Swimming at Wailua Falls – Kauai

Wailua Falls, located on the East side of Kauai was so alluring that we visited it twice. These waterfalls are extremely easy to access, you can literally drive right up to the top of them.  After we got out of the car and looked at the bottom of the falls we could see people swimming… way down there and this made me crazy! I wanted to swim down there too! How did they get there? I wanted to try it. If you look at the picture you can see them swimming (above) it looked so fun but how do we get there?

I had noticed a bunch of cars back about half a km down the road so we headed that way and found a little trail down the hill. This trail was CRAZY steep. You literally had to use tree roots as a ladder to inch you way down the hill. It took us about 40 minutes to climb to the bottom but we made it, BUT then we were faced with the river. (picture below)

River at WailuaAt first walking along the river seemed like an easy task. We were wrong! After slipping and sliding we decided to turn back. At that moment we came across of group of young Australians who told us that we had chosen the “hard way” and there was an easier way than walking along the river.

As it was getting late in the day so we decided to head back to the hotel and try again tomorrow. Climbing up the hill was actually easier and faster than climbing down. My kids were exhausted and so was I. The next day we returned and looked for the “easy” trail that the Aussies had told us about. It was right near the parking lot at the top of the falls. It was not marked, there was a “keep out” sign and just a little indication of a path. For those of you looking for the way down, if you stand and look at the falls, the path is just at then end of the guard rail to your right.

When you get down the hill, which is extremely steep, probably steeper than the trial we used the previous day, the deafening roar of the falls tells you how close you are. When we got to the bottom there were some local Hawaiians there, they had climbed down barefoot! They said it was the way they always did it and laughed at us all covered in mud from sliding down on our bottoms.  We had a beer with them and celebrated our victory in making it to the poolkauai waterfall

Swimming in the pool at the base of the falls was one of the greatest travel experiences I have ever had. It was beautiful. The water was cold and refreshing after a grueling hike down. The waves from the tourists way up above reminded me of how I had waived to the swimmers the day before as I looked down and hoped I could do the same.Wailua Falls at the bottom2

Wailua Falls, was a definite highlight for our family. The thrill of swimming beneath such amazing beauty is something I will never forget.

TIPS: Must be strong on your feet, strong balance and able to climb.

The second time we did the climb, we literally wore bathing suits and T shirts only. That way we could scoot down on our bottoms when needed.

Leave your valuables in your hotel!

Take some drinks for a victory celebration when you get to the bottom! Aloha.


Kariega Game Lodge

If you are looking for an awesome Safari experience, malaria free, close to Cape Town, then Kariega is an excellent choice.

Having only 8 days in Cape Town, we were really pressed for time but wanted to experience a Safari. Having grown up in South Africa as a child of a Travel Agent, I have stayed at the best lodges in the Kruger Area including Mala Mala and Sabi Sabi so I was worried how the Kariega trip would go.

IMG_4337Fast Facts:

1 hour flight to Port Elizabeth from Capetown. $100.00 pp CAD each way. (Peak season)

90 minutes transfer from Port Elizabeth to Kariega. $360.00 for all five of us (Return private vehicle)

4 lodges on the game reserve, located in the Eastern Cape. We stayed at Ukhosi, which was stunning. The suites are spacious and the setting gorgeous. I would recommend staying here over the main lodge.

Overall experience

We spent 2 nights at Kariega, this is not enough time. It got pretty hectic because we didn’t want to miss anything. If we go back it will be for a minimum of three nights.

The accommodation was wonderful at Ukhosi, the suites are spacious, the beds comfortable, the bathtub was heavenly. I absolutely loved it.

Game viewing.

IMG_4565 (1)Other than Cape Buffalo, we pretty much saw everything that Kariega had on offer. Lion, Hippo, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, White and Black Rhino, buck etc etc. Out Ranger Stef was knowledgeable and patient, showing us everything from Ant Hills, to Dung , to Lions mating, ya, we saw it ALL.

They have a road running through the middle of the game reserve (which to be fair is huge, 10 000 hectares to be precise. IMG_2691.JPG

With Lion and Elephant confined to the one side. I found this a little odd after my many visits to the Kruger area, but for a first time Safari visitor you may not even notice. Seeing the Hippo’s on foot was amazing and the Rhino sightings were spectacular.

