Travel With Bradley

TRAVEL WITH BRADLEY! Bradley has always put his clients first and his tours reflect just that. Making travel dreams a reality is his speciality. Follow this blog and he'll take you around the World!

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All Aboard – SILVERSEA Silver Galapagos

It was an early start this morning – our wakeup call was set for 3:45am.

At 4:30am the JW Marriott restaurant opened especially for Silversea Guests.

I am really enjoying tasting local fruit that I had no idea existed. There were so many varieties for us to try at breakfast.

This morning by 4:30am we needed to have our checked luggage outside our door for collection and agricultural inspection. Silversea arranged for the mandatory luggage inspection to be done prior to us heading to the Galapagos. This saves time – a very nice perk.

To avoid long lines at the airport check-in there were a number of shuttles scheduled to leave the JW Marriott. We were assigned colour – RED. Our departure was at 6am and a Silversea representative came with us. We were given a receipt for the Galapagos tourist fee which SilverSea paid on our behalf in advance – another perk. We also had to fill out a Health Questionnaire. The cruise rep asked if I would take ALL the passengers health and present them to the Silversea staff once we arrived – I agreed.

When we arrived at the Quitos Domestic Terminal our luggage was waiting for us. The Silversea rep guided us to a private check in area for Latam Airlines. We received our boarding passes on the coach (other Silversea advantage) so check-in was very quick – basically the staff just tagged our luggage. Security was quick too. In no time we were on the plane – a newer airbus 319.

We were so impressed with both the International and Domestic Terminals at Quito Airport – just 4 years old. Johnny Rockets restaurant is found in the Domestic Terminal – a nice bakery restaurant was near to our gate – many nice quality gift shops.

The jet was pretty much full. We enjoyed 2 flights – a 35 minute one to begin with and then we remained on the plane while they refueled, then it was another 90 minute flight before we arrived on a Galapagos Island.

Of course the Silversea staff was out in full force at the airport. My friends followed my packing suggestions so we ran into no agricultural issues once we arrived. Our boutique cruise ship was just 5 minutes from the pier. We were split on 2 coaches for our transfer. There was little wait to get on the zodiacs at the pier. Soon we were onboard and warmly welcomed with champagne plus we were greeted with the smiling faces of the Silversea Crew.

A number of us decided to enjoy a luncheon on deck at the Grill. The grill features different entrees daily – there is a salad/dessert bar which helped ourselves with. I ordered the sea bass which was just delicious – best I ever tasted – so fresh.

I chatted with the maitre-d and he is kindly going to keep all of us together for dinner in the main dining room. He also booked us all for the Grill Speciality Dinner tomorrow evening.

Our staterooms suites are oversize and comfortable – so spacious – even the washroom and shower.

Our butler is very friendly – came around to find out how he should stock the stateroom mini-bar! All complimentary – as many bottles as you would like.

This cruise ship holds just 100 passengers so we already have got to meet many of our fellow travelers – at lunch the travelers beside us were from Sydney, Australia.

Well I must go – soon time for the muster drill.

Temperatures are in the 80’s and the blue skies are so inviting.

We are already having a fabulous time aboard the Silver Galapagos.

 

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Only In Equador

Only in Quito, Ecuador would we return to our deluxe rooms after an exceptional dinner to find a long stem rose on our beds – possible secret admirer??

The restaurant I picked for us to dine at this evening was impressive both inside and out.

The experience was a Ecuadorian Culinary Evening that was enjoyed by all.

Off to bed we go – 3:45am wake-up call, 4:30am luggage out for agricultural inspection then off to the airport for our flight to the GALAPAGOS!

Silversea – here we come.

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Our Day in Quito, Ecuador

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Good Morning from Quito, Ecuador

Good Morning from Quito, Ecuador!

When we checked in for our Toronto-Miami flight early yesterday morning the gate agent told one of my friends that she wanted to check her carry-on bag. When we arrived in Miami she found out that her bag had been checked all the way to Quito instead of Miami so she would not be able to retrieve it…. This bag was full of valuables and some medications so to make a long story short it took 2.5 hours to get that bag back. After a number of discussions with staff to make sure the bag was going to be retrieved,  the two of us waited in a special baggage claim area and had to re-clear security after the bag arrived.

Yesterday on both flights a number of carry-on bags had to be stored because so many bring large wheeled carry-on bags and once the overhead bins are full there is no place to put those pieces except for in the cargo hold. When I first restricted wheeled carry-on bags on my tours I took some grief from a couple passengers but now I have so many that thank me for that policy.

