Nuit Blanche 2010 – Toronto

The Nuit Blanche experience this year proved to be a great night. The rain held off and the crowds certainly came out in full force. I don’t have a lot of ‘culture’ in my day to day life so this night is always a very interesting experience. Since I really enjoy photography, I use this night as a way to take photos of some interesting art projects that I wouldn’t usually have access to.

We started our night on Bloor st around 8pm and couldn’t believe how many people were out already. We walked down Bloor and then hit Yorkville and fueled up with Starbucks. After that, we hopped on the TTC and got out at Yonge and Dundas square. We walked down Yonge, through the crazy crowds all the way to Front St. Now it was about 2am and we decided to take a pit stop at home. We finished the night at the Distillery where the crowd had really thinned out.

After 10 hours, 2 coffees, 1 subway, chinese food and A LOT of walking, here are some photos from the night. To see the full album of photos, go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katedw/sets/72157625087824978/

Interactive lights at the Royal Conservatory of Music

Up close to the lights

The many smiling faces of Holts on Bloor

The Van on Yonge St

The Clown exhibit on Yonge

The Blue smoke at Yonge/Front

Making paper cranes out of sheet music at Brookfield Place

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Fiji – A week of island hopping

I booked a trip to Australia for a year and decided to take a week in Fiji on my way home. The travel agency was really trying to push stop overs in Fiji so I went with it. I’m not sure why they were but it sounded like an awesome idea. I would fly in to Nadi and have 7 days and 6 nights to hang out. I was going alone so I went with a backpacker travel company called Awesome Adventures. (http://www.awesomefiji.com/)

I chose to visit 4 islands over 7 days. A huge yellow boat comes and picks you up and goes for hours before arriving at the Yasawa Islands. You exit the boat in the morning after breakfast at the island you choose for that day. This is usually an interesting process since the huge yellow boat can’t get close to the island since they are so remote. You are put on a tiny boat and then have to walk through the water a bit to get to land.

Each island has only a few people staying there, anywhere from 10 to 30 for each given night. When you arrive, they stand at the edge of the beach and sing a welcome to you. You stay in small huts and sleep on bunks like at camp. The locals make you all three meals and they definately aren’t the best meals but each island makes something different and it’s local food. They also offer simple activities during the day like bracelet making from the local women. Each island is staffed my Fijian families who have lived there for years.

Most of the days are spent sitting on the beach, lying in a hammock, snorkelling and just hanging out. Each island as something different. One of them has a long hike over the island and you end up at the stop where they shot the movie, The Blue Lagoon. On the hike back, we ran into one of the locals who had climbed a tree to get a coconut. He cut it open with a machete and we enjoyed some fresh coconut. We did the hike back at midnight and we saw the most amazing sunset from the middle of the island on a huge hill.

My favourite island was called South Sea Island. The entire island was the size of a baseball diamond. It had one large hut that everyone slept in. There was also an outdoor eating area and a pool in the middle of the island. There was sand all around it and you could snorkel all around and see amazing fish. They had a great fresh outdoor buffet and the staff sang and played guitar as you ate. They had a small bar inside and play music at night as well. There were amazing sunsets and the best thing was the beach side massages.

Click here for more Fiji photos

Arrival and Departure song by the locals

The hike to the Blue Lagoon

Beach side massage. Aka heaven.

Tiny little South Sea Island

Sunset from South Sea Island

BuskerFest in Toronto

Tonight we went to check out BuskerFest in the St.Lawrence Market neighbourhood in Toronto. There are about 5 different buskers doing shows every hour covering everything from singing to clowns to fire throwing. Most are very entertaining but you have to be there very early or be very tall to see anything. As you can see from the title of my blog I’m not the tallest person out there. If you aren’t able to sit on your parents shoulders then forget seeing most of the entertainment. The other issue is the actual ‘busking’ and asking for money from the crowd. Since these entertainers aren’t paid by the event, they rely on donations after they preform. Several of the shows we watched were very pushy when asking for money and spent a lot of their show talking about it. It kind of ruined the mood, but I guess that is what busking is all about.

