This Blog has MOVED!!!

Thank you for visiting Blog on the Run.  As of Halloween 2011, I have officially stopped posting here and will be posting only at my new URL, www.suitcasescholar.com.  I have moved all posts from the last two plus years over to The Suitcase Scholar, and this blog continues as usual–just at this new address.  If you’ve been directed here by a link on that blog, please click your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to The Suitcase Scholar (or click any of the links in this post–they will all take you there!)

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Thanks for visiting!   See you over on The Suitcase Scholar!

A Type-A Planner Plans a Last-Minute Trip

I learned something new about myself this week–I can go from zero to totally-trip-planned in under eight days.

Last Friday I found a really (REALLY) low fare on a cruise (yes, a cruise) out of New York City–sailing to Bermuda.  It was so very low that I only hesitated for a few seconds over the ‘book now’ button before clicking it.  And then suddenly I was going to Bermuda–in eight days.  The ship sails tomorrow afternoon, and I am going to be on it.

Does the spur-of-the-moment nature of this trip mean that I’m just going to sort of ‘wing it’?  Of course not!  In the last eight days I’ve managed to read an entire Bermuda guide book (and highlight it), order and receive a tourism guide (with pocket map) from the Bermuda Tourism board, seriously weigh my transportation options, and research pointers for solo cruisers.  I returned to a popular online cruise forum, posted questions, participated in discussions, and joined a group for a meet-and-greet the morning of my first day at sea.  I even found someone who offered to join me for dinner on Sunday night (dear, if you’re reading this–it is a woman and her sister!)  I took all of the information from the guide books, from the forums, and from the internet as a whole and condensed it into three different itinerary options for myself.  I combined that information with summaries of the ferry and bus schedules and then printed it out and added it to the folder you see pictured above.  I packed my suitcase (yes, I’m taking a whole suitcase) and now I’m just kind of sitting here waiting for it to be tomorrow!

What I did not do was finish writing the last two overview posts from my summer road trip (nevermind the many detail posts I have planned) or even begin writing about my 15 days in Walt Disney World (even though I have an actual list of ‘things to post about in relation to my 15 days in Walt Disney World!)  And now I’m leaving again–to spend seven days on a ship without internet access (dum dum DUM!)  Well, I suppose internet access is available–I’m just not paying a dollar per minute for what I’ve been told is really slow service.  So I’m accruing a fairly serious travel blog backlog.  But oh well!  I’m sailing to Bermuda–tomorrow!!!

 

 

PEI: In Retrospect, I’m Glad it Rained

Green Gables is not a reason to visit PEI. But it is delightfully tacky!

I chose to spend five nights of our summer road trip on Prince Edward Island because I thought it would be a good way to break up the trip–and because I thought we’d like to spend a few days lounging on the beach.  By this point in the trip I figured we’d be tired of ‘doing things’ and would want to just do nothing for a while.  Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.

Driving across the Confederation Bridge in the pouring rain.

My Maritime Canada guide book told me that, thanks to something magical having to do with the jet stream, PEI’s waters were ‘the warmest waters north of North Carolina’.  And I thought ‘well gee–I swim in Maryland and New Jersey–so Prince Edward Island must be even better!’  But what I failed to take into account is this:

If you’ve ever been to the Jersey shore, you’ll know that part of the allure of the beach is that it is a respite from the heat of the air temperature.  As mid-summer highs can soar into the 90s, it seems like a good idea to plunge into the Atlantic ocean.

In PEI, the air temperature did not go above 70.  In fact, for the first three days of our four day stay, the temperatures did not rise above 63.  In the evenings we closed the windows it was so cold–and it rained off and on the entire time.

My dreams of beach lounging were crushed.

However–we got to do a great many things that we wouldn’t have done had it been 80 degrees and sunny.  We spent our first full day exploring PEI National Park–which is, to be fair, a giant stretch of beach.  But because of the weather, we had it all to ourselves.  This resulted in many amazing photo opportunities….

An empty (if cold) beach. Note the long sleeves in August.

Had it been warmer (and drier) this shot would be filled with umbrellas.

Standing on a sand bar at low tide--again with the empty beach.

…including my favorite photo from the entire trip, which I achieved by balancing my camera on the abandoned lifeguard stand and utilizing the 10 second timer.  I had no idea it would turn out this well…

We decided to spend day two exploring Charlottetown, a ‘city’ a good 45 minute drive from our motel in Cavendish.  Had it been sunny out, we may have skipped Charlottetown entirely–but that would have been a huge mistake.  You see, it was a highlight of our trip to PEI, no small part thanks to the amazing tour we signed up for at the last minute–Taste of the Town.  We learned of this tour via a flyer at the tourist office–of all places!   We enjoyed a good 3 hour tour of the city punctuated with history, architecture, and (of course) food!  A detailed review of this amazing tour will eventually be linked HERE….as soon as I write it!

