Category Archives: Europe

One of the best things to do

during Canada's short summer is to spend lazy days at the beach, either playing in the sand or being in the water. These four books will inspire you to travel to the beach, whether to a family cottage on a lake or by a wave-crashing ocean.

Be inspired to travel to cottage country with this book by Toronto resient Kate Hilton

Just Like Family is written by Torontonian Kate Hilton.

Just Like Family

Author Kate Hilton must be one of those Torontonians who participate or participated as a child, in the weekly cottage commute, a Friday tradition where people pack up their vehicles and sit in traffic to escape the city and spend two days by the lake in cottage country.

At least Avery Graham, her main character in Just Like Family ($22.99, HarperCollins Canada) seems to understand the draw of the cottage including the memories of summers spent on the dock, cottage rules (you don't go on other people's docks other than to rest while continuing on your swim) and traditions including the May dip where toes go numb, and lips go blue as soon as you enter the water.

Her secondary characters also appreciate cottage living, with Avery's mom suggesting some fresh air might cure what is affecting her daughter.

" 'Not city air,' my mother declared. 'Cottage air.' My mother believed that most psychological ills could be cured with a trip north for a dose of pine and lake water."

The cottage, and life at the lake, seems even more appealing after reading about the crazy life Avery leads as the chief of staff to Peter Haines, the mayor of Toronto and a lifelong friend.

A great read that inspires travel to the beach, and a perfect read on the beach.

Be inspired to travel to the cottage, and the beach, with Go Home Lake

Go Home Lake is by Toronto author Megs Beach

Go Home Lake

Go Home Lake by Megs Beach ($19.95, Second Story Press) is another book that shows the commitment of cottagers, this time through the memories of Penny, the youngest of four children who spent all summer at Go Home Lake in the 1960s, catching frogs and getting her daily fill of fresh air.

“For a child, the cottage was heaven on earth. We didn't even miss the television. There was nowhere to be but exactly where we were so that one day flowed into the next, only vaguely divided by time to rest, time to eat, and time to set fire to things.”

Penny remembers the annual trek up to the cottage with boxes, suitcases and provisions packed into the station wagon, and how she and her brothers would take the boat and go on an adventure on the lake - exactly how a summer should be.

The Book of Summer inspires you to travel to the ocean

The Book of Summer is written by Michelle Gable

The Book of Summer

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable ($24.99, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Press) is another book about summer vacations, this time to the ocean rather than to the cottage.

Taking place in both the present, where Cliff House will soon fall into the sea due to erosion, forcing out Bess and her mother Cissy, a notorious troublemaker from the once grand house, and the past, where we meet the original inhabitants, including Ruby, Bess' grandmother, on the eve the Second World War.

In the present, we learn why Cissy is fighting so hard to keep the property the ocean is ready to claim. Through the guest book, written by Cliff House's past visitors, we learn what life was like at that time, including disturbing views about Hilter,

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond inspires travel to the ocean

The House of New Beginnings is set on the Brighton seashore.

The House of New Beginnings

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond ($24.99, PGC Books, Pan MacMillan) is a story about three women who live near the Brighton seafront in a house called SeaView House (“SeaView House, my arse,” said Georgie, one of the women who moves into the old Regency house with her boyfriend.)

We learn about each of the women, and see the ocean from each of her perspective, including Rosa, who notices:

“It was a twenty-minute walk along the front of the hotel to her flat and there was a stiff breeze, whipping the sea into frothy white peaks, flapping at the striped awnings of the souvenier shops and sending the postcard racks spinning dizzily in a blur of colour."

I love the lake, but the ocean calls me to it, and this book inspires you to travel to Brighton, hang out with these women and celebrate living by the sea.

These books were provided by Raincoast Books, PGC Books, Second Story Press and HarperCollins for honest review. The opinions are my own.

Read my book reviews that inspire travel during Canada150 by clicking here.

Happy beach reading!


I do not sleep well in Noventa di Piave.

This will prove to be a recurring problem over our four nights here. Interestingly enough, John, who woke very early every morning at Neil's house in London while I slept like a baby, has no trouble sleeping here in Italy. I awake with sand in my eyes and slowly, ever so slowly, get up. John has already been up and gone down for breakfast: orange juice, fresh croissant, and coffee. I opt for the pillow.

