first class on korean air

Three days after our wedding, my new husband Johnny Jet and I departed my hometown of Toronto for our dream honeymoon. We flew out of Toronto on Korean Air, headed first to Seoul and then on to the ultimate honeymoon destination, Bali!

Before leaving for the airport, I went through my usual pre-flight routine. Toothbrush, passport, laptop? Check, check, check. I ran through my list of essentials and was all set except for one last thing. I can’t travel without my Kobo but I’d not had time to download any new books. With just half an hour to go before we left for the airport, I downloaded two new novels: Andrew McCarthy’s memoir The Longest Way Home (Free Press, 2012) and a thriller by Linwood Barclay, Never Look Away (Delacorte Press, 2010). I waited impatiently for the books to download but once they did, my Kobo froze. What? I didn’t have time for this. I started to panic. A bookworm like me can’t go two weeks without her books. I went online to troubleshoot but nothing I tried revived my e-reader. We made a pit stop at Walmart to grab a new one before heading to the airport.

As we walked through the international departures terminal at Toronto’s Pearson airport, John told me I had a number of surprises awaiting me throughout the course of our honeymoon. Surprises? Who doesn’t love surprises? I’d have to wait to discover what he had in store for me!

We checked in for our flight, went through security, then waited in the lounge until our flight was ready to depart. My new Kobo was not formatted; I had to download all my books on there before I could use it. Fortunately, Pearson International Airport has free WiFi so I jumped online immediately to get my Kobo up and running for the 13-hour flight. But it took so long to format and download my 50+ books, it didn’t finish before I had to board the plane. Ugh. A 13-hour flight with no books. Not good. Turns out I didn’t really need to worry about that.

ImageLove the free WiFi at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Trying to format my Kobo and download my books before boarding our 13-hour Korean Air flight to Seoul.

As we boarded our Korean Air flight and walked to the very front of the cabin, I realized that we would be flying first class … what an amazing surprise! The seats were huge with tons of legroom. And the first class cabin was virtually empty, making us feel like we were in our own private living room.

ImageFirst-class seats on our Korean Air flight were an amazing surprise and made the 13-hour flight a breeze.

When it’s time to sleep, those big, comfy seats lie fully flat. I’ve had the good fortune of traveling business class on other airlines with lie-flat seats but Korean Air’s seats are probably the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. I was truly comfortable, not just sort of comfortable. I woke up feeling like I’d had a great night’s sleep, which doesn’t happen often on an airplane.

And thanks to the incredible entertainment system, I didn’t even miss my Kobo. The selection of movies and television shows is extensive (I finally got to watch Snow White and the Huntsman), as well as the selection of music, kids’ channels and games. The entertainment system offerings are the same in all classes on Korean Air but the screens get larger as you move from economy to business to first. You can even access the in-flight duty free shopping from your individual screen. Kobo? What Kobo? Yeah, I didn’t miss it – I had more than enough to keep me entertained.

ImageEnjoying the fully lie-flat bed in pajamas provided by Korean Air. Flying doesn’t get any easier or more comfortable than this. I was very lucky (and grateful) to experience this!

The food took airplane food to new heights. I realize I was flying first class, so of course it was good, and unfortunately, I can’t comment on what the food in economy was like. But the first class menu really was first class. From traditional Korean dishes like ‘Bibimbap’ to grilled beef tenderloin and roasted black cod, the food was gourmet. Although my favourite dish might have been the spicy Ramen noodles that were served as a snack later on in the flight. And the still-warm cookies.

ImageLunch begins with blue crab meat cannelloni with poached prawn on mango salsa.

Overall, I give my experience on Korean Air a 10 out of 10. The service was exceptional. The flight attendants couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly. These days, when all we seem to hear about in the news are travel nightmares, it’s nice to know that there’s still exceptional service out there. Thanks, Korean Air!

ImageThe incredibly friendly, polite and helpful flight attendants are a big part of the reason why the experience on Korean Air is so enjoyable.

{Photography via:}

What’s your favourite airline to fly?


brindisi, italy: don’t bother

The short story is that Brindisi sucks.

