LAX – Los Angeles Airport

Wow. I mean just W.O.W… so we had been in San Diego & Los Angeles for about 6 days & were heading home. We were to leave from LAX. A pretty big, busy place, right? First of all, the bus driver nearly drove past our terminal. She caught herself just in time & off we leapt with our luggage. We got inside departures, the check in went well & the polite staff member said to us “Just head back to your left to Gate G. Have a safe flight” He even pointed in that direction. We about face-d, walked back toward where he gestured to & came upon… a wall. We looked around. Nowhere to go but outdoors. Literally everything else was blocked off. I discovered a small sign that kinnnnnnnd of points in the direction of where we had just been dropped off… do we actually go outside? Sure enough, as we ventured out, we saw a sidewalk & more construction barricades so we cautiously walked that way… behind us were other travellers doing the same thing. There really was only two choices: we go back to where we checked in and say “Ummm where do we go again?” or we continue on. We continued on. Sure enough, a ways down the sidewalk, we spotted some more somewhat useful signage that pointed to the gates.

That’s when we could not believe our eyes. Now, don’t get us wrong, we understand that as more people travel & airports etc are being used way more often by tons more people – improvements must be made, renovations have to be done & there will be a little confusion. We’ve been in airports during renos before. (London, Heathrow… the long, painful night of the ongoing clanging security alarms & jack hammers…) There really is no good time to do construction in such a busy place. The thing is: signage would clear up the majority of issues. As would strategically placed staff. We found ourselves being herded like confused cattle into what can only be described as a holding pen. There were about 80 chairs & eleventy-billion people. Ok so not quite that many, but you get the point. We decided to eat something, since we had arrived three hours ahead of our flight (as you’re supposed to do) & you’re never sure if there’s food served on board or not. We hauled ourselves into the Starbucks lineup. That was about 45 minutes. Now they were hustling & getting orders in but with only two machines – you can only make what you can make… Having ranted about that I will also say that I was thrilled to see more healthy food options & also some for dairy free, gluten free, vegan diners. There was a Shake Shack nearby as well, but not as healthy and just as packed full. We managed to score two seats as someone left to line up to board their flight. I needed to wash my hands & go to the loo so spent an hour in that lineup too. We thought we’d wander about & see some shops. There were kiosks. With bug spray, ear plugs, Tylenol & water. That’s. It. No windows or stores to peruse. Not even one. I swear I saw a fist fight brewing over an outlet with a USB port since quite a few that were in the seats weren’t working.

It would have been good to have some signs or staff to let you know, once you’re through security – There. Is. NOTHING. Nothing to see. Nothing to do. Nowhere to sit. Travellers can then make the choice to spend maybe just one more hour wandering & looking around prior to checking in. Upon reflection, there seemed to be a shortage of staff in general… garbage containers were overflowing everywhere, there was no one to ask for directions or advice. There was one very determined woman who worked in the loo, making sure everything was clean & kept in order, so kudos to her.

We’ve learned that you have to expect just about anything when travelling. You have to roll with it. (Speaking of roll with it: For the love of God, get a good suitcase with decent spinner wheels… just spend the money, get the warranty & for a few years – travel much easier.) Always, always have something to read with you. Also, enjoying who you are travelling with is a major plus 😉

Barely Here an Afternoon and…

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We only arrived at @Maya.losangeles #hotel about 2 pm or so & we’ve been treated so well already!  Our #room is spacious, clean & bright with an amazing #view of the #harbour – we even have a little #patio with chairs & a table. We were taken on a mini #tour by a staff member who happened to see us wandering along, he set us up with #margaritas at the #bar & then we spent a few happy hours at the #pool. There was LIVE #Caribbean – type #music & the perfect weather – #sunshine! We #swam for a bit then #CaughtSomeRays Once the sun started to go down we went back to our room to change for #dinner & heard a #KnockAtTheDoor … it was #champagne #compliments of the #hotel for our #anniversary! What a way to #TreatGuests – #5StarTreatment Now we can’t wait to see #WhatsForDinner in the #WaterfrontRestaurant

 

Sally in the Woods, near Bath, England

The drive to #Bath, #Somerset in #England is normally quite pleasant, with the gorgeous rolling fields, somewhat crumbling old stone fences & the narrow, winding roads. I love to watch for sheep & to see how green the fields are. But there’s one spot I’ve been made aware of that I’d rather not travel under cover of darkness… #SallyintheWood – that cuts through Brown’s Folly. This is where most locals agree that the woodland is #haunted by the #ghost of a young #murdered girl.

Many have blamed multiple fatal, otherwise unexplained, car crashes on the spooky sightings of a young girl running into the road & childlike screams from the darkness have been heard. Some say the birds don’t sing along this spooky stretch of roadway…

There are a couple of different versions of the tale (another involving a woman who lived in a hut in the woods that local children insisted was a witch) but the most discussed in neighbourhood pubs amongst the locals has been that Sally was a young gypsy girl held prisoner in a tower without food & water and left to die.

