Where in the World

Strolling around historic central Lima

While in Lima, we took a free walking tour to explore the Historic Centre of the city. In 1988, this beautiful old part of Lima was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its originality and high concentration of historic monuments constructed during the time the Spanish were present here.

Despite damage caused by several earthquakes over the past century, it’s a great place to see some of Peru’s gorgeous colonial architecture.

Plaza de Armas, Lima’s colourful main square, was considered the foundation for the “City of Kings” in 1535 when it was founded by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. This public square is also where Peru was declared a Republic in 1821.

fullsizeoutput_1ca2The Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) is located at one end of the square. Every day at noon, you can go and watch the Changing of the Guards, an hour of music and marching (and high kicks!) displayed behind the palace gates. This is where the Peruvian president resides.

It certainly is a beautiful spot to wander around. Below are a few of my favourite sights!

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Swimming with the Sea Lions

Jumping into freezing, smelly water isn’t something I generally enjoy doing, but that’s exactly what this excursion was…and I LOVED it!!

While travelling in Peru, we opted for a unique excursion in Lima – swimming with sea lions!

Map of the IslandsWe headed to the marina in Callao to meet up with our tour before setting out into the Pacific Ocean. Our guide pointed out the smaller islands we passed en route, as well as different wildlife including pelicans and Humboldt penguins! It was a rough ride out, but as we rounded the bend to Palomino Island, you could already hear the sea lions. There were hundreds of them. They began jumping off the rocks to follow the boat, splashing and barking away. They were ready to play!Sea Lions

We got our wetsuits on and one by one jumped into the chilly water and swam out to them. The curious sea lions would come very close, sometimes even touching your toes, before swimming away again. We spent 20 minutes in the water swimming with them all around us. What an incredible experience!!

 

More Info

  • Went with Mar Adentro Excursiones 
  • Wetsuits are provided
  • Bring a camera that can go in the water, towel and warm clothes for the boat ride back…you’ll be cold!
  • Hotel pickup is included  (be sure to book that option)
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Spooky places to spend your Halloween

Halloween is my favourite time of year. I love all the decorations and costumes and how everything seems just a little spookier as the leaves change colour and the carved pumpkins glow.

It’s also a great time to explore some of the world’s creepier destinations.

Here are a few of my favourite spooky spots to check out this time of year:

The Catacombs of Paris.

Exploring the Catacombs of Paris

Exploring the Catacombs of Paris.

“The City of Love” has a darker side waiting 20m below the city streets. Here, in the underground ossuaries lie the remains of more than six million people. The bones are laid in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris’ ancient stone mines.

During the late 1700s, many of the city’s cemeteries had reached capacity. Some, including the Saints-Innocents (Cemetery of the Innocents) had gone beyond capacity. Here, people were buried in mass graves, piled one on top of the other until it became a source of infection for those nearby. In late 1785, the Council of the State closed the cemetery and decided to remove its contents.

Millions of bones

Millions of bones found in the underground ossuary of Paris

This transfer began in 1786 after the blessing and consecration of the site and continued until 1788. The moving of remains took place at nightfall, where a procession of priests sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones and covered by a black veil. Until 1814, this site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.

Nowadays, the 2kms of bone-filled tunnels is a perfect place to spend a couple of hours on Halloween!

 

Wat Rong Khun, Thailand

Koi fish

Koi fish swimming in the pond surrounding What Rong Khun

Better known as the “White Temple,” Wat Rong Khun is one of the most famous temples in Thailand. Located in Chiang Rai, this temple looks like something out of a fairy tale… until you get a closer look.

There are demons and villains popping out of the ground and hanging from trees all around the temple. To enter the main chapel, you cross a narrow bridge over a pool of hands and faces reaching up, trying to claw their way back to the surface, representing suffering souls in Hell.

And they sure are creepy to walk across!

 

Walt Disney World, Orlando

Mickey Halloween Lanterns

Mickey Halloween Lanterns

While it may be known as the happiest place on earth, Disney World turns into a spooky night out with Mickey’s Not- So-Scary Halloween Party.

Jack and Sally

Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas with Mary Poppins and Bert!

