Posts filed under ‘Vacation’
We just finished wrapping up our busy season at work. So here I am with some extra time on my hands, and I have decided to update my blog.
It has been 3 years since my last post and a lot of things have happened since then. To keep myself from repeating the same thing, please check my About page for updates about me and the kids.
In addition to what’s there, I have also travelled back to the Philippines this past March. Yes, after 23 years! I was very excited preparing for the trip, but at the same time I was sort of anxious. Imagine, it has been a long time since I was back home. I didn’t even know if I’d feel at home there, if I can still connect with my relatives, my aunts, my cousins. Will they like my pasalubong? Are they expecting a lot? Will they be disappointed that I didn’t bring designer labels? Will I manage to navigate my way to the places I want to visit? Will I be able to commute by bus and jeepney on my own, or will I always need a chaperone?
But you know what? The minute I got there, I realized how silly those fears were. Once I started meeting my cousins, it was just like old times. Non-stop stories about our childhood, our present lives, our work, our kids. We also shared stories about our partners, broken relationships, dyeing hair and getting highlights, ingrown toenails, etc. And as for finding my way, I did manage to find my way to the mall and back to the condo where my mother and I stayed. And I think, if I had stayed longer, I would have managed to get on the jeepney on my own.
My vacation in the Philippines was only 3 weeks long, but I tried to make the most of it. I visited a few tourist spots, some of them with my cousins, some great bonding time there. And of course one place I made sure I get to visit was my childhood town of Noveleta, Cavite. Oh boy, that was one sentimental trip! As I looked out the window of the bus as we drove along Cavitex, I thought, this is my “Journey to Honeyville.” That’s the name I chose for this blog before I changed it to “niceheart.” And as I try to revive this blog, I am bringing Journey to Honeyville back.
After Duluth, our next destination was Two Harbors. At first I thought that we were going to two different harbors. But not. Two Harbors is the name of a city in Minnesota. We took the scenic route and we drove along the shore of Lake Superior and I thought that was cool. There I was looking at Lake Superior. I felt bad that the boys were missing this.
Once there, we went to this place, I forgot to ask Uncle what it’s called. It has a hike trail and also a pier and a lighthouse. And we were standing right in front of Lake Superior, the largest of the Five Great Lakes.
That brownish mound there beside the ship is a heap of iron ore pellets, which Uncle said is used to make steel. And doesn’t that ship remind you of the Presque Isle in Duluth?
You can view my Two Harbors album here.
Next we went to Gooseberry Falls. It’s just a short drive from Two Harbors. We continued driving on the highway and we still had a nice view of Lake Superior.
Gooseberry Falls is a state park and it has three waterfalls, The Lower, Middle and Upper Falls. It’s just too bad that the waterfalls have sort of dried up a bit. There was a poster of what it used to look like, when there was more water. It was gorgeous. And Uncle also said that it looks really neat when the water is frozen in the winter. There are hiking trails at the park and there are steps like these so you could make your way to the three different levels of the falls. There are also camping sites in the park, but we didn’t go there to go camping.
After visiting the three falls and noticing that the two grandmas were getting tired, we decided to head back home. But first, Uncle brought us to the Black Bear Casino to have supper. And maybe, he said, he’d give me a bit of bad influence – gambling in the casino. We first went to the buffet. And lucky for us, Thursday is seafood buffet. We filled our plates with all kinds of seafood including shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, etc. Yum yum!
After supper, both Uncle and Auntie went to the slot machines. Mama and I just watched Auntie and when we lost her as she looked for her favourite slot machine, Mama sat down in one of the slot machines and won about 20 bucks. But we didn’t really enjoy playing and we were bothered by the smoking, so we just waited in the lounge area. And when Uncle and Auntie were done playing, we headed back to their place. We retired early since we had to get up at three the next morning when we had to go back to Winnipeg.
