Survival Guide for Formula 1 at Circuit of the Americas

Are you planning on attending the Formula One Race event in Austin, Texas?  This year the weekend event takes place October 20-22 and it again will prove to be filled with fun and excitement.  In fact this year Circuit of the Americas has some fun new activities for both kids and adults.

In order to maximize your enjoyment at Formula One, here is a list of 11 things you should consider bringing with you, and 5 things you should just leave at home or in your hotel room.   I’ve also included other TIPS for the weekend!  See you there!

What Should I Bring?

  1. An empty or unopened water bottle.  Anything else will NOT be allowed by staff at the gates.  The empty water bottle can be filled at the Water Stations located thoughout the facilty.
  2. Wear closed toe or athletic shoes.  Circuit of the Americas, or COTA is almost 3.4 miles of circuit.  Your parking spot may not be close to the gates so you will need to walk.  Some events are spaced far apart and although there are shuttles, those only take you from one gate to the next.
  3. Bring a hat, cap, or visor and a pair of sunglasses.  Texas is hot and almost always bright and sunny!  All of the Grandstands and Lawn Areas are in the sun.  Only the Main Grandstand will provide some shade.
  4. Do not forget your SUNBLOCK!  It is best to lather it on 30 minutes before arriving at the gates.  I’ve seen many people red as a tomato by the end of the first day!
  5. Mornings may be cooler and it would be smart to not only watch the weather the night before, but also bringing a light jacket will help keep the cool morning air at bay.
  6. A few years ago we had one of our worst rain events in the history of COTA.  It rained just about every single day that year.  That should not happen again; however, I do recommend a foldable poncho, just in case of an unexpected rain.
  7. Dressing in layers will help keep you comfortable all day.
  8. Most people will bring their cell phones, but I’ve heard many say that they cannot get service: therefore, I recommend you bring a set of good old-fashioned Walkie-Talkies with a good range.  This is especially helpful if you and your family plan on going in diferent directions while at COTA.
  9. One of the most beneficial thing you can bring is a clear pocket lanyard.  Some ticket holders will get theirs with their ticket, but most will not.  Ushers will expect to check your ticket just about everywhere you go.  Having the ticket in the clear pocket will be easy for you to keep up with and  eliminate the need to dig into your pockets to search for the ticket every time you go to your seat!
  10.  Bring a light-weight lawn chair.  If you are a GA (general admission) ticket holder you will be allowed to sit anywhere there a lawn space availble.  It’s a great option since you can always get up move to another Turn when you get tired of the one you’ve been watching.
  11. A backpack or a crossbody bag that will hold everyone’s things is better than bringing many small bags and purses.  All bags will be searched so having just one bag will help at entry also.
This gentleman is there every year! Look for him!

What Should I Leave At Home?

  1. Purses that are heavy or too fancy
  2.  Large umbrellas are not allowed in the Grandstands because they obstruct the view of those behind you.  See #3 above.
  3. Shoes with heels or platform shoes.  Although they are fashionable, they are not functional for this event.  See #2 above.
  4. Bags filled with snack foods or drinks are NOT allowed inside the facitily.  You will be asked to leave them at the gate or to return them to your vehicle (I promise you will not want to have to do that).  The only drink allowed is water.  See # 1 above.
  5. Ice chests are also not allowed.  🏁See TIPS below.
The COTA Tower

Other TIPS?

  1. Consider leaving an ice chest filled with ice, drinks and snacks in your car.  Based on where you are parked you can take a shuttle back to your vehicle for a lunch break.
  2. Food prices range anywhere from $8 to $15.  Drinks range from $5 (soda) to $16 (alchoholic)
  3. Many people make most of their souvenier purchases on Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday open to just view the qualifying races and enjoy the activities.
  4. Be sure to pick up a daily event schedule at the Guest Services tent near the gates.  This will help you plan out your day’s events.
  5. Autograph sessions fill up FAST!  Be sure to get in line early if you want an autograph from your favorite driver.
  6. The big concerts–Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake will be on the Big Stage.  Unless you have a specific ticket all others will be on a first come first serve basis.  Be sure to get in line early.

Thanks Are In Order

16 days

….the number of days we’ve enjoyed traveling to and within Canada.  We have seen and experienced so many wonderful sights, foods, and people!  Everyone in this beautiful part of the world has been a joy to be with as we shared new experiences together.

We owe a huge thank you to our wonderful hosts Shiela and Chris from Ancaster, Ontario.  They were fantastic travel partners and proudly shared so many stories about their country.

