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Our Newfoundland Visit – Days 3 and 4

Days 3 and 4 of our Newfoundland trip were amazing!

As luck would have it my husband’s cousin and his wife offered to spend the day taking us to the places we wanted to see.

They saved us renting a car and we got to see so many things we wouldn’t have known of otherwise!

Our first stop after leaving St. John’s was Witless Bay. We stopped at a lovely spot called the Irish Loop Coffee House. It reminded me of my grandmother so much! While we were there we met a lady who pointed out a baby beluga whale. Apparently (and you can google it for the full story) the whale strayed from it’s mother and came into the harbour a few weeks ago. It adopted a Zodiac boat as a surrogate mother. When the boat left it’s mooring the baby left, when it returned so did the baby. We watched as it rubbed itself along the boat.  The Department of Fisheries was monitoring the situation and the baby was healthy and eating. It was a bit of an emotional scene to watch.

Our next stop was Ferryland. Settled in 1621 Ferryland was established as a fishing station in the late 16th century. It is home to the 17th century Colony of Avalon. Archeological digs have been happening at the site for years and we were fortunate enough to be able to talk to a few of the student archeologists!

From there we headed to Mistaken Point. This location is home to some of the oldest fossils on earth and is the only place where you can see 565 million year old sea floors that show the diversity of life during that period. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that you could only see the site by guided tour which had already left by the time we arrived. We did get to visit the Interpretive Centre which showed a DVD and a few exhibits. There were a few casts in the Centre which were incredible. I can only imagine how amazing the actual site is.

Next up was Cape Race.  If you know anything about Titanic, you know this is where her distress signal was received and information on her sinking was passed to the world.

Our last stop for the day was to cliffs overlooking Topsail Beach for sunset. So beautiful!

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After a long day we were all pretty wiped. When they dropped us off they offered again to pick us up the next day so we could see Cape Spear and Petty Habour. Boy am I glad we said yes!

First stop on our last day was Cape Spear, the eastern most point of North America.

Our last spot for this trip was the beautiful Petty Harbour, where the 1977 movie ‘Orca’ was filmed. Here we talked to fishermen who answered all our questions and just embodied what I see as true Newfoundlanders.

After leaving Petty Harbour we stopped for a wonderful lunch at Keith’s Diner and then off to the airport to say good bye.

We had an amazing trip and crammed as much as we could into 4 days. We easily could have added another 2 days. Big thank you to our buddy Dave and my husbands cousin Roger and his wife Michelle for helping us make this trip as great as it was. I can’t wait to return!

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Till we meet again Newfoundland!

Our Newfoundland Visit – Days 1 and 2

My husband and I like to plan a few trips over the summer months. Most are day or short one night trips but we always make sure to do one big trip. This year we decided to visit St. John’s, Newfoundland – a place neither of us had been before.

We talked to lots of folks while we were planning and the Murray Premises Hotel came highly recommended. As fate would have it, I found a Groupon for the hotel that saved us quite a bit of money.  We flew Porter with carry on only, as we did last year, and again it was fine. We upgraded our seats for the trip home, totally worth it.

Murray Premises was originally built in 1846 as a collection of mercantile buildings related to the fishing industry and sits right on the waterfront. In May of 2001 it became a hotel and has grown several times since then.

Being that we arrived in St. John’s at suppertime our first stop had to be the George St area!

The next day was all about site seeing.

Whale watching with Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours.

And finally Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi.

And of course we finished the night off on George St. listening to fabulous Newfoundland entertainment!

Next up, days 3 and 4. We fit in everything we could to this trip!

My DNA Journey – The Paternal Side

Before getting too into my mother’s story, it’s only right that I talk about my father’s a bit.  It too provided some interesting discoveries and honestly some of the information I found on the internet was heartbreaking.

Growing up I always knew we were of Acadian descent. The beauty of being Acadian is that your history is so well documented. My DNA results made it easy for me to build my family tree on that side. So far I have been able to trace my roots to a direct ancestor who was born in 1570 at Pouilly-en-Auxois, Cote-d’Or, Burgandy France.