I know I’ve mentioned a few times how I missed the kids and wished they were with me on this trip. But I had a really good time. I was the kid in this trip. I was with my mother, aunt and uncle. And there were times I felt like a kid. I sometimes caught myself skipping and hopping as we went to these places that we visited. But I also remembered that when you are the kid and you are with adults, there are constant reminders. Don’t touch this and don’t touch that. Don’t go there and don’t do that. But I am an adult now, and I know what I’m doing, right? Why wouldn’t I watch my steps and take extra care while I shoot those pictures at the water falls, right? Well, anyway, it has been really nice to get away. Looking now at my pictures, I don’t think that I would have posed like that or smiled like that with TH around. So it was really nice to have a break. It was a great stress reliever.
You can view my Gooseberry Falls album here.
On the third day of our trip to Minnesota, we all got in Uncle Sparkie’s truck and he drove us north to Duluth. On our way there, we came across a few small bridges as we cross these mini-lakes. Uncle said that there are supposed to be 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. That’s what it says in their license plates, “10000 Lakes.” We wondered if there were really 10,000 of them. Are there really 7,000 something islands in the Philippines?
When we arrived in Duluth, we went to the tourist district called the Canal Park. We first went to the Downtown Lakewalk. It is a three-mile long walk that leads to the Lighthouse Pier. Uncle pointed out to us this huge structure which is called the Lift Bridge and is one of the main tourist attractions of Duluth. It is called the Lift Bridge because they raise or lift that bridge so that ships could pass through.
We were lucky because a ship was arriving when we got there. The Presque Isle (the ship) is 1,000 feet long and Uncle said that it transports iron ore. After watching the ship pass, we walked all the way to the lighthouse and took some pictures.
Then we went inside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building. Inside is a sort of a museum that displays models of ship engines, parts of ships, replicas of ships, etc. There is a map that shows The Great Lakes. I thought of the boys again because they learned about the Great Lakes in school and I even remember helping my then 10-year old son memorizing the five Great Lakes of North America, in order from the largest to the smallest.
After visiting the museum, Uncle said that we’d go to Grandma’s restaurant to have lunch. Walking on the way there, we saw this Ice Cream stand called Grandma’s Boxcar. I thought it was a cute little place. We reached Grandma’s restaurant but they were still closed. They open at 11:00 a.m. So we thought we’d walk around and then we saw Grandma’s Salon Grill. Are you now seeing a pattern here? I started voicing out my thoughts. Why is every place here called Grandma’s? Does a grandma own all of these places? Or are these places meant only for grandmas? And of course Uncle and I started teasing the grandmas (Mama and Auntie D) because they were always trailing behind us. After walking a little bit more, we found Grandma’s Marketplace. We went inside and bought a few souvenirs to take back home. It’s not really a marketplace. It is a gift shop.
Then we started walking down Lake Avenue to look for a place to eat. I spotted the sign Hell’s Kitchen. Hey, I know that show. Uncle said that they sometimes film the show here. I also saw these signs, Father Time Antiques and Old Chicago. See, the trend continues here. Antiques, Old, Grandmas . . .
We ended up eating at Old Chicago and we ordered a big round tray of meatlovers’ pizza. It was good.
You can view my Duluth, Minnesota album here.
Next: Two Harbors
One of the reasons I went with my mother to Minnesota is to visit the famous Mall of America. My mother has already been there a few years ago when my aunt and uncle still lived in Minneapolis. But they have now moved to the small town of McGregor. Auntie D and Uncle Sparkie were both gracious and generous hosts and they gladly drove us to Minneapolis the day after we arrived there. That’s two and half hours drive. “It’s your first time here in Minnesota, and probably the only time you’ll be here. I want you to have fun,” Uncle Sparkie said. He he he. Alrighty then.
Although Mama and I planned a four-day trip, we spent one full day of travelling to go there, and another full day travelling to go back. So we actually had only two days of visiting. They only allowed me one day to visit the Mall of America. “It’s your day today,” Uncle said. He had something else planned for the following day.
