Jody Robbins | Travels with Baggage - A a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust
Woman trail running

(Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

Is there anything better to look forward to than a girl’s weekend? I think not. Especially when you’ve been duly owed one for quite some time. I can’t wait to catch up with this group of gals, I’ve been friends with since elementary school. Our lives have taken us in different directions: we don’t all listen to the same music anymore, shop at the same store or spend hours on the phone like we used to. Fortunately, we’re always able to pick up right where we left off, and that’s what makes old friends golden. Here’s a look at what I’m most looking forward to this weekend. Hope you have a good one and stay gold, Ponyboy.

A Hike

We’re having our girl’s weekend in the mountains, so we have to, you know, do something outdoorsy. Does traipsing across Three Sisters looking at show homes count? Depending on how Friday night goes, we might be ambitious enough to tackle something to burn off those calories ingested. Grassi Lakes is an easy one and I like Sulphur Mountain because it goes up, up, up and then boom, you’re done.

fall colors in the mountains

(Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka Photography)

A Soak

There has to be some spa element during the course of a gal’s weekend. It’s like, a rule. Once we took a cue from Teen magazine and made homemade masks, applying honey and mashed up fruit to our faces. We didn’t look ridiculous at all. I’m keen to soak away the stress of our first-world problems at Banff Upper Hot Springs.

natural hot springs

A Flick

When we weren’t teasing our bangs into spectacular shapes, we spent much of the ‘80s watching John Hughes movies together. I bet we curl up on the couch at some point to watch 16 Candles or When Harry Met Sally. Does anyone remember Long Duck Dong? Or Bung Chow?

When-Harry-Met-Sally

Some Cake

My mom made this popcorn cake one Christmas when we were in high school and it became an instant hit. My daughter even requested it instead of birthday cake one year. What’s so awesome about it (besides all the candy), is that you don’t cut it. You tear off pieces with your hands. You can even form the pieces into little balls and pelt your friends from across the room when they make disparaging comments about Duran Duran.

gluten free cake

A Good Read

Will I have the time (or inclination) to read anything besides trashy celebrity magazines this weekend? I doubt it. Still, on Sunday night I hope to steal a few minutes to tuck into this book. For whatever reason, the last few books I’ve read have been set around the Napoleonic Wars, and I’m desperate to join this century. Here’s hoping I don’t inhale a pound of butter during the course of it.

French novel

What are your plans for the weekend?

tie dye roses equador

“I’m sorry, mom.” “Sorry ‘bout that.” “So sorry sweetheart, I’ll make it up to you next time.”

Sorry is such an interesting word. As a parent I’m astounded at how often I hear it. We so routinely demand it from misbehaving kids and truant spouses, I wonder if sorry has lost its meaning? In India, I’m told, sorry means: I forgive myself.

Now, I don’t know if this is true. Even if sorry doesn’t mean that in, I’m guessing Hindu, it raises an interesting point. What are we expecting when someone says I’m sorry?

Perhaps we’re expecting way too much. I think we expect the person apologizing to see the error of their ways, to empathize with the other person and realize how they’ve done them wrong. I don’t think they do. At least not right away.

Saying sorry is a quick, convenient way to minimize your damage. But it misses the mark. Saying sorry doesn’t mean what happened won’t happen again. At best it means: I acknowledge something went down I’m responsible for. Far too often, it means: social custom dictates I say this, so you can get off my back and we can move on.

So the next time you mess up or owe someone an apology, why not put yourself in their shoes before relying on those magic words to fix everything? Try to think about what they’d like to hear, and perhaps more importantly, see. Naturally, I write this post as a reminder to myself. As a loud mouth, I frequently offend people. But hey, I always seem to forgive myself.

Do you think saying I’m sorry has lost its meaning?

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Amrita Spa, Swiss Hotel in Quito, Ecuador

bath, candles, flowers

A few weeks ago I found myself in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. It’s a lovely colonial city steeped in culture in the Andean highlands. The city’s historical center is crammed with churches, plazas and museums – which is great if you’re into all that. If you’re not, you might want to do as I did, and spend an afternoon at the spa. Spas in South America are super cheap and up to western standards. Here’s what went down.

First things first, you’ve got to figure out which spa to go to. If you want a full on cultural experience, it’s best to go local. Even if your Spanish sucks, the language of beauty is universal. I saw numerous signs for mani-pedis at $5 a pop and facials for $10. Asking your flight attendant on the way down is also a good bet. For me, I was staying right across the street from Amrita Spa in Swiss Hotel, so for convenience, I went with that.

swiss hotel pool Quito Ecuador

There’s a variety of treatments offered at Amrita Spa, but I wanted to go big. I opted for the Day of Luxury – a five hour, $200 extravaganza that included lunch. The spa is located next to the hotel’s gym and pool, so if you want to take advantage of those, be sure to factor in more time.

The women’s change room was clean and basic. Guests receive a robe and slippers inside their own locked locker just like in North America. Arriving early, I made a beeline for the women’s steam room, sauna and cold plunge pool before my treatment.

Spa room with bath

The Day of Luxury officially begins with a luxurious soak in an oh-so deep tub. Just look at all those roses petals! My gal then scooped out all the petals, pored in a bath oil and started the jets. Fortunately, I had my book by my side, as I was in that tub for a good 20 minutes. Jacuzzis freak me out, so reading took my mind off contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

swiss hotel amrita spa

Disease-free, I hopped onto a massage table after my bath and got dry brushed, followed by a full body salt scrub. After rinsing off in the shower, I came back to find a plastic sheet covering the table. After laying upon it, I had the most decadent part of treatment: warm chocolate poured over me. Words can not describe how heavenly it smelled. It could only have been made better if some was drizzled into my mouth. Then I was wrapped up to bake like a brownie under layers of thermal blankets. That entire process was so much more relaxing than I anticipated. I tend to think scrubs and wraps are bullshit treatments, but to my delight, I fell right asleep.

