Things I wish I knew about Travel

Thank you for joining me for another monthly edition of ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’! For those that are reading this for the first time, I regularly post tips based on my personal travel experiences once a month! For the month of August we have decided not to travel anywhere but instead to enjoy the beautiful summer in Toronto, especially since the long sunny days and warm nights are limited in Ontario!

Let’s get to the good stuff. Today’s topic of discussion is a list of things I wish I knew about travelling before I got hooked on the travel bug!

Enjoying the summer in Ontario
With the rise of social media, travel blogging, and remote work, more and more historical places are becoming overcrowded with tourists and the infrastructures can not sustain the number of people. Example, every year Amsterdam holds a canal Pride parade. This past year, sections of the canal were blocked off to prevent so much foot traffic. Another Dutch fact: cities around the Netherlands sink at an average of 3 millimeters a year, and lately some cities, like Gouda, are sinking at an accelerated rate of 10 mm a year!
Gouda, The Netherlands
Which leads me to my next point, try to visit places now that will be difficult or even impossible to see in the future. With travel becoming more affordable, tourists are visiting popular sites well beyond it’s designed capacity (some ancient places have double the amount of visitors than what UNESCO has recommended), leading to damage, or over crowding. Venice (Italy), Santorini (Greece), Taj Mahal (India), Barcelona (Spain), Dubrovnik (Croatia) are just some of the cities that are now monitoring the entrance of crowds, restricting cruise ships, levying tourist taxes, or even have protesters in the streets picketing against extra visitors!
Santorini, Greece
There is such thing as an off Season. Yes, there will be cheaper prices and fewer tourists, however there is less opportunity to enter and enjoy some of the popular sites. Museums may be closed, undergoing renovations, or have off-season hours that you are not aware of. We experienced this downside while spending Christmas in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, read more here.
Empty streets in Spain at Christmas
There is a reason why nobody else has ventured to that particular destination you desire, during that time of year. More often then not it is due to the weather! Check out the temperature before you book your flight, it could be the opposite season of what you are expecting. There could be hurricanes, extreme heat warnings, or worst yet, SNOW. Ideally, travel in temperatures that you are most comfortable with. We LOVE the sun, so we know we are not going to enjoy a trip as much if we are landing smack dab in the middle of their winter. Read more about our trip to Copenhagen, Denmark in the winter months here.
Cold in Copenhagen
Unfortunately, political and civil unrest occurs throughout the world. Stay up to date on worldly conflicts, protests, travel warnings and restrictions as they will no doubt lead to a miserable experience if you end up travelling somewhere that is unsafe.

Do you consider any of these before booking your next adventure? Did I miss anything? What else do you wish you knew before booking your latest getaway? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel Taco Tuesday

Holy Guacamole! These last few weeks have flown by and it’s time for my monthly ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’ post. This month my focus is on food, more specifically, cheesy veggie goodness rolled into a soft (or for some, hard – I’m judging you btw) tortilla shell. I’m focusing on Tacos, lets tacobout it now!
Travel Tip Tuesday & Tacos
I just returned from Cancun, Mexico on a mission to sample all the best tacos that I could possibly fit into my stomach. For the full video, including my reactions to hot sauce and tequila (cause you have to in Mexico), check out my YouTube channel Mellie Telly for my latest video HERE!
Hello From Cancun
No time for a video? Then read on for my tips on finding, eating, and enjoying my favourite food. I mean, we had a wedding taco party, how much more dedicated can you get?!

The Taco Search

Finding tacos in Mexico is not difficult; the real 5-star challenge is finding a local business, not the restaurant chains geared towards sucking as much money as possible from tourists while providing practically tasteless food. I spent lots of time on Google searching “The best tacos in Cancun”, reading forums, searching “Local tacos” and looking up suggestions from expats and locals alike. To save you the time, here is my list of restaurants that I have personally tried or ambitiously wanted to make a stop at: Taco Factory, La Parrilla, Tacun, The Surfin Burritto, El Asador, El Poblano, Tacos Rigo, Los de Pescado, Taqueria Coapeñitos and Mextreme. Some are located in the Hotel Zone, and some downtown Cancun. Taco TimeIn the end, we could not possibly hit up every single place. In Mexico, portion sizes tend to be enormous and greasy and add in the intense summer heat, was way too much food. We ended up sticking to a few local places downtown (so local that not a single tourist was in sight, and no one understood English, PERFECT), with a few touristy spots for comparison. Can you guess which ones were best?
Build Your Own Taco at El Poblano
You’re right if you were thinking the handmade, under-priced, over-spiced deliciousness that the local shops offered up. Oddly enough, many places did not have vegetarian tacos on the menu, so after some hand gestures and awkward attempts at Spanish, they were willing to create something special. Often it would result in a ‘build your own’ taco, and gluten-free was not always possible. You win some, you lose some.

