My Sweet Marie

Archive for the ‘Travelling with Sweet Marie’ Category

Being  a Canadian for all of my 55 years, people find it hard to believe I’ve never been on the East Coast! Well, I can now say that I have done the East coast! Denis and I recently toured the East Coast while on our summer vacation! We decided to do this by car to take advantage of all the beautiful sights along the way! I will share with you some of our itinerary, some cute stories and some not so cute ones!

We started our trip ironically on the American East Coast. We headed from home, London, Ontario to Portland, Maine! According to Google maps it’d be a 12 hour drive. We wanted to put a long day in the first day and get to the coast, we had no idea what we were in for! We set the GPS and away we went. It was a brand new GPS so we thought, what could go wrong? So silly.

Well that 12 hour trip turned into 17 hours as what we didn’t do with that new GPS is make sure the settings were to our liking! It had been set by someone to avoid all toll highways which meant we took the scenic route there. The upside was, we took the scenic route and what sights we say! Truly we laugh about it now, but let’s just say, in spite of the A/C being on, it got a little heated in that Honda that day!

We stopped along the way in a beautiful park to have our planned picnic lunch, took a few minutes to just chill and breathe in the beauty. We had a cooler in the trunk filled with delicious fruit, veggies, cheese, kubi, salad etc. This saves time and money, and it keeps your healthy eating habits on track! We had a dry bin as well loaded with crackers, nuts, seeds, cereal, snacks of all shape and size!

Day#2 was much better, we only had a short time in Portland so we headed to our favourite place….the beach! First though, we stopped at Holy Donuts, a bakery that our nieces, Natalie and Laura, told us about, so glad they did! If you’re ever in Portland, do make the effort to find them, they have gluten-free donuts as well! So we headed to the beach and I am happy to report, it is as beautiful as they all say!  We spent a few hours on the beach, walking and taking in the sunshine and breeze. We walked their boardwalk, stopped and did a bit of shopping, picked up a fidget spinner for Evy that somehow didn’t have one yet and then hopped in the car and headed to our next destination!

We wanted to be in St.John, New Brunswick for Canada Day. There were many festivities planned and we wanted to be a part of that! Unfortunately, it was raining when we got there and though some activities carried on, the fireworks were put off till the next night. Not a problem we thought, we’re here one more night. We stayed at the Homeport Inn.  It has a view of the Bay of Fundy, was built in 1855 so lots of history in one of Canada’s oldest cities. The breakfasts were superb! They were great about my food sensitivities, had special things for me and they were very friendly!

One of my favourite things about this B&B was at breakfast one morning, we shared our table with an American Mom, her daughter and her grand-daughter. The Grand-daughter was 14 and her favourite thing about Canada was our scratch and sniff money! She said if you scratched it, it smelled of maple syrup! Denis and I both got great enjoyment out that innocent comment! She had so many questions, a genuine interest in our history so the time passed quickly.  Denis, bless his heart, showed her the Canadian coins, the loonie and toonie and then shared their stories with her. He then gave her one of each as a souvenir and you’d think he gave her gold. I loved that.

In Saint-John’s, we saw the Reversing Falls, at all stages of the tide, we went on a Bay of Fundy Parkway tour, got to see it at low tide which was very cool. We also did a walking tour of the downtown, it’s a self-guided tour so was done at your own pace, and we stopped and saw the old buildings we wanted to see and we also toured the New Brunswick Museum. It was a jam-packed couple of days but we had fun with it! We never did get fireworks as on the second night, there was so much fog they couldn’t do the demonstration! Apparently Saint-John’s is known for their fog, who knew?

