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All roads lead to Rome

This adventurous road trip consisted of stops in Terni, San Gemini, Cortona, Arezzo, Perugia, Chianti, Lucca, Pisa, and ended with a few days in Rome. Despite the miserable weather (I’m talking hail storms, lots of rain, heavy fog and unexpected cold temperatures); it was a beautiful countryside to drive through. It was much hillier than expected, and still had a full supply of radiant fall shades on the trees, with lots of castles scattered throughout. Cortona was a short stop, but it was lovely to wake up and take in the top of the mountain view (while enjoying a breakfast buffet). Tonino’s in Cortona for dinner was a delightful experience. It may have been the best meal in all of Italy so far, and they were very accommodating for Vegetarians! San Gemini was a charming medieval town, which I could see as a great tourist spot to visit in the summer. Pisa of course had the leaning tower, surrounded by many other essential historic buildings to visit such as the Cathedral, Baptistery and a couple Museums. We also happened to witness a perfect sunset with clear skies, which added a nice touch to the quick stop.

The last part of the trip included a weekend in Rome. Luckily we were there on the 1st Sunday of the month, meaning that a long list of popular tourist attractions were all free! Though that does mean you will be spending lots of time in line ups. Our activities included The Vatican (beautiful, and the line actually moved much quicker than anticipated), The Coliseum (Yes, I did have to say “Are you not entertained?! while there), Castle Sant’ Angelo, Trevi Fountain (coins were definitely tossed into this magnificent fountain), The Pantheon, The Roman Forum and more.

As per my usual, we did participate in a free walking tour by http://www.newromefreetour.com/, and I must say it was not only educational, but our guide was quite humorous as well. A fun part, VIP access into an ancient church and the chocolate wall waterfall at Venchi.
IMG_8682I wish I could tell you that I ate the best pasta I’ve ever had, however nothing has topped the Spaghetti Parmigiano from Mangiare Rotterdam. (It was prepared in a cheese wheel after all). Check them out here: https://mangiarerotterdam.com/. If you can prove me wrong with any pasta suggestions let me know for when I return to Italy. There is still so much more to explore there.

Cheers,
Melissa

Dinant, Belgium

Just had a short visit to the to the Belgium town of Dinant, right on the River Meuse. This very old town is known for its landmark, the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant. Right behind it, at the very top of the mountain, is the Citadel of Dinant. You can take a cable car to the top; however, “we” chose to walk it. All 408 steps of it, to walk off the calories from our beer of course. It is worth the climb though, as there is a small interactive exhibit to experience and a breathtaking view.20171111_152107Dinant is also known for Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone from the early 1840’s, its Trappist Leffe beer, delicious chocolate of course, mussel’s for dinner and the couque de dinant. This sweet treat is made of just flour and honey and is not intended to be bitten into. Instead, you break off pieces and suck on it. Or maybe dip it in some tea. Yum!IMG_4445This cute little town was very picturesque, with a few surprises along the way, such as the Rocher Bayard rock and the hidden ruins de creve-coeur. The ruins were a bit of a hike, and maybe not the safest thing to do in the rain, but well worth it. To get there you also walk through a tiny medieval town, and it’s only about a 30 minute commute from downtown. Some other tourist activities included beer tasting at Maison Leffe and exploring the caves at Grotte La Merveilleuse.IMG_4870-EditDo note that as this is a small town, and if you go in low tourist season, most outdoor water activities are closed. There is not much of a nightlife, as things shut down very early, and it is also very difficult to find places for an early breakfast, so feel free to sleep in. A free but fun activity to do is to walk along the river. Check out the colours and architecture of the locals homes, take pictures of the scenery, and breathe in the fresh air, while sampling some fresh Belgium chocolate of course!
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Where should we go next? Any suggestions?
Cheers,
Melissa

How to Act

And that’s a wrap on my first play in Amsterdam! Thank you to the amazing cast and crew for making this an unforgettable experience. The thing that was reiterated to me once again about theatre is that no matter what country you are in, theatre translates the same everywhere. It is months of rehearsals, becoming a close knit family, the usual preshow nerves and producing a magical experience for both the actors and audience alike.

Photo credit to Arjen Veldt Photography.

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The show was continuously sold out with wait lists filling up each night. Be sure to stay in the loop for what In Players will be showing next at http://inplayers.org/… And if you are looking to learn the basics of acting yourself, come join me in Amsterdam! I will be teaching an acting workshop on November 18th! Come learn ‘How to Act’!

Let's Celebrate National Sunglasses Day! (4)

Cheers,
Melissa

Less Than A Month Away

In less than a month I will be on an Amsterdam stage! Want to know more? Go to the website http://inplayers.org/onetabletwochairs/ or check out our new poster:
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Rehearsals are underway and so far it’s been a blast! Be sure to get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.nl/e/one-table-two-chairs-tickets-38317167680?aff=facebook1!

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I’ve also had the chance to be on set again recently for an upcoming commercial.

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Stay tuned for more! Cheers!
Melissa

I Heart Paris

Bonjour! They say Paris is always a good idea, and they are wrong; it is a fantastic idea! We recently went to celebrate our anniversary and my 30+1 birthday. It exceeded all of our expectations and was more than I dreamt it would be.

