Toronto-Barcelona

Toronto-Barcelona

Edit Note: October 5th 2017. Seven years later, I feel my blogging skills have improved, just saying….

 

The flight from Toronto – Helsinki was pretty uneventful with a lot of sleeping and severe Finnair service. When we arrived at Helsinki Airport we were struck by the number of Finns sitting in the lounges drinking wine. I love Europe!

We spent 12 Euros on water and salami, cheese and cafe lattes and relaxed in the lounge as we waited for our flight to Barcelona. Sophie began to complain of stomach ache so I decided to give her a Gravol.

She looked at me and said, “Mom this tastes terrible”

So, I said “Just eat it! ”

She chewed up the Adult tablet that I had mistakenly given her as apposed to the kids chew-able and before we knew it she had passed out. Poor thing, it must have tasted awful. Ugh,  I guess I am not getting the Mother of the year award for another year.

We arrived at Barcelona, no worse for wear when we faced our first major problem. One of our bags was lost. It was the first time in years that we had lost a bag and I was obviously not happy.  Finnair does not have an office in Barcelona so we were pretty much told…sorry we have no idea where your bag is…you just have to wait and see. We filled out all the forms and left for the hotel.

None of the taxis at the airport would transport our family. They said it was a four person maximum which essentially meant that It would take two taxis and 70 Euros to get to the hotel. I refused. We took at train to the subway and a subway to the hotel…total cost for five…7.95 Euros! It was quite easy and way cheaper. Totally the way to go, the train and Metro were really easy to use and although I was aware that we were pickpocket targets nothing happened. Once we arrived at the hotel it was 11:00 PM we ditched our bags and went for dinner at the base of the Sagrada Familla Cathedral, the best part was no doubt the 7 Euro bottle of wine, the view of the Cathedral and the lively street scene so late at night.

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28 Days in Europe with the kids

28 Days in Europe with the kids

Seven years ago I traveled through Europe with my then 13, 10 and 7 year old kids. It was an amazing adventure through Spain, France, The Netherlands and Finland. We traveled using local transport, stayed off the beaten path and had a simply incredible month. I blogged about it when I could, using my European friends laptops, I didn’t have an iphone at the time (how did I survive?) Anyway, the posts have sat on a private blog,  and I have decided that starting tomorrow,  I will post an article from that trip each day, kind of like a trip down memory lane for me and a reminder how important it is to record our travel journeys. My next big trip is coming up soon and I hope this series of posts will give me the energy to write a series during my trip to South Africa. I hope you all enjoy…

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Review of Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton, Jamaica.

Review of Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton, Jamaica.

So it has taken me a while to write this review. My family and I spent Christmas in Jamaica this year and we had a GREAT time, the weather was great, the countryside beautiful, the Jamaican people are incredible, but my review of Grand Palladium is not glowing. The Grand Palladium is made up of two sides, Montego Bay and Lady Hamilton, both sides shares all resources, facilities, beaches etc. There were many problems that we experienced and I wanted to wait before I wrote it all down just to have a bit of a “cooling off period.” So to start on a positive note I will share the Good of Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton.

Good.

645Sunset Cove Beach, this is the charming beach that is away from all the main restaurants and pool. The beach is beautiful, there is a fantastic Jerk Hut that makes probably the best food at the resort. The service in the beach bar was excellent. Cool music played on the beach, nice mix of activities, mellow, all good. This would be the absolute selling point of this resort for me, in fact, after speaking with several guests, they all agreed that without this special part of the resort, their holiday just would not have been the same. What is also wonderful about this beach is the plentiful shade and multiple loungers.

People of Palladium, these are the animation staff. They have endless energy and are wonderful. One in particular “Avitar” was just such a spectacular human being, the resort is lucky to have her.

Lifeguards, Groundsmen, cleaning staff, these cool, friendly background workers were not overwhelmed like the serving staff so had the Jamaican hospitality down. When my son stepped on a sea urchin, the lifeguards were professional, helpful and caring. The guy that cleaned Sunset cove each morning is a gem.

The Infinity Bar, groovy live music, good drinks. We hung out here most evenings 315and loved it. Here is a picture of one round of cocktails. The cocktails here are awesome, but if you want wine that doesn’t taste like paint thinner, you are going to pay $30 for a basic bottle of plonk. One night they had a fun “Back to the 80’s” party that was a blast. They fun was greatly due to the work of the Jamaican animation staff who are unbelievable, teaching water aerobics at 0900 and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Thank you guys.

