North America

Never Forget

New York City is one of my favourite places in the world and I try to visit at least once a year.

I will never forget being there on September 11, 2006. It was a grey, drizzling day out as I made my way down to where the Twin Towers had once stood. 

I remember them reading out the names of all those who were lost that day and looking out at the empty space that had, until a few years earlier, been the towers at the World Trade Center—a sight I would never see in real life.

As I’ve been off from my job as a flight attendant due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been going through the tens of thousands of slides from my Grandma’s travels and recently came across a box labelled “Cruise from NYC to Bermuda 1993.”

As I began to click through them, one of the first slides in the carousel was this…

A grainy old photo she’d taken through the window on the cruise ship of the Twin Towers, standing tall above the Hudson River.

What a sight. 

I sat for a moment taking them in and thinking about their horrific end along with the lives of so many, especially those in my field of aviation. Today, I found myself going back to it and thinking about all the stories of loss and love that took place 19 years ago. Never Forget.

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Exploring Flowerpot Island

I’ve been wanting to explore Flowerpot Island for a few summers now and with Covid-19 continuing to impede international travel plans, this seemed like the perfect time to explore more of my own province.
Flowerpot Island is one of twenty islands found in Fathom Five National Marine Park, located off the coast of Tobermory on the beautiful Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.


We booked a glass-bottom boat ride with Bruce Anchor to take us out to the island, 6.5km from Tobermory.
Before heading to the island, we sailed into Big Tub Harbour to see two of the over twenty historic shipwrecks found in the Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Through the clear turquoise waters, we came across the Sweepstakes wreck. This schooner was built in Burlington, ON and was damaged off Cove Island before being towed to Big Tub Harbour where she sank in September, 1885. It’s amazing how much of this ship is still intact 135 years later.

The second ship found in Big Tub Harbour is the City of Grand Rapids, a passenger steamer built in 1879 in Grand Haven, Michigan. On October 29, 1907, a fire broke out aboard the Grand Rapids while docked in Little Tub Harbour. To prevent the fire from spreading, the ship was towed out of the harbour and released to burn itself out. Eventually, the charred remains sank in Big Tub Harbour near the Sweepstakes, where it can still be found just offshore.

The cold water found here has helped to preserve these wrecks, and just sailing over them, it was clear why this area has some of the best freshwater diving opportunities in Canada.

From here, we sailed past Big Tub Lighthouse, which was originally lit in 1885, over to Flowerpot Island. As we got close, you could see the ‘Flowerpot’ rock pillars sticking up from the water.

We docked at Beachy Cove and decided to do the full Loop Trail, 2.6km, including hiking the Marl Trail.

It was a beautiful day to explore the island, although we came across a few too many snakes for my liking!

By the time we made it around to the Lighthouse station, we stopped to have our picnic lunch. Here, we found out that there are also an abundance of little red squirrels just waiting for you to leave your lunch unattended!
The Lighthouse museum was closed this year due to Covid-19, but you could still wander around the buildings and down to the white rocky beach.

If you trade the rocks for white sand and the trees found here for palm trees, with the beautiful turquoise waters, you can almost imagine that you are in the Caribbean instead of Canada.

Unfortunately, the caves were also closed this year, so we just got to see the outside walls. The rock formations along the trail from the Lighthouse station to the Flowerpots were really cool.

The Flowerpots were definitely the highlight though. They were the reason I wanted to come here and they didn’t disappoint, standing tall against the clear turquoise waters. Crazy to think that these have been here for hundreds of years!

I took off my shoes and stood with my feet in the glittering cold water taking it all in (and wishing it was less crowded…) Such a beautiful spot.

After taking a bunch of photos at the Big Flowerpot, we headed over to the less crowded Little Flowerpot, finding a spot to sit and relax on the rocks nearby before catching our cruise back to Tobermory.

*We spent 4 hours on the island which was the perfect amount of time to hike the trails, have a picnic lunch and spend some time at each of the flowerpots

For more info check out: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive/activ/flowerpot https://explorethebruce.com/mobile/story/your-flowerpot-island-experience/67/

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Sunshine and Sunflowers

Like so many others, my travel plans so far in 2020 haven’t exactly worked out as I had hoped. I’ve really been missing getting out and exploring, especially during this beautiful summer weather.

