Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel

Why Oh Why #AtoZChallenge

Oh, why oh why do I love it so?

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Well, let me count the ways.

The A to Z Challenge – O is for Ontario

This province is located, nicely, centred in the middle of Canada, between the west and eastern provinces and the north.

I have had a good life here, growing up out in the country, surrounded by farmer’s fields and the agriculture of the area.

I have family living in Ontario’s capital, Toronto.

I’ve got family in eastern Ontario, near the border with Quebec.

My favourite Niagara Falls, tourist spot that it is, but I love it so.

I love Toronto for its hustle and bustle of the big city.

I love The Forrest City.

The town where I live isn’t much, but it’s mine.

We have our issues, small town and big city, but overall this is a pretty nice place to live.

Up north we have some of the most beautiful landscape there is, known as Cottage Country.

We have Great Lakes and rivers. We have islands and Georgian Bay.

I want to travel and see so many places, but I always return back to Ontario, my home.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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TToT: April Showers and Scoops and Slurs, #NationalSiblingsDay #10Thankful

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

The birds have been keeping me sane all week.

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Their songs, tweets, chirps, and twittering melodies have calmed me, any moment I felt anxious about a bit of a difficult week.

It was Billie Holiday’s birthday. Her voice brings me back to a different time.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for a glimpse into an unfamiliar place.

The Colours of Kenya

Love the colours.

I meant to include this last week. Lizzi wrote this incredible story about her time in Kenya. If you haven’t read it, you should.

I am thankful for tall mountain pose.

Someone who knows a lot more about yoga than me found this one. I’ve been trying it out. The woman describes the poses well, though I don’t know I am all that good at following the instructions. The deep breathing is the nice part.

The music in the background is rather soothing, but for the clanging bell sound that makes me think of that warning bell you hear at a train track as a train comes near. Not so relaxing for me. Kind of triggering.

I am thankful for a challenging week.

I have been doing A to Z for the first time and this week has been rather fun. I’ve not put too much pressure on myself with it.

I am thankful for an opportunity to share a little piece of myself.

It Was All a Blur #MyBlindStory

I am thankful for a night out at an author reading which involved some helpful men who showed me through the library and a kind word from an author, on a night I almost missed out on entirely.

It had been a rather bad week and I almost backed out and stayed hidden at home. If I’d received the rejection to a writing pitch I would receive while I was at said author reading, or if I’d heard the unsettling news that would come later on that night involving 45 and missile strikes, I may have chosen to stay hidden. Thankfully, I hadn’t. It was a rainy night, but I am glad I braved it anyway.

“Ann Walmsley author of the Prison Book Club will be sharing her experience of becoming a book club volunteer at men’s prisons in Ontario. This incredible book recently won the Edna Staebler award in 2016. One juror Bruce Gillespie quoted: “Walmsley’s book provides a unique glimpse into the lives of incarcerated men and the transformative power of literature and fellowship.” Featured several times on CBC it is truly a honour to have her come to Woodstock Public Library.”

After the reading, I introduced myself to the author and bought a copy of her book. I spoke to her about being a writer and she gave me a bookmark with her email and told me I could email her if I ever had any questions about writing.

http://www.annwalmsley.com

I am thankful for scoops and slurs.

I have moved on from Brahms’ Lullaby and on to learning a song I didn’t recognize from my teacher’s description, until she played a little of it and a song that came, preprogrammed on my brother’s little keyboard from childhood, it all came back to me. I love the different violin techniques in this one. It will be a challenge, but one I am quite excited about taking on.

There are scoops when playing the violin. Going from one string to another.

Not all slurs are nice, but the one that occurs in this song is a new technique to me.

I am thankful for family members who are handy and generous with their talents and time.

A leak somewhere in my shower, dripping water down through my ceiling and into my living room are a different sort of April showers. Keep that outside my home preferably.

I have an uncle and cousin who do this sort of thing, fixing showers and leaks for desperate nieces and cousins like me.

The machine they had to use up in my ceiling was loud and reminded me of a dentist’s drill. Again, triggering.

Now I have a layer of dust over everything, including my books, but all is well again.

I am thankful for a day of family, an early Easter/birthday celebration.

