Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

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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We arrived in Maui to perfect sunny weather! We enjoyed lunch in Lahaina at Cheeseburger in Paradise, with an ocean view and the salty air blowing in our faces. 🙂 We enjoyed some rockin burgers to boot.

The view during our first lunch in Maui

The view during our first lunch in Maui

We took a helicopter tour of the whole island the next day. What an awesome experience! We flew up to the Haleakala crater and were in awe of the Mars-like landscape. We saw the rainforest, bamboo fields, the famous Jurassic Park island and waterfalls, the waves where Jaws was filmed, the road to Hana, the hole of Maui, the ranch and winery of upcountry Maui – it was all amazing. Our pilot Janette was great, her commentary informative and fun. We had the front seats next to the pilot and had a great view, perfect for lots of photos.




Flying above the clouds, approaching the crater

Flying above the clouds, approaching the crater








Jurassic Park island - pre-CGI

Jurassic Park island – pre-CGI

Jurassic Park waterfall

Jurassic Park waterfall

Jaws waves

Jaws waves


Beautiful view from the helicopter

Beautiful view from the helicopter

We drove to Paia to watch the surfers, windsurfers and kite surfers. This is what I imagined Hawaii would look like and I wasn’t disappointed!








We drove up to the crater – Haleakala National Park and enjoyed a different view (from the ground instead of the air) and it was breathtaking!

The drive up through the clouds.

The drive up through the clouds.

Eerie but beautiful

Eerie but beautiful

Above the clouds now

Above the clouds now









Taken from the summit


And the drive down through the clouds... :)

And the drive down through the clouds… 🙂

A huge Banyan Tree took up 2 acres in a park in Lahaina. Gorgeous.

A huge Banyan Tree took up 2 acres in a park in Lahaina. Gorgeous.

Oh yes we did.

Oh yes we did.

One of the nights we went to see a magic show called Kupanaha. It was actually pretty good and the comedy was hilarious.

Another night the hotel had a seafood buffet where I learned how to eat crab legs 🙂 It was quite good – lots to choose from including fish, shrimp, mussels, crab legs, clams and lots of sides, as well as a prime rib carving station and lots of desserts.

The day we took the famous drive to Hana (we took a tour that started at 6:35am and we got back at 5;30pm), we passed through Paia again and I was glad to snap this pic of a line of surfboards (which was pretty typical around the town):



We visited a black sand beach:





And we stopped at another park to visit the Oheo pools – a series of pools that flow into each other via waterfalls – very scenic.


We took a short hike to the pools – we did the Kuloa one.




Photo taken during our hike - the leaves from the trees are huge!!

Photo taken during our hike – the leaves from the trees are huge!!


Me at the pools!

Me at the pools!



We stopped for a picnic lunch at a flower farm, then stopped by Charles’ Lindbergh’s grave – he was buried in Maui.


Along the drive, we saw lots of wildlife. Only a few roosters here compared to Kauai. 🙂 We saw lots of cattle; a couple of calves were even running alongside our tour van for a bit. We saw goats as well.



Run Forrest Run!

Run Forrest Run!




A tree on the winery grounds - gorgeous!

A tree on the winery grounds – gorgeous!


Because our flight was at 11:40pm, we spent our last day by the ocean (we rented a gazebo for some shade) and lounged all day, reading and whale-watching. We had some really good meals in Maui as well, at Longhi’s (twice), the Hard Rock Café Maui (had to do it), Bubba Gump Shrimp Co (what a fun place – we got to shake our own margaritas! My favourite sign posted in the resto said “Born Free – Now I’m Expensive” lol), Café Mambo in Paia and a local Mediterranean spot near the hotel.

During our whole trip, we ate a lot of fish (mahi mahi, ahi, monchong), fish tacos (anywhere they served these for lunch, I ordered them – love fish tacos. We had some amazing braised short ribs at Keoki’s in Kauai and the tapas place we visited in Kauai also had some great selections including an awesome Sangria cart, ceviche and a great hoisin glazed short rib.

