Halloween Is here! Bwahahahaha!

Today is spooky spooky day! So happy Halloween! Before I go into all my cool Halloween goodies please ensure your kids are safe going door to door Tick or treating. Ensure they are with an adult or someone responsible. We want them all home safely.

In keeping with the situation, today’s blog is about places to travel for this specific occassion.  It may sound silly but I would take any opportunity to travel.  Why not halloween?

It probably is a little late to travel for this halloween. But you can keep the suggestions for next year or if you would like to have your very own halloween, this would help with where to go.

According to the Hindustan Times the top five Scary travel destinations are Scotland’s Haunted Castles, Romania (dracula), East London (Jack the Ripper), Amsterdamn (the Torture Museum) and Paris (Phantom of the Opera to the Vampire Cave). How fun?

Romania, we know the story there with count Dracula.

Paris has a dark side! It is hard to see Paris as a place to scare people but it does! This is another reason when I go anywhere I love to just wander around and ask questions to see what I can find.  I did some digging and though I have yet to grace Paris with my fabulous-ness, I found out about the Paris Ghost Tour.  It takes you to ancient grave sites, gives you haunted histories and all that good stuff. How cool! Check out the website.  Do your own research.

Amsterdamn. We all know what this place is known for – fun times. But seriously, it also has a dark side for halloween travellers and boy do they embrace it! To find out more visit the website.

No matter where you chose to go for your fun-times spook-tacular, be safe and have fun!






Toronto: A Brief To-Do – Pt 1

Toronto, Ontario Canada has been in the limelight of late, sometimes in a postitive light other times in a not so positive light.  We pride ourself to be the birthplace of the award winning television series FLASHPOINT as well as THE LISTENER and bits of THIRTEEN. We are the backdrop for many hollywood movies, too many to count for Toronto is such a vast place. According to the Toronto website we have 2.7 Million people living here.  Over the past few years the landscape and skyscape of Toronto has changed vastly from skyscrapers rising to the sky to buildings being torn down. From the closure of Sam the Record Man to the closure of the HMV at Yong and Dundas. As sad as it was to see the places go, Yonge and Dundas has been hailed as the Time Squre of Canada.

How to get Around – Quite easy. Toronto has an amazing network of public transportation. From theunderground trains (which are being replaced with brand new trains), to the RT above ground

A Toronto Streetcar – Photo by Kadian Tracey

trains to the buses, to the beautiful–historic streetcars, Toronto can get you moving once you get here.  Paying for these are simple and have a number of options available depending on your length of stay. If you are here for a month, try the TTC Monthly pass. For a week – There is a weekly pass for that and so on. Simply visit one of the subway stations and ask for the different options.

Where to Eat – You can get pizza anywhere. And since Toronto is a very multicultural place, well you can have your choice of anywhere in the world!  Because Toronto is so elaborate when it comes to food with so many choices there is a website  for that! Just click on the link and put in what you’re hungering for in the search field and voila!

Where to Party –  If you want to party then Toronto is chocked full of amazing venues. Richmond St is party central!  But aside from that Toronto has a number of party centrals to enjoy. From Purgatory to The 11th Hour. From Cake Night Club to Sugar Daddies – no matter what your flavour, Toronto has something to soothe your taste buds.  Club Zone Toronto is your one stop shop for all things party.

Where to Stay: If you’ve read the prevous post about Hotel Alternatives, there are plenty of places to chose from. And in a city the size of Toronto, there are more than enough places to stay on a number of different budgets. If you’re intot he five star treatement there is the Hyatt on King St or the Skydome Hotel at the Roger’s Centre over at Front and John. Around that one area are a number of hotels to chose from. If you’re not into that and only need a place to lay your head at nights, there are tons of bed and breakfasts in cute little neighoubourhoods around.



The Airport – Post 9/11

A touchy subject – I know. But it has to be talked about. We can’t just sweep this under the rug. September 11th will always be synonymous with the horrible events of that day.  What we now have to live with is the almost too invasive procedure to get through any airport onto a plane. To say security has been beefed up would be an understatement.

