Monday, March 5, 2018
I've wondered for many years about what I've often called the super mall. There are many of them around the world and they come with more shopping, eating, drinking, and entertainment than I was able to imagine. So, I took the opportunity to get away from it all and take a vacation in a mall. The mall of choice was the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The time was February. Right around Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year. The temperature when we landed in Edmonton was -11 Fahrenheit. My experiment was to see if you could truly spend an entire vacation inside a mall and have a good time and have everything you needed. Crazy.
West Edmonton Mall is an amazing place. Second largest indoor water park and wave pool in the world. Second largest indoor amusement park in the world. Ethnic neighborhoods, activities, restaurants, a hotel, surfing lessons, movies, 800 stores, doctors, dentists, spas. The list goes on. This is the largest contained mall in the western hemisphere. I arrived a day late, due to travel issues. I left a day late due to travel issues. I stayed at the Fantasyland Hotel. This is the themed room hotel that is actually in the mall. I had a normal room, because I just didn't need a theme. My theme was vacationing inside.
Could it be fun? I found a waterfall by the sea where the Santa Maria sits across from the aquarium and the sea lion show. I couldn't believe that even though it was fake, I found a waterfall in the dead of winter in Alberta. I love waterfalls and no matter where I go, I seem to find one. That held true in Edmonton.
Let's start in Galaxyland Amusement Park. Not joking. Indoors, huge place, two monster roller coasters, one kiddie roller coaster, a virtual reality ride, swings, a train, other adult rides, a fun house, other kiddie rides, a playscape, bumper cars, carousel, shooting gallery, arcade, and on and on. It's unbelievable. I learned a great tip for this trip, especially with the parks. There are different prices for the parks, some of the other attractions and the hotel. Go during the week. Things are much cheaper and less crowded. You don't have to wait in lines and you don't have to pay as much. The mall has a multi play pass for the major attractions, and during the week; it's cheaper to just pay per attraction. Look before you leap on that one. And if you have time, do it during the week. Are the rides fun? You bet. I had a great time, but since my companion has some vertigo issues, I didn't choose to spend the whole day at the park. I spent even less than the day pass to go on the rides that I just couldn't miss. It was a great experience and I loved the major rides.
One of the other major attractions in the mall is World Waterpark. I spent the day at that park. It was well worth the price of admission. It was -7 Fahrenheit outside the day that we went to the park. There are several different water slides in this park. They have a loop, trap doors, the one I call the toilet, and so much more. They are amazing. I rode them over and over. They also have that giant wave pool. I played in it forever. It was amazing. The natural light is like you're right at the beach. I even got a little sunburnt. In winter, in Alberta, at the beach. Love that. We also zip lined over the wave pool. We even discovered later that you can learn to surf on that wave pool in the off hours. Amazing. I even had a beer at the beach side bar. They have cabanas and even have a flow rider. It's an amazing place, and it was the biggest single reason that I wanted to go to the mall. It was worth it. I would so do it again. Once again, it is part of the multi play pass, but the single price is perfectly reasonable during the week and the crowds are less. It is crowded. It's a very popular attraction in Edmonton.
Who doesn't love sea lions? The mall has an aquarium and some fun to watch sea lions. To tell the truth, the aquarium is underground in a cave environment. I wasn't thoroughly impressed with that one. It is the third part of the play pass, but if you wait until 4 pm to go, it's less money. Here's what I found. You don't spend a lot of time down there, because there isn't much to see and it smells pretty fishy. I felt sorry for the penguins being bunged up like they were, and it was my least favorite thing at the mall. The sea lions however. That's another story. They perform once or twice a day and you can view them from around the show. You don't even have to pay. You do pay if you want to get a picture of your kids with the sea lions, but my kid was home, so I watched that show every day for free. The sea lions seemed to be having a great time and we enjoyed it. You can come by at many times during the day and the sea lions will be out playing with their trainers. It is one of the best things in the mall, and you can see it all day long.
Okay, what else is there in the mall? Well, at one end of the sea we have certain attractions. There is a shooting range and gun store on the second level. They were having a Valentine's Special when I was there. You could pay to shoot with their guns. You could also bring your own. You could also buy guns. The security in the place is very good. We didn't have time to fit it in. Maybe next trip. There is also a radio station on that level. Capital 96.3 radio. You can walk right into this station. They even have a small radio museum and a gallery of famous people that they've had on. It's an interesting stop. What else is in that area? It's right by the hotel. So this is your entry point when you stay at Fantasyland. The movie theaters are there on the third level. They also have a natural light ceiling in the lobby and arcade area. There are several theaters up there including an IMAX. We went to see the latest Star Wars while we were there and the seats were comfortable, like in your living room.