On day#4 we headed to Charlottetown PEI! We crossed the 12.9 kilometer( 8 miles) Confederation bridge and headed straight for the beach! Another afternoon of sun, sand and breezes! The beach is a red sand as are the stones along the beach. It really is quite incredible to see firsthand.  On the island we did the lighthouse tour, which simply put is driving along the coast and yelling stop every time you see a lighthouse! There is an actual map with them all but what fun is that? They are beautiful and I got to see several, some from a distance but still, I saw them! One of my musts for PEI was to have French fries, as Cavendish has a huge plant there and they grow all their potatoes on the island, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to have fries, non? We did not go to Anne of Green Gables as it’s not my thing but you have at it, when you all go next! Let me know how it is!

On Day#5 we headed to Halifax. We were both excited as we’d finally get to see Dave and Jan, friends that we’ve known for 35 years but haven’t seen in 25! We planned to stay at the Best Western as we weren’t about to impose ourselves on these friends but after one night at the hotel, we packed up and stayed with them after all. They were most gracious and shared their beautiful home with us along with some pretty delicious meals!  We got to see Stephanie, their grown daughter, who we hadn’t seen since she was just a toddler. Wow, she sure grew up fast! They were great at directing us to the sites, where to go and what to skip! Truly their help was invaluable!

We spent one day downtown Halifax doing the Maritime museum which has the Titanic display along with all the other history of the city. There was a huge display on the explosion in Halifax in 1917, it was a maritime disaster where over 2,000 people were killed by the largest human-made explosion in the world (at the time). I had never known about it, or if I did, I forgot. It was a very well done exposition with so many facts, I could have spent the day just doing that.  There was a ship to be discovered as well and yes, I had to do the Titanic pose much to my hubby’s dismay!

That same day we shopped the market that is on the waterfront boardwalk, which we walked as well. We also got to see the cannons go off at noon at the Citadel! It’s fun to watch people down below who aren’t expecting it…lot of jumping going on! We then lunched right next door to the Alexander Keith’s Brewery but did not do the tour, maybe another time!

The next day we did the Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay tour. Dave directed us to which roads to take and off we went! The trick is to get there early, by lunch time the place is hopping with people and busloads of tourists! Peggy’s Cove took my breath away! I was overwhelmed by it’s beauty and it didn’t help that there was a bagpiper in the background! I had brought Mom’s ashes with me and I left a few of her ashes as I think she’d really like it there! It was quiet in spite of the number of people, beautiful and serene.

In Peggy’s Cove there was a little bakery advertising fresh lobster rolls on their fresh baked buns. This being on our trip bucket list, I pulled out one of my gluten-free buns and asked if they’d make me a lobster roll on my bun and they gladly did! We sat looking out at Peggy’s Cove eating our lobster roll, absolutely content with the world.

Mahone Bay and Lunenburg were equally as beautiful, scenic places to visit. In Mahone Bay the scenery was to die for, the water, the sail boats, the town with eclectic shops, boutiques and cafes. It was all very lovely.

Lunenburg is known for it’s colorful buildings, it’s waterfront and it’s historical churches. We tried to see it all but truly we need to go back and spend a few days or a week there!

Our last night at Dave and Janice’s was a fun night which started with dinner of bacon wrapped scallops, ribs, potatoes, corn, salad, cake and on and on! There may have been some wine consumption and even cigar smoking with the guys in their gazebo but one thing that did happen is we reconnected with old friends and for that, this trip was worth every kilometer we drove to get there!

More to come….stay tuned!

Happy trails to you,

Sweet Marie

 

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While in Playa Del Carmen this year we had a few new finds and one of my favorites’ was the Little Tea Pot. Denis and I both very much enjoy a pot of tea, we share a pot most evenings, so when we found this spot only a block away from where we were staying, BONUS!

Denis really enjoys dessert when we are out to dinner but rarely do I get to because of my allergies. So this one evening my dear sweet hubby says let’s go check out that tea place and see if perhaps they’d have a treat for you! We walked in and beside their huge selection of teas, I mean huge, they had cupcakes, cookies and all kinds of things but I did not spot anything I could have. Then Denis says, hey Marie, can’t you have those macarons? By golly, I thought I’d gone to heaven! They were definitely gluten-free so I got myself an order of them.

