Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I’ve updated my Life List and now that we’ve decided what our trip will be for 2017 (Italia, here we come!), that helped identify which Life List items I’ll be crossing off the list this year – see below:

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel (Rome, Italy)
  • See the Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
  • Tour Tuscany (planning on San Gimignano, Siena)
  • Train ride in Europe (we’re planning on taking a train between Rome and Florence)
  • Have gelato in Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Eat pizza in Naples (planning a day trip from Rome to Pompeii, Naples, Mt Vesuvius)

And the non-travel related items to tackle in 2017 are:

  • Grow a fruit tree
  • Picnic in a vineyard
  • Have a proper English tea
  • Make a craft for every season/holiday for 1 year
  • Cook a whole fish
  • Have a home emergency kit
  • Learn 5 homestead skills (in progress – will continue)
  • Read 30 books
  • Cook 30 new recipes
  • Watch 50 movies

Not too shabby 🙂 I better get moving!

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Day 8:

We took the ferry from PEI to Caribou, NS to begin the next leg of our trip and the one I was most excited about: Cape Breton! After the ferry ride we stopped for lunch in Antigonish then continued on to Baddeck. We stayed at the Silver Dart Lodge and it was amazing, from the view to the food at the restaurant on site (McCurdy’s) – great spot to kick off our Cabot Trail adventure. We took a stroll in the town and walked along the water near the lodge prior to dinner – it’s very scenic, peaceful and relaxing.

View from our room:


Trail near the lake:


Reading on our deck the following morning, after breakfast and before we headed out:


Food List Items: Seafood Fettucine (including Digby scallops, mussels, shrimp), Cape Breton desserts (apple crisp, bread pudding, oatcakes).

Day 9:

We headed onto the Cabot Trail and made several stops for photo ops at the lookouts along the way. We stopped for lunch (Main Street Restaurant & Bakery – You Gotta Eat Here), then at the visitor’s centre in Ingonish to pick up our park passes (Cape Breton Highlands National Park) and got ready for a day of hiking. The first trail was a very short (but steep!) one – the Freshwater Lake Lookout. steps almost all the way up but the view was so worth it.


Next, we stopped at Ingonish Beach where the trailhead of the next trail was and we took pics of the beach while we were there – very pretty!


The second trail was the Freshwater Lake trail and it was about 1.7km and flat.


We didn’t see much wildlife here and certainly no coyotes.


The next stop was the MIddle Head Trail. This was a trail aloong a peninsula and the views were amazing. It was about 4km all in all.


We came across this guy – not sure what it is but it was quite large:


Doesnt this look like a mermaid sitting down, hidden behind some leaves:


This little guy was munching away right by the boardwalked section of the trail and wasn’t scared of us at all. Cutie:


Another “don’t be an idiot” sign:


We stopped for dinner then drove up to Cape North where we stayed at a B&B for the night. It was so quiet in the night up in the middle of nowhere. 🙂 It was great!

Day 10:

We had a great breakfast and met some fine folks at our B&B. We were off to an early start since our target today was the Skyline Trail, 9.2 km of trail and the chance of seeing a moose. (We didn’t see any but the trail had amazing views!). There are two options for the trail – you could take the “right” for a more rugged (and longer) trail experience, of the “left” for a gravel path (and shorter) experience to the boardwalk/steps at the end of the trail. We opted to start with the right and come back on the easy one.


It was windy up there!! We had to remove our hats or the wind would have done it for us. 🙂 We grabbed a bench and stopped for a snack and water enjoying the view, then headed back.


That would have been us at the top of the ridge – this is the view from below:


Stops at Lookouts on our way to Cheticamp:


After lunch in Cheticamp, we headed down to Inverness to stop at the Beach boardwalk which was gorgeous – on one side there was the beach and on the other, a golf course. Wow!


Then off to Margaree Valley to the next stop at the Normaway Inn. The property is absolutely beautiful – it felt like we were at summer camp. 🙂 We had dinner reservations on site and enjoyed that and relaxed for most of the evening.


I also loved the tech-free room – no TV, no phone, they had wi-fi and this radio (functional with a hidden cassette player in the lid).


There was a claw foot tub in the bathroom. 🙂


I don’t know which was funnier – knowing that the lid opened up and most “kids” wouldn’t have known that, or that we knew how to work the cassette (which most “kids” definitely wouldn’t know how to do… Hahaha 🙂


The next morning, we took a walk around the grounds and this cat escorted us all the way and back. 🙂 Cue the animal whisperer (Chris).


