avoid the crowd is to be there at the sunrise…

Place with people walking around in Venice

Piazza San Marco – Venice

Saint Mark’s Basilica – Venice

The entrance of St Mark’s Basilica is free so the queue is very long before entering into the Cathedral. Your two choices to save time is to opt for a guided tour or to book your reserved access “skip the line entry” on Venetoinside portal. This service costs 2 euros (3 CAD $) per person and is available from April 1st to November 2nd. Moreover, the online reservation can be made up to 10 minutes before the chosen visiting time.

We highly recommend to visit the Saint Mark’s Museum (entrance fee: 5 euros/7 CAD $) to be able to admire the Basilica from above, access the external lodge and capture new details. During the visit, you will learn about the techniques used in laying the precious mosaics and contemplate the four original bronze Horses of Saint Mark’s Basilica which came to Venice from Constantinople.

St Mark's Basilica church in Venice

Saint Mark’s Basilica – Venice

4 horses in a basilica

The Horses of Saint Mark’s Basilica – Venice

After long walks in the city, reward yourself with an Italian gelato! Make sure to try one of those two artisanal spots: Suso Gelatoteca in San Marco and Gelateria Alaska in Santa Croce. If you crave for a pizza, note that it’s not a Venetian specialty but we were able to eat delicious vegan pizza at Pizzeria Il Refolo in Santa Croce and at Pizzeria L’Angelo in San Marco.

gelato ice cream in Venice

Suso Gelatoteca – Venice

A perfect way to end a day in Venice is to opt for one of the many classical music concerts. We booked with Virtuosi di Venezia located close to the Saint Mark’s Basilica and we assisted to a representation of the 4 seasons of Vivaldi.

Also, if you are wondering where to stay in Venice, we suggest you to book a central location hotel even if It can be quite challenging. In fact, many hotel in Central Venice have been built few centuries ago, which make them very charming but not cozy.

We stayed at Ca’Mariele luxury apartment hotel, which is located 10 minutes walk from the Piazza San Marco. The location is ideal to visit the main city attractions cited above and places such as Scuola Grande di San Rocco or Gallerie dell’Academia just to mention of few. At the hotel, the rooms are very spacious (which can be quite rare in Venice) and we got a 2 floors luminous apartment with a lovely bathroom and bedroom.

luxury apartment hotel

Ca’ Mariele – Venice

Since Venice is a destination constantly on demand, it’s pretty easy to find good flight ticket deals and even more if your travel dates are flexible. At the departure from Paris, we chose to flight with EasyJet but did not get the chance to experience their brand new A320 NEO aircraft. If you arrive from Montreal, Air Transat offers direct flights at a fair price. Have a good trip!