Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

2018: A Look Ahead

I reviewed my Life List and did my usual annual updates: I removed items that are no longer of interest and added in some new ones. It’s funny to see what items I added in the past (what was I thinking?!) and seeing new interests come up (how was this not on the list??).

We’ve already booked our trip for next year (Cruise to Greek Isles leaving from Venice, with stops in Santorini, Mykonos, Dubrovnik and Montenegro), so there are a few travel-related items I’ll be able to cross off.

Here is the list of things I’m aiming to tackle in 2018:

  • Celebrate 15 year anniversary (Woohoo!)
  • Visit Santorini, Greece
  • Visit Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • See King’s Landing, Croatia (where they filmed part of Game of Thrones)
  • Visit Venice, Italy
  • Visit St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy
  • Travel to 50 countries – will increase this by 2 (Croatia, Montenegro) to 22 (28 to go!)
  • Take 10 cruises – will increase this to 9 total (1 to go!)
  • Take a cruise in Europe
  • Make a craft for every season or holiday for 1 year
  • Make fresh pasta
  • Make my own herbal tea
  • Make a candle

And my usual movie, book and cooking challenges for 2018:

  • Watch 50 movies
  • Read 20 books
  • Cook 30 new recipes

Here are some of my updates:


  • Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia – I’ve heard and seen a lot about it and am looking forward to seeing the old town and walled city.
  • See King’s Landing – Big fan of GOT and since I’ll be there anyway, it makes sense to stop and take a peek!
  • Travel to Venice, Italy
  • See St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice
  • Make a drip painting: It’s a technique that’s gaining in popularity and it looks pretty awesome. I can do it.
  • Visit Provence, France
  • Visit Carcassonne, France
  • Make my own herbal tea (I grow herbs, I like tea, I want to try to make my own)
  • Stay in a yurt – it would be fun!
  • Stay in a cabin or lodge in the woods
  • Take a train trip (e.g. The Rocky Mountaineer)
  • Visit Iceland
  • Hike in Algonquin Park


  • Travel to Egypt
  • See the Pyramids
  • Wine tour in Napa or Sonoma
  • Tour a chocolate factory
  • Have a near death experience
  • Go fishing



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It’s that time of year already! I get to look back to see what I was able to accomplish on my Life List. Most of the items were related to our trip to Italy and I also managed to complete a few others:

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel, Italy
  • See the Colosseum, Italy
  • Travel to Tuscany, Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Take a train in Europe
  • Eat pizza in Italy
  • Have gelato in Italy
  • Travel to 50 countries (increased by 2 for Italy and The Vatican: 20 done, 30 to go)
  • Have a proper English tea: We went to the King Edward and it was a fabulous splurge
  • Participate in an Escape Room: I was with colleagues in Ottawa and we had a fun time trying to escape – we almost made it!!
  • Cook a whole fish: I don’t know why I had never done this before but I finally tackled it. Not a fan of all the little bones, but it was tasty!

For my annual book, movie and cooking challenges, I did pretty good:

  • Watch 50 movies in 2017: Iโ€™m currently at 57. Overshot this one very nicely! ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Read 30 books in 2017: Iโ€™m currently reading #17. Not stellar and it’s not because I selected really big novels either. I’ve just been doing other things (watching movies apparently!). May have to reduce this next year to be realistic.
  • Cook 30 new recipesย in 2017: Iโ€™m currently at 27 with a few days to go. It might happen.

My list is now at 310 completed of 441 total.

Next up: Revising the list and planning next year’s To Do’s!

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One of my favorite traditions is that each year, we acquire one ornament that represents a highlight for us that year, whether it’s travel-related or a specific activity – it can be anything that reminds us of great memories for that particular year. For that year’s Christmas, we place the selected ornament at the top of the tree. We choose to forgo a regular “topper” like a star or angel in favor of something meaningful to us. Every year when we decorate the tree, we place our memory ornaments and it brings back great memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

On our tree, we hang those ornaments (we’re at year 9 so far!) as well as homemade rustic ones that I made (Christmas tree twigs and ribbons, cinnamon sticks wrapped in plaid ribbon and paper snowflakes). There are some “regular” ornaments too and a couple of others that have a special spot (gifts from friends).

