Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Exuma Bahamas November 2017

This post is obviously a little bit late. We postponed this post in order to cover our Disney World Christmas trip during the holiday season. Hopefully you will enjoy our photos and videos from Exuma.

This was our second trip to The Exumas, a chain of 365 islands that are part of Bahamas. We first visited Great Exuma in 2010 when Sandals took over the former Four Seasons. We were won over by the huge crescent-shaped beach and the water clarity. Since our first visit Sandals has added more amenities to the resort including restaurants, a pastry shop, and jerk shack. This year we opted for a beach house room which gave us quick access to the sand and our own dedicated hammock (that we hardly used). The beach is never crowded here since most guests opt for spending their day in the giant pool with its swim-up bar.

We experienced a lot of wind and choppy water this trip, which was not too different from our last visit. It made drinking Kaliks in the water a challenge but allowed us to invent a new game. We brought little unicorn inflatable floating drink holders with us expecting them to actually function (at least in the pool). They always tipped over, spilling rainbow concoctions into the pool. We ended up using them for races. First one into shore wins! Video below:

We don't participate in too many resort activities. One exception is Fish-a-Prize. The goal is to get a metal ring tied to a make-shift cane pole over the neck of a rum bottle. Fastest time wins. Holly was a champion! Dave was very proud and excited to get a free bottle of rum to bring home.
Sandals owns a quality 18-hole course that hugs the shoreline. Holly would use the cart path for a portion of her morning runs while Dave took a few walks to the end of the point.
We had a lot of fun with the staff this trip. They took great care of us while seeming to have fun. Hand them your camera for a photo and you will most likely end up with one of them too.

We had one excursion this trip. We rented a car and drove around the island. In the Bahamas you drive British-style with American cars. Drive on the left with the steering wheel on the left. Not too crazy but luckily there's not a lot of traffic on the island. Our first destination was north of the resort, Coco Plum Beach. One thing we noticed was nothing is labeled. We ended up driving passed the beach road, turned into a neighborhood and realized we were too far. From the top of the hill we could see the beach (it was lovely) but could not figure out where the access point was. We asked a man walking by for directions and he told us to turn at the blue trash bin. We eventually found it. We were the only people on the beach when we arrived and by the time we left about four more people showed up.

Tide was too high to use the swings

After having a walk and quick swim we got back in the car and headed south towards The Tropic of Cancer Beach. This location wasn't labeled either. We lucked into noticing a trash bin within the appropriate miles away from the bridge connecting the two islands. There were a few houses near and on the beach. People count was maybe around ten.

Lunch was nearby at Santana's. The outdoor restaurant was right on the coast. The wind kept us planted at the bar to enjoy our entrees of fried fish and fried lobster. Fantastic. As usual, the staff was friendly and interested in our outing plans. After lunch we walked next doors to Mom's Bakery to pick up one of their acclaimed rum cakes. For $7 we picked a vanilla cake that weighed about two pounds. After making our selection the lady pulled the foil back on the loaf and poured heaping ladles of rum sauce all over the cake. Best rum cake ever! Sorry, no pictures...

Our final destination was the "famous" Chat 'n' Chill bar across the bay from Georgetown. Our water taxi ride was $30 round-trip. We arranged a pickup time with our driver to give us a good two hours on the island. Unfortunately the skies were not looking so good. Rain was coming at some point. Once we landed on the island we went right to the main beach to watch the sting rays go by. They know where the food is so they hang by the beach all day. They are used to people and don't freak out when you pet them. We also saw a small shark while here. When a light rain started we retreated inside. We met a nice patron from Tennessee whom recently sold a business he started many years ago for $20MM. We enjoyed hearing about how he lives his life between TN and Exuma and his plans to fly his personal airplane to Europe and South Africa. You just never know who you will run into in an island bar.

Our new friend offered us a boat ride back to the ferry dock but we turned him down so the water taxi driver wouldn't wonder where the heck we went to. The ride back was miserable with a hard rain beating down on us as we crossed the channel. We wanted to visit one of the more interesting hotels in town (one of the oldest buildings) for a drink, but they were closed for renovations. We opted to go back to the land of prepaid food and drink instead of stopping anywhere else.

After two trips The Exumas are gaining rank in our list of favorite locations. As far as Sandals properties go, this one has everything we enjoy (a variety of restaurants and a large, quiet beach). The islands and water are gorgeous, and the people are friendly. Not Jamaican friendly, but still very nice (especially when they see you are not fussy and willing to go with the flow). There aren't too many people that live in these islands so there are still many unspoiled pieces of land.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Charity of the Month: Brookfield Zoo Share the Care

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

In February we had double charity month (because Dave was lazy in January) supporting both Mended Hearts and the Eagles Charitable Foundation with cash donations.

March Charity of the Month:

It's been a long time since we've visited Brookfield Zoo.   It's very nice, just a bit too far to make the trip during the summer when the opportunity cost is a day on the lake.  

What prompted us to pick the zoo this month was the receipt of our renewal letter for the Share the Care Animal Adoption Program.  This is our 18th year of support.   We started by supporting the zoo's new baby polar bear, Tiguak, in 2000.  Tiguak was born at the zoo in the fall of 1999, but was rejected by the mother.   Zookeepers hand-nursed her and kept her healthy.   This was big news and hyped up in the media.  Once she was placed into the display areas we made a visit and enjoyed watching her play with her toys and swimming.

