Friday, December 30, 2016

Past POIs - Ben and Jerry's Factory [Waterbury, Vermont]

When you are in Vermont, don't forget to visit the Ben and Jerry's Factory for a tour! Oddly a fun and must see attraction for me based on my experience there. The cost is low (just a few dollars), lasts roughly 30 minutes and it is run pretty much every day of the year.


The tour goes through the process of how ice cream is made and at the end of the tour you get a sample and there is also a nice gift shop at the end as well (which is also at the beginning). Make sure to visit the Flavour Graveyard which is where unpopular flavours have been moved to.


For more information, visit the official website at http://www.benjerry.com/about-us/factory-tours

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Past POIs - Cusco Planetarium [Cusco, Peru]

During our stay in Cusco, we read up on things to do there and Cusco Planetarium was recommended by the friends that we met during our Amazon trip. It is a bit weird, however, it was actually in the travel guide that we had as well, so I guess it can't be bad, right?


Well, let's start with the weird part, in order to visit, you need to email them to schedule a time and then you are supposed to meet someone in a local square there and they pick you up and drive you away to the planetarium. Sounds sketchy right? Well, we thought the same, luckily, we weren't the only ones going and there were a few other people joining us which made me feel a little bit less worried.

The cost in 2014 was 50 soles and it last for roughly 2 hours long. During the 2 hours, we learned about how the Incans built things based on the sky and the different constellations and I learned that there are actually a different set of constellations if you are in the northern hemisphere vs the southern hemisphere. You also get to have a look through their telescope which was strong enough to show us Saturn!

Worth a visit if you have the time and odds are, you probably will since it is only open during the evenings.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Past POIs - Terrasse Dufferin

When in Quebec City, odds are you will walk along this section called the Terrasse Dufferin which is like a boardwalk. We went during the winter time and if you go then, I have no doubt that you should visit this area for the slide that they have. I'm not sure if it exists during other months, but in the winter, you pay a few dollars for a sled that you take up a really big slide and you sled down at really fast speeds.


Even if you don't come during winter, I imagine that the views and the atmosphere of the area is worth paying this area a visit. And you can't really go wrong since it is free!


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Past POIs - Crossroads Village [Flint, Michigan]

During our recent visit to Michigan for Black Friday, we stopped at a local attraction, Crossroads Village and it was a neat attraction but small.


Located in Flint Michigan, Crossroads Village is a historical replica of a village of the 1800's and they have historical buildings that were either there or relocated from the surrounding area and potentially repurposed for this village. Some of the buildings include a print press, a barber shop, and an opera house.



The village itself is not very large, when we talked to the ticket office staff, he said that it would take about 20 minutes to walk the grounds. Ask for a map so that you can find out what all the buildings are and just ask about what is going on that day so you know when/where to go to things.


When we went on the day after Thanksgiving, it was also the Christmas Day celebration which has the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, accompanied by fireworks afterwards. Unfortunately due to the weather (it was raining and getting cold), we did not wait for these, but it sounded like it would be a neat experience. We were told that the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony would take place at 7:15pm, so if you are interested, you may want to come for the buffet as well (which we didn't take part in).


What we did end up doing was seeing a show, which was holiday themed, it happened at 5:30pm but I know that there was another at 6:30pm as well. It lasted about 15 minutes and it was a live production in an old theater building which was a neat experience.


We also went to the print house which had a staff there talking about how the print press worked in the past and he spoke about the buildings that we could see and where they came from.

Went to line up for a photo with Santa. Wandered the grounds after and saw the carousel (which was built in 1912 and relocated to Crossroads in 1991), although we did not go on the ride.


Everything that I mentioned that we did was included with the price of admission (show, Santa). The train was extra. The place reminds me of similar villages that I have visited in the past such as Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, Canada and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Bunratty, Ireland. However, Crossroads Village was very small by comparison, but I think the price reflects this (it was $10 USD in 2016, $15 USD for admission + train). I can't say for sure I would recommend it when the grounds do not have a theme to them since it is a bit small and you would probably run out of things to do pretty quick, but with the theme, it did mean that there was more to see and do while we were here.

