Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Kenya 2016 - Part 2 : Safari Park Hotel Nairobi

At Jomo Kenyatta, once we got through the interminable wait for our electronic visas (seriously, all but one of the agents supposed to be handling this were calling people over for the shorter "Buy your visa now" line) and picked up our luggage,  TWGH and I were met by a local fixer who took us to meet our driver. This also took a while because of the security inspection going into the airport.

Our Chariot Awaits

The room got a bit cold at night, but the water was nice and hot, and the after-flight shower felt wonderful. 

We checked out one of the restaurants, since I hadn't been feeling well on the plane, and was now starving. The food was good, but the portions were huge.

We Agreed to Meet at the Elephant in the morning

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kenya 2016 - Part 1: Getting There

I thought I would try something a little different this time, so this is going to be a video(s) and pictures blog entry. This is a series of short clips and images outlining my journey to Nairobi.

TWGH and I at Pearson Airport

Air Canada Business Class Menu

The food was excellent, and there's nothing like a lie-flat sleep pod to make travel restful.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Kenya 2016 - Preview

We just got back and I am still going through all the photos/video, but as a preview:

  • Business class is definitely the way to go if it takes 16 hours flying time to get to your destination
  • We got upgraded to really spectacular lodgings in the middle of our trip -- thanks Odyssey Safaris!
  • We arrived late in the Great Migration, but did get to see one of the river crossings.
  • I inadvertantly got a few x-rated nature videos this time around.
  • Gnu puns abound.

Your cast for this trip are:
  • Stepmonster (your humble narratrix)
  • The World's Greatest Husband (her devoted mate)
  • Jane (Stepmonster's friend and fellow traveller)
  • Angi (Stepmonster's friend and fellow traveller)

Who we travelled with:

Odyssey Safaris -- I contacted them about a year ago with an itinerary proposal, and they arranged everything.
Swiss Air -- Flights were booked through them - actual carriers were Air Canada, Swiss Air,  and Lufthansa.
Safari Park Hotel -- Nairobi
Ashnil Hotels -- Buffalo Springs Reserve and the Maasai Mara.
Serena Hotels -- Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Sarova Hotels -- Lake Nakuru and the Maasai Mara.

And one picture to whet your appetite:

Monday, 1 August 2016

Walt Disney World 2015 - Part II

Moving from the Beach Club to the Animal Kingdom Lodge was simple. Bell services transferred my bags while I went to a park. I want to say this was my favourite part of the trip. I love AKL, and I was staying club level.

When I said I was staying club, they whisked me up to the lounge for a complimentary (okay, included) Tusker and check in. Any time you want, if the lounge is open, you can go in and ask for a lovely Tusker or delicious South African wine.

My room was, of course, Savanna view, and it was wonderful. I love the decor in AKL.

Detail of tile in the bathroom -- Gorgeous

My View

Club Level spoils you. Available breakfast, lovely hot & cold hors d'oeuvres in the evening, wine and beer... Another feature that should not go unmentioned is the liqueurs and desserts in the late evening. I'm not a huge sweet fan, but I found an Amarula and cappucino to be a wonderful way to finish a happy day.

Savanna View Giraffe

Ankole Cattle

I only did the Animal Kingdom park while staying at the AKL, and did a pool day. I especially enjoy the Kilimanjaro Safari, and looking at the animals on the Pangani trail. I am also partial to going to the petting zoo at Rafiki's Planet Watch. It turns out that goats are very fond of people with canes.

Story hour is one of the activities at AKL

Marshmallow Roasting is another

Monday, 16 November 2015

Medical Tourism

I am a Canadian, who needed an MRI. If you think our "free health care" makes that simple, you would be sadly mistaken. It takes about 4 weeks to even have an appointment booked, and that appointment is months away.

So, since I felt I needed a diagnosis *this* year, I packed up The World's Greatest Husband™ and we headed to Buffalo for a medical weekend. The Border Guard waved us through when Husband said I was getting an MRI. I guess they are used to it. It should be noted that I did need my doctor to fill out a request and send it to the company in Buffalo. But I got the appointment for when I asked for it, about a week after my phone call (I wanted that Saturday, so Husband could come with me). It was easy, and I only waited as long as was convenient for me.

We spent Friday night at the Courtyard by Marriott in Amherst. Yay points! Our stay was free, except for the cocktails we purchased to take back to our room, and, of course, the tip for the housekeeper. It was a spacious room, with nice toiletries, and a comfy couch and coffee table.

I found the indoor pool a little cold, but the whirlpool was lovely, and the ambience of the pool room was quite pleasant.

After that, it was off to Buffalo MRI, for the fastest $600CDN I have ever spent. I don't resent it, though. Having a diagnosis will be worth every penny. The tech was very pleasant, and I got my choice of music during the procedure, which was very claustrophobic and noisy.

Nice Waiting Room at Buffalo MRI

After I got my CD, we crossed back into Canada, and checked into the Radisson Fallsview. Yay points! The room was also free. They warn you that points rooms are on a low floor, with a city view. In fact, they gave me a stunning East-facing room on the 13th floor with an excellent view of the Falls. It also had the Best. Jacuzzi. Tub. Ever. The thing had to be 6 feet long, and was deep enough to properly submerge. The hotel, itself, is very nice, with all the amenities you would expect. Just one note: the whirlpool is a physical part of the pool and shares the water, the posted temperature of which is restricted to between 80 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. So, the jacuzzi makes a lot of sense.

