A Day at the Sydney Fish Market

On the flight we talked to some of the locals about what to do while we were in Sydney who told us to go check out the Fish Market early in the morning! At first we laughed because we didn’t think we’d want to get up that early. When we woke up that first morning at 5:00 am we figured, “let’s do it!”

We had no idea what to expect, but it was kind of amazing. Any kind of seafood imaginable, it was there. Prawns and shrimp of all sizes, crab, squid, octopus (even baby ones!), lobster, oysters, snapper, cod – really everything. It was more than just fresh fish, there were café’s there stocked daily serving up food for the customers and workers.

Seafood wasn’t the only thing there was a ton of… The pelicans were EVERYWHERE, waiting around for the moment they could get some scraps. They’re friendly, but they really just want your food!

Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests a private world of luxury at sea. Every suite and villa provides guests with the finest amenities, and the expert services of our concierge and 24-hour butlers. Step outside your residence and you’ll enter a secluded Courtyard where you can spend your sea days relaxing, dining and enjoying exquisite privacy. We call it The Haven by Norwegian. You’ll call it pure paradise.

Available on Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl.

Conquering Fears and Great Heights in Sydney!

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences I have ever had!

I’ve wanted to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge since my very first trip to Australia in 2013, so I wasn’t going to let my fear of heights stop me when I returned this year!

I got to check the bridge climb off my bucket list with a beautiful twilight climb to the top! I would highly recommend the twilight tour over a daytime tour. We started off the trek in daylight, as we reached the top we got to watch the sun set and watch the city lights begin to come alive.

Facing Fears

Before the climb, we got all suited up, and latched onto the steel safety beam, and then we were off! The feat starts with four sets of stairs, and only one person can ascend each set at once. It was a little unsettling being alone on the stairs, but I felt comforted knowing that my aunt was not too far behind me with another guide.

I was in full panic attack mode by the time I got to the second set of stairs, but I knew I had to do this; I had to keep going. I needed to conquer my fears and prove to myself that I could do it.

As if the heights weren’t bad enough, the steps are tiny and steep as can be! Each set of stairs brings you closer and closer to the open air of the top of the bridge. By the time you get through all four and are on the final ascent, you can look down directly into the Harbour.

Although I was white knuckled up the last three sets of stairs, I did it! I got to the top of the stairs and started off on the nice gradual climb to the very top. As we climbed, the guide pointed out many different landmarks down below, and we stopped to take some pictures. I managed to have the exact same look on my face for every picture.

What Goes Up…

We made it to the top and watched the sunset. That’s when I realized… We still have to take the stairs back down. There we were at the top of the stairs, and to get back down I had to turn myself around and go backwards down the stairs! I was crying before I even made it down the first set of steps.

It was getting dark by this time. We had lights, but we also had sunglasses, so most of my light was blocked. I had to stop after the first two sets of stairs to compose myself. My aunt caught up to me here to make sure I was doing okay. I told her yes. Even though I was mid-panic attack, I had to do it. At this point, I really had no choice.

The guide behind me started yelling encouragements and telling me I was almost done, and I was getting the same encouragement from my aunt. It was really what I needed that on those last 2 sets of stairs!

I got to the bottom and breathed a sigh of relief – I did it! I was so happy; happy to be back down off the bridge, happy to have faced my fear, and happy to have done something incredible. Check! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad my aunt and I got to share it. I honestly can’t wait to do it again!

Explore Europe by River

Cruising the River

While River Cruising in Europe I found the view from the vessel aw inspiring. In the Fall the color of the leaves only enhance the beauty of the castles that adorn the shorelines along the Rhine River. One of the many beauty’s of Europe is that it is a perfect blend of the ancient and the modern. Enjoy the timeless beauty and grace of the Old World with European river cruises along the Rhine, the Main, the Danube, and the Seine rivers. Explore the rich culture of countries like Austria, Germany, France, and Switzerland. There are endless breathless sights like the windmills of Kinderdijik, verdant vineyards in France, and ancient castles in the Rhine Valley.