It may not be as creepy as some of the other spots on this list, but with all the Halloween decor, characters like Jack and Sally out for photos and special shows like the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” and the “Boo-to-You” Parade, it’s definitely a fun night out. Plus, it’s the one time of year that as an adult you can dress up as your favourite character at the park – and you get to trick or treat along the way, no matter how old you are!

Disney is truly a place where you never have to grow up, and that makes celebrating Halloween there even more fun!

 

And then, of course, there is Salem, Massachusetts

Salem is widely known as the site of the witchcraft trials of 1692, and the history and stories surrounding the hysteria of the witchcraft trials is found everywhere here, from museums to historical re-enactments to haunted walking tours.

During the month of October, this small town of 40,000 doubles in size as Halloween enthusiasts make their way here to explore the haunting history

You can visit the memorial dedicated to the 19 innocent people who were killed during the witch trials and you can also check out some of the film locations of my favourite fictional witches, The Sanderson Sisters from “Hocus Pocus ” 

Allison's Mansion from Hocus Pocus

Allison’s Mansion from Hocus Pocus

Salem has something for everyone and should definitely be on your Halloween travel list!

Zombie Prom

All dressed up for Zombie Prom in Salem

Next on my list of places to visit for Halloween are New Orleans, and of course, Transylvania!

What’s on your spooky travel list?

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Trying Cuy in Peru

One of Peru’s most famous dishes is not exactly a conventional one – at least not by North American standards. Here, though, Cuy (guinea pig) has been a staple in the Andean diet for around 5,000 years. Long before they were considered cute fluffy pets, they were raised in the Andes for food.

While gourmet chefs have spruced up the original recipes and are now adding their own flare to the dish, Cuy is generally roasted whole, with the head, teeth, ears, and other parts left intact. They are doused in salt and garlic to crisp up the skin. You can find them being sold as “street meat” on sticks in areas surrounding the Sacred Valley, but many restaurants in Cusco and a few in Lima also serve the dish. For Peruvians, Cuy is a dish served on special occasions, not part of the everyday menu anymore. But with the influx of tourists over the last decade, many restaurants keep Cuy on the menu for those curious travellers to taste. It’s generally one of the most expensive items on the menu, costing anywhere from 40-70 soles ($15-28 USD).fullsizeoutput_1be0

I like trying local dishes while travelling, but this one was harder than most. Growing up, I had pet guinea pigs named Fuzz and Magic, and seeing the little face still intact on this Cuy dish definitely made me feel guilty for taking a bite. If you can get your head around it and forget what you are eating, the crispy skin tastes a lot like fried chicken.

I certainly won’t be making this dish a regular, but if you are in Peru, it’s definitely a must-try!

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Watching Sunsets around the World

Watching sunsets around the world is boring-2

I am obsessed with sunsets and love to catch beautiful ones on my travels around the world. While any colourful sunset is beautiful, I especially love watching them set over the ocean, like this one in Negril, Jamaica!

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17 years

17 years have gone by, yet I still remember so clearly sitting in my English class as my teacher wheeled in a t.v., and watching the devastating images of a second plane crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City. I remember thinking how much anger and hate you must carry with you to be able to knowingly take so many innocent lives and how life can change in an instant.  This feeling has always hit me every September 11th, but since becoming a flight attendant myself, it’s only grown stronger.

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While September 11th always brings back feelings of terror, hate and loss, it was also a day where people came together with love and compassion.

Some of my favourite stories of this come from Gander, Newfoundland.  The recent musical ‘Come From Away,’  is based on a collection of true accounts of the days that followed September 11th, when 38 planes were grounded there after the American airspace was closed following the attacks.  I’ve seen the musical three times so far, and it continues to hit me just as hard. If you haven’t seen it and it’s playing anywhere near you – GO SEE IT!

There is also a book I just finished re-reading called, “The Day the World Came to Town- 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland”,  that shares stories from passengers, crew and the townspeople who generously dropped everything and opened their doors to the “plane people” who arrived in their small town.

These stories make me so proud to be a Canadian and remind me that even in the darkest times, love and kindness will always overpower hate.

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Climb that mountain

Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office of mowing your lawn.Climb that goddamn mountain.

