CONTEST TIME! My “NEAR” Prize with Passports with Purpose

30 Nov

If you know me, you know I love a good contest. I do have a lucky streak and I’ve won a lot of contests: a bike, a trip to San Francisco, two nights at the Montelucia in Arizona (that I never got to use…), $1,000 certificate with Intrepid, etc. So when I heard about the travel blogger fundraiser Passports with Purpose to give away a prize of my choice to help build two libraries in Zambia with Room to Read, I jumped at the chance! I’ve won enough things. Now it’s my time to help you win something and give back to an amazing cause that’s close to all the things I value: education, children and travel.  I am so overwhelmed by the support I’ve gotten from my sponsors and cannot thank them enough. And kids, they are top notch!

So what do you have the chance to win?! Well, I’m giving away two prizes: A “NEAR” Prize and an “AFAR” prize. Woot Woot!  This post is dedicated to my near prize. *You have to enter on the Passports with Purpose website! 

My NEAR Prize is the Ultimate Toronto Escape Package. If you win, you get:

A JAUNT certificate to choose a hotel in Toronto (or nearby) valued at $350. In partnership with Wagjag and TravelAlerts, Jaunt offers carefully created getaway adventures, mini-breaks and staycations all at up to 60%.  Each Jaunt offers a unique experience that includes hotel accommodations and other delights including winery tours, spa packages, gourmet meals, outdoor adventures and more. Here’s an example of a jaunt they did in Toronto (so cool to get a certificate at a high end department store as part of your package!)

If you also know me, you know I love to eat and I know my Toronto. So you’re going to be fed and you’re going to be fed well! So all of your eating is covered for your trip. Participating Restaurants:

Campagnolo's famous burrata. They cook like your nonna. They don't look like your nonna.

CAMPAGNOLO:  This is one of my top ten favourite restaurants in Toronto. Specializing in Italian cuisine, Campagnolo was rated #7 on En Route Magazine’s list of top ten favourite restaurants in Canada (it’s a big deal). What are you getting? A $100 certificate for dinner and this INCLUDES alcohol.  What I recommend eating: burrata, kale salad with pecorino, prosciutto, and the budino (OMG, the budino!).

This porchetta sammie is saying "Eat me. Eaaat me."

PORCHETTA & CO: Also on my top ten favourite restaurants list, Porchetta is a great lunch option and if the weather is nice I’d recommend going down to Trinity Bellwoods Park to have the sandwich (if you can wait). And get the soup! What are you getting? Dinner/Lunch for two.  Go hog wild!

Rob Rossi (left) with Chef Mark McEwan (Bymark, Fabbrica, One, etc.) getting to WERK on Top Chef Canada. Photo: TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR

BESTELLEN: So Bestellen isn’t even open yet and I already know it’s going to be one of the most talked-about restaurants in the city. Who’s the man behind the restaurant? Rob Rossi. Rob Rossi, ex-executive chef of popular Italian chain Mercatto (another favourite) was a contestant on Top Chef Canada this year. He made it to the top three and was easily a fan favourite. Rob told me that Bestellen will be serving European tapas. Stay tuned on their twitterWhat are you getting? A $100 certificate for dinner. 

The newly renovated Gladstone Melody Bar. Me Likey. Photo: Gladstone Hotel website

GLADSTONE HOTEL MELODY BAR: The Gladstone Hotel has been rated as one of the top hotels in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine. The hotel’s bar, The Melody Bar, is no exception. I recommend going for dinner before checking out the popular Karaoke night on Saturday night hosted by Peter Styles. What are you getting? Dinner for two valued at $50. 

Thor's colourful mural. Photo: Thor Espresso's website

THOR: You didn’t think I’d be giving away a package without offering a prize at a cafe did you? Thor has been on the coffee scene for over a year and if you want a cappuccino this is where you go (how can you not with a coffee machine named “The Slayer”?). Tom, one of the co-owners, is also very passionate about travel so you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all of the travel magazines lying about and wallpaper guides you can purchase. These guys are also located around the corner from the Thompson hotel, Moksha yoga and spin studio, Cykl should you be in the mood to exercise or wander around a fancy hotel lobby.  What are you getting? Any coffee and pastry on the house and travel chatter by Tom (seriously, he knows his stuff!).  Um, and try the Glory Hole doughnuts if you can get your hands on one of them. 

The House on Parliament (HOP). Photo: HOP Facebook Page

HOUSE ON PARLIAMENT: The HOP is one of Toronto’s best locals, located in Cabbagetown. This is a district most tourists don’t get to see and The House on Parliament (and nearby bar Coburg) is a fave to catch up with friends. The HOP is known for their pulled pork sandwich, steak and stilton sandwich, daily gourmet specials and their Sunday night prime rib dinner. I’m also a fan of their brunch (but be prepared to wait in line). Oh, and the HOP has beer. Lots of beer! What are you getting? A $50 gift certificate

CHEESEWERKS  I’m kind of a grilled cheese fanatic. It’s also becoming a trend on the Toronto food scene. Cheesewerks is the new kid on the block, opening in mid December. They’ll be serving artisan grilled cheese, house-made soups, fine cheeses, and other gourmet grub that you can enjoy with a glass of wine or artisan brew. That’s a whole lotta of artisan! What are you getting? A $50 certificate (cough cough …bring me!) 

And there’s more! I’ve added a bit of Canadiana Swag in my package too!

TIFF Bell Lightbox HQ. Photo:


Toronto has really become into its own and TIFF, The Toronto International Film Festival has had a lot to do with that. In 2010, they launched their headquarters right into the heart of downtown at King and John, with their own theatre and exhibitions (a Grace Kelly exhibition is currently on).   What are you getting?  An 8 pack of  TIFF  Bell Lightbox regular screening tickets. You will have 12 months of new releases and special series to select from (I think this excludes the actual festival). Perfect for the cinephile! Plus, Luma and Canteen are great pit stops to eat.

Red Canoe's RCMP Bag. Photo: Red Canoe Brands. You can't get any more Canadian than this!

RCMP SHOULDER BAG by RED CANOE BRANDS  There is a lot of Canadiana brands out there and Red Canoe is one of the coolest. They sell vintage Canadiana swag like old CBC logo bags and even have lap top sleeves for purchase. Love, Love, Love! Do check out the site for their gear.

HBC Scarf

HBC SCARF – HBC really catapulted itself during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics with their heritage brand of point blanket jackets, red Olympic mittens and fun scarfs. I have the classic four colour striped scarf available when you’re traveling to colder climates or need to look Canadian (even if you’re not!).

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS RETRO-STYLE HIS AND HERS V- NECK T-SHIRTS  What would a Toronto package be without representing our local hockey team? Big thanks to Samantha P. for this prize.

Welcome to Toronto! I'll be your concierge... Me on the CN Tower Edgewalk.


I’m more than happy to be your personalized local concierge for directions, where to shop and all things Toronto.  Let me know if you win! I love showing people the city.


Passports with Purpose site:  Twitter: @passportswithpurpose Hashtag: #PWP

Near Afar on Twitter: @nearafar Facebook Page is here.


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