The River Cruise Experience 

River Cruising allows you the opportunity to dock in quaint villages and towns that are not accessible via large ocean ships. These vessels also do not cater to thousands of clients but to a much smaller clientele which makes getting on and off the ship a breeze. The meals served are three to five course meals paired with local wines and/or beers from the region you are exploring. Dining on board the ship is more intimate and the service and meals are impeccable. There are numerous River Cruise companies ranging from companies that have a few vessels to numerous vessels and itineraries to choose from including companies that include port excursions to luxury vessels.

Top 10 Things to Do/See in Sydney, Australia

Australia is a MUST!

If you do not have Australia on your list of places to travel I highly suggest that you add it on … and near the top.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  1. Darling harbour. Lots of restaurant choices including the Hard Rock Café, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Aquarium, A carousel, a Huge Ferris Wheel and the National Maritime Museum. There is also were you can pick up your Harbour cruises, Dinner cruises, Set Sail with America’s Cup or just take a Jet boat out on the Harbour.

      

  2. Sydney Tower Eye. Enjoy 360 views of the beautiful city of Sydney. While you are up there you can choose to do a SkyWalk. It is a 45 min guided tour outside at the top of the Eye.

      

  3. China Town. You need to make a stop at Paddy’s Market and do some Souvenir Shopping. After you’re done shopping stop at the 3 Wise Monkey bar for a drink and some food.

      

  4. Bridge Climb. I would highly suggest a twilight tour.

        

  5. Panorama City Tour. Takes you all through the city including a stop at Royal Botanical Gardens, Drive by the most expensive street in Sydney, Head over to Watson’s Bay and then a stop at Bondi Beach.

      

  6. Rocks District. While you are there have lunch at Sydney’s Oldest Pub

       

  7. Take a Ferry from Circular Key. You can go just about anywhere in Sydney including the Taronga Zoo.
         
  8. Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. Experience breathtaking views of the Harbour and if you don’t get a chance to do the Bridge Climb, this is the next best thing.

      

  9. Sydney Opera House. A must visit don’t forget to stop at the Opera Kitchen and have Chocolate and Salted Carmel tart with Hot chocolate (Best when traveling to Sydney in the winter).

      

  10. Relax and take in the city. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited and there is so much to see and do.

Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island

This is an easy destination to travel to – a two hour flight to Toronto and another two hours to Halifax.   We drove from Halifax to Cavendish on Prince Edward Island and spent time visiting the Anne of Green Gables area and seeing a play in Charlottetown.  The scenery is beautiful and it is not very populated.  We visited a historic home, museums, enjoyed the beautiful seaside villages along the way and found wonderful places to eat and stay.   You could easily spend more than a week traveling around Prince Edward Island and just enjoying the area.

We then drove back to Halifax to enjoy the sights around there.  We visited the iconic Peggy’s Cove, and then on to Lunenburg which is a world heritage site, they are both very close to Halifax.  In Halifax, we visited the farmer’s market, the Citadel, the Titanic Cemetery, the Public Gardens and Pier 21, which is the immigration area like our Ellis Island.  So many great places to visit that our seven days were quickly gone and it left us wanting to see more.  The people were very friendly and the scenery was spectacular.

         

Iceland … So Much More Than Spas.

Iceland is best known for several things, their natural geothermal spas, the Aurora Borealis during their winter months, their fishing industry and people. I can tell you first hand, Iceland is much more!!

Do take in and experience one of their many geothermal spa opportunities, there is nothing like it. The most popular geothermal spa is the Blue Lagoon and you will pay accordingly. It is very large, beautiful and offers food service also. My favorite spa experience was the Fontana Wellness Steam Baths. There is a wonderful Golden Circle excursion that includes the Fontana Wellness experience. You will enjoy the beautiful scenery while indulging in the hot steam baths. At the Fontana Wellness center you can also experience the taste of Icelandic rye bread which is slow baked in the natural hot springs, just like the Vikings did thousands of year ago. Delicious 🙂

Currently they are in the process of building the only 5 star property on the island located at the Blue Lagoon. Iceland has several beautiful 4 star properties predominately in the ‘old’ downtown Reykjavik area. These range from uniquely designed properties along the pier to various properties sprinkled around Reykjavik. One property in particular is in the same building as an old paint factory and is decorated as such. Another you enter from street level, proceed down the stairs to a beautiful lobby decorated in an eclectic Icelandic/Scandinavian style.