That night the flavor of the macarons was blueberry and I was the happiest girl in the world! Not only did I have a great relaxing day at the beach, but a great dinner out at Pantenegra and then macarons! I mean, come on, how much can a girl take in one day?

So we went a few more times, just to keep them in business you know, not because I am greedy or anything! I tried the chocolate with peanut butter filling, there was lemon one day and I do believe I had strawberry on another occasion! I had to do a lot of walking to earn the points for macarons!

Because they were so good, I ordered a bunch to take home for the grand-kids. I have to say, they liked them just as much as I did. I had met with Karla the baker and she was more then gracious and created recipes that were dairy and gluten-free. I was most impressed when I picked them up and she had bagged them with little green ribbon and all.

My dear sweet husband gave Karla a generous tip as he told her that she had made my trip special, with her macarons. He wasn’t lying, that just made my trip when I was able to have a sweet that was homemade, pretty and delicious and gluten-free! They are reasonably priced and so very tasty. She makes different flavors always and you best get there early to be sure to get some!

If and when you are in Playa Del Carmen, be sure to stop into The Little Teapot on 5th avenue at 28th Caille. You will be very glad you did and while you’re at it, try the cherry tea, it is so very delish. Denis will tell you that the Irish whiskey Black tea was his favorite though. Maybe you just need to find out what your fave will be!

Happy sipping!

Sweet Marie

If you are lucky enough to get to Playa Del Carmen then I highly suggest you march straight over to Pantanegra restaurant for a lovely dinner! We were in Playa Del Carmen for 2 weeks and only found it on our second to last night there, what a shame! I would have eaten there far more often.

Pantanegra is a Spanish restaurant influenced by the Valencia region. They have been open for just a month now but you will see they are busy most nights. They are open for lunch, closed for an hour or so and then re-open at 7 for dinner. This gives them time to clean, re-stock and prep for dinner. The restaurant offers much wanted shade by day, outdoor dining and indoor when needed. The food is beautiful, so very tasty and the wine is worth going back for! We dealt mostly with Jaime who is Spanish but has very good English. I’m sure that is a big help in a tourist town where many of their guests are English speaking.

On our first night there we tentatively walked up the restaurant which is located on calle 26, close to 10th Ave. It was evening, the white lights twinkled, and then I noticed the candles in the big tree, that’s what got my eye! If someone is crazy enough to put a candle in a tree then by golly, I have to eat there! Frankly there was no signage so I had no idea what kind of food we would get but I like living on the edge!

Jaime came right over and offered us a wine list and I asked him what red he recommended, he brought over a lovely red from Spain and it was perfect. We sipped our wine and he quickly brought over an ‘amuse-bouche’ of pork tenderloin on toast points with a light bruschetta. I can’t have the toast but I did take a piece of the pork as I justified to myself, surely the tomato would stop the bread from touching the meat! I had to try it, it was just so pretty looking. The meat was absolutely melt in your mouth good. My husband who had the whole experience of bruschetta/bread and pork said it was a fabulous combination.The fact that I had never seen this combination before gave me the impression that this place was going to be good.

They like to serve their meals tapas style so they bring one dish out at a time and you share that dish. I love that idea. We really enjoyed our first dish of beef tenderloin in a white wine sauce, served with pine nuts. Again, a combination that was out of this world where your mouth is dancing when the food hits it! I loved it.

Next came our Paella which was a mixed chicken and seafood paella dish that was just so wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t leave a crumb for the birds or anybody for that matter! It had great flavor, I’m thinking there was saffron in there, a great mix of seafood and it was sizzling when it arrived at our table. What fun to share a dish like that.

Jaime tried to get us to do dessert but truly it is rare for me to find a dessert in a restaurant that is gluten-free and dairy free.  This is beside the fact that we were stuffed! So Jaime insisted he’d bring us a liquid dessert. sure enough moments later he showed up with sherry on ice and it was brilliant. I have not really ever been a fan but it was so refreshing and just the right touch to finish off a meal. I was very impressed and left a very happy camper.

