Category Archives: travel

Top 10 Amazing World Heritage Sites

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from tripadvisor.com. I’m sure if any of us were to visit all 890 of them, we might have a different 10 most amazing. But since I like to keep these lists for fun and travel fantasy purposes, here is the tripadvisor version.

There’s a good search tool here to see all of them.

Taj Mahal
An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

Petra, Jordan
Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabatean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture

Palmyra, Syria
An oasis in the Syrian desert, north-east of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Greco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.

Grand Canyon NP
Carved out by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon (nearly 1,500 m deep) is the most spectacular gorge in the world. Located in the state of Arizona, it cuts across the Grand Canyon National Park. Its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past 2 billion years. There are also prehistoric traces of human adaptation to a particularly harsh environment.

Abu Simbel, Egypt
Close to the southern Egyptian border with Sudan, Abu Simbel makes an easy daytrip from Aswan. The interiors of the Temple of Ramses II and Nefertari’s Temple of Hathor offer amazing opportunities to see intricate carvings and details. Both temples were saved from the rising waters of Lake Nasser by UNESCO efforts. Stunning views from the temples look out over Lake Nasser, formed by the damming of the Nile, and over the desert. The compact town of Abu Simbel is easy to get around on foot.

Prambanan Temple Compounds
Indonesia
Built in the 10th century, this is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the center of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) and three temples dedicated to the animals who serve them

City of Venice
Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

Historic Center of Siena, Italy
Siena is the embodiment of a medieval city. Its inhabitants pursued their rivalry with Florence right into the area of urban planning. Throughout the centuries, they preserved their city’s Gothic appearance, acquired between the 12th and 15th centuries. During this period the work of Duccio, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini was to influence the course of Italian and, more broadly, European art. The whole city of Siena, built around the Piazza del Campo, was devised as a work of art that blends into the surrounding landscape.

Rapa Nui National Park
Easter Island, Chile
Rapa Nui, the indigenous name of Easter Island, bears witness to a unique cultural phenomenon. A society of Polynesian origin that settled there c. A.D. 300 established a powerful, imaginative and original tradition of monumental sculpture and architecture, free from any external influence. From the 10th to the 16th century this society built shrines and erected enormous stone figures known as moai, which created an unrivalled cultural landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world.

The Dolomites, Italy
The site of the Dolomites comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 meters and cover 141,903 ha. It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. A serial property of nine areas that present a diversity of spectacular landscapes of international significance for geomorphology marked by steeples, pinnacles and rock walls, the site also contains glacial landforms and karst systems. It is characterized by dynamic processes with frequent landslides, floods and avalanches. The property also features one of the best examples of the preservation of Mesozoic carbonate platform systems, with fossil records.

Fantasy summer road trip – part one

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The premise of this plan is that I get the kids up to Canada for a good part of the summer break.  My motives are a) escape as much of the FL heat as possible b) give the boys a chance to spend some time w/their grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins that they never otherwise see c) save me a small fortune on summer camp (which has the added benefit of avoiding having them eat fast food 5 days / week all summer long) d) let me get a reasonable amount of work done while accomplishing all of the above. The beauty of this is that a) the kids are old enough now that I should be able to work while they entertain themselves for a few hours and b) I’d be 2 hours behind the time zone I’m working in so I can modify my schedule and still have the better part of afternoons and evenings to do fun stuff.

Of course, far be it from me to keep a plan simple.  So, in that spirit (and further to my WIP Travel Bucket List plans) my mind is busily spinning this into a means by which to also put some check marks on that list.  It’s a long drive – a little detour here, a little detour there… I’m certain the boys have inherited my gypsy DNA and I’d like to give it a little help in expressing itself.

Of course, the wrench in this plan is that DH can’t take this kind of time off work.  Nor can he work from up there for that length of time.  Nor do I think he’d be too keen on not seeing his family for a month or more.  Of course, he’s also not keen on taking vacation time and flying to SK in summer or taking vacation time and doing the road trip up or back (and flying the other leg) either.  So, that’s a fairly large wrinkle in the plan but far be it from me to let a good road trip planning fantasy be tripped up (NPI) by these things.