Eat It Hot

All meals are served with chips, dip and HOT sauce to start. I prefer that over bread and oil any day. The hotter the sauce, the better, provided I had a Corona or Sol (low gluten beer) to combat the burn. I suggest trying all the sauces on the table; you are in Mexico after all. The colour of the dip or salsa is not an indicator of spice, as in some restaurants the green one was the hell in the bottle and others the red one was the mouth scorcher. Not sampling all the flavours would be like flying to Amsterdam and not having a handful of cheese. No one does that.
Taco Factory Cancun
Most of the time the tacos were fresh off the grill, hot, spicy and ready to go. Have napkins nearby to soak up your sweat, a bottle of water and/or beer, and you are set to roast in the sun and eat tacos to your heart’s content. I always take a bite first to experience the original flavour the chef provided, and then add sauces and lime wedge squeezes if needed.

The Results Are In

More often than not, my stomach and taste buds were satisfied. There were some meat close calls (1 accidental consumption), too many intakes of gluten and some fun games of charades before ordering, but Cheese Louise, it’s worth it for tacos. Overall I was surprised by the lack of “street meat” taco stands that I had envisioned would fill the roads, perhaps we were not in the right city? Or it was tourist down season?  If you know, leave a message in the comments below.

To see which taco won my heart over in Cancun, be sure to watch my YouTube video on Mellie Telly!El PoblanoNo matter how tasty these Mexican meals were, I am still on the hunt for the PERFECT taco holy grail (and maybe one that won’t cause stomach pains hours later). So far the best have been the ones we’ve made, (with love) with our own hand-picked ingredients and extra flavours. Maybe it’s the control of portion sizes, adding specifically what I’m craving or the joys of building and plating my own. Now, let’s see if my saucy souvenirs will now only enhance what we already have, as my search continues.

Cheers,
Melissa

I’m Back

I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger as I said “I’ll be back”, and well,  here I am! I am back in the 6ix (and just in time for a sweet Raptors win). I have no super crazy announcements to make…yet…so no need to rush out and purchase tickets to a play or schedule your DVR to record me on TV. However, I can say that I have been hitting the ground running, literally, since we have landed.
Toronto View at NIght
I have been lucky enough to reconnect with my previous agent, Scott Merritt, who has been sending me to multiple auditions a WEEK. Being back has brought on some new challenges, as auditioning in Amsterdam is quite different from Toronto, so that will take a bit to get used to again.  It has been refreshing to get my feet wet in the Canadian acting realm.

For those interested, I have also started to post more regularity on my YouTube channel (Mellie Telly). I took a small hiatus (to ship our editing computer overseas of course) but I am back, with so much new content that I am incredibly excited to share with you on a more routine schedule! So please head over to Mellie Telly and subscribe now to stay notified of my latest videos, I’d love your support. My most recent videos are on the 160th Queens Plate in Toronto, and Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery.

I am also excited to announce that I will now be blogging for Master Traveller, and continuing to share my love of travel! Check out my Q and A HERE.

There are a few more exciting new projects on the horizon, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
Melissa

Whimsical Winchester & Virginia

When you travel, you open yourself up to new food discoveries, learning a different culture, exploring an unfamiliar landscape and making new friends. To do this, you can prep, map out and plan until you are blue in the face, but things do not always go accordingly. You can not control traffic, border crossings, accidents, weather or restroom locations (don’t ask). Regardless if things go according to your itinerary or not, you need to remain flexible, adapt and overcome to get the maximum out of your trip. Pleasant surprises are often what makes a good trip great. Virginia was one of those trips!
Blue Ridge Parkway
We recently traveled to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and on the way made stops along the Shenandoah Valley, which borders the Blue Ridge Mountains. My time and experience there was short but sweet. The charming area left an impact on us as it was magical in every possible way (Are you a maple tree? Cause fawk that was sappy).
DInosaur Land
The Southern hospitality lived up to its reputation as we were greeted so generously by the locals at every stop. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather perfect, and the activities endless. To learn more about my must-see things to do while passing by Virginia, please check out my latest article at Master Travellr. There I provide insights into our short visit, along with a list of places that I personally recommend seeing. Let me know what you think!
Luray Caverns
I have also posted a video of our visit to Dinosaur Land (located in Virginia) on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly. Watch it HERE!

