Flash Break in Toronto

Toronto, Canada, Travel

Landing in Toronto

This was my first time in Canada and it was great!. I did a last minute booking and I travelled with only carry on luggage to make the trip easier. There was a very important family celebration with my niece getting married in Toronto, and that was the main reason for me travelling. I couldn’t stay very long in Toronto because of work reasons and I only had a four day short break.

Toronto, CN Tower, Canada, Travel

On the way to Toronto City Center

Toronto is a big and multicultural city, it is safe, clean and people are friendly. I was staying with family so it was easy for me to get around thanks to them. The weather in Canada is similar to the English weather so it is always good to have an umbrella handy.

One of the many places you can eat sushi.

I was very curious about Chinatown as my niece said I would love it and she was right. It was exciting to go for a walk to Chinatown and I felt like being in China. I was surprised by the many shops, restaurants, markets and spas, all with signs written in Chinese and English, but mainly Chinese. I was told there are eight Chinatowns in Toronto itself, so there are many Chinatowns to explore and there is also a Koreatown. I am a food lover, especially when it is about Asian food, and it is fascinating to see so many varieties of restaurants in Toronto Chinatown. We were walking along a road with signs for Korean food, all you can eat Sushi, Vietnamese Restaurants, and many more.

Toronto University

We also went for a walk to the grounds of Toronto University, located in Queens Park. The University buildings are lovely with a Gothic style, it is just beautiful and looks like a small Hogwarts. There are black squirrels running everywhere and they seem to be friendly, maybe they expect you have nuts for them!. It is nice and peaceful to walk in Toronto and, after a long walk we stopped to have something to eat. We went to Kenzo a ramen restaurant where I had the best ramen ever! Also we went to Tsujiri, famous for their matcha icecream. Not far from there is Uncle Tetsu’s shop, an Asian franchise with the best Japanese Cheesecake. The cheesecakes are fresh and you can actually see how they make them.

ramen, Japanese, Toronto, food

At Kenzo, a place with a very good ramen.

On another day we went to the Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese mall in North America and it is located in Markham. It is a place where you can get many products at a good price, like Korean beauty products, Japanese and Chinese candy, Anime toys, clothes and gifts. My nephew and niece invited me to have lunch and I had a lovely Chicken Katsu meal, with rice and vegetables, it wasn’t very spicy and I really enjoyed it. After that we went to Happy Lemon where they have drinks you never imagined existed! like Salted Tea Cheese and a variety of lemon tea drinks. I tried the Mango Green tea and I loved it!

Cats, Neko, Japanese, Toronto, Charm

A shop that sells only Maneki-Nekos! or lucky charm cats.

Something I discovered is that people in Canada aren’t interested in Starbucks, and this is because they are all in love with Tim Hortons, a coffee franchise that not only sells amazing coffee but have their own delicious donuts. It didn’t surprise me to see Starbucks practically empty when Tim Hortons is next to them with a lot of happy clients. Well, I brought to England packs of Tim Horntons coffee, Japanese candy and Canadian Maple tea boxes, tasty souvenirs.

Toronto, Holiday, Travel

A day exploring Toronto Downtown

I would like to say thanks to Antonella and Dan who were fantastic tour guides and I enjoyed their company very much. I haven’t finished exploring Toronto, so I will be back and next time will be a proper long holiday.

A Winter Short Break in Tuscany – Day Three in Lucca

Lucca, Italy,  Cathedral,

Lucca Cathedral

It is our last day in Pisa and we decided to visit the walled city of Lucca. The city is about 20 minutes by train from Pisa, so it is easy to get there. Lucca has beautiful churches, and it is the place where composers Boccherini and Puccini were born.

The walled city is a perfect place for a long walk or a bicycle ride. My family and I love walking so I studied the city map and did our own walking plan. We started by visiting the Duomo at the Lucca Cathedral, also called Saint Martin. Inside we saw sculptures and the walls had many beautiful paintings. we follow the road ahead to a small Piazza where we there was an ice skating ring, it has been a long time since the last time I went ice skating and my son wanted to give it try. There were many families with children ice skating and having a great time.

