Jamie’s Hawaii and Australia Adventure Part Two – A Little Slice of Paradise

We have spent the last 4 days on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii and we both still agree that if we were to buy property in a tropical destination, Hawaii would be it. It’s safe, it’s clean, you can drink and eat anything without worrying about the consequences, there is good health care and it’s the only Island I have been to where I feel comfortable driving around. I love the freedom of being able to come and go as we want without being on a tour guide’s schedule.

We spent the first couple of days exploring the hotel and getting some R&R – lots of pool time, beach time and nap time. The Marriott Ko Olina Beach club is full of families and kids of all ages. There are lots of multi-generational families and because they offer lots of different sizes of suites – up to a 3 bedroom villa, it’s great for families of all sizes.  It is also wheelchair accessible including lifts/chairs in the pools and hot tubs.  They have a schedule of daily activities that comes out every morning (similar to being on a cruise ship for you cruisers out there). They have things like fish feeding, hula lessons and lei making for kids and yoga, golf lessons and ukulele lessons for adults.  They have a market and gift shop on site for all of your forgotten or last minute necessities the staff is very friendly and helpful with any questions or needs you might have.

There is a little shopping center a few blocks from the hotel that has some restaurants (sushi, Mexican, pizza, a coffee shop, a trendy restaurant called the Monkey Pod with live music in the evenings) a few gift shops and the necessary ABC shop. Once my 5 year old discovered the magical world of the ABC shop, I didn’t think I would ever get her out of there…I did eventually, but we had $40 worth of treasures (junk) with us.

This afternoon we did something I had wanted to do on our last trip to Oahu, but never did; we took a drive up to the famous Oahu North Shore to see the surfers. It’s about an hour (or a bit more depending on traffic) drive from Ko Olina or Honolulu  You head North through the middle of the Island and come out at the ocean in a town called Hale’iwa. It is a historic beach resort town with lots of gift shops and restaurants – we spent a good couple of hours poking around and had a really good (surprisingly) meal at a place called Breakers Bar and Grill.  The best coconut shrimp I have ever had – I didn’t think I would ever top Las Palapas!

Just North of Hale’iwa is Sunset Beach – where the Bonzai Pipeline is. This is the end of the Surf Season in Hawaii and the Surf Season ends in Oahu. There are three big competitions on at this time of year. We hit the middle one the “Vans world cup of surfing” and it was on a Sunset Beach. Lots of the professional surfers are in Oahu now for the competitions and we saw some really great surfing displays.  It was a very entertaining afternoon on the beach watching!

Image

The one thing I can’t get over in Oahu is the traffic – 4-6 lanes of cars driving too fast and too close together… That’s the one thing that makes me miss Maui and would make me pick a different island next time. It just doesn’t feel like “island time” when you’re in the middle of rush hour traffic.

 The next couple of days will be more pool and beach time, then we head off to Sydney, Australia on Thursday morning.  Stay tuned for the next up date when we arrive Down Under!

Advertisements

Jamie’s Hawaii and Australia Adventure Part One – Travelling with Children – “Patience and a Plan”

 

It was with utter excitement and just a little trepidation (on my part) that the three of us embarked on our next travel adventure.  We have travelled with our 5 year old before, but this was by far the longest and furthest adventure we had  undertaken.  We are travelling from Saskatoon to Honolulu (via Calgary and Vancouver) total travel time including layovers was 17 hours door to door.  Then after a 6 day island stopover we are travelling Honolulu to Sydney – a 10 hour flight each direction.  After days in Sydney it’s back to Honolulu for 2 nights/3 days, then home to Saskatoon.  Total trip length of 18 days and total time on an airplane or in airports about 50 hours…..did I mention that will be with a 5 year old????  Some think we’re crazy, but I think we’ll survive and have some much needed family time in Hawaii, which has been in short supply after a very busy fall and we’ll get to have some great adventures.

