Travel Diary: Day 4 Camino de Santiago
After a glorious night sleep we got up early to head to the next town for breakfast since it wasn't provided by the hostel we were staying at. I am the hungriest human, especially in the morning so I had a quick snack of fruit before we headed out. (You do not want to cross me when I am hangry!) The day was a little rainy but we had our pack covers and rain gear so it wasn't too bad. I would definitely suggest to anyone walking the Camino to be prepared for all weather. Our first stop of the day was at the cafe that was recommended to us by both the hostel and our guidebook. It was quiet in the morning and we ordered delicious cappuccinos and pastries. Everything was delicious but I knew I would be hungry again soon so I ordered a bun to go for a snack along the way. (I was seriously getting hungrier every day we did the Camino.)
It was a beautiful, quiet and cool walk that day. The rain held off till the end of the day but the temperature had definitely dropped. We stopped for our second breakfast, the bun and an an apple we had taken from the hostel. Another stop was made a bit further for a pee break (sometimes there weren't enough bushes around,) so we had some delicious Portuguese juice as well. We arrived our hotel nice and early as the walk was short that day, only 14.2km. We stayed at the Hotel Imperio do Norte and was very happy with it. It was a simple room with single beds but it was clean and quiet. We got lucky that our room was ready so early because when we arrived it began to pour.
Sadly we didn't get to explore the town of Ponte de Lima much as the rain did not let us all day. However, in a way it was a blessing because we were forced to take it easy. We took it as a sign to take a break and recuperate for the rest of our journey. The town looked beautiful and it is said to be the oldest town in Portugal. We did venture out to get lunch, because of course we were starving. We found a cute little cafe and had simple sandwiches before finding a fruit store and bakery (my two favourite things while I'm in Europe!)
After lunch we napped, stretched and did some laundry. I loved my book I bought for the Camino. I had originally brought a large book to London, however, I was not very into it. So when we were in the Vancouver airport I picked up something different and small (key since I would be carrying it along the way!) The book was Finding Gobi and it was such an inspirational story it was perfect for the Camino. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a wonderful true story and who loves dogs! Funnily enough my mum finished her book while she was sick on the first day so we ended up sharing the book between the two of us.
That night we had a pilgrims meal next door to our hotel. It was delicious and very cheap, only 9 euros. It was amazing the amount of food you got when you had the pilgrim meal, anywhere we went! This meal included delicious cabbage soup, a specialty in Portugal, bread, salad, rice, meat of your choice, dessert and tea and coffee. Of course I was very happy when the dessert came and it was Pastal de Nata, a Portuguese tart with custard in the centre. I ate as many as I could get my hands on while we walked through Portugal. We had an early night because our next day of the journey was going to very tough! Stay tuned for Day 5...
Travel Diary: Day 3 Camino de Santiago
We left Barcelos early to beat the heat! My mum was feeling way better and it was great to get back out walking again. She wasn't at 100 percent but she gave it her all. I know she was frustrated with having to take breaks along the way but we had to remind each other it was all about the journey, not how fast we go. That was our motto really for the rest of the trip so we enjoyed our stops at little cafes on the way and were able to enjoy the towns we walked through more.
Our first stop was at a great cafe where I had freshly squeezed orange juice. Nothing beats it! My mum opted for a fruit popsicle and a sprite and yes it was before 10am. However, she justified it because her body needed the sugar and the popsicle helped her cool off. It was important for us to stop lots today and we brought lots of fruit to have along the way too. Next stop along the way was a buzzing cafe that was packed but we were glad we stopped. The food was delicious and we were able to get out of a downpour by sitting down for a long while. There were lots of other pilgrims taking a break there as well. We found it so nice running into the same people while walking each day, a familiar face in a not so familiar place.
We finally arrived at our destination after a long day of walking. We walked roughly 22km from Barcelos to Vitorino de Piaes, a very small 'town' in the countryside. The maps and markers along the way say different distances which is always confusing when you are trying to find your next destination! This 'town,' (if you can call it that,) had about 100 people living in it, which was very obvious. However, I loved staying in the small towns throughout Portugal and although this hostel was quite basic it was one of my favourite stops along our Camino.
The hostel we stayed in was a converted stable. Each room had a bed, a toilet and a shower but it was very basic. There was no door to the bathroom, just a wall dividing the two! We had the option to either go buy our dinner at the grocery store or have it made for us. My mum and I jumped at the opportunity to have dinner made for us, there was no way we were walking any longer that day! Every day when we arrived at our hostel or hotel I would be so hungry and today was no different. The dinner was simple but absolutely delicious. We had salad, bread, pasta and fruit. They also provided us with olive oil and white wine that was made on their farm. Everything was perfect! We ate all together, family style, and were the only Canadians at the table. The rest of the people were German, or two Brazilians and a Swiss German. It was fun to meet people and ask them why they were walking the Camino and getting to know their stories.
We had a very early night as it got dark quite early and we were beat. After a long sleep we headed out early to get breakfast in a cafe in the next town. Stay tuned for the next day of our journey!
Travel Diary: Day 2 Camino de Santiago
Sadly we didn't get to walk today. My mum was too weak to walk the 15 km to Barcelos. Luckily our hotel was very understanding and ordered us a taxi to the next town. This way my mum was able to rest for the day and get her strength back for the next day of walking. It was nice to be forced to relax in our hotel all day. We were able to catch up with friends and family on decent wifi (not always easy to find,) and do some laundry, We stayed at a hostel called Barcelos Way Guest House, which had both private and dorm style rooms. We stayed in a private room with private bath and it was great. Simple and clean, just what we needed for the day.
Barcelos was a beautiful town divided by a river with Barcelinhos on one side and Barcelos on the other. We stayed across the river on the Barcelinhos side, which is a bit smaller with less around but we still liked it. When my mum was feeling a bit better we ventured across the bridge to check the town out. It was a short walk because of the heat but we went back a second time to find a restaurant for the night. The town was cute, pretty small in size with lots of hills. The architecture was beautiful and there were wonderful gardens by the cathedral in the town.
As you can tell from the photos of the rooster, this bird is very important to this town. The legend of the rooster tells the story of a dead rooster's intervention in proving the innocence of a man who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. According to the legend silver had been stolen from a landowner and the inhabitants of the town were looking for the criminal. One day a man from neighbouring Galicia turned up and became suspect despite his pleas of innocence. The Galician said he was passing through on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (like us.) However, this did not matter and the authorities arrested him and condemned him to hang. The man asked to be taken to the judge who condemned him, the authorities agreed and brought him to the judge's house. The judge was having a a banquet for his friends and the accused man exclaimed that he was innocent. He stated that "I am innocent as it is certain that this rooster will crow when they hang me," while pointing at a cooked rooster on the banquet table. The judge decided to not eat the rooster, however, he kept his judgement and sent the man to be hanged. As the pilgrim was being hanged, the rooster stood up on the table and crowed, just as the pilgrim had said he would. The judge ran to the gallows in hopes to find the man still alive and luckily enough he was due to a poorly made knot in the rope. The man was immediately freed and sent off in peace.
Learning to be patient along our journey was difficult for me. I think that my mum getting sick was a wake up call that we didn't need to arrive in each town first, it was not a competition but the journey was the most important part of the Camino. That evening after a day of relaxation and writing, we ventured off to town for dinner in a restaurant that was suggested to us in our guide book. We waited for it to open as we were hungry, which was great news because my mum was finally getting her appetite back. We walked up the stairs that led to the restaurant that was an old house converted into a restaurant. When I saw old house, I mean old. It was such a funny experience, another one to add to the books. Our waiter did not speak a word of English and the menu was in Portuguese. We had a pilgrims meal which was three courses and in the end quite delicious. It was moments like those that I'll always remember from our trip.
It feels like an eternity ago I was walking through London enjoying the amazing sunshine. I've been back for almost two weeks now and I feel like I never left! How does this always happen when you go on holiday? We were so lucky to have the best weather in London because more often then not the weather is similar to Vancouver Island, grey and rainy. I picked the perfect day to take my mum into London to explore wherever we wanted and we did just that. Often I find when I visit a city I haven't been to in awhile I have an itinerary of where we need to go and what we need to do. This beautiful day was a balance of both and in the end just what I wanted. I didn't take as many photos as I would have hoped to but sometimes that's better. I know I document my life on here but sometimes it can be quite exhausting taking shot after shot of my outfit or my meal or where I'm traveling. So this is more of a compilation of photos me and my mum took during our day of adventuring in my favourite city in the world!