For more information, visit their site at http://geneseecountyparks.org/crossroads-village/

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2016 - Black Friday (day 3)

Today, we return to Great Lakes Crossing to do some returns and visit Hobby Lobby and Walmart before heading back to Toronto.

Breakfast was similar to yesterday, however the ham and potato stars was replaced with turkey links and french toast, we opted to just have the waffles instead.

Great Lakes Crossing was pretty quiet when we went and Allison was able to quickly do her returns and she noticed that it seems like by Saturday, all the really good deals are over and they go back up in price. So we know what to do next time.

Hobby Lobby was next and the place is huge, reminds me of a Michael's in Canada. Everything was 50% off, even Christmas decorations! While she was at Hobby Lobby, I went to Walmart to see if I could pick up some games and when I got there, I found out that all the deals for them were already over. This confirms that we should do our major purchases on the Thursday / Friday and if we wanted to see anything else, we should try to do that on Saturday instead.


After that, we grabbed a bite at the nearby Burger King. Two whopper combos was only $10! We ordered some Cheetos chicken fries since we saw them, it tasted like chicken tenders but in fries form, nothing special. With lunch finished, we headed back home and we got back by around 5:00pm. The border had a line but I think we only took about 10 minutes.

Until our next trip!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 - Black Friday (day 2)

Today, we head to Great Lakes Crossing and visit Crossroads Village.

We got up for breakfast at around 7:15am which had the usual items like eggs, ham, toast, bagels, cereal, some fresh fruit, and they had a waffle maker. Nothing fancy, I think the waffle maker saved the breakfast for me since it is somewhat a reliable and known breakfast item versus mystery eggs and meat.


After breakfast we headed to Target first to get some water and see if there were any videogames still available and I lucked out and got everything that I wanted, Allison also found Finding Dory which was only $10.

Made it to Great Lakes Crossing at 8:45am and we finished by 12:00pm. Kate Spade is new to Great Lakes (Allison says, I wouldn't know) and the deals were pretty good, 70% off regular price. Ended up with some items from Kate Spade, GameStop, and Limited.

Lunch was at Buddy's pizza, near our hotel and we ordered the club salad, a four square pizza, and a pop. The pizza was half Florine Mark and half Detrioter, it reminded me of Pizza Hut, but not as greasy. The salad came with a lot of turkey and bacon, but not that much salad, weird. Came out to $32 USD after tax and tip. I wouldn't come back here, however, it seems like the locals like it here because it is ranked 8 for best pizza in the United States (I'm not sure how this happened).


Florine Mark on top, Detrioter on the bottom.
With lunch over, we went back to the hotel to rest before heading to Crossroads Village since we didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Crossroads Village is a small local attraction that features history buildings and made the area into a small village, similar to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. Today was the first big day for Crossroads Village since it would be Christmas themed with lights, Santa, and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony which would have fireworks after.


Crossroads Village's train.
We paid for admission and a train ride, which lasts roughly 40 minutes and the train is heated, even though it is really old. Make sure that you don't get motion sickness easily because the train does sway side to side. During the ride, there is Christmas themed music and the conductor talks to the passengers, and there are Christmas themed lights all around and some live people as well including a soldier and Santa. Based on my experience, I would say, sit on the right-hand side of the train. I would say that the cost is not bad for what you get, I wouldn't do it again, but it seemed like it was for family since we saw a lot of kids and they all seemed to enjoy it.

Crossroads Village's printing press.
Crossroads Village's show.
Our initial schedule was to wander the grounds and make it to the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, so with some time to spare, we went to see a show at the Opera House, located near the entrance and it seemed to have a showing every hour on the half hour (5:30pm, 6:30pm, etc).



