In this section, you’ll find pages documenting my fun family travels 🙂 Feel free to visit the following links or scroll down to view all.
Missing the sunrise and peeking over the balcony as early workers stroll by, conversing in native tongues over the rooster’s crow. Stretching out my legs and feeling the heat on my skin before daylight has fully broken.
Stirring the perfect cappuccino —
— under the latticed patio roof, flanked by lush vegetation and pretty florals. We pretend it’s all ours. There’s nowhere to be and nothing to accomplish. No one to appease but each other.
Heading oceanward to plunk down our bodies, laze about and brown deliciously all over. Dunking full selves into the surf when it gets a little too toasty. Hearing the wind, the waves and very little else.
The sun’s gone.
A peaceful respite though the bugs are biting, but we’ve learned not to notice. Sharing a tasty meal, not skimping on dessert, then heading out to where…
…they dance into the night.
Perfectly en pointe, in tune, attuned. Mesmerizing and seemingly without effort, commanding attention and deserving adoration.
It’s over almost as soon as it began, when the realization hits that you’re caught up and will do
To feel that way again.
— the love of travel
— by dianne c.
We love hotels! It’s hard to imagine who doesn’t, really. You arrive to a freshly made bed and (assumed) spotless tub. When you leave for the day and come back, everything’s cleaned up for you. The pillows and covers are like heavenly soft marshmallows, and when you hang a sign on the door, no one bothers you.
We love hotels.
Dani and Stella, as soon as they get in, unplug the phone and start to make pretend calls on it. It’s hard to pry the Gideons bible out of Stella’s hands before she rips pages out of it. There’s satellite TV with tons of current movies to watch (though we never, ever end up seeing one), room service (which we’ve never ordered), and wake up calls to be arranged (that never get arranged, because with experience I’ve learned to trust only myself to get up promptly in the mornings).
We love hotels.
You head downstairs in the morning, having freshly rolled out of bed in our pantulog (pajamas), so succinctly our style, and grab some light breakfast. There’s coffee which is mandatory for us parents, oatmeal which is mandatory for Stella, who eats nothing else, and hard-boiled eggs for Dani, who eats only the whites and always asks for more (guess who gets the extra cholesterol hit because I don’t waste yolk).
We love hotels.
When it’s the night before checkout, it’s time to pack up. We must peek in every drawer, under each nightstand and couch cushion, and in the crevices of the bedposts to make sure the kids haven’t dropped or hidden anything valuable. There’s hair in the tub, nubs of toothpaste in the sink basin, and scrunched-up covers on the bed and strewn on the floor. Tomorrow, we must leave this wonderful abode. Where we’re going, no one is going to clean up our messes, pay for satellite television stations, or have breakfast hot and ready when we decide to wake up. It’s time to re-welcome reality and it bites!
I sat there contentedly, stirring my cappuccino, and waiting patiently for Hubby and Big Girl to return. It was his turn to get the crepes. I had overeaten yet again, and this time Little Baby decided to stay in her stroller and sleep so I could sit back and enjoy dessert.
I sipped and smiled to myself, happily recounting the last few sunny days in my head, when I saw The Lady. She sat facing me, the next table over. The Lady was also sipping a coffee, but she and I were very different this evening. The Lady had very big, sad eyes. And The Lady sat alone.
I immediately wondered how she ended up on a beautiful island, sitting all by her lonesome. I mean, I couldn’t imagine the scenario for myself. God has blessed me with a carefree and loving marriage, quite smooth sailing for the past three years and counting. In between now and 13 years ago, I had been out of a relationship for only three months. I don’t even remember what it’s like to be on my own (though, metaphorically, I could certainly recall some rough times).
I pondered how it must feel to retire for the evening to an empty bed. To wake up without the chatter of an overexcited four-year-old or the hungry cries of a grumpy little baby. Or to an exhausted husband snoring deeply.
I wondered if she was meeting anybody at the bars. Whether she chatted up the bartenders as they shook up her cocktails. Would she be boogeying on the dance floor tonight, in her highest of heels and shortest of skirts? Did she lay on the beach until the sun set, staring into that awestriking horizon, wishing she had someone to snuggle with as the ocean breeze kissed her blonde hair?