Special thanks to the following for the generous hospitality and incredible resources:

Do you have any questions about Virginia? Planning a trip there soon? Have you been there before? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Exploring Allegheny

We may be back in Canada, but we are certainly not done with travelling!
At Rocky City Park
It will be different. We can no longer drive in pretty much any direction and end up in a multitude of countries. Although, we can explore our own country (and it’s prettttty big) or our neighbours to the South. Since we were itching to cross a border, we recently drove down to Allegheny National Forest and Park, which extends from Pennsylvania to New York.
Marilla Bridges Trail
There we explored the outdoors viewing waterfalls, hiking, visiting the largest dam I’ve ever seen, an old train track bridge that was demolished by a tornado, and so much more. If you want to read more about this, check out my latest article for Master Travellr HERE. There I outline my favourite stops that we made on our trip. I have also uploaded a new YouTube video on my channel Mellie Telly, all about our road trip! Watch me touch a waterfall, get sh*t on by a bird and eat the largest ice cream ever HERE!
At Kinzua Bridge, in Allegheny
Have you been there before? What is your favourite memory? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Road Trip Tips

Another month means another travel tip – this month let’s talk road trips. I find this very fitting as I have just journeyed to the States via car twice in the past month, accumulating over 5000 km! If you follow my socials then you’ll know that we spent the May long weekend in Allegheny National Forest (in Pennsylvania and New York), and have just returned from a beautiful drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains (spread between Virginia and North Carolina). So here are some tips that we learned along the way…
Travel Trip Tuesday
Bring a cooler
A cooler is a great way to save money by purchasing groceries and limiting the number of times you eat out at restaurants. We also find that pulling over for a scenic picnic is much quicker than stopping at a restaurant and ordering a meal. One caveat is that import laws forbid from bringing in our go-to nutritional snacks through the border. Instead, recommend to stock up on vegetable chips, chocolate, and cold refreshing drinks. Then once you make it past border control, stop for groceries and ice and voila you have meals for the next few days. Having a cooler allows to save on time and money and enables to be more efficient to see more attractions and purchase more fridge magnets!
GPS
Buy a GPS
Everyone has a phone with Google maps, though a good quality GPS unit is a godsend for traveling. I’ll admit, at times we used our phones to find the address of the location to type it into the GPS, as the GUI is not as clean as Google Maps and it had difficulty finding desired locations. A GPS screen is much larger than most cell phones (our GPS has a 7” screen), does not have distracting pop-ups of incoming messages, does not burn through your data (which is important to note when traveling abroad) and does not lose signal as frequently as cell phones in the mountains. Our GPS allows changing the notification defaults, such as when you are speeding. Example, it is possible to set the limit to only provide an audible alert when you are 9% over the speed limit. This is helpful if you have a lead foot or if you are traveling in an area where the speed limit is better reported as the speed minimum and you do not want the GPS reminding you every 30 seconds that you are speeding. After using the GPS for the last two trips, I do not know how we traveled without it before. I like knowing what percent of the trip we are at, estimated arrival time, the speed limit on the road and our real-time speed – this helps me with being the Nav-o to make recommendations to speed up or slow down to avoid those marked speed trap cameras.

Play Music
You can only play ‘guess the license plates’ for sooo long (turns out I don’t even know the game I am playing, it’s counting not guessing). After a while, you will need some tunes as caffeine for the mood. So have a pre-set playlist, such as THIS ONE from Spotify. You can rely on the radio (so many rental cars have nowhere to insert a CD anymore), but you may end up with less than ideal stations. Our options were country, religious, or static. At times there was only one station and it seemed like the DJ was juggling plastic bags as he was playing music.
Navigator or Photographer?
Know your Role
Before heading out into the sunset, make sure everyone in the car has been assigned a role and knows what it is. That way there is no confusion with navigation, arguments over who is DJ, snacks captain, or knowing who is going to keep the driver entertained while the rest of the car is napping. The whole part of a road trip is enjoying the journey, so do so without conflicting ideas or expectations of what is to come.
Washroom Break & Photo Op
Pit Breaks Rules
We have an unwritten rule (well until now I guess), that we fill up the gas when the tank is ¼ full (or empty, depends on which way you look at the glass). I digress, the reason we do this is incase we end up going off the beaten path unexpectedly, or go longer than anticipated. It has come in hand a few times when we had no cell service and the GPS was no help in finding the next available gas station. Since we are on the topic of stops, always use the washroom when you can. You never know when the next stop will be. Don’t have to go? I don’t care, force it! Multiple bathroom breaks are annoying and frustrating. It takes so much longer to reach your destination, and you have to re-pass all the traffic you just passed. In our car, if one person goes, we all go, and it reduces the number of breaks.