We’d also like to thank @Amtrak whose staff and trains (#TexasEagle, #LakeShoreLimited, #MapleLeaf) got us across six States, into Canada and back–safe and sound.  We are already planning our next adventure with @Amtrak

A few pics of our adventure!

The Places

The Train and Stations

The Sights

The Flowers

And the Food…oh, the Food!

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Coming from the great State of Texas, we don’t often see a lot of rainfall.  Sure we get our “bad days” of rain, but overall, it isn’t too bad.

For two Texas girls coming to Niagara Falls was an eye-opener.  Neither of us has ever seen so much water in one place (even the ocean is calmer and quieter).  Immediately, we were drenched in water coming at us from what seemed every direction!  I had expected to get my feet wet due to water along the White Water Boardwalk, but we also had what others were calling “mist” coming down on our heads!  Sorry but for these 2 Texas girls, what you call “mist” is actually a good rain!

After donning our rain ponchos and getting ourselves on track, we headed for the White Water Boardwalk. Apparently, this is a fairly new area and it took us right down to the rushing water.  The colors of the water and the movements of the water were almost mesmerizing.  It was difficult getting our heads around this massive amount of water constantly moving and dancing over the rocks.  I now fully understant why this is one of the great wonders of the world.

The other strange feeling came when we began to realize that the tiny-looking people on the other side of the gorge were standing on US grounds while we remained on Canadian grounds.  It’s hard to imagine that we would not want to both share in the beauty that is Niagara Falls.

The grounds surrounding Niagara Falls are just as stunning as the water.  Beautiful, grand flowers and lawns everywhere you look.  Michelle and I had to force ourselves away from the many varieties of flowers and plants.  So beautiful!

Other sights in and around Niagara Falls, Ontario

Toronto-The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

On our final day in Toronto we spent 4 full hours inside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).  Why?–you ask.  Well, that is exactly how much time it takes to see 4 levels of historic and archealogical pieces.  We never even made it to the 5 floor level…it just got too late!

We started out at the Blue Whale Story exhibit featuring one full size blue whale.  This was one of 9 whales that had died and landed onshore the coast of Newfoundland after being trapped in ice and unable to get back out to sea.  Seven of the other blue whales sank to the bottom of the ocean, but surprisinly 2 ended up on the coast.

The ROM asked permission to preserve the bones and some other parts of the whales for an exhibition.  The Blue Whale is one of the gentlest and largest whales in the sea.  The ROM hoped to be able to share all the technical details of this enchanting mammal of the sea.  The exhibit was one of the most touching for a creature of this size.  Even the baleen was restored and shown on the skeletal remains.  Seeing this exhibit was well worth the extra time.

The second level was filled with antique clothing, and everyday tools used by the native peoples of Canada.  The colors used in the clothing were bright and all the tools were incredibly functional.   This level also included large exhibits of dinosaur skeletons and many of the animals and birds of North America.

The second level also included a Gem and Minerals exhibit that was one of the most stunning collections of gems I’ve ever seen.  Words cannot express the beauty and the colors shining brightly under the lights of the room holding these valuable gems.  The room was the only one that had only one entrance, many cameras overhead as well as all along the walls and a security guard.  Probably a good move on their part.

The third level exhibits included relics and items belonging to British Empire, German Empire, Italian Empire and the Asian Empire.  We couldnt resist stopping to read about every item we saw.  It was filled with information that provided the reader with a complete story of the history of Canada.

On the fourth level we found sculptures that had been preserved, saved, and some even pieced back together.  Many of them were full and complete bodies, while others were simply the heads.  All were life size and I found myself standing directily in front of the faces, actually able to visualize what they may have looked like in real life.  The details were incredibly distinct and added life to each sculpture.

The Royal Ontario Museum should be on your bucket list if it isn’t on there already.


Toronto Ripley’s Aquarium Visit

Toronto’s Roger Centre is filled with things to see and do.  These include the CN Tower, Roger Centere, and Ripley’s Aquarium.  We’ve always been fans of Ripley’s Aquarium and have visited the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC at least twice, so we decided this would be the place to start.  Plus, this would give me a chance to really test out my photography with my iPhone 7Plus.  In case you didn’t know, I have challenged myself to taking all my photos with only an iPhone 7Plus camera.  So far, I’ve been pleased although sometimes I’ve regretted forgetting my tripod at home.  


The Toronto Ripley’s Aquarium is considerably larger and has many more features than the Myrtle Beach location.  Firstly, the underwater moving sidewalk area is extensive, has at least 4-5 large sharks, a massive sea turtle, and is teeming with a great variety of fish.

