Happy Birthday, my travelling Grandma!

‘Travel is the best education you can give yourself.’

Growing up, I heard this advice a lot from my Grandma as she was showing us photos and telling us all about her latest trip. 
She saw the world and inspired me to do the same.
A lifelong teacher, she knew the value of education, but also knew that the world had so much more to offer than you could ever find in a classroom.
Only while immersing yourself in someone else’s way of life do you realize how alike we truly are.  Thank you for instilling in me this love of travel and need to constantly be educating myself.

Happy birthday my travelling Grandma!  I hope everyone up there enjoys your travel stories as much as I always did! Xo

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Taking a step back in time in Havana

fullsizeoutput_868Wandering through Havana feels like taking a step back in time with the old colonial-style buildings and classic American cars making their way along the narrow streets.  I’ve been wanting to visit Havana for awhile now, and the city certainly didn’t disappoint. The architecture here is beautiful, with many of the buildings painted in vibrant colours. While they may be in various states of crumbling, they certainly have a lot of character. It’s easy to see why Old Havana was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982.

Some of the main buildings, like the Capital, are currently under construction as they prepare for the city’s 500th birthday in 2019. 500! And to think Canada has just celebrated its 150th!
With age comes culture, and Havana certainly has a culture of its own. Live music can be heard everywhere with people getting up to dance along. There’s a rhythm found in the city, that even when you spend half your day running from the rain, you still find yourself caught up in. The city also has a rich history and numerous museums to explore.

Old Havana has four main plazas that are all worth wandering though: Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco de Asís, and Plaza Vieja.

fullsizeoutput_859Catedral de San Cristóbal, located in Plaza de la Catedral, is a gorgeous Cuban Baroque facade carved from fossil-embedded stone, originally built in 1727.

Stepping through the big wooden doors, you head into the chapel with a beautiful altar at the front.  You can also pay 1 CUC and climb up the bell tower for an amazing view of the city.

 

fullsizeoutput_856La Bodeguita del Medio, a short walk from the cathedral, dates back to the 1940s, when Ernest Hemingway used to stop by regularly for a mojito.

If that’s all you’re looking for, there’s a bar set up just off the street where the famous mojitos are served. Otherwise, the building hosts several stories and lots of nooks and crannies where tables are set up to serve delicious creole dishes.

Almost every square inch of the walls are covered in signatures of both famous people and those of us just passing through. We lucked out with a little top floor room with a few tables and a balcony with a view of the cathedral that now hosts our names.

Plaza de Armas is the city’s oldest plaza dating back to 1582, when it was used mainly for the military. Today, there’s a beautiful garden and statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. It’s also surrounded by buildings with huge overhangs – perfect for hiding out from the rain!

fullsizeoutput_80aPlaza de San Francisco de Asís is located near the waterfront with an ornate Lion’s Fountain (Fuente de los Leones) as the centrepiece and the beautiful Basilica Menor y Convento de San Francisco de Asís at one end. Today, concerts featuring classic and Cuban music are held here.

 

fullsizeoutput_80fJust up the street is the Havana Club Rum museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club). We made our way over and took a tour to learn about the history and process of making Havana Club rum. As we made our way through an old colonial building, our guide gave us a brief history of this Cuban rum and then showed us all the tools used in making it. At the end, we met at the bar for a sample of Havana Club 7-year-old rum before heading into the shop where you could purchase the various rums they make here. The tour costs 7 CUC.fullsizeoutput_8d1We also tried out two local craft breweries – Cerveceria Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y El Tabaco, which is located down by the waterfront, and Factoria Plaza Vieja which is found in the fourth plaza (Plaza Viejo). For more info on them, click herefullsizeoutput_8d5Near the waterfront is the Mercado de Artesanía San José. This huge market is a great place to find all kinds of crafts and souvenirs.fullsizeoutput_8eeWe made our way across Old Havana to wander a bit of the Prado, one of the prettiest promenades in the city, which marks the boundary between Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and Centro Habana (Central Havana), with colourful buildings, wrought iron street lights and trees.fullsizeoutput_8eaThe Capitolio Nacional building shares a remarkable resemblance to the American White House and is one of Havana’s great landmarks. The building is currently under construction in preparation for the 500th anniversary, but from what you can see from the outside, it’s an impressive building.  fullsizeoutput_8f4Continuing along, you come to the Gran Teatre de la Habana, another beautiful old building across from Parque Central. With all the old cars parked out front here, you could almost imagine great theatre stars of the 40s and 50s making their way out of the theatre after a night on the stage.

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No visit to Havana is complete without taking a stroll along the Malecon – the 8km waterfront boulevard which runs from Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta on Havana’s northern shore all the way to the Almendares River which separates Vedado from Miramar.

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Good to Know

* When you arrive, you’ll need to exchange money to the tourist Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). Locals use Cuban Pesos.

* Always set your taxi price before getting in.

* Old cars, horse carriages and bike taxi prices are based on distances and timing. It’s always good to show the driver a list of what you want to see.

* There are two Habana Bus Tour buses with two different routes:

T-1: Double decker Hop on/off – Offers a panoramic view of the city. The full ride takes 2 hours.

T-3: Beach Bus – 30 min ride to Santa Maria Beach.

T-1 costs 10 CUC and T-3 costs 5CUC. Both run from 9am-6pm every 30 minutes and leave from Central Park (Parque Central).

* WiFi cards are available for a charge at most of the bigger hotels, but the service can be spotty and very slow.

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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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Live a life full of adventures

This beautifully sums up my thoughts on travel. Always explore and learn about the place you’re visiting and go live a life full of adventures!

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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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“I must go!”

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Growing up, every time I would see a map or hear stories about other people’s travel adventures, I would dream of the day I too could get out into the world and see it all for myself.  Now, all these years and countries later, whenever I see a map I still stop to take a look a dream about where I’ll visit next.

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Traveler’s Heart 

As my travelling grandma used to say ‘Travel gets into your blood.’ 

I’m pretty sure mine starts in the heart and makes it’s way through my body with every beat.

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I want Adventure 

Beauty and the Beast has always been a favourite Disney movie of mine, so I was very excited to see the new live action version.

 Growing up I loved Belle. The book-loving, small town girl who dreamed of adventure, always reminded me of myself.

I loved to sing the opening song and would belt out ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell”, which remains one of my favourite Disney lyrics. 

And so, like Belle, I’ll continue to seek new adventures and hope you do too.

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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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