During a recent online conversation on twitter, a group of travellers got together on #TNI (“travellers night in”) to discuss historical treasures. The question posed on which all could opine was: which historical treasures don’t live up to the hype, and which ones are must-see historical sites you would recommend to anyone?
I knew what my choices would be immediately. Do you?
For me, the Mona Lisa has got to be the number one in the disappointment category.
It was surprisingly small. When I stood in front of it at the Louvre in France, the only thought running through my head was ”is that it?” And I couldn’t get close enough to it.
Of course, it’s beautiful, signficant, and an important piece of work (especially if it is a self-portrait of Leonardo – kinda gives a wonderful irony to that smile). But after hearing about the painting all through my schooldays, to finally stand in front of the actual piece, surrounded by bullet-proof glass, not able to even get a good photo, kinda leaves you a little non-plussed.
Again, standing in front of that freestanding bell tower behind the catherdral, I was struck by the feeling “is that it?”
Of course, it looks wild, and is somewhat of an architectural wonder that the bloody thing didn’t collapse when it was first built over 800 years ago (let alone in the intervening centuries), but after I’d been led through all the tacky knick knack souvenir shops along the way, all I could think of as I did the obligatory pose was “tourist trap.”
The winners, though, in the “must sees” were somewhat surprising to me. Or perhaps, I should say, the speed with which I named them was surprising.
I’m not a history buff, at least not an acknowledged one, but two places stood out to me.
How wild is it to be amidst the ruins of this city that Mount Vesuvius destroyed in 79 AD? To actually walk in chariot tracks, and to see the bodies of slaves, pregnant women, animals, frozen, and captured in time is really awe-inspiring (and, terribly sad).
It is bizarre to see how the Romans lived at the height of their empire. The ruins of Pompeii are, of course, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Then there is another UNESCO world heritage site. L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.
Ok, I’m a Newfoundlander. So, you’d think that’d make me overly biased in the positive. But, I think the opposite is true. You never tend to look in your own backyard for wonderment.
When I visited Norstead at the tip of the Northern Penisula in Newfoundland with my parents, husband, and young daughter, I was truly amazed to see the Viking Village of port and trade. Actors re-enact what it was like in the first European settlement in North America (500 years before Columbus ever sailed over).
The 11th-century Viking settlement has been excavated, and you can see the remains of the wood-framed peat-turf buildings. (There are similar ones found in Norse Greenland and Iceland.)
So, can you answer the question? Which historical treasures don’t live up to the hype, and which ones are must-see historical sites you would recommend to anyone?
[Note: #TNI is an online tweetup with other folks who love to travel. The weekly chat is held every Thursday at 3:30 est. It is run by the folks at http://www.zipsetgo.com/travelers-night , and each week there is a different topic. You have to answer 10 questions in 10 minutes – you post your responses, and then engage in dialogue with others, get inspired, and learn. Come join the fun!]
Unfortunately, lost luggage is something that happens in air travel. Airlines have pretty sophisticated systems for tracking down the missing pieces, and usually the pieces can be located, and rerouted to you in short order. But anyone who has had the misfortune of having something go astray knows how frustrating it can be.
(Obviously, I always advise my clients to ensure all medicine, and essentials are in carry ons – this includes bathing suits! That way, should your luggage ever get delayed, you can still hit the pool as soon as you arrive, and start your vacay!)
However, no one brings the funny quite so well as comic, Rhod Gilbert. His take on “lost luggage” is classic.
This piece is well known on youtube, and I think Rhod has delivered the routine in different parts of the world (blaming different airlines each time). Here’s a recording of his stand up bit on youtube from the Michael McIntyre Comedy Roadshow.
If you haven’t already seen it (or even if you have), and you are in need of a great belly laugh, sit back, hit “play,” and enjoy!
Vision 2000 is a leading member of Virtuoso, a network of the world’s finest travel agencies. As a Virtuoso affiliated travel advisor, I will have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and tour companies. For you, this means access to exclusive travel offers that you can’t get on your own, along with your best value for the money.
Tomorrow, I’ll resume my regular blogging. But just couldn’t resist adding another video link that shouts about all the terrific things Virtuoso and its network of travel advisors can do!
You never get to recapture your personal time, so your vacation has to be right the first time. Extraordinary travel experiences don’t just happen – they are created through collaborative effort. If you’re thinking about the kind of memories you’d like to take away from your next vacation, give me a call.