We began the day in the most perfect way (in my opinion,) at Topshop at Oxford Circus. It is the biggest in the world and what I think heaven would be like for me. They have a brow bar, a hair salon, a nail bar and even a cafe within it. It doesn't just carry Topshop items but vintage pieces and many other brands. It is a few floors and that can be intimidating to some but not for me. Luckily my mum knows about my addiction to shopping and she is the best perfect to go with because she gives her honest opinion. She also holds all my clothes as I walk around choosing the next piece. I bought some fabulous pink trousers, a midi dress, a pair of sandals and an amazing bag for summer. I'll be sharing all my new pieces with you all soon!
After an hour at Topshop (I set myself an alarm,) we walked over to the National Gallery. Every time I am in London I book tickets to see an art exhibition and I had booked tickets to see Monet's Architecture exhibit months ago. It was very busy, which is annoying but understandable. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and I'll share my favourite pieces on the blog soon! After we had immersed ourselves in some culture we headed to afternoon tea with my cousin Michelle. She booked us in at Fortnum & Mason and it was a treat! I share pictures last week of tea time, something I hope to do again next time I'm in London!
Once we were good and full and a little tipsy off of champagne we decided we needed to walk it off. What better way to do so than walking through some of London's gorgeous parks and gardens. It was a hot afternoon but that didn't stop us from walking around for over an hour. It was simply the perfect afternoon. It was so lovely not having to rush to do the next thing but instead talk and walk with my mum. I know we had done quite a bit of walking on this holiday already (245km for the Camino,) but we were happy to get out again. Coming from an Italian background the amount of food I consume when I'm in London visiting my family is insane. So we needed to take every chance we could for some exercise! Our final plans of the day was visiting my oldest friend, Andrea, for an Indian meal on Brick Lane. It was absolutely delicious! Afterwards we went for a walk around the Shoreditch area and it was so enjoyable looking at all the street art. Truly a day to remember!
Preparing for the Camino de Santiago
I have wanted to do this pilgrimage for a long time. I vaguely remember reading a book about it when I was younger and saying to myself that this was something I was going to do one day. Fast forward to my mum's 60th birthday last year and my 30th birthday this year and we are finally going! We are leaving May 17th for London for 3 nights to spend with my family. Then flying to Porto on May 21st before setting out on an 11 day walking trip through Portugal to Spain. We are planning to arrive in Santiago de Compostella on June 2 and staying 2 nights to enjoy the town before flying back to London for 4 nights. It will be a whirlwind of an adventure but I am counting the days till I am on the plane.
My mum and I have chosen to do the Camino Portuguese based on our short period of time we can take off from work. It is one of the shorter routes you can take and my mum has never been to Portugal so we thought it was the perfect opportunity. From Porto to Santiago it is roughly 240km. We will be walking with our packs on our backs for about 20ish (give or take) every day until we arrive in our destination. We are staying in a different town each night to break up the walk into a more manageable trip. My mum was a little apprehensive about the longer days so we have split them up, which is great because we can spend more time in each town.
We have been buying necessities for the trip for a few months now and I feel like we are feeling more and more ready. After booking all our accommodation and flights, it finally feels real! I am so excited to share this adventure on here with all of you. I won't be blogging while I am away, however, when I get back I will get to it. I can't wait to share how each day was for us and what each town was like. The foods we enjoyed, the places we saw and how amazing the overall walk was. I am not doing it for religious purposes, however, I feel like it will be a spiritual trip in its own right. Some of the roads and trails are ones that people have walked for thousands of years and just that alone is mystifying.
Below are some of the things we are packing with us. We are taking very minimal as we will be carrying it every day on our backs. It is suggested to not take more than 10% of your body weight, which will not be a lot for the two of us. Stay tuned for our adventure when we are back in June!
- 2x Pants
- 2x Merino tops (one long sleeve, one short sleeve)
- Hiking boots
- 2x Merino socks
- 2x sports bras
- 3x underwear
- Fleece pullover
- Walking poles
- Energy gummies (for emergency)
- First aid kit
- Charger (for phone and camera)
Snow Shoeing on Sasquatch Mountain
After last weekend's freak snow storm in Ucluelet and Tofino, I could not be happier to see some Spring temperatures around the corner. However, this past weekend, when we finally made it to Sasquatch mountain, the snow was a welcome sight. It was one of my good girlfriends bachelor(ette) party. If you're not familiar with a bachelor(ette) it's a combined bachelor and bachelorette party, really just a pre-party to the wedding. It was great fun! We were able to meet a lot of the people who we didn't know and will be at the wedding. We had girl time separate from the guys but all and all we spent most of our time all together. Emily and Shaun organized it wonderfully, we had three houses rented out and almost 30 people celebrating! We cooked all our meals, which is a feat for that many hungry mouths, but it worked!
As we arrived in the evening on Friday we didn't do much but have dinner and drinks (some sang karaoke.) Then Saturday morning I made waffles for everyone before we all split up to do our own things. Me and a couple girls decided a day of snow shoeing would be good fun and it was a nice day out too. We rented snow shoes and got ready to set out on our adventure. There ended up being a good group of us and we met up with a a few more people from the weekend too. We ended up doing over 7km in the end and walking for over 2.5 hours. Needless to say we were very tired, sweaty and hungry after that kind of hike. Snow shoeing is quite the workout! I'm glad we got to do some type of activity while we were up there. Hopefully the last weekend I see of snow until next winter!
Keep Portland Weird
This year I turned 30! I didn't react the way everyone always does, sad about how they're getting older, I wanted to celebrate! After we returned from Thailand we stayed in Victoria for 5 days and had a party with my friends to celebrate. Then Dave took me to Portland for 3 nights. It was the best birthday week any girl could have asked for. Both of us had never been to Portland and we both fell in love with the city. We were so lucky it was beautiful and sunny everyday we were there so it made all our activities that much more enjoyable. We stayed at a an Airbnb just outside of the city but close to a bus station it made it so easy to get around the city. The transit system is really well done in Portland with buses and trams throughout making it really easy to get from one place to another. I can't recommend visiting the city more!
We left Victoria on the ferry to Vancouver at 9am because we wanted to get a head start on our day. We drove to Portland which took us roughly 6ish hours. It was a long day and drive but worth it when we arrived. We got to our Airbnb, showered and got ready for our night of activities. First on the list was Afuri for dinner. It was the best ramen I have ever had! I had the Truffle Miso which is a mushroom ramen that had the best flavour. Dave went for a classic ramen and we shared some delicious appetizers to start. We had a Japanese eggplant skewer that was to die for that we tried recreating when we got home, was not as good obviously and their beet salad. Which was not only delicious but plated beautifully. I would definitely suggest making a reservation if you plan on eating there, it was very busy and we had to wait just under an hour. After dinner we went to a comedy club to see Brendan Schaub, which was hilarious. I think I cried a little bit I was laughing so hard. Then we headed home since we were still struggling with our jet lag and were a bit hungover from my party the night before.
On our second day we slept in! It was absolutely amazing. Although we had planned a lot of activities while in Portland we decided we needed to catch up on sleep and get back into a normal sleep pattern. After making breakfast at our Airbnb we headed into town on the bus. Our first stop was the Portland Art Museum where they had a special exhibit about animation. It was really amazing and I'll be sharing more about it on the blog next week! Instead of getting more transport we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and walk the city. We were in need of a quick pick me up so we went to Stumptown Coffee. The location was easy to find and the coffee shop had an awesome vibe to it. We decided to take ours for a walk across one of the many bridges in Portland to keep us warm. Then it was time to find Free People. I remember the first time I discovered Free People in Seattle when my mum and I went on a girls trip and I fell in love. The clothes are beautiful, unique and well made and I just had to go back when I found out there was one in Portland. I bought a few bits and pieces before Dave got bored and we moved on to a brew pub for our first taste of Portland beer. Deschutes Brewery was just across the street from Free People so we thought we would sit and try some beers out. We had a delicious tasting flight of 6 different beers before we decided to head out to find dinner that night. We had been suggested another great restaurant that I would highly recommend too, Mediterranean Exploration Company. We arrived relatively early for dinner because we were hungry but it was packed already and once again we did not have a reservation. So we put our names down and headed to another brewery to tide us over while we waited. Luckily we only waited for about 45 minutes and I'm glad we did because it was spectacular. It was some of the best food I have had in awhile with unique flavours and pairings and the drinks were amazing. Then it was back to our airbnb for an early start the next morning.
Our final day in Portland we decided to split up all the eating, drinking and shopping with some nature, especially since it was so sunny out. We drove to Multnomah Falls after Dave had done some research to do a hike there. It was a beautiful and large waterfall but sadly the trail was closed due to a forest fire. We talked to a very helpful parks guide and he told us to go and hike another set of falls. Taking his advice we headed back to the car and decided to take the Historic Columbia River Highway to see some breath taking views. We stopped at the Vista House where we had a great view of the Columbia River and almost blew away because it was so windy! Then we arrived at our destination and did a 3 mile hike to see the magnificent waterfalls. It was a beautiful hike and not too busy considering it was a holiday in the US. I'm glad we got to see a little bit more of Oregon and I would definitely like to do a road trip through the state one day.