The winter months in Iceland are equally beautiful especially when blessed with a fantastic display of the Aurora Borealis. Because the days experience more hours of darkness this is the perfect time of year to view this scientific beauty, the Auroras! There are various ways to enjoy this opportunity, by boat, by jeep, or simply standing outside enjoying the night sky. While there in March the temperatures were not as cold as the temperatures back home in Rochester, MN. Traveling this time of year allowed me the opportunity to experience many winter activities such as volcanic caving, 4×4 Advetnure on a glacier to the top of an ice cap, geothermal and steam baths, viewing the Auroras by vessel, the Golden Circle tour, waterfalls, UNESCO site of the Tetonic Plates, great food and drink and so much more!

In the summer months, the list grows significantly from rock and glacier climbing to camping, (including cabin rentals and glamping) hiking, scuba diving, fly fishing, chartered fishing, whale viewing and the viewing of the brightly colored Atlantic Puffins.

Iceland with their 332,000 residents is a melting pot of mainly Scandinavians, Germans and settlers from the British Isles. With over 200,000 living in the capitol city of Reykjavik the remaining are scattered through out the island. Iceland, also known as, “The Land of Fire and Ice” is beautiful all year round, or at least for this girl from Minnesota! Icelanders are known for strong family ties, ethical behavior and storey telling. From my experience, the stories are ,most often than not, accurate and center around their history and family lineage. Over the years Iceland has brought in more and more award winning chefs to create and entice the pallet with their local harvest of seafood, beef, sheep and Icelandic horse. Their economy has seen a great boom with their higher than ever tourist trade and it shows by the hotels and resorts they are building literally year round. The island is very safe and is supported by the fact that they have less than 100 people incarcerated. This is an island where the farm animals can roam without worry of poaching, people respect and trust each other. The residents receive ‘free’ heat due to the tremendous amount of heat that is generated by this island, the children receive schooling and families insurance via their taxes. The cost of living is higher in Iceland, however, with most of the major expenses covered by government programs it makes living in Iceland a pleasant experience.

Whether you are looking for an active, adventurous travel experience or a relaxing cultural experience, Iceland has something for everyone!

An Adventure Built for Two

Start your lifelong journey together with an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience.

You did it! You said “I do.” As those words are spoken lives are changed, families are joined, and you and your spouse start your adventure together through life.

Not long after the I do’s, the champagne, the dancing, and the tears – you’re off! You’re on your first adventure as a married couple. Before you know it, the plane is descending and you can see the beautiful beaches and ocean all around you. It’s perfect.

You get to your hotel and you’re greeted immediately and shown to your room. The service is better than you ever imagined it could be, and the room makes you feel like royalty. Life is good.

But you didn’t come here for the room service and the beach view windows. You came to make memories, so that’s what you do!

Try everything together! You only get one honeymoon.

Before you know it you’re cruising along in the back seat of a boat, the driver gives you the signal and you’re being lifted into the sky! Parasailing above beautiful blue waters. You look down below you and see the resort, the beaches, all the people; but up there, it’s just the two of you – floating along together while the world carries on around you.

You made it safely out of the sky, and now you’re on to the next adventure! You’re on the catamaran, gliding along to the reef. You wonder what kinds of fish you’ll see! Then it’s time to load up – life jackets and snorkeling gear!

You both jump into the water and your spouse leads you to a school of fish. They’re red, blue, and yellow. There must be thousands of them, you think. It’s beautiful, it’s calming, it’s humbling. You are in their home. You stay still and let them swim all around you – how cool is this?

Soon enough you have to head back, another adventure in the books – one you will never forget. But you leave knowing you’ll have many more experiences like this over the years together.

Treat Your Culinary Desires on your Honeymoon!

Mexico is where it’s at for great culinary experience—thinking Peruvian, Italian and Asian food on your honeymoon!

The Riviera Maya is home to the El Dorado Maroma, Playa Maroma. It is where you will be surrounded by white sand beaches, teal blue water and swaying palm trees in the warm Mexican breezes. The property is gorgeous, lush with green foliage and flowers. The El Dorado Maroma is also home to it’s first of a kind in Mexico, Palifitos, over the water bungalows just like Fiji without the long plane ride.

