A Potterhead’s Dream Come True

10553542_940854380394_4610613994956218686_nI won’t pretend I didn’t tear up the first time I walked around Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The very name you see, evokes great memories for me. From being cajoled into reading the first book after seeing the movie, to clinging to my friend David through the second film. Midnight book releases with my mum and sister and hours spent reading the books in my dad’s recliner.

And my reaction when seeing the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside of London was no different. In fact it was more magical than Wizarding World as the doors to Hogwarts were opened and I was able to step into the Great Hall, looking around at the props are sets used in the film.

It was amazing, if you’ve got kids, or even if you are a big kid at heart this is not something you should ever miss. It’s so well put 1560629_940847010164_7134179811968293077_ntogether, and if I told you I didn’t tear up when I saw the model of Hogwarts in the end I would be lying.

Now I can’t wait to return to Orlando to truly begin comparing the nuances and subtleties of the Diagon Alley built there, versus the real one housed in a studio.

Advertisements

I Have Found Nirvana

10518013_940600264644_5712053013756898905_nOkay so perhaps, I’m being a little overzealous. Its highly unlikely I’ve found nirvana.

Especially in Windsor…at Cinnamon Cafe, but I think I’m pretty damn close.

But these are definitely the best Cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted, and one of them is about the size of my head.

Also, Windsor Castle, residence of Her Majesty isn’t too bad either, though parts of it were under construction.

But seriously, if you’re in the area, enjoying the castle, the beautiful statues (including one of Victoria) and the people make sure to pop into the Cinnamon Cafe nearest the train station.

You certainly won’t regret it anytime soon.

Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone (Cycling Edition)

10574340_939826280714_3056975821873311445_nDear reader,

I did something today (though I suppose its yesterday now) that I never thought I would do.

And no, it wasn’t making a scavenger hunt out of the British Museum because well, it’s me, and anything I can turn into a scavenger hunt or live Bingo game I’m going to do.

I am physically unfit. So much so that stairs suck to me, three flights leave me breathless and nearly asthmatic, I always joke that I will only run when I see a jogger smiling, or if I’m being chased. I don’t remember the last time I went on a bike ride.

Except the last time I did was yesterday. It was in Kensington Gardens and despite the bike being too tall for me, even with the seat all the way down, and almost falling twice I feel amazing. I cycled from one half of Kensington Gardens to the others (the short route I admit), and even more interestingly, I will do it again.

It was an amazing feeling, speeding by those who were walking, and being lapped once by a jogger who I tossed a joke at on the way. It was hard but it was fantastic.

I know it’s silly to be excited, because it really is just a bicycle but it made me feel almost local. I was tickled pink when another tourist asked me how to work the Barclay’s bicycle system and proud of myself when I walked her through it.

So, readers, travellers, friends and family. Next time you think you’ll never do something, try and do that thing first, because its definitely something to rave about.

Next up, Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park, and then, Amsterdam…

Hop on and Stay There (But only if you want to)

1800217_940140600814_8797780861293291956_nIt was only day two in London when we decided that after going to Madame Tussaud’s (one of my favourite places) that we would do a hop-on, hop-off tour in part because the Sherlock Holmes Museum was packed, and also because I’d barely slept the night before and my meant to be comfortable shoes…were not so comfortable.

Here’s the thing about hop-on, hop-off tours, especially those with live guides as opposed to recordings. People hop on and then immediately hop off on the next stop. DO me a favour next time, take the time and complete an ENTIRE loop. Because it can be insightful and wonderful to hear all that that person has to say on the topic of their city.

London is no different, except that I find even in two weeks you have no chance of actually getting to see everything, the different bus 10563188_939443517774_2415952489864579970_ntours allow you to at least catch a glimpse of things you won’t get to even see in that way otherwise.

Those who tell you that you shouldn’t do them because you can learn all you need to about a city by simply walking around are fooling themselves.

These tours, and their guides are invaluable, especially if you can manage to grab one for forty-eight hours giving you two days to see all that you need to see, without the possible intimidation of local transportation (though I do find London transit easy to navigate).

Of course that’s only my advice, there’s no right way to travel, just what’s right for you.

Traveling During Interesting Times

10419984_939442699414_6973365016867374665_n“Free Palestine, Free Palestine, 1,2,3,4 it is time to end the war, 5,6,7,8 Israel is a terrorist state,” seemed to be the chorus as we arrived in London today, looking through the window of the cab we were using to get to the hotel in the afternoon.

