Japan Mini-Break: Snow Monkeys! (photo gallery)

Photos from the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
More information here: http://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/

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*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

NCL Port: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

My family and I recently went on a 10 night cruise, over Christmas 2016, on Norwegian Cruise Line.  The itinerary was Miami –> Aruba –> Cartagena, Columbia –> Panama Canal / Gatun Lake –> Colon, Panama –> Puerto Limon, Costa Rica –> Miami.

This last post is about Puerto Limon, Costa Rica!

For this trip my mum, sister and I booked a trip to Tortuguero National Park and Cacao Trails chocolate tour in Cahuita.

First up was a boat tour of the canals of Tortuguero National Park.  Plenty of wildlife to see here, including sloths, caiman, plant life, and lots of birds!

Tortuguero National Park

caiman!
caiman!

Tortuguero National Park

sloth!
sloth!

Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero National Park

bats!
bats!

There was also a coast guard station along the tour which included piles of small boats which had been numbered.  Turns out these boats were seized from drug runners just off the coast of Limon.

Tortuguero National Park

After this boat ride, we were given some delicious fruit of pineapple, papaya and watermelon before we headed off for the long drive to Cahuita.  On the way, we saw white faced capuchins.  Unfortunately, they were too hidden in the trees to get a good photo, but even the tour guide was impressed to have seem them at all.

At the chocolate place, called Cacao Trails, we were taken on a walk through their gardens to look at the different plants and talk about how the cacao plant is grown.  We saw more howler monkeys and sloths here too.  Then we were given a demonstration of how to make the chocolate.  This included tasting the raw cacao bean directly from the pod, as well as roasted cacao and then the final product which was delicious!  I purchased some roasted beans so I can attempt to make some myself 🙂

Cacao Trails, Cahuita Cacao Trails, Cahuita

 

*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

NCL Port: Panama Canal / Gatun Lake

My family and I recently went on a 10 night cruise, over Christmas 2016, on Norwegian Cruise Line.  The itinerary was Miami –> Aruba –> Cartagena, Columbia –> Panama Canal / Gatun Lake –> Colon, Panama –> Puerto Limon, Costa Rica –> Miami.

This third post is about our tour at Gatun Lake and visiting the locks on land!

Once arriving in Gatun Lake, the ship dropped it’s anchor and we were tendered to shore in the life boats.  From here we were picked up by bus to head over to a resort area that did the boat tours on the lake.  On the way, we drove across the new expansion locks and I was able to get a quick picture of a container ship in the first lock!

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Below are a few photos from the boat tour on Gatun Lake.

Gatun Lake tour

sloth!
sloth!

Gatun Lake tour

Howler monkeys!
Howler monkeys!

After the boat tour, we came back across the expansion locks and I was able to get another photo of a container ship on it’s way out! The new locks don’t use the locomotives (mules) as the Gatun Locks do, instead they use the tug boats.

Panama Canal expansion locks

We stopped at the visitor’s centre next to watch the locks operation from land.  The timing worked out that we watching our ship, the NCL Pearl, transit on it’s way to Colon where we would eventually meet the ship.  At the visitor centre, they told us that the NCL Pearl is the largest passenger ship to transit the Gatun locks.   The new expansion locks only allow 1 cruise ship to transit per day, and as of last summer only one ship was scheduled (see article: http://www.travelweekly.com/Cruise-Travel/Just-one-cruise-ship-scheduled-to-use-new-Panama-Canal-locks).

NCL Pearl in the Gatun Locks, Panama Canal

NCL Pearl in the Gatun Locks, Panama Canal NCL Pearl in the Gatun Locks, Panama Canal

It’s pretty incredible to watch this massive operation in progress, between the locomotive drivers, linesman, and pilot. The Canal employs about 9,000 people and approximately 40 ships go through daily, every day of the year.  We transited on Christmas Day, December 25th!

*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

NCL Port: Transiting the Panama Canal

My family and I recently went on a 10 night cruise, over Christmas 2016, on Norwegian Cruise Line.  The itinerary was Miami –> Aruba –> Cartagena, Columbia –> Panama Canal / Gatun Lake –> Colon, Panama –> Puerto Limon, Costa Rica –> Miami.

This second post is photo post of our transit through the Panama Canal!

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*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

NCL Port: Cartagena, Columbia

My family and I recently went on a 10 night cruise, over Christmas 2016, on Norwegian Cruise Line.  The itinerary was Miami –> Aruba –> Cartagena, Columbia –> Panama Canal / Gatun Lake –> Colon, Panama –> Puerto Limon, Costa Rica –> Miami.

