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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.

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.

Whale watching in Victoria, British Columbia

One of my favourite things to do when I visit British Columbia is to go on a whale watching tour. I’ve been to BC several times and have been on many whale watching tours in Victoria, Tofino and Vancouver, British Columbia.

While on a sunset whale watching tour in the waters of the Salish Sea near Victoria, we were surrounded by a family of orca whales. Suddenly, an orca whale came out of the water to check us out.

killer whale spy hop
A wild & free transient Orca whale (also known as Killer Whale) in the Salish Sea, the waters near Victoria, British Columbia.

 

Shortly after the above photo was taken, a mother and baby orca swam under our boat, twice. We also had a rare opportunity to watch Orca whales as they taught their young how to hunt for porpoises and saw a humpback whale and seals. It was my favourite whale watching tour to date.

Mother Orca teaching her young one how to hunt for porpoise.
Two orcas in the water near Victoria, British Columbia with Race Rock in the background.

 

A humpback whale tale against the sunset in the Salish Sea near Victoria, British Columbia

I highly recommend Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia for these reasons:

  • They are Canada’s first carbon-neutral, eco-adventure whale watching company
  • They partner with the Songhees First Nation, traditional territory of Victoria, to offer the Songhees Nation Cultural Tour
  • They contribute to conservation and education
  • They have several tour options and boats available. I enjoyed the tour on the Goldwing.

Watch: Killer Whales swim under our boat 

Read: A Close Encounter with Orcas in British Columbia

 

A Close Encounter with Orcas in British Columbia

I usually bring my 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens for a whale watching tour without a second thought as the whales are never close enough to use a shorter focal length. For the first time, I stood at the trunk of the car and questioned whether I should take the shorter focal length lens.

I had been on 2 whale watching trips during my visits to British Columbia this summer and didn’t even think about it before, but for some reason I had 2 minutes of photographer anxiety. In the end, I didn’t take it because I know that when wildlife appears closer than they normally do, there’s not enough time to change lenses.

Maybe I just knew I was going to see orca whales up close. 

We came upon a pod of transient orcas after about a 20 to 30-minute ride from where we departed at Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, British Columbia. Transient orca whales are also known as Biggs killer whales. We watched them alternate between shorter 2-minute and deeper 4-minute dives. In those longer dives, they were hunting.

As our captain vied for position and stopped a safe distance away, my best friend who is from British Columbia and is Nlaka’pamux and Cree First Nations was quietly singing her ancestral songs. We were the only 2 on the back of the boat.

Suddenly,  a spy hop!

At that moment, I knew they were coming.

 

OrcaSpyhop
Spyhop!

 

Shortly after the spyhop, some of the orcas started poking their head out of the water as if they were checking us out.

 

Checking us out. - Victoria, British Columbia
Orca whale in the Straight of Juan de Fuca near Race Rocks, about 17 km from Victoria, British Columbia.

 

I started to notice more surface activity but weren’t sure what the whales were up to. Then, we could see a harbour porpoise. They seemed more interested in playing with it than eating it as they would push it along and disappear with it under the water. The naturalist on board our Eagle Wings Tours boat thought that they were teaching the baby orca how to hunt. The truth is, he wasn’t sure, as he said that he had never seen anything like it before.

While the large male orca swam close to Eagle Wing tour’s other boat, my friend started to sing a little louder. I knew she was trying to communicate.

OrcasSide
An orca shows us a belly roll.

 

OrcasPorpoise1
Two orcas and a harbour porpoise.

 

Then, two orcas were straight out in front of us with their heads above the water looking towards us with the porpoise between them. It was as if to say ‘look what we have’.

The next moment they came towards us.

OrcasPorpoise
Two orcas show us their catch, a harbour porpoise.

 

As they got closer, I switched to video mode and captured the moment they swam under our boat, twice! I said hello and thanked them, out loud.

