My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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Keepsake

When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.

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Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!

Passport

I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!

Splurge

We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.

Touristy

Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.

Unforgettable

I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.

Visa

Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

3 Ways You Too Can Survive Camping In Canada

Camping in Canada can be fun.

It also can suck.

After a successful weekend of camping, our family has finally succeeded in mastering the art of camping.

What You Need To Do

1. Simplify

For years I have made multiple lists of what to bring camping. By the time my lists were checked off, I had brought everything but the kitchen stove! It would have been easier to put the house on wheels and move it.

This time, no lists. Just a random walk through of the garage and a few items pulled from the dusty shelves. Repeat in kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and still 99% less stuff than previous camping trips. Already less anxiety and more smiles.

Okay, so when we arrived we didn’t have the fly swatter, the mesh protector for food, the cooler filled with food that we never end up cooking, the zillion ziplock bags but who cares? We had bug spray, a tent, some snacks (that we called dinner) and we could still call ourselves campers.

2. Stay Close To Home

There is no rule that camping means driving long distances. Arriving 10 minutes away from home, we had a campsite, trees, birds, picnic table, and a brook. We were camping within walking distance of our house so even if rule number 1 (simplify) massively failed, we could home and redo it. 🙂

3. Return Home When Redo Is Necessary

So after our first night in our tent without too much padding on the ground (remember we were simplifying) we returned home to grab our couch pillows so that the second night actually involved sleeping!

Camping without sleeping is highly overrated. Camping and sleeping make for happier families!

As we pulled out this morning from our site, both girls thanked us immediately for a terrific weekend of marshmallows, hot dogs, cards, swimming, fires and laughter.

What more could you want from a simple camping trip in Canada?

What kind of camping person are you? 

A Trip Down Rollerskating Lane

As I watch my kids grow up, I travel down memory lane.

Now although I enjoy this kind of trip, it has been made known to me (sighs, groans, protest, dead silence) that not all members of my family love this kind of travel as much as I do.

Sucked into their world of head phones, music, videos, photos, movies and anything that involves technology, stories of walking, running, swimming, biking can take a backseat.

It takes some creative engineering to break through the world of Minecraft!

Enter: the world of rollerskating.

As the kids looked at their roller skates like they were some foreign object dropped down from Mars, they questioned my sanity. Surely inline skates (the known) would be much better than roller skates (the unknown).

Nope! This was going to be a trip down memory lane. Roller skates or nothing!

After a few trips around the dark disco light floor listening to Michael Jackson, they had to agree.

This trip (at least this time) wasn’t too bad, actually!

Do you have any rollerskating memories? I was so happy when we found this rink as I thought that rollerskating had completely died! 

Abby’s Words

It was one of those days.

You know those days when you feel overwhelmed and want to pull the covers over your head and wait for the next day to arrive?

Until…

Precious sweet words uttered by my stepdaughter, Abby.

You know there is a special clock on my phone that tells me what time it is in Cairo?

I didn’t know that Abby. 

Well, I downloaded it so I will always know what time it is in Cairo when you are away so I can text you. 

And then my heart filled with gratitude.

Words do make a difference.

One Mistake You Should Never Make On Your Wedding Day

A wedding day together with 4 daughters, 2 nephews and 2 tag along friends to keep 2 of our teens happy is one busy wedding day.

Something is sure to go amiss.

Chris and Uncle Gerry (yes, famous Uncle Gerry – read here to know why) got their heads together to develop a fail proof plan to keep all the kids busy the morning of the wedding. Two guys, no sports to watch, why not go fishing?

Pumped, the duo collect the kids and off they go. Proud of themselves, they find a dreamy river where they all bait up and begin this bonding moment, a memory to cherish for years to come. Fishing together, laughing together, splashing together, the wedding day begins as two families blend and become one.

Excited to share their fishing stories and ready to return for the wedding, Chris and Uncle Gerry do a final head count. The number of kids don’t add up. Confused and a tad bewildered, Chris and Uncle Gerry recount and then look at each other with total fear in their eyes.

They have left 1 of the 4 daughters behind at the hotel!

They had completely forgot to pick her up and take her fishing. And to add fuel to the fire, none of the other kids had even noticed!

With their fishing rods tucked behind their legs, they returned to the hotel to face her.  Having discovered her fate, left alone at the altar so to speak, she had put on her happy face and spent some time with her nana and the other seniors.

Fortunately, humour was what was on tap that day and most was forgiven. Well… almost most… the word “fishing” still tends to interrupt the smooth flow of our blended family as we relive that moment, laughing hysterically at how that could have happened. .

Do you have a story to share on wedding mishaps? I would love to hear it. For one more of our’s, read here. 

H is for Happy

We have a blended family with 4 girls. That is a LOT of girls; at least in my books. Usually we gel but sometimes we rebel. At least a few of us that is.

Now in this blended family, I am the one who likes to stir the pot, mash things up.

We were supposed to do the usual in Niagara Falls. Which we did.

The usual version of seeing Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist boat.

The usual version of seeing Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist boat.

But for me, that was simply not enough.

I had eyed a helicopter. A helicopter makes me very happy.

A perk from my old United Nations days was flying in helicopters. I even loved being evacuated in a helicopter.

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But…what makes one happy 🙂 makes another unhappy 😦

Enter: our blended family.Three of us were on board and two of us were standing ground.

If you are the “on board” type, then get yourself to a helicopter to fly over Niagara Falls pronto. As teens say, EPIC! The helicopter is all glass so the experience and the views take you out of this world and even more importantly, out of the tacky town attached to such beauty.

In fact, it was the most fun I have ever had in North America. A short, expensive kind of fun but exhilarating and worth every Canadian dollar – which is worth less and less; great news if you are an American tourist however.