There were two parts of the event that really stood out for me. The food and the crazy amount of children on their parents shoulders. I found out that the best view in the house was definitely on someone’s shoulders. I think the event organizers should consider building some sort of staging area for them to stand on so they are visible to more than one row of people. I know it would ruin the whole ‘street busking’ feel but I think once you have corporate sponsors you should consider making the festival a little more friendly for the public. The choices for food were great. Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, gyros, hot dogs, thai food, crepes, fajitas, poutine, corn on the cob, funnel cake and much more. It was like the CNE but without the overpriced cover charge.

More info: http://www.torontobuskerfest.com/

Great day for a festival

Some like the busking... some just like the balloons

Acrobats over Winners on Front St.

Statue lady and a little lady

Little guy flying up high

Silver Elvis strikes again

Arizona Fire throwing Guy

Flame throwing guy

Zorbing

We decided to check out the ‘zorbing’ at Horseshoe Resort by Barrie, Ontario last week. They were opening their new adventure park on July 1st for Canada so thought it would be a great activity with my nieces. The line up was huge and since it was opening day the organization was horrible in the park. I assume since then things would have improved.

They got the Zorbs from New Zealand where it has been going on for years. Some great You Tube videos if you Google it. Not all of the parts had arrived in time for the grand opening, hence the long lines…

We bought the ‘play-all-day’ pass and went straight to the zorbs. The line up for a trip down the hill was about 45 minutes but we stuck it out since we had driven all the way there. You get in the giant orb with 1-3 people of any age and they fill it with about a foot of water. They zip it up and push you down a hill. The effect is something like being inside a giant washing machine and you are the clothes. It is a little scary at first but I’m also afraid of roller coasters so I wouldn’t take my word for it.

I would recommend going to check it out but go early to avoid afternoon line ups.

Check out the video here:  http://youtu.be/uMom7SmyH70

The Zorb track at Horseshoe

Julia exiting the Zorb

A Day in Cozumel

So I had 48 hours to spend in Playa Del Carmen with a friend I met from Texas so we decided to spend one of the days in Cozumel. We took a 10am ferry from Playa Del Carmen to Cozumel, its about $20 USD for a round trip.

We rented a scooter from one of 100’s of booths when you get off the ferry. It was about $30 USD for the whole day. They gave us a map and highlighted some of the cool things to check out. We headed out to Chankanaab which is one of the best snorkeling spots apparently. When we got there we found out it was set up like an amusement park type place with $20 USD admission and various costs for snorkel equipement. When you rent equipement you get a free locker so that was good. We headed out and found a few fish but had to look for quite awhile before we found spots filled with TONS of fish. There are also statues at the bottom on the ocean that you can look for those and take some cool pics with them. Jon from Texas was a little more adventurous than me so he checked out the statues and I took his word for it. The photos below will really show what the snorkeling was like.

Next, we headed, or should I say ‘scooted’ back to the main town for some lunch. I got a recommendation from a friend to check out a locals spot called La Choza. Since it was a little off the beaten path (and very damn street is a one way) this took us quite awhile. Finally we found it and had a great lunch of soup, fajitas, and beers. They bring out fresh natchos and spicy cheese sauce when you sit down and it is sooo good. We were too full so couldn’t try the avocado pie for dessert. I will always wonder what avocado pie tastes like.

We asked the waitress where the best spot to hang out before the ferry and she suggested No Name Bar so we headed over there. This place is hidden from street is a little alley. You go in and find a huge back hotel with bar, beach, hammocks, pool and tons of people swimming and partying. It is owned and operated by an ex cruise ship crew member.  He started it for crew members who were in town for the day and looking for a place to relax. We hung out, swam and rested in hammocks for an hour and then went back to ferry.

Scooter guy said that the people who came in after us to rent a scooter had it break down on them. They were stranded on the street and I think had to walk back. We were very lucky our scooter worked well all day. Scootering is definately fun.

Oh and it was damn hot. 41C with humidity. wow. The sunset on the way home was incredible, a HUGE red glowing sun over the ocean. Too bad my camera didn’t capure it nicely.

Me and the Scooter

Jon and all the fish

One of the Statues

More Fish

Natchos and Spicy Cheese Sauce at La Choza

No Name Bar

Grand Velas All Suites Resort & Spa

I had the opportunity to travel to Riviera Maya, Mexico in April and stay at the Grand Velas Resort. This place is a super exclusive resort that offers top notch service, amazing spa and private butlers. I would only recommend going to this resort if you have someone else paying or win the lottery. One night at this place can cost as much as a week at the resort next door. I had someone else paying.

