Majdanek National Museum

If you have never been to World War 2 concentration camp you really need to prepare yourself for this experience. A little reflection beforehand on the history and context may assist. You also must know that you are going to see, smell and walk through something truly horrific. Majdanek has been very well kept and if you have been to the busier more famous Auschwitz you may feel the lack of tourists and chatter lends itself to an even more chilling experience. I have been a number of times with my husband. We did not engage a guide because sadly my in laws know all to well the history and havoc of this place. The smell is something I will never forget, especially the bins of shoes.
If you do engage a guide, and I suggest you do if you don’t have an intimate understanding of the history. You need to reserve a guide and they do offer a few languages outside of Polish. This is a service you must pay for, otherwise entrance to the museum is free. The website has all the information you need, plus additional resources. http://www.majdanek.eu/index.php

Finally, remember where you are going and dress and behave appropriately. It is recommended that you do not take children under 13 years of age and lighting candles is prohibited.

The museum is stunning and the work to maintain the history of those who have perished is commendable.

Posted in My Trip Advisor Posts | Leave a comment

Old Town Lublin

Years ago Lublin Old Town was dark, dingy and decently dangerous. The only reason we went was to party at the “Old Pub”. Even walking in Old Town during the day had you hanging on to your purse tightly. Over the past 10 years Lublin downtown, including the Old Town, has become a fun and beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

As you approach the Old Town from the downtown area you will be walking on a pedestrian street. It is full of cafés and small shops which used to be a busy street full of cars! Now on any given day it is full of shoppers, people watchers, and an exciting array of buskers! As you head to the Old Town you will see the gate to the Old Town, it is worth a look and a picture for sure. Also take a moment to check out the Lublin Cathedral. While the church itself is lovely, a few zloty will get you up the winding tower full of hidden art and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the city! Once you are back in the Old Town in the centre you will see cafe upon cafe which is a great way to spend the afternoon. Try the regional beers which are becoming more and more artisanal. Hard cider is also making a debut and there are several pretty good brews in the market. This is also an opportunity to try some traditional Polish for or some fusion plates if you are up for a more creative experience.

As you make your way to the castle there are lots of nooks and crannies that will provide the creative photographer with an opportunity to play with shadows are architecture. It is worth spending time in the castle as it has been turned a great museum which will give you a good sense of the life this castle has known! You can also get some good pictures from the castle of the surrounding city. While there are a few souvenir shops the shopping is sparse at best. There is still a lot of development to be done; however, Lublin Old Town has just enough character and entertainment to keep you busy for a few hours.

Posted in My Trip Advisor Posts | Leave a comment

Iberostar Tucan, Mexico

Wow! Believe all the great reviews you read because this resort really is fantastic! The beach is big, there are 2 volleyball courts and loads of beach chairs. There are very few sales people on the beach so it is pretty peaceful. You can also go for a great long walk in either direction. The pool is also large with 3 cabanas for resting and relaxing. You should know that the beach is topless so if this is problematic for you then it is best to stick by the pool area. Many reviewers have written about the beach chair problems…agreed by 7:30, 8am at the latest the cabanas by the pool are taken and the beach chairs under the huts are snapped up. However, there are chairs on the beach and you can get an umbrella at the towel hut. We were always able to get chairs by the pool so while the prime locations go early, you will still be able to find a seat.

The resort is built right in the jungle so be prepared for peacocks landing on the balcony, monkeys screaming at the top of their lungs and various animals scooting about here and there! I thought it was fantastic and got some amazing pictures.

The food choices were definitely adequate and the ice cream stand on the beach is brilliant! The alcoholic choices are great and I was happy to be able to indulge in sparkling wine. We went to the Japanese restaurant and it was a fun show with excellent food.
I was able to have a massage in the jungle…it was outstanding! The massage prices are extremely expensive and they are not willing to haggle. My friend won first place in one of the pool games and got a massage as a prize which she gifted to me! The therapist was excellent and the jungle setting so exotic and calming…truly an outstanding experience.

As an additional note, if you go to Cozumel you can go to the Iberostar on the island. Just check in at the front desk and you get to experience another resort!

The highlight of the resort is definitely the Star Friends entertainment team. They are energetic, kind and genuine. They are very sincere in their interactions and conversations with guests and make you feel special. Mauricio is amazing! His passion and pure enjoyment for what he is doing is contagious. Join his yoga, aqua-fit and Zumba classes for fun and a true show! Carlos was actually able to teach me to dance and is therefore a miracle worker! There are so many activities that I was able to take part in everything I wanted to do! The nightly shows are very well done. The Mexico show will blow your mind…the dancing is intense. I also loved the Boogie Nights show as it was all live music with a lot of energetic dancing. The house band that plays every night is incredible…wow the horns will blow your mind!
This resort is a great place to enjoy a wonderful holiday and I am sure you will not be disappointed!

