I didn't get a chance to post last week as we were on holiday! Jeff and I went away for a few days to the island of Curacao. Meanwhile, Elara got to have a vacation of her own with her grandparents. As both Jeff and I's parents don't live in Toronto it was nice for them to spend some time with her. And we got to reconnect as a couple. Win-win all around!
We spent five days on this beautiful island. It is a part of the Dutch Antilles and is close to South America next to the Venezuela boarder. The website for the country's tourism is a good source for planning a trip here. Curacao has something for everyone to do! Whether is be relaxing on the beach, visiting a museum, or hiking up the hills on the north end of the island. There is also every restaurant imaginable, lots of festivals, and the main city of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here is what we got up to on the island. There was so much more I would have liked to experience, but we were there to relax too, and you can't do everything!
We didn't get into Curacao until 11pm the night before so we didn't do much except settle in and sleep. On our first full day we explored our hotel's grounds and took a walk along the beach and cliff side, and went swimming.
We picked the Curacao Merriott Beach Resort, as it looked great, had good reviews, and was not expensive. The hotel, grounds, and beach of this hotel are all open air, and is just gorgeous. After exploring all over the island this hotel is definitely one of the best in terms of atmosphere and beach area. The room was comfortable, but was a little dated and worn. They could use a renovation to modernize and make the rooms look fresher. The food on the other hand was just OK, and was extremely expensive. We ended up eating most of our meals off site where the food was great. So, it had some pros and cons, but since you don't spend all that much time in your room we thought the hotel setting more then made up for the dated rooms.
On the second day we took a shuttle into the main city of Willemstad. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings are so colourful and are in the Dutch style. There are two sides of the city which are connected by a floating bridge. This bridge opens and closes to allow boats through, which is lots of fun to watch. If you need to get back over to the other side when the bridge is open you can take the free ferry.
We found a cute little restaurant for breakfast which had amazing food and was only $5 compared to $20 US dollars. After eating, we wandered around the small, pedestrian only, streets and looked at all the neat buildings. There is also a floating market where boats park at the pier and sell their fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. Lots of fun to people watch as they go about their daily shopping.
All along the water is the old fort wall. They have remade the wall into restaurants and shops. You can visit the Riffort and lookout from the top of the wall for a great view of the city. It looked like a museum was in the works when we visited, but it was under construction. We ended up going to one of the restaurants in the wall for dinner. The kitchens are located in the wall and they built docks out over the water for the tables. Can't beat watching the sun go down over the ocean while having dinner!
We started the day by heading to the Curacao Sea Aquarium. It was fun to watch the flamingos but the rest of the aquarium was just OK. There wasn't a ton to do there (unless you want to swim with dolphins or feed sharks, all of which costs more), and it was quite expensive. Afterwards we walked over to Mumbo beach, and enjoyed lunch at Chill and Grill Beach Bar. They had a great BBQ going, and you can sit at the bar or at tables right in the sand.
After lunch we visited the Curacao Liqueur Factory and Museum. There was a small museum that tells you the history of the liqueur (which is made from a type of orange) then tastings at the end, all of which was free. There is actually quite a few flavours of Curacao, only the blue one is popular internationally. We bought a tamarind flavoured one, which has a nice sour taste and would be amazing over ice.
For dinner we went to a beach near our hotel called Pirate's Bay. We fell in love with this place! During the day it's a private beach and bar/restaurant. However, at night they take away all the lounge chairs and place tables right on the sand, and light strings of colourful lanterns and lights. The atmosphere is wonderful! And the food and drinks were some of the best we had on the island. We definitely recommend this place, and it was great since it was a short walk from our hotel. They also serve breakfast and lunch, and there is a wood burning oven for pizza. As well, the cocktails were actually made with real fruit instead of the fake syrup mix. So yummy!
On our last full day we rented a car and took a little road trip up to the north side of the island. We visited Christoffel National Park for a hike. The landscape is very arid, and the park was full of cactuses (and huge iguanas too). It was so interesting to look around! We saw huge cliffs where the waves rushed up, giant cactuses, and hills in the distance.
After visiting the park we drove to a few public beaches along the road to do some snorkelling. Lots of amazing fish and coral to see all along the coast.
This is definitely an island to see! It's so different than a lot of other Caribbean islands, it almost has a European feel. It's a lot wealthier than some, and tourism is not as big here which means you are visiting a country not just a resort. In fact, on our plane coming in there were only a few of us who were tourists, the rest were all locals coming back from their holidays or visiting family/friends. The locals are very friendly and are very proud of their country. They are also very diverse. We enjoyed our trip a lot, and it was so nice to spend some time in the hot sun and swim in the ocean!