I continued to drown in my thoughts and barely noticed The Man who set his coffee cup and plate of dessert on the table and sat facing The Lady. She acknowledged him, or lacked to acknowledge him, if you would, in the “loving” way an irritated wife would greet her tardy husband.
Guess she wasn’t lonely after all.
I SWEAR I had this post all written up and ready to go on a note app on my phone weeks ago, but then I cut the text to paste it and deleted it by accident =( So here we go again!
The 3rd and final Disney installment covers our trip to Hollywood Studios. The admission is the same as the other Disney parks: $99.00 for those age 10 and over, $93.99 for ages 3-9, and free < 3. We had purchased both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios tickets online at the same time, so when we previously went to the Mickey Halloween party, they loaded both admissions conveniently on the same reusable card. The day was very hot, perhaps 32 degrees Celsius, and not rainy (at first). A little trick we do is to tell the ticket person that it’s our first visit every time and then you get a cute “1st Visit!” button to wear, so you can imagine how big our collection has grown =) Hey – at $99 admission, I feel entitled.
As we entered the park, we were given Olaf cardboard fans to cool off. They were much needed. Our first stop was to the “For the First Time in Forever” Frozen sing-along show. We had to get an advance ticket and pick a show time, and then wait in line (about 30 minutes). The show consisted of a male and female host, with special appearances by Anna, Kristoff, and of course Elsa at the end. Basically, it was a gigantic screen that played the entire Frozen soundtrack, complete with lyrics, dazzling lights and special effects. It was about an hour and it was “so-so.” Nothing too exciting. It was cute hearing all those young voices singing word-for-word, though.
After that, we headed to the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground. Overhead was a giant “spider web,” or jungle-gym type rope maze for kids (and parents) to climb through. There were slides and even a gigantic “Antie” just like in the movie. It was one of my favourites as a kid, so I definitely wanted to check this one out. I always dreamed of being a child actress and starring in such an adventurous film as this one. As the day was getting progressively hot and expectant mommy was starting to get hungry, we headed to the nearby food court to grab sandwiches, hot dogs, and ice cold soft drinks.
We spent the rest of the day on pregnant- and toddler- friendly rides and shows such as Muppet Vision in 3D, the Great Movie Ride, and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (this was my favourite of the day – who didn’t love Indy in the 80s?!). We had wanted to take Dani to the Jedi Training Academy, where apparently kids get to do Jedi training with light sabers and all, but she was too young and/or short. I had always wanted to check out the Tower of Terror, so perhaps we’ll need to come back once the bun is out of the oven =) Also, there was a 2-hour wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, so we said forget that. By that time, it had begun to rain (yes, we donned the Disney ponchos yet again), so we called it a day.
All in all, I’d still prefer the excitement and crowd participation of Universal Studios, but maybe when Dani is at least 6 or 7, because DHS proved to be the more toddler-friendly option.
Until next time, Mickey fans… hope you got something useful out of your reading and enjoy your next trip to the happiest place(s) on earth 😉
And now down to the nitty gritty, the meat, the FUN stuff – the Disney Parks review!
Our trip was planned in late September, so after googling Disney information, I came across an interesting alternative to the usual Magic Kingdom visit: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! As a family, we had been to the Magic Kingdom (Orlando) once and to Disneyland Paris once, so going was nothing new, but this Halloween party was intriguing!
