Month: December 2016
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Dinosaur Provincial Park near Calgary in Alberta is a UNESCO World heritage Centre. It has the highest concentration of fossils in the world. Their fossil bed and vast badlands makes it one of the must visit tourist place. About 40 dinosaur species have been discovered at the park. You don’t find any eggs here as the dinosaur migrated to different place to lay eggs as the climate was not suitable. You can go on a fossil safari, hiking the Badlands and overnight Camping. If this doesn’t tempt you to take a trip to the park, go through the pictures gallery:
Farms on the way to the park!
Expect the unexpected on fossil safari!
Tempting enough? Read my blog on the Canadian Rockies for more information.
Resolution, What Resolution? That was my attitude towards making a resolution! Though, I have made numerous list, I have very diligently stuck to the saying “Resolutions are meant to be broken” (I also went by “Resolutions are not meant to be made at all” for the longest time).
But suddenly, I have developed interest in learning new things and challenging my fears. I should have stopped right there, but “No”! I made a “To Do” list for the year as well, to fulfill those interest. Want to know more? Read on, how I dig my own grave and crawled out of it.
Let me tell you, though I carry a look which sends a message “Don’t mess with me” (yes, I know, my friends have made sure to let me know what the look on my face convey), I am scared of everything – Water, Height and even going out of my comfort zone and try something new. Each one of these have mocked me for the longest time but, this year has been my year to mock right back at it. Here are my victims of mockery:
Fear of Water: Early this year, we visited a waterfront cottage with friends. There was canoe, kayaks, lake and my friend’s right in middle of the lake having fun, boating and fishing. Even my little dare devil was in the middle of the lake fishing with her dad. Here, I was watching them have fun and her words playing in my mind “Don’t worry mamma, just come”. Next thing I notice is, I have pulled out a kayak and sailing towards them. Trust me, I was fine till my husband turned around and exclaimed “Wow! Chandini is here”, that’s when it sunk in what I had actually done. I was petrified as my kayak bumped into my friend’s boat (sadly, I couldn’t even hide my fear, my face said it all). As I came back to my senses, my over imaginary mind starts telling me, all the worst things that could happen just to me at that very moment. But surprisingly, I was also having fun being there and to have achieved something that I never imagined, I would ever do! Btw, I did go back again the next day too and still alive. I dint stop there, I went ahead and learnt swimming to overcome my fear of water.
Fear of Height: When it comes to planning, I do it with great dedication but taking part in my own plan is when, I chicken out. It’s been no exception this year too, it’s not one but we planned two theme parks this year for my dismay (not sure what was I thinking). Disney and Hershey’s theme park are not only exciting and fun to just be there but they also have the most deadly rides. Both the parks we visited was for my daughter and my birthdays. So, there was only emotional blackmailing which was played to make me take those dreadful rides. The control freak that I am, I don’t enjoy the rides when I can’t control it, but for a change, I have gone on maximum rides this year compared to what I have done in my whole life and had fun too. Though, I embarrassed my family with my shrill screams and had to be told to stop screaming, as the ride had come to a halt long back (I literally covered my face every time I walked out of a ride and also, tried putting the blame on my daughter. Nah, it dint work).
Fear of attempting anything new: Eating Ice cream is fun, playing in snow is fun but standing on an ice???? Nooooooooooo!
Not sure, if I was trying to give the ultimate ice queen Elsa a competition just to get some brownie points from my daughter or if I was jealous that Elsa gets too much attention from my daughter, that I ended up enrolling myself for “Ice Skating”. After a numerous failed attempt to even walk (forget skating), I was just praying that I shouldn’t break any bones in my body, that I had to sit and count it myself. Then, I see my little diva, not just walking but running and waving at me every time she passes by and giving me a thumbs up! Trust me, you don’t mind being a failure in front of your parents but not your kids. That’s when the “Mother Hormones” kicked in and I was jiving (nah! Just exaggerating) but I did learn to glide and sculling. Now I can call myself a “Wannabe Ice Queen”.
Getting high on achieving something is better than getting high on wine (Oh, yes! I can get high on wine). It’s never too late to learn anything new or to self-indulge (especially, if you have kids, I know the guilt trip that moms go through). Every one of us have that one thing, which we always wanted to learn but, never found time or got an opportunity to do. May be in the New Year? Do try and make it happen. Share you stories, you never know whom you might be inspiring and encouraging to take that one little step in fulfilling their dream.
Learning and experimenting should never stop or making that secret “To Do” list!