Grounds,  It is a sprawling estate with lots of tropical 709flowers and fruits, beautiful. The architecture of the resort it lovely. It is extremely visually appealing. Pictured left is the view from our room, not ocean view but still lovely.

Bad.

Okay, so here we go. Since I am a travel writer I always let a hotel know I am coming. I don’t want to spring a review on a hotel without warning, in my opinion its a professional courtesy. So, these guys knew I was coming. On arrival I was presented with our rooms. We were actually booked in at the Grand Palladium Montego Bay . We were presented with two rooms in block 18 near the main road. I was stunned! I had booked with Air Canada Vacations so we are supposed to get premium rooms, I had requested good rooms that were connecting and got nothing. After much begging, arguing and complaining I paid an additional $40 a night and upgraded to be on the Lady Hamilton side of the resort. This side all the rooms are recently renovated. I had to make do with two rooms with a King Bed and a Pull out coach because no rooms with two beds were available and no connecting rooms were available either. I was not happy but went to the room. (view from balcony picture above)

I asked housekeeping to make up the pull out couch, we returned from Dinner and the bed was made but it was literally as hard as a rock, you might as well sleep on a tile floor. I called reception, complained and they brought padding, it was a bit better but not much. We were exhausted from an early start so went to bed early. As I got into bed, I noticed the sheet was not big enough for the bed (it was a double sheet on a king bed and they had used two to cover the middle of the bed, “what the hell!”, I thought and went to bed

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All night I felt the bare mattress sticking to my body! I was up at 6:00 AM and went to reception, explaining the sheets were not big enough for the bed, they looked at me like I was a lunatic. Anyway, they promised they would look into it. I also asked if there was anyway I could get a room for my kids with two beds so my daughter wouldn’t have to sleep on the rock bed, They found rooms for us that were facing the Spa, so if you open your curtains in the morning you will see all the people working out, UGH, no thanks,  just bring more padding for my daughter and please, King size sheets. I also wrote an email to the customer service rep and manager to complain and they basically said, sorry to hear you are not happy, if we can do anything else just let us know…. really?

So guess what, this is my bed after the second night…. I pulled the sheet straight for the picture but I basically spent the night on a bare mattress AGAIN.

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I actually took the photos not for the blog but to go show reception what we were dealing with. (my kids room also had this problem) This time she looked at me like I was NOT a lunatic (photos help) and said that a machine was broken and the resort did not have enough sheets. ARE YOU KIDDING ME????

I went back to my room and saw a very official looking lady names Althea, I believe she is somehow a supervisor in housekeeping and begged her, I mean literally begged her to get me sheets from somewhere as I was exhausted from two nights of sleeping on a damn bare mattress!  Althea and my housekeeper did what they could for me, but let me say this. If you want good quality sleep this is not the resort for you. No one should have to beg for sheets, I have stayed in youth hostels, 3 star hotels in Africa, gone camping and never had this problem.

Anyway, enough of the beds. You get it they suck and if you have a problem, good luck with a timely resolution.

Line lines lines, everywhere you go, want breakfast, wait in line to get inside the buffet restaurant, want a drink, wait your turn, need anything? Be ready to wait. I can honestly say that after staying at in excess of 50 All inclusive hotels I have never experienced line ups like the ones at the Grand Palladium. Guest got angry waiting and the vibe was unpleasant. The a la cart situation was actually a horror show, angry people were waiting for hours and it was just an unpleasant thing to see on holiday.  We stayed at the Grand Sirenas, in Mayan Riviera the same period (over New Year) at it was nothing like this.

We were so tired of the lines, that we were going to breakfast as it opened at 8:00 AM, in the morning. By 9:00 AM the buffet would have a lineup out the door to get a table. The problem was not the capacity of the resturant but that there was not enough hostess’ to seat guests. We wondered why they didn’t just allow guests to seat themselves, but as it was my holiday I just kept my mouth shut and enjoyed my time with my family.

Slow Service in the a la carte restaurants, consistent with the above comment, once your got into an a la carte restaurant be prepared to wait, wait, wait for your food. We really enjoyed the family time but it took almost an hour for our food to come on Christmas night.