People marching through the Kensington Gardens area, demanding that the UN and Britain do something about the situation in Gaza. Demanding that the world pay attention to what is going on around us, even if it doesn’t directly effect us.

This isn’t something foreign to me, the situation with Israel and Palestine but I was certainly…fascinated. In Canada it is a conflict that has finally reached the attention of our news and media who up until now have been disappointingly close mouthed about everything. Racial slurs are appearing on Muslim monuments in Canada, hate speech spilling onto bus stops in Jewish communities not even twenty minutes from my house.

The fact of the matter is, this is a situation with global consequences, and my views aside there were people who expressed their disgust at the protests, something that baffled me.

We are visitors in a city where people have always been passionate about what is going on in the world, and if nothing else that should be invigorating, not something which takes away from the experience.

These protestors were not violent, they were not fighting with the police, they sat and prayed. They chanted and held their signs high. They made their voices known.

I consider this to be part of the experience with travel, not something which takes away from it. If nothing else these protestors have opened my eyes to what is going on, and given me inspiration to do more research and inform myself

Travel destroys naïveté which might just be the problem…some people prefer to remain ignorant.

This certainly didn’t deter me from my enjoyment of my arrival in London, rather it made me sit up straight and listen to the sounds of the city,

Safety Essentials

I don’t know how many times in the last little while I’ve been warned about my own safety while traveling. It’s not as though I don’t get it, because I do. Sadly. I understand that as a 20-something female, traveling alone I do have a target on my back.

Therefore, I have some “essentials” shall we say for my monetary safety.

safety essentialsThe top item is an under clothing money belt. It can be worn against your stomach, and since it is silk, and the back is a nice, soft material it hardly irritates and is excellent. When I’m wearing most shirts, as I do like them a bit baggy in the stomach area you cannot tell it is being worn at all. That is what I use to put anything beyond basic cash in.

The bottom left shall we say is my secret pocket. I will be wearing a belt, for sixty-five days straight, something I actually do not normally do, but the reason is this little guy. He will be housing my passport, as well as my debit and credit cards. My belt threads through his little loops, I flip him over and tuck him into my pants, and he doesn’t even show in those either.

Last but certainly not least is for when I may be sick of wearing the money belt. It fits discretely under most shirts, cross body and if need be the strap can be adjusted or I can tuck it under my pants. This system has guaranteed that my money, and passport, will hopefully be safe and sound.

Of course there is safety of another kind. I will not be flashing around my digital SLR too much if I can help it,  but if it’s out, the strap hooks onto my belt also. Similarly my smaller camera case, which I tend to use more often while traveling fits on a belt loop as well.

My main concern will be the weight of some of these things may cause my pants to fall down but let’s hope not.

And don’t forget your ultimate safety item while traveling: your health insurance 🙂

The Anticipation of Travel

One of the best things about travel for me is the journey in getting there. 

I’m about to leave on Friday, and I won’t be home for 65 days. And the anticipation is the best and worst thing I’ve ever felt. 

I’ve planned for weeks, months, maybe even a year for this trip. 

I’ll be seeing London again, and hope she’ll welcome me home like an old friend, enveloping me in her arms and showing me what’s changed and what hasn’t.

I’ll set foot for the first time in France, and though my French is rough, and unused I hope to marvel at the beauty of history.

Rome, Venice, Florence. An art history buff would die to see those places, and I’m going to get to be there. 

I’ve booked a WWII walking tour for myself in Amsterdam, where they’ll talk about the resistance of a resilient people, war crimes and my country’s contribution to the war. 

Friday can’t come soon enough…

Packing Things I Love

One of the worst things we have to do as travellers is pack. In exactly 18 days I will be traveling for 65 days starting in London and ending in Helsinki Finland. I have to admit, I’m not one of those people that can backpack. I need more than just one change of clothes, but I can do a week’s, with laundry being done in the sink. My stress levels were initially very high regarding packing until I discovered something awesome. Packing cubes. And oh how I love them. I did a test pack today and man am I happy. photo 3

This is my suitcase right now. I’ll rundown what’s in it and then we’ll go over the products I’ve used.

The top left/envelope looking thing has within it, one bulky sweater, four light weight sweaters, two button up shirts, two long sleeve t-shirts and 7 short sleeve t-shirts.

The top right, in white, has within it 9 tank tops. The bottom right has five bottoms including two long pants, two capris and three pairs of shirt. The little package on top includes four bras.