Stunning Sunrise View from our Room

We headed home the next morning, after a walk around the town. There are so many Falls based attractions that the Falls Park has the above sign to thank you for actually seeing the Falls. We found it hilarious.

One last note: at this writing, I still haven't received the letter informing me of my appointment date in Canada. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Walt Disney World 2015 - Part I

So let's get to the good stuff! I was at Walt Disney World from the 26 Sept - 4 Oct 2015. I went solo, and found it a rewarding experience. It was nice being able to do my own thing, at my own pace, and not feel like I was slowing anyone down.

Getting There

I used Disney's Magical Express to get from Orlando Airport (MCO) to the Beach Club Resort. The lineups were long, but I think I only waited about 15 minutes before I got on the bus. And my luggage was picked up off the plane, and delivered to my room later.

Disney's Magical Express Lineup

The Bus - They showed Disney and Resort themed Programming

The Main Gate - At Last!

Beach Club Resort

This is a very nice resort, with an excellent location and pool (well, waterpark), but it's not my favourite. It seems a little, well, sterile is the word that comes to mind, and I am not sure why. One thing I do know was that my room was quite distant from the elevators. Almost as far as you could get. And there was this one very long hallway. I was quite impressed when walking along it once, a boy who could not have been more than 10 echoed my thoughts exactly: "This is like that hallway in The Shining!" It's nice when you run into kindred spirits.
My Spacious Room - with Balcony

My View 

The resort is sistered with the Yacht Club, so they share all facilities, and this may be part of the problem: the lounge and most dining options are in the Yacht Club, and after making that huge haul to the elevators, it just doesn't seem that convenient (don't judge me; I was using the cane for a lot of this trip).

First Day in Walt Disney World

Once I was settled, I thought I would head over to Epcot for some Food & Wine.  I had received my Magic Band at checkin, so I was already to go, with my park tickets, room key and fast passes all on my wrist. 

I have covered an overview of the Food & Wine Festival previously, so I will just say this: Don't go Saturday. It's ridiculously busy. It took me half an hour in line to get a beer at the Outpost. All the lineups I saw were dauntingly long. So, I bailed. Call me a coward, but the crowds were much larger than what I had been expecting. I had planned to go over to the Magic Kingdom after my Fast Passes, but since the system was new to me, I wasn't aware of how to cancel my FP's so someone else could use them. I did learn later that you could go to a kiosk and cancel or change them, or get a new one after your previous ones had been used or expired.

So, after a long digression, I jumped on the monorail, and transferred at the TTC to the Polynesian Resort. They have a new themed lounge called Trader Sam's  (after the Head Salesman on the Jungle Cruise), which I had been itching to try.

Passing the Magic Kingdom
I arrived 2 minutes after opening on Saturday, and was put on the waitlist and given a pager, so I went to the patio.

Patio at Trader Sams

Water Feature at Patio at Trader Sams

Shrunken Zombie Head 
The patio has the same menu as inside, but it doesn't have the same experience. Re: the menu, the poke was good, but I didn't care for the salmon sushi. It didn't seem fresh to me. The dumplings were good, though (I went a couple of times and needed something to absorb the cocktails).

After I had received food and libation my pager went off (about 35 minutes?), and I went inside. It is dark, or there would be pictures. I don't want to be that person who annoys everyone with her flash. It is interesting that there are rituals associated with the fancy cocktails (the server doing a zombie shuffle with the Shrunken Zombie Head, and various animatronics and special effects for other drinks, but I don't want to give it all away).  I should mention that your place on the waitlist entitles you to a seat. You may be seated with others. Your party may not be all at the same table. If you are waitlisted for 2, they will let you in when 2 seats open up, even if one is at the bar, and one is at a table occupied by 3 others. But the atmosphere is convivial, and lends itself to people being friendly.

Recommendation? A must see. After a few more drinks, I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Hours (park only open to resort guests -makes for short lineups). 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How to Walt Disney World - Part VI

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - is one of the special ticketed events that is run after hours (normally from 7pm until midnight) in the Magic Kingdom. By after hours, I do mean they shut the park down earlier than normal to accommodate party goers. Usually, possessors of these tickets are permitted entry into the Magic Kingdom at 4:00, without using a day off a regular admission ticket.

It should be noted that this is one of the few times adults are permitted to wear costumes at the Magic Kingdom.

Non-ticket holders are usual encourage to leave at park closing, and are not permitted access to rides after this, or to participate in various party activities. For example, a wristband proving ticket purchase, is required to ride the rides, or trick or treat at the Halloween party. This means that most rides have very short lines. For some inexplicable reason, Peter Pan seems to be the exception to this. Also, the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is busy as well.

The Park seems Rather Festive

In the Short Line for the Haunted Mansion

They Light up the Haunted Mansion Beautifully

The Haunted Mansion is especially wonderful during these parties, with the Cast Members in ghastly makeup, pulling out all the stops.

More Mood Lighting

It's My Favourite this Time of Year

The Castle also Gets the Treatment

Hallowishes is the fireworks display which is put on during the party. It is fun and spooky, and the Castle plays a part in the display.

The Boo to You parade is preceded by the ride of the Headless Horseman. The parade itself is more spooky fun, than spooky, and everyone seems to have a good time. The gravediggers dance is a must-see.

It poured rain off and on, when I attended, but it is made clear that this is a rain or shine event. I had a poncho, and it wasn't too bad.