COM0014 – Blog #1: Alligators, Alligators, and more Alligators

I worked in Southwest Florida leading trips in the Everglades back in the 90’s. I loved the heat and the laid-back lifestyle. How I ended up there and what I did will be the subject of a future blog :), but this is a story of my vacation trip there with my husband, Jeff and how we almost didn’t make it home because of alligators.

‘Gators Rule

So, when I worked there, I got used to alligators. We had to watch for them when we did swim tests with the students (!) on the Turner River. And we would catch glimpses of them as we paddled towards the salty water of Chokoloskee Bay in Everglades National Park. Alligators live in fresh water and can’t tolerate saltwater, so by the time we reached the bay, we didn’t have to watch for them anymore.

Jeff and I had spent a few lovely days in Naples. We ate at great restaurants, walked on the beach and watched sunsets, leisurely drank coffee at a sidewalk cafe, and swam in the pool and in the Gulf of Mexico. We are not big on taking photos, so there isn’t much to show you.

Except.

As I mentioned, I was used to seeing alligators. Jeff, understandably, was not.

We planned enough time to make our way back across Florida to Miami by Highway 41, also called Tamiami Trail. We stopped at the Tamiami Ranger Station and he saw the alligators. That, my friends, was the end of that.

Forget that we had to get to Miami for a flight home. Forget that we still had to drop off the rental car. Forget that we actually don’t really know our way around Miami or the way to the airport.

Jeff started taking photos. Lots of photos. Like, hundreds of photos. I don’t even know why I cited him in this blog post. If it’s an alligator photo, he took it.

What do you think of the up close and personal views? (Don’t worry, we were standing behind a chain link fence!).

Dodge Charger saves the day

So, by this time, we were late. And we hit construction on Tamiami Trail. When we reached the freeway, I was clocking about 140kmh in our rental Dodge Charger.

It was quite the ride, we made it, and have hundreds of photos of alligators to show for it!

The one photo of us…

The one photo of the trip that wasn’t of an alligator.

Image by me!

References

Quick tour of Naples, Florida from Naples-Florida.com: Information on Naples, Florida

Map of the Turner River and Chokoloskee Bay from Everglades National Park: Gulf Coast Paddling Guide

Information on where the American Alligator lives, from National Geographic: The American Alligator

Thinking of travelling to Eastern Ontario? You must read about:

Thinking of travelling to Eastern Ontario? You must read about:

Dinosaurs, Jesus, Pizza
travel to Eastern Ontario from Toronto and or Ottawa
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

What do dinosaurs, Jesus and pizza have in common? All three were part of my great staycation during a one day trip to Eastern Ontario. During these pandemic times, who says you can’t find excitement, spirituality and good food all in one day? The idea of this adventure stemmed from an old bookmark of an apparition of Mother Mary which was reported to have occurred sometime in the 90’s on the Greensides’ Farm in Marmora, Ontario. I had always found the phenomena of apparitions interesting, not only for their spiritual value but also because of their intrigue of the unknown. School aged family members loved the idea of visiting a drive-thru dinosaur park along the way, but people of all ages can also enjoy the indoor reptile zoo.

This is a great day trip for anyone travelling from Toronto or Ottawa and can also be incorporated into a longer vacation as there are many fascinating things to explore in this area. Driving from Toronto, our first main attraction within the first 90 minutes was the drive-thru Dinosaur park located in the small town of Indian River.

Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park

Indian River, Ontario, https://reptileanddinosaurpark.org
Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park
Vacation
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

The Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park is the best drive-thru park adventure I have ever experienced anywhere in Ontario. It took about 30 minutes to drive through the whole park with over 50 life-like dinosaur exhibits on display. The kids and adults loved the self-guided tour where there were many opportunities to take close up pictures of our favourite dinosaurs. There are plenty of things to do at this place including shopping in the gift shop for reptile memorabilia, checking out the enormous collection of live reptiles, and also outdoor mini golf.