Travelling down that particular stretch of countryside (in full daylight I might add, thankyouverymuch) I noted a huge, steep drop off on one side of the road… this holiday we noted many permanent cement barricades (or bollards) being put in, which I applaud, since the combination of a narrow, winding road and a sharp plunge has certainly meant disaster in the past.

Apparently, a number of ghost hunting websites have tried to discover more but most are too afraid to venture down into the area since it’s the blackest black at night… so it seems though young Sally may be long dead, her chilling tale remains… watch this video below…

https://www.facebook.com/223915807945847/posts/806142939723128/

The Globe Inn, Bath England

Sometimes the best ideas come from the mouths of babes… our young grandson, Jack, is often quite wise beyond his years… an old soul in a 6 year old’s body. An innocent #dinner-out- together suggestion has become, in MY opinion anyway, a new favourite #dining #destination… The Globe Inn in Bath.

There were five adults & 2 children in all and each of us was quite satisfied with our evening and our meals.

Belly up to the bar, mate!

There was definitely lots to choose from – a full choice #menu or a #prixfixe menu that looked quite good too. We started with lager or cider, both deemed #delicious, then ordered things like #fishandchips #gammonsteak #lobsterfishcakes #burgerandfries and even #sausages Each one tasty & filling… so much so that #pudding was only ordered by the children There was #orangejelly & #fudgebrownie with #vanillaicecream

The #children’smenu was quite good for choices & provided some puzzles & jokes while we waited.

The meal didn’t take long to arrive & we had a lovely time in the cozy, #familyfriendly #pub style atmosphere.

The staff were polite, also efficient & the #restaurant was very clean, warm & comfortable since it was a freezing -2 outside.

A definite place to return to in the warmer weather as there is also an #outdoorpatio that looked nice.

Thanks for a great evening!

https://www.vintageinn.co.uk/restaurants/south-west/theglobenewtonsaintloe/restaurantsfood#

Berlin, Germany 🇩🇪

When my husband, my travel partner, said this year when we go to see our family in England for New Year’s we will also be making a 3 day stop in Berlin… I thought, Berlin? Where on earth did that come from? We hadn’t talked about going there before but we do try to add on a little side trip somewhere along the way as it’s often much cheaper to do so once we’re already in England (rather than flying direct from Canada). He’s much more adventurous than I & sometimes I wonder if he feels he’s dragging me along in his fast paced wake… but he’s always well prepared & really, a joy to be with so hey… let’s do this!

We flew in to London, Heathrow & raced to find what gate we needed to be at after leaving our large luggage at the airport.

**PRO TIP HERE: Since we’re often bringing gifts for family & clothing for approximately a 10 day trip overall, we have learned it’s much easier to pay to have our large luggage stored at the airport & take only a carry on with the personal items we need for the 2 – 3 day trip… it’s not a lot of money to do this but it makes such a difference to be able to just hop on your connecting flight with a little carry on and take off. We only really need a few changes of clothes, our laptops, phones & ID so why drag everything else?

We boarded our flight & arrived in Berlin where it was fairly cold & as it was evening, we couldn’t see a lot but managed to find our way to the taxi stand so we could get to our hotel. We know that we’re pretty much at the mercy of any cabbie in the country we’ve chosen to visit but you always hope that they’re not going to take advantage of you… well he did and we ended up taking a fairly convoluted route to get to our hotel & charging way too much to do so. (We discovered this the next day when we rented a car & found the airport within minutes of our hotel… sigh) Regardless, we arrived at the Titanic Chaussee Berlin & immediately we’re impressed with how it looked.

https://www.titanic.com.tr/titanicchausseeberlin/default-en.html

It’s very classy & modern but has touches of history in the art that is everywhere, including Brandenburg Gate shown on the desk top in our room. The Charlotte Lounge is the first thing you see as you enter from the street, it’s across from the front desk & is pretty cool.

We dropped our bags in the room & then went down for a drink & a little something to eat at the Lounge. It was a nice place to sit & chat, the food was good once I finally got it. It did take awhile as somehow between writing down the meatballs with mashed potatoe I ordered (I even pointed it out to the waiter on the menu in case he couldn’t understand me), he’d forgotten it.

We decided to make it a fairly early evening, there’s at least an 8 hour time difference between home & Germany. The lobby was still decorated for the holidays, but even without that you can see it’s very lovely. There is a restaurant on the main floor & apparently another on the first floor for breakfast only.

Of course we did nose around to see the pool and spa area but were extremely disappointed in the fact that despite being hotel guests (& this is not a cheap hotel) that it would be a further 20 Euros per person per day to use the pool! That was not made clear on the hotel website or we may have decided not to stay here. We do enjoy a good swim, especially after a long flight spent sitting. Needless to say, we did not swim.

Our room was really nice, clean & a good size. The bathroom did not have a bathtub but did have a large shower. The beds were comfortable & when we asked for extra pillows they were brought right away. There is a safe & mini fridge but you’d need to ask for an iron & ironing board.