So if you like diversity with what you eat, the El Dorado has plenty to keep your palate entertained. Lima Limon is a Peruvian style restaurant featuring signature cerveches and Peruvian style prepared meat and seafood dishes, and the presentation is just as beautiful as the white sand beaches … 5-Stars.

Mio Cuccina Italiana specializes in classic fresh fish dishes like Carpaccio and Frutti di mare and homemade pasta, daily in an intimate restaurant setting.

As for Asian, the staff at Kiyoko does a fantastic job with a selection of Sashimi, teppanyaki and other specialties. Chef will even customize a meal for you.

If the Caribbean is what calls you, there is plenty of opportunity for fabulous gastronomy as well.

Sandals is always a wonderful luxury go-to in Jamaica, but the Sandals Royal Plantation raises the bar for French inspired cuisine, Escargot, La Coquille du Pecheur, and of course nightly featured chef-prepared entrees. And of course the red wine will be flowing.

If afternoon tea is the experience you desire, scones, pastries and clotted cream served on fine china is available.

For a little more casual dining with high-end flair, try the Wobbly Peacock Gastro Pub. With traditional mahogany furnishings and an inviting atmosphere, The Wobbly Peacock features Confit Salmon and Lamb Rump as two classic Brittish entrees.

So whatever destination you choose in Mexico and the Caribbean, there are endless options for fantastic gastronomy to go with all of the beautiful beaches.

A Day in Cuba

Our Arrival

I recently took a mother and daughter trip with my high school best friend. We were on a 5-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas and one of our stops was Cuba! Our arrival in the Havana port was early in the morning. We were up on the deck on the bow of the ship by 6:30 am.

It was a surreal experience watching Cuba come into view as we pulled closer to the island. The first thing you see when you come into the Havana harbor is a fort. The next thing you know the ship is at the pier facing a busy road and all you can see are the old cars! You know there are going to be old cars on the island but you’re still not prepared when you actually see them. The others … not so much. They are fascinating to watch.

On Land

After we cleared customs I exchanged some US Dollars for Cuban Dollars. We then headed off on our shore excursion – Old Havana City Sightseeing. We were on a brand new motorcoach with air conditioning.

Our first stop was the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon (Colon Cemetery) named after Christopher Columbus. We walked around and saw some amazing marble statutes, mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. After that we did a 10 minute pit stop to see some of the old cars up close. We got our picture taken in them.

We took the Havana Tunnel under the harbor channel to see Havana’s statue of Christ the El Cristo de La Habana.  Then we stopped at a cigar shop and the majority of us on the tour bus bought cigars and rum. Then it was more shopping at the Almacenes San Jose Artisan’s Market.  After we wondered around the market for an hour we got back on the motorcoach and headed back to the ship.

Back to the Ship

Once back at the port I had some Cuban money left over and luckily there was a shop right there so I could do some last minute shopping before getting back on board. I hope to spend more than just a day in Cuba soon!


   

Head to the Amazon with Adventures by Disney this Fall!

Get in the learning spirit of the back-to-school season with a trip to the Amazon and Galapagos Islands this fall!

Fall time means back to school for some, but I think it should be back to school for all.  If lifelong learning and an adventurous spirit are part of your DNA, this trip is a perfect way to start your fall.  First, you’ll cruise down the Amazon River, surrounded by beautiful lush landscapes. Following that, you’ll spend time in the Galapagos where you can kayak and hike to discover unique wildlife. 

Ever since Charles Darwin studied evolution in animals in the Galapagos, this area has been regarded as an amazing display of evolution. The incredible diversity of this area is enough to pique the curiosity of even the least scientifically-inclined traveler! If you’re looking for an amazing experience this fall, my pick would be Adventures by Disney’s Ecuador: Amazon and Galapagos Islands trip. 

 https://www.adventuresbydisney.com/central-south-america/amazon-galapagos-tours/

Map of Adventures By Disney Ecuador: Amazon and Galapagos Islands travel route.

Halloween with Mickey!