But it seems unfair to just leave it at that. Here’s a quick look at Brindisi, Italy and what I enjoyed and what I didn’t enjoy.

Brindisi is an industrial port. Due to its location on the Adriatic Sea, it’s a major trading port between Italy, Greece and the Middle East. Its leading industries are energy and chemical production and agriculture. If you’ve been following along, then you know that my fiance John and I have been on a 10-day cruise through the Adriatic. When we disembarked the ship, the walk into town was not picturesque. Once we got into town, the streets were slightly more appealing but nothing you’d tell friends and family back home about. Let’s put it this way: There wasn’t a whole lot of Instagram-ing going on, if you know what I mean. There’s lots of shopping on the main drag but again, nothing to get too excited about. In short: Brindisi didn’t seem to offer visitors all the charm we’ve come to expect from Italy. And since this is my first trip to Italy (I started in Venice a few days ago), and I’m full of high expectations, it sorely disappointed.

Streets and buildings like this did nothing to appeal to my senses. Italy? Is that you?

But turn a corner and you encounter this scene. Love the colours, the architecture and the typically Italian Juliet balconies.

Despite the fact that I found this town lacking in the looks department, you can usually count on Italy for good food. John and I broke down and sampled an Italian pastry for breakfast. This sugar-covered, white-chocolate stuffed doughnut was OMG-good. I think it was a diet doughnut, too, thank goodness.

There are a lot of churches in this small town but the one really worth seeing is the Brindisi Cathedral. The duomo was originally erected during the 11th and 12th centuries but what visitors see today is an 18th century reconstruction; an earthquake in 1743 destroyed the original church that stood here.

The old, somewhat dilapidated exterior belies the beauty that lies within the walls of the Brindisi Cathedral. Inside you’ll find soothing colours and soaring ceilings.

John was in need of a haircut and decided to visit an Italian barber for a trim. In a town with little else for tourists to do, it’s great to try and live like a local. The owners of this barbershop were wonderful and friendly and as we communicated in a comical exchange of broken English and broken Italian, this became the highlight of our day in Brindisi.

And last but not least, we had to try some real Italian food. Alas, the spaghetti pomodoro at a restaurant near the port was not quite as delizioso as we had hoped.

All in all, Brindisi failed to impress. What is it that makes some cities great and others disappointing? In this case, I would say that the town of Brindisi just wasn’t beautiful and it didn’t stir my soul. And maybe that’s okay … you need to know the ordinary in order to appreciate the extraordinary. I can’t wait to return to Italy but needless to say, Brindisi is one stop I won’t be making again.

corfu, greece on seabourn spirit

Back in 2009, my fiance Johnny Jet and I sailed on Seabourn Odyssey through Turkey and Greece. This week, on Seabourn Spirit, we traveled to Greece for the second time, this time to Corfu.

Corfu is one of the most popular of the Greek islands (and the first Ionian island at the mouth of the Adriatic), and we were among the throngs of tourists that flock to Greece during the summer months. But as Seabourn Spirit pulled into port, it was easy to see the draw. The vibrant blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and the rugged coastline are a perfect pair.

John and I climbed the rugged and sometimes slippery steps up to the top of the Fortress of San Marco, which was built by the Venetians between 1576 and 1645. (Corfu was under Venetian rule for about four centuries, beginning in the 15th century.) Even in the sweltering heat, the views from the top were worth the climb.

It was hot in Corfu – about 38 degrees Celsius hot. Cooling off in the Adriatic was not just nice. It was necessary! We found a small pebble beach (sand beaches seem to be rare in these parts) and spent the afternoon swimming. This particular beach was popular with locals too. Many of the kids spent hours diving off a wooden platform over and over again.

After strolling around the Old Town of Corfu (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), we asked a few locals for restaurant recommendations for lunch. The reponse was unanimous: Restaurant Rex. We dined al fresco and I had saganaki. Delicious and authentic. Opa!

Back on the ship, there was a performance of traditional Greek folk dancing for all passengers to enjoy. Afterwards, the dancers taught willing participants how to master their moves.

To eat at the outdoor restaurant The Veranda on Seabourn Spirit, you have to make advance reservations. Luckily John and I had. They were serving Indian food that evening and as usual, the food was first rate. My hat off to the chef, who consistently serves up delicious and varied meals for us each night.

