COM0014 – Blog #1: My Last Vacation before Lockdown

COM0014 – Blog #1: My Last Vacation before Lockdown

It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere other than the grocery store or the pharmacy. The pandemic has definitely put a damper on one’s ability to travel over the last year. However, I still have many fond memories of the last places I visited before the world shut down. In May of 2019 I was traveled to British Columbia for two weeks for my birthday. We stayed in Vancouver for a week and then took the ferry to Vancouver Island where we stayed for the following week.

View of Vancouver from Kitsilano
Photo Credit: Aislinn Calvert

Vancouver is great city to visit, there are lots of great restaurants, beaches and bike trails to explore and my absolute favourite thing to do is ride the water taxis in False Creek, especially at sunset.

Water taxi in False Creek
Photo Credit: Aislinn Calvert

Every time I travel to Vancouver I stay at the Sylvia Hotel in English Bay. The Sylvia Hotel is a wonderful place to spend time in Vancouver’s west end. It is steps from Stanley Park, with a fantastic view of the Bay and was home to Vancouver’s first cocktail bar, The Tilting Room (Sylvia Hotel, 2016).

The Sylvia Hotel
Photo Credit: Aislinn Calvert

Originally built as an apartment building in 1912, it was later sold and by the 1960’s had become a popular and bustling hotel (V.I.A., 2017). During the Second World War The Sylvia was used to house merchant marines and there are many photos in the hotel from this period and later in the 1960’s (V.I.A., 2017). The Sylvia Hotel’s retro aesthetic allows one to imagine how it felt to be there during those times.

English Bay
Image Source

The hotel is also meant to be haunted by the famous Hollywood actor Errol Flynn, specifically room 604 which happens to be the room I was assigned the first time I stayed at The Sylvia Hotel (V.I.A., 2017). Unfortunately, I do not have any paranormal experiences to report, it was quite an uneventful stay in that respect. Have any of you ever knowingly stayed in a haunted hotel? Canada is home to many ghostly inns, check out this link to find out if you have stayed in some of the most prolific haunted hotels in Canada.

Errol Flynn
Image Credit

The second week of our travels took us to the tiny surf town of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We stayed at the Pacific Sands Bech Resort on Cox Bay, which is well known for great surfing and hosts the largest surfing competition in Canada, The Rip Curl Pro, which happened to be on the week we were there (Tofino, n.d.) Inspired by the surf culture in Tofino and my love of yoga, I arranged to participate in a yoga and surf retreat for the final weekend of the trip through Tofino Yoga. This was an interesting experience as I was the only participant, which made for a very personalized, yet somewhat awkward weekend. 

Me practicing yoga on Cox Bay Beach
Photo Credit: Tofino Yoga

The yoga retreat was fun and consisted of invigorating early morning Hatha yoga classes and evening Yin yoga classes on the beach with surfing lessons provided by Surf Sister in between. Having never surfed before it was certainly a challenge, but I did manage to get up briefly on the second day, something I consider an accomplishment. Have you ever surfed? How long did it take you to get up on the board?

Chesterman Beach, Tofino
Photo Credit: Aislinn Calvert

I have always loved British Columbia and cannot wait to be able to return when the lockdown is over and restrictions on travel are lifted. Tell me about your B.C. adventures!

Resources

Vancouver Is Awesome, (September 2017), ‘5 Things You didn’t Know About the Sylvia Hotel’ Retrieved from https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/events-and-entertainment/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-sylvia-hotel-1934207

Twitter, (July 2016), ‘The Sylvia Hotel’ Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SylviaHotel/status/750731571284484096

Tofino, (n.d.), ‘The Rip Curl Pro Tofino’ Retrieved from https://tourismtofino.com/event/rip-curl-pro-tofino/

COM0014 – Blog #1: A Family Vacation that Came to a Screech in Newfoundland

As a 40+ year old adult, let me tell you, vacationing with family isn’t what it used to be.