After my gal nudged me awake, I had another shower, got back into my robe and floated over to a private lounge where I rested ( ok texted and edited images), while waiting for my meal. I was expecting to be served on a tray in the lounge, but I was ushered to a white linen table facing the outdoor pool.

table

Guests choose between three different menu options of three courses each. I went with the chicken caesar salad, steak and banana cake. Not exactly spa fare, but it was one of the better meals I had on my trip.

Did it feel a little awkward dining in my robe while conference goers and gym rats strolled by? Sure did! I did my best to block out the rubberneckers and concentrated on pounding back my meal.

Then it was onto the final phase of my Day of Luxury: massage time! It wasn’t a sports massage, nor was it an oily pat on the back, either. My gal used real pressure – enough that I regretted throwing back all three courses a few minutes prior. After the massage, my hands and feet were treated to warm paraffin wax and wrapped in mitts and booties.

swiss spa room

Then it was facial time. I had an efficient cleanse and scrub, before hot towels were applied (like the Europeans do) instead of the steam machine. Then my skin was scrutinized before my gal went to work extracting what lurked beneath the surface. (The only bummer was that she didn’t go deep enough and I ended up with three massive zits that erupted the next day). We finished off with a fruit enzyme mask, facial massage and another soak in the hot tub, if you so desired. I did not. Truth be told, all that pampering wore me out. I was itching to get outside.

It really did take the full five hours, and was fantastic value for money. Would I come here again? Absolutely!

Have you ever gone to a spa in another country? What was it like?

While Quito Tourism sponsored my trip to Ecuador (thanks for that!), I ponied up for this spa treatment on my own.

P.S. I Love My Muff, Do You? and Botox for Hair

Mulled cider

It’s Thanksgiving weekend! For me at least. We were at a surprise birthday party out of town last weekend and I didn’t get a chance to cook my own bird. I think I’m more excited about the bones to make stock (and making my special whipped cream) then I am for the actual dinner! Here’s some links to ponder over the weekend. But before you get to that, please join me in wishing a very special boy Happy Birthday (no, not Buddy). Thanks for that. You’re good to go now. Wait, one more thing. If you’d like free tickets to Ghoul’s Night Out at Heritage Park next weekend, please let me know in the comment section. I’ll do my best to snag you some. 

witch, cauldron, child

I have long wanted to do an articles club. Any interest? 

I might be using this come Sunday morning. 15 recipes to soothe your nasty hangover

As a geeky former dancer, I found this so interesting. A day in the life of an elite ballerina. 

If you like Zara, you’ll probably love this new store. 

We just bought a bushel of apples, so I’m looking at these 15 essential apple recipes to make this fall (a lot). 

This would be great for impromptu desk naps, no? Ostrich pillow

15 affordable pieces that will make your outfit look expensive. 

Read this only after you’ve read the book (or seen the movie). ‘Til death do us part’: Marriage is the true terror in Gone Girl

Cute costume ideas to relive your ‘90s trick-or-treating days

8 British expressions explained

Drugstore finds. Scary-good beauty buys under $15

Thank you to Heritage Park for offering Travels with Baggage readers free tickets. Much appreciated!

girl dressed as a fairy decorating pumpkin

If I’m making a costume, decorating the house and applying those mini chocolate bars directly to my hips, I want Halloween to last longer than an evening. The problem with many Halloween activities in Calgary is that it’s an inherently scary holiday. Fortunately, a frightfully fun time can be had during Monster Mash-Up at TELUS Spark. Even better is when you get to go for free (read through this post for free entry details).

Taking place October 25 and 26, Monster Mash is one of those Halloween activities that’s suitable for everyone from tots to teens. Here’s a look at why the science centre will be so spooktacular that weekend. 

two girls in halloween costume

If you have a mini maker on your hands, you’ll want to check out the Toy Mash-up first. Wee ones can make their own toys with a distinctively Halloween theme by combining a head from a doll, legs from a dinosaur, or any combination you can design and create. There’s also a nifty DIY Halloween costume station, allowing kids to add a little pizazz to their get-up. But beware moms and dads. If you didn’t come dressed up, you may find your outfit gets tricked out, too! 

Catering to early risers and mid-day nappers, there’ll be special programming in the Creative Kids Museum in the morning. All throughout the weekend, you’ll find live, halloween-themed science demonstrations, plus roving entertainers and surprising spectacles.

family pumpkin carving

Have older kids in your brood? I’m betting teens will be suitably impressed with the homage to the  Humans of New York project with a live feed in the Atrium. Or they can get their #selfie on at the uniquely designed Market Collective photo booth created by local artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett.

New this year is the Evergreen Puppet Bus parked on site. Their presentation: “Thrills, Chills and Repurposed Skills” about a family-friendly mummy on a Halloween adventure is both entertaining and sneakily educational. Look, even Mayor Nenshi digs these puppets!

Nenshi with puppet

And of course, there’ll be professional face painters, as well as pumpkin and cookie decorating stations. And that’s probably where you’ll find me. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a scary event, unless you try to steal my cookie…

Would you like to win free entry for your family during Monster Mash-Up? Let me know your favourite Halloween event in the city by commenting on this post before midnight, October 22, 2014 for your chance to win. Double your chances to win by liking Travels with Baggage on Facebook or following me on Twitter

Thank you to TELUS Spark for making Travels with Baggage possible by sponsoring this post. As always, my opinions are my own.

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