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 🙂

Father’s Day: Toronto Style

Today was my husband’s first Father’s Day in Toronto.

Given that Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, this city speaks to us.

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So we mixed and matched what Toronto has to offer, to bring Chris a Father’s Day that he and his tummy will never forget.

1. Since 5/6 of our family is breakfast obsessed, Father’s Day has to begin at this little Greek diner downtown complete with Greek potatoes and the friendliest staff.

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2. Then, to walk off the food coma, we wandered until we found free ice cream from Prince Edward Island (our former home). Ice cream is a food group in our family!

3. Bookstores (well.. the travel section) often call our names and before we knew it, we were the proud owners of these. Cambodia, Turkey and Arabic lessons were on this year’s Father’s Day menu.

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4. Then, tired and needing sugar, we found churros from Mexico.

5. The 1/6 of our family who is not breakfast obsessed required some falafel from Israel and Chris, being the sweet husband and dad that he is, participated as well.

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6. Tired from our previous night at the drive-in, where we “travelled” to Costa Rica to laugh at the corny movie Jurassic World, we headed home.

7. Nothing speaks Canada more than mowing the lawn (well… shoveling snow maybe). So happy dad taught willing girls how to mow the lawn with his new super duper old-fashioned quiet lawnmower.

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A perfect Father’s Day for the perfect father. Happy Father’s Day to all of you as well!

My Husband Has Replaced Me

It is not looking good.

Chris has found a new love. And it is not me.

Competition has arrived in a smaller and cuter package, one that doesn’t talk too much and will listen to all his stories. This perfect low maintenance relationship has begun and I haven’t even packed yet!

Yes, Chris, otherwise known as “I love to mow the lawn and trim trees and nothing more”  has entered the first stage of You are leaving and I need to get busy to fill up my time. 

Hence, the ominous appearance of these on the scene.

The infamous pumpkin and sunflower seeds that now shine in Chris's life.

The infamous pumpkin and sunflower seeds that now shine in Chris’s life.

Now to be fair, we have always been a bit of a pumpkin driven family. Enticed by the lure of fall, our family has been known to spend great gobs of time searching for pumpkins, playing with pumpkins and ultimately massacring them in the name of Halloween. Left to rot outside in the cold winter, we only remember to put them to rest once the snow begins to melt.

And so it is not too shocking that of all the seeds to attract Chris’s attention, pumpkins won out. The sunflowers were a peace-offering that I would remain “somewhat in the picture” as these are my favourite.

So determined to have the prettiest pumpkins and the sunniest sunflowers, Chris has turned on the charm as he lovingly plants and tends to his new garden.

Chris planting the pumpkin seeds.

Chris planting the pumpkin seeds.

I actually caught him the other night checking them out. “Apparently” frost was forecasted and he was deep in worry that his new “friends” were in harm’s way. Pacing and sweating, he finally managed to fall asleep, only to run to the yard the next morning to triple check their security.

So until I leave, I am now playing second fiddle to the dirt in my backyard.

Oh and the promises have already begun. I will be able to meet Chris’s new friends when they are born. Apparently Egypt Air will let them accompany Chris from Canada to Cairo. Well it is a direct flight after all… 🙂 If not, then we can still skype I guess.

(Special thanks to Ally from The Spectacled Bean who suggested the title for this post. Be sure to check out her blog which is terrific.)

Does your significant other have a hobby that “takes over” at times or borders on “obsession”? 

F is For Flat to Fortunate

No, not the flat prairies that kids dread driving through on hot sticky summers in Canada.

No, not the flat stomach that you wake up to and rejoice.

No, not the flat tire that occurred in the freezing cold just before another winter storm would hit.

Just that flat feeling that shows up, without explanation, and leaves you winded as you walk up the stairs.

Determined to go from flat to fit, I venture outside to run with my husband.

There. is. one. problem. to. this. solution.

I HATE running.

So quickly I retreat, retrace, reneg and return to C is for Cranky.

Grumpily, I tell my husband to go ahead. I remind him I hate running.

He doesn’t need reminding.

I walk. I talk to myself. I tell myself to think positively. I try to refocus, reflect on all that is good in my life.

And then I am home. Still flat, I look at a car pulling up across the street. It parks in that driveway. The driveway that has been haunting me for the last few months.

The mom gets out. She walks up to her daughter’s house which has now been sold. She examines the garden and walks around inspecting. She does this a lot.

I wonder what she is looking for. It makes me so sad.

I walk into my own house right across the street. I look out my window.The woman is still outside, puttering around.

I see my daughter, writing on the couch, and I go from flat to fortunate. In a glance. Guiltily.

