Let’s start with Palm Springs

If you are a new traveller, a reluctant traveller, or have waited until retirement to travel, Palm Springs California is a great place to start.  I’ll give you three good reasons to put Palm Springs on your list and why I think   it’s a zero-stress vacation.

  1. Flights from Brandon’s little airport (YBR) are very convenient. This travel day is hardly a bother at all. Your flight leaves about lunch time and after a stop in Calgary (YYC) connects through to Palm Springs (PSP) and you’re at your resort by 8:00PM. In Calgary, you’ll deplane, look for your connecting gate and head through US Customs.  Easy peasy.
  2. Driving in Palm Springs is as easy as driving in Brandon. Their downtown area is much like ours, two main roads each one-way and going in opposite directions. Just like Rosser and Princess.  The best part is there’s no ice and snow.  Just outside the city of Palm Springs you’ll find suburb areas like Palm Desert and Palm Canyon.
  3. Golf courses and outdoor activities are easy to find and budget friendly.  Deals for Canadians are even easier to find. Just stop by the tourist booth (on Palm Canyon Drive) and ask. We found a deal we couldn’t pass up. It was breakfast, lunch, a round of golf, clubs and cart rental for $50 a person.  If golf isn’t your thing, there’s walking paths, swimming and tennis at most every resort or hotel. You can catch a baseball game in the area too. There’s a professional league that plays winter ball a few afternoons a week. Tickets are about $5. (Or they were 2 years ago when I last attended.)

I checked Westjet Vacations current offerings. You can stay a week in Palm Springs for under $1100 per person. Car rental and meals will be on top of that.  Do take a look at the flight times! No need for a pre-dawn wake up call.

 

 

Happy Anniversary to Us!

If you want to be a writer…. then, write.

I can’t imagine the number of times I’ve repeated this in my own head. It’s simple. So simple! And I can’t even say where I heard it first but it’s become my mantra. I take it to mean, “whatever you want to do, JUST DO IT. GET STARTED! GO FOR IT!”

If you want to be a skier, then ski! If you want to be a painter… then paint!

In my case, I’m fulfilled and I sleep better when I empty my brain. I’m forever writing and scripting and telling stories in my head. There’s a running commentary and sometimes comedy show, being narrated in my own mind. I’m a storyteller. It’s simply who I am. Does it pay? No. Does it matter? Yes! Does it make me happy to write? Heck yeah!

There was a time when I owned a busy restaurant, and it was a constantly moving, flowing, real life game of “Diner Dash.” (That’s a video game where you keep cooking and serving guests and each level gets harder and harder and more chaotic until you collapse and die. The busier you are, the more you “win” at the game. Which is, exactly like real life in the restaurant biz.) And while my restaurant was popular and it paid the bills I was also working ridiculous hours and I often longed to run away, to “escape.”  During that time, a friend (Melynda) introduced me to blogging. (Thanks Mel!)  Since my escape was travel, I titled my first blog “escapethe204” and hosted it on a free blogging website.  I did that for almost 5 years, sporadically, but there was some good content.

Three years ago I was doing some soul searching while on vacation. (Doesn’t everybody?) I knew back then I would need an exit strategy to get out of the restaurant business and I would need to find a way to transition into a new career. I decided to get more serious about writing and what made me happy. I felt the next step was to own and control my own website and domain. I made a long list of domain names and “personalities” for my writing. I got focused about my topic and realized that in order to generate enough content to keep going I would need to have a wide scope and be able to sustain a high level of enthusiasm. That’s why I chose travel. I’m genuinely passionate about travel and I felt that others might want to follow along and discuss it as well.

And that’s how “She Talks Travel” went from concept to life plan the first week of December 2015, in a hotel room in Montreal. From there, I moved forward to investigate and determine that “she talks travel” was available across all the popular social media platforms. That’s when I set about to stake my claim to that name and go forward and “brand” my own travel blog.

I justify the expense (about $300 per year) to have my own hosted site as a similar expense to any other hobby just like painting or skiing. You have to invest in equipment in order to participate. I never set out to sell anything or generate income from clutter ads or gimmicks. I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship or make myself feel obligated to write or perform, so I’ve always just kept it a personal expense. The happiness and personal satisfaction level is still high, so I do consider it worth it.

I sold the restaurant a year ago. I took some time for myself and then decided to pursue a career in the travel and tourism industry. And wouldn’t you know it…. being a known travel writer actually helped me land the job! Am I going to quit writing now that I work for a professional travel agency? Heck no! In fact I’ve paid up and renewed this site for another year. So, happy anniversary! And cheers to the next year of learning and exploring and travelling! I love that you’re here for the ride. Thank you!

Don’t do bad things!

Travel should be safe, happy and enrich your life. Don’t mess that up for yourself, or others.   Like these two:  Tourists facing jail time for graffiti

I’ll tell you a personal story, because I think it’s kind of sweet. When my son was almost 4 we were watching the Brandon Wheat Kings play and his favourite hockey player (Mark Stone) was sent to the penalty box. This was upsetting for my son. He absolutely hated seeing Mark in “hockey jail.” Later that night Calder (my son) got the chance to tell Mark exactly how he felt.

It was skate with the player night, and during the post-game event, Calder had Mark’s full attention. Mark, (all 6 foot 6 of him, on skates) was down on his knee to listen to Calder.

“Don’t do bad things!” Calder said. “Don’t do bad things.”  he repeated over and over. “No goals in hockey jail.” Which we as parents, interpreted for Mark … “you can’t score goals while sitting in the penalty box.”  Mark assured Calder that he understood the message “don’t do bad things” he repeated over and over. “Don’t do bad things.”  Satisfied that he had been heard, Calder was ready to skate. He and his hockey idol skated around. At the end of the the event Mark said goodbye to the little guy and assured him that he would “not  do bad things” and try his best to stay out of the penalty box. It was a nice moment. Very memorable.

