All our bags are packed and we’re ready to go…

Anyone sing that title in their head? Just me?

I’ve been doing this instagram/blogging/social media thing for about a week and a half. I don’t know what I am doing but I’m loving the learning element and I am really finding most people out there to be supportive and interesting. I have completed 90% of our packing (the last minute stuff like bottles, etc need to wait until literally the last minute). I can honestly say that I am pretty much the most excited I have ever been about our upcoming adventure.

There are a few reasons for this.

  1. It is Harrison’s first time overseas! I can’t believe we waited until he was almost 5 months. Considering he had a bit of a rough start (spent the first month of his life in the NICU) I am happy with waiting but I have been dying to watch a new continent through his eyes.
  2. We haven’t been overseas since last Fall! AHHHH!!! Nothing like an overnight flight and a taste of everything that is wonderful about Europe (WINE, CHEESE!!!) to re-energize you and make you feel alive.
  3. I am going to have so much content! SO.MUCH.CONTENT. I can’t wait to share our experiences with you and to continue this living, breathing record book for my boys to have forever.
  4. My hubs. I get to have him completely when we are away. No work (a few check ins here and there), no odd jobs around the house, no sporting events with his friends. I get to have him all to myself. I know the boys feel this way too.
  5. George. Swimming. That is all. Literally, the boy loves the water and to be able to give him a pool/ocean all day everyday for two whole weeks makes me so happy.

 

What is your favourite part about the pre-trip?

 

I’m not going to lie and say this week has been a dream. I have literally ran non-stop from the moment my feet hit the ground out of bed until I collapse getting everything organized for our trip and for when we get back (back to school, etc). BUT, that being said, the reward is there…dangling in front of me. A glass of vinho verde and a beautiful sunset in Portugal await!

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Bahama-MAMAs

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IMG_7702We are lucky that we have a family that we are not only incredibly close friends with but that are willing to humour us in our crazy travel ideas and occasionally join us. This past July we booked a trip to Bahamas on a whim for a long weekend. I suggested Atlantis on Paradise Island as I went there as a kid and it has a reputation for being “the spot” in family travel in Bahamas. Hubs was on board as it has been taken over as a Marriott property too so we could utilize points + cash and also be comfortable to know that our status would be recognized and all the perks that go along with it.

That’s the background. Now let’s get into the experience.

We flew Air Canada Rouge and it wasn’t too bad. I typically hate Rouge (the seats are actually unbearably small on the north american routes) but I was excited about the destination and with a toddler having his own seat we get significantly more room. Flight time was at an un-godly hour but we managed and it did mean we got the whole day at the resort.

We were picked up by a car service that included a grocery store stop and a liquor store stop. It was a bit of a cluster finding the guy and it didn’t go as smoothly as it should for the price that our friend’s paid for it. The guy was a GEM and I loved him instantly so that made the disorganization disappear. We didn’t go to the grocery store as we literally had no room to move with 4 kids, two double strollers, 6 suitcases, 4 adults in an Excursion. BUT, we did stop for booze. #Priorities

Sketchy liquor store stop…was down to a bit of a science…we were hooked up with a “guy” who would get what we need. I’m sure there is a whole incentive program for our driver. Whatever. It got the job done.

We arrived at Atlantis safe and sound. We selected the Coral Tower as we read it was the most family friendly. It was definitely filled with kids and was situated in a very accessible location. Beside the marina and next to the Royal Towers so it was logistically great. Our rooms weren’t ready so we headed to the bathrooms and changed. Bell Room team let us come in and out of the luggage storage room to grab stuff. etc. While this was convenient, I am not sure it is the most secure place ever. Day one was a bit challenging as we didn’t have room keys and everything needs to be charged to the room. We got it figured out but you’d think a resort of this size and age would have it down to a simple process. Maybe not?

Hubs upgraded our room upon check in to get an ocean view. While it was definitely visible, it wasn’t exactly what I would call ocean view. We also got a very detailed view of the air conditioning units, etc. (MORE ON THAT LATER). It was so-so. Room was renovated. Washroom was pretty blah. But we were in Bahamas so a lot of this slides. Our platinum amenity was being sent to our room (a bottle of wine).