In the Winter of 2019, I made plans for my daughter and I to travel to Newfoundland for a week long, relaxing vacation with my parents, whom I hadn’t been on holiday with since I was around 20 years old. I was geared up for this because most of my vacations over the past few years have consisted of day trips with my daughter, going to the Toronto Zoo, Storybook Gardens, the Museum, Bingemans, Stratford for shopping and duck feeding, etc. Nowadays this is called a staycation. Anyway, this year’s trip was going to be BIG, especially since it would probably be one of the last opportunities to travel with my parents now that they’re getting older, and I loved the fact that my daughter and I would have cherished memories with them.

We started planning for the upcoming Summer holiday. I ordered a tourist package which arrived in the mail, and scoured the web for things to do and see. I had heard so many great things from friends having been there. I was already a fan of the East coast, having travelled to Nova Scotia several times, but was told Newfoundland would be even more scenic. 

As time wore on, and without my knowledge, my parents decided to extend our plans to include my siblings. They told me that my brother and wife were now going to come on the trip with us. This was fine, because we hadn’t officially booked an Airbnb at that point, although, in the back of my head I knew we might have some personality differences on the trip. I mean, not everyone gets along with their siblings enough to travel with them, right?

As kids we got along for the most part, and into our twenties we partied a lot together… but once I had my daughter a lot of things changed, and there seemed to be a growing tension between the three of us. Like an elephant in the room every time we got together for the big 3: Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.

Trying to stay positive about the vacation, I pressed on, and ended up finding a beautiful house, close to downtown St. John’s, that we could Airbnb for the week. I booked it, along with our flights. This was really happening!

Shortly after, my older sister told my parents that she was coming too. Again, this all sounds like a great family vacay, but along with my sister, comes a bunch of drama. It’s one of her gifts. If she can pit people against one another, she’ll do it. Maybe that’s too harsh to say?

Luckily (or unluckily) there was room – the Airbnb had advertised a bedroom in the attic, which appeared to have a bunkbed. I hadn’t anticipated anyone having to sleep up there, as there were three other bedrooms, all with queen-sized beds. However, I quickly became anxious…was I going to be shafted to the attic? I was the only one bringing their child. But, I didn’t want to sleep on a small, uncomfortable bunkbed. After much worry and contemplation, I decided to tell my sister that I would be sharing the queen bed with my daughter, and being the newcomer to the trip, she’d have to take the attic. To my surprise, she didn’t put up much of a fuss. Maybe this was going to go OK after all!

It wasn’t. The second night we spent there, somehow the attic turned into a sauna. It was as though someone turned on a heater upstairs. My sister wasn’t happy, but ended up plugging in some fans, and survived.

From day one everyone wanted to do different things. We’d drive to a destination, and my siblings and sometimes my parents would walk off and do their own site seeing, often times leaving me and my daughter. After several times of this happening, I gave up on the notion that this was a ‘family’ trip, and just made sure that my daughter and I made the best of it.

Since we had rented two vehicles, I planned nice a day with my daughter and mom, getting our nails done, visiting a friend in the town of Dildo, and sightseeing. We also found an amazing Spanish tapas restaurant that my daughter still raves about to this day. This was one of my favourite days – one that I will indeed cherish for years to come. 

Once we got back from our daytrip, my sister and brother (and wife) were all angry and in bad moods. My dad seemed fine, however. I guess the day that they had planned was a bust, and my sister informed me that neither my brother or her wanted to have to deal with our dad like that for the rest of the trip. She complained about how annoying he was, and he was making it impossible for them to do what they wanted to do, since his knees were in rough shape, and often lagged behind. I reminded her that this was likely the last vacation we’d all be together, and that we need to make the most of it.

A couple days later, my brother and sister-in-law decided to go for a walk at night. Ironically, my dad wanted to join them, but my sister stepped in and said to give them some space. Dad went for a walk by himself, but was gone far too long for someone with bad knees. My mom worried that something had happened, and so after he was gone for over an hour and a half, we hopped into both vehicles and drove around in search for the man we thought might either be lost, or hurt. The walk to the main downtown strip was about 20 minutes away… and knowing how my dad likes the water, it would have made for a very pretty walk, so we headed that way.

