Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nova Scotia and PEI, June 2014

This was a late night flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Westjet flight left Edmonton at 11:15 PM and arrived about 7 AM (time is 3 hrs ahead).  We stayed two nights in downtown Halifax at the Westin on Hollis. From here we were able to walk to the harbour and pretty much the whole downtown area. 

When we got to the airport in Halifax we picked up our rental car (Avis - Electra). It was a little difficult at first because we hadn't slept on the plane and this was our first time in NS. The MacDonald bridge has a toll of $1.  After we crossed the bridge we managed to find the hotel.  It was only 8:45 in the morning, but the hotel had a room ready. We went for breakfast and then had a sleep before heading on our first walk along the waterfront. We stopped in at the tourist information building. They told us there was a street festival going on that day and to follow Spring Garden Road to the downtown. Along the way was a Fries Wagon (Buds Spuds), so that was our lunch. Very good french fries!  The downtown Public Gardens were pretty. Many older churches and an old graveyard.  Craft shops, one was called Jennifer's of Nova Scotia had many nice items.

The second day in Halifax our first stop was at Pier 21 and we arrived just in time for the 10:30 guided tour, followed by a film showing a variety of present day immigrants. It was very interesting.  In the afternoon we walked on the historic waterfront boardwalk visited the Maritime Marine Museum which has a titanic display and the Halifax explosion.  For a treat with had a beaver tail cream cheese/chocolate bits. Very gooey! We walked the boardwalk as far as the ferry terminal and then up Duke Street hill to the old Town clock tower in Citadel National Historic Site. Then back down the hill on Prince Street to Lower Water Street. By then it was time for supper which we had at a restaurant called McKelvie's.  I had Nova Scotian Clam Chowder soup with a sort of soda bread with raisins or dates. It was very good.

The third day we left Halifax about 9AM for Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg. It was Canada Day and to be patriotic, we wore our white/red shirts! :)  We took highway #333 from Halifax to Peggy's Cove.  There was a cool wind blowing at Peggy's Cove, but it was sunny. We had a second breakfast there because they had a Canada Day special for $5.99.  Then we were off to Chester and Mahone Bay.  Mahone Bay has three churches in a row and buildings are painted bright colors. At one very busy little restaurant we had milk shakes. They ran out of the usual large glasses, so we were given one large shake and one in a small glass, but the price was the same.  Then onward to Lunenburg where we spent the night at the Smugglers Cove Inn.  They painted their buildings with bright colors too, green, pink, blue, yellow.

The fourth day we drove to New Glasgow. The next morning we were at the ferry to take us to PEI.  In PEI we stayed in Charlottetown.  We drove up to Cavendish to Anne of Green Gables and also stopped in North Rustico to see lobster traps. That evening we walked the streets of downtown Charlottetown.

On our final day we drove to Borden Carleton and took the long bridge back to mainland.  You only have to pay when you are leaving PEI. The toll to cross the bridge was $45. The bridge brings you in to New Brunswick for a short time before you exit back to Nova Scotia. On the way we took a side trip to small town of Springhill to the Anne Murray Centre.  It has all her history and memorbelia on display. What a busy gal she was! Our final night in NS was at the Quality Inn by the Halifax airport. Hurricane 'Arthur' rain, wind and fog arrived overnight and we were fortunate our flight was able to leave in the morning, though it was a turbulent take off.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico May 11-18, 2014

Our airline was Sunwing and our all-inclusive was at Hotel Riu Vallarta in Nayarit.  This is a five star resort and has a large selection of food. Which is great when you spend your day looking forward to eating. LOL..

This was an early flight on Mother's Day. We left Edmonton airport at 6AM. Arriving in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico about 5 hours later. Oh and we had an empty seat in our row, that doesn't happen very often, like almost never.  Sunwing still serves food on their flights, so we had breakfast at 7:30AM, a double cheese or egg, bacon, cheese on English muffin. Plus a slice of banana loaf.

The airport in P. Vallarta has been updated since we were here (2 yrs ago). The plane now goes to the building instead of dropping passengers on the tarmac. On our return flight we noticed a lot more shops inside too.