A carry-on bag is usually the most important piece of luggage that we carry as it contains our most valuable items. Most don’t want to give that bag up so if that bag is a manageable size there will not be an issue getting it on a plane – unless the current airline rules change.

The moral of the story is – only keep what you need in your carry-on bag and make sure its a smaller manageable size – that way there will be no issues.

Our American Airlines flight from Miami to Quito was oversold. The crew worked hard. We enjoyed a snack followed by a hot meal which I feel was much better than average. The only downfall was we flew on an older aircraft.

We arrived in Quito earlier than scheduled. Even though I am traveling with friends due to my years of travel experience they have put me in charge so just like on my scheduled, “Travel With Bradley” tours we all gathered when we got off the aircraft and I directed everyone through the many customs/immigration procedures. The staff was so friendly and welcoming  but there was a number of formalities to get through and I know my friends are pleased knowing they can rely on me.

When we finally reached the arrivals hall this is where we were first introduced to the SilverSea operation staff. It didn’t take long to understand why this cruise line receives so many accolades.

Staff graciously took our checked luggage so we didn’t have to carry it to the motor coach, to save time I went through all our names with other staff members so we could be checked off a list. We were given a short update so we knew what to expect and we were soon on the road.

These procedures were looked after quickly, efficiently – I was so impressed.

We transferred to the JW Marriott – when you see JW in front of the a Marriott name its an indication that the hotel is top of brand. This Grand hotel is stunning – large lobby – arrangements of roses and other local produced flowers are displayed everywhere – welcoming staff.

More of the Silversea team welcomed us with a local cinnamon, sour tasting local drink – an experience! To speed things up I looked after our check-in and was able to change our cruise departure details so we can all remain together. The Silversea staff was more than accommodating to provide whatever I needed.

WOW is the best word to describe our rooms. Oversized, hardwood floors, with long entrance hallway, massive bathroom with a deep sunken glass surround tub, separate shower and commode areas, large flat screen tv’s and beds that are as comfy as sleeping on a cloud – thick duvets, soft linens, lots of pillows.

This mornings breakfast buffet is impressive too – smoothie bar, omelette station – big variety of breakfast selections and smiling, friendly staff who’s goal is to make sure we are happy.

Looks like a beautiful day – Quito is close to the equator so the temperature/weather is consistent here year round – 60’s. We are at a high elevation but nobody is having any issues with the altitude.   I’ll make sure we don’t overdo it today.

We depart in an hour for a full-day private tour. I made ensure that we are going to see the best that this area has to offer. We all are looking forward to it because our journey to the hotel last night was in the dark so we didn’t see much other than many florists that were still open for business.

Tonight we are dining at one of the Quitos finest restaurants.

I’ll report on our tour and dining experiences later!

 

 

 

Galapagos Here We Come!

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Most importantly today , “Congratulations to Schyler” my nephew who has turned 16! Sorry I am not at your celebrations Schyler but thinking of you!  Time flies way too quickly…. Do you remember when you turned 16? I recall that learning to drive was my priority.

I’m currently sitting on an American Airlines jet en-route to Miami.

Some wonderful friends of mine asked if I would join them on a Galapagos Cruise so I jumped at the opportunity.

We gathered in Tavistock, ON a couple weeks ago with 2 representatives from SilverSea Cruises and for over 2 hours we reviewed our journey. This type of exploration tour is more involved so everyone very much appreciated the pre-departure briefing. This is another part of the World that has banned plastic bags so had to be mindful when packing our luggage – no any plastic bags.

The Galápagos Islands is a very protected part of the World. Very few tourists are allowed in. There are a number of ships sailings these waters but they are all very small.

We will be cruising with SilverSeas Cruises – almost all critics rate SilverSeas the very best boutique cruise line in the World. Their Galapagos cruise ship is the most luxurious vessel in these waters and holds just 100 passengers.

Securing air space was very difficult for this Sailing so without SilverSea’s block of air seats I could have possibly secured cruise space but not air so I had SilverSea look after our air. Originally when the SilverSea air department started to confirm our flights we put on many different flights so I asked the Canadian SilverSea representative to get involved and he solved everything . We are all on the same flights going and returning.

Last night we all stayed at the Hilton Toronto Airport. This hotel is a great choice especially during the winter as they valet parked our vehicles in a covered garage and on our return they’ll have our cars ready for pick-up next to the hotels front door.