In the morning we headed out quite early as we had pre-booked a Cold War Walking Tour. We were to meet in town at a McDonald’s, so in true Franklin Fashion, we arrived about an hour and a half early 😉 We can’t stand being late or rushed & since we had to navigate the underground in a completely different language, we thought we’d just get ourselves there & then have a wander about until the tour meetup. We actually found our way fairly quickly, really only stopping to ask a couple of questions… of course we did discover that many locals over the age of 55 refused to speak English to us, despite our efforts to speak German, so we found it best to ask younger people. They often spoke excellent English & smilingly corrected our attempts at their language. We saw an outdoor Christmas Market that was still running (but not open until late afternoon) & found an amazing old church, Gedenkhalle, but could see it had been damaged in the war. Massive beautiful round windows, that probably had held stained glass at one time, stood empty with dark, scorch marks all around them. It was still very beautiful, a work of art.

Of course we had to have a #Starbucks because well, we just did. It was cold & damp & hit the spot. You always know what you’re getting with Starbucks.

We met up with our guide & fellow tourists for our walking tour & set out after getting underground day passes (don’t forget to validate them!). It was pretty cold & damp but really only added to the feel of the whole history of the tour.

https://www.insidertour.com/tours.php/cat/27/id/42/title/Cold-War-Berlin

Sometimes, I suppose, as much as I like to think we’re open minded… I guess we can be quick to judge. We quietly said to each other how it was very drab & dull in Berlin… the weather certainly didn’t help much but it was just so… dismal. After having been on the Cold War tour with our excellent guide Rachel, we realized just exactly why it appears so sullen here… Berlin had just been through an awful war, its people poor & their homes & communities ravaged… only to have the Berlin Wall erected in less than four hours one evening, while most people slept. They woke to discover they had been divided in half, East & West, leaving many families torn apart, some could no longer get to their jobs & some, who had been at work that evening, would not be able to get back home. Berliners, who had already suffered so much, now had lost family members, jobs & their pensions etc overnight… due to the Wall. Our initial impression of a bleak Berlin was suddenly shown to be hasty & short sighted. As we shivered in the cold, we could sense the hopelessness, as Rachel described the years of struggle & sadness and we could only imagine the despair these people must have lived with. So many attempts to escape were made & thwarted. So many lives ruined. I felt guilty to know I could easily walk in to a cafe or restaurant to escape the cold & I could afford to buy something warm to fill my tummy when they must have wondered where their next meal would even come from… a very sobering day, for certain.

Berlin takes you back in time

rs6.JPGThe Reichstag witnessed a turbulent history of Berlin and is one of the city’s most significant historical buildings. You can feel the it as you walk to the front of this magnificent structure. The Reichstag is an internationally recognized symbol of democracy and the current home of the German parliament. The dome: it’s not often that you can enjoy such an amazing panorama while, just beneath your feet, the political decisions of tomorrow are being made inside of this architectural wonder.

 

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Desert Adventures – Kayaking the Colorado River

If there is one thing you must do when in #LasVegas it’s go on a trip with these guys! We chose to go on a half day trip because despite being busy as HECK all week long with our day jobs, they’re really ‘at our desk, to our car, to our client’s desk, to our car, to back to the office’ jobs which is not a lot of physical exercise overall. We have taken a #canoe trip before & that was a lot of fun so we signed up for this one.

Our #tourguide was Dani Larget and she was awesome! From the first minute we met her she was energetic, informative & full of life. It was only my husband & I plus Dani so we got all her attention & could ask ask much as we wanted about the local #history & where we were going. Don’t let her slight build fool you, this girl can load up a van full of supplies, emergency gear & 2 #kayaks in the blink of an eye! We took off through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we learned a ton of the history of the area including Boulder City. This community was built in 1931 to house the workers building the Hoover Dam. It’s still a quaint town that looks a bit old fashioned & would be fun to check out if you have time, but since the Colorado River awaited us, we sped on through.

We arrived at Willow Beach where we would launch our kayaks & where the view was stunning! It couldn’t have been a more perfect day, for the sun was up, there was a really nice breeze & the water wasn’t too fast. Dani took us through a few safety rules & we loaded lunches, water, first aid gear & ourselves onto the kayaks and set off. #BlackCanyon is really beautiful – very craggy, very sheer & you can see where the water has left its imprint over the years – showing how the water level has dropped quite drastically.

There is a fascinating little “tram” that the gauger would take to pull himself across the river when he would go to work monitoring the levels of the #ColoradoRiver to aid the building of the #HooverDam. There is a small building perched precariously on the side of the canyon where he would go to do this & an even more precarious catwalk he took along the canyon wall. We hiked to the spot where his home once stood along the river, you can still see the foundation, and imagine him sitting at the end of a long day enjoying his peaceful, beautiful view.