My favorite stop along the foodie tour--Liquid Gold, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting room!

The most educational part of the tour--I learn to shuck an oyster.

The worst of the weather was on day three.  At this point we were beyond annoyed.  We were also beginning to tire of each other.  After all, we’d been on the road together for over two weeks at this point.  So we made another weather-induced decision:  we’d do whatever the hell we wanted on day three.  This meant that my husband stayed in the motel room and read his book and I drove all around western and southern PEI, stopping randomly and taking photos.

Driving around on my own, I found this horse. I wanted to hug him (or her...?)

And then…on our final day on the island…the gods said ‘let there be light’!  And we went to the beach.  And put our toes in the sand, swam in the (very cold) water, and had a marvelous time.  On the way to dinner that night, the sun continued to shine, and my husband knew better than to deny me the chance to photograph some puffy white clouds….

This is the weather I was looking for!

We had an amazing time despite–no, because of the weather.  I would definitely return to PEI. The people were kind, the food was amazing (also future post to come) and it is possible to have an enjoyable visit (and get some great photos) even when the weather doesn’t cooperate!

 

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: Sensory Perfection

Everyone’s heard of sensory deprivation–you know, when you go in one of those little tanks to mediate?  And anyone who has been to a high school football game can also describe the sensation of sensory overload.  But on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I experienced a third option:  sensory perfection.

We drove all the way from Pennsylvania to Nova Scotia so we could drive around some more.  Yes, this sounds insane–but only if you’ve never been to Cape Breton.

My little car...at the end of the world!

Driving on Cape Breton was an attraction in and of itself.  We turned impossible corners on the edges of cliffs, with the ocean opening up before us, while listening to O Fortuna and Dance of the Swans.  Amazing views gave way to even more amazing views, and at one point it was literally impossible to not smile whilst zigging and zagging on the curvy roads.

View from the side of the road, just north of Cheticamp

The view from the passenger's seat!

Have you ever seen one of those sweeping epic travel videos?  The ones where beautiful music plays whilst showing footage from what must have been a helicopter swooping between cliffs?  Yeah–it was kind of like that…but in a Scion hatchback.

Of course, we didn’t ‘just’ drive.  We also pulled over on the side of the road and stared–a lot–mouths open, amazed.  I took hundreds of photos.  Additionally, we strapped on our hiking boots and headed out on some amazing hikes.  If you are on Cape Breton and do not do the Skyline Trail hike, well, there may actually be something wrong with you.  Looking out over the water from the top of a cliff you can both see and hear the waves breaking against the rocks far below you.  I only wish I could have tasted anything–my husband refused to bring food with us for fear of a bear attack.  My husband has issues!

Near the beginning of the Skyline Trail

Near the end of Skyline Trail

The Middle Head trail–just beyond Keltic Lodge–is another ‘feast for the senses’ (in quotes because I fully realize how cheesy that sounds–but it is true!)  It was an easy two-hour hike out the length of a narrow peninsula and back.  The best part?  The meadow in the middle, where the grass blows in the sea breeze and water surrounds you on both sides.  If you’ve never heard grass whispering and waves crashing whilst your hair blows all around your head and the smell of wild roses fills the air–you simply must get yourself to Cape Breton.  As soon as possible, actually.

My only regret for that hike?  I didn’t take my camera!  What was I thinking?  (Well, I know what I was thinking.  I was thinking ‘I’m tired of hiking with this camera around my neck’!)

At night I laid in bed and wondered where all that traffic noise was coming from–after all, we barely passed other cars during all of our day’s adventures.  And then on the second night there I realized–that sound wasn’t traffic.  It was the pounding of the surf on the beach a quarter mile from our cabin.

The freight train sounding beach near our cabin

It sounded a lot like a freight train–or a caravan of trucks.  And it made for a great night’s sleep.  Well, it was that or the hours of hiking each day! 

‘Destination Saturation’ and My New 10-Day Travel Rule

By day 15, I liked this guy's shirt a lot!

Phase three of my Extended Disney Research Trip was a bit challenging–and not because it was the solo portion.  As you may know by now, I love being on my own.  I can go wherever I want, do whatever I want, and stay as long as I want.  Heck, I drove to St. Augustine just because I could!  No, it was not the alone-ness that got to me during phase three.  It was something I’m calling ‘Destination Saturation’.