Since we love travel we have to deal with it. Here are some tips to hopefully make your travel much easier.

  1. When travelling book your flight in advance. Not only is this better for you to save a few dollars, it is less of a hassel.
  2. Before even leaving your house, you have to pack, right? So pack the right things. If you go to your flights website they will have a list of things prohibited. This means, these are things you must never pack or things you can’t pack into your carry on. Things like weapons or drugs are big givens to NOT pack or carry. But things like a giant bottle of mouth wash,

    © Alex Hinds | Dreamstime.com

    toothpaste, or shower gell and shaving cream must be packed in your actual suitcase, NOT your carry on. Read these lists carefully. Not only read these lits but adhere to them. This will cut down on the hassle of them pulling you aside and digging through your things and unmentionables because you decide not to take this precaution.

  3. Dress appropriately. If you’re going in the summer, wear a pair of shorts and a short sleeve shirt with sandals. If you wear running shoes they’re going to make you take them off along with your socks. At least if they force you to take off the sandals, it wont hold you up because you just slip your feet out and back in.  Do not wear earrings, they sometimes set off the machine–another reason for them to pull you aside and search you.  Do not wear anything that will cause this. It’s not worth the hassle or the invasion of your personal space.
  4. Eat a healthy meal before you leave the house. If you have a short flight, then you don’t have to worry about purchasing airport food or even airplane food.
  5. Be at the airport three to four hours before you have to get on your plane and go. Why so early? Well you have to check in and just in case there is anything that crops up you wont be ripping your hair out because your plane is ready to leave and they’re screaming your name over the P.A system. You may ask why so early? Well it takes time to go through the check points. And you really don’t want to stand in a long line with all your bags wondering what’s the hold up. It’s better to be their early and walk around the inside of the airport rather than be stuck in that line–right?
  6. Do not bring any form of liquid with you. If you want water, bring an empty water bottle and once you clear the security and is ‘on the inside’ find a water fountain. If you are adverse to this idea–the idea of getting your water from the fountain–then buy a bottle of water. Sure, its probably over priced, but again, not worth the hassle.
  7. Before boarding, use the bathroom and find your gate. This way you won’t have to do much walking about once you are on the plane.
  8. On the plane, behave yourself. Refrain from drinking alcohol. Most people get rowdy when they drink and if you’re one of them just don’t drink.

Follow these rules and you should have a little easier time getting through airports.



Make Travelling Worth It

From the beautiful mountains of Jamaica, to the almost supernatural architecture of Rome we want to see it all. We want to touch the sand on a beach in Spain and kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland–well maybe you don’t want to put your lips on it because so many other people did but you get what I mean.  Sometimes we get so focused on the going, the getting there and the coming back, we forget the why?

© Lidian Neeleman | Dreamstime.com

Why do you travel?That my friends, is the perfect question.

Sometimes people just travel because they want to. Often time we travel for work, pleasure, adventure or even to make others jealous. But whatever the reason we travel, we have to look into it. Why? To see what we will get out of the trip of course!

Sure we can travel because we want pictures to post on facebook to make all your friends spend hours and hours just pouring through pictures of you holding  up the rock and roll sign, your tongue sticking out of her mouth and your eyes wide with excitement. But that shouldn’t be the only reason you pack a suitcase, book time off work and jet off to some country everyone else has been to.

With that said, you have to make travel worth it.

Think about it.

You spent weeks, perhaps months and if you’re like me, years, planning for a trip.  You probably drove your family and friends batty with your constant talking about it. Maybe you even became a bit of a travel-zilla in the process. You want every last detail perfect down to the kind of fruity drink with little umbrellas you want to sip on. The trip was almost like a second full time job with everything else happening in your life so when you finally step off that plane in your country of choice you have to make every second count!

