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Family and Solo Travel Adventures of 2017

As we step into 2018, I’d like to take this time to thank you for following along and for your comments and questions on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and email. I hope that I’ve helped to answer all your mobile photography, camera and tech gear, and travel related questions.

I had some incredible family and solo travel adventures in 2017! I explored 2 new countries – Israel and Japan, returned to British Columbia, The Florida Keys twice, South Africa and Australia and visited new places at home in Ontario like Tobermory and Manitoulin Island, and we also saw the solar eclipse in totality on a spontaneous road trip to Kentucky and Tennessee.

We also returned to our favourite close-to-home destination, Niagara Falls. We spent time on both sides of the border. While my boys love playing the redemption games, we also enjoyed walking through Dufferin Island on the Canadian side in the Spring as well as chasing cherry blossoms, found some! In the summer, we ventured to the American side and visited Goat Island. It is a great place to visit as it gives you close-up views of both the American and Canadian Falls.

It was very much a year of incredible snorkelling adventures in the barrier reefs of the Florida Keys and Australia as well as the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel. My 7yo snorkelled for his first time, in Eilat and loved it. We ended our travel year with a trip to The Florida Keys where he embarked on his first open water snorkel trip. We went on 2 snorkel trips from Key Largo and one in the backwaters of Key West. Our favourite experience was our snorkel trip at Molasses Reef where we encountered sea turtles, Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks. He was over the moon with excitement and can’t wait to snorkel again. You can read more in my guide to snorkelling the Florida Keys here.

To recap and close out 2017, here are some of my favourite Instagram and mobile camera photos that were all shot on my iPhone 7+. In 2018, I look forward to continuing to inspire your family travels, solo trips and photography and show you more beautiful, nature and culture-rich destinations.

JANUARY

bahia honda tide
Moving tides at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. A trip I did with my niece.

FEBRUARY

St James Beach Cape Town
Dusk at St. James Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. A solo trip to South Africa for The Heart of a Woman Project.
Penguins at Boulders Beach
Penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, Playing with portrait mode on the iPhone 7 plus.

MARCH

zebra in Kruger
A Zebra in Kruger National Park, South Africa. A self-drive trip I did with my South African travel writer & travel blogger friend Anje Rautenbach of Going Somewhere Slowly in March 2017. Check out her video here.
tea at mahane yehuda jerusalem
Tea at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. A family trip with my husband, 2 sons and father in March 2017, I travelled there after my trip to Kruger Park.
My oldest son and the Eilat Mountains in Southern Israel. We could see the Sinai Desert when we climbed a bit off the dusty road.
old town warsaw
Old Town Warsaw, Poland. A layover on my home way home from Israel.

APRIL

cherry blossoms canada
Found cherry blossoms in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Maid on the Mist in Niagara Falls. A family day trip from Toronto.

MAY

cherry blossoms Kariya Park Mississauga
On the hunt for more cherry blossoms. Found these at Kariya Park in Mississauga.

JUNE

Enchanted Forest
My son at The Enchanted Forest in British Columbia. A family trip to BC with my youngest son, father, aunt, and uncle to see relatives.

JULY

Beautiful art on the arena in Wikwemikong, the unceded territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. A trip with my best friend who was visiting Ontario from British Columbia with her family.
Balm Beach Ontario
Sunset in Balm Beach. Some of the most spectacular sunsets in Ontario happen right here, on Georgian Bay, traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg people. Balm Beach is our fave family beach in Ontario. A trip with my family and my best friend and her family who were visiting Ontario from British Columbia.
Tobermory Ontario
My oldest son on the rocks near the Big Tub Lighthouse in Tobermory, Ontario. My sons and I went on a spontaneous 2-night trip on the shores of Lake Huron chasing Aurora. We didn’t find her but found Tobermory.
Bruce Country Ontario
My oldest son in the canola fields of Bruce County, Ontario. This is part of the same trip with my 2 sons.