Well, the mall is huge and is four-storeys high. But according to Wikipedia, it’s not as huge as the West Edmonton Mall, which I visited two summers ago. I probably shouldn’t say this because I’m from Canada, but imho, the MOA looks more attractive than WEM. But I’ll stop there before I get any nasty comments. He he he. Anyway, I wasn’t able to take a look at the entire mall since we only went there for one day. I spent two days at WEM when we went there.
Here are some more trivia facts about MOA according to Wikipedia:
It is the second largest mall in the U.S. Its gross area is 4.2 million square feet (390,000 square miles). It receives 40 million visitors annually. It employs over 12,000 workers.
The mall is a nearly symmetrical building, with a roughly rectangular plan. Four anchor department stores are located at the corners. Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Sears and Nordstrom. When we got out of the car in the parking lot, I asked them to take my pictures infront of Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. We don’t have these department stores in Canada.
One of the main attractions of MOA is the Lego Imagination Center. They had giant Lego structures of dinosaurs, bionicles, motorcycles, etc. I thought that my boys might have enjoyed looking at the Lego structures so I took lots of pictures to show to them when I get back home.
Another main attraction that Uncle didn’t want us to miss is the Underwater Adventures Aquarium. So we went there first before doing any shopping. Entrance fee is $18.95 per person for adults. Uncle didn’t want us to pay so he paid for all four tickets.
Underwater Adventures Aquarium is the world’s largest underground aquarium. Guests travel under a 300-foot glass tunnel. That’s about the length of a football field. The aquarium contains 1.2 million gallons of water and features more than 4,500 aquatic creatures including sea turtles, octopuses, lobsters, sharks, stingrays, and seahorses. Sharky is the mascot and he was there to meet guests and we took a picture with him.
After your visit to the Aquarium, you’ll find Sharky’s Cove and you can buy all kinds of souvenir to remember your underwater adventures. I bought a cute seahorse plush toy here. A male seahorse with babies in its pouch. Did you know that it’s the male seahorse that gets pregnant? Interesting huh?
There is a restroom nearby which has a sign that says Mermen and Mermaids Restroom. I told Uncle that in Canada we call them Washrooms.
As it was almost noon, and Mama and Auntie were already starving, we headed to the Food court. Again, Uncle treated us to lunch. I told you he was generous. He didn’t want me to pay because he said he wanted me to have fun. As if I won’t have fun if I paid for my own food.
Then we continued our shopping. And Uncle wasn’t kidding when he said it was my day. I noticed right away that I was the only one doing any shopping. They just followed me around, the two grandmas (Mama and Auntie) trailing behind.
At around 4:00 pm, I noticed that the two grandmas, Auntie especially, were already tired of walking, so I decided to call it a day. Uncle wanted me to see Nordstrom, as we haven’t been to that part of the Mall yet, but I said that it’s okay. I’ve already bought stuff for each of the boys, and something for myself, as well. I was getting worried about the two grandmas. They didn’t look like they were in shape to do that amount of walking. We have been at the mall for like 7 to 8 hours already. Besides, we still had two and a half hours of travelling to go back home. We stopped first at IKEA, though, and had supper at the restaurant there.
You can view my Mall of America Album here.
Next time: Duluth
July 7, 2009, Tuesday 12:41 am
I’m going on a trip from Winnipeg to Minnesota to visit Auntie D and Uncle Sparkie with Mama tomorrow, well it’s already tomorrow, so actually, in just a few hours. This is the first time I’m going outside of Canada in a very long time. 18 years to be exact. I would have loved to take a trip with the family. But none of them would want to come with me. Well, that’s mainly because Mama and I are taking the bus. She didn’t want to drive all the way there. I thought I could convince my youngest son, since he hasn’t been apart from me. But he didn’t want to go. I think because his brothers aren’t going.
I have been talking about the trip with them, a lot more recently since I have been reminding them to do their chores, and also mine, while I’m away. And please don’t forget to flush the toilet. I don’t want to come home to a messy and stinking house, I would tell them. I’d ask the youngest one if he’d miss me, he’d say that he won’t. Of course, he’s only pretending. I know he’s going to miss me. I will miss them, especially my baby the most.
