Couple’s Spa Getaway: Ste. Anne’s Spa, Grafton Ontario

 

The Original Stone Building.
The Original Stone Building.

I fell in love with St. Anne’s, the popular Ontario Destination Spa during my first visit about 10 years ago. At that time, I was nervous as a solo first time visitor. However, I was immediately put at ease by the warm staff and peaceful environment. Recently, I had the opportunity to return for a mid-week getaway, with my husband, Brian.  I’m happy to say that even though Ste. Anne’s has grown and changed, the original atmosphere still prevails.

My husband and I pulled up on a crisp fall day and couldn’t wait to go into the main inn  to get started. The Main Building on the property is an impressive stone house that was built in 1858 by Samuel Massey, the grandson of an early pioneer couple. He chose an ideal location for his home—on a plateau overlooking miles of rolling countryside with Lake Ontario on the horizon. After being used as a family vacation home by various owners, the property was purchased by the Corocan family in the early 80’s. The family has worked as a team to get the property in shape and at this point, one of the sons, Jim Corocan is continuing with innovations such as the addition of spa cottages, a bakery, a horse stable and a wellness facility.

Our visit began with a short tour and introduction to the site. All guests are given this type of introduction when they arrive. We were offered slippers and comfortable hooded velour robes to wear for the next 24 hours, if we so chose. My husband, who is a “dress down” kind of guy was happy to wear the robe for our entire stay.

Having a cozy dinner with my husband Brian, who never took his robe off.
Having a cozy dinner with my husband Brian, who never took his robe off.

I was excited to be booked into the Parlour Room which is located on the main floor ofthe original building. This bright room, with French doors opening to the courtyard, features a gas fireplace, a comfortable sitting area and heritage pine flooring. In-room wifi and a jacuzzi bath for two were also welcome features.One of the best things about Ste.Anne’s Spa  is that it works for people travelling alone as well  for groups of friends and for couples. During a  one day stay—they provide a package that includes 4 meals! Our itinerary had times listed for Afternoon Tea, Dinner, Breakfast and Lunch. I kid you not! The menus are excellent and it is a lot of fun to be pampered by having the opportunity to order three course gourmet meals in a country classic dining room. Somehow, we managed to fit in time for spa treatments, wellness classes and unstructured relaxation during the one day stay.

Relaxation and a casual atmosphere are encouraged, so all guests are issued robes when they arrive which are welcome to be worn in the dining area. Most people book some spa treatments and/or exercise classes for their stay but there are also amenities such as a plunge pool, hot tub and lap pool in the outdoor area known as the grotto. This is open year round—and it was fun to go in during our colder weather stay which was in the fall. In the summer there is a large pool overlooking the hills to enjoy.

We opted to go immediately to tea before even seeing our room as we had a lot to do in less than 24 hours. The tea menu was lovely with options that were savory, sweet or both combined. The servers are all patient and enthusiastic as the spa goers peruse the menus that are filled with healthy options–but not at the expense of taste or dessert.

The meals make sure that there is lots of couple time but there is plenty do on your own as well. While Brian sat in one of the relaxation rooms gazing out at the scenic views while getting a back massage from his chair–I curled up one of the couches in the pretty yellow parlour outside our bedroom and read a magazine.

Photo Courtesy of Ste Anne's Spa :The Grotto from above.
Photo Courtesy of Ste. Anne’s Spa : The Grotto from above.

We both enjoyed sitting in the hot tub in the cool evening air and chatting to another couple who were doing the same thing as us–getting away for some quality time together. There is also a eucalyptus steam room quite near the exit to the grotto, which is good for relaxing and clearing the sinuses!

Spa treatments can really make or break the experience. I find that having a rapport with the clinician is imperative for me to enjoy the experience. They really go out of their way at St. Anne’s to understand the client’s needs. Brian has MS so he needed someone who understood the neurological aspects of massage and he was quite happy with his masseur.

I choose to have a treatment called: Synchronized Tuning– which was a combination of mini-treatments depending on my preferences and the spa therapists specialties. My spa therapist spent time discussing my concerns and then we decided together how to proceed. Although this was an interesting approach–I think I benefit more from one treatment at a time, in depth. But it is a good option to try different things.

