BootsnAll Travel Network

Lessons Learned on the Road – to the Ultimate Job (or not)

May 12th, 2010

Brel on a Hammock 1. Video skills! Most of you probably don’t realize that prior to applying for the Ultimate Job, neither of us had ever made or appeared in a video. We’ve had a ton of fun learning video skills and were very flattered that RBG put us in the ‘great video skills’ category with 2 professional videographers. Thanks guys!

2. While social marketing is a big part of our business at home, we had the opportunity to run a proper social marketing campaign leading up to the Top 10 – and did it with fantastic results. Our second place finish with over 3,000 votes and the media attention it garnered in Canada is a feat we will always be proud of. We have our friends and families to thank for coming onboard and making BREL go viral.

3. Our relationship is rock solid. Sure, we’ve been working and travelling together 24/7 for years, but the pressures of the UJ tested all of the couples. We’re proud to say, BREL is stronger than ever.

4. We can prioritize. While the UJ bosses tried to distract us from the official tasks, we stayed focused and created top-notch writing assignments and videos. Of course, it seems now that the ‘fun challenges’ were actually more than fun (oops), but looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. As travel writers on the road, we know all too well the temptations to have fun at the expense of your work and deadlines. We never want to risk turning in mediocre work for the sake of fun.

5. We can stream live-to-the-web! When tasked with a race of putting up our videos of getting to the top 10, we took it one step further – we streamed it live to the web (complete with TV crew in attendance). Sure, this was a risky idea – we could have waited endlessly for the phone to ring with 262 people around the world watching our rejection. And while live-to-the-web didn’t win us the “first-uploaded” contest (a technicality, if you ask us) it’s still a skill we’ll definitely use in the future. Plus it was super cool.

6. Our network of support is fantastic – you voted, you spammed your friends, you followed our blog (we had more comments than anyone!) and we’ll always be thankful.

A huge thank-you to everyone in Kinsale – it’s a fabulous town where the locals and the sponsors made us feel at home (a special shout-out to Mayor O’Brien for your late night drinking and singing). To all the other candidates, we’ll never forget sharing this experience with you all – you were incredible people with incredible skills and personalities and you raised the bar for us on a daily basis. Mark and Denise: we’ve already congratulated you both in person, best of luck on this adventure. And of course, lastly, thanks to RBG: you’ve pulled off a massive social marketing coup and this has been a blast.

The next BREL adventure may not be the Ultimate Job, but it will be Bigger-than-Ultimate. That, we can guarantee. Stay tuned.

photo credit to Susan Jefferies Photography ( – Susan and John were fantastic!


Video Challenge #2: Love at First Site: Kinsale, Ireland

May 12th, 2010


Video Challenge #1: The Ultimate Job – Quest to find the Successors

May 12th, 2010


Fishy Fishy: So good they named it twice

May 12th, 2010


[NOTE to those following the Ultimate Job: the following post is one of our official challenges. We’ve targeted this blog post to Runaway Bride and Groom’s audience–engaged couples everywhere. We will be returning to the BREL Ultimate Job blog again shortly!]

Tell any Irish person you’re headed to the town of Kinsale, Co. Cork, and you’re likely to get the same reaction. “Oh, Kinsale’s beautiful! Make sure you go to Fishy Fishy.”

4541364731_41af3f5859_o.jpgThe aptly-named seafood restaurant is something of an institution here, in no small part to its charismatic owner, Martin Shanahan. From its humble beginnings as a fish shop deli (still open for business in the centre of town), Fishy Fishy quickly outgrew its small 20-seat capacity; four years ago Martin and his wife Marie expanded to a second location, a sprawling, stylish quayside space complete with one of the town’s prime patios. That is, when the Irish weather cooperates.

Martin’s mission as a fish ambassador of sorts has grown of late, and these days the local celebrity can be seen spreading his fishy message far and wide as the host of his own wildly successful RTÉ television show Martin’s Mad About Fish. “My mission is a simple one,” he says, “to take the fear out of fish.” “No bone, no fear” is his mantra.

No fear indeed. His flagship restaurant carries the torch high, focusing on what he knows best: freshly caught, simply prepared fish and seafood, full stop. The local fishermen who support the Fishy Fishy credo are so central to his success, their pictures adorn the restaurant walls.

We start by taking a cue from local regulars, who swear by the legendary chilli seafood salad, a collection of monkfish, salmon and prawns, that changes with what happens to be freshest, all served on a bed of greens and chickpeas and topped with a sweet chilli sauce redolent of mango. Crispy parsnip chips add a welcome crunch.

Also highly recommended was the crab crumble, a casserole of moist crabmeat that didn’t disappoint: simmered in a delicate lemon butter sauce, the crab was so tender it literally fell apart. Topped with herb bread crumbs and baked, the dish was true to the restaurant’s aim—simple enough to let the fresh ingredients shine through.

For those not of the fishy persuasion (my wife Melanie included), fear not—a perfectly cooked rib eye steak topped with delicate onion rings came accompanied by a peppercorn sauce declared “good enough to drink.”

A carefully chosen international wine list naturally leans toward whites well-paired with the fare. And last but not least, top of the dessert heap (should you still have room), was a sticky toffee pudding served with butterscotch sauce and fresh cream, decadently sweet but not so filling as to make justifying a final course difficult.

Judging from the out-the-door queues all summer long, Martin’s clearly succeeding in his mission.

Uncomplicated. Consistent. Fresh. And not a bone or tinge of fear to be found.

Pierside, Kinsale, Co. Cork
+353 (0)21 4700415
Open 7 days a week
Mid March – Mid October:
Tuesday – Saturday : 12.00 pm – 9.00 pm
Sunday / Monday : 12.00 pm – 4.30 pm
Handicapped accessible.



Day in the Life of BREL at the Ultimate Job Finals

May 12th, 2010

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We know a lot of you are out there watching BREL at the finals so we’ve decided to update this blog posting as Day 2 of the finals proceeds. Sort of like a Twitter feed for non-Twitter types. Check back for our restaurant review later this afternoon as well.

8:47 am – We are about to board a trolley to the town of Kinsale. The estate we are staying at is the same place where Michael Jackson hid from the media post the sex scandal a few years ago (though it isn’t creepy here at all). In fact, it’s gorgeous. Mel is especially excited about all the rabbits hopping about. Brendan, in true Brendan style, is excited about the black pudding [Mel – that’s essentially fried blood].

10:44 am – Frantically working on our video script. The people in Kinsale are super helpful and have given us tons of ideas. Of course, our Toronto research team has been hard at work too…thanks guys! They threw a new challenge at us – finding a secret location where a radio interviewer was waiting. A fun idea, but BREL stayed on task: video, video, video. Stay tuned.

11:50 am – off to the Trident Hotel for lunch on the harbour, followed by a boat cruise. Hungry, a little stressed, but all about the Ultimate Job.

1:06 pm – Focus, focus, focus. We’ve decided to skip the boat cruise and have opted to spend the afternoon filming video and seeing Kinsale. We had a fabulous lunch at the Trident – clearly a top wedding venue option here. Mel sampled almost of all the desserts (delish). Brendan focused on the seafood. Love that we get champers everywhere we go.

4:25 pm – Back from a whirlwind afternoon touring Kinsale. To truly understand the spirit of this village, we hired a local to take us around. We saw and learned so much from Ronnie – including the local expression: Are you married or do you live Kinsale? Tons of fun stories to go along with that one. We had a minor incident where our car rolled into a BMW – with Mel still in it. Apparently parking brakes can be a little tricky here… Don’t worry Mom, I’m ok. Now on to editing our video…

6:20 pm – The video is in full swing, and hopefully you’ve had a chance to read our resto review (Fishy Fishy). We’re off to an evening of activities with our new-found friends: dinner, drinks in the VIP area of a local club, cocktail classes (where we’ll all be sampling the Brell-tini), then back around midnight to finish off our masterpiece. Stay tuned for more updates!