After a while, a place ceases to be somewhere you are visiting and it becomes the world in which you live.  This happened to us in Paris for sure (and really, what was I thinking?  Two weeks in a place I’ve never been?)  It happened to us on our road trip in certain locations, and it happened to me in Walt Disney World.  Destination Saturation doesn’t have a set-in-stone time frame–it might take a week in, say, London, but only two days in, say, Halifax.

It took ten days in Walt Disney World.

The symptoms of Destination Saturation also vary a bit from place to place, but typically it manifests in the following ways:

-extreme exhaustion at onset

-general lack of enthusiasm

-annoyance at all the little things that used to make the destination ‘special’

-extreme annoyance at all the little things that make the destination inherently annoying

-increased use of social media as a form of destination escapism

In Paris, this ailment created a serious problem.  In Disney World it wasn’t so bad–until my final day there.  I swear, if I had to take one more tram to one more monorail to one more happy fun park…I was going to scream.  And don’t even get me started on trying to feed myself.  That became a feat in and of itself–though that rant shall remain unwritten.

Why?  Because I now know that this malady isn’t the destination’s fault.  It is the fault of Destination Saturation.  I love Walt Disney World.  I love it on day one and two and three…all the way up to halfway through day ten.  And then I need to go home for a little while.

And so, all future Disney trips shall be ten days or shorter.  I think that’s fair (and fiscally responsible!)  In addition, all future single-destination trips shall be ten days or shorter.  Road trips can, of course, be longer–but we won’t stay in the same town more than three or four nights in a row.   In this simple, cost-effective way, I shall forever prevent another outbreak of Destination Saturation.

I hope!

Up next–I continue with my road trip posts and share our adventures on Cape Breton, PEI, and in Fundy National Park and Portland, Maine.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are still reading this blog at elbodans.wordpress.com, please come on over to The Suitcase Scholar, where all posts are being duplicated.  I now have added the option of subscribing to that blog–and eventually I will stop posting here all together.  Thanks for making the switch!

St. Augustine: A Reasonable Day Trip from Disney World

I drove from Disney World to St. Augustine yesterday–not in spite of the fact that it’s a five hour round-trip drive but because it is a five hour round-trip drive.  You see, my rental car is really comfortable…and it has air conditioning.  Oh–and there are zero screaming children there, too.  After almost two weeks in Walt Disney World, five quiet hours by myself in my comfy, cool car sounded lovely.  And it was–minus the rush hour Orlando traffic (in both directions) and the crazy Florida weather (sunny and pouring–huh?)

I had planned to go for a day and a night but it just didn’t work out that way.  Yet I still wanted to go if only for a day trip–not just to enjoy five hours of air conditioned comfort in my rental Chevy.  I went to check the place out for future reference.  Could I have spent more time there?  Definitely.  Which is why I’ll consider visiting as part of a longer southern road trip.  With my husband.  Maybe next summer…?

St. Augustine is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for years now–after seeing a friend’s vacation photos–and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  It was super touristy–but again, I’m a tourist–and had everything I’m looking for in a tourist destination:  many restaurants, lots of bars, a little history and an adequate amount of….

…and you know how important public restrooms are to me!  It was almost Disney-esque in this (and several other) respect(s).

So what did I do on my whirlwind tour?  I strolled the pedestrian streets–lined with shops.  I did venture in to a few shops, if only for the AC.  The prices were reasonable–but I wasn’t actually in the market for anything, so browsing was all that I did.  But even the tacky shops were cute…

I walked down to Flagler college which is way more beautiful than any other college I’ve ever seen.  I felt kind of creepy wandering the campus with my camera given the fact that students were also milling about–but whatever.  They go to a school with amazing architecture.  I’m sure they are used to it by now.

After taking seventeen dozen photos of Flagler College I was pretty hungry, so I checked out ‘the oldest restaurant in Florida’, the Columbia.

While my meal was only average, I think it was a case of poor ordering–all of the other food I saw come out looked fantastic (I had the half of a cuban sandwich and cup of soup–to be fair, the gazpacho was quite good.)  But the restaurant could not have been more beautiful if it tried–sadly I got very few interior photos, as it’s awkward enough dining alone in a mostly-empty tourist town.  Pointing your camera at the waiter just makes it worse.  But here’s one I clicked very quickly…

I do have to say that I am beginning to be proud of my ability to walk into the nicest restaurant in any town and proudly ask for a table for one.  Yes, I’ve been doing it for years, but now I don’t even think twice about it.

But I digress.