After taking a quick train from Amsterdam, we got settled into our less than desirable Air B and B, and we were finally ready to explore all the treasures that Paris holds. I must tell you that unlike our time spent in London, we were well prepared for this trip. Tickets were pre-booked, reservations were made and an itinerary was drafted to ensure we were able to see everything we wanted, and stay on schedule.

I’ll jump right in with my favourite part of the trip, the Eiffel Tower. Now before you roll your eyes at me, let me explain (and I warn you there may be some cheese; not the edible kind). We arrived early enough to beat most of the line, and were up the tower in no time. The weather was at first desirable which allowed for a picturesque view of the cityscape. Not too long later it started to rain, and the rain turned into a full on thunder storm. To us this didn’t ruin the experience, it enhanced it. We sat in a dry spot, drinking wine and watching the storm from the highest point in Paris. Who else has done that? Super romantic. I should also add that at night the whole tower sparkles for 5 minutes, every hour on the hour. It really is spectacular.
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In our very limited time we were able to visit most of the popular tourist sites in Paris including, the Palace & Gardens of Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, Notre Dame, The Latin Quarter, Champs-Elysee, Galeries Lafayette, a boat tour, The Catacombs and The Louvre. This is completely doable in 4 days with strategic planning and luck. We were early enough to each spot that we didn’t have to wait in line very long (other than the many bag checks). We also got to see more than expected through our free walking tour (you know I love those)! If you are travelling in Europe check out Sandemans Tours at  http://www.neweuropetours.eu/paris/en/home. Our guide had so much passion for the history of the city that it was contagious, he also mentioned unique details that one would never notice on their own. I suggest doing this at the beginning of your trip, in case your guide points out something that you want to go back and see in more detail
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The food. Don’t even get me started on the food. My mouth is already watering. First off macaroons are now ruined for me. I have finally tried the best ever melt-in-your-mouth macaroons, that nothing else compares. If on Champs-Elysee go to https://www.laduree.fr/en/ for this life changing macaroon. We ate our way from street vendors to Michelin star restaurants, and were always satisfied. Do you love fromage? Truffle pasta? Is everyday #winewednesday for you? Have a sweet tooth? Go to Paris!

All in all, this bucket list trip was well worth it. I cannot wait to go back (and trust me, I will). There is still so much more to see, do, eat and drink! Paris is beautiful, romantic and friendly (despite the stereotypes that if you don’t speak French they will be rude towards you – that never happened and cannot be further from the truth. They are genuinely nice people). It is filled with fashion (stripes everywhere), history and magic.

J’aime Paris.

Au revoir,
Melissa

 

 

 

My First Amsterdam Play

It’s official! You will soon see me on an Amsterdam stage! I have been cast in the InPlayers production of ‘One Table, Two Chairs’, coming this November. More details to follow, but be sure to check out their website: http://inplayers.org/onetabletwochairs/. Also a note, the play is in English!

One Table, Two Chairs is about the glimpses into relationships we happen to catch: the fragile beginnings, the tumultuous middles, the bittersweet endings. Inspired by A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room and Jules Feiffer’s Hold Me, the play consists of short scenes and monologues which take place at a table with two chairs. The setting may be simple, but the problems we see there are complex: sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes tragic.” By Jacquelyn Poplar and Robert Leeds.


In travel news, we just got back from PARIS! I will be posting all about our adventures shortly so stay tuned! A little teaser… J’aime Paris!!!

 

IMG_1484Cheers,
Melissa

That London Feeling

I just recently spent a few days in Maidenhead and London, UK. This was a very quick visit, but still quite pleasant. London is filled with so many beautiful sites to see, that it was very difficult to fit everything into such a short amount of time.

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We did take a bus tour, for the first time, hoping this would offer the chance to view more of the city in the limited time we had. However traffic was not cooperative, due to closures from the marathon, so this took longer than anticipated. I felt like I was back in Toronto rush hour traffic again! I also noticed that the prices of tourist attractions seemed a bit higher then what I have seen throughout my travels thus far. The important lesson from this spontaneous trip is that planning, or purchasing tickets ahead of time, is definitely key. The most ideal way to travel is to have a firm idea of what attractions you would like to see, and to do your research ahead of time.

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That aside, London is gorgeous. It is a big city with a fine balance between old and new. The major sites are impressive and majestic. The double decker’s were exciting, the food was served in large portions, and the citizens were very helpful. You can feel the love of art and appreciation of Shakespeare throughout the city, which is something that any actress would enjoy. There are also some free attractions for tourists including the Science Center, the Natural Museum of History and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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My personal favourite and most memorable moment cost nothing at all. Walking along the Thames River from the London Eye (Ferris wheel) to the Tower Bridge at sunset, on a Saturday night, is such a treat. It had all the sweets you could eat, drink options, tacos, the sounds of the nearby waves from the Thames, festive music, a live theatre rehearsal, artists sketching their lovers and the captivating orange sky.

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Any suggestions on where to go next in Europe? What to eat? What to see? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for the next adventure!

Cheers,
Melissa