Off to Sydney for our last leg of the trip!


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Day 1:

We flew into Halifax late morning and were able to park at our hotel, popped out for lunch then checked into our room. Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the Citadel and the Public Gardens.

The Citadel was very interesting and we walked around and explored every nook and cranny. It was really an impenetrable fortress of a building and we learned a lot about the history of Canada and specifically the Maritimes in WW1 and WW2. My favourites things at the Citadel were the exhibit of a “trench” and how they used trenches to minimize damage (e.g. should a grenade be launched, the damage radius would be smaller than out in the open). The info about the Halifax Explosion was also quite good and one event that I didn’t know very much about. Seeing all the artillery, and the ambiance bits (bagpiper, change of the guard) added to the experience.

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After the Citadel we headed over to the Halifax Public Gardens to rest our feet on a bench and people- and nature-watch. We were amazed at their collection of dahlias – so many varieties, each one more dazzling than the last.

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After the gardens, we stopped for dinner at 2 Doors Down (featured on You Gotta Eat Here) and had an amazing dinner and we vowed to return before we left Halifax.

Food List Items: Fish and chips, Fresh fish (Arctic Char)

Day 2:

Today was our day trip to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg (and a drive through Mahone Bay). We got an early start and were one of the first to arrive at the most iconic lighthouse in Canada (possibly North America?). It was a gorgeous sunny day and we were able to get some great photos. I went right up to the lighthouse (had to touch it!) and saw the ominous sign warning visitors to be safe and stay back from the rocks/water. It was easy to see how it could be dangerous on windy days when the sea was more turbulent.

Empty parking lot when we arrived:

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Lunenburg was a pretty fishing town and we had lunch overlooking the water. We got to see the Bluenose II – she was sailing and giving tours that day. Afterwards we strolled the streets of the town and shopped, stopped in a café for a bite, then drove back through Mahone Bay and back to Halifax.

Since Day 3 weather was a bit iffy, we decided to explore the Halifax waterfront in the afternoon of Day 2 and walked all along the boardwalk in the sun. We had dinner at the Stubborn Goat near our hotel.

The drive in the morning was very scenic (and gave new meaning to a winding road – holy moly the twists and turns didn’t stop) with pretty water views at every turn. Really beautiful.

Food List Items: Lobster salad, scallops

Bluenose II coming in to dock:


View from the restaurant patio (Dockside):

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Loved the door knocker:


And the colorful houses:


Day 3:

Today we explored Halifax some more and it was cloudy in the morning so we headed to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic down by the waterfront. We were both pleasantly surprised at how good the exhibits were from actual small craft boats to the huge number of model boats, to the Halifax explosion and Titanic exhibits – it was a great museum. If you visit one museum in Halifax, this should be it. We popped over to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery to visit the Titanic memorial as well and returned to 2 Doors Down for diner.

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A lot of good information about the Titanic including menus for the different class passengers, the passenger list (including who was/wasn’t saved) and the transcript of the communication that night. Very well done.


At the cemetery, it was sad to see the large number of tombstones without a name. The inscription below was particularly moving, and he was only 20 years old…


We noticed this one as well but it’s not the J. Dawson played by Leo in the movie Titanic, even if the name was the same.

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Food List Items: Lobster roll.

Tomorrow we are headed to New Brunswick!

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We decided to explore a piece of our own country for our vacation this year and started planning back in April for a trip to the Maritimes (specifically, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick). We flew into Halifax, rented a car and off we went on our Atlantic Adventure. Being the uber-planner that I am, the itinerary was set and all flights, hotels/B&Bs/car/ferry/activities were booked months ago and included a good mix of outdoor fun, history, relaxation and some new things to try. Not to worry – there was plenty of wiggle room to decompress and fit in any extras as well. I also had a list of local foods I absolutely had to eat at some point along the trip and am proud to say I achieved that. We had also tagged all the “You Gotta Eat Here” restos featured on the Food Network in the areas we would be in.