Check out this amazing obstacle course set on water. It was created by German watersports company Wibit Sports. Lots more at Contemporist, including a video. This looks like so much fun to play on, for kids and adults alike.
Over the weekend we went to the Distillery District Christmas Market. I have attended the last few years and it's always a great time. Lots of entertainment, tons of food vendors, and little gift shops to explore. Even if you don't do anything but walk around the area the atmosphere is amazing. It's a great way to spend some time outside enjoying the season. Of course, it's even better with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. If you get a chance you should definitely check it out, and enjoy the festivities!
Over the weekend we were in Ottawa, my home town, for my baby shower! My parents very generously hosted the party in honour of our much anticipated baby. It was lots of fun, and it was great to see so many family and friends. Not to mention the food was absolutely delicious.
We got so many amazing gifts! And everything was different, except for one book, which we got three copies. I loved all the beautiful wrapping, and cute things that were inside. Jeff came to the party near the end and got to open our last gift, which was our biggest. A playard! Lots of thank you cards will be on their way.
Instead of heading to a family dinner this Thanksgiving we took advantage of the long weekend and went on a mini vacation, as they are called these days, a babymoon. I'm officially not allowed to travel too far, so we booked a weekend package in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It felt amazing to get away from everything, even if the getting away wasn't too far.
We drove down on Saturday morning and went to some wineries on the way (not that I was tasting) and hit up some fresh fruit stands. This time of year the wineries are bringing in the grapes, so we got to watch as the wine makers poured the freshly picked grapes into the crusher. So neat! Also, all the vineyards were shooting off loud noise makers, that sounded like gun shots, to scare away the birds from the grapes. I guess if you live in the area you get used to it.
After, we continued on to Niagara-on-the-Lake and checked into the Shaw Club Hotel. Great little hotel, and very modern. We received a fun welcome kit in our room that was all baby related. It included a pregnancy magazine, baby name book, sparkling juice, and a cute stuffed monkey. Lots of fun!
That evening we attended the Shaw Festival to see the musical Cabaret. Below is a photo of me attempting to dress up for the show with my ever growing bump!
Sunday morning we each had a massage at the spa, as it was apart of our package. So nice and relaxing, and a great way to start the day to get all those back aches out. We spent the rest of the day wondering about the town, enjoying the beautiful weather. Late in the afternoon we drove over to the Niagara Botanical Gardens, where we got married, and walked around for awhile. It was perfect weather!
We enjoyed a three course dinner that evening for Thanksgiving, and even though it wasn't traditional, it was delicious. We even had a pumpkin themed dessert of pumpkin mousse, flour-less chocolate cake, with candied pumpkin seeds on top. Amazing! I hope all of you had a fabulous Thanksgiving!
A good friend of mine and fellow blogger, Meghan, lives all the way over in Australia. She's from Canada, but has traveled and lived all over the world. If you are interested in travel check out her awesome travel blog, Jaunt and Flaunt!
Meghan is currently living in a Queenslander house, which is a type of dwelling named after the area her and her boyfriend live in Australia. It's very different then the type of houses we commonly see over in this part of the world, as they are raised up on wooden pillars. So neat! I would love to visit over there one day!
Since I live away from many of my family and friends, I thought it would be nice to give everyone an idea of my home. A lot of these people have not had the chance to visit, but I hope these photographs can give you a glimpse into my home while living abroad. But let me give you a bit of background.
Our house is over 100 years old (ghosts included) and is of the traditional Queenslander type. Queenslander houses are named after where they are found, in Queensland. Essentially, these are timber houses built on stilts (or stumps), allowing the cool air to pass through underneath, I guess it can be considered a pioneers air conditioner. Along with that technique of cooling, breezeways above doors are also characteristics of Queenslanders. My boyfriend calls these houses wooden tents, which is essentially true, as there is no insulation. Did I mention sound proofing is non-existent, which comes in handy when my boyfriend is “undathahouse” (aka under-the-house) working out and I need something from our deep freezer down there. I just stand over where I think he is and yell down.
Our house in particular is a worker’s cottage, as it is one of the smaller Queenslanders built with cheaper material. However, some Queenslanders can resemble villas. Another feature of these houses is the porches, which wrap around, acting as an extra room. To give you an idea, we just repaired the old pipe used to release the gases of the outhouse on the back porch. Don’t worry, all that is left now is a covered hole in the roof. Houses constantly move with the change in weather, some days we can’t shut doors, other days we might be hit with a bought of motion sickness as the floor slopes. The ultimate answer to all of this is, “the joys of living in a Queenslander”.
