Thanksgiving in October! Shenanigans in Buffalo, NY, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Grand Bend, Ontario

I went to visit a friend and my cousins at the beginning of October.  The big plan culminated in a grand Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday.  I know, it sounds really weird to most US citizens to hear about Thanksgiving dinner being the second week of October, instead of the fourth Thursday of November.  But that is when it is in Canada.  SO, lucky me, I get TWO Thanksgivings when I celebrate with my cousins!!  I really love Thanksgiving.

Before the wonderful dinner, my friend, cousins, and I explored and played.  I had Thursday to myself, so I explored Buffalo and Rochester, NY, a bit.  I have got to say, if you are anywhere near downtown Rochester, you absolutely have to stop at Dinosaur BBQ.  The ribs are the best I have ever had!  (And remember, ya’ll, I am from the South and live in Texas – I KNOW ribs!  Sorry, Morrie!)

dinosaur ribs
Ribs from Dinosaur BBQ

During my wanderings, I found a lot of beautiful spots to enjoy.  There was the hidden bench by a pond to watch the sunset.  A huge park to play some catch with the kids, have a picnic, or just sit and chill.  There was the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum, the grounds of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, and Hoyt Lake.  Thursday was a busy day!

On Friday, my friend and I started the trek to Grand Bend, Ontario, with a stop at Niagara Falls, Ontario.  She had never seen the Falls, and I absolutely love them!  We wandered the path to see them from all angles.  The weather was amazingly mild for October, so we took our time.  If you are in the Buffalo area, the Canadian side of the Falls is only an hour or so away.  Well worth the trip!!  The US side of the Falls is the more beautiful side, so you have to view it from Canada (so don’t forget your passport!).  We actually got to Grand Bend later than planned because we were enjoying the majesty of the Falls so much, it was hard to leave.  (Sorry, Heather!)

nigara falls
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada – looking to the US.

We were in Grand Bend for the last weekend of the Summer season.  There are several things that you really should do if you find yourself in Grand Bend, no matter what time of year it is.  Me, you probably will not find me there in the winter, since I don’t do cold, but I will definitely be there late Spring through mid-Fall whenever I get the chance.  First, you have to go into town and walk around.  If you are there in the off season, a lot of the stores will not be open.  At the end of the main street, you find the lake.  Lake Huron, to be exact.  So breathtaking!  The lake is so huge, you feel like you are on the ocean!  The beaches in and around Grand Bend are pristine.  The Pinery is a must experience.  It is a Provencial Park (like one of our National Parks down here).  There are biking trails, hiking trails, camp grounds, and 9 or so different beaches (3 of which are dog friendly!).  If you are there during the summer, make sure you check out the flea market that is close to the Pinery.

Now that you have walked every where, the sun is setting, and you are starving, what to do?  Well, there are several great little restaurants in and around Grand Bend.  My favorite was Paddington’s Pub!  Their fish and chips was awesome!  The staff is great, the locals are funny and nice.  After our dinner, we were talking with several of them, and we ending up heading to the nightclub (yup, they have one!), White Caps.  To be honest,  I don’t really remember much – lots of music, dancing, drinking…  But their doorman was HOT!!!  I definitely remember him.  Too bad I couldn’t fit him in my carry-on!

paddingtons
Paddington’s Pub – awesome food, great drinks, fun and friendly people!

Needless to say, this is definitely a trip I will take again.  There is more to explore in Upstate New York.  The Falls are always a great destination!  Grand Bend is now on my top three list for second home location.  I am so blessed!  Great family, great friends, and the wonderful opportunity to travel!  Happy October, ya’ll!  Go explore!

tips

Last Minute Traveling

A lot of us have very set schedules most of the time.  Every now and then, an opportunity to travel presents itself very unexpectedly.  What should you do?  Should you pass on it or take it?  Of course those answers are very personal and will be based on what is going on in your life at that moment.  I have had several of these wonderful last minute opportunities over the past few years.  Most of them I have taken full advantage of.  What should you consider before embrace the spontaneous?  First, can you afford the trip?  If the answer is no, you really should regretfully decline the opportunity.  There will be others.  Second, can you get the time off work for the trip?  If you are going to lose your job by taking off time, the answer should probably be no.  Don’t get me wrong, there are jobs worth losing for an opportunity to travel overseas.  I have done it, but that is a long story.  Third, is this really a place you want to visit, or are you just bored and running from something?  If the previous two questions did not make you pass on the trip, your motives are the next litmus test.  It is definitely NOT a bad thing to travel because you are bored or want a brief escape from your every day life!  I just want you to be aware of the driving force because it will have an impact on your trip.  Fourth, are you going alone or with someone?  Is this someone a person you really enjoy spending time with?  If not, you might want to pass on the trip.  Traveling with someone can be an amazing aspect of the trip, or it can completely ruin the trip for both of you (please do not be the constant whiner/complainer/downer that ruins group trips!).  Lastly, do you have the documentation needed to take the trip?  Is this trip out of the country?  Do you have a passport that has at least 6 months before it expires?  If not, you can’t go – Customs won’t allow it.  These questions are the litmus test that I use for my unplanned and spontaneous trip opportunities that come my way.  I have had a few of these in the past couple of years.