There's a replica of the Santa Maria sitting in the sea. For a couple of bucks you can take the kids on it and look around. If you want, you can rent the space for a special event. There are also remote control boats next to the ship that you can rent to play with. That end of the mall is also home to small stall shopping that showcases local businesses. There's a virtual reality place at that end of the sea, with 15 different virtual adventures to choose from.
Also on that end of the mall are the adult specialty shops. There is a liquor store there, the Supply Sargeant with military surplus and lots of knives, the Love Boutique for adults only, and Caesars Bingo Parlor. Add that to the shooting range, and you have lots of adult time.
But, there's also Adventure Mini Golf on the lower level right underneath Europa Boulevard. Mini golf for the kids and high end shopping for the adults. Europa Boulevard is the scenic area. The shopping is high end. The food is minimal. But it reminds me of the Venentian in Vegas minus the canal. It's pretty and once again has the natural light glass ceiling. You find couples strolling in this area, just admiring the view. It is one of the quieter places in the mall and the place to get flowers for your partner.
Eat, drink and be merry. These things are essential, especially when on vacation. If you can't find something to eat and drink in that mall, I can't help you. It comes with Chinatown, Bourbon Street, Jubilations Dinner Theater, and two giant food courts. That doesn't include all the other places that are just hanging around. We ate at the grocery store in Chinatown. It was fabulous and we had all kinds of things to choose from and several food stations to get it from. It was amazing. We ate breakfast at A & W in the food courts. They serve a full breakfast every day. Sure, you can order room service, but it's boring and expensive. I got my iced coffee at Starbucks, my doughnuts at Tim Horton's and my drinks for the room at London Drugs. It's a great while you stay supply stop. We had Mexican, Japanese, Korean, and Greek right at the food courts. When we wanted a restaurant where we could sit down and be waited on, we went to Bourbon Street. They have some great ice cream and a comedy club down there. And we were there during the Olympics, so every time Canada got a gold medal; drinks got cheap. It was fun, and don't forget perks like the fact that we weren't driving because we were staying in the mall. Responsible drinking. Cool.
This mall has everything. It has neighborhoods. You can eat Durian Fruit in Chinatown if you want. They have great ice cream and an English Pub on Bourbon Street. They also have lots of pizza and beer. This mall has live trees, and ride on toys for the kids. They have River City Games, which is an entire store devoted to games. They also have a whole store devoted to bath bombs. It's crazy, and when you buy all your stuff at Tiffany's and Hudson Bay, you can stop by a luggage store and get an extra bag to put it all in. Amazing.
You never know what you're going to see in the mall. Edmonton is founded on oil. They have a statue for that. There's a regulation ice rink in the middle of the mall with a Starbuck's hanging over one side and a Tim Horton's hanging over the other. They have local hockey leagues almost every night and people sit, drink their coffee and watch the games. It's amazing. There was a Lamborghini being raffled off while we were there. I saw it on my way to the Palace Casino. That's right, a casino. It's small and mostly slot machines, but they are enlarging it as we speak and it will be about four times the size with much more to do soon. That's not far from Dragon's Tale Blacklight Mini Golf. That place is awesome and has a house of mirrors to go with it.
There's so much to do.
Then there's the partial list of things that we didn't have time to get to.
Number one, we had to leave before Chinese New Year. I hear that they have a parade, special entertainment and a fire breathing dragon for the occasion.
It was day three before I even knew about the bowling alley. Ed's bowling has wildly entertaining regulation bowling and duck pin bowling. They have a restaurant/bar up there in their little hidden hole in the mall and soon they will have an escape room. There's so much to do that we looked around a little and went on our way. We were running out of time.
Another thing that we missed was the Rec Room. This is a new arcade and all around entertainment place. They have all kinds of things to do in there. Once again, we were running out of time. I guess we should have stayed longer.
Do you hate to travel in winter? This place is great. We ran out of time. Our hotel was amazing and comfortable. We didn't need to rent a car, because there's a shuttle to and from the airport. I never went outside and I had a great time. I didn't wont for anything. I didn't feel cooped up. Wow. The experiment was a success. A mall is a great vacation spot.
I do have to add some advice here. I learned some things on this one. I bought a package deal and took the insurance in case I needed to change my plans. Read the rules. I couldn't change my plans with the airlines, because of the budget seats. It didn't matter if I paid for insurance with the bundle. I also had no problem rescheduling the hotel when things went wrong. I didn't need the insurance. It was a waste of money both ways. Also, when the weather went awry, the airlines took over their part of the package and the bundling company couldn't help me with anything after that time. Be careful how you book.
