Travel

A week in the Azores – Ponta delgada

The world is calling quote

Before booking my flight to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, I had never even heard of these islands. Within a couple hours of landing, I quickly fell in love with everything it had to offer.

I’m constantly raving about how wonderful the island is and how I would recommend it as a destination for all ages. Downtown has a wonderful European charm about it, some of the more rural areas have this old world farm feel, the little neighborhoods scattered around the island have this wonderful small town feel and then then the cherry on top is that surrounded by oceans, the greenest fields, and the freshest air.

ocean views in the azoresDowntown ponta delgada

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Friends are always asking for suggestions on what to do there so I thought I’d share it here on my blog.

 

Rent a car

The public transportation on this island is infrequent and does not always run on schedule. You can go end to end of this island in 3 hours and there are so many beautiful look out points that you really want a car to be able to experience it all. We found that renting a car from the city was cheaper than renting from the airport. If you are visiting during high season, you may want to book a car ahead of time as we weren’t able to rent a car until our second day because every place was sold out. We also found that we were able to get some better prices by booking online rather than in person. Hopefully you can drive standard as an automatic car will run you about twice as much.

The cars are pretty small and are great on gas. We used about a tank and a half for the while time we were there. And we were out driving in the car every single day.

We rented from flor do Norte Rent-a-car and it was 173 euros total for 8 days.

Phone: 296 287 209 | Mobile: 966 506 551 / 963 827 567

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Look at how adorable our little car is! We only had to fill up once and we drove everywhere for a whole week.

 

Rent a scooter!

Although the idea of zipping through the island on a scooter sounded like so much fun, we didn’t end up renting one as the weather was very unpredictable and there wasn’t a lot of room on the scooter for all the snacks we would bring and we couldn’t lock up our stuff.

Activities

Tea plantations

Since the boyfriend and I are both tea lovers, we spent a day visiting both tea plantations and learning about how they harvest their teas using traditional methods. These plantations are absolutely beautiful so even if you’re not a tea drinker, I’d still recommend visiting.

There are two on the island:

Cha Gorreana and Cha porto formosa

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visiting tea plantations in the azores

Nordeste Canyoning

Dionisio Cardoso from Azores Adventure islands was amazing and we ended up booking most of our activities through him. I’m a big wimp when it comes to heights but once I repelled down the first waterfall, I quickly fell in love. It’s exhilarating without giving you that falling feeling in your stomach. The only part of this tour that you should be aware about is that there are a few little cliff jumps ranging from 3 meters to 9 meters. The 9 meter jump was terrifying and although I’m proud of myself for doing it, I will never voluntarily do it again.

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Repelling in the Azores

Kayaking

Kayaking was a good work out but also very relaxing at the same time. We chose to kayak in Sete Cidades though Azores Adventure islands as well. The ride there was very scenic and went by super fast. We ended up kayaking on a pretty windy day so we really had to use some muscle to get to where we wanted to be.

Kayaking in the Azores

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Surfing

If you already know how to surf, you can rent boards from some shops right on the beach for fairly cheap. If you don’t know how to surf, you can also book lessons with the surf shops. I think we paid about 50 euros for Brian’s lesson. The waves can vary a lot from day to day so it’s a good idea to email one of the surf shops to ask them how the waves are if they recommend surfing in the north or south of the island that day based on your experience level.

Surfing in the Azores
Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
This is a cute little island off the coast of Sao miguel that you can get to by boat. It’s a nice place to swim and relax for a couple of hours. Make sure you check the boat schedules though. The first time we tried to go, we found out that the boats were not running that day.

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Hot springs

Sao Miguel has several natural geothermal hot springs. We went to Poça da Dona Beija and it was beautiful and relaxing. Entrance is pretty cheap at only 4 euros per person.

Poça da Dona Beija Poça da Dona Beija hot spring

Natural pools

All around the island, you can find these really neat natural pools where rocks have closed off an area of the ocean so you have a calm body of water to swim in for free. Since it is ocean water though, be prepared for pretty cold water. Even in June, the water was absolutely freezing. imgp0605-copysmall

swimming in a natural pool in sao miguel

Ponta da Ferraria
Ponta da Ferraria is on the western tip of Sao Miguel. There’s also a nice natural swimming pool here that’s warmed by a hot spring. Although you’ll want to go here when the tide is low or it’s not too windy because the waves can be pretty aggressive especially for a beginner swimmer. The place is also covered in dark lava rocks and is a great place to hang out and relax for a couple of hours.
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Food

Seafood, and beef are ridiculously good on this island. For a well-priced steak, I’d highly recommend Galago. The restaurant was full of locals when I went and almost every single table had a steak on it so you know it’s good!

