Category Archives: Travel


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We’re officially 2 weeks away from our LA/Hawaii vacation.

Yes. Of course we’re going to Disneyland.

Discovering that my travel agent status (actually I work for agents…) gets me super deals in hotels. A few online courses and boom, I have (moderately) cheaper hotel rooms! Yes, we’re staying at Disneyland Hotel and Aulani as well as some other fun resorts in Oahu and the North Shore.

I can’t wait. I love the idea we’re doing a short stop at a familiar destination and then on to a place we both have never been to.

Oh and there will be this:

that's right... I convinced SharkBoy!

that’s right… I convinced SharkBoy!

We’re going on a 20 min dive in the shark-infested waters of the North Shore. It took some convincing and wrangling but I think he’s going to have a good time.

More later!

So Long, Not So Long!

501st, Disney, Toronto, Travel 3 Replies

UntitledI rarely apologize for anything that goes up here. But I feel I do have to apologize for not putting ANYTHING up here in a while. No empty promises that I’ll “do better”, just hope you’ll keep me in your RSS feed.

What has been happening with me? A few things…

Our Xmas Disney trip continues to steamroll ahead. Two weeks ago we passed the “reservation threshold” where we are no able to make dinner reservations in the park. Since we chose to take the free dining plan (after an email sent to me in error from the Disney Corp offering free meals to American residents, we called and wrangled that out of them – alas I won’t be getting those emails any more), we’ve been booking fun and fancy places to dine all over The World. Back to the Sci Fi Drive In! Kona toasts! Le Cellier for lunch (that was a hard one to get. Took us a couple tries.)!

Last weekend we counted our twonies and loonies and discovered that we’re already saved up enough pocket change to afford the base model rental car for the vacation. We’re continuing to save so anything we get from here on in will be an upgrade. Wee!

We’re starting to think about reserving excursions for the cruise. Possibly back to the Atlantis water park, possibly some sort of “pet a seal/dolphin/poisonous sea anemone”, but I’d be happy with just wandering the streets of Nassau taking pictures. Whatever we do, it will be fun! Of course Castaway Cay will be spent at the Adult Beach with NOTHING TO DO. I. Can’t. Friggin’. Wait.

Two last big hurdles: paying off the balance (owchie) and getting our flights finalize. Since we’re going Toronto >> Orlando >> Burlington VT >> Toronto we’ve got some options, including a credit on JetBlue airlines ALREADY for a revised flight. So we’re thinking of leaving from Buffalo to use up the credit. This is still being hotly debated: will we make it to the airport on time if the weather is crap? Will the bus be gross (duh!)? Will JetBlue bump us again? We shall see…

Two weeks ago I was accepted into the 501st – Canadian Garrison! You are now reading the blog of “TD 6595”, my call numbers, based on my birthday and a number I thought sounded ok after. I couldn’t get the one I wanted (EDWH – Dad’s initials. Pouty face) so I settled for “ease of use”. I’ve already trooped with some of the guys at the Toronto Autism Walk a couple weekends ago. My next trooping is with the guys at ComiCon in August. Enough time to get my gun set up… I hope…

I’d talk about Pride, but to be honest I don’t really care about it – we haven’t made any plans nor have we been invited anywhere so… meh. SharkBoy and I will be walking around a few times over the weekend but mostly to get some fun pictures. I should feel political, what with our fat, stupid, homophobic mayor insisting he has other obligations than attend a function that brings in millions of dollars into his city (which I’m convinced he actually hates – scroll down to June 15th). Sigh. I could go on. The world is watching. And I’m embarrassed.


9 Minutes Downunder

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Here is a string of videos and images of the places I got to see. It’s Aussie-tastic!

As an aside, I used YouTube’s “STABILIZATION” filter and I think it friggin’ rocks! It looks like I shot moving video on a dolly!

Hope you enjoy!

Hunter Valley

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Continuing on with my trip to Australia…

After our stay at Kangaroo Island, we spent one last night in Adelaide (you do NOT want to stay in the Mecure Adelaide unless you like moldy bathrooms and dirty carpets… ew) and then flew off to Sydney. Yes, I was straining at the window to see if I could see the opera house while landing. Nope.

We met with a rep from Destination NSW – the tourism office that was sponsoring our final leg of our trip. We were in Nicole’s hands from here on.

First up, was a quick lunch at The Australian Reptile Park, just outside Sydney, on our way to Hunter Valley. Even though most of the agents in the group groused at the thought of having lunch in a “reptile park” it was Disney-awesome. And I only saw one lizard. The staff were super friendly and answered all our North American ignorant questions with smiles: “Will koalas actually give you chlamydia if you hold them?” or “To Tasmanian Devils actually spin?”

One chap, who’s legs were covered in fresh blood, lead us through the big open paddock, showing us koala, wombat and wallaby. What? Oh the fresh blood? He was just playing with the Tassies before coming to meet us, hence the shredded shins. As we walked by the goat pen, he said: “Be sure to give some special attention to Princess Sparkles.”

