Archive for the ‘Parts Unknown’ Category

We had originally intended to take the kids to two theme parks while we were in Florida. We knew universal studios was a definite – Harry Potter world was too good to pass up. We had thought we would attempt Disney World but it turns out you need to decide that way more than a few days in advance – it’s sold out until end of April 😳.

A much cheaper and much less daunting backup plan was Legoland. We have done a couple indoor Legolands in Toronto and Boston and they were always a big hit. Legoland is about a 45 minute drive from where we are staying so we figured we would book our tickets online en route. They were calling for some rain and possible thunderstorms so we wanted to wait until morning of to commit to the tickets. Little did we know that if you wait until day of the tickets go up $25/person. Thankfully after some Google sleuthing I found a discount code to get the kids in for free and we didn’t have to postpone the Legoland day.

We arrived at Legoland only slightly later than originally planned, in the pouring rain. We waited out the showers in the van so that we wouldn’t have to spend the day soaked, unlike all the other Legoland goers braving the elements in their ponchos.

The kids had a total blast. We got off to a shaky start after we had to be removed from the first roller coaster we went on. Thankfully we hadn’t left the station and didn’t have to scale down on the track like the other riders. It was smooth sailing from there though. There were almost no lines at any of the rides. A lot of them we were able to just cycle around. The kids went on every roller coaster in the park. All of them more than once. I even braved a few and didn’t hate them.

By 6:00 everyone was feeling pretty satisfied with our day. We had checked off every ride we wanted to go on – many more than once. We had refilled our unlimited (and shared) souvenir cup more times than we could count and walked over 7km. On our way out though we stopped at guest services – legoland has a rainy day policy. If it rains more than 120minutes during the day they’ll give you passes to return. We grabbed our free passes (that we are passing along to the MacPhees as a thank you for the van!) and headed for dinner.

We figured we would go really big on the day – it was too late to make it home and cook supper and everyone was still in high spirits so we headed to Chuck E Cheese for supper. I have to admit I was very surprised. I have never been to a Chuck E Cheese before but it was very clean, super bright and the pizza was delicious. I mean probably the best takeout pizza I’ve ever had. I had imagined a limp potentially undercooked soggy pie but instead it was crispy with a garlic butter stuffed crust. So good. The kids had a total blast. Again, because we are cheap, we split a single 60minute card at the arcade games. You have to space out your game taps a bit, but we definitely maxed our $25 worth of play.

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Florida doesn’t hit very high on my list of must-go places but pretty much all of the rest of the families we know swear by it. I won’t say I’m necessarily converted, I don’t see us rushing back year after year, but I’ms starting to get what they see in it. I will never understand why or how people stay at Disney resorts and spend more than we did on this 2 month trip in a week, but Florida itself isn’t so bad. There’s nothing you can’t buy, it’s relatively warm and everything is just so easy.

Since we were traveling late into the night and had no food at our place we thought we would introduce the kids to the local culture and visit an IHOP for breakfast. The kids were pumped with the sprinkle/chocolate/icing extravaganza dessert pancake options for breakfast. Charlie has already said this is the first place he’s going to come on vacation when he’s older and has kids.

After everyone was hopped up on sugar we went in search of my favourite American attraction, Target. The girls needed some new bathing suits, Nora outgrew all of her shoes while we were gone and I never turn down a chance to go to Target. When we left home we were only supposed to be gone a month to DR where we weren’t going to need a whole bunch of ‘real’ clothes, so we were all in need of some different clothing options. The first Target we visited was new and was oddly stocked and quite small so we headed 5 miles up the road to the bigger one. Several hundred dollars and hours later we had some new non-beach clothes. We grabbed some groceries at the closest ALDI and headed back to the resort so the kids could have some time on the playground.

We spent the next day much the same way – just with less shopping. Jacob had some work to catch up on so the kids and I headed up to the the splash pad for the morning. Thankfully I was able to find a dentist online that had an opening in the afternoon so while the kids embraced the Florida culture (again) and learned how to play shuffleboard I headed to have my tooth fixed. We lead a very glamorous life.

