My Guide to Santorini, Greece

Santorini is one of my all time favourite destinations to visit. I absolutely LOVE this island. I love it so much, I’ve already travelled here twice in the course of just over a year. It’s more than just romantic, it feels like another world. The sunsets here are incredible, and the charming towns that line the clifftops are beyond beautiful.

You can get to the Cyclades island of Santorini a few ways. Located in the Aegean Sea, most people visit Santorini for the day via cruise ship. You can also fly in (airport code JTR) and even arrive by ferry from Athens (or from many of the other Greek Islands) for longer stays.

If you’re visiting by cruise ship, you will have to tender (your cruise ship anchors out in the caldera and you are ferried onto the bottom of the cliff of Thira (Fira). You will then have a few choices. You can take a gondola/cable car to the top of the cliff side, a boat to Oia (sounds like EE YA), walk up the stairs or ride a donkey up. I’m going to be very honest, please, please, please do not ride the donkeys up the hill. They are overworked, working in very hot conditions and getting injured. Conde Nast Traveller wrote an article on the donkeys of Santorini that you can find here. Please keep in mind being a socially responsible traveller, especially when it comes to animal welfare. The cable car up is €6 per person, per direction, so €12 per person round trip. I recently did the boat to Oia option on my last trip, taking a boat from where the cruise ship tenders drop off. This option was €15 per person which includes the boat to Oia, bus ride up the hill into Oia and then the bus ride back to Thira.

Getting Around Santorini:

If you decide to check out Thira first, once at the top of the hill, you can’t help but take in the magnificent views. This island is just beautiful everywhere. Thira is one of the main towns on Santorini. It’s where you will find the main bus terminal (public bus system run by KTEL). A bus ticket to most areas on the island is around a €1.80 to €2.50 per direction, honestly it’s a great deal and the public buses are coach style buses. A bus from Thira to Oia will cost you €1.80 per direction.

Here’s how to get to the bus station from the cable car (red dot is the cable car, yellow dot is the bus depot, it’s about a 10 minute walk):

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Taxis on Santorini are limited and can be expensive. Renting a car, motorbike and/or ATV is the other option most visitors opt for. Rough costs for this depend on the depot and rental company used.

Things to see and do:

There are so many things to see and experience on Santorini. It’s a place to take in the beauty, relax and unwind. I’ve broke down some of the top sights and things to do based on each town.

Oia – Probably the most iconic town that tourists flock to. Here in Oia, my favourite thing to do is just to wander the streets and enjoy the sights. I love photographing the whitewashed homes, clinging to the cliffside. It’s just an incredible view. If you’re here for the day, visit early in the morning before the cruise ship crowds descend on this small village. Once 11:00am rolls around it can be very busy here as it is such a popular destination. Crowds don’t dissipate until later in the afternoon depending on the cruise ship schedules. Sunsets are absolutely amazing, however Oia can still feel quite busy if there is still a ship in port. There are several restaurants that have stunning sunset views, where you can order a bottle of prosecco or champagne and enjoy the experience. Oia is a tourist town, however there are a few locals shops here offering some beautiful unique products and gifts (don’t miss the Atlantis Books Store and a store called Nama). Oia to me it’s one of those places to explore, take amazing photos, grab a seat at a restaurant, enjoy a glass of wine with some amazing Greek food and ponder life while taking in the view over the caldera.

Thira – Thira is a place that most tourists arrive, it’s where the cable car brings thousands of tourists almost everyday in the busy season. There are a few local shops here, however it can also be a great starting point to exploring the island of Santorini. Santorini has some amazing wineries and breweries. One wine tour in particular is with Santorini Wine Adventures, they offer a great half day tour visiting three local wineries on Santorini learning about how the volcanic earth here help creates some great wines.

Red Beach (Akrotiri) – One of the most scenic beaches on Santorini, within walking distance from the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, a site not to miss. The site is covered and  enclosed to protect the discovered and very well preserved ruins from the Minoan Bronze Age. Red Beach itself can be a bit tricky to get onto depending on the level of erosion, but it’s a beautiful and unique beach.