So, I often have clients ask me – what do you need to remember when travelling with children? My best answer – patience and a plan.  My husband is much better at the patience part and I am much better at the plan part and together it seems to work out.  For the “plan” I am the one who makes sure we have the booster seat packed, I spend the week before packing to make sure the favourite blanket isn’t forgotten and that we have massive supplies of new colouring books, activity books, iPods with games and tv shows loaded, crayons, a new very tiny dolly with very tiny doll clothes (the normal ones were NOT fitting in our carry-on!) cups with lids and spouts for the airplanes (no spills!) and my specialty – the bag of surprise “treats.”  I let my daughter Sydney know before we leave home that I have this magical bag of treats and that she has to “earn” them with her best behaviour.  I surprise her by letting her pick a treat when I thint boredom is about to kick in (ie – whining and crankiness) – it helps to avoid these types of meltdowns.  When meltdowns do occur, I remind her that is not the way to earn another treat and she usually turns it around.

If not, such as when she decides she is going to lay down on the floor of US customs in Vancouver because she is too tired to walk any further… well, that’s when the patience comes in.  While I just get frustrated and tend to pick her up and haul her along crying and throwing a fit, Mark will get down and talk her out of it and before I know it they are all smiles again and we’re back on our way.  Thank goodness, because that way seems to work better!  Thankfully as well, she is a great sleeper and slept 5 out of 6 hours on the flight to Honolulu from Vancouver.  It left Vancouver at 6pm (8pm our time) and arrive at 10:30pm – 2:30am for us.  By the time we got our car and got checked in to our hotel it was 12:30am local time and Sydney had been awake for about 3 hours.  We all managed to go right back to sleep and slept till 6am – not too bad since that was 10am at home and that NEVER happens – we are always early risers.  I thought “No problem – we have this 4 hour time change/jet lag thing kicked on the first day!”  Did I mention this is day two and Sydney and I were up at 4:30????  That will teach me not to gloat!

So here we are, morning two, having cheerios and coffee at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club and watching “Tangled.”  I am very thankful that we upgraded to the one bedroom Villa and have the extra space and kitchen.  The Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club is located 30 minutes west of the Honolulu airport in the resort town of Ko Olina.  There are a few other resorts along this stretch – the JW Marriott, the new Disney Aiulani and Ko Olina Villas.  I chose the Marriott Beach Club because of its family friendliness and we wanted some place quieter than being right in Honolulu – where we will spend our last couple of nights on the way home from Australia.  This is one of Marriott’s time share properties, but they also sell it as a regular hotel.  They have junior suites with a microwave and fridge (no stove no laundry, no separate bedroom.)  This is what we were originally booked into.  We upgraded for $35/night to the one bedroom villa and I am so glad we did.  We had to give up our oceanview, but this place is huge.  It has a large marble bathroom with glass shower, then a separate area off the master bedroom with a huge tub and vanity.  It has a full kitchen with marble countertops, stove, full size fridge, coffee maker, all the cookware you could need and even a dishwasher.  It also has in suite washer and dryer – a big bonus because then we didn’t have to pack quite as much – we can wash everything before we head off to Australia.  It has a master bedroom with a king bed and a pull out couch, two flat screen tv’s and two dvd players.  You can rent DVD’s for free from Marriott.  One last note – after paying $24 for Sydney and I to share bacon and eggs in the restaurant yesterday morning, I was very happy to go to Foodland and buy supplies for breakfast and lunch during our stay – I am positive we more than saved the $35/night on restaurant bills!  Plus, when we were all tired last night and didn’t feel like going out for dinner, spaghetti and salad was easily whipped up and we had a nice quiet night staying in.

Marriott ko olina beach resort 1

Marriott ko olina beach resort 2

The hotel itself is very nice.  It has three pools – one with a waterslide and 7 hot tubs (actually “hot” which is awesome for early mornings evenings and warming up from the regular pools!)  It has a full gym and spa and lots of activities for kids.  Yesterday Sydney got to swim with a “mermaid” and she read all the little girls’ books by the pool.  They also have craft time for the kids and they get to feed the fish and do lots of other fun things.  The beach is a man made cove which is calm and perfect again for kids – you don’t need to worry about undertow or big waves.  There is a great walking/jogging path along the beach.  All in all, we are very happy with our choice of resort for these 6 nights.

Hawaii Beach

Next up ….  Well hopefully a nap at some point, more beach time and I would like to do a drive up to the North Shore.  Stay tuned!

Elena’s Peru Adventure – Final Blog

Life’s not about the breaths you take, its about the moments that take your breath away.