Let’s get started!
I’m still working as an independent contractor. Still running my own biz. Still servicing the needs of my clients, providing outstanding service! But, with an eye to do so much more in the future!
One of the cool things about joining Vision 2000, or V2K as I like to call it, is I get to work with some really cool people, like Exec VP Stephanie Anevich. A visionary and impressive lady if ever there was one! And, there are terrific new colleagues that I’m sure I will meet daily.
Combine that with the fact that V2K is a leader in travel management solutions (for biz, vacay, meeting and incentive travel services). And V2K is proudly Canadian! I am loving wearing my flag on my sleeve!
V2K is Canada’s largest independently owned travel management company (w. a staff of ~300 travel pros & >25 locations from Victoria to Montreal). V2K is recognized as a true driving force in the travel marketplace.
Another of the really cool things about working with V2K is that it is a leading member of Virtuoso!
Virtuoso is a network of the world’s finest travel agencies. As a Virtuoso affiliated travel advisor, I’ll have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies. For you, this means access to exclusive travel offers that you can’t get on your own, along with your best value for the money.
Want to learn more about the Virtuoso difference? Watch this video of how Virtuoso travel advisors set themselves apart. “Defining moments in travel.” You’ll understand my excitement at being a new member of this terrific team!
Let me orchestrate your travel dreams!
Who better than Bowie could describe the roller coaster exhilaration of life that I’ve experienced this week? Big highs, sudden drops, and lots of twists and turns… But hang on to your hats, cause this is one coaster I’m going to ride!
Here’s a note I sent my clients this weekend. I trust it explains what’s been a happenin’! The change happened quickly. Much more quickly than I’d thought. But I guess it’s better to rip off a bandage quickly!
And, let me say, I am absolutely thrilled with these ch-ch-changes!
I hope this note finds you well!
In the past, I have had the privilege of researching and organizing travel arrangements on your behalf. I truly value our relationship, and your business! Since my business has grown by leaps and bounds because of your loyal patronage, I am pleased to share some very exciting news. I have decided to change host travel agencies, and will now run my own business as a travel advisor with the Vision 2000 Travel Group.
While I have had wonderful experiences with my prior host travel agency, Travel Counsellors (including being awarded their Top Travel Counsellor in Canada award in 2009 for my outstanding sales and customer service), I strive to continually improve the service and value I can provide my clients. I believe the move to Vision 2000 will assist me in better orchestrating your travel dreams.
Rest assured, I will still specialize in Disney travel (especially now that my family has just returned from our 18th trip). However, with my changeover to Vision 2000, I will now have even more resources and global connections to add magic to whatever vacation you crave: luxury, cruise, beach, adventure, romantic getaway, escorted tour, safari, or city break. I will better be able to tailor vacation experiences to your desires and interests.
Vision 2000 Travel Group is a leader in travel management solutions, providing a comprehensive range of business, vacation, meeting and incentive travel services. Proudly Canadian, Vision 2000 is Canada’s largest independently owned travel management company. With a staff of almost 300 travel professionals and more than 25 locations from Victoria to Montreal, Vision 2000 Travel Group is recognized as a driving force in the travel marketplace.
Even more importantly for you, Vision 2000 is a leading member of Virtuoso, a network of the world’s finest travel agencies with knowledgeable advisors who draw upon first-hand experience to craft the perfect vacation for you. As a Virtuoso affiliated travel advisor, I will have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies. For you, this means access to exclusive travel offers that you can’t get on your own, along with your best value for the money. That’s the Virtuoso difference.
Of course, I will work to maintain (and expect to surpass) my outstanding level of sales, and more importantly, my superior customer service of old. I will still offer the outstanding value for money that you have come to expect when working with me. But, with Vision 2000′s connections, and its affiliation with Virtuoso (as well as an affiliation with Radius on the corporate travel side) I can offer you far more than ever before.
You never get to recapture your personal time, so your vacation has to be right the first time. Extraordinary travel experiences don’t just happen – they are created through collaborative effort. So, if you’re thinking about the kind of memories you’d like to take away from your next vacation, please give me a call.
Let’s get started!
Made-to-measure travel: Please, go away!
check out my new website: www.vision2000.ca/sheilagh
follow me on twitter: @sheila_gh
follow my blog: http://www.sheila0gh.wordpress.com/
Want to take a break from the hassles of work and family? Tired of doing for everyone else, and never taking time for yourself? Then it’s time for you to getaway. Grab some girlfriends, and head to Ste. Anne’s Country Inn and Spa.