The first night we went to the Marina village where there are a bunch of restaurants at many price points. Overall, really loved being so close to that part of the resort. We went to Frankie Gone Bananas. They were accommodating with our two double strollers and four hungry kids. Got into our first round of Sands beer (the local beer). Very refreshing. Reservations are highly recommended in the restaurants on the property and for good reason. People were waiting at basically every single restaurant for a table.

We did Starbucks every morning for breakfast. It worked. Lines were sometimes a tad long but reasonable. Be aware, menu is very different from Canada/USA Starbucks. Still lots of options but if you had your heart set on a Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast sandwich prepare yourself to be disappointed! There were several locations on property. We hit up the Marina location and the one in Coral Towers daily.

We spent the majority of the time beside the beach at the River Pool. It was connected to the Lazy River and literally a hop skip and a jump to the gorgeous sandy beaches. It was a great pool for kids as it is zero entry meaning they can just wade in. Every pool has lifejackets beside it for use during your stay which was awesome with a toddler. I felt so much better about deciding not to squeeze his puddle jumper in our overpacked suitcase.

Still waiting on that bottle of wine amenity. Hubs followed up and they assured us it was on the way.

We did food by the pool and basically ordered a bunch of stuff and shared it. Food was good, portions were huge and great for sharing. My friend and I packed a ton of snacks for the kids so they munched on granola bars, pouches, etc throughout the day too. We brought our own booze to the pool but also ordered a couple of buckets of beer. No one seemed to care either way which was nice and a great way to save a few dollars. Highly highly recommend the Corkcicle (a really unique thermos from Williams Sonoma). It holds up to two bottles of wine or other beverages and keeps them cold for 24+ hours. Even in July in Bahamas which was HOT.

Speaking of hot. That evening I noticed our room was pretty toasty. I kept turning down the A/C but it was still hot. Turns out the A/C was down in the entire Coral Tower complex. Hey, stuff happens. However, it was so hot that everyone on our floor of the hotel literally left their doors open all night long to try to get air into their rooms. It was desperate times. At the price point you’d think the hotel would work to solve the problem quicker. The lines at the front desk were extensive. Everyone pleading to be moved. We have a premature infant and he has some respiratory challenges. I expressed my concerns and was told to stick it out until 3:30pm the next day at which point they would begin relocation to other towers. It was ridiculous. Eventually the A/C was fixed and a resort credit was put on the account but it could have been handled better.

Bottle of wine is still on it’s way?

The second night we were there we did pizza take out from Marina Pizzeria which was good. Took quite a long time to get it as the lines were huge but pizza was good and the kids were thrilled. We took the kids to the aquariums after and they absolutely loved it. Later that night my friend and her two kids got trapped in an elevator in the Coral Tower. Hotel staff were slow to respond and her husband was desperately trying to stress the urgency. There seemed to be little concern that she was trapped with two very small children at 10:30 at night. It was over an hour before they were let out. Reluctantly the hotel gave a small token resort credit but it was really disappointing on all fronts to witness.

True to form, the mamas needed to let loose the next day. We decided to take down the water slides. Atlantis is known for the most incredible water park attractions and it was admittedly really fun. They call the aqua area the “Aquaventure”. Cute. We did the Serpent Slide in tandom a few times which was extra awesome because the kids could watch their moms fly through the clear tube amongst the sharks. Gave us extra street cred! We also took the kids to the Splashers water area. It is a splash pad on steroids. Lets just say EVERYONE WAS CRYING. I don’t recommend this for anyone with kids under 5. Slightly traumatic.

Hubs asked again about the wine. “Don’t worry, it’s on the way”.

We gave up.

The final night that our friends were staying we hit up the famous Carmines in the Marina Village. Staff were awesome. We waited about 45 minutes for a table but that is kind of the norm at the resort restaurants if you don’t have a reservation. If you live in the US you may have heard of a chain called Maggianos.  I would compare it to that. Portion sizes are meant to be shared. There was literally enough food for a small army. It was a bit insane. We had a great leftover stock pile for lunches the next few days.

After our friends left we had a few extra days as a family unit. I love our friends so much but I also love time just the four of us doing our thing. We hired a babysitter through the concierge for both nights that we were on our own and we ended up with the sweetest lady. She has worked at the hotel for over 20 years and has 5 kids of her own. She was great with our special boys and they were both sound asleep when we returned to our room each night.

