Picnic Day in Île d’Orléans

Just 15 minutes from downtown Québec City is located Île d’Orleans. The island has been described as the “microcosm of traditional Quebec” and as the “cradle of French civilization in North America.”


On a sunny Monday morning of October, Karine and I drove across the solo bridge, entering a land of farming and agriculture.


We acquired provisions in St-Pierre, filling our basket of local terrines, confits, cheeses and wine for our picnic. We also grabbed cheese curds as a snack for the road.


Elegant houses dating back from the French regime lined the single road.

We stopped in St-Famille to meet up with our friend Mathieu who works on an orchard. We drove the rough terrain with a 4×4 vehicle, then parked between apple trees, facing the stunning views of the Beaupré shoreline and Mt St-Anne.


We popped the bubbles and devoured the supplies.

We continued our drive to the far end of the island, towards the village of St-François, passing pasture farms and more beautiful ancestral homes.


I snapped a picture of the church, originally built in 1734, and rebuilt in 1992 by consequences of a fire that destroyed it 1988 (my mother remembers having coffee at St-Francois Church with the priest in 1976).


We carried on towards the picturesque village of St-Jean, where charming little houses dating from 1825 to 1860 stand along the road.


We drove along the beautiful scenery stretching along the banks of St-Laurent River and peeked at the bluffs of Lévis.


Coming at the end of our island tour, we stopped at St-Pétronille and glimpsed at the beautiful city of Québec.


We had a delightful surprise when we departed the island: a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky.


Vacationing in Gran Canaria

After travelling Morocco for 6 weeks, I decided to fly west to the Canary Islands of Spain, where I would spend 10 days vacationing. I’ve never been an all-inclusive fan, but considering the need for a vacation and the expensive Euro, it seemed more convenient and economic to choose a nice a hotel and not worry about anything.

I opted for the hotel Paradise Valle Taurito on http://www.booking.com for its beautiful location, affordable price and multiple attractions (read my personal reviews listed at the bottom).


Paradise Valle Taurito is a family self-sufficient resort, offering all the service and amenities you need. Wake up in the morning and enjoy a delicious breakfast on the terrace. Then move to the poolside where you can quietly read a book while sipping on a pina colada. At lunch time, enjoy a fresh seafood paella or snack on a classic burger and fries. If you are in need of more action in the afternoon, move to the waterpark and enjoy the slippery rides. Or simply unwind on your patio admiring the beautiful views of the resort and the ocean nearby. There is also a full service spa for a day of extra relaxation. At night, savour a nice dinner under the stars then perhaps have a stroll on the venue. Shows and entertainment are presented in the public place. There is also an arcade and games room as well as a mini-golf where you can show your skills. If you prefer quietness, hang out at the poolside bar where the friendly bartenders will take care of you. Nothing can beat a nice glass of wine chatting with fellow vacationers.

The black sand beach of Taurito is just a few feet from the hotel. Sandwiched between 2 wind shielding cliffs, it makes it a peaceful and comfortable area to relax, take a stroll or simply watch the warm golden sunsets.

There are many activities in Taurito to choose from. You can book a package with one of the companies located on the beach. Jetskiing, banana boating, parasailing, snorkeling, diving and sailing are all offered in Taurito beach.


I booked a day diving trip with Delphinus and did 2 beautiful dives at the marine reserve of El Cabron.

Perched on volcanic hills, Playa Taurito is located southwest coast of the island of Gran Canaria, between the port town of Puerto Mogan and the popular town of Puerto Rico. The sand dunes of Maspalomas are only a short drive away. There you can take a camel ride along the desert-like dunes.

The colourful port town of Puerto Rico offers a nice escape whether you want to take a walk along oceanfront promenade, glimpse at the fishermen returning to the marina, have a nice dinner at one of the authentic local restaurants, relax on a lounge chair at the beach or stroll the pedestrianized development surrounded by gardens of bougainvillea, palm trees, bird-of-paradise flowers, hibiscus and other colourful plants. This little “Venice of the Canaries” will simply charm you.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a complete vacation if you don’t cruise along the coast. Whether it is by bus, by car, or by scooter, the road along the ocean offers a scenic drive with the perfect sea breeze. We opted to rent a scooter and rode along the winding cliff roads, wind in the hair, chasing the sun setting over the Atlantic. Epic, scenic, simply majestic.