At this point you should be thinking ‘gee–she really should head back to Orlando now, to avoid rush hour traffic.’  And you’d be right.  But of course that’s not what  I did.  Instead I walked over to the fort–because I’ve never seen a Spanish fort, or a fort surrounded by palm trees (not surprisingly, there aren’t any palm trees near the Citadel in Halifax or outside of the tower of London!)

At this point I really should have gone home…but of course I was lured by something I’d read about–and then seen on the skyline from the fort.  And it was….a lighthouse!  You know how I feel about lighthouses, right?  Or didn’t I post enough lighthouse photos from our last road trip?  Well, here’s one more…

The not-cool thing about this lighthouse was that it wasn’t on the water (strange, right?) and that it was kept in this little protected lighthouse ‘reserve’ that prevented you from even taking a photo of it without paying the $10 ‘lighthouse museum’ entrance fee.  Clearly I paid it–as you can see the photo I took above.  But the admission also came with the extra added ‘bonus’ of being able to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse–all 219 steps.

I did not actually enter or climb any of the lighthouses on our Atlantic Canada tour.  No–that would be silly.  Why climb a lighthouse when it is 62 degrees out?  I’d much rather wait for a nice 92 degree day with 100% humidity and heat lightening–wouldn’t you?  Yeah–it was an insane idea, but I did it anyway.  Here I am, at the top…

Just over 24 hours later, my legs still hurt.  In fact, they hurt more and more with each passing minute.  Though walking around the Magic Kingdom today likely didn’t help.

I am very, very glad I made the trip to St. Augustine.  It’s yet another lovely touristy town–worthy of at least a two night stay.  I regret not doing any of the guided tours, but to be honest, the place was so dead (on a random Thursday in September) that I feared I’d be the only one on the tour.  Plus the trolley tour looked suspiciously like a Walt Disney World tram–and that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid!   But I’ll definitely take my husband here at some point–after all, it’s only a three hour drive from Savannah, which is on our must-do road trip list.

And really, what’s three hours?

Extended Disney World Trip: My New Travel Buddy!

One of my main complaints about being a grown-up is how difficult it is to make new friends.  Because I don’t sit next to anyone in homeroom anymore, I simply don’t know where to look.  Who knew I’d find a new forever friend…on a Disney message board?!?

Neither Melissa Sue nor I remember exactly when we started being ‘virtual friends’, but we know that we ‘met’ on the Passporter Forums, a Disney message board ‘community’.  I think she found me on Facebook–possibly through my blog–and since then we’ve been friends in the virtual world.  We met once, for lunch, earlier this year–maybe in May?  So she knew that I wasn’t a crazy person when she agreed to join me here in Florida for a long weekend.

Sadly, that long weekend is already over.  But we had a great time!  We spent one day in the Magic Kingdom followed by Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that night.

Day two took us to Animal Kingdom where we spent some time with the animals–including the new baby elephant on the savanna–and then some resort touring (in the photo below we are at Pop Century Resort) and dinner at celebrity chef Cat Cora’s restaurant Kouzzina.

Our last full day was spent at Hollywood Studios.  Neither of us particularly loved this park in the past, but with a little help from an awesome Imagineers guide we both had a blast!

Because Melissa Sue is a trooper–and a true Disney fan–she even managed to log a good deal of park time on her departure day.  We broiled in the sun at Epcot for a good six hours before I had to take her to the airport for her flight home.

So what did I learn?  Get ready for this…that it can be fun to travel with someone else (someone not my husband, that is!)  I have to admit to being a very typical only child–it’s typically my way or…well, there’s just no other option.  But I found a friend that I don’t mind sharing with.  Imagine that!

And more than that, I definitely had a better time than if I’d been by myself.  Why?  Most of the things I listed above simply would not have happened if not for Melissa Sue.  I wouldn’t have been brave enough to conquer the crowds at Fantasmic, I likely would have done little to no resort touring, and I definitely wouldn’t have stopped to watch the parade at Hollywood Studios–which was, I must admit–a highlight of the day for me.

But the best part wasn’t the things we did and saw–it is the things we will do and will see.  Because, you see, it is my hope that now that we’ve successfully ‘traveled’ together, we can do so in the future.  I have hopes that Melissa Sue will accompany me on a short trip to Vegas next summer–and after that, who knows?  We’ve talked about doing a couples trip back to Disney–though don’t tell our husbands because we haven’t shared that plan with them as of yet! I feel truly blessed to have finally found not only a wonderful new friend, but a travel buddy as well.

A travel buddy that doesn’t mind waiting for me to use the restroom every 45 minutes!