AUGUST

Manitou River Manitoulin Island
A peaceful spot by the Manitou River near Michael’s Bay on Manitoulin Island. A trip with my 2 sons and father to take in the annual Perseids meteor shower.
Sunflowers in Caledon, Ontario. Random Sunday drives with my husband and 2 sons.
clarksville tennessee for the solar eclipse
A spontaneous road trip to the USA where we experienced our first solar eclipse in totality. We found this spot in Clarksville, Tennessee by the Red River. This was
the light about 30 minutes before totality. The birds flocked, and the cicadas sang. It went to darkness and planets you don’t normally see, were seen. Hard to describe the feeling but we were in awe.

SEPTEMBER

Lakeside Park Oakville
Revisiting one of our favourite family parks in the Greater Toronto area, Lakeside Park in Oakville. September was all about back to school and TIFF. At the end of the month, I returned to Vancouver to visit my best friend before my trip to Australia and Japan.

OCTOBER

Heron Island Queensland Australia
Reef walking at low tide in the Great Barrier Reef off Heron Island in Queensland, Australia. Heron Island is a Coral Cay with the reef as your playground. I saw sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, many species of fish and sea cucumbers. I even found Nemo’s cousin. It was a return to Australia but this time as a solo traveller and my first time exploring Queensland and the GBR.
koala on the great ocean road
Rainforest views on Grey River Road in Kennet River. This was my favourite stop on the Great Ocean Road. Can you find the sleepy koala?
The 8 remaining limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles. This is probably the most popular stop on the GOR drive and worth seeing in person.
The 5-story Yasaka Pagoda in Kyoto, Japan is surrounded by quaint narrow streets lined with cafes, restaurants and a variety of shops. Loved wandering through here after most people had left the area.

NOVEMBER

palm tree bahia honda state park
A broken but not battered palm tree at Bahia Honda State Park after Hurricane Irma blew through. A trip to the Florida Keys with my oldest niece and 2 sons.
sombrero beach views in Marathon Florida
My boys enjoying a sunset swim at Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Florida Keys.
So not a winter person but I can appreciate the beauty of snow especially with a setting sun. No travels in December.

VIDEOS

Wishing your many photographic opportunities and travels that fulfil your soul in 2018.

12 images that show how Indigenous culture in Canada is being preserved

OVER THE THREE-DAY Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, Canada, I witnessed the great pride of elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance, drum and sing, celebrating and preserving their rich culture.

AReesFNCulture1
This carving stands on a pole at Songhees Point. It depicts the importance of children and the spirit of this sacred site to the Songhees First Nation. This area is also known as Pallatsis, meaning “place of the cradle” in the Lekwungen language. When children were able to walk on their own, parents put their cradle along the waterfront to ensure them a long life. This was the launch site of 3 canoes that participated in the ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony and traditional protocol of approaching a First Nations territory and asking to come ashore. A young boy is seen walking behind this pole to join his father (not pictured) before they departed in the canoes for the ceremony and to open the 2015 Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

We were a mix of Indigenous people, some in colourful regalia, and non-Indigenous people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the shared traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to ask for permission to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historic day, as this had never been done before in the history of Victoria.

Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:

“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis.”

FN Culture 2
George Taylor, emcee of the Aboriginal Cultural Festival and director of Le-La-La Dancers of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation sings and drums as he leads a procession of 3 canoes across Victoria’s Inner Harbor in the canoe ceremony. Ten-year-old Matthew Everson seen beside George wearing a ceremonial blanket and mask participates in this historic ceremony.

 

FNCulture3
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation looks on as Gary Sam, a dancer from the Songhees Nation greets the canoes, he then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.

 

FNCulture4
A young drummer from the Esquimalt First Nation joins his grandfather (not pictured) on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

FNCulture5
Lason Taylor performs as a young grizzly bear at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Lason is a 3rd generation member of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island. They have been sharing their culture and traditions through song and dance under the direction of George Me’las Taylor locally and around the world for 27 years. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their rich culture has survived and will continue to survive.