After our hike we headed back into the city. Got showered and changed and headed back into downtown to do some final exploring. I had wanted to go to Voodoo Doughnuts at some point over the weekend. The first day we walked by the line up was way too long and Dave quickly decided there was no way we were going to stand in it. So I convinced him to go back the next day and luckily it was much shorter! Be prepared if it is a must do when you're visiting Portland because the lines can be quite long. However, those doughnuts were the best I have ever tasted and a line up is most definitely worth it! We each had one, which were huge by the way and we could have shared one between the two of us. But we had just did a big hike so who cares! I had the "Dirt" flavoured one, vanilla icing with Oreo pieces crumbled on top. Dave had one with different cereals on top. They were both delicious!
I absolutely loved Portland. I would highly recommend visiting the city! The people were friendly, there were so many great things to do and the food and drink were to die for! Come hungry because you will be leaving full. I can't wait for my next visit already!
A City that Never Stops, Bangkok
The next morning we hopped in a cab for a 2 hour journey to Bangkok, our last stop on our trip before returning home. Dave booked our hotel in Bangkok, which was amazing. We stayed at the Novotel Sukomvit and when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. Our room looked over the pool from 20 floors up and their was a restaurant and bar on the top of the hotel. It was a perfect and quiet spot to stay for our last three nights.
When we arrived we had a quick recharge, some coffees and pastries and we were on our way. I was eager to be in such a large city, my parents and Dave did not share this with me though. I tried to plan out what we wanted to see and do over the weekend since the city can be quite overwhelming. Our first stop was the Temple of the Golden Mount. We weren't sure how to get around at first so we took a taxi there. BAD IDEA!!! The traffic in Bangkok is like nothing I have ever experience and we quickly learned that. Finally we arrived at the temple and began the ascent of some 300 steps up. It was hot and sweaty but worth it for the view.
That night I wanted to find a birthday outfit at Topshop so we headed to one of the many malls that was close to our hotel. I had to be quick because no one felt the urge to join me in Topshop but I succeeded and bought myself a denim mini skirt and a long sleeve crop top. Next stop was dinner and we found a nice little Thai place on the same road as our hotel. It was simple but delicious and we were all starving so happy to eat! We retired back to our hotel and Dave and I decided to take advantage of the swimming pool that stays open late for a night time dip to cool off.
The next day we headed out early to visit Jim Thopmson's House, which had been suggested to us by numerous people. Sadly I have no photographs of our visit there because we weren't allowed to take any. The Jim Thompson House is a museum located in central Bangkok. The museum, which was originally Jim Thompson's house, displays Mr. Thompson's vast art collection. When we arrived we were able to look around the beautiful gardens that surround the house while we waited for our tour to begin. It was very interesting to learn about Jim Thompson as he disappeared without a trace in 1967. I would highly suggest making this stop a visit on your next travels to Bangkok.
Following Jim Thompson's house Dave and I headed to our cooking class, which I discussed on the blog last week. That evening both Dave and I were far too full to eat dinner so we headed to one of the largest malls in Bangkok MBK Centre where you could literally get anything you were looking for. While Dave shopped around and my parents had a bite to eat I got my nails done. I love painting my nails but when I'm travelling I always opt for gel polish so it will last upwards of two weeks (sometimes even longer.) Then we headed home and went for another night time swim at the pool. It really was the perfect way to cool off!
Our final day in Bangkok was spent at Chatachuk Weekend Market which I talked about on the blog last week too. It was definitely the highlight of Bangkok for me! After a long day of shopping and walking we had a lazy afternoon back in the hotel by the pool. Dave was determined to get a tan before we left, I however did not accomplish this. Our last night in Thailand we decided to make special. We went for a delicious meal at a more high end Thai restaurant where we ate our last Thai food; Baan Khanitha. I would definitely suggest it to anyone looking for a place to eat in Bangkok. My parents turned in and Dave and I decided to visit the bar on the roof of the hotel, Sky 20. It was such a nice way to end such a magical trip. We had amazing cocktails and talked about our favourite parts of the trip. The next day we flew out in the evening so we were able to fit breakfast and some pool time in. We ate at a little restaurant around the corner from our hotel called Fit's Sake and they had a really interesting menu with healthy options. I had my last smoothie bowl of the trip. I loved Bangkok. It was a crazy city that never stops moving but it was a really interesting experience and I'm glad I got to visit it. I would definitely go back!
Chatachuk Weekend Market
Our last weekend in Thailand was in Bangkok, which was lucky because we were able to visit the Chatachuk Weekend Market. I had done some research before our trip about places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do, especially in Bangkok and this was number 1 on my list. I refrained from shopping for most of our trip until we got to Bangkok because I knew this would be the place to get the most unique and fashionable pieces, and I was right! I planned our three days in Bangkok around this market, making sure we gave ourselves enough time to explore it as much as possible. Saying that though we didn't even begin to see everything in the market and we were there for over three hours!
Chatachuk Weekend Market is made up of over 15,000 stalls and over 200,000 people visit it weekly. The market is made up of 26 sections which make visiting it a little bit easier. The sections range from food stalls, art and antiques, fashion and housewares and so much more. It is located just outside the skytrain station so it is easy to get to but make sure you plan your day a bit before you go. The market stalls are both covered and open. You will go through alleyways of stalls inside before you come out to the open roads that divide the market up. This is both good and bad. It can get very hot, sweaty and stuffy inside the covered stalls so when you get outside it's nice to have some more room to move around. However, make sure you are wearing sunscreen because it can get very hot. Also make sure you bring water or at least keep hydrated by buying water at the stalls. I can't emphasize this enough. When we visited in January it was 34 degrees celsius with the humidity making it feel like 38/40. Needless to say it was a sweaty day.
As you can probably tell I am a bit of a planner. When I knew I would be spending half a day in the market I decided I would map out where I wanted to go and not go to make the most of my time. Again you probably realize how much I love clothes so that was my main goal, the fashion section and then of course the food section, because you need to eat and the food in Thailand is so great! So when we arrived, Dave and I split up from my parents and we made a meeting spot for a two hours later. It's hard to shop with a lot of people in a market like this so it was better to split up I thought. We saw so many amazing small artisan and designer spots in the fashion section I was in awe. I picked up two dresses and a t-shirt, that I will post soon on the blog! However, I wish I had picked up even more! Everything was so cheap and unique that you could never find something like that here. Dave did quite well too, picking up some great tees and shorts. We also walked through some of the houseware section which had beautiful home supplies, however, we thought it would be too hard to get them home.
Then came the second best part of the market, the food! My sister had told me I had to have the coconut ice cream while I was at the market and we came upon numerous stalls selling it. We found one with a short line so decided on that one. The coconut ice cream is served in half a coconut and then you can add whatever topping you like to it. There was chia seeds, peanuts, sweet beans, sticky rice and jellies. I decided I had to try them all since they were all included and I had delicious bites of everything! It was delicious and I'm so glad I tried it. After we finished the ice cream we scraped the bottom of the coconut and ate that too.
Overall the Chatachuk Weekend Market was probably my favourite part of Bangkok. It was like nowhere I had ever been to and a truly amazing experience. In saying that, it isn't for everyone. I think my mum enjoyed it but my dad did not as it was so hot and quite overwhelming with people. Come prepared, with water and sunscreen. Also I would suggest carrying a backpack so that you can put all your shopping in it instead of taking a plastic bag at each stall. I wore my backpack on my front the whole time though since there are pick pockets around and you have to be careful. Don't be afraid to barter too, however, if the prices are on the pieces they are most likely fixed. I can't recommend visiting it enough, one of the highlights of my trip for sure!
New Years in Chiang Mai
After a three hour drive from Chiang Rai we arrived at our next destination Chiang Mai. We stayed in Chiang Mai for three nights at the Pingnakorn hotel. It was tucked away off a main street down a couple alleys. It was a beautiful hotel and we really enjoyed our stay there. We arrived in the afternoon and all needed a rest after the long day. That evening we went out for dinner near the night market and did a little look around after dinner. It was an early night though because we were going to see the elephants the next day! Check out my next travel post to read all about our experience at the Elephant Sanctuary, truly a dream come true.
