Exploring Toronto, CN Tower, and the Edge Walk

Since its been awhile, here is a bit of a refresher: We were “homeless” during May 2013 as our lease at our previous apartment expired at the same time that articling completed (we planned it that way).  We wanted to take advantage of not having to pay rent for the month as we wanted to travel anyways before coming back and diving into work.  So we stored the majority of our stuff in a friends storage locker (thanks Katie!), and hit the road with our backpacks.  We spent a couple of days at a place called the Rose Room in Toronto, went to Niagara-on-the-Lake for our friends’ wedding, went straight to Barbados from there, then Martinique, and then we came back to Toronto to visit with Davin’s parents and attend our call to the bar ceremonies.

When we left for Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Caribbean, the Rose Room let us store our bags with them as we had booked the same room for a couple days when we got back into town.  It was really nice of them, and also convenient to have a bit of a home base to leave our colder weather items and our suits and robes for the call to the bar later in the month.  So it was back to the Rose Room when we landed, which was starting to feel a bit like home by now 😀

We had a day before Davin’s parents arrived after we landed.  It is kind of embarrassing, but Davin and I haven’t really spent much time actually exploring Toronto.  Since we’ve been here work has been the primary focus.  And both of us are prone to workaholic behaviour to begin with… So we took advantage of the down time and nice weather to act like tourists in the city that we hadn’t quite accepted as “ours” yet (writing this in hindsight – in Spring 2015 – it still feels strange to think of Toronto as “home”… the #westcoastbestcoast still imo…).

We did what I would suggest tourists-with-one-day-in-Toronto do, and wandered down Bay Street to Yonge-Dundas Square and Eaton’s Centre.  There is always action in that area with street performances, big TV’s etc.  Pretty much sensory overload, but fun to wander around and take it all in.  Then on to Old City Hall which is a beautiful building.  It was in danger of being demolished with the panning of Eaton’s Centre, but was declared a National Historic site in 1989.  I’m glad as it is striking, and adds a nice architectural contrast in the downtown core.  Davin prosecuted a few cased in the building under the Provincial Offences Act during articling and he liked walking up the big grand steps in the front after grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks across the street on a break 🙂  Here is Davin on the Bay Street side.  The front of it is quite something and worth seeing, but we didn’t take a picture:

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And us in the same spot with some tall Bay Street buildings in the background:

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New City Hall (or just “City Hall”, I guess) and Nathan Phillips Square is right across the Street from Old City Hall.  At the time it was the home of Toronto’s side show, Rob Ford.  Now Mayor Tory has settled in, and I’m glad to see the back-door of that fiasco.  It was hard to feel proud of our city with all the garbage that always surrounded that guy…

But City Hall is a beautiful building.  For some reason I didn’t take a picture of it so here is a stock picture from Google:

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And here is me with a bit of Nathan Phillips Square in the background.  Great place.  Has ice skating in the winter, and lots of food trucks all year ’round!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We walked down to Lake Ontario which has an “ok” water front (it’s not the Seawall).  Coming from Vancouver and the Okanagan in B.C., it is really nice to have a large body of water close by.  I don’t really know why, its not like we swim or go boating.  But I just like the feeling of it.  Davin LOVES ducks!  He could sit and watch them all day I am sure.  They have such interesting little social interactions, and get so worked up!  I love the little quackers too ;p  Here he is trying to convince one to come close enough to pet.  They never come close enough to pet…

IMG_4579 Davin has been wanting to do the Edge Walk at CN Tower since he heard about it.  Me not so much.  The Edge Walk is there they strap you into a harness and you get to walk around the OUTSIDE “circle part” of the CN Tower, almost 1200 feet above ground!  Yeah, PASS… (http://www.edgewalkcntower.ca/more.html)

This is how he showed up to the Edge Walk, in khakis and a blazer (these pictures are all a little blurry because I was taking them behind glass):

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Then you get all suited up:

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Once you are ready to go…

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You head outside.  It was a perfect day for it.  Great visibility all the way to Niagara Falls on the other side of Lake Ontario.