For those who may not know who the Nova Scotia Acadians were, they were French settlers primarily from Aunis, Saintonge and Poitou in France.  They first arrived in Nova Scotia around 1603, with the first permanent settlement being established in 1632. My first ancestors arrived around 1644. Two of their children were baptized at Port Royal.

Acadian

The Acadian people got along well and lived quite harmoniously with the local Mi’kmaq populations. The Acadians were skilled farmers, fishermen, and dike builders. They lived in relative peace for the times until 1755 when what has become known as the ‘Expulsion of the Acadians’ started. In a nutshell for several years, the British by any and all means possible, forcibly and inhumanely removed the Acadian people from their families, lands and homes in Nova Scotia. If you ever have the opportunity to read testimony or archive stories from this event you should. It is utterly devastating to read what these people endured and should serve to remind us that we cannot allow those sort of atrocities on our watch.

The Acadians in many cases were separated from family and ended up scattered throughout other coastal areas of the US and Canada. Some were helped by the Mi’kmaq and were able to safely hide in Nova Scotia. In 1763 the war ended and the survivors began to return, reunite with family and start life over. My people went to Cape Breton where many of them still live today.

Acadians are a very proud people and driving across the Maritimes you will see their flag and symbols proudly displayed. This is my fathers paternal history.

His maternal history turned out to be quite a surprise. His mother’s people were generally from the Sheet Harbour, NS and Murray River, PEI areas. For some reason that I don’t know they had always assumed she was solely of German descent.  She was not, her family was as much Scottish as it was German. With names like William Wallace Spears and Robert Bruce Spears in the tree it was pretty obvious her father’s family were Scottish.  They arrived in Nova Scotia in the mid to late 1700’s. Her mother’s family were German and they too settled in Sheet Harbour as well as Lunenburg in the mid-late 1700’s. When I told my aunt this, she had no idea. Like the rest of us she only ever heard details for the Acadian side of our family story.

So as it turns out my brothers and I are a whole lot more Scottish than we ever could have guessed. With my mother’s both maternal and paternal ethnicity being Scottish and my father being at least 1/4 Scottish, there is a lot to work with.  Trust me, I plan to.

As I was going through my DNA matches I was able to actually identify relatives that my mother and father have in common. Thankfully they are several generations removed but none the less it is interesting and something I plan to look into more.

I read somewhere that if you go back six generations we will all find that we have a relative in common somewhere, so far that has been true. In a small province like Nova Scotia where immigration was so heavily encouraged by the powers that be of that time period I don’t think it would be much of a surprise to find that many of us have relatives in common. For those families, like mine, who have been here for hundreds of years it is not uncommon to also find Mi’kmaq ancestors. We are all connected in some way.

Nova Scotia is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures and I hope we continue to be for years and years to come.

Next up, I delve into the journey that is DNA testing and adoption.

 

 

Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort

We first discovered Akumal Bay in 2010. We had hired a driver to take a group of us there but it was a windy day and we ended up at Yal Ku Lagoon instead.  Really wanting to see it my husband and I returned on our own another day.  It was so worth it, but who knew that it would lead us to where we are today.

The Akumal Beach Resort, as it was known at that time, has always had a very loyal following.  It was a three star beach resort that was ridiculously expensive, for what it was, and almost impossible to book.  Very few suppliers even sold it in Canada.  But where we had heard about it from so many people we had to see it for ourselves.  So we visited the town and then, after fulfilling his dream of snorkeling with the turtles of Akumal Bay, we headed off to walk the beach.

The beach itself was beautiful.  Not riddled with resorts, very natural feeling.

Akumal Beach Resort was pretty much as we expected. Nice place with fantastic beach but way over priced.

In 2012 the resort began a major renovation and we started to watch it closely.  After a few years it really seemed like it had come into it’s own and we started looking for packages.  But low and behold, this resort is not for the last minute booker – which we used to be.  It sells out for the period we travel every year. In 2016 I was determined and I watched closely for something within our price range and finally got it for 2017.  That first trip was amazing.  You read reviews and wonder how much of what they say is true but with this place 95% of what we read was bang on.  When we went in 2018 we were astounded that it was better than the 2017 trip and again this year we were overwhelmed with how they continue to maintain such a high standard of customer service.  In my opinion it is the number one thing this place has over any other place we have been.  The Majestic Colonial in Punta Cana and the Decameron Club Caribbean in Jamaica are the only other places we have been to in all our travels that even come close to the same level of customer service as Akumal Bay.

