Saturday, June 22, 2013

Something to Add to the Reading List

I was at the book store recently to kill some time, and as usual I found myself in the travel section scanning the shelves for something that would catch my eye. I was feeling the pull for some good armchair travel reading. I find this a good way to satiate my travel bug while I'm home bound. I picked up a copy of the book "Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time" by Mark Adams. At first glance I was sucked in by the vibrant cover art and my long time fascination with this historic site. I have yet to dive into reading this as I have several other books currently on the go, but I am looking forward to curling up with this one over the summer months. Review to follow!

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's been a while.....

So it's been ages since I've made a post and I want to get back to my blogging. No guarantees it will always be about travel though because we have a lot of things on the horizon that I will want to talk about. Maybe more local tourist activities will be underway.

Well an update about last year's trip to Disney.... it was amazing. The biggest news out of that trip was that R proposed at the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort.

So what to 2 Canadians do as soon as they arrive at WDW on the first day??? With all of the possible attractions, rides, food, and fun characters to see??? Why head over to Epoct and straight to the Canadian pavilion to tell everyone we are from Canada too. We found our first photopass photographer as soon as we got off the boat at the Epcot world showcase entrance.


Other things we enjoyed.....

Spotted a ghost at the haunted mansion

A prince in disguise?
The Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We trick or treated, had our photo taken with the seven dwarves (very rare) and had fun in our costumes.

The magic photos that we had done with our photopass was really fun. We got to do all kinds of neat shots.
Hi Ho Hi Ho

I told Sneezy that he was my fave because I sneeze a lot too. I think he quickly turned into bashful after that. Pretty fun to interact with all the dwarves at once. We were kind of rushed through this since so many people were waiting but it was still a lot of fun.

Stealing a kiss

R was very very excited to check out Hollywood Studios to ride Star Tours (8 times) and see the Indiana Jones show. We had fun playing with hand prints in front of the Great Movie Ride and waiting (too long) for Toy Story Mania. Tower of Terror was as scary as always but always worth the butterflies. We ate at the 50's Prime Time Cafe, a campy fan favourite (I will pass on this next time) and loved the Fantasmic fireworks show. This was certainly one of our best days.

All ready for our first scene
Happily Every After?

Pooped after a long day on set
We had so much fun that we decided we would return to the scene of the crime and take our honeymoon (Dismoon) back at WDW. This time we will be staying at Port Orleans Riverside (my dream resort) and possibly taking things a little slower. We wont be doing the Halloween party this year but the Food and Wine festival is back and we are excited to do more sampling around the world!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Around The World in 8 days

Wow, a trip around The World.... of course I don't mean 'the world', but Walt Disney World, Florida. At first thought this may seem like a frivolous vacation void of any cultural experience... and you may be right. However, I tend to consider Walt Disney World to be part of our own culture, ephasizing North American ideals and entertainment history... awww who am I kidding... I just want to see the mouse.

I have spent an embarrasingly large portion of my life at Walt Disney World. My family would take a vacation every year. I've even performed there. I love it. I am a self proclaimed DisNerd. So when the opportunity came up recently to book this vacation at an insanely affordable price, I just had to.

I cannot begin to explain how much and why I love this place as much as I do. It's a combination of nostalgia, old fashioned charm, and a feeling of homey familiarity that grasps me so tightly.

So here it is, trip number 22 to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida. I am 29, yes I know that is ALOT of visits. And believe it or not, I still have not seen it all. This would have to do mostly with Disney's intent on swaping out attractions fairly frequently (sometimes too their detriment. See: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride). The most difficult thing for me right now is dealing with the anticipation and excitement. I am extremely excitable by nature and I do not wait well. This leaves me on the edge of my seat and with a fairly consistent presence of stomach butterflies. Basically, I can barely stand this wait for several reasons.

1. I love Disney and would/could stand every waking and sleeping hour there.
2. I have not been there in about 7-8 years.
3. First vacation with my love
4. First Disney vacation with a love.

 How am I dealing with this anxiety (albeit positive) you may wonder?