11:59 pm – Back from a great evening out. Dinner at Hamlet’s, cocktail school and another photo shoot. While there is a VIP area waiting for us at a club, we’ve actually taken the first bus back to the estate (very un-BREL, I know). Now the real editing begins. Our interview has been moved to 10 am tomorrow, and we are being treated at a spa at 11 am, so really, the next few hours are CRITICAL!!!! Wish us luck!

1:47 am – Still working. Feeling good about the video, though likely pulling an all-nighter tonight. Wondering how the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance do this for weeks on end. And they are actually dancing, not just writing and videoing.

3:04 am – Still going. Making progress. Feeling calm and confident.

4:46 am – We have a complete draft of the challenge video! Stay tuned – it’ll be posted tomorrow afternoon…We should be able to catch a few hours sleep before our interview…

5:13 am – The sun is about to rise and the birds are chirping (seriously, they are). Our videos are complete!!!! We can’t wait for the judges to see them…and of course to share them with all of you. Thanks for sharing this Day in the Life of BREL at the Ultimate Finals…


The Finals: Day 1

May 12th, 2010

brel_in_kinsale.JPGTHE ARRIVAL:
We were lucky enough to be offered a lift from Lizzie and Ed in their Lamborghini. This likely saved us from getting hopelessly lost or eternally stuck circling a roundabout trying to figure out how to exit. Thanks Lizzie!Mel was also impressed at the number of random sheep. Photos will no doubt follow before long.

Despite knowing a disturbing number of random facts about all the couples involved (can’t wait to hear that Donald Duck imitation Allan), it was great to actually meet everyone. A little champagne didn’t hurt either.A photo shoot followed, during which we (and by “we” I mean, Mel) managed to spill champagne down my crotch just moments before the photographer was about to make us look famous. In her defence, we WERE in a hammock, a dangerous manoeuvre indeed.

Kinsale is known as the gourmet capital of Ireland; thus it made sense that our next challenge would involve dining at some of the top establishments in town.Tonight we were dropped into the centre of Kinsale challenged with a scavenger hunt. We were given several clues that would lead us to selected restaurants to be reviewed for Challenge #2. The last two couples to solve the clues and find their restaurant would be left without tables; they would be sent to a fish and chip shop.

Despite Brendan’s secret hope that he would get to eat fish and chips yet again, BREL had a strategy: divide and conquer! First: forget the clues—pick the best known restaurant in town (Fishy Fishy) and have Brendan run there as fast as he could. Chances were, we surmised, it was bound to be one of the featured restaurants.Meanwhile Mel hung back and used the power of the iPhone, using restaurant locator apps to find possible matches to the clues. This also avoided her having to run, which she enjoyed immensely.In the end Fishy Fishy had a table waiting for, and the BREL strategy paid off. Ironically, Mel doesn’t eat fish. More about that later.

You didn’t really think an evening with BREL in Ireland would end anywhere else, did you?


Off to Kinsale…

May 12th, 2010

In a few minutes, we’ll be headed to Kinsale, one of Ireland’s top wedding destinations and home to the Ultimate Job finals. We’ll be hitching a ride with another Top 10 couple – Lizzie and Ed (of guinea pig fame). If for some reason we don’t make it (eg, they decide to ‘off’ the competition or leave us at the roadside), please call the authorities. I think they drive a ‘classic’ Citroen- or at least that’s what they’ve told us.

We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge all of you who’ve tolerated our spam, voted for us, followed our blog and supported us on Facebook. This experience was so much fun in part because it gave us the opportunity to get closer to our friends and family, and meet people we otherwise wouldn’t have.

We’d also like to give a special shout-out to those of you who made getting us to the Ultimate Job finals your Ultimate Goal:

· Jonas (for helping us edit our application video and teaching us how to edit ourselves)

· Mel Cote (for her incredible and creative brain and shameless plugging of BREL) – and her son, 6-month old Baby Shane for having his naps interrupted for the Ultimate Job

· Kristel (for first dreaming up this idea and believing in BREL to make it happen)

· Mel’s Mom and Dad (for tireless campaigning for votes, commenting on blogs, getting the media on our side)

· Mel’s sister Nicole (for networking for votes, the ‘ash’ joke idea and countless other support and ideas along the way)

· Uncle Roly (for never wavering in his support of team BREL and bringing in hundreds of votes)

· Brendan’s dad (for giving Brendan the gift of a love of travel and spamming his friends even though he hates doing that)

· the Kinnears, the Piches, the Powells and all the other friends and families who gave the Ultimate Job their ultimate all

A huge “thank you” to those of you in Toronto helping keep our businesses and pets alive while we are in Ireland (and hopefully while we’re Ultimate Jobbing for 6 months): Matt, Kelly, Paul…

To all our media support: thank you! CTV television, CityTV, The Espanola Monitor, the Sudbury Star, MCTV, Newstalk 1010 radio, MooseFM, Boots ‘n All, MACO Destinations magazine, Traveller magazine, Inside Toronto community newspaper…

We’ll be blogging and Facebooking throughout the finals weekend, so stay tuned and think BREL!!!!


Observations in our first 24 hours in Ireland:

May 12th, 2010



1.        A pint of Guinness in Ireland is WAY better than a pint of Guinness anywhere else. [Note from B: that’s not saying much coming from Mel, since she wasn’t much of a fan to begin with…] And not just because you’re drinking it in a REAL pub surrounded by fun Irish people. It actually tastes better.

2.       It’s a bit strange to be speaking the same language as everyone and yet still not understand some of the words being used.  Though it is good craic. (pronounced ‘crack’ for everyone at home – it means fun, good times, good conversation)

3.       The Irish really know how to make you feel at home – we’ve joined strangers for pints at their tables and been invited to a celebrity party (and a funeral, which was a bit odd). People who would scowl at me at home—or just ask for change—strike up friendly conversations.

4.       It seems that everyone we talk to is familiar with and the Ultimate Job. Some have even seen our application video. Still working on our celebrity status here though.

5.       We are staying at the Dylan, one of the hottest boutique hotels in Dublin. Everyone here looks famous. We’re considering taking photos of  random people holding our ‘Runaway Bride and Groom Rocks’ sign and posting it to our blog just in case they are, in fact, famous. Whitney Houston and Colin Farrell just checked out a few days ago, so you never know…


1.       Mel is drinking Guinness now? Just a few weeks ago she spit it out while filming our application video! And yes, the Guinness is exactly as good as I remember.

2.       Everyone seems to know each other here. We’ve already run into friends of one of the other competitors. (Insert joke about small gene pool here)

3.       Let it be said: Dublin is a sophisticated city – it’s not just about having pints in a pub. There are swanky cocktail lounges, gourmet restaurants and stylish people. Though we did balance that with pints in a pub – we are still BREL, after all.

4.       I can’t believe how many shoes she brought. What was she thinking?! She’s got more pairs of shoes here than I have underwear. (And no, I am NOT planning on using any of our dangerous underpants manoeuvres)…see:

5.    Travelling in Ireland as a Canadian named Brendan is like coming home—for once I look like the locals (it’s hard to blend in while travelling in Japan or India), nobody asks me how to spell my name, and every rack has my size at Marks & Spencer. Brilliant!


Bacon + Chocolate. Together at Last

May 12th, 2010


In response to the flurry of interest (revulsion? horror?) at bacon chocolate as an ingredient in the BREL-Tini, I thought people would enjoy some photos of Mel trying her first taste of this legendary combination.