Life List items achieved in Maui:

  • Ride in a helicopter
  • See a volcano (albeit dormant)
  • Swim in the Pacific Ocean
  • Learn how to eat crab legs (although I still need some practice)

Our trip home was really long: 5 hour flight from Maui to Vancouver (where the flight attendant announced the score of the Olympic hockey gold medal game where Canada shut out Sweden – woohoo!), then a 3 hour layover in Vancouver, then 4 hours to Toronto. Finally made it home, safe and sound, and tired, rested and glad we took Monday off. 🙂

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We’re back home after 2 amazing weeks in Hawaii. Pardon the photo overload in advance. 🙂

We explored quite a bit of the island. Kauai was enchanting, with a lush landscape everywhere you looked. It was a peaceful place where the trees, flowers and surrounding ocean all contributed to its rugged beauty. Tourism hasn’t yet taken over the island and Kauai retains most of its untouched appeal. One thing we found entertaining were the number of wild roosters walking about, everywhere you looked. They don’t have any natural predators so they roam the land freely, sometimes with a hen or two for company. Dogs and cats were very few (maybe saw 3-4 the whole week) but roosters? Dozens by the side of the roads.

We visited the Wailua Falls, the Menehune Fish Pond, the Kilauea Light House and Wildlife Refuge, Spouting Horn, the Kauai Coffee plantation and much more. We attempted the drive to Waimea Canyon but got fogged out so had to turn back. We took a boat tour to the Napali coast but had to end it short after a few hours due to a broken fuel line. On the boat ride, we also enjoyed some snorkelling and the scenery up until the time we turned back was nice so it wasn’t a total loss. We got to see dolphins and whales also. 🙂 It was whale season (they come down from Alaska to have their babies) and we saw lots of them from our balcony. We drove up to Princeville and Hanalei where we had lunch and enjoyed the coastal scenic drive. Gorgeous scenery with a very laid back vibe.

We spent time enjoying the sun but had several days of clouds and showers (which we spent shopping and sightseeing). We went to a luau (Luau Kalamaku) that had a more theatrical show than the traditional ones and it was really fantastic! That’s where I received a fresh flower lei! The story, dancing and fire show were very entertaining.

On one of the drizzly days, we stopped by Hilo Hattie (THE store for all things Hawaiian) and it was a very productive trip – we loaded up on lots of souvenirs for the fam and picked up a few things for us too.

We ate lots of great food at Keoki’s Paradise, Gaylord’s and the Beach House. The ambience of open air dining, with the ocean breezes and the sound of the waves, the torches providing firelight and the delicious food and wine made our stay in Kauai really special.

Now for the pics!!

Kauai Coffee plantation where we enjoyed free samples and took a tour of the grounds

Kauai Coffee plantation where we enjoyed free samples and took a tour of the grounds

Local wildlife :)  This was taken at a lookout point.

Local wildlife 🙂 This was taken at a lookout point.

Lonely palm trees on a golf course

Lonely palm trees on a golf course

Wailua Falls where a local craft vendor enjoyed driving golf balls into the water while waiting to make his next sale

Wailua Falls where a local craft vendor enjoyed driving golf balls into the water while waiting to make his next sale

Coast near our hotel where sea turtles came to play daily

Coast near our hotel where sea turtles came to play daily

The biggest snail I've ever seen.

The biggest snail I’ve ever seen.

Kilohana Plantation where we attended the luau

Kilohana Plantation where we attended the luau

The pork has arrived!

The pork has arrived!

Tree outside the plantation

Tree outside the plantation

Hula dancers

Hula dancers



Fire dancing

Fire dancing

Dolphins on our boat/snorkeling tour to the Napali coast

Dolphins on our boat/snorkeling tour to the Napali coast

...a whale too! We saw dozens of humpback whales during our stay. More in Maui than Kauai. We saw lots of pectoral slaps, fins, tails and even breaching whales and babies. It was great!

…a whale too! We saw dozens of humpback whales during our stay. More in Maui than Kauai. We saw lots of pectoral slaps, fins, tails and even breaching whales and babies. It was great!

Dinner at Keoki's Paradise - gorgeous place with amazing food!

Dinner at Keoki’s Paradise – gorgeous place with amazing food!

There were so many beautiful sunsets too:






Back to sightseeing pics:





Near the Light House

Near the Light House

Scenery during a walk near our hotel

Scenery during a walk near our hotel

We enjoyed Kauai for its peacefulness, slow pace (perfect for vacation) and lush landscape.

Life List items achieved in Kauai:

  • Travel to Hawaii
  • Get lei’d in Hawaii
  • Attend a luau
  • Ride a catamaran

Now off to Maui!

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Our next stop was Kalymnos, a small island just north of Kos, near Turkey. My husband Chris’ dad is originally from there and now has a vacation home as well – that’s where we stayed. Greek Easter fell on May 5th and we got to partake in the festivities leading up to the big to-do on Sunday night (more on that to come). 🙂 So my in-laws as well as two sets of Chris’ aunts and uncles were there, one of Chris’ cousins was there for a few days, and my sister-in-law, her husband and their two kids arrived later in the week.

