Travel Article

Manitoulin Island – Lake Island of Canada

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As a kid did you ever draw a cute little house surrounded by trees, a stream flowing by the house, a garden in front, birds flying in the clear blue sky and you standing on the bridge admiring the beauty? Well, if you did and ever dreamed of picture coming into reality, visit Manitoulin island.

One word for this place is DREAMY, you can just keep driving around the Island without the urge to return back and you will easily get lost in the beauty. Calm, rejuvenating, peaceful, friendly and so different from rest of Ontario. No wonder the Ontario’s prettiest village Kagawong is located on this Island.

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How to Get there?

You can either reach the place by land or water. Our suggestion is take the sea and return by land. We took the Chi-Cheemaun from Tobermory to South Baymouth and drove back. Driving back from Manitoulin to Toronto would give you lot of opportunity to visit so many Provincial Parks on the way.

www.ontarioferries.com/Chi-cheemaun make early reservations.

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Where to Stay?

If you ask me, don’t look beyond Gordon’s Park. We visited Manitoulin as we wanted to visit Gordon Park’s dark night preserve to see the Milky Way and Northern Lights. This is just one of the places in Ontario which has dark night preserve and offers accommodation ranging from Star Gazing Cabins, Tipi Tenting, Milky Way Bunkie and B&B’s. Make sure to book in advance.

Visit www.gordonspark.com for more information.

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What is in stored for you?

  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Kagawong Village: Museum, Lighthouse and the don’t miss to visit the Chocolate Factory.
  • Cup and Saucer Trail: Make sure the trail is open and plan accordingly as these trails are closed at times.
  • Gordon’s Park, if you are not staying here make sure to attend their Astronomy Session.
  • Providence Bay Beach
  • If you are visiting in summer, make sure you visit during the First Nations Pow-wow dance contest. It’s also an opportunity to learn about their culture, language and history.IMG_9304

PS: Google Maps are no good here, so ask the friendly locals for direction.

It’s worth every minute spent on this Island rich in Culture, heritage and history. You will be amused how much knowledge you gain learning about Ontario and the locals who shared their land with each one of us.

 

Summer Fun – Toronto

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You blink, its gone. That’s exactly how Summer is in Canada. There are some conventional things we all do every summer, like visiting Central Island, Scarborough Bluff, Zoo, African Lion Safari and beaches, though we very religiously visit these places every summer, there are other things that we have enjoyed doing out of ordinary, sharing a few experiences here:

Cheltenham Badlands: About an hour from Toronto, Badlands makes a very good day outing for adults and kids, especially if you haven’t seen anything like this before.  Badlands are dry terrain where sedimentary rocks and clay rich soils have been eroded. (it was closed for public last year so check before you go).

Address: 1501 0 1901 Olde Base Line Road, Caledon, ON

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Lavender Farm: Though, there are a lot of lavender farms in and around Toronto, we visited “Terre Bleu Lavender Farm”. It simply takes you to a fairy land with the fresh lavender smell. They also have  picnic tables, who wouldn’t like to eat overlooking beautiful flowers. Don’t miss their lavender Ice cream.

Address: 2501, 25 Side Road, Campbellville, ON

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Thousand Islands, Kingston: National Park which is closest to Toronto is Thousand Island National park which is just about 2.5 hours drive. If you fancy seeing a castle, tons of Islands, lighthouse, beautiful waterfront houses then take the cruise, relax and enjoy cruising through the island.

Harbourfront Boat Tour: We visit Toronto Harbourfront every year during summer as it has such a lively atmosphere and there is something going on during summertime every single day. We had also seen a lot of sail boats, though we have been on cruise, ships  and boats, we had never been on a sail boat. It was such an amazing experience sailing on Kajama and the view of Toronto Skyline was mesmerizing.

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Blue Jays Game: If you are living in Toronto, you definitely know how crazy people are about Baseball season. You will not understand until you actually attend a game to witness yourself. Though, I had no clue about the rules or how the game is played, we still went to watch a match. Sitting in Roger center with the dome open filled with people was reason enough to get into the vibe and feel the craze but by end of the match, I had become a fan myself and yes, I understand the game now!

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Enjoy the little things in life, they give you immense happiness!

