Reading Week: Puerto Vallarta

Half way through my second semester at school and a long cold Canadian winter, I was willing do to almost anything for a tropical vacation. Even if it meant spending a week with my mother…

Reading week (Canadian version of Spring Break where no reading whatsoever is done) was coming up and I was able to convince my mom to go on vacation with me. So we perused some vacation package websites, narrowed down our destinations and with the stipulation that I was to plan the entire vacation we booked a week long vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I had been to Puerto Vallarta dozens of times over the years while working on the cruise ships, but never had stayed there for longer than a day. Already knowing what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, but hadn’t been able to before, I quickly filled up our itinerary.

Our Resort

The beach in Puerto Vallarta isn’t to die for, and I had planned to spend most of our days out in the city or doing excursion. So instead of staying at a resort on the beach we stayed at a resort at the Marina, which was just as nice but much cheaper (leaving me with more money to spend on some ahh-mazing excursions).

Our resort was called the Vamar Vallarta All Inclusive Marina and Beach Resort. We had a huge room, which included a kitchen and an amazing view of the main pool and marina. The resort has two restaurants and one VERY authentic Mexican buffet. The resort had beach access and more swimming pools across the road, however we preferred having the giant main pool to ourselves, not to mention a personal bar bartender, José. Not your typical all inclusive…

View from our room

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The Pool

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As you can tell we had the pool, pool bar and waiters all to ourselves on the Marina side of the resort!

The Beach

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The beach wasn’t a white sand beach that you might find on the other side of Mexico and although it was a great view, the water was quiet rough, so we spent most of our time by the pool.

The Marina

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The view from the buffet at the resort. ^

From the resort you could walk all the way around the Marina, which was full of cute shops and restaurants.

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Can you spot the croc above?? ^

Stay tuned for my next post about our excursions in Puerto Vallarta!

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Paris: Part II

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Lunch in the Eiffel Tower

When we were planning our trip we knew that we would have to buy tickets to the Eiffel Tower beforehand. However, tickets for the entire time we were there were sold out. The only way we were getting tickets was if we went for a meal. So, we made a reservation for lunch at le 58 Tour Eiffel for lunch which included an elevator ride up to the first floor. The check in was pretty smooth and we had the first seating of the day. In my opinion we had the best table in the restaurant, right beside the window with a view of the Seine.

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The meal was served picnic style, appetizers and desserts were served first, followed by the main course. Which isn’t really a picnic to me, pretty sure it just makes it easier for the servers. A glass of wine was also included with the meal. Each meal was 41 Euros, I would definitely say that it was worth it, considering we didn’t pay any entrance fees.

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After lunch we walked up to the second floor and did a quick lap around before it started to downpour.

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Seine River Cruise

After our lunch at the Eiffel Tower we went for a river cruise on the Seine. This was right after the flooding so the route had be changed because the water was still too high for the boats to go under some bridges. Instead of going East towards the Louvre and Notre Dame, it went further west then usual. Unfortunately there is not a lot to see in that direction. Even though the price had been discounted the cruise wasn’t really worth it. It was raining so we couldn’t go outside and Fabien fell asleep…

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Tuileries Garden

After our rather disappointing river cruise we walked along the Seine to the garden Tuileries. We rode the Ferris wheel which had pretty amazing view of the Seine, Champs-Élysées and Tuileries. We stopped for some macarons and then walked through the gardens.

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Dinner in Montmartre

That night we went to meet Fabien’s cousin and his girlfriend for dinner in Montmartre. They met us at the metro station and showed us around their neighbourhood, including Sacré-Cœur and The Moulin Rouge.IMG_2838.jpgIMG_2839.jpgIMG_2840.jpgIMG_2841.jpgIMG_2847.jpg

We had a drink at their apartment, which features the smallest elevator I have ever seen then went out for pizza.

After dinner we went for a few drinks and met up with even more cousins. We caught the last Metro back to our hotel, ending an extremely long day.

Paris: Part I


We didn’t have the easiest time getting to Paris. Our flight from Nice to Paris was cancelled 4 times because of Air France strikes.  So, our week long trip was turned into 5 days, but luckily we had only booked a hotel for the last five days of our trip anyway. I got an amazing deal on a hotel in Gare de L’Est on Hotwire for only 70 euros a night. Our trip was right after the flooding of the Seine and at the beginning of the Eurocup. So you could say that there was a lot going on.

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Arriving in Paris I was under the impression that my French-born and raised-boyfriend would know how to get around, I was wrong. So it took us a bit longer then it should have to get from the airport to the hotel. We also walked in the complete opposite direction from the train station but that was my bad. Once we finally settled into out hotel, we set out to find something to eat and explore the neighbourhood.

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The next morning we took the train to go visit Fabien’s Grandmother who lives just outside of Paris. We spent the day catching up and looking at baby pictures, while I tried to understand french.

On our way back into Paris we got off the metro near the Eiffel tower for dinner and some sightseeing. The streets were absolutely packed with football fans.

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There was a television behind me. Eurocup > Everything.

France won they’re game that night,  the streets and the metro were crazy people with all kinds of people celebrating.

