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Sunday, 01 July 2012

Traveling with a Baby

Venice 5 LrMy wife and I have had the good fortune of being part time travel journalists for over seven years now.  Last year we had a baby girl named Violet and until this recent trip to Venice Beach California, we have never traveled with a baby.

It’s been said by many an expert that traveling is good for a child at any age.  It broadens their experiences and shows them the world through various different cultures and ways of life.  Having said that – traveling with a baby can significantly change the experience for the parents depending on how young your child is.

Violet was six months old when we recently left Toronto on a flight to Los Angeles.  We were prepared, but delays with the plane caused our 9 hour flight to become a 17 hour journey.  Violet was fine for most of the day, but after the lay over in San Francisco and then getting the car in LA, time had finally caught up with her and she was bananas.  






Venice 27Little things like travel delays can have small effects on adults however to a baby can be large changes. I have written articles for inTravel in the Mojave Desert, from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and through the Costa Rican Rainforest.  Those were adventures but didn’t compare to driving on the 405 with a screaming child.

We figured out the sleeping arrangements that night and we were looking forward to Day 2 and being settled.  Los Angles, especially the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area, is a wonderful place to take your child. The boardwalk between the two cities is relaxing and offers great views. The Santa Monica Pier is a carnival area that our six month old slept through but we got a kick out of. We discovered it’s one of the hot spots for kids’ birthday parties. One thing to keep in mind if you are staying somewhere along the beach is to be up on a higher floor because the noise of the crowds and beach musicians can possibly disturb your baby’s naps during the day. We were above a store that played loud music all day, but luckily we brought our baby’s sound machine. It was a great tool to muffle the various sounds from outside.

A few places that are fun with babies in Los Angeles include the Griffith Observatory, which is a fascinating look at the Universe around us.  The Grove is an upscale area right beside the famous Farmers Market and walking down Rodeo Drive just to look at the outrageous and lavish stores is something we always find fun.  Hollywood offers the wax and entertainment museums, and Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade will fill an entire day with its restaurants, buskers, retail stores and other oddities such as garden and fountain sculptures and religious messengers handing out pamphlets.

When we go to LA, we always book through HostelBookers www.HostelBookers.com which offers affordable hotel and hostel options all over the world.  This time, we stayed at the Cadillac Hotel in Venice Beach, which was excellent.  The hotel has over 100 years of history behind it, but offers various modern amenities including condo-style rooms with kitchens and separate bedrooms.  This proved very useful as after the baby went to bed, we were able to stay in the other room and didn’t need to worry about waking her up.

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The most important thing that we found when traveling with a baby is that despite the fact that you are on ‘vacation,’ the baby still has a schedule of naps and feeds that go where you go, no matter where you are in the world.  Knowing this before you jump into things is a good way of being prepared when you still spend half your day just taking care of the child.  

But traveling as much as possible should be on everyone’s bucket list, so having a baby should not hinder this experience. With a little adapting you can have your airplane cake and eat your child’s cake too. Because if you buy them their own seat, the airline is obliged to get you another meal. :)

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(c)Jonathan Hiltz


Published in interest
Saturday, 20 August 2011

Ontario's Nature in Style

Ontario Muskoka 2Having one of the world's biggest backyards means that nature and Canada go hand in hand. Every season in this massive country trumpets a new outdoor adventure, due to the ever changing climates in various regions.  The glorious days of summer are no different as many Canadians (and thousands of travelers) take advantage of the hot weather by entering the wilderness and enjoying rugged or upscale styles of getting back to the simple things.

In Ontario, there are a variety of small lakes where picturesque cottages, hotels, children’s camps and the great outdoors live together.  We stayed at the first ever J.W. Marriott Resort in Canada, located on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka region about 2.5 hours outside of the city of Toronto.
 


Ontario Muskoka 9The resort balances the wild outdoors and amazing comforts. Each day a complete schedule of activities is available; many of these are complimentary. Between the power walks in the early morning and the guided wilderness hikes and boat cruises, one has to remember to slow down, take in the fresh air and enjoy the natural beauty. Remember to bring some bug spray for the mosquitoes, which are always higher in numbers around lakes.
 
One popular activity is bird-watching. Throngs of people can be seen throughout back trails and forests armed with several types of binoculars and cameras, looking for the many species that call Canada home during the warmer months.

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For those who want to see unique birds in action without the effort of forest travel, the resort offers a show called ‘Birds Of Prey’ where a Naturalist brings various species of our winged friends.  Our show had three incredible owls and one hawk and we watched as each of them took turns flying around, squawking and entertaining the kids.  The owls each ate a mouse whole and flew to the outstretched arm of any audience member wearing a thick protective glove provided by the Naturalist.






 
Ontario Muskoka 6Lake Rosseau is one of hundreds of bodies of water in the Muskoka region, but it has garnered a lot of attention in particular due to the preservation of the area. Over-development is an issue currently affecting many of Ontario's natural getaways but this lake has managed to find a balance between nature and its visiting population.  It is also home to many upscale cottages owned by wealthy people which makes 'cottage gazing' on the water a regular activity.  NHL hockey players and film actors such as Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Martin Short can be seen on a regular basis at the various restaurants around the area or even waterskiing on the lake itself.