We drove around, and eventually found him staggering out of a bar across the street. He never drinks, and boy did he look rough. So rough I almost started to cry. We pulled the car over immediately, and my sister began yelling “DAD…DAD…DAD!” as loud as she could. . people were starting to stare. As he was getting closer, we suddenly realized, OMG, that’s not dad, and quickly drove away laughing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved.

On our drive bck to the house, we saw our ACTUAL dad, and picked him up. He was mad that we went to that degree to find him. After all, he was having a great time by himself. We explained that it wasn’t that he took off, it was that he was gone for so long, and didn’t have a cell phone with him to let us know that his walk for fresh air turned into something more.

The next day we drove to Petty harbour, looked around, and stopped for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. My brother, who is allergic to shrimp and crab, decided to take a chance and try some of his wife’s lobster dish. Overall, the food was decent, but nothing to write home about. 

After we finished with lunch, we noticed a popular ice cream hut (tons of people were flocked around the building). Seeing as my daughter LOVES her treats, I wanted to buy her one. We waited in line for about 20 minutes when my brother informed us that he was having a reaction to the lobster. His wife, and my dad left in one of the rentals. My mom and sister stayed behind with my daughter and I. We waited for in line for well OVER an hour – I wish I were joking. They were quick(er) to take orders, but backlogged because everyone wanted these really fancy ice cream concotions that took a long time to make. My mom and sister complained the entire time… and were asking my daughter if it was actually worth the wait, or if we could leave. I wasn’t sure what the rush was; it was either waiting in line for ice cream or going back to the airbnb to listen to wrenching noises. (I’m happy to report my brother was fine, after he through up all night and took some allergy medication.)

After a week of our family trip, consisting of everyone doing their own thing, and being unhappy and annoyed, I was looking forward to coming home. Family vacations aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, and I vow to never go on holidays with my siblings again – ever!

Would you, or do you, travel with your extended family? Would you do it again?

Sun, Sand and Some Fun!

You know that movie 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl has an eclectic range of bridesmaid dresses? Well, I have nowhere near that, but I can hold my own if a competition arises for the most bridesmaid dresses or should I say bridesmaid sarees? If I’m being honest I always wanted to wear a dress to a wedding, but, the oppourtunity never seem to come my way. You see in my culture we don’t wear dresses to the formal wedding event, we wear sarees. Don’t get me wrong, I love my culture but I just wanted to let my hair down and twirl in a nice flowing dress for a change. As luck would have it, that oppourtunity came in May of 2019 when my close friend invited me to be her bridesmaid at a destination wedding! I felt elated at the chance to finally wear a dress and that too on a sandy beach...in Dominican Republic!

Coconut water on a sandy beach

That’s how my last vacation started — with a reason to celebrate! We arrived at our destination late at night and we were glad to be off the plane. My sister (who was my plus one for the event) and I along with another bridesmaid hurried to sign in to the hotel as we were told we had very little time before the restaurants closed. I’ll never forget the rush we felt that night. I genuinely felt like I was on the Amazing Race with all the scurrying around we were doing in the dark trying to find our way to the buffet and then to our rooms. There’s definitely a sense of adrenaline and wonder about being in a strange place isn’t there? For me, this vacation brought with it lot of new adventures. I think that’s why I felt that way.

For starters, I tried parasailing. Once I got over my initial fear, and was up in the air, I was so glad I did it. It was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had. I also got to go on a party boat that took us to the middle of the ocean. The cool part came when they docked the boat and told us to get off. I remember thinking, wait..what?  Little did I know that they had brought us to a natural pool. The water around us, in the middle of the ocean, was up to my chest! We spent nearly two hours floating about. It was so tranquil; I didn’t want to get back on the boat. Along with the countless hours spent by the beach, I got to ride some dune buggies as well. Looking back, I do regret not exploring the island a bit more to get a feel for the local culture. And of course, how can I forget the beautiful wedding and all the dancing that followed! We were on our feet until the wee hours of the morning and I got to do some twirls in my dress after all.