The best part of planning a trip is the amount of knowledge you gain and the worst part about early planning and booking is “WAITNG”. God save you, if you have told your kids that you would be visiting “Disney”soon, luckily we kept it as a secret from our daughter, not that we wanted it to be a surprise, just to save ourselves the torture of answering the question “Is it today that we are going to Disney” every morning. After such exhaustive planning, it’s only fair that we just pack our bags and leave, but “NO”. There is more to the booking fun.
Let me refresh your memory, you are yet to come a full circle with the bookings. Have you forgotten about the FastPass and Dining Reservations? Trust me, I haven’t put so much effort even when I was doing my Masters, so I know how it feels.
Quick Tips for FastPass and Dining Reservation:
- The first thing you do when you are planning your Disney vacation is to download the “Disney” app. It is so handy to manage all your bookings.
- Keep a watch on the “waiting time” for the rides and make a note in your timetable.(remember when I asked you to write down your daily plan in a paper)
- Make sure, you give yourself at least 2hrs of time gap between each fast pass, especially if the rides are in two different directions or else it could just be 30min apart.
- The fast pass bookings opens 60days before your vacation start day, if you are staying in the resort or else it would be 30days. So, when you get a reminder email, do not delay it even by an hour. The time slots keeps getting booked too soon.
- Once you exhaust your passes, you can go to the kiosk in the park and get one more additional pass. So, time it accordingly. If your last pass is at 9pm, you can’t take advantage of the extra pass.
- While in the park, if you see that the queue for the fast pass you have purchased is not too crowded, you can cancel it before the time slot and pick another ride. You can do this, only if you have the Disney app downloaded on the phone.
- Parks open at 9am, if you intend to make full use of your money then, be there every day at 9am. Have your first fast pass booked one hour later. You lose track of time when you enter the park and you would want to pose in every nook and corner of the park and your kid would be high even without sugar. So, give yourself some time to settle down.
- Check the map for special events and plan accordingly. Try not to miss those events, it’s a lot of fun.
- Since, you have just one restaurant to pick in each park make sure it’s within your budget and has good food.
- We picked the ones which had buffet, so you get a good spread and value for money.
- Make sure the restaurants are in the same park as that you are visiting.
- Character dining is nice just once or twice but then it gets onto your nerves. Even my daughter lost interest at one point.(I went a little overboard with this one)
- If you have more than one kid, it’s better to buy the autography books beforehand, instead of buying it in the park.
- Carry your own strollers, renting it there is a rip off. You can even buy them in the park.
- If you have little kids who love to dress up, make sure to pack their outfits. It’s like a Halloween day out there. My daughter very diligently wore only her princess costume every single day. Also, carry a spare clothes.
- If you are going there for special occasion, carry your own decorations and candles.
- Don’t keep any of your restaurant reservation which might clash with the fireworks (mostly at 8pm) and pray that your kids don’t have to go to the bathroom exactly during that time (wonder how they always manage to time this important business at the wrong time).
- Remember, that magic begins the moment you land in Florida, there are free pick-up and drops to the airport but, you need to book them in advance. Some of the airlines also have direct check-in of luggage in the resort itself.
- Finally, try to book a flight where you can reach early morning and leave late in the night. We reached previous day and spent the night in a hotel close to the airport.
Sit down Restaurants we visited:
Epcot: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – This is a Princess Character Dining, we had our lunch here. On the first day, we just went overboard and paid for this one.
Coral Reef Restaurant – Fine dining, we went in for the dinner thinking that, we will be seated next to the aquarium but, there are very few seating next to the aquarium. Nevertheless, it was a good restaurant.
Animal Kingdom: Tusker House – Buffet, Character Dining. We loved the food here.
Magic Kingdom: 1900 Park Fare, we had my daughters B’ day breakfast here before entering the park. Once you reach magic kingdom, you will have to take a speed boat to Grand Floridian Resort to get to this restaurant.
The Crystal Palace – We did the B’day dinner, it was again Character dining and the buffet was good.
Rides which are worth your FastPass:
Epcot: Frozen Ever After (Remember I have a 5yr old), Project Tomorrow, Mission Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth (very good), Soarin (don’t miss it), Test Track (my favorite)
Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Kilimanjaro Safaris (little hyped)
Magic Kingdom: I really wished we could use all the FastPass here, this place is huge and kids gets totally overwhelmed.
My top picks would be Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, It’s a small world, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror(My all-time favorite). Oh yes! if you have little girls, you may want to meet all possible princesses there, so you might have to save up your FastPass for that.
