Where in the World

Becoming an honourary Newfoundlander

You can’t go to Newfoundland without getting screeched in. (Well you can, but why would you give up the opportunity of becoming an honourary Newfoundlander?)

This was a chance I wasn’t going to miss and was told by a native of St. John’s (thanks Phill!) that the best place to go was Christian’s. So I signed up and sat at the bar with my Quidi Vidi 1892 beer, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

A Screech-In Ceremony has to be conducted by a native Newfoundlander. Ours entered with his paddle, wearing his Sou’wester. He did a little speech about Newfoundland and being a Newfoundlander and asked us all if we were ready to become honourary Newfoundlanders, to which we all responded with a firm “YES B’Y!”

He then asked us all our names and where we came from before handing us a piece of “Newfie Steak” (fried bologna) and continuing on with the ceremony, where we had a shot of screech (Jamaican Rum) and kissed a codfish.

Before we were handed our certificates stating that we were now officially honourary Newfoundlanders, though, we had to recite an oath. When it was my turn, he asked, “Are ye a screecher?” I proudly replied, “Deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may yer big jib draw!”fullsizeoutput_ba1

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The colourful Jelly Bean houses of St.John’s

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The brightly coloured houses known as “Jelly Bean Row” have become one of the most popular photos used in St. John’s, Newfoundland tourism, but if you come looking for a specific “row” of houses, you’ll be surprised to learn that these brightly coloured homes can be found all over the city.

fullsizeoutput_b25Ranging from vibrant to pastel shades, a rainbow of colour hits you as you wander up and down St. John’s hilly streets. Many homes and shops are enhanced with “gingerbread” trims, in an equally bright, contrasting colour.

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These houses were constructed as temporary accommodation after the Great Fire of 1892, but many remained as permanent residences.

So where did this colourful tradition come from?

Some say it started with the fishermen who painted their homes bright so they could find their way home in the fog (or after having a few too many drinks at the pub). It was also cheaper to buy large amounts of one colour of paint, so they’d paint their boats and their homes the same striking colour. fullsizeoutput_afa

As fun as those stories are, the majority of the Jelly Bean houses appeared in the late 1970s as a way to inject new life into a rundown-looking city.

fullsizeoutput_bc1And they have certainly done their job. Walk along any street in St. John’s and you’ll come across a brightly coloured home (or a row of them!) Many even have Jelly Bean Row mailboxes posted out front, adding just one more splash of light to these already sunny homes!Jelly Bean Row Mailbox

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September 11th.

I still remember the shocked feeling I had 16 years ago today when my English teacher wheeled in a television for my class to watch as the second plane crashed into the World Trade Centre.  The feelings of confusion as to why someone would deliberately harm so many innocent people mixed with the sadness for all those who were killed.

Fast forward 16 years and I still sit here with those same feelings, but one now stands out above the rest – the feeling of what those flight crew members must have been thinking in those final minutes before their plane crashed. Becoming a flight attendant added another level to my feeling of loss surrounding September 11th.

Over the past year, I have been completely obsessed with the musical “Come From Away,” and especially with the character of Beverley Bass, the first female American Airlines captain in history. She was one of the pilots who found themselves landing in Gander, Newfoundland after the American airspace was closed following the attacks on September 11th, 2001.  She sings about her love of aviation, working her way up as a female in a male-dominated profession, and how she felt that day learning that someone took the thing she loved most and turned it into a weapon:

“When suddenly someone on air to air traffic says
At 8:46 there’s been a terrorist action”
And the one thing I loved more than anything was used as the bomb
Suddenly I’m in a hotel
Suddenly something has died
Suddenly there’s something in between me and the sky”

Me and the Sky- Jen Colella, Come From Away (short version)

That feeling of having something you love being used in such a horrific way brings me to tears every time I listen to this song.

The musical is based on true accounts of the days that followed September 11th, when 38 planes bound for the United States were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland.

There is also a book, “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.

fullsizeoutput_bd4On a flight this summer, I found myself stopping in Gander. Looking out at the small airport, it was hard to imagine 38 planes and 6,595 passengers and crew members arriving here, in a town with around 10,000 living in it. fullsizeoutput_bd5

‘You are here at the start of a moment on the edge of the world where the river meets the sea. Here on the edge of the Atlantic on an island in between there and here’

In a time of terror around the world, these Newfoundlanders did everything they could to make their unexpected guests feel safe. Both the musical and the book share stories of love, compassion and the unselfish desire to help those in need.

 

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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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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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