Possibly one of the first pictures we took using a digital camera
Share The CareWhile at the zoo they asked us to join the Share the Care Program.   With our package we received a photo of Tiguak.   With follow-up donations each year we received an update on her well-being.   After a few years she was transferred to another zoo and our care converted over to her younger brother Hudson.  
While preparing to write this post we tried to find out what happened to Tiguak.   Unfortunately she died in 2011 under anesthesia during a dental operation in Quebec.

In addition to keeping our Share the Care going for Hudson we started a new Share the Care for Holly's favorite animal - the giraffe.  A few years ago Potoka went viral in a video of her prancing around her display area.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Vancouver: Capilano Bridge, Grouse Mountain, Granville Market

We had little knowledge of Vancouver and its related attractions. While we were out at bars and restaurants we asked the locals what we should do for the next few days. In every conversation the Capilano Bridge and Grouse Mountain were named as the top attractions.

In a surprise move, we took the Capilano Bridge free shuttle from the center of town. Pam and Stan met us at the Hyatt Regency for the 20 minute drive to the bridge. This was a great service but a little unsettling for us as it was first-come-first-serve and all the shuttle buses for attractions came here to pick up travelers.

From their website: Originally built in 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. Since then much has been added to the twenty-seven acre park. CLIFFWALK is the park’s newest attraction – a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon. Treetops Adventure, seven suspension bridges through the evergreens taking you up to 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor, offers a unique squirrel’s eye perspective of the forest. Guided nature tours, the Kids’ Rainforest Explorer program and the Living Forest exhibit enhance this unique rainforest encounter. Enjoy seasonal musical entertainment and First Nations culture.

The best way to describe the experience is to equate it to a visit to an Ewok Village (without the bears holding spears). Guests climb stairs to reach platforms built around large Douglas-firs and cross bridges from one platform to another.

Pretty much the first thing you have to do is cross the long bridge. Being a holiday weekend, and a perfect Sunday afternoon, the place was crowded. It took a little bit of time to cross the bridge while waiting for families to pass the other way or for the folks in front of us to take their selfies.

We encountered employees running a bird exhibit deep in the forest. We got to see an owl up close.

This was the part in the trip where the cruise ship plague started to take Holly out. She was feeling pretty tired while showing all the symptoms of a chest cold. While Dave and Stan went to see the glass platform overlook she relaxed on a bench with Pam.

The day before we were here they got 150 Mounties to stand on the bridge for a Canada Day photo.

If taking the free shuttle wasn't amazing enough, we took the public bus to our next destination: Grouse Mountain. It would have been very easy if we didn't have to break paper money for exact change (Canadians have dollar coins). Four of us were able to get to the mountain for a cost of ~$11 (US). There was a free shuttle to get us back to the city centre.

Grouse Mountain is a ski mountain that found a way to make money in the off season. The large gondolas transport guests to the top of the mountain where they can participate in activities like zip lining, hiking, watching (sleeping) grizzlies, take in a bird show, and eat. It wasn't as robust of an experience as we were led to believe it would be, but we got a great view of the city and had lunch in a pretty nice setting.

Holly hates gondolas
Mt Rainer in Washington

Since the shuttle dropped us off at Canada Place we decided to hit a bar on the waterfront. Tap & Barrel had a robust beer selection. Unfortunately every Vancouver resident was enjoying the nice weather leaving no outdoor tables for us so inside we went. Holly's coughing got worse and her symptoms were getting stronger. We decided it was best to go back to the room and have her get some rest. We said goodbye to Stan and Pam since they were leaving the next morning.

Dinner that night was the best ramen ever! Jinya Ramen Bar was delicious! We didn't know it was chain until writing this post and discovered there is one in Chicago. Dave picked up a to-go order and we had an in-room picnic.


Monday was our last full day of the trip and the work holiday for Canada Day. Holly was feeling a little better so we decided to walk to Granville Market. It looked closer on the map. The market is a mixture of old and new buildings housing restaurants, shops, art galleries, and an urban market with farmstands, meats, etc.

We spent some time browsing the shops before hitting the Liberty Distillery. Dave had a whiskey flight while Holly tried a Bloody Mary with house-made vodka. It was a nice location with some great design elements. We enjoyed another seafood lunch on the deck of the Vancouver Fish Company before sampling some beers at Granville Island Brewery.

The whole area was crowded because, you guessed it, it was a beautiful holiday weekend. We left the market via cab and got dropped off in the Gastown District to see the Steam Clock. It's a pseudo-attraction that was much smaller than we anticipated.

Since we were this far into the city centre we decided to go back to Tap & Barrel and wait for an outdoor table so we could enjoy the fresh air and watch the seaplanes land in the bay. We had an early flight the next morning so we decided the best option for the rest of the evening was more ramen from Jinya in the room with a bottle of wine while we packed.
Overall we enjoyed our time in Vancouver. While there weren't many "attractions" in the city the area offered a lot of diversity in the environment and in the culture. It was a nice city to just wander and explore.