There is a really cool little cave called #EmeraldCove that you can go into. You back up into the cave so that you’re looking out and the water there is green yet crystal clear. There was a little beach spot where we stopped for lunch (which was SO GOOD) & were joined by a drake & mallard duck. It was so beautiful there & even though the water is quite cold, it felt good to dip our feet & hands in after the heat of the sun. We refilled our water bottles, doubled up on the sunscreen & started off again back to Willow Beach.

We did see some other #animals, such as turkey vultures, a few cute, spike haired ducks, a mama Bighorn sheep & her little one wayyyyy up in the canyon but luckily NOT the swimming rattlesnake nor the scorpions that Dani mentioned to us are native to the area. On our way back to the office to leave our gear, before returning to our hotel, we make a quick stop at #HemenwayPark where there are a herd of Bighorn sheep were in the field of a recreation park… yes, right next to the picnic tables & slide! It was pretty neat to see them so up close & fairly tame but we still gave them plenty of space as there were at least three males & we didn’t want them to feel threatened at all.

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better trip. When we travel, we always want to learn the #history of the area, we want to see the #landscape, the architecture… we definitely learned a lot about the many trips & #trails we could take if we wanted to go back and learning more of the history of the builders of the Hoover Dam was neat since we were fascinated by our tour at the Dam a few years ago.

I would give this tour 5 tickets out of five for sure. Dani, of Desert Adventures was knowledgeable, safety conscious & fun. The trip was well worth the money & we would go again. See, it must have been good because we bought T shirts & have already talked about what type of kayak we now need to get for ourselves!

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Believe In Magic or Not… Illusionist David Copperfield Stuns!

Out of the blue, Mr. My Return Ticket (my husband) decided we should go to see #DavidCopperfield on a recent anniversary trip we took to #LasVegas. I thought hey, why not? Famous guy, been doing it for years, probably a good night out. We weren’t allowed cameras for obvious reasons, so you’ll have to take our word for it.. this show was bananas!

Out he came, still a nice looking guy, appearing as if by … wait… alright fine, as if by #magic! Inside a giant box that WAS empty…  it was! I saw it was empty & I was looking underneath & everything! Yet, there he appeared, David on an awesome Harley Davidson motorcycle!  Nice start! He then is casually doing slow, easy little slight of hand tricks… cracking some jokes, talking with the audience… then SHAZAM!! There’s a spaceship in the room?! He does a full bit with a little robotic alien (long story – go see the show) where he lets the audience in on some emotion regarding his own parents, who have since passed away.

Another cool section of the show was when he talked about his favourite toy as a boy… a skeleton of a T Rex named Frank, who’s been missing for many years. The end trick is so unreal as a MASSIVE T Rex appears in front of our eyes! It’s so hard to figure out because it’s just so huge you can’t figure out how it is suddenly there while we watched so carefully??

There is a lot of audience participation which makes you realize that the results are very unpredictable, David even relied on tossing frisbees out into the crowd to choose people (or their answers) for him to have predicted before the show even started. He had emailed one of his #predictions out to everyone before the show ended (of course we didn’t know this since our phones were put into wooden privacy boxes) so this was even harder to explain – – how could he possibly have known what random results he would get beforehand? Mind. Blown.

Worth every penny, lots of fun & definitely makes you question what you think you know about magic & #illusions… he doesn’t take himself too seriously, despite having been famous for so so long & having travelled the world. A really great evening at the #MGMGrand  For more info or to see a show schedule David CopperfieldIMG_E6545

Celine Dion – That’s the Way It Is ;)

You know, I have always liked #CelineDion & thought her vocal rage is quite unreal but after seeing her concert in #LasVegas this week… I have a whole new appreciation for her. She was lovely & engaging from the moment she stepped out on the stage but once she started to sing… that was it… we were enraptured! You realize with every song she sings, that her #talent is ridiculous, she makes it look absolutely effortless, but also that each song must be hard for her to get through now that the love of her life (& her manager throughout her career) is now gone… Celine’s husband Renee passed away in 2016, which she does make mention of, but you feel it in her emotional performance anyway.

One thing I did not realize, is that Celine is quite funny! She made a lot of jokes while speaking to us, the audience & when chatting with her band & back up singers. She came out once wearing the #LasVegasKnights hockey team jersey! Despite her & I both being #Canadian girls, we obviously still have a healthy respect for the brand new team that has risen to the top of the NHL to be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

One thing we loved was that she happily allowed photos (no flash). She sang some of her original songs, even a little piano bar number… and who knew Celine could scat?! But scat she did & it was fantastic. She sang a duet with her back up singer of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ – excellent pairing of voices there! She was gracious to her band & they were spotlighted as well with some instrumentals. I did get emotional for her when it came to ‘All By Myself’ because again, you could only imagine the heartache she & her children feel since Renee has been gone. I think most of us are suckers for a true love story, non?

Of course, the highlight of it all was the encore… nothing other than spectacular… the #Titanic theme – My Heart Will Go On… not a dry eye in the place! Celine was featured inside of an actual cascading, spinning waterfall right onstage! She was amazing, a true show woman & I would absolutely go to see her again. Despite having has some recent health issues… her performance… flawless. IMG_E6607

To Plan or Not to Plan… Whichever, it’s Going to Require Coffee!