After our long day with the elephants, we relaxed in the hotel before heading out for dinner and drinks to celebrate New Years Eve! It was so fun to be in a new city to celebrate the New Year, something completely different to what I've done in the past. We went for dinner at The Swan, which was a Burmese restaurant. The food and service was absolutely amazing and I would definitely recommend it if anyone is heading to Chiang Mai. As we left the restaurant all along the river people were sending off lanterns, a tradition they do every year to bring them good wishes in the New Year. My mum decided we had to do it and so each couple got a lantern and we set them off. Out of the three, two made it into the air, which isn't so bad for our first attempt, right? We all made our wishes and then headed out to meet Phil and Teresa's friends for drinks and to watch the countdown.
On New Years Day we were all feeling quite tired after a night out but my parents and I had a walking tour planned so we went for it. My sister, her husband and Dave decided to kick their hangovers with ziplining (definitely not my cup of tea.) We visited three beautiful temples, which were all unique. The first was extremely busy and we wandered around the aisles while people prayed in the centre. It is awe-inspiring the workmanship that has gone into these temples. Next stop was a much smaller but equally beautiful temple made of teak. This was something I had never seen before and it was really lovely to walk around the gardens surrounding it. The final temple we visited was where the oldest temple in Chiang Rai once stood and is now in ruins. This one we did have to pay for and they were quite strict on what you were wearing to enter the grounds, so be prepared. We decided it was starting to get a little too hot for us and we were tired so we headed to the mall for some lunch. I had been looking for smoothie bowls for some time and I found a really good place that did them there. Afterwards we relaxed, went out for dinner and got our shopping in one last time! The next day we had a long drive ahead of us to Sukothai, which I will be posting about soon!
We arrived in the city of Chiang Rai just in time for the 14th Chiang Rai Flower Festival. The evening of December 28th was the start of the festival and after filling up on typical Northern Thai food we walked it off throughout the Suan Tung and Khom park. The park which was originally the sight of a prison has now been turned into a beautiful flower garden where people can come and relax and look at the beautiful blooms.
The colder climate of Northern Thailand and Chiang Rai is the perfect place to host a flower festival like this one. People can come to enjoy the tulips and lilies and many other buds that are in full bloom this year. There are so many varieties of flowers and a wide range of colours you won't know where to look. You can visit the park during the day or at night, we chose to do both so we wouldn't miss any of it and I'm glad we did. At night it was lit up with lanterns and fairy lights, which gave the park a completely different feel to what it was like during the day.
My favourite part of the whole festival had to be the tunnel of orchids you were invited to walk under. Although you had to fight through a bit of a crowd, with a lot of selfie sticks, you couldn't help but enjoy being outside with nature surrounding you. Make sure to stop by the market stalls outside of the park with local foods and goods for sale, as well there are musical performances throughout the festival. The festival is still on until mid February so if you find yourself in Chiang Rai soon be sure to stop by, if not plan it for your next trip!
Exploring: Chiang Rai
After our Christmas celebrations in Pattaya at my sister's house we flew up to Northern Thailand to Chiang Rai for a few nights. We wanted to take our 3 and a half weeks away to really see Thailand and the north was a part all of us wanted to see. Chiang Rai was a beautiful, smaller city which we enjoyed walking around and exploring. We arrived in the afternoon and relaxed in our beautiful hotel, Nak Nakara before venturing out for the evening. Our first night we went to the night bazaar, which we wandered around before we all got hungry. Then we headed to a family style restaurant that was very casual with delicious food, Phu Lae. I had read about it in Lonely Planet and I'm glad we managed to make it there, it was nice to experience a restaurant frequented more by locals. Next was the flower festival. As it opened the first evening we arrived we had a walk around before heading home. You can read all about it in my next post!
The next day we visited the flower festival during the day as well as the morning market. We walked around the city, exploring the temples and people watching. It was a very walkable city and it was never too hot. The temple we visited was the Emerald Temple, a definite spot to stop in Chiang Rai. The walls were this translucent green that was incredible. The grounds of the temple was surrounded by smaller temples and a very interesting museum. We spent quite some time there before heading on our way to see more of the city. After a relaxing afternoon I woke Dave and my mum up to get to the night bazaar before it opened. I know this sounds weird but we had to make it in time for a delicious dessert. The night before we walked by a massive line of people waiting for this woman to make them their treats and I wasn't sure what it was but I decided I had to try it (I was so glad I did!) It was a cup of coloured sticky rice balls in warm coconut milk topped with your choice of topping. Dave, my mum and I decided to try two different flavours, one with coconut and sesame on top which had a salty flavour and the other with dried fruit on top which was sweeter. Both were equally delicious and I could not recommend it more! We got there at 5:45pm and there was already a line, the perfect pre-dinner snack if you ask me!
Our last morning we had breakfast at the hotel and headed out to the Hilltribe Museum (just Dave, my mum and I.) Everyone else wanted to relax but we wanted to learn about the different people of Northern Thailand. It was very interesting and I would definitely suggest visiting it. Sadly I wasn't allowed to take any photos. Then we were off to drive to Chiang Mai, our next stop, about 3 hours away. On our way out of town though we decided we had to make a stop at the White Temple.
This contemporary, unconventional and privately owned temple is more of an art exhibit rather than your typical temple. It was made in the style of a Buddhist temple by a contemporary artist from Chiang Rai who designed, constructed and opened it to visitors in 1997. It is an offering to the Buddha from the artist, in hopes for immortal life. The main building of the White Temple is surrounded by a small moat with a bridge you have to cross to enter the building. In front of the bridge are hundreds of hands that reach out and are to symbolize unrestrained desire. When you arrive at the building you take off your shoes to enter. Inside photographs are prohibited but there are murals on the walls. From pristine white like the outside of the temple the inside turns into dark, fiery colours with western figures and motifs on the wall. The moral of the murals is people are wicked and that is evident in the nuclear warfare and terrorist attacks on display.
I was very excited to see the White Temple, however, I have to admit I was sadly disappointed. It may have been due to the massive crowds everywhere. I guess because I had read and heard so much about it I thought it would be grander than it was. The best way I could describe it is to compare it to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in the Louvre, a little bit of a let down when you see if behind the massive amount of glass protecting it. I would suggest visiting the White Temple and looking at it from the outside, rather than purchasing a ticket and going in the swarms of tourists because the outside is beautifully made.
I would definitely recommend visiting Chiang Rai if you have a chance. The smaller size of it gives the city an authentic feel with more locals around rather than tourists. It is a bit cooler so be sure to pack some sweaters and pants, and bug spray!
A Weekend Away: Koh Chang Island
Our 4 days on Koh Chang island was equally relaxing and adventurous. After recovering from our jet lag in Pattaya we headed off on our first adventure, Koh Chang. Phil, our courageous driver took to the roads and got us to the ferry in under 4 hours. The ferry journey was quick, maybe 45 minutes, however, very different from any ferry I have ever been on. It was an adventure though and beautiful to see the island come into view. When we arrived we drove 20 minutes to our hotel, Gaja Puri and checked ourselves in. This part of our trip was our relaxation at a resort kind of time and it was just that. The resort was beautiful and on the ocean, check back this week to see more about it!
The next day we decided we should check out one of the waterfalls on the island. We decided to visit the largest, Khlong Phlu waterfall. It wasn't too far of a drive from our hotel, after paying the national park fee and parking we headed in. The walk isn't difficult and is quite short, just 15 minutes or so. If you don't mind swimming in really cold water, pack a towel and swimsuit to jump in. I did not do this, but everyone else did (except my dad too.) The waterfall cascades into a plunge pool which feeds into the river. We went earlier in the day because we had been told it gets quite busy later on, and that was very true. So if you want that beautiful photo aim to be there around 10am that way you can enjoy your walk, the view and a swim before heading back to relax for the afternoon like we did.
The next day we decided we wanted to see a different part of the island. Dave and I had read about a nature walk through the mangrove forests on Koh Chang. However, when we arrived we couldn't find this walkway and instead ended up taking a boat ride and I am glad we did. It was such a beautiful way to see another part of the island. There were three of us in each boat so we had to take two. We were able to see how the mangrove forest grows and how they drop their seeds into the water to grow new trees. We went all the way out to a lagoon where you could see a fishing village and where the lagoon opens out to the sea. Once we got back to the docks we decided on a fish filled lunch since it couldn't have been more fresh and it was delicious! Once again we headed back to our hotel to relax, swim and attempt at getting a sun tan.
After filling up on delicious Thai food most evenings we still managed to find space and head to our favourite food vendor for her roti pancakes. This was our new obsession and I still miss how good they were. Watching her was fascinating and entertaining as she often had a massive line behind her which made her work extremely quickly. You could have your roti stuffed with whatever you wanted from: mango, banana, pineapple, egg and milk with different flavoured syrup on top. A change from the usual crepe stands, the roti had a crispier taste to them and I am pretty sure we had one every single night we were on the island.