 

Posted in My Trip Advisor Posts | Leave a comment

We arrived in London from Canada at 3pm and had a connecting flight at 7am; this was the perfect hotel to freshen up, go for walk, grab a pint, and hit a good night’s sleep. The hotel is easy to find and only 10 minutes on the Hoppa Bus from Terminal. The reception staff was great and accommodated our request for a room with full view of landing aircraft. The hotel is clean, quiet and close to restaurants and shops. The rooms are decently outfitted and the bed quite comfortable. You get 30 minutes of free wifi and 24 hours costs 3 pounds. 30 minutes was all we needed to check our email, send out a few tweets, and check in for our connecting flight. We were able to watch the first FIFA World Cup match in the restaurant over a few pints. We got our room for 40 pounds online on a super saver promotion and I am not sure you will find a better deal.

Now a word about how to get to the hotel. I used the Hoppa Bus website: http://www.nationalexpress.com/wherewego/airports/heathrow-hotel-hoppa.aspx to check out time and price. I didn’t love the price or time from Terminal 5 so we decided to take public transit, I heard it was possible but didn’t have details although this site: http://www.londontoolkit.com/lhr/heathrow_local_buses.htm did help. So after some searching and trial and error…here is the scoop. Exit the airport and head to local bus stop #6-there are lots of signs so you will see it easily. You will catch the 423 which is a free bus and take it to Harlington (sorry can’t remember the name of the stop because this is the point where the bus turned- we should have got off and at that moment we realized we were going the wrong direction). It takes about 30 minutes to get there. Be diligent as we missed this stop (it is where the bus turns) and had to take a scenic tour. Get off the bus when it still on Bath Road. There are any number of stops you can get off on and catch the 105 or 111. These are not free buses. One adult fare is 2.40. The ride is about 5 minutes…ask the driver to tell you when to get off and it is about a 4 minute walk to the hotel. From what I could see it was cheaper and quicker than the Hoppa. It took us 50 minutes (including getting lost plus the short walk). We did take the Hoppa in the morning. It took us 10 minutes from hotel to terminal 3 and cost 4.50 each. The Holiday Inn Ariel is the last hotel on Bath Road the free city bus will take you to.

So once you find your way you have a great hotel with enough free wifi to check email, a restaurant to catch a match, shops to pick up forgotten items, and a great Indian restaurant close by.

Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Chicago by Foot

So you may be wondering…”Stinky Onion” what is she talking about???  Well this is just one of the amazing tidbits of information you will find out on the Architecture Tour.  This tour is very highly recommended on Trip Advisor and I couldn’t agree more.  We went with Shoreline Sightseeing as they are family owned, smaller and came very highly recommended.  You even get $5.00 off when you purchase online.  If you don’t take the time to do this, then you are nuts! It is a great way to see the city while learning a tonne of fascinating information.

Image

The other must do in my opinion is The John Hancock Centre.  We went early in the morning so no line ups and I would recommend getting up early is worth it- the place can get busy.  The view is stunning and it is really just fun and worth the couple of bucks you spend on admission.  We did this on our first full day in the city so we could see exactly where everything was and we began to really plan the rest of our day.

Image

The beaches- what can I say. The city sits on Lake Michigan and the walkway is great for running, strolling and people watching.  You can definitely swim in the lake but for me September water is a little too chilly.  I ran the walkway every morning and while it is crowded with joggers it was never too crowded and just made for a great running scene.  Ohio Street beach is great for laying down and relaxing or making sand sculptures or going to Caffe Olivia for a killer cocktail!

After staggering off the beach we made our way to Navy Pier where I convinced my husband to jump on the 150 ft high ferris wheel for a fantastic scenic view of the whole city- it was great!  Navy Pier seemed to be always jumping with music, people and fun.  Amidst the rides and candy floss we happened to bump into the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows- wow-it was completely amazing. I would recommend finding your way there.  There is also some amazing public art in front of Navy Pier and they are worth taking a gander at and maybe posing with a few!

Image

Posted in Chicago | Leave a comment

Nom, Nom, Nom…

Gluten what? The first thing I noticed about Chicago is that no one had ever heard of gluten free or they may just not have understood my Canadian accent! Either way if you have some really serious gluten issues you may want to do some advance study-  I had been eating clean and was fine to indulge….and indulge I did! Thank heavens for the jogging culture or I would never have fit into my pants by the end of the weekend!