1. podcasts: Disney fans LOVE to podcast about the parks and beyond. Some notable favourites are WDW Radio with Lou Mongello, WDW News, and DisneyFoodBlog.
2. YouTube: I have been obsessively watching POV videos of attractions and shows. An added benefit of this is that I can see what I am in for with new ride. I am a tad of a chicken and I experience motion sickness. While this doesnt keep me from riding, I like to know what I am up against.
3. Blog posts: is amazing!
4. Message boards:,, are all great and full of people eager to impart their wisdom.
5. Park music. I have downloaded all of the park music I could find.
6. Historic Research: This is probably my favourite pre-trip activity. Since I am finally visiting as an adult I am eager to know all of the history behind attraction design, park decor, and Walt Disney himself. I have chosen to research an attraction or feature each day to become more informed. So far the Haunted Mansion has come out guns blazing with amazing history and concept art. Check out for the best fan website I have found.
7. Guidebook: Now I sincerely think I could write a how-to-do-Disney guidebook, however I still purchased a new one to keep me up to date and feed my pre-trip appetite. I picked up PassPorter's Walt Disney World by the Marx family. This is a FANTASTIC guidebook with handy pockets to store your maps etc in as well as loads of worksheets to plan your days with.

Since every Disney trip, no matter how long your stay, requires an immense amount of planning, a reliable and fun guidebook is essential. More on this guidebook in upcoming posts.

So that is how I am dealing with the wait to board the plane. It's not easy, and I am driving everyone around me batty talking about it. I've even experienced some "why would you go there?", and "why would you go there again?" type questions. It's worth noting that most of these questions come from people who have never been, and therefore cannot understand the feeling of 'arriving home' that can be felt from watching the rope dropping ceremony at the Magic Kingdom early in the morning. So really I barely bother to explain my desire (need maybe?) to return again, and again, and again.

Here is a video of the Rope Drop Ceremony at the Magic Kingdom. Admittedly, it just about brings a tear to my eye.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: The Salt Road by Jane Johnson

The Salt Road - Jane Johnson

I received my copy of The Salt Road as a Christmas gift from my father. I started reading the book in January and it has taken me until June to finish. It isn't a long read, however coupled with my growing pile of school work, finding the necessary time to dedicate to this delicious read proved difficult. I want to say this now incase you do not continue reading this review: BUY THIS BOOK.

Two lives are interwoven as Isabel and Mariata's experiences with the desert and its people are delved into in a way that will leave you seeing a part of yourself in their existance. I admired how both women 'escaped' their comfortable, albeit suffocating and restricted, life to experience something unknown and somewhat wild. At the beginning of the story I found myself most able to relate to Izzy's moderninity where Mariata represented a world I could not relate to. As the story progressed I found myself eager to get back to Mariata and her journey as I was able to forgot chronology and see the relevance in both narratives.

Apart from these two main characters, the desert itself proves to be a worthy contender for the most interesting character in the book. The desert represents a lot of things, however most importantly to me it is the catalyst for these women to shed their expectations and self control to be open to new experiences and to see further into themselves to what they are capable of. Mariata finds an inner strength which manifests physically as she attempts to cross the Sahara on her own. With many trials and tribulations, the desert forces her to acknowledge her lineage and use that as a means of perseverance. Isabel struggles to toss aside preconception and reluctance while ultimately discovering an unknown past. She must shed conformity to find her true self and potential.

While for much of the book these two women appear to exist mutually exclusive from one another, Johnson does a beautiful job of weaving the storylines to a climactic ending which was very unexpected (even for someone who can usually predict endings fairly accurately).

Ok, so Johnson does a simply wonderful job of describing the landscape and surroundings of every situation. Starting at the beginning with what I thought was a rather stark commentary of Isabel's life in Eurpoe is beautifully contrasted with the richness of the rest of the novel. Johnson provides a narrative that could leave you insisting you really were in a spice market or your finger tips did delight in the luxury of a wool woven carpet. I have never visited Morocco or the Sahara Desert, however I feel like when I do get the opportunity it will be like revisiting an old friend. If I was to only give one praise about this book it would be the wealth of descriptional detail. In the first chapter, I admit I felt it was overdone and cumbersome however as the book progressed it quickly became its greatest strength.

I cannot say much for Johnson's historical accuracy in respect to the Tourag people and nomad culture in the Sahara as I have very little previous knowlegde of these cultures. I can appreciate however that in contrary with many novelists, Johnson provides a bibliography in the back of the book directing to further reading. Also very helpful (and something I did not notice until the end) is a glossary which would have helped me greatly with unknown words and locations.

I am looking forward to reading Johnson's The Tenth Gift which predates The Salt Road.

Currently, I am engrosed in Gayle Forman's You Can't Get There From Here which chronicles a year's journey across much of the globe attempting to grasp an understanding of severl fringe subcultures.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can't Leave Home Without It Cosmetics

I finally got around to making another blog post and decided to venture into the unknown world of vlogging (video blogging). I must admit I am pleased with my attempt however the video quality could be much better. Some fooling around with lighting etc will ensure much better videos to come.