As we explored the property, I learned that a number of cottages had been added since my list visit. This gives groups or couples the option of a more private space with kitchen facilities, if required. They have also added something called Equine Experiences, which gives guests the opportunity to spend time grooming or riding their horses. There is also now a completely gluten free  bakery onsite and the gift shop was expanded and includes lots of great products and fun gift ideas. We bought the Feathery Pear Tea so that we could take a little bit of Ste. Anne’s home with us.

 

Continue reading Couple’s Spa Getaway: Ste. Anne’s Spa, Grafton Ontario

Downtown Buffalo, New York–Penthouse Vacation at the Hyatt Regency

Winter Retreat in a Penthouse–at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo

It was the ultimate winter retreat. An overnight in a luxurious penthouse atop of a landmark hotel–the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo, New York. The week before, Buffalo had been hit with one of the worst snow storms ever–but you wouldn’t know it. In the downtown area–the streets were clean–the snow did not make any impact. Like most Torontonians, I had grown up hearing about Buffalo on daily basis because some of our main television channels are Buffalo-based. I had been numerous times to the area for cross border shopping as well. But this was my first trip to Downtown Buffalo.  And I must say–it has a lot of potential.hyattregencyfront

I immediately liked the hotel which stands regally on a patch of land right in the heart of downtown, surrounded by storefronts.  The historic building was originally designed in 1924 as the Genesee office building  by noted local architect E.B Green. In 1983, when it was turned into a Hyatt hotel, the integrity of structure was preserved by adding onto the building through the addition of a glass atrium.  The lobby is enhanced by the wall of the original office building and classic touches such as high ceilings, vaulted windows and a chateau-like roof, all  add to the hotel’s sophistication.  The smell of steak from the award winning Green Steakhouse immediately made me hungry as we checked in. It was a Sunday night and it felt like a ghost town,  but Concierge Kyle Johnson went out of his way–staying on duty till we arrived and escorting us to our penthouse suite, all the while explaining his recommendations for dinner and sight seeing. We were looking forward to being driven around in the Mercedes-Benz Shuttle that came with the room, so we planned to dine outside of the hotel.

 

Striking Living Room of Penthouse Suite
Striking Living Room of Penthouse Suite

The 1500 foot suite was grander than I could have  imagined. There were soaring ceilings and solid masculine decor that screamed comfort and decadence. The main living space had a comfortable seating area with two leather chairs flanked by two sofas. The cold grays and browns were tempered by the numerous fur pillows and the softest of red throws–immediately inviting relaxation. The 65 inch TV in this area was primed for film watching and there was a long solid wood dining room table in the far part of the room, for dining or business.

In order to make sure that guests, whether leisure or business, are comfortable–the hotel provided well stocked kitchenettes in two different areas of the suite. Every drink imaginable with in the fridge–all kinds of juice, some wine and soda pop, along with milk and cream for coffee and tea-something I always crave in a hotel.

Kitchen luxuries
Kitchen luxuries

There was a nespresso coffee machine, a wine fridge and a microwave along with drawers full of interesting coffee and tea pods to try. We were instantly excited to spend the night in this beautiful penthouse. The evening views of Buffalo were pretty and the windows really opened–another pet peeve of mine: hotels where the air feels stale.

The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel dining room and it was quite delicious. I was impressed by the menu expressing a commitment to organic and local produce. They serve turkey sausage mixed with feta and cranberries and steel cut oats as well as a mean corned beef hash. We gazed outside onto Main Street and were struck by how quiet it was out there. Kyle had explained to us that the city was experiencing a resurgence but the pace was slow and steady. Apparently, in the 1980’s, city planners had decided that having a pedestrian mall on downtown streets, with no cars allowed, was the way to go. Transportation needs were met by a light rail system that went up and down the main streets. Well, in the 2000’s, people were ready to admit that the experiment hadn’t worked. We could see the almost empty trolley cars going up and down the main drag. Yet we kept hearing about restaurants, clubs and attractions that were popular–you just had to know where they were and how to get there. Not always simple for tourists.