Management? The front line workers did their best, Vanessa, from reception, kept calling me to check on me, as she knew I was not happy with the room/bed situation, but really what could she do about the line ups and overcrowding, this is a Management problem and I was there for some downtime, not to complain about issues that could not be fixed immediately.  It was the same for the poor waitstaff and bar tenders, they were working so hard to keep up with the literally thousands of people that were at the resort but they were totally overwhelmed I don’t think they could have possibly worked any harder.  What annoyed us most of all is that the timeshare sales people and spa sales people literally accosted you every time we walked past, Management had no problem staffing these money makers properly but we couldn’t get anything else with out waiting, waiting, waiting. Please Management, staff the restaurants and bars properly to avoid line ups, particular in the buffet where there were always empty tables and people lining up out the door.

Overall Impression.

I have stayed at well over 10 hotels in Jamaica, all the Sandals except Whitehouse, Iberostar Grand Rose Hall, Couples Sans Souci (where I got married), Holiday Inn Sunsplash, Jamaica Grande and Half Moon, so I know this is not typical for the destination. I would say the Grand Palladium just didn’t deliver on providing a hassle free vacation for my family. There were so many good points but the drama with the rock hard bed, tiny sheets and line ups were enough for me to not recommend this property. To be fair, I wonder what it would be like in a quieter season, but vacation time is so precious, why would you gamble your time for a bad nights sleep and lots of lineups.

I would say that the resort was completely overwhelmed and unable to provide a level of service that is expected in the 4-5 star all-Inclusive space. I write this negative review in hope that Management looks at its delivery of services because the bones of the resort are there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo in one day?

Tokyo in one day?

Tokyo– a city with 38 million residents can be overwhelming when you first arrive. How do you even start to navigate such a huge city?  I recommend a walking tour, it will get your blood moving, and give you a good idea about the lay of a city that really is like 10 mega cities rolled into one. Our trip to the top of the Government Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku really gave us an idea how massive Tokyo is, thousands of skyscrapers, as far as the eye can see.

For our first day in Tokyo we decided on using the “Backstreet guides” for the “Absolute Tokyo Tour.” The tour started at 9:00 AM At Shimbashi station and ended at 4:00 at Yanika. It included Sushi Breakfast and Udon lunch.. Our guide Rie, whipped us around some of the highlights of Tokyo, we met some other fun travelers, had lots of laughs and got a great look at Tokyo from a local’s perspective. If you are travelling to Tokyo on business or like us are looking for a good introduction to Tokyo this is absolutely the way to go.

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Sushi Breakfast at the outer Tsukiji Fish Market.

Tsukiji Market.

Finally! I made it to the famous Tsukiji Market. As a sushi lover and lover of all things aquatic this was a highlight. One of the huge benefits of a walking tour with only nine other participants is the intimate knowledge you get from the guide. She 081explained to us that as the Tsukiji Market is a working market, and how we needed to be careful of busy traders trying to do their work among the hordes of irritating tourists. The market itself is beautiful, YES, beautiful, heaving with life and the smell of the sea,  sadly this market is slated to close and move to a more modern facility. Likely losing much of its charm, but making life for the fishermen far more easy. 082Is the fish market for you? If you are not a fan of fish, probably not a good stop, as the smell is strong and fish plentiful,  I could have spent hours looking at all of the stalls, a full day, but when part of a walking tour, one must keep up.

There are several Sushi Restaurants around the Fish Market, many with long line ups. I asked our guide if the wait was worth it. She told me that some of the people would be standing for three hours to get a table and that no Japanese person would ever wait that long. Looking back on my gastronomical adventures in Japan, I am glad I never wasted three hours waiting , when sushi that was beyond my wildest expectations could be found nearly on every corner, with no wait. After a brief stop for a sushi breakfast we were on our way to Asakusa.

Asakusa, home to the Nakamise shopping street and Sensoji Temple was a great stop.

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Rie and Tokyo Skytree

The shopping street was busy and filled with souvenirs and people. At the end of the street was the beautiful Sensoji temple. (You can see Sensoji with the grey roof and the Pagoda at the top of the picture below) It was here that our guide showed us how to properly prepare to enter a Shrine. Again, super helpful to have Rhea tell us what to do and how to purify ourselves. When we were alone later in the trip, we were like old pro’s as the other Western tourists were stumbling around, trying to figure it out. All this walking was making us hungry… next stop..Lunch!

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Nakamise

We made a quick trip to the base of the Tokyo Sky Tree, for our Udon Lunch, delicious!