Approaching Venice from the Water

Stephano, one of our hosts, has told us of one of the many options for traveling to Venezia. We had been planning to drive into Mestre and then taking the train, to avoid the parking hassles. Stephano suggests that we drive to Punta Sabbione, the tiny finger-like peninsula which is across from Venezia, and then take one of the many ferries into the city. Noventa di Piave is already halfway there, and we quickly agree that that sounds like a wonderful idea. When we came to Venezia 4 years ago, we took the shuttle boat from the airport to Piazza San Marco and it was wonderful to approach the magical city by water. We anticipate the same. On the road and out of Noventa di Piave by 10 a.m., we expect the 40-kilometer drive to the ferry to be fast. It is, after all, a Tuesday and who would be traveling these roads this early in the week? Stephano neglected to tell us that this is major beach country, that the lido along the coast is lined with hotels and pensions full of summer beach tourists. Our road is crammed with not only beach tourists but also all the tourists who have been told of this wonderful alternative for getting to Venezia. We are bumper to bumper for an hour and three-quarters before we arrive to find expensive parking and even more expensive ferries to San Marco. We cram onto a boat with everybody else and head out for a slightly overcast trip to Venezia. As we round the point and see our first glimpse of the spires of San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore and La Salute, the impatient and curious tourists surge to the top of the boat, cameras, video cams and squawking children in tow, blocking all attempts at picture taking. The sun breaks through, hot and intense, welcoming us to Venezia.

Leaving All the Venice Virgins Behind

Our return ticket says 6 pm so we walk with purpose and knowledge of where to go. We leave all the Venetian Virgins behind to let them savour their first glimpses of the rolling gondolas and the tacky paintings, the Doges' Palace and the prize of all, the Piazza San Marco. As we pass through the Piazza, I hear an American woman say to her family, wide-eyed and full of wonder: "Can you believe that we are actually here?" We both stop and realize how lucky we are to be traveling the way we are and remember our first time in Venezia. We consciously slow our pace, trying to see this magical place through a Venetian Virgin's eyes. We join some English tourists in the lift to the top of the campanile for a spectacular view of the city and the lagoons. From this vantage point, you can clearly see how Venetia is situated and its dominance of the water. It is a lovely view punctuated by a single but very loud bell clap, announcing the half hour.

Three More Venice Churches

John wants to see 3 churches on this trip, San Giorgio Maggiore, La Salute, and Redentore, which we didn't get a chance to explore when we were here before. We agree to do the 1st 2 today and grab Vaporetto 82 to start with San Giorgio, the masterpiece of Palladio. The inside is a cool, calm white interior, so understated and peaceful, and we enjoy the quiet. We make our way down and back across the canal to San Marco and walk to la Salute, the Cathedral of Health, built to celebrate and commemorate the end of one of the many plagues that devastated Venezia. We walk through familiar streets, finding our way around easily to cross the Canal Grande at the Ponte di Accademia, and so are now in Dorsoduro. There are two major canal restorations on our way and we stop and watch in amazement the painstaking process of renewal. We walk past the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and finally, the campo rises up to greet us. Soon we are inside. Like San Giorgio, la Salute is a clean, white interior punctuated with works of art by great Venetian painters like Tintoretto, Titian, and Tiziano. It has a round interior and is not like a standard roman cross style of church. In fact,

there is no seating available to its parishioners.

 A Slow Venetian Roam

Slowly, we roam the streets and campos as we make our way back to San Marco to catch our ferry. We come across La Fenice, still not totally completed despite the reopening ceremonies held last Christmas. 4 years ago, on our last trip, the theatre was still in ruins years after it was devastated by fire, the huge sums spent to restore it disappearing into the pockets of politicians and builders, with little making its way into the actual building, until Rome took control of the project, after which it moved forward quickly.

At the ferry stop, we look at the crowd and there are so many of us that we think it will be an unpleasant, sardine-like, trip home. But halfway through boarding, it becomes apparent a 2nd ferry is waiting and will take 1/2 the crowd, so we end up with seats on the bow, enjoying the sun on our faces and the views of the Lido and Venice as we head home.

When you think about Paris,

which followsummer does ALOT, you probably think about the Eiffel Tower, Bateaux Mouches rides on the Seine or perhaps un café or demi-litre of white wine in cozy, cobbled pavement cafés –the usual, touristy things to do in Paris. Why not wander away from the 'usual suspects' and explore some of the more unusual things to do in Paris, experiencing a taste of what local Parisians enjoy every day. Here are 10 followsummer recommendations:

A Paris Education

Never been to Paris, or been numerous times? Either way, a visit to the Musée Carnavalet is a must. The Musée documents the history of Paris from its beginnings through modern times and will give the Paris neophyte an incredibly interesting and insightful overview of the entire history of le Capital. When your education lesson is finished, stroll over to the newly re-opened Musée National Picasso-Paris to discover some of the artist’s finest works.