Our final day was spent snorkeling around the islands surrounding Koh Chang. Dave was very adamant about us going and my mum really wanted to join so the three of us headed out in the morning for a day on the boat. We decided it would be more fun to take a smaller speed boat, although I regretted it a little bit once we hit the open water and we were crashing against the waves. It was still a lot of fun though. We stopped at 5 spots throughout the day, 3 where we jumped straight off the boat into an area just for snorkeling and 2 where we went onto islands and snorkeled off the beach. We also were fed lunch in the middle of the day which helped us with our energy levels. I have to admit I am not much of a swimmer, I can do it just not confidently. So a few stops along the journey I opted to not get off the boat, whereas Dave was jumping off the second the boat stopped. Once I did get the courage to get in and put my head in it was truly amazing. So many colourful fish and sea urchins everywhere. I am really glad Dave forced my hand at it and made me try something new and adventurous.
Like most of our trip in Thailand I really enjoyed every minute of it but was also saddened by the garbage everywhere. From the floating plastic we saw on our tour of the mangrove to the polluted beaches my mum and I walked (and tried to clean up.) It seems like a real problem that I hope the country will realize soon and make an effort to clean it up. Or else the beautiful fish we saw, may not be there in years to come.
I loved our few days we had on Koh Chang and really enjoyed seeing the different places around the island. I would highly recommend visiting it and definitely staying a few days to soak it all in.
Staying at Gaja Puri, Koh Chang Island
Our first traveling experience in Thailand was at a rather beautiful and lush hotel on Koh Chang island. My sister was truly amazing and booked all our hotels except our last one and almost every night had a place in mind for dinner. It was like having our own travel planner right there on the holiday with us. I can't thank her enough because every single place we stayed was absolutely amazing, this one has to be number 1 though. She did warn us saying we were staying in the nicest at the beginning and she couldn't have been more right.
The location was great as it was right on a main drag so we had lots of restaurants, bars, spas and shopping pretty much at our doorstep. However, once you entered the resort it felt so secluded and far from the craziness of that road. We each had our own rooms which felt like our own mini villa. Breakfast was included so every morning we would wake up after a delightfully, peaceful snooze and saunter down to the breakfast room. The breakfast spread was delicious and always got us started on the right foot for our day. We often spent the morning exploring, coming back to the resort in the afternoon to lounge and lounge we did. There were two swimming pools on site, one adult and one kid friendly. We chose the adult to not be disturbed by children (sorry kids!) It was perfect, we would lay there soaking in the sun, reading our books, drinking tropical drinks and sometimes dipping into the pool (which was colder than I would have thought.)
Every evening after we got ready we would head to the beach where we witnessed some of the most glorious sunsets I have ever seen and I live in Ucluelet. There was a restaurant that looked over the beach so a few times we decided to have a pre-dinner drink to soak in the view. Overall our stay at Gaja Puri was magical and I would highly recommend anyone to stay there. If you are traveling in style (ie not in hostels) and can afford to splurge a bit, then splurge on this resort. Koh Chang island was a little island of paradise and I would say it is a must when you're visiting Thailand. Check out my post next week to see all of our adventures on the island!
Eating our way through Sattahip
My brother-in-law's Uncle lives in a town close to Pattaya called Sattahip. After we recovered from our jet lag we went to meet him and his wife and have a feast. We went to a small hotel that an Italian man (from Milano) and his wife own. They have a sort of hobby restaurant let's call it. He loves to cook (like my dad and me,) and so when there is someone who wants to eat, he will cook whatever you want. He made us plates of pasta, pizza, meats, salads and his wife made us Thai food to go along with it. Needless to say we were pretty full after the feast, however, they had to top it off with the most amazing homemade gelato. I love gelato and when I am in Italy I eat it every day if I have the option so when I tasted this I was so impressed and surprised by how good it was. We had it again for Christmas dessert, so I made sure I had plenty of space left to enjoy it.
After spending hours at the restaurant/hotel eating we decided it was time to adventure around the town. We were trying to find the beach but sadly did not succeed. However, we did come upon this beautiful little temple tucked away. It had the most magnificent view of the sea. We walked around enjoying the beautiful architecture and the bells that people sound as they walk by. The temple was surrounded by lots of animals, from roosters, to cats and dogs. My sister explained to me that often dogs and cats live around temples since Buddhists will feed them. It is always hard to come from a country where there are no strays, however, at least these animals are looked after somewhat.
The Sanctuary of Truth
While we were staying with my sister and her husband in Pattaya we visited the Sanctuary of Truth. It was my first time visiting a temple in Thailand and it was breath taking. It was very interesting to visit because you had to pay to get in, whereas almost all the other temples in Thailand are free of entry. Another interesting thing about it was that you were meant to wear hard hats while visiting the sanctuary, as it is still being constructed to this day. You will not see me wearing my hard hat in this post, I took it off for picture (it just didn't go well with my outfit let's say.) We were able to witness the carvings and sculptures being made by hand and carved out of wood, a truly amazing sight.
The Sanctuary of Truth is made completely of wood with sculptures based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. It reaches an enormous 105 metres high and is quite expansive in size. The building began in 1981 and is scheduled to be completed in 2050. The main style of the sanctuary is based on the Thai architecture of the Ayutthayan period. Richly decorated with hand carved sculptures drawn from various artistic traditions can be found throughout. There are tours offered so you can further understand the architecture and motifs. If you find yourself in Pattaya for a few days I would definitely suggest visiting it. Although it does cost to get in (not a lot though) it is worth it just to witness the artists at work and how they sketch first then begin carving. Be sure to dress respectively though, cover your shoulders and your knees.
Traveling to Pattaya
It has been 5 weeks since I last posted so here it is, finally! Thanks to everyone who followed along on my Instagram to see what I have been up to for a month and a half now. It has been a crazy whirlwind, from travelling to Thailand, Portland, Victoria, Vancouver and Mt. Washington. I am now back on the quiet west coast ready to share my stories with everyone, so follow along, there is going to be quite a bit!
So let's start from the beginning. Dave and I had 5 weeks of holidays so we left Ucluelet on Dec. 14th and got back yesterday. Our first holiday was Thailand where we visited my sister and her husband where they have been living since August, teaching in a city called Pattaya. After a very long 3 flights (Victoria-Vancouver-Taipei-Bangkok,) we finally arrived. My sister met us at the airport and although we were all very delusional from lack of sleep and the time difference we were all very excited to be reunited for the Christmas holidays.
We all piled into our rental SUV (7 seater) and Phil bravely took on the terrifying Thailand highways. Pattaya is about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok and is on the coast. This was our base for the holiday as we made the most of our 3 weeks and traveled all over Thailand. We dropped all our stuff off, washed the grossness of the plane off of us and decided to head out to see the city a bit.
First stop was Tree Tales, one of Teresa's favourite restaurants, soon to be one of mine too. The time difference was making us all ravenous but I was craving something a little healthier after all that plane food (I think I counted that we had 3 dinners in the course of 15 hours or something weird.) I opted for the smoothie bowl which was absolutely divine. My number one goal was to eat as much tropical fruit as humanly possible while I was in Thailand. This one came with passionfruit (one of my favourites,) mango, banana, coconut, granola, berries, yogurt and berry smoothie to finish it off. On the side I had the green juice which was filled with spinach, apple and cilantro (I think.) If you ever find yourself in Pattaya I highly recommend it! The second time we went (yes we had to go back,) Dave had a delicious Thai Iced Tea (my new favourite drink.)
We spent a lot of time relaxing at my sister's house, not only to catch up on sleep and get over the jet lag but as a home base where we could enjoy hanging out with these cuties. These are my new niece and nephew, Arnold (above) and Theo (below.) They're mum was a stray and my sister and her husband adopted them and have loved them ever since. I have never seen such gangly cats before, their ears are massive and they have such long legs but they are so sweet. Of course they act like kittens and go crazy at times but also love cuddles. It was really hard saying goodbye to these two. Another perk of my sister's house is the pool which was perfect for those very hot days, which we had numerous of.
We learned quickly, not only in Pattaya but also in other cities how easy and cheap it was to get around by Baht bus. You hop on the back and ride it out till your stop and pay 10 baht (40 cents.) We took this bus to do a little shopping in Pattaya one afternoon before Christmas so I could go to Topshop (of course.) It was also a great way of seeing the city, even if you were sweating profusely on it.
I learned quickly that one of my favourite snacks/drinks were cold coconuts. You could buy them all over the place on the side of the street and they would chop the top off and give you a straw, then off you went enjoying your to-go coconut.
My second favourite spot was Icing Me in Pattaya. A beautiful cafe close to my sister's house that we ventured to a couple mornings for their delicious pastries. My favourite was the almond croissant but there were so many to choose from. We decided on an assortment, ham and cheese, almond, chocolate and some danishes. Because everyone had to try at least one of each flvaour right? It was a quiet little cafe, the perfect spot to relax and enjoy, while also remaining cool on those hot days.
