Normandy is an approximate 2h30 drive from Paris. It is located in North Western France. There are lots of little towns, grassy fields, hedgerows, beaches, and cliffs. It is also the perfect location to visit if you are a fan of the Band of Brothers miniseries on HBO.

A description of Normandy during D-Day Celebrations on June 2015 by a Canadian tourist:

Every town is decorated in flags from England, France, the States, Germany, Poland, Canada, etc. The store windows are all painted with murals of paratroopers and flags and soldiers. And everyone is dressed up in either 1940s clothing or re-enactment military outfits. As you drive on the highway, you can be passed by WWII jeeps. They have organized dances with swing music, and fireworks displays. They have military camps set up with authentic gear, and parade displays of military vehicles. They have parachutes jumps in full WWII outfits, including the parachute, and from the original C47 planes! Everyone partakes in the celebrations – tourists and locals alike. Although tourists aren’t allowed to jump out of the planes…

Paratroopers jumping out of a C47
Paratroopers jumping out of a C47

Utah Beach has the Utah Museum. There is public access to the beach, and they have several monuments and statues. The beach had extremely fine sand, and it was surprising how vast and shallow the beach was at low tide, which shows how far they had to travel under fire (500m from the U-boats to the shore!) before reaching the banks. It carried an atmosphere of serenity. The museum overlooks the beach, and focuses on American military vehicles, uniforms, and more of the logistics of D-Day. On the way to the beach, they have a specific monument to Denmark, and the Danish soldiers, and they have the Dick Winters leadership memorial (Major of the 506th Second Battalion of the 101st Airborne).

Utah Beach
Utah Beach

Juno Beach is the Canadian beach. The museum is called Juno Beach Centre. This beach was different in that it was still being used as a beach. Full of sunbathers, and the waters were peppered with sailboats. People are living and using that beach, which is rather symbolic of Canada’s involvement. “We went over there to liberate France in order for people to be free and live, and that is how they are using that beach.” The beach sand had lots of rocks, and the water was almost green. Beach was much less wide, less distance to travel under fire. The area near the memorials was solemn, but the beaches themselves were full of joy. The Centre itself focuses on the people, the stories of the soldiers and of the home front in Canada. All of the employees from the Centre are Canadian.

Juno Beach and sailboats
Juno Beach and sailboats

Carentan is a small town (all roads lead to Carentan) that was a strategic location in the war, because of the roads, and was liberated by the 101st Airborne, a fact that is still celebrated today. Notre-Dame de Carentan Church started being built in the 11th Century, the stained glass windows that got blown out during the war were replaced with some of the original designs, but some had added homages to the soldiers that liberated them, with depictions of paratroopers and saints holding the Screaming Eagle crest (the 101st Airborne’s crest). They also have a war memorial from the First World War, which is now dedicated to both wars.

Stained glass window in Notre-dame de Carentan
Stained glass window in Notre-dame de Carentan

Near Carentan is the Dead Man’s Corner Museum, which has the D-Day Experience, where you can board a C47 fuselage that is operated by hydraulics and has virtual screens in the windows to make it seem like you’re flying, then get hit, and then crash.

Interior of fuselage of C47 at Dead Man's Corner Museum
Interior of fuselage of C47 at Dead Man’s Corner Museum

Bayeux is a really cute little town, with cobblestone streets and watermills in the creek. The Bayeux Cathedral hosts the famous Bayeux Tapestry that was created in the 11th Century. There are lots of really nice cafés.

The streets of Bayeux
The streets of Bayeux

NOTE: Sundays are VERY limited in the Normandy region: all food serving places are closed, but you should be able to find a grocery or bakery that is open.

If you are interested in visiting Normandy. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.


Recollections of, and pictures by, Lindsay,+France/Normandy/data=!4m8!4m7!1m2!1m1!1s0x47e66e1f06e2b70f:0x40b82c3688c9460!1m2!1m1!1s0x47e1bd6c23f8c087:0x26f2f1561148e202!3e0?sa=X&ved=0CDYQ-A8wAGoVChMI6s__jfqfyAIVhgWSCh2Migz0

Band of Brothers Miniseries


Halloween fun

This weekend is Halloween, and if you’re looking for something last-minute to do, I’m sure there’s a Halloween party just around the corner. In Ottawa, Can-Con will have Trick-or-Treating in the vendor’s room all day, and it’s free to the public, so be sure to stop by!