Family days include fun, laughter, children playing, and scoops of vanilla ice cream.

I am thankful for my siblings and the siblings (my nieces and nephews) who have each other.

My nephew now has a sister, a sibling, and all of them have a friend for life.

This makes my list every year (National Siblings Day) and every year it is more and more true.

This year mine are willing to do something special with me in a few months, zip lining alongside Niagara Falls, to celebrate my twenty-year anniversary of my kidney transplant.

They are the best.

I am thankful for a surprise phone call from a friend.

I was tired, after this week, but it was nice to talk and catch up.

It’s been raining, off and on, all day long. This is April – to be expected. Not so bad.

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Travel Ling, Lingering #TGIF #FTSF

“Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Thanks, Dr. Seuss, for that one. I love that and the travel it hints at, alludes to. It’s thrilling, just writing that quote and reading it back to myself. I recently carried that quote with me, on my first solo trip to Mexico, reciting it in my mind whenever I needed a shot of bravery.

When it comes to travel, I could go for days and days, writing about it I mean. That much travel, while sounding just as thrilling as Seuss’s quote, would exhaust me. I do it in my imagination though, all the time.

If I had the money and the energy, I’d be off. Sure, I’d always come back to my home, as that’s how travel is most appreciated, but I would not be satisfied to simply stay in one place all my life. I would suffocate in that bubble.

Pop!

***

I long to break out of that. I want to see new places. I have a list, a long, long list. I call it my
Bucket List (the very first blog post I ever wrote),
though that name is well worn with travellers the world over.

***

I thought it the summer my parents left on a road trip out west, through the U.S. and Canada. I came up with my travel blogger title and I was off.

The Insightful Wanderer (@TheIWanderer on Twitter)

It was in me, of course, ever since forever. My grandparents lived in just such a bubble, but they didn’t stay. They left sometimes, though always coming home again.

My most favourite treasure from my grandmother are the journals she kept, for years, where she jotted down the daily events of her life and family. Then, just a short distance from where she kept those, were the stakcs of photo albums, full of photographic evidence of the places her and my grandfather saw during their fifty five years together: all throughout Canada and the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and Australia.

Life and reality are just as important as a life of travel. Some can avoid that, I suppose, but not me.

I have limitations. I fully acknowledge those, but recently I challenged them too.

***

I immediately started thinking about what I would write, upon reading this week’s prompt for
Finish the Sentence Friday
and my first thought was Mexico.

I would write about my recent trip there. Why not? What else could I possibly write about now, while the memories are fresh? But wait…

I have things I want to say, but I can’t get back to it, whether in my own head or when trying to explain to others just why that trip meant so much. I try and try and try to explain the feeling, but somehow, my experience doesn’t come through. I feel unsatisfied with how I am describing it and how they are hearing it described by me. I guess the expression “you had to be there” is right. Oh, so right.

I travel back to every moment of that week, from my fear and intense anticipation. To my sense of peace and calm and rightness with the world and my place in it at that instant. I don’t want to say words now fail me, but perhaps they do. The envelope of photos I now carry in my purse of my trip don’t do the thing justice either, somehow locked in the past of the actual purse I carried with me. Nor does the bracelet I wear on my left wrist, every bead carrying that week’s sense memories within.

***

I went so far as to create a whole travel website, separate from this blog, while the force was still strong to attempt the world of the travel blogger. I had it all mapped out, saw things so clearly in my mind.

I wrote up an About Me page there, before the new site went live. It laid out all my most favourite spots: Niagara Falls and Ireland.

I put forth an illustrated list of the places I’ve been so far: Cuba, Florida/New York/Michigan/D.C./California, and Germany.

I spelled out everywhere I dreamt of going: Hawaii, Palau, Australia, and New Zealand. I wanted to be adventurous, surprising even myself, and in this dream I stood at the bottom of the world, surrounded by ice and penguins.

I didn’t truly believe I’d have the stamina, resources, or opportunity to make it that far, but, really, who could say?

Then, my website fizzled out. I let myself down. I studied travel blogs galore and somehow, I couldn’t become them, social media and pitching tour companies and all. I couldn’t. I was not a list maker and a personality so strong. My fantasy of becoming someone, I perhaps wasn’t meant to be.