Happy soaring from Cheryl and only a part of the Family C, moving rapidly from A to Z.

Disney – Magic, Mickey, and the “Missing” Orange Stroller

A family trip of 11? More like a tour group and one that better have a tour leader, or otherwise known as mom.

In order to pull off this holiday, I did so much research that if there was a Masters in Disney, I earned it.

I knew my stuff; which day to go where; how the fast passes worked; how to get the most bang for your buck, Disney style. And yes, Disney is very expensive so you want every minute to count. No pressure eh? Can you sense the relaxation of it all?

So all is going according to plan. The kids are happy, the teens are happy and yes, even the parents and nana are happy. What more could you want? Well… autographs, lots of rides, more of said rides, and the odd swim thrown in here and there.

So here we are being happy at Disney.

But if you are like us, Disney is a “happy place” as long as you have the stuff you need like money to pay for everything, water as it is scorching hot, snacks and more snacks to feed as you go, fast passes that someone actually understands and knows how to effectively use, and oh yes… an infamous orange stroller (at least in our family) to keep Abby, the smallest one (in every sense of the word) going.

Well the moment… when Disney lost some of its magic, was when we returned to the stroller parking lot and the orange stroller was no longer there. We searched high and low, far and wide, and that little itty bitty orange stroller had vanished like pixie dust.

Now if you know us, which you might not 🙂 and you know Abby, which you might not 🙂 the C family does not go anywhere (other than a drive through) without the orange stroller. It is a need; not a want.

Allyson begins to lose it; who would steal this orange stroller, one of the bargain basement variety? One that under other circumstances, you couldn’t probably give away for free.

I can feel the magic, the dreamy feel of Disney slipping away as we grasp; as we clutch to our old memories of the stroller. I know,  I know, live in the present and be happy. We are at Disney, we can afford to do so, enjoy it, even without said stroller.

You know how kids don’t want to give up their blankies, their sippy cups; their stuffies? Well that stroller was our family blankie, sippy cup and stuffie; all rolled up into one. We had to let it go.

Moving on (more physically than mentally), we continue on with our day. Until…

Allyson spots an orange stroller outside a restaurant. She proceeds. She investigates. She reports back. It is ours. It has our family markings ( true but strange) and we know, without a doubt, that the magic has returned.

So after a small family discussion (or more like a large family fight… feel that magic) the results are tallied and the stroller is back on Abby’s butt. And off we go… glancing around… hoping the stroller gods are working this time in our favour.

So did we end up in jail?

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No, thankfully not.

Instead we ended up like we started.. a family, a little too dependent on a stroller, but happy and content with the magic of Disney.

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How Pumpkins Can Blend Families

Family traditions are always important; especially for kids. And maybe even more so for kids of blended families. Trying to establish routines, comfort and a sense of togetherness when you live in different provinces can be challenging. It takes a lot of scheduling, patience and effort to make it work. It just doesn’t happen on its own. But I wouldn’t ask for it any other way because what we have, in my humble opinion, works and works well. Our girls have grown up together and despite, not always being together, “feel” together.

Sometimes apart, always together at heart.

Early on, we noticed that certain traditions stood out from the rest. One was the pumpkin, apple and sometimes corn maze weekend. The girls loved this and so did we. In fact, it may be strange, but I tend to prefer the lead up to certain holidays even more than the holidays themselves. I am not a huge Halloween person but I do like getting the pumpkins and carving them together.

This year, we moved from PEI to Ontario which made us much further from New Brunswick; hence weekends and time together have been a tad more challenging to organize. The pumpkin weekend didn’t happen this year; in fact, sadly Jade and I purchased ours at the local grocery store in the end. It just didn’t feel the same without some or all of the girls together. As the girls get older and branch off into work and university, I reflect on the memories even more.

My father used to say that the only thing consistent in life is change. I am trying to embrace that change but during pumpkin, apple and corn maze time, it is a little harder.

How Chamomile Tea Brought Us Closer

Everyone always asks how it was to blend a family with 4 girls. When Chris and I met, the girls were ages 4, 6, 11 and 16. Even though we were living in 3 different provinces, it somehow, always flowed and ran smoothly; simply just one of those “meant to be” kind of things. No jealousy, no fighting (well.. almost none), lots and lots of laughter and many stories to create and now to share.

What I do think is that my arrival on the scene must have been a bit “eye-opening” for Abby, Allyson and Erin. I can be a bit out spoken, opinionated, sarcastic and of course, obsessed with travel to places they might not have otherwise considered. I think (I hope) through the years, 8 have now passed, they have got used to me and my ways. In fact through these ways, we have all become closer.

When you travel as a family even the simple things become more meaningful. One morning at Casa De Wow, when it was still “wow” in our books (read The Night Mom Lost It for later events and how it became less than wow) Abby and I were having breakfast. Of course me, being a tea junkie, was drinking whatever they had on hand… which in this case was chamomile tea. Abby declares she would like to try it.

We take our cups of tea outside to sit on the bench in front of our hotel. It is so quiet and peaceful as we watch a few kids walk to school and adults carrying loads of goods on their backs to market. A simple act and a simple pleasure. As we gazed across to the mountain we could see the ruins on the side. Looking around us, I was grateful for the scenery but more for the moment that the tea and being together brought us.

This became our special routine; morning and night so it was particularly sad when we couldn’t return to the hotel (when it became less than wow) and have a few more teas to share on our little wooden bench.

Abby got some chamomile tea for Christmas this year but I am certain that drinking it together here, in Canada, won’t be quite the same for either of us.

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This cobble stoned path was our view.