After dinner, we were treated to a spectacular sunset, the perfect note on which to bid the day adieu.

exploring kotor, montenegro on seabourn spirit

The first stop on my 10-day Seabourn Spirit cruise on the Adriatic was Kotor, Montenegro. I’d never heard of Kotor so needless to say, I didn’t know quite what to expect. But I’d had dinner with the Captain the previous evening and he’d given me a small sense of the beauty that awaited us upon our arrival. And he wasn’t joking.

After hours at sea with nothing in sight but water, our approach into Kotor was breathtaking. The limestone mountains seemed to rise from the sea, dotted with the terra cotta rooftops of houses along the coast.

The Bay of Kotor is one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea and the curves of the coastline make it pretty and picturesque. The old town in Kotor is especially well preserved, one of the most preserved of all the towns lining the Adriatic in fact, and is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Visitors to Kotor’s old town are greeted at the entrance with a carving that reads: “What belongs to others we don’t want, what is ours we will never surrender.” The medieval old town reminded me of the setting of various fairy tales I’d read as a child; I had my eyes peeled for a prince or an evil queen at the very least. I loved the centuries-old, winding, narrow streets.

Wandering the streets of the old town is a must but even before you do that, I suggest climbing the mountain that provides the impressive backdrop of Kotor. The climb consists of some 1,500 steps and it’s a demanding walk. Do it early in the day before the afternoon sun gets too hot and be sure to wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat. And don’t forget to bring lots of water. Locals sell water along the way if you forget. When you reach the top of the citadel, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Kotor. The mountains, the peaceful waters of the bay and the old town below make a postcard-perfect picture. On your way down the mountain, be sure to go slowly and hold on to the railings. It’s steep and many of the stone steps are slippery from wear; it’s easy to lose your footing.

The other great thing about climbing the mountain is that from way up there, it was easy to get a lay of the land and spot beaches where my fiance and I could go cool off when we got back down to the bottom.

The beach we found was a small pebble beach. The turquoise water was warm and inviting. A long swim was just what we needed to cool off after our hike in the hot sun and to work up an appetite for a fresh lunch back on the boat.

As Seabourn Spirit departed Montenegro, we passed a small church standing solitary on a small island in the bay. Our Captain had mentioned that he has a tradition of blowing the ship’s horn as he passes; if the local priest is there, he will ring the church bells in response. As we sailed by, the ship’s horn blew and we awaited an answer. And then it came. The church bells rang out loud and clear and as I soaked in that moment, in the most glorious natural surroundings, I felt God’s presence as sure as the warm summer breeze on my skin.

british airways lounge at newark liberty international airport

On the road again, this time on the trip of a lifetime. Italy has long been on my bucket list. I’ve daydreamed about traveling to Italy for many years and this week, my dream came true. But before we land in Venice, I’ll tell you about my journey there.

From Toronto I flew to Newark, as I was flying British Airways from Newark to London to Venice. British Airways just recently opened a brand new lounge for business class passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport and I got to check it out. Here’s a peek inside:

British Airways recently changed the location of their gates at Newark, part of a multi-million dollar upgrade to Terminal B. This new lounge means a shorter walk to the gates for passengers when they’re ready to board. The new lounge is about twice the size as the old one it’s replacing. When I first walked in, I was the only person there, save a few staff members, which really emphasized how large it was. But even as the lounge filled up, almost to capacity, it didn’t feel cramped or crowded. The lounge has seating for 177 passengers, spread out over more than 8,000 square feet.

The furnishings in the new lounge are modern and elegant and – perhaps more importantly – comfortable. Many travelers I chatted with in the lounge had wait times of about five hours for their connecting flights. Comfort is important. But the fact that they look so good doesn’t hurt either. Bright, bold fabrics help add a modern look and feel to the lounge.

The lounge is enveloped in floor-to-ceiling windows, making it the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the panoramic views and do some planespotting.

You won’t go hungry in the lounge. There’s a tea and coffee station with crackers, cheese, pastries and biscuits.