High Tea “À la FRANÇAISE”

at the Four Seasons George V:  Ahhh the simple joys of a wonderful cup of tea, served in the splendour of  the Four Seasons George V, located mere steps from the Champs-Elysées. Don't let the address throw you off your quest for a little pampering and experiencing luxe Paris. Make your reservation, shine your shoes, put on a jacket or perhaps a hat, and enjoy this truly unique experience in style.Cheer yourself with a tall flute of champagne (Tête de Cuvée), and finish with a sumptuous, in-house made macaroon. Pop by La Galerie between 3-6 for afternoon tea while enjoying the light and sure fingers of the house pianist.  As you savour your experience, take in the elegance of the magnificent Flemish tapestries, and ornate clocks, originally made for the Palace Versailles. Spoil your luxe in Four Seasons serenity with their renowned service, opulent surroundings and white glove attention.

Fashion Loyalty & Royalty

A visit to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, is a must for fashion lovers, no matter what’s on. This tour of the Yves Saint Laurent studio in Paris gives you a behind-the-scenes look at one of the greatest names in fashion history. The Fondation conserves 5,000 garments, 1,000 rive gauche models, 15,000 accessories and 35,000 sketches, all bearing witness to the fashion icon’s creativity.

Lunch (or dinner) with a View:

The 56st floor of the Tour Montparnasse offers designer and interior architect Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance's recently re-imagined Ciel de Paris' jaw-dropping views (whatever the weather) of the Eiffel Tower and the street plan of the Paris of today after Haussmann re-imagined it. Take in the view with a coupe of Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champagne and savour a fabulous lunch by Chef Christophe Marchais,  the decadent desserts (ohh those Parisians LOVE their dessert!) of Pastry Chef Baptiste Methivier and the incredible view.

Florals to Brighten Your Stay

To live like a Parisian while stopping to smell the flowers, a stroll and amble through the Art Nouveau pavilions (C 1900) plant stalls is a must. In the Île de la Cité’s Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II, experience exotic orchids, all manner of florals, plants and shrubs. On Sundays, the market converts into the Marché aux Oiseaux, where locals shop for their summer gardens and winter tables.

Off the beaten path

and definitely worth a visit are the wander-ful Les Passages couverts de Paris. Many have fallen into neglect, but are certainly worth a stroll through to view the unique shops, wine bars, petits-restos, and libraries anciens that were originally designed to give nineteenth-century Parisians protection from mud and horse-drawn vehicles. There is an extensive network that runs from the rue St-Marc which includes Les Passages des Panoramas all the way up to le Passage Verdeau on the rue de Faubourg Montmartre. Keep your eyes open as their entrances are easy to miss and many are closed nights and on Sundays.

Window Shopping along Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Marais

You’ll find great ‘au courant’ Parisian designs to ogle while window shopping throughout the city, then make the comparison (and much cheaper) purchase at Printemps, Galeries Lafayette or perhaps Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. Finish your window shop/stroll at the somewhat touristy Place des Vosges, Paris’ first ‘urban planning’ project, and one of the last remaining vistas of what the Paris of old looked like. Worth a visit and a fine place to people watch from the park.

Get away

from the Grand Museums of Paris with visits to several ‘musées insolites’ (unusual) including Musée du Quai Branly for indigenous art (we totally enjoyed the exhibit 'Tatouers, Tatoués' which later transferred to Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum in April 2016), Musée Jacquemart-André for ‘Frick/Family-Style, private collection viewing, le Musée de la Magie,  le Musée du Vin,  le Musée du Perfume (also known as the Fragonard Musée du Parfum), and followsummer’s favorite, the Musée Arts-Forains with a focus on the Belle Epoque. Once inside, watch for le Théatre du Merveilleux and le Salon Vénitien.

Life Less Ordinary

Spend some time with the joggers and lunch time office workers enjoying their takeaway brown bags on Paris’ original older sister version of New York’s High Line, the Promenade of Le Viaduc des Arts. Starting in the Faubourg St-Antoine, stroll the elevated entire length and enjoy some classic Paris views before circling back at street level, stop and shop the many ateliers and shops nestled underneath the rose-coloured archways.

Enjoy the open markets

at the top and bottom ends of le Canal St Martin where you will find fresh fish, produce, wonderful cheeses, beautiful flowers, (expertly arranged in gorgeous bouquets 'while you wait' by a handsome Frenchman) to brick-a-brac and consignment clothing. Linger over coffee, lunch or 'une coupe de champagne' in one of the charming little cafés that ring the covered canal.

If you like this followsummer itinerary, simply click on the link below and Go on this Paris trip yourself! 

Go on this trip yourself

It's all about getting off that well-worn, tourist path and exploring some of the hidden delights of one of followsummer's favorite cities in the world.

 Paris well, my friends!