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Canadian Rockies Summer Vacation

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Canadian Rockies Summer Vacation

Snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, glacier-fed waterfalls, pristine rivers, scenic mountain roads with views around every corner, glacier-packed ice fields, an abundance of wildlife, and much more can be found in the Canadian Rockies; the Banff/Jasper area specifically. No filter needed. If anything, pictures do no justice to the natural beauty of the area. For years, a Canadian mountain vacation was at the top of my bucket list. I finally had the opportunity to go: I fell in love. The landscapes are picturesque, the days wonderfully long (5:30am sunrise and 10pm sunset), the weather heavenly, and the people genuinely friendly. As an additional perk, as if it were needed, national parks have free admission for 2017 in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. My only regret is that 6 days was certainly not enough to experience all this wonderful area had to offer. Below are some of my favorite pictures from our time in Canada.

We flew in on a Tuesday and the first day was spent handling travel logistics and getting acquainted with the area. Then the fun started! We spent our first day driving to Glacier National Park – Canada, did some hiking, then headed to Radium Hot Springs. The mountains were beyond beautiful and we saw a mountain goat! I was so excited and loved it so much we didn’t return to the hotel until 1:30 AM! I prefer the more isolated areas versus the more touristy areas so this was right up my alley.

The next day we hung around Banff. We caught a gondola ride up to Sulphur Mountain. The mountain is home to a variety of wildlife and offers great views of Banff.

We then made a trip down to Lake Louise. I will confess that Lake Louise is very beautiful, just as it is appears in photographs, but it is a bit touristy. I preferred Bow Lake. It was another fantastic day and we were able to capture some great family photos with this natural, gorgeous backdrop.

Then the most memorable day arrived! My husband and I did the Mt. Norquay via ferrata Ridgewalker mountain climb. It is definitely one of the best adventures of my life; right up there with scuba diving in Cozumel, snorkeling in West Bay Beach, Roatan, Honduras and rafting the Royal Gorge in Canon City, Colorado. The views were spectacular and the experience of the climb was exciting. Reaching the top, and then walking the mountain ridge, was beyond words. I highly recommend this experience to all who plan on traveling to the area.

norquay via ferrata

Even the roads up the mountain were beautiful!

We also spent a portion of that day checking out Bow Falls, the Banff Springs hotel and walking around Banff.

Our last day was spent driving the Icefields Parkway to the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield. If there is only one thing you can do in the Canadian Rockies, I would suggest this. It is something everyone can do and you will experience all the beauty the Canadian Rockies are known for along the parkway. Besides the beautiful lakes: Bow and Peyto, the glaciers, mountain ranges and waterfalls, expect to see wildlife. We saw two bears (no worries we weren’t that close to the bear as we respect their space)!

icefields parkway bear

And here’s a photo of Calgary (where we stayed):
It went by way too fast, but I was able to capture at least a bit of it in photographs to forever be treasured. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to visit such a beautiful place. God spent a little more time on Canada….and we share a birthday!!! Happy 150th Canada!! Thank you so much for an unbelievable week!

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Pacific Coast – Southwestern Road Trip

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Pacific Coast – Southwestern Road Trip

Oh how I love road trips and nature! I was overjoyed when the opportunity arose to take this road trip. I had actually wanted to travel to Oregon and San Francisco for quite a while so when a financial matter arose that required us to fly northwest, I seized the moment and literally we came home from work and told the kids to pack their things because we were vacationing (they just so happened to be on Spring Break)! Because this was so last-minute, we weren’t able to carefully plan our routes and missed some of our original destinations (like Grand Canyon and a day drive through Yosemite) but I had a grand time!

We flew into Medford,Oregon and drove towards the Pacific Coast which we took to San Francisco. Coquille Point in Bandon,Oregon is a beautiful beach. There is a long wooden staircase that takes you down to the beach.