Bush Breakfast by the river at the end of a the 5:00AM Game drive.


The food was plentiful as were the drinks. The food was not gourmet and I would have liked a few more game options,for example the Kudu stew was delicious. The staff went out of the way to make the dining experience memorable. Due to poor weather we had to dine in the dining room at the main lodge one night and this was not great, but the boma dinner the first night, and the lunches and bush breakfasts were fantastic.

Kariega was great, an exciting and a fun adventure for my entire family.  If it is your first time to South Africa and you want a Safari experience close to Capetown, this is what you are looking for.


I realize now that I did not even mention our visit to the Musee d’orsay, this is the museum that houses great works of art from Monet, Van Gough and Gaugan, this is the problem with Paris, it is so amazing, so filled with incredible things, that you can omit huge details, and the day still seems full. I also did not not mention Sophie sitting with a dog in the fancy restaurant, the kids newly developed skills of gypsy avoidance, the tiny little hotel room that we shared in Paris and the incredible visit to the Luxembourg gardens. Due to the fact that it is 12:00 at night and I am completely exhausted and need to get some sleep as we prepare for our big day tomorrow you are jut going to have to trust me when I say, Paris is the most incredible city. It was mind blowing, I loved it!

Two hour line up to climb the stairs of Notre Dame Cathedral

We woke up today at 10:00, we needed the rest! After breakfast we checked out of our hotel, left our luggage in the basement and walked 5 minutes to Notre Dame Cathedral. This building is so beautiful that you can not help but feel moved by it. We waited in line for almost two hours to climb to the top and visit with the many gargoyles and get a chance to see the bell tower.

Making Gargoyle faces at the top of Notre Dame

The last time I was in Paris, I could not afford any of the entrance fees to museums and attractions. I did not see the inside of the Louvre or the Musee d’orsay, I did not get to go up the Eiffel tower or climb the ancient stairs to Notre Dames bell tower, this time I did! I feel so lucky to have had this time in Paris. Seeing the children pull faces at the Gargoyles as we looked over Paris was so special. This was my favorite day so far.

After our visit at Notre Dame, we headed to a shop to pick up supplies, Salami, cheese, wine and bread all enjoyed picnic style, this is the way we have eaten almost every lunch in Paris and it was a fitting end to an amazing four days. We picked up our luggage at the hotel and headed to the Metro for our trip to the Gard du Nord station.

I will say it again, the Metro is hell, it is hot, full of people and scary, we had to let two trains go by before we felt it was open and safe enough to get on. I can not tell you how relieved I was to get to the station and say goodbye to the Paris Subway system for good!

Our train to Holland left Paris at 5:45. France was an experience like no other, it has rocked my world, I loved being in this country. Thank you France, for an incredibly memorable experience.

I will sign off now, I am off to “Efteling” tomorrow, this is a theme park in in southern Holland all based on scary fairy tales…so I need to get some sleep if you are curious here is the web site. Efteling

Tomorrow I will bring us up to date on my travels through Holland mainly the lakes, Hilversum and Amsterdam.

Paris kids 2010

Climbing the Eiffel Tower and roaming the streets of Paris…. with kids.

July 15 Paris


Up again at 7:30 AM uggggh, Paris is exhausting! We had a succulent breakfast and then hit the road for the Eiffel Tower, today was the day that Joshua would achieve his life goal of climbing the tower. We got to the tower at 8:45 AM and the line to climb the stairs was only 20 minutes…excellent! This is a critical travel tip, if you want to go up the Eiffel tower make it your first stop of the day, and make it early. Otherwise expect wait times of 2 hours or more.



Tired 7 year old being carried by his brother through the streets of Paris

The climb was not bad, Joshua, Sophie and Connor were amazing and climbed the stairs without complaint. Connor even carried up our backpack. After the tower climb, we walked the Champs Elysee, had a picnic in the park, wandered the streets of St-Germain-des-Prés,  visited Place de la Concord, and worked our way back to our hotel on the left bank by 6:00. We spent an hour or so getting ready for a nice “last dinner in Paris” evening and actually ate at a decent hour (8:00). We were in bed for a 10:00, happy but tired.



Never go to Paris on Bastille day.