Eight years ago, I was making my way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Our days started with a cup of chai tea and ended with group singing and dancing.  It was a six day journey and one of the hardest things I have ever done. Long hot days of walking, cold nights in tents on rough ground, holes in the ground for washrooms and no showers. By the end, we were all physically and mentally exhausted. Beginning the last section of the climb at midnight felt almost impossible, but getting to the top, just as the sun was rising over the ‘rooftop of Africa’, is a memory I will never forget!

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Travellers are dreamers

Travellers are dreamers who make their desires for adventure a reality

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A quick trip to Paris

The Eiffel Tower at nightParis – the city of love!

A city full of history, architecture and pain du chocolat!

I’ve been to Europe 10 times but seemed to be dancing around Paris. It was finally time to go see this iconic city that everyone always has so much to say about.

We arrived and found our cute little Airbnb apartment in Montmarte, just around the corner from the Moulin Rouge and set out to join the Sandemans New Europe free walking tour. I’ve done this tour in other cities around Europe and always find it a great way to get your bearings, find some of the big tourist sites, and learn about lesser-known favourites that the guides love.

We gathered at Fontaine Saint-Michel to start the tour and learn a bit about the buildings around us. The architecture here is incredible. I could have happily just wandered through the city looking at the buildings, but there were far too many other things to see and do to just leave my eyes glued to the buildings.

We crossed a bridge and found ourselves walking up to Notre Dame, and while we didn’t find Quasimodo ringing the bells, there were a lot of gargoyles up on the arches looking down over the city. This gorgeous French Gothic church was set for demolition, but was saved by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The book was so popular that a petition went out to save the church.

Inside Notre Dame
The inside is as beautiful as the outside – especially the huge stained glass windows!

We made our way along the Seine River and came to the new Love Lock Bridge. Across the way is the former Love Lock Bridge, but so many locks had been placed on it that a piece of the bridge fell off into the Seine! It was considered a hazard (and an eyesore by many locals) and was moved to a sturdier landing by the bridge. Not as cool, but still full of locks.

We added our own lock to the masses and threw our key into the Seine. The area down by the water was nice to walk along except for the fact that like much of the city, the smell of pee was strongly wafting through the air. Such a beautiful…smelly city.

The LouvreThe Louvre was our next stop. This incredible building stretches along the right bank of the Seine. It houses over 35,000 works of art and it’s said it would take nine months to look at everything. Likely the most famous piece inside is the Mona Lisa, but we didn’t see it or any of the other masterpieces as we just wandered the outside of the building. Sometimes when you have limited time, you have to choose what you have time to see!

The Louvre used to be where the monarchy lived and they continued to add to it. In 1989, a new entrance was built. Pyramid outside the LouvreIt’s supposed to be an invisible pyramid, but with its height, they couldn’t get the glass to stay without breaking as soon as the wind or rain hit it. Now it’s a bunch of small triangles with steel poles holding them together, making this invisible pyramid very visible and very odd looking next to this grand building from the 13th century!

Arc de Triomphe du CarrouselAcross the way is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a much smaller version of the main Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon commissioned it to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz. He had already commissioned the main one, but it took about 20 years to build, so he had this one made so he could walk under it in victory sooner! If you look though the marble arch you can see the Arc de Triomphe from one side and the Louvre from the other. Here, we were given more info on other main sites and our tour ended in the park.

Arc de TriompheWe continued through the park, heading towards the Arc de Triomphe, walking along the fancy Champs-Elysees area with all the high-end shops and restaurants. To get to the Arc de Triomphe, you must take the underground tunnel, as it’s far too dangerous to cross the 12 lane roundabout circling it! It’s a very patriotic sight with a huge French flag flying in the middle of the 50-metre high arch.

The whole time we were walking up to it, I found myself singing songs from Les Miserables, specifically “Do You Hear the People Sing.”  (If you don’t know this musical, go check out the soundtrack!)