Myrtle Creek Oregon

Myrtle Creek, Oregon

Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon

Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon

Staircase at Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon

Staircase at Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge from the Bowers observation

Golden Gate Bridge from the Bowers observation

Cable Cars at the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

Cable Cars at the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

It was hard leaving San Francisco.It is such a beautiful city full of charm. When we got back on the road, we drove to San Gregorio Beach. The water is not as pretty as the water you would expect in California, but the rocks were lovely as was the drive to the beach from San Francisco.

San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio

San Gregorio Beach

From here, we planned on driving through Yosemite park and coming through to Nevada to continue our trip to Vegas. The heavy traffic had us arriving just after dark so we couldn’t experience it’s full beauty. On top of that, the road we were going to use to cut through Nevada was closed.We ended up seeing more of Yosemite and familiarizing ourselves with the park but didn’t end up getting to Vegas until 5:30 am! We did end up getting upgraded to a suite room so that was really nice!

Day 2 Yosemite

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 3 Vegas 3

Day 3 Vegas 4

From here we were going to head to the Grand Canyon, but again because of delays we missed it. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. I will have other opportunities to see the Canyon but because of our detour, we stumbled across the gem Salt River Canyon.This is a stunning drive from Phoenix eastbound towards Pine Top. It was night time so I couldn’t capture it’s beauty in a photograph. The only thing I could get photographed was the sign at one of the lookouts.

Day 4 PineTop Arizona Must

A view of the Pine Top area as we were leaving (the drive south of Pine  Top is more scenic)

Day 4 Pine Top AZ

Our last stop was in White Sands, New Mexico.This is such a different experience! The sand is so soft and the landscape beautiful. We did some sledding as well.

White Sands, New Mexico

White Sands, New Mexico

White Sands, New Mexico

White Sands,New Mexico

White Sands nm8

White Sands, New Mexico

White Sands, New Mexico

We’ve been back home for a couple of weeks and I’m already planning our next getaway! Some of our other travel experiences can be seen here

 

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Navigator of the Seas Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Navigator of the Seas Ship

I’ve written about the ports of call I visited last month (found here) and now I’m going to share my experience on the Navigator of the Seas ship. This was my first cruise so I have no other experience or cruise line to compare it to but I will say that when I booked the cruise, I was looking forward to the ports and dressing up for dinner but I had just as much fun on the ship’s sea days as I did at the various excursions!

A photo on the ship during one of the formal nights is below. On the 7 night cruises there are two formal nights which are on sea days (Monday and Friday). The hair salon books quickly on formal nights. I read about this so the first thing I did when I got on the ship, after I dropped off my carry-on, was head up to the salon and book my appointments.

_MG_0875We are budget vacationers and knew we wanted to put our money towards the excursions and would be busy with the ship activities anyway so opted for a room without a balcony. We had an interior cabin and I felt the space was not too small. There was plenty of storage (drawers and cabinets). We had 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks and a garment bag which we were able to comfortably fit. Of all the people I have spoken to who have had balcony rooms in the past, they never regretted paying more for it so booking one on our next cruise is a possibility. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having one but it could be one of those cases of “ignorance is bliss”. There are many public places on the ship where you can lounge and also more quieter places on the sides of the ship:

IMG_4631Some of the activities we really enjoyed were the rock climbing and Flowriding:

_MG_0804 IMG_0323BWe had dinner one night at Izumi and our waiter informed us of a sushi-making class that we were able to join. This was so much fun and not advertised but still fills up quickly, so if you have the chance to dine here ask about any classes:

20150821_104205 20150821_112704Of course there are many opportunities to enjoy beautiful sunsets:

20150818_194009My only “unhealthy” but oh-so-yummy meal was at Johnny Rockets. I even had my first and only coke:

IMG_0377Every day you get a “Cruise Compass” which shows the daily activities on-board, information about the ports, weather updates and other helpful information. The little towel origami and a bottle of sparkling wine as an anniversary gift:

IMG_0389I went into this cruise with realistic expectations (the weather may be bad, there may be port-cancellations, etc) and I ended up having the time of my life. This cruise experience exceeded my expectations and I will definitely cruise with Royal Caribbean again!