Pattaya was a really interesting city and I'm glad I got to see where my sister was working and living for the next couple of years. It also had it's problems as most of Thailand did, since they do not recycle there was a lot of garbage around. This is a problem that affects all of Thailand and hopefully there will be some sort of change as other countries take plastic consumption, recycling and cleaning up the oceans seriously. Only time will tell though. Stay tuned for my next blog post about the beautiful Sanctuary of Truth located in Pattaya.
A Day on the Island
Labour Day Weekend was the perfect end to summer for Dave and I. We had our last wedding of the season up island in Campbell River and I decided to turn it into a mini getaway. I haven't explored much of the Comox Valley before so I decided to ask one of my best friend's for some tips from her husband who's from the area. On our drive up to Campbell River we stopped in Courtenay to stretch our legs and walk around a bit. We had coffee and a quick lunch at Cardero Coffee & Tea Company, which was a nice and easy spot to find. We popped into a beautiful boutique called Rally Co. which was beautiful and a shop I could definitely spend all day in. If you ever find yourself in the Comox Valley make sure to stop there! Then we headed to Campbell River to get ready in our hotel before heading to the wedding.
The following day after a good and filling breakfast at the hotel we headed back to the Comox Valley, however, this time we decided to spend some time in Cumberland. The town was very quaint and cute and definitely up and coming. It has it's own brewery, which I wish we had the chance to go to but we were visiting in the morning, not the ideal time for a beer (for me at least!) Next time we visit we will definitely be stopping for a beer though! Across the street was the Farmer's Market, something I was very excited for (I love fresh produce!) It was a small but perfect farmer's market with lots of locally grown fruits and vegetables to choose from. I would definitely suggest going in the morning since the stalls do sell out quite quickly. We picked up lots of veggies to make salads for our lunches for the week and have been enjoying them every day! Next stop we popped into The Grind, a tiny little coffee shop with a giant menu to choose from. We both enjoyed our drinks sitting outside on the patio taking in the last summer heat.
Our final stop of the day was at Cameron Lake. Every time we drive to and from Tofino I always think it looks so pristine and perfect to swim in. So this time we made sure we had some time to stop and finally did! We put our swimsuits on and grabbed our towels and headed to the beach. It was the perfect temperature and we warmed up before heading in the water, which was surprisingly cold but also very refreshing. All and all the perfect end to a long weekend for Dave and I. We both went back to work and felt rested and ready to take on fall.
Otalith Music Festival
For the weekend of Aug 18th Ucluelet was taken over by music lovers from all around. Otalith Music Festival is the west coast's most intimate festival experience. The festival features an eclectic mix of people and music, from international, to national and even local bands performing over the three day festival. The aim of the festival is to promote tourism and community development through the arts and entertainment. If you have never been to the west coast of Vancouver Island, what better excuse to visit then to come to a unique and wondrous event that happens each year in the town I now call home.
The music began Thursday evening in Tofino at the Tofino Brewing Co from 6-930pm. However, our tickets were just the two day pass so we waited for the celebrations starting Friday evening. My two best friends, Abbey and Kristi, made the drive up from Victoria with Abbey's girlfriend Allie and joined Dave and I for the weekend. Friday night after getting ready for the festival in our best festival gear we headed to the venue (just a 10 minute walk away from our place or directly across the street from the campsites for the weekend.) The highlights of the evening were Kevin Morby and Twin Peaks and we listened on as the sun set and the stars began to shine. If you do decide to go to the festival next year, be warned that it cools off significantly in the evenings.
The next day Kristi and I had a lazy and quiet morning (trying to get over the little sleep and headaches we had.) We walked to the beach near our house and relaxed before getting ready to head back for the afternoon shows. The sun was shining and it was the perfect afternoon to relax on the grass and watch the shows. Carmanah, a band from Victoria, put on the best show that day (in my opinion). The lead singer, who also played the violin perfectly, had the crowds up and dancing at 5.45 in the afternoon. The great thing about this festival was the in and out access. So after the afternoon shows we were able to head home and make our own dinner and layer up for the evenings shows. When we headed back we heard Curtis Harding and Talib Kweli. Both of them put on an epic show to end a weekend of great music with great friends.
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was the festival fashion on display. Below you'll see my three favourite outfits of the weekend that I couldn't help but document. Thank you to the kind ladies for letting me take their photos, you all rocked on the fashion scene. Now as the summer is coming to an end, I'll have to wait for next year's festival fun.
Exploring Tofino: Botanical Gardens
A few weeks back now Dave's parents and my parents came to visit us for the long weekend. As both sets had already been to Tofino we wanted to show them something new. We settled on the Botanical Gardens just outside of the centre of Tofino. The Botanical Gardens is made up of different paths and boardwalks that take you from the cafe and gift shop to the community gardens, into the forest where pocket gardens, art installations and garden buildings can be found. With my dad leading the pack (he is not a slow walker) we began our trip through the maze of paths discovering numbers along the way marking the places to read about on our pamphlet/map. At one point we took a path down to the seaside which looked out on the small islands in the inlet of Tofino. Although it was a grey day we made the most of it and luckily there was no sign of rain. After we took in the gardens we stopped into Darwin's Cafe. We all decided on our signature warm drinks and sat around a large wooden table enjoying each others company. If you stop into the cafe and are feeling rather peckish they offer a wide variety of snacks and meals, which all looked quite delicious but we were saving ourselves for lunch at home. Next time you're in Tofino be sure to stop at the Botanical Gardens, a definite must for tourists and locals alike!
Exploring Tofino: The Bomber Trail
The Canso Plane Crash Hike is probably Tofino's most famous hike. I have been wanting to do it for awhile now and a few weeks ago we managed to make it out. The hike winds through the forest leading to a crash site of a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 that crashed shortly after takeoff in early 1945. The plane is located on the site of the hill where it crashed over 70 years ago. It is still fairly intact despite some damage it sustained from the crash. The trail to the site is located just south of Radar Hill. Since we went in late July the trail wasn't too muddy, however, there are some points you have to pass through that are quite tricky to get around the mud. So be prepared if you want to try the hike and wear appropriate footwear! The trail is pretty well marked by flagging and ropes but it is also quite easy to get lost so make sure you pay attention the whole walk. It took us roughly 45 minutes there and back with some time spent at the crash site taking photos. I highly recommend taking the time to do this hike, as it is quite something being able to see a crash site up close from so many years ago.
Exploring Ucluelet: The Sky Couch
Moving to a new town is always an adventure. With our first visitors of the summer season we finally made it up to the 'Sky Couch,' in Ucluelet. As one of the best-kept, 'locals only' secret sunset watching spots, we had heard of it a few times and knew where to climb, yet we hadn't had the chance yet. Finally we made the very quick but very steep and often muddy climb up. If you park close to the water tower at the top of one of the hills leading into Ucluelet, you head into the bush where there isn't a real path made but rather lots of people have walked through to make it noticeable. When you make it to the top, probably only 5-10 minutes climb up you are greeted by some very worn couches, a hammock and a view that will take your breath away. We didn't climb up for the sunset, but I can only imagine how amazing a sunset up there would be. We had fun taking some photos and taking it all in before heading back down. If you can find it, you should definitely make the trek up and enjoy the sunset in a sort of outdoor living room space with some friends or your loved one.
Exploring Tofino: Cox Bay Point
This past weekend was crazy busy with family and friends visiting, exploring Tofino and an interview (soon to come!) We had a great time but I feel like I have been catching up on chores, writing and sleep since the weekend and it's Wednesday. Sometimes you just have to slow down. Even though we didn't have the longest time to sit and enjoy the view, I'm glad I brought my cousin and her boyfriend on this little hike so they could enjoy it for themselves too. I love living here on the West Coast especially now that it's the summer and we have visitors to explore our beautiful town.
This hike is unmarked (there seems to be a pattern here.) However, it is well walked through and we saw many people on both the way up and down. It's a little tricky to find at first, but once you've found it you can go back over and over again. If you park at the parking lot on Maltby Rd that takes you to Cox Bay that's the closest point to the hike, however, if you are staying at one of the hotels you can go from any point on the beach. If you're facing the ocean the hike is on your left where Cox Bay ends and turns into a point. Once you reach the rocks they'll be a section that opens up and you can climb on up. From there just follow all the footprints, it gets muddy so be prepared. Keep on trekking up, it probably takes about 20 minutes up and you'll know when you've reached the top because of the amazing view. Take it all in and enjoy the view of the gorgeous coastline of Tofino before heading back down. Add it to your list of things to do next time you're on the West Coast, it's definitely worth it!