Another piece of advice that I don't like to give is to be careful with airlines. I thought that going to Canada on Air Canada would be a good idea, but they never showed up. I ended up flying United and Delta. I don't think I would book Air Canada again. Sorry. It was the only bad part of the trip.
Other than that, go to a mall for vacation. Especially in the winter. It's a great time and you're never bored. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 7, 2017
There are a million opportunities to do things at Christmas. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit things in with all the shopping and the working to pay for it. Face it, most of us spend most of our time preparing for Christmas and not enjoying the season nearly enough. So, in the spirit of all of us Americans trying to make it all fit in a multi tasking over worked under rested not enough family time style of world; I had an idea.
Nothing beats that trip to New York City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, see the Rockettes and peruse the shops in Bryant Park, but if you don't have time to spend the day doing that then hop in the car and just take a drive through Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. They are known far and wide for their neighborhood light displays. And that's the trend that most intrigues me. The drive through light show.
There are drive through and walk through light displays all over the country these days. We've always had Hubbard Park in Meriden here in Connecticut, but now we have Holiday Lights Fantasia in Hartford as well. The drive through or walk through light displays that you find all over these days is something that you can fit into your schedule. You can spend an evening or even an hour or less getting your Christmas spirit on. For the events that charge admission, you will be doing something nice too. Most drive through and walk through programs are to raise money for a charity. So, you can fit it into your busy schedule and help raise money for some worthy causes.
There's something in your area, no matter where you are. Branson, Missouri is literally covered in lights. Disney goes crazy in both Florida and California. In Arizona, they have a decorated tumbleweed tree. Alaska has North Pole and Santa's home and in Santa Claus, Indiana the whole town is done up. Frankenmuth, Michigan has Bavarian Christmas and the world's largest Christmas store with Bronner's. Georgia lights up Lookout and Stone Mountains. In Kentucky you can drive through an underground Christmas display in Louisville. There are thousands of places that you can take a little time and either drive through or walk through some amazing displays.
Drive through it, under it, or by it. Whatever it takes, do not let this season slip by without taking at least some time to enjoy it. Time is precious. Don't waste it. By the time you realize that you've wasted time, it could be too late to make up for it. Gather the kids, even if they're teenagers, grab your phone and look up a local activity. Why stand in line to see Santa? There are so many other ways to get your holiday spirit up this time of year. Whether you spend it in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Bryant Park in New York, or in downtown Glendale, Arizona; take time to enjoy the season for just a little while.
Life is something to be enjoyed. Family and friends are the people that we should be enjoying it with. All work and no play makes Nina a dull girl. Whatever the reason, Christmas only comes but once a year. Get out and enjoy!
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Although my sense of humor has not changed or been diminished, I must say that there have been many reasons for my absence from my blog. Over the years, I have not enlisted people to write on my blog. It has been a personal journey that I have shared with the places that I have been, places that I want to go, and places that I could only hope to see. I have been thrilled that so many people have joined my journey and hope that people continue to enjoy my musings.
That being said, I have recently become a victim of the insurance problems that we are experiencing in the United States. I have been ill this year with breast cancer, kidney stones, potential uterine and ovarian cancer, viruses, breathing problems, and bad wisdom teeth. I also have seen a number of friends and relatives pass this year and it has been a little rough. I did publish a book that you can find on Amazon, Smashwords and Inkitt called The Ring of the Queen; an odyssey about a young girl who travels to Russia to find out that she is in fact legally a Tsar. Good read and in many places free.
But I digress. Because of my health, I missed a lot of work. Insurance decided that I didn't deserve my short term disability, so I had no income for weeks during surgery recovery. I also had to pay most of my paycheck for insurance coverage that didn't even cover prescriptions. Since that time, I have not gone further than two hours from my home and have only gone away for more than a day one time. That time it was a single overnight that I had promised my son. I have started working an extra job to pay the doctors and insurance premiums as well as for my prescriptions. This takes up roughly 60 hours of my week and can be any hours of the day or night, weekend or holiday. This is where I have been. My only solace has been a kayak that I purchased before all of this started. My only wind down, get away, leisure time has been using the local lakes and paddling for an hour or so; most generally between jobs.