Vancouver – Canada’s Coastal Paradise

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Vancouver is a popular filming location and a beautiful coastal City in British Columbia surrounded by Mountains. The vibe, the charm and the nature itself makes you instantly fall in love with this place. Even without a pre-planning, we had a wonderful vacation of 9 days.

For those staying in the US can fly to Seattle and take a train or drive down, as it just takes about 2.5hrs by car and 4hrs by train.

Flight: WestJet from Toronto

 Stay: We stayed in Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel, its at a walking distance to Canada Place, bus stop and restaurants.

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View from the Hotel room!

 Places we Visited:

  • Capilano Suspension Bridge and Cliff Walk: Though it looks like a normal suspension bridge crossing the rive Capilano, it surely qualifies for a trilling walk and for me it was one of the scariest too as the bridge swings. Other side of the bridge gives you an opportunity to go trekking, so make sure to wear your sneakers.

Getting there: From Downtown, there are a lot of buses which offers free shuttle service.

Check www.capbridge.com for the route and timing.

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  • Grouse Mountain: Mountain of the Pacific ranges in North Vancouver, It is a ski resort in winter but in the summers, there are a lot of activities that take place, like Lumberjack show (do not miss this), Birds in Motion, Breakfast with the bears, Mountain Ziplines and not to forget the Mountain Sky ride.

Getting there: There are public transit every 30min from Downtown

Check http://www.translink.ca/en

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Wish we can share the picture with this family!

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  • Stanley Park: If you have just a day to spend, then visit Stanley Park. Its spread over a 1000acre in the heart of Vancouver. It caters to everybody and not just for kids. Take a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride, rent a bike (available near the park) and ride the sea wall path, take a hike through the paths (trust me it is so surreal), it takes you to Lions Head Bridge or just relax on the beach. There are also some amazing restaurants around, we loved eating in Fish house.

Getting There: Check Translink for bus information.

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  • Vancouver Aquarium: You definitely cannot cover Stanley Park in a day so we visited again to just for the Aquarium and we are glad, we did not miss it. Its Canada’s largest aquarium and the best one.
  • Whale Watching: Visiting Vancouver and not going for a Whale Watching tour is just not cool. It was our first Whale watching experience and one of the most fascinating one too.We booked our tour with www.vancouverwhalewatch.com, make sure to carry lot of water and     food, you get dehydrated on the boat as it takes about 4hours looking for the whales and its totally worth the experience.

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  • Vancouver Down Town, Gas Town, Canada Place: Make sure to take an evening to explore the Gas town for shopping, food and Steam clock. It’s a historic site and the oldest neighborhood. Canada place is located in the Vancouver’s Waterfront, we could just sit around for hours and watch the cruises take off from this location. The night view is just out of the place.1463399_10152669669401115_4567776831868750374_n

  • Whistlers: We hired a car and drove to Whistlers and that was one of our best decision in the trip. We regret not spending a night there, which is surrounded by mountains with a beautiful view. Its about 2 hours drive from Vancouver but account for about 4 hours as you will be forced to stop at many beautiful locations.

  • Granville Island: If you are a foodie, this is the place to visit in Vancouver. I personally loved this place for shopping and food. Its crowded with tourist and why wouldn’t it be, it has unique and interesting shops, beautiful park for kids. Getting there: We took a public transport.

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If you have more time, Victoria is something that we missed visiting because of time crunch. There are ferries you can take, if you have more time or else take a sea plane, which is expensive but surely looks worth splurging.

Enjoy Canada’s Coastal Experience!

Montreal Diaries

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Montreal in Quebec is the largest city in the Province and second most popular city in the country. This is one of the most beautiful cities that I have been to in Canada.  Even before I had explored Toronto, I had seen more of Montreal and had completely fallen in love with it, its only fair I write about my memories about Montreal, before its too late.

Montreal is about 5hrs drive from Toronto, so it makes a very good road trip from Toronto. I have taken train, bus and driven down “n” number of times, I think I enjoy the drive more than anything. You get to stop in Kingston, Ottawa and other beautiful locations, if you want to have a relaxed road trip, without taking much of a deviation.

Montreal is also the second largest city in the country, having said that, you can easily see the place in about 3 complete days, if you are pinched for time. You can visit the city anytime of the year, as it has so much to offer but, winter can be really brutal, so I would suggest summer is the best time, though I visited Montreal for the first time in Winter and loved every bit of it.