We did have a chance to drive along the waterfront and admire the efforts to create a new leisure space for residents and tourists. There are many interesting cultural and architecturally significant sites to visit in Buffalo. What is missing is the feeling of a bustling downtown and fluent, attractive street fronts.  But it is certain that Buffalo is on its way; with numerous projects on the go to enhance and rejuvenate what was once a thriving city. The Penthouse at the Hyatt Regency offers one more reason to visit. The regal treatment and comfort provided here will leave you remembering your stay and looking forward to a return visit.

[box type=”info”[box type=”info”] If you go contact: http://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/

To book the Hyatt Regency Buffalo for a room or the penthouse go to:http://buffalo.hyatt.com/en/hotel/rooms/suite.html [/box] [/box]

[box type=”info”] Thanks to Katharine Nichols of huronpr.com for setting up our Winter Retreat and to the Hyatt Regency Buffalo for hosting us![/box]

 

Exploring the SolCal life–La Jolla and San Diego, California

 

 

I landed at the San Diego airport exhausted from a flight delay and immediately got into a cab. It was spotless. There sat the smiling driver, a young Ethiopian man who called himself Jonathon. We chatted the entire drive and when he dropped me off at my first stop of the trip—the Glorietta Bay Inn on Coronado Island, he gave me his card and said I could call anytime and he’d try to pick me up. Since I’d be switching locations several more times—this seemed like a great plan. It worked out perfectly. Since I was visiting a number of local areas,  I decided to take cabs rather than be constantly navigating and paying for parking. This decision really helped me to get to know the area, as the drivers were exceedingly friendly and willing to talk about what it is like to live in San Diego.  Free from having to navigate my way around, I was much more relaxed and able to take in my surroundings.

Pretty entrance to the historic Glorietta Inn.
Pretty entrance to the historic Glorietta Inn.

The island was beautiful with its scenic views and peaceful vibe. My hotel was right across the street from the famous Hotel Del Coronado,which is an old fashioned resort- complete with a huge ocean side pool and numerous options for dining and shopping. I enjoyed a meal here at Eno, which services authentic and rustic Italian cuisine. I began with a delicious moscato wine followed by a unique salad with roasted pear and cheese. My main course was another appetizer—home-style meatballs—perfectly done. And for dessert something I never would have thought of-but was so much fun to eat. Inside was a cheese cake—with an outer layer of marshmallow and chocolate! It was like having a s’more style cheesecake Right down to the toasted marshmallow!

A most unique dessert!
A most unique dessert!

I enjoyed walking the grounds of this historic gem but was pleased to go back to my intimate inn, the Glorietta Bay—where the staff were among the friendliest I have met anywhere. I had a late night swim and chatted with women who had the same idea.

I found this outside my door in the morning.
I found this outside my door in the morning.

My suite was nice and cool with a comfortable bed and a separate sitting room. In the morning I found a delicious cold breakfast outside my door.

My next stop after the Island—was the Omni San Diego which would be my home base while I toured  some of the city’s highlights through the Old Town Trolley on-off bus tour. It was a lot to attempt in one day as the temperature was an unexpected 93 degrees.  The Omni’s modern facilities and intense air conditioning, not to mention the roof top pool were most welcome when I returned.

Beautiful vacation home in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla.
Beautiful vacation home in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla.

After the day spent speed touring through Balboa Park and Old Town, I prepared to move to my next location—a pretty vacation home in La Jolla provided by All Star Vacation Homes.  The flower covered porch looked mighty inviting as I walked up the the front door of the Sea Star Beach Cottage.

My location gave me more of a sense of the SolCal lifestyle.  Dramatic coastlines and ocean views abounded. Within walking distance I found eateries, coffee shops and  boutiques for dogs ( and humans) as well as organic smoothie stores . This non-touristy community is known as Bird Rock and has a laid-back hipster type of feel to it.