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Honduras

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Honduras

Where do I began? I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Roatan, Honduras. This was my favorite port of call. Our excursion was at Tabyana Beach which is located on West Bay Beach on the island of Roatan, Honduras. Several of the pictures and videos I saw of the beach looked like it was always overcast. Imagine my delight when I arrived to this:

Tabyana West Bay Beach Roatan HondurasIMG_0174 IMG_0178I figured with 3 ports of call, I’m bound to have at least 1 port of call with nice weather, well the weather was beautiful for all three! This beach had beautiful clear water, and pretty white sand. I loved the surrounding “jungle” landscape. There is a reef right off the beach! You don’t have to go far for snorkeling. We did an early morning snorkel and were lucky that our group got to see and pet a sea turtle! Unfortunately I didn’t have the camera at that time.

IMG_0199 IMG_0206 IMG_0233 IMG_0236There is no better beach experience for introverts (in my opinion) than going below the water with just your loved one or a few close friends and seeing so many beautiful things in such a quiet, atmosphere. I am sad it’s taken me so long to discover the beauty of this but fortunate that I had the opportunity to experience and discover this new hobby for the first time with my husband. After diving in Cozumel and snorkeling in Honduras, we are officially hooked and can’t wait to bring our kids along for our future underwater adventures. I have also got my best friend on board so I see PADI certifications and a lot of water activities in our future.

IMG_0271 IMG_0273IMG_0254 IMG_0261 IMG_0264 IMG_0304We had a little fish pedicure (just for kicks) lol:

IMG_3704The beach was stunning, the water calm, there was security all over the beach, everything was clean, the people were friendly and the port shopping was the best. And what made me book this itinerary over Jamaica/Grand Cayman? I wanted to do something not everyone else was doing. I am so glad I did! I fell in love with this place and God-willing intend to go back!

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE – BELIZE

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE – BELIZE

For our Belize excursion we did the Maya ruins at Lamanai and the New River Safari. I think most people who enjoy history and wildlife would enjoy this excursion (the bus ride to the river can get exhausting and does not go through the most scenic/beautiful parts of Belize and this excursion will take all day). For those who aren’t into history or want more scenic options, there are beach and cave tubing excursions as well.

Below are some pictures of the wildlife we saw along the New River:

New River Belize_MG_0581 _MG_0592 _MG_0611The Jaguar Temple at Lamanai:

_MG_0663 _MG_0667What’s left of a Mayan calendar:

_MG_0699The Ball Court (interesting but kind of creepy at the same time):

_MG_0710The High Temple:High Temple Lamanai Belize _MG_0714 _MG_0739It doesn’t look like a workout but it is (you only have a few minutes to climb):

_MG_0742The Mask Temple (I declined a picture next to that creepy mask lol):

Mask Temple Lamanai Belize_MG_0750Some of the locals along the New River:

_MG_0757Did I enjoy this excursion? YES

Would I recommend it? YES (if you enjoy history and wildlife)

Would I visit more Maya ruins/temples? Absolutely!!!!

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Cozumel

Royal Caribbean Cruise – Cozumel

On our Royal Caribbean cruise, our first port of call was Cozumel. We booked the Royal Dolphin Swim at the Dolphin Discovery at Chankanaab Park. What differentiates the Royal Swim from the Dolphin Encounter or the Push Pull Swim is you get to swim with (and ride) two dolphins at a time. The group is also much smaller. There were about 12 people in our group, about 24 in the Encounter and 36 in the Push Pull. The entire interaction is photographed. As with all things purchased abroad, negotiate. We purchased a CD with 73 high resolution photos for $80 (HALF the price). The people around us were paying full price for the CD or purchasing photos by the sheet at around $40. We had read about this so were firm from the beginning.