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BREL: 1, VOLCANO: 0 The Video! (in HD)

May 12th, 2010

Brendan and Mel best an angry volcano to make it to Ireland’s green–er, ash-covered shores…


Celebrity Endorsement #2: This is Howie Do It

May 12th, 2010

We have one more celebrity endorsement for Brendan and Mel–Howie Mandel!

A Hollywood fixture and stand-up comedian, Howie is currently on tour. These days you can see him on TV regularly as the host of the prime time game show Deal or No Deal.

He is a regular guest on the Tonight Show (these days hosted by Jay Leno); his next appearance is coming up May 20th.

Starting June 1st Howie will be the new judge on America’s Got Talent, replacing none other than David Hasselhoff. Not that anyone can replace The Hoff.

Howie is also the Executive Producer, writer and voice of the kid’s show Bobby’s World, now in syndication in 65 countries…although you might remember him back in the day as an actor on St Elsewhere!

AND, more importantly, Howie is also a huge supporter of Brendan and Mel for the Ultimate Job!



Our Celebrity Endorsement

May 12th, 2010

So, it took us a bit, but here is our first celebrity endorsement. He was even kind enough to draw us up our own custom graffiti Runaway Bride and Groom sign!

Rather than ruin the fun for those guessing the celebrity by actually naming him, you can click on the links below for the big reveal.

– He’s on tour in the UK right now, and makes regular visits to Ireland
– Whether you recognise his face or not probably depends on what kind of music you listen to!

The man In Ireland



We Made It!

May 12th, 2010

Well, after a series of delays (2 hours on the tarmac in Toronto; another hour at the gate in JFK) threatened to fray our nerves, we have managed to sneak into Dublin…on the last plane in before the airport shut down yet again! 20 minutes later the airport stopped all flights, and the immigration counters became a ghost town.

Some fun video to follow soon, but for all of you following along to see if we would make it–we’re here! Even had our celebratory (and mandatory) first pub visit.



Pondering Probabilities: More Volcanic Ash?!

May 12th, 2010


As we all know, only a few weeks ago, Eyjafjallajokull volcano brought air traffic across Europe to a grinding halt. The stories of stranded passengers and frustrated travellers filled the news for days. For me, it was personal : my sister was about to board a plane to Paris for her first overseas trip, a trip she had painstakingly planned for months –a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After many frustrating days of waiting and hoping she cancelled her plans and resorted to going to Niagara Falls for the weekend. Needless to say, not the trip of a lifetime.

And so I wonder…what are the chances that less than 24 hours before we are about to board a plane to Ireland for the Ultimate Job finals, they close Irish airspace again???? It seems that a change of wind direction means ash is headed to Ireland.

This is a serious pain in the ash. (sorry, can’t help it).

As life-long travellers, we’ve grown accustomed to delayed and cancelled flights, lost baggage and things-in-general not working out as planned. In the event that our flight does indeed get cancelled on Tuesday, we have a Plan B and a Plan C (is it too late to take a ferry across the Atlantic?) We’d be lying if we said that this new development hasn’t added to the stress of an already pressure-filled week.

Perhaps this is the ultimate test for the ultimate job? Handling travel chaos with ease and grace? Did Runaway Bride and Groom put the volcano up to this?

And one last point…is it statistically possible that fate would interfere with both of my parents daughters’ plans of having the trip of a lifetime????

That volcano needs an ash-kicking. (sorry, still can’t resist).


Lessons Learned on the Road

May 12th, 2010

One of our favourite series in our travel blog (The BREL Chronicles) is Lessons Learned on the Road. In the spirit of the Ultimate Job, we thought we’d recycle some of our favourite critical travel skills – even though the Runaway Bride and Groom will be travelling in much greater style.

1. When travelling with limited underpants, the following manoeuvres are permitted:

• Continuation – the continued wearing of a pair of semi-clean undies, after for example, a shower or swim, if the undies have been worn for less than 16 continuous hours
• Double-dipping – a last ditch option, whereby you select the least soiled pair of underwear from the laundry bag and re-wear. Cannot be combined with Continuation.
• Inside-out – much controversy surrounds this dangerous manoeuvre, whereby a worn pair of skivvies are turned inside-out and re-worn. Generally, this manoeuvre is considered covert and not publicly disclosed.
• Commando –can either be a desperation move, or one justified by chosen attire (surf shorts, bathing suits, man-pris, etc.). When skilfully applied, this manoeuvre can significantly extend the length between visits to the laundromat.

2. The size of the stuff you’re carrying expands to 120% of the space you have in your pack, requiring that you strap objects (e.g. pineapples – true story) to the outside of your bag. And no matter how much you think your partner loves you, he will not, under any circumstances, carry your pack for you, nor will he put any of your shoes or makeup in his bag. No matter how much you whine.

3. You can never see too many monkeys or have too many photos of monkeys.

4. The best time to spot wildlife is when you are without your camera. The harder you look, the less chance you have of finding it. Best strategy: beer in one hand, standing alone in a parking lot, without your glasses.

5. Budgets are easy to meet when they are moving targets that contract or expand depending on how badly you need that massage or $4 diet coke from the mini bar.

6. The resident gecko issued with every hotel room in the tropics is highly preferable to the giant, resident cockroach. It is best to shield Mel from said giant, resident cockroach.

7. Even Brel can start to annoy each other three months in to a year-long trip. Take a deep breath and repeat the following: “Compromise will NOT kill me. Surely he (she) isn’t this annoying in real life – I’ve spent x years with him (her) and surely would have noticed this (fill in the blanks: hygiene/morning cheeriness/ pickiness/ stubborness/pig-headedness) issue before?”

8. It’s always Happy Hour somewhere.

9. If you have to ask “Is that smell us?” it likely is.

10.Two dollars US can actually buy an entire half-pound of bacon for breakfast in a restaurant in Belize. Bacon lovers unite!



Guest Blog #3: Guest Blog

May 12th, 2010

Yes, I suppose I could have come up with a more creative title, but that pretty much sums it up. I’m a longlonglongtime friend of Melanie’s and am myself a terrible host. But I am the ultimate guest. Lucky for me, Melanie and Brendan are just the opposite.
From after-school homework gatherings in high school to back-yard blowouts at the ‘Brel Grotto’, nobody throws a party like these two.

They finished bartending school – how about party featuring the entire cocktail list from class? Engaged in Mexico – how about an engagement party featuring a mariachi band – in their house? Christmas party? Cheese ‘balls’ lovingly sculpted like little Christmas trees. Heck – they even came over to throw my housewarming party. That’s dedication.

Melanie has been known to cook elaborate feasts including little details like crackers she’s baked herself. And Brendan, who has DJ’d around the globe, keeps the music coming all night long. That and works the room, fills the glasses and makes a mean spring roll.

The guest list often includes ‘strays’ – random people they’ve come across who are new to town, new to the neighbourhood, sometimes even from a shop they visited or from the next table at a restaurant. Little do those people know how lucky they are to be added to the mix. In fact, more than one couple that has met at one of these shindigs has since tied the knot.

What does this have to do with the Ultimate Job? Well the successful candidates will be putting themselves into the shoes of Runaway Brides and Grooms all over the globe. What would throwing a party here be like? Even if it’s an intimate party of 2 – those wedding couples and honeymooners want to be sure it can be absolutely perfect.

Food. Drink. Experiences. People. Large groups. Romantic solitude. Brel won’t ever just be guests at these incredible spots – though the hotels might believe them to be. They are Hosts by nature. It’s what they do. And every Bride and Groom considering these spots will see them through the eyes of folk who throw the perfect party over and over again. Who could be better for the job?
Now if only I could find a way to get invited…

(Melanie Cote)


BREL in Training

May 11th, 2010

The Ultimate Job conjures up visions of endless beaches, spa-testing, hammock-swinging, glasses of bubbly and lavish gourmet meals. And yes, of course, there is a real thrill at the idea of being on Oprah, being outfitted by designers, having a private butler and getting international media attention.