Another thing that was different and maybe it's the resort that does it this way.  We received our wrist bands before boarding the shuttle bus, and we filled out our hotel registration forms on the bus. This is usually done at the hotel.  We were on the bus at 12:30 local time (1 hr ahead). We couldn't check into our rooms until 3 PM, but since we had our wrist bands already, we could go for lunch.  The Flamingo restaurant on the beach was open at 12:30. The main dining room opens at 1PM for lunch. Supper is at 6:30 PM.  Something that seemed strange to us at this resort was that the birds flew in and out of the dining room.  At the Flamingo it was worse than in the main dining room.  If you left your plate of food unattended for a minute, the birds were at your table to eat it for you.

The Sunwing representatives were in the lobby everyday 9-4 if you had any questions or wanted to book a tour. In some resorts they were only there a few hours. This resort had a fridge with water and pop, restocked every other day.

We found this area (Nayarit State) to be further from shopping. We took a taxi to Paradise Plaza Shopping Centre. A nice smaller mall. It cost 90 pesos one way. We took the bus back to the resort. The bus was 8 pesos each. Another day we walked to the nearby Riu Jalisco and Riu Palace resorts and then on to Mega Mall. This mall was only a large store with groceries, clothes, hardware similar to Wal-Mart.  We had an oreo ice cream at McDonalds 10 pesos each. From this street it was difficult to get back to our resort by bus. We should have taken a taxi because it was quite warm out. The weather in May is too humid and uncomfortably hot, so I would not recommend going that late in the year, November to March is better.

The bus went towards downtown which was the opposite direction of our hotel.  And with the language problem, the bus driver didn't speak English and we don't speak Spanish. We decided to get on the bus instead of standing outside in the sun. We paid 14 pesos each to go to downtown Puerto Vallarta and assumed we could get a bus back from there. Another passenger on the bus understood English and told us where we needed to get off to catch the bus back to our Riu resort. We paid another 15 pesos each. On the bus was a man who was going to his job at the Riu and told us it was the right bus to take to our hotel.  Each state has their own bus system. We were in the town of Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit State and downtown Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco State.

On Thursday morning we went on a city bus tour of Puerto Vallarta, to the Malecon boardwalk, an old church, the downtown flea market, a silver store, a drive along coast to southern area, a restaurant for lunch of grilled chicken fillet, or grilled fish fillet, the restaurant was located in a rocky area. Then on to a tequila distillary, and back to hotel by 6:15 PM. It was a long day.

On Friday we took a taxi to the town of Bucerias. It cost 85 pesos for taxi. Some people can walk to this town by way of the beach. For us that thought was to tiring and hot. I think all that is in this town is a very large flea market.  It is easy to get lost too because the market is on several streets and after walking for some time we no longer knew which direction to find the taxi's. We asked a lady who did not speak English, but a man overheard and told us which direction to walk. After walking another block, we still did not see the taxi's but when we turned the man had followed us and said we had to walk another two blocks.  It turned out he was right.

Another thing about this resort, there were no Mexican shops in the hotel, only on the beach there was one. We were not bugged by time share presentations or vendors.  If you didn't want that, this is the perfect place. Just relax, eat, swim and suntan.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Manzanillo, Mexico January 17-24, 2014

We arrived at the Barcelo Karmina Resort about 3:30 pm our time. That's 4:30 Mexico time. It's lovely and warm! The resort looks nice.  We are in room 3015 ... It's way at the end of the hallway. We will get some exercise walking to the buffet restaurant which is on the opposite side of the resort property.  Our room is on lobby level, which is on the third level... the first night is always confusing too tired so it takes a bit to figure out location of things.
Wifi is available free in the lobby ..reception area. In the room it's $13 for 24 hrs and she said it's more reliable in lobby and free there. Tomorrow at 9:30 am we have our orientation meeting..
On Saturday morning we went to the meeting.  The lady originally from Quebec City is the Transat rep. She gave us lots of good information, and recommended we take the city tour in the afternoon. It leaves the hotel at 2:15 pm. The bus was really an open air truck, it worked well for taking pictures out the side, no windows. This included a pick up at the Las Hadas resort and then stops at a strip mall and the flea market which is in a big field which is only open on Saturdays. We were late getting back to the bus so the tour guide had to come find us.  Luckily he remembered what we looked like. We also walked the Malecon in the city of Manzanillo and visited the shops in the area. On the way back the driver stopped at the Iguana Sanctuary where there were so many Iguanas all over the trees.  Kinda creepy looking.
In the mornings it is a bit cool, until about 9:00 when it starts to warm up. By noon it's 28-29C. Three times we walked to the plaza mall, and two times to Walmart .. There is also a local flea market beside Walmart's nicer than the one the bus took us to on Saturday.   It's about a 30 minute walk each way. The road from the hotel to the main street is long, a bit up hill and quite warm walking into the sun when you return.
Oh night when we came back to our room from dinner, we were surprised to find a little lizard in our room. It took two phone calls to the desk to be understood what the problem was. Then a maintenance man came and rescued the poor little creature from the mirror ... in the corner high up by the light bulbs.
Tuesday's bus tour was awesome. Really interesting. It was another sunny day so we had a good view of the volcano. It was smoking today..lava was running down the side. Driver told us the lava runs into a canyon so it doesn't come on the town. 