As for the vacation home itself–it was had cozy relaxing atmosphere. The decor was cottage comfortable with palette of  soft blues and yellows. There were walkouts throughout and a living room with comfortable seating, a fireplace and a large screen television. There were three pretty bedrooms all with extremely comfortable beds and the kitchen was practical and well stocked.

My location was literally two short blocks to the main street and the same to parks and lookouts where I could stand and look at the rugged Pacific Ocean. I met a man who was watching his sons surf far below. He told me that he was from Mexico and that  he had worked very hard to bring his family to La Jolla.

Pretty bedroom in All Star Vacation Home
Pretty bedroom in All Star Vacation Home

 

La Jolla Coastline
La Jolla Coastline

I have to say that the staff at All Star Vacation Homes were outstanding. In advance , they provided me with a code for the lock on the house and their phone number. Sure enough, after my friendly cabbie left—I could not get the lock to work no matter what I did. It was electronic and I must not have been holding a number long enough. I used my cell to call the head office and the friendly customer service representative walked me through it. But that isn’t where it ended. As I mentioned, the heat was much higher than usual—it is usually so temperate in La Jolla that most of the houses did not have air conditioning.  Since I have severe allergies and migraines—I really need air when it is in 90’s. I called the customer service again and they actually brought over a window unit for the bedroom and installed it!

That was truly going  above and beyond. They also provided suggestions as to nearby places to eat and explore. I felt completely supported and welcomed during my stay at the Sea Star Beach Cottage.

My final portion of the trip was spent in the Village of La Jolla at the quaint and hospitable Grande Colonial hotel.

The Grande Colonial--a lovely historic seaside hotel.
The Grande Colonial–a lovely historic seaside hotel.

From the doormen to the front desk staff to the housekeeping staff—everyone was friendly and helpful. The room was luxurious with upscale bedding and windows that really open. I enjoyed swimming in the small pool and relaxing in back courtyard.

sealionsBest of all, it is a short walk to everything that makes La Jolla unique. My first order of business was to go to the ocean walk—which is chock full of tourists gaping at the marine life. The Children’s Pool area has been taking over by 100’s of beached seals and sea lions. These animals enjoy perching on rooks and swimming near the shoreline. It is not a safe place to swim due to the huge presence of  this wildlife, which can become territorial but it is a great place to see the unusual spectacle of seals and sea lions in their natural environment.

I visited one more resort on my last night in La Jolla–the deliciously upscale Hotel Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa, a hacienda style  resort  which is located next to the University of California on a large parcel of land.  Here I dined al fresco on a wonderful meal of short ribs and Parpandelle

Dining Al Fresco
Dining Al Fresco

and then enjoyed a relaxing visit to the pool and outdoor hot tub. An all in one destination with a luxurious feel–my meal here was one of the highlights of this trip.

Overall this sola getaway was relaxing and rejuvenating. Travelling alone and speaking to locals gave me the chance to really take in the natural beauty and unique culture of La Jolla and San Diego. Indeed several people told me that that moving to this area was worth all of their sacrifices. Even though the cost of living is high–the lifestyle is that beneficial.

 

Here are some things I learned that surprised me.

[box type=”info”] Rush Hour is practically non-existent in San Diego even though it is one of the biggest cities in America. San Diego is only 14 miles from Tijuana and the Mexican border. La Jolla is pronounced La Hoya. Luckily I was corrected before I left Toronto. It is truly expensive but people are willing to make sacrifices for the great weather and laid back lifestyle The temperature does go above 75. I was there during a 93 degree heat wave. Chuck Jones worked here and has left his mark with a studio that is across from the Omni hotel. There are almost no traffic lights in La Jolla and even with all the tourists—taking a leisurely walk across the road is not an issue. Everyone slows down and waits. Shocking to me when I almost get run over crossing at a light in a suburb of Toronto. Some Like it Hot was filmed at the grand dame hotel on Coronado Island, and the Hotel Del Coronado has hosted ten United States presidents, including the first state dinner held outside the White House Regan was the first to cross. San Diego is the birthplace of California San Diego Int Airport has only one runway and it is the busiest one runway airport in the USA. The first person to drive over the landmark San Diego-Coronado bridge, which opened in 1969 connecting downtown San Diego with Coronado, was Ronald Reagan. The San Diego International Airport is the busiest, single-runway major airport in the nation. I encourage everyone to go and find your own surprises in Southern California.[/box]