They also had these delicious limpets! I had never heard of these before eating them. They were kind of like chewy mussels.

limpets

For fresh seafood, check out cholera. It’s right on the water and offers a spectacular view. And the menu changes depending on what the catch of the day is.

seafood from Cholera in Azores

Volcano stew

In Furnas, you can get a their speciality meal, cozido das Furnas, cooked using steam from the volcano!  They throw a bunch of meat and veggies in a pot and leave it in the hole for 5-6 hours.
This is actually a serving for one person! The server kept insisting that we order a two person serving bc he didn’t think we’d have enough food. WHO EATS THIS MUCH?!

Azores Volcano stew

Accommodations

Although there are lots of hotels to stay at, I would highly recommend checking out airbnb. You can get a really fantastic place for fairly cheap compareatively.

We opted to stay with a really nice couple and their kid. Their hospitality was top notch. We woke up every morning to a full breakfast that included fresh breads, home made jams, different cheeses and fruits, juices, milk, coffee, eggs.

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I don’t think you can go wrong with whatever neighbourhood you choose to stay in. Every inch of this island was really lovely and all the locals I met were so friendly and warm. The one thing you may want to consider though when choosing where to stay is that some tours include a pick up and drop off but only in certain neighbourhoods. This could save you money on a car rental if you plan on doing a lot of full day tours.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – Chiang Mai, Thailand

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I’m notorious for not planning anything when I travel but the one thing that I did spend time researching and reading about before my trip were these elephant parks all around south east Asia. I’m always a bit iffy about going to places with animals for pure human enjoyment. I had heard about the mistreatment of elephants and tigers in Thailand so had initially decided not to visit one until I heard about these ethical rescue centres.

After a lot of research, I had decided that Elephant nature park and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary both had good reputations for treating their elephants with care and respect.

I ended up booking a full day tour at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and had an amazing experience. They have a no-ride policy and their elephants are free to roam around without chains and are not held in cages and are not disciplined using bull hooks. The elephants don’t put on shows or entertain the guests. I’d describe the day more like the elephants were just hanging out and we got to experience the day with them.

The full day started with a pick up from my hostel at 8am. We rode in a songthaew which is a typical mode of transportation in Thailand. It’s essentially a pick up truck that’s been altered to carry a bunch people in the back.

The ride to the sanctuary took a little over an hour and a half. The driver’s drive pretty fast and the roads get pretty bumpy especially driving up the mountain so you’ll have to hold on tight.

When we first get there, we learned a little bit about the village and why elephant riding is very discouraged. We learned a little bit about the elephants that live in that village and then we made some little elephant snacks that were full of vitamins.

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We then carried the elephant snacks and the bags up bananas up to where the elephants were hanging out.

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They gobbled up the food really quickly and then we followed them as they walked through the jungle for a bit.

The elephants decided to stop at this mud pit and spent a good 20 minutes just rolling around in the mud. Except for the gramma elephant. She wasn’t too interested in the mud. Instead she walked off and hung out near some dried bamboo plants and kept on feasting.

After taking a few pictures of the elephants, we left them for a bit to go have some lunch.

After lunch, we changed in to our bathing suits and got ready to have a mud bath.

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After the mud bath, we headed over to the river to wash off the mud. Again only 3 of the elephants wanted to go in the water while the other one kept playing in the mud off to the side by itself.

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All in all in was an incredible day, made even more enjoyable by our amazing guide, Robert! image1-2

If you want a closer look of my day, check out my gopro video!

Weekend trip to San Francisco

An amazing opportunity was offered to the bf so he’ll be packing up and leaving Toronto, and heading to sunny Palo Alto. I joined him for a weekend to figure out the lay of the land and help him find a new place to life. Here are a few clips from our weekend trip to San Francisco.

xox ngoc.

Boracay, Philippines

So Boracay is definitely one of my top 3 favourite places I’ve ever been. The beaches are beautiful, the locals are welcoming and friendly, and the food and drinks are cheap and delicious. Although it’s become very popular with tourists, you still get a lot of the culture. Great place to visit solo, or with friends/family.