In the picture below you will notice what appears to be Geisha. This is not the case, a very curious tourism phenomenon in Japan is where foreigners come to Japan and rent a Geisha outfit for the day and then wonder around town. Unwitting tourists pose for pictures with these “fake” Geisha who are also tourists, often from other Asian countries.  Its weird. Again, something I learned from the tour guide.

Akihabara.  Also known as electric town, Akihabara is the place to go if you are, into cosplay, ainime and manga.  It is home to the Tokyo Anime center and full of life.  While we were in Akihabara, our guide showed us the “Maid cafes” these are restaurants where the staff are dressed as highly stylized maids and serves the clients accordingly, calling men “Master” and women “Mistress.” So weird! Apparently it is not sexual in any way and supposed to be cute. As the Japanese guide was telling us about the cafes we were all pretty weirded out, but she wasn’t phased at all. I think if I go back I will try it out so I can fully report back… but for now, just know that Akihabara has these maid cafe’s all over the place.

Final stop on the tour was Yanaka. To see what old Tokyo was like you head here. It was the perfect place to end the day.

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We wandered though the cemetery and Tennoji Temple and learned about the burial customs in Japan. The cemetery is more like a park with beautiful trees and flowers. This final stop gave me a chance to breathe, realize that yes, we were in Japan and it was awesome!  The day was filled with laughs with our fellow travelers on the tour, a family from Chicago and three friends from Australia. When the tour ended we said our goodbyes to Rie, our wonderful guide from “Backstreet Guides” and decided to all go for coffee.

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The coffee shop, like much of Yanaka felt like old  Japan, all the signs were in Japanese, including the menu. The owner was, well, grumpy. He was not pleased with the arrival of nine boisterous tourists walking into his shop. The coffee was incredible, the beans were roasted in house and we sat and watched with wonder as he prepared each cup. No wonder he was cranky, he was an artist and we came roaring in like we were walking into a Starbucks! Lesson here, is you can’t rush art and when you enter an artist’s studio, pick up on the vibes rather than interrupting them.

We said our goodbyes to our new friends and stumbled home. We had been walking since 7:00AM (we started the day early as we were eager to get going) and it was now close to 6:00PM.  We had a great day and now had a good idea of how to use the subways and trains, we learned a lot about Japanese customs and now were ready to continue exploring Japan on our own over the next 8 Days. Next post…. Harajuku, Tokyo. Owl Café, Delicious food, Meiji Shrine, funky fashion and more.

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Yanaka Coffee Artist

 

Japan- What’s with the face masks?

Japan- What’s with the face masks?

So, as I am looking through my media for pictures to post for my next article on Tokyo, I am reminded how many people in Japan wore surgical face masks. The above picture is taken at Shinjuku station at 8:30AM. At first it can be quite unnerving. Is there a mass epidemic that I don’t know about? What is going on? This is weird!  After talking to some Japanese people this is what I have discovered.

1. People don’t always wear the masks because they are sick. Yep, they wear them for other reasons. Like, they need to go to the store to get something quickly and they haven’t washed their face or brushed their teeth.  Or that they have a pimple that they are not happpy with etc. Its a way of getting out of the house when you don’t look your best and not getting recognized. CRAZY, you may say but I know lots of people here in Canada who will not leave the house until they are fully groomed and this takes hours 😉 For them, this strategy may actually be quite efficient.

2. People wear them not only when they are sick but to prevent getting sick from others. I will never forget getting on the train at Shinjuku station at 6:00AM bound for the fish market and the train was standing room only. Not packed like at 8:00AM but as full as the subways get in Toronto during rush hour and it was 6:00 AM! In Tokyo, you get pretty close to strangers and I guess people feel they are protecting themselves from germs by wearing the mask.

3. People are sick and are polite and do not want to spread their germs.

4. Apparently, it helps protect against seasonal allergies.

5. I was told that some people wear it as a way to shut themselves off from the world and not have to make pleasantries. This is kind of like how I wear headphones sometimes when I am working at my computer as a signal to others not to come and talk to me because I can’t hear them due to my music.

So there you have it, another weird and wacky but kind of sensible Japanese topic that you have to see to believe. If any of my Japanese readers have anything to rebut or add please let me know…. and now …back to writing 5 Days in Tokyo.

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Food handler in Kyoto, is she sick, trying to stay healthy, suffering from allergies or just shy? Hmmmmm…. I am going to go with shy. The Yuba with cheese was delicious!

 

How to Plan a Trip to Japan.