“It’s amazing you can say that with a straight face,” I replied.

Later, after 14 female travel agents had finished coo-ing over goats, he announced: “Now I’m going to pull out a wombat.”

“Again, you say that with a straight face…” I say.

After a hearty lunch and more visits from Australia’s finest iconic animals (I saw a joey in a pouch!), we boarded the bus for our 2 hour drive up to Hunter Valley.

After driving past endless golf courses and wineries, we pull into the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a 5 star boutique hotel with massive rooms overlooking… nothing. It was a beautiful, modern hotel that serviced the wineries and golf courses but was surrounded by suburban homes. Weird. But I wasn’t looking a (free) gift horse in the mouth.

The beds… oh my god the beds… so comfortable. Yet I was awake again at 3am on my completely screwed body clock.

The next day was the busiest day on our trip: a botanical garden tour, two wine tastings, lunch (with wine), a cheese factory visit, and a chocolate factory tour.

I now know all I need to know about red wine. Sadly, I don’t drink much of it. But the day was delicious, of course.

Welcome… To Kangaroo Island!

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With much ballyhoo (hey REX airlines… still scratching my head at your logic of why we had to wait close to 6 hours for our delayed flight), we made it to Kangaroo Island, third largest Australian island with more national parks than California (that’s a lie, but it sounded good – seriously, it has a ton of parks though). I think our second tour guide said it was the size of Maryland, which seems about right. It’s 13km off the coast of South Australia and holds a unique blend of flora and fauna since the ocean rose up and cut off the mainland.

The kangaroos there are smaller, with a snoutier face, and are redder in colour. The wombats, koalas and short beaked echidna pretty much look the same as their land locked cousins.

We arrived at dusk in a small plane, with a buzz over the island, a slow turn and bouncy landing. The first thing we were told that we were to wear our seatbelts at all time since wallabys and ‘roos had a tendency to run out onto the road during this time of day and our hulking bus may need to stop suddenly. And we did. Thankfully though we killed nothing on this trip.

We were driven to Penneshaw to our hotel and headed over to the local pub for dinner. I had shark. SharkBoy frowned when I told him this, but I was assured that shark was as common as Canadian salmon around these parts. It had the consistency of overcooked salmon but tasted like tuna with a firm aftertaste. I guiltily enjoyed it.

The next morning I discovered that our whole group were waking up at 4am due to some bizarre internal clock disorder. I broke off from the group and went for a walk down to the north shore and took about 200 pictures of the sunrise, the water hitting the rocks and the wind farm off the coast of Point Jervis on the mainland. At this point I felt sad. I really wished I could have had SharkBoy at my side to see all this.

After Breakfast we boarded a comfy bus to see the entire island in one day. Which we did. Two animal sanctuaries, one eucalyptus farm, a Koala walk, the Remarkable Rocks and seals frolicking inside The Arch. It was a full day of amazing. In the entire trip there were two places wish I could have stayed longer. This was the first. I kept on thinking of how Canada may have the Moose or Bear or iconic beaver, but this small island had such a diverse animal population, I felt a bit jealous!

The highlight was feeding the kangaroos, of course. When they move slow, they’re mesmerizing: using their stubby T-Rex like front paws to knuckle along while slowly pushing off from their hind legs. When they move fast, it’s even more stunning. Like a ballerina forever falling forward, their feet launching their bodies into the air high enough to tuck those banana boat sized feet under themselves to have another go. All in a fluid arc that is beautiful to watch.

As night fell, we were driven back to the airport and given a long talk about the island, the major brush fire it had back in 2007, the people who live there, the parks. I could bore you with the details but know that it’s a place that if ever the zombie apocalypse happens, I’ll be making my way to Kangaroo Island.

Adelaide, City Of The Future

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Cosplayers in Adelaide

I land in Adelaide and board a bus with most of our Fam Trip Team (5 travellers got waylaid in Sydney due to quarantine and had to take a later flight) and we scoot down to the seaside suburb of Glenelg (I couldn’t pronounce it to this day, but note it’s an palindrome).

It was a perfect spot to “stop moving”. That is, if you couldn’t hit a hotel/shower after a 14 hour flight, Glenelg was a nice calming place to find yourself in. It reminded me a lot of Coco Beach, Florida for some reason. If Coco Beach was upscaled a tick. I could have spent the day, if we had the time. I treated myself to an ice cream and noted that it was nearly $5 for a single scoop. Odd. I didn’t think anything more of it, putting it down to a toursity trap kind of pricing.

Back on the bus, we return to the airport to grab the remaining agents and head into Adelaide for our city tour.

It’s a remarkable city. The core is surrounded by a protected, nearly square green belt. Of course on the other side of this green belt is suburban sprawl, but we didn’t get to see much of it. If David Miller had gone to bed with Vancouver, the baby result would have been Adelaide: liberal, thought out and green. The LRT that runs through the core of the city down to the beach is free to ride within the city centre. The city centre itself has more bike lanes I’ve ever seen. I’ve not seen so many trees in a city other than Central Park.