Tonight, before he went to bed, he gave me the longest hug. I thought he was going to cry. But he didn’t. He’s a big boy now.
I’m excited about the trip. I need to get away from TH, even if just for a few days. Sometimes I feel that it’s sort of a sacrifice for me though to leave the boys behind. I know it’s just four days. But this is the first time I’m going to be away from them. It’s true that the two oldest ones had been away on band trips. But still. This time, I’m the one going away.
It’s 1:02 am now. I better go to bed. I have to get up at 6:00 am.
The bus was supposed to leave at 9:15 am, but we’re just pulling out of the terminal now. And aga pa naman naming dumating sa bus station. Mama wanted to be there at 8:00 am. So ang tagal naming naghintay duon. Just before 9:15 am, the bus driver of Jefferson Lines came inside the waiting area. She was wondering why nobody was getting on her bus. Well, we were waiting for the announcement. We didn’t hear anything.
Last night my youngest one asked me to wake him up before I leave in the morning. Eh masunuring bata ako, so I did. I said goodbye to him, hugged him and kissed him on the cheeks three times. Hindi naman tumangi. Because he usually does.
So we arrived at the Canada/US border at Emerson at around 11:15 am. All the passengers of the bus had to get out including luggage and all and check in with the US Customs. It shouldn’t have taken up more than half an hour, but we learned from the others that one of the passengers was called right away inside the office for questioning. The bus can’t leave while he’s there. At 12:15 pm, we all got on the bus again. The driver drove around a little bit and brought the problem passenger at the Immigration Office. She came with him in there. After about half an hour, they both came back in the bus. Mrs. Driver dropped off Mr. Passenger at a nearby inn. At first, Mr. Passenger wouldn’t get off the bus. You can’t go to the U.S., Mrs. Driver told him. I called my friends and asked them to pick me up there, he said. But they don’t want you hanging out at the Immigration Office, she said. They exchanged some more words. I could feel the tension among the other passengers. We’re already about a couple of hours behind schedule and I know some of them have to catch another bus at the next station and some at another station. Then thankfully, one of the passengers at the back came forward and spoke to Mr. Passenger in his language. I don’t know what Miss Passenger told him, but he finally got off the bus and now we’re on our way to U.S.
We’re just leaving Fargo. We switched to a different bus. I’m thinking of calling home at the next stop if there’s a phone there. I’m not even sure if I can call long distance from a public phone. It’s been a long trip. Naiiyak ako. 😦 I miss my bunso, the others too, but him most especially.
It’s now July 8, 2009, Wednesday 12:50 am
We’re here now at Auntie D and Uncle Sparkie’s place. Arrived at around 12:30 am. Mama and I are sharing a bed in the basement.
Flashback: It was around past 9:00 pm when Mama asked one of the Filipino passengers in the bus if she could borrow her cell phone. We were supposed to be in Minneapolis at 7:50 pm and we were worried that Auntie D and Uncle Sparkie might have thought that we weren’t coming and have left. How could we go to their place and it’s two and a half hours drive from Minneapolis to McGregor? Luckily, Mama was able to get a hold of her and Auntie D told her that she has been worried and had called Winnipeg a few times already. She had confirmed that we have left that morning and so they hung around at the terminal but of course they were worried.
It was already 9:30 pm when we arrived at the bus station. After a few hugs, I asked Auntie D right away if I could borrow her cell phone so I could phone home. She said that she already called home and had let them know that we had called from the bus and we were delayed. I sort of felt bad that I wasn’t able to talk to the boys, but also nahihiya na rin naman ako dahil nakailang long distance na siya. I know the boys would have understood. I can’t sulk😦 now because after all, I’m a big girl now.