I am a literary writer. That’s who I am. I can take all the travel blog success courses I want, have as many Skype sessions with an already established travel blogger as are offered in any given online course, and I still failed.

***

But I didn’t. I found a way to travel anyways. I found a group of my people, other literary type writers, somewhere full of magic and reality, all wrapped into one.

I couldn’t hold onto that week forever. It came and went. I may feel a little aimless since then, since arriving home, but that’s okay.

The world is a giant place. Anyone who doesn’t open their mind first, it doesn’t matter how far or how nearby they go or stay.

Travel all sorts of places, in your mind, through reading/watching a good book or movie. That’s just more ways to open your mind to the vistas (boy do I love that word).

Read travel blogs, as I still do, if that makes it all more real.

Acknowledge your limitations while challenging what still might be.

Meet people. Meander through a place. Taste a new food or sample a helping of another culture, far flung from your own.

***

I may not have that beautiful travel site I saw in my mind, but I am still wandering through this big, beautiful world and I am doing it with all the insight I can manage to unearth as I go.

I will linger here a bit yet still, but I know I will be off again, sooner or later. If you linger too long, you risk getting stuck. I hate to burst your bubble, but it must be done.

I meander and linger and meander some more. I look over those vistas I can no longer see. I meander with these words and with myself. Still figuring it all out.

I’ll be sure to let you know, here, when I’ve been everywhere. In the meantime, Dr. Seuss’s words keep me going, moving, living.

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TToT: Run Time and Take Five – State Smash! #ShePersisted #10Thankful

Another birthday has come and gone and I’m fired up, in a lot of ways and by the positive signs of women persisting, remaining cautiously but still incredibly thankful.

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I know, I see, I’m not the only one.

Ten Things of Thankful, #10Thankful

So, to keep things in the proper perspective, I’ll just launch right into what makes me so grateful.

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(Makers, all, with Anado McLauchlin.)

I’m thankful for this group.

And for these girls.

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I’m thankful for friends, together, in one special spot.

I missed out on seeing for myself just how colourful this place was, but at least I got to take a break, for a minute or two, to sit on the couch with friends.

Thanks, Anado, for letting us into your home.

I’m thankful for newly introduced music, better late than not at all.

RIP Mr. Jarreau.

The guy sure could scat!

Speaking of music and birthdays, I’m thankful to have made it to a year with my decision to learn how to play the violin.

It was on my last birthday that I walked into a music store and rented a violin. I had no idea what I was getting into then. Well, okay, I kind of knew. I knew, but I didn’t really know. Know what I mean?

No?

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I’m thankful for a teacher, to take this photo of my re-commitment, one who hasn’t given up on me, even in those moments when I’ve wanted to give up on ever learning a difficult instrument like the violin in my thirties.

She taught me new finger exercises, ways to strengthen my left hand and the fingers on it. I spent most of my anniversary/birthday lesson wishing for new fingers, longer fingers, but I will get there, one day.

I’m thankful for another birthday.

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I’m still mulling over what that means, on a practical level of course. I had a rather subdued birthday, after spending a week in Mexico, but it did have its high points.

I had blood taken and both arms needed to be poked. I made a dentist appointment. I drank a lot of tea to fight off the beginnings of a sore throat. I had another bad eye day, noticing how blurry everything looked as I ate lunch out with my father.

I did wonder if I will still see anything by my next birthday. I am not freaked by being one age one day and another the next. I do realize, however, that I am getting older. A lot of things bring this fact home to me. I am trying to still live in the moment and enjoy all that life has to offer, but at a certain point I have to think about the future and what I want, really want and what is good for me.

Everything in life has its Run-Time.

I’m thankful for another successful, triple family birthday celebration.

It got off to a slow start, but really kicked into high gear there.

The lasagna was delicious. The kids were smarter than when we last saw them, all the way back at Christmas, if that is possible.

The best thing about each year I gain since they were all born is getting to see how they grow with every passing year, whomever happens to be the one celebrating the actual birthday.

They are all so creative and full of imagination. We adults have a ball watching them interact with each other and with all of us.