Edit note: This is a series of originally private memoirs from my family trip to Europe. Click here for the start of this series. 28 Days in Europe with the kids

July 14th Bastille Day in Paris

img_4140Up at 7:30 for Breakfast and then off to the Louvre. We got there at 8:30, half an hour before it opened, and there was already a line! We did not know that because it was Bastille day, the Louvre had free admission, score! We made a beeline for the Mona Lisa, because we were there early there were only about 100 people in front of the famous painting so we were able to get a great look. The Louvre is so filled with great works of art that we couldn’t possibly see them all in one day and after a while its hard to keep your perspective, we bought a book that describes the most famous pieces so that we could understand what we were looking at. Picture shows us at “Wedding at Cana.” This is the painting right across the hall from the Mona Lisa

Now here is some very good advice to all you travelers out there; Never go to Paris on Bastille Day.

1) All major attractions, except the Louvre are closed.

2) There are police, soliders and French patriots EVERYWHERE

3) It rains buckets (okay this could have happened any day but it just so happened that is was on Bastille day this year that more rain fell in four hours than for the past 6 weeks)

As we walked out of the Louvre it was pouring rain, we bought two umbrellas and tried to walk through the streets to get to the Champs Elysee but this was pointless as all streets were closed for Bastille Day…grrrrr, it was so frustrating we were getting soaking wet, there were gypsies trying to rob us, puddles and rivers everywhere, what was happening to my dream Paris holiday?

20100714_3114We spotted a Bistro across the road and ran for it, I think we got inside just as the lightning and thunder happened. Joshua asked me if it was “midnight” the sky was pitch black it was unbelievable, it was actually only 1:00 PM. The bistro was, however our safe haven. We promptly ordered a litre of the house wine and settled in for the afternoon. 110 Euros later, the kids were well fed on all sorts of French delicacies, I was much more mellow, all of a sudden Paris was good again. It was still lightly raining at 3:00 and we set off.

img_4191By 3:30 the rain had stopped and we found our selves in the middle of a french army “meet and greet” Connor, Sophie and Josh got to put on French Army gear, ride on a tank, sit on a helicopter and practice finding land mines. Is it actually okay to go to Paris on Bastille day?  I still say no, but the kids did like it, at one point I think I said to Chris,” I did not come to Paris to try on a Army uniform,” haha, its all good.

At this point the sun came out and we ventured over to the Eiffel tower, it was packed with tourists and the lines were at the two hour wait point. We decided to go back to our left bank hotel, shower and have dinner.


Enroute, we stopped off at the gardens outside of the Louvre where we went on the largest Ferris wheel in France, ate some cotton candy and goofed around a little. By the time we made it back to our hotel it was 9:30 PM, we got showered, dressed up and went out for a great dinner. At 11:00 all the fireworks went off but we were too busy eating and drinking to really care, at 12:00 we again fell into bed, completely wiped out.


La Ciotat- Marseilles- Paris

Okay, I am semi-recovered from the Paris portion of our trip. It has taken two full days of spoiling by Colleen and Falco to return me to my normal self.  I will now try to catch up. The next few posts will be about our four days in Paris.

July 13th. La Ciotat to Paris.

We were up early this morning to drive to Marseilles. We had asked the front desk clerk how early he thought we should leave as the GPS said it was a 20 minute drive, ” An hour or two,” he said. It was lucky we left early and listened to him! The drive into Marseilles was nothing less than terrifying, I can honestly say that driving a car into the third largest city in France was not something for the faint hearted. At times we were surrounded by hundreds of crazy drivers swerving and honking at us and other times we crawled along at no more than one km an hour. I highly recommend not retuning rental cars to city locations. It was a huge contrast to the nice small city of Narbonne where we picked up the car, returning the car was incredibly stressful.

Once we got rid of the car, we found our train and settled in for the 3 hour ride to Paris. It was fantastic, super quite, really fast and nice and comfy. On arrival in Paris at 3:45 PM we made our way down to the Metro station where the madness began. The subway was absolutely packed with people, Chris and I split up the kids and held on to our bags and literally pushed our way onto the subway. It was scary and hot and I was sweating buckets by the time we got off at our stop. We went up the escaltor, kept away from the gypsies and homeless lunatics to get to street level…ahhh Paris, it was beautiful, the past half hour of subway hell was forgotten.