(Sadly, the woman’s daughter took her life a few months ago. It has been very hard to watch the parents come and go as they have prepared the house for sale. It makes my heart ache for what they must be going through. We didn’t know them as we were new. But we still feel the pain as parents. Selfishly, I am relieved to be moving shortly, at least for a while, as the house is such a tragic reminder of a girl lost and a family in sorrow. Maybe when we return, a new family will bring new light to it. I really don’t know. But for me, I relish a new window; one with less pain.)

Thanks for listening. Cheryl ( A to Z )

Why Go? Some Family Facts On Halifax

Head to Halifax. It is a hit! In fact, a home run at that 🙂

Not only is Halifax a beautiful city with tons of character set in a harbour but outside its city limits, awaits the eastern coastline of Canada, a trip to die for or at least to drive for.

Beaches, ocean, parks, fishing villages, crafts galore, and seafood make this area of the world a must see destination if you are Canadian and even if you are not.

Our kids love Halifax and these are just a few of the simple reasons why.

1. The Wave

Halifax rises to the top; each and every time. Kids, teens, and even adults try to climb the wave at the water front (and with lots of practice, do climb it) and then if they are like ours, sit at the top in glory for a looooooong time.

Sitting on the wave and loving it.

Sitting on the wave and loving it.

Then at some point you need to bribe your kids to come off.

Finally coming down the wave.

Finally coming down the wave.

Then there is another park close by (this can be part of your bribing to get off the wave) where they can pretend to be on a ship.

Abby the captain.

Abby the captain.

2.The Discovery Centre

A hands-on science museum that will even appeal to tweens and even teens. We know. We have spent a lot of time there, particularly in the bubble area where you stand and a bubble encloses you. It doesn’t get much better than that.

3. The Ferry

Then you can get on the ferry and go across the water to Dartmouth for very little money and very little time but lots of fun. Yes, bang for your buck.

Riding the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth over and over.

Riding the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth over and over.

4.The Beaches

After, if there is sunshine (we can always hope), there are beaches right in the city limits.

Playing at the beach in Dartmouth.

Playing at the beach in Dartmouth.

5. Hungry?

If you are hungry and like diners with lots of character and personality, head to John’s Lunch for a cheap entertaining meal of fish and chips (just received best fish and chips award from a national Canadian magazine) or be like us, and go for breakfast. Either way, it is a win win for you and your kids.

Old style diner which is great for all.

Old style diner which is great for all.

They loved eating by themselves at the counter and watching all the cooking action.

They loved eating by themselves at the counter and watching all the cooking action.

6. The Halifax Public Gardens

This is an enclosed park downtown that has birds galore, ducks galore, geese galore. All this galore is heaven for kids who love to watch them and yes, sometimes even chase them.

Jade, when she is not chasing the animals.

Jade, when she is not chasing the animals.

7. Point Pleasant Park

Oh my goodness, this is a phenomenal park that has trails, ruins, water, beaches and a zillion other things kids can find to play with. If not, they can run and run forever here. And when they finish running, bring a blanket and find a place to picnic and watch the sailboats go by.

Then if you are from or going to Prince Edward Island after, you drive and hop onto another ferry and the fun continues.

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The ferry bonus if you are then headed to Prince Edward Island.

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Rodents From Hell – Part 2

If you read this post Why I Prefer Hotel Rooms to Houses and this post  Another Day From Rodent Hell you know what kind of a week I am having.

Just in case you are wondering, it is officially my 4th day of a self-imposed lockdown or for those who aren’t familiar with school terms, solitary confinement then. I am living between the bedroom and the front door for when I need to escape and buy food.

Yesterday was sort of a brighter day because my man in shining armour – well actually a black fleece vest that said Pest Control arrived at my front door.

I looked at Mr. Pest Control and fell in love.

I thought to myself, If I marry this guy, I will never have to worry about these furry little scumbags taking over my house again.

I convinced myself, I am sure Chris wouldn’t mind. Then he could go back to focusing on his life and stop wondering  how he is going to stop his wife from going crazy.

So I tell Mr. Pest Control all my problems. I am paying a lot for this guy. I might as well get some free counselling out of the deal. And he listens… and he empathizes with my pain.. and then better yet, he moves into action with those magic little black boxes, that will hopefully record a flight plan of mice leaving house, one way or another, and pronto.

I wait patiently in hiding while he does his magic. I pay him.

Then I can’t help myself. I NEED to find out the truth. I have to ask him questions..like a ton of them.

So Mr. Pest Control. What are the chances that this is one mouse working alone?

Ahhh, I am sorry to break it to you Mrs. Brave but these mice don’t work alone; they are into collaborative learning and prefer to work as a team. 

What? Always? I think time for independent work is important.

Sorry. This school of mice is one knowledgable gifted group. We have our work cut out for us.