My family and I don’t likely agree on every single thing in life, but we are all pretty in sync on most things that really matter. It makes for a lovely coming together of the minds, not to mention senses of humour and attitudes on life.

There is always just the right amount of nostalgia and, this year, there are plans in the works for zip lining in Niagara Falls this spring.

Who else can you count on to try something as thrilling as zip lining with you, on a day that matters greatly to you, but your family? Mine are the best for those sorts of things.

It’s fun to sing Happy Birthday to three people at once. I only sing for two.

Happy Birthday Paul/Steve. You both crack me up and are the two best big brothers any thirty-three-year-old could ask for.

I’m thankful for my sister’s help in figuring out what I need to do, as part of taking some of my next, newest steps in my writing.

The writing is one thing. The business side is quite another. It’s all somewhat scary in its own way.

Filling out forms and paperwork is not my thing. Necessary, I realize. I truly appreciate any help I can get.

I am thankful my bracelet was found after I set it down, in my own house, and couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where I’d stashed it.

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A few of us got jewelry when we visited Anado’s home. We share this in common now and wanted to commemorate the fact.

I knew I would get home and set mine down somewhere, forgetting where that somewhere was. It scratches against the metal of my laptop when I’m writing, so I take it off, but I don’t like to.

Brian said it sounded like I was Gollum from Lord of the Rings when I couldn’t find it, the bracelet reminding him of “My Precious!” and he had a point.

Thanks to my brother-in-law for spotting where I’d left it. I hope I would have remembered, sooner or later.

Made By Anado

This is my reminder of my time in Mexico. It is more than just any old bracelet. It was made by Anado McLauchlin and it reminds me of the makers of this world. It reminds me, when I hold it, of my purpose. It brings me peace to feel all the different bits of it under my fingertips.

And, finally, I’m thankful that this hasn’t ended.

Very grateful that someone has decided to take over the weekly running of the thankful blog hop, to give its originator a well deserved break.

I would have went ahead with these gratitude posts, one way or another, but it’s nice that it will continue on with more than just this blog.

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What Was and What Will Be #FTSF

It’s almost 2017 and my neck is growing sore from looking this way and that. I turn my head back to 2016 and marvel at all that was hopeful and positive for me personally.

Of course, the rest of the world seems as out-of-control as ever, if not more so. I can’t say the year has been a bad one for me though. It’s a strange contrasting feeling. As bad as this year has been for many, January of 2017, for a lot of people isn’t looking much better. I can see their point. I plan on leaving all that behind for a week and focusing on my own personal growth and having new experiences.

Then I turn my head the other way and try to imagine the year to come.

I could list a set of goals I have for myself, things I hope to achieve, some I’m even banking on. I have this list in my own head. I just don’t know how to think of the months ahead in tune with those that I have to look back on.

The year 2017 feels like a momentous one, even when I stack the possibilities up against the things I never expected to do this year but surprised myself and did anyway.

I try to keep things in perspective. Sure, 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and on June 5th, it will be twenty years since I received a kidney transplant from my father. It still works so well, that I pleasantly surprise myself that everything’s still looking good in there.

I plan to begin 2017 with a BANG, so to speak. I will take a leap of faith with myself and the world. From there, I can’t say what the year might bring.

I turn thirty-three in a few months and I wonder about growing older. One minute I think I am still young and I have lots of time to achieve my dreams. Then, at other less upbeat moments, I think I am past my prime, whatever that was.

I plan to keep taking violin lessons. I want to write and write and write. I hope to submit my writing and take more chances with it, to hell with my fears of rejection or those pesky feelings of never being enough.

To celebrate on June 5th I would love to go zip lining for the first time, with my family all around me, in my favourite place in Canada and in the whole world: Niagara Falls. I am not usually much of a social person, but this time why is it I feel like I want to invite the whole world to join in the festivities?

I feel like I need to top this past year with the year to come, but that’s likely putting too much pressure on myself and on 2017 and might also be putting down the year that just was, which was full of music and writing and a podcast I am so proud of.

In 2017 I am looking forward to having a new niece or nephew and I can’t think of anything better than that, to mark all that is so wonderful about a year like 2017 could be.