Where to eat on Santorini:

Oia – My favourite place to eat in Oia is Lotza Restaurant. The food here is fresh, home cooked and just delicious. It’s a very quaint restaurant with amazing views overlooking the caldera.

Other restaurant options in Oia are Karma and 1800, for something sweet try Lolita’s Gelato on a hot day and Melenio Cafe for an amazing dessert.

Thira – Located a short walk from the Thira cable car, Volkan On The Rocks serves up amazing locally sourced food, their very own wines and beer called Volkan Beer.

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Other restaurant options in Thira are Fanari and Theoni’s Kitchen.

Whatever you see and experience on Santorini, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a beautiful island to discover and is full of history. Santorini is one of my favourite places I’ve ever travelled to and has a very special place in my heart.

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If you have any questions about travelling to Santorini, leave me a message!

 

 

My Guide to Venice, Italy

I heard a quote once about Venice:  “Visiting Venice is like eating a box of chocolate liqueurs in one go…” (author unknown).

Now it might not be just like that… It depends if eating an entire box of chocolates makes you sick or not lol. But I do understand the decadence the author might have been referring to…

Venice is luxuriously self-indulgent.

I envy any true Venetian who calls this incredible city “home”. The art scene in Venice rivals any museum, the city itself you could argue is an open-air museum and art gallery on display for the world to admire. Venice captured my heart.

Where to Stay:

Venice is expensive. I’ll be honest though, spend the money, it’s worth it. Some of the hotels you can stay in here are incredible, impeccably pristine and are an experience in themselves. Venice is not as large of an area as you may think. The alleyways and crowds can make getting from point “A” to point “B” a little longer than usual, but wandering the streets of Venice is part of the romance of this place.

Hotel Ca’ d’Oro – 3 Star – Located near the Cannaregio area of Venice, this 3 star property is great value. It’s about 15-20 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, 7-10 minute walk from the famous Rialto Bridge and Market. Hotel Ca’ d’Oro is clean comfortable and reasonably easy to get to by Vaporetto (nearest station is within 5 minutes).

Santa Chiara Hotel – 4 Star – I booked this hotel solely on location on the way back from my cruise. It’s across the street from the People Mover to the Cruise Ship Terminals and across the bridge from the train station. It’s one of the only hotels on Venice that you can physically drive to. The buses to and from the airport also depart and arrive right behind the hotel, as well as several different vaporetto stops, so for location and ease it’s amazing. The service of the staff and rooms are amazing as well. I booked a Deluxe Canal View room and it didn’t disappoint. It’s been recently renovated, the rooms are very well appointed and a deluxe breakfast buffet was also included.

Hotel Danieli – 5 Star – This hotel is a Venice classic. Featured in so many films, once you stay here, you’ll understand why it’s a must. Part of the Starwood hotel brand, Hotel Danieli has the most perfect of locations, located mere steps from St. Marks Square and the Doge’s Palace. The restaurant here is incredible and overlooks the Grand Canal.

Other hotels to note: The Gritti Palace, Hilton Molino Stucky, JW Marriott Venice and The Westin Europa & Regina.

Where to Eat:

When you visit to visit Venice, “foodie town” is probably not what you are thinking. Sure Venice probably is in the place you want to have certain Italian foods if it’s your only stop in this amazing country, however Venice has amazing gastronomical offerings available to it’s visitors. Venetians have a very different way of living, but they’re definitely doing it right. Typical Venetian breakfast would be your cappuccino and cornetto (as with most of Italy). Lunch could be a slice of pizza at a local bakery, a Panini or even a calzone from one of the small bakeries you’ll find along one of the winding pathways. Remember, any good restaurant doesn’t need to have waiters outside trying to get you to sit down to eat with a “free glass of wine” or a “tourist menu”, all the good places are already busy.