Greensides’ Farm

We continued to travel east along Highway 7 for about 30 minutes to reach our next destination of Greensides’ Farm located in Marmora, Ontario, but not before we took note of the wonderful scenic towns of Norwood and Havelock–where we stopped for a quick Tim Horton’s coffee. We eventually reached Greensides’ Farm and were greeted by a few patrons who directed us along a path, which led us through a beautiful walk with the Stations of the Cross honouring Jesus; which eventually led us to the top of a hill where a shrine had been built to honour the appearance of Mother Mary. At the shrine we said a few prayers for our family member who had recently passed away and paid tribute to the message of Jesus with the hope that world peace could be achieved one day.

Greensides' Farm, Marmora, Ontario, 
Religious Retreat, Mother Mary, Stations of the Cross, Jesus, Christian, Spiritual, Vacation
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Greensides+Farm/@44.4941182,-77.6320185,16z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x0:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!2sGreensides+Farm!8m2!3d44.4938886!4d-77.633027!3m4!1s0x0:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!8m2!3d44.4938886!4d-77.633027
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

Theo’s Pizzeria

Of course, after all the walking and hiking at Greensides’ Farm, we were ready to devour just about anything, but we were also very careful not to just settle for a mediocre meal. We had made the long journey and rightfully so, we thought that we should make an effort to find a most suitable establishment to eat great food. Our 10 minute online search led us to Theo’s Pizzeria which was conveniently located 4 minutes from the farm in the centre of the town of Marmora. (We also made a note that there is a scenic Marmora Mine to visit next time we are travelling to the area.) We arrived at Theo’s Pizzeria with great enthusiasm and were thrilled with all of the unique menu items. We ordered burgers, Hawaiian pizza, sweet potato fries, gourmet dipping sauces and the rest was a food extravaganza of flavour and delight. Best of all, looking through the large glass window into this quiet little town, made the food experience that much cozier and pleasurable.

Theo's Pizza, Marmora, Ontario, Pizza, Pizzeria, Food, Vacation, Cozy, Casual Dining, Take-Out
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Theos+Pizzeria/@44.4823661,-77.6831537,17z/data=!4m22!1m16!4m15!1m6!1m2!1s0x4cd35b34ceb69bdd:0x7b0393d97c237532!2sTheos+Pizzeria,+20+Forsyth+St,+Marmora,+ON+K0K+2M0!2m2!1d-77.6826149!2d44.4834966!1m6!1m2!1s0x4cd34574e32f496f:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!2sGreensides+Farm,+15+Greenside+Ln,+Marmora,+ON+K0K+2M0!2m2!1d-77.633027!2d44.4938886!3e0!3m4!1s0x4cd35b34ceb69bdd:0x7b0393d97c237532!8m2!3d44.4834966!4d-77.6826149
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

Next time you’re looking to do something closer to home and off the beaten track, think about taking the ultimate day tour in Eastern Ontario–Dinosaurs, Jesus and Pizza. Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised by the hidden gems we find along the journey and the vacation begins to unfold in ways unexpected. Let us know what you think about our travel stories and how you can relate with your new discoveries while travelling?

COM0014 – Blog #1: Our Trip Down South

COM0014 – Blog #1: Our Trip Down South

Oh, a Canadian winter! How fun it is. If you live in Eastern Ontario like I do, you found yourself gearing up for today’s storm. We got hammered with about 15 cm of the fluffy white stuff and spent a good part of the afternoon shovelling ourselves out.  To be honest with you, I’m not complaining, I love a good Canadian winter storm! There’s just something about the way the snow crunches below my feet. Perhaps it’s because it is a fond memory of my father and I on Christmas Eve (read more about that in my previous post by clicking here!) or maybe it’s because I actually don’t have to do the shoveling, that’s part of my husband’s household chores. I just get to play with the kids and enjoy the fun part of the winter.

However, as much as I love winter, a little break right in the middle of it, to go somewhere warm, is sometimes just what I need. I used to go down south every winter! We would spend the week between Christmas and New Years at an all inclusive resort and come back beautifully sun kissed and ready to take on the new year.