For more amazing photos and description check out A Queenslander House Tour!
This past weekend we spent visiting family in Ottawa. This is my birth city and my home for my whole childhood, so I know it quite well. We had a wonderful weekend, and got up to lots of fun activities. Just thought I would share with you some of my favourite things to do and eat in Ottawa.
Top 5 Things To Do In Ottawa in the Summer
My Favourite Ottawa restaurants
Last week we spent five days in downtown Chicago. It was a lot of fun to explore, and the city is so great with lots of green spaces. Here's what we got up to.
We arrived in Chicago mid afternoon. After checking into the historic hotel, now the Hilton Chicago, we went for a walk down to the water. We ended up staying at this hotel because Jeff's conference was located in here and his work payed for it, added bonus! All the way from Michigan Ave., which the hotel is on, down to the water is all park area. It is quite beautiful and fun to walk around.
We followed the lake front path all the way around to the Navy Pier, which we thought might be neat to see, but we were disappointed. Maybe it was partly because they were under construction, but it really was just a tourist trap of overpriced restaurants. We couldn't understand why it was so busy! We had the worst restaurant experience of my entire life. We picked a place farther along the pier away from the crowds, maybe that was our mistake. The place was kind of dirty, and the service was terrible. First off the hostess took awhile to pick a drink menu for us that wasn't dirty or crumbled, and then once we were seated forgot to give it to us. Then our waitress didn't know what was on the drink menu, and didn't seem to have to sense to go grab one for us. Once we got the drinks sorted out, we wanted to order food (it didn't help that I was starving by this time), and it took us, literally, 45 minutes to get her attention! The food took forever, and was so expensive for what we got. However, it was surprisingly pretty tasty (or was it because we were starving). Once we finally got our bill, she tried our credit card and told us it didn't work (however we used it through out the rest of trip just fine). And she forgot to give us our receipt. So basically we had the ditziest waitress of all time! Luckily the rest of the trip was great!
Today we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. They have a great modern art collection, with a huge section on cubism. A great place to visit, and the building it's self has really interesting architecture. In the evening we tried the famous Chicago deep dish pizza. After reading lots of reviews we decided to try Lou Malnati Restaurant's pizza. It was really gooey and great! Not quite what I think of as pizza, but yummy as it's own new type of food.
After lunch we visited the Shedd Aquarium on the so called museum campus. Lots to explore as it is a fairly large aquarium. I enjoyed how they created atmosphere in the different areas by using objects to make you feel like you are in that location. Lots of different species from around the world to view. Overall, a pretty fun experience, it was just so crowded! For dinner we went to Weber Grill Restaurant. Yes, the same company as the BBQs and they actually make everything on the BBQ too. The kitchen is open and you can see all the different types of BBQs they cook on. The food was fabulous, cooked to perfection!
Today we just did some shopping/window shopping up at the Magnificent Mile, which is basically a long stretch of a street with every shop imaginable on it. Later on in the afternoon we went for a walk to see the famous bean in Millennium Park. It's actually a lot of fun to stand beside and look up into it. Amazing how a simple object can be so interesting!
Today I went for a long walk and visited the Adler Planetarium, which is the oldest planetarium in the USA. I was actually more fascinated with the building it's self and it's location, than the actual exhibits inside. It's neat inside as well, although I didn't have time to go to one of the shows which might have been better, but still worth a look. However, if you find yourself down there walk around the building and the area. The planetarium sits out on a peninsula with amazing views, and there is a large beach to explore as well. Chicago was a fun city to visit and (except for our first waitress) everyone was super kind and friendly.
We are here in the windy city, Chicago! I have never been here, and probably wouldn't have thought of coming here either, but I'm certainly enjoying myself now that I am. Jeff had a conference for work in downtown Chicago and I thought I would tag along. While he has been working all day, I have been exploring this neat city. So many amazing museums here, and yummy food. More on our favourite sites soon!
Over Easter and the following week we were on vacation in Vancouver! Such an amazing and beautiful city, I could see myself living there. Here is a little overview of what we did with our time. Maybe it will give you some ideas if you find yourself in Vancouver.
Day 1 - April 19
Day 2 - April 20
Day 3 - April 21
Day 4 - April 22
Day 5 - April 23
Day 6 - April 24
Day 7 - April 25
Day 8 - April 26