Venice is known for its seafood and still to this day there is a fish market at the Rialto Market every Monday, definitely something to check out. Most cantinas and restaurants send their chefs every day to get local produce, fish and other daily finds for amazing daily creations and specials.

But early evening/late afternoon, is strictly for cicchetti. Cicchetti is similar to tapas, it’s a variety of small bites that you enjoy with a glass of house wine or as Venetians call it “umbra”, which literally translates as a glass of “shade”. Usually when ordering cicchetti, you can have an entire meal with a couple glasses of wine for under €20 per person. For dinner Venice boasts some of Italy’s best restaurants. In Venice you can find several Michelin star restaurants, and several restaurants that cater to the locals which in my opinion are just good. 

The local drink of choice, that depends where you go. As mentioned, house wines in Venice are amazing whether you choose white or red. However with Venice’s location to the DOC and DOCG areas (regionally protected wines) means the prosecco here is super fresh, crisp and reasonable. Check out Al Prosecco to try some amazing local prosecco by the glass in this hip wine bar setting. Also, Venice is the birth place of the real Bellini. Make sure you try this very refreshing cocktail at least once. I enjoyed mine whilst watching people go by near Piazza San Marco.

Some of my favourite restaurants in Venice include Ristorante Wildner which is located on the Grand Canal near San Marcos Piazza, walk along past Hotel Danieli near the San Zaccaria vaporetto stops, you’ll find this amazing restaurant. They had a delicious 3 course meal for €25 including a starter, main and dessert. For Michelin star dining, try Il Ridotto behind Hotel Danieli in a small piazza. I tried their tasting menu and it was INCREDIBLE! They also own a trattoria right across in the piazza, called Aciugheta. I had a pizza, Aperol Spritz and a few glasses of wine here for lunch after trying Il Ridotto for dinner one night. Good atmosphere and great selection of local wines. For cicchetti, favourite of many locals would be Cantina do Spade near Rialto, and Al Timon in Cannareggio.

What to see:

Venice is one of those magical places where you want to get up early to take advantage of the true local life or what’s left there of. Venice at sunrise overlooking the Grand Canal is one the most beautiful moments that I’ve ever experienced. Simply wandering the alleyways of Venice (and getting lost) is something that you definitely need to do. Taking in the sights, the smells, the atmosphere and truly the soul of this place. Sometimes that’s the great part of travelling. While wandering the streets of Venice I turned the corner and came across a gentleman playing the violin on the steps of a church. I stood there, for a few minutes, peering through an archway, whilst the locals went about their daily life. Again, one of those moments I was so happy to have come across. It can be easy to get lost in Venice, however follow the signs to the nearest popular points of interest (yellow signs on most buildings pointing the way down alleys to Rialto, San Marco, and other popular areas of Venice).

For museums, Doge’s Palace, St. Marks Basilica and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum were my favourites. I also wandered the area around the Accademia which is near where the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is located.

I also did trips over to Murano, Burano and Torcello. You can do a guided half day tour, which I did, however I revisited all the islands myself with vaporettos (the ferry system in Venice). Torcello holds most of the history of Venice, as this was the first of the islands in the lagoon that was inhabited when Treviso was invaded (more on Treviso in another post soon). Burano, is know for its beautiful lace making and colourful houses. It’s a stunning fishing village that you want to visit in the early morning or early evening once all the tour groups have left. Murano is the island of world renown glass. True Murano glass is still made here on this island and crafted by amazing artisans. I did purchase a few pieces, just be sure that you are buying from a reputable shop as some do sell glass from China.

Another thing to do whilst in Venice is to try to take in a performance at the opera (or at least try to do a tour of the opera house). It’s one of those things that truly gives you a glimpse of life into Venice’s luxurious and opulent past.

If you’re looking for a great local tour option, check out Urban Adventures. They offer some great small group tour options in Venice. I love Urban Adventures as they are typically food based tours and are also run by in the know locals, so you get a true taste of what local life is like in the place where you take a tour with them. They take you places that not many tourists go, so it’s very well worth it!