My last trip down south was my honeymoon!

We decided on Cuba and stayed at the Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero. Click this link to check out their website. What a stunning resort. It did not disappoint. I have to admit, being a vegetarian I found the food options a little slim, however, we made it work by taking advantage of the all you can eat buffets with salad bars. The beach is phenomenal and the best part was how romantic they made the trip for us. We had a special dinner just for the two of us out by the pool after dark, with candles and all. At another restaurant they had a gentleman play his guitar at our table and, to my surprise (not my husband’s surprise apparently) he played the song I walked down the aisle to. To say the tears were flowing would be an understatement. The staff members were amazing and so accommodating. After leaving one of the bars one night, my husband (who had downed a few cervezas) decided he wanted to take a short cut through some bushes (even though I strongly suggested otherwise) and he tripped and rolled the ankle he had broken a few years back. The staff saw him limping and stopped their car to give us a lift back to our room. They brought him ice and told us if we needed a lift anywhere for the rest of our trip to just call them and they would be there in seconds – I made my husband walk. One of my favorite events they hosted was called the White Night event. We all had to dress in white and had drinks up by the hot tub. It was a great way to mingle with other guests, we had a great time.


I’ll never forget that vacation, it was truly amazing and we do plan on going back one year! Since having the boys a vacation hasn’t quite made it on to the planner, however, it will happen again! Perhaps Walt Disney will be our next vacation! My how the times have changes.

Have you ever been to an all inclusive resort?
Share in the comments if you have a favorite one!

Thinking of travelling to Eastern Ontario? You must read about:

Thinking of travelling to Eastern Ontario? You must read about:

Dinosaurs, Jesus, Pizza
travel to Eastern Ontario from Toronto and or Ottawa
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

What do dinosaurs, Jesus and pizza have in common? All three were part of my great staycation during a one day trip to Eastern Ontario. During these pandemic times, who says you can’t find excitement, spirituality and good food all in one day? The idea of this adventure stemmed from an old bookmark of an apparition of Mother Mary which was reported to have occurred sometime in the 90’s on the Greensides’ Farm in Marmora, Ontario. I had always found the phenomena of apparitions interesting, not only for their spiritual value but also because of their intrigue of the unknown. School aged family members loved the idea of visiting a drive-thru dinosaur park along the way, but people of all ages can also enjoy the indoor reptile zoo.

This is a great day trip for anyone travelling from Toronto or Ottawa and can also be incorporated into a longer vacation as there are many fascinating things to explore in this area. Driving from Toronto, our first main attraction within the first 90 minutes was the drive-thru Dinosaur park located in the small town of Indian River.

Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park

Indian River, Ontario, https://reptileanddinosaurpark.org
Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park
Vacation
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

The Indian River Reptile & Dinosaur Park is the best drive-thru park adventure I have ever experienced anywhere in Ontario. It took about 30 minutes to drive through the whole park with over 50 life-like dinosaur exhibits on display. The kids and adults loved the self-guided tour where there were many opportunities to take close up pictures of our favourite dinosaurs. There are plenty of things to do at this place including shopping in the gift shop for reptile memorabilia, checking out the enormous collection of live reptiles, and also outdoor mini golf.

Greensides’ Farm

We continued to travel east along Highway 7 for about 30 minutes to reach our next destination of Greensides’ Farm located in Marmora, Ontario, but not before we took note of the wonderful scenic towns of Norwood and Havelock–where we stopped for a quick Tim Horton’s coffee. We eventually reached Greensides’ Farm and were greeted by a few patrons who directed us along a path, which led us through a beautiful walk with the Stations of the Cross honouring Jesus; which eventually led us to the top of a hill where a shrine had been built to honour the appearance of Mother Mary. At the shrine we said a few prayers for our family member who had recently passed away and paid tribute to the message of Jesus with the hope that world peace could be achieved one day.