 

FNCulture6
A drummer stands beside elder Ray Qwulshemut Peter, director of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation, as they sing and drum at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival. This group presented songs and dances that were taught to them by their elders. They shared a song that was sacred to them and asked that no one record or photograph the performance. Several elders that lead dance groups stepped aside and asked the younger generation to sing and drums their songs. George Taylor spoke of the importance of the “passing of the drumstick” and teaching children and youth so that their traditions, songs, dances and stories may be carried on.

 

FNCulture7
A young boy drums as he performs with the Tzinquaw Dancers from the Cowichan First Nation at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and at festivals from a young age.

 

FNCulture8
Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught Amber the basics of this dance to which she has added her own elements.

 

FNCulture9
Matthew Everson on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Matthew is a 2nd-generation dancer in the Le-La-La Dancers First Nation Dance Company.

 

FNCulture10
Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he carved from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favourite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it brings light to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.

 

FNCulture11
Young Michael Sheena of the Pauquachin First Nation shows off a drum he made from cut pieces of deer hide. He learned how to make rattles and drums from his grandfather, Virgil Bob. Virgil shared the month-long process of preparing a hide, such as putting the fur in a special solution and the scraping of fur. Michael comes from a family of artists as his grandfather’s sisters, Alva and Iona are weavers and jewellery designers. Michael was with his aunts and grandfather in the artist booth. I learned that Michael and Virgil also use elk and bear hide for their instruments.

 

FNCulture12
Jason, Lason and George Me’las Taylor, 3 generations of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island.

 

It was an honour to be in one of 3 First Nations canoes during the historic Welcoming of Canoes ceremony. Watch a short 30-second video of my experience.

 

For authentic Indigenous cultural experiences, attractions and events in Canada, visit:

Aboriginal Canada

  • A guide to Indigenous tourism in Canada

Aboriginal Tourism BC 

  • A non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia.

 

A portion of this article was published in part on Matador Network. I was a guest of Tourism Victoria but as always all opinions are strictly my own.

Cherry Beach is my favourite beach in Toronto, Ontario

Lifeguard station at Cherry Beach in Toronto, Canada.

Cherry Beach in Toronto, Ontario is my go-to beach for it’s laid back atmosphere. It’s my favourite place to sit by the lake and take some time out. It is much less crowded than the other Toronto beaches.

There are toilet facilities, a food truck and an off-leash dog park. You’ll often see kite boarders, kayakers, stand up paddle boarders and wind surfers. There are barbeque facilities as well, just bring the charcoal.

Celebrating Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver, British Columbia and a Festival

cherry blossoms vancouver

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Vancouver and area. We found these ones in South Surrey in March 2016 while we were on a family trip during March Break. As a resident of Toronto, have to say I was a little jealous of their cherry blossom trees. Not only do they bloom earlier than us, they have many more trees than we do in Toronto, at least, it seemed that way. We  saw trees everywhere we looked from Vancouver to Abbotsford.

cherry blossoms vancouver

cherry blossoms vancouver

cherry blossoms vancouver

Vancouver celebrates the Sakura trees and  even has a Cherry Blossom Festival. In 2016, it runs from March 24 to April 17th.

For more information about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival including a map of cherry tree locations, visit here. The map helped us find the trees pictured above.

Toronto and a glimpse of the CN Tower

One of my favourite drives into the city and spot to view the CN Tower. Also, a partial view of the Rogers Centre (white roof). It was formerly named Skydome, I think I’ll always think of it as that. The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and until last year, the Toronto Argonauts football team. It was opened in 1989 and has a fully retractable roof and hotel attached to it with many rooms overlooking the field.

A dancer at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia

A First Nations dancer from the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers group performs at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia, June 2015. The Lekwungen dancers are from the Songhees Nation and the wolf is the symbol of the Songhees, traditionally known as Lekwungen.

This festival celebrates the rich First Nations culture in British Columbia. Dancers, singers and artists come from all over Vancouver island and mainland British Columbia and some from other parts of Canada. The festival coincides with Aboriginal Day in June. If you love festivals and want to learn about and join in celebrating First Nations culture, get to Victoria in June. 
For more information about this festival, visit here

I was honoured to cover this 3-day festival for @matadornetwork as a guest of @tourismvictoriabc, as always, opinions are my own.