Eiffel Tower Our walking tour continued along Champs-Elysees as we now made our way toward the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to have the classic romantic picnic by the Eiffel Tower so we looked for a place to buy baguettes, cheese and wine, but we waited too long and most of the bakeries were closed for the day. We realized we didn’t have a corkscrew and all the good wine needed one. Eventually, we found a little market with twist off mini bottles of wine, small baguettes and some cheese, so we bought it and continued to the Eiffel Tower. What an impressive sight! You see the image of the Eiffel Tower on everything these days, but seeing it up close was amazing. We found a spot in the grass just as the sun was starting to set and started our picnic.

Our Parisian picnic

It was definitely less than ideal. The bread was hard and the cheese smelled like dirty feet! We scrapped that and got seafood paella at one of the food vendors nearby. So much for our romantic French picnic!

Beginning at 9pm, there is a sparkling light show on the tower lasting about 5 minutes every hour on the hour. What a spectacular sight! After watching it again at 10pm, we caught the Metro back to Montmartre and saw another iconic Parisian landmark all lit up – the Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge

We spent day two at Disneyland Paris. You can see that blog post here.

The following day, we set out to walk around Montmartre, the artsy, bohemian area of Paris. I loved it here. We stopped at a bakery for pain du chocolat (delicious chocolate croissants) before continuing on. Montmartre is located on a hill, giving you some nice views, especially when you make it up to the top by the Sacre-Coeur Basilica.

The huge dome can be seen for miles. You can climb up the Dome and head down into the crypt here. If you are tired of walking at this point, you can also take the funicular up the hill to the Sacre-Coeur. At the base of the steps is a beautiful old double-decker carousel. Beautiful carousel near Sacre-Couer

From here, we took the Metro to visit the Catacombs of Paris. It was a long wait, but it was a very cool experience, exploring the bones beneath the city. (For more on that, check out this blog post).

Our time in Paris was running out and although there were many more things I wanted to see and do, they would all have to wait for next time. I had one more main item to check off on this visit… climbing up the Eiffel Tower!

We made our way back over to the tower, paid our €7 and started climbing. Climbing the Eiffel Tower

There are also elevators you can take, but we decided to walk up instead. You can climb as high as the second viewing deck. We stopped at the first level, 57m up, to take some photos before continuing up to the second deck at 115m. (The full tower is 324m to the tip). We toasted our success with a beer and enjoyed the view of Paris from up here. View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

What an incredible end to a short stay in the city of love!

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Watching the sunset at Rick’s Cafe

Rick's Cafe

Voted one of the top 10 beach bars in the world, Rick’s Cafe in Negril has become one of the most popular tourist spots in Jamaica. However, when the cliffside bar and restaurant first opened in April 1974, Negril was a sleepy fishing village with very little development. It soon became known as one of the best spots in Jamaica to watch the sunsets, and the crowds never stopped coming.

Rick’s Cafe was destroyed by hurricanes in both 1988 and 2004, but each time was rebuilt better than before.

Today, the 1.5-acre property hosts a gift shop, bar, restaurant, pool and live entertainment as well as lots of seating options.

You can also go swimming or try cliff diving, if you dare, off three different levels: 10ft, 25ft or 35ft cliffs, landing into 15ft deep turquoise waters below.

I didn’t get the nerve up to jump in, but watching others was great, especially when some of the locals started jumping off the highest platform, 80ft or so up.

Terrifying, but they make it look so easy! (Only locals are allowed to jump from up there. The highest platform the tourists can jump from is 35ft.)

Be sure to secure your spot early if you want a gorgeous sunset photo free of other people’s heads and cameras. It becomes very crowded around the edge as soon as the sun starts to dip. The live Jamaican music gets started around this time, too, adding to the atmosphere.

From up on the 35ft cliffs, looking down over the sea, the colourful sunset really is remarkable.

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Unfortunately, we had some clouds covering the last little bit of our sunset, but overall, it was still worth it!

 

Info:

-Open every day (365 days a year) from 12pm to 10PM

-Admission is FREE

-Many hotels offer tour and/or shuttle options to get to Rick’s Cafe

-Cliff diving is strictly at your own risk

Bring:

-Camera (or phone) – fully charged

-Bathing suit if you plan on swimming or cliff jumping

-Sunscreen

-Money if you wish to purchase food, drinks or souvenirs

 Visit rickscafejamaica for more info
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