Discovering Tofino: Radar Beach
This past weekend we had our first of many visitors for summer. People warned me if we had a second bedroom it would never be empty and they were right! But I love it! It definitely makes it easier moving away from your hometown and a good excuse to really explore the new town you live in. We were lucky to have great weather for this hike Dave had been wanting to go on for some time so after a breakfast full of waffles we ventured out to find the path to Radar Beach.
This hike is not marked, as it isn't an official trail in the National Park. However, it is a trail that should not be missed if you're visiting the Tofino/Ucluelet area. Park at the Radar Hill parking lot and look for a clearing in the bush and a warning sign on a tree stating that the trail isn't part of the park and to be cautious. To be honest it sounded a lot more intense than it actually was. The climb down is a little bit harder since your'e maneuvering over and under trees and roots, however, as long as you keep your head down and you're wearing proper shoes it isn't too bad. I definitely suggest wearing hiking boots of some sort because when you come to the flatter part of the hike it is very muddy and there are a couple creeks you have to climb over/through. There are buoys along the way to mark the trail so don't worry about getting lost. Once you've finished the climb down, you come out to a beautiful beach.
Once we got to the beach we enjoyed climbing over the rocks and exploring the tide pools. We had the intention of going swimming, but that didn't happen in the end. We had a nice little snack on the beach before we headed back up. The climb back was a little bit more gruelling since you're going uphill and it was quite warm that day. There are ropes along the way to help you get over some of the harder spots, which were useful at times. All and all the hike wasn't too hard, it was a lot of fun and definitely worth it for the beautiful beach at the end. Of course there is a chance of encountering wildlife while hiking the trail so be prepared and cautious. Definitely give it a try next time you're in Tofino or Ucluelet, as it has both elements, the hike through the forest and stroll on the beach.
Favourite Walks on the West Coast: Rainforest Boardwalk
While my parents were visiting a few weeks ago we dragged them on a rainy day walk through the Rain Forest Trail. We thought it was a good idea to walk through the forest since we would be mostly sheltered by the trees, however, it was still a little wet, but worth it! The trail follows a wooden boardwalk through the forest where you are able to walk among some of the largest trees on the West Coast. You'll have to duck under a couple of large fallen trees that now give life to millions of different plants. After some time you will come to some steps which will take you deeper into the forest with more views of the never ending rain forest that surrounds this beautiful and wet West Coast. Take it all in and breathe in the fresh and clean air these grand trees give us. A definite must when you visit Tofino or Ucluelet, a nice and quick walk and a change of scenery from the beaches. Be careful in the summer months as this forest is home to wildlife and where both Dave and I have spotted bears in the past few weeks.
Must Try Hike: Mt. Ozzard, Ucluelet
My last day off was a beautiful and sunny day which doesn't always happen here on the West Coast. So Dave and I decided to take full advantage of the clear skies and hiked up Mt. Ozzard. The overall hike wasn't that difficult as it follows a gravel road all the way up. However, saying that it was a steep climb for just over 5 1/2 kms. I think it took us roughly 1.5 hours to get to the top with some water and view breaks along the way. The way down we realized just how steep it was after watching someone taking a bit of a tumble down. You definitely have to watch your footing on the gravel road but we got down in just under an hour. It was a great hike to do on a clear day because you were able to see views from all sides of the top. We were able to see the Broken Group Islands, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park all the way to Tofino. A definite must try hike if you find yourself visiting Ucluelet or Tofino, especially on a nice day. However, keep in mind that in the summer time there are berries along the road and you may come in contact with a bear so it's always important to be aware of your surroundings in the wilderness.
Come Fly with Me
While we were home last week Dave had his first ever flying lesson. I gave him the lesson for Christmas and he couldn't wait to use it. When we arrived we were offered a 45 minute tour of the flying club followed by a 45 minute flying lesson. Dave was asked to partake in checking the outside of the plane as well as the flight check before take off with his flying teacher. I relaxed in the back of the plane, a little cramped but well worth it for the views we were able to take in. When we first took off the wind took us a little up and down with some turbulence but when we got to the final flying altitude Dave took over and flew us over Prospect Lake to the Downtown Inner Harbour. The clouds blew over for a clear ride and we were able to pick out all the major sights and bays, even flying over my parents house in Oak Bay. We rounded back over the islands off the coast of Sidney to come back into the airport. Dave loved the experience and I would definitely suggest it for someone who wants to learn to fly or as a gift for a loved one!
On The Road: Tofino Edition
I've got some very exciting news, I will be moving up to Tofino/Ucluelet in a couple weeks to join Dave and had a great time exploring it as a tourist for the last time. We are lucky enough to be staying at the Pacific Sands Resort on Cox Bay in a gorgeous Beach House. From our windows you can see the crashing waves, the brave surfers and the dogs running up and down the beach. This part of the island is truly magical. While I was there I got to visit some of my favourite restaurants and shops. Here's my must do list for anyone thinking of going to Tofino anytime soon, or even to come up and visit us!
As Dave had a meeting as soon as we arrived in Tofino, I went and sat in my favourite coffee shop in Tofino, Rhino Coffee House. There I was able to catch up on some blog posts, emails and people watch, over a delicious salad and tea. After a few hours of working, I decided to enjoy the sunshine and walk around downtown Tofino. I went to some of my favourite shops, Habit Clothing & Apparel and Storm The Tofino Surf Shop. Finally I ended up sitting and reading and enjoying the sun until Dave picked me up to go to the hotel.
My second day in Tofino was met with over 50mm of rain and I decided to take advantage of the empty house by working out, writing and reading. It was nice and relaxing, but by the time Dave got home I was ready for our date night for Valentine's Day at Wolf In The Fog. Dave and I had both been to this restaurant once before and we were excited to try it out again. This time we opted for a few different appetizers to enjoy with our drinks, instead of getting a main. Our favourite appetizer was the Potato Crusted Oyster with apple slaw on the side. It was a wonderful dining experience with a romantic ambience, perfect for our second Valentine's together.
My final day was met once again by serious rains and wind and I stayed inside for most of the day. When you don't have rain pants there isn't much point of going out in that kind of weather, which I quickly learned later that day when Dave and I went for a walk and my legs were soaked afterwards. However, that being said, it was fun to get out in the storm and watch the massive waves rolling over one another. For our last dinner together we went to Kuma Tofino, which had been recommended to us. Kuma did not disappoint and the small restaurant had a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere about it. Dave and I shared the Spicy Edamame, followed by ramen. I chose the House Ramen and Dave had the Winter Ramen, which I had to try too, and I loved both. Next time you are in Tofino, definitely go to Kuma and warm up with a fresh bowl of noodle soup.
On the Road: Dublin Edition
This post is a few weeks delayed, but our trip to Dublin deserved more than one post (and this is definitely not the last!) Dave and I arrived jet lagged and zombie like the night before Christmas eve, which was perfect because we just lay low over the holidays before going into full tourist mode.
After exploring Blackrock, where Dave is from in South Dublin, and where the doors are beautifully painted, we visited the city centre of Dublin. I had already visited Dublin about three years ago, however, this time was different because I had a Dubliner show me around the best places. We took the train into the city and got off right at Trinity College. We walked through the grounds which were beautiful, stopping to take lots of photos along the way.
Next stop was Kaph, http://www.kaph.ie/ a specialty coffee and treat shop that I had researched and had to visit, which I was so glad I did. Located at 31 Drury St, it was easy to find and their line up told me what I had already decided, this was the place to be. It was a small coffee shop, with seating downstairs and upstairs, with delicious and organic coffees and treats. I had a Matcha Latte, which I was so excited about because not many coffee shops have them available, and Dave had a cappuccino. After warming up, we continued our tourist day.
We met up with one of my friends from Victoria who is going to Med school in Dublin and had lunch. After we parted ways, Dave took me along some of the main shopping streets, but always making sure to duck into the little alleys and lanes all over Dublin. Here I was able to take some photos of some unique street art and marvel at all the interesting and historic architecture throughout the city. Dublin is a small city, which makes it that much more enjoyable to visit with lively streets and friendly people, there's always something to do or somewhere to eat.
Must Try Hike: Glendalough
Nicknamed 'the valley of two lakes' for its beautiful scenery, rich and fascinating history, and even archaeological importance. Glendalough is a remarkable spot that you must visit if you're in Ireland. Only an hour outside of Dublin, Glendalough is easy to reach by car, or by tour bus. The monuments and lakes are accessible all year round. If you are feeling slightly more adventurous and in the mood for some exercise, I recommend doing the full loop, called The Spink, which took us roughly 2 1/2 hours, we were walking pretty quick though. This hike takes you up some pretty steep stairs at the beginning, then it follows the mountain ridge all the way around before descending into an old mine. Finally you finish the hike walking alongside the upper lake. Another option is to do the small walk around the lower lake that leads you to the old monastic city and cemetery. We chose to finish our day here and with the sun slowly setting, we were glad we did.
