Road Trip Around Canada, Making The Best Of Our Limited Time

Niagara Falls First Stop.

The excitement was increasing by the hour thinking of my time off in Canada. From the classic trip to the Niagara Falls to exploring the vibrant Capital of Canada. Doing our own schedule and our own itinerary is a pleasure to me. Brings anticipated excitement, like kids when they wait for their Christmas gifts. We left after my regular work day, we flew to Buffalo and stayed the night there. 
 
Next day our road trip officially started with a quick hour and 15 minutes drive to the Niagara Falls on the Canada side. While driving through Hwy 190 getting close to Robert Moses Pkwy you could-ed see the mist of the Falls from the distance. Hotels, and towers merge from the skyline while we were getting closer and closer. After passing the border to Canada, we took a loop that lead us to Niagara River Pkwy and I barely was able to concentrate on the map to find our hotel because I just wanted to stare at the beauty of nature. But I was my husband co-pilot and we were needing to find our hotel to leave our stuff and make the best of the day because the next day we were leaving to Ottawa.
 
And there it was, our view from our hotel room. We could stayed in our room just staring at it, but instead we grab our camera, our tour tickets that we bought before our trip and left the room.
Please visit my Spanish blog Mis Historias de Viaje to read the complete story of our Niagara Falls part of the trip. The blog is written in Spanish but there is a Translate option on the right side of the blog, look for English or any other language and you will be able to read it if you don’t understand Spanish. Here I will continue with our second part of our trip to Ottawa, but first take a look at the video I put together of our Niagara Experience.
 
Video

 
Ottawa Second Stop. 
After having a complementary breakfast at the hotel we were set to go. We had plan to leave around 9am to be in Ottawa around 2pm but instead we left around 9:30am plus 5 hours of travel we should had been there around 2:30 but we stopped two times (one un-necessary) and we got a little lost when we were almost in Ottawa and we got stock in traffic in downtown Ottawa. That put us on Ottawa at 3:40 and that was inconvenient because we had a tour schedule for 3:30 😑.
We got to the hotel which it was great! But it didn’t have a view like the one we had earlier…
 
Typical city view…
 
Well there was no time to lose, we left our things in our room and went to explore the city. Again we had 24 hours to see everything we had planed, at 3:30 pm of the next day we were planning to leave and drive to Buffalo.
First we walk to the Parliament, Jorge knew that they offer free tours but we didn’t know how the system work, so we went to find out.
 
We found out that, we had to be before 8:30am in the line to get the tickets because is first come first serve, at 8:30 they open the door to the public.
After we found out this, Jorge and I sat down for a minute to plan how we were going to do everything the next day. Because we lost our tour for that day(the amphibus tour around the city and the Ottawa River with Lady Dive),we had to do both things the next day and that was not the original plan. So we decided to wake up extra (6am)early to have breakfast and then get the Parliament tickets, take the first tour and at 12 pm  take the amphibus tour. Everything sounded good, each tour length is about an hour.

At this point we were hungry and we went to a restaurant Pub(Sir John A)that Jorge wanted to take me, which was part of our plan for that day, we just did it a little earlier than planed. After eating our delicious Shepherds Pie and our tummies were extremely full we had the perfect excuse to walk the entire city up and down until our tummies went back to normal.
 
The afternoon was pleasant, sunny with a crispy look. We saw the American Embassy and went by the Major’s Hill Park where the tulips were the highlight of the afternoon.
 

We went by the Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument that commemorates Canadian soldiers. And from across the street we wave hello to the greeting spider in front of the National Gallery of Canada.

Before going to the Byward Market we had to photograph the beautiful Notre Dame Basilica. We heard that you should stop and go in the church to see the inside beauty. It is open to anybody that want to go inside. We didn’t know this until the next day, it was too late for us to go back and sneak in the church. We will do it someday when we come back.
 
We did as planned, we were on a scheduled, we left our things on our rental car and went for breakfast. Yummy coffee in Second Cup another place Jorge wanted for us to visit because of the delicious coffee. 

We continue our agenda walking to the Parliament office and stayed on the line for almost an hour, got our tickets and did the tour of 9:50am. It was a rainy morning and we knew it because we checked the forecast, but still we were a little disappointed in top that we were on a tight schedule we didn’t want to deal with the rain, but we had to. With jackets and umbrella in hand nothing stopped us. But the view was a little sad…
 
After going through security we met our tour guide. A very nice young man from Colombia that is been living in Canada for more than 12 years.
 