Panama, Costa Rica and weddings

puravidaYou may remember the save the date photos I did for my friends a couple months ago. Well the date finally arrived and I was lucky enough to celebrate their wedding with them in Costa Rica just last week.

UUUUUUUUURRRRRRGGGGGG you know that feeling where you’ve waited too long to book and then flights are a billion dollars? Ya.. that’s what happened with all the direct flights to Costa rica. Indirect flights were about half the price so I took it as an opportunity to book a longer overnight layover to do a bit of exploring. That’s how I found myself in Panama City for 18 hours. My family and friends were slightly horrified that I was going to be in this “dangerous” city by myself. Of course there are bad neighbourhoods (just like in any city) and I would recommend that a single girl be cautious and aware of her surroundings, but the culture and personality of Panama city is definitely worth experiencing.

I was mentioning that I wasn’t sure how to get to the hostel from the airport and a coworker told me that she had some family in Panama and offered to have her cousin pick me up. He was so friendly and sweet that it put me in great spirits after having to wait for almost 2 hours to get through customs, immigration, and baggage. When I got to the Los Mastros hostel, I was told that the water was shut off in the city for the day. Apparently since it’s still a developing country, due to construction and maintenance, sometimes they just have to shut off the water. WWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAATTT?!?!?!?!? Some hotels and restaurants will have a special reserve so you can still use the washrooms. The little $15/night hostel I stayed at though wasn’t quite so fancy. We had to carry a bucket full of water up the stairs in order to flush the toilet. This brought me back to my adventures in Vietnam. 

I was still in my Canadian winter clothes and there was nothing I wanted to do more than get out of my sweats and hop into the shower, but I settled on wiping down my face with a wet nap and throwing on a dress. I was excited to get out and explore the city, and luckily for me, I met a friendly American at the hostel. He was actually going to meet a friend who lived in Panama so I tagged along.

We hopped into a cab and went to what felt like a sketchy area and stopped at this little microbrew. I was absolutely exhausted at this point but within 15 mins of sitting on the patio, I looked around and quickly remembered why I love traveling so much. There I was, on a patio with two fascinating people that I didn’t even know existed until 30 mins ago, chowing down on some seriously delicious pizza and craft beer at La Rana Dorada and having my new friends give me a lesson on mining for Bitcoins, with the sun starting to set in the background. The unpredictability of what was to come, and being in a place that was so new and different, yet feeling so comfortable is what drives my desire to keep exploring. Everything about that moment was just perfect.

We ended up bar hopping and checking out a few of the different hot spots in the area. The rest of the night will be left out as my poor mother reads my blog and I think she may be better off not knowing about my shenanigans. Don’t worry mom! I’m sure I didn’t do anything that dad wouldn’t have done at my age!

I didn’t take many photos in Panama but here are a few from the night.

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Enjoying the view one last time before heading to the airport

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Rooftop bar with some cool Americans

Then early in the morning (6:30am!! Why do I do this to myself?!), my new friend was nice enough to take me to the airport so I could head to Costa Rica to join my friends.

An hour and a half flight later, I landed in Liberia airport and hopped onto a shuttle courtesy of the bride and Xplore Costa rica, and made my way to Tamarindo (which is about an hour away). We stayed at Cala Luna resort. HOLY MOLY this place was nice! It was a stark contrast from the minimalist hostels that I’m used to. As soon as I walked into the lobby, I was greeted with a cool towel, a beautiful cocktail, and a nice lad insisted on taking my backpack for me. I didn’t take any photos of the villas so the following resort photos are from Cala Luna’s website.

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Ridiculously luxurious, right?! Now to some of the fun stuff! Excursions!

Marlin Del Rey – Catamaran

As a ‘thank you’ to all the guests, the bride and groom generously treated all of the guests to a catamaran ride on the Marlin del rey. I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for sail boats ever since my summer at The disabled Sailing Club, so I was beyond excited for this excursion. And it DID NOT disappoint! I loved every single thing about the catamaran ride. They picked us up at 2 and drove us out to an island where I got to try snorkelling and paddle boarding for the first time.

snorkeling costa rica paddle boarding costa rica

And then after we were all pooched from the activities, they made a really delicious buffet style lunch as we sailed around. We did a bit of whale watching, and then headed back to shore as the sun was setting. This was the perfect activity for the wedding guests as people of all ages and risk levels could enjoy it.