Top things to see and do:

Pebble Stone Street in Old Montreal: Music, art, food, shopping and just the lively feel is reason enough to visit this place. Take a stroll in the evening enjoying the music, shows, art and shopping, choose from umpteen number of best restaurants to settle in for a nice dinner or binge on home made ice creams and yummy dessert, this place will not disappoint you for sure.img_3059img_2988img_3035

Carriage Ride and Biking Trails: Take a carriage ride around the old Montreal, it gives you such a royal feel and introduces to where you should be heading after the ride, this is definitely a must do in the city.

Montreal has amazing biking trails, you can hire the bicycles in and around the city and set off on discovering the nook and corners of beautiful Montreal.

 Biking Trail Map:www.mapmyride.com/ca/montreal-quebec/img_3282img_2965

Notre-Dame Basilica and old port: Located in the historic district of Old Montreal, it gives such a dramatic architectural feel when you visit the church.

Old port is along the St.Lawrence river and stretches for about 2kms and it is a very good walk along the river. There is a park if you are tired and want to just relax.

All the above places are located in Old Montreal and can be visited in one day.img_3015img_2853img_2971

Biodome and Olympic Stadium: Biodome is located in Olympic park, it has a indoor zoo, aquarium and four different eco-system and totally worth making a visit. You can easily spend one complete day here and I just don’t get tired visiting this place.

Visit the tallest inclined tower in the world and take the ride up to see the Montreal Tower Observatory and the view is just breathtaking. It is suppose to be award wining panoramic view of Montreal.img_3156img_3236img_3204

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View from the tower!
Mont Royal and Saint Josephs Oratory: Are you an early bird who enjoys watching the sun rise or the one who gets energized as the sun is ready to set, either ways,  I am sure this is the place you want to be in Montreal. Along with beautiful sun rise and sun set, you also get a amazing view of Montreal.

Saint Josephs Oratory is Canada’s largest Church, exceptionally beautiful and architectural wonder. It is also famous for its healing miracles.12510487_10153845832246115_2560269189477788412_n14364812_10154514082356115_4718553812968187469_n

Laughter Festival (Just for laughs): Montreal is the city of festivals. There is something or the other going on through out the year but Just for laughs is something that  I have enjoyed the most in summer time, which is held in the month of July. This is also largest international comedy festival in the world. This year its held between July 12 to 31st, 2017.img_2886img_2884

French is the official language of Montreal, so if you love just listening to people speak French, like I do, go say “Bonjour Montreal”.

 

Iceland – My Travel Itinerary Part 2

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Planning a vacation can be taxing but surely rewarding and if everything goes as planned, then its a cherry on the cake 🙂

Continuing with my travel itinerary, here is the exciting part, fruits of what you sow, places I visited and experiences I cherish:

Total Days: 5 days and 5 Nights, 5 complete days is more than enough to explore the country. Even though the day light was only for about 5hours, I did not feel that I missed out on anything, at all. If you are visiting in the summer, then with extended day light for about 20hours (its tempting to visit again in Summers, which I will for sure), 5 days will be more than sufficient.

 Day 1 – Things I did:

  • Walking tour: Took a 2-hour walking tour to know the city better. This is something one should do first thing when you visit a new place, explore the place either on your own or with somebody who knows the city really well. There are free tours offered, so you don’t even have to spend a dollar. www.citywalk.is
  • Blue Lagoon: This needs a booking at least 1month in advance since this is the most visited place in Iceland, though I felt it was very expensive and little hyped, it is definitely worth a visit.(pictures I accidently deleted and couldn’t recover unlike other pictures I could after a long time:() www.bluelagoon.com
  • I had booked a Northern lights tour which got cancelled hence I went to explore city in rain, which was fun. Though, I did not get to see Northern lights even one night, I would suggest you book the northern lights tour on the first night, if you are not lucky the first night, you can at least try your luck remaining days.

Day 2 – Things I did:

  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls: The highlight of Seljalandsfoss falls is that you can walk behind the waterfalls, which is spectacular. I spent good 20 to 30min behind the falls admiring the majestic beauty, I could do that because I had my rain coat on, though a lot of people were just there for about 5min. Even if you have a winter jacket, make sure to carry a raincoat which is very helpful, if you are travelling in winter.
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Behind the falls!