Saturday Nov 2nd started with an early rise – 430am to be exact – checked out of the hotel at 530am then onto the 6am (25min ride) up to Machu Picchu. “Picture it,” … isn’t that what Sophia from Golden Girls would say? The sky is covered in low puff clouds with the chance of rain and yes, it will rain so remember to bring a poncho. If not, buy one for s/10.00,  but it didn’t matter; the golden prize was still ahead, the World Heritage Site and one of the 7 New World Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu.

First we toured the ruins and the whole time all I could think of was “This is amazing, so complex, and so ahead of their time.”  And then the last final hike up the long winding staircase was the money shot… The National Geographic picture of Machu Picchu.  You would think the gods or mother earth knew we were coming because the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and then the sun was shining, greeting us with the amazing view of the village below.  How can one not have their breath taken away?  (Side note: Always carry an extra battery and especially a memory card for your camera. There’s nothing like taking a picture and having your camera’s 4GB memory card say “Full.” Yes, that was me over 1,300 pics. Thankfully I have pictures from previous trips I was able to delete.) 

For some, this trip is a trip of a life time. Yes, I am glad I’ve had the privilege to explore the world with my job, but this moment this feels like my first trip ever.  Just sitting on the edge, watching the clouds roll over the view in front of us is incredibly stunning and special.  Like the quote at the beginning, life really is about the moments that take your breath away.  

ImageImage

Well now we’re back on the train for a 1 1/2hr ride from Machu Picchu to Ollentytambo. Then from there, 1 1/2 hour bus ride back to Cuzco to pick up the rest of our suit cases and packs for one night before we head back Lima and before I head back home.  I’m sure in the next 24hrs, more adventures will greet us.

 

———————————————————-

Well the day has finally come and it seems my math was a bit off; I had more than 24 hours before I flew home.

Sunday morning started with a leisurely wake up but wouldn’t you know it, I was awake at 630am. Before checking out of our hotel in Cuzco a few girls and I headed down to the main square for a Starbucks. To our surprise, there was a gathering in the square. There were military lined up all around the square and a stage set up.  Well the Peruvian’s celebrate everything and we randomly came across another parade/celebration. They happen every Sunday to celebrate the military. We didn’t get much of a chance to watch too much as we were departing at 1015am for our flight back from Cuzco to Lima.

Image

After our short 1hr5min flight on Avianca Airlines from Cuzco to Lima, we arrived back at the Antigua Mira Flores hotel in Lima.  Along with two others, I jumped into a cab and we went to the Hard Rock Lima.  I found a postcard when I first arrived in Lima and the this was one place I had to and wanted so see – after all, I’ve been to so many other Hard Rocks around the world it has just become something I do.   

Our final dinner was at the amazing ruin site, Huaca Pucllana.  These are the only pre-inca ruins remaining in mira flores. 

Well it seems my time in Lima has come to an end and after one final group chat about what we are so grateful for and what we enjoyed so much about the trip, I came to the conclusion of a few things. People think that because I’m a travel agent, I travel for cheap and that I travel lots. The truth is, I travel when my bank account allows me to just like everyone else.  But travelling and being an agent is so more than what people think. Travelling is about exploring the road less travelled and learning more about one’s self.  It makes you appreciate the smaller things in life and if you can learn one thing about yourself and maybe help someone else along the way, then you’re adding a positive change to the world. And if my travel experience can help enhance or educate my clients a bit more, then I’m doing my job. And that is exactly what G Adventures is also doing. Their founder Bruce Poon started the company back in 1990 with the desire to create authentic, sustainable travel experiences. This is still so evident today with their foundation Planeterra, the enthusiasm of their CEO’s (chief experience officers) and GPS (Global Purpose Specialists – aka travel agents support team members) etc.  Travel is and should always about giving back.  Yes, it’s nice to sit on a hot beach and sip Daiquiris and Cerveza’s all day, but other than the possible hang over, what are you gaining from the experience?  Some people may see this as a “escorted tour group” but it’s way more than that.  It’s helping you facilitate your travel needs from point A to point Z and everything in between is what you make it to be and so is life and travel.  So pack your bags and book a G Adventure – I promise you it will be life changing!