The rest of this post is just me working out the details where I don’t forget and can’t lose them.  It is almost certainly not of interest to anyone else (unless you’re a friend / relative en route and want to get together as we pass through.)  This will almost certainly get revisited several times over the next few weeks.  Summer camp registrations being what they are, however, there’s only so much time before this fantasy plan moves to actual plan status or “maybe another” summer status.

Day One – leave early for Jacksonville (4.5) , hang with the the KMB fam (hey K, if you’re reading this – no I don’t have any specific dates maybe early July-ish)

Day Two – leave very early for Mammoth Caves Nat Park (11.25), set up camp,

Day Three – start early on cave tour(s), leave early evening for Chicago (6.5).  Check about apt. or hotel

Day Four – Museum of Science and industry, Millennium Park

Day Five – Lincoln Park Zoo, stock up on food

Day Six – leave early for Badlands (12.5)  set up camp

Day 7 – up for sunrise over Badlands (5:00-5:15), drive loop, hike.  Drive to Mammoth Site (2 hr), tour Mammoth Site. Depending on time, drive on to Rushmore, (1 hr)  set up camp and visit monument.  Otherwise, do visit in morning.

Day 8 – Rushmore if not the day before.  If time, visit Crazy Horse site. Otherwise, drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (5)  set up camp

Day 9 – TRNP .  leave for sisters  (4.5 hr) by late afternoon.

Travel Bucket List

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This will be a work in progress. I was updating my 101 list and thinking about stuff that I’ll have to put on the next one, etc. It occurred to me that my 101 lists could easily be all in the vein of “places to go”. Of course, life gets in the way of getting 101 of those things marked of in 1001 days.

So, I’m just going to keep all those things here. Without question, this list will outlive me. Just as well, though, as I’d hate to carry on living when I could think of no more things I want to do. At some point I might categorize this but for now I’m just going to add them as I think of them.

Petra
Florida State Caverns
US National Parks
Canada National Parks
Hike Kilimanjaro (this is actually my friend Sara’s plan. She’s got it worked out that we’re doing this in 2021, I believe. She’s a planner.)
Hike Na Pali Coast on Kauai

List of US National Parks (copied from wikipedia)


Acadia Maine
SealHarborANP.jpg Covering most of Mount Desert Island and other coastal islands, Acadia preserves the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast, granite peaks, ocean shoreline, woodlands, and lakes. There are freshwater, estuary, forest, and intertidal habitats.

National Park of American Samoa American Samoa
Ofu Beach NPS.jpg The southernmost national park is on three Samoan islands and protects coral reefs, rainforests, volcanic mountains, and white beaches. The area is also home to Samoan peoples, flying fox, brown boobies, sea turtles, and 900 species of fish.

Arches Utah
Delicate arch sunset.jpg This site features more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the Delicate Arch. In a desert climate millions of years of erosion have led to these structures, while the ground has life-sustaining soil crust and potholes. Other geologic formations are stone columns, spires, fins, and towers.

Badlands South Dakota
2003-10-15 1600x900 south dakota badlands.jpg The Badlands are a collection of pinnacles, spires, and grass prairies. It has the world’s richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch and wildlife including bison, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, and swift fox

Big Bend Texas
Named for the Bend of the Rio Grande along the US-Mexico border, this park has part of the Chihuahuan Desert, ancient fossils, and cultural artifacts of Native Americans

Biscayne Florida
Located in Biscayne Bay, this park at the north end of the Florida Keys has four interrelated marine ecosystems: mangrove forest, the Bay, the Keys, and coral reefs. Threatened animals include the West Indian Manatee, American crocodile, sea turtles, and peregrine falcon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Colorado
The park protects a quarter of the Gunnison River, which has dark canyon walls from the Precambrian era. The canyon has very steep descents, and it is a site for river rafting and rock climbing. The narrow, steep canyon, made of gneiss and schist, is often in shadow, appearing black.