The show was a neat experience, I would say that it is worth stopping by for this if you are there. Make sure that you keep going up the stairs since there are actually two levels, level one is up one set of stairs, level two is accessible if you walk up another flight of stairs after that. Prior to the show, we chatted with a local who told us about the village, the show that we might be watching and the local area. I always seem to forget that Americans are very passionate about their country. The show itself lasted about 15 minutes and I thought it was a good experience, I can't say what you will end up seeing, but ours was about two girls and how they were ready to celebrate Christmas, however, the local lawyer was trying to swindle them.


After the show, it was raining, so we went to get our umbrellas and returned to see how we would brave the elements. We lined up and got a picture with Santa Claus, and wandered the village afterwards and saw the carousel which was made in 1912! Tickets for the carousel have an additional cost, but we didn't go in, so I don't know how much it cost. In the end, we decided that we wouldn't stay for the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony since it was raining and we were getting a bit hungry. We left and made it to Alfoccino's for dinner.

Salad
Pasta al pesto
Ravioli
We ordered the ravioli that was on special which had three types of ravioli, a cheese only one, a portobello mushroom one, and a sausage one. And I got the pasta la pesto. Both dishes were okay, nothing special, they did come with unlimited salad, which I guess is to compete with Olive Garden. Overall, not bad and probably about the same price that we would pay at Olive Garden for dinner, roughly $42 USD after tax and tip.

Black Friday loot after two days.
With dinner finished, we went back to the hotel to take a look at our purchases and rested for the evening. Tomorrow, we will visit Allison's much anticipated Hobby Lobby and I will go to Walmart to see if I could find my remaining purchases.

Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 - Black Friday (day 1)

Another year, another Black Friday! We will be going to our usual area, Michigan, which has two big outlets, Great Lakes Crossing and Birch Run. As usual, we started shortly after lunch and left at around 1:30pm with us arriving at the border in Sarnia at roughly 5:00pm and there was no line. Off to a good start!

For this trip, we will be going on Thursday and returning to Toronto on Saturday since we normally run out of things to do, the deals don't last until the end of the weekend and we figure that the border won't be as busy when we come back.

This time, we will be staying at Hawthorn Suites in Auburn Hills, the same area where we normally do. The exterior is alright, with the interior being a bit nicer. We got to the hotel at roughly 6:00pm, however, the first room that we were given did not have heat and so with a quick phone call, we got relocated to the next room over and we were good to go.

Dinner was at the nearby McDonald's which we where also had our dinner at last year. And again, this McDonald's only had the drive-thru open, so we ate in the car, nothing exciting here.

We made it to Birch Run by around 8:30pm and it wasn't too busy in my opinion. Parking was easy to find, and I think like always, I mention that we should just eat here since it seems like things are actually open, but always forget.

Shopped here until 1:00am and left for Great Lakes Crossing and arrived at roughly 1:40am, but, it was actually closed! It closed at midnight, which seems odd since we were sure that we came here last year with no issue. I guess we need to plan a bit better next time and check when things open AND close. So that meant that we just went back to the hotel and rested with the plan to continue tomorrow.

By the end of the evening, we got various clothes from Banana Republic, New York and Co, a winter jack and boots from Columbia (which gave us a $30 USD gift card that was good for December). Not too bad for one mall and we got a few items from our to-buy list.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, we didn't take a day 1 loot picture. Tomorrow, we will visit Great Lakes Crossing, and visit Crossroads Village.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Past POIs - Cave of Hercules [Tangier, Morocco]

During our trip to Morocco, we stopped at the Cave of Hercules, rumored place where Hercules stayed during his 12 labours.


It is said that the opening looks like Africa, can you see it?


If the pictures don't look too interesting, just outside is a very nice view of the coastal area surrounding this site. Like most tourist attractions in Morocco, know that there is a small fee to enter and the local washrooms are pay to use.


Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Past POIs - Tree Goats of Morocco [Morocco]

Tree Goats of Morocco, not a name of a type of goat, but rather, a gathering of goats that like to climb up Argania trees which are commonly located in southwestern Morocco.


