Montreal, ci bon!

What did you do last weekend?

I did a 6-hr road trip with some dance friends to Montreal for the weekend! First trip of the year! ūüôā

Next to Toronto, Montreal is the 2nd largest Canadian city and said to have a ton of tourist attractions, museums, cultural centres and historic landmarks.

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From the lookout onto of Mount Royal, Montreal

Montreal is known for its mountain РMount Royal.  Lots of people often pack a lunch and head up to the catch the views for the top of it.  You can get to the lookout by bus, car or simply by walking up Peel St.

That’s one of my favourite things about visiting here – it is a total pedestrian city!!!

This was the 2nd time I’ve visited this city as an adult. ¬†The 1st was this past Halloween for a fun Lindyhop Exchange.

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Le Salon 1861 – The Church of Lindyhop – Halloween 2015, in Montreal

Since I was only there for a weekend – this time a blues dancing event – there really wasn’t ¬†time to explore any of the ‘typical tourist attractions’.

Although, I did manage to check out a few cool things this city had to offer.  Here’s a recap of what I did …when I remembered to take pictures:)

A Walk up Saint-Denis St. & Saint-Laurent Blvd.

I explored the city on foot easily, specifically the area in and around Saint-Denis St. & Saint-Laurent Blvd (not too far from Parc Jean Mance).

If you’re looking to see Montreal at its hippest and most happening, these are the streets for you!

Montreal Saint-Laurent Blvd
Saint-Laurent is easily found, as it has a strings of lights zig-zagged along it.

Plus, there were tons of  restaurants, boutiques, and vintage shops to tryout and poke around.

Maybe came home with a few treats for moi… ūüėČ

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New-to-me finds from the various vintage shops of Montreal’s Saint-Laurent Blvd.

It was a fabulous weather day ‚ėÄÔłŹ to have been exploring Montreal¬†on foot. After the shopping and a brief stop for¬†Ripples Ice Creamūü涅 a friend and I found ourselves on a sunny patio and prepared to play a Fun Drinking Game I’ve invented called: Man Buns & Beards ūüćĽūüė鬆#ppmeowTravels.

It seemed that this city is populated by hundreds of well dressed beautiful people, which meant the rules to my drinking game needed some modifications ūüėČ …

Drinking Game: Man Buns & Beards
UPDATE: drinking game adjusted to Newsie Boy Hat + Scaf + Beard combo. ūüĎŹūüŹĺ#Montreal¬†#men

The Underground City

Did you know that there are more than 30+ km of underground shopping in Montreal!? ūüėģ

Yep! It’s essential for blustery, frost-biting cold, wintery days this city gets. ¬†Which means shoppers can walk around the city during Winter without ever going outside.Ville-interieure-Montreal-Dessous-300x200

There’s really no “entrance” to this underground shopping world. You kind of just happen upon it. ¬†You can pretty much find an entrance to the Underground City anywhere in downtown. Just about every building in downtown has a door that leads you to this place. There are information kiosks scattered throughout, so you can easily pick up a map and start navigating.

I believe I entered from the corner of St. Catherine and McGill (McGill stop on the metro)…after exploring the campus grounds a bit.

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Beautiful, sunny Spring afternoon on McGill University Campus, Montreal

There are LOTS of different shops and food courts. And few nice department stores, like SIMONS (one Toronto doesn’t have). ¬†Eaton Centre Montreal is very similar to Eaton Centre Toronto.. same stores.. same sales…

What I notice was that aside from AdditionElle and Pennington’s, the plus-sized boutiques and offerings were scarce. ¬†With extremely ¬†limited options within the many corridors of the Underground City. :/

IMG_1543IMG_1542Because of this fact,¬†I was very well-behaved… only spending a little $$ on some sale items to help with Project: Apartment Refresh…¬†stay tuned to the blog for that ūüėČ ¬†A set of fleece doggie pillowcases marked down to $4.99, from Simons.

And this terrific watermelon shower curtain marked down to $9.99 (also from Simons). ¬†Found some watermelon-esk green hand towels too (Winners $3.99). ¬†Now just need some sort of watermelon floor mat for my bathroom theme to be complete! ūüėČ

Last, but certainly not least, my Montreal trip concluded with….

The Barbie Expo

Whilst exploring the Underground City… we stumped upon the most wonderful exhibition which¬†featured more than 1,000 Barbies in designer clothes!! ‚̧ ‚̧ ‚̧IMG_1536The largest permanent, haute couture Barbie exposition in the world has taken roots in Les Cours Mont-Royal in Montreal!