 
He first took us to the library, the only original part of the Parliament. The library was the only part that survived a 1916 fire, the rest of the building had to be restored.

 

Another part of the Parliament that we were able to visit was the Senate.
It’s amazing all the information and the interesting facts that you learn in this kind of tour. I wished that my history classes were like this back then when I was in school. Before leaving the Parliament we went to the Peace Tower and took a very gray picture of the Ottawa River.

As scheduled we had a little bit of time for another cup of coffee before going to our Amphibus tour.  The Amphibus took around the city, our funny tour guide was very informative, giving us great information of the most important places we encounter on our way. The most fun part of course was being in the bus while going in the water, like that is a normal thing to do. We cruise through the Ottawa River like any other boat.
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The back of the building is the library of the Parliament. ⬆️
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                                                    After we finished our tour we had plenty of time for lunch. We went by  the Byward Market and visit the Lowertown. I had the second choice of the Pub Favourites section. Thanks God we left perfectly on time for our trip to Buffalo.
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                          We took a route that took us to Thousand Island area when crossing to US.  Is amazingly beautiful there, but that will be my next story.
Until then,
xamlinnette 🙂

Jubilant

imageReady to feel the presence of the Niagara Falls!

It was a jubilant moment been able to cross that item (Niagara Falls) from my bucket list. What could me more happy and joyful that to enjoy life doing the things you love the most. For me, travel, nature, culture and been able to see the beauty of life with my own eyes.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant

Until then,

xamlinnette 🙂

Road Trip 2014 Ups and Downs

Jay on the road!
Jadzia on the road!
“I am tired” “I want to hang out with my friends!” “The summer is going to be over and I haven’t had any fun with my friends.” “My back hurt!” “When we are going back home?” “I am hungry…” ” Uff I can’t be sitting on that van for 6 more hours!” ” Ohh my feet hurts!” ” My stomach hurt, I am breaking my eating routine.” ” Can’t wait to sleep in my bed!” ” But how it come that you don’t know where we are going? I thought you knew!” ” Is this way or that way?” “I want to go home! I am tired!” After hearing this and more from every member of my beautiful family, for a week and half, over and over again you want to go home too. Traveling with family has its awesome moments of bonding, laughter, fun, memories and more, but also brings the responsibility of feeling responsable for the group, especially if you were the one doing all the planning.
At the World War II Memorial
Walking to the Capitol.

Our road trip was a completely success no matter what! We enjoyed everything we did. We had plenty of laughter, learning, discoveries, exercise, fun and more. Thanks God I had everything plan, but still things did not run smoothly and perfect like I would it like it to be. This was our first road trip and with it, came a lot of lessons for the next time. In general was an awesome experience, we all did and saw things that we never had before. But definitely what is fun for me, not necessarily is fun for teenagers. The way I appreciate things is not the same for teenagers. The endurance that I could have for the day, it’s not the same for everybody in the group. I love learning about different places, I have travel inscriptive in my mind and soul. I want to see everything here, close to home and around the world. I like to take time to see and learn new things, I want to continue even when I am hungry or tired… but not everyone in the group have the same mentality as me or the strength to keep going no matter what. So, big lesson for me, I have to take it easier when I am with other people. Not expect so much or want it to do so much. Anything like that happended to you ever? Or its just me?!

Walking in DC
Resting in Central Park for a little bit after biking around the park.
Next time when planning a road trip that includes so much walking and physical activities, it will be good to plan for some days off and/or relax days. Like sitting by the pool, or go out only to eat in a good restaurant, something that doesn’t require a schedule. Also for next time, I would take in much consideration to save more money to get better hotels closer to the areas that we want to visit. For example, even though it was an awesome experience learning to take the metro in DC, and also it was the first time ever for the kids to take the metro, we could it save a lot of time on the riding back and forth to and from the hotel. Because hotels in DC are expensive, we got one hotel a little far to the east of DC. Taking the metro was only about 15 to 20 minutes, but waiting for the metro, finding what station was the appropiate to get off takes a lot of time and still there was a lot of walking involve after getting off the metro. In the morning we didn’t care much, but at night we were so tired that all the trouble of going back to the hotel it was like walking barefooted through rocks with fire, like each of us were caring thousands of backpacks in our back. Once back to our room we were 5 tired complaining individuals, all wanting to use the bathroom at the same time. Understand this, we all wanted to take a shower and go to sleep as soon as we could, but we only had one room with only one bathroom.

-______- Can you imagine?