The night was short as we gathered at 3:45am to board the shuttle to the airport.

Check-in with American Airlines is fully automated. This is the way everything is going so if you are traveling on your own you need to be somewhat computer literate or it’s going to be a challenge. Even if you are computer literate its still often a challenge!

Automation is great IF it works!

This morning the US Custom/Immigration computers were down. After we cleared security, the lines of passengers came to a dead halt. An hour later their computer problem was partially solved and officers started to process passengers. Luckily we all made the 6:30am on-time departure but many others were not as lucky.

I often hear grumblings when I tell passengers that they need to be at the airport far advance of their departure time. If everything goes smooth that means you’ll have time to sit, relax and grab a coffee. Today there was no time to sit, relax and grab a coffee. As we stood in long lines we kept looking at our watches thinking – are we going to make our flight.

Todays flight time to Miami was a fairly quick 2hrs 40minutes. The American Airlines crew were quite friendly and apologized that they were only given 4 boxed breakfasts to sell….. They of course were gone in a couple minutes.

The crew asked us to keep our window shades down so those that wished to sleep could.

Early on I had a difficult decision to make in regards to our Toronto/Miami flight. I could have picked one of 2 flight times – the one we are currently  on or the next American Miami flight. If I would have picked the 2nd departure that would have mean’t that our connect time would have been very short. When talking to the SilverSea’s rep we both agreed that the only sensible choice was the early flight.  It was just too much of a risk trying to make a quick connection especially this time of year.

The early Toronto flights means a lengthier than usual layover in Miami but I gave everyone money that will cover their lunch and then there will time to stroll a bit before boarding the connection flight Quito, Ecuador. They will serve dinner on that flight because its an International Departure.

We will arrive in Quito around 7pm this evening. After we clear custom/immigration formalities, there will be staff that will direct us to our coach. We will shuttle to the deluxe downtown Marriott for a 2 night stay.

Tomorrow I have arranged a full day of touring. Our luncheon will offer some local flavours while dinner at one of the finest deluxe restaurants in Quito will feature an International Menu.

Quito is at a high elevation so we know not to run a Marathon. Temperatures especially in the evening will cool off.

We will still need to fly a bit more in order to reach the SilverSea Cruise Ship. Temperatures in the Galapagos have been in the 90’s so it will be time to wear our shorts/short sleeve.

I look forward to blogging about our adventures so be sure to follow along.

Hope the current milder temperatures at home in Ontario remain with  you. I must admit I’m glad to get away from this years old-fashioned Canadian winter!

 

 

 

Oberammergau Passion Play = Sense of Community

Oberammergau Passion Play = Sense of Community

I was honored to be one of the very few invited to a very special dinner event in celebration of Oberammergau, Germany and its famous Passion Play which has been produced every 10 years since 1634. How remarkable is that! Just take a minute to ponder that feat….

In order to audition to be one of the 2300 actors you must be a resident of this community of just 5000 for at least 20 years.

In 2010 over 500,000 people from all over the World descended upon tiny Oberammergau to see their version of the Passion Play.

The community of Oberammergau has started to prepare for 2020. On October 20th of this year they will assemble to watch a gentleman write on two boards, the town members who have been selected to play the main roles in the 2020 Production – as you can imagine a big celebration follows.

Tonight in Toronto, the young gentleman who played Jesus in 2010 and the Passion Play Producer (since 1990) spoke to us from their heart – both of them are so passionate about their small community and their monumental production.

Oberammergau has the same problem that most communities do with dwindling church congregations so the Passion Play Producer spends a few weeks at the start of rehearsals teaching especially the younger actors about Jesus.

Today not just the local Catholics but all denominations are represented in this World Class production. In fact the current assistant producer first appeared in the shows choir (2010) and that was the start of his theatre passion. He is now the shows assistant producer and he is Muslim.

The shows producer also spent decades on the Passion Play stage with his Father and Grandfather. It’s impossible for all of the towns population to star in this show as some need to look after operating the hotels, restaurants….

One year before the start of the Passion Play the towns hairdresser is basically out of business because those in the cast start growing their hair – the producer told us, the town folk start looking like hippies.

Tonight I realized the Oberammergau Passion Play just isn’t about the story of Jesus, its about community spirit, being proud of where you are from, neighbour helping neighbour, the importance of family and a community who open their hearts to the World every 10 years.