So we’re trying to decide where to go next… we’ve bounced a few ideas around… Tried to figure out timing… checked on pricing… I think it’s time we get serious & getting serious requires a serious beverage & a great little place to enjoy it.

Not far from where we live is a really quaint little place called Cafe Amarti www.cafeamarti.com It’s got a casual, comfortable atmosphere, they’ve got fresh healthy food, fresh maybe-not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delish-desserts, they serve all kinds of loose teas, some wine & beer & best of all… 49th Parallel Coffee that is from Vancouver. It’s a great place to go with a friend or two, I’ve met clients there & a lot of students go there to study. There’s a dance studio & a martial arts business next door so I’ll bet it’s where the Mommies love to go wait while their kids plié or break boards. There is even a long community table to sit at if you have a crowd. The staff are quick to serve & friendly and made delicious sandwiches for us. It was the perfect place to start planning our next travel adventure. What’s cool is the owners are a brother & sister who love to travel & have used their experiences visiting different cafes & wine bars around the world to develop their own unique menu & feel. They have excellent hours: 8 am – 10 pm, so can accommodate the breakfast bunch or the after dinner crowd.

You just never know… The ‘flood’ of 2018

There we were just going along on our Saturday, cleaning house, doing errands, doing some work… I said to my husband for the second time that day “Something smells funny downstairs…” We happen to live where a forest is our backyard so everyyyy once in awhile a mouse gets in and well, you get the idea. Down we go to check it out… I’m wearing shoes & head in to the living room, my husband, wearing socks wanders in & gasps “Hey!! It’s sopping wet down here!” And lo & behold his socks are soaked! He opens the door to the furnace & hot water tank room only to get blasted in the face with a spray of water! Because the carpet is so lovely & luxurious it was hard to see at first that there was actually an inch of water down there! We quickly called our insurance & restoration company but there was no way we could stay in the house for the next couple of nights with 8 gigantic fans, dehumidifiers running & the water turned off – no plumber till Monday.

This is how we ended up just down the road from our home in The Quality Inn & Conference Centre in Abbotsford, B. C. http://www.qualityhotelabbotsford.com/

We need to stay for 2 nights so got a suite as we both have to set up our computers and get some work done. The room is a good size with 2 decent sized little fridges, a desk, great big king bed, flat screen tv, a couch & 2 wing chairs sitting in front of a fireplace. There’s even a jacuzzi tub – it’s huge! This hotel has a pool, exercise room & conference centre. We’ve attended many events with excellent meals in the conference centre but had never stayed overnight.

There is a White Spot restaurant attached, the breakfast we ordered in was really good & arrived in only about 15 minutes. I decided to order their special Nat Bailey Coffee since it was Sunday morning 😉 it was a delicious Baileys & Amaretto coffee. My husband enjoyed his BC Sunny Start & I couldn’t finish my yummy Breakfast Quesadilla – it was so big! Something we’ve discovered staying in hotels & ordering room service – read the fine print! We often have just paid a tip to whomever brought the meal but have come to realize there is already a $5 or so delivery fee PLUS a percentage on top of that! It’s right there in black & white…

It’s great to have a room with a microwave & coffee maker etc in case of a longer stay. The only negative thing we noticed was that there were the tiniest shampoo & conditioner EVER. There are two of us and there’s no way there is enough there for us both. Having said that, I’m sure we can call down for more.

There is quite a lot to do nearby for those who are travellers from elsewhere, including coffee shops, spas, yoga studios, a grocery store, Sushi restaurant, liquor store, fast foods restaurants & a place to go drive mini racecars, play on 3 different mini golf courses, play tons of video games, use the batting cages & even a soccer scoring net to work on your shots.

The hotel is conveniently located right off Highway 1 but luckily, we couldn’t hear any road noise from our room. So far a decent stay less than five minutes from home. I like that they had a QR Code in the Guest Services book that shows you all that is local and once you’ve scanned it you can take all the info with you. A nice touch. There are also menus for local, pizza and Chinese restaurants etc.

36 Hours in Ireland

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I arrived in #Dublin, the capital & largest city of #Ireland with a population of more than 1M, with only 36 hours to explore. I wasn’t sure what to expect… despite what many people say the service by Ryanair  was excellent, departing & arriving as scheduled. Landing at Dublin Airport, I proceed to get a taxi to downtown Dublin. The taxi driver was extremely chatty & told me that he had a connection with Canada & in fact his sister lives in #Chilliwack (British Columbia, Canada) – my wife’s hometown! He advised me of the things to do while in Dublin, how to use public transport, I thought this very helpful. When I arrived at the Ashling Hotel the driver asked me for 50 Euros in cash. I asked to pay by Visa, he declined saying that no taxis will take Visas in Ireland… I thought it was odd, but had cash so paid the driver what he asked. **As a side note: on the return trip from the Ashling Hotel to the airport, I also had a very friendly, former civil servant taxi driver & when we arrived at the airport he asked for 25 Euros… he said paying by Visa was no problem… I explained the issue with the first taxi driver when I had arrived to which he shook his head disdainfully.

