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“O” is for On Your Feet

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“O” my goodness, I’m more than halfway through the A to Z Challenge. I will finish, I will, I will. Thanks for sticking with me!

We’ve talked about hats to hit the road in, now let’s talk about shoes. Of all the things you pack, regardless of where you’re off to next, shoes are oh so important. Sore, blistered, aching feet can ruin your mood, and leave you with memories of your trip you’d rather not have. “Oh, yes, Rome…no, we skipped the Trevi Fountain because I just couldn’t take one more step without screaming in agony.”

If you are going to be doing any kind of sightseeing on your trip, you MUST wear shoes that are going to feel just as good at the end of the day as they do at the beginning. Most of us are not accustomed to prolonged walking in our daily lives; after an hour or so on your feet, your feet are going to swell, and probably sweat too. Wearing an elevated heel changes the way you carry your entire body. The shoes you travel in should fit well, not pinch or shift, and offer the proper support to your foot and the rest of your body. Socks will absorb moisture and help your shoes fit properly. Your shoes should also offer the right amount of protection for the kind of terrain you’re covering, be it concrete, asphalt, cobblestones, gravel paths or sand.

It always amazes me the shoes that people, particularly women, will wear to theme parks, museums and historical sites. In fact, a couple of years ago, we turned it into a game, and started snapping secret pictures of people’s feet at Disney World. To point out our sightings to one another, we use the code word “Parcheesi.” I’ve seen women hobbling along in 4-inch heels struggling to navigate ramps, stairs and uneven ground. 

I’ve seen children whiny and miserable simply because the sandals they’re wearing, while adorable, have caused the Mother of all Heel Blisters. For children who spend much of the day in strollers, shoes are still important. If they’re not used to walking too far, stubbed toes can happen frequently with a sandal or open-toed shoe. And even in the stroller, a shoe that covers the foot will prevent sunburned tootsies!

We’ve found that the running shoes we wear on a daily basis are almost always the best shoes to wear away from home too. We tend to pack a pair of flip-flops to wear around resort pools or on the beach; and ugly though they may be, a Croc-type shoe is remarkably comfortable and versatile. When the kids were little, we always insisted they wear socks and running shoes on vacation, and tried to lead by example. Another benefit to opting out of the foot fashion parade is that only bringing one or two pairs of shoes leaves lots of room in your suitcase for other things.

You need to keep your eyes on your feet too; check them often throughout the day for “hot spots” that may turn into blisters. Also watch for skin changes that may indicate Athlete’s foot or another problem is developing. Don’t be afraid to change your socks a couple of times in a day, depending on how much you’re walking, to make sure your feet stay clean and dry. And check the kids feet too – often, they won’t say anything about a blister developing until it’s too late.

Check out this cute clip of an upcoming Modern Family episode on The Disney Blog that really sums things up, and made me smile – I couldn’t get the video to embed here!

What kind of shoes do you wear when you travel?

“J” is for Journalling

I’m blogging A to Z in April! Check back often while I catch up!

One of the things I keep intending to start is a travel journal; I haven’t quite got there yet. I’ve got a bad habit of relying on a handful of digital photos and my own memory, but I think I’d appreciate, at some point, having some kind of a written record of the places I’ve seen and experienced. Plus, it would be nice to have a place to actually keep those admission stubs, tickets, site brochures and other minutae that I tend to bring home from any trip.

I think keeping a travel journal is important; it’s a way to recall a time and a place that had some significance to you, and a way to share your adventures with others in the future. It doesn’t have to be a full-length novel – and Amazon has some interesting-looking journals to get you started.

Here’s a cool list of ideas at I like a lot of the things they list here, especially the one about “people journalling.” I’ve met an awful lot of people in my travels, and some of them have been quite memorable. There was Dana Starkell, the guy who paddled from Winnipeg to Brazil – I sat next to him on a Greyhound. There was the family we waited in line with once at Disneyworld – the whole family, except for the son-in-law, worked at Disney, while he himself worked at Seaworld. While visiting Colorado, I got to connect with a group of women I’d met online, and meeting them in person was awesome!

The key seems to be journalling WHILE you’re travelling, and I think that’s where my problem is. I always “save” the journalling for later, and then never get around to it. So the next time you’re off on an adventure, no matter how large or small, jot down a few thoughts in the moment. Even if all there is to hand is a napkin; you can always transfer your musings into your regular journal later.

Do you keep a travel journal? Is it online or off? Tell me about it in the comments!

“B” is for Books

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I’m blogging A to Z during the month of April! Check back here daily (except Sundays) this month for a new post each time!