I Love Lucy Collection
I Love Lucy Collection

There was even a special I Love Lucy feature for the show’s 65th anniversary, with Barbies dressed up in Lucy’s costumes from the most memorable episodes ‚̧

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Much photo love to the Barbies of the Motherland: ¬†India ūüôā

This Barbie Expo had high-fashion Barbies, designer Barbies, and even celebrity Barbies!!!

Some dolls were¬†wearing designs from Armani, Dior, Versace, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and many more notable names from the fashion industry. ‚̧

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Needless to say I kinda lost my mind, and iPhone camera space ūüôā ¬†Are you following me on¬†INSTAGRAM?

If so, you’ve likely seen a few more pics and video clips as I took them during my trip.

Search for the hashtag: PPMeowTravels to see more of my adventures there.  Thanks for following and reading:)

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‚̧ Life Goals ‚̧

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Asia: 22 days – 3 countries

In an effort to keep my 2015 promise to¬†myself to Shop Less, and Travel More …¬†I‚Äôve taken the bulk of March off work to explore¬†South-East Asia.

In my last post, I reviewed the 5 essential things to know before you go ….the importance of planning BEFORE a big trip. ¬†I’m happy to report that¬†I’ve been able to book all my flights, determine a budget for the overall trip, topped up my travel insurance, and have made an appointment for all necessary vaccinations with a travel clinic for early next week (giving me plenty of time to begin any early doses of meds, if required). ¬†I’m feeling pretty accomplished friends. ūüôā

Now, the big question remains … WHERE the heck am I going?

The Huffington Post recently put out an article entitled:¬†The Top 50 Cities To See In Your Lifetime.¬† I’m sad to report that I’ve only been to 8 out of these 50 cities so far. Buuuuuut…come March 2015, I’ll be able to check off #26 from this list!

DESTINATION #1:  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur

This is the capital and most populous city in Malaysia. The main religion there is Islam, with significant Buddhist, Hindu and Christian minorities. ¬†With tropical super-summer-heat weather from March through to July. ¬†I’ve gotta keep both of these elements in mind when coming up with outfit choices.

Sadly, there won’t be any major festivals being celebrated while I’m there. ¬†This is the first destination of this trip as I’m meeting a gf of mine who currently lives there. ¬†Once I’ve recovered from the 29-hour flight there (yup…29-hours of solo travel – two stopovers – ew! ¬†That’s what you get when you book big travel on points friends.) ¬†After taking a few days to adjust to the time difference, she and I will head off together to ………….

DESTINATION #2: Boracay, Philippines

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Boracay Island

This is a small and most famous island¬†in the¬†Philippines – ¬†known for its beautiful beaches, and pricey resorts, with a major party scene. ¬†Woot! Woot! ¬† We’ve decided to book a more modest hotel for the bulk of our stay here, but do a two-day splurge-o at a fancy spot before we depart.

Thinking I might even don my very first bikini on this beach …let’s see if my online order arrives on time…and if my body confidence is at an all time high by then. ¬†The main religion here is Roman Catholic, so I’ll fit right in –¬†catholic guilt and all ūüėČ

DESTINATION #3: HŠĽôi An, Vietnam

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HŠĽôi An

Our last trip will be to this historic Old City in Vietnam, with a unique mix of Japanese, Vietnamese, and European influences. ¬†Turns out, there’s a community of swing dancers out here and they are hosting a dancing weekend while I’m there!!!

VLX РVietnam Lindy Exchange, is a fun weekend of Swing dance exchange hosted by Saigon Swing Cats annually since 2009 in different towns in Vietnam. (Mui Ne, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon).  

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2015 VLX – Swing Dancers Nationality

Apparently for the¬†first time in the history of the VLX, this year, the Vietnamese represent less than 10% of the dancers. ¬† We have signed ourselves up for the full weekend – which means we don’t have to do much research for hotels – yay! ¬†¬†¬†I’m also determined to find a fab tailor to make me some custom threads too while we’re in Vietnam, I just hope there’s enough time.

There you have it folks – high level overview of where and what I’m planning on doing in South-East Asia. ¬†Weeeeeee! ¬†Writing this post has been super helpful – It’s really REAL now and I’m getting excited.

Full Disclosure: I’m freaking out!!!

This will be the first time I’m flying completely solo — I’m a nervous flyer in general, and these multiple connections I’ve gotta do alone is making me very anxious. ¬†Plus, don’t the airplanes of Malaysia have a recent history of disappearing all together!?!?!? ūüėģ

A tourist inadvertently destroying the place he is visiting

Packing right is going to be incredibly important. ¬†With all my many flights and connections, I’ve decided NOT to check any luggage. ¬†Which means, I’ve gotta come up with 22 days worth of outfits that are cultural respectful, yet summertime comfortable that fits into 1 piece of carry-on only … yikes!