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While Davin was outside clinging to the CN Tower by a harness, I was in the main observation area where they have a few TV’s that stream what is going on at the Edge Walk.  So these pictures are mostly from what the TV was showing:

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Exhilarating:

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Testing out the harness strength…

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Thinking of going hands free:

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Hanging off the edge (that is the landing strip for the Billy Bishop downtown airport in the background)

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He’s waving up at me here, but Im watching him on the TV!

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This picture was taken looking down from the top observation pod.  My plan was to go to the main circle part to snap a few pictures from the TV’s there, then head to the top pod to get a few live shots.  Here Davin is hanging off the edge doing the “Napoleon pose”…

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I thought this was a funny warning sign.  Like I would EVER climb on glass when it is the only thing in between me and a 1200 foot drop…

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I hung out in the pod until Davin was done and then he came up to meet me.  His hair is nice and wind blown, and I’m happy to have him back in one peice.

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The view from the top was really spectacular

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Looking south east over Lake Ontario

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Overlooking Rogers stadium where the Jay’s play. I like this picture because we caught the shadow of the CN Tower too.

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Looking south west at Billy Bishop Airport and Lake Ontario

And of course the glass floor where you look down onto Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Aquarium:

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And just one more of us at la Tour CN:

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Davin, did you like the CN Tower?

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Yep he had fun 😀

Day 7 – Hiking, Hitch-Hiking, and Home

For our last day in Martinique (this time, I want to go back!) we decided to hike the hill-y terrain a little bit south of Les Trois-Îlets that also had spectacular views of le Rocher du Diament.  We could have gone the longer way around the coast as we hadn’t explored that area yet.

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This is where we wanted to get to

But we decided to take the more straightforward route along the D7 (which we had driven quite a bit as it is how we got to our hotel) and the N5.

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As we were driving we came across an older couple hitch-hiking.  Apparently hitch-hiking is a fairly acceptable way to get around the island.  We decided to pick them up as DMG is always looking for opportunities to practice French.  And little did we know that later that day, karma would come back to repay us 🙂

They weren’t going very far, so we didn’t get to talk with them for long.  Just about 4-5 minutes down the road.  But they were really nice people.  Originally from mainland France, and had been living in Martinique for quite a few years now.

After we dropped them off, we found the base of where we were going to start hiking and parked the car on the side of the road.

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Our goal for today!

The initial path just happened to walk right by somebody’s house!  And whoever lived there has the crankiest dog!!!

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This is seconds before he came and yelled at us for no reason. Well, maybe for waking him up… But we were definitely minding our own business!!!!

A preview of the view we were treated to at the top.  This is before we got into the trees:

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We only brought one way-too-serious-for-a-two-hour-hike backpack this time 🙂

It was a beautiful hike.  Across a couple of ridges, and then it got steep enough to be challenging, but not too crazy.

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And there were some reply nice little creatures along the way 🙂

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DMG’s snail friend

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M. le Gecko

There were lots of these vines everywhere.  Quite the jungle!

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There wasn’t a view directly from the top.  We had to descend a bit until we reached this open area.  and then the view was magnificent!!!

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If you look in the centre of this photo, slightly to the right Le Diament is just visible poking out of the trees just off the coast.  Really pretty and fairly clear day to take in the view 🙂

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After we took in the view at the top we had two options: 1) heading back the way we came so that we would end up at our car (BORING!), or 2) climbing down the other side of the mountain, and then walking back to our car along the coast (yeah, that sounds like more fun…).

So down the other side we went.

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Made it to the other side!

 

When we cleared the mountain we came across a really nice open area looking south west.

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And after walking along the the D37 a bit longer we stumbled upon the Memorial de l’Anse Caffard le Diament.  Is is a powerful display of many large statues looking out over the ocean in the direction of Le Diament with their heads bowed and shoulders hunched over.  When we first saw it we just looked at each other like, “wow… what’s that?”  It is unmistakably mournful.  I found a nice summary of what it memorializes on the Uncommon Caribbean (great website by the way for anyone who is visiting this area and wants a bit of a different experience.  I wish we had found it before our trip!