 

  • Skogafoss Waterfalls: This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland and there is also a belief that the first Viking settlers have hidden the treasure behind the waterfalls. Looking for some treasure hunt, this could be the one 😛
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Skogafoss Waterfalls!

 

  • Glacier Hike: I can go on about my glacier hike adventure but I feel pity for the reader who have already read “My Iceland Adventure” article, hence not saying much.
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Hiking up the Glacier!

 

  • Black Sand beach: This is the most gorgeous beach that I have seen so far, though it’s also one of the most dangerous beach and tourist are advised against going even close to the beach, forget dipping your feet. Make sure you visit the beach when there is day light.

Day 3 – Things I did:

  • Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon: This is my first ever experience seeing a glacier lagoon and it could not have gotten any better. Words or pictures cannot do any justice to what you witness in-person. Just go visit is all that I would say. Btw, a lot of films and music videos are shot at this place.
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Glacier Lagoon!

 

  • Diamond Beach: Diamond beach is just opposite to Glacier Lagoon and you can see the glacier washed off to the beach. Glacier in a beach, doesn’t that sound exciting?
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Glacier on the beach!

 

  • Ice Cave: This is something which attracted me to visit Iceland in winter as the cave will be filled with water in summer, so if you are even thinking of a visit to Iceland in summer, look at the pictures, though not very impressive, I can bet you will thank me after visiting this place.
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Inside the Ice Cave

 

Day 4 – Things I did:

  • Gullfoss Waterfalls: Gullfoss waterfalls is also called Golden Waterfalls, this is in South of Iceland and part of Golden Circle. There is a very interesting story behind this waterfalls. This was privately owned by a farmer who wanted to sell this waterfalls to foreign investors to harness electricity but his daughter opposed him and took him to court only to have won the case. Icelanders are grateful to Sigridur Tomasdittir for saving it from being destroyed. Frankly, this waterfalls is as majestic or ever more than Niagara Falls.
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Majestic Gullfoss!

 

  • Strokkur: Strokkur, natural fountain Geyser is located in Geothermal area. Well, this is something which left me spellbound. I was not really expecting something this phenomenal when I reached the place. Just when I was trying to figure out which way I should be heading to see the natural geyser, it just shot up right in front of me leaving me speechless. The feeling is something which cannot be put in words. It has a lot of hot water blow holes too.
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First picture of the Geyser!

 

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Geothermal area!

 

  • Pingvellir National Park: Pingvellir also called as Thingvellir is a National park and a historic site. This is located between two tectonic plates Eurasia and America. Though its a little crowded comparatively, I loved visiting this place. There are a few waterfalls which has some interesting stories of their own and who wouldn’t like to be in Europe and America at the same time. The landscape is just enthralling and makes a good walk just exploring the place.
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Walk between tectonic plates!

 

Day 5 – Things I did:

Snorkeling Tour: Booked it with www.Dive.in, you can be picked up from your hostel/hotel with extra cost. As I have already written about my experience, I am not saying much here. This is easily a day activity, even though you get back to your hotel by 4pm, you need to sit back relish the experience, when you are there snorkeling it doesn’t hit you as you are trying to fight the cold, but when you are back and think of the experience is when you feel so good about yourself for doing it in such cold weather.

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Ready to dive in, me in extreme left.

 

Iceland is surely one of the places which will stay very close to my heart for the longest time and I am already thinking of visiting it again in next summer. If you are looking for some adventure, Iceland is the place.

Iceland – My Travel Itinerary – Part 1

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Decision to travel alone was impulsive, but booking a one-way ticket to Iceland was just crazy. That’s exactly how my planning started, after I was back from my Rockies trip. People say “you need a vacation to get over a vacation blues” that was pretty much the case with me. When you have a supporting husband, an amazing daughter and understanding parents, everything falls in place and a solo travel can be done even after being married and having kids.

Iceland is definitely very travel friendly and safe for solo travelers. Since the economy of the country is majorly dependent on Tourism, the planning gets very easy and there is so much information on the web.

As I had everything booked beforehand, things went very smooth and I dint have to think what I should be doing next day and where to book.

Flight: I booked my flight tickets with WOW Air and it cost me about $249 for one-way ticket from Toronto and two-way would have cost about $350, which is not bad at all. I travelled mid-week, so that was another advantage.

