Trista’s Now in Curacao! Part 3 – Final Blog

The trip has come to the end, but the memories of Curacao will live on forever! This bucket list destination was everything I hoped it to be and more!

Our Island Tour with Robert from Peter Trips was the icing on the cake, travelling around the entire island to gain knowledge and culture about this beautiful Dutch island! The tour was only $50 USD per person and we were picked up right from our hotel just before 9 am to start our adventure. First we headed south towards Jan Thiel for the Million Dollar View overlooking the Spanish Waters. Next, we headed back north towards Salina where the Curacao Liquor Distillery is located. We learned that the fruit to make this liquor was brought over to the island many years ago but it did not end up thriving there, so its only use is the peel of the fruit for the tasty blue liquor! There are 5 different colours: blue, green, red, orange and white, all of which have the same flavour, just enhanced with food colouring. Just a few years ago the distillery created 3 new flavors: chocolate, coffee and rum, raisin that each have very a unique, tasty flavour!

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Curacao Liquor

From here we drove through Willemstad where Robert pointed out all the main attractions in town, such as Fort Amsterdam, Rif Fort, the Queen Emma Pontoon bridge, Queen Juliana bridge, the Curacao and Dushi signs, which in their local language,”Dushi” means “sweet!”

Next stop on our tour is on the far north coast of the Island at Shete Boka National Park, also known as 7 bays. Here we watched the ocean waves crash into the bays of the coast and even got to see it from inside a cave! There are also plenty of hiking trails if you have extra time. Soon after we found ourselves on Playa Kalki, the first beach from the north on the eastern coastline of the island. Here we had a short lunch break, then we headed to the famous tropical Knip Beach for an amazing view and a quick swim! On our way back to the Sunscape hotel, we made one last stop at the salt lakes of Jan Kok where the flamingos live. We arrived back at the resort around 4 pm after a full day of exploring on this informative tour!

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Knip Beach

Our last full day on the island was spent relaxing on the beach and before we knew it, we were on our way back to the airport.

I can definitely say that staying the 2 nights in Toronto to get to Curacao was definitely worth it. We took advantage of our time in Toronto with an extended connection so we had most of the day to wonder the downtown area. From the airport we took the train to Union Station, where we enjoyed most of the day exploring the CN tower, walking along the waterfront, as well through the entertainment district, financial district and old town! We also stopped at the St Lawrence markets for a delicious savoury crepe for lunch. Our day in Toronto was a great experience as I have only visited the airport in the past!
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This trip was so amazing and I can’t wait to tell everyone about this great destination and resort! If you are looking for that off the beaten track kind of trip, but you like the comforts of all inclusive, this may be the resort and destination for you!!

For any more information about Curacao, please contact Trista at trista@uniglobevacation.com or 306-934-3400

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Trista’s Now in Curacao! Part 2

Curacao and the Sunscape resort has been so relaxing and an easy escape from reality! We have been enjoying the great weather, hot sun and welcoming breeze. So far we have been hanging on the beach or by 1 of the 7 pools, snorkeling up to the causeway right off the hotel beach with a wide variety fish to see, dining at 1 of the 4 a la carte restaurants with the freedom to just walk up to with no reservations and of course enjoying a fruity cocktail made with love by the bartenders! Every night the staff has had live entertainment for the guests to enjoy and it has all been amazing! On Saturday nights they have a carnival that goes through the resort with live drums, vibrant costumes and salsa dancers.

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Today we hopped into a mini bus for $1.50 USD each and headed into Willemstad to check out this UNESCO heritage site full of the brightly coloured buildings, plenty of shopping, markets and cafes. From the Punda side of town, we walked across the floating Pontoon Bridge to Otrobanda to check out the Renaissance Rif Fort shopping center, more markets and see a massive cruise ship in the port! It was a great day wandering through the buildings and the local transportation is very safe and easy to use on the island.

Our Air Canada representative set up the Island Tour for us tomorrow and we look forward to the knowledge and culture we are sure to gain from our local guide! Check back with my follow up report on the tour including the Curacao Distillery, Shete Boca National Park, Knip Beach and more history of the destination!

Trista’s Now in Curacao! Part 1

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Welcome to the beautiful Dutch Caribbean island, Curacao! The weather is amazing at 32 degrees with a slight breeze, which you can expect here year round.