Next time: My visit to Mall of America
When we originally planned our road trip to Alberta, we agreed to visit only Banff and Edmonton. But a couple of weeks before our trip, my sister had related to me how people had been suggesting to her that we also stop over at Drumheller, which is only four hours away from Edmonton. We shouldn’t miss visiting Royal Tyrrell Museum, they said. And they had been raving about this place, which is actually a dinosaur museum. And so it got us all excited. BIL, hubby and mama had to ask for extra days off at work. I was on vacation that whole week anyway so I didn’t have to make extra arrangements at work.
We left Edmonton on Wednesday, at 5:20 a.m. It was raining when we reached Leduc and Camrose. By 9:00 a.m., we were entering Drumheller. We were delighted to see once again hills, but this time with flat tops. I don’t even know if that’s what you call them. They’re more of terrain and you could see how erosion has taken place there throughout the years.
The dinosaur on this welcome sign is the first one of Drumheller’s that we saw. That’s me behind its leg. Yes, that’s how big it was.
First thing we did was to try and check in at Travelodge. But as it turned out, they didn’t have a record of our reservations. The lady at the counter said that it was the third time that week that Expedia.ca screwed up their reservations. Or could it be because we only booked rooms at Travelodge the week before? Remember, we only decided to add Drumheller to our itinerary within the two weeks before our trip.
Well, anyway, the lady directed us to the Tourism Centre where she said somebody there could help us find vacant rooms at another hotel in town. As we drove there, we were amazed to see these two giant dinosaur structures. These were even bigger than the one we saw just in front of Travelodge. There was a sign that said, world’s largest dinosaur. It would be this one, which was right in front of the Tourism Centre. How big was it? Well, this was just the foot. So you can just imagine.
The receptionist at the Tourism Centre was able to help us book rooms at Drumheller Inn. But when we got there, there were no rooms ready yet. We would have to wait until after noon. So we decided to drive around town first. After seeing the world’s largest dinosaur, we were still amused to see the other dinosaur structures that were scattered all over town. I felt as if we walked into a filming of a dinosaur movie that has been temporarily abandoned.
I saw this big dinosaur mural just next to Reptile World. We thought of going inside, but I think it was I who suggested that we just pass that up and head to the Royal Tyrrell Museum already. I was too anxious to see the dinosaurs that these people had been raving about.
This is what the museum looks like outside. It is huge. 11,200 square meters. It is after all Canada’s largest dinosaur museum. My sister was told that it might take us four hours to cover the entire place. So we decided to eat lunch in the car and I changed to my flat shoes before we went in. I learned my lesson after our first shopping trip to West Edmonton Mall.
There are also dinosaur structures in front of the entrance. Reggie asked me to take this picture of him in that amusing pose. You should see our album. He took some pretty amusing and interesting pictures.
The museum was named after this guy, Joseph Burr Tyrrell. He discovered the skull of Albertosaurus near Drumheller in 1984. And the paleontology museum named after him opened in 1985 to instant acclaim.
Inside, there are interactive computers for both young and the not-so-young. There is also a preparation lab where you can watch museum staff prepare fossils for research and display through the glass windows. There are several galleries and exhibitions that bring you through geological time and the dinosaur ages. There are about 40 mounted larger than life skeletons of ancient dinosaurs. Some of the exhibits are die-cast but there are also fossils that are real.
It was quite an awesome experience but it didn’t take us four hours to explore the museum. Maybe for a dinosaur buff like Ross Geller, he’d be on cloud nine and he’d spend an entire day there, or probably sign up for one of the museum’s activities and programs. But for regular out-of-town visitors like us, two hours was enough. We were all beat after exploring the museum for a couple of hours. After all, we were up since 4:00 a.m., yours truly, since 3:00 a.m. And this was the fifth day of our trip. We couldn’t wait to get back home.
You can view our Drumheller album here.
As I’ve mentioned last time, my sister and her family planned to go swimming at the World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall (WEM). But after learning about the exorbitant fees, they decided not to go. We could easily go swimming in Manitoba for a family fee of only $20.00.