Yours always in travel,

Elena

Elena’s Peru Adventure – Part 2

Day 4
Well what a trip, how does one start. We left Puno at 4am due to a civil strike which was due to close the road and make out drive from Punto to Cuzco from 6hr to possible 10hrs. Luckily we made it through just in time and sailed into Cuzco at noon hours ahead of our original intended arrival.  That’s the thing about travel: you always should be flexible. It may have been an early start but it was so worth the extra time to explore the beautiful city of Cuzco. The town square is beautiful with all its balconies. After lunch and exploring the area and shops with a few of the girls in the group, then it was time again for another awesome Peru supper and a little Salsa dancing.  

 

Day 5

The next morning we had a city tour of Cuzco, and visit Pukapukara and Saqsayhuaman with our local guide Jose.  The afternoon we had some free time so I opted for the ATV adventure. All I have to say is it was so worth the $50usd. The views for Cuzco below and the country side and the local housing and country side is unbelievable. The whole time I wish I had a helmet camera so I could capture everything in.  The next best part was doing jumps on our atv’s.  I learned I have a need for speed and wish I had one at home.

Day 6

The next morning , Halloween (Thursday) we were off to the Sacred Valley. First we stopped at  G Adventures Planeterra, a local weaving community. G Adventures is all about sustainable tourism and giving back to the communities they enter and it’s not about just  giving money. In this case it’s about keeping the local culture and skills within the communities. This was a very amazing stop and basically were I did the majority of my shopping since 95% of the money from your purchase goes to the local lady who created your new treasures and the other 5% to the community.  The ladies taught us how they create the wool from the lamas or alpacas, then how they dye the yard. All the women from the community came out to show their thanks and appreciation. The best part was seeing the pride in their eyes and there appreciation for what were are doing with helping support their project.

Image

 

From there, we were off so some more exploring. Our next stop, the Sacred Valley and Pisca then beautiful Tetris mountain sides and the Pisca ruins. Our last stop of the day was the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the site of another large Inca ruin.  I have to admit looking way up and all the steps made my knees ache and my heart start to jump out of my chest again but hey we were 2,000-ish meters above sea level now how bad can it be? Well let’s just say the views were the most rewarding part. You can’t describe what it feels like to stand up there and see all the architecture that the ancient Incas created.

 Image

Tonight we stayed at Cute Rustic Oasis Resort Hotel that was all about nature and stepping away from WiFi and just enjoying nature. It crazy how society has changed so much because of technology, people are lost when they can’t get online or Facebook, face time or check emails. What happen to the days when we interacted with others without a phone or internet? Holidays are supposed to be about enjoying the world your exploring, and being grateful. So for that I was totally ok without the WiFi access and enjoyed the company of my group around a little campfire telling stories about what we enjoyed so much about the day.

Day 7

Friday morning we left Aguas Calientes by train at 745am for Machu Picchu Town. The ride took about 1hr 45min. 30 min into the ride we stopped and let off two people from our group that were doing the one day hike up the Inca trail up to the sun gate and into Machu Picchu.  The rest of our group carried onto our hotel in Machu Picchu town.

 

Ok so let me tell you when we left Cuzco we left our main suit cases and were given a duffle bag. In this bag we were to pack for two nights three day with a max 10kg because that’s all Perurail allows people to board the train with. Well let’s just say I did good with not over packing but for a fairly seasoned traveller I totally packed all wrong for this trip. I packed all long sleeve shirts, more for winter and cold. Well these clothes were good In Punto and areas at higher elevations (3500-3900 m) but down lower around 1900m above sea level you’re a puddle of sweat. Tank tops and short were what I needed. So when we arrived into the beautiful hot Machu Picchu at +25 ish I was dying.  Thankful I was lent a tank top and had a pair of Lulu’s to keep cool.  So since we had the rest of the day off were went on what started as a 3hr hike to the waterfall outside the town following the railroad tracks, turned more into a 10k hike and 4hrs 50min. Ok so some of that was a great picnic and lots of photo stops but it was all totally worth it, plus is was on pretty flat ground minus a few rock obstacles.

Ok time to turn in we have a 530am departure so we can see the sun rise over Machu Picchu.  So that’s 5hrs of sleep until next time…. Adios