This first post is about Cartagena, Columbia!

My dad, sister and I decided to book an eco-canoe tour through the mangroves.  First we started off with a stop at the San Felipe de Barajas Fortress.

San Felipe de Barajas Fortress San Felipe de Barajas Fortress

Then our bus headed to the La Boquilla fishing village via a beach road.  From here, we’d be picked up in canoes for 4 people, plus the guy paddling, through the Cueva de Manglar.  The canoes here have certainly seen better days, and required bailing periodically throughout our hour long canoe trip.

La Boquilla Fishing Village - Eco-canoe tour La Boquilla Fishing Village - Eco-canoe tour La Boquilla Fishing Village - Eco-canoe tour

These guys were conveniently throwing the nets as we came around the corner - tips appreciated ;)
These guys were conveniently throwing the nets as we came around the corner – tips appreciated 😉

La Boquilla Fishing Village - Eco-canoe tour

After arriving back to the dock, we were treated to a delicious coconut before heading back to the city and finally the cruise ship pier.

The cool thing about the Cartagena pier is that there is a small wildlife park which you have to walk through to enter/exit the pier.

Cotton-top tamarin... we think?
Cotton-top tamarin… we think?
A prehensile-tailed porcupine!
A prehensile-tailed porcupine!
Toucan outside the bird aviary! Me...inside!
Toucan outside the bird aviary! Me…inside!

Port of Cartagena - Wildlife Park Port of Cartagena - Wildlife Park*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Private Island – Great Stirrup Cay

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Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island.  The ships anchor offshore and passengers are tendered over to the island.  There are plenty of activities to enjoy, including parasailing (that’s me in the photo above!), snorkelling, jet skis, zip lines, kayaks and lots more.  There is a bbq lunch to enjoy as well as bar service.  You can pay for everything with your NCL key card, aside from the local’s souvenirs shops which take cash in US dollars.   There are also cabanas for rent.

The island recently reopened on November 20th, 2016, after being delayed due to Hurricane Matthew.

I really enjoyed this day on the island and would definitely recommend an itinerary with this stop!

Find out more about Great Stirrup Cay here:

https://www.ncl.com/ca/en/freestyle-cruise/great-stirrup-cay

(GIVEAWAY!) Enchant Christmas Light Maze – Vancouver

Enchant, the world’s largest Christmas light maze will be coming to Vancouver for its inaugural event, starting November 25th, 2016.

Enchant Christmas Light Maze and Market

The family-friendly festival will include a 55,000 square foot maze of light sculptures, a 64-foot Christmas Tree, live performances, an outdoor fire pit, and a sprawling marketplace including food and drink vendors serving mulled wine, specialty coffees, and holiday beers. Enchant will run from November 25th and end on New Year’s Eve with a firework finale.

Enchant Christmas Light Maze

Enchant’s Christmas market will combine a variety of local vendors and artisans for holiday shopping, and guests will get a chance to browse speciality products from talented craftsmen/women, as well as enjoy delicious seasonal treats from 12 food trucks. There will also be a licensed eating area where of-age guests can enjoy a sip of their favorite holiday drink, including mulled wine, craft beers, buttered rum, eggnog, and much more.

Enchant

Enchant will also feature a VIP lounge for private parties and holiday get-togethers. Guests can enjoy a private lounge with a beautiful atmosphere where they can relax, socialize and celebrate in style. The VIP Lounge includes an exclusive entrance into the light maze, a private bar, access to all of the food trucks, and customizable entertainment options.

Enchant

Lastly, Enchant 2016 will debut a special new Christmas storybook written by local storyteller Leanne Johnston and illustrated by Sebastian S.C. The story follows the aftermath of a disastrous snowstorm that hits the North Pole the night before Christmas. Children around the world are asked to explore the enchanted light fields of the North and search for the missing reindeer in an attempt to help Santa and save the world’s biggest holiday.

Enchant
Guests will be able to bring home this beautifully illustrated storybook as a souvenir of this unforgettable event. It’ll be available for purchase at the exit of the light maze or can be pre-ordered with tickets.

You can find more information here:

facebook.com/enchantchristmas
instagram.com/enchantchristmas
twitter.com/enchantxmas
http://enchantchristmas.com/

Event Details:

When: November 25th, 2016 to New Year’s Eve

Where: 1st and Crowe Street, between the Cambie Street Bridge and Olympic Village

Time: 4pm-10pm each day

Ticket Information: http://enchantchristmas.com/ticket-info/

And here’s the info about the giveaway! 