We flew from Paris to Athens and took a smaller plane to Kalymnos. After taking a nap, we enjoyed a delicious dinner in the port town of Pothia that included grilled octopus, calamari, greek salad, and plenty of other Greek dishes that we were looking forward to.

Most of our time there was spent relaxing, reading, enjoying the view from the humongous balcony, enjoying tasty food and catching up with family. And listening to fireworks and dynamite. Yes, you heard me. In Kalymnos, the traditional way to celebrate Easter is to light fireworks (small boom) and actual dynamite (big boom) all during holy week. The dynamite is done high up in the mountains and although there have been accidents in the past, the tradition continues.

The Easter-related activities included Friday night’s mass followed by the gathering of all the neighborhood churches’ epitaphs to the central port area where a procession took place. It was actually pretty cool to see all the different styles of epitaphs.

Saturday was spent preparing food for the Sunday feast. I learned two recipes which I can’t wait to try on my own. Saturday night was mass again – which was very bizarre – all through the service, a group outside was lighting fireworks in the courtyard, which is apparently a normal occurrence at Easter.

Sunday was feast day with the traditional lamb and lots of other yummy dishes. On Sunday night, we went to the port to enjoy the fireworks and dynamite festivities and watch a Greek dancing show. I took a couple of videos and you can hear the dynamite in the background – although they don’t do it justice. They’re much louder in person. 🙂

Here are some pics:

During Easter, they hang a fake Judas from the church - my husnabd and I were taken by surprise when we first saw it but Chris' dad assured us it wasn't a real person. Fun fact: Judas wears Nikes. :)

During Easter, they hang a fake Judas from the church – my husband and I were taken by surprise when we first saw it but Chris’ dad assured us it wasn’t a real person. Fun fact: Judas wears Nikes. 🙂


Sunday evening at the port before the show

Sunday evening at the port before the show




View of the port from the mountain

View of the port from the mountain

We spent some time shopping for souvenirs, we visited Vlihadia which has a beach and a great restaurant that serves amazing filas (dolmades).


It was easy to spot the fishing boats because they were always followed by sea gulls. :)

It was easy to spot the fishing boats because they were always followed by sea gulls. 🙂


On our way to visit Palioniso, we drove up through the mountains along at-times-scary winding roads.


And there were lots of goats!






Uncle Dimitri swimming

Uncle Dimitri swimming


Uncle Dimitri and Aunt Irene dancing :)

Uncle Dimitri and Aunt Irene dancing 🙂


Our rental car for our stay in Kalymnos - a Nissan Juke

Our rental car for our stay in Kalymnos – a Nissan Juke

On our last night in Kalymnos, we went out to dinner and drinks at the same restaurant and bar we visited the last time we were there in 2006. Good times!! 🙂

We flew to Athens and spent the night at the Sofitel Athens Airport and on arrival were advised that we were selected as the “guests of the day” and got a double upgrade to a luxury club room – awesome! We received vouchers for free drinks, had access to the VIP lounge, we had a great room and the best part was it was walking distance to the airport for our 7am flight the next day. We got a tour of the executive floors then were escorted to our room, shortly thereafter they delivered a complimentary dish of desserts with a bottle of mineral water. Housekeeping also left us some chocolate and a Hermes perfume sample. Nice! We were pooped and had a long travel day planned the following day so we ordered in room service. We shared a Dakos appetizer – like a Greek bruschetta, Chris had pesto pasta and I had the sea bream with grilled veggies. We shared a bottle of shiraz with dinner. The bathroom/shower was to die for – Heavenly.










The following day was a long travel day. Athens to Paris (3 hours) followed by a 4 hour layover at Charles de Gaulle where we did some more shopping, then a 7 hour flight to Toronto. It was great to land in Canada. We picked up the cat and tried to stay up as late as possible before going to bed. The first night in your own bed is always amazing – although I was wide awake at 2am, I’m sure I’ll skeep longer tonight.


