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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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Macau Tower

Macau Tower first opened in December 2001 and since then has become one of Macau’s best known sights and a focus of its skyline.  The tower stands at 338m and has something for everyone, from shopping and cinema to dining with an incredible view and extreme thrills. 

The Observation Deck is up 223m and offers a 360 degree view of the area. From here, you can see all of Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Coloane and across the Pearl River to mainland China. It’s a great deck for snapping photos, and for the milder thrill seeker, you can walk along the glass floor, looking WAY down to the ground below.

For the more adventurous thrill seeker, head up to the Adventure Deck at 233m. Here you can walk around the edge with Skywalk. Plunge towards the earth with SkyJump or try the Guinness World Record holder for highest Bungy Jump. For the truly extreme, there is Tower Climb, where you can ascend to the very top of the tower.

If you prefer to leave the thrills to someone else, head to the 60th floor for a buffet with an incredible view at the 360 Cafe.  Here, you can watch the bungy jumpers go sailing by as you enjoy your dinner!

If you are in Macau, the Tower is definitely a must-see!
For more info visit www.macautower.com.mo
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Exploring the Vegas of Asia

A few years ago, my sister moved to Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China near Hong Kong, to teach. Knowing I now had a free place to stay, Macau quickly made its way to the top of my “Must Visit” travel list. I arrived not knowing a whole lot about the country besides that it’s full of casinos and was a Portuguese colony for years.

Wandering around, it was very interesting to see the meeting of Chinese and Portuguese cultures, languages and food, mixed in with big, elaborate casinos. Definitely an interesting place to visit.

Here, I highlight a few of the not- to-be-missed sites found in Macau.

 

 

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Sleeping on ice at the Hotel de Glace

Let me start by saying that I’m a beach girl.  I love the sand, the sun and the heat.  Although I grew up in small-town Canada, where as a kid, snow meant days off school, snow forts and tobogganing, I have long since outgrown my love of winter.  Even though I spend my time shivering and wearing multiple layers as soon as the temperature starts to hover around the freezing mark (and trying to stay indoors as much as possible once it goes below -10), this year, I decided that sleeping on a bed of ice sounded like a great idea!

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The magnificent Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, Canada.

I’ve seen photos of the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City for years and always wondered what it would actually be like to stay there.  So this year, I booked a room and set off to find out.

Of course, the day before we arrived, Quebec City had been hit with a major snowstorm and the temperature was sticking between -20 and -23 degrees celsius – perfect weather for sleeping in a room made of snow on a bed made of ice….

Upon arriving, I almost forgot how cold I was. The Hotel de Glace is incredible. I felt like I had stepped inside the Disney movie Frozen, into a palace created by Elsa herself.  Now in its 16th year, the theme at the hotel this year was “Rivers.”  Here, dozens of artisans work to create a truly magical world of ice and snow.  Each year, the hotel opens in early January and runs until the end of March. The hotel is built in four phases throughout the month of January.

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Map of the Hotel de Glace, stating when each of the four phases were completed.

The Hotel de Glace has 44 rooms, 16 of which are suites, each sculpted with a different River theme: an African river with hippos; an Arctic one filled with polar bears; a whitewater raft where the rafters have been thrown overboard and more. The rest of the rooms feature a bed made of a block of ice and a bedside ice table.

The hotel also has several ice bars, where you can have a drink served in a glass made of ice.

In the centre of the hotel is an ice slide surrounded by an orchestra of sculpted penguins.

You can even get married in the chapel here, if a frozen tundra theme is what you’re going for. (Personally, once again I’d prefer a sandy beach!)

After checking in, we set out to explore, humming songs from Frozen along the way.  Before dinner, we had an orientation session. Here, we learned how to properly get into our Arctic sleeping bags and what to do to stay warm. The key lesson here was “If you sweat, you die.”  While layers during the day were a necessity, at night they would most likely leave you shivering.

During the day, the hotel is open to the public, so you can only access your room after 9pm.  This is also the time when the hot tubs and saunas open.  After freezing all day, a nice soak in the hot tub was in order before drying off in the sauna and heading to our room to try and get some sleep, all the while chanting my mantra for the evening: “You will not have to pee. You will not have to pee.” Once I finally got myself situated in my sleeping bag and blew out the candle, I was not getting up for anything.