What is my point? Well, I wanted to explain my absence. I also want to say that someone needs to fix this situation with the insurance. I've worked all my life. I put myself through college. I've never been on unemployment, food stamps, assistance, or welfare. If anyone out there is listening, bug your congressmen. Why should all of the considerable money that my family makes go to insurance and bills that it doesn't cover? Why is it a crime in this country to get sick? I've asked my congressmen. They didn't answer. I hope that some of you have better luck. I don't call blaming the other party a valid reason either.
So, with a heavy heart I must tell you that I don't know how often I will have the opportunity to write this blog. I will write when I can and I hope that you all continue to read. I will not give up, because insurance and the government are trying to break me. I'm tougher than anyone in office or in an office. To these entities I say bite me, and I will come out on top. I am the person that anyone with control issues should fear, because I cannot be controlled by my government. I hope that my readers continue to travel. I hope that you all take the time to share some tips with me for my future travels. In the meantime, I will be here; waiting for my next chance to travel. I hope that your chance comes sooner than mine. I hope that you all get a chance to see the world and enjoy!
It seems like a million years ago when I went to Prague. It was Czechoslovakia at the time. It was 1991, and they had just had their Velvet Revolution and become a sovereign land. They were experiencing life without Communism and a whole new world at their fingertips. It was a magical time. I reflect on it now, because lately the area has been showcased in television travel programs and I've been feeling nostalgic. So many things have changed and continue to change. So many things are just as I remember them.
Prague has always been famous for it's castle and the surrounding area. The government still works out of the castle area. I remember touring it in 1991 and that was not the case yet. The castle was all but vacant when I was there. We got to see all of it and the views that it affords of the Vltava River below. The cathedral is amazing and the whole neighborhood is magical and ancient. The changing of the guards still happens today and the gates remain the same. The workings inside have changed to accommodate the modern government, but the view is the same. As a tourist, I appreciate that.
Prague has always been a mix of themes. In the old days there was an old town and only a slightly newer New Town. Today you can see the old world of Kafka and his home in Prague and the new look of the buildings that were designed post Communism as they sit right next to classic old buildings of Prague. There is nothing about Prague that isn't unique. Everything about this city says Prague. You never forget where you are.
Prague has more than one impressive open area for people, tourist and local alike. The old town square is the most noted most of the time. The astrnomical clock has been around for hundreds of years and crowds still gather in front of it today. It's still a marvel and it is wonderfully beautiful. The trip up the tower to see the views of the city is well worth the climb as well. I've been around, and I can say without a doubt that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.
Any time you look at St. Wenceslaus Square it is beautiful. There have been revolutions there. People have lighted themselves on fire there. When I was there, the new government was forming in offices there. There were also a ton of wine, cheese, chocolate and flower shops there. It was the center of change and romance. The views from the Charles Bridge are amazing. The trip to Prague is worth it just to see the castle at night from the bridge. Not joking. You will see these views in your dreams. Prague is a magical city.
We never forget that Prague and Czechoslovakia were part of the Holocaust. The Jewish Quarter as it is known in Prague goes back many centuries. During WWII and the Holocaust so many thousands were lost that I don't have that number. Today, as in many other parts of Europe, they are exercising the motto of "We Forgive but we never Forget". They have museums, monuments and a research center in the quarter and they should not be missed. There are also amazing cemeteries, temples and other sights for your education.
While the view is amazing, the ambience is one of a kind and the worlds of old and new alongside one another always impresses; let's not forget the food and certainly not the beer. When I was in Prague we tried out some restaurants and we were made to feel more welcome than I had ever felt in a restaurant in my life. I felt as though I was dining at someone's home. They gave us samples of the specials to choose our dishes from. They were attentive and talked to us. They told us about their lives and asked us about ours. I don't know if this is still the same, but it was one of the best parts of my experience in Prague.
I traveled this area with the most amazing group of students I've ever met. We went to one of the oldest pubs in Europe and had a great night with great food, great polka music, and fabulous Czech Beer. This country is famous for the beer and we had a wonderful time, followed by a walk across the Charles Bridge with the view of the castle at night. We didn't care that it was January. We didn't care that the United States was going to attack Iraq in a couple of days with the first Gulf War and leave us stranded in Europe because all the airports closed. We enjoyed our time and lived in the moment. It all worked out and we made it home okay. I miss those people that I traveled with. We lost touch as happens many times. But, I will always have the memories of getting lost in Prague and having the opportunity to experience one of the most extraordinary cities in all of Europe. So, if you get the chance to visit this amazing city; don't pass. If you do, you will be missing something positively memorable. So, to the lost in Prague group; I remember all the time. I will never forget. I will always reminisce and I hope that you all have continued to travel as I have. I hope that you see the world and enjoy.