Bryce Canyon Utah
Bryce Canyon is a giant natural amphitheatre along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The unique area has hundreds of tall hoodoos formed by erosion. The region was originally settled by Native Americans and later by Mormon pioneers.

Canyonlands Utah
This landscape was eroded into canyons, buttes, and mesas by the Colorado River, Green River, and their tributaries. The park is divided into four districts by the rivers. There are rock pinnacles and other naturally sculpted rock, as well as artifacts from Ancient Pueblo Peoples.

Capitol Reef Utah
The park’s Waterpocket Fold is a 100-mile monocline protruding from the earth that shows its geologic layers. Other natural features are monoliths and sandstone domes and cliffs shaped like the United States Capitol

Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns has 116 caves, the deepest of which is 489 m. The Big Room is almost 4000 feet long, and the caves are home to over 400,000 Mexican Free-tailed Bats and sixteen other species. Above ground are the Chihuahuan Desert and Rattlesnake Springs.

Channel Islands California
Five of the eight Channel Islands are protected, and half of the park’s area is underwater. They are home to over 2,000 species of land plants and animals, and 145 are unique to the islands. The islands were originally settled by the Chumash people, and there is a unique Mediterranean ecosystem.

Congaree South Carolina
On the Congaree River, this park is the largest portion of floodplain forest left in North America. Some of the trees are the tallest in the Eastern US, and the Boardwalk Loop is an elevated walkway through the swamp.

Crater Lake Oregon
Crater Lake lies in the caldera of Mount Mazama formed 7,700 years ago after an eruption. It is the deepest lake in the United States and is known for its blue color and water clarity. There are two islands in the lake, and, with no inlets or outlets, all water comes through precipitation.

Cuyahoga Valley Ohio
This park along the Cuyahoga River has waterfalls, hills, trails, and displays about early rural living. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail follows the Ohio and Erie Canal, where mules towed canal boats. The park has numerous historic homes, bridges, and structures.

Death Valley Nevada
Death Valley is the hottest, lowest, and driest place in the United States. There are canyons, colorful badlands, sand dunes, mountains, and over 1000 species of plants in this graben on a fault line. Further geologic points of interest are salt flats, springs, and buttes.

Denali Alaska
Centered around the Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, Denali is serviced by a single road leading to Wonder Lake. McKinley and other peaks of the Alaska Range are covered with long glaciers and boreal forest. Wildlife includes grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and gray wolf.

Dry Tortugas Florida
The Dry Tortugas on the west end of the Florida Keys are the site of Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. With most of the park being water, it is the home of coral reefs and shipwrecks and is only accessible by plane or boat.

Everglades Florida
The Everglades are the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. This mangrove ecosystem and marine estuary is home to 36 protected species, including the Florida panther American crocodile, and West Indian manatee. Some areas have been drained and developed; restoration projects aim to restore the ecology.

Gates of the Arctic Alaska
This northernmost park protects part of the Brooks Range and has no park developmenmt. The land is home to Alaska natives, who have relied on the land and caribou for 11,000 years.

Glacier Montana
Part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, this park has over 50 remaining glaciers and 130 named lakes under the tall Rocky Mountain peaks. There are historic hotels and a landmark road in this region of rapidly receding glaciers. These mountains, formed by an overthrust, have the world’s best sedimentary fossils from the Proterozoic era.

Glacier Bay Alaska
Glacier Bay has numerous tidewater glaciers, mountains, and fjords. The temperate rainforest and the bay are home to grizzly bears, mountain goats, whales, seals, and eagles. When discovered in 1794 by George Vancouver, the entire bay was covered by ice, but the glaciers have receded over 65 miles.

Grand Canyon Arizona
The Grand Canyon, carved out by the Colorado River, is 277 miles long, a mile deep, and up to 15 miles wide. Millions of years of exposure has formed colorful layers of the Colorado Plateau in mesas and canyon walls. Ecosystems vary on the north and south rims and elevation within the Sonoran Desert.

Grand Teton Wyoming
Grand Teton is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. The park’s Jackson Hole valley and reflective piedmont lakes contrast with the tall mountains, which abruptly rise from the glacial sage-covered valley.