Tickets cost $62 per adult versus regular $99 admission for the Magic Kingdom. Kids under three are free so that was a plus for us! Regular park hours are usually 9a to 9p, but the “official” Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (I’ll refer to it as MNSSHP from now on) hours were from 7p-midnight. They actually let you in the doors at 4p, however. You are given plastic loot bags (but you can bring your own, and believe me I’ve seen people carrying SACKS around) to collect candy at various stops throughout the park for trick-or-treating. A map is provided to show you just where each stop is, and trust me, they do NOT chintz on the candy! Each stop is marked with a lit-up pumpkin sign, and we didn’t wait more than 5 minutes in each fast-moving lineup. They will put handfuls of the GOOD stuff into your bags – all kinds of mini chocolate bars (Aero, Kit Kat, Smarties, Mars, etc.) and the typical candy as well (Laffy Taffy, lollipops, etc.). Unfortunately (?) for us, it started to rain HARD as soon as we had parked the car, but this disadvantage proved to be quite the opposite. Because of the incessant downpour (which didn’t cease until 10p, may I add!), we didn’t wait in line for any ride longer than 5-7 minutes! WOOHOO!
A couple of days earlier, after checking the weekly forecast, we bought ponchos to wear to the Kingdom (Phineas and Ferb for daddy, Minnie Mouse for mommy, and Mickey for little Dani) for $7.99 each at the nearby Walmart. The selection of Disney stuff there is AMAZING and way more affordable than anything in the actual parks, so we also picked up a couple of Mickey shirts as Hollywood Studios attire for later in the week.
Cleverly outfitted in our ponchos and flip flops (John wanted to wear sneakers but I said NO WAY – they’re going to get ruined and stanky), we opted to take the ferry over from the parking lot to the Kingdom instead of the monorail as there were only a few handfuls of people in line. It was our first time ever riding it, so it was a nice little trip on the water.
Although I would never turn down (free) sweets, after two candy runs we opted to prioritize the rides instead to make use of all the time we had there. Every ride in the park was open, so we rode pretty much every Dani-friendly attraction: It’s a Small World, Enchanted Tales with Belle, the Dumbo ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, etc.
We dined on the usual fast-food fare of hot dogs, fries, and chips, as most (I’m not sure if all) of the concession stands and restaurants were open that evening. To ease the spending, we brought in a small soft-shelled cooler filled with water, juice, fruit snacks, Lunchables, etc. to keep Dani happy. Generally, you are allowed to bring in your own food from outside, as long as it isn’t anything dangerous like metal silverware (particularly knives), glass bottles, and liquor (obviously).
The night ended with an amazing fireworks display at around 9p, which Dani found way too loud and so we had to cover her ears. Also, we caught the 2nd Boo to You Halloween parade at around 10:30p, with the 1st beginning around 8p, if I’m not mistaken. It was an awesome display of Disney’s regular cast and villains on floats, with dancers in the streets giving out Mickey lollipops and candy. Though I had read about the Headless Horseman appearing at the end of it, he wasn’t there that night =( I wonder if he appears in the dates closer to Halloween itself…
Our fantastic Halloween excursion began at around 4:30p, and by 11:30 I was ready to conk out, so we took the monorail back to the parking lot and headed to McDonald’s for a late dinner (they had $2 Big Macs on special at the time.. score!). Then off to bed to rest up for the next adventure!
I would recommend MNSSHP to anybody who prefers to travel to Florida in the early fall – I always find it the best to go around when school starts, because it’s not as hot as in the summertime and crowds tend to be lighter.
To come: Disney Hollywood Studios review… stay tuned =)
Happy 2015 everybody! Thank you to all my visitors all over the world. I haven’t been posting nearly enough as I should be, but that’s one of my resolutions for the new year. Thank you again for all your support.
Orlando Florida family vacation: September 20-27, 2014
There’s just something so happy and exciting about Disney Magic, and Dani just can’t stop talking about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
The weather was just perfectly suited to my taste: high in the mid 30’s (but not often) and low in the mid 20’s (mainly due to the rain, which came down 5 out of 7 days of the week). In the dead heat of sunlight, I felt particularly suffocated because I’m not a “summer person.” Plus, being pregnant, I’m always hot. I welcomed the cooling sensation the rain brought, and strolling the air-conditioned malls almost every day was fun too, not to mention the swimming pools at the Orange Lake resort complex where we stayed for the week.