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Our travels continue…

Day 3: Montmartre and the Musée d’Orsay

When planning our itinerary, we opted to leave Versailles for another visit (since we only had 4 days in Paris) and visited Montmartre instead. Now, before I go on, let me mention that Sacré Coeur is at the top of the hill. We took the Metro and got off at the Abbesses station which looked like a station close to the top of the hill. Not so. We got off the train and proceeded to the exit which pointed to a stairway similar to other stations we had used in the past. However, we failed to see the sign that said “Attention: 115 steps” and the elevator further down (we noticed it on the way back of course after taking the elevator down to the train level) and we, along with a group of other tourists, ended up trekking all the way up the spiral staircase, wheezing and panting by the time we got to the top at street level. It was actually pretty funny. The Abbesses metro station is one of the few deep ones in Paris at 36 metres below ground. Here’s a video someone took of the way down:

It stopped being funny when we saw the stairs we needed to go up to get to Sacré Coeur. LOL We chose to not take the Funiculaire (similar to the one in Quebec city) thinking it wouldn’t be so bad – good lord, my legs still haven’t forgiven me. Here’s a pic of the stairs alongside the Funiculaire: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnells/2442300088/

Sacré Coeur:


We toured the inside then walked along all the streets of Montmartre and bought some souvenirs (Moulin Rouge dish towels and four prints of Paris landmarks).


Next was the Musée d’Orsay where we weren’t allowed to take photos unfortunately. This was my favourite attraction. The building itself is gorgeous, a former train station. Seeing all the famous works of art that we grew up seeing images of was incredible. I’ve gathered images of the building as well as the paintings we got to see at the museum – a fantastic collection of art.

Inside the museum. Sculptures are displayed in the main area; paintings are displayed in alcoves off to the sides.


Van Gogh - Chaumes de Cordeville à Auvers

Van Gogh – Chaumes de Cordeville à Auvers

Van Gogh - Starry Night

Van Gogh – Starry Night

Renoir - Danse à la campagne (left) and Renoir - Danse à la ville (right)

Renoir – Danse à la campagne (left) and Renoir – Danse à la ville (right)

Renoir - Bal du Moulin de la Galette

Renoir – Bal du Moulin de la Galette

Monet - Le Bassin aux nympheas

Monet – Le Bassin aux nympheas

Monet - Dejeuner sur l'herbe

Monet – Dejeuner sur l’herbe

Monet - Le Dejeuner Panneau Decoratif

Monet – Le Dejeuner Panneau Decoratif

Monet - Blue Water Lilies

Monet – Blue Water Lilies

Gauguin - Femmes de Tahiti

Gauguin – Femmes de Tahiti

Degas - Repetition d'un ballet sur scene

Degas – Repetition d’un ballet sur scene

Degas - Danseuses

Degas – Danseuses

Degas - Classe de danse

Degas – Classe de danse

Cezanne - La Table de cuisine

Cezanne – La Table de cuisine

Rodin - The Gates of Hell

Rodin – The Gates of Hell

We headed back to the hotel and stopped at a nearby patisserie on the way and picked up a late lunch. 🙂

Left to right: Fougasse with tomatoes and goat cheese, Quiche Lorraine, Croque Monsieur

Left to right: Fougasse with tomatoes and goat cheese, Quiche Lorraine, Croque Monsieur

Top to bottom: Apple almond tart, Charlotte, Chocolate eclair

Top to bottom: Apple almond tart, Charlotte, Chocolate eclair

For dinner we had leftover baguette and cheese.

Day 4: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Jardin du Luxembourg

Today was Eiffel Tower day – we headed there first thing in the morning but there was still a line. They don’t take “skip the line passes” so we had to wait for this one. We decided to wait since we didn’t go up the Arc de Triomphe. Check out the line:



...and going...

…and going…

and going!!

and going!!

We waited for about 45 minutes – not too bad. We went up to the 2nd platform and it was pretty windy up there. We took some quick photos and high-tailed it out of there!









The tower!!! Isn’t this a gorgeous shot? That’s me being artsy. 🙂


After the tower, we took a sightseeing boat cruise on the Seine – it was really nice to see all the buildings from a different perspective as well as all the bridges. They played French music (i.e. La vie en rose and other songs we associate with France). It was nice.





Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay






Back of Notre Dame

Back of Notre Dame


After the cruise, we walked to Trocadero



then took the Metro to Ile de la Cité to see Notre Dame:




Chris liked the gargoyles:




We had lunch in the cafe Les Deux Palais. I had a Salade Paysanne with foie gras and sliced duck with lettuce, green beans and potatoes – Amazing! Chris had a sandwich au thon.

Afterwards, we walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg and strolled through the park. It’s huge!