There’s also a deli, a full bar, plus a dining area with a full hot and cold buffet. There’s a central island set up with fruit, fresh fruit juices, chips and other snacks as well. I loved that they offered fresh fruit juices!

Although – perhaps the best treat I found in the lounge were these Smores bars for dessert, which I sampled after my hot meal of salmon cakes and creamy bacon mashed potatoes.

Of course, it’s mostly business travelers who frequent the lounge and for them, plenty of amenities are available. There’s free WiFi (just ask a lounge attendant for the password), as well as four PCs, a printer and a small table with power ports so you can charge up all your gadgets. Although, I have to say – I’ve noticed this any time I’ve been in a business class airline lounge: There are hardly any women. It’s mostly (in my experience) a sea of men in suits with loosened ties and rolled up sleeves, the globally recognized signs of a long day at work and the need for a scotch. Have we really not come as far as we think we have? Is business travel still predominantly the domain of men, while we women stay home to tend to the family? I digress but I couldn’t help but ponder this as I sipped my English Breakfast tea and surveyed my surroundings.

The British Airways lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport is bright and welcoming and the service quite good. The friendly staff are easy to find, ready to answer questions and quick to whisk away that empty mug.

Have you been to the new British Airways lounge in Newark? If you have, what did you like best?

how much can you really fit in a carry-on suitcase?

During a recent conversation at work, I told my colleagues that I only travel with carry-on luggage. There’s the odd exception but as a rule, it’s carry-on only. I admit – it’s not easy … it’s taken some time for me to get it just right but with careful planning, I’m able to fit everything I need into a small and manageable suitcase.

As I explained this to the girls I work with, a girl from another department joined in on the conversation. As I spoke, she looked at me with an expression that can only be described as equal parts disbelief and disgust. “It’s actually really easy,” I said coaxingly, trying to convince her. I’m not sure why. “And there are so many advantages to having just a carry-on suitcase,” I continued.

“But … what do you WEAR?” she asked, her face unable to hide the distaste she felt at the idea of leaving favourite shoes, clothes and accessories behind. Ah. The vision in my mind started to crystallize. Most days of the week, she’s wobbling around the office on too-high-heels, looking like a deer that’s just learning to walk. I could see what type of traveler she was now, tottering along cobblestone sidewalks in a pair of four-inch stilettos. “You’d be surprised how much you can fit into a carry-on suitcase,” I said. (Why am I trying to convince this girl??)

She’s clearly had enough of the conversation and starts to walk (wobble) away. “Anyway, when I travel, I’m more interested in the experiences I’m having rather than what I’m wearing,” I can’t help saying as she walks by me.

All of this is to say, that it really can be done and it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your sense of style. I’m a girly-girl. I like my nice shoes and bags and while I can’t bring everything I’d like to, I thought I’d itemize everything that fit into this suitcase, for my two-week trip to India:

  • 13 dresses
  • 12 tops
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 4 skirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 belts
  • 1 sweater
  • 3 bikinis
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of heels
  • 2 pairs of flip flops
  • 1 pair of ballet flats
  • 1 evening bag
  • 1 cross-body bag
  • 1 shoulder bag

In addition to all of this, I’ve got an assortment of other odds and ends stuffed in there – India plug adapters, chargers for all of my tech toys, toiletries, hair accessories, a flat iron and two hair brushes.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to create a video to show you exactly how you can fit everything you need into a carry-on suitcase. Stay tuned – I’ll try to do something soon!

toronto to los angeles

So many people complain about the hassle of travel. Dealing with airports and sitting for hours on an airplane can take the thrill out of travel … if you let it. But I love being on an airplane. I love the anticipation of takeoff and I always get a window seat because I love to gaze out the window at the topography of the land below. My last trip took me from Toronto to Los Angeles and in mere hours, I was transported from the snowy, wintry landscape of my hometown to the beautiful, beach shores of California. Here’s a photo log of my travels:

One of the first snowfalls of the winter in Toronto on the day I’m leaving. There’s been so little so snow this year and it really is pretty. I’m almost sad to be leaving. Almost.

Amazing views below as we approach Los Angeles. Look at those mountains. Incredible!