Vespa, Cat, Italy, scooter, Lucca

An Italian cat sunbathing in a Vespa

The streets in Lucca are quiet, clean and there are many gift and ceramic shops, churches, buildings with balconies ( Rome and Juliet style ones), and there are many trattorias. It was lunch time and we were looking for a place to eat when we found this lovely trattoria called L’Oste di Lucca. The trattoria has walls with stones and bricks from years ago which makes the place very special, it is beautifully decorated. We had the biggest pizzas to share, one with Italian sausages and onions and another with prosciutto. This popular trattoria and offers home made pasta and many Tuscan dishes.

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After lunch we went to see the Roman Amphitheatre, well it was a proper Amphitheatre long time ago and now houses have been built on site. The old arches are still kept in place with a nice piazza or square. We realized it was siesta time in Lucca as many shops were closed when we were on our way to the Torre Guinigi, a 14th century tower. I have seen pictures of Torre Guinigi before and I have been curious about the trees showing on the top of the Tower. It is a very old tower and my husband and son were not very happy about going up, this is because to be honest the stairs look so fragile it was like they could break anytime. Once we arrived to the top we knew it was worth it as the tower has an incredible view of Lucca and the mountains near by. There is a small garden on top of the tower with Holm Oak trees, people say they symbolise ‘a new beginning’.

Lucca, Italy, Trees, Guinigi

Torre Guinigi

It was time to go back to Pisa so we took the train feeling a bit sad as we wanted to stay for a few more days. Tuscany has much more places to visit like, Siena, Chianti, San Gimignano, Cortona, and the list of towns is big. I miss Italy, the beauty of the towns, the delicious food and the kind friendly people.

See you soon again Tuscany!.

A Winter Break in Tuscany – Day Two in Florence

Florence, Cathedral, Italy

Florence Cathedral

Some people prefer renting a car during holidays and some would use public transport, just like me. I enjoy walking, and I think renting a bicycle and travelling by train is fun. I have been witness in how difficult is to park in Italy because of tourists parking somewhere they shouldn’t. The Pisa Centrale Train Station was about twenty minutes walk from our hotel in Pisa and we decided to get train tickets to visit Florence.

Italy has a good network of trains and they are very punctual. It takes about 40 minutes to get from Pisa to Florence by train and the journey offers lovely views of the Italian landscape, the green fields, rivers, and farms. Florence is a charming big city, and I knew it would be impossible to visit the entire city and all attractions in just one day, so that meant we had to be careful regarding the time would spend there . Florence is a city where museums and galleries are everywhere and at a short distance so it is easy to walk from one place to another. First we visited the Duomo and Cathedral, and we were very impressed in how big the Cathedral is, and after making a long queue we got inside to see the beautiful paintings and frescoes. After that we went to look for a place to have lunch, and not far from the Duomo we found a restaurant called ‘Tavernetta del Battistero’ in Via dei Servi. My husband and I ordered sea food spaghetti and our son ordered a giant calzone filled with meat and sausages. We loved the food, the service was excellent and I found myself speaking in Italian with our waiter who was very kind.

Food, Italy, Florence, Sea Food

Sea Food Spaguetti

After lunch we visited the Leonardo da Vinci museum which is a small museum but it is perfect for children as they can actually interact and play with the machine displays.

There are massive museums and galleries in Florence and in order to visit all of them you would have to spend maybe between three or five days in the city. You could try to get the tickets for the museums near The Duomo but there are very long queues and the numbers of tickets are limited so they sold out quick. We were told it is far better to pre-book the tickets in advance online, like two or three months before our next holiday in Florence.

Florence, Italy, Ponte Vecchio, Holidays

 Ponte Vecchio

It was middle afternoon and we went for a walk to Piazza della Reppublica which is a very colourful and busy square. We walked along a street with many high street shops like Versace and Gucci, and shortly arrived near the Arno river. There is this special place in Florence where couples in love get engaged, and it is a bridge called Ponte Vecchio. The bridge has many tiny antique shops, and it has a sort of magical feeling, it is like the bridge is enchanted.