How to Plan a Trip to Japan.
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Day 9- Maruyama- koen. Kyoto.

I like to think I know what I am doing, but man, planning a trip to Japan was a humbling experience. Where to stay? How to get around the country? What is a Japan Rail Pass and is it worth it for a 10 day trip? What the heck is a “Hakone Free Pass”? Why is the Imperial Palace not on any of the “Top Ten Tokyo Sites” lists? These are some of the questions that I faced and I spent a lot of time researching and planning my epic adventure and will share my findings with you in my series of posts on Japan.  I hope the following series will help you plan your trip to Japan or if you are a tourism student, plan a FIT for a client. Regardless, I would love to hear any other bloggers opinions or advice on planning a trip to Japan, if you feel I have left something out.

My first post in the series looks at:

Steps for Planning a Trip to Japan.

1. Figure out how much time you have. If you only have a week on the ground, this limits your overnight options significantly. We had 11 travel days in total. 8 full days (9 nights) on the ground and this gave us enough time to have 3 different overnights. We spent 5 nights in Tokyo, 1 Night in Hakone, 3 nights in Kyoto.  I felt Tokyo (5) was just right, Hakone (1) was just right but Kyoto (3) was too short. I would say you need at least 4 nights  in Kyoto.

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Getting around Tokyo

2. Buy a good Travel Book on Japan. We had the Lonely Planet Guide. I actually bought three different companies books but the Lonely Planet “Discover Japan” was the best. Some of you may think you can find everything online, I found the book was my go to first source for information.

3.Decide on a Budget and stick to it.  When people think of travel to Japan, they think expensive, I say, not true. I used points for eight nights of my hotels but otherwise paid for flights and all other expenses. We ate locally, used public transit and came in with final per person costs of $1000 for flights on Air Canada. $330 for Japan Rail Pass. $40 for Hakone Free Pass. $30 for other transportation. $400 for our Traditional Ryokan. (This included Dinner and Breakfast and was by far the most expensive part of the trip.) Breakfast was around $8 Lunch around $8 and Dinner was anything from a $5 Tako Yaki to $20 for more sushi than you can dream of.  Most attractions are free of charge and other than a Walking Tour of Tokyo ($100) and a Cooking Lesson ($90) the rest was spent on shopping.

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Day 10 -Nara.

4. Look at the time of year you want to travel we were there right smack in the middle of cherry blossom season (end of March beginning of April) and I can’t imagine a better time to be there. A lot of the pleasure we found for free in Japan was likely due to the tremendous beauty at this time of year. We also found the outdoor eating atmosphere incredibly fun and inexpensive. I am quite sure it would have been different if we had gone in the middle of winter or summer  I do understand that the fall is a beautiful time of year to travel to Japan as well but as far as I am concerned after being in Japan during the Cherry Blossom season, this is THE time to go. Yes there were crowds, but never so many that it took away from the atmosphere.

5.Decide on what you hope to see and do. Fashion? History? Culture? Nature? Wildlife? Food Experiences? For us it was all of the above and but thinking about what we really wanted to do helped us plan an itinerary that was a good balance between all of our interests. Travel experiences do not just happen like an amusement park ride. Sometimes you have to put research into what you really want. I am often asked questions about Travel options that would require hours of research. We are such an instant gratification kind of society now, good travel experiences take a bit of time and effort, you can do it!

6.Pull it all together. You have figured out how much time you can spare, read a great travel book, figured out a budget, determined your season of travel and decided what your interests are. Now its time to pull it together. For us, as it was our first trip to Japan our itinerary looked like this:

Day One:     Depart Toronto (lose a day crossing the date line)

Day Two:      Arrive Tokyo at 3:40 ( Arrive at hotel at 6:00PM by bus)

Day Three:  Tokyo – Walking Tour of Tokyo (8 hours) Visit: The Tsukiji Fish market, Asakusa, Akihabara, Yanaka.

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Day 3 – Yanaka Cemetery

Day Four:    Tokyo– Cooking Lesson in the morning. Afternoon exploring. Shibuya – Shinjuku

Day Five:     Tokyo-Meji Shrine. Harajuku. Ueno Park for Hanami Viewing

Day Six:       Tokyo-Free Day to go back to places we loved.

Day Seven:   Leave Tokyo at 7:00 for Hakone. Arrive at Hakone at 10:00 AM. Try Onsen and Traditional Ryokan. See Mt Fuji.