Anyway, here it is: Around the World in 80 Years' first video. My good friend Christina at Polishes and Pleasantries  posted a while back about the top 10 makeup bag/cosmetic essentials she could not do without if her collection was pared down. At the end of her post she requested response blogs. So to fit with the theme of my own blog, I got to work and carefully chose my MUST HAVE travel bag cosmetics. Now I certainly exceeded 10 (I actually did not count but feel free while you watch the video) but these are what I must take with me when I go. I would love to hear what products you love and have saved you in a pinch.

Below the video, I have included images of all the products I mention because the clarity of the video is not fabulous and it is also reversed making all the writing backwards. So without further adieu here is my video.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 


These are the bags I used. The large green bag is a Garnier product while the smaller see through back and quilted floral bag are random makeup bags I've acquired. I do not take all three bags with me when I travel but depending on my destination I usually choose two. One to hold everything while in my room and another to take daytime essentials along with me. I really like a clear bag to reduce any potential struggles with security. 

Small size shampoos are essential for me since most hair care products come in large packaging. Pantene, and I'm sure most companies, make nice travel size shampoo and conditioner. Another option is a combined shampoo conditioner in one product, however with my thick hair this does not work as well. 

I really cannot say enough about Burt's Bees products. I love that they are cruelty free and made with natural ingredients. This deep pore scrub smells subtle and lovely and exfoliates very well while being gentle enough to use daily. 

After exfoliating, I like to use Burt's Bees' Radiance Day Creme with Royal Jelly. As the name states, this cream is very jelly like and really feels like it is providing you the extra moisture you need. The one draw back of this product is that it is quite fragrant (by today's standards). With a light application I am able to overlook this however because it really is a skin saver. 

For the shower I like to bring my own body wash and lotion with me, even though most hotels will provide these along with shampoo. I never know what brand the hotel is going to use, how it will react with my skin, and the ethics of the company. Burt's Bees scores big once again with the Extra Energizing Citrus and Ginger Root Body Wash and Naturally Nourishing Milk & Honey Body Lotion. The body wash smells earthy and really does seem to energize your senses (maybe you can even skip the icky hotel in room coffee). The moisturizer goes on light and absorbs quickly, especially soothing on a sunburn. The moisturizer has essentially no scent which is great after the face cream, shampoo, and body wash. No need to smell like an entire fruit basket. 

This product is a must have for a long flight. Clinique's All About Eyes Serum reduces puffiness and cools underneath your eyes ensuring you appear fresh as a daisy and well rested. You may even be able to trick yourself. With a roll on applicator and clear solution, you won't even have to climb over the person next to you to make your way to the bathroom for an application. Simply roll on lightly underneath your eyes as you are approaching your destination and you are ready for the paparazzi surely awaiting your arrival.

Walking is a large part of my vacation as I try to avoid the expense of taxis etc (more moola for yummy treats). With all this walking I am going to get blisters and tired tootsies no matter how sensible my shoes are. Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme smells like a beach vacation and is a great way to pamper your feet at the end of an amazing but long day. For added benefit apply generously and slip on a pair of cotton socks for bed time. You will wake up with well moisturized toes and ready for another day of sightseeing.

I definitely do not like surprises with my morning routine, especially when I just want to get out the door to go visit some ruins or knock off bag shopping on Canal Street. I always bring along my boring old trusty foundation. No cutesy small bottles with this one (unless you get a reusable teensy container like I mention in the video). This foundation is by Maybelline and it acts just like a tinted moisturizer. It goes on very light and smooth and smooths out my sometimes blotchy skin tone perfectly. If you are likely to tan on vacation (which you could even do on an Alaskan cruise) you might want to opt for a shade darker than your usual base. This way as your skin darkens you will not end up looking washed out in all of your photos. 

Just about everything I take with me has to be multipurpose from clothes to makeup to shoes (well maybe not the shoes). So because of this I like to take the minimal amount of eye makeup to cover all my bases. Avon makes small eyeliner pencils in a range of great colours. Personally I like a blue that will transfer well from daytime to night. I tend to find a black too harsh for a kicked back relaxing day on the beach, while a blue is fun and will add drama at night. To kick it up a notch I love love love MAC's glitter eye liner. A small brush applicator makes it very easy to add just a touch of this white based glitter to the outside corner of the eyes that will really catch the sun or a disco ball. 

I am not a big shadow user but I do like a this pink/purple palette from Clinique. I believe this palette came as a freebie with the purchase of some skin care products and has made it into my greatest hits. The pink is light and twinkly enough to use as a highlighter for the entire lid up to the brow and the various purples tend to go with everything. I love that it includes a dark purple for a smokey eye and a twinkly purple for some punch. 