This only takes up half of my suitcase and there is still room on top.

Let’s just say I’m actually pretty happy about this.

The best part is I left that stuff in there for a little while and when I pulled it out it actually wasn’t even that wrinkly. Any wrinkles that were incurred I just went in my bathroom and hung it up on a hanger while I ran my hot shower, and voila, steam works wonders my friends.

Also, I haven’t even used up all the packing cubes that I purchased, which means I’ll have free little pack its for when I buy trinkets, or enlarge my button/pin collection.

The white cubes are none other than Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Starter Set where the black cubes are Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Cube Set. Eagle Creek seems to dominate this market from what I’ve found on the internet but I know Lug has also gotten in on the game and Sea to Summit seems to offer pretty similar and nice products as well. If you’re Canadian Jet-Setter is definitely the place to buy these products are the prices are comparable to the U.S prices, sometimes lower and you can gain points for future travel products.

Finding Your Bit of Magic in the Most Magical Place on Earth

It’s been 204 days since I was last at Disney World in Orlando FL.

Go ahead, laugh. I’ve heard all the jokes. I don’t have children, I’m 26 years old and one of my favourite places in the world is Disney World.

I wasn’t always that way though. When I was a kid I didn’t really have any interest in Disney World though I did love the worlds of the Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast to name a few. When I was a teenager I was even worst. I was just like every other teenager in that I was a non-conformist.

Disney was the enemy. Big corporation and mass market consumerism. A symbol of capitalism.

The list goes on. And on. And on.

As my mother puts it, at times I was almost human.

But in 2010, at the age of 23, when I was just finishing up my second semester in Travel Services at Seneca College, worn out from so much work, and working while in school when my mother suggested going to Disney World you can bet I grasped that opportunity with two hands and held on tight.

IMG_1191Hotels were picked, restaurants were chosen and I went with my parents to Disney World. It was glorious. The food was delicious, the rides were fun. My sister had prepared me for the trip by giving me a list of rides I had to go on.

I then found myself in a bit of a quandary after Disney. My dad didn’t want to go back. I wanted to. My mum wanted to.

Cue the scene, my mum’s birthday came up, so did free dining. Her birthday is in April, free dining was in September. And you can bet your bottom dollar that for her birthday, I got her a trip to Disney World. I don’t think she even knew what to think. It was probably one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever gotten her. It would be me and her, against the World.

I then decided I would never go to Disney without a dining plan. We ate like Queens.

The Crystal Palace, House of Blues, Chefs de France, T-Rex, 50s Prime Time Cafe. And on top of that The Food and Wine Festival which allowed us to sample food around the world.

So yes, part of the magic for me at Disney is the food. It’s also the classic rides I seem to love the most. I tear up on the Carousel of Progress remembering how much my father (now passed) loved it. I am excited to go on Spaceship Earth, and travel through history. And if you get between me and The Great Movie Ride heaven help you.

IMG_1064We returned, us three girls, my sister going for the first time since she was a child, for my birthday this past year. We enjoyed the warm, sunny Orlando weather from December 7 to December 14. In those moments, even with the fights that broke out (somehow they always seem to at Disney) between myself and my sister, the most magical moments were getting to show her my favourites at Disney. She had given me the list before, and I was giving her the list then.

Safaris at Animal Kingdom, the Viking ride at Epcot, the wonderment of the Backlot Tour. All of Hollywood Studios. And the food. Or as she would put it, the cupcakes.

So no, Disney isn’t for everyone, but if you find your moment, if you find the thing that you can latch onto there I can guarantee you’ll fall in love with the experience.
So without further ado, here are some of my top favourite Disney Magical moments.

  • Seeing the ship from Flight of the Navigator during the Backlot Tour (One of my favourite movies as a kid)
  • The whole of the Great Movie Ride
  • Eating at places like T-Rex (I dream of wooly mammoth chicken)
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Cupcakes
  • Special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (I’m a picky eater, I dream of their salad, stuffing, mac and cheese and bread)
  • Carousel of Progress (Thanks Dad)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Thanks Amy)
  • The Safari at Animal Kingdom
  • Port Orleans French Quarter
  • Sharing the experience with those I love.

As far as I’m concerned my next trip to Disney World can’t come quickly enough. October of 2015 will be the scene set, and it will be myself, my mother, my sister, my brother in law and with any hope a wee one.