For the kids, this aquarium has some really fun tubes that take kids (and adults) through spaces that can be viewed by other people, making it look as if kids are inside the water with the fish!  The underwater viewing includes an underwater submarine where kids suddenly pop up unexpectedly and it appears they are in the sub under the water exhibit!  Fun!

This aquarium includes a large jellyfish exhibit featuring unusual jellies and lots of bright color changes.

Of course, all the other typical creatures from the sea are included in the exhibits, but the one that caught everyones attention was the gigantic octopus exhibit.  The creature was immense–and honestly, really creepy! 

We loved this aquarium and I recommend you visit the next time you find yourself in Toronto!



Goodbye! Montreal–Hello! Toronto

It almost hurts to say goodbye to this lovely city.  Montreal has introduced us to friendly people, delicious foods, breathtaking sights, and plenty of cultural experiences.  We will miss you Montreal…thank you for the wonderful memories!

Sadly, it is time for us to continue on our journey.  We leave our lovely hotel, have our last espresso, and get on the cab to our next train!

Prior to leaving Montreal, we stopped for dinner at a place which reminded us so much of HOME!

Back at the Montreal Union Station, we find the line for boarding–luckily only a short wait.  The train to Toronto is of significantly better quality than our previous VIA Rail train, but still a bit lacking compared to Amtrak in the US.  The seats on this train were reveresed so I was forced to sit facing the opposite direction as we traveled.  This always makes me a bit dizzy so I had to keep the curtain closed most of the ride.  This explains the lack of pictures of the countryside.

Toronto is immensly different from Montreal.  It is a typical big city with its tall, shiny buildings, lots of traffic, lights, billboards, and your everyday big city stores.  We checked into our hotel The One King West Hotel, settled in and headed out to see some of the tourist sights nearby.

Downtown Toronto, Ontario

And Our Next Amazing Visit…


Today we went to The St. Joseph’s Oratory at the top of Mount Royal in Montreal.  This place is truly a Holy place.  It began as a tiny chapel (an oratory), built by Brother Andre, to honor St. Joseph.
Brother Andre was a simple and humble man.  He always had a deep devotion to St. Joseph and hoped at one time to become a priest.  He was never able to fulfill his dream of becoming a priest (mostly due to his lack of formal education); however, the bishops recognized  Brother Andre’s love for God and his devotion to St. Joseph.   They assigned him to be the Porter ( the person who opens the doors to visitors and keeps the tiny chapel clean) at the Oratory in 1904.

While working as the Porter in this tiny chapel, Brother Andre began welcoming people who came to him in need due to sickness, disabilities, and any other serious ailments.  The people would struggle to walk up while hanging on to crutches or canes.   Brother Andre would care for any and all of these people in his room which was located directly above the church altar.  Since part of his work was to empty and refill the oils from the candles, he would use the oil to rub on the sores, cuts, or bones of his patients.  Of course, he would continually pray fervently to Jesus through St. Joseph for the healing of the person in need.   He had a tiny window in the room which allowed him a clear view of the altar where he would pray all night while he took care of the person, or sometimes more than one person who was ill.  Many of the people were cured of their ailments and/or disabilities and left their canes and crutches in the church.

Word of Brother Andre’s humility and love for this tiny chapel began to spread.  Soon, in 1908 began a succession of enlargements to the Oratory, which would soon be referred to as a Basilica.  These improvements and enlargements continued for many years until its official opening in 1956.  Brother Andre never saw the completion of the Basilica, as he died January 6, 1937.  By then Brother Andre was loved by people all over the world.  For 6 days and nights, over 1 million people moved past his open coffin.  The canonization of Brother Andre occurred on October 17, 2010, Brother Andre was officially canonized as St. Andre Bessette, Canada’s first Saint.

Click HERE to see a timeline of Brother Andre and the St. Joseph’s Oratory

Flowers, Food, Fountains, And More!

Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in a long time.  It is filled with history, culture, the French language, and its people!
The buildings are centuries old and many have been restored to their full beauty.  There are arches, large stone work, stone carvings, and fountains…many, many fountains!
W spent days walking along the narrow cobblestone streets and just looking up at the walls, gardens, and the simple stairways which were found leading to small apartments on third and fourth level buildings.  Of course, many of the little patios belonging to the people in those apartments are filled with gorgeous, colorful flowers.
The restaurants are all small, cozy, and filled with music and friendly staff!  The food is incredibly rich…seems the French eat lots of cheese, meats, and bread.  Fruit bowls and salads are usually never seen on the menu!  I do believe I’m going to have to double up on my workouts as soon as I return home!
Many of the locals ride bicycles in Montreal.  I’m convinced that all those riders are professional bicyclists and if they have not already entered… SHOULD  be entering the Tour de France.  If they can get across town alive, in all that traffic, they deserve an automatic entry into the race!  Wow!
You will see bicycles parked everywhere you go.  No one seems to bother locking down the bikes–just park them and leave them seems to be the policy.
One thing we were surprised to see in Montreal is phone booths.  They are everywhere!  I rarely see pay phones where I live, much less full phone booths!
Other sights seen along the way…