Then there are those empty blocks of time, days and weeks and months that are currently a void of the unknown. This feels daunting but doesn’t need to be. It should mean all the possibilities in the world and endless hope.

If I don’t think too hard, which I have trouble with at the best of times, all the scary events that are possible for 2017 in the world remain as background noise. I fear that noise will grow louder and impossible to ignore, but if 2017 turns out anything like 2016 in my own life, I refuse to let reckless world leaders ruin my year. I’ve been waiting for it to arrive for twenty years now.

My thorough, month-by-month breakdown of my 2016 year’s successes and slips is to come here by the end of December.

Also, check out what Kristi from
Finding Ninee
thinks of and hopes for, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond.

Happy Holidays, to you and yours.

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TToT: Created, Creative, Creation – Boourns, #10Thankful

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

–Sylvia Plath

I’m spending my Easter Sunday under the weather, so I will be making this list uncharacteristically short and abbreviated, but I’ve been thinking a lot this week about creativity.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For drumming.

Our creation “Don’t Look Back” is all done. My brother has a friend who is a brilliant drummer and he agreed to play on it.

He wanted to be a part of this project so much he even took the morning off work to record his drum part for the song.

It definitely has a different sound to it with drums added. It fills it out and it is so beautiful.

Once my brother presents it in class I hope to be able to share all the hard work we all put into it. After all, what else is making music for but to share it with people?

For now and then.

I spent time this week hanging out with my youngest nephew, sitting in his favourite spot on the couch, while we watched a movie.

As we sat there, I couldn’t help thinking back to the first time the two of us sat in that corner of that particular couch. I held him in my arms when he was only days old, while he slept, nearly three years ago.

For family fish and chip dinners.

A lot of fun is had when you get a family, people all the way from two to sixty, around a dinner table.

We all crowded into one van, on a rainy Wednesday, and off we went.

For humour.

With all the crap going on around the world, sometimes it’s nice to just laugh a lot. My brother, father, and myself did just that, for a few hours the other night. It felt good.

We watched the Jerry Seinfeld series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and if you have not seen it yet, you really should check it out.

It’s available online, on YouTube and on a free streaming website:

http://www.crackle.com/about

Basically, Seinfeld goes out and rents a car, fitting to the comedian he is about to have coffee with. He then spends the first few minutes explaining what kind of car it is and why he chose it. Then he picks up his coffee companion and they go for a ride in the car to the coffee shop, discussing everything from show business and comedy, to family and hobbies, and cars of course.

We watched episodes with people like Jim Carrey, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Will Ferrell, President Obama (one of the best episodes in my opinion, but they couldn’t acquire the proper security clearance to leave White House grounds), a few of Seinfeld’s former co-stars, and Howard Stern.

For literacy, education, and the grandpa there to pick up his granddaughter from school.

When I read about all the young girls around the world not allowed to receive a proper education and so many people who’ve never been given the chance for literacy I am particularly thrilled to know my niece is getting the opposite of all of that.

She’s learning to read and she has a good school to go to every day, with teachers who happily teach her, help her develop her own gifts and creativity.

And she has a grandpa who can pick her up after the day has finished.

For rain.

Okay, so I wasn’t really prepared to consider this one as a positive at the time.

I love to go for a nice long drive, but if rain is falling hard on the windshield I can’t quite relax in the same way.

This was our drive home the other night, in semi heavy traffic, but on reflection I realize I was lucky to make it home safe and even hard pouring drops of rain are something of beauty.

For another Friday up on Good Men Project.

For the second Friday in a row I had my writing featured on the site:.

Where Are We Since International Women’s Day Last Year?

Sure, being that the subject again involved the issues surrounding feminism, I received a few more somewhat angry comments from those who took my writing to mean I don’t think men around the world suffer at the hands of oppression and discrimination, or that I don’t believe men and boys deserve the same attention as women and girls and the issues we face.

I should expect a little backlash when writing about something that seems to divide many of us. I am still thankful I got my message out there and I know in my heart that I believe in fair treatment of both genders. You can’t possibly make everybody happy, all of the time anyway.

For date night.