Does it get any better than dusk at the beach? No. No, I don’t think it does.

What’s a trip to LA without a stop at In N Out Burger? The LAX location is amazing for planespotting. And no, I didn’t eat both those burgers. I had help.

I don’t play but it’s so nice to sink your toes into the sand and watch a game of beach volleyball.

One of my favourite spots: Under the pier in Manhattan Beach.

nomad traveller iphone case: perfect for the girl on the go

I love my iPhone 4. I used to be a loyal Blackberry user but once I made the switch, I knew I’d never go back. I love all the amazing apps, especially the photography apps. My favourites are PictureShow and Instagram. Both allow you to add filters to your pictures, taking them from good to great! I especially love using them on my travel photos to give them a bit of a boost.

Speaking of travel, my iPhone is my constant companion when I’m on the go – it ensures I can stay in touch with friends and family, provides endless amounts of entertainment and then there’s those great photography apps. So protecting it from all the potential perils of travel is essential. I’ve tried a few different cases and have settled on a new favourite.

The Nomad Traveller Case from Cygnett is perfect for a travel junkie like me. Not only does it protect my phone but I just love the design. It reminds me of a departure board at an airport. (I’ve been to six of the 11 destinations listed – so it also reminds me of places yet to visit!) And at just $18.99, you can’t beat the price. I also love how slim it is. It snaps easily into place and doesn’t add too much bulk to the iPhone’s sleek design.

Prior to discovering this case, I was using the Kate Spade New York Agenda case.

I love the whimsical design but the case adds a lot of bulk and weight to the iPhone. It’s also twice the price of the Nomad case, at $39.95.

Now that I’ve tried the Nomad case, it wins hands down for its original design and slim fit. It’s the perfect case for the girl (or guy!) on the go!

What iPhone case do you use?

neil george hair products at viceroy miami

Ask my fiance and he’ll tell you that he often hears murmurs of discontent coming from me after I’ve washed my hair at a new hotel. The problem? The conditioner. So many hotels offer guests awful, harsh hair and body products and it never fails to frustrate me. I’d happily pack my own shampoo, conditioner and body lotion were it not for airline restrictions on liquids. But I can’t. And so, I’ve often moaned about the terrible hair conditioner at hotels. And if you’re in Europe, the problem isn’t even bad conditioner. It’s no conditioner. Why don’t so many European hotels have conditioner for guests?

I recently stayed at the Viceroy Miami and found the best shampoo and conditioner combo I’ve ever used at any hotel.

These Neil George hair products (from LA celebrity hair salon Neil George) were amazing. Not only do they smell good enough to eat, they left my hair silky, shiny and without a tangle to be found. It was so nice not to have to tug my hairbrush through a mass of knots and break my hair in the process. Even better, the room had full-size bottles of all the products. This was great for me because those little hotel-sized bottles of conditioner are nowhere near enough product for my long hair. But don’t think you can stuff these freebies in your bag when you leave – the shampoo and conditioner will cost you $45 each.

Thanks, Viceroy for the great hair products!

travel essential: OKA b. ballet flats

Finding the perfect shoe to travel in isn’t always easy. They need to be comfortable (natch!), stylish and versatile. And a shoe that slips on and off easily is also a prerequisite for me. Since removing your shoes is an imperative when you’re going through security, I hate holding up the line, fighting with laces, buckles and zippers.

I love these simple, stylish ballet flats from OKA b. I have the ‘Taylor’ model in camel (although they do have a model named ‘Natalie’; maybe I should have gotten those!) and they’re one of the best shoes I’ve found to travel in. These shoes are flexible and oh-so-comfortable, probably because they feature an ergonomic footbed enhanced with massage beads, which cushion your feet as you walk. They’re easy to slip in and out of easy to clean – you can easily wipe them clean when you’re in a hurry, but can you believe they’re machine washable as well?

Available in a variety of styles and colours like Licorice, Cranberry, Hot Chocolate, Jade, Popsicle Pink, Fuchsia, Camel and Cherry, and priced at just $45, they’re your perfect travel companion. And … they come packaged in a delightful gift box, making them that much sweeter! For more information, visit

What’s your favourite shoe to travel in?