Even though the city was established in 1836, the streets are very wide and unlike it’s UK motherland, laid out on a grid. Col. Light, who designed the city, was fairly unpopular with his views when he implemented them, but time has proven him right.

It was a great place to start the trip. However, I started to notice the prices of Australia: uncomfortably high. I wandered into a corner shop for a 475ml Diet Coke and left $4.50 lighter. Yeah. Things are expensive in Oz. But the standard of living is high too. I noted on a news article that the average electrician makes over $80K a year. So it balances itself out, but pity the poor tourist!

After the bus tour we finally meet all together in the lobby of our hotel: 7 US Agents, 9 Canadian, (3 guys – it was like a Hen Party but without the alcohol), full spectrum of ages.

Our first Fam Trip obligation was a visit to the Adelaide Hilton for a hotel inspection and dinner. The rooms were typical newly reno-ed Hilton rooms (but weirdly without art) and the lobby looked like it was pulled from the set of the Carol Burnett Show. Dinner was wine-filled and meat smacked. Delicious! I spent most of the evening talking to the Groups manager from the hotel and though I might have been super tired, we laughed a lot.

That night, when I climbed into bed, I realized that this was the first mattress I was sleeping on in over 48 hours. I don’t remember pulling the sheets up around my shoulders…

Long Haul

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I’ve never sat for anything longer than 7 hours.

I’ve been on a plane to England a couple times and with a good tail wind, gets you on the tarmac inside 8 hours if you’re lucky.

See, within 10 minutes of a long car ride, I usually start humming my Bored Song: “Lamblablaaamblaaa…” Sharkboy know it well. In a rental car, I feel the need to press every button within the first 30 minutes of our road trips. Then… annoying sets in.

I thought that going 13 hours from LAX to SYD would be a bit of a challenge. Hold up, going from Toronto to Chicago to Los Angeles, an 8 hour stop over and then the 13 hour flight was going to be a challenge. Needless to say I had some doozy nightmares the days before the trip.

In honour of my father, I started the trip out by taking the subway/bus to the airport. Whenever we mentioned to him that we were travelling, he would pull that old chestnut out and suggest that a $3 TTC ride was far cheaper than a $60+tip cab ride. True, but cabbies generally don’t steal your iPhone out by Islington station. But I did it anyway, considering I was only bringing a camera bag and carry on suitcase. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. It was cheap, it was without delay (I had to be at the airport before 8am so the commuters weren’t around by that time) but it was less direct. I’d do it again if I had similar luggage situations and I was leaving via Terminal 1.

YYZ to CHI to LAX was un-eventful. 6 of us from my office managed to hang around each other for the duration and we got along fine. In LAX we caught a bus down to Santa Monica Pier and enjoyed the last rays of the day. Sadly no time for Disneyland, since several people advised against the risk of traffic. The bus back to the airport was nearly twice as long so I’m glad I didn’t risk it.

The flight down to Sydney was nothing short of wonderful. I say that because I was flying in the new A380 Airbus, which with engines at full run, filled the cabin with a low, almost electrical sounding buzz. Free blanket, toothbrush and paste, pillow and hours of movies also rained down upon me as I curled up in my Economy seat. No one beside me and the woman sitting in the window seat popped a pill as we took off, so she didn’t move again until the cabin doors opened. And the entertainment system had a tail-cam which made the view over plane, over the clouds somewhat surreal. Heaven!

Okay sorta heaven. The secluded seat I had near the back galley was a godsend – first served! But round about the 3 hour mark I noticed a smell. The toilets were right behind my head. After any food service the line up to the loo made sleeping a bit difficult. FLOOSH – poo smell – Flooooosh. Poo smell… you get the drift. I did manage to sleep 2 hours, 4 hours solid and then two 20 minute naps, so I felt okay by the time we landed. Pro Tip – Melatonin. It’s a non-perscription pill that helps you stay asleep. I was eating them like candy.

Plus, my iPad was pared down in photos and apps so I could get 16 movies on there (of which I only watched 4 the entire trip). I did make a good dent in Cloud Atlas and I’m getting excited to see how the Wachowski Sibs treat it.

In all, the trip down was in the vicinity of 26 hours, including lay-overs. And not one Lamblamalblaaalaa note uttered at all.

Wheels Down

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You haven’t lived until you’ve run through Cleveland International Airport.

I’ll update you all with a little trip overview soon – right now I have about 30 min of video and 2000 pictures to edit down.

Highlights: Kangaroo Island, Peppers Resort in Port Stephens, Getting to know wines intimately and seeing old friends.

Lowlights: Confused tour group leaders, no “Plan B” when the wheels fall off, Smokey McSmoke lady and her non-participation in the trip.

Right now, at 9:45am, I feel a little like I should be heading to bed (it would be 1:00am – ish in parts of Oz). Pro tip: Melatonin as a breath freshener!

More soon!