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Hubs and I checked out NOBU at the resort. We have been several times in New York and Vegas but it was nice to check out this location. We had great service and it was a really nice night. The second date night we hit up a steakhouse called Seafire Steakhouse in the Marina Village. It was delicious and once again the service was great. Honestly, the people in Bahamas are incredible. We had such a lovely time chatting with various bartenders and servers and they were all so welcoming and friendly. Post dinner both nights we walked around the properties and just enjoyed the wonderful weather.

During the day when it was just the four of us we stumbled upon a pool that was more my style. The Coral Pool is new and while it doesn’t have direct beach access it does have a swim up bar, a more sophisticated vibe and a great poolside menu. The River Pool had a good location but I must say that it seemed a bit run down. There were large cracks in the walls and the facilities seemed like they needed a refresh (even a coat of paint would help). The Coral Pool could have used a coat of paint on the stone deck but otherwise seemed more modern and more suited to the reputation of a luxury hotel. One issue they had was they seemed to out of towels all day both days. I consistently went to the towel hut and they kept apologizing. I just don’t understand  how a towel hut is out of towels all day. Seemed a bit crazy and an easy fix? IMG_7697

Hubs, the kids and I did a lot of exploring during the afternoon. We walked all over the property. I fell in love with The Cove, another tower meant for a more adult crowd. I definitely want to stay there sometime. Much more glamorous vibe. Really beautifully designed. We also checked out the Dolphin Cay where they do various interactive experiences with Dolphins. Our boys are too young for the price point but if we were to come back when they are older I’d love to take them. Looked amazing.

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Overall, Atlantis is a magical place. It is a huge property with something for everyone. You need to know what you are getting into. We asked one staff member how many people work there and he said thousands It is a big big big operation. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it complicates things that should be simple. Was it the standard you would expect? I would probably say no. I think many of the facilities needs serious money put into them to get them up to what the expectations are at the price point you are paying. I think that more could be done to make it guest friendly. It was not very accessible with strollers so we spent a lot of time looking for various wheelchair elevators (several of which were out of service) and did a lot of carrying strollers down flights of stairs. It wasn’t ideal but you needed strollers with little ones. It does have a  lot going for it. The aquariums are so unique and impressive. The kids loved seeing animals at every corner (turtles in pools, sharks under bridges and stingrays!). If you are staying there as a platinum or gold Marriott member don’t expect any special treatment. It is not acknowledged at all. All this being said, we had a great little break and I was glad to check it out again as an adult with my own children.

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TBT – Adulting in Cambridge

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I escaped out of the city to a town called Cambridge in Ontario. Located on a beautiful chunk of land is one of the most renowned hotels in Canada – Langdon Hall. I had been a few times for dinners as it is a Relais Chateaux property and it really isn’t that far from home. I had never experienced an overnight there and wanted to give a bit of an overview of our time.

The reason for our visit was that one of my childhood best friends was getting married at this gorgeous property. I headed out on the Friday so that I could attend the rehearsal dinner with the bridal party. It was my first experience sleeping in a bed solo (totally uninterrupted) in over 2.5 years. BLISS!

We had a lovely lunch at Langdon Hall in their beautiful back garden. I enjoyed an awesome cocktail from their extensive list and one of the most delicious burgers I’ve had. Highly recommend.

We did a dinner in Cambridge that night and the next day was all taken up with the wedding preparations. Hubs and our littlest one came midday as he was still nursing at the time. My cousin accompanied us to keep an eye on Harrison while we did the whole wedding thing. It was overall kind of perfect. They had a blast lunching by the pool, enjoying the grounds and partaking in a few glasses of rose while I got ready with the girls. Perfect weather for a perfect day!

The wedding itself was lovely in their new modern barn style venue. Food was great, wine was amazing. It was a really nice night and I must say that crashing in the bed at the end of the night was heavenly. We hurried back on Sunday after enjoying the Sunday Brunch buffet. Couldn’t wait to reunited with George my oldest who didn’t miss us at all spending time with his grandparents!

Overall, I would recommend Langdon Hall for a getaway for a very special occasion. It could use a few upgrades to keep it in line with other Relais Chateaux properties I have visited but it is nice that it is so close to home. Be prepared – it is not a bargain. Pretty pricey little weekend but worth it for a beautiful bride.