But during all the fun we’ve been having this past month, we’ve never lost sight of the fact that the Ultimate Job is an actual JOB. It isn’t a contest with a prize at the end of it. Or a 6-month vacation on a beach (or a series of beaches, as the case may be).

The successful candidates will have assignments to complete, real deliverables to deliver, deadlines to meet and office politics to manage. There will be engaging blogs to write, videos to shoot and edit, travel articles for the Irish Times to write; there will be media appearances, wedding package planning, interviews with top hoteliers, and yes, of course, one with Oprah.

We’ve always approached the Ultimate Job as a Job – with a fun recruiting process (and fabulous by-product publicity for RBG), but it is still a Job – with a capital J.

That said, we’ve been training for the sexier parts of the Ultimate job – and practicing our video and editing skills. Enjoy!


RBG Cocktail #2: The BREL-TINI (instructional video)

May 11th, 2010

Las Ventanas Tequila

The perfect martini is uncomplicated but elegant. It must be prepared properly—unhurried, and with style. Likewise the perfect BREL-tini is straightforward, but elegant in its simplicity.

Fill a martini glass with ice water and set aside to…chill

1 ½ ounces Tequila (distilled by Las Ventanas resort in Cabo, Mexico)

2 ounces Passion fruit juice (do I need to explain why?)

Stir slowly with a cocktail spoon in a martini shaker with ice.
Strain mix into the now-perfectly chilled glass.
Drop a Thai hot chili in the bottom (Brendan is the spicy, exotic one)
Garnish with shaved bacon chocolate (Mel is the sweet bacon-lover. And yes, it exists. Bacon and chocolate together at last!)

Serve in a hot tub with a champagne chaser.

bacon chocolate


RBG Cocktail #1: The ULTIMATE

May 10th, 2010



1 ounce Coconut rum (to evoke swaying palms and exotic beaches)

½ ounce Spiced rum (because every honeymoon needs a little spice)

Orange juice for topping up (because it doesn’t get sweeter than 6 months of honeymooning)

1 float Canada Dry ginger ale (because the Ultimate Drink AND Ultimate Job aren’t complete without a little taste of Canada)

Pour over ice.
Serve in a coconut shell with TWO straws…for the honeymooners to share.
Garnish with a hibiscus flower…the meaning of which is “seize this opportunity”.
Drink under a palapa at sunset on a tropical beach.




Guest Blog #2: Jack (age 6)

May 10th, 2010

I am six years old and Melanie and Brendan are my aunt and uncle. I think they would be the best Runaway Bride and Groom because they love to travel and tell stories about it. They take nice pictures and they have their own blog. I read it every day when they are gone away. I will do these things when they get the job, which I know is going to happen:

1. Jump up and down 100 times

2. Scream “I knew they would win, I knew they would win” over and over

3. Make a cool Lego creation of Melanie and Brendan in a plane

4. Send a picture of my Lego creation to the Lego Magazine so they publish it

5. Have a sleepover and hot tub party and roast marshmallows in the fire pit at Melanie and Brendan’s house

6. Miss school to help Melanie and Brendan pack their suitcases

7. Bring lots of balloons to the airport to say goodbye to Melanie and Brendan

8. Teach Michael, Zachary, Loren and Andrew about the countries Melanie and Brendan visit

9. Write about Melanie and Brendan’s adventures in my Montessori journal

10. Beg mom and dad to take me to visit Melanie and Brendan in Ireland!

Jack blogging


Ultimate Job Challenges

May 9th, 2010

As part of the run-up to the finals weekend, has been tasking us with some fun challenges. Thankfully, nothing involves eating live caterpillars or being submersed in water for long periods of time – as least not yet.

Challenge #1: Make a 2 minute video encouraging people to apply for this job next year – The Quest for the Successors. Creativity is key in this task – as always, we’re open to ideas and feedback, so bring it on!

Challenge #2: Get a photo of a celebrity holding a sign that reads: “I love”. To all our designer and art director friends: sorry, no Photoshop allowed. We’re surprised by how connected we are to so many celebrities – though we haven’t found the 6 people who connect us to Kevin Bacon yet. Our celebrity connections (they must be internationally recognizable) haven’t yet panned out – apparently the A-listers get millions for celebrity endorsements and won’t take our offer of a ‘thank you’. Who knew? So if you can help us out on this challenge, please let us know!

Challenge #3 : Design a drink that represents the Ultimate Job competition, and one that represents us as a couple. As many of you know, we got our bartending certificates a few years ago – and we certainly have a liquor cabinet representative of our travels. And so the fun continues…stay tuned for more challenges!


On Becoming Mediawhores

May 8th, 2010

he media whirlwind since we started this journey has been shockingly swift and unquestionably fun. Here is a retrospective of our sudden rise to (very minor) fame, and the people who helped it happen.


It started with those who knew us best:


The online travel magazine PlanetEye Traveller did features on our bid for the Top 50 (and later, Top 10), even going so far as to do a retrospective “Best of the Global Nomad,” Brendan’s official title during his time writing and photographing for the site. Seriously, he even has the business cards to prove it! (See image below)

PE Logo

Next the luxury travel magazine Destinations hopped on board. After years of feature articles for the magazine, Destinations readers had gotten to know the couple through Brendan’s reviews: at one exclusive resort after another, Melanie was forced to submit herself to all manner of spa treatments for their edification.

maco logo

Destinations magazine main site

The travel website BootsnAll showcased The BREL Chronicles as their featured RTW travel blog, as well as promoting our bid for the Ultimate job through their newsletter, regular twitter tweet, and on their site.

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BootsnAll has also featured us on their tweets


Even the Maldives Traveller picked up on our bid…and gave us an unprompted plug:



Then things started to get interesting.


A major network film crew showed up at our house:


Our television debut! The interview has been repeated on at least 4 stations in at least 2 time zones, with multiple repeats per day


Mel’s hometown newspaper did a story on us, which was then picked up by much larger affiliates (and much larger pictures of us!)::

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To see the paper version of the Star article (with a big picture of us!), click here.
The Star also ended up doing a follow up article on us while we were still only in the top 50.

And then came the radio interviews!

Moose FM (clearly a northern station) did a long interview with us:


And once we made the Top Ten, we ended up in the studio with Lynne Russell Show. Lynne is former CNN Headline News anchor, and they posted a link to our video on their site!


Fun to be in the studio, and they posted a link to our video! Audio clip also pending—they don’t post them on their site so we had to record it the old fashioned way.

 A TV crew showed up at the pub for our webcast wait to see if we made the Top Ten, and we were interviewed by another paper just before we left for Ireland:

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  • Our Facebook group, Brendan + Mel for the Ultimate Job in Ireland!
  • Press release submitted to all national & local media across Canada
    picked up by at least two dozen outlets
  • 2500 hits on the BREL Chronicles during first 10 days of the competition


 Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. We’ve enjoyed every step of the way!



GUEST BLOG #1: Travelling with BREL

May 7th, 2010

[Kristel] Two years ago I took my first (and, thus far, only) big trip: from Canada to Turkey. Having never been outside of North America I was excited, but also a tad apprehensive. And did I mention I was travelling alone? To say I was nervous would have been an understatement.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to be. Of all the amazing things I thought I’d come across in my travels… all the ruins and seas, mountains and mosques… the most amazing of all were none other than Brendan and Mel. By the time we met in Turkey, Brel were already seasoned writers, bloggers and travellers. They were on a year-long adventure and just being with them took away all my apprehensions and fears. The locals loved them and everywhere they went fun was sure to follow (and I made sure to tag along!). Their humour is quick and fantastic; their attitude is refreshing and inspiring; and they can take a case of Turkish road rage (so that’s why they keep baseball bats in their cars…) involving a guard with a gun and quickly turn it into a trip to the local pub, complete with borrowing the band’s tambourine, dancing up a storm and claiming a balloon as our mascot (what… is that not normal?). All this on the same day we became unexpected guests at a Turkish wedding. What can I say… Brendan and Mel are so good at weddings that weddings have a way of coming to them!