Argania trees produce argan which are commonly used for argan oil which is used to food as well as cosmetic products and these goats are attracted to them. So much so that they actually climb up the trees to eat them.


When we visited Morocco, we hired a private driver who would drive us around based on where we wanted to go and we stopped at a random tree and we saw the goats along with what looked like a shepherd. We got to take some pictures and ended up on our way, however, the shepherd was actually expecting to get a tip from us for taking pictures of his goats in the tree. It made me wonder whether this was staged or not, but accordingly to Google Searches, these goats do climb up trees, so I'm not really sure what to say.


I thought it was very neat to see since I have never seen anything like it before and if you are in the area, maybe you will see this as well.


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Friday, November 11, 2016

Past POIs - Louise Bourgeois' Spiders [Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]

While I thought this was a cool sculpture when I visited during Winterlude, little did I know that it is actually a part of a limited edition set of sculptures!


Created by Louise Bourgeios in 1999 is the Maman, a set of six spider sculptures was created and installed in England, Doha, Japan, South Korea, United States, and Canada!


When you visit, make sure to look at the sac, which apparently contains 26 marbles eggs! Unfortunately I didn't do this or didn't even think to do it, I just took some goofy pictures with it...

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Past POIs - Hallein Salt Mine [Hallein, Austria]

While near Salzburg, make sure that you don't miss the salt mines that are available for tours here! We went with the one in Hallein since it matched our itinerary, however there is one in Berchtesgaden if that is preferable. Based on our experience, I would say that it is a fun activity and you should definitely check it out for both the slides, the train, and the history.


There are plenty of things to see and do here which maps the trip worthwhile. Included when we went in 2015 were 2 slides, a showcase of the oldest wooden staircase in Europe, a mine train that takes you out of the mine, and a small museum. In all, it took us about 1.5 hours from start to finish of the tour of the salt mine. After the tour, you are free to wander the grounds and for the look-out point that is not to be missed.


When you go, I would suggest that you avoid heels and nicer clothes. When you arrive, you are fitted in a jump suit that is included in the tour to keep you from getting dirty, however, they don't provide full protection and since the ground may be muddy, wearing some shoes that you don't mind getting dirty is probably a good idea.


Fun fact, 'salz' is actually 'salt' in German and in the past, salt was an important commodity, so important that cities where named after it, examples being Salzburg and Salzkammergut.

For more information, visit the official website at https://www.salzwelten.at/en/home/

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Past POIs - El Circuito Magico del Agua (Lima, Peru)

When you go to Lima, you should try to make it to El Circuito Magico del Agua (or the Magic Water Circuit). It is a water park that holds 13 water fountains, costs only 4 soles and holds the Guiness World Record for 'World's Largest Fountain Complex in a Public Park'.

How do I get out of here?
If you are there during the evenings, there is a laser show there. Unfortunately, it is just a fountain that acts like a screen and a projector shows a show against it with music. Allison thought it would be like the Bellagio and was disappointed and I was disappointed because it would be 30 minutes long and I kept thinking it would improve as it went.


For the price, I think it is definitely worth checking out if you have the time to do so. There are some really cool looking fountains and exhibit-type shows, have a look at some of our photos to determine whether or not it is for you. Make sure to where some water-proof/resistant clothing because you will likely get a little bit wet.

Alice in Wonderland??
Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Past POIs - Amazon Rainforest [Manu, Peru]

I know that my previous posts have been a bit short, so you have been warned that this will be significantly longer!


The Amazon Rainforest is something that we debated about during our trip to Peru. It wasn't a debate of whether we should do it or not but how long we should go for and which location. Since we were going to be in Cuzco since we were doing the Machu Picchu hike, we ended up starting from Cuzco (Quito was an option but we would have to fly there). From there, there are a variety of options in length which was from 3-days to several weeks long. We ended up deciding to do a 7-day tour and our tour provider was Pantiacolla. When we did this in 2014, it cost us $1,290 USD and this covered 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 snacks, and 6 dinners, all transportation and accommodations were included as well as a private guide throughout the entire tour.