I am already so excited about traveling to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play. As always the journey I’ll offer will be a unique one that will highlight this wonderful 400 year old tradition.

Mark October 2020 on your calendar – lets plan on going together.

Here is a picture of the Show Prodcer along with the young gentleman who played the most important role of Jesus in 2010.

 

 

A Wonderful, “Mother and Son Week”

Mom and I have really enjoying our, “Mother and Son” week.

You may have noticed if you follow Facebook that my brother, sister and family have been traveling in California and Nevada, so in their absence I moved back, “Home with Mom”. What a fantastic time we had, enjoying local day trips, new restaurants and sitting next to the fireplace while watching home renovation shows on television.

I couldn’t ask for a better Mom – we are best friends. We share so much in common. The two of us aren’t going to be traveling together this winter but we spent so much time together over the past week it felt just like a vacation.   The problem is the time flew by way too quickly.

We had fun dining at, “Craft Farmacy” in London, ON. This is one of Londons newest restaurants. A friendly male host sat us next to a fireplace in their dining room and surprisingly at the adjacent table was a lady who has traveled for years on many of my tours so we all spent time reminiscing. The atmosphere at “Craft Farmacy” is a causal one, but most importantly our lunch which featured locally sourced foods was just delicious. We’ll certainly be back.

I typically don’t like to write about negative restaurant experiences as I realize a chef is bound to have the odd bad day. We certainly did not receive a warm welcome when we walked into the lobby of a beautiful Inn in London. That should have been our indication to go elsewhere. After an uncomfortably long wait our breakfast arrived. When I cut into my omelette I noticed it wasn’t cooked all the way through. Mom and our waitress agreed so it was taken back to the kitchen. Very quickly our waitress returned – the chef told her the omelette was cooked, it was just watery….. we won’t rush back there.

Lunch at, “Spencer’s at the Waterfront” in Burlington was terrific. We enjoyed a window seat which offered sweeping views of the lake. The entrees we picked arrived piping hot and were full of flavour. Its always a treat dining at, “Spencer’s”.

By far our best dining experience was yesterday at, “The Bruce Hotel” in Stratford where we enjoyed Sunday brunch. This elegant hotel opened in 2014 and back then I read some negative things about their restaurant so I stayed away.

I admit I was a little worried that our brunch experience might not be that good but I was pleasantly surprised as it was nothing short of perfect!

Chef Arron Carley, became, “The Bruce Hotel’s” executive chef in 2015. He is also a proud winner of the TV show, “Chopped Canada”.

The 25 room Bruce Hotel is impressive both inside and out. When we approached the entrance door there was a sign saying they were closed to the public Saturday night, reopening at 11:00 am on Sunday due to a private event.

We soon learned that a gentleman from London, ON bought out the hotel for his birthday party. He invited his guests for dinner, overnight and breakfast. What a wonderful invitation!

When we walked into the homey lobby of the Bruce Hotel we were warmly greeted and then shown to the dining room where a hostess made us feel very welcome.

We soon entered the tastefully, elegant dining room. Most tables were already full of diners. It didn’t take us long to figure out that they were the birthday party guests.  They soon finished their breakfasts and Mom and I had the dining room to ourselves.

Service was top-notch. A few people looked after us. Everyone was so friendly but professional at the same time. Our plated breakfasts were so delicious. The atmosphere in this space was so relaxing, we took our time and were already talking about when we could come back!

We asked to see their dinner and lunch menus. Dinner in the main dining room is pricey but there is a different much more casual, reasonable menu offered in the lounge.

The residence of Stratford should be proud to have, “The Bruce Hotel” as part of their community.

Mom and I can’t wait to take the rest of our family to the Bruce for dinner. We’ll probably try out the lounge menu.

When we finished our meal and re-entered the lobby, the front desk host proudly told us about the hotel and then he opened the door for us as we headed back out to the parking lot.

Today’s winter weather messed up my plans. I had made reservations for Mom and I to dine at a popular restaurant in Toronto where we would have enjoyed picturesque views of the downtown core….. we’ll have to try it another time.

Last night as I was getting ready to retire for the evening Mom said, “Thank You For Staying With Me” and I admit those words brought a tear to my eye.

Spending time with my Mother is a, “Joy That I Cherish”. There is nothing better than spending time with your best friend!

Here are a couple, “Bruce Hotel” pictures – notice there was no snow on the ground yesterday – today is a different story!