Universal Studio: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Star Tours the adventure continues
Finally, if you are in a mood to splurge a little more, I would suggest you buy the Photo Pass, it’s about UDS 169 but it will surely save the hassle of carrying your bulky camera and you will find photographers in every place and the best part that I liked was, the little videos you get of your ride, that is simply superb.
Disney World is much more than what you see, it’s the experience one has to feel. I don’t want to divulge too much and spoil the fun, let there be that element of surprise. I promise, you will not be disappointed.
LET THE MAGIC BEGIN!
Edinburgh in Scotland is truly a architectural wonder and pure treat to the eyes. Anywhere you look, your eyes will be pleased with the beauty the place beholds. Though, we stayed just for 3 days in Edinburgh, it left a lasting impression and desire to go back to explore the place more. Taking you all though some visual tour:
Thirst Quencher 😉
We have all been smitten by the magic of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, while growing up. I remember making my sisters complete their chores fast, so that our parents would put on our Sunday morning shows (That’s the advantage of being the youngest one). Who can forget, Mickey club house, Duck Tales and Uncle Scrooge?
We lived in a fantasy of Mickey and Donald, until the whole lot of other Disney Characters happened. By the time, you remember one character, there are 20 more character’s to remember and to top it, your kid’s favorite characters keep changing and before you realize, your house is flooded with everything “DISNEY”. That’s the magic that you cannot escape, even though I can throw rocks at Elsa to shoo her away from our daughters life (I sometimes feel neglected). To live the dream even if it’s for a few days is truly magical and alas, came our turn.
It was my daughters 5th birthday and I wanted it to be special. That’s when, I started my Disney journey (without realizing how addictive it could get), almost like 6 months in advance. Trust me, even with that, I couldn’t get dining reservations for Cinderella’s Royal Table, I wish they had the option of throwing handkerchief to reserve the seat (that’s how you reserve seats on Indian public transport or I would like to believe, used to be).
I have read numerous blogs, spoken to umpteen people and called every travel group that are licensed. Yes, very few travel groups specializes in exclusive Disney bookings.
Let me take you through our journey, you ask and I answer:
How many days should we stay?
Personally, I feel it should be for 5days, if you are going for the first time. I insist on 5days only because Disney is an addiction (don’t tell me I didn’t warn you), you see one location, you would want to visit every other Disney locations, so save up! There are 4 main parks unlike any other Disney locations. Yes, Disney World is “BIG”.
Where should we stay?
I have two takes on this:
First, assuming it’s your first time, I would say, stay in one of their resorts. Some of the perks of staying in their resorts are:
- Free transport anytime
- You get first preference when it comes to booking the FastPass
- Extra before and after hours in the park
- Other fun activities in the resort
Second take, Look for Airbnb’s or hotels which are close to the parks. Find a hotel which provides free transport or don’t feel shy to ask the hotel to provide free transport. Some of the hotel listed below are walkable distance from the park (collected based on my research and not personal experience).
- Best Western Plus Park Place Inn
- Anaheim Desert Inn
- Park Vue Inn
Perks of staying out:
- Little light on the pocket
- If you are for it, you can even cook and save some bucks there (which I am totally against, my take is, you go on vacation to relax and see places not to be stuck in the kitchen stressing yourself out.)
Where did you stay?
We stayed in Animation Studio, Little Mermaid Resort. This was reasonable compared to all the other crazily expensive resort (I had to sell my kidney for it), though Disney Pop Star resort is the cheapest among them all, you can also get some amazing deals if you keep looking. Also, if you book through a travel agent, they will look for the deals and keep updating you.
How did you book?
We booked our package through “Small Wonder Vacations”. Comparatively, we thought Small Wonder had the best deal. Though not much difference in pricing, it’s more on the customer service, which is very important.
What kind of package did you book?
We took a 4 days single park entry pass. They also have the option of park hopping, which I totally discourage. Each park is massive and you will not have the energy to take a bus to get to another park, which is like at least 30min away.
We also bought food vouchers which includes quick snacks, lunch and sit down dinner.
- Quick snacks include fruits, muffins, chocolate bars, ice creams, pop-corns, cookies and etc.
- Lunch includes all the meals that you get in the kiosk inside the park.
- Sit down dining requires reservations in the restaurants inside the park/resorts and its more fine dining, though drinks are not part of the plan.
It is definitely worth taking the 4 days meal package and we were left with a lot of coupons, which we used up on the 5th day, so it was quite sufficient.
How to plan out the day?
Make a time table, I mean it, write it down on a piece of paper or if you maintain a journal. You will need it to book your FastPass and make your dining reservations.