 

[box type=”bio”] If you go:

San Diego Tourism Authority: www.sandiego.org

Glorietta Bay Inn :  www.gloriettabayinn.com

ENO restaurant at the Hotel Del Coronado : hoteldel.com/restaurant-coronado/eno-wine/

Omni San Diego:   www.omnihotels.com/hotels/san-diego

Old Town Trolley Tours: www.trolleytours.com/san-diego/

All Star Vacation Homes : www.allstarvacationhomes.com/san-diego/

Grande Colonial: www.thegrandecolonial.com

Hotel Estancia Resort: www. estancialajolla.com

 

[/box]

 

Special thanks to Joe Timko and Robert Arrends of the San Diego Tourism Authority for helping me to organize this trip.

For help with your visit to San Diego and La Jolla go to :www. sandiego.org.



The Stratford Festival, Each Season Brings Something New

Me and my son enjoying some mother and son time after a matinee.This past summer I got to enjoy an entirely new experience at the  Stratford Festival: attending with my husband and two teenaged sons—who until now had not been interested in a family theatre experience. We decided to see two plays—Tommy and Fiddler on the Roof. Both are iconic musicals that have been made into films with wonderful musical scores. I had seen them many times but not through my children’s eyes. To make sure that we were well rested in between, I booked us a suite at the Arden Park Hotel--conveniently located right next to the Festival Theatre. We found it to be very comfortable with lots of space and a nice indoor pool.

Stratford is a perpetually lovely and tranquil town with lots of unique shops and restaurants. Add to that the scenic Thames river filled with ducks and wildlife and the intellectual theatre culture and you have a very unique getaway, just an hour and half from Toronto.  I never seem to tire of it.

Even tourists who live nearby, often make a night or two of taking in plays  and some theatre lovers , even come from distant countries and spend a whole week. There are enough historic bed and breakfasts and comfortable hotels to meet most any budget.  Now, for those who would rather not drive, there is an inexpensive direct bus from both Toronto and Detroit.

 But it is the theatre company which puts on 12 plays a season that is the center of the thriving tourism scene in Stratford.  It all began  with  Tom Patterson, a Stratford-native and journalist,  who wanted to revitalize his town’s economy by creating a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, as the town shares the name of Shakespeare’s birthplace.  He was gravely concerned about the imminent end of the railway industry  in Stratford  and the effect that it would have on the  town’s economy. Happily, Patterson achieved his goal, and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival became a legal entity on October 31, 1952. 

Over the years- the theatrical season has spawned a host of accompanying lectures, tours and special events known as The Forum. This include talks by academics, backstage tours and  Q&A session with the actors. To add the interest in the season, each year the plays revolve around certain themes  which are explored in more depth through the Forum events. For instance last season’s  Fidder on the Roof fits into the theme– Inside/ Out: Stories of Cultural Belonging. To complement this play–a York University professor gave a free talk on the 1960’s—and how the generation gap of that time is reflected in the father-daughter conflicts throughout the play.

Des McAnuff wrote and produced a Broadway adaptation of the film Tommy in 1993 with Pete Townshend  and then he had the opportunity to  revisit Tommy during the 2013 season, at the end of his tenure as  Artistic Director. The resulting play definitely fits in the with the another of the  2013 themes — Disablity, Disillustion and Self-Discovery.Tommy-T

This production  was true to the original version and although backdrops were cleverly conveyed with the use of the technological advances of the 21st century, there was still with a vintage feel to the production.

There are  many possible interpretations of Tommy’s condition of being unable to see, hear or speak–and the audience members can project their own feelings onto the situation.