This is not to say you have to plan every sad, little detail but pick out the big things. Things like, if you’re in Poland you want to go hunting for those little elves hidden around the city. Well maybe not all of them but some.  Or if you’re in Jamaica you want to go see Rose Hall, or in Cuba you want to go eat dinner in the Ambus Mundis Hotel where Ernest Hemmingway stayed on every visit to the country. Plot out the big stuff to drink as much out of your trip as possible.

Planning ahead is a good idea because you don’t know this country–you’re a strangers to the streets. You need maps or a way to get to each of these locations safely. If you spend most of your trip trying to get a cab or finding things to do, places to see, where to eat–it won’t be a very good trip.

So do everything you can to ensure your trip is successful. That way you can make your trip and the money you spent on it worth it.



From my family to yours….

Free Stock Photo: Fall cornucopia. Image: 250555
© Photographer Olga Vasilkova | Agency: Dreamstime.com

As you all know I am Canadian and Monday October 8 is our thanksgiving. There’s plenty I need to be thankful for this year even though I swear if you knew me you wouldn’t think so but here I go.

    1. I am thankful for small favors.
    2. I am thankful for my family and my beautiful niece who is so bright and thoughtful and clever!
    3. I am thankful for life and freedom
    4. I am thankful for those I’ve met along the way.
    5. I am thankful for people I’ve met along the way this year who have hurt me or broken my heart because if I hadn’t met them and they weren’t such tools I wouldn’t be a bit stronger.
    6. I am thankful for my college who sent me to Cuba (A ten year dream)
    7. I am thankful for everything from this year so far, the good and the bad.

And from my family to yours, we hope you have wonderful things to be thankful for this thanksgiving and we wish you all the hopes and wishes that you make from your heart.

Hugs to all,



[Guest Blogger] Romance with Hawai’i – AJ Llewellyn

Hello everyone! I am so happy to welcome the lovely and talented AJ Llewellyn to First of a Thousand Steps!
I was so thrilled to be asked to blog about my romance with the Hawaiian Islands today because they are never far from my mind or heart. Today especially, I feel it’s a gift to be able to share my thoughts because I am reading a mystery novel set in Honolulu that up until a certain point had me completely captivated. I knew all the sites the author talked about, knew the surfing breaks and the dirty streets of Chinatown…and then I came to a part where he made up a restaurant on River Street!

Matthias33 – Dreamstime.com

At first I was surprised. How come I didn’t know about this Ah Fook on River Street? The River Street I know is not a nice place to visit, in spite of its historic importance to the islands’ history. It’s a jumbled mess of Laundromats, flop houses that stink of human urine and a batch of loitering drunks trying to decide if they can be quick enough to pick-pocket you…

A quick Google search showed me I hadn’t been wrong. The restaurant doesn’t exist.
I suppose I shouldn’t be disappointed. Some authors opt for this fake restaurant routine but since everything else was so accurate in the story I felt a little robbed. I’d like to think of River Street as having a decent restaurant. In fact, I’d love to see River Street cleaned up.

Many of my books are set in Hawaii, most in Honolulu. I have a special love for Chinatown since it’s the oldest Chinatown in the whole of the United States, plus, it has survived plague, two fires (one whose origin is a mystery and the other set by the Department of Health in a misguided attempt to stem the tide of the plague).

It has survived World War II and the stream of military men who once crowded its streets to visit the 200 women on Hotel Street who serviced them. These women worked out of motel rooms turned brothels on the first floor of many of these once-cheap motels. Very few of the hotels are still there–but I found the Midway, on River Street ironically–though there is no marker, no indication of the history of these rundown places.

Chinatown has survived the loss of Wo Fat, the oldest Chinese restaurant in the US. So special was this place that Jack Lord, the original star and producer of Hawaii Five-O named his perpetual nemesis and the show’s lingering bad guy after it.

Five years ago I went to Wo Fat for dinner not knowing it was on its last legs. The restaurant, once two floors and an entire block of bustling action, was reduced to one section of the second floor. A rock and roll band played during a Sunday afternoon dim sum seating. I had no idea then that just a little bit of dancing would have seen the thin floor crashing through to the ground.

