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Wednesday,  May 22, 2024 7:24 PM 

PAX checks in with Cindy Almond

PAX checks in with Cindy Almond
Ottawa-based travel agent Cindy Almond of Romance and Foodie Travel.

Cindy Almond had just started a career as a travel agent when she felt she wasn’t living her best life. The year was 2011, and while Almond wanted to work in travel, she felt she hadn’t yet found her true calling. That’s when a friend of Almond’s asked her to plan her destination wedding - a challenge Almond accepted as a means of trying something new. The wedding was a hit and, for Almond, the stars aligned, professionally. It wasn’t long before Almond decided to marry two passions of her own, travel and food, and start her own business, Romance and Foodie Travel.

Today, with the help of the Travel Agent Next Door, the Ottawa-based agent has become a leading expert in food and wine, wedding and romance tourism (with an active social media to boot). 

Here, PAX checks-in with Almond to chat about living 'La Pura Vida' in Costa Rica, her favourite airport and why she’s the best person to rent a jeep with.

What are three essential items you always travel with?

Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier cream for my hair (My hair gets wild when hit by the tropical air!), mascara (I feel naked without it) and my phone (of course)…Can't miss an Instagrammable moment now, can I?

What are some of your favourite vacation spots?

Costa Rica and Tanzania.

There is something that can't quite be explained about the feeling of being in Costa Rica. The Pura Vida (pure life) way of life is palpable. The people are friendly, there is so much diversity across the country to see and experience.

As for Tanzania, as a child watching my dad watch his nature shows on TV, I always knew I needed to see Africa. When I arrived in the Serengeti for the first time and saw those plains, I cried. I couldn't believe I was really there. Seeing the animals up close and so many of them at once was simply outstanding. A true experience of a lifetime.

Animals in the Serengeti, one of Almond's favourite vacation spots. Photo courtesy of Cindy Almond.

What’s your favourite airport?

Walking into the Bora Bora airport and right back out to the lagoon where a boat picks you up to take you to your resort…now that is impressive.

What was the first vacation you ever took?

Walt Disney World! My Dad had always promised he'd take us, but it didn't quite work out that way. So I took myself when I turned 21! The memory that still remains was that first drive down the highway at dusk seeing palm trees for the first time in person and feeling, 'Wow, I am really on vacation.'" Palm trees continue to make me feel that exact same way, years and multiple trips later. There's something about a palm tree that never gets old!

What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?

I'm not much of a jewelry person, but the biggest splurge I've made on jewelry was in Tahiti on a beautiful black pearl pendant necklace. They say it is a lucky charm that protects its owner from negative energy. I sure hope so. Seems to be working so far.

What's your most memorable food/meal you've ever eaten on a trip?

While in Bangkok, I ordered a dish called "Khao Soi" and my life was forever changed! It is a specialty from the Chiang Mai region, curried coconut noodle with slow-simmered beef brisket is what I had, but there are variations if you search recipes. I bought all of the ingredients and made it here for my family. It was so good, but not as good as that dish in Bangkok! (if you want to try it, visit Soul Food Mahanakorn in Bangkok!)

What’s your biggest travel pet peeve? 

When you are on a plane, and people don't give you the courtesy to deplane in the order in which you are seated and just run ahead of you and don't let you out! Grr.

Checked bag or carry-on? 

Checked all the way. I’m one of those people who needs seven outfits, so naturally I pack 32 just in case.

Tell us your funniest travel anecdote.

My sister and I planned a girls' trip to California. We wanted to be cool so we rented a drop-top Jeep. We weren't expecting it to be quite as cold outside as it was, and that damn top was so hard to get off and on, we even broke it! (Don't tell the rental company. They didn't notice!) We were so cold – even while wearing jackets, scarves with the heat blasting – but we were damned if we were going to put the top up. We were California cool (literally, frozen)!