But if you’re looking for something a little further from home and off the beaten path, here are some great last-minute options!

Ithaca, New York

Do you like Harry Potter? Would you be interested in visiting Diagon Alley? For five hours on Halloween, Ithaca NY is transforming Press Bay Alley into Diagon Alley and I desperately want to go!! There will be a House Cup Competition, a Horcrux Hunt, a costume contest, presentations on magical creatures, wizarding chess, Quidditch re-enactments, wizarding duels, and so much more! This is their first event, so maybe I’ll be able to go next year…

A real-life Diagon Alley in Ithaca! I want to go!
A real-life Diagon Alley in Ithaca! I want to go! Image from

The Catacombs of Paris

You would have had to enter the contest with Airbnb, but two lucky (or unlucky?) winners will be the first people to spend Halloween night in the Catacombs under Paris – the home of seven million corpses. Dinner, a private concert, breakfast, and a storyteller will put them to sleep with creepy bedtime stories “guaranteed to produce nightmares”. Who would like to participate in this? Certainly not me!

Hope the winners never saw the terrifying horror movie As Above, So Below or it’s trailer.

Creepy! Image from
Creepy! Image from

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado

The Stanley Hotel is one of the most haunted hotels in the world. It was the setting for Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Reportedly haunted by Lord Stanley and his wife, as well as kids who run along the fourth floor halls at two in the morning, and many others, this would be the place to go to test yourself. It is open for business, and hosts a Ghost Adventure Package as well as standard room packages.

Just don’t order the Redrum…

The Stanley Hotel. Image from
The Stanley Hotel. Image from

If you are interested in going on any of these cruises, or others. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.

Happy Haunting!


Skara Brae – Guest Travel Article by S.M. Carrière

In the Bay of Skaill on the north-west coast of the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Islands sat a large mound known then as Skerrabra.  A storm in 1850 washed part of the mound away, revealing part of village that was inhabited 5 000 years ago.  A local by the name of William Watt began an amateur excavation of the site, which was abandoned in 1868.  After another storm, in which some of the site was lost to the weather, earnest excavation and preservation began in 1925.

It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of four sites that make up “The Neolithic Heart of Orkney”.  And my goodness is this place beautiful!

Skara Brae. Image courtesy of
Skara Brae. Image courtesy of
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of

Inhabited in the Neolithic (literally, the “new stone age”) the village, which has since been renamed Skara Brae, is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.  It is a fantastic example of the sophistication of the Stone Age inhabitants of the island of Britain, replete with stone furniture and even toilets!

Tolkien fans will be pleased to note that the dwellings of Skara Brae were dug into the ground and covered over with earth and sod.  These were the original hobbit holes!

The site is a brilliant playground for both learning and fun, boasting not only the ruins of the village which you can wander around, but also a visitor’s centre (with games!), a café and a gift shop with locally made souvenirs.

If you’re an archaeology or prehistoric anthropology nerd like I am, Skara Brae and the entire Heart of Neolithic Orkney should definitely be on your must-see destination list.

For more information on Skara Brae and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, see and don’t forget to book with Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel for a trip full of magic, wonder and learning!

This article brought to you by our guest author S.M. Carrière. She is a local Ottawa speculative fiction author and prehistory of Britain enthusiast. She has a degree in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies: Ancient Cultures with a Celtic Studies concentration and is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Human, this month.


Fandom Cruising

Are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Star Trek? Music, comedy, and general nerdery? There are three cruises that might peak your interest that are about to set sail.

The Norwegian Pearl in Minecraft scale. Image from
The Norwegian Pearl in Minecraft scale. Image from

The Walking Dead

This cruise is completely booked, with a waiting list, however, it is one of the first of it’s kind, and thus deserves a mention. For three days, January 15-18, 2016, you would sail from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas with four stars from The Walking Dead, on board the Norwegian Pearl. The website contains all sorts of interesting information, and if you think you might be interested, check out The Waiting List requirements – you have to be on it before December 1st!