Now this resort is most definitely not for everyone.  There is no glitz no glam no marble statues or towering fountains, it is pure simple elegance with a strong focus on wellness and being environmentally conscious.  There aren’t 2000 rooms spread out over a vast area, there are 310 ocean view rooms spread out over four beachfront buildings.  There no cheesy nightly shows, it’s a live band and dancing every night.  There’s a disco, but we’ve never managed to find time to get there.  There’s no swim up bar, thus the pool is very clean – honestly who is there for the pool anyway.  There are several pool/beach bars and pool/beach service so your never without a beverage.

Guests are generally happy and very friendly.  You see the same faces over and over so you feel like you know each other and you can easily make all the friends (or none) that you want.  We found this with other small-medium resorts we’ve been too as well.  It’s a very ‘homey’ feeling.  It feels good.

From the moment you arrive

and see your room (pictures are of regular junior suite, penthouse junior suite and corner junior suite)

You know you’re in for a treat.

From the drinks

To the food

To the buffet

and many other spots around the resort

There really is something for everyone.  And while for my husband it’s the snorkeling

For me it’s the views.  From sunrise to sunset they don’t disappoint.

Whether it is sipping on a coffee watching the sunrise or filling the tub and watching the stars with a glass of wine, it just feels so peaceful.  For a little while all the stresses of the world are gone.

The only bad thing I can say is that we are now very spoiled.  We measure all resorts based on the standard Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort has set.  And let me tell you that has proven to be a real challenge when it comes to short listing places for our annual southern escape.

I think there is a fit for everyone when it comes to traveling.  A place that fits you as well as you fit it.  I truly believe when you find it you know.

We will try other places again, the world is too big not too, we just need to find something that will make us as happy as we are at Akumal Bay.  Until then, I guess we’ve found our home away from home.

Akumal – Till We Meet Again

Way before we started staying at the Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort we would visit Akumal.  We discovered it on our second trip to the Riviera Maya and truly fell in love with it.  Aside from the fantastic snorkelling, the town is a great spot to spend an afternoon, eat, drink, shop and just explore.

Just up the beach from Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort and Secrets Akumal there is a restaurant/bar called Lol Ha. If you google it, there is a web cam that overlooks the bay on the top corner of the restaurant.  The service there is great and the view is amazing.  We ate at the Lol Ha last year, it was so good.

Walking past here will get you to the path that takes you towards town where you can see the much talked about Akumal Arch.

Past the Arch is shopping, food and pretty much everything you need for a day or week long stay at the beach.

I can’t imagine a trip where we don’t visit Akumal, even if just eat at the local places. I highly recommend a visit.  I would like to think that someday we could rent one of the many condo’s nearby and see how that feels.

Next up – Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort

Akumal – New Friends, Great Memories

Over the many years we’ve been together my husband and I have done a lot of different types of trips and along the way we’ve learned a lot about ourselves as travellers.  We’ve done family, friends, couple, group and just us trips. While they are all wonderful experiences, each offering their own pro’s and con’s, for me none is as good as the just us trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change anything about any of the trips we’ve done or experiences we’ve had as they’re all part of discovering who you are as a traveller, but the just us trip is uniquely special.  When you’re not accountable to anyone else you can experience the adventure on your own terms.  There is so much more freedom to explore, experience new things, and meet new people.

The people we have met over the years, no matter how we travel, have come from everywhere – home here in Nova Scotia, all over the rest of Canada, the US, the UK and Germany etc.  I wouldn’t trade the experience of meeting all these wonderful people for anything.  They have all enriched our lives, given us great stories to tell and we continue to stay in touch with many of them to this day.  Below are just a few of the folks we have met or travelled with over the years during our southern vacations.

