Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hiking the Bruce Trail

Every new year I tend to reflect on what I want to accomplish and improve in the upcoming year. This year, I want to spend more quality time with dear friends and family, I want to exercise more, lose weight and explore new places.


A few years ago my sister walked the Camino in France and Spain. Besides the beauty of the trails, what she speaks of the most are the people she met and the conversations they shared along the way.


In Ontario we have our own beautiful trail. The Bruce Trail is 898km long (with over 400km of side trails). It starts in Queenston and ends in Tobermory. This not only is Canada’s oldest trail, it is also the longest and spans the entire Niagara Escarpment. It has also been named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations.






And so a resolution was born. In 2019 I will hike a minimum of 100km of the Bruce Trail.


In preparation, I purchased the Bruce Trail Reference guide created by the Bruce Trail Conservancy. This guide is filled with detailed maps and trail guides describing terrain, parking areas, sights, history, plant and bird identification, mileage and much much more. I purchased mine (during the Boxing Day sale) at SAIL, but it is available at many more outdoor stores or on line through www.brucetrail.org for $39.99. You receive $5.00 off if you are a member.




I next purchased a family membership to the Bruce Trail Conservancy for only $50 a year. This membership keeps you updated on organized hikes in your area, sends you a regular newsletter, a quarterly magazine, gives a discount on the reference guide and discounts at select retailers. You also get a charitable receipt for the full value of your membership.


I look forward to the adventures we will have, the sights we will see and the conversations we will share along the way.


For more information on the Bruce Trail, check out www.brucetrail.org



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Grand Canyon and Goodbye to Vegas

The alarm went off at 5:15am and we were on the road to Grand Canyon at 6:15am.


After Starbucks, our first stop was The Hoover Dam. After the warmth of Las Vegas, the cold air was a shock. We walked out onto the bridge that looks down on the dam to get some photos. 




The clocks jumped forward by one hour when we crossed the border from Nevada into Arizona.




We arrived at the Grand Canyon by early afternoon after stops for gas and groceries. I didn’t realize that the canyon rim is at such a high elevation- 7,000 feet. John was feeling a little winded due to the elevation and it was much colder than in Las Vegas- close to freezing with the wind chill. I’m glad we had brought hats and gloves. We started out at the Visitor Centre and then walked the rim to the geology museum which has one of the best views of the canyon. It’s more than one mile deep and ten miles wide. Despite all the pictures I’ve seen of the canyon it’s still awe inspiring. We took in a park ranger lecture about the creation of the canyon which was very interesting and then had some hot chocolates while watching the sunset. Unfortunately the sun was obscured by clouds so the lighting effects on the canyon were not so good. I’m still glad we came despite the long drive - 4 1/2 hours with no stops.












 We were back in our apartment  in Las Vegas by 9pm and finished our last bottle of Perseco while watching the Christmas movie Love Actually on TV.




Next morning it was departure day. We had a late breakfast, packed up and then drove to the Silverton Hotel and Casino near the airport as I wanted to see the large aquarium at the casino. The hotel also has a mermaid show later in the day but all we got to see were the fish. Louise found some Muskoka chairs outside on the hotel grounds where we had coffees and soaked up the warmth of the sun for an hour before returning the rental car and heading to the airport and home.






Monday, November 26, 2018

Grittier Side of Las Vegas

John and I had trouble sleeping last night. Probably due to all the time changes. Henceforth, I was not in the best of form for touring.


We were dropped off by cab at the Bellagio again where we started working our way down the south end of the Strip.




We began by checking out the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino and Shops. This resort didn’t have any shows but the architecture was interesting and the casino was more subtle and intimate.




The next resort was New York New York. This place has a large roller coaster the runs both in and outside the building.






Years ago we had some friends that had been eating in the food area of New York New York when a blob of vomit fell down from the roller coaster above onto their food. We checked out the area of that incident.




New York New York has both a lovely area inside and out. 










The castle like Excalibur was the next resort we checked out followed by Luxor. Mandalay Bay was the last resort on the strip. This one had a beautiful garden at the entrance with a gorgeous elephant sculpture. This was one of the quietest, relaxing resorts on the trip. It had a beach vibe.




We also stopped into MGM Grand resort which left me unimpressed.


We lunched back at a fish and chip place in New York New York. John and I ordered way too much which sat heavily in my stomach. We then caught a cab to the airport where we picked up our rental car.


Exhausted, we all had a rest at our condo before heading to the old downtown of Las Vegas  centred on Freemont Street.






On the way there we passed many wedding chapels (quite a few Elvis themed). There was even a drive-thru wedding chapel. The Pawn Shop from the TV show Pawnstars was nestled amongst the wedding chapels.




Old Las Vegas is a lot grittier (and tackier) then the main strip. There is an area with a long roofed archway completely covered with LED lights that puts on an amazing light show with different themes and patterns. People were ziplining just below this ceiling above the crowds. Live bands played in different areas. Cheap souvenir shops, restaurants and lots of casinos  including the Golden Nugget lined the street.















Many street entertainers were in the area, some with talent and others were just odd. There were some young ladies dressed in S&M type gear who had riding crops. Guys would pay money to have the girls sit on them and whip them with their crop. Another overweight guy wore a Bruno type bathing suit with a rubber chicken over his privates and played rock music with his electric guitar. Yep, as I said, very odd and that was the tip of the iceberg.