Emergencies
I know, I know, I constantly preach about packing light. But don’t skimp on the necessary precautions that could save you in unpleasant situations. If you are road tripping always be sure to have a first aid kit, flashlights, a warm jacket, a snack, some cash, a car charger for electronics and lots of water. Not to sound like a negative Nancy, but you really never know.

Do you have any road trips in your near future? Agree with my tips or have your own to contribute? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Do you want to watch some of our road trips? Check out these new videos on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly:

Cheers,
Melissa

Sweet Dreams

Travel tip Tuesday - Getting Good Sleep
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! This month’s tip is nothing to lose sleep over. I want to help you feel well rested after your free walking tour in your city of choice. I know it can be quite difficult to catch some Z’s when you are traveling in an unfamiliar setting, flying in and out of different time zones, getting stuck with pancake pillows (the worst), a lumpy mattress, or itchy sheets. Add in some AirBnB roomies and a new environment filled with creepy sounds, and you have a recipe for disaster for your sleeping schedule. So here are some tips to try on your next trip!

Get Active
First, I try to stay active all day long (8am-10pm), which is not very hard to do in a new place. If you spend all day exploring, going on adventures, hiking, climbing to the tops of cathedrals or walking around endlessly in museums, you will naturally be pooped at the end of the day. Trust me. If you are more of a vacation lounger, this may be a bit more difficult unless you are soaking up a lot of the suns rays all day – that alone can make you a bit sleepy. However, try not to nap while resting on that beach, as tempting as it is, as that can affect your sheep counting ability in the PM.
Pink PJs
Cut the Caffeine
I need a coffee IV to function in the morning, ask my husband. It is NOT a pretty sight until I’ve had my caffeine fill. But when traveling I cut myself off by mid-afternoon, as caffeine can stay in your blood for 6 to 8 hours! This is to ensure I’m not all hyped up on my second wind when I should be dreaming of my early morning excursion. (Find out why getting up early is essential when traveling HERE).
Morning Java
Just Ask
Whether you are in a hotel, motel, AirBnB, bed and breakfast, whatever, don’t be afraid to just ask for what you need! Prefer having 3 pillows? More blankets? A fan on (whether for just the white noise or the gentle breeze), ask the host/concierge. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about what will help you reach your sleep goals. Worst case – it’s a no. I find I sleep best when there is a window cracked open, as often it’s hard to get comfortable when the room is too hot and stuffy. If you know you may need certain items in your room beforehand, make a special request so you don’t have to ask after check-in when you just want to hit the hay and put your head down.
Good Night
Other Options
When in doubt, put your phone down and your screen away, pick up a book, relax, have a glass of warm milk (not wine – that can affect your hormones and disrupt your sleep) and pop some melatonin. This is a non-prescription drug that aids in rising your melatonin hormone levels and gives you a little nudge towards sweet dreams. However before taking any drugs or sleep aids, I highly suggest consulting with a physician or doing your own extensive research, I’m not a doctor, clearly!

Do you have issues sleeping when you travel? What do you do to aid it? Any questions for my next monthly travel tip? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Why you should travel with a Backpack!

Travel Tip Tuesday
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! After a 2 month hiatus to return to life back in Toronto, from Amsterdam, I am back with more monthly tips and tricks for your next travel adventure! After binge-watching Marie Kondo on Netflix, purging through our stuff to move back, and sifting through any unnecessary belongings that had accumulated over time, I want to take a moment to focus on the effectiveness of packing light.

I love having wardrobe options with matching jewelry, day and night shoes, and numerous hat options; but after spending many weekends living out of a backpack, I’ve learned how unnecessary it can be. I’m not saying to wear the same outfit all weekend (you do want some variety in your Instagram photos, and need to be prepared for all weather types), just find articles of clothing that can be mixed, matched and layered (if necessary). Pairing this plan with different accessories each day can refresh your look, but more importantly, leave more room in your backpack or reduce weight – your back will thank you.
Wearing a backpack in South Africa
Traveling with just a backpack means that you don’t have to wait for checked luggage and won’t have to stress about lugging around a bag with wheels up long staircases, or wish you had additional arms to carry more stuff. This is ideal if you have an early or late flight (as you can stroll in a bit closer to your flight, and not waste time in a line to get your luggage weighed and tagged). It also means that you can walk a bit faster with just what you need on your back, and cover more ground seeing more landmarks on your trip. Perhaps the most important of all, with a well-balanced bag that fits you properly, it greatly reduces the strain on your body and you may even forget you have a bag on at all! – great for stairs, terrible in antique shops.
Wearing a backpack in Bordeaux
When packing your knapsack, I find it’s ideal to roll up your clothes. I’ll pre-steam the wrinkles out, and then neatly and tightly roll everything so I can pack more. That also leaves space for your toiletries, makeup, an empty water bottle, socks, undergarments, accessories, etc. Always leave a tinnnny bit of room for any souvenirs you may pick up along the way, optional if that’s not your jam. Also, a hot tip, since this is your carryon item on flights (so you don’t need to be separated from your belongings), you usually also get a personal item. For us, that usually means my purse, my husband’s prized procession (his camera) or a fragile purchase from an antique market.
Travel with a Backpack
So next time you are luggage shopping at The Bay or Bently, don’t forget to consider a nice sturdy backpack. For ample back support get one with straps that clip along the chest, they don’t look nerdy or touristy at all, says my husband. Or go for the Eddie Bauer stowaway packable backpack. I love that you can use it all day and then fold it up into a tiny bag and store it when you don’t need it! For more tips on how to make the most out of the space in your knapsack, check out my tips on travel makeup options HERE, or learn how to cut down on hair appliances HERE.