“The importation of new slaves to the Caribbean had been made illegal in 1815, but that didn’t stop the illicit trade from continuing many years later. Traders simply opted to port their ships at night to avoid getting caught. As you might imagine, this dangerous practice often had tragic results…

On the night of April 7, 1830, a ship carrying a cargo of Africans sank in the rocky waters off the coast of Le Diamant. More than 40 would-be slaves, shackled together in the ship’s hull, drowned.” (http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2010/11/03/uncommon-attraction-anse-cafard-slave-memorial-martinique/)

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Around this time we were also getting some great views of Le Diament as well.

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By this time, we started to realize that we had probably bitten off way more than we could chew.  We were out of water, it was a super hot day, and we left our wallets in the car.  We passed a little ice-cream and juice stand just off the road with nice music playing… Cry…  But we kept pressing on and found some other really cool hidden gems like this view of Le Diament:

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The road we were walking on (D37) started to narrow (uh-oh… We’ve been through this before…) and the shoulder where we were walking disappeared.  At the same time the road started to leave the coast, and it began to climb up a windy hill inland.  Things were starting to get hairy again, and we estimated that we were a solid 8 kilometres away from our car still!

As we were trudging up the windy road (hot, thirsty, cursing ourselves for not just going back down the way we came), we heard a car slow down behind us, and eventually pull up beside us.  We were not even hitch-hiking!  A young couple just saw us trudging along and thought it looked like we needed a ride!  Love this island, the people are top notch!

We drove with them for about 10 minutes.  During the trip we were looking at each other and our eyes kept getting larger as we realized that we were much farther from our car than we had guessed as the minutes and kilometres went by up a steep and windy road, and back down again.  We realized that we were much, much farther from our car that we had guessed.  Our initial guess didn’t take into account the change in elevation!

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Our driving/hiking/walking/hitch-hiking route for the day

The couple was really nice.  Again, originally from mainland France and DMG relished the chance to practice his French 🙂 I don’t remember much about the conversation (its tough for me to follow if I am not familiar with the accent or they speak quickly).  But for some reason I just remember them telling us to not go to Guadeloupe, because the people there are really racist against white people!!!  Lol.  I had to ask DMG when we got out if that was actually what they were saying.  I thought it seemed so bizarre that I must have lost something in translation.  But nope.  According to them, apparently Guadeloupe is definitely NOT the place to be 🙂  But we will still go on an adventure there one of these days.  I’ll take my chances  🙂

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We were so happy to get back to the car, and get a nice bottle of water!  We decided to drive back into Les Trois-Îlets.  And I am happy we did because we stumbled on the church were Joséphine de Beauharnais was baptized (who married Napoléon Bonaparte I, and became empress of France during France’s time as an empire).  Her family was from Les Trois-Îlets.  Crazy!

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We went out for a pretty tame dinner, and then packed our bags for home time in the morning.  Our flight back was a little more direct 🙂

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Au revoir Martinique!!!  We will miss you.  But there was still a lot of Adventure June to get through yet!!! 🙂

Day 5 – Sugarcane Plantation, Clément Rum, and the South of the Island

I have always wanted to go to a sugarcane plantation and see a rum distillery.  L’habitation Clément (http://www.rhumclementusa.com/index.php) is fairly close to where we were staying while still giving us an opportunity to head over to the east side of the island.  It was said to be beautifully maintained with botanical garden etc. and it really was.  They also restored the large house on the property, and it is where French President Francois Mitterrand and President George Bush met for a summit following the Gulf War.  It is all open for visitors to walk through, and it did not disappoint!

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We headed out from Les Trois-Îlets.  Connected back up with the N5 towards Le Lamentin.  But this time turned off just after Ducos onto the N6 (before traffic became congested!).  The N6 took us all of the way to Le François in about 45 minutes.