I wanted to see the Medici fountain. This must be the most enchanted-looking fountain I’ve ever seen:





We walked back to the hotel, stopping at the same patisserie on the way, and brought supper back to the room. This time, Chris got his slice of Quiche Lorraine and I got a mini quiche with gruyere. We also got a slice of cheesecake, a rocher, an opera and a mille feuille. We stopped by the shop next door to pick up some wine and we were good to go. 🙂

Tomorrow, we’re off to Greece!

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Magnifique!!!! Holy moly – what a beautiful city.

Day 1 – Exploration!

We landed in Paris at 8am on Sunday morning April 28th and checked into the hotel (Holiday Inn Saint Germain des Prés – 6th arrondissement), took a 2-hour nap then went off to explore our neighbourhood. We strolled along the streets of Saint Germain des Prés past cafes, patisseries, boulangeries and shops. We came across St. Sulpice and the fountain in front of it.




We continued to walk through the Quartier Latin and ended up having lunch at the Creperie Cluny – we both had crepes. When travelling I like to eat all the local foods and vowed that at every meal I’d choose typically “French” foods. Crepes with a nice Bordeaux wine – we were off to a good start!

We walked all the way to Ile de la Cité and visited the Conciergerie which was the jail back in the day where they held prisoners before they went to the guillotine. Marie Antoinette stayed there. A guided tour started 5 minutes after we arrived so we did that and it took about an hour to visit.

Salle des gendarmes – beautiful structure:



Office in the jail – this is not a cell.




Prisoners’ courtyard:


No climbing the walls to escape:


An interesting tidbit we learned was that prisoners had to pay the jail for a better quality cell. The poorest would share a small cell that held 10 people with nothing but hay on the floor. The next level would get you a cell shared by 5 people with very minimal amenities. The higher level would get you a private cell with minimal furniture. Chris and I thought this strategy was worth considering for today’s prison systems where criminals are often treated better than people on the street or the elderly in old folks’ homes. But I digress. We got to see where Marie Antoinette was held – that was a pretty nice cell considering the meager alternatives.

I should mention that prior to the trip, I had purchased 2 Paris Combo Passes (4 days) which provided unlimited access to transport and priority entry to 60+ attractions where we got to skip the lines to enter – that was amazing – highly recommended since the lines can be discouraging. But not for us. 🙂 I bought them from here and they came with a free sight-seeing boat cruise (more on that later).

We took the Metro back to our hotel (2 minute walk from 2 different metro stations – the Metro system is absolutely fantastic).

Day 2 – The Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe

On all mornings we had breakfast at the hotel which was a buffet with lots of hot and cold options. Then, we were off to the Louvre! We took the Metro and entered from the Pyramid (passed the line – woohoo). It was very busy but we took our time – we had picked the areas we wanted to visit and stayed close to the plan. The building itself is phenomenal. We also followed a Louvre audio tour that we had downloaded from Rick Steves’ site which had some interesting info.

Here she is!



In front of the Louvre:


Inside the Louvre


Fantastic ceilings near the Greek Antiquities area:







Then off to Italian sculpture and Venus de Milo!


Seeing famous works of art in person was very surreal for me – I loved it.


More wandering…



Samothrace – you often see her on the bough of ships with her right arm extended in the air – signifies Victory. Fabulous.


On our way to Italian painting.




There she is – the Mona Lisa. 🙂 From far


Closer…  She’s behind a glass wall to protect from all the flashes.




This was one of my faves:


Then we were off to visit the Napoleon III Apartments – this was a really cool section in the museum. I lost count of all the chandeliers.







Interesting conversation chair:





We then began our walk from the Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. We sat in the sun for a while in the Jardin des Tuileries, people watching and resting our feet…




Walked across the Place de la Concorde –  oouuu the Obelisk:





We then started our trek up the Champs Elysees and stopped at the famous Laduree for lunch.


Both Chris and I had the Salade Concorde which was spinach, cucumber, chicken and an amazing mustard dressing. For dessert, Chris had a baba au rhum and I had a lemon tart. There was an older French couple next to us who ordered a small salmon entree, then had 3 pastries each – they were adorable. 🙂

I couldn’t help but take a pic of the line of people waiting to get into Louis Vuitton. Hehehe


Continuing our walk up the Champs Elysées to the Arc – which was closed! Cops blocked the whole circle so we couldn’t go up but since the street was blocked, we got to stand in the middle of the street to get some good pics. 🙂


We took the Metro back to our hotel and stopped at the Bon Marché grocery store where we picked up fixings for supper: baguette, Camembert and goat cheese, an assortment of charcuterie, wine and some Valrhona chocolate. I would have liked to move into the grocery store – they had a huge selection of products and everything looked amazing…

More to come for Day 3 and Day 4!