That’s gonna be challenging. ¬†Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll cover just that friends. ¬†Dun dun dunnnnnnn…

What are the MUST pack vs. Nice-to-pack items that YOU’D recommend I take along with me for this upcoming adventure friends? Would love your packing tips and thoughts and tricks¬†— leave them in the comments below.

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Asia: What To Know Before You Go

PPMeow! turned one year old a few weeks ago … and in an effort to make the most of this¬†New Year,¬†¬†I took a¬†START-STOP-CONTINUE¬†approach to help me focus on what I wanted to accomplish and focus on.

I promised myself to START Shopping Less, to Travel More!  

Well…I’m doing just that friends!! ¬†I’ve taken the bulk of March off work to explore South-East Asia!

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In 2012, I was fortunate enough to finally visit The Motherland (India) …without being limited to strictly visiting one distant relative’s home to another, as I remember doing as a child on our only family trip to Calcutta. ¬† This time I travelled with a gf ¬†— we took 21-days to explore several cities in Northern and Eastern parts of India, which included: Delhi – Varanasi – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar – Udaipur – Goa – Mumbai. ¬†This was the most adventurous trip I had ever taken – complete with 8 near-death experiences. ¬†Click here for a few pics of that fab trip.

That was my first time travelling to Asia as an adult. ¬†And in preparation, I did a bunch pre-trip research at that time. ¬†Research that I needed to refresh myself on as I prepare for this next visit in a couple of months. ¬†So I thought I’d share my tips with y’all in this post ūüôā

According to The Rough Guide’s First-Time Asia there are 5 ESSENTIALS to know before you go…

1.  Visas & Boarders

A Visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued. The country issuing the visa typically attaching various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc.   Many Asian countries issue visas free of charge on arrival at major airports and land-boarders. You simply show that your official your passport is valid for at least another six months and that you have a ticket out of the country. India, however, requires visitors to buy a visa in advance before arriving.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.16.32 PMThis table gives a broad outline of visa requirements in Asia, You should confirm the details of a visa requirements for a particular country before travelling as rules at each embassy changes often.   The forms can be lengthy and may require you to hunt down info that you may not know off-hand.  So, best to start the visa process early, if you can.

2.  Booking the Flight

Once you have your visa application, you can now BOOK A FLIGHT. ¬†The travel industry is hugely competitive business so it pay to shop around! talking to a travel agent will help you come up with interesting alternatives within your destination as well. ¬†Some of the sites I’ve had the most luck with are Flight Centre; CheapFlights.ca; and SkyScanner.
online flight booking

3.  Travel Insurance

Whatever the length of your trip to Asia, it is strongly advised that you arrange travel insurance to cover medial treatment and perhaps the loss of personal possessions. If you get seriously ill or are involved in an accident, your insurance coverage will enable you to get the best care as well as medical evacuation to your home country, if necessary. The insurance industry is also a highly competitive one, so shop around and price compare on websites to help you make your mind up. Also check with your company benefits provider, as well your credit card providers – ¬†there might be some cardholder¬†deals available to you for travel insurance. ūüėČ

4.  Vaccinations

Preparing for a great trip doesn’t just involve packing right, it also involves preparing yourself medically to ensure your travels are healthy and worry-free while you’re there and upon your return.

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This Incredible Map Shows All The Infections That Vaccines Could Have Prevented Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-vaccine-preventable-infections-2014-1#ixzz3OrGLkI6n

It is wise to get medical advice as early as possible about which vaccinations you require for your trip as many are given as a course of two or three intervals in order to be effective. You also need to find out early about the type of malaria-preventative medication that is recommended for other areas you are visiting as you may need to start taking tablets in advance of departure.  While your family doctor may offer some injections cheaply or free, you may want to contact a private travel clinic to make sure you get the most specialized information available.

5.  Budget

Last, but certainly not least, is determining a BUDGET. ¬†When planning a big trip like this, everyone’s budget will be different and unique to them.

Now, the Western Dollar goes a pretty long way in Asia. ¬†Here are¬†a few “sample budgets” to help illustrate top-end…mid-range…low-end begets might work out when traveling to different parts of Asia. ¬†Hopefully to give you a better idea of how much things will cost and how much you should expect to be spending on certain things.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.50.03 PMCongratulations —- You are now armed with the essentials to know before you go and travel Asia!!!!

Are any of you thinking of doing any big travel this year? Where are you off too?  Did you find this post helpful as a starting point to getting your travel ducks-in-a-row?  Hope it helped you recognize the importance of planning BEFORE a big trip.  Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Ooooh…I’m getting excited (and nervous) for MY big South East Asia trip now!!! ¬† I’ll announce the countries I’m planning on visiting this March in my next wanderlust post. ¬†Stay tuned friends. xo

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