See below for our traditional annual ornaments:

2009: At the end of 2008, we moved from Montreal to Toronto but our washing machine didn’t make it and we survived, hilariously, without a washing machine for 40 days. Thankfully we had a ton of clothes but the pile of laundry was never as big as that year! We had to commemorate the event. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Note: This was the year we started our annual ornament tradition and our move was such a big change for us that we needed something to commemorate it and the washing machine saga fit the bill.

2010: One of the activities we started enjoying since we now lived so close to Niagara on the Lake was wine tasting. The region is well-known for wine. We went to a ton of wine events and festivals that year which sparked a new hobby / passion.

2011: In 2011, we had an amazing time on a vacation where we visited Grand Cayman, Orlando and Cozumel and had a blast. We named the worm Alonzo after one of the hosts of the Amazing Cozumel Race activity we did. So fun!!! Not to mention the 2 Margaritavilles we stopped at and had a blast with nachos, margaritas and singing along to Jimmy Buffet songs.

2012: This year we went to Alaska which blew our minds. The untouched scenery, incredible wildlife and feeling like you’re the only one around for miles made us fall in love with the place; we can’t wait to go back. We’re still in awe. We picked this ornament up at a local artisan shop – it’s made with wood and reindeer and beaver fur. Love it.

2013: One word: Paris. Fabulous trip where we saw spectacular art and historical monuments and ate delicious food. Truly a trip of a lifetime…we seem to have a lot of those! The ornament depicts the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arche de Triomphe, all places we got to visit.

2014: Again, one word: Hawaii. Another incredible trip. We named this hula-girl ornament Hana after having driven the “Road to Hana” on our trip which is a well-known scenic drive – gorgeous views, fabulous food and culture. We visited Kauai and Maui; we preferred Kauai because of it’s natural beauty and it’s still relatively untouched by tourism (at least in 2014).

2015: In 2015, we did a lot of exploring in the conservation areas and hiking trails near our new house. We try to get out and enjoy nature as much as we can and that year, we really outdid ourselves and got out there during all four seasons.

2016: Last year, we took a road trip around the maritimes and explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI, The seafood and scenery were to die for. The loop around Cape Breton will always be a highlight – just beautiful. We still order goat’s milk soap from the Great Canadian Soap Company; we stopped there on our trip and met the goats so of course, we have a bond now. ๐Ÿ™‚

2017: This year we traveled to Italy and boy, did we ever have an amazing time. We ate all the food, we drank all the wine, we visited so many gorgeous places, saw amazing art, met fabulous friendly people. This is another spot we can’t wait to return to. But for now, we’ll daydream while peeking at the ornament that we picked up in Florence.

Looking forward to what 2018 will bring! We already have a cruise to the Greek Isles planned (plus Croatia and Montenegro) and I suspect that might be where we pick up next year’s ornament. Opa!

Here are some of our other special ornaments that brighten our holiday tree:

I gathered sticks from the nature paths around our house, bought some Christmas ribbon and made little tree ornaments. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cinnamon sticks hung with plaid ribbon – smells good and looks adorably rustic:

I love paper snowflakes. I can’t help it.

This was a gift from a friend back in Montreal (thanks Olga!!) I still hang it on the tree every year – I love to cook. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Today was our last day in Italy before our trip home. We booked a full day tour in Tuscany and it was awesome!

Our first stop was in San Gimignano and it was a quaint, charming medieval town on a hill with 14 remaining towers but originally had over 70!

We strolled the streets, visited the church and climbed the Torre Grosse (holy crap was it windy up there!) and the last stairs/ladder to the top was very steep – not for the faint of heart. This was the view as we approached the town gates:

After entering the gates, one main street:

Peeking down a side street:

Chris with the Torre del Diavolo (see the horns?):

Duomo di San Gimignano:

Torre Grosse:

Up we go!