With just one more dinner left to have in Playa Del Carmen we had to decide where to have a dinner, a big decision for me. Food is a huge part of my travelling experience. Having eaten at so many wonderful places while in Playa, there was not a doubt when I said to Denis, let’s hit Pantenegra again! And so we did.

On this our last night, Jaime brought over a beautifully presented dish of roasted veggies with goat cheese. You have to picture a plate that is drizzled with a brown sauce, then in the center a round stack of roasted eggplant, then topped with roasted red peppers and topped with melted goat cheese. It was absolutely wonderful in flavor and presentation!

We followed that by a calamari dish that was so good I wanted to lick the plate, but I’m thinking that might have been frowned upon! Because the paella was so good, we had another one of those and it was just as good as the night before! I have to say this is the best paella I have ever had so you must go and try it!

In my opinion is this were a restaurant in my home town, I’d visit it as often as possible. The chef is very talented, the service staff friendly, the atmosphere is warm, elegant and yet fun and an experience to just be a part of it! Please visit Jaime when you are in town and tell him Sweet Marie sent you!

Sweetest dining,

Sweet Marie

We visit Playa Del Carmen quite often and this year I have to say, was just a shock to us. The city has grown crazily! They now have a shopping mall downtown on 5th, there are condos going up everywhere and the streets were just plain busy. This has to be a banner year for Playa Del Carmen, at least I hope it is!

There are so many things to see in PDC, there’s the beach of course, there’s the ruins, the Xcaret, Xel-Ha, X-Plor, there’s turtle sanctuaries, aviaries, there’s swimming with the dolphins, not to mention para-gliding, and all water sports! The list of things to do is endless!

One of my favorite things to do though is to just walk the streets and find neat little shops. The owners are usually quite friendly and happy to answer my many questions. I know where my grand-kids get their curiosity, from me! I found one such shop while out for our evening walk, it’s called La Catrina!

You absolutely must stop in and meet Ari next time you are in Playa Del Carmen. You will find La Catrina on 14th Calle(st.) just off 5th Ave. Her little shop is filled with all kinds of neat art objects made by local artists. She has paintings, prints, tin work, just about any kind of art you can imagine.

Going into this shop is not just shopping, it’s an experience! Ari not only answered all my questions but offered me a shot of tequila as well! Only in Mexico can you shop and do shots of Tequila! I was in awe of how hard she works to make this shop happen, she has three children, a husband and yet she still manages to work in her shop! They keep her hopping, that is for sure.

You can find her on Facebook by searching for mayanotes2, go ahead and look it up and like her page please! Have a look at what she has there and you will be amazed! Great stuff!

Anyhow, Ari if you happen to read this, I wish you much success with your shop, and may all of your dreams come true! keep doing what you are doing, spread the love!

Sweetest regards,

Sweet Marie

Some people head to Florida every year and some people take a different trip every year. For the last 5 years or so we have headed to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico for our winter break! We love that we know where most things are and are lucky enough to find new restaurants pop up every year! There is comfort in knowing where to go and where not to bother to go! We just love it there as there is so much to do and we are lucky enough to rent a great condo most of the time! This year we planned late so we spent 4 days in Cancun in a condo, then 7 days at our usual spot then 4 days at Casa Naaj. It may sound like a lot of moving but we had no issues with it. The last couple of moves we just walked to, no biggie.

Casa Naaj was a new place for us to stay in, serendipity landed us on their door step! We found it while looking online for something else and on a whim booked it. The place looks just like the pictures in the photo area of their website, it is very clean, functional and a nice short walk to the beach!  You can see for yourself at www.casanaaj.com Their prices are reasonable and they are very helpful and knowledgeable of the area.  I would recommend them for sure if you are looking for a condo in the area. The first floor unit is not huge but has an outdoor terrace and has great shade late afternoon after a hot day at the beach! Go visit their website to see for yourself! You can check availability at bookings.com

We spent the first 10 days of our holidays with great friends Paulette and Glen. I have known Paulette for many, many years so travelling together was a no-brainer this year. They spent a lot of time at the beach, who could blame them, while we went off on adventures finding new things to show them and others! We did spend time at the beach of course but we knew after they left, we’d be there a lot, and we were!