How to Get Around:

So as you may know their are no cars on Venice proper.

So getting around involves walking or taking water transport of some sort. There are multiple water transport options. To and from the airport you have the Alilaguna ferries. Around Venice and to the other islands, you have the vaporetto system (run by ACTV), which is very similar to city buses just on water. You can also hire private boats (water taxis) to take you from point A to point B in VIP style. Water taxis are by far the most expensive way to get around Venice when it comes to transport.

Finally, you then have the very touristic water transportation of gondolas. A gondola ride can cost you upwards of €80 for an hour and is not typical a mode of transportation anymore, but really just a tour of the canals. It’s still a beautiful way to enjoy Venice’s past and see the city from a different angle.

I did do a lot of walking around Venice, but found it very nice to use the vaporetto system. I would highly suggest buying the pass for as many days is you feel you need it, as it is a better rate, however you can buy a 24 hour pass (also a pass with the bus transfer to and from the airport). You do need to validate the pass before you get onto the vaporetto, you will see a validation machine, which you just hold the RFID embedded pass in front of until it goes green and beeps. If you failed to validate your vaporetto pass (ACTV pass), you can be fined. The passes are good for all ferries and vaporettos with ACTV, so day trips to the other islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Lido are all included.

Honestly I LOVED Venice. Italy to me as a country feels like home, but Venice even more so. My Great Grandfather is from the Veneto area, so I feel a connection to Venice. I can’t wait to come back here.

I know over-tourism is a problem, the “No Grandi Navi” (No Large Ships) debate is still strong, however after visiting, it seems the vaporettos and water taxis create more of a wake and waves than the large ships. Cruise ships at that speed really create no wake, but it’s a big debate. Where I think the true problem lies is the large amount of cruise ship passengers and tour groups that just visit Venice for the day only. I can see the frustration, I myself got frustrated with one tour group in an alleyway, I guided an elderly “nonna” past them whilst they took up the entire space, not being considerate to the passers by. These passengers also don’t necessarily support the true local businesses. The true locals who own restaurants, artisan shops and stores are being left out to the street vendors who hawk products made in China where they buy a magnet or a tacky tourist bag with “Venezia” written across it. I know this is a whole other conversation, but I think it comes down to being a conscious traveller. We do our best to support local at home, we need to strive to do this abroad as well.

I hope you are able to visit Venice for more than a day, it’s truly an amazing, romantic and unique city.

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you! Please contact me if you’d like more recommendations.

Happy travels!

 

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The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali – A Hotel Review

From the moment I arrived this place was amazing.

Nusa Dua is approximately a 30 minute drive from the Denpasar International Airport. Upon entering the Nusa Dua area, vehicles are inspected and go through a security checkpoint. Arriving at your respective hotel or resort, you go through yet another checkpoint.

Once at the lobby, I was greeted with a “gong”, signalling my arrival. I was seated at a couch in the beautiful open air lobby, served a welcome drink of Jamu (a traditional drink made of orange juice, mint, cloves, star anise and sweetened with honey) and checked into my room on an iPad. To my delight, they upgraded me to a Lagoon Access room!

This resort is so beautiful. You feel like you have arrived in paradise. The property is very lush and very well manicured. The pools around the resort create such an amazing tranquil atmosphere. The room I had direct access to one of the pools with a terrace out onto the pool’s edge. My room was very spacious and had butler service included. It also had a deep bathtub, great bathroom amenities and the beds were so comfortable. There are no coffee makers in the rooms, which was a first for me staying in a Starwood property, however I quickly learned that the butler will bring you a fresh carafe of coffee to enjoy in your room or on your terrace or balcony.

The beach here was well kept and the snorkelling was pretty good, lots of fish. There are many sunbeds and the local vendors don’t bother you too much if you’re firm. They have plenty of cabanas that can be rented through the resort, the most popular ones are near the beach. The resort does offer the option to dine next door at the St. Regis and it’s an amazing experience! The Laguna offers nightly entertainment, a couple nights a week they have a fire show and even a religious ceremony at the temple on their grounds.