Day Eight:    Hakone- Kyoto. Afternoon stroll along the Path of  Philosophy in Kyoto.

Day Nine:    Kyoto- Arashiyama. Bamboo Grove.  Arashiyama Monkey Park. Evening stroll through Gion. Dinner in Maruyama-koen under the Cherry Blossoms

Day Ten:    Kyoto – Early morning departure for Nara. Hall of Great Budda, Deer Park. Afternoon visit at Nijiki Market in Kyoto.

Day Eleven:    Kyoto- Tokyo – Toronto. Bullet Train to Tokyo, Local train to Haneida. Flight to Toronto. Arrive home. (ALL in one day due to time zones)

There are so many other options for Japan, but for a first time visit this seemed like the best for us. If you have less time. Leave out Hakone as it takes up two days. Quite a few travellers we ran into were only there for 7 nights. This is not nearly enough. Their itineraries basically were 4 nights Kyoto and 3 nights Tokyo. I would say that if you can swing it you need two weeks. That way you could also visit Hiroshima if you are interested in Military History and perhaps Matsumoto to see the castle. But what can you do, time is limited for most of us, I get that. Just DO NOT OVER SCHEDULE YOURSELF. Because trust me, along the way you will get distracted by beautiful surprises, gorgeous views and fantastic travel experiences that can’t be rushed.

Next Post; 5 Days in Tokyo. What to see, where to stay, getting around, what to expect.

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Night Time Tako Yaki

 

 

 

 

Japan…coming soon.

Japan…coming soon.

I am writing this post on my iPhone, while laying on a futon on the floor of my ryokan. Japan has surprising limited and slow wifi so let’s  just say it doesn’t make for easy writing… But fear not, I will be posting a series of articles when I return to my beloved Canada

Japan, it’s fast and slow. Old and new. Delicious and disgusting. A country of contrasts. Fascinating, exhausting and incredibly beautiful. I can’t wait to share my adventures with you.

Cherry Blossoms in Shinjuku 2016

48 Hours in Dublin (YYZ-DUB-YYZ)

48 Hours in Dublin (YYZ-DUB-YYZ)

119 So is it worth flying from Toronto to Dublin for a weekend? Absolutely!

With non-stop flights on Air Canada and strong tail winds we were in Dublin in a snap, okay 5 1/2 hours.

On arrival in Dublin (8:30AM) we were at our hotel (The Morgan) in Temple bar by 10:00AM and ready to get rolling.

From our base at Temple Bar you can pretty much walk everywhere. Dublin is a  friendly city with wonderful food, entertainment and sights.

Some of my favorites:

A stop at the oldest Pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head. This pub, that claims to be over 800 years old had all the ambiance one would expect. Low ceilings lots of higgledy piggildy rooms. I would say this is a must visit in Dublin.142

Trying Hot Whiskey at a Harkins Pub, This is a tiny little family run Pub just around the corner from The Guinness Factory.

Doing a little day trip to the town of Dalkey (Main Picture) This seaside town, just 40 minutes outside of Dublin gave us a glimpse at Irish Village Life. We had lunch at The Magpie Inn, a local Gastro Pub and lets just say the Seafood Risotto was divine.

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Listening to DJ and live bongo drums and sax at The Morgan Hotel, the bar is Super cool and great music. If you are there on a Saturday night be sure to make a reservation in advance for a table. We stayed here for two nights, it is located in the Temple Bar area, and was a great choice for accommodation in Dublin.

The true reason for our Trip to Ireland was to watch some Rugby on Saturday, which we did (admittedly with a bit of a headache from our Temple Bar pub crawl the night before) Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Canada, Dublin is close enough for a weekend getaway. I would suggest three nights is probably better than the two that we had but if you are pressed for time and looking for a getaway, do consider Dublin, I am glad we did.

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Tips for Travel Blogging.

Tips for Travel Blogging.

img_4472Ahhh September, the start of my favorite course, “Niche Tourism and Travel.”  In this course we develop Travel Blogs, build Twitter feeds and Create Facebook Pages. Students usually look at me with bewilderment when we start, so in keeping with past advice, I offer you the following tips on how to start.
1) Make sure you set up your “About” Page. By setting up your About Page your readers can connect with you and see what they have in common with you. No one wants to take Travel advice from a nameless, faceless person. On the flip side, know who you are writing FOR. If you Niche is adventure travel, use language that adventures understand. Most importantly understand the passion and commitment that your readers may have about your topic and aim to connect with this.