I thought they’d reappear on the other side of the boat, but instead they resurfaced on the same side that they started from, right beside us.

Two orcas in the water near British Columbia with Race Rock in the background.
Orcas with Race Rocks in the background, about 17km from Victoria, British Columbia.

 

WhaleTaleBack
We saw humpback whales too, we think we saw 2 different ones. Humpback whale tail.

 

WhaleTaleSunset
A humpback whale tail against a British Columbia sunset.

 

TrialIsland
A beautiful sunset behind Trial Island, near Victoria, British Columbia

 

Every now and again I’d hear my friend say “kuk’stem” which is thank you in the Nlaka’pamux language. She was following Indigenous protocol in giving thanks to the whales and the Creator.

Until next time,

Andrea… and my wandering iPhone

 

 

Oh the Places I’ve Gone in 2014

It’s been a great travel year for me and I am grateful for the opportunities, new friends, old friends and for a family that supports me.

In 2014 I returned to a country I love – South Africa, not once but twice! I visited in May and my dad came along. I also returned in November and my family (husband, 4yo & 9yo sons) came with! My dad joined us a week later. My visits to South Africa are always so inspiring and wonderful and never long enough.

St. James Beach - Cape Town, South Africa.
St. James Beach – Cape Town, South Africa May 2014. This image was chosen to appear in Pocket Vistas, a Mobile Photography exhibition of Landscape, Nature & Wildlife.

 

Sons & penguins at Boulder's Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
My sons & penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town, South Africa November 2014.

 

My son enjoyed seeing the penguins and playing in the water at Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa.
My son checking out the view at Boulder’s Beach May 2014. Both my boys enjoyed seeing the penguins and playing in the water. Cape Town, South Africa.

 

Street art in the Woodstock neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa.
Street art in Woodstock. Cape Town, South Africa November 2014.

 

Zebra in Black and White. Taken with my Olympus em1 mirrorless camera while on safari in South Africa. .
Zebra in Black and White. Taken with my Olympus em1 mirrorless camera & M.Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens while on safari in South Africa with Naledi Enkoveni December 2014.

 

Bird silhouettes against a South African sunset. Taken with my Olympus em1 & 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens.
Bird silhouettes against a South African sunset. Taken with my Olympus em1 & 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens while on safari with Naledi Enkoveni December 2014.

 

The reason for my return to South Africa was because of a women’s mobile photography development initiative I founded and started there in November 2013, The Heart of a Woman Project. I visited in May to launch phase 2 and my father came with to meet the ladies and offer some help. I returned once more in November to celebrate our 1st anniversary with an exhibition and cultural celebration and was very happy to have my husband & 2 sons (9 & 4) with me.

The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa
The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa #thoawSA May 2014.

 

An instameet in Khayelitsha with Instagramers Cape Town and the ladies from thoawSA.
An inaugural #instameetEKASI in Khayelitsha with Instagramers Cape Town and the ladies from thoawSA June 1, 2014. Photo by Ockie Fourie.

 

A collage of the women's work over the last year. The Heart of a Woman Project.
A collage of the women’s work over the last year on display at eKhaya eKasi, The Heart of a Woman Project. Debuted at the 1st anniversary exhibition & cultural celebration November 2014.

 

My 4 yo learning isiXhosa games from the kids in the eKhaya eKasi community. We spent 6 days there. They played with the kids while I taught.
My 4 yo son learning isiXhosa games from the kids in the eKhaya eKasi community. We spent 6 days there in November 2014. They played with the kids while I taught the ladies and they can’t wait to return.

 

On the way to South Africa, we had an overnight layover in London, England. Mostly we stayed near the airport in hopes that my sons would adjust a bit to the time difference so they could handle the further 2 hour difference between GMT and SAST. It seemed to work and they adjusted well. It also helped to avoid 2 back to back overnight flights. We took off to Windsor  before checking in for our flight. Windsor was about 25 minutes from Heathrow, it’s a quaint town and a good layover visit. We saw Windsor Castle from the outside only and had lunch in a local pub. It was my son’s 1st visit to Europe, we’ll have to go back for a proper one.