I didn't pack for any real exercise on this trip, I only packed a running shirt, pants and runner, but sadly I forgot my sports bra so runs were out the window for me! However, I'm really glad I didn't bring it because I was forced to take some time to myself (much needed) and slow down. Life moves way too quickly these days, and this hike was a real reminder of how you have to enjoy the little things in life. (Even if that meant sporting Dave's mums banana coloured fleece). Check out this hike and tourist attraction if you find yourself in Ireland, it was definitely a highlight of my trip.
On the Road: Whistler Edition
This past weekend, Dave and I went to Whistler to celebrate Christmas with his brother, sister in law and niece. It was a cold and wintery weekend but it made it feel that much more Christmasy. Dave and his brother spent the weekend snowboarding, while us girls had fun exploring delicious brunch destinations and shopping around.
Day 1: We arrived late Friday evening after a treacherous drive up. Once we got checked in and checked out our rooms at Glacier Lodge in Blackcomb we wandered to the Fairmont for a late night drink and snack. I had a delicious Milk & Honey, a drink that consisted of Absolut Vodka, Frangelico, Milk, Honey and Cinnamon, the perfect holiday drink to warm you up. We shared some truffle fries as we were feeling peckish after the long drive. Then we called it a night.
Day 2: The boys were up bright and early to ski, while I stayed in bed and enjoyed a rare sleep in. Next stop was brunch! We walked to the village and found Main St where we went to Crepe Montagne, http://crepemontagne.com/, an authentic French Creperie. It was the perfect brunch spot with very little line when we arrived, but became much more popular as it got later. We sat in a beautiful window seat with the kitchen behind us, a very intimate setting. I couldn't go to a Creperie without ordering a Crepe, so I chose the Nordique, a crepe that comes with 1 egg (sunny side up), cheese and tomato, which I then added asparagus and spinach to. It was absolutely delicious! After a lovely brunch, we walked around the Village, popping into the shops and looking around for Christmas gifts. After a much needed nap and relaxation time, Dave and I walked into the Village for some couple time. We stumbled upon a wonderful little wine bar, Basalt Wine + Salumeria, http://basaltwhistler.com/, which was exactly what we were looking for, somewhere intimate and cozy. Here we ordered drinks and olives to keep the hunger at bay. I ordered an amazing mulled wine and Dave ordered a hot buttered rum, both drinks kept us nice and warm for the walk to our next stop, 21 Steps Kitchen + Bar, http://www.21steps.ca/, for an early Christmas dinner.
Day 3: Once again the boys headed off to the mountain to get their last day of boarding in and us girls went for brunch again. We went to Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery at the Fairmont in Blackcomb for a quick and easy breakfast since Dani was going to join the boys midday for some boarding. I was on babysitting duty and Dave decided to join me so we adventured on with our niece back into the village. As she happily snoozed for 2+ hours we walked around, watching the snow fall and found my main attraction of the trip, Purebread, http://www.purebread.ca/. This bakery/cafe is a must when you visit Whistler and a first for me and I was so delighted to get the suggestion from a friend. Here Dave and I shared a salted caramel and dark chocolate square while warming up with a flat white and peppermint tea. We couldn't leave Whistler without purchasing some treats for the drive home and a loaf of bread for my dad.
Overall our early family Christmas trip to Whistler was a success! Nothing really gets you in the mood for Christmas and the holidays like snow falling. Looking forward to our next adventure, next week, when we're off to Ireland (lots of travel posts to follow!)
On the Road: Vancouver Edition
This past weekend I was in Vancouver for a Canucks game and managed to sneak in some good food and shopping in between visiting family. Here are my favourite spots from the weekend
Day 1: Dave and I arrived in Vancouver Friday night after work and had a relaxing evening with his brother and family. We had some much needed cuddles with his niece who is absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to see in Whistler for our next adventure together.
Day 2: After a relaxing morning of homemade pancakes, recipe to come. Dave and I head downtown to get some delicious eats and Christmas shopping in before the Canucks vs. Blackhawks game. First stop was Tacofino, 15 W Cordova St. I know we have one here in Victoria but we wanted Tacos and stopped by their 'Burrito Bar' in Gastown where we had a quick shrimp burrito to give us some energy for shopping. Next stop was Frank + Oak, 316 W Cordova St. The first Frank + Oak I had been to was in Calgary when I visited this past June. It was originally a Men's clothing store, however, now they're carrying casual and unique womenswear. I definitely recommend everyone to visit the Gastown location, which not only has both Men's and Women's collections but also a barber in the back of the shop as well as a juice bar. We rushed around downtown, ducking in and out of shops until we met up with one Dave's friends from Dublin for a drink. For dinner we headed to my favourite sushi restaurant, Shuraku, 833 Granville St. Not only is it in a great location but it also has the most delicious and unique sushi I've ever had. My top picks are the eggplant poppers, gomaee, snow spider crab roll and pretty much anything else on the menu. Finally we were off to the game, which sadly the Canucks lost but it was fun none the less.
Day 3: We all had a lazy lie in Sunday morning before heading out to the River Market in New Westminster for a walk along the river and inside the market to look at some shops. The Great Wall Tea Co. is known for its delicious teas and I can't wait to go back to taste some of them, since all I managed was a photo of their immense tea collection.
Overall Dave and I had a wonderfully relaxing weekend, something we really needed in preparation for the holiday craziness that is coming!
On the Road: Calgary Edition
This past weekend I went to Calgary to visit some old friends and had a great time discovering new places to eat and visit with the help of my friends.
Day 1: I arrived in Calgary on Friday and Steph was at the airport waiting for a best friend "date" day. First she took me to Contemporary Art Gallery in Calgary where we were able to see the end of Performing the Landscape, a fascinating exhibition with film installations from artists around the world. Next we needed to quench our thirst for a good coffee and meal so we headed to The Guild on 8 Avenue SW. This restaurant/bar was the perfect place to grab a quick bite. The menu had everything from delicious salads to sandwiches and more, check out their menu at http://www.theguildrestaurant.com/ or their Instagram @theguildcalgary. Steph and I shared an open face smoked salmon and avocado sandwich and fries and had delicious coffees on the side. This gave us the serious energy we needed to hit the shops where I helped Steph find some great pieces for her wardrobe.
Day 2: After a relaxing evening of The Crown and face masks with Steph, I met my friends Jana and Caitlin for brunch at The Laurier Lounge on 7 Street SW. It was the perfect brunch spot to catch up with old friends and you don't have to worry about waiting in line. I splurged and had a delicious cappuccino and stuffed crepes with strawberries and whipped cream, a must try when you visit this delicious spot. Check out the menu on their website: http://laurierlounge.com/ That afternoon Caitlin, Jana and I continued our perfect Saturday and went for pedicures at a little nail place in Bridgeland.
Day 3: After a Mexican themed dinner at Jana's friends place, we returned home full on fajitas and margaritas and went to bed dreaming of the mountains. That morning Jana and I left for Banff to visit some of her friends from Edmonton and explore the little mountain town, a must when visiting Calgary. We walked around, shopped and enjoyed lunch and then headed to The Banff Upper Hot Springs, http://www.hotsprings.ca/. This was the perfect afternoon for Jana and I to catch up just the two of us and talk about everything she has been through in the past few months. It was so relaxing and we stayed for easily over an hour. We headed back to Calgary as it just started to snow, an ideal end to the day.
Day 4: My final day in Calgary was a day of exploration to neighbourhoods and shops both Jana and I had never been to, and easily one of my favourite days of the trip. We went to Inglewood where we had coffee and lunch at a great Espresso & Wine Bar called Gravity, 10 Street NE, http://cafegravity.com/. I had an amazing soup and salad combo with a deliciously small cappuccino, the size a cappuccino should be. After our meal we walked up and down the main drag of Inglewood where we stopped in at some beautiful boutiques and unique shops. Some of our favourite places were Adorn, http://adornboutique.ca/, where you can find gorgeous, unique pieces. The Silk Road Merchant, http://www.silkroadspices.ca/ was an amazing shop filled with every spice you could ask for. Jana and I bought a few different spices for gifts or ourselves. To end my trip we stopped at Lukes Drug Mart, http://lukesdrugmart.com/ in Bridgeland, one of Caitlin's recommendations. Here Jana and I were mesmerized by all the different products they carried and I instantly compared it to the Drake General Store, one of my favourite spots in Toronto.
All in all, I had a great weekend in Calgary catching up with friends and visiting some fun and different spots that I will have to go back to next time I am in town. If you live in Calgary or are visiting sometime soon, definitely check out my suggestions!