Florence, Love, Ponte Vecchio, Italy

Locked in Love

We were short of time and we had to make our way to the train station but before that I wanted to stop in a coffee shop, so that’s how I found the little Caffe Corsini. I couldn’t leave Florence without having a nice cup of coffee. We would love go back to Florence and next time stay for maybe a week to keep exploring and visit the other side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Italy, Coffee, Florence, Holidays

Coffee Time

After visiting Florence we went back to our hotel in Pisa, we were knackered but happy! And it was time to rest as we would visit Lucca the next day. So my next post will be about the city of Lucca.

A Winter Short Break in Tuscany, Day One in Pisa

The view from our bedroom balcony.

The view from our bedroom, best view ever!.

Every time I visit beautiful Italy is like having a perfect holiday. The north of Italy has been in my list of places to visit, so I thought it would be special to go there during the Christmas season, and I did a booking for a 3 day short break in Tuscany for my family.

Many may ask, what can you do in three days when Tuscany is so big?. Well, you can actually do a lot, and that involves walking, so you don’t have to worry or feel guilty about eating pizzas or calzones because you will be doing a lot of walking and burning calories. There are many places to visit in Tuscany so we decided to go to Pisa, Florence and Lucca.

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Oh it is so heavy! : )

We arrived to Pisa early morning which gave us plenty of time to check in at our hotel and explore Pisa the first day. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Duomo which is well located near the attractions in Pisa. The hotel is very old but charming and it gave me a feeling of staying in a mansion because of the wooden walls, paintings, leather sofas, and chandeliers, I just loved it. Something very special about the hotel is the bar they have in the top terrace, there you will fall in love with the view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, especially at night it is absolutely beautiful.

Of course Pisa major attraction is the famous Pisa Tower, and it is located in what its called ‘The Field of Miracles’ or Campo Dei Miracoli and there you will find other places of interest like Pisa’s Cathedral and The Duomo, the museum and Baptistry and Camposanto. You will need to purchase a ticket to access the attractions from the Tourist Office near The Duomo.

Our favourite place to eat in Pisa is called Ristoro Pizzeria Da Antonio, in Via Santa Maria in front of the Gran Hotel Duomo. They have lovely pizzas, many popular pasta dishes at a good price and it is child friendly. We loved it so much that it became our favourite place to have dinner every night.

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Tiramisu, you are so yummi!!

I think Pisa is a good start point if you plan to travel around Tuscany by train. It is about twenty minutes walk from Pisa to the Train Station, and from there we purchased our train tickets to Florence and Lucca. Pisa is a quiet charming little city and at night it was nice to walk between the Pisa Train Station and our hotel. During Christmas the streets are lovely decorated, people are doing shopping, or walking their dogs or having ice cream (yes it was freezing cold but it doesn’t matter, ), and my son didn’t hesitate to try an Oreo flavoured gelato. Well and of course it is a must to stop in one of the many coffee shops, because cappuccino and cake are extra special in Italy.

My next blog will be about Florence, so I am looking forward to share it with you.

How Learning English changed my Life.

I was starting my first year of high school when my mum told me it was time to learn English. At that time I was living in Peru, a Spanish speaking country where schools teach English but lets say it is more like a basic language holiday lesson. My mum said that learning English would be very important for my future, so I started having intensive English lessons in a British Institute outside high school.

My English lessons were always very early morning and I would practically run to catch the bus to make it in time from the institute to the high school. I had a special authorization from the school head teacher to arrive a bit late. It didn’t took very long for my classmates to realize that I was good at English and they would ask me for help when doing homework or when having a test.

In the 80’s we didn’t have Internet so I had penpals in order to practice English writing. My first penpal was a girl from Kent, England. We used to exchange postcards, stamps and posters of music idols. She would be the one who sent me a magazine page with the picture of Rick Astley and he would become my idol, I learnt the lyrics of all his songs and still now I am a big fan. In Peru I didn’t listen to radio stations in Spanish and instead I preferred to listen to radio stations that played songs in English, that actually helped me a lot into understanding the language. On Saturday afternoons I used to spend time at the British Institute library where I was fascinated with the books in architecture and history.

