You Are Here…

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Last summer, after returning from a two-week road trip out West with my family, I wrote a post called Roadmap to Learning.  I am a firm believer that travel is the best education, and that it builds a unique perspective, empathy, insight and open mindedness that is difficult to form to the same extent any other way. We learn from experience…Learning happens everywhere. In keeping with tradition, I am writing this post to once again document the rich learning and reflecting I have done this summer through my travels. Our travels tell a story.

This summer, I was lucky enough to visit New York for the first time, with one of my most favourite people and dearest of friends for four days, before heading to New Jersey for a three-day educational conference and then spending an afternoon exploring Philadelphia with two lovely ladies, before flying out!

Shortly after returning home, we left on a two-week family vacation out East making our way through Ontario and Quebec. Busy!

I share some of the highlights of these journeys below through the lens of some big picture observations and snapshots of what I learned (these are not deep musings or earth shattering content by any means 😉 but lighter in nature). But my travels are also documented through my treasured MUGS!

Yes, I admit it. I have in recent times purchased my fair share of the Starbucks You Are Here Collection mugs.

I am not the collector type. In truth, I am a bit of a minimalist. I don’t like trinkets, or knickknacks or baubles and such. I wouldn’t dream of bringing home a magnet, or spoon, or ashtray (do they still make those??), or key chain, or tacky t-shirt from the places I visit. However, this past spring when the Starbucks, You are Here Collection of mugs crossed my path, I was all in. I do like coffee. I do love Starbucks. And these mugs were anything but tacky. My first purchases were Vancouver and Tennessee. After this summer, a few more now fill my kitchen cupboards as a daily reminder of the wonderful memories made in the places I have been lucky enough to visit.

So here goes….

NEW YORK CITY

 

Highlights: Visits to the Empire State Building, Times Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central Station, The Highline, Rockefeller at Night, The Statue of Liberty, the New York Public Library, Central Park including a tour from an informative, entertaining pedicab driver, Magnolia Bakery, and the Sugar Factory for lunch. A walk down Fifth Avenue & Wall Street, as well as through Tribeca, Soho, the Meatpacking district, and Happy Hour in Greenwich Village. Seeing Kinky Boots on Broadway. Using the subway. Bagels and pizza.

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I learned…

  • All of the amazing things I had heard about NYC over the years were true…and then some! It is big and vibrant and diverse and alive and beautiful in a way that is so unique and exhilarating.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge is much longer than you think and much more stunning
  • The infamous NYC places you see in the movies are much smaller in person than they seem on tv
  • Grand Central Station is more than just a train station and has a culture all of its own
  • The banana pudding and cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery really are that good!
  • Broadway is all it’s cracked up to be and Hamilton tickets truly are hard to come by!
  • New Yorkers are friendly, helpful and welcoming.
  • There is a reason people go back to NYC over and over again!

TORONTO

Highlights: Visits to the Ripley’s Aquarium, CN Tower, Canada’s Wonderland, the Downtown Waterfront, Eaton Centre, The Hockey Hall of Fame and taking in a Blue Jays game.

 

I learned…

  • Toronto truly is busy and big and has way too much traffic!!
  • Seeing the Toronto Blue Jays play LIVE is so AWESOME!!!
  • Canada’s Wonderland is VERY busy and lined up in the summer
  • Toronto’s Waterfront is very lovely
  • Ontario’s Emergency Room wait times are reasonable (Nate’s chest pains turned out to be a strained muscle…phew!)

 

NIAGARA FALLS

Highlights: Seeing Niagara Falls both during the day and at night lit up, fireworks over the Falls, Journey Behind the Falls, Hornblower Niagara Cruise, Niagara’s Fury (4D show, telling story of the Falls creation), White Water Walk, Clifton Hill Street of Fun

I learned…

  • The Niagara Falls are truly remarkable, powerfully breathtaking, stunning and a must see for everyone!
  • I am not one to do all the tours, guided things, red busses etc, but in Niagara Falls seeing the Falls from all perspectives is well worth it. Get the Adventurer Pass and visit one of the kiosks to set up your times when you get there. Use the WeGo busses for everything.
  • It is actually possible for breakfast for 4 to cost $109 (even with a coupon) at IHOP (it’s true!)

OTTAWA

 

 Sidenote: Our Nation’s capital does NOT have its own You Are Here mug. Seriously! I have no idea how Starbucks determines these things. (Hence the Canada one).

Highlights: Visit to Parliament Hill, Changing of the Guard Ceremony, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guided tour of Centre Block, Northern Lights Sound and Light Night Show on the Hill, Byward Market, Calypso Water Park

I learned…

  • Ottawa remains one of my favourite cities in Canada. I like the size and the feeling of it, but it’s more than that. Being a Canadian citizen is one of my greatest blessings. I am always very patriotic, but there is something so special to me about being in our Nation’s capital.
  • The Northern Lights: Sound & Light show projected onto the Parliament Building each evening in the summer is incredibly well done; informative, beautiful and moving.
  • Parliament Hill is about to undertake a ten-year renovation during which it will be closed to the public for tours and visitors.
  • Calypso Water Park is an exceptional water park a half an hour outside of Ottawa. It has tons of awesome slides, and is clean, has minimal line ups and reasonably priced. Wisconsin Dells fans…this waterpark is a must visit!
  • Always take note or a picture of where you parked and make sure you don’t count on those little business cards outside elevators in parking garages. Apparently, it is possible for 6 tourists to lose their car and then a kid for over an hour in a hot, low ceiling, stuffy parking garage! Yikes! 😉

MONTREAL

 

Highlights: exploring Old Montreal, tour of downtown, city view from Mont Royal Park, Jarry’s Diner, Voiles en Voiles Aerial Course in Old Port, crepes, gelato

I learned..

  • Old Montreal is lovely.
  • Wheelchairs and cobblestones are not a good match.
  • My French comes back when I need it.
  • Montreal is a very big, very busy city.
  • Although, big sandwiches filled with red meat are NOT really my thing, trying a Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich is a must (definitely has the Philly Cheesesteak beat…I tried that in July!).
  • Ropes courses never cease to amaze me. They are such an awesome way for kids (and adults too) to practice risk taking, perseverance, and problem-solving all while participating in an intense physical activity.

QUEBEC CITY

 

Highlights: exploring Old Quebec including; Quartier Petit-Champlain, The Citadel, Plains of Abraham, Place Royale, Chateau Frontenac, Place d’Armes and Rue Saint Jean. Visits to Ile d’Orleans, Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, views of the St Lawrence. More crepes. More gelato.

 

I learned…

  • There is no such thing as too much gelato!
  • Seeing my children enjoy and appreciate the true beauty and wonder that is Canada is a gift, especially watching them share in that with my own parents!
  • Old Quebec is an absolute gem and I cannot believe it took me 43 years to see this Canadian treasure.. There are no words to describe the beauty, history and feeling that lies there. It is truly incredible and my favourite part of the 2017 Cornwell Canadian Adventures!

So…. if any of you reading this are from Vancouver Island, Calgary, Edmonton or New Jersey (places I have visited over the past year but missed the cups for)…and you are willing to help a girl out….I’ll send you my mailing address and a cheque if you’ll send me a cup! 🙂

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