Xplore Costa Rica – Super fun day of ziplining, rafting, rapelling, mudbaths, hot springs

The next day, we were all signed up for a full day adventure excursion through Xplore Costa rica. Our day included some ziplining, rapelling, rafting, mudbaths, hot springs, and a buffet style lunch. We were offered a special rate because there were 40+ of us but I think the normal rate is _____. I’m a big chicken with a serious fear of heights and just the thought of that falling feeling in my stomach is enough to make me sick. So I was really weary of going zip lining but after the first line, I can promise you that it’s really not scary! The worst part for me was walking the steps up to each platform. You don’t get that falling feeling at all!   Rafting – Since the tide was still pretty low when we went, the rapids weren’t as intense as they can be in the fall. I was paired with one of the experienced rafters so we didn’t get stuck along the way as many of our beginner pairs. This was an excellent workout for your arms.. and if you want to really test out your relationship, you can pair up with your significant other. See how much you guys like each other after yelling at each other about your inabilities to steer.. and accidentally (maybe intentionally?) hitting it other in the head with the paddle over and over… The only downside with pairing up with one of the workers is that you constantly have to stop to help dislodge other less experienced paddlers from the rocks and bushes. My arms were really tired after the zip lining and rafting so I opted out of the rappelling since once you repel down, you have to be able to climb back up. I have the upper body strength of a 6 month old and didn’t have the confidence that I would make it back up. Is it just me or does the term mud bath imply laying in some kind of bath tub filled with mud? I guess for sanitary reasons.. a mud bath actually meant someone was going to paint mud all over your body, and then you hang out in the sun until it dries and then you can hop into the river to wash it all off. How awesome is it to swim in a place like this?!

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Then you can hop over to one of the hot springs and let your muscles relax after a long day of activities.

Surfing

The next day, a bunch of people went horseback riding, but after my 2 hour ride in Calgary, I think maybe I’m done with horses. Instead, I went to town to try and find some surf lessons. Most places range from 30-40 for a group lesson. I’ve also heard a bunch of people grab really cheap lessons by walking along the beach and just asking some locals. I decided to get a private lesson for $35. This included a 2 hour lesson, the board, and a rash guard (which is really just a thick shirt). I think having a private lesson helped me learn a lot faster.

surfing

We spent about 15 minutes on land practicing jumping up on the board before he decided I was ready to hop in the water. (OMG was he serious?!) I was able to semi stand up for half a millisecond on my third try but once you’re able to stand up, you kind of get a feeling for what you’re supposed to do. I think the hardest part of the whole thing was being able to get the timing right. I opted to go surfing the day before the wedding and ended up with a couple of bruises on my arms and legs. I also got bumped in the head a few times so if you’re a bride, I probably would hold off on the surfing until after the wedding photos. The awesome part is that renting a board for a full day is only 10 bucks so on Saturday once everyone left, I rented a board again and just hung out in the water by myself for a few hours.

Due to a bit of a mix up with the schedule, I ended up staying an extra day once the rest of the wedding guests left. I opted to save some money and moved out of the beautiful Cala Luna and settled into Blue Trailz Surf Hostel. This was a cute little hostel with a kitchen, air conditioning, and warm water. For 15 bucks a night, I couldn’t complain.

A few tips

Most places will take American dollers

It costs 29 US dollers to leave Costa rica. You have to pay this departing tax at the airport. Make sure you have cash as they take credit card charges as a cash advance.

If you’re craving snacks, try some of their local brands instead of some of the bigger north American brands that you’re familiar with. A can of Pringles or a bag of doritos can cost anywhere from 4-6 dollars, but a bag of plantain chips is only 1 doller.

 

 

A road trip to Music city : Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville has never been a place that I ever thought about going to before. But I’m all for visiting new places so when my friend told me that she wanted to have her bachelorette there, I was pumped to cross another state off of my list of places I’ve been.

We decided to drive down to save some money. The drive from Toronto going non-stop is about 12 hours. We decided to drive leisurely on the way there and stop for food and snacks so it actually took us about 14 hours.

Road trip photo propsIf you’re planning on doing the drive, here is the path we took, and some suggestions for stops along the way.

Toronto > Detroit > Lima > Cincinnati > Louisville > Nashville

Toronto to Nashville

Detroit – The Hudson cafe is a cute place for breakfest/brunch that serves pancakes, sandwiches, waffles and other breakfesty things (I’d only stop in downtown detroit during the day… and even then.. be more cautious..