Like Heaven on Earth

 Our first night in Montreal was spent in an amazing restaurant named after the Robin family.  It was rightly named Robin Square and is owned and completely operated by the family.  Mama, as she is lovingly referred to bakes all the bread;
the older brother is the chef; little sister is the highly animated waitress and biggest promoter of this establishment!  The food was astonishingly delicious!   Big Brother Chef has created every meal himself using interesting spices and presentations including smoked pork belly, calamari, risotto, and a unique version of adult mac and cheese using unusual spices.  The line outside led you to know that this is definitely the place to be for an unforgettable meal.
After our meal, we returned to the Place de Armes square directly across from our hotel, located directly next to the Norte Dame basilica.  The Square was filled with music, people sitting, talking, enjoying the cool night air and the beautiful lights surrounding the Square.  The sounds from the fountain in the center of the square added to the peacefulness.
The next day we were finally able to enter this great edifice, and I have to admit, I was left speechless.  The basilica is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  People who worked on this magnificent church building included people who were volunteers wanting to help in its development.  There are wooden carvings everywhere you look.  On each end of the pews are carvings of the apostles, and a few are of Mary herself.  There are statues, stained glass depictions, and sculptures, and so much more you feel as if you have entered heaven on earth.
It is obvious that this is a work of love for Our Lady and one that will live on to speak to all who enter.
 I hope you enjoy the pictures, although they do not even come close to the magnificence you will experience when you are there in person…

Onward to Montreal, Quebec

We and a couple of our Canadian friends left for the station early and arrived in Montreal at about 4 pm.  The trip was smooth and somewhat uneventful.
I have to say that VIA Rail was not as I expected.  For some reason, I expected a much more luxurious experience.  Instead, the train appeared to be quite worn and small.  Amtrak has nothing to worry about…it is significantly more spacious, comfortable, and higher quality than the VIA Rail line (sorry VIA Rail–just keeping it real!)
The Montreal Union Station was a pleasant surprise!  The station is large, clean, modern, and filled with shops, eateries, and large, clearly marked boarding and departing screens.

We took a cab from the station to the hotel and it gave us a chance to see a bit of the city.  We were amazed at the narrow streets winding in between towering buildings.  The traffic was significant as were the crowds along the streets.

Many of the restaurants had outdoor patio areas, but these patios were placed in between parked cars along one lane of traffic!  Needless to say, we didn’t choose to eat in any of those patio areas!
When I began searching for a hotel to stay in while we were in Montreal, I opted to go through  They offered better deals in hotel accommodations and most of the reservations offered a free cancellation policy.  Since I booked all our reservations about 4-5 months in advance, this was a non-negotiable feature.  I’ve heard stories about people whose plans were forcibly changed due to unforeseen reasons and they had lost the money they had put aside on the hotel reservation.  I didn’t want to risk that happening.  So the free cancellation policy was a definite must-have for me!
Old Montreal is the area you want to be in when visiting this beautiful city, so we selected a hotel that was right in the middle of it all.
Of course, there are many hotels in Montreal, but if you visit, you might do well to consider The Place De Armes Hotel.  It is one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, but the interior is modern and filled with everything you would expect from a 5-star hotel.  They offer a free breakfast every morning, and each afternoon there were 2 room service attendants who would bring us 2 bottles of water and 2 small Lindt chocolate candies.  Our room had a very comfortable king-size bed and the pillows were soft and luxurious.  The bathroom decor was done in black and white with marble floors and counter tops.  There was a huge jacuzzi tub which made us think twice about whether to go sightseeing or just take turns sitting in the jacuzzi tub all afternoon!    The hotel employees were incredibly friendly and helpful.  They were kind enough to teach me a few phrases in French every day as we walked out the door on our sightseeing adventures.
The Place De Armes is situated right next to the Norte Dame Basilica (amazing photos coming tomorrow!).  During the day, you can hear the church bells ring as special events are occurring in the church itself.  This turned out to be the ideal location for us.  Everything was within walking distance, except for the St. Joseph’s Oratory, which is about a 45-minute walk uphill—we chose to take a cab when we visited this site (more about this Holy place soon)!
 Other sights along the way…