Even after visiting many schools in Liberia for Right to Play, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see when I did a similar outing in Jamaica. Maybe because Africa is farther. Maybe I equate the Caribbean with vacations. You see photos of soft beaches, tropical drinks and killer sunsets and think everyone must live a resort lifestyle. Whatever the excuse, it’s embarrassing that I’ve been so blasé and undereducated.
After so many trips to Paris, I finally got the courage to venture underneath the city. The Paris Catacombs, in the 14th arrondisement is an underground ossuary that houses a collection of over 6 million burials – skulls and bones that were moved there in 1774 in order to solve the problems of crowded cemeteries and cave-ins. Mass graves at cemeteries like Saints-Innocents in Paris’s Les Halles district were overcrowded with bodies, and the improper disposal of corpses led to unsanitary conditions that contributed to the spread of disease. Hundreds of years of history can be gleaned from the skulls.
I’ll never forget traveling from Rome to Toronto in executive class with a one year-old who didn’t sleep a wink. (I’m quite certain the airline had to appease many of our fellow travelers!) Every parent has a ‘bag of tricks’ and we’d love for you to add your own ideas to our 15 ways to entertain kids on an airplane. Having their full attention for so long is a great way to bond and can reveal amazing teaching moments. Even looking at the maps in the airline magazine is an opportunity!
With all of the fear-based news stories in the media about the Zika virus and spring break coming up, we wanted to get a clear picture on what Zika is and how to prevent it so we at Urban Mommies reached out to Dr. Dina Kulik to get some facts and calm some fears.
I travel often with my kids and while it’s much easier now as they’re getting older, I still remember the horrific time with one baby in a carrier, the other standing beside me trying to manoeuvre in a tiny airplane stall. And then there’s the flight where at least one child has cried for 9 straight hours. Yes, I have experienced flights from hell, and lived to tell the tale.
The luxury travel company andBeyond is expanding it’s operations to South America. The company would like to positively impact the region through their commitment to sustainable travel, conservation and community empowerment . Following success in South Asia, the company has decided to explore the vast landscapes, pristine wildlife areas and magnificent views of South America. Their first South American office will be rooted in Santiago, Chile and will open on July 15, 2015. The office will provide luxury tour operating and destination management company (DMC) services to guests travelling in Chile.
Home to some of the continent’s top sites, including Iguazu Falls, Easter Island, the wine regions of Santiago, Atacama, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia, Chile is a must-see on a trip through the continent. By the middle of August, similar services will be available to those travelling to Argentina and by mid-2016, the company will expand to Peru and Ecuador. Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon can easily be explored with the help of andBeyond’s new worldly expansions. The Managing Director Pedro Barraza has 25 years experience in the travel industry, plenty of which spent in top management roles. Your trip planning and management is in good hands! If you’ve always wanted to go to South America, this is your chance to travel the continent with a company committed to the development and sustainability of the land on which it works.
For more information, visit www.andBeyond.com
“Passported” – Seamless Vacation Planning
Feather+Flip, a family travel resource, has acquired itinerary planning company Bon Voyaging to create “Passported”. The new resource combines the itinerary planning technology of Bon Voyage with the family content of Feather+Flip. According to CEO Henley Vazquez, “Passported celebrates kid-friendly travel for grown-ups. We highlight the places your junior entourage will love in destinations you’re excited to visit. Family travel can be sophisticated, cool, and fun for the whole family.”
“Passported” allows families to view parent-reccomended restaurants, hotels, activities and sites, for vacation spots around the world, while creating a seamless vacation itinerary. Mapping capabilities are also available in unison with the technology. In addition to streamlined booking services, travellers booking with the new technology have access to special perks such as free breakfast, spa credits and late check out.
The philosophy of the company is that family travel can be sophisticated, cool, and fun for the whole family.
It’s taken me an awfully long time to write about Half Moon Resort, Jamaica. It’s like part of me wanted to hold it inside because once it’s out there, it’s gone. This property is by far the most wonderful family destination I had ever had the honour to visit. A private dolphin cove, a kids club with villas specializing in certain skills, an equestrian centre and countless pools, I was shocked that I’d been invited to a place where British royalty has stayed.
In my own ocean-side villa, one memory replays in my head. After long days that one experiences on press trips that garner little sympathy from friends watching on facebook, I dropped my camera, laptop and bags on my doorstep, followed by my clothes. I did have a bikini on, but I would have done the same without. I ran into the warm ocean while the sun nodded into the water and I am not sure I have ever been so relaxed in my life. Going back into my room I smiled at the furniture made on property, covered in rich upholstery and called my kids from the sitting room. The bedroom smelled of jasmine and fresh Blue Mountain coffee that the resort had left as a gift. Could tomorrow be more magical?
