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Travel & Escape

From perfumeries to coffee shops: Five places to shop in Havana




Visitors to Old Havana usually come to the neighbourhood to take in its faded beauty, the vintage cars cruising cobbled streets and the colonial buildings dating back to the city’s Spanish roots in the 16th and 17th centuries. This photogenic neighbourhood, a UNESCO World Heritage site, isn’t typically thought of as a shopping destination. But worth exploring are a number of appealing spots; generally Cuban-owned, these establishments sell a diverse range of mostly locally made goods, from art, jewelry and home goods to, of course, cigar boxes.

1. Clandestina

Clandestina sells items with flair, such as totes printed with catchy logos in bright colours.
Clandestina sells items with flair, such as totes printed with catchy logos in bright colours.  (Eliana Aponte / The New York Times)

Cuban designer Idania Del Rio, 37, opened her store a few years ago on a heavily trafficked street bustling with tourists, with the intention of offering more stylish souvenirs to buy than the requisite T-shirt or postcard. The items sold here have a stylish flair, such as the burlap and cotton totes printed with catchy logos in bright colours. One white cotton tote was imprinted in bright blue with “se acabo el drama” — “the drama is over.” Merchandise also includes pouches, pillowcases, aprons and T-shirts. From 1 Cuban peso, or about $1.

Villegas St, 403;

2. Victor Manuel Gallery

Paintings by modern Cuban artists decorate the walls of this sprawling gallery, once a public bath house, but not only art is for sale. Statement jewelry, all of it made by local designers, such as the silver necklace with a round large silver pendant, was recently for sale behind a glass shelf. There were also knick-knacks like handsome humidors crafted from Cuban cedar wood. From 15 Cuban pesos.

Cathedral Square

3. Piscolabis

Creative decorative objects, crafted by Cuban artisans from repurposed items such as ink wells, oil lamps and bottles, are the lure of this store and coffee shop. A lamp with a Canada Dry ginger ale bottle as its base was one Instagram-worthy find among the unique goods. From 1 Cuban peso.

San Ignacio, 75;

4. Habana 1791

Evoking a perfumery from a past century, this charming shop, a former 18th century mansion, specializes in custom-blending fragrances for men and women. The real treat of a visit, however, is smelling the scents that were popular in colonial Cuba, such as sandalwood, tobacco, jasmine and rose. Once shoppers decide on their favourite, they can pick the bottle they want to take it home in. Local artists crafted the extensive collection of bottles, a mix of glass and ceramics. From 10 Cuban pesos.

Mercaderes, 156

5. Loma Del Angel

This boutique hotel, situated in a stately centuries-old building, is home to a small shop selling women’s accessories from the fashion label Eulalia de Lucia. The goods bring summer to mind, and although they’re produced by artisans from around the world, they’re inspired by Havana. A standout was the brightly coloured cotton scarves with whimsical patterns such as different varieties of bugs. But the espadrilles, sombrero hats and totes were tempting, too. From 70 Cuban pesos.

Calle Cuarteles, 104;

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)





(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel





(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!





Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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