There were only four couples on this tour, and we had the same guy as city tour, Poncho. But this time we had a real bus, well smaller bus..big van.  Driving up into mountains reminded me of BC. 

We went to a hacienda, an artist named Alajanero?, who died in 2000, was a famous painter in Colima.  We saw artifacts, ceramics which were carbon dated to 500BC. Two kinds of dogs, one kind they fattened up on corn and then cooked and ate. None of that breed exists todays.. all figures were hollow rather than solid clay. He bought these ceramics to preserve them so they wouldn't go out of Mexico.  He also designed furniture, cupboards, chairs, tables.. Etc. he painted pictures, sculpted in metal, he even made the lights.   
We also walked around in his gardens.  Flowers, trees, lots of bamboo trees, cocoa trees, vanilla, banana trees. There were also two gift shops there.
Then we drove to Comala, a smaller town were we had lunch.  Before that we stopped to take pictures of the volcano and drive on the magnetic hill.
The typical tapas lunch included, quesadillas, tomaloes, enchiladas .. and just for me, ponagranate juice with moonshine in it...hahaha! It was very mild! We asked if they had coke, it came in glass bottles! How cool! Then we had time to shop for a half hour .. it wasn't long enough.  Got back to our hotel at 5:15 it's almost time for our supper hour..which is from 6:30 ...

Malecon at Manzanillo

Iguana Sanctuary

Highway to Colima

Map of State of Colima

Agriculture - not sure if these were watermelons or something else

Our open-air bus/truck

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


We flew with Westjet to LAX (Los Angeles) airport Sat. Aug. 24, 2013.  It's not a long flight only about three hours. Our shuttle was another story.. Our piece of paper said to wait outside the baggage claim area in all terminals at the center island under the overhead green sign. This we did. Buses were supposed to be wrapped with Disney characters. After many buses passed by our stop and some stopped to ask if we needed a shuttle, we were told the buses were no longer wrapped in Disney.  That they were just a big white bus that said Disneyland Express.  At least we were not waiting alone and the big white bus eventually came and took us to Anaheim and our Super 8 hotel.

The next day we bought a one-day pass to Disneyland ($92/person).  We walked from our hotel and spent all day walking around Disneyland.. it was sunny and hot.. should bring water, a hat and sunscreen.  Enjoyed the horse-drawn wagon, express train, Mark Twain paddle wheeler, monorail, Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, and the Mickey Mouse Parade.  After a few hours back at our hotel, we returned for the fireworks at 9:30 PM.

Our second day we visited the former Crystal Cathedral.. it's not owned by the Catholic Church and is called Christ Cathedral.  It was an interesting place to see.

On Tuesday we took a city bus tour to Los Angeles. Visited downtown LA, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, Stars, Beverly Hills, The Grove Farmers Market where we had lunch. Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach.  Returned to our hotel at 4:30 PM.  Had supper at The Cheesecake Factory.

On Thursday we took a bus tour to San Diego. It was also a whole day.  Our first stop was at Legoland and second at Sea World to drop off other people.  We continued on... and our first stop in the city was at a Mexican Restaurant and very colorful shops nearby.  The products were made in Guatamala.  We also stopped by the shipping docks and walked along the pier. From there we went to Coronado Island ... lovely view from the bridge.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mexico - All Inclusives

We enjoy going to Mexico when the weather is cold at home.  It's a little summer in the middle of winter. Our first trip to Mexico was in 2010 (April 18-25).  We flew to the Cancun airport and stayed at Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort. The Concierge told us it was safe to wait on the highway for the local bus (really a van).  We did this.  Went one direction to the town of Playa Del Carmen. The other direction from the resort took us to the Tulum Ruins.