The food here was really good. The breakfast was amazing and offered so many choices, from various different cuisines. I did eat dinner one night right on the beach, the ambiance they create is so romantic and magical. They also offered a “happy hour” at certain times and even had fresh coconuts available.

Within the area of Nusa Dua, there is a shopping centre which offers a free shuttle from most hotels and resorts. Yes, it does have a Starbucks, but this is where I was introduced to BaliZen home products. I purchased an off white Balinese umbrella and loved all the prints, colours and products they offered (I found the main store of BaliZen while I was in Ubud, more on the later).

I’m so happy I chose this resort as my starting point for my visit to Bali, it was a great atmosphere to get over the jet lag and admire the beauty of this area of the island. I can’t say enough about how wonderful and friendly the staff are. I honestly can’t wait to come back here!

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Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta ~ December 4th to 8th, 2016

It was an early morning flight on WestJet from the Vancouver International Airport. I definitely was way to excited and got there far to early. In reality for a Mexican bound flight you really only need to arrive two hours ahead of time. I was there, alone, three hours in advance. Thankfully, Starbucks was open. I picked up a much needed coffee, a Cranberry Bliss Bar and a sandwich for the flight. Unfortunately, WestJet doesn’t supply food anymore (cookies and pretzels isn’t food), however the coffee is now McCafe and is pretty good. It was a quick 4 hour flight down, however the in-flight entertainment left much to be desired. I always like to know where I am flying over, geography has always interested me, however as WestJet doesn’t have the screens in the backs of the seats anymore, the app you have to use doesn’t have a map of your location, just a rough idea of your flight duration time left, so I had no idea what town we were flying over, or which sea side city I could see in the distance. I was also very happy I packed my “Pocket Farmacy” from Saje. The two people beside me clearly had the flu, so I was lathering “Immune” under my nose the whole plane ride down (and no, I didn’t get sick!), I totally swear by this stuff travelling. I was able to sleep a bit and woke just before we landed. It was a rough landing into Puerto Vallarta. It was quite stormy, so I actually grabbed the seat in front of me when we were jolted touching down onto the runway.

Once safely on the ground and parked at the gate, we headed through border control and through the gauntlet of timeshare sales people. They are so pushy, even physical! I was so glad to get out of the airport and into the warm air (though extremely humid as it was pouring rain). There were about 16 of us travel agents, huddled under one of the shades, we waited for WestJet to set up our transportation. Once our mini bus arrived, we all piled in and headed to the Hyatt Ziva. On our way through town (about a 25 minute journey), we got to see the Marina areas, the Malecon and Old Puerto Vallarta. About 5 minutes later we arrived at the gates of the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. Once we had pulled inside, we parked in front of the beautiful open-air lobby. We were checked in, offered a welcome drink and escorted to our rooms. It was just after 2:00pm, I was ready to refresh and explore the resort. My room number was 1611, an ocean view king room with a juliet style balcony (not really a balcony, but large glass sliding doors with a railing just outside). The waves were so loud. It was so soothing. A few agents and I walked around the resort checking out different areas. David (a good friend from my Flight Centre training class) and I ate lunch at Melanzane. I had a delightful Caprese salad and a much needed Mango Margarita. The rain had stopped and we walked around a bit more taking photos before going back to our rooms and getting ready for our welcome dinner at Casa Grande. The food was so good. It was a great time to meet everyone and talk about our businesses. I think a lot of us were pretty tired, so we retired somewhat early. I went back to my room to find a delightful turndown service. It included a few lush bites (chocolate cake, a Nutella filled macaron and a lemon tart), along with a hand written welcome note from the General Manager.