Because of all their travelling, and the fact Brendan used to be a travel guide and writer, Brel knew just as much about Turkey (and Africa and Belize and Spain and, well, pretty much the entire world) as our tour guide. Their confidence and free spirit brought me out of my shell and made for the best 17 days I have ever had in my entire life. I did things I never would have done if I had been left to my own devices… some of which I have told my mother about… others of which I have not 😉

Plus we share a love of bacon so, really, life-long bonds were bound to be made.

From playing the ukulele with a parrot on Brendan’s shoulder to singing songs in a hooka bar, only to be invited back to the owner’s home for a beer after we shut the place down, every moment of our trip became a memory I will carry with me for as long as I live. Just like the friendships I made. After all, Brendan and Mel are the type of people you need only spend a handful of days with to love for the rest of your life. They are the type of people who invite you to their wedding halfway across the country… and you actually go. Only to find out the wedding is being held in an art gallery… complete with salsa dancing, signature cocktails and a poutine bar. People… a poutine bar! If anyone knows how to plan a wedding it’s Brel! Having planned an outdoor venue, only to have Mother Nature disagree, their backup plan was so fantastic that I can’t even imagine what their first plan would have been. Their wedding was the classiest, yet relaxed and fun, wedding I have ever been to. From proposals to nuptials, honeymoons and, yes, second weddings Brendan and Mel definitely know how to go above and beyond to make any special occasion just as much about their guests as about them.

There is so much more I could tell you. The memories, the stories… the experiences. Instead, I want you to have your own Brel moments. Because if they win the Ultimate Job in Ireland (and perhaps the world)… you will. And they will be amazing and humorous, sincere and life-changing. Brendan and Mel will make their trip of a lifetime feel like your trip of a lifetime.

Because that’s what they did for me.

I know this is the perfect job for them. More importantly, I know they are the perfect people for the job. The only people for the job. How can I be so sure? Because… this was, after all, my idea.



Miles Above the Rest

May 6th, 2010

From budget to luxury, hostel to villa, we’ve seen it all, then written and blogged about it.

Together, we’ve travelled through: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Belize, St Maarten, Anguilla, El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Turkey, Greece, Italy, England, Indonesia, Japan, Canada, the US.

Separately, we’ve been to: Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Morocco, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, India, Nepal, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Guam.

Notice anything missing? We have only been to ONE of the proposed countries for the Runaway Bride and Groom blog. So while we may know how to deal with life on the road and unexpected travel delays and challenges, [note from B: and insurrections, roadside holdups, earthquakes and roadblocks complete with burning tires…] we’ll still have a fresh set of eyes for reviewing the Maldives, the Seychelles, Kenya, Zanzibar, Hawaii, Jordan, Mauritius…


The BREL Love Story (His and Hers)

May 5th, 2010


To be honest, we didn’t meet in the most romantic of ways. We were both at a Irish pub in Toronto watching the Stanley Cup finals (the hockey equivalent of the World Cup) with our respective friends. We’d each had a number of pints. And much to the disappointment of Canadians everywhere, we didn’t win the Stanley Cup that night.

At the end of the evening, when Brendan asked if he could call me, I actually said no. By this point, I’d realized how different we were from one another: he had just returned from a trip to Nicaragua and was “in between gigs” and had never had a “normal” job. He was a dreamer, living life one spontaneous adventure at a time. I, on the other hand, was a planner. I worked 70-hour weeks as a corporate executive at an advertising agency. I had a retirement fund, a house and a stable, predictable life. At one point that night, I actually said: “Somewhere between your vagabonding ways and my career ambition and maturity is a perfectly balanced and happy person.”

To make a long story short (well, shorter), his persistence paid off and we eventually realized that we could BOTH become that person – successful (in the way that society defines success), but impulsive and adventurous too. Together, we could discover the world – but still have a safe place to come home to.

Our relationship has brought the best of our two worlds together – worlds full of culture, music, theatre, festivals, salsa-dancing, cooking classes, extravagant parties, good friends and of course, travel.


I’m entitling this entry “The Keeper.” All the guys out there know what I mean.

I could talk about how we met, and say all kinds of sweet things about love at first sight…but this is supposed to be a guy’s perspective. So instead I’ll talk about why I quickly realised Melanie was A Keeper.

The day we met, Mel brought people back to HER place after the pub closed. Even when she had to work the next day.
Score: +1

When Mel throws a party, she feeds people better than I do during my fanciest attempts at a dinner party. And when I fall asleep on the couch before the party’s over? Instead of throwing my friends out, she joins them in drawing a moustache on my face.
Score: hard to explain when called into work early the next day, but +1

The final keeper moment? Well, a traveller can’t be with a non-traveller; it just won’t work. So, thinking there was no way the corporate executive would bite, I proposed the ultimate challenge: an entire year on the road. To my astonishment (and despite tears on her family’s part), she sold her house, quit her job, and packed her shiny new backpack.
Score: +100

Somewhere between the acrophobe agreeing to hang glide (and paraglide) with me; the princess dealing with public squat toilets, wildlife in her hotel room and food she’d never even heard of; and Christmas in the 3rd world with no electricity, I decided: she’s A Keeper.

Four years, 26 countries, an engagement and a wedding later, we’re hoping to add even more adventures to the BREL Love Story–by traipsing around the world as the Runaway Bride and Groom.


How to Spam Friends and Influence People

May 4th, 2010

We live in a big city. We know a lot of people. But getting people to vote for us in the Ultimate Job was a whole new experience. Here’s what we learned:

1. Begin with a comprehensive e-mail campaign: your friends, family, co-workers, etc. Title your email “I need your help to get a job,” because everybody feels good about being a work reference and everybody hates viral “Vote for Me” emails. Avoid sending said email to your boss (like we mistakenly did)…it just invites awkward conversations and he won’t vote for you anyhow.

2. Strategic Facebooking: Change your status at least four times a day, including in the middle of the night so that your international friends don’t feel left out. Stagger your messages with your spouse’s, so that your common friends don’t block you when it gets overwhelming. Because it will get overwhelming before you’ve even made it to Top 50, let alone Top 10. Accept that some people will ‘unfriend’ you; they probably weren’t your friend anyways.

3. When other candidates start to gain on you, take your e-mail campaign one step further. Send a message to your dentist, your banker, that guy you met in Cuba 10 years ago [Note from Brendan: WHAT guy in Cuba? Why don’t I know about about him?] Take full advantage of all those business cards you collect and never follow up on. Accept the spammers credo that having an e-mail address is tantamount to someone giving you an open invitation to spam them at will.

4. Beer. When in doubt, bribe people with beer. “If we make it to the Top 50, we’ll throw a party and the beer is on us!” If you start to suspect that people are deleting your “Vote for BREL” e-mails, entitle those same emails “Free Beer”. It works.

5. Take the meaning of ‘friends’ on Facebook literally. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t spoken to someone in 20 years and only accepted their Facebook request to make you look more popular. For the sake of the Ultimate Job, a friend is a friend. Send personal messages, post on their Walls, “Like” whatever it is they happen to have going on in their lives. Manipulative? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

6. Take advantage of the Oprah effect. When you realize there’s a possibility that the Runaway Bride and Groom couple will appear on Oprah, TELL EVERYONE. Who doesn’t want to know someone who got to meet Oprah?