We found ourselves in front of Notre Dame Cathedral which is breathtaking. We pulled our suitcases along the cobbled streets, through Bistros and shops and found our hotel just five blocks away from the center of Paris. On first sight the hotel is pretty shabby, but it is clean, run by a wonderful French family and super cheap, 155 Euros a night Breakfast included. We dumped our luggage in the room and hit the town.

img_4054First stop, dinner. We went into a fabulous little bistro and had pepper steaks, frites and wine, yummy! Then we got tickets for a river cruise and traveled up and down the Seine. It was a great evening that ended with a kiss from Joshua under the Eiffel Tower. We returned to our cruise boat which took us back to our hotel, we fell into bed at 11:30 excited about the next day.

Kissing Joshua under the Eiffel Tower.
Cruising the Seine


Four Days in Paris

img_4506We arrived in Holland last night at 8:25 PM. We left Paris by train and flew through Northern France, Belgium and Holland. The train system is wonderful and so relaxing compared to driving. I will write about the rental car nightmare in Marseilles shortly.

I am totally and forever changed by the France experience, it is the most beautiful country. Paris was such an incredibly visceral experience, dirty gypsies, millions of people, cars, bikes, boats, trains, subways, dogs in restaurants, beggars, beautiful buildings, excellent food, smokers everywhere, tiny hotel rooms, my head is spinning.

I think I am going to take a day to chill in Holland and then bring my blogging up to date.

Talk soon, love V

Edit note October 12th 2017…. I am not sure why I called this post four days in Paris. I think I wanted to let family and friends know we had made it safely to Holland. I already mentioned that I did this trip with out a cell phone , writing my posts on borrowed computers as I traveled. I still can’t believe that, talk about old school! The next few posts detail the four days in Paris. I’ll start posting them tomorrow.

Vezenobres-Chateauneuf-du-Pape – La Ciotat. South of France

It is our last day on the Mediterranean and we are not ready to leave. Since I am a few days behind I will start with where we left off.

July 10th. Vezenobres- Chateauneuf-du Pape- Aix en Provence- La Ciotat

After a frantic few hours of getting ready to leave the house in Vezenobres we were on our way to the Mediterranean. The house was perfect for our group and we had the most wonderful time there. Cleaning up however, was a major task and the kids must have had to do 10 trips to the garbage depot down the street. We drove from Vezenobres to Chateauneuf- du- Pape via Uzes, a beautiful little town. It was market day and the roads were lined with vendors and shoppers, this caused us to crawl though the streets, it was wonderful to see the town in action but it added 30 minutes to our drive to Chateauneuf – du – Pape. We arrived at 1230 and discovered that even wine farms close for a two hour seista so we went for a fantastical lunch where I finally got to eat some escargot. Chateauxneuf-du- Pape is a village that is famous for its wines. This Village is probably the most well know of the Cotes du Rhone area and is remarkable.

20100710_2879We visited three farms and I have to be honest with you, by the last farm the wine were all starting to taste the same. Wine tasting is free and an amazing experience, you get to go into the cellars with a very educated grower and they let you try all of their wines. We bought a few bottles, Colleen and Falco who live in Holland and are driving home, bought a few cases. We felt quite jealous that we could not do the same.

Next stop was Aix.This is a super cool city, where everyone is beautiful, well dressed and fabulously fashionable. We wandered the streets for a couple of hours, let the kids ride on the carousel and took in the sights. At this point is was approaching 6:00 so we thought it best to get to our coastal hotel in La Ciotat.

img_3933On arrival we rushed to the pool. It is an infinity pool on the fifth floor of the hotel that offers an amazing view of the ocean and the city. It is even hotter here that it was in Vezenobres and I am keenly aware that bringing Jeans was ridiculous! There is a night market taking place and everything was a buzz. We were quite exhausted from the very busy day so we ate diner at 1000 and crashed at 1130.