Vacations are often seen as a form of escapism. They let you escape your reality for a few days, a week or even months (for the lucky few). But, for me this vacation was all about witnessing a supportive friend getting married to the love of her life, going on adventures that I never thought were possible and making memories to last a lifetime. This vacation was eye opening in many ways for me. First and foremost, I am thankful I was able to experience such a vacation.

Where is this place you ask? Let it be where your imagination takes you. A place where the sun’s morning glory fills your eyes, the soft sand hugs your feet and the sounds of the crushing waves are endless. Let it be a place of some sun, sand and fun where we can all escape to during this time of restrictive travel.

P.S. If you’d really like to know where I went, it can be found in the first paragraph hidden from view;) Comment when you’ve found it!

Mini-One-Day-Museum-Staycations, For When You Can’t Vacation

In the past few years I’ve been busy, concentrating on my post-secondary studies. As a result, not only have I not had the time for a vacation, but also had a lack of funds. Vacations are expensive! Then, of course, after I’ve received my degree last year there still wasn’t any time for travelling. I had to find a job, which is a full-time job in itself. So today I’d like to talk to you about my mini-staycations! A staycation (or holistay) is like a vacation but where you stay home and participate in leisure activities within walking/biking/driving distance of your home and which do not require overnight accommodation. I’ve added mini because my staycations where small one-day affairs which I’ve planned ahead of time. A day with no essays to write and no studying, or readings to do. A day where I can refresh my mind so that the next day I can hop back into my studies with renewed vigour. 

So, what do I enjoy doing on these days? Visiting a museum! I know, I know. As a student I’ve been spending so much time absorbing and analyzing information, so why would I want to continue to do that at a museum? What can I say? I enjoy learning! Also, being able to learn without the pressure of having to remember all the details for class is relaxing. I’ve been studying in Vancouver, BC and they have lovely museums. It has also been nice to be able to take advantage of student discount Tuesdays or free evening Thursdays. The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC has been the best one so far and is the one I’d like to tell you about today. 

Museum of Anthropology at UBC, image from smtresearch.ca

MOA is known for its support of the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes First Nations’ rights to “maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression” (United Nations, March 2008). This means that MOA is committed to develop close working relationships with Indigenous peoples, groups and organizations. This close relationship MOA has developed with Indigenous peoples has also allowed them to learn about, categorize and name the objects within the museum correctly and with respect. This partnership means that the museum exhibits the objects. However, the object is still the property of the Indigenous people. If an Indigenous person, group or organization revokes their permission (or rescinds the partnership), that item is given back. Moreover, they have access to these items at all times, if they need the items for a traditional ceremony or teachings there are multiple way to access the collection. I’ve been to many museums, such as the Canadian Museum of History (it used to be called the Museum of Civilization) in Ottawa, the British Museum, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where it was clear that the items showcased were stolen, and they have also been mislabeled. For example, traditional ceremonial regalia was tagged as “Indian costume” or “costume for Pow wow.” 😳 Every time I’ve seen this, it has been disappointing on so many levels. Especially when traditional regalia from other cultures are labelled correctly.

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men (1980; MOA Collection: Nb1.481), image from dailyhive.com

I have great admiration for UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. Every time I’ve been for a visit, part of my one-day staycations, has been educational, interesting, and fun. They have so much to see and offer, from their permanent collection or new exhibitions. I hope that one day, other museums will follow MOA’s lead, and develop better relationships with the communities of which they have objects displayed. Even if the museum demonstrate an ethical responsibility towards the communities it represents, it doesn’t remove the fun, educational, touristy aspect. It is possible for a museum to be both fun and ethically responsible. I’d encourage anyone who is in or visiting Vancouver to take the time to see the Museum of Anthropology, it truly is one of a kind in the best way possible. 