My boys were so intrigued by the story that they bought the film version and watched it on the trip home. Although the setting was post-war Britain–the story of a boy who was locked in his own world due to trauma–definitely still resonates in the 21st century. Tommy goes from being seen as disabled and being cut off from society to being revered as a guru. He rejects this designation and seeks to motivate people to make their own choices and find a new way of connecting. As he expresses in the classic song:  See me, Feel Me

Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet

One of the enjoyable things about seeing more than one play at Stratford is observing how well members of the company can morph into other characters. After watching  s346_Fiddler_On-The-Run-Tome of them play tough aggressive adolescent  roles in Tommy—the next day we recognized the same actors dressed as Orthodox Jews and Russian soldiers.

The actor who played Tevye, Scot Wentworth,  was much slighter and less brusque than the traditional Topal or Zero Mostel actor but he brought a nimbleness and lots of fun to the role.

Fiddler on the Roof is one of my all time favourite musicals and I loved all of the song and dance numbers which were well executed. Especially   the dream sequence and the wedding. wedding scene

But this time—I really noticed the humour in the play—the sarcastic but loving comments between family members and town folk had us all laughing.

 

 

 This  year—the theme  Madness:  Minds Pushed to the Edge is the heart of the 2014 season.  This season marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday and In honour of  this milestone, Artisitic Director Anthoni Cimolino, has planned five Shakespearean productions.  These  include King Lear, Cleopatra and A Midsummer Nights dream—all of which deal with madness in different ways—and all three plays have a different view of love and how it can push one over the edge.  2014 musicals Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha also deal with dreams and never giving up.  “What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary plays,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Extreme stakes lead to great drama.”

Personally, I am greatly looking forward to the upcoming season as an opportunity to further explore the many facets of Stratford and this fabulous theatrical experience.

 

For more information on Stratford go to: www.visitstratford.ca

Festival Theatre--classic theatre in the round.
Festival Theatre–classic theatre in the round.

 

Here is a preview of the upcoming 2014 Season!

 

 

New York Girlfriends Getaway 2013

My latest trip to New York was packed into two days this past August. Our home base was the Sheraton New York Times Square. Formerly known as the Sheraton Towers, this hotel has recently undergone a 180 million dollar renovation.  My friend Jeannine and I made full use of the Club Floor facilities which included 24 hour access to a private lounge that offers healthy snacks such as fruit, veggies and granola bars. A very popular feature of this this relaxing penthouse floor sanctuary was a machine that allowed us to re-create all of the specialty drinks offered by Starbucks. There was also a full continental breakfast, computer access and a large screen television.

club suiteOur room was comfortable and spacious by New York standards. The beds had a number of fluffy pillows and the famous Sheraton Sweet Sleeper beds did provide a very good night’s sleep.  We found the staff to be helpful and check-in to be a painless process. Having a good home base is essential when one is doing the ” quick trip” to Manhattan. Centrally located, our home away from home allowed us to run around on foot or by transit and then meet up to compare notes. Jeannine went to the MOMA while I hit the Television museum. We trekked down to one of my favourite NYC sanctuaries–Bryant Park. After a quick lunch at one of the of the tables, I checked out the outdoor reading room, while she hit the Upper West Side. Even though we had both been to Manhattan numerous times we had never been to the Empire State building so we met there in the late afternoon and did the entire tour complete with audio. What a wonderful way to learn about the history of NYC and the various landmarks and boroughs.

Mario Serving at Abigael'sThat night we were royally pampered at Abigael’s on Broadway which is is billed as the largest kosher restaurant in the world. It is  owned and run by chef Jeff Nathan,  famed for his appearances on the Food Network as well as his popular cookbooks. The restaurant consists of a number of interconnected rooms at an underground level—where a varied fine dining menu is served-and a smaller above ground room which specializes in Pan-Asian cuisine. What is nice about this set-up is that you get the feeling of being in an intimate setting when the rooms are closed off from each other but actually as the world’s largest kosher eatery—Abigael’s can seat 350 guests at once in the lower level space and about 50 in the street level lounge.

The staff were extremely attentive and pleasant. Our waiter, the very smiley Mario, helped us to select a delicious starter of a Mexican tortilla soup which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Jeannine then went on to order the ‘carnivore’s delight'(~ short ribs, chicken, steak and sausage with   garlic fries and chimichurri drizzle) and I had pecan salmon ; served with an arugula salad of cherries, apples, fennel, wild rice and candied pecans, dressed in a pomegranate vinaigrette. But of course we shared everything and both thoroughly enjoyed the delicious meal.  I had to try my favourite dessert creme brulee–while Jeannine slowly slipped a glass of red wine.