 Grand Sirenis Resort
 Tulum Ruins
Playa Del Carmen

The second trip to Mexico was in 2012 (Jan. 21-28). It was to the west coast of Mexico, to Puerto Vallarta. We stayed at the Canto del Sol hotel. We took a couple tours, one was to city centre, and also to San Sebastian in the mountains.  In January 2013 we went to the same resort in Puerto Vallarta, but this time we walked to downtown and spent some time wandering thru the shops.  We were back to our hotel in about four hours.  You have to start early, or it gets too hot.

 Puerto Vallarta

From balcony at Canto Del Sol, Puerto Vallarta

In Oct. 30-Nov.6, 2012, we went to Huatulco, Mexico. It's further south on the west coast of Mexico.  It is a newer area so not quite as busy.  We went on a city tour and a tour of local condos. It was the first flight of the season and not everything was up and running yet.  It was warmer early morning, than in Puerto Vallarta. At six o'clock you could already sit on the balcony and have your coffee, it was warm enough.

From balcony at Barcelo Hotel at Huatulco

Las Vegas 2012

Las Vegas  - Monte Carlo Hotel May 12-19, 2012

The weather was hot and dry. We walked the strip one day and got very exhausted.  Then we found out there were trams that ran between hotels. The hotels are huge in Vegas. They have replicas of famous places in the world, like the gondalas in Venice. At the Bellagio Hotel, the fountains are turned on at 7:00 PM. They were really spectacular. In Casear Palace they've painted the ceilings, it looks just like you are outside.  I enjoyed the New York hotel too.

We didn't want to go to another presentation but ended up there when they offered us a free show. The show we went to see was called 'KA' at MGM hotel. We went on a day tour to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. These were very nice to see too.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome to Scotland 2011

The Best of Bonnie Scotland June 22-29, 2011. The flight and hotels were included in the price. We flew to Calgary and then on Thomas Cook Airlines to Glasgow, Scotland, arrived at 6:18 AM.  Our rental car was an Audi, automatic transmission. Learning to get into the drivers seat from the right side and driving on the left was scarey. It took us a while to get out of the city and onto the Motorway. But once we were on the highway, it was easier.  We made our way to the city of Perth where we were to pick up our hotel vouchers. After a little rest in our room, we decided to take a walk around. I just love the old stone buildings. We saw a ASDA store, it's like a Walmart, also McDonalds Resaurant, they seem to be everywhere.

The next day we visited the town of Pitlochry and the Blair Castle & Gardens.  In Aberfeldy we went to the Information centre and the Bank of Scotland. In the town of Killin, we had lunch at Shutters Restaurant, a Haggis sandwich and a Venison Burger. Very nice. The drive was lovely through the green valleys and mountains. That night we stayed at the Isles of Glencoe Hotel in the village of Ballachulish. It had a view of the water.

It was at Urquhart Castle that we first used our Explorer Pass. We also visited the Loch Ness Centre, where they explained the legend of the Loch Ness Monster through videos. Our next stop for the night was at Inverness in the north. The hotel was in downtown and there was no parking close by so we had to walk a few blocks to our hotel. When we returned for our car in the morning, the whole parking lot was empty except for our car and the exit was closed with a chain. There was a note on our car that we should leave it chained. First we had to figure out how to open it.  As it turned out it wasn't that complicated. This was an interesting town of very old churches and cemeteries.

The next day we drove to Aberdeen and then to Edinburgh where we stayed for two nights.  From our hotel, Premier Inn, we were able to walk to the Edinburgh Castle and used our Explorer Pass for admittance. After the Castle tour, we walked the 'Royal Mile', where there were many neat shops. However, it started to pour rain.. typical in Scotland, I think. We stopped in at a pub for some fries and pop thinking the rain would stop. It continued to rain, so we had to buy some yellow plastic capes, because we had a long walk back to the hotel. They weren't pretty but they certainly kept us dry, and we were able to continue our walk. Stopped in at the Princes Mall and walked past a well kept park.

We had a bit of a problem getting in and out of Edinburgh, but eventually found our way.  Our final destination was the city Glasgow. Here we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. But before we came to Glasgow, we tried to find the New Kilpatick Parish in Beardsden. We finally had to stop and inquire. The funeral home seemed a good place to ask and they were able to call the Parish and set up an appointment for us. It was difficult to find because there was no sign on the street. This was the birth place of a Stewart ancestor. In the city we visited the old Glasgow Cathedral. I enjoyed visiting Scotland. I loved the old stone buildings, the very green hills and valleys, the quaint little towns, and all the historic charm!!