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Travel Days

Anyone who has done any amount of traveling knows that the days where you actually do the traveling suck. Because COVID complicates just about everything, we needed to be at the airport extra early to provide all of our certificates of recovery and negative test results. We had everyone packed up and ready to get in the van when my new dental work that I had put in last summer fell out of my face. Thankfully I was awake and didn’t swallow my thousands of dollars worth of fake tooth. After the initial shock of being down a tooth wore off, I thanked my lucky stars that today would be spent almost entirely behind a mask and we set off for the airport.

The rest of the morning was comparatively uneventful. We made it to the airport, got checked in without any issues, made it through security, booked a dentist appointment in Florida and got on the plane. We landed in Fort Lauderdale where we were met with the longest security line I’ve ever seen. It was so long that they kept us on the plane! When we were finally able to deplane we collected our bags and started snaking our way around the baggage claim area. Two hours later we finally cleared customs. We were landing in Fort Lauderdale but the MacPhee’s van that we were going to be borrowing was in Miami. Our original plan was to just Uber to the other airport but because it took so damn long to get through security we switched plans to take the tri-rail. Before we got on the shuttle to take us to the train we knew we needed to eat something. After two trips up and around the escalators and elevators the only options we could find was a vending machine. $50, several incorrect selections and a half bag of peanuts on the floor later we were headed to the shuttle. We made it on the shuttle, the train, then to the van. The kids were troopers. Nora did the whole thing with a huge blister on the back of her foot and didn’t complain once. They all hauled their own luggage. They were superstars.

Once we piled in the van we set off for Orlando – we finally got in around 1:30am and crashed. Tomorrow is sure to be a quiet day.

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Santo Domingo

Because we had to rearrange all of our flights, twice, we were no longer able to fly out of Punta Cana. The cheapest option we could find to get back to North America was to move up to Santo Domingo for our last few days before flying to Fort Lauderdale. We booked into a great little condo, right on the beach in Juan Dolio. It’s never easy moving cities and flying all in one day when you’re relying on taxis and going to a place you’ve never been before so we decided to give ourselves a couple of days to transition. The ride to Juan Dolio was super easy, we dropped our bags at the new place and went for a look around until we could check in. It was great to have a change of scenery, it certainly helped that the new place had a prey spectacular view.

We spent the rest of our first day getting set up in the new place and hanging out at the new pool. For dinner we walked up the beach to the Cafe del Sol. We all had some pretty great burgers while the kids practiced their balancing routine on fallen palm trees. It’s obvious that Juan Dolio is a better taste of the ‘real’ Dominican Republic. The beachside restaurant was full of locals out enjoying the beach, sunshine, music and some family time on the weekend.

The next day we spent much the same way, aside from Jacob having to travel to the stupid COVID testing clinic to get Mads cleared to fly. They both headed there first thing in the morning to have the test done and then unfortunately, Jacob had to travel back an hour later to collect the results. When we finally got the All Clear to fly we celebrated by heading to the next beach restaurant and booked a cabana to spend the day. It was a great way to spend our last day in Dominican. The kids all had fun in the very warm shallow water, Madeline and Nora made art in the sand. They all found a new fallen log to climb all over. Jacob and I laid in the cabana with our sangria. All in all a pretty fantastic end to 6 weeks of sunshine in the DR.

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Bye Bye Bavaro

Thankfully we all quickly recovered from our run-in with COVID. It knocked us out of commission for a couple of days. Everyone experienced something slightly different: I had a fever and a bad cough, Jacob had a sinus headache, Charlie and Nora were sick to their stomachs and febrile, and Madeline, she was completely asymptomatic. After we kicked COVID to the kerb, we fell back in to our routine of pool/beach/resort repeat.

For our final few days in Punta Cana we were able to connect with John and Kathleen and their crew. The kids were so excited to have new friends to play with. Wednesday they came to us and we had some backyard pool fun and a very primitive beach baseball game. Mads found a stick that really works quite well as a bat and the kids have been collecting the balls from outside the tennis courts for a few days. We ended the evening with a movie for the kids, some pizza for everyone and some drinks and laughs.