My love of books and reading is well documented; imagine my delight when I discovered that my foray into travel opened up entire new genres of reading material! Here are a few travel-related books that I’ve read lately, as well as an old favourite:

Life Nomadic

If you’ve ever dreamed of selling everything you own and travelling the globe for a while, this is a fairly light, informative read. I picked it up for my Kindle for free earlier this year, and promptly recommended and loaned it to my own teenaged nomad wanna-be. Tynan knows whereof he speaks, and it’s exactly his experience that he shares in this book. I found his information to be very practical and straightforward, as well as illuminating (cashmere socks, really?) The only thing I felt was rather vague was his insight on how to earn a living on the road -once I figure that out, I might be willing to give some of his other tricks and tools a try!

The Best American Travel Writing 2011

This was another Kindle purchase, but one I actually paid for. I was partly attracted to it by the fact that Sloane Crosley is the editor of this edition – I just loved her voice in I Was Told There’d Be Cake. This anthology features a variety of travel essays; they’re not just destination-themed travelogues, there’s some variety there. My favourite was a piece on the challenge of finding your way around – wherever you may happen to be. While I wasn’t crazy about all the essays – some just lost me, and I gave up – there’s enough here to make it worth the price.

Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw

This book was the Leacock winner in 2005, but I just got around to reading it in 2011. Will Ferguson is one of my favourite humorists, so I was looking forward to seeing how he would utilize his voice in a travel-themed collection. I wasn’t disappointed; he’s as funny and thought-provoking as ever! I also appreciated the glimpse into some of the lesser-known nooks and crannies of this great country of ours.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World – any edition

I’ve been buying this well-known guidebook almost annually since 1996 – whether I’m heading to WDW or not! Add to that the fact that only about 25% of the book is updated from each previous version, and you know I’m either weird, or it’s a really good book!

It’s a really good book. The authors and editors cover one of the most-visited places in the world with a combined sense of humor and total seriousness. They want you to have a good vacation -and they want you to laugh while you do it. Aside from the presentation, the authors get their facts straight, and provide you with useful, useable information. Sure, you can get info about visiting WDW almost anywhere these days – but I’ve yet to find an equal to the UOG, as it’s affectionately known amongst us Disney-philes. Even if you never use a touring plan, or check out a crowd-level, you’ll be glad you invested in the book. I’ve also checked out the UOG to Las Vegas, and it’s equally well done.

“C” you tomorrow!

Let’s Go To The Movies

The movies figure prominently in my personal history – or at least, movie theatres do. For decades, family members ran two of the three local drive-ins. I’m just one of many cousins that count working the concession stand as one of my earliest jobs (my first, in fact!) Later, I’d work at the sole movie theatre at the time in Elliot Lake ON. (it appears the current version has two screens – I’d love to know when that happened!)

Because of this, and as a member of the last generation to meet the movies in a theatre – proscenium, curtain, balcony – as opposed to the multi-plex, I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to this little gem during my trip to Ottawa last month.

According to its website, the Mayfair Theatre opened in 1932 and has never been owned by, or affiliated with, a major chain. My daughter and I visited on a Saturday evening – J. Edgar, starring Leonardo Dicaprio was playing.   We were the first customers of the evening; all told, there might have been 20 in the audience by showtime. I didn’t really take any pictures as we weren’t sure of the policy on that, and I’d already been admonished by a security guard in the Glebe for taking a picture inside the Fifth Avenue Court.

But oh! Did it take me back! The decor is classic movie house; glamourous and comfortable at the same time. It leaves you with the feeling that going to the movies is an “event.” So often now, between multiplexes and Netflix, there seems to be nothing special or unique about the act of watching a movie. But there should be.

And the best thing was the conversations it sparked between my daughter and I about what going to the movies used to be like. In addition to working tales and drive-in memories, I reminisced about the theatres my own hometown used to have – the Centre, the Park, the Palace.

I like the set-up at the Mayfair; if I were an Ottawa citizen, I’d definitely be buying a membership. On Oscar night, the theatre featured a live telecast for members, complete with liquor licence. What a night that must have been!

For anyone visiting Ottawa, if you’re looking for a break from the museums and parks, the Mayfair is a nice “something different” and the cost is reasonable. You can see what’s playing and when on their website. Go check it out!

P.S. Sadly, I can’t wax poetic about the movie itself. J. Edgar was not well written, nor was it well acted. And the makeup was awful. Two thumbs down.

To “e” or not to “e”

Cross-posting today. Merry Christmas everyone!