The trip was over far too quickly. We managed to fit in a lively play,  Motown the Musical  and some shopping here and there. But as always–I’m ready to go back anytime–there is always more to see and do in New York City.

For help in planning your visit to New York City–http://www.nycgo.com/

Sail on Kosherica Cruises

by Neilia Sherman

Couple on a Kosherica Cruise.
Couple on a Kosherica Cruise.

Kosherica Cruises is the brainchild of Yehuda Shifman, who 14 years ago decided that he was tired of eating reheated frozen airline dinners when he attempted to take a cruise. He wanted to feel as pampered as the rest of passengers.

Certainly, one of the main attractions of Kosherica Cruises is that expert chefs prepare gourmet kosher dishes daily. The food is Cholov Yisroel and Pas Yisroel so it meets the standards of most Orthodox Jews.

About 90% of the passengers on Kosherica Cruises are Orthodox Jews and the rest come either to be with their families or simply to enjoy the Jewish atmosphere. Kosherica is really offering a cruise within a cruise. Shifman has collaborated with Celebrity Cruises, Holland-America and Costa Cruises, an Italian cruise line, depending on the cruise destination.

The concept is that kosher cruises take place on a secular cruise company’s regularly scheduled voyage. The kosher cruise operator brings its own chef, mashgiach, plates, entertainment, rabbi and lecturers to complement the cruise line’s numerous programs and amenities. Kosher cruise guests have the best of both world’s they can choose between the Jewish activities and the secular activities.

Kosherica passengers have their own beautiful restaurant where they can dine lavishly. In addition to the typical cruise ship amenities such as fitness centres, pools, art galleries, shopping and visits to great ports, Kosherica caters to its Jewish clientele by offering minanyim, shows with renowned cantorial singers and lectures by well known rabbonim and professors on stimulating topics. Past singers have included: Dudu Fisher, Mordechai Ben David, and Shlomo Simcha. Even separate swimming and Woman’s Israeli dancing have been on the roster.

Fine dining on a Kosherica Cruise.
Fine dining on a Kosherica Cruise.

These cruises are also extraordinary because they cater to both Jewish singles and families. Shifman’s daughter, Helit Edelstein, founder of JSingles.com coordinates an itinerary for singles in conjunction with Kosherica sailings each year.

The combination makes it easy for families and singles to travel together. JSingles group activities include SpeedDating, games and even a workshop with a life coach, who also offers dating advice via telephone pre-cruise. The formula seems to be working.

With the motto: “Have fun. See the World. Meet your Beshert”, JSingles cruises has
celebrated four marriages and one engagement since its inauguration in August 2004. The amalgamation has been a blessing for families, as now an unmarried family member can travel with his or her family and still take part in all of the singles activities.

There are programs that help singles on the ship get to know each other and of the international nature of cruising means that singles are meeting people that normally would not cross their path. At the same time, there is a lot for families to do and specialized children’s and teen’s programs to give parents a break.

But back to the food! I feel that I must explain just how good and plentiful it really is on these cruises. The gourmet cuisine is under the strict supervision of Maritime kosher, but the food is not just typical Jewish style–many nationalities are represented within the menu choices. Sushi, churasco steak and Italian specialties are popular. A typical breakfast offers omelet stations, blintzes, fresh salads and cheeses. Moreover, just like on regular cruises, there is afternoon tea and a midnight snack, so there is no fear of ever going hungry.

Kosherica has a tempting line up for 2008, including trips to all parts of the Caribbean, as well as Europe, Alaska and the Mediterranean just to name a few destinations.

If you visit:
For more information go to: www.kosherica.com or www.jsingles.com
Telephone: Toll free at (877) 724-5567

Copyright 2007 by Neilia Sherman. Published November 11, 2007. All Rights Reserved. Photos courtesy Kosherica Cruises.