Great Basin Nevada
Based around Wheeler Peak, the Great Basin has 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines, glacial moraines, and the limestone Lehman Caves. It has some of the country’s darkest skies and animal species including Townsend’s big-eared bat, Pronghorn, and Bonneville cutthroat trout.

Great Sand Dunes Colorado
The tallest dunes in North America are up to 750 feet tall and neighbor grasslands, shrublands and wetlands. They were formed by sand deposits of the Rio Grande on the San Luis Valley, and the park also has alpine lakes, six 13,000-foot mountains, and ancient forests.

Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains, have a wide range of elevations, making them home to over 400 vertebrate species, 100 tree species, and 5000 plant species. Hiking is the park’s main attraction, with over 800 miles of trails, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Other activities are fishing, horseback riding, and visiting some of nearly 80 historic structures.

Guadalupe Mountains Texas
This park has Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, the scenic McKittrick Canyon full of Bigtooth Maples, part of the Chihuahuan Desert, and a fossilized reef from the Permian

Haleakala Hawaii
The volcano on Maui has a very large crater with many cinder cones, Hosmer’s Grove of alien trees, and native Hawaiian Geese. The Kipahulu section has numerous pools with freshwater fish. This National Park has the greatest number of endangered species.

Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii
This park on the Big Island protects the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, two of the world’s most active. Diverse ecosystems of the park range from those at sea level to 13,000 feet.

Hot Springs Arkansas
The only National Park in an urban area, this smallest National Park is based around the natural hot springs that have been managed for public use. Bathhouse Row preserves 47 of these with many beneficial minerals.

Isle Royale Michigan
The largest island in Lake Superior and one of two parks not accessible by road, this least-visited park is a site of isolation and wilderness. It has many shipwrecks, waterways, and hiking trails. The park also includes over 400 smaller islands and the waters up to 4.5 miles from the island. There are only 20 mammal species and it is known for its wolf and moose relationship

Joshua Tree California
Covering parts of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and the Little San Bernardino Mountains, this is the home of the Joshua tree. Across great elevation changes are sand dunes, dry lakes, rugged mountains, and granite monoliths.

Katmai Alaska
This park on the Alaska Peninsula protects the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an ash flow formed by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, as well as Mount Katmai. Over 2,000 brown bears come here to catch spawning salmon.

Kenai Fjords Alaska
Near Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, this park protects the Harding Icefield and at least 38 glaciers and fjords stemming from it. The only area accessible by road is Exit Glacier, while the rest is viewed by boat tours.

Kings Canyon California
Home to several Giant sequoia groves and the General Grant Tree, the world’s second largest, this park also has part of the Kings River, site of the granite Kings Canyon, and San Joaquin River, as well as the Boyden Cave.

Kobuk Valley Alaska
Kobuk Valley has 61 miles of the Kobuk River and three regions of sand dunes. Created by glaciers, the Great Kobuk, the Little Kobuk, and the Hunt River Sand Dunes can reach 100 feet high and 100°F, and they are the largest dunes in the arctic. Twice a year, half a million caribou migrate through the dunes and across river bluffs that contain ice age fossils. This is the least-visited National Park.

Lake Clark Alaska
The region around Lake Clark has four active volcanoes, including Mount Redoubt, rivers, glaciers, and waterfalls. There are temperate rainforests, a tundra plateau, and three mountain ranges.

Lassen Volcanic California
Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world, is joined by all three other types of volcanoes in this park: shield, cinder dome, and composite. Other than the volcano, which last erupted in 1915, the park has hydrothermal areas, including fumaroles, boiling pools, and steaming ground, heated by molten rock under the peak.

Mammoth Cave Kentucky
With 365 miles of passageways mapped, Mammoth Cave is by far the longest cave system in the world. Cave animals include five bat species, the Kentucky cave shrimp, cave fish, and cave salamanders. Above ground there are rivers, hiking trails, sinkholes, and springs.

Mesa Verde Colorado
This area has over 4,000 archaeological sites of the Ancestral Pueblo, who lived here for 700 years. Cliff dwellings built in the 12th and 13th centuries include Cliff Palace, which has 150 rooms and 23, and the Balcony House, with passages and tunnels.

