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Playas del Este- Havana’s beautiful beaches

While most people travel to Havana to spend their time exploring the beautiful old city, just east of all the glorious old architecture is a series of white-sand beaches, known as the Playas del Este.On a recent trip, we decided to stay in the beach area and have the best of both worlds as our resort provided a free shuttle into Old Havana.The string of beaches stretches 24 kms along the north coast.  While the beaches here are a gorgeous white sand, palm tree-lined, turquoise water heaven, the accompanying resorts aren’t exactly luxurious. Many of them have a worn down appearance as most are over 50 years old, but for those wishing to spend their time in the city or enjoying the beaches, they are just fine.

Hotel Atlantico from the water

Our resort was located on Playa Santa Maria del Mar, one of the most popular beaches, where many of the international resorts are located.

Weekends can get very busy with locals heading out to relax and parking lots soon fill up with vintage cars and mopeds.

The crystal clear turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling to check out a variety of fish.

But the best part was the incredible sunsets!

Getting there:  The beach area is about 20 kms away from Old Havana.

You can take the Habana Bus Tour tourist bus Line 3, which runs from Old Havana to the beaches at Cojímar, Bacuranao and Santa Maria del Mar daily from 9am-6pm for 5 CUC.

A taxi will cost around 15 CUC each way. Be sure to set the price before leaving.

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Havana- Classic meets Colourful

I just can’t get enough of the classic cars and colourful, and sometimes crumbling, architecture found in Havana. Even the gloomy, grey day seemed a little brighter with all the colours!

So here’s a gallery of some of my favourites!

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Bonjour Disneyland Paris!

I love the magic of Disney and always love visiting a Disney Park on my travels. So while in France, I headed to Disneyland Paris to cross another one off my list.20160825_2001171.jpg

Disneyland Paris is split into two parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.   While it contained many of the same rides and attractions found at the other Disney Parks, there were also some new ones like Crush’s Coasters, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth and Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalment Toquee de Remy. 

The nighttime fireworks spectacular ‘Disney Dreams’ was as fantastic as their shows always are, but this one was neat as on top of popular Disney songs and characters being projected on the castle, they also made use of those Disney films that are set in France- Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Ratatouille, with songs from these films being performed in French!

              **Please excuse the shakiness, 20 minutes of looking up without a tripod is harder than it seems!**

 

I’ve now checked five Disney parks off my list. Only one remains: Shanghai, I’m coming for you!

For more info on Disneyland Paris, click here

Bonus Feature in honour of my mom, who’s favourite ride at Disney is ‘It’s a Small World‘ and who had us all riding it multiple times when we were younger!! Enjoy!

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A walk through memory lane

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Honest Ed’s, the iconic Toronto landmark, closed its doors on December 31st, after 68 years in business as a discount department store. Over the weekend, the space was opened up for a four-day arts initiative put on by the Centre For Social Innovation called “An Honest Farewell.”

As we headed into the building underneath the bright marquee sign, we were invited to “Come in and get lost”one last time. Each day had different programming. Friday night was the “Toronto for Everyone: aMAZEment & Craft Beer Tour.”  The emptied out building was turned into a maze and, as always, with the multi- levels and passage ways connecting the east and west sides of the building, it was certainly easy to get lost in.

When I first moved to Toronto to attend The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, I spent many hours searching for treasures and usually ending up completely turned around in the maze that was Honest Ed’s.

This time around though, it was actually fun getting lost  as we made our way through the maze filled with art displays as well as the few remaining puns, posters from the many shows the Mirvish’s brought to the city and signed photos of celebrities Ed Mirvish met along the way. We also sampled beer from the 10 different breweries located around the building, including a special ‘The End of Honesty’ beer brewed by Henderson’s Brewing Co.

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Such a great way to say goodbye to the one-of-a-kind, Honest Ed’s, a piece of Toronto’s history that will definitely be missed!

Photos from “Toronto for Everyone: aMAZEment & Craft Beer Tour.”

 

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Canals, Windmills and Beer

20160823_154754The Netherlands is known for many things, including wooden clogs, canals, windmills and Heineken beer.  So this summer, when we had an afternoon in Amsterdam, we found the perfect spot to spend a few hours sitting near a canal, drinking beer in a windmill brewery! (If only we had wooden clogs…)

20160823_172253Brouwerij’t IJ  is located outside of the downtown part of Amsterdam, but is easy to get to by bus, bike or a longer walk.  There is seating both inside and out and on a nice day it fills up very quickly. After walking along the canal, we found a couple seats at one of the long, shared tables and began ordering half pints, trying one of almost everything that was on tap. They have seven beers that are always available and then rotate through a selection of seasonal and limited edition beers.  While they don’t have a full menu, they do offer a selection of sausage and cheese to nibble at while enjoying your beer.

If you find yourself in Amsterdam, be sure to stop by and check them out!

20160823_172356The tasting area at Brouwerij’t IJ is open daily from 2pm-8pm.                                                                               For directions click here
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Another year, another January

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January: the start of a new year and the month where I once again grow older. It’s also the time I start planning where in the world I want to be when the 12th of the month comes around.20170116_1128560

This year, I set off for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a few days of sunshine, sand and all-you-can-eat tacos!