View from the top of the twins:

Caged bells at the very top:

Inside the duomo:

Great paintings along the sides depicting stories:

The last supper:

Noah and the ark:

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Next stop was lunch at a winery called Casa Frasse. We had 2 wine tastings in the courtyard, then had lunch including antipasto, then pasta, then a main course, then panna cotta for dessert. It was good!

Next stop was Siena!

The middle guy is Dante:

The she-wolf, related to the legend of Remus and Romulus:

The square (Piazza del Campo) where the famous Palio annual horse race occurs. Siena is split into 17 districts or “contrada”, each represented by an animal whose emblem is posted on the buildings of the district so you can easily see which contrada you’re in. Read more about the Palio here – it sounds like a great event!

The duomo in Siena – so beautiful with three different colors of marble (white, green and red):

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Last stop was the fortress of Montereggione which protected and defended Siena.

Vineyard and olive trees outside the town walls:


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We slept in today – no tours planned (except for this evening). We visited the Bargello museum, well-known for Renaissance sculpture. ย It was very beautiful:

Michelangelo’s Bacchus:

Giambologna’s Flying Mercury:

In the ivory section – cool game board:

Donatello’s David in bronze:

Donatello’s David in marble:

Jason and the golden fleece:

There was a porcelain section – this piece caught my eye – pretty:

As well as an armor and weapons section:

Check out that middle helm – intimidating!

I liked that there were people sitting and drawing:

We got some shopping done today as well since it was our last chance before our full day outing tomorrow. We picked up some goodies for us as well as some souvenirs.

Wallet for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Gloves for Chris:



Had to try an aperol spritz:

Tonight we had booked a dinner and wine tasting at a private Tuscan villa and it was fabulous:

The garden:

Olive trees:

Couple of pics of us with that view:

In the cellar for the first tasting (white blend) and bruschetta:

In the dining area for antipasto (below) and the pasta (pasta with pesto) and main course (pork, salad, potatoes) – with tastings of 2 red wines (I forgot to take pics!!) and dessert (cantucci with vin santo). It was a lovely evening and we met great people as well.


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It was a rainy day today so we moved our Tuscany tour to Tuesday instead and took it easy today.

We strolled over to the Spedale degli Innocenti just to see the outside. We went to visit the San Lorenzo church to see Donatello’s tomb.

Then we headed to the Galileo museum which was a pleasant surprise as well – very cool:




Look at the huge telescope:

Chemistry set:

I only got a night shot of the San Lorenzo church:

We went back to Za Za for dinner. This time we shared a caprese salad to start. I had the beef tenderloin with rosemary potatoes and Chris had the Tuscan white beans with sausage and sage. I had tiramisu for dessert and Chris had strawberries with lemon and sugar.

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Another early start and we were 2nd in line at the Uffizi Museum (with our Firenze card in hand). The Uffizi is the larger museum that holds great Renaissance works of art. It’s a must see for any art-lovers in Florence. Getting there early allows pics of the building without the horde of tourists. Bonus! ๐Ÿ™‚


Birth of Venus:

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When we were there, an exhibit on the restoration of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work was on display – very interesting to see his original drawings that became an unfinihsed painting:

View of the Uffizi (both sides) and the Palazzo Vecchio in the background:

Loggia dei Lanzi – outside the Uffizi:

Quick walk over to Santa Trinita church:

Next stop – Santa Croce with many well-known tombs:

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The cloisters

The lucky pig – if you rub its snout, it brings you good luck:

The Mercato Vecchio:

We visited the Palazzo Vecchio:

Dante’s mask (any Dan Brown fans out there?):

Chris climbed another tower. ๐Ÿ™‚

Great shots of Florence and the Duomo from up there:

And of Santa Croce:

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Night shots of the Palazzo:

Nearby carousel:

Duomo buildings:

For lunch, we had a tagliere (board) for 2 at La Prosciutteria – yummy:

Lunch at La Prosciutteria - tagliere for 2

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