Sunday July 12

Today was a beach day, we walked 15 minutes to a little grotto, drank beers and played in the Mediterranean. There were hundreds of fish and Sophie and I even saw a sea snake. I am so glad I brought the Masks and Fins as we have used them often. There is a farmers market outside of our hotel so at 2:00 , for 12 Euros we bought a whole chicken, Garlic roast potatoes, a huge piece of ham and roasted read pepper. Using a little plastic knife we cut up the feast and toasted this beautiful place. We feel so privileged and lucky to experience this, it is quite simply wonderful.

After the chicken feast we swam in the pool, showered and got dressed. We ate dinner in an amazing restaurant overlooking the harbor, and at 8:30 watched the final game of the world cup in an outdoor cafe. Amazing, what a day.

Monday July 13.

20100712_2948Today we drove to Cassis to spend the morning on the beach with Pekka and Kirsten. We rented a paddle boat, fed the huge fish in the ocean and laughed as they almost jumped into the boat. I am rushing now as I have to leave for dinner so I am going to make this short. We have really enjoyed this beach part of our holiday but sadly we have train tickets that leave tomorrow at 12:45 for Paris.

We have to get up early to drive to Marseilles, return the rental car and take the high speed, TGV train to Paris. This trip takes three hours. To drive it would be close to 9 hours! It is unlikely that I will write until I go to Holland on Saturday since I will not have access to a computer.

PS. In France they kiss three times to say hello in the south and four times in Paris..who knew…?


Final Days in the Languedoc

So the week has flown by and we are busy getting ready to leave early tomorrow morning to go to La Ciotat on the South Coast of France. We are leaving here nice an early for some wine tasting at Chateaux Neuf du Pape, a stop in Aix en Provence and then down to the Mediterranean Sea.


The past few days have been a blur of Chocolate Croissants, swims in the local river, great food wine and friends. It was Chris’ 45th birthday yesterday and we celebrated with a grand breakfast of pastries and fruit. We then went to Anduze, a nearby town that is stunning, located in the middle of many wine farms and rivers.

20100708_2749Afterwards we went swimming in the local river, it is crystal clear, full of huge fish and warm. Amazing. The kids spent hours going down the natural watersides and jumping off the rocks. I have never seen Sophie or Joshua so tanned as it is 35 degrees every single day. It is a little hot at night, we sleep with the windows open and the sounds of bugs, frogs and birds gives the kids all sorts of crazy dreams. Last night Joshua was convinced a praying mantis was on his arm and at 3:00 AM Chris had to get the flash light to show that there was nothing in the bed with him. 20100708_2736Being here in the South of France has been wonderful, we have all had a chance to pause, sleep, swim and eat. This is something we all needed.


South of France, I love you.

Behind again, and this is while we are in the “down time” of the vacation. I have wifi at the Villa and the use of Colleens MAC… Whew…I probably won’t write much at all after Friday since we are on the road. So I am going to give it all I have while I am able to.

Right now we are in a Villa in Vezenobres, France.  This is an ancient town about 40 minutes from Nimes. It is 30 degrees every day, sunny and gorgeous. There are lavender fields all around us that provide the air with an amazing perfumed sent, there are sunflower fields and olive groves and wine fields and other incredible sights, I can not even begin to tell you how beautiful this part of the world is. As you walk out our front door there is a fig tree groaning with fruit and rosemary bushes that explode with smell when you brush past them, and the French! They are amazing. I am never made to feel stupid as I stumble though the language, they are gracious and lovely and so welcoming to my family.


There are negatives, I am gorging myself on fruit and wine, cheese and pastries. So much for keeping trim! Today we stopped at a fruit stand enroute to Nimes and bought Apricots that were the most succulent things ever! The woman who sold them to me ripped one apart for me to sample, it had blemishes on it, not the perfect looking fruit we have in Canada and I was hesitant to try it but when I did, wow. Sweet! Juicy! Amazing! Literally exploding with flavor, wow!