Lima – it’s a tiny city. You pass a bunch of chain restaurants along the highway so if you’re hoping to lunch, this might be a good stop. We choose to eat at the Cracker barrel. They also have an Olive Garden right beside it as well.

Cincinatti – If you’re hungy for a snack, take a quick turn off the highway for some Graeter’s icecream. Yum!

Louisville – Cake flour  (They were on that show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”) They had RIDICULOUSLY delicious treats. We bought a ton of cupcakes, meringues, cookies, and other sweet treats.

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If you want to have dinner in Louisville, a few other good restaurants in the vicinity include Mayan Cafe (Latin), Mojito’s Tapas restaurant (Spanish), and Doc Crow’s (Southern).

NASHVILLE!! We’ve arrived!! Here are some of the fun things we did there.

Southern Steak and Oyster

I’m mostly a beer girl but their cocktails here were really good! Blackberry Mountain Tea made with Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine, sweet tea, and muddled fresh blackberries comes with high recommendations! Two of the other girls got burgers and said it was some of the best burgers they’ve ever had. They do offer 3 hours of complimentary parking which we didn’t realize until getting into the restaurant so that would have saved us 24 dollars in parking.

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Boot country – So it sounds like this place always has a buy 1 get 2 pairs of boots free deal going on. Boots range anywhere from $230-500 so if you can find two friends that also want boots, than it’s a pretty decent deal compared to some of the neighboring boot shops.

Downtown bars – There are a ton of great bars up and down Broadway. Just walk and stop into any bar that sounds like they have good live music happening. We opted for Honkey tonks and Tootsies which were both really fun and really busy at night.

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Pedal Tavern – Check out my previous blog post about how ridiculously fun the Pedal Tavern tour is. Don’t go to Nashville without doing this!

The Opry neighbourhood – The Opry Mills mall, the Grand Ole Opry, and the aquarium all share the same parking lot. I’d recommend doing all 3 places in one day if you’re hoping to incorporate them into your trip.

Aquarium restaurant – Lunch at Aquarium which was really neat! The only downside is that they don’t’ have a lunch menu so most of us only got through half of our dinner sized meals. Everything was delicious though. And the view can’t be beat!

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The Grand Ole Opry –  for a live radio show. After a few 10 dollar drinks, I was singing along to songs that I had never heard before. So a trick I learned from going to blue jays games, is that the bars are way busier up by the cheaper seats compared to the lower level expensive seats. This was also very true at the Opry. We waited in line for 20 mins before someone came by and told us that there were no lines on the first floor. I can’t promise that this will always be true but it’s a trick that’s worked for me on numerous occasions.

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Monster Block Party – So this only happens annually around Halloween but if you happen to be there during that weekend, and happen to like electro-house music… it was absolutely incredible! Steve Aoiki dj’d and jumping around and being surrounded by every kind of costume imaginable is quite the experience!

Nashville is definitely a city worth checking out, even if you’re not a country lovin’ gal!

Nashville: The pedal tavern

Bachelorette party on the pedal tavernSo a few of my high school friends hopped in a car and made our way down to Nashville for some bachelorette fun. If you find yourself in music city, you 100% ABSOLUTELY need to book a tour on the pedal tavern! It’s a 16 person bike that you can drink on. For $30/person, you bring your own drinks and do a little bike/bar crawl through broadway, or midtown. I’d recommend this even if you’re not drinking. It’s just a super fun way to see the city.Bachelorette party on the pedal tavern

 

Here are some tips that will help make the most of your pedal tavern tour.