Greensides' Farm, Marmora, Ontario, 
Religious Retreat, Mother Mary, Stations of the Cross, Jesus, Christian, Spiritual, Vacation
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Greensides+Farm/@44.4941182,-77.6320185,16z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x0:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!2sGreensides+Farm!8m2!3d44.4938886!4d-77.633027!3m4!1s0x0:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!8m2!3d44.4938886!4d-77.633027
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

Theo’s Pizzeria

Of course, after all the walking and hiking at Greensides’ Farm, we were ready to devour just about anything, but we were also very careful not to just settle for a mediocre meal. We had made the long journey and rightfully so, we thought that we should make an effort to find a most suitable establishment to eat great food. Our 10 minute online search led us to Theo’s Pizzeria which was conveniently located 4 minutes from the farm in the centre of the town of Marmora. (We also made a note that there is a scenic Marmora Mine to visit next time we are travelling to the area.) We arrived at Theo’s Pizzeria with great enthusiasm and were thrilled with all of the unique menu items. We ordered burgers, Hawaiian pizza, sweet potato fries, gourmet dipping sauces and the rest was a food extravaganza of flavour and delight. Best of all, looking through the large glass window into this quiet little town, made the food experience that much cozier and pleasurable.

Theo's Pizza, Marmora, Ontario, Pizza, Pizzeria, Food, Vacation, Cozy, Casual Dining, Take-Out
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Theos+Pizzeria/@44.4823661,-77.6831537,17z/data=!4m22!1m16!4m15!1m6!1m2!1s0x4cd35b34ceb69bdd:0x7b0393d97c237532!2sTheos+Pizzeria,+20+Forsyth+St,+Marmora,+ON+K0K+2M0!2m2!1d-77.6826149!2d44.4834966!1m6!1m2!1s0x4cd34574e32f496f:0xea6ae73844b3bafe!2sGreensides+Farm,+15+Greenside+Ln,+Marmora,+ON+K0K+2M0!2m2!1d-77.633027!2d44.4938886!3e0!3m4!1s0x4cd35b34ceb69bdd:0x7b0393d97c237532!8m2!3d44.4834966!4d-77.6826149
Image By Matthew Lightstorm

Next time you’re looking to do something closer to home and off the beaten track, think about taking the ultimate day tour in Eastern Ontario–Dinosaurs, Jesus and Pizza. Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised by the hidden gems we find along the journey and the vacation begins to unfold in ways unexpected. Let us know what you think about our travel stories and how you can relate with your new discoveries while travelling?

COM0014-Blog#1: A Vacation? What’s that?

COM0014-Blog#1: A Vacation? What’s that?

Gone are the days of relaxing on a beach, hopping on a plane or even booking a hotel without the added stress of covid policies! But I’m going to take a snapshot back to 2017 when I took my most recent vacation…yes, you read that right- THREE YEARS AGO.

It was Christmas morning in December of 2016 and I was enjoying it with my boyfriends parents at home; completely unsuspecting of what was wrapped up under the tree. They made a bit of a scavenger hunt around the house to have the end piece be our plane tickets to Cuba in January 2017. This sounds like I’m quite “spoiled”, but seriously we were absolutely shocked and had no clue how to react. I mean how do you react when your in-laws buy you a trip to Cuba? (I still don’t know) I’m not one to accept gifts, or large gestures well; so I looked like I just stepped onto the glass floor of the CN Tower… pale and mouth dropped.

A few weeks later, I was boarding a plane for the first time in my twenty some years on this planet; and my boyfriend laughing at how nervous I was to step foot in the airport. I packed for two weeks trying not to forget something important, and surprisingly did very well at that aspect. It was a four hour flight, plus boarding time, baggage etc to Valentin Perla Blanca Resort in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Once we arrived, we had an hour and a half bus ride from the airport in Santa Clara to the island where our resort was located; this was long being we got off the plane later at night as well. We got to the resort, checked in and basically fell asleep only because we were exhausted from the flight and time change. The next few days we spent exploring the resort, finding the places we liked to eat (which was difficult) and booked an excursion off the resort to a nearby town. A little insight as to why it was so hard to find food… my boyfriend at the time and myself were both picky eaters (pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries) and we were in a foreign country. We finally found a place called “The Snack Bar” which was open 24/7, but were out of bread and cheese for most of our visit… still we managed not to starve! My next trip would have a resort with closer food to our culture, even though I did enjoy the experience-I would like to relax and not worry about always disliking my meal or having a 25 year old child complain there is no pizza each day!!!