The concealer is also made by Clinique and is perfect for covering up the darkness under my eyes as well as any redness from a sunburn or too many coconut rums :) It is creamy and doesn't gunk up. I love these itsy bitsy products and never compromise on taking them with me. 

Since I am not a lipstick wearer, I cant stand the feeling, I love a tinted gloss. The gloss I am digging right now is Pomegranate Bubbly by Philosophy and part of the 2011 Christmas collection which was available at Sephora. With a slight red tint and lovely twinkle, this gloss moisturizes my lips and adds a little colour. The drawback to this product is a lack of SPF. By using an SPF chapstick and then applying the gloss you can get the benefit of both. However, I tend to just use the gloss. 

Incase you were wondering, the polish I am wearing in these photos is Warm and Fozzie from OPI's Muppets mini collection. 

Recently my nail polish collection has grown exponentially and I will definitely be travelling with a mini bottle from now on. I recommend either a light neutral such as this taupe polish on the right called Don't Feed the Hand Models from Sephora by OPI's Safari Luxe mini collection or the silver with red flecks on the left which is Designer, de Better from OPI's Muppet mini collection. A polish which requires minimal touch ups, provides a finished but not too dramatic look, and I can wear throughout my trip is the ideal choice. I love the small bottles available from many popular brands including OPI and Deborah Lipmann. Check out Christina's blog Polishes and Pleasantries for everything you need to know about nail polish.

Finally, I bring along a small mirror because my makeup compacts do not include one, and if they did I know it would be too small and covered in makeup dust. I love this small mirror because it has a cute design on the front which has a nice sparkle and folds open. I probably purchased this at a drug store or dollar store but I have had it for ages and cannot remember. Because of this mirror I have avoided crawling over people on the airplane to take a quick peek at the state of my face on a long plane ride.

As you can see there are two mirrors inside. One is the normal everyday reflection that works just fine and the other is the high def too close for comfort mirror that I avoid looking at at all costs. 

So there you have it a run down of my must have products on vacation. I would love to hear what you take with you and what you prefer to leave at home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Planes, Train, and Donkeys?

For me, traveling is all about culminating experiences not just coming home with the perfect photograph. Although, don't get me wrong, I love being able to show off my snaps when I return. Like I mentioned at the end of my last post, the trip begins as soon as you leave your house and the transportation you take becomes as much a part of the fun as the destination. My most recent vacation to Turkey and Greece included an impressive assemblage of transportation methods.

Of course it all began with an airplane. But not just any airplane...the largest passenger airplane ever built. I flew from Montreal to Paris via Air France on this boehemeth:

Now I do not know much about planes so I cannot begin to recite the specs of this monster, however I can tell you it has 2 full levels and first class looked fabulous (as I noticed while I was being quickly herded towards steerage). The seats are 10 across with two aisles and each seat has a tv. Now when you look at the huge plane you would think there would be a decent amount of leg room... alas no. This was my only complaint:

This image is somewhat deceiving making it look like I had more room than I actually did. Anyway... what I enjoyed most about this plane was that during take off and landing your personal tv screen switched to a video feed filming from the tail of the plane. Actually seeing myself take off and land was new to me and I loved every second of it. Now the macabre side of me wondered how horrific it would be to see yourself crash... but I won't dwell on that.

After arriving in Istanbul we enjoyed the charms of local transportation including taxis that could rival New York City drivers in the terror department, subway, tram, and bus. All of these methods, taxi excluded, were reliable, easy to use, and very affordable.

My favorite way to travel in Istanbul is by the local commuter ferry. Now, Istanbul exists on two continents (Europe and Asia) and tour companies love to sell you expensive tickets on their vessels just to make the very quick 5-10 minute jump across the Bosphorus to either side. The alternative is the commuter ferry which costs only 1.75 Turkish Lira (read: very cheap). You get to enjoy the friendly locals on their way to work or on a family outing. I had the joy of watching a young turkish boy chowing down on a sesame bun and then feeding it to the seagulls while laughing hysterically meanwhile I'm thinking to myself that I would see the exact thing at home on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry. The only drawback to this is that you miss out on commentary during your sail (grab a pamphlet in the ferry terminal). You can even indulge in some Turkish apple tea as you board the ferry in a lovely little tea glass.