We had breakfast at Rosebud twice and we were really impressed with the gigantic fluffy omelets as well as the incredible service.  We ate at Sunny Side Up one morning, I suggest going on a weekday as the line up on the weekend was long long long.  We loved our breakfast at Sunny Side Up and the ambiance of the place and the service made for a great experience.  One morning we went to the Hershey’s store for breakfast- yup- that happened and it was great! I also discovered Argo Tea, right down the street from our hotel with a cozy fireplace and great service.. I enjoyed my after morning run relaxation at the Argo.

We kept planning to go out for a fancy wonderful evening meal; however, long days of walking munching and perhaps drinking…well you know how it is on holiday! So where did we munch? Well we found the patio at the Terzo Piano to have an incredible beverage menu as well spectacular views of the park. We spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon on the sofa enjoying the views and the drinks. Another place we fell in love with was The Soupbox, 12 fresh soups made daily gluten free, vegan and vegetarian choices as well as broth and cream choices. It was the perfect snack after exploring the city.  Finally we did have to do the tourist thing and eat Chicago style pizza. We had to go fairly late in order to avoid the lengthy wait in line and even then we waited about 15 minutes. We went to Gino’s East of Chicago and I will admit it simply didn’t meet my expectations. The service was horrible and the pizza- well maybe deep dish just isn’t my style. Still, it was worth the experience and glad we have the tale to tell!

We did time our hunger just right one night and fate brought us to New Rebozo.  We were just strolling along the street starting to plan what we might like to eat and we saw a quaint little place with outdoor seating all lit up with fairy lights and it just looked perfect. When we decided to investigate further we were greeted by a server who began to tell us about the restaurant and the menu. The server noted that we were very lucky as the chef was in this evening and had some great treats lined up. We were already sold but to seal the deal the chef came out and told us all about his restaurant and passion for food—we were sooooo excited!  What an amazing night, the atmosphere, the service and Chef Paco- what an amazing man. So passionate about food and preparation and most importantly- taste and enjoyment!! You will see a pic of us on his Facebook page and my review…it truly was an outstanding memory we will always savor.

The other amazing food and beverage experience we had was due to my friend Lisa.  Lisa and I struggle through highs and lows of doctoral study together and she knew just where to take some adventurous and thirsty travelers! Longman and Eagle- seriously if there is one place that you cab to- make it this place. The ride is nice you see some of the sites outside of downtown and then you drink. You drink some of the best whiskey drinks going- they have 148 available (they also have a 6 room hotel above that you may need to consider). Oh and the food – wow! It changes a lot and reads like a love story.

ImageImage

Finally I must admit we did spend an exorbitant amount of time at Caffe Oliva.  Located at Ohio Street Beach it sits on the beach so you have a view of the beach activity and a lovely view of the waterfront and city.  The bartender is outstanding and I may have sampled most of the drink menu. The mojito was killer and the blended daiquiri was a dream! The other thing I love about Chicago is that everyone drinks bubbly! So you can find Prosecco on every menu and I think that is a great way to enjoy an afternoon!!

Chicago truly was a wonderful eating adventure and I know we didn’t even hit the famous places or the up and coming chefs so a culinary redo of Chicago may be in our future….

Posted in Chicago | Leave a comment

A weekend in Stinky Onion

I have always wanted to visit Chicago and a great WestJet promotion sealed the deal for our September long weekend.  Now our visit did get off to a rocky start when we were “walked” from our hotel to a hotel half way through Illinois; however, we recovered nicely in order to enjoy and action packed weekend full of sunny fine days.

We stayed at the Tremont. The hotel is in the best location possible.  Right off the Magnificent mile, a 5 minute walk to the lake and beaches and about 20 minutes to Millennium Park. You simply won’t find a better place from a location perspective.  Of course that we were walked on our first night and sent to a hotel so far away from downtown – obviously did cloud our first night and the next day and has ultimately left a bad taste for the Tremont.  What I did find out is that it is quite common for hotels in Chicago to walk their guests- so if you are checking in late ensure you call ahead and make sure they still have your room! The Tremont itself is an older hotel- more of a boutique hotel. There are no vending machines or ice machines (you need to call the front desk for ice) nor is there a gym. I didn’t notice lack of gym as we were so close to the running path along the lake I ran every morning beside the fresh water.  The hotel is older and the Wi-Fi is pretty shaky but the Starbucks across the street has a great strong signal.

Chicago is a great walking city- the only need for transport was to visit communities outside of the downtown. There is so very much to explore downtown it will keep you busy for a considerable amount of time, plus the draw of the beach is enough to fill sunny warm vacation days!

It was well into the next day before we were settled and we were starving. We decided to follow our noses and stomachs and we landed at Rosebud on Rush for an incredible breakfast with outstanding service.  We were excited about the food in Chicago and our first meal was not a disappointment! Of course I will fill you in on all our food excesses while in Chicago!!! Stay tuned!

Posted in Chicago | Leave a comment