Mount Rainier Washington
Mount Rainier, an active volcano, is the most prominent peak in the Cascades, and it is covered by 26 named glaciers including Carbon Glacier and Emmons Glacier, the largest in the continental United States. The mountain is popular for climbing, and more than half of the park is covered by subalpine and alpine forests. Paradise on the south slope is one of the snowiest places in the world, and the Longmire visitor center is the start of the Wonderland Trail, which encircles the mountain.

North Cascades Washington
This complex includes the two units of the National Park and the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. There are numerous glaciers, and popular hiking and climbing areas are Cascade Pass, Mount Shuksan, Mount Triumph, and Eldorado Peak.

Olympic Washington
Situated on the Olympic Peninsula, this park ranges from Pacific shoreline with tide pools to temperate rainforests to Mount Olympus. The glaciated Olympic Mountains overlook the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest, the wettest area of the continental United States.

Petrified Forest Arizona
This portion of the Chinle Formation has a great concentration of 225-million-year-old petrified wood. The surrounding region, the Painted Desert, has eroded red-hued volcanic rock called bentonite. There are also dinosaur fossils and over 350 Native American sites.

Redwood California
This park and the co-managed state parks protect almost half of all remaining Coastal Redwoods, the tallest trees on Earth. There are three large river systems in this very seismically active area, and the 37 miles of protected coastline have tide pools and seastacks. The prairie, estuary, coast, river, and forest ecosystems have varied animal and plant species.

Rocky Mountain Colorado
This section of the Rocky Mountains has ecosystems varying in elevation from the over 150 riparian lakes to Montane and subalpine forests to the alpine tundra. Large wildlife including mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars inhabit these igneous mountains and glacier valleys. The fourteener Longs Peak and Bear Lake are popular destinations.

Saguaro Arizona
Split into the separate Rincon Mountain and Tucson Mountain Districts, the dry Sonoran Desert is still home to much life in six biotic communities. Beyond the namesake Giant Saguaro cacti, there are barrel cactus, cholla cactus, and prickly pears, as well as the Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Spotted Owl, and javelinas.

Sequoia California
This park protects the Giant Forest, which has the world’s largest tree, General Sherman, as well as four of the next nine. It also has over 240 caves, the tallest mountain in the lower 48, Mount Whitney, and the granite dome Moro Rock.

Shenandoah Virginia
Shenandoah’s Blue Ridge Mountains are covered by hardwood forests that are home to tens of thousands of animals. The Skyline Drive and Appalachian Trail run the entire length of this narrow park that has more than 500 miles of hiking trails along scenic overlooks and waterfalls of the Shenandoah River.

Theodore Roosevelt North Dakota
This region that enticed and influenced President Theodore Roosevelt is now a park of three units in the badlands. Besides Roosevelt’s historic cabin, there are scenic drives and backcountry hiking opportunities. Wildlife include American Bison, pronghorn, Bighorn sheep, and wild horses.

Virgin Islands United States Virgin Islands
The island of Saint John has rich human and natural history. There are archaeological sites and ruins of sugar plantations from Columbus’s time. Past the pristine beaches are mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs and algal plains.

Voyageurs Minnesota
This park on four main lakes, a site for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, has a history of Ojibwe Native Americans, French fur traders called voyageurs, and a gold rush. Formed by glaciers, there are tall bluffs, rock gardens, islands and bays, and historic buildings.

Wind Cave South Dakota
Wind Cave is distinctive for its calcite fin formations called boxwork and needle-like growths called frostwork. The cave, which was discovered by the sound of wind coming from a hole in the ground, is the world’s densest cave system. Above ground is a mixed-grass prairie with animals such as bison, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs.

Wrangell – St. Elias Alaska
This mountainous land has the convergence of the Alaska, Chugach, and Wrangell-Saint Elias Ranges, which have many of the continent’s tallest mountains over 16,000 feet, including Mount Saint Elias. More than 25% of this park of volcanic peaks is covered with glaciers, including the tidewater Hubbard Glacier, piedmont Malaspina Glacier, and valley Nabesna Glacier.