My final means of transportation in Turkey was the cruise ship. This was a small ship compared to what I was used to seeing in my own home town harbour, however the cozy size made sure that the staff was recognizable and I would see the same faces wherever I went. This ship boasted 3 dining rooms a very large lounge, casino, pool, shop, and many other amenities. It was a great way to travel the Aegean.

While touring Greece, my main mode of movement was by tour bus. These cushy air conditioned world wonders require no further explanation. The highlight of my entire trip was likely as I made my way to the acropolis in a town called Lindos. This lovely town is made up of very narrow winding streets that you could easily find yourself lost in. A church broadcasts mass through loud speakers which can be heard throughout the town and if you do not keep your eyes on the ground you will likely find yourself stepping in donkey droppings. There are two ways to the top of the Lindos acropolis, by foot up approximately 350 very steep steps with no railing, or by donkey. Originally I was going to pass on the donkey because I was nervous, no...scared. I faced my teeny fear and paid my 5 euro and got on the donkey because I just could not pass up a potentially good story. My donkey's name was Lazy and the herder did everything but push him up the hill to make him move. I loved it! I loved it so much that I paid another 5 euro to take the donkey down the hill... this new donkey was not my old friend Lazy and got me to the bottom very very quickly... I decided I may want to forget archaeology altogether and become a donkey herder. I am a natural.

The moral of THIS story is, if you are noticing a trend on your travels, go with it! You very well might end up with a pretty interesting story to show for it. I noticed that I was using a variety of fun ways to get around and because of that I just could not pass up a donkey ride which turned out to be one of the highlights of all my travels.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's a Greekalicious Turkish Delight

I graduated from university this year for the 2nd time. This time was special, I studied something I loved and that made all the difference in the world to my level of commitment. As a congratulatory gift, my parents and I decided to take a trip. The destination was my choice. Can you imagine.... "Where do you want to go?" hmmm... ok let's try and narrow THAT down. Well the first step was to grab a book of potential tours. Long story short, I found my self drawn towards Greece. I suppose my background in archaeology added to the appeal knowing I would be seeing ruins and archaeological sites thousands of years old. I imagined the columns just vibrated with history and life. However, I did not want to see JUST Greece. There were so many options and I couldn't choose just one, so I decided on a combined trip of Turkey and Greece which included a mediterranean cruise... how quaint.

In preparation for my trip I decided, like most travel junkies, to do some pre-trip reading. Naturally I found myself a fantastic map of Athens complete with the metro routes. This was entertaining... for a while. It did not take me long to memorize the underground and location of the Plaka. The next step was to buy a cheap guidebook to Greece. I found out all of the best and expensive places to stay as well as all the famous landmarks you just HAVE to purchase a souvenir from. What I needed was something a little more inspiring that would really make me appreciate the culture and give me some context. I started with a book I'd had on my shelf for ages, "The Good Tourist: An Ethical Traveller's Guide" by Lucy Popescu. Popescu breaks the book down by country and highlights the human rights, environmental, and ethical concerns of various global locations. Since I already knew quite about about Greece and Greek traditions, I focused on Turkey for my reading pleasure. From Popescu's book I was able to travel to the land of carpets and mosques with an appreciation of what the people in this incredible country face each and every day. The best part about this book is a section at the end of each chapter which highlights recommended reading before, during and after your trip. From this list, I made my next selection, "The Bastard of Istanbul" by Elif Shafak. This novel features a group of woman from different backgrounds, Turkish and Arminian. What these woman value most is their family and bringing them together around a table of good food and good company. Reading about the different generations of these women and discovering how their values surrounding religion, women's rights, and men have changed was eye opening. Finally, I found this selection at my local library, "Istanbul:The Collected Traveler" by Barrie Kerper. Kerper has collected articles and musing from lovers of Istanbul which provide a colourful backdrop of this amazing city. The best part of this book is the A-Z of Istanbul in the back. Under "T" you will find the words Turkish Toilet, an essential topic to investigate before departing from your comfy loo at home. This book kept me very good company along my adventure, in particular a day I spent in my hotel room under the weather.

My point is, before your trip do some research to find out what sites you MUST see, as well as catch a glimpse into the lives of the people who reside there every day. Choose a lover's guide to take with you which will help you find the beauty in simple experiences like finding the perfect cup of Turkish coffee, you will remember these experiences much more than standing in line to see a museum. Also, become acquainted with the ethical concerns of the nation not only for your own safety but to appreciate the struggles locals face and become a more ethical tourist when choosing what to see and spend your precious pennies on.

After my little bit of research I was ready to embark on my fabulous vacation...which begins as soon as you leave for the airport. Sometimes getting there is half the fun.