Star Trek

The Norwegian Pearl is busy with Fandom bookings; it is also the ship for the Star Trek cruise! January 9-15, 2017, you can sail from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, to Nassau, Bahamas, and back to Miami, with legendary actors like John de Lancie and William Shatner. Check out the itinerary – it looks fantastic!

Music, Comedy, and General Nerdery

The JoCo Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is a convention at sea! Jonathon Coulton, Paul and Storm, Imogen Heap, and others are performers and featured guests on this cruise, which is taking place February 21-28, 2016, departing from Port Canaveral, Florida. Ports of call include CocoCay, Bahamas; St Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and St Maarten.

There are many other geeky or Fandom cruises. Let me know what you’re interested in, and I’m sure we can find something for you! There’s even a crochet cruise! 😉

If you are interested in going on any of these cruises, or others. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.

Seattle, Portland, and everything in between

It takes just under three hours to drive between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, but I decided to combine that area together, because I am Canadian, and that’s short – it’s longer than that from Ottawa to Toronto!

Seattle, WA

There are a lot of geeky things to do and see in Seattle! The EMP Museum should be top of your list, though, and there’s an exhibit going on right now (it will be closed Oct 5 – 16) that I would love to see: Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic. There are numerous authors, film makers, and others who have been inducted into their Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. The museum itself is, to quote directly, “…a leading-edge nonprofit museum, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture.” Tickets are approximately $22/adult (prices may change).

From my research, there are many bars and shops that have pin ball games, arcade games, table top board games, and/or card games available to play while you drink a pint. Here is a list of some places you can check out, and here is a list of more! I do have to warn you: the AFK Tavern is located in Everett, thirty minutes North of Seattle. The reviews vary between 3 to 4.5 stars out of 5. Food can get expensive, but they have drinks like Polyjuice Potion…I mean, come on!

Lastly, I want to talk to you about the views you can see from some of the tallest buildings in Seattle. There are two options: The Space Needle and The Sky View Observatory. They each have their pros and cons. The Space Needle is a two minute walk from the EMP Museum, so it would be easy to see both in one day. However, The Sky View Observatory, which is located in the Columbia Center, is a short nine minute drive away, so it’s not unreasonable to visit it either. They are approximately equal in price (around $13-15/adult), and they both have a restaurant on the observation deck. The Sky View Observatory has two pros that The Space Needle does not. One, you can take a picture of The Space Needle, and two, it is much higher: soaring at 902 feet compared to 520 feet. Either way, you are in for a spectacular view!

St Helen’s, OR

St Helen's in Oregon dedicates October to Halloweentown. Image from their Facebook page.
St Helen’s in Oregon dedicates October to Halloweentown. Image from their Facebook page.

Did you know that Halloweentown was filmed in St Helen’s, Oregon? I didn’t, until a Facebook post popped up a couple of months ago, and I found out that the entire month of October is dedicated to Halloweentown in this city. How incredibly cool is that?

Portland, OR

There is a pretty awesome arcade that becomes a bar after five pm: Ground Kontrol. They have their own version of Geeks Who Drink! Super fun game.

There are some great bookstores and comic book shops in the Portland area, which are always fun to check out!

The Portland Geek Community is also super organized when it comes to their online community. They have a website for all the events that go on in the city, and a Geek Council!

There are tons of events that happen throughout the year that are rather…unique…in Portland. So if you find yourself in the Northwest, check out the possible events that could be happening in the area!

There is so much to do and see in the Seattle/Portland area! If you are interested in going, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.


A city that has made a name for itself in the geek community recently is Montreal. Not only are tons of movies being filmed in Montreal, but its Comic Con, Otakuthon, and smaller conventions have attracted some big name guests, and they have comic book shops on practically every corner on St Catherine.

And they now have a public Hobbit garden. What could be better?

Montreal's Hobbit garden, picture from
Montreal’s Hobbit garden, picture from

Girls on Games wrote a great article on local hot spots that you should check out, including a bunch of coffee/board game shops, and the Montreal Science Centre.