On one of our jaunts we found this great frozen treat spot. It was at the corner of 40th Ave and Calle 14. This lady makes homemade frozen treats, picture a drumstick in the shape of a fudgesicle! She had many flavours to choose from too, even some dairy free options! Denis’ favourite treat was the Oreo ice cream, dipped in Chocolate and topped with pecans! Really can you taste it, I was green with envy! I had a pineapple (pina) popsicle, it’s made from fresh pineapple and it’s fresh juice, oh my gosh I have to tell you it was delicious! Best part, they cost 15 pesos each, that’s like a $1.25! She had bananas dipped in a variety of chocolates and nuts, some were peanuts, pecans, walnuts and even coconut! She had a huge variety of fruits too, berries, kiwi, mango, oh I could go on and on. Go for a walk next time you’re in the area and give them a shot, soooo good! We went back a couple of times and I kept telling myself it’s a serving of fruit!

Discovering new things is my favorite part of a holiday and as long as I am with my sweetie then I am game! Having friends there for part of it was a bonus this year, we actually were bored at night after they left as we played cards every night that they were there! I really did enjoy that, even learned a new card game (to us), Hearts. Have you played it? It’s great fun, call Paulette, she’ll teach you how! They know many card games these guys!

I if you get to Playa Del Carmen for a holiday, be sure to spend some time on 5th Ave, it’s fun to hear the vendors try to get you in their shops, one guy whispered to me “come on lady, let me rip you off just a little bit!” I nearly cried out loud when he said that. Never pay what they ask as it’s a game with the vendors to see how badly they can rip someone off! There are some stores tho that don’t barter and that’s where I like to shop, at least I know what I will be paying.

But don’t spend all of your time on 5th Ave, go for a walk. there are many things to see, try 10th Ave or go to the Mega and shop for your groceries.  Try dining on 30th Ave, there many local restaurants that are much less expensive then 5th Ave. You will really get the local feeling, and be a part of someone else’s culture. See what they eat, drink and do. Mexicans are lovely people and will welcome you with open arms!

If you’re planning on visiting Playa Del Carmen, keep an eye on my blog. I will be posting more stories this week!

Warmest regards,

Sweet Marie

 

 

Denis and I got a new trailer this year so we’ve been getting our money’s worth out of it! Over the years we’ve camped many Ontario campgrounds so we thought it would be fun to go to Michigan for a weekend!

I had a look online a while back and found this campground in Port Hope ,Mi. It’s called the Lighthouse one of the Huron county Parks. It’s located at the top of the thumb. We had a lake view lot which was great, what I didn’t realize was how small the lot was. They actually paint the lot lines so that you don’t cross your neighbors lines with your campers or other gear. They gave the dimensions to us online but that doesn’t mean much to me, I need to see with my very own eyes! Well let’s just say the neighbors were close, so close you could hear their conversations, if they coughed or tooted! We became quite familiar, real quick!

Turns out we had some nice neighbors! On one side we met Curt and Cheryl, their son Logan and his buddy Ryan. They were from the motor city Detroit, Mi. We chatted often with them and on our last night spent a bit of time around the campfire with them. Turns out Cheryl does a bit of elder care as well. You just never know who you will meet or why. I liked that she kept referring to the lake as the ocean, that got me giggling and still does when I think of it! Lake Huron is a biggie but not quite an ocean!

You probably have gathered that there’s a lighthouse there too, have you? Right, and as it happens, there was a festival while we were there complete with re-enactment actors! The first time they fired their muskets, I nearly crawled under the camper for cover! I was scared out of my wits, being a Canadian who has never fired a gun, let alone hear one shot off so close by!