Top 10 Reasons We Are the Ultimate Couple for the Ultimate Job (His and Hers)

May 3rd, 2010


1. We’ve travelled to more than 25 countries together (and another 34 apart) and haven’t killed each other yet. If you haven’t lived out of a backpack for months on end, you may not realize how challenging it can be. Or how obnoxious your other half is. Or how limiting it is to have your every possession in a pack that weighs just 22 pounds and has only four pair of underpants. But we’ve adjusted to travel and to each other – just don’t ask me about Uruguay or his snoring.

2. We got married 8 months ago and know all about planning weddings. In fact, we planned 14 Destination weddings: in a pub in Ireland, on a beach in Costa Rica, on a sailboat in Bermuda, over tacos in Mexico, in Hawaii, on a mountain in Bali, in Montreal, on the slopes of Whistler. In the end, we got married in Toronto, Canada. Don’t ask. Apparently the people who raised you get a say in your wedding.

3. We know how to honeymoon! In addition to years of honeymoon rehearsals in Central and South America, we’ve taken official honeymoons in St Maarten, Anguilla, Japan and Bali. In fact, we’ve spent 1/3 of our married life to date on the road.

4. We know luxury. We’ve slept in Mel Gibson’s bed. Got engaged at the same place where where Courtney Cox got married. Honeymooned in the villa next to Penelope Cruz. And we know what a $1,500 a night villa with a private butler should be like.

5. Brendan will eat anything. I will not. This is surprisingly fun to read about. [Note from Brendan: It’s true, I will eat anything. Just for your amusement. Or my own, really.]

1. Who are we kidding? My resume may LOOK cool, but I’ve never really been “qualified” for many jobs. Until now. Bonus: my father will stop whining about how I’ve squandered a top-notch education by wandering around the world instead of…well, working for a living.

2. I can write! Seriously, people have actually paid me good money to write. [Note from Mel: don’t let him tell you the money is good in writing. He’s lying.] I’ve even written for travel magazines. [Mel: especially the magazines.] Bonus: they buy my photos, too; check some of my favourites out here, and on our own travel blog The BREL Chronicles.

3. We can leave on short notice. Like tomorrow. We’ve done it before!

4. I (almost) never get lost–as a tour guide I’ve had groups follow me through Arab Medinas, whitewashed labyrinths in Greece and the subways of Tokyo, and I’ve never lost anyone. Except that one lady in Athens. But I don’t like to talk about that.

5. We can dance! Don’t believe a white guy can dance? Check out the first dance at our wedding:


Facts You’d be Surprised to Know About The Video That Started it All…

May 2nd, 2010

1.       In the spa scene, the facial mask that Mel has on her face is actually cream cheese icing. Stay tuned for our outtakes video to see our dog licking it off.

2.       Mel doesn’t actually like dark beer (sorry Ireland and Guinness lovers everywhere). In the soon-to-be-released video, there’s a take where she actually chokes on it. (the horror, the horror)

3.       The last “I Do” shot was actually filmed at the pub where we met, the Foggy Dew; coincidentally, also the background for our live webcast the afternoon we found out we were in the Top 10.

4.       ACTRA, the Canadian actors union, wouldn’t let any of our actor friends play the part of the priest, so the moustachioed Brendan was a last resort. The moustache was bought in Mexico City during Mexican Independence Day festivities, on the same trip where the sombrero was bought.

5.       The photo of the beach wedding is from a wedding we attended in Puerto Rico; the groom is a world-famous DJ!

6.       We actually use those margarita glasses. Regularly.

7.       The photo of Brendan and the llama (a.k.a. The Worst Photo of Brendan Ever Taken) was picked up by numerous TV stations and played across Canada for a couple of days. The only reason Brendan allowed it in was because it makes Mel laugh hysterically every time she looks at it.

And, yes, that is actually Brendan drinking wine in a bus station (in Northern Argentina).


This is Kristel

April 30th, 2010


Kristel? But I thought your names were Brendan and Melanie..

We’d like to introduce our friend Kristel. She’s a traveller. She’s funny as hell. And without her, we’d never be here in the first place. And no, she’s not Brendan’s mum.

We met Kristel on a month-long trip around Turkey, and she has seen BREL in action. (More about that in the next post). After weeks sharing bumpy roads, random meat products and the occasional sheesha together, Kristel knows us intimately: as travellers, bloggers, photographers, dancers, drinkers, spouters of random factoids and spontaneous song ad libbers about whatever ridiculous experience we happen to be having at the time.

She even travelled across the country to be at our wedding.

So when Kristel stumbled upon the Ultimate Job, there was only one couple she instantly knew had to be a part of it. And the rest, as they say, is history.



Is BREL a good Wager? Plus following in MJ’s footsteps

April 29th, 2010


The online betting company has opened up wagering on the Ultimate Job competition…so forget those mutual funds, and bet on this! You’ll all be pleased to know we have been given pretty decent odds at 5:1!

who knew?

On another note, more details have been released about the Final Weekend in Ireland for the Top Ten, and the venue’s pretty flash–apparently Michael Jackson used to stay there for months at a time. Check out the Ballinacurra House, “Ireland’s Premier Private Estate for Exclusive Hire.”


Follow us for the next two weeks at the Ultimate Job blog!

April 28th, 2010

The Ultimate Job has created a blog site for the Top Ten contestants–so until May 9th, come visit our blog (and comment!) on their site!


Wish us luck!

Brendan and Mel

**Note that all posts that were on the Ultimate Blog site have now also been added to this blog above–there is no longer any need to go to the Ultimate Job blog**



April 24th, 2010

For those of you that missed our live webcast of our agonizing wait for results of the Top Ten (made easier by a few pints of Guinness), below is a recording of the whole thing:

Watch live streaming video from thebrelchronicles at

And here is the reaction to the final results!

Watch live streaming video from thebrelchronicles at


BREL Makes it to Top 10 – Honeymoon Testing, Here We Come!

April 23rd, 2010

We’re super-excited to announce that after a long week of public voting, we’ve been selected as finalists for the Ultimate Job in Ireland (and probably the world). We’ll be off to Ireland on May 7th for a weekend of interviews and Survivor-like challenges. The lucky Runaway Bride and Groom will be announced on May 9th, and begin their adventure in Zanzibar on May 21st.

Thanks to all our supporters…and stay tuned to this blog for more updates!


BREL Selected as Top 50 for the Ultimate Job in Ireland (and probably the world)

April 10th, 2010

Thousands of people applied….1029 people viewed our video…and we are pleased to announce:


So here’s what happens now…
Voting has been re-set to zero. Voting begins again today and ends April 17th – you can only vote for one candidate per computer – so make sure it’s Brendan Powell! The Top 10 finalists will be announced April 20th – the judges will select 9 of the applicants (based on CV, application and video submission) – but the number 10 spot will belong to the couple with the most votes! So your vote really does mean a lot….

To vote, click on the link below and “Click here to Vote”. There’s no need to register – simply click and you’re done!

[NOTE contest is finished but the video and entry are still on the site as of May 2010]

Many thanks for all your support!


The video that started it all

April 6th, 2010

Many thanks to Jonas for lending us his camera and being our video editing guru, and to Mel Cote for her script and for acting as camera-mom with a baby one hip!


BREAKING NEWS! BREL to Apply for the Ultimate Job in Ireland – Honeymoon Testing!

April 5th, 2010



If you’ve been following our blog, then you know that we’ve been training for this job for years. Essentially, the job (sponsored by the Irish Times and involves testing luxury resorts around the world and reporting back to engaged couples everywhere. Kenya, Zanzibar, Thailand, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, and of course Ireland, Hawaii and more. Spa treatments, private butlers, gourmet meals and more. Gruelling work, but hey, someone needs to do it.