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It was a beautiful, hot day and I loved walking the sugar cane grounds.

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There is a LOT of ground to cover, and its a really beautiful stroll:

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I see you!!! The grounds are really well kept and the paths are easy to follow.

 

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Always climbing!!

 

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I love the roots on this tree, so beautiful!

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Lush and green everywhere. I just love it on this island!

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Ohhh palm trees, how I love you 🙂

 

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And sugarcane, LOTS of sugarcane!!

 

This is a remanent from years ago (it has been around since 1887!).  Before automation the mills to grind the sugarcane were powered by animals.  This is called le Moulin à bêtes (animal mill).

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Davin showing us how it’s done

 

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They have some of the most interesting looking trees. And they also have plaques describing what type they are.

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I really wanted to run through the sugarcane and get lost in the field!!! Looks like a fun place to play. Like our cornfields in Canada 🙂

 

After we had taken in the grounds we headed to the distillery.  Their self guided tour was really well done, and taught us all about the rum making process which I was really interested to learn about.

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This large house/manor is beautifully restored and visitors are able to walk through.  Really lets you get a sense of what life would have been like on this planation years ago (for the fortunate ones!)

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Then the tour naturally ends up at the gift/souvenir store.  There is free rum tasting and Davin loved that!

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We came home with Clément Liquor Créole, Orange Shrubb.  It is a beautiful orange flavoured rum.  We also bought a really nice snifter glass with the Clément logo acid etched into it.  It was only €1.75!!!!  Both great purchases!

After that it was au revoir to l’habitation Clèment and we were back on the road.

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Since we had visited the northern part of the island, we were now curious about what was in the south.  So we continued along the N6 and started making our way towards the south.

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We stopped at a look out in Le Vauclin.  Beautiful countryside.

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It was SO hot and the sun was really intense.  I was wearing Davin’s hat just to protect my head and we had to sunscreen-up again!  Can you tell that I packed light for this trip!?  Lol, just a few summer dresses and bathing suits 🙂

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After our little pitstop to take in the scenery we continued southbound along the N6.  We eventually turned onto the D9 at Le Marin.  And the road slowed down quite a bit, even though it was nicely paved and definitely NOT the D2/D1 *shakes fist*(See post “Day 3 – Part I).  But it was really nice to drive slowly along the road, windows wide open, and music playing, with my love ❤  Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” had recently been released and it played a few times on the radio.  It was the first time I heard it and I still love the song because it reminds me of meandering through Martinique without an agenda 🙂 Me-mor-ieeees!!!!

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We arrived in Sainte-Anne and pulled into a really windy beach.  There were lots of surfers taking in the waves and people kite sailing.

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And when Davin sees something to climb… Well, he’s just gotta do it.

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Running down the beach to climb the hill…

 

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Almost there…

 

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Surveying the area from a higher perspective 🙂

After that we got back in the car and drove to the local beach in a cove that was more sheltered from all the wind.  It is really tranquil and even though there were a fair amount of people there it didn’t feel crowded.

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Looks like something out of a magazine right? Very beautiful, and the sand was so soft!

I LOVE swimming, and I really love playing in the ocean/surf/sand.  Davin is not so much of a water animal like I am, but he comes along and humours me.  He is so funny when he bobs in the waves because he will normally get water in his mouth and sputter and spit it out making a big scene!  Lol, nope.  Not a water animal 🙂  But we spent the rest of the day on the beach, swimming in the ocean, sitting where the waves crash onto the shore and getting knocked over.  And then getting so much sand in our bathing suits that we had to go back into the ocean to shake it all out 🙂  We walked along the beach as the sun was setting (romantic!) and stood in the sand as the waves came in so that we sank a little bit each time.  Yep, I love the ocean!!!  But not sea urchins or jellyfish.  I hate both of those.

We have a nice quite drive back home as we were both kind of wiped from a day in the sun.