Yellowstone Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Situated on the Yellowstone Caldera, the first national park in the world has vast geothermal areas such as hot springs and geysers, the best-known being Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring. The yellow-hued Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River has numerous waterfalls, and four mountain ranges run through the park. There are almost 60 mammal species, including the gray wolf, grizzly bear, lynx, bison, and elk.

Yosemite California
Yosemite has towering cliffs, waterfalls, and sequoias in a diverse area of geology and hydrology. Half Dome and El Capitan rise from the central glacier-formed Yosemite Valley, as does Yosemite Falls, North America’s tallest waterfall. Three Giant Sequoia groves and vast wilderness are home to diverse wildlife.

Zion Utah
This geologically unique area has colorful sandstone canyons, high plateaus, and rock towers. Natural arches and exposed formations of the Colorado Plateau make up a large wilderness of four ecosystems.

Toronto in June

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My first trip to Toronto was for Christmas in ’98.  The next time we went was last October.  Both trips were a lot of fun but really just made me want to visit in June because I just knew it would be awesome in June.  Sort of like Vancouver.  Where I am still trying to get back to. 

 So, this year we finally did it.  And it *was* totally awesome.  Flights were uneventful other than a delay in Detroit which worked to our advantage because our incoming flight was late and without the delay I think the likelihood of our bags joining us in Toronto on our arrival would have been rather dismal.  Also, without it there would have been no time for potty breaks for the small people – I really prefer to avoid attempting to assist a 4 y.o. in that broom closet of a bathroom found on most planes.   Also, I had a deal pending which makes me crazy when I am up in the sky and out of reach.  I managed to close it on the ground in Detroit in the boarding lounge.  Oddly, this happened in February on our return flight also.  It stresses me out.  Totally.  Oh, and best of all, the short delay meant missing rushhour in Toronto.  SIL and BIL had some really good food waiting for us – he is a bit of a foodie which was all the better after subsisting on snacks all day. 

The next day we took a ferry over to Center Island and spent a good part of the day at the amusement park – Centreville, I believe.  The weather was just spectacular – exactly where I like it temperature wise (mid-70’s to low 80’s), clear, sunny… just perfect. 

The first ride we all went on except for SIL – and I understood her fear of it 3 seconds after I got on – was this gondola thing.  I rode with DS1, BIL with DS2 right in front of me and DH with DS3 in front of them.  Well, 5 seconds into it I think I’m going to puke.  There is one little bar across the front of this thing and it’s about 2 feet out.  All I can think is plenty of room for a squirmy 4 y.o. to slip out.  In fact, I feel like puking again just writing this.  The whole time I am attempting to appear calm and reassuring to DS1 who is only slightly freaked out beside me and distracting him with the great view as we go higher and higher above the ground.  Meanwhile,  all I’m really doing is watching DS2 (the one who can’t sit still for 30 seconds, generally) like a hawk, ready to shriek out like the maniacal, control-freak mother that I am to BIL to hang onto him should I see him move in any way. 

Then we went over the water.  I couldn’t decide if this was better or worse.  Softer landing so a chance of avoiding instant death.  Good.  But, of course, there is that drowning thing.  Bad.  Finally, we all had our feet on land again.  I was never so happy.  

All of this makes me realize how much my risk tolerance has swung from one extreme to the other.  Louise (name changed to protect the guilty 😀 ) and I did many things that were, arguably, risky.   It barely ever occured to us to think what *could* happen.  Now all I see is the risks.   That sky-diving thing on the Life: To Do list might have to wait (till my next life), I’m thinking.

The rest of the rides were fun.  DS2, who is the fussiest eater on the planet, was completely devasted when he was too short to ride one of them but DS3 (his twin who is significantly bigger and taller) was big enough.  We’ve been getting significant mileage out of that at mealtime.  Although, the effect is wearing off now – a week and a half later. 

