Leap Year Travel: Single ladies, get thee to Ireland!

As far as I could determine, there is only one real connection between leap year and travel, but since it also involves saints and vintage-style kitchiness, it counts as a suitable topic for a travel blog. Specifically, this travel blog.

If you’re a lady fixin’ for a gentleman in your life, I have terrific news. News which has largely been spoiled by a terrible-looking movie I didn’t see. There’s a leap year “tradition” in Ireland which states a man must accept a proposal he receives from a woman on February 29. Legend has it this was an agreement between Ireland’s patron saints, Saint Brigid and Saint Patrick to serve as a lifeline to single women withering on the vine while waiting for men to propose. Saint Patrick wanted such a travesty to occur every seven years, but hard-bargaining Saint Brigid got him down to four.

This leap year remedy for spinsterhood spread to other parts of Europe and has yielded some interesting consequences. In some cases, men who refuse these leap day proposals were subject to fines or required to purchase ladies pretty, sparkly things to atone for their rejection: a dozen pairs of gloves, silk dresses, or material for a skirt.

This tradition has also generated some pretty awesome images depicting the plight of these helpless men. Happy Leap Year!

Watch out, bachelors, the ladies are gonna get ya!
Watch out, bachelors, the ladies are gonna get ya!
Tragic spinster preys on helpless bachelor
Tragic spinster preys on helpless bachelor

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Trenhotel: An Overnight Train in Spain

Trenhotel Update October 2015

The overnight Trenhotel between Barcelona and Granada is presently suspended for engineering works, possibly until December 2015. However, the Trenhotel I took between Barcelona and Leon in September 2014 as part of my Camino de Santiago is still running and you can read all about my second trip in a separate post. The Barcelona-Granada route has been replaced with a combination of daytime trains: AVE high-speed train that connects to a mid-range Media Distancia train, and the overall journey has been reduced to 7 hours.


When planning my first trip to Spain, I narrowed down my preferred destinations in Spain to specific areas: Barcelona, Andalucia, and Madrid. Flying in to Barcelona and out of Madrid meant I had some options for getting from A to B. To hit all of places I wanted to go, a long-haul journey between Barcelona and Granada was inevitable. The train seemed the best option to see a lot of the country, enjoy relative comfort, arrive in the centre of town, and move around freely during the journey.

At the time, RENFE, Spain’s national railway, had a couple of options: travel all day or travel all night. It would be pricey, but not a budget-buster. I learned three things through research:

  • A small portion of tickets are nicely discounted if you buy them online in advance.
  • RENFE’s website is painful to use. [October 2015: the website has been thoroughly updated and much easier to use!]
  • TripAdvisor has a very helpful, thorough guide for buying tickets online through the RENFE site. Following every step to the letter, I bought tickets for each of four trip legs without a single problem, some at 50% off of the regular price.

Continue reading Trenhotel: An Overnight Train in Spain

Vintage travel: Canada stereotypes of the past

Because someone might SHOOT it. This ad appeared in National Geographic in 1968 and explains a lot about our international reputation.

Vintage Canada travel ad stereotype

A lot of early travel advertising for Canada plays into some pretty ridiculous stereotypes about Canada and Canadians, many of which are still kicking around today.

There’s a joke among my friends that every picture of Canada must have some combination of the following features:

  • rocks
  • snow
  • water
  • trees

This amazing El Al poster from the 1960s  promoting travel to Canada has all of them, plus Mounties. Definitive Canadian image? Discuss.

Canada El Al 1960s vintage travel stereotypes
*Canada may not be exactly as shown. Source: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/1953368

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All-inclusive resorts: I don’t get the appeal

Every year from January to April, Canadians fly away from the unrelenting wackiness of winter to sunny spots in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Mexico, to spend their precious vacation time and kids’ March Break at an all-inclusive. Getting away from winter sounds great, but when I hear “all-inclusive resort,” I think one thing:

It’s simple: I just don’t get the appeal. If there’s something fun or interesting to be had from an all-inclusive, it hasn’t really been explained to me in a way that makes me want to do it. To that end, I canvassed my Facebook friends for insight. While I greatly appreciated the feedback, their responses can be sorted into several categories:

  • it’s easy
  • it’s cheap
  • you don’t have to think about it
  • if you need to zone out, do this
  • everything you need is in one place
  • it’s easy (there were so many of these, it’s going on the list twice)

All-inclusive travel is no joke, economically speaking. Statistics Canada international travel summaries  from 2010 show Mexico (1.3 million Canadian visitors), Cuba (1 million), and Dominican Republic (753,000) are three of the top countries visited by Canadians each year, and a combined total of CAD$3 billion in spending while in the country.

While all-inclusive travel is undeniably popular, I have a short list of concerns about all-inclusives:

  • The local economic development impacts are not clear. Beyond waged employment, these types of enterprises are generally not locally-owned, unless they’re owned by the state, which means profits and other benefits don’t stay in the (mostly developing) countries
  • Depending on the country, the atmosphere is very contained and a traveler’s foreign experience is the act of being in the country not meeting its people or seeing anything beyond the beach. From the stories I’ve heard, it sounds like you mostly spend time with other Westerners
  • This one is a person opinion: winter travel is a pain in the (***)
  • It sounds boring. What do you do all day? Drink? Sit?

Sitting on beach sounds great for a day. But then what? Moving to the pool with a plastic bracelet on while other Canadians are woo-hooing all night? Pass.

From my friends with families, I understand the budget appeal and ease-of-use. Looking around online, I found deals that could be booked immediately, on a plan today. For a grand total of CAD$800, including taxes, I lined up some appealing packages that included airfare, an apartment-style hotel which includes breakfast and a pool for seven days.

An apartment in a town or city with great weather is definitely more my speed. Honestly, I was surprised to find something that could get me thinking about becoming an all-inclusive convert. Every bleak winter, I hit a point where I think about it and maybe next winter this will be it.

Now, cruises, they’re another matter entirely.

If you enjoyed this post, please take a moment to leave some feedback in the comment section. If you really, really enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to the blog to receive notifications for new content or follow my blog with Bloglovin. I share travel news on Twitter at @bitesizedtravel, pictures of travel, food, craft beer, and cats on Instagram, and I hide from Facebook. 

A saint’s procession in Seville

I took a travel writing class in 2012 and one of the assignments was to compile a 30-second video of personal travel pictures to tell a story.

After a couple of failed attempts, I finally cut together one of my favourite experiences in Spain: the procession of La Virgen de la Cabeza in Seville. The background music is pulled off of some video I shot of the crowd singing to La Virgen’s beauty and the blessings received from her. The song is unbelievably catchy, I still have it rumbling around in my head.

Catching this poster, almost by accident, led to one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life.

Continue reading A saint’s procession in Seville