As a closing thought about museums, I’d like to leave you with a clip of one of my favourite comedians, James Acaster, while he talks about the British Museum, it definitely also applies to museums in Canada. 

Do you enjoy visiting museums during your vacation or staycation? Why? How do you think museums should reconcile with the communities of which they showcase stolen items? 

COM0014 – Blog 1: My Dandelion Vacation

Last year, we moved into a new house with a big front lawn. It was late May, and the lawn was full of dandelions. They were a delight for my daughter. As the yellow fuzzy flowers turned into white puffballs, she would pick them and blow the seeds.

What seemed to be a fun and innocent thing last year turned into a nightmare this spring. Our front lawn was infected with dandelions. I decided to take a week-long vacation to get rid of them.

Digging them up

I began by digging up all the dandelions I could find on my lawn. The problem with this particular weed is that it has a very long and sturdy root. To get rid of a dandelion, you need to remove its entire taproot which is typically between six and 10 inches long. If you break the root and leave even a tiny portion of it in the ground, it will spawn several more dandelions.

Following a neighbour’s advice, I watered my lawn the night before. It is much easier to remove the long taproots when the soil is damp. Instead of going for a traditional stand-up weed remover which seems to leave most of the root intact, I used a weeding knife.

Removing dandelions with this tool was an arduous task. I worked the knife down along the base of each dandelion in several places and pushed as much soil as I could away from the root of the plant by wiggling the tool. I then grasped the base of the plant between my fingers and pulled the root out before moving to the next dandelion.

Replacing yellow with green

The back-breaking effort took me three days to complete. Now I had to fill the empty spots on my lawn with new grass,

It took me another two days to fill holes left on the lawn with soil, mow the grass, aerate the lawn and cover it with a thin layer of top soil. On the sixth day, I spread the grass seed by hand and used a rack to mix the seeds with the soil. I finished the day by watering the lawn.

At this point, I am not sure what will come out of my week-long battle with dandelions. I hope most of them are gone for good, and my lawn next spring will be green rather than yellow.

Have you ever had to remove dandelions from your yard? If so, how did you go about it? Please share your tips in the comments below.

COM0014 – Blog #1: Are we there yet?

Day one
We were on the road by one, hoping Little C would nap most of the way… well that didn’t happen. It’s a toddler’s idea of torture, being trapped in a car seat for three hours when all you want to do is run and play. “We’re almost there buddy!” exclaimed my husband as we drove down the steep hills of Georgian Bluffs. When we pulled up to the cottage we were greeted by our hosts and invited to join them for a quick swim – although Little C was more interested in throwing rocks. Typically the waters of Georgian Bay are frigid in August. We got lucky, the temperature was just right. After our swim, we fired up the barbecue and enjoyed a melt-in-your-mouth steak dinner as the sun set over the water. Our night ended catching up with friends over the flickering glow of the campfire.

A toddler throwing rocks into the water.
Little C throwing rocks in the water – one of his favourite activities at the cottage

Day two
“Wake Mommy!” At six a.m., our little guy was rested and ready to go. That’s more than I could say for myself after “sleeping” with a toddler. To avoid waking everyone, we quietly put on our shoes and set off on an early morning stroll to explore nature’s little treasures.

Back at the cottage the smell of bacon and eggs was calling our names. After filling our bellies, we drove down the road to Big Bay for some swimming and snorkelling fun. Known as the “skipping stone capital of Canada”, the crystal clear waters are lined with rounded stones ideal for skipping on calm water – which we did!

Snorkelling at Big Bay.
Snorkelling at Big Bay

We returned to the cottage mid-afternoon for Little C to have his nap. The group went out in the “party boat” while I caught up on my reading. When the crew arrived back at the cottage we all pitched in with dinner prep. We feasted on barbecued chicken, sausages, marinated veggies and fresh salad. The night continued by the campfire where we played trivia games and ate “spider dogs”.