The Ashling Hotel was a grand old #hotel, it was clean, had that antique feel & the service was excellent. I was informed about a tourist spot named Temple Bar, where all the #restaurants, #pubs & #entertainment can be found. Since the following day would be a packed day including a trip to #Belfast, I thought I would venture out, that very day to Temple Bar. The concierge told me to catch the public tram just yards away from the hotel, that would take me to downtown Dublin. I paid 3.7 Euros for a return ticket, hopped aboard a packed tram to downtown & jumped off the tram at the third stop. I walked across the Liffey River for the first time & entered Temple Bar. It reminded me of a hustling, bustling downtown Amsterdam, with live music in the cobblestone streets – every bar & pub overflowing with very happy people. Enjoying a quick meal, I returned to the hotel to get organized for the Belfast trip in the morning.

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A Day Tour of Belfast
Getting up at 6 am, I headed to the rendezvous point at the Gresham Hotel (23 O’Connell Street) for the 7 am pick up. I was about to embark on a day tour of Belfast including a visit to Giants Causeway, and The Game of Thrones filming locations with the Wild Rover Tours Company. Once aboard the 60 seat luxury coach, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a retired private school teacher. As we were to travel a number of hours, we got to share a bit of each other’s lives, it was fascinating to hear of he and his wife’s travel exploits around the world, and about their home city of Perth, Australia. As we departed Dublin, the guide explained about the Millennium Monument, The Spire of Dublin located across the River Liffey. Dubliners were disappointed as the big celebration planned for the Millennium that was to include the monument did not happen as the monument wasn’t finished until 3 years later. It has been given many names (some I cannot repeat!) but one popular name that is frequently used is the ‘Stiletto in the Ghetto’. We travelled for about 2.5 hours, heading to Belfast. We were given the option of either taking a Black Cab Taxi Political Tour or visiting the iconic Titanic Museum. I opted for the Black Cab Taxi Tour. We were dropped at a nearby shopping mall, grabbed a tea & a sandwich, then in groups of 5, were piled in to a series of Black Cabs. My fellow travellers included a couple from Germany & students from Toronto, Canada. The taxi driver was full of vim & vigor & couldn’t wait to tell us about the history of Belfast, and in particular, the division of Catholic & Protestant communities that still exists today.

BattleOfTheFalls

Our first stop, was called Battle of the Falls, where the famous murals of history are all displayed on the Catholic side of the Peace Wall. We got out of the cab in the pouring rain, were given umbrellas & marched along the Road of Murals with our tour guide in tow. Passionately, he explained about the brutal violence over 30 years that took place in the streets of Belfast, with thousands of people losing their lives. This included his own personal trauma during the troubles. We spent about 80% of our time on the Catholic side & the remaining on the Protestant side. When we stopped at the gates that divided the two communities it struck home to me, that the violence and the troubles were still very real.

PeaceWall

Dubbed ‘The Troubles’ – Northern Ireland 1968-1998
The memory of a 30 year stretch of violence in Belfast is still very apparent. The Catholic/Nationalist population together with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) was in a brutal conflict with Protestant led RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), UDR (Ulster Defense Regiment) and the British Army. The aim by the IRA was to achieve a United Ireland by removing British rule. Violence in the streets was common between Unionist/Loyalist Protestant population and minority Catholic/Nationalists, including; rioting, house burnings, shootings & bombings.

Our taxi driver, Martin May, with Black Cab Tours, said “There were troubles on both sides. I will never forget the death squads (RUC/UDR) as they were known, who came & simply hunted Catholics to kill. On the other side, I recall the IRA getting information that leaders within the Protestant groups were enjoying a meal at a local fish & chip shop. They planted a bomb & blew it & everyone in it up. No one survived. They later found out the leaders had already left & innocent people were killed. The conflict in Belfast/Northern Ireland was officially ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. 3,500 people lost their lives & 50,000 were injured over the thirty year conflict.When you enter Belfast, in particular along the Peace Wall, it is evident that there are many reminders of the conflict however even today the main gates between the two religious groups are locked every night at 6:30pm & all day Sundays.