Years later I traveled for the first time to the United States where I struggled a bit because I was speaking ‘British’ and at times people would tell me I was saying things wrong (when I wasn’t) and it didn’t bothered me. American and British English have different vocabulary and also sometimes grammar could be different. For example: A ‘butty’ in British is a sandwich, the ‘petrol station’ in America is the gas station, and British go to the ‘toilet’ not to the bathroom. A very useful book about how to speak British is called ‘The very Best Of British’ by Mike Etherington, this book is a must read if you come to visit England.

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Definitely speaking another language helped me with job opportunities. At a very young age I worked for important companies speaking English and Spanish, met new people who became great friends, and suddenly I found myself travelling to many places for work and pleasure. My love life was not good and it wasn’t going anywhere, so I forgot about ‘normal’ dating and decided to look for love in a very different way. It was time to find Mr Right so one day I subscribed to an Online Dating site. I was very serious about it despite one or two people who thought I was doing something really crazy. There was something special and sexy about flirting in another language, the long distance issue was not important and that is how I met my husband.

I think it is never too late to learn a language, actually I learnt Italian a few years ago and I have been thinking for a while about starting Japanese lessons. Learning languages open doors leading to opportunities in life and I truly believe it can even change people destiny.

A Short Break in Stratford Upon Avon and Coventry

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The autumn season has arrived in England and this time seems to be colder than usual. Anyway the weather is never a problem when it comes to go out for a nice walk, specially in the autumn season I enjoy to see colorful trees everywhere, to me its like a gift from nature. In England we don’t have a proper summer season and that is why many people spends summer abroad. Most of clothes in my wardrobe are summer clothes and I only use them when I am away on holiday, this is sad I know. Soon it will be winter and the only thing I like about it is that if it snows then we can play snowball fight with my family.

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The best place to welcome the arrival of autumn is the countryside so we went to Shakespeare County for a short break. Stratford Upon Avon is one of my favourite places in England and with many things to do. We went for a walk along the River Avon where we saw swans, ducks and many canal boats along the river. Not far from the Avon Boating Center it is The Butterfly Farm a very special place where once inside it’s like being in the forest with many butterflies flying around. It is the UK’s largest tropical Butterfly Farm and also they have an area in the farm called ‘Mini Beasts’ with displays of live spiders, scorpions, an ant farm ( it made us feel itchy when we saw it), and there were many insects from places around the world.

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My son is into cars at the moment so we decided to also visit the Coventry Transport Museum. I was very impressed of such a big collection of bicycles, motorbikes, and cars. My favourite brand in cars is called Mini, but instead of the modern Mini I prefer the classic Mini like the one in the Italian Job 1969 movie. There was also a collection of Jaguars, very luxurious cars, and I loved the detail in the old models with a small silver Jaguar jumping at the front but the modern models don’t have it anymore due to safety reasons.

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Before coming back home we decided to have lunch in a place called Wightwick Manor and Garden. It is a property of the National Trust of England with a lovely Victorian house to visit and many beautiful gardens to explore. The trees are losing all their leaves now and my son didn’t hesitate to jump on a big pile of yellow leaves. The house has a small restaurant (tea room) where they offer home made meals, hot drinks and cakes. We had a fantastic time enjoying nature, it was very relaxing to just be away for a couple of days and we are already thinking in our next short break.

The Chichen Itza Experience

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The Riviera Maya has everything you need for a perfect holiday, with beautiful beaches, nature, water sports, adventure and a lot of history. Since I was a child I have a big interest in archaeology and ancient cultures and there was something I had in mind for a long time was to visit Chichen Itza.

Our hotel had its own Tour Desk and we did the booking with them. They offered different options regarding tours to Chichen Itza and you can choose one depending on your budget. Some tours may include breakfast, buffet lunch, visiting the city of Valladolid, or visiting a Cenote. Before going on the tour make sure to bring insect repellent, sun block (the highest factor you can get!), sunglasses, and comfortable shoes. If you booked the tour including a visit to the Cenote you will need a swimsuit and towel. The tour to Chichen Itza takes all day, it’s about two hours journey from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza and before getting there the tour bus stops in a Handicraft Market where you will find souvenirs and you can get snacks too. My husband almost had a heat stroke because he wasn’t drinking enough water, so I advice you to drink plenty of water at all times. The weather in the Riviera Maya is extremely hot, or I should say it is wild!.