After a couple hour nap in our room we didn’t feeling like venturing too far so we went to the restaurant in our hotel.  It was nice, really good service.  But a little more expensive than a lot of the restaurants in the surrounding area.

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He’s so handsome 🙂

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Showered and clean after the day!!! Hungry and waiting for dinner.

Awwww – Tanned and happy 🙂

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We don’t often drink (more on vacation, but still not so much), but we had some margarita-esque type drinks and rum punch with dinner.  So we were feeling a bit rejuvenated and not ready for bed.  And we were in the mood for some more rum (especially after our visit to Clément earlier) and a change of venue.  So we wandered down to the little marina by the beach as there are a lot of open concept restaurants and lounge-y type places that play music.

We found this little place.  Half of it is a restaurant, and half was set up as a lounge with live music.

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This picture is facing the restaurant that was much more quiet than the lounge. The area where were were was packed although you can’t tell from this shot!

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Oh hi!!!

It’s too bad that these pictures didn’t turn out as it was too dark and I didn’t know how to make the flash work!  But the singer had an incredible voice and she just had a quality about her that I found really beautiful.  I wish I got her name as I would have liked to look her up back home.  Really fun way to spend the night.

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After the music wrapped up for the evening we went for a stroll around the town and took in the ambience before bedtime.  We were pretty tired, but pretty high on life (and a little bit of rum)  🙂  Bonne nuit!!!!

Arriving in Martinique

Martinique was insane in a way that is SO good!! 😀  It is a overseas department of France, and due to this it is also a part of the European Union and uses the Euro as currency.  It has the same political standing as the mainland or “metropolitan” departments, and the people are European citizens who vote in the same elections.  Martinique (and other overseas departments or “département d’outre-mer” en francais) are represented in the Senate, National Assembly, Ecomonic and Social Council, and vote to elect European Parliamant.  Pretty cool political structure and I think it is so interesting how this particular area in the Caribbean has developed to have alliances with so many different countries in such a relatively small area.  Take a look at all of the flags that are associated with the different islands:

Martinique, Guadaloup, Caribbean, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican, Maps, sovereign, overseas department, multinational

We have missed Paris, and France in general so it was nice to literally go back to France (Martinique) less than a year after we left.   It was so interesting to see the French influence on the island, and was a big part of the reason that I loved it so much.  It was like taking the hallmarks of Paris; the boulengeries (bakeries), cafés, food, general flair and zest for living, and putting them in the beautiful Caribbean setting with the way time seems to slow down on the islands.  However, as it is a part of France, Marinique has the most advanced infrastructure of the Caribbean islands and we also noticed that everything was run quite punctually, right down to the water taxis.  No “island time” here! 🙂  

We left Barbados early in the morning, after some dissappointing sex.  We requested a cab for 6:30 am.  But when we got to the front desk around quarter after 6, we were told that it took other guests of the hotel who were also leaving early.  So we had to wait for the same cab to come back for us…  Sometimes you just need to embrace the culture and have fun with it ;p  But we had left extra time in the morning so we weren’t stressed at all and could just relax in the early morning sun and wait for our cab to come back 😀

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Ready to go!

We flew with Liat, which is an airline that services the Antilles with “island hopping”.  The company was not bad on whole, however they were very British focused and only spoke English.  Which isn’t terrible, (and it may just be the Canadian in me coming out!) but it would have been nice if they recognized Spanish and French as all of the languages are spoken in such close proximity.    Our flight was delayed (again embracing the experience ;p), so we were able to spend some time in the terminal watching “Africa TV” for almost two hours before we were finally able to leave.  Even though I was anxious to get to Martinique, it was pretty interesting to watch, as it provided a glimpse that Canadians don’t often see into the pop-culture as the channel was showcasing artists from the different African countries, maybe something similar to MTV here.