We went into the Golden Nugget to finally do some actual gambling. Louise spent  a whole dollar on a slot machine while John went crazy spending and quickly losing $10 on the slots. So we are leaving Vegas $11 poorer ($15 in Canadian!)




We went to a fabulous restaurant called Eureka on a quieter part of Freemont Street. The restaurant was nice, not out of the ordinary but the food was delicious. After a heavy lunch we wanted something light. We had amazing black fish tacos and some fabulous broccoli sautéed in parmesan and chilies.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Walking the Strip- Vegas Day 1

By 8:45am we were at Blondies Sports Bar in the Miracle Mile Mall at the Planet Hollywood Hotel for their $3.99 two eggs, bacon and home fries special. They also had .99 cent Bloody Marys (tall glass with 2 oz of alcohol) to get your day going. John was the only one who went for the Bloody Mary.




Then commenced a day of non stop walking. After checking a couple ticket booths, we bought 1/2 price tickets for Cirque de Soleil’s Beatles Love show at the Mirage.


My initial impression of Vegas was that of an adult amusement park. There was so much stimulation, I didn’t know where to look.




Our next stop was the Bellagio Hotel where we walked through their indoor floral display. The fountain show didn’t begin until 3pm so we decided we would save it till later.






The Flamingo Hotel was our next destination where we checked out the bird and flamingo gardens.


To get to most of the free attractions, you usually have to walk through the gambling casinos and past many stores. The casinos are like Dante’s hell; smoky with lots of flashing lights and noise (I guess you can tell I’m not a big gambler).




Our next stop was Caesar’s Palace for the Atlantis show and to see the huge aquarium. The show was with automated figures and I had some difficulty making out what they were saying. 






When you are inside most of the shopping galleries at the big hotels you have the illusion of being outside on a street with themed building fronts and the ceiling painted like the sky.




We travelled up and down the Linq Promenade and watched the zip liners and large High Roller ferris wheel before heading to The Venetian Hotel.




The replicas of famous buildings in Venice were really well done. We watched the gondoliers and live statues.




By this time we were getting pooped but we soldiered on to Circus Circus  where we took the opportunity to sit and rest our feet while waiting to watch the acrobatic show. It lasted only about 10 minutes. I found Circus Circus to be my least favourite of the resorts. It felt tired and a bit tacky.

 Walking very slowly, we made our way past the Fashion Mall and the pirate ships in front of the Treasure Island Hotel. Apparently there used to be a really good pirate show there but there doesn’t appear to be one any more.





We had tickets at the Mirage Hotel for the 7pm Circ de Soleil “Love” show which is performed to Beatles songs. I was totally exhausted and was actually dosing off in my seat before it began but instantly focused as soon as it started; so much action, talent and creativity. I was thoroughly mesmerized.






The evening ended with watching the volcano exploding in front of the Mirage (awesome) and then the fountain show set to music (totally awesome) at the Bellagio.






The streets were a lot more crowded at night. Lots of people were drinking in the street. I’m assuming that it is legal here. The fashions were a lot more eclectic. There was also more of an adult oriented “what happens in Vegas....” feel to it especially given the large mobile billboards being driven up and down the Strip advertising female escort services. 


Although the night was young for the majority, after walking 20km over 14 hours, we were ready to head home.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Vegas Baby!

We hadn’t quite planned it this way, but we found two great flight deal and couldn’t resist. Less then 24 hours after returning from Mauritius we left with our dear friends, Louise and Lance for Vegas. All of us have never been here.


Traffic was crazy getting to Hamilton’s airport. I love this airport because it is small and everything moves quickly.


We flew Swoop airlines, it is bare bones and tighter seats but at $230 Canadian return, the price was right.




Upon arrival we moved quickly through customs and grabbed a cab to our Airbnb which is a walk away from the strip. I can see Caesar’s Palace and Billagio from our balcony.






Because we are dealing with a 12 hour time change, we decided to toast Vegas with a bottle of Presseco before heading to bed for an early start.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Our Last Day in Mauritius

After breakfast we went straight to our beach where John claimed a spot under a tree while I headed straight for the water. Today besides all the normal fish, I also saw an eel, star fish and lion fish. I spent over an hour in the water before saying goodbye to my favourite trigger fish and heading in.




After packing up we headed towards the east side of the island. The waters were so many different bright shades of turquoise. A large group of local boys played along the beach while crabs scuttled along the sand and some kind of mud skipper jumped in and out on the edge of the water.







We caught a tour which took us by boat to the protected nature preserve Ile des Aigrettes. (Island of Egrets). We saw tortoises (some being over 105 years old), native geckos, bats, birds and the endangered and extremely rare pink pigeon.








We checked out the nearby town of Mahebourg before going to watch the days end at Blue Bay Marine Park. I watched the fish from the pier along with some other people. One man had a daughter who lives in Mississauga.




Just before sunset I saw an octopus from the pier.


Then it was a short drive to the airport where we bid adieu to the clown car and boarded our plane with no issues.


Cheapoair came through for us and the got us back onto the original Air Canada flight back to Toronto.


We never met another North American tourist the whole time we were in Mauritius. I wish we could have had more time in Mauritius, it is a beautiful country.