I shall rewind to day one and the adventures of happily married couple, adoring almost-three-year-old daughter, and 4-month-old baby swimming around in utero. Leaving home at 5:30 am, we crossed the border and arrived at Buffalo International Airport around 8:00 am. Flying out of BIA saved us at least $300-400 off typical fares out of Pearson. We also parked across the street from the airport at the Hampton Inn for $5 a day, opting to take the $2.99 cancellation insurance (if something happens and your flight is cancelled or you can’t arrive within the next 24 hours, you’re not charged a late fee). A 24-hour on-demand shuttle was ready at the door to take us over, and they provided us with a phone number to call a driver upon our return. We were very pleased with the polite and efficient service.
Our first flight was to Atlanta, with a little over an hour to catch our connecting flight to Orlando. No complaints or remarks to make here, as the flights and transitions were both speedy and smooth. The first flight was under 2 hours, and the 2nd was just about one hour. Even the wait at the rental car counter was fairly quick, although I’ll heed a warning here. Car insurance for the week cost over $300, which was a surprise to us since we paid a third of that the last time we rented in Orlando. Perhaps booking your car rental separate from a flight package and opting for their insurance is the safer bet.
After collecting the car seat and installing happy Dani into our black 2014 Ford Fusion (John wasn’t happy with the choice at all), we headed to Orange Lake West Village. Our room exceeded our expectations. We had used RCI exchange points to book and, listed as a Studio, it had a full kitchen minus the oven (stovetop, mini fridge, microwave, kettle, pots and pans, dishes, etc.) To save some valuable shopping/Mickey dollars, we bought groceries at the nearby Target and Walmart stores and cooked a few dinners and even more breakfasts.
If you’re an Orange Lake timeshare owner, beware that you’re whisked to a separate desk to book your “return visit update” (aka Timeshare sales presentation). The incentive was 50% the resort’s play-all-week package: mini golf, use of tubes for the lazy river, etc. for one hour of your time (we didn’t even end up buying it).
We dined at Ponderosa for our first evening (my how it has changed – pricey, and they eliminated the full buffet, boo hoo) and checked out some nearby stores i.e. Ross and Target, heading to bed early to recover from the 2.5 hours of sleep we had gotten the night before.
We were up early to catch our 8:00 am sales presentation, which we wanted to book first thing in the morning to just get it over with. I’m extremely proud of Dani lasting the entire time, and of John and myself not upgrading or buying anything. The last time we had attended such a presentation, we walked out with a timeshare =) We had breakfast buffet at Sizzler, and after resting a bit that afternoon, headed to downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola Park. We saw some swans and plenty of baby lizards (BUTIKI! My favourite word! LOL) and did some more shopping in the evening.
The next afternoon, after sleeping in again, we headed to Walmart to grab some groceries for the day: a barbecued chicken, salad, and some bread, and drove about 1.5 hours to Daytona Beach. It was a perfect day: not blazingly hot or sunny, and quite empty on the beach. If you’ve never been before, it costs $3.00 to park directly on the beach for the day. Because it was overcast and rainy, there were only a handful of other cars nearby, which was just fine for us =) On the way there, we passed the Daytona International Speedway and Vince Carter’s high school, for all you millions of Raptors fans out there. =P
It was a lovely time. Dani enjoyed playing in the not-so-packable sand and wading in the waves, although she caught and swallowed a mouthful of saltwater and vomited up some mushy strawberry remains (gross). Afterwards, we headed to Toys R Us to pick up Dani’s Cinderella princess dress and the much coveted Shopkins, which were hard to find in stock back in Toronto and almost never available online.
I realize I’ve written quite a lengthy passage here, so I’ll save the rest for parts 2, 3 and maybe even 4 =)
Happy reading… don’t forget to come back!
Time that drags is ample time to commit to El Bloggo!
And here we are, with the 3rd and final installment of the Boston Road Trip Extraordinaire. That Saturday was supposed to be spent waking up leisurely, having breakfast, and heading to the nearby Mashpee Commons Mall to visit Cupcake Charlies and grab a dozen (YES – certain allowances are made for dessert!), before heading to Salem, Massachusetts, for the Bewitched After Dark walking tour.
