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

rent car azores

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.

Canyoning in the Azores10339375_10100893305381877_3594041231280472684_o

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.

ponta delgada island
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.

airbnb

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.

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.

springs

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.

Raclette in Paris France

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 in paris france

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.

Notre Dame in Paris FranceNotre 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 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.

The 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.

Painting at the Louvre - Sad Clown

No idea what this picture is actually titled.. but ‘sad clown’ is my sad attempt at renaming it..

Monte Martre in Paris, France

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

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.

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.

306163_10100227982269727_180603080_n

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.

292928_10100216224582227_660843481_n

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.