Our excursion went to small towns close to our resort and then our last stop was a beautiful town with a market, tobacco shop (we saw how they make cigars-so touristy) and then lunch at a small restaurant with everyone on the bus trip. Being this was my first experience being anywhere other than Ontario or Quebec, this was a huge insight to culture change and was really enlightening. I am a bit of a photography nerd, and captured a few shots during my bus trip as well… shown below!

All in all, my first experience with flying, new culture and lack of food was not too bad! I would definitely like to visit some other places in my lifetime-if Covid ever hibernates long enough… What destinations are you excited to get to after this pandemic lets up? Why?

Thanks for reading ❤

Cheers!

Honeymoon in Paris

Honeymoon in Paris

Now in the times of Covid-19, I think we all would love to go and take a vacation to our favorite place.
So, why not go down memory lane and think about the last vacation we had. Today, I will talk about mine. Paris, France in the summer of 2018!

Deciding where to go for our Honeymoon

My husband and I renewed our vows in my hometown Hanau in Germany in July 2018. I decided that I wanted to surprise him with a Honeymoon.
I planned the whole thing without him knowing and I also booked everything online.

The only thing I had asked him a few months earlier was, if he got the chance to see either Rome or Paris where he would rather go. He chose Paris. And that’s when I started planning everything.

Arriving in Paris

At the Gallery Lafayette


We were staying in Paris for 6 days. I thought this would give us plenty of time to see “everything” but I was so wrong! I think we just saw a small part of what we wanted to do.

I booked tickets to go to Paris for us by train on early Monday morning. We were in Paris (from Frankfurt) in as little over 4 hours. By about 1 pm we were in our little hotel in Montmartre (just a few meters away from the Moulin Rouge). Thinking back, I’m still glad that I booked a hotel with Air Condition because we would end up having at least 35 degrees every day during our stay.

Anyways, our first day was a very relaxing start in Paris and as I said earlier, I had planned everything. So, we had a clear idea of what we were going to do in the next few days.

The first day we walked to the Gallery Lafayette, not to shop but because I knew that you could see the whole city from the rooftop. The view was amazing!

To finish our first day off and to take in the city, I had arranged a tour with a Parisian 2CV Car. If you ever visit Paris, take the time to do a tour with one of those cars. It is amazing.

View from the little 2CV Car

Versailles, Catacombs, The Rodin Museum & Museum D’Orsay

In the next few days, we had planned many things. Our second day was completely booked off for the Palace of Versailles. Stunning. I highly recommend it. Especially the gardens.
We stayed there the whole day and we spent about 2-3 hours in the Palace and the rest of the time we spent wandering the gardens. I think I could have spent our hole trip just in Versailles. It is an amazing place.

Gardens of Versailles


Day three we went to the Museum D’Orsay, which is located in an old train station. It is a beautiful museum and I wished that we had more time. Great collection of french art.

The next stop was the Catacombs. I had heard about them a lot and I wanted to see them. The Parisian catacombs were modeled after the catacombs in Rome and go through the hole Paris underground. All the people that were killed during the French revolution are buried there (except Marie Antoinette and the King). Fascinating place. We kept talking about this place for the rest of the day.

Day 4 and 5 we went to the Rodin Museum, which has a great selection of Rodin’s most beautiful sculptures. Close by is Napoleons Tomb and Les Invalides, which is worth checking out as well.

And by accident, we stumbled upon the Luxembourg Gardens (close by is the Notre Dame which we were lucky to see before it burnt down).
But if you are in Paris, those Gardens are worth checking out. They are so beautiful. Take a look at the photo below.