Thanks to Enchant, I am giving away two pairs of tickets to the Enchant Premiere on November 24.  These tickets are good for adult admission.  Kids under 16 are free for the premiere (under 6 are free on regular event days).  Giveaway closes November 13, 2016 12:00 AM PST.  This contest is open to residents of the Greater Vancouver Area and Sea to Sky Corridor only! Winners announced November 15th, 2016.

Enter via the link here.

Weekend Trip from Vancouver: Victoria, BC

One of the best things about living in Vancouver is how many places there are to explore that can be done within a day or weekend trip.  One of my favourite places is Victoria.  Recently, my parents came up for a visit and we met in Victoria.  I flew via seaplane from the South YVR seaplane terminal on Harbour Air, and they came across on the M/V Coho from Port Angeles in Washington state.

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Our first stop was the world-famous Butchart Gardens.  They have nearly a million visitors per year and it’s easy to see why, the gardens are impeccable and absolutely stunning.  We spent a few hours here and enjoyed a picnic on the grounds.

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On our way back to Victoria, we stopped at Sea Cider for cider tasting on their outside deck.

We stopped to drop off our things at the hotel: the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel & Marina.  We were given a great room with a balcony overlooking the marina.  After a quick break and a swim in the pool, we decided to head down towards Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the dinner options, as well as visit the houseboat community.  There is a resident harbour seal community and you can purchase fresh fish to feed them.  We had fish & chips (gluten free for my sis!), wandered around a bit, and headed back to the hotel for an early night.

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Gluten free fish & chips!
Gluten free fish & chips!

The next day we had already decided to try The Blue Fox Cafe for breakfast.  There was a bit of a wait, but was well worth it.  We had booked afternoon tea at the Fairmont later in the day, so we spent the midday going around downtown Victoria, visiting various shops etc.

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The Blue Fox Cafe
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Fan Tan Alley

And soon it was time for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress!  It was so yummy!!

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Orange Pineapple Tea

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Here is a photo of the view from our hotel balcony of the marina as the sun was setting – what a great Saturday!

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On Sunday morning, we went off to explore Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, and the Fisgard Lighthouse. This was the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada, back in 1860.   You can explore the fort which includes gun batteries, guardhouses, barracks etc.   This area is also a great birdwatching spot.

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Inside the Fisgard Lighthouse

After lunch at the Four Mile House, we went around Beacon Hill Park before the trip back home.  As always, the weekend was too short, but we did a lot and had a wonderful time.

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Four Mile House Restaurant
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Beacon Hill Park
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Peacock in a tree!

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Harbour Air seaplane trip back to YVR

*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent

Iceland – Reykjavik City Tour

Through Reykjavik Excursions, we booked a half day city tour to explore some areas of Reykjavik.  First stop was Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church which is 73 meters high and the largest church in Iceland.

Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja

We then stopped at the Grotta lighthouse, where there is an old shack that was used for fermenting shark.

View at the Grotta Lighthouse
Grotta Lighthouse
Shack is for fermenting shark
Shark Fermenting Shack

Our next stop was the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach – a popular spot with the locals.

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
View from Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

Then we stopped by the Perlan which is a landmark building in Reykjavik.  It sits on a hill overlooking the city.  The building has been added on top of hot water storage tanks.  It has a viewing platform which goes around the entire building for 360 degree views.

View from Veitingahúsið Perlan (The Pearl)
The Perlan
View from Veitingahúsið Perlan (The Pearl)
View from the Perlan
View from Veitingahúsið Perlan (The Pearl)
View from the Perlan

We made a quick stop at Höfði House which is where Gorbachev and Reagan met in 1986 and ultimately their meeting ended the Cold War.

Höfði House (where Gorbachev and Raegan met which ended the Cold War)
Höfði House
Höfði House (where Gorbachev and Raegan met which ended the Cold War)
Höfði House

And, of course, we had to stop to see the iconic Sun Voyager!  The sculpture was created for the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik.

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Finally, our last stop was the Harpa Concert Hall.

Harpa
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall
Inside the Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall
Inside the Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa at night
Harpa Concert Hall

*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent.

Iceland – Northern Lights!

On the long drive back from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to Reykjavik, our bus driver and guide suddenly said that we were going to make an unscheduled stop as the Northern Lights were out.  We couldn’t believe our luck!!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera tripod, but I was able to get some photos 🙂

 

*All photos are the property of Charlotte Moore, unless stated otherwise, and may not be used without written consent.