There are 8 restaurants at the resort that are included in the all inclusive/pocket emptying price. They are all incredible and all offer different options: buffet, asian, italian, international, spanish, french, mexican, etc. The buffet is very nice and offers a la carte from the table to accompany your buffet choices. There are so many staff in the buffet that they even carry your plate for you from the buffet area to your table. They do not like if you resist and carry your own plate. You need to sit back and enjoy the service. The best part of the food is the 24 hour room service. This isn’t the usual hotel room service, its high end and each dish is served with amazing presentation. I will include photos below to really highlight this point. I was shocked everytime. The 24 hr room service is also included with all inclusive package as well.  Another bonus is that every restaurant menu and room service menu has a special star to indicate whether it is ‘healthy’ or ‘organic’. This is very helpful when trying to eat well on vacation. I wish all restaurants would adopt this practice.

The pool area is beautiful and includes an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. They serve food and drink right to your beach chair which is nice as you dont have to leave your spot to go have lunch. There is also a swim up bar and 2 lunch restaurants next to pool. If you prefer an adult only pool, there is one at the other end of resort that is smaller but no kids are allowed. There is also a bar and lunch restaurant called Bistro there.

The beach is great for taking long walks and playing volleyball or taking out a kayak. The ocean isn’t very clean out in front of hotel and there are some rocks in the water. If you are looking for crystal clear water, you could spend a day in Playa Del Carmen where it is really nice. There are nice day beds on the beach and they serve drinks down there as well.

The night scene is very slow. There is a sky bar and lobby bar but aren’t very busy at night. The Kareoke bar in main lobby gets busy when big groups are in the resort but still very convention centre-y and not very outdoor mexican feel. For fun at night, take a $14 USD cab to Playa Del Carmen and enjoy the amazing mexican bars, patios, restaurants and shops that stay open till very late, like 5am late for the discos.

The Spa. A few people on our trip who had been to TONS of spas around the world said that this one was the very best. You are told to come 80 minutes (yes, 80) before your massage to enjoy the spa. There is a 7 step water journey that you can choose to go through. This includes hot tubs, water beds, water falls, cold streams, mud baths, hot/cold shower thingie, etc. It is quite the experience.  The aromatherapy massage was truly amazing and I might have fallen asleep, in a good way.

The service they give you is really the best part. We went for a job one morning at 7am. We couldn’t understand why the staff member in the riding lawn mover wasn’t going past us on the road. Then we realized that he was on a 4×4 atv and was actually there to escort us on our jog. The sound of the motor took a little away from the sound of birds but still very cool idea. When we got to the building at the halfway point, a staff member came out of the door with 2 ice cold water bottles for us. This was a amazing touch, the guy must have radioed ahead to let them know we were on our way. This must be what celebrities feel like.

Good day trips: Catamaran snorkeling, Xcaret park, zip line, golf, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen

Room Service breaky on patio

Spinach Salad room service came like this, very cool

Pina Colada served to the beach

Azul breaky and lunch buffet spot, great view

One of the pools at the spa 'water journey'

Breakfast smoothie bar at buffet

Healthy breaky room service - egg white veggie omelette, potato, beans and tofu

The resort

Snorkeling with sea turtles (Maui, Hawaii)

We decided to not do one of the guided tours in Maui for a snorkeling trip. Since we were staying at the Westin Maui, we were a ten minute walk from Black Rock. This is a very popular snorkeling spot in Maui and people staying close by in Ka’anapali.  There is public parking if you can’t walk at the Sheraton Resort. You can rent snorkeling gear from the beach front are at the Sheraton for about $7 an hour. We usually went around late afternoon but apparently early morning is the best time.

We saw two different sea turtles and tons of brightly coloured fish. There are also lots of people cliff jumping off black rock all day. The best time to go to take photos of this is around sunset since it sets over ocean.

These photos were taken with the Olympus waterproof camera. Great for any water related activities. We also took some amazing videos with the camera.

Sea TurtlesSwimming with Sea Turtles

Snorkeling

Snorkeling