Our second last day we spent at the Louvre. I think everyone knows that you need about a week in the Louvre and you still haven’t seen everything.
Beautiful art collection!

Last Day

Our last day we spent exploring Montmartre. We ended up regretting this because it was the favorite part of our trip. It is a wonderful part of the town and we hope to explore it more if we can come back.
The last thing we went to was the Sacre-Cour, down below you can see some photos from the top of the church and from Montmartre.


What was your favorite vacation? And do you have some favorite spots and tips and tricks? If so, let me know in the comment section.
Thank you for reading!

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: Visiting Cuba made me uncomfortable

By Cindy Macdonald

Just prior to the coronavirus shutdown of global travel, my husband and I took our first vacation to a Caribbean all-inclusive resort. We have taken Caribbean cruises a few times, but decided this was the year to try a beach vacay.

I was worried about being bored, with seven days at the beach and by the pool, so we chose Varadero, Cuba because if offered the possibility of some cultural learning in addition to beach time. We took a day trip into Havana and another venture off-resort to hear a local band. Boredom averted.

The architecture and ambiance of Old Havana was a little less colorful than I had hoped, but still enjoyable. The spectacular stonework, wrought-iron balconies and awe-inspiring churches definitely had a tropical, colonial feel.

Check out the video (here) and photos of Old Havana.

Old Havana, February 2020
Old Havana, February 2020

The quality of service, food and accommodations at our resort in Varadero was well below what we are accustomed to on cruises, but then, so was the price.

When choosing our vacation destination, one of my concerns was how we would deal with the dramatic lifestyle gap between us as middle-class North Americans and the poor local Cuban population. There’s a brief history of Cuba here, which states:

“Life in contemporary Cuba is thus challenging, given the limited access to food, transportation, electrical power, and other necessities.

brittanica.com

The problem is, life is not challenging for the tourists who flock to the island’s resorts. They get the best the island has to offer, and that has to create resentment, doesn’t it?

Pool at a Sandals resort. By Ashley Burton, Wikimedia Commons

I have been part of the working class in a town dependent on rich summer residents. During that time, I did not have favorable feelings toward my upper-class employers. In my imagination, the feelings of working-class Cubans toward vacationers must be similar, or even stronger, given Cuba’s socialist/communist roots. Therefore, it struck me as false when the servers and cleaners were overly friendly toward their clients. Servers would give some vacationers hugs each morning at breakfast. My husband took it as genuine friendliness. I perceived it as currying favor for tips. It made me uncomfortable.

One of our servers even gave us cheap little souvenirs, and that made me uncomfortable, because I felt an implied expectation to give her something in return.

When I caved to popular protocol and left “gifts” of cosmetics and toiletries for our cleaner, she was not overly thankful, and seemed to want to avoid conversation about it. It made both of us uncomfortable.

I’m curious. Has anybody else experienced that discomfort when visiting a poorer nation? Let me know in the comments.

Obviously, not everyone shares my reservations about Cuba. More than one million Canadians visited Cuba in 2018. For good reason: It is cheap, accessible, beautiful and safe. The cultural differences just made me uneasy and put a damper on a sunny, tropical get-away.

About me: After more than 25 years as an editor of trade publications, I’m now learning social media techniques. I’ll be writing about news, communication, social media and travel as I go through this career transition. Please join me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or my blog, and we’ll chat.

COM0014 – Blog#1: Never too old to be a kid again

I was 26-years old on my first visit to Florida, but I knew the moment I got off the plane that I would return again and again.  Something about the warm sunshine, the lush green palms, and the soothing breezes that I found both comforting and inspiring.  I would return fourteen times over the years; the last visit was in 2018 to celebrate my daughter’s Grade 8 graduation.

