Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Labour Day in Niagara-on-the-lake

Who said you can't go wine tasting with a 14 month old? Well really we wanted to get away for the long weekend and take advantage of the warm weather one last time. We had a blast a few years ago at Niagara-on-the-lake with my best girlfriends, and decided this would be the weekend we would go back but with our bundle of joy. 

We obviously didn't take this getaway too seriously and when we tried booking a hotel in Niagara-on-the-lake the Friday of the long weekend, either it was sold out or ridiculously overpriced. So instead we ended up using and decided to just book a hotel in Niagara Falls which was 20 minutes from Niagara-on-the-lake. The hotel we won in our bid was the Crowne Plaza which is far from feeling anything royally luxuriously, but we essentially just needed a bed to sleep in. We didn't get to our hotel until past 9pm, as we had dinner in Niagara-on-the-lake. If you are considering spending time in Niagara-on-the-lake but don't want to fork out $500 plus a night for a Pillar and Post hotel, I would consider just staying in Niagara Falls which always has great hotel deals for $99. If you are a bigger party a cottage is probably your best bet.

We got to Niagara-on-the-lake just after noon on the Saturday of the long weekend, and rented 2 bikes one with a trailer for our little one to enjoy the views. He had such a blast, and although you may think wine tasting is not meant to be enjoyed with a kid, you are completely wrong. I mean if you are only tasting (which is what I did) and not chugging down glasses of wine, you do not get tipsy at all, and you can be a responsible adult enjoying wine country as you should. Well reality is I am not one to mix or drink too much wine, but I loved the idea of riding bikes through wine country, it was so pretty and quite the workout. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vacationing with the moms!

Who would think that I would truly be looking forward to a trip with my mom and mother in law. I mean seriously if I told my 18 year old self that you will WANT to travel with your parents, I think I would seriously think I was crazy.  Well reality is the best part about travelling with your own parents is you can have them parent your child when you want some ALONE time.

So the real reason for the trip was to take my brother (who I am a decade older than) who is starting University this fall on a "We are proud of you for being a good kid" trip. He has never been on a beach vacation, and neither has my mom or mother-in-law for that matter. So it was actually the perfect opportunity to go on a trip all together. We decided to go August long weekend, and used travelocity to book our direct flight through Air Canada, I believe it was around $430 per person. Since there was 7 of us we decided to rent a house instead of 3 separate hotel suites, and we got a great deal through Luxury Retreats for a beautiful 3 bedroom home 2 minutes from Fort Lauderdale beach (it cost us only $2000 for 4 nights). The house had everything from a tiki bar outside, an oval pool, hot tub, to a gourmet kitchen with highchair and all. I believe the house was over $3MM dollars and was decorated eclectically with such unique pieces of furniture. I would HIGHLY Recommend Luxury Retreats, they provide you with a specialist that helps you find the perfect home, and a concierge throughout your stay to make sure that everything you need is ready to go.

We spent a lot of time at the beach in Fort Lauderdale, spent a day in South Beach (did the famous Duck Tour, rented jetskis, and ate dinner on the famous Ocean drive strip), enjoyed the airboat ride at the Everglades Holiday Park to hang with the alligators, and shopped 'til we dropped at Sawgrass Mills. I would say the best part was having our mom's join us to help take care of our little guy.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10 hours with a 10 month - MAUI, HAWAII

I think every parent I have told about our trip to Maui with our 10 month old has given be a look like I am the craziest person in the world. Well I am 9to5travelgirl, or temporarily maternityleavetravelgirl lol. Being on maternity leave and having all this time off (and married to a successful accountant), I wanted to take as many trips as possible, as it seemed crazy to waste all this time (when while I am working I have to request days off). So we thought we would take one BIG trip and we ended up picking Maui as that big trip!

We decided to take this adventure with our good friends who also have a baby just 3 months younger than our Ronak. Yes two babies not 1 on a 10 hour flight. Anyway, we decided on Maui given the fact that we all had 40,000 Aeroplan Miles to cover our Maui flight (with a stop over in San Francisco). As we were bringing our little ones it was important for us to find a rental home, versus staying in a hotel and not having laundry facilities, a kitchen, and high chairs on hand. We used Exotic Estates International to rent our home which was in Kaanapali Beach (great location if you have a family, because theres a baby beach just minutes away). We paid approx. 4,000 per couple for the home, which was a deal compared to the price of hotel suites, and we'd also plan to save a lot by making at least two of our meals at home each day. Maui is a pretty expensive island.

We first stopped in San Francisco and stayed at the Hyatt in Union Square, which was steps away from great shopping and dining. We did all of the tourist attractions like Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, and the vibrant Chinatown. At one point we ended up in a Hippie street festival which was quite entertaining. We also were able to get out of the city and did a bus tour to Napa/Sonoma Valley, which was breathtakingly beautiful. It reminded me of the rolling hills in Tuscany. One of the nights we had dinner at Seven Hills which based on the reviews was suppose to be fabulous, I would say it was not baby friendly at all (which is expected with small dining establishments), but the food itself was really small portions and not as flavourful as I would have hoped. Anyway after enduring bi-polar weather (hot to cold throughout the day) we were super excited to soak in the sun in Maui.