Dolphin DiscoveryIMG_0831IMG_0839IMG_1004We also had the opportunity to interact with a manatee. After the interaction we were free to stay at Chankanaab Park for as long as we wished (the van would make regular trips back to the ship about every hour). This gave us the opportunity to do some scuba diving! I had read about “El Clavado”, a dive shop that would do “discover scuba” type of excursions. The instructor was extremely patient and thorough. He guided me in shallow waters first.

IMG_0030Chankanaab Cozumel Scuba Diving IMG_0062 IMG_0085Chankanaab Cozumel ScubaIMG_0040 IMG_0049 IMG_0103There was so much beautiful fish, caves and statues to see! The dive shop:

El Clavado Chankanaab CozumeOf course there was more to do at Chankanaab Park! There was a place for tequila-tasting:

Tequila Tasting Chankanaab CozumelIMG_0136 IMG_0137And there were plenty of places to just lounge. I have always been a mountains/nature parks/camping type of person, never a beach person. The few times I’ve gone to the beach have been primarily to spend time with family. I often found laying on the beach exhausting. The truth is, I just was never at the right beach or did the right activities. On this cruise I was able to scuba and snorkel on two beaches and realized how much more enjoyable that was to me! It even made the bits of lounging around enjoyable! I think it’s safe to say this cruise has made me a true beach lover, although I still love the mountains too 🙂 Read the rest of this entry

First Cruise!

The kids have started school (high school and junior high)! Unfortunately, my back-to-school pictures are blurry shots of carpet and body parts since they dodged the camera and my efforts to get their photo! We are settling into our school routine and as I sit here in gymnastics, I have a few minutes to update on my recent cruise. My husband and I returned from our first cruise ever on Sunday. I am so glad I ignored the Debbie Downers who started listing everything that could go wrong with a cruise.  Sure, things can happen on a cruise but they can happen in an airplane or driving down the road to the grocery store. This cruise experience was absolutely amazing! I was hoping for a fun-filled week to celebrate our upcoming 15 yr anniversary where I could be athletic during the day and do the girly dress-up in the evenings. I was hoping to see beautiful scenery and experience new things. I was hoping for a spiritual revival and nice weather. I was hoping for excitement and relaxation. I got everything I wished for and more! We visited Cozumel, Belize and Honduras.  I got to swim with dolphins, scuba dive, snorkel, climb ancient Mayan ruins, climb a rock wall and do some Flowriding on the ship, take a sushi-making class, got pampered all week and more! I have over 1000 pictures spread out over our “good” camera, underwater camera, and phones. I will share some of my experiences and tips in various posts as I slowly go through the pictures. In the mean time, here are some of the photos we purchased through the Royal Caribbean cruiseline. The photographers were eager to take photos and we appreciated their attention to little details. The picture below is my favorite. The young man  posed us and even suggested I place my hand in such a way to show “that thing on your hands” (flash tattoos).

Royal Caribbean Photography

I literally felt like Pretty Woman. The scene where she’s in the red dress walking through the hotel, turning heads…I got to experience that every night walking through the ship and entering the dining room! But to me, the best thing was not the men or women who turned their heads, stared or complimented. It was the little girls’ reactions that I loved. My 11 yr old daughter did give her stamp of approval on my outfits afterall 🙂

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This pant outfit was so comfortable, I wore it twice! I ditched the clubbing dress in favor of wearing this twice!

I love the picture below because you can see my freckles! Everybody thought we were newly weds and were in total disbelief that we were celebrating 15 years of marriage 🙂

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Some of the pics taken with our cameras:

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_MG_0475And my husband was such a trooper for carrying all my luggage! (I did carry a 75lb backpack for two hours as we went through customs)!

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And the bonus? I didn’t gain an ounce! I lost 18 pounds since January in preparation for this vacation and after all my efforts, didn’t want to gain it back! Breakfast consisted of fruit, lunch was a light sandwich and I ate half my dinner (including dessert) in the main dining room. I am now ready to start planning my next cruise, this time with my kids too!!

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