My last opportunity was last month, but due to my work demands and travel schedule, I had to say no to an amazing trip that would have allowed me to watch the solar eclipse in its full glory.  BUMMER!  My favorite one was to Belize.  A friend called my a couple of days before my birthday to say she needed to bug out to clear her head from some major family drama.  She said she would welcome company to distract her.  I asked her for details – she was flying out in 18 hours to Belize, and already had a cabana reserved.  I searched flights and saw it really wasn’t expensive, plus there was a seat right next to her still available on the flight there.  It was a sign!  I booked my flight (though the return flight, I was two rows behind her).  I called work, said I needed to miss the next 2 days of work.  I packed my bags and went overseas for 5 days.  I had a BLAST.  I had several firsts on that trip.  I ziplined for the first time.  I learned to snorkel.  I took the first lesson to get SCUBA certification.  I climbed a Mayan ruin, even with my bad knee.  I swam beside a barrier reef.  It was an amazing trip.  I kept my friend distracted until she was ready to talk about what was going on.  And I discovered that she is an amazing travel buddy – so we intend to take more trips together.

Opportunities can be very few and far between.  But they can also be everywhere, just waiting for you to discover them.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  Don’t be so wrapped up in the business of life that you miss out!

adventures

I am not lost! I am exploring!

One of the best lessons I have learned from traveling is to be flexible. Getting overly concerned about the little things will ruin your vacation. Like they say, “Don’t sweat the petting things, and don’t pet the sweaty ones!” 😉

When my brother and I were in Ireland, we got lost a lot. I mean A LOT! At first it was frustrating. The first couple of days were very stressful for the both of us. I finally said that we need to quit thinking of it as being lost. Every single time we veered off course due to our inattention or confusion, we found something that was wonderful and unexpected. We found waterfalls. Seriously, there are waterfalls in Ireland! We found castles and ruins that were not on our list, but really should have been! By day three, whenever we would get lost, my brother and I would start saying “We are NOT lost! We are EXPLORING!” in a horrible singsong way (think Fraggle Rock theme song). It completely changed the tone of the trip. We were less stressed, had more laughs, and saw even more wonders than expected!

Here are a couple examples of the surprises we found along the way in Ireland.

the gate gate ruins waterfall1a

Hello world!

Wow!!! Hi there! I am so glad you stopped by. I am Sandra Leone, and I would love to take you along with me on my journeys and include you in my shenanigans. I will be completely honest with you, I am snarky (thus the name of the site…) and I love to have fun. Sometimes that fun means lounging on a beach, or having drinks with friends at a local pub, but sometimes it means ziplining or packing a bag and leaving on a moment’s notice to take advantage of an opportunity to see something new.

The purpose of Travel and Snark is to bring to you an off-centered view of the world. Since I don’t typically see the world as the average American, I hope you enjoy the new perspective and decide to try out some of the things I do or go visit the places I write about for yourselves. SO why do I think I have a different perspective than the average American? Quite honestly, it’s because I keep getting told that. I don’t think I am anything special, or that I have some skill or gift that makes me better than the average American. All I know is that when I share my stories with my friends and people I meet, they often say things like, “I would never have thought to do that,” “How come you decided to take that picture instead of one from this angle, like everyone else was doing?” or “But that’s not what I experienced/saw/felt when I was there.” I just have an off-centered way of looking at life. It probably has a lot to do with being in EMS for 14 years and seeing things that make you develop twisted sense of humor.

Traveling is an amazing activity! When I travel, I get to see new cultures: experience sights, sounds, smells that I don’t typically get to experience in the north Texas area. For instance, I never would have considered ziplining up here, but when I went to Belize, I had an adventure tour into the jungle and tried it (and HAD A BLAST!). Though that first step is a real booger! 🙂

So, thank you again for dropping by. I really cannot wait to get to know you and for you to get to know me. Join me and I will share travel tips for single (and over forty) travelers, packing tips, product reviews.  I will share the good, the bad, and the indifferent about places I visit, sleep, and eat.