Brooklyn Bridge Tour, our tour guide took the picture! 🙂

 

Wifi and the DVD player on the van were great tools of entertainment on the road. We rented movies using Red Box and when we were done, we used the Red Box App to find another Red Box on the road. We returned movies and rented some more. Between the two major cities that we visit, kids enjoy much better NY City than DC. On DC the kids finished watching and “exploring” the museums in two hours top, while we, the adults still wandering in the same area for the same two hours. After that the “I am board! What are we doing next?” came right along. In NY the drive was much better, the excitement and constant movement of the city was enough to keep us busy. Still we did so much, we took 3 different bus tours around the city, we walked, took the subway, and try to keep with a schedule and still we didn’t do everything we wanted.

Night time bus tour in NY City.
Night time bus tour in NY City. Jay’s selfie!

 

In both places DC and NY City we stayed 2 1/2 days in each place. In both places after leaving the hotel or friend’s house (in NJ) in the morning, we didn’t come back until night, we didn’t took much free time, only for eating and keep going. I think here is where my biggest mistake was.

After NY city we were supposed to drive to the Niagara Falls but everybody was so exhausted that I thought it was going to be better if we headed back home. I couldn’t imagine eight more hours driving north and then having to drive all the way down to Florida. So, the decision was made… We went back home with no Niagara Falls experience. I will sit and meditate better our options for our next family vacation. I have to think in less heavy schedules, more relax time, and even more fun… That is for sure.

Virginia Beach, on our way back home.

Any suggestion for family vacations with teenagers and grandma? If you have one please feel free to share it!

Until then…

xamlinnette 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Road Trip 2014 – How you Plan a Road Trip?

This week I been doing all the hotels reservations for this trip. It's been crazy for me, it is my first time planning a road trip. First let me tell you where we plan to go and when. We live in Orlando FL, so we will be leaving from Orlando and my goal is to go up to the Niagara Falls in Canada. We will be starting our trip on June 12 around noon and we should be back in Florida around June 24.

Our major point of interest are Washington DC, New York and Niagara Falls. This will be a family trip with my two teenage kids, my mom and my fiancé Jorge (even though probably he wont be able to be with us all the time due to his work).

The Driving

This is my first time planning a road trip like I said before and I didn’t know where to start. So, giving some thinking I thought that I wanted to know first the amount of time I want to be on the road driving. I checked on the map how far we will get in a 8 to 10 hour drive. After studying my options, I decided that our first day we will be stopping in Florence, South Carolina. Because our first day we will be leaving around noon, I didn't want to drive more than 8 hours, I thought Florence will be a good stopping point, according to the map is about 7 hours.

 

On Friday we will leave early in the morning (whatever that means…) on our way to Washington DC. The plan is to be there for three nights, until June 16. Then that Monday morning of the 16, we will head out to NY!! We are also planning to stay 3 nights.

Now at this point of my future planning I decided to put it on hold. My desire is to continue our trip to Niagara Falls, Canada, but at that moment we have to evaluate our expenses, and other factors to see if is worth it to drive up there to stay for two nights.

If everything goes the way I want it, we will be heading back on June 21 from Niagara Falls. On our way back down I want to make our stops in different places than the original ones. My plan is that every day we travel for 8 to 10 hours and spend the evening and night somewhere and repeat until we get to Florida. I don’t know yet where we will be stopping, I am still studying the situation.


Hotels

At the beginning, when I tought about this trip, I wanted to be spontaneous and drive until we were tired and then at the moment check the hotels around the area and pick one for the night. But I can't help myself of trying to have everything under control and planned. So, I started the planning… I don't know what kind of websites or apps people use to do their reservations, but I always used Expedia.com . For this trip, I wanted to check all the possible options that could be out there. We are under a budget, for that reason I wanted to find something good and not expensive. I tried Hotels.com, Booking.com,and TripAdvisor.com to check ratings, reviews and more. It's funny how after all my research I ended up doing all my reservation through Expedia. One of the things I had to pay attention and I was looking for, was for hotels that would let me cancel my reservation for free or a small fee. Just in case something happens or we change plans, I wanted to have the option of canceling. Another thing I was looking for it was breakfast, wifi, free parking and access to metro stations, bus stops. Well I think I was successful on my search, I would really know that, once we get there.


For now, that’s all I have done, my next step is doing the list of things that we want to see in each place. I will be working on that this next week.

If you have any suggestion or website that could make the reservation of hotels a better process, let me know! Expedia works fantastic to me, but I would love to know if there is more options. I already know about some apps that could help me doing my itinerary for DC and NY but also I am open to suggestions.

So… until then

xamlinnette 🙂