Our plan was:
Day 1: Epcot, this was my favorite park.
Day 2: Animal Kingdom
Day 3: Magic Kingdom, this was obviously my daughter’s favorite park
Day 4: Hollywood Studios, this was hubby’s favorite because of Star Wars and Indiana Jones show.
Day 5: We went to Disney Springs, did the boardwalk and went back to the resort to laze around. Yes, even if you have checked out, you can still use the amenities.
Aah! That’s an exhaustive planning, isn’t it? It doesn’t end here, you have a couple of more tasks to be completed before the dream vacation becomes a reality.
Happy cursing through the booking galore!
(Check out my next article for some tips)
We visited Andaman three years after the destructive Tsunami which rocked the southern part of India in 2004 and it was devastating to see the after effects of Tsunami. But, what really surprised me was that, the place still had so much to offer. It was simply one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, so far. People were still bouncing back to normal life with the agriculture land having been turned into small lakes, most of the marine life having been washed out and most importantly, having lost the loved ones. I remember, one of the locals saying they are happy to see the tourist, it gives them hope.
The reason I pick “Andaman” as my first travel destination article in India is mainly because, after our trip, we hardly saw any of our friends or family vising this beautiful Island and I personally feel, it should definitely not be missed.
I was quitting my first ever job with “Infosys Technologies” which was a big deal for my dad, he thought it was one of the gravest mistake of my life and I would never find another job like that in my life (if any Infoscion reading this article would only know the real truth). Not only did I quit my job, I also wanted to go on a vacation very same day that I was out. Thus, started my destination hunt and I stumbled upon some breath taking pictures on Orkut (Yes, I feel old) posted by one of my friend (Rajendra, if you are reading, that’s you I am talking about). After getting all the required information and some amazing tips from the friend, we were all set. Luckily, I still have the information and the travel company is still in business, in spite of all the big players in the market today.
Travel Company that we booked our all-inclusive package
Moon travels which was run by Mr. Kariappa. Surprisingly, I found the website as we had made all our bookings via phone (Fortunate to have lived in the time where trust was just a call away).
It was a very well organized trip with no complaints and it was personalized according to our needs. Our entire 7 days trip including the air fare cost was about 30k (CAD 600 dollars) for 2 people. We had a chuffer driven car and we were lodged at very good hotels. Try your luck, you might get lucky too.
Some Memories that still lingers
Cellular Jail or Kaala Paani: “Sound of Music” show that we attended here on the very first day, left us spell bound. It gives you chills to even think of how the prisoners were treated by the British, but to witness it in the form of a play is something completely different. It is with mixed emotions that you come out of this place.
Havelock Island: This is such a gem and highlight of our trip. We went snorkeling at Elephant Beach, it was hubby’s 1st and mine 2nd time and it was absolutely gorgeous. Havelock was not affected much by the Tsunami hence the corals were still beautiful. The other beach we visited here was Radhanagar Beach. These two places are a must visit and there is no fun if you don’t go snorkeling or scuba diving (which we missed). We stayed here for 2 days and would have loved to stay for longer.
We missed seeing the Bioluminescence(light by living organism in the water) at beach in Havelock Island. This is something you should surely not miss seeing it. Very few beaches in the world offers such miraculous beauty.
ROSS Island: This was our first experience witnessing what Tsunami had done to the Island and it was one of the worst affected place. The entire landscape of the island has changed due to Tsunami. This island also is hard to forget because of our guide, the lady who had lost her family to Tsunami but had not bogged down in life, she was so cheerful and extremely knowledgeable. Very beginning of the tour she asked us not to click any pictures of her, but later offered to pose just with us. Now, if I think of it, the Island reminds me of the island in the television show “Lost”, its mysterious and most of the residents of this Island died because of some mysterious disease which could have been Malaria or Cholera but it still remains a mystery.Oh yes! How can I forget, it was British Headquarters, until Japanese took over. We were also told, Japanese hid their treasure in the Island which is yet to be located (anybody wants to get rich?).
Viper Island: The island reminds you about the cruelty which was bestowed upon the prisoners, they were left in the viper(kind of snake) infested island to be bitten by the snakes as a punishment.
Red Skin Island: This is another location that we went snorkeling, this is for sure a snorkeler’s delight island with such colorful corals. If you are not much of a snorkeling person, they also have a glass bottom boats though you can’t see much, it’s still a good alternative. Red Skin Island is a better option for snorkeling than Elephant Beach in Havelock.