So when we came back to Comfort Inn that night after our first trip to WEM, my very resourceful niece started calling around for other places we could go to around Edmonton. I was intent on going back to the mall the following day since I didn’t have enough time to explore the entire mall yet. But my sister and her family wanted to go to places other than the mall.
I decided to join them the following morning before I went back to the mall.
We first went to John Walter Museum. Admission is free. But we didn’t know that the museum is open only on Sunday afternoons. It was Tuesday when we went there.
Well, anyway, since we were already there, we just had a look around. We learned that John Walter was one of Edmonton’s early settlers and industrialists. The museum includes the three homes that John Walter built and lived in 1875, 1884 and 1901. The first house displays his life as a bachelor. The second one was built when he was starting to develop and prosper in his businesses. The third and largest one (the green one in the picture above) had the luxuries of the day including running water and telephone. He was already a millionaire by then. We didn’t get a chance to go inside the houses because they were all closed so we just took these pictures outside.
Next, we went to the Muttart Conservatory. The four glass pyramid-shaped greenhouses were a sight to see as we were driving down towards it. The Muttart Conservatory is a botanical garden and the greenhouses showcase plants from arid, tropical, and temperate climates, providing a welcome oasis of warmth during winter. The fourth pyramid hosts a theme that changes throughout the year.
Look at this banana plant. This must have been planted in one of the greenhouses.
There are admission fees ranging from $4.50 to $8.75, depending on age. And there is also a discount rate for families, but we opted not to pay. Are you seeing a trend here? Yes, if we could avoid it, we won’t pay. Well, we are one big group. And if you add it all up, it’s a lot. But we always have fun just taking pictures and we were all like kids going up that hill, posing beside the pyramid structures and just enjoying the view from up there.
After several pictures, we went back to the hotel to have lunch. Five of us – me, Ryland (my youngest), Reggie (my oldest), hubby and Mama – then headed back to WEM. My middle son Ryan, decided to go along with sis and family. While the five of us went our separate ways inside the mall, sis and her group went to Telus World of Science. It’s a space and science museum with IMAX, exhibit galleries, planetarium, computer lab, etc. But they also didn’t go inside. Yes, there are also entrance fees.
They also went to Fort Edmonton Park, one of Edmonton’s premier attractions and represents four distinct time periods, exploring Edmonton’s development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest, to a booming metropolitan centre after the First World War.
Before we leave Edmonton, here are just a few things I noticed about the capital of Alberta as compared to Winnipeg:
1. License plates on their vehicles are attached only at the back. Here in Winnipeg, license plates are attached at the front and back of vehicles.
2. License plates in Alberta bear the motto: Wild Rose Country. Here in Manitoba, it’s Friendly Manitoba.
3. I noticed that garbage bins, not only in Edmonton, but also in Banff are slanted. Here in Winnipeg, they’re upright.
4. Traffic lights in Edmonton are horizontal. Here in Winnipeg, they are vertical. I also noticed that they do have a lot of cable wires on the streets. I found out later on it’s because they have cable cars.
5. Transit buses in Edmonton are blue. Here in Winnipeg, they’re usually orange.
6. Their bus route numbers go up to three digits, i.e. 109, 120. Here in Winnipeg, they only go up to 98. (Note: Except for this four special DART routes 101, 102, 109, 110, which I didn’t know until I checked out the Winnipeg Transit website for accurate information. He he he. Who takes the DART routes anyway? ).
7. I didn’t see a single mosquito in Edmonton while we were there. The hotel rooms at Comfort Inn have sliding doors at the back so you can go to the parking lot easily, but they don’t have screened doors, unlike here in Winnipeg.
8. Legal working age in Alberta is 14. Here in Manitoba, it’s 16. Just look at this sign in front of the hotel. When we had lunch at the Food Court of WEM on our first day there, I sent Reggie and Ryan to buy their own food at A&W. They said that it took them a long while to get their orders because there was this kid at the till serving them. Ryan said he looked like he was only 12 years old. But I guess he must be at least 14, if that’s the legal working age there.
You can view my Edmonton album here.