  • Wear shoes that stay on your feet! I opted to wear flats which fell off 5 minutes into my intense pedalling. My shoe got run over by a car, but one of other girls jumped off het bike to retrieve it for me. To avoid that happening again, I biked the rest of the tour with just bare socks. Pedals with no shoes = not good times. pedal tavern in socks
  • Premix your drinks or bring cans. You leave your drinks in a cooler and only the people sitting in the back seat can really access them. Having them pass down a can or a bottle is easy. Having them pass down liquor, ice, and mix is much more difficult. *Remember though that you can’t bring glass on the bike. We bought a case of water so we could fill the bottles with our drinks.
  • Book early for weekends! We booked 2 weeks in advance and could only get the 5:15pm spot on the Friday. Saturday was completely sold out. Although 5:15 gave us a lot of time to go out afterwards, all the bars we stop at on the way were a little empty. I’d recommend starting your tour between 7:30 and 8:15 so that you can go for dinner before hand, get a solid pre-drink happening on the bike, and still have time to hit up the popular bars afterwards.
  • We stopped at the Swinging Doors and Bootleggers inn on our tour. We were given wrist bands and coupons for 2 for 1 drinks and other specials. Pace yourself. We went real hard and were a little burnt out by midnight.
  • Bachelorette party at the swinging doors in Nashville Shots at the swinging doors in Nashville
  • Only some of the seats were adjustable. I’m a little shorty so I got one of the adjustable seats but even my 5’5ish friends were commenting that they had to extend their legs the whole way to pedal which was exhausting.
  • The bike is SERIOUSLY hard to pedal. 16 girls, with drinks, up hills… we were probably moving at negative 5 km/hour. But the slow speed gave us time to really take in the view as we rode up and down broadway.view of Broadway from the pedal tavern
  • Bring something that plays music. They have an AV plug that you can stick your mp3 or phone into. We didn’t bring music but luckily our driver/guide had a bachelorette playlist already made.
  • There is no motor. For real. You have to pedal up that hill.
  • There’s not much space on the counter except a little cup holder. Everything else will need to be tucked in the overhead compartment that isn’t easily accessible or in your purse. As cute as our little props were. Carrying them the whole time is a real pain in the butt. Bachelorette party on the pedal tavern

All in all, it was a super fun night. Even our pregnant friend loved it! If you’re interested in seeing more, you can check out this horrible video that I took while on the bike.

Calgary, Alberta

You know that phase of your life where it feels like every single person you know is all googly eye’d and getting married? Well that’s exactly what my life feels like right now. I’ve been to about 14 weddings and counting, and yet every single one has managed to be different and has had so much of the couple’s personality in-twined into all the little details. So there I was, on a plane, heading to the Silver Tip in Canmore to watch one of the cutest couples in the world get married.

Check out a few of the adorable photos of their intimate mountain side wedding.

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Soundslikeknock first wedding dance photo

first wedding dance photography

Fun reception idea:

Instead of throwing the bouquet and garter, the couple asked all the single people to come on to the dance floor, and surprised us all with a shot to help get the party started.1267743_10100614953561157_50676252_o

Since we were already in Canmore, the next morning, we hopped over to Banff to take a quick dip in the hot springs. Lesson of the day: I do not like hot springs. I’m not sure why exactly but the springs made me feel incredibly nauseous. My heart rate started to increase and after 10 minutes, the whole experience was quite unpleasant. The view was beautiful but I probably wouldn’t do it again.

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After the springs, we made our way to Cross Zee ranch to saddle up. For $89/person, you get a two hour ride through the mountains.

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It was a relaxing experience. Though I had hoped there would be galloping or at least a light trot. None the less, it was fun and definitely something I’d recommend trying. After our two hour ride, I finally understand the term “walking like a cowboy”. Wow does it ever make your thighs and knees sore.

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The bf was insistent that I needed to have some Alberta beef so we headed to Rush in downtown Calgary for a nice evening out. We decided to share the chef’s cut, which was a 30 oz tomahawk. A tomahawk is a rib-eye cut with the bone still in tack. I don’t know how anyone in the world could possibly finish that plate on their own. It was extremely flavourful but I probably could have done with a smaller portion and larger sides.tomahawk alberta steak

Overall it was a wonderful 4 days spent relaxing, eating, and spending time with good friends.

J'adore Paris.

paris is always a good idea

Paris, je t’aime…

I’ve never been one to dream about Paris or have ever felt the need to go. But as soon as I stepped foot into this magical city, I was hooked.

After having a very difficult time booking trains from Amsterdamn into Paris, we finally arrived.. with absolutely no idea where we were going to stay. We bumped into a fellow Canuck at the train station who suggested a hostel near Monte Martre. Rach and I hopped on the metro (after almost being scammed) and made our way there only to find out that of course they were completely booked up. A little discouraged, we plopped ourselves right outside that hostel to “borrow” their wifi so we could find some kind of shelter before the sun set. Turns out, this hostel being booked up was the luckiest thing to happen to us in Europe. Because it was booked up, we ended up going to St. Christophers and meeting our all time favourite travellers.

The Hostel.

I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend St. Christopher’s if you’re looking for a social hostel where you can easily meet people. They have a great bar that fills up at night time with tons of friendly travelers. We had managed to get to the hostel after dinner and immediately met our new friend Alex who we instantly hit it off with over some cheap and delicious Parisian wine.