I was too busy enjoying my chop sui (their spelling, not mine) trying to imagine how different it might have tasted in World War II. My ancient host claimed it hadn’t changed a bit so I savored the sense-memory and used it in two books; The Forbidden Island and Vagabond Heart.

The restaurant is gone but the sign is still there. It probably always will be. And if you stand long enough in front of it, I swear you will smell chop sui drifting out of the windows.

Chinatown was once the special province of a remarkable man called Detective John Jardine who sensed before anybody else in the islands that Chinatown was a den of thieves. In the forties and fifties, when he was the top criminal investigator, Asian bad guys swamped the islands with their shell games, drug dealings, tattoo parlors, opium deals…you name it.

I read his autobiography and could identify with Jardine’s passion for the place in spite of its problems. A lot of the things he wrote about are still there. And that’s why I love Chinatown and urge anyone reading this to visit.

First and foremost are the Buddhist river temples few guidebooks talk about. Many have been there for decades and they are a spiritual respite from the workaday world.

If you are lucky, you might meet one of the tour guides geared towards Asian visitors who will take you to the underground caves once used for drug smuggling!

And, if you are looking for an authentic, fresh flower lei and/or island flowers at bargain prices, look no further than King Street. This street is small but bursting with tiny lei shops where the women hand string their leis on cotton the way they have in the islands for centuries. King Street is possibly the island of Oahu’s best-kept secret.

If you want fresh fish, the Oahu Market has an astonishing array of fish you have never heard of. I went a couple of years ago and made a list of the stuff they had packed in ice. Then I Googled them. Some were parasitic fish that adhere themselves to sharks and whales…I never heard of such a thing and the teeth on these babies were frightening. No wonder we’ve seen an increase in shark attacks. These sea critters are pissed!

These fish found their way into my Waikiki Vampire series since they are often referred to as vampire fish…

For unusual fruits and vegetables, the markets on Maunakea Street all the way down toward River Street have been there for over a century. I love knowing that the veggie stands Detective Jardine once frequented are still there. Some of the fruit is doggone weird but hey, you can buy cheap flip-flops and back scratchers while you’re at it, so it’s all good in the hood.

Though there is much gentrification going on with old ginseng shops being turned into art galleries, the pavements of Chinatown are the same. So are the exteriors of the buildings.

My passion/fascination for River Street goes back to the time when a river really ran through the area. Now it’s blocked by a bridge, but it’s there. Back in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, Chinese housewives and freed sugar plantation workers bathed, washed their clothes and drew water from there. Chinatown at the turn of the twentieth century was so overcrowded and sanitation so poor that the plague broke out thanks to escaping rats docking from trade ships. The photos of the local men gathered in the city’s center, naked, as their meager possessions are burned by the state officials still haunt me.

In April, I visited Chinatown with my writing partner, Serena Yates. We ate dim sum at Legends seafood, immortalized in my entire Phantom Lover series. I was thrilled that ships still dock at the nearby Aloha Tower, though I didn’t see any half-naked girls wading out to sea with leis and ukuleles to greet them.
Maybe, like me, they were too busy eating toasted taro balls.

Serena was as taken by Legends as I was…I hope her visit there stirred her senses and her creative juices. I know it did for me.

It is with a sense of nostalgia for time and times I never knew but wished I had that I return to Chinatown again and again. As the Hawaiians like to say, “They were days that were days indeed…”

And if you should go to Chinatown and notice a man standing under the art deco lampposts watching you from his hiding place of cigarette smoke and the brim of his fedora, it’s probably the ghost of Detective Jardine. He died a long time ago but was only inducted to Hawaii’s hall of fame in the year 2000.

I’ve seen him myself. Watching me. Watching his town. He’s gone, but still loves Chinatown. He is there, just beyond the rainbow, watching us all…as we each in our own and very unique ways, find Aloha.

Aloha oe,


Security while Travelling

Sometimes its is truly hard to believe other people in other countries want to hurt us. And yes, we often time do not want to believe that, but there are bad people everywhere. No where is perfect.  When you travel, you cannot go with your head in the clouds. Sure you want to let your hair down and have fun, but you have to also be aware.