Sleeping on a block of ice turned out to be exactly how it sounds.  While there was a mattress on top of the ice, some of the coldness still seeped through. Every time you rolled over, you’d have to re-warm the surface under you. I had the hood of my sleeping bag pulled so tight, only my eyes could be seen (and I even had them tucked inside most of the night). Sleeping like a mummy inside my sleeping bag took some getting used to, but eventually I did manage to fall asleep – at least for a little while.

I’m sure I’ve never been so excited to see daylight creep through the curtain door – I had made it through the night without freezing to death! I had slept on a bed of ice, in a hotel made of ice and actually made it through!

What an incredible experience. I had channeled my inner Elsa (although really the cold DOES bother me…a lot) and checked another item off my travel list. I usually leave a place wanting to go back, and this is one I’d love to see again. Although next time, I’ll opt for the day trip option!

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Snorkeling the Reefs in Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re only going to do one thing while in Cozumel, Mexico, let it be snorkeling.  This island, a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, has some incredible reefs to get out and explore.  On a recent visit, I set out hoping to find some sea turtles on the famous Palancar and Colombia reefs.

Check out the video to see all the incredible creatures I found in the warm waters off the coast of Cozumel.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Take a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando. Travel between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley on the magical Hogwarts Express. Step inside Gringotts bank and take the thrilling new ride “Harry Pottter and the Escape from Gringotts.”  Watch the wand choose the wizard at Ollivanders and take a flight on a Hippogriff by Hagrid’s Hut. Then, head into Hogwarts Castle and jump on a broom with Harry for a “Forbidden Journey” before strolling through the shops of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, sipping a delicious Butterbeer!

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Disney ‘Wishes’

Clips from Walt Disney World’s magical ‘Wishes’ Fireworks display.  Always an impressive show!

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Coffee Tasting in Boquete, Panama

While in Boquete, Panama, I stopped by one of the local coffee farms to learn about how some of the world’s most delicious coffee is made…and tried a few samples.  It was perfection!

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Tales of a Travel Addict- The Trailer!

This week, I had some fun playing around with iMovie and made my youtube channel a trailer.

Check out Tales of a Travel Addict- The Trailer!

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Living on One Dollar a Day

What would you do if you only had one dollar a day to live on?  If you didn’t know where your next paycheque was coming from?  If you had to choose between sending your children to school or feeding them?

For many of us, this seems like an impossible notion, but for 1.1 billion people around the world, living on ONE dollar is a daily reality.

I just watched the documentary Living on One Dollar, where four American friends head to a rural village in Guatemala for two months to experience what it’s like to live on one dollar a day.  Each morning, they would draw a number from 0-9 out of a hat. This number represented how much money they had to spend that day. Somedays, it was 0, other days they were lucky and could buy bananas along with their rice and beans.  They took out a loan for $125, which had to be paid back bi-weekly in increments of $6.50 or so. With this, they rented a one room house where they slept on the concrete floor. They also planted radishes so they’d have some income once their crop grew.  During this time, they interviewed some of the 300 locals living in Pena Blanca, Guatemala. Their stories are both inspiring and heartbreaking, but regardless of how little they have, they are all willing to open up their homes and lives to their neighbours and these four Americans.

I’ve traveled to places very similar to Pena Blanca where extreme poverty surrounds you and I’ve always been incredibly touched by the generosity I’ve been shown by complete strangers, who have invited me in for a meal, even though they really couldn’t afford it.

Over the years, I’ve often found myself broke and struggling to pay rent and buy groceries, but I always know I have another paycheque coming or I have family, friends and options available to me when I get really stuck.  Those times are stressful enough and I only have to take care of myself. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have a family to support, be making a dollar a day and not even knowing when my next day of work will be.

Listening to these guys talk about their experience and watching the interviews they did with the locals really puts things back in perspective.

As one of them said,

“It’s not due to laziness that someone is poor. It’s not due to a lack of ambition or lack of intelligence, it’s because they lack things that we take advantage of everyday.”

We don’t realize the daily things we take for granted – education, clean water, food in our belly and a roof over our head. These are things we just expect to have. But watching this documentary reminded me it could just as easily have been me in that situation and still could be.

To learn more about the film, the project and to get involved visit  http://livingonone.org/livingonone/film/ or watch the documentary on Netflix

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