Do you travel with a backpack? Do you have any travel questions that you want me to cover in my next monthly post? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

A Day in Delft

Since King’s Day, an epic celebration of the King’s Birthday that attracts over a million people to Amsterdam each year (more on this HERE), is just around the corner, let’s celebrate by talking about one of my favourite cities in The Netherlands!
Walking Around Delft
Delft is a city in the province of South Holland, between Rotterdam and The Hague. It is definitely a tourist attraction; however, if you go in the offseason it will be pretty quiet. This city is home to the Delft University of Technology and is also more historically known for the Delft Blue Pottery (Delfts Blauw in Dutch). Delft is presumed to have started around the 11th century and was once the residence of William of Orange (from the House of Orange, the leader of the Dutch revolt against Spain, also known as William the Silent) in 1572.
Royal Delft
Since we didn’t get a chance to visit Delft until we were already arranging plans to move back to North America, we had to fit it all into one day. It’s totally possible to do, and here are my top 5 things you should include on your itinerary if you decide to do the same!
Delft City Hall
1) Delft City Hall: Okay, I admit, we did not go in. It was closed (as much in Europe tends to be on a weekend). However, it is super cool to look at when standing in the middle of the market square! (Tip: If you turn around you can also check out Nieuwe Kerk on the other side of the market). This renaissance style building is the seat of the city’s government and a popular venue for weddings for all you engaged folks out there! The red shutters on the outside of the building date back to 1618, holy moly!
Delft Eastern Gate
2) The Eastern Gate: This piece of Gothic architecture was built around 1400. A few additions were made in the 1500’s such as a makeover to the floors, the high spires, and some enhancements to the towers. At the moment it is an art gallery and residence, however, you can walk around it, or through it, and take lots of great photos. This is the last one in the city as the others were demolished in the 19th century.
The Delft Experience
3) Experience Royal Delft: Though this museum is a tad overpriced, and not included in your Museum Card, I would say it’s worth it. You can’t go all the way to Delft and not go to this museum. It will give you an in-depth history lesson into the world of Delftware, with lots of famous and unique pottery examples on the way. There you can also visit the original factory, and then make a purchase in their gift shop. The original factory was established in 1653 and is the only remaining Royal Delft pottery factory from the 17th century.
Delft, The Netherlands
4) Walk Around Aimlessly: You must be sick of hearing this from me, I suggest it a lot. Delft is so cute and charming, that if you don’t walk around you’ll miss the tiny characteristics and treasures that make it what it is. This city is so old and unique, lined with canals, cute homes, traditional restaurants and lots of shops to stop in, such as the tiny antique shop we found that was selling old Dutch tiles (something we now collect)!
Museum Prinsenhof
5) Museum Prinsenhof: I was very impressed with this museum. If you only have time to visit one, this should be your top pick. It was very interactive and informative about Dutch history, Delft, and The House of Orange (it even had family photos leading all the way up to present day). A unique aspect in this museum is that you can walk up the steps that William of Orange was murdered on, and even put your fingers in the bullet holes in the wall. William of Orange was assassinated just after having lunch with the Mayor, by Frenchman Balthasar Gerards. His tomb is now in Nieuwe Kerk. This building was built in the middle ages, originally as a monastery, later becoming a palace.
Close Up of City Hall
A day in Delft is sufficient, but if you have more time there is still lots more to see and do in this picturesque city. While you’re there be sure to pick up some postcards (they were actually quite cheap, I picked up 10 for only a few Euros), and stop for a tasty traditional Dutch meal!

Have you been to Delft? What did you think? Any suggestions on what to do there? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

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