We had just finished our leftover Halal Guys for breakfast when hubby plugged the address of the tour into his phone. Alas, it was 2.5 hours away, not 1 hour like I had thought (I was referencing the point from Boston to Salem, and we were situated 1 hour away from Boston as it was).
It was already 10:30 am, so we hauled asses to the Red Van and, after grabbing the requisite Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (it doesn’t come CLOSE to Timmy’s, in my opinion), sped off towards Salem. We arrived at nearly 1:00 pm on the dot, at the door of the Bewitched store, where we met our tour guide.
If you’re looking for spooky stories and haunted houses, this is not your tour! Though not scary by any means, it was fascinating and informative. We started off viewing houses in which murders had occurred, and then walked through a graveyard where victims of the Salem Witch Trials were buried. Sadly, the majority of women died because of false accusations. I won’t ruin the experience with too many details, but I think it’s a fascinating look back in history and highly recommend it. Also, there’s a tree that apparently gets struck by lightning every few decades. Exciting!
Salem is a beautiful town. We smelled some heavenly food and longed to stay a while longer to dine, but were to head immediately to Fenway Park for our 2nd tour of the day. We zip back onto the road and towards the big city of Boston, park, and get all excited for the tour, until….
…we see the sign that says…
Tours are fully booked today. Please come back tomorrow morning. We try instead to find something good to eat near Fenway, and end up walking for an hour unsuccessfully. Bo-ring and unexciting food options (not to mention the surplus of green- and scantily-clad youth in celebration of St. Patty’s Day which was also that weekend)! Instead, we drive nearby in search of P.F. Chang’s, which is located inside the Prudential Building in (downtown?) Boston. After discovering the 1+hour wait time for both P.F. Chang’s and the Cheesecake factory, we settle for pizza and other food-court delicacies, Crumbs cupcakes, and frozen yogurt/ smoothies instead.
And it all worked out, because the next day we were up bright and early, one of the first groups in line to get tickets, to behold the wonders of ‘ole Fenway and its rich, deeply-rooted history.
I loved Boston. I will be back. And next time, I won’t be leaving without a lobster dinner (or three)!
This was my 3rd time in the Big Apple, and I can say I’ve experienced the city in 3 of 4 seasons, fall being the only exclusion. My first experience was in the heat of late April, and I can say it was my least favourite time due to the warm garbage smells and abundance of Splinter-sized rats running the city. I’m Canadian.. I’m all for recycling.. and I guess it was a bit of a shock to not find the same resources in such a large city. My second visit was in the dead of winter, and I found it the most beautiful and exciting time of the year. Again, I’m Calgarian, so I guess I’m going to favour any sights of sparkling white snow. I’m a helpless romantic, what can I say? (Fine, that might be a lie.)
Back to the present day and our enormously fun family road trip. We had awoken at 7ish in order to hit the road at 8 am. After smoothing over a small hiccup with the front desk (they didn’t have our reservation properly on file due to some computer malfunction), off we were on the road again. It was a painless 4-hour drive, and noon by the time we arrived. Thanks to Kate’s handy pre-planning, we were able to find parking for the day, even saving upwards of $30 due to the coupon she printed out beforehand. I don’t know if it’s every parking lot that does this, but twice when I’d been, an attendant had taken our keys and parked the vehicle for us. All parked, kids snugly tucked into their strollers, peepee breaks accomplished, we are famished, and head towards the famous Shake Shack for some grub. It would’ve been cool had the lineups not been monstrously long :(. Mind you, it was Friday at lunch hour, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. Instead, we turn back the other way, excited to try the Guy Fieri restaurant, Guy’s, which we’d passed along the way.