Friday we decided to venture out of the resort complex and headed to the MacPhee’s side of town. We met up with them on the closest public beach to where they are staying. The kids fell right back into the swing of things with their new friends, making sand castles, playing catch in the water, and discussing all that is important about switch games. They treated us to a great supper at the beachside restaurant and some fun ice cream treats in the lobby of the convenience store. We had an awesome afternoon before we hopped in our Uber and headed back for our last evening at the Iberostar. The kids were very sad to say goodbye to their friend Akenny – our regular server at the buffet who was so great with the kids and very generous with the vino.

We were all definitely ready to move on to the next leg of this prolonged adventure. 6 weeks is a really long time to stay still in one place. The resort complex was really handy, the villa was awesome, beach was great and our own pool definitely is amazing, we were just starting to get a little bored. It was fun exploring outside the resort on our last day, and if things had worked out a little differently I think we would have enjoyed spending some more time off resort. We are headed to Juan Dolio on Saturday to get ourselves a bit closer to the Santo Domingo airport before we try again to fly out on Monday.

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Late last week we realized we only had a few days left in the tropics and decided that wasn’t enough for us. We did some quick research and decided to shift all our flights around and fly to Florida instead of home. We bad everything all set – flights changed, Airbnb booked, we even had a car ready! The MacPhees were just finishing up their time in Florida and had their car there that we could pick up. We hadn’t told the girls yet – they asked for it to be a surprise but Charlie wanted to know. Once he found out he started doing us own research and was in the process of attempting to persuade us to take him to Harry Potter world (for his school work).

Then. Sunday happened.

Jacob wasn’t feeling 100% on Saturday but he thought it was just allergies or a bad coil in his cigarettes. But on Sunday when he felt worse he decided to take one of the rapid tests we brought from home. It turns out Covid can find you on vacation too.

Fast forward to today, which should be our last day in Dominican and instead we have moved to the villa next to us and the kids are all being tested after more positive rapids. I tested positive yesterday. We are all feeling relatively ok. Jacob is basically back to normal, the kids have slight headaches, I had a bad night but am feeling a bit better today.

We will ride this out in our new villa until the 19th and hope that everyone has had 10 days since their first positive (still waiting on Mads) so that we can get a certificate of recovery and move on with our travels. Until then we will just have to make do with this new view.

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Cirque de Soleil

On the drive from the airport to our villa on the first day we passed these huge black and white striped circus tents. At first I assumed it was a sketchy local circus until we saw the huge Kooza signs, it turns out cirque de soleil is in town.

I’ve seen cirque twice before – both in Vegas – and both times have been mind blowing. We showed the kids some videos and they were also instantly hooked. We made it a reality Sunday.

The show did not disappoint. It never does. The kids spent 2 hours mesmerized by tight rope walkers, contortionists, acrobats, the ring of death and clowns. They were all completely exhausted for the ride home. My pictures will never do the show justice – you need to see it for yourself – but these do give you an idea of just how incredible this show is. I’m sure this won’t be our last cirque show.

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Bravo Bavaro

Saturday we bought a pass to the Iberostar Bavaro Suites resort. The villa we are staying in is inside the Iberostar complex. This means that we can opt-in to the all-inclusive plan at any of the three resorts. The kids had been eyeing the Bavaro because it has a splash pad right next to an ice cream bar and they really couldn’t imagine what would beat that.

We spent the first day really wandering around and getting our bearings. The kids were all rather excited about all of the seemingly endless possibilities. Turns out, they love a buffet. We spent the morning camped out at the splash pad where they all had at least four ice creams. Nora decided strawberry daiquiris NO ALCOHOL were more her style. We grabbed some lunch and headed to the beach for the afternoon.

After dinner, the kids discovered the joys of the evening show at a resort and played a starring role in the entertainment.

Sunday and Monday were pretty much a rinse and repeat of Saturday. With the added bonus of watching the super bowl half time show on a big screen at the beach! Jacob was more than thrilled with the half time show and educating the children on the entertainers. By Tuesday we figured we should slow down a bit and maybe just head to the resort for supper.

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