If you want to kayak, learn how to water-ski, rent a sea-doo, or take part in other types of water activities, you don't need to have celebrity status: there are various vendors and docks to visit.  The JW Marriott, for example, offers guided boat cruises and personal watercraft rentals of almost every kind.  From the water you can see people sitting beside camp fires, cooking up food and generally having a great time.


 
If cooking with a pot over a fire is not your 'cup of beans', there are various ports offering local restaurants such as Kai Restaurant in Port Carling and a few chain eateries like Turtle Jacks.  The resort provides some excellent culinary options as well. Teca is their fine dining experience; aromas from the open kitchen make your mouth water through the whole meal.  For more casual fare, the restaurant Cottages or the pool side snacks also feature signature dishes using local produce, meats and other goodies found in Ontario.  We found the blueberry muffins and stuffed French toast to be especially good.

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Gourmet food aside, an outdoor adventure is never complete without S’mores. For a small fee we purchased a s’mores kit from the front desk which included all the necessities. There is a constant fire going just outside on the property until eleven o’clock at night. This is probably the yummiest way to end a refreshing day outside; but once the day ends, the real fun begins, with the greatest spectacle available to humankind, the night sky.
 
Ontario Muskoka 5Without the 'light-pollution' (or regular pollution) provided by the city a couple of hours away, the night sky in Muskoka shines brighter than Times Square.  The constellations provide a show that is free to everyone on the planet, but all too often ignored in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  With a trained guide (and an eight-thousand dollar telescope) we could see the rings around Saturn and the moon seemed so close, that each crater had its own defining features.  Any closer and we would have seen the American flag on its surface.  We even witnessed a satellite slowly moving across the sky just outside of Earth’s atmosphere. The star-gazing experience is unique and whether or not done here, should at least be done once in everyone's lifetime.

One of the most enjoyable things about the Muskoka region is that is has no shortage of spas and health retreats.  After all, whatever crowded, noisy city you may be coming from, it always helps to slow down with the assistance of a massage. The Spa at Rosseau is spectacular with a menu full of options for women and men alike.  The best thing about it is that with any treatment includes a full day of locker room facilities which includes hot tubs, steam room, sauna and access to a private swimming pool.

Ontario Muskoka 1Whether you want to go camping under the stars with a fire and a pack of hot dogs or a little less rough at a resort and spa, Muskoka has everything for the perfect Ontario getaway.  Canada has been blessed with thousands of kilometers of nature and all are welcome to enjoy it.



©Jonathan Hiltz

Published in indulge
Monday, 03 May 2010

Venice Beach and LA

It’s the second largest city in the United States and home to nearly twenty million people. Being in the forefront of the world’s gossip and famous for stars, trends, and the entertainment industry, Los Angeles is where pop culture begins and ends in an endless parade of cultural oddities and travel adventures.

Published in interest
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Desert Romance

In an ocean of sand known as the Mojave Desert, lies a city that bills itself as 'The Entertainment Capital of the World' and when describing Las Vegas, that's not too far from the truth.

Published in in love
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Cruising Without Losing

The Caribbean Islands are by far one of the most popular tourist regions in the world. A large number of travelers, many of whom are from snow-covered countries, use these tropical destinations to escape for a brief period and enjoy the sunny, hot weather and seemingly unending supply of rum-based drinks.

Published in inexpensive
Friday, 03 July 2009

Rica with a Little Less Costa

Costa Rica has long been Central America’s destination of choice for travelers and expatriates from around the world. It’s a paradise that easily meets the needs of any vacationer and has the unique advantage of being able to offer a lot for a little – if one knows where to find a good deal. So put those sandals on for this spectacular getaway in the sun, because the only shoestring needed here is a budget.

Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the ‘rich coast’ at bargain basement prices:

 

Published in inexpensive
Sunday, 31 May 2009

Seven Days in Sicily

The island of Sicily is a stunningly diverse destination, filled with an incredible mixture of different cultures. This is evident in many aspects of life there, particularly visible in the region’s food, architecture and art.

Published in in-depth

The Arenal volcano is one of the most active in the world and located in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, only a two and a half hour drive from San Jose. It usually has minor eruptions every five to ten minutes and has been doing so since an incredibly large one on July 29th 1968.

Published in indulge
Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Coast of Riches: Living in Costa Rica

As the skies over Canada inevitably turn a light shade of gray, and the windowpanes are slowly conquered by an opaque frost, the urge to join the flocks of birds and head south for a few months becomes apparent. Having experienced over thirty Canadian winters prompted me to question, why do we live in such frigid temperatures when there are perfectly decent, warmer countries that exist a few hours away?  This led to a year’s worth of research on international investment properties and the discovery of Costa Rica.

Published in interchange

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