Link:https://en.wowair.ca/flights

Airport Transfer: I highly recommend you book this well in advance, unless you are doing a road trip. After a tiring flight, it is very nice to just get out of the airport and find the bus right in front, without having to wait in the counter to buy the ticket. Buses usually go to the central Bus station but, if you pay a little extra while purchasing the ticket, you get dropped off at your hotel/hostel and also, get picked from your hotel/hostel/other destination, while returning.

Link:www.re.is/flybus

Accommodation: I booked 3 days in Loft Hostel, this place is right in center of the town, walkable distance to everything in Reykjavik, right in middle of all the good restaurants and shopping places.

Link: http://lofthostel.is/ (3 days, 1st night and last 2 nights)

Hotel Hofn (1 night): After the Glacier hike and in search of Aurora, we settled in the Hotel Hofn as the Auroras are visible from the hotel. You get the best fish dinner which made my taste buds happy after a tiring day. Beautiful and very clean, cleaner than Marriott or any other hotels in the category.

 Link: http://hotelhofn.is/

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Hotel Eyjafjallajökull ( 1 night): Another gorgeous location and impressive room. It was just perfect in every angel, food, cleanliness or location.

Link: https://www.hellisholar.is/hotel-eyjafjallajokull/

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Tour Booking: I booked a three days 2 night’s tour with “Guide to Iceland” which included everything that I wanted to do. Most of the activities that I wanted to do had to be booked through a guide, so this was perfect.  If you do individually tours, it would pretty much cost the same. We were connected to Wi-Fi throughout the trip, so you don’t have to buy a sim card or internet package.

Link: https://guidetoiceland.is

The daily Itinerary will be posted in my next article, watch out for some exciting stuff.

 

Spring Festival Fun From Toronto

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Looking at the gorgeous weather of 10 degrees in February, it looks like Groundhog -Wiarton Willie was right and spring is just around the corner. After forceful skiing on the roads to building muscle shoveling the snow, it’s almost time to enjoy the Spring time!

With little time that we have spent in Toronto, we have always made sure to take advantage of the warmer weather in Spring. Here are some of the places we have had fun during spring:

Ottawa’s Tulips Festival: Driving to Ottawa during the Spring time is by far the best outing we have had during Spring. Though the Tulips are not really equivalent to what it looks like in Netherlands or in Skagit Valley in Washington, it is still one of the best we have. Hiring bicycles and going around the Rideau Canal and exploring the beauty of the park makes it all worth it being there.

Festival time this year: 12th May to 22nd May, 2017

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It looks so inviting:)

 

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Tulip beds!

 

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Beautiful Spring Colours of Nature!

Toronto High Park Cherry Blossom Festival: No need to head to Japan (though that’s on my list to visit soon) to see the Cherry Blossoms, they were kind enough to give a few samplings to Canada and you can see the beauty blossom in High Park mostly during April (depending on the weather). The flowers last only for a week so don’t miss out, here is a link where you can keep a watch on when the flowers are in full bloom.

Link: www.highparktoronto.com/cherry-trees-2017.php

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Cherry blossom in full bloom!

 

Kite Flying Festival: As kids, we have made our own kites and flied it from our roof top but it’s not the same everywhere, Toronto hosts Kite Festival during Spring and trust me it just takes you back to your childhood. If you fancy flying kites on a beach or in a conservation parks, there are quite a few festivals which takes place during April and May, here are a few links where you can pick which one to go for –

www.kitefestcanada.com

www.Totonto.com/events/four-winds-kite-festival/

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High up it goes!

Easter Egg hunt in Blue Mountains: Good Friday long weekend gets better mostly because of the egg hunt that happens pretty much everywhere, but it gets even better when you are not confined to a space and expected to run around the Village in Blue Mountain hunting for the easter eggs. Its not just for kids they also have some amazing rides for adults and you can even try skiing (if it’s not too warm for the snow to have melted), as Blue mountain is mostly famous as a skiing destination from Toronto.

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Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster in Blue Mountain!

Maple Syrup Festival: If you are in Canada, you better like Maple Syrup. Pouring it over on pan cakes or just having them as a maple syrup candy, it’s a treat to our taste buds. There are a lot of farms hosting maple syrup festival combined with wagon rides and fun activities. Here is a link to all the festivals:

www.400eleven.com/touring/maple-syrup-festivals

Happy Spring Time and do let me know your favourite spring time activity!