I may not be able to journey as far as I usually do, but for August, I promised myself I’d get out and explore local tourist spots.

So today, I went five minutes up the road to check out The Sunflower Farm, located just outside my little town of Beaverton.

This beautiful farm, with 10 acres of sunflower fields, just opened a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to check it out. (Apparently I wasn’t the only one as the wait to get in with current Covid regulations was over an hour…. so be prepared!)

Once inside, you follow the trail past 1000s of bright yellow sunflowers. I was in heaven.

Sunflowers have always been my favourite flower so wandering along the path here, with a sea of yellow stretching on and on, was the perfect way to spend a sunny, summer afternoon!

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Watching the Tidal Bore in Moncton

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Moncton, New Brunswick with work this winter, and on a rare day off, I decided to go check out the famous Tidal Bore. This natural phenomenon is caused by the Bay of Fundy tides and takes place twice a day. As the Tidal Bore comes in, the water in the Petitcodiac River rolls back upstream in a rippling wave that can get to a height of 60 cm.

The one I witnessed wasn’t anywhere near that high. In fact, a man passing by commented that it was one of the smallest he’d ever seen. Oh well – at least I can say I saw Moncton’s Tidal Bore, one of the world’s highest tides!

You can find the estimated daily Tidal Bore times online. From downtown, the best viewing area is at Bore Park. Be sure to arrive early as many factors may affect the time of the Tidal Bore by 15 to 20 minutes either way. 

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Playing Elsa in Edmonton

Winter has never been my season. Although born and raised a proud Canadian girl, I prefer to watch the snow from inside, cuddled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee instead of outside bundled up in all my layers, still freezing. But, when on a recent trip to Edmonton, Alberta, my friend suggested a trip to the Ice Castle there. So, I decided to channel my inner Elsa and go explore this frozen wonderland, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

The original Ice Castle was built in Utah in 2011 and has since expanded to six locations across North America, including Edmonton.

Each year, the Ice Castles are built by skilled ice artists using hundreds of thousands of hand-placed icicles and then lit using LED lights.

The result is a magical fairytale world of ice with tunnels, slides, thrones, fountains and beautiful displays to enjoy.

With fireworks lighting up the sky above, making the ice twinkle brighter, it certainly is a winter wonderland worth exploring!

Planning your trip:

The Ice Castle is open daily but keep in mind that dates and hours are weather dependent. Entries are timed and pre-booking your tickets is highly recommended.

For more info and to book your tickets, click here.

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Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child currently playing at the Lyric Theatre, NYC.

The Battle of Hogwarts raged 21 years ago today and what a different place the Wizarding World would have been if that battle hadn’t ended in victory. We get a glimpse of just how different in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

If you are a big Harry Potter fan like me and get the chance to see this incredible two part play currently running in five cities be sure to check it out.

On a recent trip to NYC, I finally had the chance to see it. What a brilliant, imaginative piece of theatre. You are instantly transported into the magical world of Harry Potter. I was enthralled from start to finish. Over five hours of theatre and I would have willing gone back for more. It’s definitely a must-see piece of theatre!

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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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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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Halloween with Mickey Mouse

fullsizeoutput_c30Halloween is my favourite holiday. I love the decorations, Hocus Pocus, carving pumpkins, and most of all – dressing up. It’s a magical holiday, so what better place to celebrate than at one of the most magical places on earth! Disney World is one of my favourite places to visit and I’ve always wanted to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the magic of the park. So this year, I headed to Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party to celebrate Halloween with Mickey and the gang.fullsizeoutput_cb5

The event is a separate ticketed event that runs certain evenings from the end of August until November 1st.  Once you get your wristband, you are given a bag to go trick or treating!here were Treat locations set all over the park where you could go to get candy. There were also lots of characters out for photos and autographs, including those who aren’t normally out like Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas

There were Treat locations set all over the park where you could go to get candy. There are also lot’s of characters out for photos and autographs, including those who aren’t normally out like Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. fullsizeoutput_ca7

In Tomorrowland, you can join Mike Wazowski, Sulley and Boo for a Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball – a fun dance party with all your favourite songs.

Not all of the rides are open, but there’s still a good selection for those wishing to enjoy them (including The Haunted Mansion, the perfect ride for this time of year!)

Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade makes its way through the park at 9:15 and 11:15, filled with Mickey and friends as well as a number of villains.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go was to see The Sanderson Sisters in the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular! The sisters were back for the night to brew a potion to create the most Villainous Halloween Party the Kingdom has ever seen.  They were joined by a variety of Disney’s greatest villains and ended with their iconic song.

As always, there was a great fireworks show over Cinderella Castle. This one had a Halloween theme. “Happy Hallowishes” invites you to join the 999 happy haunts for an evening of fun!

fullsizeoutput_c97It was a great night at the park with all of Magic Kingdom decorated for Halloween, but one of my very favourite parts was getting to dress up in costume and seeing everyone else dressed up, wandering around this magical place!

Happy Halloween!

Info

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party runs from 7pm-12am on certain dates during the Halloween season, but you can typically start entering the park as of 4pm. Just be sure to get your wristband as only party guests are allowed in the park after 7pm.

Be sure to check out the costume guidelines on the website before planning what character you want to be.

Treat bags are fairly small, so if you want to hit all the locations, you might want to bring a bigger bag or buy one at the park.

The character lines are LONG, especially Jack and Sally. They are out before the party officially starts, so you can get in line early or try later at night.

For more info visit the park’s website

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Full length versions:

Happy Hallowishes Fireworks

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular

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St. John’s by land and sea

Newfoundland was the only province I hadn’t been to, so for Canada’s 150th, I figured it was time to visit the last province to join Canada.

With only a couple of days, I spent my time in St. John’s trying to see as much of the city as I could!  After getting screeched-in, exploring Quidi Vidi, visiting the two local craft breweries and wandering around enjoying the colourful “Jelly Bean” houses, I had checked a lot of ‘must-do’s’ off my list.

Two remaining were visiting Signal Hill and taking a boat ride out into the Atlantic Ocean in search of whales.

Signal Hill

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Signal Hill is one of the most famous landmarks in St. John’s. It’s part of the capital’s historic past, offering a beautiful view of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as great hiking trails along the coastline.

Signal Hill is significant as it was the site of St. John’s harbour defences from the 17th century to the Second World War as well as being the birthplace of modern communications. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. It’s a good hike up the hill, so be sure to have proper footwear. Part way up is a visitor’s centre, which this year hosted a huge Canada 150 sign to pose with.

There was also a statue of the mascots- a Newfoundland and a Labrador dog!Newfoundland & Labrador dogs

The view from the top was great. On one side, you could look back over St. John’s harbour and from the other, straight out for miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

You could also see where it narrows into the harbour, with Fort Amherst Lighthouse standing guard at the entrance.Looking down at Fort Amherst

At the top, you could climb up Cabot Tower, which was built as a monument to John Cabot’s 1497 voyage to North America and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.   Cabot Tower    Throughout the tower, as you made your way to each level up steep, winding stairs, you could read all about the history of the tower, the history of communications, and the historic first transatlantic signal that happened right here. The view from the top of the tower was even more incredible.

I made my way back down and continued to wander around Signal Hill. As I was at the top, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, a thick fog started to roll in until you could barely see 10 feet in front of you.

I decided not to head out on all the hiking trails since the beautiful view had vanished. Instead, I made my way down to the harbour to catch a boat ride out into the Atlantic.

Iceberg QuestIt was the wrong time of year for icebergs, but I took an ocean cruise with Iceberg Quest, hoping to find some whales. We set out of St. John’s harbour in the thick fog, which didn’t seem to want to let up. Our guide told us all about what we would have been seeing if the fog wasn’t blocking our view, and we made our way out of the harbour into the Atlantic Ocean.

We couldn’t see much, but had an enjoyable cruise listening to Great Big Sea. Just as we were heading past the sea caves on our way to Cape Spear, the fog began to lift!

We passed by the famous lighthouse on Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America.

(Another spot I missed visiting on this trip, but seeing it was still cool!)

Puffin flyingWe saw tons of puffins flying and swimming around, but sadly no whales on this trip.

By the time we were on our way back, the fog had lifted and you could see the mouth of the harbour,  Fort Amherst from the water and all the colourful houses greeted you as you entered St. John’s harbour.

While I may have checked out most of my ‘must-do’s’ in St. John’s on this short trip, I quickly added many more and realized I’d just have to come back to this beautiful province for more exploring soon!

 

 

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