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We’re in the process of planning our spring trip to Europe where we’ll be spending 4 days in Paris before heading for another week on the Greek island Kalymnos which is where my husband’s dad is from.

I’m super excited because we’ve never been to Paris and I can’t wait to see all the sights we’ve only seen in books or movies so far. 🙂 I’ve been researching on Trip Advisor and Frommers trying to find a hotel that’s central, has modern plumbing :), the room has its own bathroom and is walking distance to transport, cafes and such. We’re leaning towards St Germain des Pres but we still haven’t booked anything. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment. We don’t really care about the size of the room since we’ll be out and about most of the time as long as it’s clean and relatively central.


We’ll visit the main tourist attractions and spend some time just walking through the different neighborhoods and getting a feel of Parisian life. I can’t wait!

Our time in Greece will be mainly relaxing with a possibly a day trip to one of the neighboring islands. Chris’ family will also be traveling to Greece so we’ll get to spend time with them as well.

Looking forward to this trip. 🙂

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We had 5 days of amazing sunny weather, calm waters, blue skies – perfect vacation weather. And then Sandy decided to crash the party. The storm was north of us and headed towards the Bahamas. The captain announced that he was keeping a safe distance and was watching it closely. We followed it north and as day 6 came around, the clouds rolled in and we had some drizzles. The waves were minimal at this point. People were keeping an eye on the news – it was now a category 1 storm moving north and would pass Florida the day before we were supposed to dock in Port Canaveral.

Sure enough, on Friday afternoon, the captain announces that we won’t be docking Saturday morning as planned due to the rough waters. We would have another day at sea and hope to dock Sunday morning at 8am instead. Now, this announcement caused everyone on the ship that had flights Saturday to scramble to change their flights. We tried the phone in our room but all the lines were busy. We went for dinner, then went to Guest Services, stood in line for an hour and finally got to a working phone to change our flight.

While in line, we were hearing stories from various people and their airlines – Southwest had no flights leaving Orlando on Sunday, Delta was full…there was talk that flights to the eastern seaboard would be risky since that’s where Hurricane Sandy was headed. We kept our fingers crossed, finally spoke to an agent who got us on a flight with Air Canada on Sunday, the only space left was in Executive class, but we took it anyway – if we didn’t get home Sunday, who knows when flights would be landing in Toronto with the winds and weather coming their way…

Anyhow, $900 later, we had a new flight and all was well. We went to see the show and the boat was pretty rocky.

The next day, our extra day at sea, turned out to be sunny, a bit rocky, but WINDY! Before breakfast the wind was so strong we couldn’t even open our balcony door. At about 10am, the wind quieted down and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the balcony enjoying the sun. It was still windy and the sea got progressively rougher as we sailed north towards Florida. I took a few pics of where things stood Saturday afternoon:

Circling off the coast of Miami

This was when the winds were still pretty tame – that’s about 54 miles per hour

Around and around and around….

We saw another ship (maybe circling like us) and noticed how it was rocking and dipping – our ship must have looked the same to them… There’s a video of it at the bottom of the post.

The Norwegian Sky passing us – she was rocking pretty bad

We laid down waiting for the motion sickness to pass, while listening to the wind and things sliding and clanging in the room and the hallway. Glasses slid back and forth on our shelf, hangers were banging in the closet, our shower door kept rattling, you heard the stewards out in the hallway with glasses and other things making a racket and falling over… It would have been funny if we didn’t feel so crappy. And to top it off, we still had to finish packing and put our luggage out for the porters…. Anyway. We didn’t sleep much that night and we finally docked the next morning, got off the ship, and I’ve never been so happy to be on land before.

Funny – even now, I still feel the sway of the ship and my motion sickness headache comes and goes. It was a good cruise, just bad timing with Sandy making her appearance.  If we were a day later, we probably would have been ok. We’re seriously considering avoiding that part of the world during hurricane season going forward though…

Here are some videos on YouTube of what it was like being on a cruise ship in the wake of a hurricane:

Watching the Norwegian Sky from the Carnival Dream:

We got to the airport, boarded our flight, there was a bit more turbulence than usual but we enjoyed our first class amenities and landed, glad to be home even though it was rainy and cold. The effects of the rough seas still lingered but it was nice to be home. 🙂

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