Girl’s Getaway to New York City-The Sex and the City Tour

Talk to women about going to New York City and you’ll have immediate excitement. The shopping, the shows, the food! No two trips are alike. On my last visit, I was determined to see things that I hadn’t seen yet. A great way to do that–was to take the Sex and the City Tour–offered by On Location Tours. Not only is this tour a wonderful tribute to the show–but it offers a chance to visit many different iconic Manhattan locations. The tour guide–an upcoming actress and comedian was full of funny stories about her own life as well as the inside scoop on the taping of the famous television program.

First stop on the tour!

Our first stop was a sex store called the Pleasure Chest. How shocking! The guide assures us that this is where one of the main characters,  Charlotte,  bought her ” Rabbit” during the series. I take her word for it–but it does take me to an interesting part of Manhattan. After perusing the goods we headed over to Bleeker stree in Greenich Village  for some retail therapy and delicious cupcakes from the famous  Magnolia Bakery Shop. The fabulous tour ends at the bar which Steve and Aiden owned–which is actually called Scout. Here we got to relax and have a cosmo as the show was famous for.

We actually get of the bus four times but there are countless references to the program with scenes being shown on tv’s around the bus and the guide pointing out a variety of New York spots where key scenes were filmed. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour–since I’m a huge fan of the show and it was a fun way to see areas of New York that were new to me.

 

To book this tour go to: http://www.zerve.com/OnLocation/SATC

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Little Years, Stratford Trip 2011

We just returned from a whirlwind trip to one of my favourite Ontario towns–Stratford. Home of the swans and ducks along the river, one of a kind shopping and of course, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
I saw two plays, Jesus Christ, Superstar and The Little Years. The first with hubby and my ten year old son and the latter on my own.
I knew some of the songs from JC- Superstar but didn’t really know how the material would be handled. My decison to see this play was clinched after viewing a preview of one of the songs sung by up and coming star Josh Young as Judas. The end of play where he confronts Jesus is quite powerful.
The play begins with Christ and a bunch of his followers making their way to Jerusalem. Much of the drama focuses on the relationship he has with Mary Magdalene and Judas, both characters are presented as having intense feelings for Jesus, while he is struggling with all that he has taken on and the demands of “role” which he says feel like ” 30 years instead of 3.” We don’t witness miracles but rather a man who has achieved superstar status incurring pressures from his “groupies”, concern from the High Priests who worry that his claim of being King of the Jews will lead to anger from the Romans, and a conflicted reaction from his close friend Judas, who appears to love him intensely, while fearing the changes that are occuring with Christ’s rise to fame.
We all have a pretty good idea how it ends but it is interesting to watch this version of the events unfold. Much of the time Christ is confused and pre-occupied with a feeling that people around him don’t really care about him anymore. He tries to heal the sick and poor and then in despair shrieks at them to ” Heal Themselves”. This production has stand out performances from Brent Carver and Josh Young as well as an enjoyable comedic scene in the court of Herod.
My only disappointment was in the character of Mary Magadelen–the prostitute who loves Jesus just didn’t seem to generate any passion or enthusiam in her performance
The choreography, excellent singing voices and interesting minimalist set make for an enjoyable theatre experience.If you were young when Jesus Christ Superstar. first came out as movie in 1970, you were surely feel waves of nostalgia as you listen to this rock opera.
The Little Years was quite an interesting play that gets the audience thinking about concepts of time, science, and art which are all played against the aging process of a woman who gets stuck when her innovative and intelligent thoughts are not nutured but rather repressed by her mother and the school system. Her sister-in-law tries to encourage her along the way and she lives her life in the shadow of her brother who is lauded throughout the play but never actually seen as a character.
By the end of the play, we realize that time is a very precious commodity and even if we don’t quite understand it–we must try to make the most of the time we have.
Stratford is a beautiful town that is easy to navigate and quite walkable. There are a myriad of lovely bed and breakfasts–many within easy walking distance of the theatres and the downtown area. Make sure to reserve well in advance as the accommodations and restaurants book up early during the busy summer season.
For more information check out: http://welcometostratford.ca