Quick getaway

Don't have the money or the time for a vacation? Let one of these five ideas – perfect for just a single afternoon – give you a break this summer
By Heather Greenwood Davis
Quick getaway

If the return of sunshine to your cubicle has you dreaming of the French Riviera, but the chances of you getting there are as slim as your maxed-out credit card, keep reading. In a single afternoon you can escape your demanding life without suffering jet lag, packing for the kids or negotiating with your partner. Take one of these five ideas and adapt it to fit your cash flow, stress level and lieu hours. Any one of them is guaranteed to tide you over until the French Riviera is just a little easier to get to.

Do as the tourists do
There's a reason you live where you do. Rekindle the romance with your hometown by visiting it with an open mind. Stop in at your local visitor's bureau and pick out a tour. If you're near Vancouver, let local shopping expert and former Tourism Vancouver associate Donita Dyer and her team of shopaholics introduce you to the best deals in the city's trendy Yaletown on one of her personalized shopping tours. In Toronto? Head to Cabbagetown for a city history tour or, if you're closer to St. John's, admire the architecture of the houses along Military Road, including the moat surrounding Government House. No matter what part of the country you're in, there's sure to be a tour or neighbourhood you have yet to explore. This is the day to do it.

Back to school
If your day job has left you feeling left-brain heavy and right-brain under-indulged, balance things out by signing up for a creative class. Expose your inner artist with a ceramics class ( The Ceramic Café Studio in Montreal offers them for $8 an hour). Or give pole dancing a shot (hour-long sessions go for $35 at Vancouver's Tantra Fitness). Take a mundane task, such as fixing dinner, and turn it into a new experience with an afternoon cooking class ( Académie culinaire de Montréal offers a three-hour course for $80).

Those who can't go, lunch
Get to know the country you wish you could visit through its cuisine. Can't decide? Spin the globe, pick a country and discover something new. Reading a book while sipping a bowl of tortilla soup at a local Mexican eatery or savouring lamb tangine and couscous with a girlfriend at a Moroccan restaurant may be all you need to get you over your travel-deprivation hump. If someone else's cooking isn't your thing, use the Chatelaine recipe file to find an exotic recipe that'll satisfy all of your cravings.

Play hooky
"A change of pace is vital for marriage," says Toronto couples therapist Malka Schulman. She stresses the importance of spontaneity and excitement. "It's about injecting energy," she says. Book a hotel room and pencil yourself and the suite number into your guy's agenda a week in advance. Spend your time there remembering what the early days of your relationship were like. "Come up with 10 questions about things you each want to know about the other and learn something new," says Schulman. Don't forget to investigate the power of touch. "Love is really an action," she points out. And, what's the point of an afternoon off if you're not doing something naughty?

Get crafty
Discover your inner Peter Fallico. The host of HGTV's Home to Go and Home to Stay is a master at coming up with DIY projects that can freshen up any room. Today, paint a bookshelf or build a birdhouse. Encourage non-verbal communication with your family (and cut down on your mental to-do list) by having them post permission forms, shopping lists or love notes on the message board you made yourself (see below for instructions). Add a glass of wine or a dish of ice cream and watch the day drift by.

What you'll need
5/8 medium density fibreboard (MDF), measuring 32"x48"
Sheet metal, measuring 32"x32"
Contact cement
Blackboard paint
Kitchen-cabinet knobs

Step-by-step instructions
Paint the 32"x48" MDF with four coats of blackboard paint (you can find blackboard paint at most hardware stores). Using contact cement, glue the 32"x32" sheet metal to the painted blackboard. Be sure to position the sheet metal in the centre of the board, leaving 8 inches at the top and bottom.

Along the bottom of the blackboard, attach five knobs of your choice in a row. Use the knobs for hanging keys. Use the metal part of the board for magnets and the rest as a chalkboard – voila, you've got a great family message centre!


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