Ste. Anne’s is located in the picturesque setting of the rolling Northumberland Hills, and it’s been rated Canada’s #1 Spa four years in a row in the Readers Choice poll for SpaFinder. Located only 3 hours from Ottawa, or 1 hour from Toronto, it is the perfect meeting spot for busy girlfriends to get away from the stressors of their normal day.
That’s what I did this past July.
I hopped the early morning train in Ottawa with my colleague Janet, and we were in Coburg by 9 am.
Of course, the friends joining us from Toronto got an earlier start. Jennifer, Joanne, Rebecca, and Lynda were already in their robes, and well into relax mode by the time we arrived.
It is definitely a sedate location – peaceful, and wonderful.
We soon were touring the extensive facilities at Ste. Anne’s, which includes saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms, pools, fitness centre, hiking trails, tennis courts and more. What a terrific treat for five travel counsellors to be feted by their friend and GM, Lynda Sinclair.
And, of course, Ste. Anne’s is not just a day spa- it’s also a destination spa. They have a wonderful assortment of accommodations to suit your needs: whether it’s a girlfriends’ getaway, a romantic weekend, or whatever you need. There are villas to rent with large kitchens, or you can arrange for the chef to come cook for you. (There’s even a small reception room for a small wedding group!)
If you’re feeling energetic, you can go for a walk along one of its many nature trails!
Did I mention there’s an award winning chef onsite? So, after a luxurious spa treatment of your choice, you can have a terrific meal. Go for another spa treatment, or relax in the hot tub, and then, presto – it’s time for high tea!
Let me know if you’d like me to create a custom getaway for you and your girlfriends.
(Thanks for the photos, Lynda!)
A land that was full of whales, bald eagles, and spectacular snow-covered mountain peaks. A land that promised adventure mixed between rustic countryside, close-knit communities, and wide-opened spaces. A land that lured you to get away from the rigors of city life, and trade in your view of traffic jams for its view of calving glaciers.
So, it was no surprise to friends and family that I finally decided to visit the state nicknamed “the last frontier”. But what seemed to surprise almost everyone I’d spoke to after booking the trip was the fact that hubby and I were taking our kids.
Was it a terrific trip? Of course.
We did the 7 night ‘Voyage of the Glaciers,’ which sailed one-way, northern bound, from Vancouver, BC to Whittier, Alaska. We had wonderful ports of call in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway; and did two days of scenic cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord.
As wonderful as my children are, a 2 year old is still a 2 year old. She wasn’t going to enjoy the casino, and even sitting through a musical stage show proved to be a challenge. But I’m a firm believer in making the most of the life stage you’re in. There’ll be lots of chances to enjoy casinos and dinner shows on future cruises, so my family enjoyed doing things that little kids enjoyed. We explored the ship, spent a fair bit of time in the ship’s pools, and, of course, took in the sights at port.
And, on formal nights, my family of 4 dined early, so we could enjoy the festivities. (While Ceili charmed nearby diners, enjoying the freedom of not being locked in chair; as her mom, I was often stressed about her disturbing others. Perhaps working to get her out of the highchair in the months leading up to the cruise might’ve not been the best idea?!)
My two kids absolutely loved their first cruise experience! At 2, Ceili was too young for us to leave her at a kids’ club onboard, but mom accompanied Ceili to the younger children’s group to get in some colouring and do some crafts with other young kids, while dad brought Ciara to mix with the older kids.
We were thrilled by the majestic mountain views and glimpses of wildlife. We saw whales breach, walked past a sea lion sunning itself close to our ship, viewed a bald eagle up close, and waved to a brown bear just outside our train window.
At port, my children shopped for charm bracelets and Inuit dolls in Ketchikan, rode the tram and collected Big Dipper hats in Juneau, and took a train ride on the White Pass railroad in Skagway. The ports of call were very welcoming and cozy, and the way the land cut into the sea was very reminiscent of my hometown on the west coast of Newfoundland. But the ice wasn’t like home.
The absolute best part of the cruise was the scenic cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The glaciers were breathtaking. (And having a balcony cabin for our wee ones to run in and out meant we didn’t have to fight for elbow room, while keeping an eye on them, during the cruising part.)
I can promise you it will be a wonderful family vacation.