2) Keep your articles short, but not too short! Around 250 – 350 words, it makes it nice and easy to read.Ubizane South Africa

3) Add awesome visuals, if you need some, make some or ask your friends or family for pictures from travels they have been on to use in your blog. You can even use vintage pictures of travels with your family, here is one of me at the Ubizane Game Reserve in South Africa in 1983. Oh! Add links out like I just did with Ubizane, it gives the reader a deeper experience.

4) Tell a story, each blog post should engage the reader with content that is interesting and engaging. Content is what will keep your readers coming back to visit.

5) Tag and Categorise your post. This will make it easier for people to find and navigate your Blog.

6) Just get started already! Even if your story needs work, practice makes progress. Your Travel writing will improve with each Blog you post and remember, once you put it out into the world, you have enriched a community of Travellers who likely care about the same issues as you. Be Brave! Be Bold, Tell your stories and see what happens!

7) Ask your readers to like you, it is easy on WordPress. Add a widget that allows users to “Follow blog by email.” Having a call to action is always a great way to connect with your readers. This way they will get a notification each time you post a blog.  Check out mine on the top right of this page and hey…. follow me. (please)

Happy Blogging, we are all part of the community, no judgment, go for it!

Where to Eat in San Francisco.

Where to Eat in San Francisco.

When I travel I LOVE to eat. It is always a challenge deciding on where to dine, especially when your travels take you places at the last minute. On our trip to San Francisco we found a few gems that I want to share, obviously in two days I couldn’t be everywhere but I enjoyed these places so much I would go back for sure!

1) Salumeria (3000 20th street, SF  415.471.2998)

Salumeria, located in the Mission District is a great spot for lunch. Open 11- 6 we arrived around 3:00 and it was pretty packed. We enjoyed a fabulous cheese plate, some salads and a Salumi plate  (Italian meat board)  and well…Yummy. It is a typical trendy SFO spot and has a lovely airy vibe to it. I would say if you are looking for a wonderful lunch in a hipster environment this is the place.

2) Outerlands ( 4001 Judah Street, SF 415 661-6140)

We were looking for the best brunch in San Francisco so we did what everyone else does…. we Googled it, and found ourselves jumping in an Uber car heading to beautiful Ocean Beach. (10 minutes from downtown) Outerlands offers a very interesting menu at reasonable prices. We arrived at 8:45 and the resturant only opens at 9:00. Hanging on the front door was a clipboard to write your name on to get in line. We had to wait about 45 minutes for the table so we strolled over to Trouble Coffee (see below) to grab a coffee while we waited…. and boy was it worth it!

The food was excellent, I had the quiche which was creamy and delicious, all of our meals were interesting, fresh and tasty. I would highly recommend Outerlands, they make great brunch cocktail to! Pictured below is our table outside of the restaurant.

How to incorporate Outerlands into your San Francisco itinerary?  Plan your day visiting Outlerlands at 8:45 for 2 hours,  then stroll to Ocean beach 20 min, UBER car (10 min) to Golden Gate Park (2 hours), end with a walk through the Haight-Ashbury District 30 min. This is what we did and honestly it was wonderful.

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1513) Trouble Coffee ( 4033 Judah St, SF)

This gem, located only a few shops down from the fabulous Outerlands is totally cool with interesting employees that will make a fabulous coffee for you and if you are up to it a slice of toast to tide you over before brunch at Outlerlands. It is hip, different and the coffee is delicious. My latte pictured left was perfection in a cup. Ever since I returned home I have dreamed and searched for a comparable coffee but alas, it looks like I will have to return to San Francisco and Trouble Coffee to get it.

3564) Sushiritto (226 Kearny Street SF, 415-544-9868)

This was the last meal I ate in San Francisco, and it was UNREAL. There is nothing even close to this in Toronto and I want to know why? Sushiritto is basically a sushi roll the size of a burrito that you eat with your hands, pictured left was my delicious lunch, a “Satori” that has Kampachi Yellowtail, Cucumber, Pickled Red Onion, Sweet Corn, Red Tobiko, Avocado, Wasabi Mayo for $13.00 it was amazing!  Located two minute from The Palace Hotel and the financial district, if you are a fan of sushi this is a MUST TRY.

There were other restaurants, street meals (Seafood chowder!) and take out snacks, but these were my favorites and now… I am feeling kind of hungry.

Coming up next : Getting around SFO. Transportation Options… BART, UBER, Feet

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