If you want to see a bunch of film locations from your favourite movies, you have come to the right city. From movies like X-Men: Days of Future Past to Warm Bodies, and tons of others, you can easily hop from one movie set to another. Although there are no touring companies at the moment, I don’t see why there wouldn’t be one in the future. In the meantime, I would love to build a tour for you!

Last but certainly not least, Just For Laughs is based in Montreal. They are definitely worth the time!

There is so much to do and see in Montreal! If you are interested in going, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.


Inspired by The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which I saw on Saturday with friends and family, I would like to talk about Italy and the numerous fandom possibilities to be found in this beautiful country.

Italy's countryside, picture from
Italy’s countryside, picture from

I’ve noticed, while doing research for these Wednesday posts, that Viator tours pop up more often than not. I have to say, I’m impressed that they are putting the effort into catering to the geek community. In Italy, they have three tours: Angels and Demons half-day tour in Rome, and The Godfather and Inspector Montalbano full day tours in Taormina.


Love-Rome also has tours for Angels and Demons, as well as Roman Holiday and The Great Beauty, all of which take place on an electric golf cart.

If you love any and all movies made in Rome, another tour company has a tour that encompasses many. I think if I were to take one of these tours, this would be the one.

You could, of course, plan your own tour of Rome, following this helpful guide. Honestly, though, Rome has been the setting for so many movies, that you could wander the streets aimlessly and still find a movie location.


Venice has a tour that will take you to many film locations, such as the Venetian Library, St Mark’s square, the Doge’s palace, La Fenice theatre, St Barnaba church square, and, of course, the canals. Movies filmed there include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Tourist, Othello, Casanova, and Merchant of Venice.


Florence has the Museo Galileo, which combines scientific instruments and research into one facility. One of the best things about this museum is it has disability access!

There is tons more to do and see in Italy! If you are interested in going, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.

New Zealand

Chances are, you’ve seen the beauty of the New Zealand landscape in a movie or TV show.

New Zealand, picture from Discover Down Under. This is my number one place I want to visit. Look at this view!
New Zealand, picture from Discover Down Under. This is my number one place I want to visit. Look at this view!

A brief selection of movies that were filmed in this picturesque location include The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, King Kong, Bridge to Terabithia, and Avatar. One of my favourite TV shows also comes from this beautiful county: The Almighty Johnsons. If you haven’t already seen it, you DESPERATELY need to. Like, right now. Norse gods in New Zealand? What could be better?

New Zealand recently started their very own Comic Con, with the inaugural event occurring on July 17-19 of this past year. Armageddon Expo is also happening on October 23-26, 2015. They’ve got quite the line-up of guests. Auckland would be an excellent place to visit in October this year!

As a fan, if I were to travel to New Zealand, I would want to see movie sets as well as the scenery. Lord of the Rings/Hobbit sets have been left intact in various locations, and there are a myriad of tours that you can take, some of which can be found here. A tour that I found of particular interest is run by Film Scouts. They are hired by film companies to scout out locations, but they also run a tour company. You’d definitely get some pretty unique experiences with them!

Weta Workshop, New Zealand’s amazing prop and model creators have a 45 minute guided tour through their Cave. I think I would spend the entire time with my jaw on the floor. They amaze me.

You should read Sail Evenstar’s blog about their stay in New Zealand (Part 1, Part 2)! Great stuff, and quite the thorough exploration! (Facebook, website)

New Zealand has a lot to offer and I can’t wait to visit. If you are interested in going, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.


Norway is a beautiful country full of geeky opportunities. Tons of movies were filmed there, including “Empire Strikes Back” (in Finse), “Die Another Day”, “Eight Below”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra”, and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (in Svalbard), parts of “Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince” (in Rauma), “Ex Machina” (in Norddal and Luster), and “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” (in Mardalsfossen). Of course, “Vikings” was shot in many locations in Norway, including Sokndal, Bjerkreim, Gjesdal, Forsand, Aurland, and Stranda.