The Grand Floridian is by far my favorite hotel at Walt Disney World (WDW). If you’re looking for Victorian-style elegance, white and pastel shades, carefully manicured lawns, and wonderful restaurants, then the Grand Floridian (GF) is for you.
My family has stayed there 4 times, the last visit being October 2009. We headed down to WDW for what was then our 17th visit to stay at the GF. (We’ve just returned from our 18th visit, which took us to the Polynesian. A separate trip report on that hotel will be posted.)
My family has been fortunate enough to return to Disney again and again – it’s our vacation spot of choice. One might think the Disney experience would get old, and we’d become pretty jaded; but nothing could be further from the truth. We had as much fun this time as we did on our first visit – actually, probably a ton more, because we didn’t have that newbie, overwhelmed look on our faces, our youngest was now old enough to run and hug the characters, and our eldest was now old enough for all the big kid scary rides that mom would rather sit out.
As old hands at the Disney experience, we have more than a few tricks up our sleeves on how to make the most of our experience. Here are best tips from our most recent stay:
1.) Stay in the heart of the magic.
In 17 (now 18) visits, we’ve stayed off site, and we’ve stayed onsite. It’s a decision every family makes based on size, space and kitchen requirements, budget, etc; and I help clients walk thru that maze and find what best suits their family. But, the value you get, and the extra benefits that come with onsite, definitely make it the preferred choice.
The “extra magic hours” alone for onsite guests is a huge benefit – Disney accords onsite guests this perk of getting into one park an hour early, or staying at another park up to three hours later than regular park guests. Plus you get free shuttles from the airport, and free transportation around the parks, you can purchase the meal plan, shop at the parks and have your purchases delivered back to your hotel, and be surrounded by the magic for 24 hours.
I have a separate blog post that deals with the onsite vs offsite debate. There is no doubt that I prefer, and recommend to my clients, an onsite hotel – and the Grand Floridian is the best of the best.
2.) If you can, stay at a monorail hotel.
On our 17th visit (and 3 other visits prior), we’ve stayed at the Grand Floridian. Not only is it one beautiful hotel, with a canyon-themed pool and waterslide that everyone loves, but it is a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom (which is the first stop once you get on at GF).
We zipped back and forth from the park with ease. Heading out early in the morning let us hit the parks before they were crowded, then we could zip back to our hotel for a swim and lunch, and head out again after we were feeling refreshed. And, for a change of pace, you can also catch a resort ferry boat between Magic Kingdom and the GF.
There are 3 monorail hotels that are on the resort monorail line, with quick access to the Magic Kingdom: the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary. We’ve stayed at all 3, and they all have their own theming, feel and flavour, and magic; and I’d return to either one of them in a heartbeat. However, the GF has a special place in my heart.
3.) Go during a special event.
This year was our 3rd time to take in the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We had a blast. Adults and kids alike are encouraged to dress up – even the characters dress up. Magic Kingdom has a special parade and fireworks, and the kids go trick-or-treating through the park. We also attended the Wishes Dessert Party that night – death by chocolate!
And, of course, staying at the GF meant we could catch the monorail back home quickly at the end of the night. Worked well when the wee one had had enough, and older daughter wanted to keep riding the roller coasters – I zipped back to the hotel with Ceili, while Bill and Ciara kept riding late into the night. (Gotta luv the extended hours for special events.)
4.) Buy the meal plan.
My family always gets the regular meal plan. It provides ample food for us (in fact, we have a hard time using up all the counter service meals) and good value when it comes to taking in the various restaurants and character meals.
And the GF has some terrific restaurants to sample - from the elegant chef’s table at Victoria and Albert’s, to the award-winning Narcoossee’s, to Citrico’s, to the Grand Floridian Cafe, to 1900 Park Fare (where the character meals are) to casual fare at the Gasparilla’s Grill. There are plenty of spots from which to choose. And the food is delectable at all!
5.) Plan your itinerary.
No one wants their vacation planned down to the last minute. I always build my clients an excel spreadsheet that is customized for their vacation. I note what park is open when, with extra magic hours outlined for each day, times of parades and fireworks, and then I plug in their advance dining reservations. With reservations being accepted 180 days in advance, you really need to plan to have breakfast with Cinderella at the castle, or supper with Chef Mickey. I help my clients get that all sorted.
6.) Park hop, and get the max days on your park tickets.