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During our bus journey the tour guide tour giving interesting facts about the Mayan culture. The Mayan language is still spoken in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Something curious about the language is that some words are similar to Chinese in pronunciation and reflects the Mayans being distant relatives of the Chinese! It seems to be that the Mayas built their buildings without using the wheel and no metal cutting tools have been found, which is still a bit of a mystery. Itza was the name given to the ancient warriors from the Yucatan peninsula but Itz-a means ‘water wizard’, and Chi-Chen means ‘mouth of the well’. So if we try to translate Chichen Itza into English, then it would be something like ‘Mouth of the Well of the Warriors’.

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On arrival to Chichen Itza we were very excited and ready to explore. And there it was in front of me ‘El Castillo’ a pyramid dedicated to the god Kukulcan. El Castillo is proof that the Mayans were architects, experts in maths and astronomy. It is incredible how the pyramid was built to perfection by the Mayans. People also call it the Kukulcan Pyramid, because of the Mayans serpent god.

Each side of the Pyramid has 91 steps which together with the step on the top give a total of 365 steps and that is the number of days in a year. Perfection!. Many cultures built pyramids on top of another and this is also the case for El Castillo. The Mexican government did further studies and excavations and they found another pyramid or temple buried inside El Castillo. Yucatan peninsula is famous for their sink-holes or cenotes, some could be small and some could be big. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and there are two of them at Chichen Itza. In 2015 archaeologists found a Cenote inside El Castillo pyramid and with this discovery was clear that Cenotes had a deep religious meaning for the Mayans. On the Equionix (on march 20st and September 21), if you watch El Castillo it looks like a snake descends the pyramid when the sunlight hits it and appears to go down to the serpents head that is carved at the bottom of the Pyramid. This represents the god Kukulcan with the start and finish of the agricultural season. It is very cleverly achieved by the shadows cast onto the pyramid on those specific dates and is one more illustration of the Mayans architectural and astronomical skills. Around the Kukulcan pyramid you will find many other buildings such as the Warrior Temple, The Observatory, the Venus Platform, The Ballcourt and The Temple of the Jaguar.

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After the tour we went to a Mexican restaurant to have a delicious buffet lunch and also the tour included a visit to the Cenote Ik Kil near the city of Valladolid. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and its believed that getting inside one purifies the body and spirit. We didn’t get inside the Cenote as it was crowded with people diving and swimming. Anyway it was a nice place to have a good rest and enjoy ice creams.

I felt more energized and full of joy after visiting Chichen Itza. The Riviera Maya is a place where adults discover having an ‘Indiana Jones spirit’ and children have fun learning about history. Thank you Chichen Itza for this wonderful experience.

My Riviera Maya Summer Holiday

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I recently came back from the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico, a place that means a lot to me and my family. It was in Cancun where I officially met my husband after our Online Dating romance, and to us its our ‘love nest’ away from home.

We have stayed in the hotel zone area in Cancun in the past but this time we decided to stay somewhere a bit further away. I heard of Playa del Carmen, a small town located about 40 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. We did some research in Trip Advisor looking for a nice family resort to stay at and we found The Royal Haciendas which is suitable for families with children. Cancun Airport has too many shuttle or taxi transfers on the Arrivals area and they will offer you their services but don’t listen to them (even if they insist too much) if you already paid your airport/hotel transport online and follow the instructions of the company you booked with.

Our transfer to the hotel didn’t take too long and we had a very nice chatty driver who was telling us how Cancun has grown economically in the last ten years thanks to the continuing growth in tourism. In 2005 Hurricane Wilma practically destroyed Cancun, but the city, hotels and resorts were rebuilt in short time.