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Aquarium of Genoa

Genoa is a little bit farther from Ventimiglia than some of our other trips. But I was able to convince Fabien to take me to the Aquarium there with the promise of doing some shopping at Ikea afterwards (jks, that was for me too).

Our first stop in Genoa was at the aquarium. It is built right on the harbour and is one of the biggest aquariums in Europe.

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After spending a couple hours at the aquarium we walked around the port and took a quick peak into the city.

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As promised on our way home we stopped at IKEA. Having family in Sweden, I consider myself somewhat of an IKEA expert, I can spot IKEA furniture from a mile away. But my favourite part is the cinnamons buns, I was truly disappointed when they were sold out. We did however pick up my favourite IKEA accessory, the scrub brush.

I didn’t love Genoa, the aquarium was fun and worth a visit, but I can’t see myself going back. (Unless I find myself furnishing a student home in Italy)

Nice, France

Living about 45 minutes from Nice definitely has its perks. Once again we were truly in vacation mode and by the time we were out the door and into Nice it was time for lunch and a glass of rosé. We ate at Movida, which has a cute little patio that looks right out on the Promenade des Anglais.

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After lunch we walked up and down the promenade and into a few shops.

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This was right during the time that the Eurocup was beginning and Nice was where one of the stadiums was located.

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To this day we are still talking about this gelateria that we went to, Fenocchio. It was absolutely amazing and had the most unique flavours…cactus gelato, anyone? Anyone who knows me can figure out that I went for the Mojito gelato, I added some raspberry as well. Fabien had a scoop of the rose and lemon gelato (mine was better).

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Our next stop was the beach, remember this was in early June, so the water was still a bit too chilly for this Canadian. Fabien however, did go for a dip and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him hobble back up the beach on the pebbles.

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After our (Fabien’s) swim we went for tapas at El Merkado. We basically ordered every vegetarian item on the menu, with some sangria of course. And for dessert… churros, one of my all time faves. I don’t think Fabien even got a chance to try one…oops.

Hanbury Botanical Gardens

So I am finally getting back to posts about my trip to France and Italy! I know it’s been a while, but this summer has been a busy one.

The Hanbury Botanical Gardens in Grimaldi, Italy are about 15 minutes away from Fabien’s place. We drove by them almost everyday and really didn’t know what to expect. When we first walked in we thought that it was a joke that we were actually charged an admission fee. The entrance of the garden was nothing special and kind of unkept. It wasn’t until we walked a little bit farther and took a good look at the map that we realized how huge the gardens were. There were tons of different paths with lots of different fruit trees, flowers and plants. We couldn’t believe that the garden went right from the highway to the ocean. Walking down to the ocean we passed the Hanbury’s villa. The property is now operated by the University of Genoa.

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Obviously trying to touch every animal he can find. Poor turtle, I tried to not make a scene while yelling to put him back in the water.

Once you get all the way down to the ocean there is a cute little cafe where we stopped to have an espresso and a snack.

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We left the garden just as it started raining, agreeing that we could have spent the entire day there. This was Fabien’s favourite garden that we visited on our vacation. He liked that it was so big and that there was so much room to explore. I preferred the succulents of the Monaco garden or the views from Eze.

What’s your favourite garden that you have visited?

Ocean Park : The Activities

The Beach

The weather was amazing the entire week we were down in Maine. We were lucky enough to spend everyday at the beach with my six cousins. Yes, six, all the same family. So we were kept VERY busy at the beach at all times. Between beach yoga, bocce ball, floggle, boogie boarding and searching for sand dollars we barely had time to relax.

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SUP

We rented a paddle board for the day at a store just off the pier. All six cousins got a turn going out for a ride on the board (while I paddled…). Even my mom got up on the board.

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Then I decided to try some tricks, some successful…some not.

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Mini Golf

There are a few mini golf courses around Old Orchard Beach. Growing up spending every winter vacation in Daytona Beach, I’m kinda a big deal at putt putt. We went to Pirate’s Cove one night right by the pier. Of course I defeated my pathetic competition and got 3 hole in ones (as I mentioned, this is my game).

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Sea Dogs Game

On the way to the Portland we stopped at the lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth. Such a beautiful view and so New Endlandy.

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The Sea Dogs are Boston’s AA team who play in Portland. They aren’t one of the best teams in the league but they do have one of the highest turnout rates. Probably because each game is themed. The night we went was Harry Potter night. My family are huge Potter fans, I however am very neutral on the subject. My sister and cousin spent the days before the game brushing up on their magic boy trivia while I worked on my tan. The irony of it all was that I ended up winning the trivia at the game based solely on my social media skills (you had to tweet the answer). We won a Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit that I am sure my cousin will get more use out of than I would.

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I wish I could say that the Sea Dogs won, but they did not. They lost, pretty badly too.

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Palace Playland

Not one of my favourite places but if you like cheap rides or watching people vom, you might like it here. This is probably my cousins’ favourite place in OOB. All six of them have season passes for the 2 weeks that they are there and go almost every night.