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The airport was a hurry up and wait game with an hour for us to get through the customs line as 4 planes arrived at the same time. This can easily be avoided though with their new e-gate option to pre-clear customs at least 24 hours prior to arrival, completed online. You must have a newer passport that contains a chip to enter the e-gate and skip through the customs line. Unfortunately we did not, so we patiently waited to get on the other side to enjoy the weather and beaches! Air Canada Vacations was easily spotted for our transfer to the Sunscape Curacao, the only all inclusive resort on the island.

Once here, we were greeted with a cold towel and welcome drink! We booked the deal of the day room and received an ocean view, it is amazing! Crystal blue waters and white sand beach, I can certainly get used to this! An added bonus is that this resort does not require bracelets and has unlimited a la carte dinners with no reservations! You can also upgrade to the Sun Club for some great amenities, ask me about these!!

Last night we were delighted with some live music and amazing talent, followed by a beach party complete with dance competition. Following, we were enthralled by a fire show performed by the resorts entertainment staff. This is by far the best resort entertainment I have had the pleasure of experiencing! I can’t wait to get off the resort and experience the local culture of Curacao, stay tuned for the next update!

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St Emilion – Day 1

After picking up Jan and Ken at the airport, we picked up our rental car from Avis (thank you UNIGLOBE for finding such a great deal) and off we went.  It’s a short drive of about 50 minutes and we have rented a 2 bedroom apartment right in the heart of St Emilion.  The trick is trying to drive through this medieval town to get to it.  Our GPS was of little use and after several attempts and driving the wrong way down a one way street, we got to within a block of it.  Park the car and walk!

The apartment was booked through Airbnb, the first time we have used this site and all worked out well.  It is a funky apartment over an Art Gallery and the location is perfect, right in the middle of St Emilion, exactly where we wanted to be.

This is the view right out our window…

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After a quick unpack, we are off to dinner at the restaurant Le Tertre and meet up with our good friends and fellow travellers Don, Diane, Pat and Shiela.  A fantastic meal and an extensive wine list accompanied with great fellowship made for a very memorable evening.  A little jet lag meant for an early night to get ready for tomorrow’s exploring!

 

Ed’s Journey to France, 2016

Welcome to the first blog posting of this amazing trip to France which will cover Bordeaux and more specifically, St. Emilion; a boat trip down the Midi Canal and finally, Burgundy!  With my experience as a travel agent, I will try to give useful advice, highlight some must do’s and add some interesting photos.  As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Our journey starts uneventfully with a connector from Saskatoon to Calgary with WestJet where we will pick up our British Airways flight.  We have enough points to fly Business Class from Calgary to Bordeaux.  About twice a year, BA runs a program that allows you to convert Avion points (my points program of choice) to BA Avios points at 1.5 times the value.  So converting 50,000 Avionics points gives me 75,000 Avios points, etc.  This really allows us to fly more Business Class than we normally could.

The rather long wait in Calgary is mitigated by being able to enjoy  Lounge privileges!  So nice to wait in comfort and be told when they are boarding.  The service in BA’s Business class cabin is really very good and we enjoy the amenities on our 8 hour flight to London.  In particular, the lie flat seats allow us to sleep on the flight, helping to reduce any jet lag.

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The only problem we had with this particular part of the trip was that we landed at London Heathrow and for the best option to Bordeaux, we needed to fly out of London Gatwick, about an hour away.  We used the services of Heathrow-Gatwick Transfers.  The cost was 55GBP but we had a private car that was like new, the driver was polite and well dressed plus he was right on time.  I would highly recommend them for anyone needing a car service.

We checked in and had a 6 hour wait until our flight but again, because we were in Business Class, we had access to a private lounge.  The quiet, comfortable atmosphere with good food, drink and wifi made the time pass quickly.

After a short 90 minute flight, we arrive in Bordeaux.  Since we are picking up our friends Ken and Jan the next day at the airport, we decide to stay at an airport hotel.  Thanks to our good friends at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel, we score a great rate of $65CAD at the Campanile Bordeaux Ouest Merignac Airport.  The only problem we have was the taxi…and I know better.  As the hotel is fairly close to the airport, the taxi driver doesn’t turn on the metre and charges us a flat rate of 20 Euro after our 5 minute ride.  You should always ask how much the taxi will be before jumping in!

Not a big deal and I don’t begrudge the driver for giving up a better fare to take us to the hotel. We have arrived safely and now it is time for some shuteye.  Thanks for following along!