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The first couple of days we decided to just relax and enjoy the beach. In the morning I loved doing Zumba lessons while my husband and son were having fun in the swimming pool. In the afternoons we would be in the beach making sand castles and having walks along the lovely beach. My son enjoyed snorkeling and would spend hours looking for fish. One day while playing in the sea we saw something moving inside the water, not sure about what it was and my son suddenly shouts: ‘Turtle mummy!, its a turtle!’. And he was right, it was a baby turtle swimming near the sea bed and as the tide came in it was covered by sand and we lost sight of it. One of the best places to spot sea turtles is the Riviera Maya and The Royal Haciendas as part of the Royal Resorts takes part in the sea turtle conservation campaign.

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Playa del Carmen town was almost next door and we went for a walk along Quinta Avenida, an avenue with lots of craft shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Xcaret is an echo-archeological park located close to Playa del Carmen. It is a very popular tourist location and one of its many attractions is to swim in the underground river. It is a unique experience!. It is easy to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Island, the ferrys depart every hour and if you wish you could spend all day in the island which is great for snorkeling and diving. Also near Playa del Carmen you will find attractions like Xel-ha, the dolphins paradise, the archaeological city of Tulum which is well preserved and the Coba pyramids.

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Make sure you carry a bottle of water at all times with you because of the extreme heat. We traveled in August and the highest temperature was 35 Celsius which means bring a lot of sun block with you, mosquito repellent and hats to protect yourself from the sun.

I remember the first time we came to Riviera Maya we visited almost all the attractions but because we ran out of money we couldn’t visit Chichen Itza. So that was something pending to do, and it was like a sort of mission to go there on our second trip. We booked our tour to Chichen Itza in advance and it was a memorable experience, especially for our son who loves exploring and enjoys filming.

On our last day we took a taxi to Cancun, and again we had a very chatty taxi driver. His name was Orlando and for a reasonable fare he dropped us in Cancun and waited for us while we visited the Aquarium. The Cancun Aquarium is small but children enjoy it as they can pet starfish, stingrays and you can swim with dolphins which is optional with a fee. On the way back to the hotel Orlando said life in Cancun is good and there are always jobs available. The city is non stop growing, and there is even a new town resort being built called Puerto Morelos which is between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Taxis are safe as long as you take them from your hotel lobby or with the bell boy. I was more than happy to tip all the taxi drivers, they all were friendly, helpful, they drive safely and they are experts in Mayan history.

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Our last day of holiday was sort of sad. My son said this was the best holiday ever and that he loved Cancun so much that he would love to live there. When our plane took off from Cancun it was not a good bye but more like a ‘see you soon’ with the wish of going back to Riviera Maya again next summer.

The Royal Haciendas, a lovely resort in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

 

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I would like to share our ‘Royal Haciendas’ experience as it was great staying in the resort. This review has been also posted with Trip Advisor.

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The Royal Haciendas is a family and child friendly resort located in Playa del Carmen, in the Mexican Riviera Maya. It is near many tourist attractions and about 40 minutes away from Cancun Airport.

The resort is massive and divided in two areas. Each area has swimming pools for adults and children and two restaurants called the Sol Grill and Luna Grill. These restaurants offer lovely nachos, wraps and burgers. Our reservation was all inclusive in a Deluxe Junior Suite. The suite was big, it was more like a ‘mini flat’, with microwave, minifridge, coffee maker and we had a terrace with a nice garden view. All the hotel has free high speed wifi too.

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Our fruit basket and red wine

 On our first day the resort gave a us a basket of fresh fruit and a bottle of red wine which was very kind of them. We enjoyed a variety of meals at La Palapa del Sol restaurant. Every night there is a themed buffet with Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Italian, Oriental and BBQ food. There is also a snack/sushi bar called La Rotonda and an elegant restaurant called Los Murales. At Los Murales we ordered for starters the avocado filled with sea food and as a main dish the salmon with asparagus. We absolutely loved it as well as the Ferrero dessert.

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Sea Food at Los Murales Restaurant in the Royal Haciendas, delicious!.

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Ferrero dessert, beautifully made. At Los Murales, Royal Haciendas Resort

The resort has a beautiful beach, it is well maintained and its cleaned in the mornings. If you decide to stay on the beach you will find blue flags that you can use to order food and drinks, we found this great.

