Where in the World

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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Taking a break from Cristal: Havana Craft Beer

fullsizeoutput_7eaSeeking out new craft breweries in foreign cities seems to have become a normal part of my travels these days, and Havana didn’t disappoint.

On a recent trip, we found two craft breweries to check out.fullsizeoutput_7fbThe first one, Factoria Plaza Vieja, is located in a bright yellow building in the corner of Plaza Vieja, one of the four major plazas in Old Havana.

 

Here they serve three different beers: Clara, Oscura and Negra.  You have a choice between a 500ml glass or a 3L tower to enjoy your beer in. A 500ml glass of beer costs 2CUC and the tower costs 12CUC.

As it’s located in one of the major plazas, this brewery is a popular spot for tourists. They have a food menu with a variety of options to enjoy along with your beer. fullsizeoutput_7fa

fullsizeoutput_8d1The second brewery we hit was Cerveceria Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y El Tabaco.  This one is located down by the water in an old tobacco factory, near the Mecardo de Artesania San José, a great market for crafts and souvenirs.  This brewery is huge and has lots of seating both inside and out on the patio.  fullsizeoutput_8d9Again, there were three different beers: light, medium and dark, and you had a choice of a 500ml glass or a tower. Pricing was the same.fullsizeoutput_8dc

While it wasn’t like a typical North American craft brewery, it was a nice break from Cristal and Bucanero and a great way to try a new brew!

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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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Campfire singing with Chip N’ Dale

I’m a HUGE Disney fan and I’m sure I have as much fun at the various Disney parks (if not more) than the kids do. But let’s face it – a day at Walt Disney World just keeps getting more and more expensive.

So last week, while I was in Orlando with my best friend and her baby girl, we decided to skip the parks and try out some of the free (yes I said FREE) things to do around Walt Disney World Resort!

20170309_190719We made our way to the campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort for Chip’n Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long, which takes place nightly in the Meadow Trading Post area of the campground. The campfire is lit around 6:30pm, with the show starting at 7pm. You can bring your own marshmallows and roasting sticks or you can purchase a s’more making kit at the Chuckwagon Snack Bar.  Benches are set up around the campfire and the Chuckwagon stage for the show, which is led by a guitar-strumming, joke-telling cowboy.

He gets the show started and is soon joined by Chip ‘n Dale, who welcome everyone and then make their way through the crowd, greeting guests, signing autographs and posing for photos. 20170309_191905 It’s a great character meet and greet option that has no line and doesn’t come with the price of the character dining options!

20170309_190813The show lasted about 40 minutes and then Chip ‘n Dale waved goodbye and headed back into the forest as we got ready for movie night with Disney’s Movie Under the Stars. They have a giant screen set up by the stage and every night they play a different Disney Movie. We enjoyed a bucket of popcorn as we sang along to one of my personal favourites – Frozen!

Both the sing-a-long and the movie were complimentary to anyone. You didn’t need to be staying at the resort or even have a park ticket. You can just show up and have a free night of Disney Entertainment.  It really is a magical place!!

 

 

Tips & Directions:

If you are driving, head towards Magic Kingdom and let the parking gate attendant know you are here for Chip n’ Dale’s campfire sing-a-long and they will let you through.  It’s the first right once you are through the gates (it comes up fast). If you miss it, you’ll have a lovely tour of the resort grounds and golf course like we did our first try! Once you get to Fort Wilderness Campground, let the park ranger know you are there for the show and you can park for free and walk over to the bus stop.  Here, catch the Yellow or Orange bus to the MEADOW TRADING POST area of the park.

There is also a Disney Wilderness Lodge near Magic Kingdom and the two are not connected. If you happen to end up at this one instead, you can either catch one of the Disney buses or head down to the water and take the boat across to Fort Wilderness.

You can also take one of the Disney buses from any of the parks or Disney Springs (where you can also park for free). Just be sure to catch the one to FORT WILDERNESS.

The Meadow Trading Post store and the Chuckwagon Snack Bar both have snacks, food and drinks for sale. At the Trading Post, you can also find a variety of Disney and Fort Wilderness souvenirs.

For more info click here20170309_190810

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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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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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