RopeBridge

Back on the coach, we then departed Belfast for Carrick-A-Rede and Larrybane, about a 40 minute drive away. When we arrived at this location, we were told it had become extremely famous throughout the world as it was a major film location for The Game of Thrones (since I was not a current fan of the show, it was difficult to follow all of the characters that were discussed & what they had done here). It also struck me when I saw a National Trust logo, that we were in Northern Ireland under British control. Before we disembarked the coach, we were reminded that currency would now be in pounds at the gift shop, not in Euros. The tour guide explained that the walk along the cliff path would be about 2 kms & that we had an hour in total before the coach would depart. Out in the rain, I headed to the famous rope bridge which was featured in The Game of Thrones. About a hundred people ventured along the cliff path with me, but only 8 people at a time were allowed on the rope bridge. The bridge named Carrick-A-Rede, allowed you to cross over to Carrick Island. The bridge was approximately 100 feet in the air, and in the name (Scottish Gaelic) means The Rock in the Road. It has been used for over 350 years by fisherman gaining access to migrating salmon. It was awful weather, pouring with rain & very windy, so I stopped at the gift shop for another quick hot tea & warm up before boarding the coach. The tour guide, who was extremely entertaining, explained to us that on a good day you could see Scotland as it was only 13 miles away from Carrick-A-Rede.

BasaltColumns2Wikipedia

Basalt Columns – photo Wikipedia

We then headed off to Giants Causeway, which was about a 40 minute journey. The guide explained that you could walk to the Causeway (about 2 kms), you could ride in a shuttle for 1 pound or you can visit the pub, sit by the fire & enjoy a beer (or two!) before venturing out to the Causeway. Almost everyone headed to the pub! After my own liquid refreshment, I headed out once again into the rain & wind, to the shuttle pick-up point. Disappointingly, the only ‘ride’ that stood in front of me was a golf cart full of garbage. It looked like another 2 km walk down the cliff path would be inevitable. The Giants Causeway is a World Heritage Site with an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The Causeway is located in Country Antrim, on the North Coast of Northern Ireland, 5 kms from a town called Bushmills. In 2005, the Giants Causeway was named as the 4th Greatest Natural Wonder in the United Kingdom. All owned & managed by the National Trust, it remains as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. Once again, sopping wet, I headed back to the coach, for a three hour return trip to Dublin, in Southern Ireland. Interestingly, there is no border between Northern & Southern Ireland, making it quite difficult to distinguish between the two, however, as noted, the currency did change. On the return trip, just outside of Belfast, we passed through the small village of Ballymena, famous for being the hometown of actor, Liam Neeson.

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Happy New Year!

And just like that, it’s 2018 . . . Make the best of this bright, blank slate of a new year. Make goals & break them. Set your sights high & keep them there. Do something inspiring. Put out your hand to help a stranger. Be kind. Do your best. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Stay in touch with your family, even a text is better than nothing. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today UNLESS it means putting off doing the laundry to play with grandsons. . . always do that. Find a hobby & enjoy every minute spent doing it.

For God’s sake, T. R. A. V. E. L. See the world, learn about others’ way of life, walk a mile in their shoes, absorb their history. . . If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with the love of your life, tell them, tell them every day, multiple times a day & give all of yourself to them. . . Be their partner, their cheerleader, their sounding board. . . Love them through everything. We’re not promised tomorrow. Not any of us. Live today the best way you know how. Make it your best year yet.

Every. Last. Minute.

Photos by myreturnticket.ca on News Year’s Eve Day, December 31, 2017 #travel #winterwonderland #snow #icy #abbotsford #britishcolumbia #canada #fraservalley #landscape #nature #photography #mountains

Found a new #coffee spot!

I met a friend for a LONG overdue visit at this really great, #rustic #cafe called oldhandcoffee.com in #abbotsford #britishcolumbia the other night. It’s comfortable, #casual has plenty of #food & #drink options & has great business hours. There are lots of choices for #coffee & #tea (see photos of some of their offerings here) or if you’re looking for something a little stronger, they do serve #alcoholic drinks as well. #Craving something #tasty to go with it? There are #scones, #cinnamonbrioche or #savoury treats, even #sandwiches I enjoyed the creamy, rich #advocaatcappuccino which is #espresso poured over frothed #Eggnog and my friend enjoyed a #peachgreentea It’s easy to chat away with a friend but I can see dropping in with clients to work on their marketing here too. The staff are friendly & the cafe is immaculate. Definitely will be returning! The #decor is a combination between rustic & #antique with lots of seating & high beamed ceilings. It’s easy to chat away the hours with a friend here but I can see dropping in with clients to talk about building their business here too. The staff are friendly & the cafe is immaculate. There are various coffee #accoutrements from #pourovers to locally handcrafted #cups I even noticed some Old Hand Coffee clothing items that would make a great #gift I even picked up a #giftcertificate for a Christmas present Definitely will be returning to this quaint little spot!