 

This year we met some pretty fantastic people and while I regretfully don’t have pictures of everyone, we do have so many great memories and stories.  As it turned out, several of the people we ran into had been there at the same time as for us the last two years.  We actually did meet a few of them last year, realizing it in one of those true déjà vu moments on day one this year!  Only one person from the group of us that met last year missed this trip. Considering our timing was different and none of us had talked to each other since last year, it’s pretty amazing that we all were there together again this year.

Drinks, listening to the nightly band, chatting, sharing experiences, pictures and everything else with these folks made this year so much fun! Our last night together I tried to get everyone together for drinks and well, we ended up shutting the place down! It was awesome, such a great ending to a fabulous vacation.

 

We were missing our new friends from the UK, Natalie, Steve and the amazing Ethan, when we did the group shots. They were fantastic folks and I regret not getting any pictures.  Ethan has one of those personalities that just shines, especially with a few tequila in him :). He is truly a fine young man who makes me smile. He knows how to vacation! Guess we all just have to go back and do it again!  It’s funny, everyone was asking everyone else  ‘Are you coming back?’ and the general answer was ‘I don’t know, we like to try new things.’ but then as everyone was leaving it was with a ‘See you next year!’ So who knows. With Nikki and Sophie already booked to return, we shall have to wait and see what next year will bring.  In the digital world we are lucky in that we can stay in touch and remain part of each others life even though we are many kilometres or an ocean apart. Maybe, just maybe, we will see each other again.

I believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason, be it a short time or a long time they are meant to be there.  There is a purpose.  It’s not about how much time you spend with someone, it’s the impact they have on you however big or small that may be.

When we first started going to Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort three years ago we knew it had a very loyal following.  It turned out to be the single most welcoming resort we’ve have stayed at hands down. The staff is just incredible. These are just a few of the staff who really become part of your vacation.

 

 

So, in closing – I say go out, put yourself out there and meet new people as you travel this great world. We all have something to offer each other.

Next up – Till we meet again Akumal!

 

Akumal – Off Resort Adventure to Bacalar

As I mentioned in my last post, Bacalar was our big off resort trip this year. I still can’t believe how amazing it was!

The van picked us up around 8:00am (about a half hour late due to traffic). We then picked up another couple in Tulum – which I might add was the first time we had been there unrelated to a ruins visit. We were truly surprised by how much there was around and how big it is. First stop after that was Muyil. I knew these ruins existed but I knew little about them and after a short visit here we decided we will have to go back. We really didn’t have enough time to fully appreciate the site.  The architecture here is similar to what you find at Tikal in Guatemala. They only began restoration of the site in 1998 so it is still fairly new.

A good half day trip would be grab a cab to Muyil and then spend a few hours shopping, eating and exploring Tulum. On the agenda for a future trip!

From there we went on the long drive to Bacalar. So many cool sites along the way. We stopped for ‘organic’ fruit and fruit juice snacks, which was really just a stand on the side of the road.

Bacalar is home to the Lagoon of Seven Colours and there truly are seven. It’s also home to sulfur mud which is used to exfoliate the skin. That was so much fun! All of the sun burns disappeared after playing in the mud.

We also stopped for lunch at what my husband called a ‘Harry Potter’ restaurant. From the outside it looked small and you really wouldn’t have noticed it, but you walk in and it grows as you walk from room to room until you finally arrive at an outdoor restaurant in the back. Just like the tents in the Harry Potter movies. Pretty neat!

We investigated the town a bit and were lucky enough to have the group guide take us on a personal tour of San Joaquin Church. The church was the site of a brutal massacre during the Caste War. It was very eerie but peaceful in there.

Being Canadian we watch a lot of sports, so we are used to the group gatherings where everyone cheers for their favourite team. The bars in Bacalar all have outdoor patios and there were loads of people so we ventured over to see what was going on. Everyone was watching soccer and cheering away. It was pretty neat, just like at home when Team Canada plays.

Bacalar was one of those experiences where you know you have to return. Honestly, you need to do a overnight trip here to have time to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.

We returned to the resort around 8:30 that night so it was a very long day, but absolutely worth it. I would return in a heart beat.

Next up – new friends, great memories and til’ we meet again!