OH. I hate gifted learners. They are so much extra work (jis joking). When will my house be safe again? ( in law – litigation to be exact, never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.. but of course, I do)

Well. in 2 weeks.

WHAT? 2 weeks. That is like 14 days. A million hours. A quadrillion minutes. I know this. I teach math.

I can’t do this for one more day, never mind 14 more. And Chris is going away again. 

So I beg him to stay and  to come live with me. (oh yah, and Chris and Jade). 

He smiles and walks out the door.

Now I am just left with the black boxes, the mice now 😦 instead of the mouse, my bedroom, filled with take out food and emergency supplies and my brain, which unfortunately is working overtime (and not getting paid) imagining what is happening out there when I am in here.

Another Day From Rodent Hell Or Better Known As “Cheryl vs. Canada”

OMG it is real. It is happening again. I have very bad karma when it comes to houses and rodents. I really don’t know if rodents includes squirrels, bats, and raccoons but I know that it includes mice.

So Jade was right when I posted Why I Prefer Hotels to Houses. The Canada rodent curse has followed me all the way from PEI to Ontario and has managed to break through this concrete jungle even. And I AM NOT handling it well.

Two nights ago, after Jade’s quick sighting in her bedroom, I saw that furry scumbag run past my bedroom door into the kitchen. From that moment on, I have been on lock down. I am in solitary confinement. And the process of Cheryl losing it has begun.

I know. I know. I have travelled. I know cockroaches only too well, I have seen my share of snakes.. but I draw the line at rodents that move fast. They are not welcome in my house.

So Jade thought my Alzheimer’s was starting early when she discovered the dog food in the frying pan under the stove.

Mom. How come this dog food is in the frying pan under the stove?! 

I don’t know Jade. That is strange. I mean, I am a little preoccupied, but that preoccupied?

The mystery has been solved. This little bugger (and who am I kidding… is there really only one? they always live in packs) has been siphoning off Jazmin’s dog food and hoarding it in our frying pan.

Ok, war on.

Cheryl retreats with a food stash and her computer to the bedroom for self-imposed lock down. No principal here needs to tell me what to do. And I am not coming out (except for a few necessities) until Chris has fought and won the rodent war. Wish me luck.

After we sold the house in PEI (which was totally infested with numerous mice, families of raccoons in our ceilings each and every spring and squirrels who ate their way in and trust me, there were no rodent whisperers who were willing to help us) Chris and I VOWED never to own another house again in Canada.

But in Guatemala? Now that might be another story.

Go Jump Off A Bridge!

As a family, what do we miss about Prince Edward Island in Canada?

The Beaches – but not just any old beach – this island has tons of them so lslanders in the know, can afford to be picky. Basin Head Provincial Park or known locally as Singing Sands (yes the sands sing so to speak but that is not theeee reason to come) instead it is theeeeeee place to jump off of a bridge or the side, if you are a beginner, into the water  (yes, my brother-in-law was a beginner at first (see pic above). It is a kind of “a rite of passage” place… first to know about it and then to do it. Fear..fun..fear…fun..one of those things. Oh yah, ignore all the signs that say you can’t do it. Everyone does. And the lifeguards watch…

Tea Hill Park – close to Charlottetown and fascinating for its tides. Think very muddy but perfect for younger kids. We have lost many flip flops and crocs in our adventures there.

Splendid Essence Restaurant – Allyson and I used to describe this place like eating at a spa but not the price of a spa. We would arrive all stressed out and leave totally chilled. And yes… the food is awesome and if it suits our family’s eating needs, it will suit yours and so far I haven’t found anything close to it even in Toronto. I want those dumplings and iced green tea NOW!

Cows Everything – its ice cream and its cheese. Jade looked at me in fear this year as she realized that Santa wouldn’t be bringing Cows cheese.  Apparently the Dutch cheese substitute was fine but it was no Cows.

The Chip Shack – We just discovered this before we moved 😦 The lady who runs it has major personality, likes to travel (BONUS) so she will chat about Guatemala which of course is thumbs up in our book. Oh… and the fries are frigging awesome as one of my girls would put it.

Oh.. I see a certain theme developing as food takes over. I also miss Twin Shores Camping but since everyone and their dog knows about it and loves it too (especially if you have kids) you have to book so faaaarrrrr in advance, that reserving a spot nowadays is tough for a blended family who schedules for a living.

The Dunes – a favourite store/restaurant that specializes in arts and crafts (local) and those from Bali. What makes it so extra special is its design (think museum like for adults, shopping for teens, and a Balinese backyard for kids to explore). This is a must stop for anyone coming to PEI. Google it and go.

PEI is no secret; it is known as a great spot to visit as a family and rightly so. However, the pot holes suck so rent a car instead or bring one you don’t care about 🙂