It was fairly empty, a little strange for such a big-name personality in a metropolitan city, but perhaps I know why. We had some of the snottiest hosts/servers I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting on vacation, even worse than the rude waiters at the Chinese restaurant in Paris. I had sensed we were being frowned upon the moment we walked in and had parked our strollers on the lower level. Our waiter was cold and unsmiling, looking annoyed about our small children, and even having an irritated reaction when one of us asked for a takeout container to bring the meal home. All was not lost, however, because the food was very tasty. I had a shrimp po’ boy sandwich with chicken noodle soup to start, with others having the pulled pork and/or beef au jus sandwiches and rosemary quarter chicken. They were mainly on the lunch menu and not pricey at all – in between $10-15 per entree if I were to remember correctly. Tummies happy and ready to put the nasty experience behind us, we head to Times Square: the gigantic Toys ‘R Us, Footlocker, the Disney store. The NBA store where I picked up a Celtics t-shirt (of course) and a freezable NBA mug that looks like a basketball, which John thinks is so ugly and I am super fond of. Lol. We visit the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, GAP, another sports store, and Uniqlo, and by this time it’s dark outside. Before we head Mashpee-ward, we stop by for some Halal Guys, the famously delicious chicken and rice with their fantastic hot and white sauce. Oh dear. I wanted to enjoy it in the comfort of our kitchen, so I held off on eating mine the entire 4-hour ride home, running in to put it on a plate and devour it in comfort. And for breakfast the next day. Some could not wait, devoured it in the van, and slept peacefully the rest of the ride home. Cannot blame them. The remainder of us stayed awake, telling ghost stories and getting ready for the next day’s adventures, including the Bewitched After Dark tour in Salem, Massachusetts. Exciting!
As Easter Sunday quickly approaches, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for great friends, happiness, and our safe return. In 4 days I can finally enjoy meat again… It’s been a long 36 days!
Beantown post is next!
As I sit on my cold, hard floor at the insistence of, and beside, my new potty-training-in-training toddler, I seize the opportunity to write of a recent trip I took to Boston and New York with a great group of friends (and family).
It all began with softball (and what doesn’t nowadays, apparently) and the dream of two like-minded, separated-at-birth friends who longed to see a ball game at the legendary Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. A “Green” fan ever since the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008, I was very excited at the prospect. That, and any place oozing seafood is enough to get me anywhere. So after a few late nights checking timeshare accommodations, calling many car rental places to compare quotes, and numerous vacation requests later, we arrive at departure day on a Thursday in the middle of March.
Our happy band of travelers consists of myself, hubby John, daughter Dani, married friends Mark and Kate, their daughter Audrey, also 2.5 years old, and faithful shotgun companion Aaron (who is a bigger person than I, managing to stay awake the entire time).
After collecting the big “Red Car” as the little ones called it (aka the Dodge Grand Caravan) and all of its passengers, we hit the road by 9 am. This in itself was not a seamless process… a chilly morning characteristic of the larger-than-life winter we have had this year resulted in two cranky, wailing toddlers, all within 15 minutes of being on the road. Bless their little souls, because that was the beginning and end of the crying fits for the rest of the trip. Yay, girls!
I shall take a minute to digress and do a little review of the Dodge Grand Caravan. My sister owns a Honda Odyssey, which I always found quite roomy and comfortable. This was not quite the case with the Caravan. Its ease in getting in and out of the middle and last rows via collapsible seats was offset by the cramped accommodations in the back. We had known to pack “lightly” (in either duffels or other soft-shelled packs) so we had enough cargo space, but literally just enough. Don’t plan on packing 4 regular-sized luggages in there. We kept a small cooler with water, juice and snacks in the middle row of the van, headed to Timmy’s for coffee and breakfast (of course), and arrived at our first stop, Walden Galleria, in Buffalo New York, before 11 am. After a visit to Dick’s for softball gear (obvi) and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (even more obvi), we headed back on the road. With the occasional pit stop for gas and meals (we can also name this getaway the Great McDonald’s and Pizza Feast, because guess what we usually ate roadside), we finally arrived at the Cape Cod Holiday Estates in Mashpee, Massachusetts, about 1.5 hours driving distance to Boston, a little after 1:00 am. After searching through the desk in the entry hall, not finding our package of keys, and instead taking the “Backup Set,” we unload, do a little happy dance at our arrival, toss a softball around, etc. and then head to bed to rest up for the excitement of the next day in NYC.
…to be continued. Dani wants more chicken! 🙂