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Taking a break from “Africa TV” to do some reading in the terminal before our flight

We flew out of Bridgetown, Barbados, made a quick somewhat bouncy stop in Saint Lucia to pick-up/drop-off, then we were off to Fort-de-France, the main city in Martinique!!  It was a fun flight for me because take off and landing is my favourite part, and here we got in a bonus round of it ;p

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We had arranged to get a prostitute while we were there as the public transportation in Martinique is limited.  Actually the lack of public trasport was the only thing I didn’t like about the island.  Also, as it is so car focused the traffic around Fort-de-France was really, really, slow and congested at peak times.  And as all of the highways run through Fort-de-France, getting around can be difficult.  But if that is the only flaw that I found on the island I think that is pretty great!  We rented a tiny little car, and for some of the roads we ended up on (more on that  next post!) we were thankful for the size and manoeuvrability.

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Our chariot for the week

We stayed in a pretty and quaint resort town called Les Trois-Îlets which was about a 40 minutes drive from the airport.  I LOVED it there and I loved the place we stayed called Hotel La Pagerie.  It was FANTASTIC!  What I loved most was that it was located right in the middle of the little surrounding town so it had the community feeling that sometimes comes with staying in an all inclusive and having the same familiar places to go to. (This also drives Davin crazy as he likes to try new things, but I am a creature of habit, especially when it comes to finding good restaurants, as you will see… so I LOVED it).  But it was also steps away from a beautiful, clear, sandy beach (which we didn’t get to use, just not enough time!), lots of guided tours, and the water taxi that takes you over to Fort-de-France.  Also, the streets that surounded the hotel were really small with beautiful stores, cafes, little haunts for ice-cream and crepes, and restaurants.  I definitely recommend staying in both the town, and the hotel and would happily stay there again!  And besides that look at my in-room coffee maker, or should I say espresso machine!!  AWESOME! 😀

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Here is a link to the hotel if you are interested: http://www.hotel-lapagerie.com/en/hotel/

And here is a map of Martinique.  We stayed on the south western part of the island.  The southern area is more touristy, which may not always be good but worked great for us this trip, and also provided good access to exploring the rest of Martinique by car.

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After we got to our hotel room we unpacked and then headed right back out to explore the surrounding area.  We wanted to have an early dinner and then head to bed for a good night sleep as we planned to climb mount Pelee the next morning.  However when we tried to get dinner we were told in almost horror-struck fashion that dinner wasn’t served until 7:30 pm… I have never felt quite as much like a barbarian as I did asking to eat “early” in Martinique ;p  The town has quite a rhythm that took a little bit to get into, but once we figured it out we were golden!  Instead of waiting for the dinner hour like proper residents and tourists we opted for the somewhat more uncouth little “non-stop” pub across the street from our hotel that didn’t have the custmonary break in service between lunch and dinner.  We had a decent meal of white fish (we ate a lot of that while we were there-so nummy!), explored a bit of the little town after dinner, and then headed to bed for an early morning as we were heading to the north part of the island about an hour or so drive (or so we thought-more on that next post!) to climb Mount Pelee first thing!!!

From Toronto to Barbados

The Adventures of Davin and Libby

After spending two nights in the Niagara on the Lake region we took a shuttle from our hotel to Pearson Airport.  Our flight took us through Barbados for a day, where we rented a little room on the beach and explored the surrounding area.

The shuttle picked us up from the hotel pretty early, but I love mornings (Davin not so much…) and it was nice to see the sunrise while we were driving.  We also got to see some more of Ontario which was great as I haven’t had the opportunity to get out of the downtown core since we moved here.  Growing up in B.C. and being so familiar with the province and general area, I remember saying to Davin, “we aren’t in B.C. anymore!  Can you believe we live here now!  Like, not just visiting!”  LOL, I guess it takes me a while to warm up to…

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The Beginning of “Adventure June” – Mike and Ellen’s Wedding

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June 2013 was a very important time for us, and to celebrate (and because we had the time!) we planned a bunch of adventures to unwind and have fun during our break after articling. First, Davin was offered one of … Continue reading