The next morning I woke to a beautiful sunrise. I ordered room service as I was just happy sitting on the couch in my room listening to the sound of the ocean. My order of “Divorced Eggs” (yes, yes I did haha), a fruit plate and Mexican Coffee (spiced with orange peel and cinnamon). Afterwards I got ready and met the other travel agents in the lobby for our official site tour followed by some training on the Playa Resorts family of hotels. We all had a free afternoon to which a few of us had lunch at Blaze (absolutely love this restaurant, the view is stunning). I then went up to my room, changed into my swimsuit and found a palapa with a lounger in the sun and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon with a few pina coladas and mango margaritas. Our group dinner tonight was at Melanzane. I had a caprese salad followed by a portobello mushroom and spinach pasta. Of course I finished it off with a tiramisu 😉 Tonight’s entertainment was a circus style show, with a clown, dancers, a juggler, an aerial entertainer and a ring gymnast. Some decided to go into town tonight, a few of us stayed behind. I perused the night market that was at the Hyatt Ziva that night. I do think it’s good they go this, however I didn’t buy anything as I was pretty sure prices were better in Puerto Vallarta proper. After a couple more drinks at the Sunset bar, I grabbed a cheesecake and a caramel macchiato from the deli and headed to my room. I can’t say enough how much I loved the sound of the waves. They are loud. There are times I woke up because of them, but I loved it.

The following morning we had breakfast at the buffet and then a few of us went downtown Puerto Vallarta and walked the Malecon. We were dropped off at La Iglesias de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (the beautiful cathedral) in the heart of Old Puerto Vallarta. I did add two Starbucks mugs to my collection, a “Mexico” one and of course a “Puerto Vallarta” mug. I also took my photo of the Puerto Vallarta mug in front of the cathedral. Right after that, I bought a beautiful painting of Puerto Vallarta, it was so colourful just like the colours of the buildings and streets. So it was my first impulse buy. I was on the hunt for a silver ring, similar to a ring I had seen the night before at the night market at the Ziva. I went into several shops, I did buy a pair of earrings and found a few magnets. We arrived back at the place we started from, two of the agents we had wandered with decided to go back to the resort, David and I decided to keep wandering. We walked to the South this time, taking in the beautiful scenery of Puerto Vallarta. We finally reached Olas Altas Road, a cobble stone street where the Malecon board walk ends and the street begins. At that point on the right hand side, there is a thatched roof hut. From what I’ve heard is a very honest silver dealer. Nothing alpaca. His name is Roberto and I actually read about him the night previous on several websites including Fudors, TripAdvisor and many other forums. He was very friendly and offered me a great price on two rings. It wasn’t the ring I was after, but I actually liked it better. The other was a small ring with two white opal stones. Afterwards we continued down the road and found another cute little shop not far down the street called Safari Accents. I bought a beautiful handmade christmas ornament for myself and one as a gift for my aunt and beautiful a small bowl. We went a little further and stumbled across Andales! Ok, I’ll admit it, I watch many of the Real Housewives shows, and I can see why Vikki loves Andales, David and I had to get a margarita (and a few photos of course). Afterwards, it was time for us to head back, so we found a taxi and went back to the Resort. When I got in, I went to the buffet again and had a late lunch. I didn’t know what time I would be eating again as we were going to be going to the Rhythms of the Night by Vallarta Adventures tonight. We left the Resort for the Marina at 5:30pm, at the marina I saw the most heartbreaking thing. A poor sea lion propped up, taking photos with cruise ship tourists. In all honesty I wanted to slap everyone and snap them out that they were supporting the harm to this poor animal. Quite a few of us travel agents did make loud comments on how wrong it was and one mother did come up to me after and thanked me. We took a catamaran out to Las Caletas, it was incredible! It looked like we were walking into a tribal council in Survivor. The entire island was lit by candle light and torches. The Rhythms of the Night tour was very good, although we ate quite late. By the time we ate dinner after the show, it was about 10:30pm. I would suggest eating before you go, or go and eat before the show. It was quite cool on the catamaran ride home, thankfully   Freddie let me borrow his jacket, it does cool down at night here and I wished I would have packed light jackets. We got back to the Hyatt Ziva just after midnight and I went straight to bed.