So, that’s pretty much all I’m going to say, because the message certainly does apply to travel.  “Don’t do bad things.”  But honestly, I shouldn’t have to say this. It’s common sense.

1) Jail time isn’t a joke. Jail time isn’t two minutes in the penalty box.

2) Respect the culture and customs of the country you are in. You are a guest. Be on your best behaviour. Obey the laws.

3) If you have a conviction at home. Even if YOU THINK it’s minor, it could very well prevent you from getting a tourist visa, or being allowed entry into a foreign country. Assault, drug possession, DUI (Driving under the influence) are all potential barriers to you being free to travel. So before you buy a plane ticket, check with the embassy. Do your homework.

And most of all, the bottom line is that travel is a privilege. “Don’t do bad things!”

Please, Take the Wheel

As you know my eyes have been opened to more and more travel opportunities through my new job as a travel consultant. I have been reading and learning about tour companies and things you can experience through guided vacations. I was definitely surprised to learn that it is very affordable to participate in a guided tour rather than trying to do everything on your own.

6 months ago, I did not have any idea you could easily find like minded people and join their well planned excursions, rather than trying to “re-invent the wheel yourself.” I think this would have really benefitted me when I toured Ireland in 2017. Though I had a decent time and saw many things,  I felt like I was missing out and not really experiencing Ireland. I was a casual tourist, and certainly did not  have the full, and the enriching Irish experience I had hoped for.

So this next time, I’m looking at an award winning tour company in Europe called Back Roads Touring as my way to show my son Switzerland.  Rather than putting all the pressure on myself to do months of research and then try to coordinate everything,  I will enlist the experts. It already feels like a relief. I’d love for someone to take the lead so my son & I can both enjoy the adventure to the fullest rather than us both wondering when I’ll make the next wrong turn.

Here are three tour companies, of many, that my travel agency recommends. (I bet these will get you started on thinking about your next adventure!)

G Adventures  A Canadian company well known around the globe.

Back Roads Touring  A Specialist in Europe. Small groups of 18 or fewer.

On The Go Tours  Specializing in 4 & 5 Star Luxury Guided Tours. Often with incredible deals on last minute adventures.

Consider the math if you think that $2000 is too much to pay for a 7 day guided tour.  As an individual you might pay:  7 nights hotel ($1400), plus taxis/uber/shuttles ($300), plus admission tickets to museums/activities/monuments ($250) plus select meals ($300) for a total of $2250 or more. While you could share the hotel and taxi expense with your spouse, that’s true,  the meals and tickets are individually priced regardless. Also consider the value of NOT stressing about planning and research and driving routes. Would that make your vacation more enjoyable?

If you’re interested in any of these tours, track me down at McPhail Travel in Brandon and let’s talk! (Cathie@mcphailtravel.net)

 

On The Go Birthday Celebration Deals October 2018

 

 

 

 

Casino Art

One of of my favourite activities in Vegas….. yes, THAT Las Vegas is to consciously take in the public art. I think it’s one of the most enriching non-gambling experiences you can have there.

Exceptional art is everywhere. You’ll find it in the halls and lobbies of every MGM hotel, in the shops and even in the casinos.

I LOVE the art experience at Aria Hotel & Casino. From the minute you arrive in the valet drive, to the minute you head up to the buffet, there’s creative and poignant art to dazzle the senses.

If you choose to explore your desire to see fine art, head over to Bellagio to their dedicated gallery. Admission is $14/person but is well worth it.

We’ve seen an Andy Warhol exhibit there, and most recently (Summer ‘18) a Water Exhibit.

 

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

 

Bellagio Gallery of fine art.

 

Felt art in the halls of Park MGM
Felt art in the halls of Park MGM

 

Ceramic art at Aria

 

Design and functional art everywhere you look.

Park MGM Experience

I have been to Vegas twice this year. Twice I have stayed at the Park MGM.  And twice I have been very happy with the experience .

I went to Vegas in May for the U2 concert. The concert was taking place at the T-Mobile Arena which happens to be right next-door to Park MGM. Literally, a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the line up to enter the arena.

So, do take note if you’re heading to a hockey game or concert at the T-Mobile arena, the Park MGM is ideal.

From TMobile Arena balcony lounge, looking towards the ParK MGM Hotel & the Park Theatre. (Where Aerosmith, Cher, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars have residency.)

But what is the hotel like?  I really like it. It is modest by my measure of Vegas hotels. It is the old Monte Carlo, but completely redone and rebranded as Park MGM. The rooms are fairly basic (no mini fridge)  but they are modern, the bathroom showers are perfect and they’re nicely decorated.

Think of it as a little sister to Bellagio. It is part of the same hotel chain and even connected by a free tram.  By my estimate it’s 1/5 of the size of Bellagio.  It’s pretty hard to get lost at Park MGM. That’s a good thing.

While the hotel doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants, the courtyard of the arena does. So all you have to do is walk outside the hotel and you have plenty of choices. Also across the courtyard is the NYNY Hotel & Casino which offers a little more action.

The second best asset of Park MGM is the pool area. There are 3 separate pools, lots of great loungers, the poolside food is excellent and there’s plenty of sun.

The 3rd best feature of the Park MGM is the price. It typically falls in the bottom 1/3 of Vegas Strip hotels, depending on events and time of year. Regardless, of whether it costs $50 or $129 per night,  it will be comparatively less then other hotels of equal quality. Based on this I find it is excellent VALUE.

**not a paid endorsement. I’m in no way affiliated with the hotel or MGM chain. I’m just a frequent Vegas visitor with high regard for this renovated hotel. I hope you find benefit in my review.