I am thankful one couple in particular could have one night away, in a beautiful spot, as they truly deserve that.

I am happy that others can enjoy Niagara Falls like I do and they deserved some time to themselves now and then.

For inside jokes, group texts with brothers.

It’s nice to have a Friday evening group text with myself and my brothers, about a cherished eighties band (Duran Duran) and that we can share an inside joke that most people would be utterly confused about if they heard it.

For mendacity.

Feeling unwell of late has given me a lot of time to watch some films I’ve never gotten around to watching before.

This included one, based on a play, I’ve always wanted to see. I was aware of the main character, but I was unclear on just exactly what the storyline was for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

Well, I like returning to those films that are mostly all dialogue. Of course, I was watching one with descriptive narration, but it would have been unnecessary really.

Well, I enjoy old movies, with dialogue so different from the films of today, and so many issues of the day, late 50s were interesting to me.

I also learned a new word. I’d heard of “menacing” but “mendacity” was a new one, repeated multiple times throughout. It means deception. I love learning new words.

It’s funny I started off the week watching “Ray”, one Jamie Foxx film and I ended it watching “Django Unchained”, which I’d heard was harsh and raw but to be expected when having to do with slavery, but Fox was so good, not to mention all the other actors.

It did really show how cruel we humans have been to one another. I’m sure this could lead directly into the themes of redemption surrounding Easter, but unfortunately I am far too tired now to explore those any further this year.

Check this out. Creativity and just lovely.

And Happy Easter everyone.

I’m starting to feel warm again so I think it’s off to bed with me. Have a good week.

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Hotel Nostalgia At The Falls, #TBT #LoIsInDaBl

NIAGARA FALLS AT NIGHT

Just take a listen to that roar!

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I live only a few hours from

Visit Niagara

and I love it. I could write and write and write about why I love it so.

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I went to Niagara Falls, Canada, all the time when I was growing up, with family and friends.

I’ve been there on a rainy day in the green of spring, on a blisteringly hot day of summer, during a crisp and beautiful weekend during autumn, and the blustery cold of winter too. In any season in Canada I would happily return to where my heart lies.

It has been called the Honeymoon Capital. I spent a Valentine’s weekend of my own, there in February that had its own memorable charm.

I’ve ticked off items from my bucket list more than once and I plan to tick off many more yet still.

Feel the Vibrations – Touching Landscapes

Some complain of how commercial and touristy its become, but I don’t let that bother me. Of course it is a wonder to behold and people from all around the world flock to see it. I can’t and don’t blame them for that.

Just in my last visit there I met visitors from China and Zimbabwe alone, but the countries represented standing at that railing are numerous and varied.

I am one awfully proud Canadian who, once I place my hand on that rail and my feet on the rock ledge overlooking Niagara, I never want to leave.

Niagara on the Lake – if you love wine, you will love the atmosphere of peace and tranquility in that town.

I recommend a nighttime ride on the big ferris wheel that gives you the best views of the lights on Niagara Falls waters.

Niagara Sky Wheel

There is no place like it in the world. Go and go soon. Not to be missed.

As much as I am obsessed with travel, have places like Ireland where I’ve been and love or Hawaii where I love to dream of visiting, Niagara Falls will always be my spot. I can honestly say I “LOVE” Niagara Falls and always will.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/us-officials-plan-to-temporarily-turn-off-niagara-falls/62781

For this week –

https://justfoolingaroundwithbee.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/loisindabl-for-11feb16-buildings-we-love/

– I couldn’t think of any building I love more than this place that could never be contained inside walls, but in Niagara Falls there is one building I love so very much.

http://cairncroft.com/

It’s not the fanciest hotel in Niagara Falls or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not the most luxurious of accommodations for a vacation, but it’s where I am at my happiest.

It should be called Hotel Nostalgia. It has a grouping of rooms, two levels of them, all facing out into a tropical indoor courtyard. There is soft music playing all the time. The pool is warm and the sky lights let in all kinds of light from above and outside.

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This was the newest generation of my family, making memories of this very special place.

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I was so excited to get to take my niece and nephews there. My whole family spent the weekend there together, and something I thought was gone forever, we all got to enjoy together one more time.

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