In the morning, I again woke early. I took advantage and did what most tourists on vacations do, stake out the best palapas and lounge chairs for the day. David and I ate breakfast at Blaze, I had delicious crepes with fresh blueberries and Mexican Coffee. Afterwards, I checked out, said good bye to my beautiful room and stored my carry on in the day use area downstairs. They have lockers available for a $10 USD deposit. The wifi (which I have to say was awesome, worked absolutely everywhere on the resort) was extended until I left as well. I retired back to the palapa, enjoyed a few more pina coladas and enjoyed soaking in the sun. It had been snowing back in Vancouver and this was the first time in two months I had really seen sun. I was going to soak in ever drop of sunshine I could. David and I ate lunch at Blaze again, this time seeing iguanas basking on the rocks below. We also realized there was a monkey face in the cliffs there (no we hadn’t been drinking that much). I went back to enjoying the pool this time, pondering life and why I didn’t want to leave here. I had reservations about Mexico. I never thought I would be an “all inclusive” person. Three nights, although quick, was enough. I enjoy seeing other parts of a country, not to be confined to one area. The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta was amazing. You see, every employee that works for Playa Resorts believes in “service from the heart”. Whenever you see a staff member the place their hand on their heart as a welcoming gesture, at first I thought it was a bit tacky, but it’s genuine. It’s heartwarming.  The service at this resort is outstanding, I can’t say enough how staff go out of their way for you.

Overall, this resort is amazing! I would come back here in a heartbeat. The food is fresh and delicious. The resort and rooms are very clean. The beds are so lush and I couldn’t get enough of the sound of those waves. Every room faces the ocean, I didn’t miss having a proper balcony, It still felt like I did. The service is incredible and I just can’t say enough good things about it.

We regretfully gathered in the lobby, but not before watching the last sunset. It was the most beautiful one we had yet on this trip. We all packed into the van and headed for the airport. It was a long walk to the gate. Sitting, waiting for the plane, I could’t help but feel blessed. This year has really been a year of transformation, of exploration. Really, karma has been good to me. I’ve built this life from scratch, by myself. Heading home, we boarded the WestJet flight just after 9:00pm and touched down just after midnight. I was thankful I brought my Nexus as it was a quick and seamless entry and was out the arrival gates in no time. It was such a fun trip, and I can’t wait to see where my next journey will take me.

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Keep Calm and Ride the Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 1

I am so unbelievably excited!

To be invited to experience the Rocky Mountaineer is an amazing opportunity. To me this is a bucket list trip. My aunt was actually involved with them and helped develop their first reservation system. So the Rocky Mountaineer fascination for me goes way back. When living in Revelstoke, BC for a time, the train would constantly go through. I always told myself, one day I would be on that train. Well my day has come. Tomorrow morning, along with eleven other travel agents, we will be doing the Rocky Mountaineer First Passage to the West in SilverLeaf from Vancouver, BC to Banff, AB with an excursion extension ending in Calgary, AB.

Tonight we started our familiarization trip at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, BC. This is one of the hotels that Rocky Mountaineer uses for guests who are adding pre-hotels in SilverLeaf service. I love the Starwood Brand group of hotels. I am a Starwood Gold Preferred Guest and always love staying at these properties. I am also a member of their “Pro” program which is for travel professionals.

I checked into my room (2352 in the North Tower) and got settled in. The towers are beautiful and the rooms are spacious. The Sheraton Wall Centre is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver and offers amazing views of the city. We did a site tour and viewed a few of the other room categories, the North Tower is definitely more newer and all rooms are larger. South Tower has undergone major renovations, however standard rooms are smaller.

After a great group dinner, a few of us chatted for awhile before heading for a very much needed sleep before a VERY early start tomorrow morning, we are meeting our Rocky Mountaineer Host downstairs at 6:10am!