Day three
We began the day inhaling a delicious cinnamon raisin french toast breakfast, you should try it… yum-my! As we relaxed on the couch, Little C happily played with some of my favourite vintage Fisher Price toys. We cleaned up our room and packed up the car with one more stop before we headed home, Sauble Beach. After an hour drive we made our way to the beach. We got on our gear, put on our sunscreen – and filled up our water guns. We swam, built sand castles and buried Little C! After a few fun-filled hours, we had to hit the road.

Water guns at the beach.
Watching and waiting for innocent bystanders

Three days away may not seem like much, but it was a nice break from reality. We shared new experiences, enjoyed beautiful views, soaked up some vitamin D, consumed too many calories and created lasting memories. This mini-vacation was short but sweet!

Do you have any location suggestions for our next Ontario vacation?

References:

Give it love. (n.d.). Hilarious Co-Sleeping Fails That Sleep-Deprived Parents Can Relate To [Blog post]. Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.giveitlove.com/hilarious-co-sleeping-fails-that-sleep-deprived-parents-can-relate-to/?chrome=1&D4c=1&D_4_6cALL=1&D_4_6_10cALL=1

Official Tourism Website of Wiarton, Ontario. (n.d) Big Bay – Stone Skipping Capital of Canada. Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://visitwiarton.ca/profile/big-bay/2025/

Camping with Gus. (n.d.) Campfire Hot Dog Spiders. Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://campingwithgus.com/2013/08/10/campfire-hot-dog-spiders/

For the love of cooking. (n.d.) Cinnamon Raisin Bread French Toast. Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.fortheloveofcooking.net/2009/05/cinnamon-raisin-bread-french-toast.html

Welcome to Sauble Beach. (n.d.) Sauble Beach Main Beach. Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://visitsaublebeach.ca/things-to-do/beaches/

COM0014 – Blog #1: Micro Adventure for One

Micro Adventure for One

The stress was mounting!  

I have been working a full time job and running a home based business for more than three years with out a break. I needed a getaway. These days, my husband and sons are really happiest at home, hanging around with friends and sleeping until 2 pm  on weekends. None of them showed any interest in camping anymore. So I planned to go on my own.

Once I decided to go kayaking into backwoods Ontario, the rest was easy.

I booked a campsite, rented a kayak and said I was going away for a few days.  My family was surprised and wondered why.  Some of my friends said, “You can’t go by yourself, its dangerous.” I did it anyway.

Kayaking on Round Schooner Lake

This is the view from my kayak.

While I have been camping for years, including many trips into the back country, I usually had a canoe and fellow paddlers.  As a family, when we all went together, we took two canoes. Compared to my kayak, canoes seem big and roomy with lots of space for gear.

How do you pack a kayak? I really had no idea.  Before the trip, I spent time on the internet. Of course, online videos were great. Typically back country gear goes into dry bags; fancy water proof sacs with fold over tops that keep the contents dry if they end up in the lake.

Kayak packing means loading all your gear into dry bags that are small enough to fit through the front and back hatches of the kayak. The key to getting them back out again is the long cords that are tied to each one and looped back to a spot where you can reach them. Otherwise I’d be flipping my boat upside down and shaking the stuff out.

The trip in was a two hour drive on bumpy roads and it took about four hours of paddling to get to where I was going. The weather was fine and the conditions were good. After all, I was on my own and didn’t need to co-ordinate with other people. I could take my time and enjoy the day.

Site 5 on Round Schooner Lake turned out to be beautiful; sun shining through leafy trees, a nice smooth rock shore with a little sand beach off to one side, and a nice easy place to land the kayak.  Made it!

There was a breeze rustling the trees and little waves lapping on the shore. I stayed there for 2 nights and 3 days. I went swimming, did some yoga on the beach, watched the sunrise, went for hikes and lazed around my campsite. In the evenings, I looked at the stars, drank a little wine and ate some nice, simple food. The fire on the beach topped off my awesome days.

Have you been on your own in the wilderness?

IMG_2571

Rock art on the beach

I am definitely ready to do it again and stay away longer!

 

http://www.northfrontenacparklands.com