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.

Left turn at Livorno

I was thinking about road trips yesterday and thinking about planning a little something. Then, I was suddenly reminded of my last wrong detour.

Livorno, Italy.

See, I had this idea that, according to the map, we could just take the train (for about 3 Euros and twenty minutes) from Pisa to Livorno and see the coast. It appeared to me… that we were just “that close” to the sea, and coastal greatness.

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“Coastal greatness” was not immediately apparent when we stepped out of the train station. There were beautiful palm trees, but not much else that made a couple of Canadian gals wanted to hang around. The industrial area and a lack of tourist information or people willing/able to speak english to help us out, had me second guessing my “see the coast” plan.

Then, we saw this sign. Didn’t feel like a good sign.

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However, it was daylight, and we were up for adventure, we decided to venture forth and take a quick glance around town, on foot.

We discovered casinos, and casino-like places where one could gamble among a few lovely palm trees. Thinking maybe this could turn out to be a lucky detour, I put a 2Euro coin in a slot machine. Nope… not a winner. That was enough of a sign. We bought our train tickets back to Florence and grabbed snacks for the road.

At the snack shack, I gambled on a little green jar of pear juice. An Italian specialty, it said. Loved it! That juice was amazing. Definitely memorable. Thank you Livorno.

There are no wrong turns. Just experiences.

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Just a lovely bit of architecture on our walkabout

Better stories start with travel. 

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.

But my town has nothing to offer

Have you ever said this? “My town has nothing to offer.”

Travel can help.

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Nothing but blue sky, open road and red rocks.

Here’s the thing. When YOU travel, you see and experience new things. Perhaps you come home with a business idea or a fabulous way to plan events or promote your own industries.  Or perhaps, in your travels you meet a friend and invite them to visit your community at some time.  That helps your town. You help your own town by travelling and returning with new ideas and renewed energy.

The other side of the coin is when you INVITE tourists to your community, you stimulate the economy. You see, when tourists come to visit, they stay in your hotels and eat at your restaurants and buy souvenirs in your shops.

Staff that work in the tourism and hospitality industries are often students, and when you put money in the hands of students (through employment), they SPEND it. That’s a good thing…. no, it’s a great thing! When your part time worker is not burdened by a mortgage or a heavy debt load, they spend money on dining and clothes and car repairs and social events etc.  Their disposable income is much more than the burdened family, so these part time employees are injecting new money into the economy rapidly.

It’s the circle of LOCAL. When a student shops locally, with their paycheque, they help shop owners provide additional jobs, which in turn pays for groceries, and car sales, which pays for taxes and health care, which pays for music lessons and birthday parties and so on and so on.

But what if  you’re back to the stumbling block of “our town has nothing to offer?” That’s impossible! I offer you Pisa, Italy as an example. Simply a small community with a bell tower built on swampland, that started to lean and a builder who never took credit for the error. Hundreds of years later, tourists are still gawking at the sight and also paying $35 a person to climb the legendary example of construction gone wrong.

So, I believe every town absolutely has something to offer! You just have to look at things a little differently. See things from a new angle! And invite the tourists to come.

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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)