2012 was a banner year for my family - we were very fortunate to travel many miles and have ever so many amazing experiences. In retrospect, it seems that our theme for this past year of travel was getting reacquainted with old friends - of all the places that we traveled, the province of Newfoundland was the only one that I hadn't previously visited.
When I'm trying to plan our travels, I always struggle with my desire to return to places that I loved and the desire to tick new places off the long bucket list that I store in my head. I learned this past year that it's possible to go back to a favourite place and experience it in a whole new way. Places change, I change and if that's not enough to provide a fresh viewpoint then I can filter through the eyes of the children that now travel with me.
We started off the year in Orlando, Florida visiting the Disney parks as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and spent January 1st at Magic Kingdom which was still decorated for the holidays with Cinderella's Castle magically lit up like an icicle at night. We have visited Disney World many times over the last 16 years but this was the first time that we were there for the holidays and I loved it!
My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon in Paris and this past March, we returned with our daughters for spring break. We stayed in a 2 bedroom suite at an apart-hotel on the left bank near St. Germain-des-Près and explored Paris by foot - discovering in the process that the city is a great destination for families. We visited all the headline attractions like the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and Luxembourg Gardens and we also fit in day trips to Versailles, Normandy, Disneyland Paris and Geneva, Switzerland. Emma fell hard for the city, declaring on her second day that "even the water tastes better in Paris" and crying on our last day because it was time to go home. I hope that this was just the first of many opportunities she will have over her lifetime to create memories in the City of Lights.
In April, we traveled to Sudbury in northern Ontario to spend the Easter holiday with family. While there we had an opportunity to visit Science North, one of the best science museums anywhere, and got up close and personal with Quillen the porcupine. Emma was afraid to get anywhere near him at first but eventually her curiosity got the better of her and she posed for a photo as well.
I have always wanted to attend the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa but we have never been able to visit the capital at the right time of the year. I decided that I wasn't waiting any longer and Emma and I took a VIA rail train from Toronto to Ottawa for the Victoria Day long weekend in May. The two of us had a great time exploring the city, visiting museums, and finding great places to eat even though the tulips were nearly done blooming.
Amidst all of our return trips to favourite places in 2012 we had a very big "first" - Katie traveled on her own to St. Andrews, Scotland to attend the International Summer School of Scotland for three weeks. Even though I was a bit nervous sending her off on her own, I was also very proud of her that she was confident enough to travel to Scotland and back by herself. I would most definitely not have been able to do the same at 15 years of age. She had an amazing time, met great friends from around the globe and would definitely recommend a summer abroad experience to anyone looking for a new twist on summer camp.
While Katie was settling in to her dorm room in Scotland, the rest of us spent Canada Day in Stratford attending a performance of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown as part of the festival's 1st annual Canada Day Family Weekend.
August was by far the busiest month of the year for me in terms of travel - I think I was only home long enough to do laundry in between three separate trips.
The month started with a road trip to Manitoulin Island - the largest freshwater island in the world - for a few days at Granny and Grampy's cottage.
This was followed a couple of days later by a weekend trip to Chicago for Emma and I. Chicago is a favourite destination for our family but we always seem to visit in the winter. Emma and I spent an amazing five days with near-perfect weather playing in Millennium Park, visiting museums, cruising on the river and, of course, shopping at American Girl Place.
Our big family trip of the summer was to Atlantic Canada where we spent a week in Newfoundland (the one Atlantic province that the kids and I had not previously visited), a night in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a week in Prince Edward Island and two nights in Moncton, New Brunswick. We spent many family vacations on the east coast when the kids were younger and it was wonderful to return to an area that we know so well and love so much.
Travel always slows down in the fall as the kids ease back into school and extracurricular activities dominate our schedule. Both Katie and Emma were involved in a community theatre production of Music Man in November so we had time for very little else on the fall weekends. We did fit in a day trip to Niagara Falls to meet Jessica from Suitcases and Sippycups and her family and then spent the rest of the day around the Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Thanksgiving weekend falls in early October in Canada and we drove to Sudbury once again to spend it with family giving thanks for the opportunity to spend precious time with loved ones.
Plans are often subject to change and although we had intended to spend Christmas in our home we ended up returning to Sudbury to spend a few days there. The one advantage of traveling north is that you can almost always be guaranteed a white Christmas and there was definitely no shortage of snow this holiday season.
Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic sailing out of Galveston, Texas for 6 nights so we rang in 2013 with Mickey and friends on the high seas. And it seemed rather fitting that we started and ended the year with Disney.
We have been blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to so many amazing places in the last year and are looking forward to traveling to many more in 2013.
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