North Bay Island: Apart from more water sport activity, this Island is famous for Light House and this is also the island which is on the 20 Rupee currency. I was really trilled to have visited a island which is on the currency.
Chidiya Tapu: This place is a must visit if you loving seeing the sun melt away in the ocean or rise to brighten up the world. We went there for the sun set and we totally lost track of time and made our driver come looking for us, that’s how mesmerizing the sunset was.
As I end this article, I also realize its time for us to re-visit this island again to unleash the hidden gem which we missed during our first visit, this time not as a tourist, but as a traveler. Soon, very soon I hope!
It’s a holiday season, go explore, get lost in the beauty of the ocean and re-energize yourself!
Agree or not, aren’t we all jealous of Grisly Bear? Not because it got lucky wrestling Leonardo (or that apart), it gets to hibernate during the winter. As much as, we would all love to follow the lead, humans are not blessed that way. But, we are blessed with other fun things like – binge watching television series. When we can at least hibernate during the weekends, why not do it in style, Right?
At home, we maintain our sanity because of Netflix (doesn’t the picture explains it all). When we need our “Me Time”, we just have to call Netflix for the rescue. But yeah, after all, it’s not that easy to pick a show when Netflix spoils us silly. There have been days when, I have spent hours just adding the prospective to the list or just admiring the exhaustive list. So, here are some of my top list which has kept my sanity intact over the numerous winters and weekends.
There is no fun in binge watching any show when the continuity is lost, so I generally pick the ones where the show has been wrapped.
Gilmore Girls: My top list for the season has to be GG, not only because it has been long completed, but also because of the Season Revival. The best part is, all the 4 revival episodes are released at once, isn’t that exciting? By the time, you complete watching all the seasons, you have more in the form of revival.
GG is extremely funny, there is never a dull moment and the best I love about the show is the dialogues. It’s hilarious, witty and refreshing. I feel happy watching the show.
Love the Mother and daughter relationship in this one, apart from other awesome things that I love.
The Good Wife: After recently winding up the show, “The Good Wife” surely deserves to be in the list. Though, 5th Season was a bit tad, they made it up in the 6th and 7th season and ended the show beautifully. Those who watch “Suits” might find little similarities but, here it is female protagonist and they always look so awesome arguing a case in the court.
Alicia Florick’s clothes are just to die for.
Downtown Abbey: If you are bored of the same American Series, here is a change for you. Downtown Abbey is a British Drama set in 1912. It is beautifully crafted essaying the different classes of society during early 1900 and how everything eventually changes.
My favorite in the show is Maggie Smith’s witty “One liners”. She is a delight to watch.
Prison Break: Apart from being a very intriguing show, it is also coming back with new season and trust me, this one is a must watch. Coming from somebody who loves her female protagonist (you must have figured that out by now), this one definitely steals the show. If, there was an award for fastest one to have complete the series in a go, I would definitely be in the running.
Michael Scofield is enough a reason to watch the series. I just want to forget the fact that he is a gay. Well, nothing wrong with being one, just that my heart refuses to accept the fact that he is, like it would make any difference.
Lost: This show takes you through such high and suddenly plunges. Wonder what were the writers thinking when they decided to introduce being in “____”, let me not spoil the fun for those who haven’t watched the show. But, it still keeps you hooked to the show and makes you think of the show every time you take a flight.
90210: Oh yes! There is a show by that name and I am yet to figure out why did they name the show in digits. I surely don’t get the connection since it’s a teenage drama. Don’t judge me, I am sure secretly everybody likes to go back to college days and relive the moments, though we were nothing like the kids in the show or I just want to believe the world is still good for my daughter’s sake (please don’t pop the bubble).
Hey, who knows if you have kids, by watching the show you would know what to expect, may be? If you don’t, it is a light-hearted series, I definitely liked it, especially the last scene.
I definitely don’t have to mention this show at all(as it is everybody’s favorite) but my conscious doesn’t let me wrap this article without the mention of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I must have watched it at least like 10 times and I still don’t get tired of it. I still laugh at the same jokes and I still get emotional during Phoebe’s wedding and I still act like Rachel, when it comes to talking about her daughter Emma. This one is like a comfort food, you can go to it anytime and you would never be disappointed. There was a point, when I used to watch at least one episode before bed. Phew! gone are the days.
There is my favorite list, share if you have yours. More the merrier (remember not the ones which is still running). Btw, did you know, you can now download the shows from Netflix and watch it offline???
HAPPY HIBERNATING OR HAPPY BINGE WATCHING!