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Ocean Park: The Restaurants

During our vacation we eat out almost every night (with the exception of bringing home lobsters from Bayley’s one night), and we eat as much lobster and seafood as we can. As a pescetarian, this is basically a dream come true. Most of these restaurants aren’t actually in Ocean Park or Old Orchard Beach but in the surrounding area.

The Bait Shed at Bayley’s Lobster Pound

In my opinion, Bayley’s Lobster Pound is the best place in Maine to pick up some live or cooked lobsters. Of course you can pick the exact one you want too! Within the last few years they’ve added a sit down restaurant and bar, the Bait Shed. The seating is picnic tables on the dock right over the salt marsh. The food is also amazing. We started with some crab flatbread which was delish. My dad started with their famous lobster bisque, unfortunately I had reached my lobster bisque quota the night before. My mom and I then shared the twin lobster dinner, because who needs sides when you have lobster (not me). Bayley’s and the Bait Shed is an absolute must. The only complaint I had is that there was no Clamato so my Caesar had to be a Bloody Mary…seriously, Americans you do not know what you are missing out on!

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The Lobster Shack at Two Lights

The Lobster Shack is one of my favourite restaurants in Maine, mostly because of the view. It’s a counter service restaurant and once again you sit at picnic tables. Warning: the later you go the messier the tables get. The line to order also gets super long here! But the view is definitely worth it and the lobster rolls are top notch.

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Ken’s

Tbh I’m not a huge fan of Ken’s, but if you like whole fried clams, then this is the place for you.  However I do not. I went for the fried scallops (wish I had got baked), but they were still pretty good. The inside of the restaurant reminds me of a government funded overnight camp, so I refuse to eat inside. There are some picnic tables outside that will do (whatta surprise).

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Yellowfin’s

So as you may recall, we love Yellowfin’s. It’s the same place we went for brunch earlier in the week. Recap: it’s the only restaurant in Ocean Park and it’s BYOB with no corkage fee. We brought a couple of bottles of white with us, but there are lots of options. The table beside us brought their own cooler full of beer, truly keeping it classy. The food is so good here, I started with one of my favourite dishes, ahi tuna with wasabi and ginger. For my entree I was torn between the lazy man’s lobster and the lobster risotto. I ordered the risotto and finished it so fast I didn’t even get a chance to snap a pic. Lastly was the dessert trio, key lime pie (my fave), cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate lava cake. It was all my dreams come true on one plate.

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We go to these restaurants ever year on our vacation, anyone have any recommendations for next year?

Ocean Park : The Beginning

Getting There

Every year my family rents a beach house for a week in Ocean Park, Maine, right beside the popular Old Orchard Beach. It’s about a 12 hour drive from Toronto.  This year I had the luxury of flying to Boston and then taking the train to OOB instead of the gruelling 12 hour car ride with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. It all should have been very simple. Everything was going well, straight through security and customs, into Boston, got on the subway to the train station and then…my train hit a tree.

The engine disconnected from the rest of the cars and we sat in the dark for 4 hours before the next train came by and we were able to connect to the next station. Absolutely awful service and communication by Amtrak as we all sat there with little to know information about what was going on. Thankfully there was a IRL soap opera going on between the couple across the aisle from me to keep me entertained.

I ended up arriving at the the OOB train station at 1am making my journey from Toronto actually longer then my parents’. However all my prayers on that train ride were answered with a lobster roll and a bowl of lobster bisque waiting for me at the beach house.

There was an entire lobster in the bisque (I just ate most of it before i took the picture).

Brunch at Yellowfin’s

The next morning we went for Sunday brunch at Yellowfin’s the only restaurant in Ocean Park. The entire community is dry so the restaurant is BYOB, naturally we brought our own champagne and ordered a pitcher of OJ for mimosas.

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My mom had the waffles with blueberries and I had the crab cake eggs benny.

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We all left with our bellies full, ready for a day relaxing on the beach.  Despite some difficulties getting there, our vacation was off to a great start.

Musée Océanographique de Monaco

Most of our days in France got off to a rather slow start. Ill be the first one to say that I’m not exactly what you call a morning person, but Fabien is on a whole new level. We had decided that we were going to spend the day at the Oceanography Museum in Monaco but by the time we actually got out the door is was time for lunch, and a late one tbh. We had lunch along the promenade in Menton to avoid the outrage prices in Monaco.

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By the time we got to the Museum we basically had it our to ourselves.

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The lower level of the museum is the aquarium, with a huge coral reef exhibit in the middle.IMG_2079.JPGIMG_2081.jpgIMG_2082.jpgIMG_2086.jpgIMG_2159.jpg

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Don’t worry, after five minutes I told him it was time to give the other kids a turn. ^^

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This is where I got to act like a child, I could have watched all of Nemo’s little brothers and sisters all day. SOO many of them.

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The upstairs of the museum was full of historical and cultural exhibits.

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You could also go up to the rooftop, where the floor was covered with a native turtle design. From here you could see all of Monaco. There were even real turtles up there too.

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The Museum is located on the Rock of Monaco, right near the Palace and is right on the water. It is absolutely amazing to see from the other side.

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I hope everyone has a good weekend! I’m off to Old Orchard Beach tomorrow for family vacation!

 

cheers

Debby