Disney charges the most for one-day tickets, and then every day you add, the price per day goes down. It costs only a few dollars more to go from a five-day ticket to a ten-day ticket, and a park hopper add on gives you ability to come and go between the parks. You’re investing valuable vacation time and dollars to get to Disney – why not maximize your family’s vacation time, and give yourself the maximum flexibility to come and go as you choose.
And, staying at the GF makes it easy to park hop – you can zip over to Magic Kingdom for the morning, zip back to the hotel for a quick swim and lunch, and then zip over to Epcot for an afternoon of fun and supper. It’s easy to hop between the parks, and that way you can take each day as it comes!
7.) Take time to veg each day.
Sure, Disney is a busy holiday. We’ve gone “commando” (no, I don’t mean without underwear- there is another meaning for WDW fans). We often get up early, and go until late at night, collapsing in bed, exhausted, at the end of the day. That’s fun. But it does wear you down for the next day. Rest, swim, take a break so you can do more the next day.
(Thanks, Aunt Ann Biava, for the photos around the GF pool!)
There are two kinds of people in this world – Newfoundlanders, and those who want to be. If you don’t know what all the fuss is about, you likely haven’t visited yet. I hope you’ll let me help you reform your ways, and plan your trip to the promised land!
The rugged coastline of Canada’s youngest province has been formed, and worn, by the sea – much as its people have been. Being surrounded by water defines life in Newfoundland, and anyone raised there has salt water coursing through their veins. It’s why, year after year of living on the mainland (or “upalong”), the ties to Newfoundland grow stronger. Speak to any Newfoundlander (or wannabe) and they’ll all share the same sentiment – no matter where we sleep/ pay taxes/ live, Newfoundland is “home.”
Every summer (and Christmas, if we can), my family of four returns “home”. We spent time showing the sights to the kiddies (walked where Captain Cook walked), spent time on the water, but, more importantly, we spent time reconnecting with our large extended circle of family and friends. Last summer, ten grandkids aged 3-13 converged at my mom’s house for some raucous and crazy times.
I had the chance to share my love of my homeland with some clients this past year, and had a lot of fun creating an “insider’s tour” of Newfoundland. My clients flew into the east coast to tour St. John’s and Bay Bulls before they drove across the island to visit Trinity and Twillingate and Gros Morne. After that, they visited the Viking settlements at L’Anse aux Meadows, took a ferry across to Labrador, and then came back to discover Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands. It was no surprise to me that they had an absolutely fabulous time, and have raved about the tour to their friends and family.
Let me know if you’d like me to arrange a tour for you!
Staying at the Polynesian resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando this past trip, we had to have the character meal at the resort (well, we also tried to get supper at O’hanas… but it was booked solid for our entire stay).
O’hana is Hawaiian for “family,” as anyone who has seen the movie “Lilo & Stitch” can tell you; and O’hanas does provide a lovely family feast.
You’re first welcomed to the restaurant by getting lei’ed. The kids loved this, and of course, all the characters who visit your table are lei’ed too, adding to the Polynesian theme.
I haven’t donned a lei since I was last in Hawaii (well, other than getting them at check in at the Polynesian hotel), so it’s a little odd to find yourself wearing one in Florida. With the palm trees, batik-themed decor, and the landscaping, Mickey does his level best to make you think you’ve been transported to a more exotic land.
The breakfast feast at O’hanas is served family-style (meaning, it’s brought to the table, so you don’t have to keep getting up for a buffet. However, the menu is set.) The food is plentiful and good – and a step up from the food we’d had at other character meals this trip. And it was constantly refreshed.
Ciara loved the POG juice, especially since she hasn’t visited Hawaii yet (a point she reiterates to me…I know, I’m a bad mother …but we keep returning to Mickey with the kids). She thought the combination of Pineapple, Orange, and Guava juice was the greatest thing since sliced bread. (I think I can buy POG here now… I will have to check it out, or make my own…Do they still play that game with POG bottle caps?)
Besides the POG, a basket of corn and pineapple bread, a fruit tray, and a carafe of coffee, we received a skillet of food that included sausages and bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and breakfast scones. Before gratuity, the meal came to $79.84 USD.
In previous visits, Minnie has been at O’hanas too, but she was nowhere to be found this time. However, the 4 present did their best to entertain, and play with the kids. And pose for oodles of photos.
O’hanas was the most relaxed and easy paced character meal we had this entire visit.