Steph Visits Puerto Vallarta Part 3

Wednesday we said goodbye to the beautiful area of Mismaloya and the Barcelo, and now it’s time to head up to Nuevo Vallarta to spend the next 2 nights at the Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta. Nuevo is in the state of Nayarit, just on the other side of Puerto Vallarta city, and is about an hour drive. Buses always put me right to sleep, so I settle in and wake up in a new area.

Nuevo is very different from Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya. The resorts are larger, and a lot closer together. Everything is more modern, but still has a touch of colonial Mexico. There is lots of mall shopping, rather than markets (there are still markets though, don’t worry!)

After check in, we tour the hotel with the the staff. In addition to the deluxe room we are staying in, we also get to see a junior suite. These have a larger sitting area, a separate bedroom, and a very large bathroom with a soaker tub. The hotel only has 4 junior suites, so they sell out pretty fast. My favorite feature of the hotel is the beach; it goes on forever. If you wanted, you could walk several kilometers to Bucerias uninterrupted.
This afternoon there is finally some time for sun and sand without having to rush. I suit up, and head for the ocean. The water is warm, and there are some light waves to body surf in. Every time I get in the ocean, I always wonder why I don’t live closer to one – I’m just in heaven.
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Wednesday evening brings us to Rhythms of the Night, which is the most popular excursion in Puerto Vallarta. We go by boat for roughly an hour to Las Caletas, where they have a beautiful outdoor theater for the show. There is also an private area for weddings, which I think would be absolutely beautiful. The show is fantastic, with amazing acrobatics, dance, strength and singing. Everything is in Spanish, so I don’t really know what is going on, but it doesn’t matter because everything is just so mesmerizing. After the show, a buffet dinner is included before we head back to town.
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Our final day in Puerto Vallarta leaves us with a full day for free time. I hummed and hawed about what to do, and finally settled on an excursion to the Marietas Islands with a few others from the group. I heard a rumor that the government is going to close down the Hidden Beach part of the islands to tourists, so I figured I better get in before they do so. The main draw of the Island is Hidden Beach, which is a beach in the middle of the island that can only be accessed by going through a cave. It was truly beautiful, and got some great photos. There was also time for snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding before lunch and drinks were served. Once back at the Occidental, the rest of the afternoon is spend by the pool getting as much sun in as I can before I have to say goodbye.

 

The Occidental treats us to a great farewell dinner at La Hacienda, their Mexican restaurant. There is a huge buffet spread of salads, tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans, vegetables and desserts. I don’t know how we could possibly eat this much food. We spend our last few hours together laughing, taking photos, and enjoying the amazing sunsets of the Pacific coast. After dinner, as I’m up in my room packing for my flight home tomorrow, I’m sad to be coming home so quickly. The past 4 days have just flown by. Adios Puerto Vallarta, but don’t fret as I will be back to see you soon!
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Steph Visits Puerto Vallarta Part 2

I always knew I loved the ocean, but waking up at the Barcelo Puerto Vallarta confirms it even more. With my patio door open, I can hear the crashing waves from bed before the bustle of resort life kicks in. This is a sound I never want to let go of. Well, I guess it’s back to reality now.

The day is full as we start off with a presentation from one of the 2 Westjet Vacations destination reps. She tells us about what guests will experience from them when they arrive – the morning briefing, recommended excursions, emergency contact details and more. I find her very helpful, and I’m happy she is here to take care of our many clients in Puerto Vallarta. Next, we are on to see all the Barcelo has to offer.

We are given a tour of 2 excellent room categories; a Family Suite that has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and a Master Suite with a huge sitting room and separate bedroom. I think the Family Suite is absolutely perfect for those larger families that need a little extra space. The Master Suite is stunning, and would be my top choice for a wedding or honeymoon couple. After an update from our local Canadian rep on all things Barcelo and Occidental, there is a bit of free time for lunch before we are at it again on a city tour.

We are shown the Our Lady of Guadalupe church, which is gorgeous. We are also taken along the Malecon beach boardwalk where our guide points out some of the local art. There is a stop for shopping at a local silver shop, and a local candy store.

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Lady of Guadalupe Church


After dinner tonight, myself and a few other ladies venture back into town by local bus, which is only 8 Pesos (less than $1 CAD). We walked the Malecon, and stopped for a couple of $1 USD margaritas. It’s getting late now, so we figure its time to head back to the resort to get some sleep, as tomorrow is another jam packed day.