This is what our itinerary was and we pretty much stuck to it:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Halifax, NS – Explore
  • Day 2: Day trip to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay
  • Day 3: Explore Halifax some more
  • Day 4: Drive to Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick – stay in Moncton, NB
  • Day 5: Hiking in Fundy National Park (AM), Kayak tour in the Bay of Fundy (PM), stay in Moncton
  • Day 6: Take Confederation Bridge into PEI, explore Charlottetown
  • Day 7: Touring PEI including Greenwich Dunes in PEI National Park, local shops, drive through Cavendish, North Rustico, Brackley Beach, then New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.
  • Day 8: Take ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia, head to Baddeck in Cape Breton as our first stop to begin the Cabot Trail loop. Stayed in a lodge in Baddeck.
  • Day 9: Headed to Ingonish Beach, hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park (3 different trails), stay at a B&B in Cape North.
  • Day 10: Headed to Skyline Trail in Cape Breton, Cheticamp, Inverness, stay at an Inn in Margaree Valley
  • Day 11: Drive to Miners Museum just east of Sydney, NS. Stay in Sydney.
  • Day 12: Head to Fortress of Louisburg south of Sydney, last night of trip.
  • Day 13: Fly from Sydney to Toronto

In the next series of posts, I’ll be breaking down the days and activities we tackled in each area and post some pics of the highlights. This turned out to be an amazing trip in a beautiful part of our country. We lucked out with the weather, except for one morning (which turned out to be a blessing in disguise), great food, friendly people and experiences we’ll remember for a long time.

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We opted to vacation in Canada this year because of the weak Canadian dollar (why sped money when you don’t need to right?) and decided on the Maritimes. We were torn between the Maritimes and Banff/Lake Louise and chose the Maritimes mainly because for the Alberta trip we want to take a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer and that would take our budget over what we were hoping to spend this year. Secondly, the idea of a road trip around the different Maritime provinces sounded like a lot of fun. So, once the decision was made, I got to planning all the details (aka my happy place).

We’ll be going for 13 days and will fly from TO to Halifax, pick up our rental car at the airport and tackle our awesome itinerary:

Day 1: Halifax, NS: Visit the Citadel, walk around downtown to scope out the area.

Day 2: Halifax, NS: Drive down to visit Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Peggy’s Cove.

Day 3: Halifax, NS: Sightseeing in Halifax.

Day 4: Drive to Moncton, NB (perhaps through Annapolis Valley – depends on the tides), visit Hopewell Rocks, possible hike in Bay of Fundy National Park.

Day 5: Alma, NB: Half day kayak tour, possible hike in Bay of Fundy National Park.

Day 6: Drive to Charlottetown, PEI: Walking tour (Heritage walk) of Old Charlottetown, Victoria Row, Victoria Park.

Day 7: Touring in PEI including Greenwich PEI National Park, Central Coast Drive, dinner at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

Day 8: Take ferry from Woods Island to Caribou and drive to Baddeck, NS.

Day 9: Explore the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton – Baddeck to Cape North. Hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Possible trails: Middle Head, Coastal).

Day 10: Explore the Cabot Trail – Cape North to Margaree Valley. Hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Skyline Trail).

Day 11: Drive to Sydney, NS: Cape Breton Miners’ Museum.

Day 12: Sydney, NS: Visit the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Day 13: Depart. Return rental car at Sydney airport, fly from Sydney to TO.

I’m looking forward to the seafood, the scenery, the hiking, exploring Cape Breton, pretty much everything.

We’ve flagged some restaurants to visit in each city if time and logistics fit. We should be able to get some good hiking in with lots of photo ops and lots of opportunities to relax, enjoy the scenery and eat all the seafood we can fit in our tummies. 🙂

Skyline Trail

Skyline Trail

All our accommodations are booked as well as the car rental, flights and ferry. All we have to do is show up and ENJOY! 🙂

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Wow. We’ve been back since Saturday night and I’m still dreaming of the resort. 🙂

First off, I apologize for the relatively few pics as I forgot my camera on this trip. I know…very uncharacteristic of me. It was on the packing checklist and everything! So, the few pics I did take were in the room using my iPad because I didn’t want to carry my iPad around the resort taking pics with a tablet. lol 🙂

We booked this vacation about 6 months ago and have been looking forward to it ever since. We chose the all-inclusive Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort and Spa because 1) it’s adults only like all Sandals resorts and geared towards couples, 2) the number of restaurants available and 3) the fact that it offered rooms with a private plunge pool. We were looking for privacy to spend time relaxing on our patio in our very own pool since that was on my life list.