When you think of Disney you probably think about rides and characters and food. But did you know that during the year they have special events and one of the events that takes place during the fall is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? This annual event takes place on select nights and promises to be a frightfully fun evening! Everyone gets to put on their favorite costume, even your favorite Disney characters, and trick-or-treat around Magic Kingdom! You do need to purchase a separate ticket for this event and for guests who do not purchase a ticket they are asked to leave Magic Kingdom at 7PM. Bummer! Magic Kingdom is decorated with pumpkins and grinning ghosts so be on the lookout. And don’t worry, this event is called not-so-scary and that means children of every age can enjoy in the fun. Be ware, while Disney encourages you to be creative they also value safety and good judgment so there are rules that must be followed.

General

  • Disney reserves the right to deny admission to or remove any person wearing attire that is considered inappropriate or attire that could detract from the experience of other Guests.
  • All Guests may dress as their favorite character, but may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other Guests.
  • Costumes must be family-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive, objectionable or violent.
  • Costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.
  • Costumes may not contain sharp objects, pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another Guest.
  • Guests who do not adhere to these guidelines may be refused entry into, and/or removed from, unless his or her costume can be modified to meet the above standards.

For Guests ages 13 and under:

  • Costumes and some masks may be worn, as long as the mask does not cover the entire face and eyes are visible.

For Guests ages 14 and older:

  • Layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body are strongly discouraged and may be subject to additional security screening.
  • Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground. (e.g.,full-length Princess dresses)
  • Capes may be worn if the length does not go below the waist.
  • Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts, and hats are acceptable.
  • Acceptable accessories include: transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords, and tutus. Headwear may be worn as long as it does not cover the face.
  • Masks of any kind may not be worn.

I know, rules are never fun, but you don’t want to be kicked out of the party! If you are traveling during this special time you don’t want to miss this event! And remember, nobody does it like Disney.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Jody’s favorite ride is the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

Who doesn’t like Steven Tyler and the gang rockin’ and rolling to the fun music.  Enter the queue line through a small tent, with boxes designed like instrument cases decorating the scene.  Curve through the typical Disney ramp that takes you back and forth, around a building behind the giant electric guitar and into the “G-Force Records” recording studio.  Enter the circular room with a high ceiling and posters all around.  Check out the LCD screen and see if your name is displayed when you walk past.  (How does Disney doooooo that?)  Go through the small room of instruments and then join other guests to enter Aerosmith’s studio.  Of course, sing “Walk This Way”, while hand and fingers thrown up into the air!!!  And the rest………..well, you just have to ride this coaster to find out!

A Journey Down the Na’vi River

I was lucky enough to preview Pandora in May 2017.  Many people will tell you about the thrills of Avatar Flight of Passage, but I want to share about how cool the Na’vi River Journey was.  First of all, imagine “It’s a Small World” but with characters from Pandora.  It is a family friendly ride, but I do have to mention it is very dark but that allows the glowing plants and animals to really pop.  You feel like you are in a black light club with bright neon, but the atmosphere is serene with nature sounds, while on a slow moving raft ride through other worldly flora and fauna. 

When riding, you need to look up, down, and all around because the animals and insects of the jungle come to life around you. Disney has used incredible new technology so you can see the shadow a frog-like creature jumping on a lilypad over your head, while floating jellyfish obscure the view of larger animals in the background.  Near the end of the ride, you are blessed by the Na’vi Shaman’s song.  Only 4.5 minutes long, you’ll be in a raft that has 2 rows of seats each fitting 3 adults comfortably.  There is no real story to this ride, just an experience of the nightlife of the jungle on Pandora.

Puerto Vallarta from Horseback

This excursion was definitely a highlight of our trip.

While vacationing with my family at the Iberostar Playa Mita, I was able to pre-arrange a horseback riding experience to Rancho Montalbena. We were picked up at our resort and whisked away to the ranch (which also offers zip ling and ATV tours). The guide gave very good instructions to everyone on how to control the horses.  We had beginners to advanced riders in our group, along with two guides (one in the front, one in the back) and also a professional photographer to capture all the perfect photo moments.

Thanks Felipe – Iberostar tour desk – for helping us set up this perfect excursion!