 

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While we spent most of our time lounging at the beach and walking around the marina area, admiring the huge boats and searching for iguanas, we did set out one day to go zip lining through the El Eden jungle.

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Hand feeding iguanas

It was a bit of a drive from the Marina area where we were staying, but it gave us a chance to see some of the Old Town and drive along the beautiful coastline in Puerto Vallarta, picking out all the houses I would love to own!

El Eden is located upriver from the Mismaloya beach, above sea level in the lush green jungle of the Sierra Cuale. It’s a popular natural attraction in Puerto Vallarta that became famous after being used as the set for much of the Predator film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Here, at the El Eden Canopy Tour, we posed with the Predator before getting into our harnesses, drawing on our warrior paint, and heading to the zip lines. It started out slow, moving to larger, faster zip lines as you made your way up into the jungle to fly over the river on the canopy’s 10 zip lines. You also had to be sure to avoid the Predator, who could sometimes be found lurking about.

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If you make it through with your skin still intact (if you haven’t seen Predator, now would be a good time), you can celebrate with a beer and some chips and guacamole at the El Eden Jungle restaurant, next to the Mismaloya River.  You can even go for a dip by the waterfall or swing Tarzan-style into the refreshing, turquoise pool.

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Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

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Tips

  • Bring bug spray – the bugs are bad in the jungle!
  • The restaurant is expensive if you are looking for a full meal.
  • The canopy tour is great, but the price of the souvenir photo disk was not. While you aren’t allowed any cameras on the zip lines, be sure to take a few of your own photos before and after if you want to save some money.

 

 

 

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2017 goals

As always, my goal for 2017 is to travel and check more countries and experiences off my life to-do list. 

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a 2017 full of travel and new adventures!! Xo

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Country Road Take Me Home

dsc_0317My road trip to Tennessee this summer was basically centred around my love of music – beginning with Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton and ending in Nashville with country music. With only a day to spend in Nashville, we stopped at two of the most famous country music places in the world: The Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry!
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We started at The Country Music Hall of Fame, a place I soon learned I needed way more time at.  There are always different exhibits moving in and out. While we were there, they had the following exhibits featured: ‘Blake Shelton: Based on a True Story,’ ‘Dierks Bentley: Every Mile a Memory,’ and a big Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan Exhibit called ‘Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City.’ Throughout the Hall of Fame, they also featured staple exhibits like the history of Country music. All those who were big stars in each era were honoured; Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, and Jimmie Rodgers in the early years; then Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline; then onto Reba, Garth Brooks, and Trisha Yearwood; up until present-day Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, etc. There’s also a room for really new and up-and-coming artists. Here, you can find a replica of Taylor Swift’s tour bus and a huge guitar.  Continue reading

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Walking in Memphis with the King

I grew up on Elvis. My mom loved him and his music could often be heard playing around the house or in the car. Soon, I got to know all the lyrics and could sing along to his smooth, soulful voice.  Even though he died before I was born, like many others whose parents who grew up listening to and loving Elvis Presley, I always felt like he was a singer for my generation as well.

So this summer, on a road trip to Tennessee, I decided to stop by a couple of Elvis Presley’s famous spots.

dsc_0989Our first stop was Sun Studios, where Elvis was first recorded. The studio is found in an old industrial area that looks pretty run down, but in 1950, Sam Phillips started the studio here. At first, he was just a recorder. He had a portable set up and would travel around recording anyone and everyone, but the new blues style of music was his favourite.  He was doing all these recordings, but getting no credit, as the artists were taking their demos and getting signed by labels. This led to the decision to start Sun Studios. Elvis first came in to record a few songs for his mother at 18 years old. Sam didn’t like him, but the woman at the office, Marion Keisker, loved him. Over the year, he kept coming back to record songs and speak with Marion, and eventually sang something Sam liked. In 1953, he signed him. Over the next two years, Elvis recorded 5 hits before being sold to RCA. Sam needed money at the time for one of his many lawsuits to save the studio and knew Elvis would do well with RCA.  For 25 years, the studio sat empty. Then in 1984, they started recording there again at night. During the day you can take a tour, and at night everyone from U2 to Maroon 5 comes in to record. The recording studio is still exactly the same as it was when Elvis recorded there. It was also where Million Dollar Quartet was secretly recorded on December 4, 1956. Elvis liked to stop by and see how things were going when he could and one night he was there with some Sun Studio artists – Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis. They all started jamming, and Sam secretly recorded this session, but legally couldn’t use it for anything as Elvis was under contract with RCA. So it remained a secret until the 1980s, after Sam sold the studio.

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Salem-Witchcraft Hysteria to Halloween Escape

If you’re a huge Halloween fan like myself, do yourself a favour and take a trip to Salem, Massachusetts during the month of October.  img_6969Salem may be most widely known as the site of the witchcraft trials of 1692, but this colourful coastal city has a lot more to offer: impressive historic architecture, maritime heritage and a rich history spanning nearly four centuries.img_6958

The history and stories surrounding the hysteria of the witchcraft trials is found everywhere here, from museums, to historical reenactments, to haunted walking tours.

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