Your country’s Government – I know most people have this thing where they don’t want “the government to know where they are” so they do not advise their government of their location outside of the country. Sure they know what country you’re in because you have to swipe your passport and they ask you all these seemingly invasive questions when you’re leaving the country and returning so they DO know where you are. The thing is you should go to your government website and let them know you are leaving the country, where you’re going and when you’ll be coming back. (this applies to Canadians that I know of) Why do this? Well, if for example a civil war breaks out in the city where you’re visiting the Canadian Government need to know where you are so they can send some charming men in uniform to rescue you and bring you home safely. Now this is an out there example and rarely ever happens but you never know.

**Make sure your family or a trustworthy friend knows where you’re going, who you’re going with and when you’ll be back.***

Photocopy your passport and ticket: This may not seem like a big deal, but before you go, photocopy your passport and ticket and leave the copies with someone you trust (your mother, best friend, husband etc). This is because if you lose these items you can send home for them to send the copies.

© Alexey Lisovoy | Dreamstime.com

Emergency Number – Not every country uses 9-1-1. Learn the code for the country and city you’re visiting.

Extra Passport size Pictures – These are not expensive. And once you have these and proof you’re a Canadian citizen you can report to the Canadian embassy in the country you’ve lost your passport in, show them proof and hand them the pictures for the issuance of a new passport.  See how easy that was?

Next of Kin – I know, this is a bit morbid but have a list of numbers for family and friends from back home. Have your doctor written down on this list and carry it always on your person.  This is another place you should have the Canadian Embassy’s address, phone number and email written down. This is a just in case you need it kind of deal.

Money – Do not go flashing wads of cash around. Keep your money tucked in a safe place. If possible, single money out and put them in different areas so when you need to take money out, simply reach into that area and take out a specific amount rather than all of it at once.  Carry small bills if you have to. Sometimes its easier to use the smaller bills anyways because then you don’t have to worry about change.

Bring Extra money – I know. Money is tight everywhere but always ensure you have at least $100 extra, tucked away for a “just in case” scenario.  If you don’t need it, don’t use it.

Partying – This is one of the main reason we travel. If you went to Vegas and not go clubbing it’s like going to Cuba and not go to the beach. It just isn’t done. Vegas is party central! But there are draw backs. When you go partying always go with someone else. Do not wander off.

Drinks and Drugs – Do not partake or hold or carry anyone’s drugs. It is illegal. If you get caught you will be tossed into prison. But for drinks, if you buy one carry it everywhere with you. Do not leave it on some random table to go dance then come back and drink it. We don’t want you getting drugged.

Strangers – Ever since we were children our parents always told us not to talk strangers. Often I joke with my adult friends to not talk to strangers unless they have candy but take this seriously.  I know you want to be outgoing and you should. And interacting is a main reason you travel, but be careful who you associate with.

Travelling: Don’t do it by yourself – especially if you’re going out of the country. Some countries you can travel alone but don’t make a habit out of it. Ensure at least one other person is with you. Like they say, safer in numbers.

Vaccines: I know. No one hates needles more than I do. But when you travel you have to be safe healthwise as well. I had the typical shots, tet A and B, Rabies, and one other one I can’t remember right this moment but ensure you are fully immunized. If you aren’t there are medical centres specifically geared toward giving you your shots for travelling. Just google “Travel Medical Centre” for your area and bam!

Safe Sex: Because you’re not at home doesn’t mean the condoms go out the window. While I do NOT recommend relations with someone in a foreign country since you’re not going to live there, you’re just on vacation, if you feel the need or the urge please be safe. The airport security will not stop you if you have condoms on you, so toss a few into your carry on and if you are going to have sex, use them.

Canadian Embassy: No matter what country you’re going to, find out where the Canadian embassy is. Get a little notebook and write down the address, phone number, email address and if possible a contact person in the embassy. We’re planning for worse case scenarios but its better to be prepared.