Favourite photos of 2016

This photo represents a beautiful afternoon in Italy. It was very emotional and will be one of those moments I never forget.
Using my Canon long zoom camera, I managed to capture the soft eye and sweetness of this seal pup. It was a photo I took in San Diego, California. One of my all-time favourite photos.
I love this photo because it represents a mother-son trip to watch baseball. We went to Arizona and saw the Diamondbacks play both the Giants and the Yankees in a weekend. My son caught a ball, also had it autographed and ran the bases post-game. Such a good time!
A bridge in Revelstoke, BC from August 2016. I simply love the symmetry, and the moody colours. I’d frame this one and put it on my wall, I love it that much.
The blue waters of the Turks and Caicos will forever hold a special place in my heart. I feel so centred there. One of the happiest places on earth, to me.
I love this photo because it represents the surprisingly great time we had in Cleveland. My younger son took the photo on a Monday morning in September.

Highlights of 2016

I’ve made it a personal goal to see at least one new city or town each year. This is a pretty easy thing to accomplish. And I do enjoy it.

In 2016 I visited San Diego, California. I really loved it. Especially the seals on the beach, dinner at Old Town and the cake on the patio at Scripps Pier. Those were fabulous. Actually, that whole trip was great. Really good food, great scenery and even better company. San Diego is a must visit on my list for couples, families and buddy trips. It’s one of those locations that truly has something for everybody. I will definitely go back.

In February, I travelled with my friend Kim to Florence Italy. Hard not to wax poetic over a trip like that. We took a pasta making class, travelled the tuscany region on a wine tour and even climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We stayed at a small boutique hotel near the train station. The breakfast and hospitality and constant cappuccinos made us feel oh so very comfortable. We also LOVED the market and the shops and made a dear friend in Stefania.  We saw museums and statues and paintings. We laughed and made the best memories. If you ever get the chance, GO TO FLORENCE! I would go back in a heartbeat.

And Cleveland. Wow! It was so much more than I expected. What a great sports town, and even though we saw the Cleveland Browns kick off their worst season in history, we enjoyed that game and baseball too. Then there was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unreal! Must see. And for me, it will always be memorable. 2016 was a tragic year for the loss of legendary musicians David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael.  I bought myself a CD in the gift shop, Prince’s Purple Rain. A really nice souvenir of a special trip with my youngest son. Would I go back to Cleveland? Yes, absolutely.

 

3 Tips to more travel

Want to travel more, but it never seems to be in the budget? Here are 3 quick tips that can help you get on track to becoming a frequent flyer.

  1. Make a list of all the places you’d like to go. Dream big and list them all! Rather than getting your heart set on one destination, open your heart to a full range of destinations and then take them in whatever bargain order they present themselves.
  2. Enrol in a rewards program and start using it! Collect points whether they be Air Miles, Avion, Aeroplan, or Marriott Rewards. Use points to start subsidizing travel.
  3. Use technology.  APPs like Kayak and Sky Scanner to automate your searches. Each will alert you to price changes and can let you know which are the best dates to travel. Also, participate in travel forums and keep watching local travel blogs.
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    A view of the City of Florence skyline.

    I really wasn’t thinking about a trip to Italy, but when a bargain flight of $583 popped up, I decided to go for it! I spent 8 days in Florence earlier this year and it was an absolutely fantastic time! Being open to new destinations really helps stretch the budget. I want to see the world (affordably) and it really doesn’t matter in what order I do it. 

Moved to Tears in Italy

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Florence, Italy

 

I was standing in this central square, near the Uffizi Gallery and across from the Savoy Hotel. It was mid day, and the area was bustling with tourists.

There were three artists painting watercolour canvases at the side of the plaza. Their art was lovely, very simple and classic. Italian scenes… like couples dancing, narrow roads and pastel coloured buildings, girls on red Vespa scooters. That type of thing.

Across the way I was an old woman, with a kerchief on her head, selling brightly coloured balloons. A man on a bike, with a basket carrier, road by whilst smoking a cigarette. A young couple was kissing near a statue and posing for selfies.

Children were screaming and giggling as they rode the gold and gilded carousel.

A loudspeaker amplified the voice of a woman singing Opera in Italian. Her voice was incredible. Though I didn’t have a hot clue what she was singing, I felt overwhelmed.

I tried to focus on the paintings, but suddenly tears were streaming down my face. The passionate voice booming through the cobblestone plaza had reached into my heart and somehow, moved me to tears. It was quite the thing.

I pulled down my sunglasses and wiped my cheeks. Breathed in for fresh air and took a little walk. It was a moment. I was IN the moment. And isn’t that just one of the very best things you can say about a vacation…. I was present in the moment.

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The carousel was the most exquisite I’d ever seen.

Italy: Yes, Please!

Italy… I don’t know where to even start!

It was an amazing experience. Unlike anything or anywhere I’d ever been. Would I go again? In a heartbeat.

And I would definitely go in February, March, October or November. As a Canadian, I like my space. I don’t like crowds and I’m simply not accustomed to waiting more than 15 minutes in any line.

Even the locals in Florence told me, that they flee the cities in July and August. The cities are too hot and far too crowded. The place to be is by the sea. And I got the impression that tourists are not completely welcome at their seaside hideaways, some of the last undeveloped tourist areas.

September is a lovely month, for weather. But, it’s also harvest. Their agricultural economy depends on the grape harvest, which is then followed by the olive harvest late September, early October. Their culture and livelihood are so intertwined with this annual ritual that I wouldn’t want to get in the way as a tourist wanting to tour wineries.

In late February, we had lovely weather, about 15C most days. I was comfortable in a light jacket, and with a scarf in the mornings.

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As far as tourist sites, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the wait was less than 15 minutes and you could just walk up and purchase a ticket at the desk. In tourist season (April-Sept) you would need to buy tickets on-line, in advance and attend at your scheduled date and time to avoid waiting 2-3 hours in the walk up line. You have likely read this several places if you are already researching a trip to Italy or Europe

Flight deals can be had, especially in the low season. If you choose to go to Italy in October through February, you can watch for airfares as low as $650 on sale. High season, you would budget for $900 or more per ticket. (Taxes in, return trip from YWG)