Me and the beach, enjoying the Riviera Maya.

You will find hammocks near the gardens, they are perfect for an afternoon siesta, check your Facebook or just relax. There is a Sports desk and Activity Room with many things to do for adults and children. You can book the tennis court, play golf, do snorkelling or do kayaking. They count with an activity timetable for adults and children. You may try doing zumba, pilates, aquaerobics, beach volleyball, latin dance lessons and many more. I would like to thank the zumba instructor for such an enjoyable lesson. I just loved it!.

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Aquaerobics time.

 

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Kayaking in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya.

The resort has a mini market, so don’t worry if you forgot your suntan lotion or any basics. There is a doctor on site, a Spa and a small travel agency that helped us with our trip to Chichen Itza and transfers to the airport.

The resort is near the Playa del Carmen town where you can do shopping or just go for a walk. The resort offers a shuttle and there are also taxis available near the front door, you have just to speak to one of the bell boys. The resort is very safe in terms of checking at all times who gets into the resort.

We booked the resort directly via their web site and we received a discount coupon to spend at the resort but we spoke to different members of staff and it was never clear about how to use the discount. At the end we didn’t use it but a member of reception took note of our case and said they will get in touch with us. Anyway we booked for nine days and decided to extend our stay for two more days because we simply loved the place.

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All inclusive means all the Piña Coladas you want and all the desserts you want. Yummi!!

The staff in general was friendly and polite, the rooms are spotless clean and there is always someone in charge to refill your fridge with drinks. Also, there is someone always late afternoon checking if you need any additional toiletries or towels, which was very nice and shows they look after you. It was nice for them to leave a lolly pop next to your bed every day after cleaning the room. Las Haciendas has everything you need and is perfect for families with small children. My 8 year old son always talks about how beautiful was our holiday, definitely we are considering going back in the future.

The Jedi Training Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando

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My family and I are big fans of the Star Wars saga and we had an incredible time when we recently visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and our son took part in the Jedi Training Academy show. I had planned it for months, spent time reading many web sites, specially the web site of the Disney Forum which helped me a lot regarding the park and event information, so once we arrived to Orlando we knew exactly what to do. I have done a priority list for the ones planning on doing the same for their children:

  • Get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Orlando as early as possible. If you have a park leaflet check on the opening times, for example if the park opens at 8am I would suggest you to be there one hour before. It happens that sometimes the parks open earlier than normal (and they don’t mention this in the leaflets). So if you arrive early you could be one of the first visitors inside the park and avoid long queues.
  • Once inside the park you will have to make a reservation for the Jedi Training at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost located near the Indiana Jones Epic stunt.
  • You will get a special ticket for the Jedi Training Trials of the Temple with your chosen time for the show. Shows are daily between 9:40am and 9:10pm. Once you have your ticket keep it safe like gold!, and don’t be late for your training.
  • The experience is only for children between 4 and 12 years old and the spaces are limited. It is a 25 minutes show next to the Star Tours 3D ride.
  • Parents will be with their children until show time, the little ones will be given a brown Jedi costume and lightsaber which is really cool as they will look like real Jedis!. You can take as many pictures or videos as you want during the show.
  • It is exciting for the children to wait and see who they will fight with, is it with Vader or is it with the Seventh Sister?. At the beginning there will be two lines of children, smaller children go at the front, the older ones in the back, later on they break the lines to do a training circle in the main stage and after that the children are taken to the upper stage and lower stage in a random way. My son was able to fight with the Seventh Sister and he was so happy, he said it was the best experience ever.
  • At the end the children get a certificate saying they have passed the Jedi Training and with this you will hear them talking about the experience for a long long time. If you have a Disney Photopass you will find all the pictures (taken by Disney’s professional photographers) of this event loaded in the card.

 

 

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Is your child shy or maybe having double thoughts about taking part in the training ?. I can tell you, my son is a big Star Wars fan but for some reason he was a bit shy and not sure about taking part on the training just one day before the event. But, once he had the reservation ticket in his hands and saw himself together with other children then I could guess he was very excited because he had a huge smile on his face.

May the force be with you, always!.

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