Our video submission is almost ready – and we’ll be seeking your votes on April 6th. In the meantime….

Top 10 Reasons We Are The Ultimate Couple for the Ultimate Job

1. We’ve travelled to 59 countries and haven’t killed each other yet. If you haven’t lived out of a backpack for months on end, you may not realize how hard that is. Or how obnoxious your other half is.  But we’re OK with it – and each other.

2. We can write! Brendan is a travel writer (articles for Destinations Magazine, copy for budget and luxury tour companies and the Global Nomad blog). And Mel, of course, is the primary voice of this blog, the Brel Chronicles.

3. We got married 6 months ago and know all about planning weddings. In fact, we planned 14 Destination weddings (in a pub in Ireland, on a beach in Costa Rica, on a sailboat in Bermuda, over tacos in Mexico, in Hawaii, on a mountain in Bali, in Montreal, on the slopes of Whistler….) In the end, we got married in Toronto. Don’t ask. Apparently the people who raised you get a say in your wedding. But it was a memorable wedding.

4. We know how to honeymoon! In addition to years of honeymoon rehearsals in Central and South America, we’ve taken official honeymoons in St Maarten, Anguilla, Japan and Bali. In fact, we’ve spent 1/3 of our married life to date on the road.

5. We can travel on short notice – we’ve run away from our lives before and we can do it again. Anyone want to dog-sit?

6. Brendan has an internal compass like no other – probably gained from years of working as a Tour Guide in the Americas, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

7. We’re fun. Seriously. Don’t just take our opinion about it. We were once called “the funnest couple ever” – by a fellow traveller we met in Turkey.

8. We know luxury. We’ve slept in Mel Gibson’s bed. Got engaged at the same place where where Courtney Cox got married. Honeymooned in the villa next to Penelope Cruz. And we know what a $1,500 a night villa with a private butler should be like.

9. Brendan will eat anything. Mel will not. This is surprisingly fun to read about.

10. We like to live life from the sublime to the ridiculous (and everything in between). We know $800 bottles of wine. And sadly, we’re well acquainted with the $1 bottle of wine. Each has a time and place. And we want to be in both.

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Lessons Learned on the Road

January 22nd, 2010

When you’re the only customers on the beach…

Lessons Learned on the Road – Indonesia

  1. If you have to ask “Is that smell us?”  it is.
  2. It’s always Happy Hour somewhere.
  3. Always carry toilet paper. Yes we’ve learned this one before, but it bears repeating.
  4. Expect a power outage at least once a day. Like right now, for examp….
  5. Bug spray – don’t leave home without it. Ditto for malaria pills, Immodium, 30 factor sunscreen and Gravol.
  6. The amount of weight Mel loses is directly proportional to the amount of weight Brendan gains. He really will eat anything.
  7. Eat local. Hamburgers in Flores, Indian food in Gili T, pasta in Tokyo – all bad ideas. Local interpretations can be very, very scary.
  8. Lie about your age to fellow travellers. B can pass for 30. Mel likes to think she can pass for 27. Enjoy everyone’s surprise that we married so young. (If any of you are reading this, sorry, but we’re actually 36 and 38.)

 spinning the old fashioned way an afternoon shower mon chichi

Best of Indonesia


  • Ubud – the countryside, the rice paddies, the people
  • Escaping the Flores tour and performing the Happy Dance to celebrate the return of electricity, toilets and all the good things in life.
  • Dancing at the Jazz Cafe: from salsa to disco, we managed to be so memorable that upon our return a few days later, we were welcomed by the staff with ‘Welcome Home!”
  • Healing and purification – from temples, to massages to random healers – Bali really is the massage capital of the world.
  • New Year’s eve fireworks on Kuta beach.
  • Our private villa in Bali, and some other spectacular spaces.
  • The coffee. The micro-brew.
  • Being grown up and finally buying local items that don’t fit in our backpack – and sending a container home via ship – real furniture!
  • Good time on Gili T

mel in her element B at his best

Moments we’d rather forget

  • Our series of near-death experiences – from winding sheer-drop roads to scorpions to killer night snakes to the world’s largest bees to hungry komodo dragons to bomb threats
  • Showing up at 3 pm for our New Year’s eve reservation in Kuta – and finding out it’s for next year.
  • Christmas.
  • Failing miserably at the 24 hours of silence. Over and over and again. Then just deciding to go into town and have some beers instead.
  • A lot of the food.
  • Accommodations in Flores and Gili Meno – from cockroaches to bedbugs to filth and mould we won’t even try to describe.
  • Early morning wake-ups – from roosters, to motorbikes, to the call for prayer.

the loo …with satellite

who wants breakfast?

By the Numbers

  • Bintang barometer  (price variance of beer throughout Indonesia) – 23,000 – 60,0000 rupiah for a large beer ($2.50-$7)
  • Number of massages: 12 each (price range: – $7-$35 an hour)
  • Books read: Mel: 18, Brendan: 3 (which we are actually kind of proud of)

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Quotable Quotes

“She looks heaps proud”. (Georgia, commenting on Mel’s reaction to Brendan’s disco moves).


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Sorry Lombok, we didn’t think you’d be this great. We’ll be back.

January 20th, 2010

Lombok Traffic

We spent the last 2 days of our adventure on Lombok – def not enough time to appreciate all this island has to offer. From tiny pottery, weaving and woodworking villages to stunning turquoise beaches, to traditional villages where the locals live in huts polished with cow dung (seriously), there’s something for everyone. And did we mention the monkey forest? Yay! More monkeys!!!!

Lombok coast  Rambutan Mel making friends again Roadside wedding procession

Lombok is years behind Bali with respect to tourism – though the locals here still do their best to get you to part with your $$$ as quickly as possible. There are some beautiful, unspoiled, undeveloped beaches here – and a new international airport will surely guarantee the growth of tourism. We can’t help but consider the real estate opportunities here. Lombok is certainly on the short-list for the first international BREL property.

Our next purchase

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Gil Meno: 0 Gili Trawangan: 10

January 18th, 2010

Our taxi to Gili Meno

We’ve moved on to the island of Lombok, where we’ll be spending most of our time there on the nearby Gili Islands – 3 small islands that offer visitors completely different experiences.

gili-meno-037.jpg Our humble thatched abode on Gili Meno The only taxis in the Gilis

Gili Meno, at only 1 km wide, and 2 km long, is the epitomy of seclusion – tiny thatch roof huts dot the beaches, with a few basic restaurants scattered about. It sounds like a perfect honeymoon – unless you consider the bed bugs, the b.o.-scented sheets, the thousands of black flies and the stifling heat and humidity in the huts. Two days of our lives we will unfortunatley, never get back.


Gili Trawangan, the largest of the islands at a whopping 3 x 2 km, saves the Gilis for us. It’s known as the party island – and we all know that Brel likes a good party. Stylish (and clean!) accomodations – infinity pools, private gardens, poolside cabanas.  Beautiful beaches. Great restaurants, bars and nightlife. In-room massages for $12.

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We’re taking advantage of all that Gili T has to offer, as we wind down and prep for our upcoming return to the new world.


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Bali in Photos

January 17th, 2010


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Mel’s Monkeys

January 16th, 2010


One other resident of Komodo that we neglected to mention is one of Mel’s favourites–monkeys! Long-tailed macaques, to be precise. Here are some of the new friends we made…


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And the view from their home on Komodo island…


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More Dragons for Jack

January 16th, 2010


We had some strong feedback on our komodo dragon pics and video, so since we have a good internet connection now and lots of good pics I thought I’d put a few more up for your viewing pleasure…

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January 15th, 2010

Tirta Empul

One of the most unique opportunities we had during our week of Zen was the chance to visit one of Bali’s holiest sites: the sacred spring of Tirta Empul.