#CoffeeCoffeeCoffee

There are plenty of #coffeeshops & #cafes, even fast food outlets are trying their hand at making a Cappuccino or an #Americano … to be brutally honest *whispers* I don’t actually mind the @mcdonald’s #Cappuccino … but there is nothing like the #experience of a really good cafe. I have been to many a cafe in my years as a #coffeedrinker. Yes, I love a good strong starbucks.com and I’ve had #cafeaulait in #Paris In #Athens #Greece I was made the most #delicious #foamy cappuccino every morning in our #hotel. In #Rome I went with #espresso shots. But I must say, over many visits, over many years, I have always enjoyed @decadescoffeeclub in #Chilliwack #BritishColumbia #Canada They are a lovely cafe with rooms for private #meetings and an upstairs #balcony with #fireplace just perfect for a #chat with a friend or to #work or meet a client. I love the strings of lights that make it so snug. The #decor is #artsy #whimsical #rustic and #comfotable They serve delicious #food and have #mouthwatering #desserts and I notice they have many flavours of #tea I love to #support this #business because they are so #CommunityMinded and are always #GivingBack and that is something that needs to be #celebrated So I raise my mug to you, Decades Team, and send new business your way any chance I can. #Cheers

Victoria, British Columbia

#BritishColumbia #Canada is beautiful. It just IS. There are so many stunning #mountains bordering us, expansive bodies of water surrounding us & countless #trails where you can get back to nature. There are also many #historic buildings with rich #history throughout our gorgeous #province. 

There happen to be quite a few just in #Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. www.victoria.ca Victoria sits on the southern end of #VancouverIsland. With abundant parkland, it’s known for outdoor activities. Some of the city’s most known landmarks are #CraigdarrochCastle thecastle.ca/ & #ButchartGardens www.butchartgardens.com, with 55 acres of vivid floral displays & water features. 

The walk around the #marina in downtown Victoria has always got something to see. Places to #shop, restaurants, walking or sailing tours, even a super fun #DragonBoatFestival. 

Here are some of the lovely sights in Victoria:

#TheEmpressHotel http://m.fairmont.com/empress-victoria


The #Waterfront marina 


The British Columbia #Parliament Buildings

www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/visiting-the-legislature

Venice, Italy

Venice, a city in northeastern #Italy & the capital of the Veneto region, is listed as a #WorldHeritageSite. It sits across a group of 118 small #islands that are separated by #canals & linked by 400 bridges! The islands are located in a shallow bay that lies between the mouths of the #PoRiver & the #PiaveRiver called the #VenetianLagoon. #Venice is renowned for its beautiful #architecture & #artwork & of course the #gondolas. 

My brother & sister in law took a quick #trip this past week & shared a few photos. They loved it & recommend it highly – – even though they got a little lost 😉 They suggested visitors wear good shoes for all the walking you’ll want to do. 

Personally, I think the photos speak for themselves & I can’t wait to #travel there myself! myreturnticket.ca

Tsawwassen to Victoria & Back… 

Such a gorgeous nearly-Fall day with the beautiful sky, warm sunshine but crisp air & breeze. It’s perfect for having to take the ferry from the #Tsawwassen Terminal over to #SwartzBay #Victoria #BritishColumbia #Canada even if it is for work purposes. The ferry is a cool way to see the stunning scenery, the lush smaller islands that you’ll sail past (such as #Mayne & #Galiano) & sometimes if you’re lucky, you can spot sea lions, Killer Whales – otherwise known as Orcas, and mountain views that​ can’t be beat. You can walk on the ferry or drive your vehicle on. Here are some photos & video that tell the story better than words of the trek aboard bcferries.com & once on the Island. For more #travel & #adventure follow myreturnticket.ca



Through My Lens – Victoria Harbour 

Yesssss, we do have day jobs . . . Can’t just count on winning the lottery 😉 My husband’s job requires him to travel for work sometimes & today happens to be to Victoria. He flew to Victoria Harbour with www.harbourair.com & this is what that looks like on a stunning day like today. #Victoria #britishcolumbia #canada #harbour #flights #houseboats www.myreturnticket.ca


Through My Lens – San Francisco Airport

The Typewriter – An Innovation in Writing (museum display)

I cannot tell you my excitement when I saw this display from a distance on the concourse. . . I have a love for typewriters that goes WAY back to when I was a little girl. My Nana C taught me to type on her electric typewriter with my little 4 year old fingers. . . no would could type xyzzy as quick as me 😉 My grandfather Britton left me his old manual typewriter that I loved pounding away on to do reports for school etc. . . Yes, I’m that old – -pre-computer. . . That typewriter is what the logo for My Return Ticket is based on. This was a neat distraction while we waited to board our flight.  www.myreturnticket.ca

Ray Bradbury’s typewriter

John Lennon’s typewriter 

This was just like the one I learned on at my Nana’s – she even had that typing course you see in the top right corner! 

Love love love the brass details on this model – – seriously swooning here 

They came in RED?! 

This. Is. Just. Cool. 

Ughhhh I remember having black fingers from the carbon paper no matter how careful I was 

Tennessee Williams unit that he used to write Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 

Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter

Guest Post – Mt. Cheam Hike

This is a selection of photos from Rhiannon Turney, of #Chilliwack, British Columbia of her Mt. Cheam #hiking #adventure. There couldn’t have been a more gorgeous day to get such #stunning photos! #mtcheam #britishcolumbia #canada #fraservalley #bc

My Return Ticket I Love British Columbia  

Driving to the trails by Jeep

Our guest photographer, Rhiannon

A pheasant in a tree!

Looking down at the Fraser Valley below

Living on the edge