We walked over to the festival and took in some of the fun. There was a museum to visit, a lighthouse to climb, music to be heard, food to be eaten, booths of all types to peruse, people to watch and goodies to buy! What more can a girl ask for?

While we were at the festival, my sister Colette and her hubby Greg arrived. We were expecting them but time got away from us. Turns out she couldn’t find us so she headed to the festival and it was Denis that found her! We checked out a booth together and then headed back to the site to wait for the guys who wanted to climb the lighthouse tower. Thank you Greg for getting me out of that, I was a bit leery so when they showed up, I offered my ticket to Greg. Phew, I hate heights and was going to do it but Greg saved me!

Colette and Greg rented a little cabin on the camp grounds for a night which enabled them to have dinner with us, a few drinks and an evening of catching up. We had a nice campfire, some laughs and more food! There is always food, isn’t there? We met back again for breakfast, more food, and then they had to head back to Roger, their child which happens to be a dog!

The weather for out trip was interesting, in the afternoon it was sunny but breezy so as long as you were in the sun, you were warm and toasty, otherwise you needed a sweater. I was ok with that as I love being in the sun and not roasting is just a bonus! The evenings were quite chilly, our Canada hoodies came in handy, glad we packed them. I am also glad I threw in those yoga pants at the last minute too. I wore them every night. One night it went down to 9C which is like 48F, that is cold. Thank you God for that furnace in the camper!

All in all, our trip was a huge success, my main goal was to relax, and that I did. We met a few new friends, toured a lighthouse and ate real well! To top off the weekend, I even got a bit of shopping in at Kohl’s! Gotta love that!

I hope you had a nice long weekend too!

Sweetest regards,

Sweet Marie

On Sunday, very early morning,  we returned home from 10 days in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It’s Thursday and I am still trying to get back in the groove! I cannot get that warm sunshine out of my mind, I just want more! I still have that sleepy, lazy feeling you get when on holidays, I cannot shake it, someone yell at me! Please!

Before you ask, no we are not afraid when in Mexico! The Playa Del Carmen area is the safest in all of Mexico. For those of you who vacation states side, I should point out that the murder per capita rate in the US is much higher than Mexico as well! We absolutely feel safe while we are on holiday there and someday we will make that our winter home! Many, many Canadians already have! I spoke more french there then I do here!

My favourite part of the holiday were our relaxing days on the beach. We would take long strolls on the beach till we could go no more then plonk ourselves down and rest till we wanted to move on. If we were lucky there was a beach bar close by for a margarita or beer! Let’s just say we made a point of finding those little beach bars!

You can’t go to Mexico  and not experience the fabulous food! By far El Fagon is our favourite because the food is always fresh, tasty and insanely cheap! We branched out this time and had the beef shish kebabs which they call brochettas, wow…gastronomic explosion in your mouth, very good! Our next fave would be Pirate Pollo, they have the slow roasted whole chickens that come with rice, beans and tortillas, soooo good! It cost about 100 pesos, which is less than $10 and lasts us 2 meals! That’s dining on the cheap!

For the first time this year we rented a car for a couple of days! I got to be the driver and I have to say, it’s no different then Canada except that you have to remember they look at a stop sign as a suggestion, they may slow down slightly but they do not come to a full stop, so be careful if you choose to stop! Also, if you are the passenger, I suggest you do not point things out to the driver, she may stop right in the middle of the highway, I’m just saying…don’t do it!

When travelling I like to take in new things, I try to notice the birds, are they different from home? The floral, trees and flowers just seem so much greener there. I like to take notice of the people and how they may do things differently then us and see if that would fit into my life at home, for example they go to the beach later in the day when the sun is not so hot…makes sense doesn’t it? We did more of that once we caught on!

Well I think it’s time for a siesta, another thing I learned from them!

Buenas tardes!

Sweet Marie