Well, yes. Because after a day of touring I was writing by the bar and happened to meet Rohan Marley. Son of Bob. And owner of Marley coffee. We chatted. I was in awe. Spitting image-awe.
The next morning I experienced the spa. Yes, you may hate me. Gentle, skilled esthiticians recognized what I needed and even gifted me a bag of leaves to take home. The leaves were a tea for a foot bath that would drain out the toxins. I bought ergonomic flip flops and wanted never to leave.
Meals at the resort were taken in the main restauraunt or on the patio just outside while overlooking the ocean. Breakfast could have simply been the exquisite natural juices from fruits I’d never heard of, but they insisted on bringing more and more food, both traditional and Jamaican-inspired.
One evening we meandered on the property and attended an outdoor dinner that showcased local fare. WOW! I spoke to locals about spices, customs and regional flavours, and couldn’t stop eating. (No bikini photos from this point on).
The Sugar Mill restaurant is the jewel of Half Moon. And if you can manage it at all, try to connect with David Barber over dinner – the General Manager who exudes passion for travel and a true love of Jamaica. The food was subtle yet bursting with taste, and I learned from another travel writer (Laura Manske of Parade) how to properly light dishes for photography using the flashlight of a cellphone.
You must go. You may spot a royal. Or you may just have a life-changing moment in the ocean with the property’s dolphins after meeting one of Bob Marley’s sons.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted by Half Moon Resort on a media trip to Jamaica.
It’s one of those things you strive to do as a vacation, and yet so elusive that few manage. Sailing for a week on a catamaran in Bocas del Toro Panama with four cabins, a captain and a first mate was the pinnacle of relaxation. If it sounds like a dream to you, you’re right.
We flew to Panama with only carry-on and grabbed a puddle-jumper operated by Nature Air into Bocas del Toro. The heat was thick and local kids entertained themselves with checkerboards on their laps in puddle-filled playgrounds. The town was more rustic than Ambergris Caye, Belize, but also more economical and diverse in cuisine. The boat is moored in Red Frog Marina on the island of Bastimentos, and many water taxi operators were jumping at the chance to take us for $10 each.
Tradewinds Cruise Club is an all-inclusive vacation ownership sailing fleet with boats across the globe. RCI members can exchange once every four years to experience the yachts or individuals can purchase weeks within Tradewinds Cruise Club. There is a maintenance fee to be paid yearly to maintain the boats as well as an all-inclusive fee per week for the charters.
Our first time using the boat, we were greeted warmly by the crew and the manager and we happily paid our all-inclusive fee which covered food, drink, snorkelling, scuba diving (for Tradewinds members), housekeeping, mooring fees and water sports.
We boarded Jade, a 42 foot catamaran, and I began to relax. The forward cabins are spacious and each of the four rooms has an ensuite. Our double bed offered storage beneath, and a closet and dresser created ample space for our belongings. Shoes are not needed on the boat, and swimsuits, a sarong and a few light dresses were all that we needed. Clothes can dry on the deck with the clothespins supplied and devices can be charged when the generator is active. Toilet paper cannot be flushed, but water is not an issue like on many boats as Jade is equipped with a water maker that turns seawater to fresh.
Though I had purchased a Panamanian SIM card, my phone didn’t always work on the remote islands. Which marked the first time since starting UrbanMommies in 2006 that I was truly unplugged and ‘forced’ to relax. And it was pure magic.
So I read a book while swinging on the hammock on deck. We slept on the trampoline one night. I held a monkey. I bartered in Spanish with a local fisherman who approached our boat in a dugout canoe with lobsters he’d caught free diving. (We purchased enough for the guests and crew for $3 each and the first mate was happy to cook the tails!) We saw a nurse shark while diving and seahorses and squid snorkeling.
We toured Green Acres Organic chocolate farm (whose chocolate was featured on the series Naked Dating, filmed on location) and hiked the jungle rainforest with poison dart frogs at our feet and howler monkeys overhead. I found a stash of sea urchins and coral washed up on a beach and was devastated by the amounts of garbage left on a tiny island by tourists who arrive daily by water taxi to enjoy its beauty. We talked global politics with the others on the boat. Together we represented Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Sweden. Sharing one’s culture and opinions in such a close setting was powerful.
The end of the week was bittersweet. Three gourmet meals had been prepared for us daily and somehow I adjusted to not doing the dishes. Every afternoon brought a new blender drink while we floated on noodles in the ocean.
I’d had a couple of showers, but swimming in seawater multiple times per day allowed me to cross that chore off my list quite frequently. I was more relaxed that I had been in years and I am counting the days until I can get back on a boat – but next time I hope to share the experience with my boys.