The room we chose was the Honeymoon Hideaway One Bedroom Butler Suite with Private Pool (scroll down). It had a garden view, which was fine with us as it offered lots of privacy with a relaxing tropical feel. We were originally unsure about the butler service but all rooms with pools came with it so we went with the flow (more on this later). Prior to vacation, we had to fill in our “butler preferences” online so they could prepare everything prior to our arrival; things like what we wanted our minibar stocked with (wine, vodka, tonic water, diet coke, water), our food preferences so they can make dinner reservations for us ahead of time, any food allergies or dislikes, etc.

Day 1: Our flight was good, about 5 hours direct, I watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which I really enjoyed. We were greeted at the airport and brought to a lounge where there were couches/chairs, a bar and drinks to keep us comfortable while we waited for our transfer to the resort. We only waited about ten minutes then had a private car drive us to the resort – about an hour. We were dropped off at the Butler’s Lounge for our private check-in (Butler guests had a private check-in experience) and were presented with cool lemon-scented towels to freshen up and fruit punch. Very nice after a long flight. We were checked in and a butler escorted us to our room via golf cart. He brought our luggage, walked us through the room (pool, minibar, etc.), gave us a cell phone and explained how to contact our butlers (2, one in the AM, one in the PM) and asked us that if we were planning to eat dinner in to review the room service menu and he would take care of it while we filled in some of the other forms needed for some of the activities we planned during the week. So, we chose our dinner, poured the sparkling wine that was already chilled and he returned very quickly with our food! We ate, called the butler to come and pick up the tray and filled-in forms when we were done, he also took our breakfast order for the following morning. We then unpacked (albeit the butler offered to help us do that) and went to sleep, looking forward to exploring the resort tomorrow.

Day 2: We enjoyed our breakfast on the patio by our plunge pool. Turns out we’d be spending most of our time out here all week – it was awesome!

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We ten headed out to explore the resort to find the restaurants and take a peek at the fitness centre since we planned on fitting in some workouts. We spent the rest of the morning on the patio. We headed out to Neptune’s for lunch which was a Mediterranean Seafood place on the beach. Great view, great food (Val: appetizer – grape leaves, main – trout with veggies and couscous; Chris: appetizer – greek dips with pita triangles, main – trout as well). We spent some time on the beach watching the waves, then back to our patio to enjoy a 3pm snack of chocolate cake and coffee.  Got ready for dinner then called our butler for a ride to Armando’s (the resort was pretty hilly so having the option for a golf cart lift was great). Armando’s served Italian food. Val: App: antipasto, Main: spaghettini Bolognese, Dessert: tiramisu & cappuccino. Chris: App: antipasto, Main: penne all’amatriciana, Dessert: tiramisu & cappuccino. Called our butler when done for a ride back to the room.

Day 3: Breakfast on the patio again. 🙂 Took it easy, enjoyed the sun, pool, patio. We went to workout at the fitness centre, then more relaxing, sun, pool, patio. (See a recurring theme here?)  We did a lot of lazing around all week…felt really good! We had lunch at the Pavilion (buffet) and it was quite good with lots of choices and several local dishes to try. Dinner was at the Pitons restaurant. Our butler gave us a ride and escorted us to our seats in the restaurant and made sure we were comfortable, then told us to call when we were ready for a ride back. We were really getting used to this special treatment!! Val: App: Mini quiche and jerk quesadilla, Main: surf & turf. Chris: App: Callaloo and chicken soup, Main: Chicken Roti.

Day 4:  Breakfast at the pavilion today; it was fun to eat by the sea. We ate later than usual since we had our couples’ massage today at 1pm and planned to eat lunch afterwards. We were both a bit nervous since neither of us had a massage before. We got to the spa and filled out a form, then were each led to a separate changing area to change into a robe and flip flops. We were then brought to our couples’ room which was candlelit, smelled amazing and was very inviting with two massage tables side by side. They had us light some candles that when melted turned to oil that would be used during the massage. The two masseuses told us what to do (hang up our robes on the back of the door and go under the top sheet on the table) and they left for a few minutes to let us do that. They came back in and the amazing massage experience began! Wow – it was really amazing. It was for about an hour and I felt like a rag doll at the end of it.  We ate at Neptunes for lunch again: We were so relaxed…can’t even remember what I ate. LOL  Did more relaxing on our patio. :)Tonight was our private candlelit dinner in one of the gazebos on the property. This dinner was really special; we chose our 5 courses on the night of our arrival, then our butler escorted us to the lobby where our private server was waiting for us, then led us to our gazebo, which happened to be the one high up on the edge of the main pool We had an amazing view of the beach and the resort – it was candlelit, in a really beautiful setting, with sparkling wine and a long-stemmed rose for me. Very romantic. We ended up choosing the same courses except for the app (Val: Shrimp and scallop scampi / Chris: Shrimp and salmon) followed by pumpkin spicy soup, then a tomato & mozzarella salad, then a pineapple granite to cleanse the palate, then the surf & turf, then we shared a chocolate mousse for dessert. Everything was delicious! When we got back to the room, a surprise was waiting for us:


Day 5: Breakfast on the patio again, sun, pool, relaxing… Lunch was pizza and salad. More patio, sun, pool, napping, wine. That never got old. 🙂 We had dinner at La Toc – the formal French restaurant which was another 5 course meal. The ambiance of the restaurant was really great, decorated in beiges, golds and dusty rose. Very elegant, very romantic, with French music playing in the background that Chris was singing to… They served an amuse-bouche to start which was a blue cheese canapé. Val: soup du jour (fish chowder), coquilles St. Jacques, salade maison, chateaubriand. Chris: French onion soup, escargots, salade maison, chateaubriand. We shared the assiette des amoureaux (lovers plate) for dessert which included macaroons, crème brulee, a pistachio cake and a chocolate cup. The portions were small as per the French custom but we were very satisfied and the food was great.

The food has been really delicious – normal sized portions in all the restaurants as opposed to super-sized dishes and very flavourful. The service has been excellent as well, from our awesome butlers, to all the wait staff, to the resto managers who came by to check in on us, to the pool guy who visited every morning, to the guys who stocked the fridge, to housekeeping, to the spa staff. Everyone we met was polite, friendly, asked how our vacation was going so far – we were very very impressed.

Day 6: Surprise – another veg day! We were really getting the hang of it. Breakfast on the patio, then a visit to the fitness centre. We visited the Pavillion for lunch (Mexican theme) and enjoyed margaritas both for lunch and afterwards on the beach.  We kept it simple for dinner and went to the sushi bar. When we got back to the room, we found rose petals leading from the door to the bedroom, the ice bucket stand holding the door to the bathroom open with a bottle of sparkling wine chilling and a bubble bath with flower petals floating in the water. So nice! Since there was no way both Chris and I would fit in that tub, I took the wine and Chris took the bath. 🙂

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Day 7:  Breakfast in. Patio, pool, sun, napping. Enjoyed our last day and really vegged out. We rolled ourselves down to the Pavillion for lunch then stopped by the shops to pick up some rum cake (a must when we’re in the Caribbean). We took relaxing to a whole new level on this trip. I think I napped more than I was awake… 🙂  We had to catch the shuttle to the sister resort (the Grande) to go to Gordon’s for dinner – the Grande’s formal restaurant which is on the pier right on the water and reserved for butler suite guests (those in other suites have to pay a fee to dine there). The view and ambiance were super romantic and the food was amazing – it was a four course meal. They served an amuse bouche – pork loin with a tangy sauce. Val: chilled lobster medallion, conch salad, veal shank, coconut tart. Chris: pan-seared tuna, house salad, rack of lamb, coconut tart. Delicious! We got to scope out some of the other restaurants and areas of the Grande, then zipped back to catch the return shuttle to La Toc and finished packing (which our butler asked if we needed help with).

Day 8 Departure: Breakfast in (of course). Last bit of packing then our butler picked up our luggage. We had lunch at Neptunes again, then got a ride to the Butler’s Lounge to check out and wait for our private car transfer to the airport. Our return flight was good 5 hours 40 mins. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jersey Boys. Both pretty good.

Impressions: We would totally do this again. The butler service was amazing and it really made me feel pampered. The private pool was really nice and felt luxurious. The food was amazing. The resort was run very well, professional and friendly staff. The grounds were well-kept and everywhere you looked there were areas for couples including benches, hammocks, all kinds of little nooks and crannies. Although we were surrounded by other couples, we always felt that we were being taken care of in our little private romantic bubble. We probably could have asked our butlers for more services (i.e. reserving pool or beach chairs in the morning, having cocktails brought to us, etc.) – but we were more than happy with everything. We left feeling relaxed, refreshed, very happy and vowing to return. Two thumbs up!!!

Life List items crossed off:

  • Stay in a room with a private plunge pool
  • Get a professional massage
  • Go to a spa

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