The bedrooms were clean and have cages underneath the bed for you to lock up your stuff. Careful though.. the hydrolics on ours were broken and out of no where, they can come slamming down at a ridiculous force. I laughed real hard when it happened to Rachel because with her clumsy nature, it was such a typical thing to have happen. But jokes on me because the next day, I had a nice bump on my head as evidence to show how easy it was to get knocked out by one. They also have paid lockers in their lobby so you can leave your bag there when you check out if you don’t plan on catching a train/plane until later in the day.

I opted to just hand wash my clothes in the sink and hang them in the hostel. If you’re much classier than I am and would like to not have your undies hanging out all over the place, there is a laundromat just a couple blocks down.

One of the things that I loved was how casual they were about bringing your own drinks and sitting at their bar. We would always just walk down the street to a convenience store, pick up a cheap bottle of delicious wine and have the bartender open it for us.

The food.

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Crepes, cheese, pastries, bread, and wine were the only things that went in my little belly. For a girl that doesn’t typically eat bread, I couldn’t get enough of it. The smells of freshly baked pastries as you walked by the shoppes were just intoxicating. If you want to stick close to the hostel, I’d recommend grabbing a bottle of wine from the nearby convenience store, some glasses and sit out on the canal and enjoy the fresh air.

There is a little crepe shop right by the hostel near Crimee station that is so fantastic. Most of the restaurants just north east of the hostel are catered to locals so the staff very rarely speak English. It was definitely at these restaurants that we had the most phenomenal meals though.

The sites

Walking tours. There are a few free walking tours in Paris. I can’t remember the one we went on exactly but it started at our hostel. These tours are a great way to meet other travellers and see many of the top sites in Paris. That’s where we met our super group, Jeff, Katie, Liam, and Alex who definitely made our Paris trip memorable.

eiffle tower

The Eiffle Tower. It was like being a movie. We opted to climb the stairs instead of waiting in the seriously long line to use the elevator lift. My fear of heights was a serious hindrance during the climb as you are very aware of your surroundings and how high you are.

IMG_8575 copyNotre dame. So nice! This was the first of the churches that we visited and it was definitely in the top of the list. We got there bright and early after our pub crawl because we heard they had free English tours. Unless you are very very very passionate about history and religion… I WOULD NOT GO ON THAT TOUR! Our super group was so excited when the tour started.. our tour guide started out by giving a very detailed description of this one area of the outside of the building… and 20 mins later when the lady was still describing the same area, I knew if I stayed for another minute, I’d fall asleep while standing. I glanced around and saw the pain in my other friend’s faces. Jeff caught my eye and without a word, we not so discretely slipped away to find some other adventures, abandoning our poor friends to this torture. I later found out that they only lasted another 30 minutes before they too could not take it anymore.

IMG_8682 copyThe Louvre. While our other friends stayed at the Notre Dame tour, Jeff and I made our way to the Louvre. We must have the best timing because there was absolutely no line to get in. I hate to admit it but I just don’t appreciate art as much as I should. Especially being a photographer. I’m not a huge fan of museums and definitely have the mentality that if you’ve seen one naked statue.. you’ve seen them all. Don’t hate me. Luckily for me, Jeff had a very similar mentality so we grabbed one of the booklets from the front that listed all the popular pieces and decided to hit up all the “top” exhibits in as little time as possible. To spice things up a bit, he suggested we play a game where we give the paintings new names. If there’s one thing I’m terrible at, it’s being creative on the spot. Jeff who is so quick came up with names that they had me in tears from laughing. I on the other hand had the imagination of a rock and felt serious anxiety every time it was my turn to name anything. All and all, one of the best museum visits of my life.

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Monte Martre. LOVE. This is the Paris that you see in the movies. We grabbed some baguettes and laid on the grassy hill and took in the sun. Note: there were a bunch of signs all over the grass that said something in French that I didn’t understand.. but I suspect it said something about staying off the grass…

smallmontemarteJeff Tosoian in Monte Martre

 

Jeff Tosoian in Monte Martre

Parc des Buttes Chaumont – GO TO THIS PARK! Preferably early in the morning. It was so beautiful and relaxing with the mist coming off of the lake, runners jogging past, and artists with their paints and canvasses. It was absolutely the perfect place to write in your journal. It may have been one of my favourite locations in all of Paris.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, paris, france

I can’t say enough amazing things about Paris. The food, the friends and the sights made this city unforgettable.