Okay so what are we doing? Yesterday was a big adventure day. Kirsten and Pekka had visited this region two years ago and gone Canoeing on the local river, convinced us that it would be fun. Who knew?…Canoeing in France! It was a 8KM trip down the Ardeche River, this is a tributary of the Rhone. We went through several rapids, at one point Chris, Joshua and I were dumped out. I got some nasty scrapes and bruises because I was trying to keep Joshua safe. He was traumatized because I think he has finally realized that I do not control the world! 20100705_2580We really enjoyed swimming, floating past caves, cliffs and other amazing sites. Afterwards, we were met by a tour guide to drive us back up river, this was an equally wild ride through some very rough terrain. it was a super cool afternoon. We enjoyed it so much that we may go again on Thursday. That evening we all went out to dinner at a local restaurant. It was a great day.20100705_2598

July 6 2010

Today we went into Nimes to see the Roman Colosseum. We only got there at 1:00 because we have been waking up late. “Pink” was performing there tonight so the Colosseum was closing at 3:00. I tried to get us tickets but the show was sold out. Damn….I could think of nothing cooler than seeing Pink perform in a 2000 year old Roman Amphetheatre in the South of France. The kids loved hearing about the spectacles that took place here, including the wild animals fighting each other and of course, the gladiators.

We had packed a picnic so that afterward we could go to Pont du Gard, a 2000 year old Roman built bridge over the local river. The kids swam in the river after they had a late lunch of cheese, bread and salami. We drank wine and enjoyed the sunshine. Sophie lost one of her flip flops in the rapids and Chris had to carry her home. We came home and swam in the pool before settling in to watch the soccer, Falco and Colleen are thrilled that the Dutch won the game. Tomorrow is a Villa day, we are having a BBQ and relaxing all day. Vive la France!

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Barcelona – Carcasonne – Vezenobres

Okay so its July the 4th, We have been here for four days and it has been crazy busy. I am going to try catch up so that I can go back to the pool and sun.

We woke up in Barcelona at 10:00 AM and got ready to adventure. I had picked up some basics at the grocery store on the way home from dinner at 1:00 AM the night before so we ate and hit the town. Finnair told us they would cover $70 Euros in expenses which is not much but at least we could get something.  We got what we needed and then went exploring. We walked “Las Ramblas” and into the Gothic district.. Stopped in at the cathedral, several Gelato stops and for an amazing lunch. Barcelona is a great city. you really have to watch out for thieves in general. We met another family at the gelato shop from Canada, they had just been robbed so this was a good reminder. Afterwards we went to the Sagrada Famillia Church which was a real highlight. It is a very cool piece of art and we enjoyed going up in the elevator for the view of Barcelona.


We went back to our hotel, to shower and get ready for dinner when we got the call from the lost luggage department. They had found our bags! BUT…they said they could only get them to us the next day at around 10:00AM we explained that we were leaving for France at 8:45 AM tomorrow and they basically said, if we have to send the bag to France you may never get the bag! Chris and I could not believe it,  It was our last night in Spain and our only option was for Chris to go back to the Airport and get the bags ourselves, this cost 75 Euros in taxis fees and took 3 hours. The kids and I ordered Chris a meal at 11:30PM and he showed up minutes before it arrived. He ate quickly and we took ourselves home…exhausted, but happy to have all our stuff and be together again.

July 3th 2010

20100703_2529Up early at 7:00. Oh man are we tired, jet lagged, exhausted! We ran around the room and packed everything up at 7:30 our taxi (that took five hmmmmm… I thought it was not possible ??) took us to the train station (20 Euros) for our 8:45 AM train to Narbonne. The journey through the Pyrenees was really peaceful and relaxing. Josh and Sophie missed it because they fell asleep. Connor was a great bag watcher when we went to the bathroom etc. On arrival in Narbonne we picked up our car and drove to Carcasonne.

20100703_2533We were in Carcasonne in 40 minutes.  The largest, best preserved Medevil city, the kids loved walking around the castle, the walls and moats.

Afterwards we drove to our home for the next 7 nights in Vezenobres. The drive thought the vineyards is spectacular and arriving at the villa was amazing. Colleen, Falco, Kirsten, Pekka, Mia and Kia were all waiting. The kids swam in the pool and we had a feast under a million stars. It is so beautiful here, life is good.

July 04 2010

Up early so Chris, Pekka and I went for a run to the village. Vezenobres is a medieval village on a hill.  It is amazing. Colleen, Kirsten and I went to the local market and got some supplies, mainly wine and cheese, and we have spent the day eating, drinking and enjoying each other.img_0894

It is incredibly hot and we have just pulled the kids inside to give them a break from the sun. The are watching Americans Funniest Videos in French. Below are some shots of our gorgeous home in Vezenobres.




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