My daughter pictured with Pooh and Tigger

If you like tranquil beaches, I suggest a daytrip to the Canaveral National Seashore.   This east coast national park is comprised of 58,000 acres of unspoiled white sand coastline and is what Florida used to look like before the beachside condominiums took over.  We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed an afternoon playing in the surf and the sand at Playalinda Beach, located north of the Kennedy Space Centre.  It was so relaxing that I fell asleep while listening to the ocean.

Map of Canaveral National Seashore (www.nps.gov/cana/)

My family are big fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead, so we lunged at the chance to experience Zombie Outbreak located on International Drive in Orlando.

Courtesy http://www.giphy.com #The Walking Dead #Zombies

via GIPHY

It’s a real-life video game in which you shoot ‘zombies’ with a laser rifle.  These actors wear headbands which register your ‘shots’ however they can ‘bite’ you if they get within 3 feet.  We were placed in a group with a couple on their first, and most likely their last, date (He was shooting everything before his date could even get off a single shot).  A bit of an adrenaline rush but it was over way too soon.   

One cannot talk about Florida without addressing the elephant in the room – which in this case is a mouse.  DisneyWorld had an attendance of 58 million that year and I swear each one of them were standing in the concession line ahead of me.  The FastPass+ App was useful for several attractions, however, it did not help us for Pandora: The World of Avatar , where we waited in line over 2 hours for a 3-D simulation ride on a banshee.  Based on the feature film by James Cameron, Disney is ‘banking’ that this attraction will lure huge crowds.  The Disney Imagineers have re-created a 12-acre experience complete with sights, sounds and smells of this imaginary far off world with floating rock formations, waterfalls, and bioluminescent vegetation.  An amazing experience, even if you are not a fan of the movie.

Pandora: The World of Avatar (River Journey)

I cannot wait to return to Florida to see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the re-vamped Carousel of Progress (set to re-open in 2023), and new coasters at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.  I’m always looking for new and unique experiences and welcome your suggestions for the Florida Panhandle and Daytona areas.   

Never too old to be a kid again. 

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COM0014 – Blog 1: My Last Vacation During The Coronavirus Epidemic

In January, I had a two-week vacation and I planned to return to China to celebrate the Spring Festival and travel with my family. Because I’m busy at work, and I haven’t seen my family for a long time, this should be a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Coronavirus outbreak began in China in mid-January, but I was already in China at that time, so my travel plan was forced to be cancelled. This is not an interesting experience, but it must be one of the most unique vacations in my life.

Photo by Pexels

I returned to Beijing on January 16th. At that time, people did not know about the virus, because only a small number of people were found to be infected with Coronavirus in Wuhan, so people didn’t pay much attention to it and no one wore a mask. Because January 24th is the Spring Festival, which is the most important festival in China, everyone will return to their hometown. Wuhan is one of the most important transportation hubs in China. This is a large city with a population of 11.8 million, and 3 million non-locals will take transportation before the Spring Festival, so you can imagine why the virus spreads fast.

On January 19, I began to see news about the epidemic, and everyone began to realize the seriousness of the problem. Therefore, I went to the pharmacy to buy some masks and disinfection supplies. It was also on this day that I cancelled my travel plan. The next few days, as the epidemic became more and more serious, masks and disinfection supplies began to run out, whether at pharmacies or online shopping sites. Around the 25th, the government officially asked everyone not to go out. Therefore, I stayed at home for the next week until I returned to Canada. So it can be said that I spent this vacation at home.

My flight was the last Air Canada plane to take off from China, as Air Canada announced that it had stopped flying to China. Everyone, whether at the airport or on the plane, wears a mask, including flight attendants. Some even wear goggles and protective clothing. The picture below was taken at Beijing Capital Airport.

Overall, I’m sorry I didn’t share a positive and enjoyable vacation, but this is my real experience. After I returned to Canada, I was quarantined at home for 14 days before returning to the office, and my work was affected. As of today, Coronaviruses have now affected the world, including Canada. I hope everyone can take this virus seriously, and it spreads faster than you think.

Check out this article on how to prevent infection with coronavirus

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Check out this article on the impact of coronavirus on China