When we arrived in Maui we hopped in our minivan like typical family tourists and headed to our rental home. Our home had everything we needed from a full gourmet kitchen to 4 bathrooms for the 6 of us. It had an outdoor pool and living space to enjoy some lunch bbqs and swim fun with the kiddies. We were walking distance to the beach but actually hoped in our minivan to take all of our beach belongings and babies with us. Below I have listed what are must do's in Maui:

1) Kaanapali Beach
2) Baby Beach - just next to Kaanapali Beach
3) Old Lahaina Luau - I believe it is suppose to be the most authentic, it does a great job of sharing the history of the island. The food was mediocre at best, but its the entertainment, service, cocktails and the beautiful sunset views that I think people keep coming back.
4) Mama's Fish House - AH-Mazing food, but amazingly expensive (my mahi-mahi was $52), great views of the Pacific Ocean and beautiful ambiance throughout. Although we had a bit of a bug issue while we were eating.
5) Sorrento's on the beach - Fine dining italian cuisine midway between Kaanapali and Waliea
6) Grand Waliea Spa - I think its the most luxurious spa on the island so definitely a great treat
7) Drive to Hana - I can't even explain how beautiful the drive is, it is so natural and surreal you can't believe what you are seeing. The seven sacred pools, twin falls, and amazing views of the pacific ocean. You will get car sick, and its pretty stressful at times driving up these narrow roads, but it is of course a once in a lifetime experience. When you get to Hana there is this amazing Thai food restaurant that literally looks like its in a shack, don't walk away its a MUST eat experience.
8) Snorkelling at the Molokini crater, the coral reef is beautiful. We did the tour through Four Winds, and it included breakfast and lunch. Definitely worth the experience, I would try SNUBA which is like scuba diving but with no lessons or experience required.
9) Volcano - We didn't end up getting to do this, but apparently also an amazing adventure.
10) If you are there during Whale Watching season, apparently it is quite the experience. We did this in BC this year and didn't care to do it again in Maui.

Although, people may think I was crazy to do a 10 hour flight with my 10 month old munchkin, I refuse to STOP doing what I love because I have a baby. I am going to make my baby mould to what I want him to be, which is a social butterfly that loves to travel. Instead of an introvert that likes to stay at home, because his mom was afraid to travel with him. So if your a parent that loves to travel, don't think its over once you have kids, take on the challenge and pack your kids with you. I am not going to lie and say it wasn't hard to do, and that there were some rough nights on vacation, BUT I am still not going to give up my passions because its HARDER than it was when we were a single couple family.

Below are some pics from our adventure....

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My first time to the Canadian West Cost

Okay I know this is going to be hard to believe but, here goes.....
I have NEVER been to the Canadian west coast. Okay there it is out there for everyone to mock me with shame. How can someone that loves to travel not have been to the Canadian West Coast? Well to be honest I never had the opportunity, and in my younger days (by young I mean a few years ago) I was more focused on finding cosmopolitan vacation spots where I could shop, dine, and party. Well now that I am married to a man with family on the west coast, it just made sense to finally visit them and have them take us around to see some of their favourite spots. In less than 10 days we spent time in Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, and Seattle mainly for the outlet shopping!

My first thoughts of British Columbia when we landed in Vancouver was how breathtakingly fresh it felt. With views of mountains on every side, it almost felt like a dream. We spent the first two days in Whistler and can I just say the drive from Vancouver to Whistler felt like I was going to heaven. There was so much natural beauty all around, I just didn't know where to look. We used priceline and bid $100 a night and got the Hilton Whistler Resort right in the village. Surprisingly the weather in Whistler was in the high 20s, until of course we got to the top of the mountain in our flip flops (like typical tourists) and endured 6 degree weather. If you have been to Blue Mountain just 2 hours outside of the city of Toronto, you will soon realize that Whistler is the much better looking sibling. Similarly to blue mountain there are great restaurants, and outdoor activities you can explore with your family. Although with a 10 month baby any activity beyond pushing a stroller, or holding on to them in their baby carrier is quite limited.

After spending some time in Whistler we drove straight to Grouse mountain, then Vancouver City where we stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel. We paid full price for this hotel, and the views from our room were worth the hefty hotel bill. We had lunch at a great restaurant in Stanley Park called the Fish House, and finally got to enjoy Vij's famous indian cuisine for dinner. We got to Vij's for 5:15pm on a Wednesday and there was already a line up. Luckily we waited only 15 minutes and were the first seating. I am Indian so I found the food great but nothing I would likely go back for, I have had better in some 'hole in the wall' restaurants in the GTA. However, what sold me and will likely bring me back is the impeccable service and amazing hospitality this restaurant goes above and beyond to showcase. From appetizers while you wait, to fresh nan the second you finish the last piece from your last.

Our next stop was Seatlle and aside from roaming the city, and the space needle we really just ended up going for the great outlet shopping. Our last stop was Victoria which was also another piece of heaven, we enjoyed lunch at the Fairmont (which served juice from a box, versus freshly squeezed, am I wrong to expect more from a supposed 5 star?). Anyway, the best part of Victoria was our Whale watching tour, it was freezing cold and they put some great firefighter suits on everyone, but the thrill of seeing our first whale in its natural habitat was thrilling!

All in all I will definitely visit the west coast again, and the best part about visiting was the family we got to spend time with.