Note: Svalbard is an island much further North of the continent, and would probably be a trip all on it’s own.

And that’s not even counting Oslo, Norway’s capital. One of the best comic book stores exists there: Outland. They have everything you could possibly want, including Lego, board games, comic books (obviously), and collectibles.

Akershus Fortress is also located in Oslo. It was used as the model for Arendelle’s castle in Frozen, and Norway’s building in Epcot is a replica of the Fortress.

Akershus Fortress picture from
Akershus Fortress picture from

For History buffs, Norway is an amazing place to visit. They have museums, carvings, and historical centres all over the place. I read through this website, a mom and her six year old son’s trip to Norway was beautifully written.

She also writes about eight haunted places in Norway that you must visit. They have a Ghost Walk similar to the Haunted Walk in Ottawa!

Let’s not forget that Disney’s Cruise Line Magic has a “Frozen” themed cruise to Norway as well. See Norway with that Disney magic thrown in!

Anna and Elsa from Disney Cruise Line
Anna and Elsa from Disney Cruise Line

If you are interested in a trip to Norway, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.

New York City

I visited New York City in November last year, and I loved it. The people, the rush, the insanity…

I was there with my classmates, on a tour organized by Travac. I highly recommend them.

However, if you want to go to some famous fandom haunts, you may want to build your own itinerary.

Times Square, facing the TKTS booth and the red stairs. Photo taken by Jen of

New York City Comic Con October 8-11, 2015

This spectacular event is happening in 71 days! They’ve announced a few pretty awesome guests, including Felicia Day, Jewel Staite, Nathan Fillion, and (omg!) John Rhys-Davies. They are also hosting the NYCC Eastern Championships of Cosplay

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular October 7, 2015

This is a once in a lifetime event, happening the day before NYCC! I seriously wish I could go to this. Hosted by Michelle Gomez (Missy from Doctor Who), there are two shows: one at 3pm and one at 7:30pm, with tickets ranging in price from $80-$210.

The Way Station

A TARDIS-themed bar (must be over the age of 21 to enter), they have cool events happened almost every single day. Check them out on their website or Facebook.

Central Park

This park is gorgeous, and I was there after all the leaves fell. There are many things to check out in Central Park. On top of that, as of 2011, there have been 305 films shot in Central Park. (What??) That’s not even counting the number of TV shows that had scenes there (Doctor Who The Angels Take Manhattan, for example). Viator has a walking tour that will take you to 30 different locations in Central Park that were used in various movies.

Central Park Film Festival August 25-29, 2015
Free movie screenings! A fun line-up for this year, too.

Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Photo taken by Jen of JenEric Designs.
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Photo taken by Jen of


Seeing a show on Broadway (or off-Broadway) is an absolute MUST for everyone who visits New York. You can buy your tickets in advance here, or you can stand in line for two hours at the last minute ticket booth (TKTS) underneath the red stairs in Times Square and get up to 50% off. (Go as early in the day as possible, and before you stand in line, ask an attendant if the show you want is available for purchase there…you might have to go to the theatre itself to buy the tickets.) You can spend the time pretending that the stairs are going to get destroyed by an evil villain. (That’s what I did…)
There are so many options for shows, and I can highly recommend Wicked, Lion King, Jersey Boys, and Matilda, all of which were seen by myself or my classmates. It really is an amazing experience.

For a different sort of entertainment, Ellen’s Stardust Diner has singing waiters who will perform for you while you eat. There is always a massive line to get in, and the milkshakes are awesome, but nothing beats the voices on these waiters. It’s not too far from Times Square, about a block up and over.

Grand Central Station and the Whispering Gallery

 Grand Central is more than just a Subway station. There is an amazing cafeteria, and a very cool open gallery, where if you stand in one corner and whisper into the wall, a person in the opposite corner can hear you as clearly as if you were right beside them! We had fun whispering stuff to our friends until a wedding party showed up and we gave them the space.

There are SO many things that can be done in New York City, and I barely scratched the surface. Check out these cool places or this detailed website that you can go to if you have a few minutes (or hours) of free time in NYC.

If you are interested in a trip to New York, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.