The kids also went into this maze of hedges.  It was cool.  Well, it was cool for them – they seemed to enjoy it and DH went running through it with them.  I enjoyed the park bench at the front entrance with SIL.  And the breeze and the view.  And the peace and quiet.   Then we found the playground to make sure they expended every little bit of energy they had left before we took them back home. 

The next day we took them to High Park.  Dang.  That is one big park.  We had a great time on the lawns with some toy helicopters, a crazy ball and some bubbles that SIL / BIL had gotten for the boys.  It was so wonderful (like, really really wonderful) to be in a park in summer with beautiful weather.  I told DH that is what summer is supposed to be.  He doesn’t seem to think the tradeoff with cold winters is worth it.   Before heading back, we let them wear themselves out at this really cool castle playground and then took them on the trail through the woods back up to the parking lot. 

That afternoon we headed out to suburbia somewhere to meet a bunch of inlaws I’d never met.  Actually, I don’t think DH had met most of them either.  Or any of them.  They were wonderful people and we had a great time.  Sometimes you meet people who are instant friends. 

The boys had a blast also.  There were some big cousins there who took the boys down to the gym and let them “workout” on the exercise equipment and lift weights etc.  So, that was just the bomb, as far as they were concerned. 

That was a first for me, actually.  Letting them go off and play, unattended in someone else’s house.  It’s a wonderful feeling of getting my life back and realizing how much easier the boys really are now.  It helps to have responsible big cousins about, too!  

Sunday was Father’s Day.  I gave DH his Tom Petty racing thingy.  He was suitably excited.  We’ll do that in the fall sometime when it’s a lot less hot.  We spent that day at the waterpark somewhere out of town.  Of course, waterplay is always a big hit.  This is a great water park.  The boys even went down some of the biggish (but slow) waterslides (with me to catch them at the bottom.  It was “super cool” in their words.  There was also a lazy river and a wave pool.  Reggae music over by the big swimming pool.  Watching the boys dancing around in the lazy river launching area to the music was some of the best entertainment I’ve had.  Too bad I was too paranoid to bring my camera or video camera to the waterpark.  

The last day was lower key.  We went down to the waterfront, spent a little time letting the boys play in a green space.  Took a harbor cruise that was nice but really, realy cold, on top so we went on the lower deck and watched through the windows.   Lunch on the waterfront, let the boys each buy a little souvenir with their Canadian spending money from Grandma.  Of course, I did this one at a time while SIL / DH plied the other two with M&M’s outside.  I want to pull my hair out if I go into one of “those shops” (you know the ones, where the merchandising is just a disaster waiting to happen at the touch of a 4 y.o.) with more than one child at a time.

That evening, DH left me to get some quality me time and took the boys to a great little park just up the street.  I just love that lifestyle of being able to walk to anything.  Of course, that comes with living in a condo with no yard to which to send the testosterone factories boys to play.  Since that would be complete mental-breakdown-making for me, that lifestyle shall have to wait. 

I had a short nap (bliss) then coffee at the Second Cup (dare I say it – better than Starbucks).  Again, just a hop, skip and a jump up the street.  Actually, it probaby best that I don’t live a 2 minute walk from large vanilla lattes.  That would have a significant and negative impact on my wallet and my efforts to not grow out of my clothes at the same rate as the kids.  Then I walked over to watch the kids play at the park.  DH looked at me like I was crazy showing up when I was on an official mommy break.   But it was so nice out and I was glad I went.  There was a merry-go-round at the park.  Something you *never* see here anymore.  The boys had such fun on it.  They were playing that it was a train and cracking me up with the geography bit.  They were going to Alaska, Missisippi, Jamaica (on a train – imagine that!), Texas, Kansas, Detroit etc. etc.  Of course, DS1, being the entertainment director that he is, was orchestrating this. 

And that was pretty much it.  The flight home was uneventful.  I enjoyed a moment when a woman walking behind our crew commented on how I was “surrounded by such handsome men”.   The boys slept most of the way which is generally my goal.

So, SIL and I have decided that it would be an excellent idea for us to make this an annual thing.  I wonder if I could get a guarantee of the same spectacular weather each time…