BTirta Empul means something like “crystal waters” and the temple is built around the island’s purest spring. Normally only accessible to Hindu worshippers who come to bathe, pray, and be purified under the many streams and spouts, during our stay we were able to enter–at night, and dressed in specially appropriate clothing (white sarongs, etc)–and take part in a blessing and purification ritual attended by a Balinese priest.

The elaborate evening involved making offerings of flowers and incense, being blessed with holy water, and ritually bathing in the waters of the spring.

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As we went at night, when the temple of quiet and free of tourists, my photos were unfortunately not particularly good (and of course as I was participating it wasn’t ideal for taking pictures anyway). I’ve stolen a couple of pics from the Net to go with my blurry shots so you can get an idea of what it looks like in the daytime.



Random, beautiful and a unique opportunity. Purified!

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The Balinese Ritual of Offerings

January 14th, 2010


The Balinese people’s days are filled with ritual and ceremony – in fact it’s said that a Balinese woman will spend 25% of her life performing rituals. There are rituals for pregnancy, birth, 42 days after birth, teeth filing, marriage and of course, death. Temples are everywhere, with at least one specially created altar per home.

offeringOne of our favourite rituals here happens three times a day – the offerings to the Hindu gods. Tiny banana leaf baskets are filled with rice, fruit, flowers and incense and placed on the altars for the gods and scattered on the grounds for the demons. Holy water is sprinkled on them to send the essence of the offering to the appropriate god. Walking around Bali, you literally see hundreds of these offerings scattered about every day.

At our retreat, we participated in a Balinese offering class where we each prepared two offerings. While our banana-basket-making craft skills left much to be desired, the whole process was quite intense and beautiful.

Mel’s offering  bali-offering-030.jpg B’s attempt right before the catholic burst into flames… Holy B

And with temples literally at every turn, we thought we’d include some photos of us at a random roadside temple, dressed in mandatory sarongs.

Holy Brel!

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January 13th, 2010

Downward Dog

Yoga hurts.

Forget what all those hippie types say about increased flexibility and mind/body connection – it just plain hurts.

We start our days at the retreat at 7 am with 2 hours of meditation and yoga. It kinda goes down like this:

our alarm clock

  • Sitting in lotus position, meditate and breathe. Clear your mind. Try to think of a better mantra than ‘Brella’. Focus! Meditate! If your mind starts to wander, bring it back!
  • Salute the sun about 50 times. Curse the plank and the downward dog.
  • In-hellation. Ex-hellation. In-hellation. Ex-hellation.
  • Balance yourself on one foot and perform random yoga moves for painfully long periods of time.
  • Twist your body into pretzel-like formations.
  • Look over at Brendan and mouth ‘sorry’ because this whole yoga-thing was my idea.
  • Actually start to appreciate the downward dog as a break from the other poses.
  • In-hellation. Ex-hellation. In-hellation. Ex-hellation.
  • Break into child-pose (curled up in a ball and resting). Hope no one is looking.
  • Hamstrings crying out.  Why does this hurt so much?
  • Finally! our favourite pose: Savasana! It’s the final resting position where we lie on our backs and do nothing.

Of course this all gets repeated in the evening, for another 1.5 hours.

OK, in all truth,we have enjoyed the yoga and the stretching does do wonders for the body. In shorter doses, this is probably something we could really like.

 Mel B

Siva, give me strength!

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Yoga in Ubud – how very Eat, Pray, Love.

January 12th, 2010


Thanks to the Oprah book-effect, many of you have probably read Eat, Pray, Love, the story of an American woman traveling for a year hoping to find and re-invent herself. Her travels take her to Italy, India and Indonesia. The Love part of the book takes place in Ubud, the hillside arts and cultural capital of Bali. While the book did put Ubud on the map for many, it’s still a quaint artsy community – though of course they’ve just finished shooting the movie version of the book with Julia Roberts as the main character, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how this place will develop over the next few years.

To immerse ourselves in life here,  we’ve signed up for a 6 day yoga retreat – complete with daily spa treatments, 3.5 hours of meditation and yoga per day, rituals to help balance the mind, body and spirit, organic and raw food and the infamous 24 hours of silence.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how we’ll survive – having only a few classes of yoga behind us and an acquired taste for pizza and Bintang (the local beer).

Wish us luck!


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Komodo Dragons Are Scary

January 11th, 2010


As we (way too slowly) made our way back to Bali, we had to oppotunity to spend a few days on Rincca and Komodo Islands – the only places in the world where the komodo dragon lives freely.

A direct descendant of the dinosaur, the komodo dragon grows to be 2-3 metres long and is the largest species of lizard. Their saliva is poisonous (who got to discover that?) and they are unbelievably fast – and of course they climb trees too. So if a komodo gets you in his sights, you’re pretty much screwed. The park rangers reassure us by telling us they haven’t lost  a tourist to a komodo since March. Thank you, so very reassuring.

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Armed with pointed sticks, we saw about 15 of the last remaining 3000 komodo dragons – from the distance of only a few feet. And though one of the dragons clearly had Mel in his sight (Mmm,  Canadian breakfast- she probably tastes like poutine!), we made it out safely.

One again, we have averted maiming and death.

Komodo National Park

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Can you believe the way Indonesians travel?!

January 10th, 2010

I mean, take a look at THIS rickety old ship! You couldn’t PAY me to get on that thing…


komodo-day-1-070.jpgUhhh, wait a minute, that was OUR ship. Our luxurious home for two glorious days and one, well, let’s be honest, sleepless night on deck.

In the end, it was actually pretty nice…at least during the day! And when dolphins woke Mel up in the middle of the night with their noisy frolicking…

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By request from our fellow travellers

January 7th, 2010

While staying in a Catholic mission in rural Flores, we were entertained one night by the local children. Some of our fellow travellers were dragged onstage to show their stuff. Enjoy…Below is one of the more bizarre–and hilarious–skits the kids did for us. Don’t ask, we had no more warning or info than you do…

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Riung and the 17 Islands

January 6th, 2010


A quick apology for being offline for a bit–it isn’t always easy to get connected enough for things like uploading photos in this part of the world. It’s not that we don’t have lots to post! Anyway, moving right along…

One of the best excursions of our whole time on Flores was a day trip  from the north coast fishing town of Riung to the “17 Islands Nature Reserve,” a group of idyllic, uninhabited, sand-beached islands surrounded by clear blue water…and absolutely NO people. Seriously, even though we were facing the Flores coastline, we didn’t even see so much as a single fishing boat all day (although I’m sure the fact that it was Dec 24th had something to do with that). It almost made the difficult journey there worth it to have this entire coastline and archipelago to ourselves for the day.

 Home Sweet Home (no, not ours) flores-day-4-riung-003.jpg flores-day-4-riung-010.jpg

As you’d expect, we spent he day snorkelling off the beach, eating fresh fish grilled over a coconut husk fire, and generally chilling out on th beach sipping cold Bintang we’d had the forethought to bring along.

lunch more lunch

As a bizarre finish to the day, we swung by one island that hosts a giant nesting area for what here are euphemistically called “flying foxes.” As we approached, we realised that these were distinctly NOT fox-like–it was an enormous colony of giant fruit bats! And we mean GIANT. The boatmen obligingly clapped and hollered until the whole colony woke up and circled around us in an amazing–if extremely creepy–way.

bat heaven “flying foxes” my ass! dive bomb central

Melanie the Safety Elephant

I would also like to take this opportunity to provide photographic proof to Mel’s parents that we did, indeed, make sure Melanie had a life jacket in the boat. See, no matter how sorry for herself Mel might sound on the phone, I am keeping her safe. So there.

island brel

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