My sons in front of Windsor Castle, a layover stop before our flight to South Africa.
My sons in front of Windsor Castle, a layover stop before our flight to South Africa November 2014.

 

I also kept going back to New York City. I went in March for the inaugural Women’s Travel Fest where I joined the 3 other WeGoSolo twitter chat hosts – Mariellen of BreatheDreamGo and founder of WeGoSolo, Kelly of Go Girl Guides and the founder of Women’s Travel Fest and Gemma from Girls That Travel.

Gemma, Andrea, Kelly & Mariellen - WeGoSolo
Gemma, Andrea, Kelly & Mariellen of WeGoSolo at Women’s Travel Fest in New York, NY March 2014.

 

I also went to New York City in October for National Geographic Traveler’s seminar on Storytelling Photography with Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow, two well respected NG photographers. I’ve been a professional photographer since 2003 and have been following Ami’s incredible work since that time. It was great to meet her in person and to learn from her.

New York is a great city for solo travel and I love to see a show on broadway, discover a restaurant and observe what’s happening around the city. While walking back to my hotel after seeing a show on Broadway, I came across this scene in Times Square. At first it was just this young man with his sign and then this half dressed man came by and started dancing, things got interesting.

Only in New York City?
Only in New York City? October 2014.

 

I am also grateful to have been able to get in a short visit but with quality time with dear friends in Vancouver (my home away from home) and Saskatoon in Canada in April.

Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver.
Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver April 2014

 

Saskatoon, Canada
Saskatoon, Canada April 2014.

 

Between all the travel both solo and with family, I also managed to visit some our family favourites nearer to home – Niagara Falls in February and June and the Kawartha Lakes in August.

The American Falls as seen from the Canadian side. Visited Niagara Falls with the family on Family Day.
The American Falls as seen from the Canadian side. Visited Niagara Falls with the family on Family Day February 2014.

 

My oldest son enjoying the view in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario.
My oldest son enjoying the view in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario at a cottage we rented for a week August 2014.

 

Sons enjoying a ride on the Skywheel in Niagara Falls.
Sons enjoying a ride on the Skywheel in Niagara Falls June 2014. We had an overnight there shortly after I returned from South Africa.

 

Lastly, I added 2 new cities to my travels, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico in July. I was in Santa Fe for the International Folk Art Market that hosts artisans from around the world. From their website – “Celebrates the humanity of the handmade that empowers communities through monumental earnings.”

There were so many talented artists with their incredible handmade work. It was like travelling around the world in a day. The highlights were visiting the artists and learning more about the work from Myanmar (Burma), South Africa and Haiti. I met a man and his family that represents the last 30 puppeteers of Myanmar. It’s a dying tradition that dates back 600 years. You can read about it here.

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Fabrics from Myanmar.
Fabrics from Myanmar at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Baskets made of telephone wire in South Africa.
Baskets made of telephone wire in South Africa at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Art from Haiti, with a strong belief in voodoo.
Art from Haiti, with a strong belief in voodoo at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Puppeteer from Myanmar
Puppeteer from Myanmar, a 600 year tradition at IFAM July 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

I also got a chance to drive a bit of Route 66 in Albuquerque.

Route 66 - Albuquerque, New Mexcio.
Route 66 – Albuquerque, New Mexico July 2014.

 

Route 66 - Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Route 66 – Albuquerque, New Mexico July 2014.

 

It’s been great to go through my photos of the last year and relive some memories. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some images from the destinations I visited in 2014.

Sharing 2 quotes I love and perfect for starting the new year –

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Wishing you new beginnings, magic, dreams and safe travels in 2015, the best is yet to come!

Until next time,

Andrea

…and my wandering iPhone