Let me tell you, going through the Amazon is not what I expected. Oftentimes I find that we get lured into going somewhere due to feedback from other people and photos that other people have taken. In this case, if you look at Pantiacolla's pictures, you would imagine that you would see tons of wildlife ranging from monkeys, birds and going up to crocodiles and jaguars. However, in reality, you realize that you will be guaranteed to see lots of birds, anything else is likely a bonus. I'll explain more about what we see later.


During this trip, it was Allison, Sharon and myself. Sharon opted for the 3-day tour and Allison and I did the 7-day tour. Based on what we saw when Sharon had the left the group to go back to Cuzco, I can say that it was probably disappointing. Based on the 7-day tour, I feel that we had a good experience of what the Manu Amazon Rainforest had to offer. While we did not get to see everything that we had hoped for, there is no doubt that it was worth the experience.


Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 - leave from Cuzco and stay at a lodge in the Cloudforest area of the Manu Rainforest.
Day 2 - visit an animal sanctuary and take a boat ride (5 hours) to go further into the Rainforest. At this point, Sharon was separated from the group since she had to go back to Cuzco.
Day 3 - boat ride (probably 10 hours) to go further into the Rainforest
Day 4 - morning hike, and otter spotting, stayed at the same location as Day 3
Day 5 - boat ride (probably 10 hours) to go further into the Rainforest
Day 6 - macaw clay lick and observation tower, stayed at the same location as Day 5
Day 7 - return to Cuzco, 2.5 hour boat ride, 1 hour taxi ride, 15 minute boat ride, and 8 hour bus ride


Based on the description, you can see that you will be on a boat for a long time and I don't think having a long tour really changes how long they are. My understanding is that Pantiacolla owns some lodges and has some shared ones that they use and they are far apart. So even if you do a long tour, it just means that you will have more days where you stay at a lodge versus moving every other day.


During the last day of the tour, you end up at the macaw clay lick and this was unbelievable in my mind. I am almost willing to say that this was worth the tour itself. The sounds and sights were just unbelievable. It might have to do with how much or little wildlife we had seen by then, but it was just an utter joy to watch as hundreds of macaws would come to this clay lick to eat.


Overall, I really enjoyed the Amazon Rainforest, the ups far outweigh the downs for me in my mind. The long travel times I think are essential for keeping the Amazon Rainforest as pristine as possible. Basically outside of the beginning, there are no roads, all paths are just worn travels that are well used, the docks for keeping our boat there is really just a stick that is on the boat that the driver drives down into the mud of the base and hope it doesn't float away. It may sound a bit rugged for some, but I feel that it would lose it's magic if you paved over parts of it and made an airport or such so that tourists can easily access it. Visit it if possible while things are still as they are.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Past POIs - Hallstatt [Hallstatt, Austria, Europe]

Hallstatt, one of the destinations that we have been to, but while it is very pretty to look at, it makes me wonder why the world has such a fascination with this spot. It is so popular that there is an actual replica created in China! Mind you, I do think that it is a very nice looking town, we didn't really get to wander around to take in the sights there, so maybe we missed out. Since we were on limited time, we just found the spots to take the iconic pictures and pretty much left.


We paid Hallstatt a visit while doing our Eastern Europe trip and we were fortunate that we had a car to get there because it made for travelling a lot easier. I am told that there are tours that will take you there, so don't let not driving you discourage you from trying to go there.


We happened to stop here because we were told that it is worth a stop and it happened to be part of the drive for the day when we were visiting Dachstein for the ice caves and Salzwelten, the local salt mine.


While I think it is a pretty sight, my appreciation for the place may be soured a bit by the fact that we didn't spend time there. My opinion might differ if we have time to wander around, but you can be the judge of how it looks based on some pictures we took and the large amount of pictures you will find online.

When I was looking up Hallstatt on Google Maps, there is actually a '明信片角度 / Classic Village Viewpoint / Postcard Angle' location! Wow!


Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!