Paradise Valle Taurito Hotel review:

  • Location: The hotel is located south west of the island of Gran Canaria, between the towns of Puerto Mogan and Puerto Rico. The sand dunes of Maspalomas are a short drive away. No airport transfer is included with the hotel. You can choose to pay a taxi, but be prepared to pay a good 100 euros. You can opt to take public transportation. Ask the bus station clerk at the exit of the airport which bus to take to your destination. To get to Taurito, we took 2 buses, a total of 10 euros each. It took about 1  1/2 hour. Renting a car could be a great option.
  • Hotel: Very clean and comfortable newly renovated rooms with beautiful views of the resort and the ocean. Hotel always clean and well-maintained. Beautiful flowers and gardens.
  • Amenities: Small but nice pool surrounded by free long chairs. Pool tables, hot tub and free access to water park. The water has fun rides, although could need a good deep clean and TLC on the slides. Entertainment is a bit poor, but great for kids. Games room fun, but bowling is expensive. Mini-golf is a must! There is a nightclub that opens late for adults. Doesn’t get too busy and the drinks are not included, hence a bit pricey. Beach is clean and located only a few feet away. There is also a full service spa.
  • Food and Drinks: As most affordable all-inclusive resort, the food isn’t close to gastronomy. It tends to be a bit repetitive, but overall it is decent and eatable. The drinks are also ok. However, the self-service wine at dinner is horrible. Drinks and wine at the poolside bar are way better.
  • Staff: Had a great experience thanks to the staff. Very kind and helpful and, even after long days, they keep their smiles. Good job especially to the service and bar staff as well as the housekeepers. However, the front desk wasn’t too helpful with indications and recommendations, which made us miss our bus and take an expensive cab to the airport.

Vacationing and Island Hopping Part II: US Virgin Islands

Our 20 seat aircraft put wheels down on the deserted landing of St-Thomas’ only airport. Our friend greets us as we step down the stairs of the small plane. Sebastian is a friend we met in Grand Cayman. He moved to St-Thomas after he was offered a very attractive position within the Marriott hotels. As a matter of fact, this will be our home for the next few days (remember I am vacationing and not travelling this time, so I can indulge myself with this extravagance).

St-Thomas is a small island of the Caribbean, neighbouring to the east of Puerto Rico. Along with the islands of St-John and St-Croix, it is known as the US Virgin Islands, an other unincorporated territory of the States. Even with its bitty size, St-Thomas has a ton of activities to do for everyone. From sailing, scuba diving, sightseeing, shopping or dining.  Families, honeymooners or vacationers like us girls will find something to suit our holiday wants and needs.

Before anything else, we need to cheers to our reunion with a refreshment. We stop at Hooters to try one of their famous cocktails. I choose the Tropical Rum Punch (of course I did), and am astonished by the quantity and quality of the 5 different local rums (yes, I did said 5) that this generously voluminous Hooters girl pours in my giant ”to go” cup (it is common to walk from bar to bar with a beverage purchased somewhere else. How convenient). The drink is tasty and is perfect to celebrate. We import our sippy cup to a local bar next door where we meet up with some of Sebastian’s friends. Again, to honor the moment, we cheers with a colossal shot of jager (it seems the smaller the island gets, the more the portions expand..)!

We wake up to a beautiful morning in the US Virgin Islands. Staying at the Marriott is indeed a real treat. Comfy beds, mouthwatering breakfast buffets, infinity pool with stunning views and of course, the pool bar. Amber and I decide to play the lazy tourists for a day and soak in the pool under the Caribbean sun rays, sipping on delicious tropical cocktails here and there, snacking on finger foods now and then and just splurging in every second of our amazing vacation.

When the night comes, we put our evening dresses and wander around the resort. The air is warm but fresh and we admire the lights beautifully reflecting on the outdoor pools as a cruise ship pass by. The Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort is a destination itself. With its 4 pools, a luxurious sea spa, great dining options and stunning views of the ocean and the island harbour, it is easy to forget about the outside world. After all, we are on vacations. We hang out at the Rum Bar, an area overlooking the harbour. It is a gorgeous evening.

But the bars in St-Thomas close late and the evening is young. Why not step outside of the resort and explore the local hangouts. We drive east, to the opposite side of the island and stop in the area of Red Hook. A few open air bars host a blend of tourist, expats and locals.

Today, we decide to go visit St-John. Aboard Sebastian’s roofless Jeep Wrangler we cruise up and down the hills of St-Thomas and catch the ferry towards the sister island.


The Global Marine Tug’s life offers us a picturesque 25 minute cruise towards our destination. At arrival, we roam through the roads of St-John. The drive is spectacular: the waters are electric blue, the trees are vivid green, the sand is perfect gold. Just another piece of paradise on Earth!

Obviously, a day in St-John wouldn’t be complete without stopping at one the open air bar and enjoying their Happy Hour. From a variety of beers and cocktails to choose from, it is easy to get stuck there a whole afternoon sipping on 1$ bevies. Our stop to warm up the seats was at Woody’s where we enjoyed yummy… well you know, Rum Punches.


The time has come to say farewell to our friend. We thank him for his generous hospitality and for the opportunity he gave us to touch sumptuousness. We definitely had a luxurious stay and could have not asked for more. We crack a bottle of red at a local pub to close our visit. Oh and of course, a shot of rum!



This Caribbean island hopping was brief but surely filled with surprises and laughs and undeniable smiles. From the people we met and became friends, to the roads that lead us to the unexpected, to the vivid colours of the natural landscapes and to the true cheers to life we made, this vacation, with all its luxury, has been one of the finest!